L-Theanine & Caffeine: Boost Your Morning Coffee and Never Go Back

If you’re reading this, you probably know how to enjoy a good cup of coffee… but what if I told you something that can make it even better.

Coffee has always been associated with scholars and business moguls for its ability to ward off fatigue, improve productivity, and promote “higher thinking”.

To this day, coffee remains one of the most popular productivity tools available.

Unfortunately, coffee isn’t perfect. It’s considered by many to be a second-class nootropic at best.  

Looking to one of coffees older siblings, tea, we find the missing ingredient that can upgrade coffee’s effect profile to truly become a first-class nootropic.

Why The World Loves Coffee

The deliciously bitter and highly stimulating beans of the coffee plant have been enjoyed by billions of people over the past 2 to 3 thousand years.

The first coffee shops

Coffee culture as we know it started in the Middle East when a group of Arabs brought back some coffee seeds from Ethiopia. They first started cultivating the plant on a mass scale in Yemen, which supplied the newly growing industry of coffee shops emerging in the Muslim world.

Coffees stimulating properties

Its ticket to fame came in part from its complex, earthy flavor, but primarily due to the stimulating nature of the brew. Early coffee shops were referred to as “schools of the cultured” and were reserved for scholars and royalty alike.

It was closely associated with intelligence, and early coffee shops quickly became a favorite pastime of scholars and royalty alike.

Caffeine as a nootropic

In recent years, with the development of the nootropics industry, public interest in isolated caffeine has grown significantly.

Students and business executives alike have been taking caffeine-loaded nootropic stacks as a way to boost their energy levels and lengthen their productive working hours.

L-Theanine: Coffees Missing Ingredient

Green Tea Leaves

As we mentioned earlier, coffee has an older sibling, the tea plant.

Tea has been consumed for several thousand years and remains the most popular stimulant in the world, even compared to coffee.

This may be because tea has something that coffee doesn’t, an amino acid compound known as L-Theanine.

L-Theanine has attracted the attention of research teams over the past few decades, who have begun highlighting its synergistic reaction with our beloved caffeine molecule.

Some have even turned their heads toward the caffeine found in coffee, with some pretty amazing results.

The Problem With Coffee

Contrary to popular belief, caffeine doesn’t actually make us any smarter. What it does is inhibit or simply delay the feeling of sleepiness.

How does this work?

Caffeine inhibits a compound in the brain called adenosine. This is a chemical that’s designed to build up throughout the day inside our brains and make us feel tired. It causes a delay in the neurons, making us feel dull and tired.

Caffeine prevents these adenosine molecules from making us feel tired.

Caffeine’s other effects

Caffeine has other effects too, some of which are not very helpful.

It activates adrenergic receptors in our blood vessels, heart, and lungs. When this happens, our blood pressure spikes, our heart beats faster, and the airway to our lungs opens wider.

These are the same effects that happen when we’re under heavy stress, also known as the “fight or flight” response. The body activates these same receptors when we come face to face with a hungry tiger to help us escape safely.

In short bursts, this fight or flight response is useful, however, a few hours of this can begin to have a negative impact on cognitive output.

Caffeine & L-Theanine: A Match Made In Heaven

Coffee & tea

L-theanine is interesting because it provides a nearly perfect opposition to the negative effects of caffeine, without compromising caffeine’s benefits.

For this reason, caffeine and L-theanine nootropic stacks are becoming a staple in the world of nootropics. The energizing benefits of caffeine pair perfectly with the relaxing and concentration-enhancing effects of L-Theanine.

Additionally, the most common side effects associated with caffeine (and therefore coffee) including anxiety, jitteriness, and hyperactivity, can all be alleviated with a small dose of L-theanine.

The effects of L-Theanine include:

  • Reduces anxiety
  • Protects the brain from damage
  • Uplifts mood
  • Boosts concentration & memory
  • Protects the body from the negative impacts of stress

l-theanine caffeine molecules

4 Reasons Why Coffee And L-theanine Are a Kick-Ass Combo:

Whether you’re looking to pump up your morning coffee or create your own killer nootropic stack, L-theanine and caffeine are a great combo, here’s why:

1. No More Anxiety/Jitteriness

You’re on a role at work and you decide to go for one more coffee break before smashing out the rest of your project early so you can head on home and enjoy your afternoon.

20 minutes after your break has ended and you start to notice you can feel your heart beating. You notice your hand is trembling and you can’t help but feel tense and uncomfortable. You spend the rest of the afternoon trying to relax while typing your symptoms into WebMD.

Most people who drink coffee on a regular basis have experienced this, and it sucks!

L-Theanine directly opposes these effects by calming down the nervous system.

This allows us to get more out of our coffee and permits us to have that extra cup without pushing us over the edge.

A research study done in 2008 found a 200mg dose of L-Theanine was enough to lower anxiety and jitteriness produced by caffeine [2].

2. Better Focus

Caffeine is great for making us feel more awake than we really are, but it doesn’t do much to make us focus better. In fact, caffeine can actually make it more difficult to focus.

A study done in 2012 investigated the effects of caffeine on participants given various intelligence tests. The study showed no improvement in intelligence. It did, however, show some improvements in motor reflexes. The researchers concluded that caffeine doesn’t make us smarter, but it does make us faster [3].

L-Theanine, on the other hand, offers direct benefits towards cognitive function.

It’s a nootropic by every definition of the word.

L-Theanine has been shown to boost both acetylcholine [4], and dopamine [5] concentrations in the brain.

Both of these neurotransmitters are closely associated with the process of learning and memory.

3. Better brain oxygenation

Recent studies have shown that caffeine actually lowers the oxygenated blood cells in the prefrontal cortex of the brain. This is certainly not a helpful effect in terms of cognitive function.

Interestingly, L-theanine was shown to completely reverse this effect in combination with coffee [7]. It increased a marker researchers refer to as “oxygenated hemoglobin”. This marker is used to determine the amount of oxygen being delivered to various organs of the body.

This is an interesting finding because this isn’t something L-Theanine does on its own. This further suggests a complex and powerful synergy between caffeine and L-Theanine.

4. Stabilize Blood Pressure

One of the most common problems with coffee AND caffeine nootropic stacks is blood pressure.

This usually happens in the first hour after taking caffeine. Our blood pressure can rise significantly during this time.

This doesn’t feel very good and can have long-term consequences if it goes on for long periods of time.

This is especially problematic in people already suffering from high blood pressure or associated conditions like anxiety or chronic stress.

In many cases, these people are told by their doctors to stop consuming caffeine in any form to avoid pushing blood pressure above healthy limits.

Fortunately, this is something L-Theanine addresses very effectively.  

L-theanine was shown to significantly lower the blood pressure spikes following a cup of coffee, or a dose of caffeine. [6].

I once measured my blood pressure at 150/100 after having one too many coffees in the morning (the normal range is 120/80). This was very concerning to me, so I started taking L-Theanine every morning along with my coffee.

I now find only a modest 5 point increase in blood pressure after my morning coffee.

How To Dose L-Theanine With Coffee (Or Caffeine Pills)

So now that we can agree that L-Theanine is something any coffee drinker or caffeine stack user should be incorporating, let’s discuss how it’s done.

The ratio of caffeine to L-theanine that has the most research behind it is 1:2 (1 part caffeine with 2 parts L-Theanine).

How Much Caffeine Is In A Cup Of Coffee?

The average cup (250mL) of coffee contains somewhere in the range of 100mg of caffeine. This means that you should take a 200mg dose of L-Theanine along with it.

What about caffeine pills?

Most caffeine pills are provided in doses of either 100mg or 200mg, making it easy to calculate the amount of L-Theanine to take along with it.

Using the same 1:2 ratio as above, you would mix 200mg of L-theanine per 100mg of caffeine.

L-Theanine capsules

Most L-Theanine comes in capsule form. This makes dosing the compound much easier and increases their shelf life.

Most L-theanine will come in doses of either 200mg or 400mg.

We recommend getting 200mg capsules if you’re a coffee drinker because this will allow you to take the recommended dose along with each cup of coffee.

Simply take one before or after each of your coffee breaks and enjoy an elevated coffee experience.

Making your own Caffeine + L-Theanine stacks

If you’re making your own caffeine + L-theanine stacks, you can buy bulk L-theanine powder, and mix up your own capsules.

We recommend sticking to the 1:2 ratio, and aiming for a maximum of 400 or 600 mg of L-Theanine per day.

Conclusion

Coffee and the caffeine it contains has always been popular among high achievers like scholars, business moguls, and generally productive people.

Although coffee is an excellent productivity tool, it isn’t perfect. While it can keep us awake longer to work, it can also make us anxious, jittery, frustrated, and can increase our blood pressure. Caffeine also lowers oxygen delivery to the brain, which can have a negative impact on productivity.

L-Theanine is the perfect addition to coffee/caffeine because it eliminates or significantly reduces all of these problems, and has the added benefit of boosting neurotransmitters directly related to cognition and concentration.

All of these benefits are quickly making L-theanine a staple addition to any nootropic stack that contains caffeine.

References

  1. Haskell, C. F., Kennedy, D. O., Milne, A. L., Wesnes, K. A., & Scholey, A. B. (2008). The effects of L-theanine, caffeine and their combination on cognition and mood. Biological psychology, 77(2), 113-122. Link
  2. Rogers, P. J., Smith, J. E., Heatherley, S. V., & Pleydell-Pearce, C. W. (2008). Time for tea: mood, blood pressure and cognitive performance effects of caffeine and theanine administered alone and together. Psychopharmacology, 195(4), 569. Link
  3. Rogers, P. J., Heatherley, S. V., Mullings, E. L., & Smith, J. E. (2013). Faster but not smarter: effects of caffeine and caffeine withdrawal on alertness and performance. Psychopharmacology, 226(2), 229-240. Link
  4. Okello, E. J., Savelev, S. U., & Perry, E. K. (2004). In vitro anti‐β‐secretase and dual anticholinesterase activities of Camellia sinensis L.(tea) relevant to the treatment of dementia. Phytotherapy Research: An International Journal Devoted to Pharmacological and Toxicological Evaluation of Natural Product Derivatives, 18(8), 624-627. Link
  5. Yokogoshi, H., Mochizuki, M., & Saitoh, K. (1998). Theanine-induced reduction of brain serotonin concentration in rats. Bioscience, biotechnology, and biochemistry, 62(4), 816-817.
  6. Dodd, F. L., Kennedy, D. O., Riby, L. M., & Haskell-Ramsay, C. F. (2015). A double-blind, placebo-controlled study evaluating the effects of caffeine and L-theanine both alone and in combination on cerebral blood flow, cognition, and mood. Psychopharmacology, 232(14), 2563-2576.

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