If so, you might be pleasantly surprised at how 5-HTP can zap those food cravings.
It's not just anecdotal evidence, either. There's quite a bit of real science to support the use of 5-HTP as a natural supplement for weight loss. For example, one clinical study showed that 5-HTP taken before meals reduced food intake, hunger and weight for a group of overweight women, without any special diet.
That's good news for all of us who find that hunger and food cravings regularly sabotage our plans to lose weight! ...and especially when those food cravings are associated with stress or some other type of need for a mood booster.
Watch this video clip of Dr Oz talking about 5-HTP for weight loss:
How 5-HTP helps you lose weight
Okay, we know that 5-HTP is a superb natural serotonin booster. So how does that help you lose weight?
The key lies in how serotonin affects your appetite.
Healthy levels of brain serotonin give you a sense of well-being and satisfaction...
But if your brain serotonin is low you are likely to feel hungry as well as feeling low in mood... maybe irritable, depressed, tired. (Low serotonin can also contribute to leptin resistance – every dieter's nightmare. More on that later...)
Serotonin is one of the key brain chemicals that signals that you have eaten enough. As your blood sugar level increases after eating, your insulin level goes up, and so does your brain serotonin.
Feeling satisfied after a meal is not just about your stomach being full – your brain needs to feel satisfied as well. (If you've ever had the experience of finishing your healthy steak and salad meal and craving something sweet at the end, you'll know what I mean.)
The easiest way to do that is to eat some carbohydrate.
But wait a minute... if you're trying to lose weight you're not supposed to eat too many carbs, right? Whether you're following an Atkins diet or a Paleo diet (very low carbohydrate), or maybe a more moderately carbohydrate restricted diet like the Mediterranean diet, you know you can't indulge that sweet craving and still lose weight.
So how then to get your serotonin level up and feel satisfied with what you've eaten (and with yourself too)?
The dilemma of carbohydrate cravings
Now, if you're one of the people who feel really good on a low carbohydrate diet, you probably won't be reading this right now, and if you are, you don't need to read any further. (Unless you are having problems sleeping, in which case, read on.)
But if you are on a low carb diet and you feel irritable, tired, and craving carbohydrates – even after eating – then it's likely that your brain serotonin is low. In that case, you might just find that 5-HTP is a godsend – it will give you the extra serotonin boost you need to stay on your diet, lose the cravings, feel good, and lose weight. Unlike tryptophan, 5-HTP doesn't need insulin to get into your brain and so it gives you a sneaky way to side-step the whole dilemma... it allows you to get the satisfaction of a carbohydrate (and serotonin) boost without putting your weight-loss goals in jeopardy.
How and when to take 5-HTP for weight loss?
If you need to put the brakes on your appetite, the best way to take 5-HTP is about 30-60 minutes before a meal.
Dr Ray Sahelian – the author of 5-HTP: Nature's Serotonin Solution– recommends that you only take a low dose of 5-HTP during the day (50 mg), since it can make you sleepy.
Experiment to find what works best for you – there is a lot of individual variation in how different people respond to 5-HTP. However, I've found the sustained release form works well to stop cravings without making me sleepy. I'd suggest taking it just before your most vulnerable time for cravings – for many people (including me) this is late afternoon or early evening.
The other point here is that you may not need to take 5-HTP continuously. The worst times for cravings when you go on a diet are right in the beginning, and after a couple of weeks of eating low carb. So you might take 5-HTP for a week or two or three, while you are getting into a very carbohydrate restricted diet, and then take a break from it (depending on how long you plan to stay on your program).
However... transitioning from a very low carb diet to a less restricted diet can also be make-or-break time, when cravings come back and if you are not careful, you can relapse into your old eating patterns and put the weight right back on. So this would also be a good time in your diet program to take 5-HTP for appetite management.
Who will benefit from taking 5-HTP for weight loss?
Most people wanting to lose weight could do with some help in the cravings department. But 5-HTP will be especially helpful for those of you who find a low-carb diet good for weight-loss – but tend to get de-railed by food cravings (especially carbohydrate cravings) either during or after the weight loss program.
5-HTP is generally safe, but there are some people who need to be careful – if you are pregnant, or breast-feeding, or have been diagnosed with bipolar disorder.
5-HTP, sleep and weight-loss
There is one more way that 5-HTP can help weight-loss, and it's less direct but surprisingly helpful. That is by taking it in the evening before bed.
5-HTP is one of the best supplements you can take to help you sleep soundly through the night and wake up refreshed.
Taking it in the evening will raise your night-time serotonin, which will help you sleep better – and this in turn has a number of benefits for weight loss as well as for your overall sense of well-being.
Serotonin itself helps you feel more relaxed and laid-back, less edgy. So that's a good thing. But here's something else: melatonin – the brain hormone that is released in darkness and controls your sleep/wake cycles – is made from serotonin. So if your serotonin level is low, your melatonin level is probably low too. (You can get melatonin supplements, but the dosage is tricky – you don't want more melatonin in your brain than is needed.)
Sleep is the prime time for fat-burning, so good sleep is essential if you want to lose weight.
Studies have shown that poor sleep is associated with a reduction in leptin (the master hormone that keeps your appetite in check) and an elevation in ghrelin (the hunger hormone) and so leads to increased hunger and appetite... especially an appetite for foods high in carbohydrate.
(Read more in this article in Medscape)
In fact, there are other hormonal imbalances that result from lack of sleep, and all of them work to promote weight gain.
Your body needs deep sleep to produce optimal amounts of growth hormone (which boosts fat burning) and thyroid hormones (which are responsible for keeping your metabolic motors humming along at the right speed).
On the other hand, lack of sleep can lead to too much of the stress hormone cortisol – another trigger for carbohydrate cravings and abdominal fat, which can sabotage the best-intentioned diet plan.
Good sleep is your secret weapon for weight loss
Good things happen when you get a good night's sleep:
First, your growth hormone levels will get a boost. This will work to build muscle and burn fat, and in adults, most of its work is done at night while you sleep.
Second, ghrelin, your hunger hormone, tends to be better behaved after a good night's sleep. Ever had the munchies after a sleepless night? That's ghrelin, doing its best to boost your energy. Yes, it has survival value, but it's not helpful if you are wanting to lose weight!
Third, your stress levels will go down, and cortisol will stay at a healthy low level – making it easier to burn off abdominal fat and keep the carbohydrate cravings under control.
So do whatever you can to ensure you get enough restful sleep each night. It will make weight-loss a lot easier... and boost your immune systeme, your general health and your well-being as a bonus.
5-HTP overview for weight-loss
If you want to lose weight, you know the hurdles that lie ahead of you!
...temptations to eat that scrumptious chocolate cake, that brie cheese on rye sour-dough, that apple pie just out of the oven... whatever it is for you, rest assured, one temptation or another will be lying sneakily in wait for you.
...discouragement when the scales don't budge... a stressful day at work... feelings of deprivation when you sit down with a small plate of chicken and salad while everyone else is eating lasagne...
Okay... okay! ... but I'm not trying to be mean, I'm just preparing you for what's going to happen, so you can have a plan in place. You know the rewards of better health and a slim, fit, sexy body are going to be worth it... yes?
5-HTP can have a place in that plan, to help you deal with cravings that might get out of control... it can also be a huge help if you run into problems with sleep – problems that you know from experience can sabotage your diet program. I've given you the information you need to make your own decision about whether these are hurdles that might be there for you.
If you want to find out more about the 5-HTP (sustained release) that I recommend and where to buy it, go here.