You might be lucky enough not to need a sleep aid of any kind. In which case, you may never have even used melatonin. Encouraging sleep and normalizing circadian rhythms are this substance’s chief applications, however, like so many of these products, it has other additional virtues which can escape the immediate attention of people who simply see it as a sleeping pill.
For example, melatonin supplementation can acutely raise your level of growth hormone at night; the time when it is most beneficial.
Humans actually secrete this neurotransmitter hormone in their brains naturally, largely in response to the darkness of the environment they are in, so as to encourage sleep at night time when it is dark. This is due to melatonin’s action of inducing a sedation effect.
The pineal gland in the brain is the principal origin of our melatonin secretion and you may be interested to know that L-Tryptophan is the dietary precursor to it. This is then converted to 5-HTP (5-hydroxytryptophan) and further to seratonin, and then finally melatonin. This might not mean much at this point but the implications regarding the supplements you may or may not be taking are quite profound.
Melatonin Production in the Body
The main source of melatonin secretion is from the pineal gland of the brain. It is also made in several other locations such as the retina of the eye, the gastrointestinal (GI) tract and cells of bone marrow.
From our dietary intake, the following pathway leads to the synthesis of Melatonin
- L-Tryptophan from food (e.g. turkey) – converted via tryptophan-5-hydroxylase to;
- 5-hydroxytryptophan (5-HTP) – converted via decarboxylase to;
- Seratonin – converted via seratonin-N-acetlyltransferase to;
- N-acetylseratonin – converted via hydroxyindole-O-methyltransferase (HIOMT) to;
- N-acetyl-5-methoxytryptamine…aka Melatonin
In simple terms: melatonin comes from seratonin, which is made from tryptophan in food. The synthesis is triggered and regulated primarily by the level of sunlight hitting the eye’s retina.
Beneficial Effects of Supplementing Melatonin
If you hadn’t already known, by now you will realize that melatonin can be safely supplemented to hasten the time it takes to fall asleep. The main benefit of this is to normalize/regulate the body’s natural circadian rhythm in order to induce a healthy sleep pattern.
There are other benefits to taking melatonin, and they have extremely interesting implications for those that lift weights to build muscle, or otherwise engage in exercise to enhance themselves physically.
Growth Hormone Spike
No matter what the dose between 0.5mg and 5mg, the result is the same; there is an acute increase in growth hormone levels shortly after taking melatonin.
This is believed to be the result of an indirect pathway caused by melatonin’s ability to make the pituitary gland more sensitive to growth-hormone-releasing-hormone (GHRH) which triggers it to release Growth Hormone.
The effect appears to be induced more potently post-exercise, though there has been some positive correlation to improved GH response when melatonin was supplemented before anaerobic cycling.
If your activity is all-body resistance training to grow muscle then it would be better to stick to evening supplementation to avoid drowsiness in the day.
Studies of melatonin have shown that it’s supplementation can exert several other positive effects on health:
- Protective against stomach ulcers
- Blood pressure reduction
- Increases insulin sensitivity
- Improves several indirect fat-reducing processes
- Reduces inflammation and muscle damage
- Increases antioxidant enzyme profile
- Alleviates heartburn
- Improves memory
- Improves blood flow
Supplement Effect on Endogenous Synthesis
Our endogenous (body’s natural production) hormonal secretions can sometimes be adversely affected by supplementing exogenous (external supplement) equivalents. Certainly this is the case with anabolic steroids. Most of those – e.g. testosterone, deca-durabolin etc. – shut down the testicular production of testosterone, and sometimes with a single dose! This is due to a biological negative feedback loop.
This appears NOT to be the case with melatonin. Long term supplementation has been found to have no effect on the natural production at doses of up to 5mg. This implies that there will not be a period of insomnia following the point that you stop taking melatonin.
Conclusions and Recommendations
As you can hopefully see, a little melatonin goes a long way, both to help ensure you get into the best sleep pattern possible and maximize your overnight muscle-growth.
The ‘bolt-on’ approach with GH Advanced is an excellent combination.
Personally I recommend starting at the 0.5mg range for melatonin and working up from there depending on your response. Don’t go over the maximum of 5mg though, there is no need. Take for 2 weeks at a time followed by two weeks off it. Long term supplementation has been deemed safe but it’s still unwise to take a supplement in perpetuity with no breaks because no study can assess the effects of permanent use.
Sample Reference Sources
- Meeking DR et al – Exercise-induced GH secretion is enhanced by the oral ingestion of melatonin in healthy adult male subjects – 1999
- Valcavi R et al – Effect of oral administration of melatonin on GH responses to GRF 1-44 in normal subjects – 1987
- Ochoa JJ et al – Melatonin supplementation ameliorates oxidative stress and inflammatory signaling induced by strenuous exercise in adult human males – 2011
- Bernard M et al – Melatonin synthesis pathway: circadian regulation of the genes encoding the key enzymes in the chicken pineal gland and retina – 1999
- Matsumoto M et al – The amplitude of endogenous melatonin production is not affected by melatonin treatment in humans – 1997
- Wright J et al – The effects of exogenous melatonin on endocrine function in man – 1986
- Masana MI et al – Melatonin receptor signaling: finding the path through the dark – 2001