T Nation

Insomnia - Whey Protein Related?


#1

I wanted to share my experience with the board to see:

A) if anyone else has experienced a similar issue with whey protein and insomnia, and
B) what supplements/vitamins you were taking that might have been causing the adverse interactions with the protein powder

The reason I was so surprised that I was getting insomnia (and was able to figure out the cause so quickly), is that I generally do try to follow all of the typical advice to improve sleep quality. I've installed f.lux (or a f.lux equivalent) on all of my electronics to limit blue light exposure before bed, I generally keep a fairly typical sleep schedule (~8-9 hours/night), and we have black out curtains to prevent light leakage from ruining our sleep (we live downtown in DC).

I mainly take supplements and vitamins for their positive effect, but was getting annoyed that I was no longer able to consume more than 30g of protein powder without losing sleep (I tried both the NOW Whey Protein Isolate and Muscle Milk). I used to take whey protein back in college (~5 years ago) without any negative effects.
My supplement stack at the time I was getting insomnia was:

Vitamin B12 - 1 mg, Folate - 0.8 mg
Vitamin K complex
Vitamin D - 6000 IU
Vitamin C - 1 g
Fish Oil - 4 g
Magnesium L-threonate - 144 mg
Acetyl-L-carnitine - 1 g
Creatine - 5 g

To test out whether my supplements were causing some kind of interaction with the protein that was leading to my insomnia, I cut out all the supplement/vitamins, and let them clear out of my system for a couple of days. After letting the supplements clear my system, I was able to tolerate 30g+ of protein without any insomnia! At this point I've been able to take protein powder for a week without any loss of sleep. Before, if I took protein powder I'd notice this sharp feeling in my head similar to what I'd feel if I had choline-induced insomnia.

I've been able to titrate back up to the following regimen without any adverse effects:

Vitamin K complex
Vitamin D - 4000 IU
Fish Oil - 4 g
Magnesium L-threonate - 144 mg

So pretty much, I'm guessing it was one of the following supplements or combination of supplements which caused some strange interaction with the protein powders:

Vitamin B12 - 1 mg, Folate - 0.8 mg
Vitamin C - 1 g
Acetyl-L-carnitine - 1 g
Creatine - 5 g

Since pretty much everyone takes creatine, I doubt that's the culprit. Would anyone else with reported whey protein insomnia be willing to share what additional supplements/vitamins they were taking at the time they experienced their insomnia?


#2

Whey protein is fast acting and can stimulate insulin and lead to low blood sugar if its the last thing you eat for several hours. Low night time blood sugar can produce cortisol and wake you up. Its basically a mild fight or slight response.

The conventional opinion is to not use whey if you can’t eat again for 2-3 hours because you will start to become catabolic. Metabolic Drive is supposed to last longer into the night. I prefer to not finish the day with protein powder. If I did, I would take casien/Metabolic Drive if possible and might combine with coconut milk and half a banana, or with whole milk.


#3

[quote]mertdawg wrote:
Whey protein is fast acting and can stimulate insulin and lead to low blood sugar if its the last thing you eat for several hours. Low night time blood sugar can produce cortisol and wake you up. Its basically a mild fight or slight response.

The conventional opinion is to not use whey if you can’t eat again for 2-3 hours because you will start to become catabolic. Metabolic Drive is supposed to last longer into the night. I prefer to not finish the day with protein powder. If I did, I would take casien/Metabolic Drive if possible and might combine with coconut milk and half a banana, or with whole milk. [/quote]

First of all OP, The last thing that could be causing your insomnia are supplements. Unless you are taking stimulants or pre workouts right before bed there is no way they can keep you up. This sounds a lot more like a psychological issue or maybe another problem that has nothing to do with training and nutrition. Sounds like you need to relax or go see a doctor about it.

Taking 30g of whey protein is not going to stimulate insulin enough for your cortisol to wake you up.

You won’t become catabolic if you don’t eat in 2-3 hours. Do you really think it takes your body only 2-3 hours to digest everything you’ve eaten.


#4

If something is causing indigestion it can give you insomnia.
When I eat things that I am slightly intolerant to, it feels like my body is in a continual state of mild stress and I have difficulty sleeping.


#5

[quote]EnriqueP wrote:

[quote]mertdawg wrote:
Whey protein is fast acting and can stimulate insulin and lead to low blood sugar if its the last thing you eat for several hours. Low night time blood sugar can produce cortisol and wake you up. Its basically a mild fight or slight response.

The conventional opinion is to not use whey if you can’t eat again for 2-3 hours because you will start to become catabolic. Metabolic Drive is supposed to last longer into the night. I prefer to not finish the day with protein powder. If I did, I would take casien/Metabolic Drive if possible and might combine with coconut milk and half a banana, or with whole milk. [/quote]

First of all OP, The last thing that could be causing your insomnia are supplements. Unless you are taking stimulants or pre workouts right before bed there is no way they can keep you up. This sounds a lot more like a psychological issue or maybe another problem that has nothing to do with training and nutrition. Sounds like you need to relax or go see a doctor about it.

Taking 30g of whey protein is not going to stimulate insulin enough for your cortisol to wake you up.

You won’t become catabolic if you don’t eat in 2-3 hours. Do you really think it takes your body only 2-3 hours to digest everything you’ve eaten.
[/quote]

I am only telling you that bodybuilders I talked to do not recommend taking a WHEY PROTEIN SHAKE alone if you can’t eat again within 3 hours. It is absorbed and shuttled into cells so fast that you will have a long period of catabolism at night if you finish the day with whey. BCAAs prevent muscle breakdown but since Whey is fast acting it supposedly does not provide the anticatabolic blanket during the night that casien or possibly mixed meals do.

The whole theory behind Metabolic Drive (originally low carb grow) or otherwise miscelle form casien was that it did NOT leave people low on amino acids 3 hours later. In fact there were associated studies that showed that a pure whey shake lead to catabolic actions after a couple of hours.

And actually a low fat liquid food source is easily fully digested in less than 3 hours.


#6

[quote]mertdawg wrote:

[quote]EnriqueP wrote:

[quote]mertdawg wrote:
Whey protein is fast acting and can stimulate insulin and lead to low blood sugar if its the last thing you eat for several hours. Low night time blood sugar can produce cortisol and wake you up. Its basically a mild fight or slight response.

The conventional opinion is to not use whey if you can’t eat again for 2-3 hours because you will start to become catabolic. Metabolic Drive is supposed to last longer into the night. I prefer to not finish the day with protein powder. If I did, I would take casien/Metabolic Drive if possible and might combine with coconut milk and half a banana, or with whole milk. [/quote]

First of all OP, The last thing that could be causing your insomnia are supplements. Unless you are taking stimulants or pre workouts right before bed there is no way they can keep you up. This sounds a lot more like a psychological issue or maybe another problem that has nothing to do with training and nutrition. Sounds like you need to relax or go see a doctor about it.

Taking 30g of whey protein is not going to stimulate insulin enough for your cortisol to wake you up.

You won’t become catabolic if you don’t eat in 2-3 hours. Do you really think it takes your body only 2-3 hours to digest everything you’ve eaten.
[/quote]

I am only telling you that bodybuilders I talked to do not recommend taking a WHEY PROTEIN SHAKE alone if you can’t eat again within 3 hours. It is absorbed and shuttled into cells so fast that you will have a long period of catabolism at night if you finish the day with whey. BCAAs prevent muscle breakdown but since Whey is fast acting it supposedly does not provide the anticatabolic blanket during the night that casien or possibly mixed meals do.

The whole theory behind Metabolic Drive (originally Metabolic Drive) or otherwise miscelle form casien was that it did NOT leave people low on amino acids 3 hours later. In fact there were associated studies that showed that a pure whey shake lead to catabolic actions after a couple of hours.

And actually a low fat liquid food source is easily fully digested in less than 3 hours. [/quote]

He never said the shake replaced his dinner.


#7

[quote]EnriqueP wrote:

[quote]mertdawg wrote:

[quote]EnriqueP wrote:

[quote]mertdawg wrote:
Whey protein is fast acting and can stimulate insulin and lead to low blood sugar if its the last thing you eat for several hours. Low night time blood sugar can produce cortisol and wake you up. Its basically a mild fight or slight response.

The conventional opinion is to not use whey if you can’t eat again for 2-3 hours because you will start to become catabolic. Metabolic Drive is supposed to last longer into the night. I prefer to not finish the day with protein powder. If I did, I would take casien/Metabolic Drive if possible and might combine with coconut milk and half a banana, or with whole milk. [/quote]

First of all OP, The last thing that could be causing your insomnia are supplements. Unless you are taking stimulants or pre workouts right before bed there is no way they can keep you up. This sounds a lot more like a psychological issue or maybe another problem that has nothing to do with training and nutrition. Sounds like you need to relax or go see a doctor about it.

Taking 30g of whey protein is not going to stimulate insulin enough for your cortisol to wake you up.

You won’t become catabolic if you don’t eat in 2-3 hours. Do you really think it takes your body only 2-3 hours to digest everything you’ve eaten.
[/quote]

I am only telling you that bodybuilders I talked to do not recommend taking a WHEY PROTEIN SHAKE alone if you can’t eat again within 3 hours. It is absorbed and shuttled into cells so fast that you will have a long period of catabolism at night if you finish the day with whey. BCAAs prevent muscle breakdown but since Whey is fast acting it supposedly does not provide the anticatabolic blanket during the night that casien or possibly mixed meals do.

The whole theory behind Metabolic Drive (originally Metabolic Drive) or otherwise miscelle form casien was that it did NOT leave people low on amino acids 3 hours later. In fact there were associated studies that showed that a pure whey shake lead to catabolic actions after a couple of hours.

And actually a low fat liquid food source is easily fully digested in less than 3 hours. [/quote]

He never said the shake replaced his dinner.[/quote]

No, but he asked if anyone had experienced insomnia related to whey protein, not “why do I have insomnia”


#8

To the OP, in my honest opinion it is more likely to be due to the other food items in your diet than any of those supps, although milk products may be 3rd or 4th on the list of candidate, but not usually milk protein.

Sugar, wheat, oats, corn, nuts, canola oil, artificial sweeteners, egg yolk, and lactose may all tend to cause insomnia. So can too FEW carbs in the afternoon, but the best sources tend to be rice and potato.


#9

Oh yeah, eating not enough carbs can give me insomnia too.
For all my life I remember having serious difficulty falling asleep.

Now that I am eating significant calories and basically stuffing my face with food all the time, I can finally fall asleep ok!
On occasions where I havn’t eaten enough carbs in the evening though, I can still have difficulty sleeping.

Its like my metabolism is so fast that I essentially need to have the post-carb insulin grogginess in order to fall asleep at night.


#10

It could be giving you insomnia due to high BCAA content if your serotonin is low to begin with. BCAAs lower both dopamine and serotonin in doses as low as 10grams.


#11

Well theoretically it could be the Whey protein, as the things you eat influence the amino acids taken up by the brain and therefore neurotransmitter levels.

The amino acids tyrosine (the dopamin precursor) and tryptophan (the serotonin precursor) compete for the uptake through the blood brain barrier by transporter-proteins. Usually tyrosine is preferred by these transporters, so if you take a full protein meal with includes both these amino acids, tyrosine will outcompete tryptophan, which will increase Dopamine (and therefore Adrenaline) levels in the brain. This could keep one awake (on the other hand, Dopamine can be inhibitory as well, so it could make one sleepy… I guess it depends on the individual).

If one combines a protein source with something that raises Insulin significantly, e.g. carbohydrates, then the insulin spike will cause muscle tissue to absorb a lot of the tyrosine in the blood, which makes it easier tryptophan to enter the brain, which results in higher serotonin levels, which can help one fall asleep.

So you could try eating some carbs with your shake and see if it helps.


#12

[quote]jenz wrote:
Well theoretically it could be the Whey protein, as the things you eat influence the amino acids taken up by the brain and therefore neurotransmitter levels.

The amino acids tyrosine (the dopamin precursor) and tryptophan (the serotonin precursor) compete for the uptake through the blood brain barrier by transporter-proteins. Usually tyrosine is preferred by these transporters, so if you take a full protein meal with includes both these amino acids, tyrosine will outcompete tryptophan, which will increase Dopamine (and therefore Adrenaline) levels in the brain. This could keep one awake (on the other hand, Dopamine can be inhibitory as well, so it could make one sleepy… I guess it depends on the individual).

If one combines a protein source with something that raises Insulin significantly, e.g. carbohydrates, then the insulin spike will cause muscle tissue to absorb a lot of the tyrosine in the blood, which makes it easier tryptophan to enter the brain, which results in higher serotonin levels, which can help one fall asleep.

So you could try eating some carbs with your shake and see if it helps. [/quote]
Great post, but I think it’s important to note that BCAA’s “outcompete” both tyrosine and tryptophan, effectively lowering serotonin and dopamine, with a decrease in serotonin slightly more pronounced.

You might want to consider supplemental tryptophan/tyrosine to replenish those levels.


#13

Not sure if this will assist you or not but when I have an occasional night I can?t sleep, I take this supplement called CALM. Most health stores carry it. It is a powered form of magnesium that is a raspberry-lemon flavored drink. I mix a small teaspoon full with 4 oz of warm water and drink it right as I am getting into bed, no waiting.

The warm liquid feels like a cup of warm tea with honey and is very soothing. I read somewhere that 95 percent of the population is magnesium deficient. Highly effective and costs about 20 bucks for 56 servings in a small tub. Please caution: the label states if you take too much at any one time, it may give you loose stools. You do not need the shits so take it slow and a little goes a long way. Hope this helps.