Supplementation for Health Starts With the Brain

I’ve an interesting relationship with the amino acid L-Tryptophan.  It (and a few other restorative nutrients) helped save me from insomnia and a world of elevated coritsol levels, adrenal fatigue, and other really crappy problems that arise when you don’t sleep.  It began a new period of my research into performance supplementation.

So I give Tryptophan credit for more than just a good night’s sleep.
Supplementation should address deficiencies first, not extra of anything.  Example: zinc and magnesium are more important than whey protein or beta-alanine.  DHA and Vitamin D are far more important than creatine or carnitine.

I continually find myself reading articles on brain and CNS health.  I spend a lot of time looking at stressors, elevated coritsol, and how to reduce them both. Our modern foods have less and less of the nutrients we need.  Tryptophan is one of the those nutrients.  The positive effects of Tryptophan on sleep are widely known.  But in the chain of positive health, Tryptophan may be a much stronger and important link than thought.  Our neglect to address deficiencies first may be of more detriment than we want to admit.

Check out this article on anxiety.  Listed at the bottom are many of the nutrients I recommend for overall health.  Remember, the health and wellness I seek begins with the brain.

Do you have a glass of wine each night? It's good for you and it helps you relax, right? No and no. It's alcohol and there's nothing good about it.

An excellent diet addresses brain health and function first.  Supplementation should also follow suit.  If your control center isn’t working properly, fairly you can assume your athleticism, recovery, performance, cognition, and daily productively are not at optimum levels.

These days every other person I know is one some type of SSRI, anti-anxiety, anti-depressant, or other brain function inhibiting drug (yes, the drugs inhibit natural brain functions).  All these drugs mimic some natural compound found in nature.  Is it possible…  even slightly possible, to fix many of the disorders and diseases we’ve become to conditioned to take powerful and addictive medications for? I’m not saying come off your meds and disregard your MD’s advice.  But I am saying it may be worth the effort to seek knowledge and possibly find an alternative to medications.

Example: You took a promotion or new job.  While trying to learn the new job, your work load has also increased two fold.  One of your kids just started kindergarten and the other has soccer practice three days a week and a game every Saturday and some Sundays.  Your husband or wife is deployed or away on business and you are struggling to keep up.  You go to bed late but cannot fall asleep because you’re worried about not completing all your work, you didn’t iron your shirt for tomorrow, the kids’ lunches are not packed, and you know there’s no way in h*ll you’ll get caught up tomorrow.  You’re starting to feel like crap…  sick, even.  A visit to your MD seems logical at this point.  And heck, your friend Sally’s doctor gave her something to “help her sleep,” maybe your MD will give you something.  You’ll only take it for a little while, just until things get better, right?

"Take two of these and call me in 6 months and I'll prescribe you more pills then without ever addressing the causes of your problems."

Sound familiar?  Before you consider going down the ugly road of prescription meds for sleep, anxiety, or depression, take a look at your diet and consider the supplementation to correct your deficient nutrients first.

Consider talking to someone who has his/her life together.  Not “Sally”…  you know as well as I do she’s a fruitloop!  Talk to someone who you know is healthy and on top of things.  Maybe they can help you address the cause of the problem and not just put a band aid on an arterial bleed.

Andrew G. performing the DB high pull

Weighted Chin Ups  10r x 6s

AMRAP in 12 minutes of…
10 Deadlift (135/85)
10 Push Press
10 OHS

“1 minute mile”
Run 1 mile
1 minute max effort
1 minute rest
*Stop and start efforts in the same spot.  Begin your next effort at the same spot your 1 minute time ran out.

6 thoughts on “Health = Performance

  1. t. says:

    Caleb… I don’t like getting into dosage without knowing more of the story. But I will give a few generalities. But first a bit more info on Tryptophan itself:

    Tryptophan is the least abundandant of the 22 amino acids in any diet. Even in a perfect Paleo diet with higher amounts of protein, tryptophan intake will be less than 3 grams a day. Increasing protein will increase the amount of trytophan, but it also increases other aminos that compete for the same spots in the body. So simply increasing dietary sources of Tryptophan doesn’t work.

    Increasing tryptophan in the brain is our goal, but to pass across the Blood Brain Barrier (BBB), tryptophan completes with 8 other aminos to get a “ride” into the brain. Tryptophan is like a dorky kid that gets bullied and not let on the playground.

    Here’s the crappy part… the only way to increase tryptophan levels in the brain is with a high carb diet. Cutting out other amino sources (proteins) and eating foods still relatively high in tryptophan gives the amino the playground all to itself. Tryptophan is one of the reasons sweets make us feel happy and good when we eat them. Albeit for a short while, they increase serotonin and serotonin makes us happy.

    Furthermore, insulin enhances serotonin. Nature is a “bi*ch”, huh? By her design, the only foods that increase an amino we really all need more of are food that make us fat!

    Another problem with tryptophan supplementation is many of us are also Vitamin B3 (niacin) deficient. If so, the liver will use tryptophan to make B3 before it allows the tryptophan to even get close to the brain. But if your B3 is good, it will aid in Tryptophan uptake into the brain… synergy, it is called.

    Do you drink coffee? If it’s 16oz or more a day, then you’re more than likely deficient in Vitamin B6 and inositol. If you are, tryptophan is used to make them. Worse, when tryptophan is used to make B6, the metabolites and waste from doing so are actuallly toxic and therefore require your immune system to get involved. That equals more inflammation.

    So again I find myself saying… before supplementation of any nutrient, amino, or compound, you have to get your diet in order.


    Ok… increasing protein doesn’t work and increasing carbs won’t work for you. Actually, many of you are probably hoping I’ll tell you to eat pizza and cake to get your tryptophan levels up. Get serious.

    Supplementation of tyrptophan does work. It works best if you take it on an empty stomach as it will not have to compete with other aminos.

    If better sleep is your goal, 0.5 grams up to 4 grams, taken at once at bedtime is indicated. Typically the better your diet, the less you need. If you add a small amount of melatonin, 0.5 to 1 gram, you may get even better sleep.
    It is best to start with a small dose and work up. Remember, at first you are refilling a deficiency. At some point, you will have an operating level and need less, and one day possibly none, to sleep well. Also, taking too much will cause the body to make an enzyme (t-pyrrolase) to destroy the excess tryptophan, but it doesn’t stop there… it destroys almost all of it making high dosage supplementation futile.

    If you’re slightly depressed, anxious, or stressed, then more IS NOT better. Smaller dosages of 0.5 grams to 1 gram taken throughout the day has proved to be effective. Taken this way, tryptophan can decrese stress elevated cortisol. If you are anxious and unable to settle (ADHA?), your noradrenaline and dopamine receptors are functioning well, but your serotonin receptors are not. tryptophan can provide balance and help reset the serotonin activator sites. If you are depressed, tryptophan, by improving serotonin levels and repairing receptor sites, can get back the healthy, positive mindset you’ve been missing.

    Tryptophan can be purchased OTC in the US again. It was banned for a while. Hmmm… the FDA banned a substance known to work better than the Rx drugs indicated. They wouldn’t do that, right?
    Oddly, if you want pharmaceutical grade, you have to go to your veterinarian.

    I use Poliquin’s Uber Mag Plus and sometimes Vitamin Shoppe’s brand. I like Poliquin’s b/c it comes with magnesium. Magnesium that also is calming to the CNS and helps me sleep.

    So a longer answer than Caleb probably expected or even wanted. But when addressing serotonin and dopamine, it is difficult to just touch on the subject.

    DO NOT take Tryptophan if you are taking an SSRI (like Paxil). You can cause Serotonin Syndrome. That can be fatal!

    I’m not an MD and this info not to replace your doctors orders. Discuss all changes in your meds with him/her.

    Besides, all we need is you coming off all your meds and going crazy on some unsuspecting fool and then blaming my post. Ha.

  2. Kelly L says:

    Very good post, Tony. Thanks for the information. I would also like to stress that if you are on any psychotropic medications, you dont want to stop suddenly. These medications often need to be tapered down, and stopping cold can be quite unpleasant (if not altogether miserable). If you want to stop taking your medication, your doctor can help you decide the best way to taper down safely based on the medication you are on. I have heard too many stories from clients who have stopped suddenly and felt far worse, physicall and mentally, so I just wanted to share that (for what it’s worth).

  3. Sara Clark says:

    I love my tryptophan for what its worth. I only take .5g. I get a similar effect with Magnesium and inositol, but also trippy dreams.

    On another note– Sean from the morning- that workout wrecked my thighs! Thanks for helping me find something to do and hanging out with a fellow cripple! 🙂

  4. Whitney says:

    If some of the crazy could just go away I think people would start using their turn signals. Could you imagine? Seriously though, wouldn’t it be nice if Alzheimer’s went on the decline? And another thing, the whole seratonin “theory” about how anti depressants work is a fallacy. Conventional wisdom states that you take anti depressants to regulate your seratonin because a lack of seratonin makes you feel depressed. That is not how anti depressants work. Fooled again, everyone. Explained here

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