Theanine – A Safe Amino Acid for relaxation
I will often try a safe supplement for different ways to improve one issue or another in myself. Sometimes I go for energy, I have experimented with concentration, and of course strength or endurance.
Although there are lots of pharmaceuticals and non-natural compounds that can be used, I always like to try something natural first to see if it would work as well. And usually it does.
My wife is struggling with some digestive issues in the evening and we were thinking it may be stress related which leads to either Gaba or Theanine. I opted for the Theanine
What is Theanine?
Theanine is an amino acid, which is one of the building blocks of protein. Strange thing about this amino is that it seems to have a calming affect when taken.
Theanine has a chemical structure very similar to glutamate, a naturally occurring amino acid in the body that helps transmit nerve impulses in the brain. Some of the effects of theanine appear to be similar to glutamate, and some effects seem to block glutamate.
Since everyone is different I had no real idea how my wife would react to this and sadly it did not seem to have any effect. I tried the Theanine though and did find that if taken in the afternoon I had a better concentration level and seemed to be a lot more calm with less crazy churning going on in my head.
One way that I have heard of taking Theanine actually is to take it with caffeine to give you super concentration and energy at the same time which tends to be a difficult mix to get right.
Since I take the Theanine in the afternoon I do not want to mess up my sleep by having a mid-afternoon coffee.
My wife ended up not finding any change in mood or stress levels from taking the Theanine so I started taking it in the early afternoon and I have to admit that it has helped me a lot. I feel a lot lower stress levels at work but even more importantly me concentration is a lot better late in the day when my attitude and energy would naturally drop.
After seeing this effect in myself I thought I would look up some of the studies on how Theanine helps people from a scientific angle.
In looking at the studies around Theanine it seems that there are a couple schools of thought. Either you can take the dose of around 125-200 mg in the afternoon. The other dosage idea seems to be to take 200 mg twice a day, morning and afternoon.
Science Behind Theanine
As you can imagine any Amino Acid is going to have lots of scientific testing done on it. Theanine is not different.
Increased Cognitive Ability – In a study on Rats The levels of brain-derived neurotropic factor and nerve growth factor in the hippocampus were significantly higher in theanine>-administered rats than in the control rats. This study showed that an increase of cognitive ability was shown after three weeks of Theanine supplementation.
Improved mood and cognitive function – A systematic review and meta-analysis was conducted on 11 randomized placebo-controlled human studies of acute effects of tea constituents L-theanine and epigallocatechin gallate, administered alone or in combination with caffeine, on cognitive function and mood.
The outcome measures of mood were alertness, calmness, and contentedness, derived from the Bond-Lader scales, and state anxiety, from the State-Trait Anxiety Inventory. Cognitive measures assessed were attentional switch, intersensory attention, and rapid visual information processing.
Improved mood and concentration – Researchers have found that L-theanine works by supporting the formation of GABA (gamma-aminobutyric acid), an inhibitory neurotransmitter that blocks the release of the neurotransmitters dopamine and serotonin to promote a state of deep relaxation and calm, while increasing sensations of pleasure.
L-theanine has also been found to directly stimulate the production of alpha brain waves, which are associated with deep states of relaxation and enhanced mental clarity.
Lowered Stress Levels – The 200 mg of theanine dosage was chosen as it has been used in previous research studies from 1999 and 2004. The researchers found significant differences between the L-theanine and placebo groups in the high anxiety group for brain activity, heart rate, and response time but no significant differences in the low anxiety group. After 1 hour, the L-theanine subjects in the high anxiety group had a 6% increase in alpha waves, 6% lower heart rate, and a 15% decrease in reaction time, compared to a 1% decrease in reaction time in the placebo group.
The change in brain waves may be due to L-Theanine’s ability to increase levels of brain chemical called GABA which may have been responsible for the reaction time decrease. The researchers concluded that “L-theanine clearly has a pronounced effect on attention performance and reaction time response in healthy subjects prone to have high anxiety.”