A relatively new compound is starting to show up in more workout products. Officially known as 1,3,7,9-tetramethyluric acid, theacrine is gaining popularity because of its ability to act as a stimulant—without the usual unwanted side effects.
What Is Theacrine?
Found primarily in the leaves of the plant Camellia assamica var. kucha, theacrine has been a long-standing component in the traditional Chinese tea known as kucha, and now appears in pre-workout and energy drinks. It works a lot like caffeine, helping to boost energy and performance while decreasing fatigue.
It does this by preventing dopamine from being reabsorbed after it is released in the brain. This causes dopamine levels to rise, which can increase energy levels, improve mood, and provide greater mental focus. It also blocks adenosine, the chemical responsible for feelings of sedation and relaxation.
By increasing dopamine and reducing adenosine, theacrine increases alertness, physical performance, wakefulness, and coordination. No wonder it's getting more popular!
Energy Without the Jitters
Theacrine is good on its own, but when combined with caffeine, the combo can provide all the wonderful benefits of caffeine without unwanted side effects including shakiness, dizziness, elevated heart rate, and elevated blood pressure.
Data published at the 2017 International Society of Sports Nutrition conference demonstrated a large improvement in reaction time among soccer players after they took a combination of TeaCrine, a pure form of theacrine, and caffeine. Researchers suggested that the athletes were able to sustain greater focus under fatigue for a longer period when combining the two ingredients.
As well as fueling physical exertion, theacrine also delivers a smooth increase in energy that can help boost brain power. When combined with caffeine, theacrine can make it easier to concentrate on the task at hand and help reduce mental fatigue. Data published in the Journal of Nutrients demonstrated improvements in feelings of attentiveness, alertness, and focus following supplementation with TeaCrine and caffeine.
A 2014 study showed that a single 200-milligram dose of TeaCrine significantly improved energy and reduced fatigue. When taken for seven days, participants noted improvements in their energy, fatigue, concentration, anxiety, and motivation to exercise.
Is Theacrine Better Than Caffeine?
Caffeine's stimulating properties can make it hard to wind down or fall asleep following a late-night workout. But theacrine is gentler, helping your body return to a state of calm after use.
Even better, it's unlikely you'll have to keep adjusting your theacrine dosage over time. In contrast, the longer you take products containing caffeine, the more your body becomes habituated to it. You must take more and more to produce the same level of stimulation.
Theacrine doesn't appear to work in the same way. A 2016 study showed that participants who took 300 milligrams of theacrine for 60 consecutive days showed no signs of getting used to it. Longer-duration studies are needed, but research so far suggests that your first dose of theacrine would produce the same effect as your 200th!
The Best Way to Supplement With Theacrine
You'll increasingly find theacrine as part of pre-workout and fat-burner formulas, often under the name TeaCrine. It works well with other common performance-related ingredients like creatine, branched-chain amino acids, caffeine, and beta-alanine, making it the perfect complement to your supplement stack.
In a pre-workout, you might see it dosed anywhere between 50-200 milligrams, often combined with caffeine. Theacrine can be taken on its own in pill form or, more commonly, under the name TeaCrine. Whether you take it in pill or powder form, it's best to take it 30-45 minutes before your workout.
Theacrine can enhance and extend the effects of caffeine, enabling you to use 150 milligrams of caffeine or less and still get a strong energy boost. This is great news for anyone sensitive to the side effects of caffeine or who wants to control their daily caffeine consumption.
As with any new supplement, take theacrine at the lowest dose possible before jumping to higher dosages.
While theacrine has made its way into the world of supplements, you can still consume it the way it has been for centuries, as kucha tea. Due to the tea's unpleasantly bitter taste, you may have to purchase it online or in a specialty tea shop.
- Dahlinghaus, M. (2017). Society of Sports Nutrition (ISSN) Conference and Expo. Journal of the International Society of Sports Nutrition, 14(2), P1.
- Kuhman, D. J., Joyner, K. J., & Bloomer, R. J. (2015). Cognitive performance and mood following ingestion of a theacrine-containing dietary supplement, caffeine, or placebo by young men and women. Nutrients, 7(11), 9618-9632.
- Habowski, S. M., Sandrock, J. E., Kedia, A. W., & Ziegenfuss, T. N. (2014). The effects of TeacrineTM, a nature-identical purine alkaloid, on subjective measures of cognitive function, psychometric and hemodynamic indices in healthy humans: a randomized, double-blinded crossover pilot trial. Journal of the International Society of Sports Nutrition, 11(S1), P49.
- Taylor, L., Mumford, P., Roberts, M., Hayward, S., Mullins, J., Urbina, S., & Wilborn, C. (2016). Safety of TeaCrine, a non-habituating, naturally-occurring purine alkaloid over eight weeks of continuous use. Journal of the International Society of Sports Nutrition, 13(1), 2.