What is Melatonin?
Melatonin is a hormone found in humans and most animals, and is responsible for maintaining the circadian rhythm and sleep patterns. It is produced in low levels of light.
Where Does Melatonin Come From?
In humans melatonin is produced in the pineal gland. It is produced at the end of a chemical pathway starting with the dietary amino acid L-tryptophan, which is converted into 5-HTP, then the neurotransmitter serotonin, and finally melatonin. Supplementation with any of the above will increase melatonin levels, although there will be a limit to how much it can increase due to rate limiting steps in the conversion.
It can also be found in some foods, particularly walnuts and cereals, strawberries, bananas, grapes, oranges, tomatoes and cherries, olive oil, milk, beer and wine.
Melatonin Health Benefits
Melatonin is generally used as a sleep aid. It is produced naturally by the body as it begins to get dark, to signal that it is time to sleep. Since we generally have lights on until we go to bed, melatonin is only produced once you are actually lying down to go to sleep. Taking it before bed will reduce your sleep latency, or the amount of time it takes you to fall asleep once you are in bed. It can also be used to normalise sleep patterns induced by jet lag or shift work.
It is often used in children that have difficulty sleeping, such as those with autism or ADHD. It is extremely safe and effective at naturally regulating the brain's sleep chemicals, which makes it ideal for use in young children.
It has numerous implications for the chemistry of the brain, being able to reduce the incidence of migraines, have protective effects during aging and improve memory and stress related amnesia.
Melatonin Benefits for Bodybuilding
The main benefit from melatonin would be its ability to provide you with a good nights sleep. This makes for faster growth and better recovery, as well as improving your ability to exercise the following day.
Melatonin can also increase blood flow to the forearms and other extremities, making it a potential supplement for gaining a pump before a workout. Its also interacts with many hormones. It may have testosterone boosting properties, although this effect is yet to be replicated in human studies. It can increase growth hormone levels, which may support muscle growth, as well as levels of leptin, possibly encouraging fat loss.
Melatonin Side Effects, Safety and Negatives
There are no side effects associated with melatonin use. It is not associated with any dependency or tolerance build up. In addition, natural production of melatonin is not decreased by extended periods of supplementation, suggesting no negative feedback mechanisms in the brain, nor are there any withdrawal like symptoms upon cessation of taking. However there is the possibility of drug interactions if you are taking other neuro-medications such as ADHD or depression medications, and it would be wise to consult with a doctor before beginning supplementation. There may be some interaction with alcohol, and although the exact mechanisms and effect are unclear, it may be prudent to avoid or limit intake of alcohol during supplementation. Caffeine should also be avoided, particularly around the time of taking the melatonin, since they are metabolised by the same type of enzymes and direct interactions will occur.
Melatonin Recommended Doses and Ingredient Timing
Doses can vary between 500mcg up to 5g per day. Its effectiveness does not appear to be dose dependent, with lower doses being equally or more effective than larger doses. Generally capsules and tablets start at around the 1mg dose, if you wish to use less than this you may have to find a liquid version and dilute.
Melatonin can only be bought from a Chemist in Australia. It is available in liquid, tablet and capsule form.
Melatonin may stack well with other sleep and mood products such as Nature's Own Complete Sleep or Swisse UltiBoost Mood. It may also work well with hormone support supplements such as testosterone boosters and growth hormone support supplements. It is also a good general supplement for health, and would have positive effects when used with any bodybuilding stack.
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