What Is L-Theanine?
L-Theanine is an amino acid analogue —meaning that its chemical structure closely resembles some of the amino acids used as building blocks for proteins.
This compound is abundant in the leaves of high-grade, shade-grown green tea plants (Camellia sinensis). It’s one of the main compounds responsible for producing the pleasant “umami” flavour in expensive green teas like Gyokuro or Japanese sencha.
L-Theanine has a lot more to offer than labour, however. This compound gives green tea many of its cognitive-enhancement and relaxing qualities. Its effects are often referred to as a “clear-headed focus”. It induces a state of calm, clear focus — allowing us to become more efficient with our study or work efforts, and helps alleviate side-effects of stress and anxiety.
The Main Benefits of L-Theanine Include:
• Promotes clear-headed focus.
• Supports relaxation and sleep.
• Improves memory and learning.
• Induces alpha-wave brain activity.
• Supports neurotransmitter balance.
• Reduces the side effects of caffeine.
The Science Behind L-Theanine
1. Cognitive Enhancement
L-Theanine is popular among students for its ability to enhance focus and memory. Unlike many other supplements used for boosting study efforts, L-Theanine is non-stimulating. In fact, L-Theanine is more of a relaxant than anything else, helping to reduce hyperactivity in the nervous system.
Some people are worried that the relaxing effects of L-Theanine will hurt their ability to study efficiently – however, this couldn’t be further from the truth. The effects of L-Theanine are best described as producing a clear-headed focus. By eliminating much of the hyperactivity in the brain (through glutamate antagonism), L-Theanine is able to provide powerful improvements on focus and attention. A lot of users report better decision making, faster memory recall, and less mental fatigue while studying.
2. Relaxation & Sleep
L-Theanine is well known for its ability to support healthy sleep — especially in those who find it difficult falling asleep. This supplement isn’t considered a sedative because it doesn’t force our brains to shut down, instead, it simply helps cut out a lot of the noise going on in our brains long enough for us to get a chance to sleep.
The shape of L-Theanine closely resembles one of the primary stimulating neurotransmitters in our brain – glutamate. When brain activity is elevated, during states of panic, anxiety, or other forms of stimulation – glutamate activity is high.
L-Theanine is able to bind to the glutamate receptors in the brain, thus blocking the real glutamate from binding instead. This reduces the effects of glutamate in the brain, helping us relax and shut down our minds at the end of the day.
Often this is enough for people to relax enough to get a good night’s rest.
3. Combating the Negative Side-Effects of Caffeine
One of the most popular uses of L-Theanine is to combine it with your morning coffee. The relaxing effects of the L-Theanine directly counteract many of the negative side-effects produced by caffeine without negating any of the benefits of the caffeine itself.
Caffeine works by inhibiting the activity of adenosine in the brain — which builds up throughout the day to make us feel tired at the end of the day.
One of the downsides of caffeine is that it stimulates our adrenergic system — often more than we’d like. The side-effects include a dramatic increase in glutamate activity in the brain — leading to a rapid heart and breath rate, muscle spasticity, and anxiety.
L-Theanine works to reduce the activity of glutamate in the brain directly by outcompeting it — thus reducing the direct side-effects of this neurotransmitter.
Is L-Theanine The Supplement For Me?
L-Theanine is an excellent choice of supplement for people experiencing high levels of stress, or mental stimulation. The relaxing qualities of the supplement can help people who are easily agitated remain calm and clear headed throughout the day.
A lot of people take L-Theanine on a daily basis to support their study efforts, improve their ability to focus and follow through on tasks or work projects. If taken in the evening, L-Theanine is a useful supplement for helping people fall asleep more easily. However, it’s not as useful for people who can fall asleep readily, but have trouble staying asleep — we recommend using other supplements for this such as kava, magnesium, or gynostemma.
L-Theanine is especially useful in combination with stimulating nootropic supplements like caffeine, racetams, or various other stimulants.