As melatonin is commonly referred to as the sleep hormone, any other time of its use than late evening certainly seems to be controversial. Controversy does not mean, however, that taking melatonin in certain situations apart from supporting sleep will not be justified. Researchers have made the appropriate tests, so let’s look at the results of the research.
Pre-workout melatonin – Melatonin as an ergogenic aid
The benefits for athletes from nightly melatonin supplementation are very well known, because this hormone is a very popular research subject. Among them, we can list slimming properties, by stimulating brown adipose tissue , improving insulin sensitivity and reducing visceral fat , and even slightly recomposing the figure in the long term, regardless of diet and activity . In the rat study, excellent results were reported by administering melatonin for 4 months – the ability to synthesize glycogen in the muscles improved significantly, thanks to which glucose tolerance was also better, body weight decreased, mainly due to reduction of visceral fat and significantly improved parameters sports – running speed and distance run . Melatonin supplementation also offers many health benefits due to its high antioxidant potential.
Getting to the bottom of it, would it be reasonable to use melatonin immediately before training? It turns out that some data indicate that it might be beneficial. And in spite of the assumptions about drowsiness during training – melatonin taken in the brightness of day does not have to cause sedation.
Let’s look at the research carried out by the Spanish doctor Maria Dolores Maldonado with companions from the Seville Medical School on young professional football players . 16 players were divided into two groups – receiving 6 mg of melatonin 30 minutes before intense training or an inactive placebo. The training took place on stationary bikes, and its intensity was determined by an average speed of 25 km / h and a heart rate of 135 beats per minute. Biochemical measurements were carried out 30 minutes before and 3, 15 and 60 minutes after starting the training.
M.D. Maldonado et. at. “Melatonin administrated immediately before an intense exercise reverses oxidative stress, improves immunological defenses and lipid metabolism in football players”
The results noted that training, of course, initiates oxidative stress, however, taking melatonin allows to limit this increase, as determined by measuring the concentration of malondialdehyde (MDA). What’s more, in the placebo group, the total antioxidant capacity (TAS) decreased (-22%), while in the melatonin group it increased (+ 15%)! The study also concluded that the increase in oxidation capacity of fatty acids during high intensity of training to maintain adequate energy resources. Of course, antioxidant activity is not always desirable when it comes to training aspects, because it can, for example, reduce anabolic effects, but under specific conditions, such as endurance sports can be as useful as possible.
Another study that is worth considering is one carried out by Mr. Trionfante from Louisiana State University in the USA . In this trial, the effect of pre-workout melatonin on the consumption of energy substrates during aerobic training was studied. As a training, Naughton’s 5-step training was adopted, and performed for 30 minutes on the treadmill. 12 women and 12 men participated in the study. Each person had 4 approaches separated from each other for a week. As part of these approaches, the subjects received two times 6 mg of melatonin or an inactive placebo. Every 30 seconds of training, VO2 and respiratory exchange rate were checked. Based on these measurements, carbohydrate and fat consumption was calculated. In the results it was noted that melatonin accepted before aerobic training increases the amount of energy consumed from carbohydrates and the total amount of carbohydrates used for energy purposes during this training.
Erika Nassar from the USA and comrades decided to check how different doses of melatonin will affect the level of synthesis of growth hormone induced by training . This test was prompted by previous reports that indicate that both resistance training and night-time supplementation with melatonin cause an increase in GH synthesis, which leads to reflections, or the simultaneous presence of these two factors will intensify the effects. The study involved 30 men and 30 women who were randomly assigned to one of three groups: 0.5 mg melatonin, 5 mg melatonin or 1 mg dextrose as a placebo. Before the supplement was taken, cannulas were placed in the forearms and blood samples were taken, after which the supplement was given and samples were taken every 15 minutes for one hour. After completing this protocol, a training session was started. As resistance training, weight pushing was used in seven sets of 7 repetitions with a load of 85% 1-RM. Each series lasted 30 seconds and breaks were 150 seconds. After the exercise, samples were taken every 15 minutes for the next 2 hours. Blood levels of growth hormone, somatostatin, IGF-1, IGFBP-1 and IGFBP-3 were measured in the blood. Throughout the trial, appropriate standardization was used to ensure that the results were extremely reliable due to the very dynamic variability of the parameters examined – participants ate a similar meal in the morning (protein bar of a specific brand), fasted until the end of the study, and remained at rest during blood sampling so that the activity would not change the biochemical parameters that were tested.
The results show that in men 5 mg melatonin gives a greater peak of growth hormone in pre-workout measurements, while the results of post-workout measurements indicate a better effect of a smaller, 0.5 mg dose of melatonin. In women, unfortunately, the results were much weaker than in men, with only 0.5 mg giving a GH increase after training compared to pre-workout measurements, and 5 mg was ineffective, and the best result was still given by placebo. The results of IGF-1 measurements showed no significant differences between the studied groups. In IGFBP-1 measurements, larger differences were found in men than in women, with placebo and 0.5 mg melatonin giving a stronger effect than the 5 mg dose. It’s worth bearing in mind, however, that the training scheme used was too short to significantly change this parameter. The results of changes in IGFBP-3 were also more pronounced in men, and both doses of melatonin gave a stronger effect than placebo. Somatostatin measurements were another indicator more, which showed slightly higher reactivity in men, and both doses resulted in a decrease in somatostatin, in contrast to placebo. It can be seen here that from the point of view of the influence on GH, only interesting results were noted in men,a dose as small as 0.5 mg seeming to be sufficient.
Erika Nassar et. al. “Effects of a single dose of N-Acetyl-5-methoxytryptamine (Melatonin) and resistance exercise on the growth hormone/IGF-1 axis in young males and females”
However, does this mean that you can take melatonin at any time? Not exactly. It turns out that melatonin before a meal worsens glucose tolerance for various reasons, depending on the time of day . In young (~ 24 years), relatively healthy women, the effects of administration of 5 mg melatonin or placebo before the „glucose curve” (OGTT) and insulin tests were checked. Melatonin has been shown to result in significantly higher glucose concentrations, whereas in the morning it results from a lower insulin ejection rate, whereas in the evening it results from reduced insulin sensitivity.
In summary, it’s possible to use melatonin during the day, if it’s used as a pre-workout. Melatonin supplementation is not recommended during the day without training, despite its excellent antioxidant properties, especially in people with a tendency to disturb glucose metabolism.
The effects of such pre-workout supplementation are quite specific, which is why it will not be appropriate in every case. However, it’s possible to use melatonin in a good way to support the effects of training, however, a number of factors, such as sex, sports, diet and the dose that will bring the most benefits should be taken into account.
- Aroa Jiménez-Aranda et. al. „Melatonin induces browning of inguinal white adipose tissue in Zucker diabetic fatty rats” DOI: 10.1111/jpi.12089
- Dennis D. Rasmussen et. al. „Daily Melatonin Administration at Middle Age Suppresses Male Rate Visceral Fat, Plasma Leptin, and Plasma Insulin to Youthful Levels” DOI: 10.1210/en.140.2.1009
- Anne Kristine Amstrup et. al. „Reduced fat mass and increased lean mass in response to 1 year of melatonin treatment in postmenopausal women: A randomized placebo-controlled trial” Clinical Endocrinology (2016) 84, 342–347
- Mendes et. al. “Adaptations of the aging animal to exercise: role of daily
- supplementation with melatonin” J. Pineal Res. 2013; 55:229–239 Doi:10.1111/jpi.12065
- D. Maldonado et. at. “Melatonin administrated immediately before an intense exercise reverses oxidative stress, improves immunological defenses and lipid metabolism in football players” Physiology & Behavior 105 (2012) 1099–1103 doi:10.1016/j.physbeh.2011.12.015
- CARDYL P. TRIONFANTE et. al. “A Pre-Exercise Dose of Melatonin Can Alter Substrate Use During Exercise” Int J Exerc Sci. 2017; 10(7): 1029–1037.
- Erika Nassar et. al. “Effects of a single dose of N-Acetyl-5-methoxytryptamine (Melatonin) and resistance exercise on the growth hormone/IGF-1 axis in young males and females” J Int Soc Sports Nutr. 2007; 4: 14. doi: 10.1186/1550-2783-4-14
- Rubio-Sastre P, Scheer FA, Gómez-Abellán P, Madrid JA, Garaulet M. “Acute melatonin administration in humans impairs glucose tolerance in both the morning and evening.” SLEEP 2014;37(10):1715-1719.