Tryptophan and Carbs for Sleep | Chris Masterjohn Lite #115

Tryptophan and Carbs for Sleep | Chris Masterjohn Lite #115

We’ve talked about carbs and tryptophan for stress resistance. Now let’s talk about carbs and tryptophan for sleep. Hi. I’m Dr. Chris Masterjohn of and this is Chris Masterjohn Lite, where the name of the game is “Details? Shmeetails. Just tell me what works!” And today we’re going to talk about how carbs and tryptophan can help you sleep by helping you make melatonin. So back in episode 105 we talked about how carbs help get tryptophan into the brain which helps you make serotonin and that can contribute to your stress resistance. Well melatonin is actually made from serotonin. So melatonin as the signal of darkness and the thing that tells your body that it’s time to sleep, and that it’s time to do all the processes that your body wants to do while you’re sleeping, that has very similar practical implications as we talked about in the episode on the stress resistance. So to recap you need to get tryptophan into your brain, but you get tryptophan from protein and when you eat protein you get all these other competing amino acids that are all fighting with tryptophan to get into the brain. When you eat carbs you get a spike of insulin, that insulin brings those competing amino acids into your muscle cells and allows the tryptophan to get into the brain with less competition. A number of people responded to that episode and said “well doesn’t protein stimulate insulin?” Yes protein stimulates insulin, but it stimulates less insulin than carbs do and the insulin that is stimulated by protein comes with a greater dose of the competing amino acids. So the problem we’re trying to solve is that we want more tryptophan, but less of the competing amino acids and getting the extra insulin from the carb is what is helping us to do that. So getting tryptophan into the brain allows the tryptophan to be converted into serotonin and then down several steps into melatonin. But it doesn’t seem to matter when you get the tryptophan into the brain, you just need to get a good chunk of it into the brain on a daily basis. So there’s studies for example showing that even if you get a dose of carbs at breakfast that still helps to get tryptophan into the brain so that later at night you can make the melatonin. Now to get this dose of carbohydrate I would recommend having whole foods that have a fairly high glycemic index. So not junk food and not things with added sugars, but if you google the glycemic index you should find a list of high glycemic foods, select from the natural ones. I think the ones that stand out as having a high glycemic index and therefore most helpful in this context, but also being the most nutrient-dense, are potatoes, whether they’re white potatoes or sweet potatoes. If you’re not on a low-carb diet I don’t think it’s as important when you consume the carbs because you have more freedom to consume more carbs more of the time. But if you’re trying to be conservative with your carbohydrate intake and you’re trying to limit how many carbohydrates you consume then I do think it makes sense to put the carbs into your evening meal. Not so much for the reasons discussed in this episode, but because as I discussed in the last episode more protein at night tends to wake up signals in your brain that keep you up, whereas more carbohydrate at night tends to dampen those signals. So it does make sense to shift the carbohydrate into the evening meal if you have to be conservative about when
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you eat it. Now if you are very conservative with your carbohydrate intake so much so that you can’t really take full advantage of the ideas discussed here, for example if you’re on a ketogenic diet, another way to get tryptophan into the brain away from the competing amino acids is to take a tryptophan supplement on an empty stomach. So start with the labeled dose on say you could start with 500 milligrams, you could work your way up over time if you don’t have any adverse reactions to that. Take the tryptophan on an empty stomach and take it as far away from other protein as you can. So if you can take it a couple hours away from other protein that would be great. In terms of when to take it during the day it doesn’t matter so much about morning versus night it matters more when is it most convenient for you to take it away from the other protein. In other words depending on your meal frequency you might find that it’s easiest to take it when you wake up if you’re not going to eat for a couple hours again, but if you eat right when you wake up it might be more convenient to take it at a different time of the day. If you do have a limited carb supply then I do think it makes sense to try matching that carb supply to that tryptophan supplement because then you get the tryptophan and you’re not adding the competing amino acids from protein, but you do have those competing amino acids already circulating in your blood and that carbohydrate comes in, brings those competing amino acids into your muscle cells, and gives that tryptophan supplement, it sort of boost its capability a little bit to get into the brain to make it a little bit more effective. This episode is brought to you by Ancestral Supplements living collagen. Our Native American ancestors believed that eating the organs from a healthy animal would support the health of the corresponding organ of the individual. Ancestral Supplements has a nose-to-tail product line of grass-fed liver, organs, living collagen, bone marrow, and more. All in the convenience of a capsule. For more information or to buy any of their products go to This episode is brought to you by Ample. Ample is a meal in a bottle that takes a total of two minutes to prepare, consume, and cleanup. It provides a balance of fat, protein and carbs plus all the vitamins and minerals you need in a single meal all from a blend of natural ingredients. It’s available in original, vegan and keto versions portioned as either 400 or 600 calories per meal. I’m an advisor to Ample and I use it to save time when I’m working on major projects on a tight schedule it keeps my brain going while I power through the day never letting food prep get in the way of my productivity. Head to and enter the promo code: CHRIS15 at checkout for a 15% discount off your first order. The audio of this episode was enhanced and post-processed by Bob Davodian of Taurean Mixing. You can find more of his work at For add-free versions of these epsidoes with transcripts that you can read and getting early access to the episodes often weeks or maybe even months ahead of time you can sign up for the CMJ Masterpass at and use the code: LITE10 to get 10 percent lifetime discount. All right, I hope you found this useful. Signing off, this is Chris Masterjohn of This has been Chris Masterjohn Lite. And I will see you in the next episode.

13 thoughts on “Tryptophan and Carbs for Sleep | Chris Masterjohn Lite #115

  1. Please Chris, let me know on my comment to collagen and oxalate. Thanks! For the trypto i think lower testosterone in long term

  2. But, what if you're in the Paleo diet (e.g. 75 gr of net carbs per day) and you're exercising in the morning (let's say, from 8 AM to 11) and then at 12 you need to eat some of the allowed carbs in order to recover? There won't be much carbs left for the evening meal to make you sleep?

  3. How do we choose (assuming we have to choose) between consuming the carbs in the morning because of being more insulin sensitive, and in the evening to dampen brain signals?

  4. Dude I've been taking tryptophan and been doing intermittent fasting. My chocolate cravings have been going through the roof daily. Also have been eating pancakes with chocolate a few times a week.

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