Previously, we’ve spoken about what melatonin is, and how it’s a naturally created hormone that increases just when you’re about to go to sleep. If you’re interested in learning more about melatonin and the best dosages, we recommend checking out our video “Should You Take Melatonin?”
Last time we talked about how the dosages that melatonin is commonly sold in are actually 10 times higher than what your body naturally produces. As a result, the melatonin supplement stays in your blood for way longer than necessary.
This is why you find yourself waking up groggy and tired, and why it might be unhealthy to have a carb-rich breakfast, as it might spike your insulin and cause you to become insulin resistant faster than usual.
The best thing to do is to naturally raise your melatonin levels, so that you can enjoy a higher quality sleep without taking the high dosages that keep you tired even after waking up.
How Is Melatonin Made?
Melatonin actually needs a precursor in order to be created, which is called tryptophan. Tryptophan is an amino acid, and it forms the building blocks of melatonin. It goes past the blood-brain barrier into the brain, where it gets converted to serotonin, which then gets converted to melatonin.
Can We Use Tryptophan to Increase Melatonin?
We can build up our melatonin levels by understanding how tryptophan gets transported to the brain. Tryptophan is carried in the blood by a transport protein called albumin.
However, it competes with other elements in the blood, which means that tryptophan will be knocked off the carrier protein if there are other things that are higher in the blood. When this happens, tryptophan is then free in the blood and able to cross into the brain and make more melatonin.
How Can We Increase Our Melatonin Production?
We can naturally increase tryptophan in our diet by eating poultry, which is generally high on tryptophan. Chicken and turkey are high in tryptophan, as is milk. That’s why back when you were a kid you used to get sleepy after drinking warm milk just before going to bed.
Fatty acids can also bind to that albumin transporter protein and complete with tryptophan on the protein. So, if we consume higher fat, it’ll knock tryptophan off into the blood, leaving it free to pass into our brains and make melatonin.
For this reason, a low-carb, high-fat meal not long before bed will help us go to sleep much faster. Have you ever had a high-carb meal just before going to bed? You might’ve just passed out without any issues.
That’s because high-carb meals have other amino acids that compete with tryptophan to get taken up into the brain. Carbs also release insulin, which lowers those amino acids that compete with tryptophan to get into the brain, allowing it to get into our brain much more readily.
However, having a lot of carbs just before going to bed isn’t advised if you’re trying to lose a lot of body fat and it isn’t a good idea when you’re on a higher fat diet.
The worst thing you can do is to mix high tryptophan foods, plus high-carb food sources, plus high fats just before going to bed. That’s a recipe for disaster and will probably ruin your goals. You should pick one or the other, and it’s all going to depend on your goals.
Another way to increase your sleep quality is by taking something called alpha-lactalbumin. Whey protein is very high in this protein, and whey protein is also really high in tryptophan. If you look on the market, you can probably find whey protein that’s especially high in alpha-lactalbumin.
What Are the Effects of Naturally Higher Melatonin Production?
To no one’s surprise, studies show that having high melatonin production make you fall asleep longer. They also show that when we consume sources that are high in tryptophan, such as milk and alpha-lactalbumin, it can improve our sleep quality by as much as 20%.
We also wake up feeling more alert and get to that peak state of being refreshed when our melatonin levels are lowest much faster, which is why naturally increasing your melatonin is superior to taking supplemental melatonin.
If you’re somebody who doesn’t exercise much, then you probably need at least 6-8 hours in order to feel well rested. However, most of the people reading this article can be considered athletes, and sleep is especially important for them.
Athletes should be looking to get more than 8 hours of sleep if they want to optimize their recovery. Anywhere from 8-10 hours of sleep is ideal. If you’re having trouble getting 10 hours then 8 hours of sleep is the bare minimum, and one way to do that is by naturally increasing your melatonin production.
We hope this article helped teach you all about increasing your melatonin production so you can sleep better and build more muscle.