Is L-Tyrosine Really A Natural Adderall? A Nutritionist Debunks TikTok’s Favorite Amino Acid

TikTokers claim there are numerous L-tyrosine benefits—from producing a sunless tan to replacing prescription Adderall. Gaby Vaca-Flores, RDN, CLE, demystifies L-tyrosine by investigating both its clinically demonstrated benefits and unfounded myths.

L-tyrosine supplements are one of TikTok’s favorite health crazes. Users claim it can give you a sunless tan, help you lose weight, and even act as a natural replacement for Adderall. But is any of it true? As with most TikTok wellness trends, there’s more to these claims than meets the eye. There are some promising benefits to this amino acid, but maybe not the ones you think. 

If the internet has you confused about l-tyrosine, we’re here to help. Below, we break down all of L-tyrosine benefits to know (and we bust a few of the trending myths on TikTok, too). Keep reading to learn what L-tyrosine can and can’t do.

What Is L-tyrosine?

L-tyrosine is the active form of tyrosine, a non-essential amino acid, meaning your body produces it on its own. Amino acids are the building blocks of protein and play an important role in building cells and the synthesis of hormones and neurotransmitters. 

But what does L-tyrosine do, specifically? The amino acid helps make the starting material for a group of neurotransmitters called catecholamines, which help the body respond to stress. These include:

  • Dopamine
  • Epinephrine
  • Noradrenaline

Additionally, it plays an important role in the production of thyroxine, a thyroid hormone. Plus, L-tyrosine helps make melanin, a group of pigments that give the skin, hair, and eyes their color.

L-tyrosine Benefits

l tyrosine benefits studying

What is L-tyrosine used for? Below are a few of its clinically-backed benefits.

It Enhances Cognitive Performance and Flexibility

One of the most scientifically-supported benefits of L-tyrosine is its ability to help healthy individuals respond more effectively to short-term stress and mentally-demanding situations.

When you experience physical or emotional stress, neurotransmitters bear that burden. As your neurotransmitter levels get depleted, you may experience mood changes, poor memory, and focus.

However, research shows that tyrosine may prevent the decline of dopamine and epinephrine, two important cognitive resources. That’s why L-tyrosine supplementation can help your mind stay sharp when you need it most.

Another way that L-tyrosine benefits mental performance is through boosting cognitive flexibility. Think of cognitive flexibility as mental multi-tasking—it refers to one’s ability to switch between multiple thoughts. Tyrosine supports this function in the same way it helps your body’s stress response: by avoiding the depletion of neurotransmitters.

It Supports Energy and Endurance

Unlike caffeinated energy boosters that offer a temporary spike in energy levels, L-tyrosine has the potential to improve long-term energy levels. L-tyrosine supports energy in the form of endurance, meaning that it can help improve your energy levels over time.

One 2011 study compared the effects of L-tyrosine against a placebo in male cyclists. Participants who supplemented with L-tyrosine were able to exercise for longer. Additionally, they saw improvements in their capacity to train in the heat.

Although L-tyrosine helps provide the starting material for neurotransmitters that affect energy, the connection between L-tyrosine and energy levels remains fairly unclear. That’s why supplements often pair L-tyrosine with other energizing ingredients to help fight fatigue.

L-tyrosine Myths

Young woman preparing a low-calorie meal on a weight loss regimen

Perhaps surprising to many followers of the trend, there are more unsupported claims for L-tyrosine than actual evidence-backed benefits.

It Won’t Give You a Tan

L-tyrosine helps produce melanin, the pigment that makes up skin color, which is why many believe L-tyrosine can replace tanning The logic behind this myth is that by supplementing with L-tyrosine, you can induce melanogenesis (the production of melanin) to create a sunless tan.

Although melanin production starts with L-tyrosine, it depends on several other processes to create its final product. This process is also regulated by several physical and biochemical factors including:

  • Age
  • Hormone levels
  • Exposure to UV rays

The bottom line? Adding tyrosine into your routine won’t result in a greater production of melanin or a deeper skin tone.

It Isn’t Natural Adderall

On social media, L-tyrosine has been referred to as “natural Adderall.” Since L-tyrosine helps produce mood-boosting neurotransmitters, TikTokers suggest that it can replace the prescription medication that has similar mechanisms.

Adderall is a neuro-stimulant treatment that helps increase dopamine and norepinephrine levels and is helpful in treating those diagnosed with attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) and narcolepsy. Poor expression of dopamine and norepinephrine is linked to several behaviors including impulsive and compulsive tendencies. Stimulants such as Adderall can help affected individuals ease these behavioral symptoms.

Social media users are suggesting that since L-tyrosine plays a role in neurotransmitter production, it can simply replace medications like Adderall. However, there’s currently no evidence to support that L-tyrosine can do so.

In fact, the amount of L-tyrosine needed to effectively raise neurotransmitter levels to an amount that influences behavioral change remains unknown. And unlike L-tyrosine, stimulants like Adderall have hundreds of studies that speak to their efficacy and standardization to address such behavioral conditions.

It Doesn’t Induce Weight Loss

In addition to claims of sunless tanning and replacing prescription Adderall, there are rumors that L-tyrosine helps with weight loss. The logic behind this myth is that it can boost metabolism through its thermogenic effect.

Catecholamines, like the neurotransmitters produced by tyrosine, are necessary for the activation of thermogenesis and are integral for a healthy metabolism. However, there’s little data that points to a direct link between tyrosine consumption and pounds lost.

The good news? There are a number of studies that showcase L-tyrosine as beneficial for people who experience cognitive or mood problems resulting from calorie-restricted diets. One study in particular also found that tyrosine is able to offset cognitive disturbances during dieting without resulting in an increase in body weight.

Of course, if you’re trying a nutrition plan (like the 5:2 diet, for example), it’s important to keep your calories at a safe level. If your diet is affecting your mood and energy levels, consult a nutritionist or doctor to come up with a safe, sustainable weight loss plan.

What to Look for In an L-tyrosine Supplement

If you want to get the cognitive and energizing benefits of L-tyrosine, proper nutrition and supplementation can help. There are certain L-tyrosine foods you can incorporate into your diet, such as soy products, turkey, fish milk, cheese, avocados, and bananas, according to Mount Sinai. But you can also take a supplement to boost overall levels effectively. When shopping around for the best L-tyrosine supplement, look at the product label to see it listed in its free form.

Compared to its counterpart, n-acetyl l-tyrosine (NALT), the free form amino acid simply listed as L-tyrosine has a higher conversion rate in the body. This means that you get to take a smaller L-tyrosine dosage without compromising its effects.

HUM Nutrition’s Uber Energy formula packs 500 milligrams of L-tyrosine in its free form. For that reason, it’s a good choice for anyone looking to boost their cognitive health and energy levels over time.

Is L-Tyrosine Safe?

L-tyrosine is safe for most people. In fact, the FDA has deemed tyrosine as generally recognized as safe (GRAS). However, people who take medications should still talk to their doctor before adding L-tyrosine to their routine.

That said, there are a few l-tyrosine side effects to be aware of. Possible side effects of taking L-tyrosine include nausea, headache, fatigue, and heartburn. Before taking L-tyrosine, make sure you consult your doctor.

Dependency is not a known side effect of supplementing L-tyrosine. Additionally, evidence is lacking in regard to understanding the side effects of taking L-tyrosine long-term.

The Takeaway

While most TikTok claims fall short, the research behind L-tyrosine’s benefit to support cognitive performance is proven and impressive.

Additionally, there’s evidence showing its ability to support natural energy and to regulate mood in those who are dieting.

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