For students who have exams coming up, theanine might be a winning supplement.
This green tea extract is relatively cheap and very effective.
It can make you feel calm without feeling subdued, focused without feeling like your head.
And even better, it appears to be completely safe.
Used in the East for thousands of years, green tea, and its active ingredient, theanine are becoming ever more popular in the West.
This supplement, often found in pre-workout products, helps you avoid stress and allows you to focus on your goals better than ever before.
Let’s talk about what theanine is and what theanine is used for:
What is Theanine?
Theanine is an amino acid which is naturally present in the leaves of the plant Camellia Sinensis which is used to make green tea.
Green tea has recently been found to have many health benefits including, its ability to aid fat loss, improve brain function and lower the risks to cancer.
Feeling irritable, stressed or struggling to remain attentive?
Now, green tea is getting more attention for its calming effects whilst keeping you focused.
‘Theanine’ without the prefix ‘L-’ is a form of the chemical extracted from a plant source. ‘L-’ indicates a synthesised, non-natural version of the amino acid.
Most amino acids are made naturally by our bodies and used to build proteins, but theanine is different.
It is made by non-human organisms.
Scientists believe that this plant-based amino acid can affect human bodies because it is similar in structure to two of our own amino acids – glutamate and glutamine.
The Chinese have been drinking green tea for thousands of years, however it was first isolated from Gyokuro leaves as recently as 1949.
But, if green tea isn’t your thing, there are other ways to get your l-theanine dosage.
Theanine is now extracted from green tea and made available in capsule, liquid and powder forms.
It is usually taken to reduce feelings of anxiety and to promote feelings of calm and focus.
Not only does it promote relaxation, it can also be taken to relieve symptoms of Alzheimer’s disease and to combat high blood pressure.
While scientists are still studying the precise workings of theanine, it appears that users can enjoy its relaxing effects without feeling sedated.
So far, few l-theanine side effects have been reported but the supplement is still being researched.
What Does Theanine Do?
How does theanine work?
Scientists believe that this amino acid can cross the blood-brain barrier and affect the way our brains work.
Users report that they feel calm as well as focused after taking it – theanine doesn’t seem to produce the wired feeling you can get from caffeine and other nootropics (brain enhancing stimulants).
In our brains, we have two types of neurotransmitters:
Excitatory neurotransmitters ‘excite’ and stimulate the brain, while inhibitory neurotransmitters balance mood.
Supplies of mood balancing neurotransmitters can be easily exhausted if the brain is overactive.
Theanine steps in by supporting the production of these inhibitory neurotransmitters, allowing the brain to balance itself, and you to feel calmer.
Theanine supports levels of GABA, glycine, and dopamine.
Increased levels of GABA in the brain promote a feeling of relaxation.
Dopamine is a chemical used in the brain’s reward and pleasure centres, dopamine release causes us to feel pleasure and focus on our goals in order to try to achieve the feeling again.
Glycine helps increase dopamine and GABA levels and is itself supported by theanine.
Studies have discovered that theanine has a significant effect on alpha brain waves, which are associated with alert and meditative states.
These brain waves lead to mental clarity and increased attention, so if you take more theanine, you will feel these effects more strongly.
Theanine and Sleep
As we’ve already mentioned, theanine has positive effects of promoting calmness and relaxation.
But does theanine help with a good nights sleep?
Some question this as theanine also provides attentiveness.
A study on 97 young boys suffering from ADHD showed that theanine also has the potential to improve the quality of sleep.
The boys moved less and experienced fewer disturbances in their sleep.
Although users of theanine report that they feel better when taking the supplement, there is not much scientific evidence to support this yet.
Theanine and High Blood Pressure
Does theanine help to reduce high blood pressure?
Many people believe it does, taking theanine in the hope for a lower blood pressure.
This use is probably due to an experiment that was performed on rats:
When L-theanine was given to hypertensive rats intravenously it did lower their blood pressure.
However, no experiments have yet proven that the same effect would occur in humans.
In time, with more research, it may prove to have the same health benefits for humans as it did on the rats.
Theanine and Caffeine
A lot of research has looked at the effects of theanine paired with caffeine, and it appears that these two substances together can really pack a punch.
Whether you are going to work, the gym or even just have a busy day ahead, theanine taken with caffeine can really promote concentration, reduce stress and help with performance.
The combination has been shown to increase focus and attention significantly, as well as making reaction times faster.
This may well help athletes stay on form during tiring workouts, helping them to avoid injury and perform to the best of their ability.
While there is a growing number of completed studies on combined theanine and caffeine, more research is needed to understand the full impact of theanine alone in humans.
How Much Theanine Should You Consume?
Theanine supplements usually recommend a dose of 100mg or 200mg per day.
Of course, always read the label and follow recommendations.
Studies have also generally used doses of 200mg per day, these doses should produce calming effects.
A study gave 400mg per day split into 2 x 200mg doses to boys with ADHD aged between seven and twelve years old.
These theanine dosages reflect the increased calming effects required for these participants.
What Foods Contain Theanine?
Believe it or not but…
Theanine is only found in one food – the mushroom xerocomus badius.
This is pretty rare, so your best bet for a dietary source is green tea.
Green tea as a drink contains high levels of theanine. It also contains caffeine, as most teas do.
The leaves of different types of the plant camellia sinensis are used to make green, black, white, yellow and oolong tea.
A small (180ml) cup of green tea contains 25-60mg of theanine, depending on how it is prepared.
It is common for fresh, young leaves to have more caffeine and for theanine levels to rise as the leaves age.
When to Take Theanine
Theanine can be taken before and during workouts.
When taken half an hour before going to bed, it will help with getting a good night’s sleep.
It’s perfectly okay to take theanine on an empty stomach, too.
In powder form, it can be dissolved under your tongue or added to a glass of water or other drink.
The effects are usually felt within 60 minutes of ingestion.
They peak about 5 hours after ingestion and your system should be completely clear after 24 hours.
L-Theanine Side Effects
What are the side effects of theanine?
A supplement that improves performance, attentiveness and calmness must have some side effects, right?
Actually, there is evidence that the substance is safe to use.
Studies on rats have shown that feeding high levels of theanine over a long period of time, has no significant adverse effects.
However, there hasn’t been any equivalent studies on humans.
Theanine has been added to many foods in Japan for approximately 40 years, both for its flavour and its calming effects.
There have been no reports of problems.
Do You Need to Cycle Theanine?
It is believed that theanine is totally safe to use every day.
Some people report that they develop a tolerance for this calming supplement, but there are not enough human studies on theanine alone to decide if this is true.
It is possible that they are actually building a psychological tolerance rather than a physical one.