Have you ever heard of 5-HTP and its potential benefits for bodybuilding?
Now, before you roll your eyes and think, “Ugh, another thing I have to worry about,” listen carefully. 5-HTP can impact your athletic performance and recovery!
But don’t just take my word for it. Throughout this comprehensive guide, I will explore the science behind 5-HTP, its influence on bodybuilding, and many more.
Are you ready? Let’s get started!
What are 5-HTP Supplements?
It is imperative that you first understand what 5-HTP is. It is a naturally occurring amino acid that your body produces from tryptophan. 5-HTP is also known as 5-Hydroxytryptophan, oxitriptan (INN), and HTP-5. L-Tryptophan is an amino acid as well, but unlike 5-HTP, it is essential, which means the body cannot produce it.
Supplements containing 5-HTP are used for various purposes, but more on that later.
Before moving on, I want to briefly explain serotonin, which I will mention a lot throughout this guide. Serotonin is a neurotransmitter that regulates mood, appetite, sleep, and other bodily functions. Serotonin and dopamine are often called the “feel-good” hormones because of their association with feelings of happiness and well-being. Serotonin is produced in the brain and is synthesized from the same amino acid – tryptophan. (1)
What Does Supplementing with 5-HTP do for You?
Supplementing with 5-HTP may improve different symptoms and conditions. As I already mentioned, one of the primary functions of 5-HTP is to support the production of serotonin in the body.
Additionally, 5-HTP has been found to aid in weight loss by reducing appetite and food intake, as well as improving sleep quality.
Furthermore, studies have shown that 5-HTP may help alleviate symptoms of migraine headaches, fibromyalgia, and premenstrual syndrome (PMS). (2)
What are the Overall Health Benefits of 5-HTP Supplements?
Although 5-HTP is primarily famous for improving mood and sleep, the benefits of supplements go beyond just that. Although more research is needed to confirm most of these benefits, the experience of consumers so far and the results of studies are very encouraging.
Here are some of the overall health benefits of 5-HTP supplements:
- Mood improvement: This amino acid is converted to serotonin in the brain, improving mood and reducing symptoms of depression and anxiety.
- Reduced headaches: 5-HTP has been shown to be effective in reducing the frequency and intensity of headaches, particularly migraines. (3)
- Stress relief and relaxation: It can regulate the stress hormone cortisol, reducing stress levels and increasing relaxation.
- Improved night’s sleep: Serotonin, which is produced from 5-HTP, is involved in regulating sleep. Supplementing can improve sleep quality and duration.
- Fighting obesity: 5-HTP may reduce appetite and cravings, particularly for carbohydrates, which can aid in weight loss efforts. (4)
- Reduces inflammation: It has anti-inflammatory effects, which may benefit a range of health conditions, including fibromyalgia.
There are reports that it relieves premenstrual syndrome (PMS) that plagues many women, but one study didn’t show any significant differences. (5) If you are a female bodybuilder and find it beneficial for PMS, feel free to use it since more studies are necessary to confirm or disprove the 5-HTP effect on PMS.
Does 5-HTP Have Any Benefits Specific to Bodybuilding?
The overall benefits I talked about are mostly scientifically proven. And all of them can indirectly help you on your bodybuilding journey.
I’ll explain how.
Let’s start with better fashion and less stress. Can you go to the gym every day and give your maximum if you are dejected and constantly under stress? Probably not. The same applies to poor sleep. Not only will you be tired, but your muscles and the whole body will not be able to recover properly, which will translate to subpar performance and reduced muscle growth.
Reducing cravings is also very useful because, after strenuous workouts, we often desire to eat something unhealthy. This means that 5-HTP can help us stick to a diet plan.
However, if you expect that 5-HTP will directly affect muscle growth – no, it won’t. It is not that type of supplement.
The specific benefits of 5-HTP for bodybuilding might be enhanced recovery, growth hormone stimulation, reduced muscle pain, and improved endurance due to increased oxygen uptake.
But none of those benefits were undeniably proven by any credible human study, trial, or research, so I wouldn’t rely solely on 5-HTP for recovery, growth hormone boost, and endurance.
How Does Taking 5-HTP Make You Feel?
Many people describe feeling more relaxed and content after taking it. I cannot tell you whether you will feel all those pleasant effects immediately or if you will need to take supplements for some time. So, if you don’t feel any progress in the first few days, don’t give up, but be patient.
Users also report improved sleep quality already after a few nights. Some link it directly to circadian rhythm improvement, while others attribute improved night’s sleep to anxiety relief, which 5-HTP is responsible for.
It’s important to note that 5-HTP may not be suitable for every human being out there and that everyone’s experience with 5-HTP is different. Don’t be disappointed if your 5-HTP effects are not as good as someone else’s. It still can be helpful to some extent.
What’s an Effective Dosage of 5-HTP?
While L-tryptophan is abundant in foods including dairy products, meat, and chickpeas, 5-HTP is barely present in any foods. (6) That is why supplementation is practically the only source of 5-HTP.
Recommended dosages vary depending on the purpose for which you are taking this supplement.
In general, healthy adults should take doses of 100-800 mg daily. These are only universal recommendations, and the following are approximately daily doses per purpose:
- Obesity – 700 to 800 mg
- Mood, anxiety, and depression – 200 to 300 mg
- Migraines – 600 mg
- Sleep – 200 to 300 mg
- Pain, including fibromyalgia – 400 mg
Prolonged use is advisable for each condition.
When is the Best Time of Day to Take 5-HTP?
Timing, like dosage, depends on the reason for using 5-HTP supplementation.
For better sleep, the best time of day is half an hour to an hour before bedtime.
If you are trying to lose weight or just prevent binge eating, divide your daily intake into two or three doses (number of meals) and take it about half an hour before eating.
For everything else, you can take it once a day or divide it into several doses if you find it more effective or helpful for mitigating side effects.
Should You Take 5-HTP Every Day?
There is no conclusive answer to whether or not you should take 5-HTP every day.
That’s a decision to be made with your healthcare provider, coach, dietician, or whoever is in charge of your supplement regimen.
Some people may benefit from taking 5-HTP daily, while others may only need it occasionally. It is generally safe to take it every day, and it seems to be more effective. I would take it every day, at least for a few weeks, and then reconsider the situation.
What are the Potential Side Effects of Taking 5-HTP?
Side effects linked to 5-HTP are usually negligible and can be caused by virtually any supplement. As you can probably guess, these are nausea, diarrhea, stomach pain, heartburn, etc. Even those minor side effects are infrequent if you consume the usual amounts, below one gram, for up to one year. This does not mean 5-HTP is unsafe after one year, but longer studies have yet to be conducted.
The only potentially serious consequence of taking 5-HTP supplements is eosinophilia-myalgia syndrome. Eosinophilia-myalgia syndrome (EMS) is a rare condition that causes muscle pain and breathing problems. (7) There is no cure for it.
EMS shouldn’t deter you from using 5-HTP since you can develop it even without consuming 5-HTP and/or L-tryptophan supplements. Also, the direct connection between EMS and 5-HTP has not been scientifically proven, although a certain connection apparently exists.
Does 5-HTP Have Any Negative Interactions with Medications or Other Supplements?
5-HTP actually has more negative interactions with medications than most other supplements. The reason is the effect on the production of serotonin, and thus it might interact with numerous medicines that affect the brain.
For example, the interaction between 5-HTP and medicines for Parkinson’s disease, sedatives, and serotonergic substances might happen. This can be potentially dangerous, so exercise caution if you take any of these medications.
As always, be sure to consult with your doctor in order to avoid heart problems, seizures, drowsiness, sleepiness, anxiety, aggressiveness, and other potential side effects.
Who Should Not Take 5-HTP Supplements?
Certain groups should not take 5-HTP supplements or should seek the opinion of experts before doing so. Those groups are:
- Pregnant or nursing women: There is insufficient research to determine the safety of 5-HTP supplements during pregnancy or while breastfeeding. Therefore, it is best to avoid using them during these times.
- People with medical conditions: Individuals with certain medical conditions such as liver disease, kidney disease, or any condition that affects serotonin levels.
- Those taking medications: 5-HTP may interact with certain medications, including antidepressants, tranquilizers, and pain medications.
- Children: We do not know the safety and efficacy of 5-HTP supplements in children.
- Allergy sufferers: People who are allergic to any ingredients in 5-HTP supplements.
People with Down syndrome should avoid it too.
Is 5-HTP Supplementation Worth it for Bodybuilding?
Yes, 5-HTP supplementation is possibly worth it for bodybuilding. It is not the most resounding “yes” you will ever hear from me. Still, I consider 5-HTP a good supplement for bodybuilders and almost everyone else.
Other supplements may be more effective if you are solely focused on maximizing your bodybuilding results. But remember – you have to be healthy to be able to achieve your goals! That’s where 5-HTP comes into play. It can support your sleep, mood, and many other essential things.
Our Overall Rating of 5-HTP as a Supplement:
Taking into account the potential benefits, as well as the relatively low risk of side effects, we give 5-HTP a solid 3 out of 5. There was serious consideration to give it 3.5 out of 5.
Despite the fact that some bodybuilders and seasoned gym-goers think it is not worth the investment for those solely interested in bodybuilding progress, 5-HTP certainly has something to offer.
Nowadays, when mental health problems are more prevalent than ever before, any natural substance that can reduce depression, anxiety, or insomnia is significant. Also, that’s not all because 5-HTP has many more possible uses.
Nevertheless, the evidence about its benefits is limited or mixed. That’s why it can’t get a higher rating than 3, even though it has huge potential.
Does 5-HTP Work Immediately?
In 99% of the cases, 5-HTP supplementation does not work immediately. It takes time for the body to convert 5-HTP into serotonin. The time it takes to feel the effects of 5-HTP can vary based on factors such as current serotonin levels, the dose, and the method of administration.
Some individuals may feel the effects of 5-HTP within a few hours, while for others, it may take several days or weeks to notice a difference. 5-HTP should not be considered a quick fix for mood and sleep issues, and it should be taken consistently over time to experience its full benefits.
Is There a Downside to Taking 5-HTP?
There is a downside to everything, and 5-HTP is no different.
Downsides can range from mild gastrointestinal issues to potentially deadly serotonin syndrome. If you have too much serotonin in your body, this syndrome occurs and causes shivering, diarrhea, rapid heart rate, muscle rigidity, and even death if not treated.
Potential interactions with medications are another downside, as well as unknown long-term effects. There is nothing to suggest that it is long-term unsafe, but you never know.
Does 5-HTP Affect Dopamine?
Logic could lead us to the conclusion that 5-HTP may increase dopamine levels too, but that is not the case. There are allegations that 5-HTP impacts dopamine, but it is hard to believe something that does not have any evidence to support that claim.
Also, you may hear that 5-HTP can deplete dopamine, which is most likely another bro-science myth.
Since I don’t want to claim anything, just stay away from 5-HTP as a supplement for increasing dopamine until further notice.
How Many Hours Does 5-HTP Last?
The effects of 5-HTP typically last for a few hours, although this can vary depending on the individual metabolism, age, nutrition, and dosage.
Generally, the effects of 5-HTP can be felt within 30 minutes to an hour of taking the supplement, with the peak occurring around 2-3 hours after ingestion.
The duration can last anywhere from 4-8 hours, with effects lasting up to 12 hours max.
Can 5-HTP Raise Cortisol?
The study showed that 5-HTP stimulates cortisol levels in plasma and saliva. (8)
Cortisol is a stress hormone for managing stress responses and inflammation. High cortisol levels can lead to weight gain, mood swings, and other health issues, which is the opposite of what 5-HTP does.
More studies are needed to determine the exact mechanics of the interaction between the two. (9)
What Happens When You Stop Taking 5-HTP?
When you stop taking 5-HTP, there are typically no severe withdrawal symptoms or adverse effects. The body’s natural ability to produce and maintain healthy serotonin levels should not be hindered by long-term 5-HTP use, which is very positive.
However, if you stop taking 5-HTP, you may experience a return of the symptoms that the supplement was helping to alleviate.
Suddenly stopping the use of 5-HTP after long-term use may result in symptoms similar to abruptly discontinuing any other supplement or medication. It would be best to gradually reduce your 5-HTP dosage over several days to avoid sudden changes in serotonin levels.