L-Tryptophan - The amino acid for mood & sleep

The amino acid L-tryptophan is involved in numerous important processes in our body and influences our mood and sleep patterns, among other things. Here we explain which foods have a good tryptophan content, how exercise affects the tryptophan metabolism and how this amino acid improves our sleep.

Table of Contents

  1. The amino acid L-tryptophan
  2. The influence of L-tryptophan on mood & sleep
  3. Sport & L-Tryptophan
  4. The best sources of L-tryptophan
  5. Use & application of L-tryptophan
  6. Conclusion

1. The amino acid L-tryptophan

L-tryptophan belongs to the group of essential amino acids. This means that this amino acid cannot be produced by our body itself and should therefore be ingested in sufficient form through food. A lack of L-tryptophan affects numerous mechanisms in the body. This is because L-tryptophan is a hormone and neurotransmitter precursor at the same time and is therefore significantly involved in many important bodily functions, for example in the construction of various proteins in our muscles, and serves as a precursor of vitamin B3. The effects of L-tryptophan are often described as mood-enhancing, calming and even weight-reducing.

Sportliche Frau ernährt sich morgens gesund

2. The influence of L-tryptophan on mood & sleep

L-tryptophan absorbed through the nutritiong can be transported via the bloodstream to our cells in the muscles and brain, where it is further processed. The enzyme tryptophan hydroxylase produces 5-hydroxytryptophan (5-HTP) and then our happy hormone serotonin. However, this process can be easily influenced and disturbed, for example, by a vitamin B6/vitamin B3 deficiency, insulin resistance, magnesium deficiency or stress. Therefore, a sufficient supply or care must be taken to avoid disruptive factors. Due to the direct connection with the serotonin metabolism, L-tryptophan is also said to have a mood-brightening effect.

The L-tryptophan metabolism

Tryptophan Stoffwechsel

Towards the evening and as it gets darker, serotonin is converted in the brain into the sleep hormone melatonin, which significantly regulates sleep and ensures that we get tired and fall asleep in the evening. As a basic building block in the biosynthesis of serotonin and the later conversion into melatonin, an adequate supply of the amino acid L-tryptophan is of great importance for a healthy sleep-wake cycle.

This positive effect on sleep has also been proven in scientific studies, in which the additional intake of the amino acid reduced the time it took subjects to fall asleep and improved the quality of sleep.

Gut schlafende Frau dank Tryptophan

3. Sport & L-Tryptophan

Many people are not aware of the close connection between sporting activity and L-tryptophan. Physical activity improves the absorption of L-tryptophan in the brain and thus lays the foundation for increased central serotonin production. Various studies also indicate that L-tryptophan seems to have a positive effect on performance and regeneration. Regular physical activity also has a very positive effect on sleep patterns by activating numerous metabolic processes, e.g. a also by the L-tryptophan – serotonin – melatonin connection described above. In addition, the amino acid also plays a role in the regulation of our immune system. During an immune reaction, enzymes are activated to limit the availability of L-tryptophan for virus-infected cells or cancer cells and thus their growth. For this reason, reduced tryptophan levels are also observed in the blood of these patients and, in some cases, a depressive mood is also associated with this.

4. The best sources of L-tryptophan

Since L-tryptophan is constantly being processed in our body, it must also be supplied daily. The required amount depends primarily on the body weight, so that in healthy adults approx. 5 mg L-tryptophan per kilogram of body weight per day is recommended. A need that is easy to cover given the high natural occurrence in plant and animal foods.

Tryptophan Quellen in Nahrungsmitteln zum Essen Trinken und besser schlafen

The following foods are good sources of L-tryptophan:

  • Soybeans: 590mg
  • Emmental: 460mg
  • Cashew nuts: 450mg
  • Sunflower seeds: 310mg
  • Veal fillet: 310mg
  • Chicken breast: 310mg
  • Tuna: 300mg
  • chicken egg: 230mg
  • Oatmeal: 190mg
  • Walnuts: 170mg

All information per 100g of food

Fortunately, L-tryptophan has a high resistance to heat and is rarely lost during food preparation.

5. Use & Application of L-Tryptophan

A lack of the amino acid L-tryptophan can result in the following symptoms:

  • Mood swings up to depressive moods and depressions
  • Inner restlessness and states of anxiety
  • Sleep disorders
  • Loss of performance & listlessness

An L-tryptophan deficiency can normally be compensated by a healthy diet. In particular, people with unfavorable eating habits or certain metabolic diseases (e.g. B sugar malabsorption) may benefit from L-tryptophan supplementation. Most L-tryptophan supplements contain between 0.5 and 5g of tryptophan. Ideally, it should be taken with a drink containing sugar, because L-tryptophan is absorbed through the blood-brain barrier to a greater extent under the influence of insulin and can therefore promote serotonin and melatonin production. Since L-tryptophan has no known negative effects on the organism, even in high doses, there are currently no known overdoses.

6. Conclusion

    • L-tryptophan is an important amino acid and is a central building block involved in the formation of the happiness hormone serotonin and the sleep hormone melatonin, which can influence our mood and sleep patterns.
    • Exercise and sugary foods promote the absorption of L-tryptophan in the brain.
      • The daily L-tryptophan requirement can usually be covered through diet. In exceptional situations, supplements can also be helpful.

      Greetings and see you soon!

      smartsleep Schlaf Experte Dr. Markus Dworak

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