- L-theanine is an amino acid that improves focus while lowering anxiety.
- L-theanine improves mood by increasing serotonin and dopamine levels.
- Green tea leaves and extracts are excellent natural sources of L-theanine.
- Studies show L-theanine can improve cognitive function, enhance memory, and boost immunity.
What is L-Theanine?
L-theanine is an amino acid found naturally in green tea and mushrooms. Because it is a non-protein amino acid, it crosses the blood-brain barrier to directly affect chemicals in the brain that regulate anxiety, mood, and focus.
How does L-Theanine increase mental focus?
L-theanine has been shown to stimulate alpha brain waves to increase focus and attention while also decreasing anxiety.
What are alpha brain waves? Alpha waves are present when you are daydreaming, meditating, or being consciously mindful. When alpha wave activity is pronounced, the mind is clear to focus on specific thoughts. Sensory input is less distracting, and we are able to really concentrate on the task in front of us.
Alpha waves are also associated with creativity. A University of North Carolina School of Medicine study showed that increasing alpha wave activity boosts creativity in adults. Creativity isn’t just for artists; we all use it every day to solve problems and overcome unexpected obstacles. This combination of heightened focus and creativity means we can not just concentrate, we can improvise, problem-solve, and easily adapt to stressful situations or challenging tasks.
Increased alpha waves are proven to lower depression and anxiety. Stress can be a focus killer! We have all had the experience of needing to focus on work but becoming distracted with financial worries or that to-do list that keeps growing longer. Reducing anxiety means we have the mental capacity to concentrate, and lowering depression means we feel motivated to get to work.
Will the increased focus and attention make me feel anxious?
One complaint about caffeine and other stimulants is that they can make us feel jittery or nervous. They can also disrupt our sleep if we rely on them in the afternoons to help us wake up. Even if they increase our focus and attention, the side effects may not be worth it.
L-theanine is different. It can increase our focus, but also relax us. Remember, those increased alpha brain waves lower our anxiety, which means we can be alert without feeling agitated.
L-theanine has been shown to reduce cortisol levels by working as an anxiolytic, or an agent to reduce anxiety. While some natural anxiolytics can make users feel sleepy or sedated, L-theanine creates calm without sedation. In this state, we feel mentally awake, yet relaxed. Just like we want to feel awake without agitation, we also want to feel calm without feeling tired. L-theanine helps us find that balance.
L-theanine also increases serotonin and dopamine levels, which can improve our mood. And these neurotransmitters not only make us feel good, they also enhance memory and learning. In a recent clinical trial, participants who consumed L-theanine in green tea extract showed improved memory, attention span, and alertness during cognitive tests.
L-theanine and caffeine have both been studied for their positive effects on cognitive function and increase in mental focus. L-theanine works synergistically with caffeine to reduce the negative jitters of caffeine stimulation and amplify its positive nootropic effect of increased alertness. In fact, the combination of taking both L-theanine and caffeine together has been proven to increase attention and alertness during demanding cognitive tasks. L-theanine and caffeine occur together naturally in tea and are easily available in some supplements and protein bars.
L-theanine and the physical benefits of lowering stress
There are some amazing benefits for our physical health when we add l-theanine to our daily diet.
Clinical research shows that l-theanine boosts immunity and improves our resilience to stress. Reducing the effects of stress is a top priority in medicine today, with everything from weight gain, digestive issues, and heart disease worsening with mental and emotional stress. For most of us, stress not only has psychological consequences, it creates physical problems as well.
How many of us have lost sleep or suffered a cold or other illness that was brought on or aggravated by stress? High cortisol levels, caused by stress, increase white blood cells and decrease lymphocytes (immune cells). This process leads to inflammation and immunosuppression.
In several studies, l-theanine reversed the effects of physical stress in athletes who were exposed to strenuous exercise. L-theanine also enhances the activity of T cells, which protect the body against a variety of diseases from infections to cancer. Experimental studies show that l-theanine from green tea may lower our risk of catching the flu and other infections.
We all know that we need to manage our stress levels, not only for the sake of our own happiness, but for our physical health as well. Adding nootropics like l-theanine to our diets can give us another tool to reduce stress and help us sleep better, focus more at work, and calm anxious thoughts so we can concentrate when we need to get stuff done.
Where can I find l-theanine?
The best source of l-theanine is green tea. In addition to its antioxidant micronutrients, green tea contains l-theanine in high amounts. While some mushrooms contain l-theanine as well, green tea has the highest concentration.
If the taste of tea is not appealing, green tea extract is an excellent way to consume the many minerals, polyphenols, and l-theanine found in tea. People take green tea extracts for a variety of purposes including weight loss and reducing blood pressure, but now we can add increased cognitive function and lowered anxiety to the list of green tea’s benefits.
Alert, but at peace
There is a lot to feel stressed about today. We are in the midst of a global pandemic, economic uncertainty, and a frustrating “new normal.” When our stress levels increase, our physical and mental health often suffer. Difficulty sleeping, lack of concentration, and increased anxiety are common side effects of stress. During times like these, we look for help to focus and take control of our day.
L-Theanine gives us the sweet spot of calm mental focus that allows us to feel awake, but relaxed. L-theanine provides improved mental performance and alertness while also lowering the effects of stress and promoting feelings of peace. In today’s world, we not only want to get stuff done, but we want to enjoy our lives, our families, and our work while we stay productive. Supplementing our diets with green tea extract gives us a strong dose of l-theanine that just might make the difference between trying to stay calm and focused, and actually succeeding.