WHAT IS ALPHA-LACTALBUMIN?
Alpha-lactalbumin (alpha) is one of the main protein fractions naturally occurring in milk. Alpha is the most prominent protein fraction in human milk and second most prominent fraction in bovine milk. It is naturally high in the essential amino acid tryptophan, and the Sulphur amino-acid, cysteine.
ALPHA-LACTALBUMIN AND TRYPTOPHAN
Tryptophan (TRP) is the precursor of the neurotransmitter serotonin, the precursor to melatonin (hormone involved in the sleep-wake cycle). Serotonin exerts multiple effects and is popularly thought to be a main contributor to feelings of well-being and happiness. It is implicated in the following:
- Sleep regulation
- Cognitive performance
- Weight management
ALPHA-LACTALBUMIN AND SLEEP
Sufficient good quality sleep is known to be essential to health, wellbeing, and recovery from exercise; however, many people have issues getting sufficient sleep with an estimated 50 to 70 million US adults having a sleep disorder (Layman 2018). Serotonin is key in the sleep-wake cycle, so it’s not surprising that the benefits on sleep quality observed from both alpha-lactalbumin and tryptophan supplementation include:
- Reduce morning sleepiness score (implying a Better night’s sleep) and improved day alertness and attention (Markus 2005)
- Reduced sleep latency (time to get to sleep) in those who normally have a longer sleep latency (REF)
Consuming high-quality protein before bed is a useful strategy to enhance muscle resynthesis and growth (Trommellen). In fact, the benefits of alpha for overnight recovery have been demonstrated in female athletes, who experienced better sleep quality and improved performance in an intermittent recovery test the following morning when they consumed alpha vs placebo after an evening simulated competition (Miles et al, 2021).
ALPHA-LACTALBUMIN AND COGNITION
Cognitive performance often declines during exposure of chronic stress and the negative effect of chronic stress may be mediated by reduced brain serotonin function. Thus, a diet-induced increase in TRP may help increase brain serotonergic activity levels and improve cognitive performance. Studies have shown benefits of alpha supplementation on cognitive performance, including:
- Faster reaction time with 500mg TRP from alpha compared to 300mg TRP from caseinate, in high stress vulnerable adults (Markus et al 2005.)
- Elevated pressure pain threshold, reduced feelings of fatigue and lower cortisol (Qui2019).
- Improved memory after consumption of an alpha-lactalbumin diet compared to a caseinate diet (REF).