Theanine: The amino acid that helps you cope with stress

Theanine: The amino acid that helps you cope with stress

You may have heard about theanine, a relaxant that is out of the ordinary. It is actually quite rare since green tea is its only source. An ideal product for those who undergo a lot of stress, providing serenity without causing somnolence or tiredness.

Cup of tea

What is Theanine?

It is an amino acid from green tea which is quite valuable due to its extraordinary ability to stimulate the alpha waves in our brain.

But, when does our brain produce alpha waves? Quite simple, whenever we feel relaxed and calm. It is enough to listen to the rain falling in our window, watch a beautiful landscape or simply close our eyes for a few minutes.

Therefore, L-theanine helps our body relax, but it has nothing to do with sleep, quite the opposite actually.

It is said that L-theanine (which makes up around a 1-2% of the dry tea leaves) is as relaxing as doing meditation. Moreover, it increases the energy without causing nervousness, providing calmness without producing drowsiness. In fact, it improves the focus and puts you in a good mood.

There are many studies about the multiple benefits of green tea for our health. Most of them are related to theanine, a unique neurologically active amino acid.

It is the main amino acid from green tea leaves and the one responsible for its typical umami flavor. This is also known as the “fifth flavor” apart from the four traditional ones: sweet, salty, acid and bitter.

What are its benefits?

Most of us are constantly exposed to stressors on a daily basis. In addition, some people lack a series of nutrients due to a bad diet, sleep poorly and other circumstances. In the end, all these factors trigger physical and mental health problems.

Consequently, many people start using medicines in order to remain calm and to deal with stress. However, is it really worth it to take these products that have many dangerous side effects?

Would it be possible to enjoy a natural product without side effects? Many people already do, since L-theanine is becoming more and more popular due to its extraordinary properties against stress.

A cup of tea while working

Properties of the amino acid from green tea

Perhaps you are thinking how paradoxical it is for green tea to have a relaxing effect due to its caffeine content. Nevertheless, this is due to the fact that the amino acid theanine counters said stimulating effect on the nervous system.

Several clinical studies have revealed that after 30 or 40 minutes of drinking tea (L-theanine), it activates two mechanisms that produce a state of relaxation:

  • First of all, it activates amino acids that stimulate the brain alpha waves, producing a deep relaxation. In fact, it produces a mental state similar to meditation.
  • Second, theanine is involved in the formation of GABA (gamma-aminobutyric acid), an inhibitory neurotransmitter. In turn, GABA affects another two neurotransmitters, dopamine and serotonin. Consequently, it produces deeply relaxing effects.[/checklist]

Have you heard of its extraordinary effects?

In general, we can conclude that helps us cope with stress, apart from increasing our energy and sharpening the focus. Actually, it is regarded as a natural nootropic that has been used for centuries in Chinese medicine.

These are some of the extraordinary effects of theanine:

Stimulating the brain alpha waves

Our brain produces electric impulses (brain waves) that we can measure in the head surface. The frequency of this electric impulses is related to different mental states and activities.

The brain waves are divided in four different categories. Each one of them is connected to a mental state:

  • Delta waves occur in the deepest phases of sleep.
  • Theta waves occur in the light phase of sleep and during somnolence.
  • Alpha waves occur when we are awake and we pay attention effortlessly.
  • Beta waves occur during stressful situations, when we find it difficult to stay focused and pay attention

We know that alpha waves occur during a state of relaxation. Therefore, they are used as a relaxation marker.

A study assessed the topography of these waves, which could be observed from the occipital and parietal regions of the brain 40 minutes after taking between 50 and 200mg of theanine.

A different study confirmed how the intensity of the alpha waves depended on the dose. In fact, a dose of 200mg caused a significant increase when compared to the control group. Said reaction could be observed 30 minutes after its intake.

Increasing the endorphins

L-theanine significantly affects the secretion or reduction of neurotransmitters. For instance, it controls endorphins, dopamine and serotonin, improving our memory and learning ability.

Theanine can also affect our emotions due to increase of dopamine. It also regulates the serotonin levels in the brain, synthesizing it and improving the brain functions.

Lowering the blood pressure

Catecholaminergic and serotonergic neurons and the peripheral nervous system are partly in charge of regulating the blood pressure.

The studies conducted on spontaneously hypertensive rats (SHR) showed the impressive antihypertensive effects of theanine.

A clinical study concluded that:

  • The blood pressure seemed to drop depending on the dose. A higher dose of theanine was more effective when it came to lowering the blood pressure.
  • L-glutamine was used as one of the control agents.
  • Even though l-glutamine has a similar chemical structure to theanine, it did not have any effect on hypertension.

In addition, theanine also buffers the oxidative stress caused by these substances in normal cells. This is possibly due to the antioxidant effect. Moreover, this amino acid reduces the lipid peroxidation or oxidative breakdown of low density lipoproteins (LDL) or “bad cholesterol”.

Coping with stress and anxiety

You may have heard that stress and anxiety weaken the hormone balance. Consequently, they affect our well-being, physical and mental performance on our day to day.

In fact, they can even affect our health and life. Stress interferes with the immune system, making us more vulnerable to infections. Actually, it can even trigger depression.

The drugs designed to relieve the symptoms of these diseases generate millions in profit every year.

Do you suffer from stress? Then, you may find an excellent ally in theanine. As we mentioned, it does not produce somnolence since it does not produce theta waves in the brain. Thus, it can help us relax without producing any other effect.

Moreover, it can be used as a food supplement in other areas, since it reduces the side effects of caffeine. These are usually caused by an excessive intake of coffee, refreshments and other substances with caffeine.

Man focusing on his job

Theanine to lose weight

One of reasons why theanine is one of the most popular supplements is due to its properties for weight loss. In fact, it is said that it prevents the accumulation of fat, specially in the abdomen.

Clearly, there is not doubt that it is a metabolic stimulator. That is why many specialists recommend using it during weight loss diets.

Why use Theanine supplementation?

The properties of theanine can improve your quality of life in many ways.

These are the main ones:

  • Sharpening the focus and attention
  • Encouraging a state of pleasant relaxation
  • Reducing the anxiety
  • Coping with stress
  • Helping to relax in case of insomnia
  • Countering the effects of caffeine in the nervous system when we take a lot of caffeine

How to take supplements?

According to the current studies, theanine is more effective with a dose between 50 and 200mg. The effect is remarkable after 30 minutes and it lasts for 8-10 hours.

Are you dealing with a lot of stress at the moment? Then, increase the dose of theanine from 100 to 600mg and take them throughout six hours.

The FDA recommends a maximum intake of 1200mg of theanine a day. However, many experts do no understand this limitation since theanine is completely safe.

The small intestine absorbs theanine in an active transport process together with sodium.

It crosses the blood-brain barrier, as we can see due to its effects on our brain.

In addition, theanine competes with the methionine amino acid group (leucine, isoleucine and valine) to be absorbed by our digestive system and brain. However, the amino acid concentrations remain unaltered by the simultaneous intake of theanine.

All in all, theanine is a physical and mental relaxant that does not cause somnolence. Although there is not a specific moment to take theanine, it is more effective if we take it when we experience the first symptoms of stress.

Theanine capsule

Contraindications of Theanine

Above all, theanine is extraordinarily safe. In 1964, the Health Ministry from Japan approved its limited use in all food products, except for those meant for children.

Moreover, there are no known adverse reactions or interactions of theanine with other medicines. In fact, food does not alter the effect of theanine, so you can take it whenever you need.

Theanine tastes sweet, so you can open the capsules and dissolve their content in water.

Even though theanine is regarded as safe, pregnant or breastfeeding women should consult a physician before using it.

Can you think of a better way to relax?


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    About Carlos Sánchez
    Carlos Sánchez
    Carlos Sánchez has a degree in Human Nutrition and Dietetics, and therefore all his actions are rigorously backed by science.
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