by Kristin Henningsen
Many of us are guilty of needing an extra boost when our energy levels tank mid-afternoon. Want to hear a secret to optimizing your afternoon energy boost? It’s a typically unknown amino acid called L-theanine.
We’ve all heard of the benefits of caffeine for energy and focus. However, L-theanine is quickly becoming the latest and greatest productivity powerhouse. Found naturally in high amounts in tea and some mushrooms, this little amino acid can go a long way in building better health.
What is L-theanine?
First identified in 1949 by Japanese scientists, L-theanine is a water-soluble amino acid found in the leaves of Camellia sinensis, aka green or black tea. It’s thought to be responsible for some of their more delightful savory notes.
As a non-protein amino acid, it can quickly cross the blood-brain barrier to exert its nootropic — or cognitive-enhancing — effects.
What are the health benefits of L-theanine?
So just how does this amino acid help one both relax and increase focus? According to the Memorial Sloan Kettering Center, it’s calming effects are likely due to the modulation of serotonin and dopamine in the brain.
These cognitive improvements have been linked to changes in alpha brain wave activity that increases selective attention in mental tasks. This ability to relax the mind without inducing drowsiness has been shown to be attainable both by changing up your diet and by taking L-theanine as a supplement.
As an added bonus, when L-theanine is combined with the neurotransmitter GABA, the synergistic effect leads to higher sleep quality and duration, as well.
Consider the coffee or tea debate over. When caffeine and L-theanine are combined, research shows that along with the increased energy and focus, there is also a pronounced relaxation effect.
Essentially, you get all of the to-do list busting benefits of increased mental focus and mood boost, without the coffee jitters. That alert calmness acts to reduce anxiety and help keep you on task.
Curious about trying this dynamic duo? The research shows that you can certainly take a caffeine tablet together with an L-theanine supplement at a ratio of about 1:2 (e.g., 100mg caffeine to 200mg L-theanine).
However, the more accessible and realistic route is to simply take an L-theanine supplement like FOCL Day along with your cup of coffee. Due to its solubility, it will absorb quite readily to give you the desired effect without sacrificing your morning ritual.
Does L-theanine have caffeine?
L-theanine, as a non-protein amino acid, actually does not have caffeine on its own. While it is found in some teas that do contain a form of caffeine, like green or black tea, the compound itself does not have the stimulant compound.
Some beverages like black tea can have both compounds simultaneously; lately, even some supplements add caffeine to L-theanine products.
Let’s explore a little more about how much caffeine could be beneficial with this tea-derived compound.
How much caffeine is in L-theanine
As we stated above, there is no actual caffeine in L-theanine.
Together, both compounds can work for several purposes. The usually recommended ratio for using them together is 1:2, something like 100mg of caffeine with 200mg of L-theanine. Some ready-to-use supplements also use a 1:1.5 ratio, which can also work.
However, if you want to use the amino acid to calm down some bedtime stressors, we recommend skipping caffeine altogether.
While L-theanine can be useful for relaxation and unwinding, adding caffeine can lead to feeling energized at night or even more focused. This can be great if you are feeling head foggy or just want a way to clear your head after a while.
What does L-theanine do with caffeine?
While not present themselves in each other, caffeine and L-theanine are one of those perfect matches. And as with all great relationships, it has to have a solid base to work on.
That is precisely why L-theanine and caffeine share a caring connection, as caffeine inhibits some actions of our adenosine receptors which can trigger stress. L-theanine takes care of this by reducing the physiological responses from our body to stress, and this is done by inhibiting excitatory responses in our brain.
This study from 2008 reported that the consumption of both L-theanine and caffeine could positively affect your general mood. The study checked the combination of both compounds' effects and found that beverages or supplements containing both compounds could reduce certain headaches and tiredness feelings.
Does L-theanine contain caffeine?
The short answer is no, L-theanine on its own does not contain caffeine. With that said, both substances can be found naturally in some products like Black Tea or supplements to create synergy between both compounds.
Let us explain this a little further since the use of these two has been studied for certain focus and relaxation treatments.
Do L-theanine supplements have caffeine?
While you can get L-theanine supplements on your own, some have added caffeine to help each other. Kind of like what we talked about at the begging of the article: they work together in harmony to lessen each other's side effects in a pretty healthy way.
Besides what we discussed about neuroreceptors and signaling, both compounds can also help each other with stress and blood pressure.
While caffeine is a vasoconstrictor and can temporarily make blood vessels shrink, L-theanine eliminates these tendencies. That means fewer caffeine headaches or fatigue in general, so you can focus on the task at hand.
This 2020 study reported that the combination of these two in a supplement could be helpful towards sustained attention and inhibitory control among children with ADHD diagnosis.
A dose of 2.5mg L-theanine to 2.0mg caffeine resulted in acute short-term improvements in sustained attention, possibly reversing increased task-related mind wandering.
That means that even though much research is still needed for clinical treatment, they could potentially help with focusing and attention problems, from general aid to specific diagnoses like ADHD.
How to use L-theanine
L-theanine can be used on its own as a supplement or be taken together with caffeine. On its own, it can help with general physiological stress responses by blocking certain receptor functions and stress hormones.
It can also help generate alpha brain waves often associated with relaxing activities, such as daydreaming, mindfulness, and meditation.
This 2007 study reported an overall increase in mood and better cognitive performance with tea, specifically with L-theanine and its effects on the body.
Now, let’s explore the use of L-theanine and caffeine.
How to use L-theanine with caffeine
If you’ve had a cup of coffee in the afternoon, you know it can keep you awake for a long time. L-theanine can help with caffeine’s disruption of your slow-wave sleep thanks to its lower anti-stress properties.
You can try using L-theanine with caffeine together in a 1.5 to 1 ratio to get the best results, but we recommend checking with a health professional before starting any supplement.
Also, if you feel like you need an extra push towards relaxing, our Premium CBD Drops could be a great asset to help you unwind while staying clear-headed. With 1,000mg of broad-spectrum CBD extract, organic MCT oil, and natural flavors, it is perfect to unwind while giving you time to recover and relax.
Made with fully organic ingredients and best-quality hemp extracts, this broad spectrum tincture is incredible to calm your body’s endocannabinoid system and help it manage stressors more easily.
These are available in over 5 flavors, including orange cream, mint, and even natural flavor.
Best L-theanine supplements
When looking for the best L-theanine supplements, we recommend first finding the best dosage for you. While drinking tea can have several benefits, we recommend starting with 50mg daily to start feeling the benefits.
If you feel like you have a stressful day or a big event that needs your full attention, a higher dose of around 200mg might also help you sail your day without an issue.
Lastly, keep in mind that L theanine can work better depending on the kind of dosage you have in mind to help specific problems. And of course, you can mix and match with caffeine and even CBD to help you boost through regular and stressful days, depending on the dosage and time of consumption.
At FOCL, we created FOCL Day, which combines L-theanine with our premium broad-spectrum CBD and powerful adaptogens like lion’s mane, Rhodiola Rosea, and vitamin B6. These capsules are designed to help you stay focused and energized to power through your daily tasks with a clear head.
Kristin Henningsen MS, RH (AHG), RYT, is a clinical herbalist and educator who first fell in love with plants in the Desert Southwest. She’s passionate about bringing plant medicine back to the people and integrating Western herbalism, TCM and Ayurvedic practices to empower folks in their healthcare. She maintains a private clinical practice and serves as faculty for several university programs.