How to diet hack your sleep

  • By Brian Keane


If you’re living in a state of high performance; i.e if you’re studying, working or a full time parent, you probably already are; then sleep should be a conscience act, not something that just happens. You have the power to do specific things to make sure you’re tired when you decide to sleep. This includes eating the right foods at the right times, taking supplements and taking or not taking drugs and minimising technology that upsets your body melatonin production.

After reading David Asprey’s The Bullet Proof Diet and testing out the effects of MCT oil (medium chain triglycerides) on my own body and brain, I am now using a version of MCT (from food or oils) throughout the entire day. I’ve not only noticed an improvement in my sleep quality but my overall energy and brain ‘clearness’ through the day.

‘Fat is a long burning fuel for your mind and body’ – David Asprey.

The shortest length fats of MCT oil are converted into ketones that are immediately used as fuel for your brain, and MCT oil can also help burn body fat while you sleep. I’ve noticed that I think faster and more clearly the next morning if I’ve had either MCT (or XCT or Brain Octane Oil, all MCT variations) the night before.

I also find having a slow release complex carbohydrate such as oats before bed (see hack 3 below) also helps me sleep. This is because as you’re giving your body some glucose while you sleep as opposed to ketones from MCT. Both work great and I recommend experimenting with both and see what works best for you.

Note: if you’re not used to MCT oil, start slowly and be sure to mix it with something (I normally use whey or vegan rice protein). Too much MCT without your body being used to it can give you a stomach upset or the runs.

Our bodies use protein for muscle repair and immune function. In the training section, I discuss how you tear down fibres while you train, it’s actually your diet and sleep that repair those fibers.

The muscle repair happens at night during your deep REM sleep and you need all the raw materials (amino acids) to help heal and grow new tissue. I recommend mixing a scoop of good quality whey or vegan protein with a tablespoon of MCT oil 30 minutes before bed.

Too much protein can raise the alertness chemical in the brain called orexin, which can disrupt sleep so it’s important not to have ‘too much’ protein before bed.

For years, I would have two chicken breasts before bed thinking that it would ‘help me repair’ not realizing that it was massively disrupting my quality of sleep. I scaled back 60g of protein to to 25g of protein with 10 -15g of fat or 20g of complex carbs and my sleep has never been better.

As mentioned above, some slow release carbohydrates such as oats are a great sleep hack. Your brain uses a lot of energy while you’re sleeping. One efficient form of brain energy comes from the sugar that is stored in the liver, called liver glycogen. Your brain taps your liver glycogen before hitting the stored sugar in your muscles (muscle glycogen) so having a little carbohydrate before bed can help your brain function better and allow you to relax and get into a deeper sleep.

From reading Nathaniel Altman’s ‘The Honey Prescription’, a small amount of raw honey will have a very similar effect on the body and when combined with some MCT Oil, wont throw you out of fat burning mode (as the shortest length MCT, ie from a supplement, does produce ketones even in the presences of carbohydrates, so you can stay in mild state of ketosis even whilst sleeping). I found both a slow release carbohydrate like oats and honey (combined or by themselves) to work great; personally I find the oats helps me sleep better but I have several clients who prefer not to eat ‘real food’ before bed and find that honey works amazingly well for them so ive included it.

– Magnsium to relax before bed
– GABA to help you de-stress
– L-Trypothoan to release serotonin before you lay down
– Melatonin as your ‘I need a good sleep tonight’ powerhouse backup.

Written by Brian Keane

Brian Keane Fitness Podcast

Brian is a qualified personal trainer, sports nutritionist and strength and conditioning coach.

He is the best selling author of the book The Fitness Mindset and currently travels the world as a professional speaker. He also hosts the #1 podcast The Brian Keane Podcast.

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