CAFFEINE & L-THEANINE – FOCUS!
Caffeine, also known as liquid crack, is a stimulatory anti-sleep compound extracted from coffee beans. L-Theanine is one of the main active ingredients found in green tea which helps promote relaxation without drowsiness, making it synergistic with caffeine. Together, Caffeine and L-Theanine make for one of the most popular and effective and preworkout stimulant stacks.
- Caffeine works as a stimulant by blocking different adenosine receptors in the brain due to its similar chemical structure to adenosine. By blocking the A1 receptor, Caffeine staves off sleepiness and drowsiness, thereby increasing endurance. By blocking the A2A receptor, Caffeine can raise the levels of dopamine and epinephrine (adrenaline) in the brain, thereby increasing focus and power output.
- While these acute effects of Caffeine are beneficial and sought after, your receptors eventually get desensitized from caffeine overstimulation, meaning production of dopamine and epinephrine neurotransmitters gets downregulated to the point where you need Caffeine just to achieve normal levels. This is the phenomenon we think of when we talk about caffeine dependence and high tolerance. It is important to carefully regulate Caffeine intake in order to avoid unpleasant mental and physical crashes as well as unwanted withdrawal symptoms.
- Figure 1 – Caffeine’s Effect on Adenosine Receptors (Figure adapted from Ferré. J Neurochem. 2008 )
- L-Theanine comes into play here because it can tame the overexcitability and unpleasant jitters and anxiety associated with Caffeine without actually reducing Caffeine’s stimulatory effect [1, 2 3]! Theanine on its own has otherwise minimal effects on exercise performance, but it really shines when combines with Caffeine. Combination of Caffeine with Theanine improve concentration, focus, and attention span in a synergistic manner [4, 5, 6].
- The research available suggests taking 100-200 mg of Caffeine (up to 400 mg/day) with an equal dose of Theanine 30 minutes before aerobic exercise for a boost in performance intensity and focus.
- For especially strenuous anaerobic performance, 400+ mg of Caffeine may be taken with 300mg of L-Theanine an hour before working out; however, such high doses should not be taken more than twice a week!
- Lu K, Gray MA, Oliver C, Liley DT, Harrison BJ, Bartholomeusz CF, Phan KL, Nathan PJ. The acute effects of L-theanine in comparison with alprazolam on anticipatory anxiety in humans. Hum Psychopharmacol. 2004 Oct;19(7):457-65. doi: 10.1002/hup.611. PMID: 15378679.
- Lekh Raj Juneja, Djong-Chi Chu, Tsutomu Okubo, Yukiko Nagato, Hidehiko Yokogoshi. L-theanine—a unique amino acid of green tea and its relaxation effect in humans, Trends in Food Science & Technology. 1999 (10) 199-204. org/10.1016/S0924-2244(99)00044-8.
- Akiko Higashiyama, Hla Hla Htay, Makoto Ozeki, Lekh R. Juneja, Mahendra P. Kapoor. Effects of l-theanine on attention and reaction time response. Journal of Functional Foods. 3(3) 1711-178. doi.org/10.1016/j.jff.2011.03.009.
- Giesbrecht T, Rycroft JA, Rowson MJ, De Bruin EA. The combination of L-theanine and caffeine improves cognitive performance and increases subjective alertness. Nutr Neurosci. 2010 Dec;13(6):283-90. doi: 10.1179/147683010X12611460764840. PMID: 21040626.
- Owen GN, Parnell H, De Bruin EA, Rycroft JA. The combined effects of L-theanine and caffeine on cognitive performance and mood. Nutr Neurosci. 2008 Aug;11(4):193-8. doi: 10.1179/147683008X301513. PMID: 18681988.
- Foxe JJ, Morie KP, Laud PJ, Rowson MJ, de Bruin EA, Kelly SP. Assessing the effects of caffeine and theanine on the maintenance of vigilance during a sustained attention task. Neuropharmacology. 2012 Jun;62(7):2320-7. doi: 10.1016/j.neuropharm.2012.01.020. Epub 2012 Feb 2. PMID: 22326943.
- Ferré S. An update on the mechanisms of the psychostimulant effects of caffeine. J Neurochem. 2008 May;105(4):1067-79. doi: 10.1111/j.1471-4159.2007.05196.x. Epub 2007 Dec 18. PMID: 18088379.
- McCusker RR, Goldberger BA, Cone EJ. Caffeine content of energy drinks, carbonated sodas, and other beverages. J Anal Toxicol. 2006 Mar;30(2):112-4. doi: 10.1093/jat/30.2.112. PMID: 16620542.
- Desbrow B, Hall S, Irwin C. Caffeine content of Nespresso® pod coffee. Nutr Health. 2019 Mar;25(1):3-7. doi: 10.1177/0260106018810941. Epub 2018 Nov 5. PMID: 30392444.
- Ludwig IA, Mena P, Calani L, Cid C, Del Rio D, Lean ME, Crozier A. Variations in caffeine and chlorogenic acid contents of coffees: what are we drinking? Food Funct. 2014 Aug;5(8):1718-26. doi: 10.1039/c4fo00290c. PMID: 25014672.
- Fox GP, Wu A, Yiran L, Force L. Variation in caffeine concentration in single coffee beans. J Agric Food Chem. 2013 Nov 13;61(45):10772-8. doi: 10.1021/jf4011388. Epub 2013 Oct 30. PMID: 24070227.
- McCusker RR, Goldberger BA, Cone EJ. Caffeine content of specialty coffees. J Anal Toxicol. 2003 Oct;27(7):520-2. doi: 10.1093/jat/27.7.520. PMID: 14607010.
- Angeloni G, Guerrini L, Masella P, Bellumori M, Daluiso S, Parenti A, Innocenti M. What kind of coffee do you drink? An investigation on effects of eight different extraction methods. Food Res Int. 2019 Feb;116:1327-1335. doi: 10.1016/j.foodres.2018.10.022. Epub 2018 Oct 9. PMID: 30716922.