Is there such a thing as eating too much tryptophan? Eating a lot of tryptophan means that you’re eating a lot of protein, which, according to Somer, “is the only ingredient we get too much of.” Protein overload causes a buildup of amino acids waiting to get into the brain. Essentially, tryptophan, a bulky amino acid, would have to stand in line, along with all of our other ingested amino acids, to get through the blood-brain barrier. Somer breaks this process down in a Harry Potter analogy anyone can understand: Tryptophan waiting to get through the blood-brain barrier “would be like standing in line when the Harry Potter movie comes out and you didn’t get in line early enough. The chances of getting in to see the movie are pretty slim. That’s what happens when you eat protein-rich food. Tryptophan has to compete with all these other amino acids. It waits in line to get through the blood-brain barrier and very little of it makes it across.”
So how can we get the most out of tryptophan? In order to get all of the mood-boosting, sound-sleeping benefits of tryptophan, you need a VIP ticket to cross the blood-brain barrier in a hurry. This ticket is a small, all-carbohydrate snack like a Fig Newton. “It’s the all-carb snack that ends up being like a sneak preview of the Harry Potter movie,” says Somer. So the next time you’re feeling a bit restless before bed, have a little snack, like half a whole-wheat bagel drizzled with honey, and you’ll sleep like a baby.
To read more on the truth about tryptophan, visit WebMD.
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