L-Theanine and Caffeine: Benefits and Effects

L-Theanine and Caffeine for Energy and Focus

Ever been so involved in a project you lost track of time and thoroughly enjoyed yourself? You weren’t tired, you didn’t feel forced, you weren’t watching the clock, and you had an intense amount of focus on whatever it was you were doing?

Congratulations, you were in the zone.

The “zone” or “flow” is a fantastic, coveted place to be when you’re working or trying to focus on any particular task. Two components of that state are focus and energy. Unfortunately, it’s not always easy to get into a state of flow.

You may be focused for a bit, but start drifting because you’re tired. Or the opposite may be true – you may have energy, but can’t get your mind to settle on one task. There is a way to bring the two together more easily.

How L-Theanine Contributes to Flow

If you experience too little stimulation or stress, you may be disengaged, or bored, with your work. This is often the result of menial or repetitive tasks which you do not find challenging.

However, you can artificially increase stimulation through stimulatory supplements like caffeine or medications like ADHD medicine. This is why you hear about students or workers taking Adderall or other stimulants to study and complete work. It’s often not because the course or job is too mentally taxing. It’s that the coursework or tasks are too boring without artificial stimulation.

Before we get into how stimulation increases are chances of achieving flow, let’s examine the Yerkes-Dodson Law. Below is the original curve which illustrates this law:

The Yerkes-Dodson law states that performance increases with mental arousal (stimulation). But this is only true up to a point. If there is too much stimulation or stress, then performance decreases.

We can view the “peak” areas of the Yerkes-Dodson as the “flow” area. We want to stay within this peak area for optimal work efficiency and enjoyment.
If you’re feeling sluggish or unmotivated, caffeine pushes you toward this peak. However, if you keep taking caffeine or take a dosage that’s too high, you will overshoot the peak and become overstimulated. You can tell this is happening when you feel jittery and have trouble staying focused.

In this hyper stimulated state, you may also feel a state of mania and your mind starts to wander or daydream. A common state of overestimation is checking emails, browsing the web or social sites. This keeps your mind unfocused and wandering from subject to subject.

This is where L-Theanine helps. Theanine reduces the negative stimulatory effects of caffeine and other stimulants. This will bring you back to the center of the Yerkes-Dodson curve and closer to achieving flow. Once a state of flow is achieved, be mindful not to keep taking more stimulants or you will find yourself pushed to the right of the “peak” once more.

This article at psychologytoday.com further explains the concept of flow, applies it to the workplace, and describes how different mental states affect employees.

Energy Benefits of Caffeine Supplements

Finding energy isn’t difficult. Drink some coffee, pop a caffeine pill. Problem solved, right? Not necessarily. Caffeine supplements alone can definitively give you an edge on your energy levels, but the type of energy may not be what you want. Having a jittery, jumpy mental state can leave you with the temporary energy for running laps around a building and subsequently crashing – hard.

Focus with Theanine Supplements

L-Theanine is an amino acid . While occurring naturally in tea, L-Theanine extract is most effective. L-Theanine is processed very efficiently by the body and crosses the blood brain barrier easily [1].

L-Theanine Benefits [2] [3]:

  • Mental relaxation
  • Reduced stress
  • Improved memory
  • Enhanced learning
  • Increased alpha-wave activity (waves produced in a relaxed awake state)

So, supplementary L-Theanine alone can improve your relaxed awake state. You will be able to think clearly and  easily sort through life.

L-Theanine and Caffeine

For thousands of years, monks have used L-Theanine and caffeine in tea to help with meditation. It’s unlikely they were aware of the individual components, but the combination has stood the test of time. Energy and motivation gained with coffee is harnessed by a smoothed over mental state with L-Theanine and creates an ideal environment for intense focus[4]. You get all the alertness and focus of caffeine supplements and none of the stressful anxiety.

Caffeine and L-Theanine Dosage

A highly recommended dosage of Theanine to caffeine is a ratio of 2:1 (2 parts L-Theanine for 1 part caffeine). If that sounds complicated at all, don’t worry; it’s not.
Base the caffeine dosage on your normal caffeine intake and tolerance. For example, if you’re used to drinking a cup of coffee each morning and it has 100mg caffeine, combine 200mg L-Theanine. If you want to start small, you can use a small amount of caffeine, 50mg, and then 100mg of L-theanine.
If taken on an empty stomach, the effects can be felt within 15-20 minutes and will add a few hours of blissful flow to your day. Since the combination has more of a focused energy effect than the sheer rush of caffeine alone, the effects, while noticeable, are much more subtle and provide a perfect background for any activity.

L-Theanine and Caffeine Online

Prices for caffeine and L-Theanine are fairly standard across the board. You can find green tea or coffee in any number of stores and on any number of websites.

The trick is in finding quality supplements.

Many sites do not use third-party testing and so you cannot be sure if what you are purchasing is high quality or not. Many of the major online retailers do not disclose whether or not they use third-party testing, which poses an issues.

Examples of vendors which sell L-Theanine that have confirmed US lab testing are purebulk.com, nootropicsdepot.com, and nutravitashop.com. Unlike some of the bigger brands, they will provide lab testing results upon request.

Be careful if you purchase from Amazon or eBay from small brand vendors or from unknown websites. Many of these small vendors only rely on the manufacturer’s (usually from China) certificate of analysis, or COA, since US lab testing is a significant cost. US lab testing can double the materials cost for a small vendor since they purchase raw materials in smaller quantities and lack the economies of scale of bigger companies.

If you’re not sure about a vendor, send them a message and ask for US lab testing or third-party lab testing results. Some quality vendors like nootropicsdepot.com have their own lab. Although this technically isn’t third-party testing, they can still validate their quality claims with in-house, US lab testing results.

Theanine and Caffeine Sources

[1] L-Theanine Wiki

[2] http://www.med.nyu.edu/content?ChunkIID=653856

[3] http://www.smartbodyz.com/L-Theanine-Information.htm

[4] http://jn.nutrition.org/content/138/8/1572S.full.pdf