T Nation

L-Tryptophan and Other Competing Amino Acids

Because several other amino acids compete with L-Tryptophan for brain uptake, it is best to take it on an empty stomach. My question is that if I take my L-Tryptophan 30 min prior to bed and then a Casein-only with fat shake just before bed, do I need to worry much about any amino acid competition between the two? Will the effects of one in any way inhibit the effects of the other (sort of like the calcium-magnesium thing). Thanks for the replies.

RACER? Where do you find this stuff? How much 5-htp to achieve the same results?
thanks.

Hi Racer. A couple of questions so I can better answer your post (if I can). What do you mean by brain uptake, exactly? Are you talking about neurosynaptic agonist/antagonist binding/blocking activity in the CNS? Active transport across the blood/brain barrier? I don’t believe that any of that kind of neurotransmitter activity is supressed in the gut (I’m probably oversimplifying here, mea culpa), and if it is, then the principle action concerns serotonin uptake in the circulating blood fluids at receptor sites in the gut, not in food in the interior of the gut itself. Also, mineral absorption has a different digestive mechanism in the gut than do proteins, so I’m not sure the comparison is apt.

If you clear this up a little, I’ll write back with more than two cents’ worth. There are several homronal interactions that come to mind that might answer your question a bit better.

Racer, you brought up some interseting points. I use tryptophan a little differently. I find I get the best recovery results (not relaxation) if I drink a shake an hour before bed and tryptophan 45 min. later. I don’t know enough about the digestion and absorption of aminos vs. bonded aminos(protein) to give you a scientific answer, but this is whats worked best for me.

MLJ: try searching under the topic of “BIOS and l-tryptophan”

Greg D: what I was getting at by brain uptake is that all amino acids compete for receptor sites across the blood/brain barrier, so it obviously would not be in one's best interest to take l-tryptophan with or close to l-tyrosine. Having said that, I am just wondering if the amino acid profile in casein protein would play any part in interfering with the utilization of l-tryptophan. Hope this clears up what I am getting at.

Chris G: how have you determined that the protocol you described is more effective for recovery? Please elaborate.

I wasn’t extremely scientific about it. I used it for 3 weeks like you are currently taking it (about an hour before bed, then a scoop of whey in milk). No significant progress. I talked to some of the guys at the gym that were using it and they suggested this protocol to me. It works. Over the next 5 weeks my bodyfat dropped 2% (no change in diet) and my strength went up (increased 10lbs in my squat). Also note the dosage. I was using 5 grams and I weighed 175.

Chris G: I find your results very interesting. Nothing else changed during this period with the exception of taking the casein shake 1hr. prior to bed and the tryptophan right at bedtime? Anything else you can tell us?

Caseinate provides a good ratio of tyrosine and tryptophan amino’s which increase brain neurotransmitters, which in turn can give one a boost.
Due to its delayed digestive properties, caseinate has a prolonged effect on the level of amino acids in the body. Unlike whey (which give a quick boost in amino’s) caseinate provides a steady “flow” hours after supplementation. I AM WONDERING IF THIS STEADY FLOW IS HINDERED IN ANY WAY BY TAKING L-TRYPTOPHAN, THE ANTAGONIST TO L-TYROSINE (which is highly present in Casein) EITHER ONE HOUR BEFORE OR ONE HOUR AFTER. Does anyone have any input they can share here? Thanks.

Thanks for the info racer.

Does any one know the conversion rate of 5-htp to tryptophan? In other words how 5-htp to equal same amount of tryp?
thanks

I just wanted to insert a word of caution. People have died from supplementation with tryptophan. Its unlike any other amino acid in that excess can be extremely dangerous although no one is quite sure why just yet. It became common as a supplement because it mimics a hormone that induces sleep but unless you are a vegetarian you should be getting plenty of tryptophan in your diet. I’m just curius as to why your are choosing this supplement. And remember, your body is more efficient at using amino acids that come from food than it is at using amino acids that come from amino acid supplementation. Just something to consider.

Gary, I have to say that I really must disagree with your assertion. Tryptophan is the precursor to the hormone melatonin, which induces a drowsy, twilight state necessary to fall asleep. It is metabolized just the same as any other amino acid. It is hydrophilic, water-soluble and passes easily through the blood and out the excreta if not used. The primary food sources are milk and dairy products. If you don’t get enough milk in your diet, you can easily become deficient, which is why warm milk drinks have been a home remedy for sleeplessness for hundreds of years. Its metabolism in the body is well understood, at least the last time I read anything about it, and does not present any more of a toxicity issue than any other amino acid taken by itself. As a matter of fact, all amino acids are precursors to some hormone or neuropeptide. It seems foolish to focus on one when they all have similar neurological functions.

As far as people dying from the stuff, I remember very well that this was one of the arguments used to ban tryptophan and melatonin in the US several years ago. However, I never read any case histories in the literature documenting these so-called “deaths”, so I am quite sceptical about such an assertion. The supplement had been on the market for decades before agribusiness and the pharmaceutical cartel tried to force it off the market. This was a real shame, because tryptophan was an excellent supplement and very effective in managing insomnia, drastically better than any over-the-counter sleeping pills. It had no side effects, no hangover and no toxicity issues the way meds usually do. So, please think about all this before you make such a claim again.