Is your coffee failing to help you wake up and focus? While millions of people depend on the caffeinated brew to start their days, eventually, you’ll build up a caffeine tolerance. On the other hand, if you drink too much, you’ll feel jittery, restless and unfocused. Do you really have to cut it out to break the vicious cycle?
If you haven’t tried the coffee and l-theanine combination, you’re missing out. When you depend on your morning joe to keep you energized, focused and productive, you can increase its effects with l-theanine. Here’s how to get more out of your morning (or afternoon) brew.
What is l-theanine?
L-theanine is an amino acid which comes from camellias sinensis leaves—tea leaves. It’s a type of cognitive enhancer known as a nootropic, and can reduce mental fatigue and stress. Instead of loading up on two or three more cups of coffee—and risking a pounding heart, shaky hands and general nervousness—you can combine l-theanine with coffee.
This amino acid works by amplifying alpha brain waves, which create a calm, alert and even creative effect on the brain. It’s also responsible for increasing hormone levels that promote regulated moods, calm and focus. No wonder the British are famous for their tea intake as much as their collective stiff upper lip.
Better yet, there is no evidence that l-theanine is toxic or creates dependencies. That means that you can load up on it every day without suffering any ill effects, unless you’re taking certain cancer-fighting drugs. It can even be used as a sleep aid in higher doses.
Coffee + l-theanine = friends forever
This study measured the effects of coffee and l-theanine when taken in conjunction with each other. Researchers measured “word recognition, rapid visual information processing, critical flicker fusion threshold, attention switching and mood” and found that “L-theanine and caffeine combination improved both speed and accuracy of performance of the attention-switching task at 60 min, and reduced susceptibility to distracting information in the memory task at both 60 min and 90 min. These results replicate previous evidence which suggests that L-theanine and caffeine in combination are beneficial for improving performance on cognitively demanding tasks.”
The study used a combination of 50 mg caffeine and 100 mg l-theanine. If you’re considering adding l-theanine to your morning caffeine routine, start with this dosage. You can always increase your l-theanine intake 60 to 90 minutes after the initial dose, if you’re not noticing any effects.
In short, caffeine and l-theanine work together by waking up your body and brain, then helping you keep focus without the need for additional caffeine. Instead of the 2pm crash, you might just find yourself with enough energy to carry you through the evening.
How to get l-theanine
L-theanine supplements come in pill, tablet and powder forms. They’re widely available online and in stores, and there are no government restrictions on this particular nootropic. You can either stir the powder into your morning coffee or take the supplement alongside that first cup. Some coffee brands have jumped on the trend already, fortifying their coffee with l-theanine and other nootropic additives.
However you plan to take your l-theanine, make sure to start slow and increase gradually. Although there are no associated side effects with this amino acid, it’s always a good idea to see how a supplement reacts with your individual body chemistry. If you notice any ill effects, discontinue use and talk to your doctor.
Finally, make sure to talk to your doctor if you have a history of cancer or are on any cancer-fighting drugs, since it’s suspected that l-theanine may interfere with their purpose.
Other useful effects
Researchers continue to learn more about what l-theanine can do. In addition to improving your cognitive function and reducing stress, it’s believed to improve your immune system, thanks to plenty of antioxidant content. It may amplify the efficacy of tumor-fighting drugs, and can help manage your blood pressure. (That’s especially great news if too much coffee negatively affects your blood pressure and heart rate.)
Improve your focus, better your mood
Ultimately, l-theanine is a low-stakes way to cut down on the need for speed caffeine. Whether you take a supplement with your morning coffee or start increasing your tea intake, give it a try. You might just find yourself unusually focused—and happy—with no negative side effects to speak of.