Elite athletes like Tiger Woods swear by L-theanine to enhance focus, boost mental performance, and reduce stress. It’s a compound found in black and green teas, and you can also take it as a supplement. It produces calming alpha waves, electrical signals that your brain makes when you meditate. Find out what science has to say about the health benefits of L-theanine and why you might consider adding it to your wellness routine.
What Is L-Theanine?
You could call L-theanine a building block of life. It’s an amino acid, a type of molecule used by all living things to make proteins. Our bodies use amino acids like L-theanine to do things like:
- Repair damaged tissue
- Grow and build new cells
- Break down food
- Produce brain signaling chemicals called neurotransmitters
- Strengthen your immune system
- Maintain healthy skin, hair, and nails
- Build muscle
L-theanine has its own specific benefits for the body. It helps improve sleep quality and duration, so you get a better night’s rest and wake up feeling refreshed. It also produces calming alpha waves, the type of electrical signals that your brain makes when you meditate. This creates a feeling of “alert relaxation,” ideal for staying focused and calm throughout the day.
You can get L-theanine naturally by drinking green or black teas. Certain kinds of mushrooms, like the bay bolete, contain L-theanine. You can also get L-theanine from herbal supplements.
What Is L-Theanine Taken For?
New research has begun exploring the many applications of L-theanine to protect health. We’ve uncovered what science has to say about L-theanine and the benefits of taking it as a supplement.
1. It can help you get a better night’s rest.
Those who have trouble sleeping should consider adding L-theanine to their wellness regimen. Research shows that L-theanine may help improve sleep quality, even for people who have a hard time falling or staying asleep.
Researchers also found that combining L-theanine with GABA supplementation helps improve sleep quality and duration.
How much L-theanine do you take for sleep? In his sleep toolkit, Stanford neurologist Dr. Andrew Huberman recommends taking between 100-400 mg of L-theanine for sleeping 30 to 60 minutes before bed.
2. It helps manage stress.
It comes as no surprise that tea is the most popular beverage, after water. Millions of people drink this soothing beverage. Aside from tasting good, black and green teas can help you feel relaxed thanks to L-theanine.
A study observed over 100 participants and found that teas containing L-theanine naturally calm your mood and help manage stress.
3. It can speed up your reaction time.
Reaction time refers to how long it takes to perceive something and then respond to it. A quick reaction time can help with everyday tasks, like driving a car or juggling projects at work. It also speeds up your agility so you can respond quickly in sports. A fast reaction time can help in emergency situations to respond quickly to danger.
It turns out that L-theanine could speed up your reaction time so you can think and respond faster. A study asked participants to complete a series of tests before and after taking L-theanine. The tests measured reaction time through visual attentional tasks and audio response tests. Not only did they perform better on tests after taking L-theanine, but they also felt calmer and less anxious.
4. It helps strengthen immunity.
Having a strong immune system helps your body fight off infection. Several studies have demonstrated L-theanine could help boost the immune system. One case found L-theanine helpful in aiding the immune system’s response to cases of the flu and common cold.
5. It promotes “alert relaxation.”
When groups of neurons fire together, they create electrical patterns called brain waves. Alpha wave is a type of brain wave pattern between 8 and 12 Hz that usually occurs during deep relaxation. L-theanine stimulates alpha wave production, which creates a feeling of “alert relaxation” similar to meditating or daydreaming.
6. It helps balance blood pressure.
Blood pressure indicates how much your blood pushes against artery walls when the heart beats. The pressure increases in stressful situations when the heart beats faster. L-theanine has a calming effect on your system. This helps your body manage stress and can help lower your heart rate. In turn, this can help lower blood pressure. Researchers found L-theanine effective in maintaining healthy blood pressure even when under stress, which helps maintain long-term cardiovascular health.
7. It boosts feel-good chemicals in the brain.
L-theanine can help boost brain chemicals, like GABA, serotonin, and dopamine:
- Gamma-aminobutyric acid (GABA) slows down signaling between brain cells, which helps you feel more relaxed and less anxious.
- Serotonin is nicknamed the “happiness molecule” because it balances your mood.
- Dopamine is nicknamed the “feel-good hormone”. It’s responsible for the brain’s reward system and makes you feel good after pleasant experiences, like eating nice food or winning a game.
8. It promotes long-term brain health.
L-theanine protects your brain against stress and age-related damage. Studies found that healthy adults who take L-theanine enjoy better brain function. After just four weeks, participants improved brain scores for mental skills like memory, multi-tasking, and language.
What’s your brain score? Find out where your brain health stands with this 60-second NeuroQ quiz. Take the quiz.
9. It helps balance mood.
Some psychologists recommend taking L-theanine to regulate mood. Research on humans and animals found L-theanine beneficial for regulating mood and reducing stress. It may also have therapeutic benefits for supporting a more balanced mood.
So how much L-theanine should you take for sleep and a calm mood? A cup of brewed green tea usually contains about 6.56 milligrams of L-theanine, and a cup of brewed black tea contains roughly 5.13 milligrams. However, green and black teas also contain caffeine, which can keep you up at night if you drink it too close to bedtime.
L-theanine supplements offer a better option to help you sleep. L-theanine takes about 30 minutes to take effect. For the best results, take 15 mg of L-theanine 30 to 60 minutes before bed.
L-theanine gives you a monk-like state of mind. It creates a feeling of “alert relaxation” similar to when you meditate. Taking it as a supplement can help you stay calm and get a better night’s sleep. Over time, you’ll experience long-term health benefits of L-theanine and can avoid many of the conditions caused by excess stress.