Tryptophan, BDNF, and Strength Training

Written by Joe Cohen, BS | Last updated:

Whenever the topic of hitting the gym pops up, most people instantly talk about the incredible boost to mental health, immune function, and the increase in deep sleep after a good workout.

But my experience was the complete opposite – until I decided to fix it.

After I would go to the gym, I’d start feeling extremely anxious and irritable, and I realized that I started getting sick more often.

I was still going on daily walks and playing sports like volleyball, so I had an active lifestyle.

So, I just avoided working out altogether.

It wasn’t until a year ago that I decided I wanted to get to the bottom of this.

With all the evidence that shows the benefits of resistance training, I had to find a way to incorporate it into my routine.

What genes are causing these negative reactions to working out?

Am I Genetically Predisposed To Avoid Strength Training?

My first goal was to get rid of the anxiety that I would experience after a workout.

I opened my SelfDecode Fitness Report to get a better understanding of the optimal training types for my body.

This report analyzes thousands of genes and gives you a breakdown of the three training types – Power, Endurance, and Strength – and how much time you should allocate to each one.

In my case, strength training had the least.

This was my first clue that there were probably a few genes causing my strength training issues.

As I got deeper into my SelfDecode Fitness Report, one gene caught my attention: BDNF.

This gene plays a role in mood regulation, memory, and cognitive function.

Studies have shown that resistance training boosts BDNF levels, enhancing mental health.

But variants in the BDNF gene can influence how one’s brain responds to these BDNF-enhancing activities.

My variant might not be as responsive, leading to a less positive response to workouts.

From there, I also discovered that your body uses a lot of tryptophan when the nervous system is put under stress.

And tryptophan is a precursor to serotonin – the “happiness hormone.”

This is a neurotransmitter that my body heavily relies on to help me with my mood.

A decrease in tryptophan = a decrease in serotonin.

The combination of my BDNF gene and lack of tryptophan was causing my anxiety after my workout.

The solution? Tryptophan supplements.

Once I started taking those, I went back to try out the gym and when I was done, I had no anxiety.

It’s amazing how quickly I discovered the solution using my genes, and how quickly my body reacted positively to the changes.

One other recommendation in my Fitness Report was Niacin.

Niacin is important for resistance training due to its benefits in energy metabolism, vasodilation, muscle recovery, and more.

But it also plays an important role in boosting your immune system.

With these 2 supplements, I’m able to reap all the benefits of strength training without experiencing any of the negatives.

Your Genes Don’t Determine Your Future

My genes did predispose me to these negative effects of strength training, but by understanding that, I was able to make the changes that I needed to live the life that I wanted.

Your DNA is a very powerful tool, and SelfDecode can help you utilize it to its fullest potential.

Whether you want to start incorporating a fitness regimen into your life, or fix a health issue that’s been around for years, the first step is getting to the root and building yourself up from there.

If you sign up for SelfDecode today, you’ll receive:

  • 17+ Summary Reports – Covering health topics like fitness, sleep, metabolic health, heart health, brain health, and so much more.
  • 300+ Health & Trait Reports
  • Health Scores – comprehensive, personalized insights into your health based on a combination of your unique DNA, lifestyle, and lab.
  • Unlimited access to Lab analyzer tool – upload your labs and track your results
  • Personalized supplement recommendations – find out what to take based on your DNA
  • SNP & Gene Explorer
  • Lifestyle Analyzer
  • Ancestry – discover where you’re from and track your maternal lineage (Only available on Health & Ancestry Plan)


About the Author

Joe Cohen, BS

Joe Cohen, BS

Joe Cohen flipped the script on conventional and alternative medicine…and it worked. Growing up, he suffered from inflammation, brain fog, fatigue, digestive problems, insomnia, anxiety, and other issues that were poorly understood in traditional healthcare. Frustrated by the lack of good information and tools, Joe decided to embark on a learning journey to decode his DNA and track his biomarkers in search of better health. Through this personalized approach, he discovered his genetic weaknesses and was able to optimize his health 10X better than he ever thought was possible. Based on his own health success, he went on to found SelfDecode, the world’s first direct-to-consumer DNA analyzer & precision health tool that utilizes AI-driven polygenic risk scoring to produce accurate insights and health recommendations. Today, SelfDecode has helped over 100,000 people understand how to get healthier using their DNA and labs.
Joe is a thriving entrepreneur, with a mission of empowering people to take advantage of the precision health revolution and uncover insights from their DNA and biomarkers so that we can all feel great all of the time.


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