Tryptophan is one of the amino acids found within the human body and our diet. This amino acid is essential for processing protein and for the production of serotonin. Within the North American diet, tryptophan is the least plentiful amino acid. Therefore, many have turned to supplements.
When supplements are taken, serotonin increases in the brain. This improves mood, while creating a more relaxed effect (aiding in sleep patterns). There’s research suggesting that tryptophan is a beneficial solution when targeting both depression and anxiety.
Tryptophan has been used as a dietary supplement since the 1980s, providing a more natural alternative for mood enhancement. Many nootropic users are taking tryptophan within a stack, increasing feelings of relaxation.
Tryptophan is a precursor for various neurotransmitters, hormones, and other substances. Once this supplement enters the bloodstream, it is carried throughout the body. From there, it aids in the production of proteins, as well as serotonin.
Serotonin is essential for regulating both mood and appetite. However, serotonin is not the only result from an increase in tryptophan. Some is converted into melatonin, which is responsible for sleeping patterns. Niacin (a B vitamin), is also produced from tryptophan.
Benefits of Tryptophan
There are various benefits to taking additional tryptophan, including:
- Reduces feelings of anxiety. In fact, low levels of tryptophan are linked to anxiety disorders and depression. This is directly linked to low levels of serotonin.
- Reduces appetite, which has helped some obese individuals lose weight. Once again, serotonin plays a role in appetite.
- It synthesizes niacin, which processes fats and carbohydrates. It is also known to contribute to the production of several neurotransmitters and hormones.
- Promotes healthy sleeping patterns. When your body gets enough tryptophan, your serotonin levels are balanced throughout the day. At night, the proper level of melatonin are produced. This helps you relax, allowing you to sleep better.
Tryptophan for Mood
As mentioned, serotonin is involved in mood, appetite, and sleep. Those that are deficient in serotonin, often experience symptoms of depression, boredom, and lethargy. That is why taking serotonin precursors are essential for the amount of serotonin in the brain.
When these levels are balanced, an individual will feel happier and more motivated. With that being said, serotonin precursors such as tryptophan, should not be taken for more than six weeks. You should always stick to the recommended dosage, as you can run the risk of an overabundance of this neurotransmitter.
Due to the relationship, low levels of tryptophan are linked to lower moods. For example, studies have given irritable people tryptophan, which was shown to reduce their symptoms of irritability. This is why many users take this supplement in a stack, allowing them to benefit further from cognitive effects.
Tryptophan for Cognition
Cognitive capabilities have also been examined, such as learning and memory. It has been found through multiple studies, that the serotonin pathway (which includes serotonin and all its precursors, including tryptophan), are directly correlated to memory processing.
This pathway affects how the brain processes memory. It also affects how new information is
processed. When one precursor is low, it tends to affect cognitive functioning. If this pathway is improved, learning improves. This is due to the brain’s ability to process new, learned information.
Tryptophan has been shown to improve sleep quality, as well as one’s ability to sleep. There are studies in which date back to the 1970s, proving the ways in which tryptophan promotes better sleep. Due to the fact that serotonin regulates sleep, when your levels are normal or above normal, you engage in proper sleeping patterns.
Tryptophan also plays a role in melatonin production. This hormone plays an essential role in our sleep cycle. When it becomes dark, our optical nerve sends a signal to the brain. Once this signal is received, the production and release of melatonin begins. This is what makes us feel sleepy, allowing us to fall asleep and stay asleep.
Tryptophan and Your Diet
Since tryptophan is an essential amino acid, it can not be produced within the body. This is why supplementation is so popular. Although you can access tryptophan from your diet, there’s some vital information to be aware of.
What foods provide tryptophan? How much do you need? Since it can be hard to obtain enough through our diet, supplementation is becoming increasingly popular. The following foods are some of the richest sources of tryptophan:
Shellfish and Fish
Fish is high in animal protein, which contains all the essential amino acids, including tryptophan. The highest levels of tryptophan can be obtained from cod, shrimp, halibut, salmon, and sardines.
Yellow fin tuna is one of the richest sources of tryptophan (a 4 ounce serving, yields around 25 grams of protein and 0.38 grams of tryptophan. Since your recommended daily intake is 0.32 grams, this portion of fish provides 110% of your DV.
Beef, Pork, and Poultry
Since animal protein is the best source for tryptophan, it’s no surprise that these meats are listed. Turkey is one of the best sources, as a 3.5 ounce serving, provides you with 0.34 grams of tryptophan. However, pork provides an even richer dose of tryptophan, as the same portion size yields 0.38 grams of tryptophan. Finally, steak provides 0.39 grams for the same serving size.
For vegetarians and vegans, it’s very hard to consume enough tryptophan. Although there’s tryptophan in diary products (for vegetarians), bananas, and a few other sources, it can be challenging to get enough.
Animal proteins are the richest sources, however you can obtain tryptophan from other sources. Tofu for instance provides 0.14 grams from a 4 ounce serving. Black and red kidney beans provide 0.18 grams, along with split peas.
Tryptophan Side Effects
When the correct dosage is followed there are not generally any unusual or serious side effects. However, if you take far more than recommended, you can experience an overdose. This can create symptoms such as; confusion, dry mouth, vomiting, twitching, fever, diarrhea, sweating, and shivering.
If these symptoms surface, it’s recommended that you immediately stop usage. Once these symptoms pass, speak with your doctor about taking another dose. This time, take a much smaller dose, as recommended.
If you are taking any antidepressants or amphetamines (i.e. Adderall), please avoid use. Taking this combination can result in an overabundance of serotonin. When this occurs, side effects are elevated. Stick to the recommended dosage, in order to avoid any unwanted effects.
The recommended dosage for tryptophan is between 500 mg and 4 g. However, see what works best for you. Start with a lower dose and see how you react. Like always, speak with your healthcare professional before you begin taking tryptophan.