5-HTP (5-Hydroxy L-Tryptophan) is a naturally occurring amino acid which is a precursor to the neurotransmitter serotonin. Increased levels of serotonin have been shown to help improve sleep and suppress appetite.
Benefits of 5-HTP
From an athletic perspective 5-HTP’s ability to promote deep, restful sleep may prove to be the most important benefit. Sleep is an essential factor in the recovery process of the body after physical exercise. The regulation and production of several important growth compounds occurs during sleep. Growth compounds such as melatonin and cortisol are all regulated during sleep providing great influence on our ability to grow and adapt to exercise. During intense periods of training and competition athletes may also find that 5-HTP allows them to relax and reduce stress; a result of the increased serotonin levels.
5-HTP helps increase serotonin levels, which in turn has been shown to improve sleep habits. Not only does it appear to reduce the amount of time it takes to fall asleep but it also increases REM, so you sleep deeper and wake up less during the night. Low levels of serotonin have been associated with a variety of ailments, including insomnia, depression, tension, migraines and overeating.
How Does HTP Work?
The body makes 5-HTP naturally from tryptophan and, then, converts it into serotonin. This neurotransmitter has many powerful effects on the brain. Not only does it improve mood, it also suppresses hunger and helps to curb weight gain.
Physicians suggest taking a 5-HTP supplement instead of a serotonin supplement because 5-HTP can access the brain from the bloodstream, while serotonin cannot. In order to access the brain, chemicals and compounds will have to access the blood brain barrier, which grants access to the brain. Therefore, you would need to take a supplement that can cross that barrier, like 5-HTP, in order to increase serotonin levels in the brain.
As serotonin levels increase your hunger diminishes and you feel satiated faster without feeling the need to restrict your food intake. One study found that women ate less carbs without even trying
5-HTP for Weight Loss
It has been suggested that 5-HTP can also help with weight loss. One specific study showed the use of 5-HTP helped lower calorie intake encouraging weight loss in women who were making no conscious effort to lose weight. 5-HTP may also provide a feeling of early satiety when eating. This means you may not need to eat at as much food to feel satisfied, again resulting in an increased potential to lose weight.