Not only does protein steady blood sugar, but its core components
— amino acids — help your body make serotonin, dopamine, and
other neurotransmitters. Dietary protein contains several
essential amino acids, some that contribute to a sense of calm,
and some that excite the nervous system. Phenylalanine, for
example, stimulates the brain by creating norepinephrine, a
neurotransmitter that constricts blood vessels and raises blood
pressure — which you need for the fight-or-flight response.
(Research suggests various forms of phenylalanine may effectively
treat symptoms of depression.) The amino acid tryptophan,
meanwhile, can ultimately have a soothing effect. But because
it’s smaller than its amino-acid counterparts, tryptophan tends
to have a hard time crossing from the blood into the brain where
it can help calm you. Click here
to learn more about the four
nutritional strategies can help support a calmer state of mind.
Curious about BCAAs? Our expert explains what they’re
good for — and how to right-size your intake.
Your body requires three branched-chain amino acids, or BCAAs:
leucine, isoleucine, and valine. Leucine typically gets most of
the attention because of its ability to stimulate muscle growth,
but each offers key benefits. Isoleucine helps regulate blood
sugar and create hemoglobin (proteins that carry oxygen within
your body), while valine acts as a mild stimulant.
Taken together — and combined with an appropriate nutrition and
training plan — they can be a powerful tool for muscle health,
performance, and recovery, says Paul Kriegler, RD, program
development manager at Life Time Fitness in Chanhassen, Minn.
The body is unable to produce BCAAs on its own, so it’s critical
to get them through food. Red meat, eggs, and whey protein are
If you don’t consume much animal protein, or if you have a hard
time digesting food before or after a workout, a BCAA supplement
can be helpful. Kriegler recommends mixing one scoop of a
flavored BCAA powder in 6 to 8 ounces of water and drinking it
within 30 minutes either before, during, or after your workout.
It’s useful as a pre-, post-, or intra-workout beverage, he says,
so don’t stress too much about timing as long as it’s near your