Insomnia from protein....?

Discussion in 'Anything and Everything about dietary supplements' started by Bonattiman, Sep 30, 2010.

  1. Bonattiman

    Bonattiman New Member


    I havent slept more than a few hours in a week.
    I have recently started supplementing with whey and casein protein and this is the only thing I could think would be causing it.

    Ive seen through web searches that there could be a relation between increased glutamic acid levels and insomnia.

    Any insight would be great. Thanks ​
    Last edited: Sep 30, 2010
  2. ZKD

    ZKD New Member

    I don't know. There could be a relation. All I can say is that I've never experienced this, nor have I read of anyone else on bodybuilding forums experiencing this. If you're not sleeping well, you won't be able to gain muscle very well (if at all). I would suggest you either stop taking the protein or start taking a sleeping aid. You can buy melatonin (natural supplement) to help you sleep.
  3. Bryan Haycock

    Bryan Haycock Administrator Staff Member

    Protein supplements don't cause insomnia any more than any other protein source does. There are several things that lifters do that can cause sleeping issues. For one, cutting calories/carbs can cause insomnia through elevations in noradrenalin. Starting a new routine after a layoff or one that is simply more intense than can also cause difficulty sleeping through the night. Its a type of short term over training with alterations in cortisol and catecholamines.

    Either way, the protein is the least of your potential offenders. Sleep physiology and related disorders is an entire field of study...and causes of sleep disturbances are many and often complex. Don't have time to go through all the different things you can try to help your sleep, but I'm sure you can find some help around the web.
  4. Bonattiman

    Bonattiman New Member

    Thank you for your insight. I'll look into melatonin.

    Mr. Haycock,
    Thank you very much for your time. Happy to hear its not the protein. I have in fact recently got back into the gym. I will then continue to focus on my training and use a sleeping aid till my body adjusts.

    If you have a second, would I be able to get your thoughts on these statements found in an article discussing the various types of whey available?

    "There are a couple of amino acids that are naturally present in very large quantities in whey. These are glutamic acid and aspartic acid.
    Glutamic acid, or glutamate is a neurotransmitter. It is know as excitotoxin and it serves to enhance one of the five main tastes - umami (savory). Glutamate in large quantities overstimulates certain parts of the brain...."

    He then makes the following statement about hydrolyzed whey, being that its pre-digested:

    "Well, it's one thing when the body itself has to break down the protein into amino acids - it metabolizes as much of the protein it needs. But, it's a different thing when you ingest pre-digested protein and this way you force the body to uptake all of the proteins in a form already available for use."


    I read else where on the web that glutamate can interrupt neurotransmitters.
    This is how I came to the assumption that protein could be the cause of my sleep trouble. I had just switched to a whey protein containing some hydrolyzed whey.
    But I havent taken the supplement for 5 days now and still cant sleep.

    However, would the large amount of available glutamate in hydrolyzed whey be of any concern?
  5. Totentanz

    Totentanz Super Moderator Staff Member

    This statement is kind of laughable:
    I don't think he understands how the body works.

    Here is my two cents. Like Bryan said, the causes of lack of sleep can be many. But when I am training and I have problems sleeping, it is usually due to under-eating and, as a result, over-training. You can over-train without under-eating but I find (and this could just be myself and the guys I've worked with) that if you do not eat sufficient calories and protein post-workout, you increase the chance of over-training, having problems such as difficulty sleeping and so on. Anecdotal, I know, but I've been testing this theory out for a while now and so far it holds. After intense weightlifting, getting enough nutrition is very important.
    Furthermore, if protein was the issue, you'd expect other people to have the same problem, right? Lately, I've been getting up to 300 grams of protein a day from protein powders and I haven't had any sleeping issues. Keep in mind that I am a chronic insomniac. I develop insomnia yearly. I've been sleeping like a baby for the last couple months except when work gets in the way.
  6. nesan

    nesan New Member

    I really doubt whey protein is causing the sleeping problems.The easiest way to know is to simply stop taking it at night and see if your sleep improves.
  7. moodraman

    moodraman New Member

    Yep... I expereinced this with certain brands

    I don't know if it was the Sugar content or what... but I stay strictly with Optimum Nutrition proteins now... as I tried Pro-Sources (it's a proprietary blend for the website) and I experienced some serious insomnia. I also tried a Walmart brand protein and had serious stomach discomfort. I do wish the supplement industry would be a bit more regulated... (I know people cringe at the thought, but it would be nice to know something as simple as protien isn't going to have crap in it that may cause sleep problems.) My other suggestion would be to take ZMA... I tend to sleep better when my evening routine includes a nice big ON shake and some ZMA. Plus I think Melatonin is habit forming (i.e. if you take it you won't be able to sleep without it) just stay away from GNC ZMA, those f'ers put Valerian Root in it, I was tired all day when I was taking this and couldn't figure it out until I checked the ingredients.
  8. DougieNoName

    DougieNoName New Member

    protein insomnia

    It's definately the protein. I have always had the same problem. It seems like something that most people don't experience. If I were to take 30g of any kind of protein, I wouldn't get any sleep.

    I have not been able to find out why protein supplements have a different effect than eating meat but they do for some people.

    My only guess is that protein is synthesized into serotonin, which has a lot to do with sleep. From wikipedia: "An increase in the ratio of tryptophan to phenylalanine and leucine will increase serotonin levels." But, I'm no scientist. Nobody I've seen on the web has been able to figure this out yet.
  9. DougieNoName

    DougieNoName New Member

    This happens to me too. Doesn't matter what kind of protein supplement I take. I can eat meat just fine, but if I take a supplement, my sleep is horrible. It's a big problem for me. There has been no research I have seen to address this issue, maybe because it doesn't affect everyone. My only guess is that the supplement is absorbed quicker and somehow that's a problem.

    I've been trying to research this myself and Wikipedia says:

    "An increase in the ratio of tryptophan to phenylalanine and leucine will increase serotonin levels."

    I thought serotonin was good for sleep though, so I don't quite get it, maybe too much at once is bad.

    I have been experimenting with taking leucine (branched chain amino acids) and phenylalanine when I take protein. When I tried it, I slept better than I usually do after taking protein. Disclaimer: I'm no scientist, but I would like like to figure this out.
  10. SuperTm

    SuperTm New Member

    Are you sure it's from the protein? Are you supplementing with anything else? Try taking 3-5mg's melatonin to sleep.
  11. johnson83

    johnson83 New Member

    For the people having sleep issues with protein, cab you share what other supplements you are taking in your stacks? I'm having the same issue where if I start taking whey protein (hydrolyzed whey or muscle milk), I sleep poorly the first night and terribly every night there after. Because iused to not be affected by protein powder, I'm starting to be suspicious that one of my other supplements is causing some kind of strange adverse reaction.
  12. TangoDown

    TangoDown Member

    I've never heard of protein powders causing insomnia. Unless you're taking in a large concentration of protein/food right before bed which is causing you to be abnormally full (which can cause insomnia), I don't think it's any more than psychological. If you're really worried that the powders are causing your insomnia, you can go get your renal function tested. But honestly, I think you're fine, and this is coming from a professional insomniac.

    You can discontinue the protein powders if you feel you can't sleep well if you're on them. IMO, it's better to be well rested than have quick access to large amounts of protein because sleep is very important to growth.

    Try some lifestyle changes like not starring at electronics an hour before bed to prevent blue light exposure and inhibited melatonin release. Try to go to bed and get up around the same time everyday and limit the amount of time you lay in bed to the amount of time you plan to sleep for (6.5-8 hours). You can also try covering up clocks in your home if you're anxious about the quantity of sleep you're getting. You can also try Sleep Restriction Therapy if things get real bad.

    If none of that helps, go see your doctor. They probably aren't going to know much about lifting but if your insomnia is secondary to some other ailment, they can diagnose you.
  13. johnson83

    johnson83 New Member

    TangoDown - thanks for all of the helpful advice.

    The reason I was so surprised that I was getting insomnia (and was able to figure out the cause so quickly), is that I generally do try to follow all of the typical advice to improve sleep quality. I've installed f.lux (or a f.lux equivalent) on all of my electronics to limit blue light exposure before bed, I generally keep a fairly typical sleep schedule (~8-9 hours/night), and we have black out curtains to prevent light leakage from ruining our sleep (we live downtown in DC).

    I mainly take supplements and vitamins for their positive effect, but was getting annoyed that I was no longer able to consume more than 30g of protein powder without losing sleep (I tried both the NOW Whey Protein Isolate and Muscle Milk). I used to take whey protein back in college (~5 years ago) without any negative effects.

    My supplement stack at the time I was getting insomnia was:

    • Vitamin B12 - 1 mg, Folate - 0.8 mg
    • Vitamin K complex
    • Vitamin D - 6000 IU
    • Vitamin C - 1 g
    • Fish Oil - 4 g
    • Magnesium L-threonate - 144 mg
    • Acetyl-L-carnitine - 1 g
    • Creatine - 5 g
    To test out whether my supplements were causing some kind of interaction with the protein that was leading to my insomnia, I cut out all the supplement/vitamins, and let them clear out of my system for a couple of days. After letting the supplements clear my system, I was able to tolerate 30g+ of protein without any insomnia! At this point I've been able to take protein powder for a week without any loss of sleep. Before, if I took protein powder I'd notice this sharp feeling in my head similar to what I'd feel if I had choline-induced insomnia.

    I've been able to titrate back up to the following regimen without any adverse effects:
    • Vitamin K complex
    • Vitamin D - 4000 IU
    • Fish Oil - 4 g
    • Magnesium L-threonate - 144 mg
    So pretty much, I'm guessing it was one of the following supplements or combination of supplements which caused some strange interaction with the protein powders:

    • Vitamin B12 - 1 mg, Folate - 0.8 mg
    • Vitamin C - 1 g
    • Acetyl-L-carnitine - 1 g
    • Creatine - 5 g
    Since pretty much everyone takes creatine, I doubt that's the culprit. Would anyone else with reported whey protein insomnia be willing to share what additional supplements/vitamins they were taking at the time they experienced their insomnia?
  14. Totentanz

    Totentanz Super Moderator Staff Member

    I've had some insomnia from ALCAR when taking it in conjunction with various racetams but never in with protein. Still, might we worth seeing if it's that one doing it. You were only taking 1 gram a day though which isn't terribly high of a dose.

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