What is it?
You’ve probably heard of tryptophan before. It is ubiquitous on the tongues and minds around Thanksgiving time because of its presence in turkey. Tryptophan is an essential amino acid. It is known as essential because the human body cannot make it and it must be obtained from outside sources. As an amino acid it plays a vital role in the development and maintenance of multiple organs in the body.1 Most notably, tryptophan helps maintain brain functions and mood because the body converts it to serotonin. Serotonin is a hormone that transmits signals between nerves and has been linked with mood levels.
Tryptophan is essential for the human body. It is needed for normal growth and development in humans. Proper tryptophan levels is also linked to stable moods and healthy sleep. If you are finding a change in your diet and exercise routines to be mentally taxing it may be because of a change in your tryptophan levels. Make sure you are getting enough tryptophan along with other nutrients if you are on a strictly monitored diet—such as when you are trying to lose weight. If you can’t afford to add extra calories to your diet then a healthy and safe alternative can be tryptophan supplements.
Warnings / Side Effects
WebMD lists L-tryptophan as possibly unsafe when taken by mouth due to a possible link with a disease called eosinophilia-myalgia syndrome (EMS). Symptoms of EMS include fatigue, intense muscle pain, nerve pain, joint pain, rash and baldness. Tryptophan supplementation is not fundamental to attaining your workout goals. It should only be taken if you are experiencing unstable moods or trouble sleeping due to a fundamental change in your diet.
Where can I get it?
Food sources for tryptophan include turkey, cheese, eggs, tofu, soy, and chicken amongst others. L-Tryptophan in supplement form can be found over the counter at any store that sells vitamins or nutritional supplements. It can also be obtained easily online. Prices range from $15-$20 depending on volume and dosage. Be careful not to supplement your diet with too much tryptophan because, as previously stated, there is a possible link with this supplement and EMS syndrome.