Philosophers throughout the ages have claimed that there are only two certainties in life: death and taxes. While that’s probably true, we think coffee should be added to the list because nothing is more certain than the jolt caffeine brings to our mornings.
Besides being the first thing most people think about, this beverage has crossed cultures and continents. Not only does it wake us up, but it brings friends together in the afternoons, is a common first date activity, and is a perfectly acceptable excuse to get up from your desk at work and take a break.
But beware: coffee is super-stimulatory and can wear down your nervous system. The jittery, nervous feelings one can get from too much caffeine can be remedied by two quick solutions. The first is to reduce coffee; and the second, L-theanine, will balance out your brain chemistry and round out caffeine’s stimulatory effects to maintain the benefits. This article will show you how.
Almost everyone loves coffee, but what can start out as a single morning cup can turn into a destructive addiction. One cup can lead to two, three or even four cups to maintain the same positive effects throughout the day.
The feeling of alertness brought on by caffeine is through its work on the adenosine receptors. These little antenna-like structures work to relax your body and mind when you are tired. They are what tell you to go to sleep, and when you need rest and repair.
Caffeine is an antagonist to the adenosine receptors, basically turning them off.(1) In other words, it disables the system that is telling you that you are tired and need to rest.
This can be very useful in the short run to get certain tasks done, but in the long run this wears down your nervous system and brings on jittery feelings. These nervous feelings are a result of overstimulation, and are warning signs that your nervous system is imbalanced.
This doesn’t mean that we must remove caffeine completely from our lives. Caffeine brings on other benefits like increased attention span and verbal memory(2), increased aerobic exercise performance(3), and increased metabolic rate(4).
A more balanced approach could be to moderate our caffeine intake and introduce a balancing chemical like L-theanine (a stimulatory chemical found in tea). Another option is to wean off caffeine and use L-theanine on its own.
The Benefits of L-Theanine for the Body and Mind
L-theanine is the key neurochemical ingredient in tea, which has also been consumed for thousands of years in Asia for its health benefits.
It works by producing GABA and glutamate, key chemical messengers that send information throughout your brain across pathways called synapses.
Scientific studies have shown that the positive effects of L-theanine include possible learning and memory improvement(5), better stress symptom management(6), and alleviation of depression symptoms.(7)
Some people choose to quit caffeine and move to L-theanine because it is a safe and effective stimulatory agent (with loads of antioxidants as well).
Quitting coffee (for some who have tried) is often easier said than done. An issue with this approach is the extremely addictive nature of coffee, and the fact that tea doesn’t provide the same caffeine-induced “kick’ so many people depend on.
Benefits of stacking L-theanine & caffeine
Since caffeine can be beneficial to some people, combining it with L-theanine has grown in popularity in recent years.
While there are many anecdotal reports available online about the benefits of this synergistic combination, there have also been some recent scientific studies using both these compounds.
One study of interest found that this combination is beneficial for reestablishing focus during task switching.(8) An example where that could be useful might be a situation where you are working on the computer, and then need to answer a phone call from your supervisor. Ideally, you should be able to switch your focus quickly in order to bring attention to the new task, and the combination of L-theanine and caffeine was shown to benefit the study participants in this regard.
Another study showed that L-theanine and caffeine improved cognitive performance and alertness(9), and reduced the tendency of the study participants to lose focus from distractions.
Because L-theanine is associated with reduced anxiety & stress(10), it can help to maintain alertness by reducing jitters associated with excess caffeine intake.
If you wanted to give it a try, we recommend an L-theanine/caffeine ratio of 2:1. Our powdered form is easily absorbed and can be taken with your coffee for maximum effect.
Those wishing to swap caffeine for our high-absorption powdered L-theanine can start with 200mg per day, divided into 2 doses.
L-Theanine & Caffeine: Is it just Internet Hype?
L-theanine was used thousands of years before the internet was invented, so it’s hardly hype. Its benefits have been passed down through many cultures, and are supported scientifically in recent studies.
Conversely, knowledge of the combined effects of L-theanine and caffeine are new. The studies mentioned above clearly show some benefits, but because real life is very different it’s wise to do self-testing to determine the optimal dosage for you.
We also want to stress the following: coffee on average has up to four times the caffeine per cup than tea.(11) If someone is overconsuming coffee it is probably best to scale it back, because no amount of L-theanine can overcome the negative effects of overdosing caffeine.
If, however, you consume an “average” amount of caffeine, supplementing with L-theanine before hitting a caffeine-induced anxiety “tipping point” has been shown to bring great benefits to your mental performance at work or school.
And, of course, it is important to rest. Your brain is like your body and needs to repair. But like any athletic endeavour, precision nutrition and supplementation brings great performance benefits, and L-theanine is a great way to increase mental performance with or without coffee.
- Caffeine & Adenosine Receptors: https://www.frontiersin.org/articles/10.3389/fncel.2019.00124/full
- Caffeine & Increased Attention/Verbal Memory: http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/20521321
- Caffeine & Increased Exercise Performance: http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/20737165
- Caffeine & Increased Metabolic Rate: http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/2333832
- L-theanine & Improved Learning/Memory: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/17182482
- L-theanine & Stress Management: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/26797633
- L-theanine & Reduced Depression: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/27396868
- L-theanine/Caffeine & Task Switching: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/20079786
- L-theanine/Caffine & Improved Cognitive Performance and Alertness: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/21040626
- L-theanine and Anti-Stress Effects: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/26797633
- Caffeine content of Coffee vs. Tea: https://www.mayoclinic.org/healthy-lifestyle/nutrition-and-healthy-eating/in-depth/caffeine/art-20049372