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What is Tryptophan?

What is Tryptophan?

During the holiday season we’re more likely to consume larger amounts of food. From family gatherings to work holiday parties, it’s easy to overdo it. If you can relate to this, you can probably relate to the sluggish feeling you have after consuming larger amounts of food. Stuffing yourself full does contribute some, but an essential amino acid called Tryptophan is also something many people blame for their sudden drop in energy levels. You’ve probably heard the common myth that the reason you get tired after your big Thanksgiving feast is from the Tryptophan in the turkey. Turkey does naturally have Tryptophan, but so do many other high protein food sources. Tryptophan can be found in variety of food sources, but some specific ones are eggs, fish, dairy products, beef, grains, legumes, and even bananas.  

So, what exactly is Tryptophan? As mentioned above, Tryptophan is an essential amino acid. Amino acids are known as the “building blocks” of protein and they are extremely important when it comes to our survival. Unfortunately, we don’t naturally create our own essential amino acids, so we rely on foods and supplements to provide them. Our bodies need both essential amino acids and nonessential amino acids to survive. Essential amino acids help create nonessential amino acids, and they simultaneously work together to help our bodies survive and thrive at the end of the day. Tryptophan functions as a natural mood regulator because it helps produce and balance specific hormones within our bodies. Tryptophan converts itself to serotonin, which is an important chemical and neurotransmitter in the human body, more commonly it is referred to as the “calming” hormone. Serotonin is responsible for a person’s mood, appetite, sleep, memory and learning, temperature regulation, and some social behavior. Since serotonin influences several aspects of our lives, consuming Tryptophan can result in many added benefits.

Here are 3 benefits of Tryptophan:

  1. Reduces Anxiety and Depression: When Tryptophan converts to serotonin it helps make more essential amino acids available for your body to use. In return, this helps regulate and calm stress hormones while uplifting someone’s mood. Continuous stress can lead to higher risks of anxiety and depression, but it can also cause other complications such as IBS, heart disease, insomnia, migraines, learning and memory impairments, and several other problems.
  2. Promotes Better Sleep: Since Tryptophan can regulate a person’s mood, it naturally has a calming effect, which can aid in a better sleep. Sleep is incredibly important, and a lack of sleep can cause a person to be more prone to depression, anxiety, sleep apnea, lack of concentration, and weight gain. Tryptophan’s calming effect aids in a better, more restful sleep, while reducing the risk of negative repercussion from a lack of sleep.    
  3. Improves Physical Performance and Recovery: Tryptophan can help improve physical performance, increase recovery time, and fight fatigue. Tryptophan aids in building and repairing muscle tissue but it can also help lower performance anxiety which makes it popular with athletes.

Again, Tryptophan can be found in a variety of high-protein foods. While it does have calming effects, eating these high-protein foods won’t cause you to fall asleep like the Thanksgiving myth suggests. The strongest benefits of Tryptophan have been found when taking supplements, rather than just relying on food sources. Taking Tryptophan supplements is easier for your body to absorb, rather than using extra energy to break down food as well. If you think taking a Tryptophan supplement would benefit you, it is always important to do you research and read about correct dosages.

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