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All About Tryptophan
These days many bodybuilders and athletes are supplementing with specific amino acids
for a variety of purposes. The amino acid L-Arginine is commonly used to improve
pumps and blood flow to muscles, while L-Glutamine is used to increase recovery and
control blood sugar levels. Arginine and Glutamine are just two examples of how amino
acids have become a stable supplement for many bodybuilders and athletes. While the
popularity of amino acids is rising, one of the more overlooked aminos is L-tryptophan.
What is tryptophan and where is it found?
Tryptophan is one of the 20 amino acids that make up the building blocks of protein. A
typical adults diet contains about 1.5g a day of this useful amino acid. Trypotophan is
also one of the 9 essential amino acids, meaning it cannot be produced by the human
body and must be consumed through diet or supplementation. Some of the foods that
contain tryptophan are chocolate, oats, bananas, mangos, red meat, chickpeas, and several
dairy products. Many people have also heard of tryptophan as the substance in turkey
which makes you feel sleepy, but most people don’t know that this incredible amino acid
also has many other uses. These uses benefit not only bodybuilders and athletes, but also
anybody who is looking to improve their general well-being.
Tryptophan (Trp) Content of Various Foods[12][13]
Tryptophan Tryptophan/Protein
[g/100 g of food] [g/100 g of food]
cheese, cheddar
lamb, chop
pork, chop
perch, Atlantic
wheat flour,
potatoes, russet
(Source: Wikepedia)
What are the functions of tryptophan?
1. Building Block of Protein Biosyntheses
Tryptophan is an essential amino acid and therefore has a role in protein biosyntheses
along with all the other amino acids. No studies have been done on humans looking at the
role of tryptophan in protein syntheses, however, initial studies on mice have concluded
that tryptophan increased hepatic protein synthesis and the B polyribosome profile
response of the mice tested.
“Four milligrams of l-tryptophan, but not equimolar amounts of single compounds structurally related to
tryptophan, induced an increase in stimulation of hepatic protein synthesis, which changed little with higher
levels of tryptophan. l-Tryptophan rapidly reached the liver and induced enhanced hepatic protein synthesis
within 5 to 10 min, reached its peak effect by 1 hour, then began to decrease within 2 hours, and returned to
control fasted levels within 4 to 6 hours. Animals fasted for longer periods (40 and 64 hours) rather than
overnight (16 hours), adrenalectomized mice, and mice pretreated with actinomycin D, when tubefed ltryptophan, showed enhanced hepatic protein synthesis as well as the B polyribosome profile response”
(Excerpts from the University of Pittsburgh School of Medicine study)
2. Chemical precursor to serotonin
Serotonin is the chemical in the brain that promotes feelings of happiness, calm,
relaxation, well-being, confidence, and concentration along with many other “feel good”
emotions. Many people lack serotonin, which in turn leads to depression. Tryptophan is
the precursor to serotonin and eventually turns into serotonin. It is important to eat
complex carbohydrates alongside which will help trypophan reach the brain faster, where
it will eventually convert to serotonin.
3. Synthesizes Niacin
Trypophan is the main amino acid that synthesizes niacin (B3), which is a very important
vitamin in the human body. Niacin is important for energy metabolism, proper digestion,
and healthy nervous system. In people with a low-moderate niacin intake, the liver can
convert tryptophan to niacin with the ratio of 60mg (tryptophan) to 1mg (niacin).
4. Precursor to melatonin
Trypophan turns into serotonin, which eventually converts to the hormone melatonin in
the pineal gland, which is located in the brain. Melatonin is commonly used to help
promote a deeper sleep.
What Can Tryptophan be used for?
Tryptophan has been used by many people who suffer from
Obsessive/compulsive disorder
Premenstrual syndrome
Senile dementia
Tourette's syndrome
Depression/Serotonin deficiency syndrome
Due to tryptophans effects on serotonin, it is often used as a natural aid for depression.
Many people suffer from serotonin deficiency syndrome and often rely on the aid of
drugs such as Prozac to increase serotonin production. However studies have shown that
even a small increase of tryptophan (0.5-3g) will have a significant effect in boosting
blood and brain tryptophan levels.
Sleep Aid
Many people who suffer from sleeping disorders could use the help of melatonin.
Tryptophan is the precursor to serotonin, which eventually turns into melatonin in the
brain. Melatonin helps with sleeping by promoting a deeper sleep, and studies at the
Massachusetts Institute of Technology indicate that melatonin supplementation promotes
a better quality of sleep, and increases REM time. Increased levels of melatonin also have
the added benefit of being an antioxidant, preventing ischemic damage, and helping with
Use for bodybuilders/Athletes
Bodybuilders and athletes go through periods of increased stress and mental anxiety more
often then the average person. Tryptophan may increase levels of serotonin which is the
chemical responsible for promoting feelings of calmness, relaxation, and
concentration….all benefits that are useful for any type of athlete. Also, sleep is
extremely important for athletes and bodybuilders. Only when you sleep can your
muscles repair themselves and build themselves up stronger then before. Sometimes
however, with increased competition stress, many athletes find themselves having trouble
sleeping and not getting the proper rest their body needs. Tryptophan eventually leads to
the production of melatonin, the body’s main hormone to promote sleep, and helps
athletes reach a deeper sleep while increasing REM time. A study at the Oregon health
Sciences University tested the effects of melatonin on a group of blind people (blind
people were chosen as they cant tell the difference between light and dark cycles). The
study found that the group of blind people given melatonin had normalized their sleep
patterns, while those not given melatonin had erratic sleep patterns. Also, getting enough
vitamin B3 is important for athletes since it is the main vitamin which promotes energy
metabolism, proper digestion, and healthy nervous system. With most peoples busy
schedule, sometimes sufficient vitamin consumption is overlooked. Tryptophan can
synthesize into B3 in the liver if there is not sufficient intake through diet. Tryptophan
also plays an important role in protein biosyntheses, since it is one of the nine essential
amino acids that must be taken in through diet and supplementation, since the human
body cant produce them.
Tryptophan is emerging as a important amino acid in improving the performance of
athletes and bodybuilders, as well as improving the general well-being of everyday
people. Tryptophans functions include playing a part in protein biosyntheses, acting as a
precursor to serotonin and melatonin, and converting into Niacin if dietary levels are low.
Tryptophan promotes a healthy and happy mood, better sleep, maintains adequate levels
of niacin, prevents depression and anxiety, and plays a role in overall well being.
Anybody can benefit with the use of Tryptophan in their supplement regimen, from
hardcore athletes to everyday people, anyone can increase their performance and well
being by supplementing with this very important, yet underrated amino acid.