Green tea has been getting plenty of positive press in recent years. Today, it's touted for its ability to support fat loss, numerous health benefits, and high antioxidant content. But these impressive attributes are only part of the story. There's another reason more and more people are turning to green tea—one that you can feel.
I'm talking about L-theanine, an amino acid found in green tea and almost nowhere else in nature. As an isolated nutrient, L-theanine has recently popped up in several supplements, ranging from nootropics to pre-workout supplements, and for good reason! So, get a pot of green tea brewing and let's dive in.
What's So Special About Green Tea And L-Theanine?
L-theanine (or just "theanine") is an amino acid common to the leaves of the plant species Camellia sinensis, the leaf most commonly used to make green tea. It's not found in any food, aside from one rare species of mushrooms.
In a number of studies, theanine has been shown to support focus and concentration without the jittery feeling common in energy drinks. This is where theanine really shines. It has also been shown to support feelings of calmness. Whether at work, studying, or hitting the gym, it's easy to imagine how feeling less stressed and more focused could help you get more done.*
How Does It Work?
Theanine exerts its effects on several fronts, by supporting levels of inhibitory neurotransmitters in the brain and promoting a state of relaxation.*
Here's a breakdown of the main players involved in the process.
Theanine and Caffeine are Better Together
Theanine and caffeine provide a one-two punch of benefits stronger than taking either alone. Supplementing with both theanine and caffeine has been suggested to narrow focus and enhance attention, which may help to drown out the crowd around you.
For lifters, this is invaluable when preparing for, say, a near-maximal weight. A break in form or a forgotten cue can result in a missed attempt—or worse, an injury. Additionally, co-supplementation has been suggested to improve reaction time, which may be beneficial when training for power or speed.*
Not surprisingly, this pairing also shows great promise for cognitive support. A study published in Nutritional Neuroscience had subjects consume 40 milligrams of caffeine and 97 milligrams of theanine shortly before performing a series of cognitive tests. The experimental group demonstrated increased performance on several cognitive tests and reported reduced tiredness and mental fatigue, as well as increased alertness.*
Another study divided subjects into three groups: theanine only, caffeine only, or both theanine and caffeine. Once the supplement was consumed, subjects underwent a series of cognitive tasks 30 and 90 minutes after taking the supplement. The theanine-and-caffeine group demonstrated significant improvements in multiple reaction and information-processing tests.
The subjects also reported feelings of increased alertness, as well as reduced tiredness and less mental fatigue, with these benefits most pronounced in the group that took theanine and caffeine together.
How To Get Your Theanine
Now that you've learned about the benefits, you're likely wondering how much you should take. Studies examining the effect of theanine have used anywhere from 25-500 milligrams per serving. A 6-ounce glass of green tea provides 25-60 milligrams of theanine in most cases. I would suggest that an ideal pairing for enhanced performance is 200-300 milligrams of theanine with 100-200 milligrams of caffeine.
So, how do you get it? You could swap out some of your daily cups of coffee for green tea. Once you get the hang of steeping times—oversteeping produces a bitter flavor—it's easy to get 2-3 strong cups of tea from a single scoop of loose tea or a couple of bags.
You could also buy theanine on its own and add it to your pre-workout stack, or find a pre-workout or nootropic supplement that already includes it. Just make sure you're getting an efficacious dose and it's paired with enough caffeine to support focus and performance!
*These statements have not been evaluated by the Food and Drug Administration. This product is not intended to diagnose, treat, cure, or prevent any disease.