1. What Is It?
L-Tryptophan is an essential amino acid that is found naturally occurring in most high protein food sources such as chicken, eggs, cheese, fish & some nuts. Being an essential amino acid means we are required to obtain L-Tryptophan through our diet as the body cannot synthesise it.
Like all amino acids, L-Tryptophan plays a vital role in a number of processes within the body. There are two types of Tryptophan: L-Tryptophan & D-Tryptophan. L-Tryptophan is the form that is abundant in proteins.
2. What Does It Do?
L-Tryptophan, once consumed, goes through a process of being converted to different compounds to provide an increase in production of certain neurotransmitters. Once L-Tryptophan is consumed it is first converted into 5-hydroxy-tryptophan (5-HTP). 5-HTP is the amino acid the body naturally produces and acts as a ‘middle man’ in the conversion process of L-Tryptophan being utilised by the body. 5-HTP is a precursor to the neurotransmitter, Serotonin. Serotonin is the key to the majority of the benefits that supplementing with L-Tryptophan provides.
Serotonin is a neurotransmitter that is produced through many pathways in the body. L-Tryptophan is converted into 5-HTP and then that converts in Serotonin in the body. Serotonin has an impact on almost all parts of the body and is considered a natural mood stabilizer. Serotonin is essential for regulating appetite, sleep, mood and even pain management. Low serotonin levels have been associated with such conditions as anxiety, depression and excessive nervousness.
Melatonin is a neurotransmitter-like compound that the body can synthesise naturally. It is produced by the pineal gland in the brain and has the primary role of regulating the body’s circadian rhythm which influences the body’s natural sleep cycle. Within the pineal gland, serotonin is acetylated and then methylated to produce Melatonin. Increasing melatonin production has a positive effect on sleep and sleep quality. Shift workers that don’t get to maintain and consistent sleep routine are often prescribed a melatonin supplement to help them sleep.
Improved Sleep Quality
As mentioned just above, the increased production of Melatonin through Tryptophan supplementation has been shown to improve sleep quality. We could literally write a novel on the benefits of getting better quality sleep, seriously we could. From improved hormone production to a reduced risk of injury, to improved performance both mentally and physically… and those are just the basics. Melatonin can improve the quality of the sleep you get and thus allowing the body to achieve greater levels of rest and recovery each night.
Improved Pain Tolerance
A four-week study looked at the effect a daily dose of L-Tryptophan would have on perceived pain and also pain tolerance against a placebo group. Over the four weeks, the L-Tryptophan group showed significantly greater reductions in reported clinical pain as well as also demonstrating a greater increase in pain tolerance threshold as well.
3. How Much Do I Need To Take?
The dosing of L-Tryptophan isn’t simple. Due to its interaction with Neurotransmitters like Serotonin and Melatonin. For example, if you know you have low serotonin levels through the appropriate tests, below are some examples of dosing of L-Tryptophan to help improve serotonin levels.
Raising Low Serotonin Levels
- Minor Deficiency – 500 mg of L-Tryptophan
- Moderate Deficiency – 1,000 mg of L-Tryptophan
- Major Deficiency – 2,000 – 3,000 mg of L-Tryptophan
For improved sleep and better sleep quality, we typically see dosages of between 1,000 – 2,000 mg taken before bed to be beneficial. With this being said there is no reason why dosages lower than 1,000 mg can have a significantly positive effect, especially if the user already has adequate serotonin levels.
Of course, we can’t overlook the use of L-Tryptophan in EAA supplements. This is typically the most common type of supplement that we will consume L-Tryptophan as it is considered as one of the nine Essential Amino Acids that we must consume through diet. However, dosing of L-Tryptophan in EAA blends can range from dosages as low as 50 mg up to 1,000 mg.
4. When Do I Take It?
Supplementing with larger dosages of L-Tryptophan is going to have the largest effect when taken before bedtime. Due to the effect on increasing serotonin and then increasing melatonin production, this will help with improving the quality of sleep when taken before bed.
When consuming L-Tryptophan in an EAA blend, the timing of taking this supplement is a lot more versatile, due to the low dosing of L-Tryptophan and the application of the product aiming to improve muscle protein synthesis and increasing amino acid uptake. Consuming these products during exercise and throughout the day is ideal.
5. How Long Does It Take To Work?
You will notice the effects of L-Tryptophan from the very first dose. Taken before bed will result in improved sleep, sleep quality and should leave you feeling more rested upon waking. This is when you consume L-Tryptophan in a dose of at least 500 mg.
Doses of L-Tryptophan lower than 500 mg may not elicit any direct effects that you will be able to notice. However, as part of a EAA blend containing all 9 Essential Amino Acids, you will notice improved athletic endurance and improved muscle recovery from continual consumption of an EAA product.
6. What Are The Top Products?
The top products containing L-Tryptophan are: