I've written about the importance of having a solid and productive morning routine before HERE.
But as important as having a morning routine is so that you're productive during the day (as an aside, productive and busy are NOT the same thing)…
…having a good bedtime/nighttime routine is even more important (I'll write more in-depth about an ideal bedtime routine in Monday's email).
Part of that routine could (should?) include the right supplementation to ensure that you're not only optimizing your sleep, but your overall health.
There are 3 supplements that I take at bedtime to make sure that I get a sound sleep and wake up with morning wood (a sign that testosterone is at optimal levels)…
Magnesium is a mineral responsible for over 300 enzyme reactions and is found in all of your body tissues from your bones to your brain. And because of that, it gets depleted quite quickly (Mg is also lost in sweat).
80% of Americans are deficient in Magnesium (1) and one of the biggest symptoms of Magnesium deficiency is insomnia(2).
I'm a HUGE proponent of making sure your diet is in check and that you get the most nutrition from whole natural foods…
So you need to eat high Magnesium foods like spinach, nuts, avocados and dark chocolate (where I live here in Costa Rica, there is a huge bean to bar production of cacao so I can get PURE, delicious dark chocolate everyday… it's bliss).
But because of the depletion of minerals in our soil – due to unethical farming practices and deforestation – it's difficult to get optimal levels of Magnesium from diet alone (there's only so much spinach and dark chocolate one can eat)…
…which is why I supplement.
From a testosterone perspective, Magnesium is also necessary for 2 major body operations…
1. Battling stress
Stress can be a cause of magnesium deficiency, and a lack of magnesium tends to magnify the stress reaction, worsening the problem. Adrenaline and cortisol, byproducts of the “fight or flight” reaction associated with stress and anxiety, were associated with decreased magnesium. (3)
Remember, if stress is high, then cortisol is high and thus sex hormone production is low.
2. Vitamin D absorption…
Magnesium assists in the activation of vitamin D… and it's essential to ensure that the recommended amount of magnesium is consumed to obtain the optimal benefits of vitamin D.(4)
Vitamin D levels are directly related to Low Testosterone.(5)
So if you have insufficient levels of Magnesium, then Vitamin D is likely NOT getting absorbed optimally and thus can contribute to low T.
2. Zinc (ZMA)
ZMA is a supplement that combines Zinc, Magnesium and Vitamin B6.
It's widely used in the fitness community to enhance sleep and improve testosterone levels.
We've already gone through the importance of Magnesium, so let's quickly talk about Zinc.
Zinc is important to take if you train because zinc (like Magnesium) is a mineral that is lost in sweat.
For this reason, athletes and an active population are more prone to Zinc deficiency than a sedentary population.
Zinc deficiency is associated with low Testosterone, so if you supplement with zinc and bring your levels back to normal, testosterone levels with rise with it.(6)
But, increasing zinc levels above normal WILL NOT increase testosterone any further.
Again, I'm a big proponent of getting your zinc levels up to normal through diet – Oysters anyone? – but because I'm active everyday and I live in a tropical climate, I sweat… a lot.
And I am, in fact, sweating right now as I write this for no apparent reason other than it's 96 degrees outside here in Costa Rica (and typing on a keyboard is hard work :-).
Ashwagandha is an aptogenic herb. An adaptogen is a natural substance that helps the body adapt to stress.
Ashwagandha is used in ayurvedic and natural medecine to lower cortisol levels and fight the effects of anxiety.
This is ideal to take at night – especially if you're generally stressed out or high strung – since cortisol levels are supposed to rise and fall with the sun as part of a normal circadian rhythm.
If your cortisol levels are high at night – from being stressed out or from too much artificial light (like from a TV or cell phone) – then your body thinks it's daytime, increases cortisol levels and won't allow you to fall asleep easily.
It's important to note that cortisol itself isn't bad (cortisol is what gets us out of bed in the morning).
But having high cortisol levels at night (or all day long for that matter) can/will inhibit your ability to both fall asleep and have a restful sleep.
And high cortisol usually means that your sympathetic nervous system (the “fight or flight” branch of your Autonomic Nervous System) is in overdrive so it's harder for your body to make testosterone
For an ideal testosterone producing environment, you should be in “Rest & Digest” mode (parasympathetic dominant) so that you fall asleep easily and you can get into deeper sleep where your body is able to restore and repair itself.
So those are the 3 supplements I take before bed…
ZMA, Magnesium and Ashwagandha.
I've found, especially if I've been off them for a few weeks, that when I do take them I sleep right through the night, have pretty vivid dreams and wake-up refreshed the next day with morning wood.
Remember, this is what works for me as a 41-year-old active man, married with 5 kids who's running a business and building a house in a foreign country.
Don't know why I included that last part, but you get the point.
(1) http://www.greenmedinfo.com/blog/magnesium-de ciency-symptoms-and-diagnosis
(6) Examine.com Testosterone Stack Supplements Guide (https://examine.com/store/stack-guides)