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Tryptophan: A Complete Guide

By on January 28, 2018 in News with 0 Comments

Many of you have probably heard of tryptophan before. Usually, you hear the most about it around Thanksgiving, when people talk about why turkey makes you sleepy. Although we typically associated tryptophan with turkey, it is actually found in a wide variety of meats and other foods. Tryptophan is actually very important for your body, as tryptophan is responsible for helping your body to create important hormones. Because of this, you can actually find tryptophan in other sources, like nootropics. In this complete guide, you will find out everything that you need to know about tryptophan and what it is useful for.

What is it and how does it work?

While many of you have no doubt heard of tryptophan, most of you are probably not aware of what it is or how it works. Tryptophan is what is known as an “amino acid.” Amino acids are organic compounds that sort of act as building blocks in your body. They are the foundations upon which your body’s muscles, tissues, and cells are built on. Likewise, amino acids help your body create certain kinds of important hormones. Tryptophan is even more special because it is considered an “essential” amino acid. Essential amino acids cannot be created by your body, this means you have to get them by ingesting them. You have to eat food with tryptophan in it, or you have to take supplements that include it in their mixture.

What does it do?

Tryptophan does 2 very important things for your body. More specifically, it helps your body create serotonin and melatonin, both of which are very important hormones. Serotonin helps regulate your mood, your appetite, and your sleep schedule. If your serotonin levels get thrown off, then you risk having mood swings, you risk losing your appetite, and you risk messing with your sleep schedule. Melatonin is also responsible for helping to regulate your body’s sleep schedule. Melatonin (and to a lesser extent serotonin) tell your body when it needs to start feeling tired and when it needs to feel alert. This is why it is so difficult to change sleep schedules. When you try and change your sleep schedule, these hormones need time to adjust.

Because of its vital role in creating these 2 hormones, tryptophan is incredibly important. If for some reason, you are not getting enough tryptophan, you risk handicapping your body’s ability to create these vital hormones.

What foods have the most tryptophan?

Now, you may be wondering what food items are the best source of tryptophan? A lot of people would immediately answer this question by saying “turkey,” but they would be wrong. Turkey is a great source of tryptophan, but it is not actually the best source. In this section, we are going to quickly go over some of the best sources of tryptophan available to you besides poultry.


Yes, believe it or not, the best source of tryptophan is seeds. More specifically, pumpkin seeds and squash seeds. Not only are pumpkin and squash seeds easier to prepare and eat than turkey, they are also better for you. So, you can get plenty of tryptophan without having to stuff yourself with high-calorie turkey.


Soybeans are an equally good source of tryptophan. Much like seeds, soybeans are also a much healthier way of getting tryptophan. In addition to having .048mg of tryptophan per ounce, soybeans also contain plenty of protein, vitamins, and minerals.


Various kinds of cheeses are loaded with tryptophan. By far the cheese with the most tryptophan in it is mozzarella. After that, parmesan and cheddar tie for 2nd in terms of tryptophan content.  Other popular cheeses like gouda, swiss, and Romano also have very high levels of tryptophan.

Red meat

Even though we associated turkey with tryptophan, red meat like beef, lamb, and pork actually have more tryptophan than poultry like chicken and turkey.

We could keep talking about various foods that are high in tryptophan, but we just wanted to give you a few examples to illustrate foods other than poultry that have high tryptophan contents. If you want a complete list, there are plenty available online. This list is a good one, as it ranks foods by their tryptophan content and it showcases a wide variety of tryptophan-rich food items. As you can see from that list, a whole bunch of foods contain more tryptophan than poultry. So, if you are looking for food with tryptophan in it, you have a lot more options to choose from than just plain, old turkey.

Does tryptophan really make you sleepy?

We have mentioned a bit about how people associated tryptophan with making you sleepy, but that’s not strictly true. See, while tryptophan does help your body create serotonin and melatonin, which do affect your sleep cycle, those hormones do not just make you sleepy. People have this idea that consuming tryptophan will somehow make it harder to sleep, this is just not true. Every Thanksgiving, tons of people are exposed to this myth and despite it being refuted many times, it continues to persist. What really makes you sleepy on Thanksgiving is the sheer amount of food that you consume. When you consume lots of carbs in a single sitting, your body releases insulin and expends energy digesting, both of which lead to you feeling sleepier. So, while eating lots of turkey will make you sleepy, so will eating lots of beef, or lots of vegetables, or lots of anything. If you want more information on this myth, check out this New York Times article, which gives a good breakdown of the myth.

Why is tryptophan used in nootropics?

Some of you may have heard nootropics before, but for those who have not, nootropics are essentially supplements designed to help you improve your cognitive abilities. For those who have seen the movie Limitless with Robert De Niro, the drug in that movie is a nootropic. Now, nootropics do not make you a genius overnight, but they do help you focus and think clearly. How is this relevant to tryptophan? Well, many nootropics include tryptophan in them and you may be curious as to why. Tryptophan has numerous benefits to it that makes it worthy of inclusion in any nootropic. In this section, we are going to explain some of these benefits.

Increased memory

A lot of nootropics advertise their ability to increase a person’s short-term and long-term memory. This is where tryptophan is useful because as many studies have shown tryptophan does have a positive effect on people’s ability to remember information. As this study explains, a lack of tryptophan is associated with decreased episodic memory. Other studies show links between increased tryptophan levels and improved memory ability. For example, other studies show that there is a direct link between tryptophan levels and memory. The study was done on rats and it involved giving them tryptophan orally for a period of 6 weeks. The reason tryptophan improves memory is not yet understood, but it may be due to the fact that tryptophan improves your serotonin levels, which in turn improves your cognitive functions.

Reduced anxiety, tension, and irritability

Not everyone handles stress the same. Some people are able to continue functioning perfectly, no matter how stressful a situation is. On the other hand, others are so affected by stress, that it actually has noticeable negative impacts on their ability to perform tasks and pay attention. So, to address this, many nootropics will seek to reduce anxiety and stress, so that those who cannot handle stress are able to focus. Tryptophan does seem to have some positive effects when it comes to reducing stress. It also appears to be effective at helping people combat feelings of depression, which obviously also make concentration difficult.

Improved mood and outlook

As we mentioned earlier, tryptophan does help your body produce hormones, which then regulate your body’s mood. It goes without saying that being in a good mood and having a positive outlook is good for your performance. If you are in a bad mood, then you will find it harder to focus on tasks and to remember important information. As you can see from this study, tryptophan depletion resulted in the participants having a lower mood, which then negatively impacted their performance in a series of tests.

Now, it is important to note that nootropics do not just rely on tryptophan to achieve these things. Instead, tryptophan is used in concert with other ingredients that also boost a person’s mood, reduce their stress levels, etc.

About the Author

About the Author: Hi, My name is Tom Curren and I appreciate your interest in my male supplement review site My mission is to provide well researched, unbiased, honest reviews of the top supplements on the market today. As a personal trainer I strive to assist my clients everyday, this also including recommendations for only the best supplements produced. Along with my own personal testing I also am provided with honest reviews from individuals on a daily basis who test new supplements, thus I am able to only recommend what is going to be the most effective and what you should avoid. .


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