When you have finals around the corner or a large presentation coming up, do you turn to caffeine for a pick me up? Caffeine can be a great tool when feeling overwhelmed and needing that extra boost of focus. But sometimes, coffee can bring on feelings of anxiety or stress along with its benefits.
For the coffee lovers out there, this might be hard to admit. The good news though is that there’s a special compound that, when combined with caffeine, can improve your focus without the jittery anxiousness coffee brings.
Meet caffeine’s highly underrated partner, L-theanine. L-theanine is a naturally occurring amino acid that’s found in a specific mushroom, Xerocomus badius, and the Camellia genus, which is the group of plants used to make tea. When you ingest L-theanine, your brain starts producing more alpha waves. These alpha waves are associated with a relaxed but alert mental state. This is why L-theanine has been linked to improved learning ability, while keeping you calm and relaxed!1 L-theanine has been found to regulate blood pressure, promote weight loss and even lower your risk of cardiovascular disease.i L-theanine’s impact on obesity and food consumption is thought to be from a modulation in your hormone levels. L-theanine can also modulate certain neurotransmitter receptors. L-theanine causes changes in dopamine and serotonin which change eating behaviors which have led to reducing abdominal fat in mice.ii
When you combine caffeine with L-theanine, you reap the rewards of more energy and focus without the side effects like anxiety, brain fog, headaches and tiredness.iii Both caffeine and L-theanine have been shown to affect several neurotransmitters in our brain. They affect things like dopamine, serotonin, glutamate and GABA.iii These results indicate that there might be a specific pathway that the combination of L-theanine and caffeine has on our brain to create this increased focus with decreased anxiety. The L-theanine and caffeine combo can even help defend your concentration from distractions. Studies have shown that it is harder to distract their subjects when they are taking both L-theanine and caffeine, rather than one without the other.iv Utilizing the natural focus boost from both L-theanine and caffeine can improve your productivity and make it easier to shift your focus on what is important to you. Scientists are still uncovering the total benefits that L-theanine and caffeine have on our bodies, even though this compound has been utilized naturally since 2737 BCE.i
L-theanine is a naturally occurring, safe compound that can help you unlock new levels of mental focus and concentration when paired with caffeine. You can reap the magical benefits from caffeine and L-theanine through an iced black tea, matcha green latte or a supplement. Whatever way you choose, your body and your boss will thank you for it!
i Vuong QV, Bowyer MC, Roach PD. L‐Theanine: properties, synthesis and isolation from tea. Journal of the Science of Food and Agriculture. 2011;91(11):1931-1939.
ii Saeed M, Naveed M, Arif M, et al. Green tea (Camellia sinensis) and l-theanine: Medicinal values and beneficial applications in humans—A comprehensive review. Biomedicine & Pharmacotherapy. 2017;95:1260-1275.
iii Haskell CF, Kennedy DO, Milne AL, Wesnes KA, Scholey AB. The effects of L-theanine, caffeine and their combination on cognition and mood. Biol Psychol. Feb 2008;77(2):113-22. doi:10.1016/j.biopsycho.2007.09.008
iv Kelly SP, Gomez-Ramirez M, Montesi JL, Foxe JJ. L-theanine and caffeine in combination affect human cognition as evidenced by oscillatory alpha-band activity and attention task performance. The Journal of nutrition. 2008;138(8):1572S-1577S.