Gaby Vaca-Flores, RDN, CLE, explains the benefits of l-theanine, how it works to reduce feelings of stress, and why it should be part of your stress-less plan.
If you regularly feel stressed out, you’ve probably tried all the stress reduction techniques in the book. Ready for one you likely haven’t tried? L-theanine is one of nutritional science’s best-kept secrets. The amino acid is gaining more popularity for its ability to help people feel calm and relaxed.
Here’s an intro to the benefits of L-theanine, how it affects the brain, plus the information you need t know about its safety and dosing.
What is L-theanine?
L-theanine, or theanine for short, is an amino acid with impressive mood and cognitive benefits. It’s found in green and black tea leaves and some types of mushrooms. But chances are you’re probably not getting a lot of this amino acid in your diet naturally. That’s why it’s also found in supplements in more concentrated forms. L-theanine is a star ingredient in supplements for stress because it promotes calmness and relaxation.
How does L-theanine work?
Numerous studies have investigated how L-theanine influences brain activity.
During stressful events, mood-regulating brain transmitters like GABA, can become depleted. L-theanine works to boost their levels back to a healthy range. In addition, theanine can increase other “feel-good” transmitters like dopamine and serotonin.
On the other hand, L-theanine lowers levels of excitatory transmitters that can amplify feelings of stress. For example, L-theanine can prevent excess build-up of glutamate, a brain chemical linked to age-related cognitive disorders that can disturb the body’s stress response.
Theanine also enhances alpha brain waves. Increasing alpha activity in the brain can result in improved focus and relaxation.
Theanine tends to draw attention for its mood-boosting effects. However, the benefits of L-theanine extend beyond feeling calm.
Researchers believe that theanine exerts an anxiolytic (or, stress-inhibiting) effect to induce sleep. For good quality sleep to occur, the body must calm down. Unlike traditional sleep aids that also have anxiolytic effects, L-theanine promotes a better quality sleep without acting as a sedative.
In fact, a study published in the Journal of the American College of Nutrition found that 200 mg of L-theanine resulted in improved sleep quality.
A different study evaluated the effects of theanine on mental health. Since poor sleep can be a secondary consequence of stress, the same researchers simultaneously looked at L-theanine’s effect on sleep quality. Participants saw a reduction in sleep quality problems such as latency and disturbances after four weeks of supplementation.
Enhanced cognitive skills
We usually don’t hear the terms ‘alert’ and ‘relaxed’ used in the same sentence. However, L-theanine makes it possible to feel both calm and focused in demanding situations.
One study found that participants taking 200 mg of theanine daily saw significant improvements in attention, performance, and reaction time.
Another study took a closer look at the effects of L-theanine when paired with caffeine. Interestingly, researchers discovered that 97 mg of theanine paired with 40 mg of caffeine helped participants focus better during a stressful cognitive task and improved accuracy. Study participants also self-reported an improvement in alertness and a reduction in tiredness.
The majority of research on L-theanine has investigated its role as a therapeutic agent against stress. More importantly, research data has consistently showcased the positive effects of theanine for stressed individuals.
In fact, a systematic review of the literature revealed that doses of 200-400 mg of L-theanine resulted in significant stress reduction. A more recent systematic review confirmed that theanine reduced stress levels in people facing stressful situations.
Additionally, we can’t forget that theanine can help promote a good night’s sleep which of course, can influence stress levels.
Unlike many anti-stress solutions, L-theanine is able to deliver relaxation without drowsiness.
Who should try l-theanine?
L-theanine may be beneficial for people who frequently experience feelings of stress. In addition, theanine can be helpful if you have difficulty with:
- Getting good quality of sleep
- Falling asleep
- Staying focused or brain fog
- Studying or memorizing information
- Feeling alert
L-theanine side effects and dosage
According to the relevant literature, there are no known side effects from consuming L-theanine.
In fact, the Food and Drug Administration has classified theanine as a generally recognized as safe (GRAS) dietary ingredient. Moreover, teas that contain L-theanine like green tea or black tea are safe to drink. Plus, teas boast a handful of health benefits so are always a great addition to your routine.
Before you go brew a pot of tea, keep in mind that a single cup delivers roughly 20 mg of L-theanine. However, most studies have demonstrated a clinically effective daily dose of 200 mg. For this reason, supplementing theanine is recommended for maximum results.
If you’re looking for a supplement that contains theanine, ensure that it has a clinically effective dosage. HUM’s Calm Sweet Calm contains 200mg of l-theanine as well as the adaptogen ashwagandha, which helps manage the stress hormone cortisol. If you also want to boost metabolism and reduce cravings, try HUM’s Counter Cravings, which contains 200mg of l-theanine to increase relaxation.
L-theanine is an amino acid with a strong reputation for helping people feel calm and relaxed. Unlike its prescription counterparts, theanine can provide stress relief without causing drowsiness. Numerous studies confirm theanine’s influence on mood and cognition. Thus, experts regard it as a safe and effective solution for stress. Since results require higher amounts of L-theanine, supplements are the way to go.