Learn About Tryptophan And Its Many Benefits

Learn About Tryptophan And Its Many Benefits

Tryptophan is an amino acid that cannot be produced by the body, and therefore needs to be obtained from certain foods. Find out how tryptophan may benefit you in the article below.

WHAT IS TRYPTOPHAN?

Tryptophan is an essential amino acid that our body doesn't produce, thus it must be acquired from food. It is a precursor to the neurotransmitter serotonin. Sometimes called the “happy hormone”, serotonin contributes to our wellbeing and happiness. Because of that, tryptophan has a number of benefits and useful applications. If you take tryptophan, it can help raise serotonin levels.

HOW DOES TRYPTOPHAN WORK?

Although the “happy hormone”, serotonin, cannot be taken as a supplement by itself, tryptophan is one of the essential amino acids that provides the body with the building blocks to produce it. Serotonin is a neurotransmitter that plays an important role in our body, it regulates our mood, memory, sleep and eating behaviour.

In addition to providing the foundation for our brain to be able to produce serotonin, tryptophan is also used by the body to create melatonin, which is a hormone that regulates our sleep and wake cycles. It is also an important precursor to niacin, which is a B vitamin, and essential nutrient. Niacin is used by our body to turn food into energy.

TRYPTOPHAN

WHAT ARE THE BENEFITS OF TRYPTOPHAN?

As briefly touched upon, tryptophan assists in the production of the hormones melatonin and serotonin. But why do we need these hormones, and how does our system benefit from them? Trytophan's benefits include, but are not limited to, those described in the paragraphs below.

PROMOTES NATURAL AND HEALTHY SLEEP

TRYPTOPHAN: PROMOTES NATURAL AND HEALTHY SLEEP

For most of us, a good night's sleep is paramount for a full day of top-level functioning. A comfy bed, peaceful surroundings, and a worry-free state of mind are crucial to dozing off efficiently, but our diet also plays a role in whether we wake up well rested or not. Several nutrients, tryptophan being one of them, can have a beneficial effect on sleep function.

In the body, tryptophan is converted into 5-HTP, which is a precursor to melatonin, a hormone that plays a major role in the sleep-wake cycle. Melatonin works with the body's internal clock and signals when you should sleep and wake. When it gets darker, melatonin levels rise, binding to receptors and putting your body in a more relaxed state, thereby promoting sleep readiness. Once the sun starts to rise and your bedroom gets flooded with light, melatonin decreases, telling your body to wake up and get active.

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Tryptophan Vs. 5-HTP: Understanding The Differences

L-TRYPTOPHAN AS A MOOD ENHANCER

L-TRYPTOPHAN AS A MOOD ENHANCER

As the precursor to serotonin, L-tryptophan might help to boost the mood. Adequate levels of the feel-good chemical are associated with feelings of well-being and proper cognitive function.

L-tryptophan is able to access the brain, which the body then uses to construct its own supply of serotonin. Therefore, taking L-tryptophan might help to enhance the mood by kindling our own supply of the happy neurotransmitter. In instances where our serotonin supply falls low—such as after taking party drugs like MDMA that tax the serotonergic system—L-tryptophan might offer a cognitive lift.

L-TRYPTOPHAN AS A NOOTROPIC

L-TRYPTOPHAN AS A NOOTROPIC

When tryptophan is low, serotonin production switches to low gear as well. In other words, tryptophan regulates the rate of serotonin synthesis. As previously mentioned, proper serotonin levels are related to several aspects of cognitive functioning, such as memory and learning processes.

In one study[1], rats were dosed with tryptophan for a period of 42 days. The rodents showed improved memory after the testing period. In another study[2], conducted on mice, researchers found that dosed mice were able to alter their behaviour and adapt to changing circumstances at a higher rate than normal, leading to the conclusion that serotonin—and therefore tryptophan—boosts learning speed.

L-TRYPTOPHAN CAN IMPROVE EXERCISE PERFORMANCE

L-TRYPTOPHAN CAN IMPROVE EXERCISE PERFORMANCE

Have you ever just given up halfway through your workout, even though you still had energy left? Research suggests that this could be due to a low level of tryptophan. During a study where athletes were asked to run on a treadmill until exhaustion, those who had been given tryptophan were able to exercise longer than those without the supplement... almost 50% longer!

Not only could participants exercise for an extended period, but they also showed lower rates of perceived exertion, which is the subjective feeling one has regarding the difficulty level of the workout. In other words, test subjects worked longer at a continuous rate, but felt it took less energy and willpower to do so.

TRYPTOPHAN AS A NATURAL APPETITE REDUCER

TRYPTOPHAN AS A NATURAL APPETITE REDUCER

Tryptophan has also shown to work as a natural appetite reducer. During one study[3] with 15 healthy people who had been given L-tryptophan, it was found that those who received the supplement ate fewer carbohydrates and more protein, resulting in intake of 20% fewer calories.

In research[4] conducted with animals, rats which had been given L-tryptophan had been observed to eat less and less frequently.

It is believed that low tryptophan levels in the brain may be one reason for increased carbohydrate cravings. From these findings one can conclude that tryptophan can help people to eat less, and to eat healthier.

WHICH FOODS ARE GOOD SOURCES OF TRYPTOPHAN?

WHICH FOODS ARE GOOD SOURCES OF TRYPTOPHAN?

As shown above, tryptophan provides many useful benefits. However, the body cannot produce this amino acid, which means we have to obtain it from food. Fortunately, this isn’t difficult since tryptophan can be found in many foods such as meats, vegetables, fruit and grains. Let’s take a more detailed look at sources of tryptophan in the basic food groups.

  • Meats: in particular chicken, turkey, and certain game meats such as rabbit or pheasant are rich in tryptophan. It is also found in fish, especially in cod, halibut and salmon.
  • Vegetables: including potatoes, beets, spinach, but also seaweed and kelp, are rich sources of tryptophan. It is also found in fruits such as bananas, mango and dates.
  • Dairy and grains: eggs, milk and cheese, as well as grains like wheat, rice, beans, oats, soybeans, lentils, pumpkin seeds and chickpeas, are also very good sources of tryptophan.
Disclaimer:
We are not making medical claims. This article has been written for informational purposes only, and is based on research published by other externals sources.

External Resources:
  1. Relationship of brain tryptophan and serotonin in improving cognitive performance in rats. - PubMed - NCBI - https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/16632446
  2. An effect of serotonergic stimulation on learning rates for rewards apparent after long intertrial intervals | Nature Communications - https://www.nature.com/articles/s41467-018-04840-2
  3. Effects of L-tryptophan on short term food intake in lean men - ScienceDirect - https://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/S0271531785802402
  4. Evidence for the effect of tryptophan on the pattern of food consumption in free feeding and food deprived rats - ScienceDirect - https://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/0024320579903072