The brain. It’s an amazing thing. It drives our emotions, our focus, our critical thinking skills. When our brains feel bad, so goes our day. When we are perpetuated by anxiety, it can be almost impossible to function.
I’ve not always been one for supplementation. The fact is, I believe in eating and natural diet. I realize that when I eat poorly or drink increased levels of alcohol, that I don’t feel as well as I should.
But I’m always looking for life hacks. And L-Theanine is one of those hacks. It’s a brain hack. It helps with insomnia. It helps with your mood. It helps with lowering general anxiety. Everyone I’ve ever recommended take it has had nothing but great things to say about it.
To start this discussion, I want to talk about what it is and how I use it. I can honestly say that this stuff is a true game changer.
L-Theanine is popularly consumed, most people just don’t know it. L-Theanine is an amino acid found in green tea. Have you ever heard people say “oh drink green tea over coffee, the caffeine is a smoother, less edgy feeling?” This statement makes little sense. I mean, are their different strains of caffeine? The fact is, green tea and coffee share the ingredient, caffeine, in its unaltered, consistent state. But what they do not share is L-Theanine. L-Theanine is found in green tea. And it’s the L-Theanine that gives the caffeine experience a smoother ride for the person consuming it. The caffeine is the same between both coffee and green tea. (NOTE: green tea has less caffeine than coffee, so that also influences anecdotal responses).
Caffeine and L-Theanine go together like peas and corn. The L-Theanine softens the caffeine’s effect, removing the “edgy” aspect to it. It reduces the crash. And, it vastly increases focus. L-Theanine is said to induce a meditative state of mind due to the production of alpha waves. Sounds pretty sci-fi, huh? Alpha waves are picked up by EEG, or electroencephalography, and are found in a person who has their eyes closed but isn’t completely in a state of sleep. It also reduces anxiety by blocking excitatory stimuli at glutamate.
L-Theanine also increases the brain’s GABA levels. GABA is a calming neurotransmitter. And L-Theanine is said to cross the blood brain barrier to achieve this.
So L-Theanine’s “zen,” or stress reduction effects, actually play well to increasing focus. When taken with coffee, L-Theanine strips coffee of its negative effects.
But do you have to take it with coffee?
Nope, I do, but you don’t have to. In fact, many people report they’ve used it to quit coffee. You will notice the effects of L-Theanine whether or not you take it with caffeine or not. I just choose to take it with coffee.
So what happens when I take it?
I get lost. I mean, time just slips away while I work. When your focus is super heightened, you don’t notice time passing. You can plug away at tasks uninterrupted for hours.
Other influencers of focus include lower carb diets, ketosis, and good sleep. L-Theanine, however, definitely boost the brain into a focus overdrive state.
So how do I use it?
I take it each morning with coffee. I take 1 200mg. I take a brand known as Suntheanine. Brands seem to matter. Many consumers report vast differences between brands. I have tried a few and some do seem to have less pop. I’ve never had a completely bunk one, though. I recommend reading the reviews. Make sure the one you choose has a lot of good reviews.
Here is mine and it is linked to the product on Amazon as well.
I also take it if I feel anxious. I refuse to take pharma meds. I did that for a year and it was the worst year of my life. I carry the L-Theanine in my bag with me, if I feel anxious, I take one. It seems to help.
L-Theanine is said to reduce issues involving schizophrenia. In a study, 40 people diagnosed with schizophrenia were given a placebo or, L-Theanine at a 400mg dose. The patients who received the L-Theanine showed a reduction in symptoms. (1)
L-Theanine may reduce risks of stroke. Studies have shown that L-Theanine increases Nitric Oxide production. This increase can potentially help lower risk for stroke. (2)
There aren’t notable reported side-effects, however, that doesn’t mean you shouldn’t consult your Doctor. It is also important to understand that a healthy diet is central to a healthy mind. Just adding a L-Theanine isn’t likely to be enough if you don’t make some effort at eating healthy.
(1) Ritsner MS, Miodownik C, Ratner Y, et al. L-theanine relieves positive, activation, and anxiety symptoms in patients with schizophrenia and schizoaffective disorder: an 8-week, randomized, double-blind, placebo-controlled, 2-center study. J Clin Psychiatry. 2011;72(1):34-42.
(2) Siamwala JH, Dias PM, Majumder S, et al. L-theanine promotes nitric oxide production in endothelial cells through eNOS phosphorylation. J Nutr Biochem. 2013;24(3):595-605.