Tryptophan Can Boosts Your Sleep Quality and Mood Do You Know?

Everyone knows that a good night’s sleep prepares you to face the day.

What’s more, several nutrients promote good sleep quality and support your mood.

Tryptophan, an amino acid found in many foods and supplements, is one of them.

It’s necessary for making proteins and other important molecules in your body, including some that are essential for optimal sleep and mood.

This article discusses the effects of tryptophan on these fundamental parts of your life.

Woman Wrapped in Blanket in Bed
What Is Tryptophan?

Tryptophan is one of many amino acids found in foods that contain protein.

In your body, amino acids are used to make proteins but also serve other functions (1).

For example, they are necessary to produce several important molecules that help transmit signals.

In particular, tryptophan can be converted into a molecule called 5-HTP (5-hydroxytryptophan), which is used to make serotonin and melatonin (23).

Serotonin affects several organs, including the brain and intestines. In the brain specifically, it influences sleep, cognition and mood (45).

Meanwhile, melatonin is a hormone that’s most notably involved in your sleep-wake cycle (6).

Overall, tryptophan and the molecules it produces are essential to the optimal functioning of your body.

SUMMARYTryptophan is an amino acid that can be converted into several important molecules, including serotonin and melatonin. Tryptophan and the molecules it produces influence many functions in the body, including sleep, mood and behavior.

Effects on Mood, Behavior and Cognition

Although tryptophan has many functions, its impact on the brain is particularly notable.

Low Levels Are Associated With Mood Disorders

Several studies have shown that those experiencing depression may have tryptophan levels that are lower than normal (78).

Other research has examined the effects of altering blood levels of tryptophan.

By lowering tryptophan levels, researchers can learn about its functions. To do so, study participants consume large amounts of amino acids, with or without tryptophan (9).

One such study exposed 15 healthy adults to a stressful environment twice — once when they had normal tryptophan blood levels and once when they had low levels (10).

The researchers found that anxiety, tension and feelings of nervousness were higher when the participants had low tryptophan levels.

Based on these results, low levels of tryptophan could contribute to anxiety (11).

They may also increase aggression and impulsiveness in aggressive individuals (12).

On the other hand, supplementing with tryptophan may promote good social behavior (13).

SUMMARYResearch has shown that low levels of tryptophan may contribute to mood disorders, including depression and anxiety.

Low Levels May Impair Memory and Learning

Altering levels of tryptophan can influence several aspects of cognition.

One study found that when tryptophan levels were lowered, long-term memory performance was worse than when levels were normal (14).

These effects were seen regardless of whether the participants had a family history of depression.

Additionally, a large review found that lower tryptophan levels negatively impacted cognition and memory (15).

Memory linked to events and experiences may be particularly impaired.

These effects are likely due to the fact that as tryptophan levels are lowered, serotonin production decreases (15).

SUMMARYTryptophan is important for cognitive processes because of its role in serotonin production. Low levels of this amino acid can impair your cognition, including your memory of events or experiences.

Serotonin Is Responsible for Many of Its Effects

In the body, tryptophan can be converted into the molecule 5-HTP, which then forms serotonin (1416).

Based on numerous experiments, researchers agree that many of the effects of high or low tryptophan levels are due to its effects on serotonin or 5-HTP (15).

In other words, increasing its levels can lead to increased 5-HTP and serotonin (1718).

Serotonin and 5-HTP affect many processes in the brain, and interference with their normal actions may impact depression and anxiety (5).

In fact, many drugs designed to treat depression modify the action of serotonin in the brain to increase its activity (19).

What’s more, serotonin influences processes in the brain that are involved in learning (20).

Treatment with 5-HTP can also help increase serotonin and improve mood and panic disorders, as well as insomnia (521).

Overall, the conversion of tryptophan to serotonin is responsible for many of its observed effects on mood and cognition (15).

SUMMARYThe importance of tryptophan is likely due to its role in serotonin production. Serotonin is essential for the proper functioning of the brain, and low tryptophan levels reduce the amount of serotonin in the body.

Impact on Melatonin and Sleep

Once serotonin has been produced from tryptophan in the body, it can be converted into another important molecule — melatonin.

In fact, research has shown that increasing tryptophan in the blood directly increases both serotonin and melatonin (17).

In addition to being found naturally in the body, melatonin is a popular supplement and found in several foods, including tomatoes, strawberries and grapes (22).

Melatonin influences the sleep-wake cycle of the body. This cycle impacts many other functions, including the metabolism of nutrients and your immune system (23).

Several studies have shown that increasing tryptophan in the diet can improve sleep by increasing melatonin (2425).

One study found that eating tryptophan-enriched cereal at breakfast and dinner helped adults fall asleep faster and sleep longer, compared to when they ate standard cereals (25).

Symptoms of anxiety and depression were also reduced, and it is likely that the tryptophan helped increase both serotonin and melatonin.

Other studies have also shown that taking melatonin as a supplement can improve sleep quantity and quality (2627).

SUMMARYMelatonin is important to the body’s sleep-wake cycle. Increasing tryptophan intake can lead to higher levels of melatonin and may improve sleep quantity and quality.

Sources of Tryptophan

Many different protein-containing foods are good sources of tryptophan (28).

Because of this, you get some of this amino acid almost any time you eat protein.

Your intake depends on how much protein you consume and which protein sources you eat.

Some foods are particularly high in tryptophan, including poultry, shrimp, eggs, elk and crab, among others (28).

It has been estimated that a typical diet provides approximately 1 gram per day (29).

You can also supplement with tryptophan or one of the molecules it produces, such as 5-HTP and melatonin.

SUMMARYTryptophan is found in foods that contain protein or supplements. The specific amount of it in your diet varies on the amount and types of protein you eat, but it has been estimated that a typical diet provides about 1 gram per day.

How to Use Tryptophan Supplements

If you want to improve your sleep quality and well-being, tryptophan supplements are worth considering. However, you also have other options.

You may choose to supplement with molecules that are derived from tryptophan. These include 5-HTP and melatonin.

If you take tryptophan itself, it may be used in other bodily processes besides making serotonin and melatonin, such as protein or niacin production. That’s why supplementing with 5-HTP or melatonin may be a better choice for some people (5).

Those who want to improve their mood or cognition may choose to take tryptophan or 5-HTP supplements.

Both of these can increase serotonin, although 5-HTP can be converted to serotonin more quickly (5).

What’s more, 5-HTP can have other effects, such as decreasing food consumption and body weight (3031).

Doses of 5-HTP may range from 100–900 mg per day (31).

For those who are most interested in promoting sleep, supplementing with melatonin may be the best choice (27).

Doses of 0.5–5 mg per day have been used, with 2 mg being the most common dose (32).

For those who take tryptophan itself, doses of up to 5 grams per day have been reported (29).

SUMMARYTryptophan or its products (5-HTP and melatonin) can be taken individually as dietary supplements. If you choose to take one of these supplements, the best choice depends on the symptoms you are targeting.

Side Effects

Since tryptophan is an amino acid found in many foods, it is assumed to be safe in normal quantities.

It’s estimated that a typical diet contains 1 gram per day, but some individuals choose to supplement with doses of up to 5 grams per day (29).

Its possible side effects have been examined for over 50 years, and very few of them have been reported.

However, occasional side effects like nausea and dizziness have been reported at doses above 50 mg per kilogram of body weight, or 3.4 grams for a 150-pound (68-kg) adult (29).

Side effects may be more prominent when tryptophan or 5-HTP is taken along with drugs that influence serotonin levels, such as antidepressants.

When the activity of serotonin is excessively increased, a condition called serotonin syndrome can result (33).

It can cause several symptoms, including sweating, tremors, agitation and delirium (29).

If you are taking any medications that affect your serotonin levels, consider consulting your physician before taking tryptophan or 5-HTP supplements.

SUMMARYStudies on tryptophan supplements report minimal effects. However, occasional nausea and dizziness have been observed at higher doses. Side effects can become more severe when taking medications that influence serotonin levels.

Vegan Diet for Weight Loss: All You Need TO Know

Is weight loss possible?

If you’re looking to shed some pounds, you may have considered trying a vegan diet. Vegans don’t eat meat, fish, eggs, or dairy products. Instead, they eat things like fresh fruits and vegetables, beans and legumes, as well as plant-based milks, other nondairy products, and meat alternatives.

Although some people choose the vegan lifestyle out of ethical concerns for animals, the diet itself can have some health benefits. Ac, Is this  Approach healthy?cording to recent studies, being vegan may even help you lose a significant amount of weight.

How exactly? More research is needed, but it’s thought that going vegan may lead to reducing the number of high-calorie foods you consume. With a vegan diet, you may end up replacing such foods with high-fiber alternatives that are low in calories and keep you fuller longer.

IS IT HEALTHY?But is this approach healthy?

Cutting out some of the main food groups in your diet may seem unhealthy. And unless you carefully pay attention to your nutrition, it can be.

Some worry, for example, about getting enough protein or other essential nutrients, like vitamin B-12. This vitamin is found naturally only in animal products, and if you become deficient, it may result in anemia. Vegans need to supplement their diet with vitamins, vitamin-fortified cereals, and fortified soy products to avoid deficiencies.

Others may have trouble with yo-yo dieting after going vegan. What does this mean? It’s when you go through cycles of losing weight and then regaining all or more of that weight, possibly after having trouble sticking to vegan-only foods. This type of dieting is associated with some serious health consequences, like an increased risk for type 2 diabetes and heart disease.

Regardless of these and other possible pitfalls, you can eat a vegan diet healthily and lose weight. The key — as with all diets — is focusing on nutrient-dense foods versus empty calories. For vegans, these foods would include things like:

  • fresh fruits and vegetables
  • whole grains
  • beans and legumes
  • nuts and seeds

Limit or avoid vegan processed foods that contain these added ingredients:

  • fats
  • sugars
  • starches
  • sodium
  • food additives

OTHER WAYS TO LOSE WEIGHT

Tips for weight loss

Women generally need to eat 2,000 calories each day to maintain weight. To lose weight, this number drops to around 1,500 calories a day. Men generally need to eat 2,500 calories each day to maintain their weight and around 2,000 calories a day to lose weight.

A junk-food calorie doesn’t equal a whole-food calorie as far as nutrition goes. Even if you stay below your calorie goal, filling up on all Nutter Butter cookies, which happen to be vegan, is very different from filling up on buckets of fresh produce.

There are many factors that affect weight loss, including:

  • age
  • height
  • current weight
  • diet
  • physical activity levels
  • metabolic health
  • other medical issues

Although you can’t control all of these factors, you can control your diet and exercise. Regardless of the type of diet you choose, you should follow these guidelines for healthy eating

1. Time your meals

Grazing throughout the day isn’t good for weight loss. Timing your meals is essential to boosting your metabolism and promoting healthy eating habits.

In general, try eating meals at the same time each day to get your mind and stomach into a predictable pattern. Munch on a larger breakfast in comparison to the other meals in your day. This may mean shifting your lunch a bit earlier and eating a smaller dinner.

If you’ve exercised, try eating within 45 minutes of finishing. This will help feed and repair your muscles.

When shouldn’t you eat? Within two hours of bedtime. Consuming calories too close to bedtime is associated with weight gain and sleep disturbances.

WATCH YOUR PORTIONS

2. Watch your portions

Portion sizes matter with any of the foods you eat — vegan or not. The United States Department of Agriculture’s My Plate suggests that average women and men get the following number of servings of these foods each day:

Food group Servings for women Servings for men
grains 6 9
vegetables 3+ 4+
fruits 2 3
dairy or dairy alternatives 2–3 2–3
meat and beans 5 ounces 6 ounces
fats/oils 5–6 6–7

Here are examples of single servings of different foods in each group for vegans:

grains • 1 slice bread
• 1 cup cold cereal
• 1/2 cup cooked cereal, pasta, or rice
vegetables • 1 cup raw leafy greens
• 1/2 cup raw or cooked veggies
• 3/4 cup vegetable juice
fruits • 1 medium piece whole fruit, such as an apple, banana, orange, or pear
• 1/2 cup chopped, cooked, or canned fruit
• 3/4 cup no sugar-added fruit juice
dairy • 1 cup nondairy milk
meat and beans • 1/2 cup cooked dry beans
• 1/2 cup tofu
• 2-1/2 ounces soy burger
• 2 tablespoons peanut butter
• 1/3 cup nuts
fats • 1 tablespoon oil
• 1 tablespoon butter
• 1/2 medium avocado
• 1 ounce nuts
• 2 tablespoons nut butter

3. Make sure you’re getting enough protein

Current recommendations for protein intake are around 5.5 ounces per day, or around 0.41 grams per pound of body weight. This means a 150-pound woman should consume approximately 61 grams of protein each day. A 175-pound man should consume around 72 grams each day.

When you break this down into calories, there are about 4 calories per gram of protein. So the woman in this example would need to get 244 calories from protein each day, and the man would need to get 288 calories from protein.

Good sources of plant protein include:

Food Serving size Grams of protein
tempeh 1 cup 31
soybeans 1 cup 29
seitan 3 ounces 21
lentils 1 cup 18
beans, such as chickpeas, black beans, and kidney beans 1 cup 15
tofu, firm 4 ounces 11
quinoa 1 cup 8
textured vegetable protein (TVP) 1/2 cup 8
peanut butter 2 tablespoons 8

4. Pass on “healthy” drinks

Before you sip that store-bought smoothie, consider how many calories it might contain. Even so-called healthy drinks and energy mixes can pack quite a caloric punch.

First, let’s take a look at a beverage most people know to steer clear while dieting: A 20-ounce soda contains around 240 calories and 15 to 18 teaspoons of sugar.

But what about that freshly squeezed orange juice? It contains about 279 calories per 20 ounces. That acai smoothie? It may contain 460 calories per 20 ounces.

Read labels carefully and consider saving these drinks for special occasions.

Sticking with water is typically your best bet when trying to lower the number on the scale. It’s hydrating and contains zero calories. If you don’t like plain water, you might consider adding a squeeze of lemon or lime or trying herbal teas and sparkling waters.

DON’T BINGE

5. Don’t binge on plant-based desserts

The same rules apply to vegan and non-vegan desserts: Eat them in moderation. The average American eats a whopping 22.2 teaspoons of sugar each day. Whether that comes from a decadent ice cream sundae or a batch of vegan cookies, it’s still 335 calories that contain little nutritional value.

Sugar can actually disrupt your metabolism and lead to health issues beyond weight gain, including high blood pressure, inflammation, and elevated blood triglycerides. How much of the sweet stuff is enough? Women should try to limit their daily sugars to around 6 teaspoons or 100 calories each day. Men should aim to get fewer than 9 teaspoons or 150 calories each day.

If you’re looking for a healthy vegan dessert option that’s relatively low in calories without added sugars and fats, try fresh fruit. Otherwise, eat a small portion of a vegan dessert and save the rest for tomorrow or next week.

TAKEAWAY

The bottom line

Eating a vegan diet may help you lose weight. Still, it’s always a good idea to talk with your doctor or a dietitian before making big changes to your diet. You should discuss how you’ll get critical nutrients, like protein and B vitamins.

Your doctor may also have other suggestions for how you might lose weight, like keeping a food diary or engaging in a regular exercise routine.