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Coffee and L-Theanine – Boost Your Productivity

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I think we can all agree that coffee is a beverage given to us by the gods. The benefits of caffeine are many: it tastes awesome, it wakes us up, and it has positive effects on health and cognitive performance to boot. It’s a shame about the negative side effects, though.

Most coffee drinkers are familiar with the feeling we get from drinking one cup of coffee too many. Caffeine in high doses can be problematic for humans. Elevated heart rate, blood pressure, anxiety, and jitters are among the effects of overconsumption. Until recently, we thought that this was a part of the coffee lifestyle, and we just had to work around these potential issues.

However, now we know that there is a natural amino acid we can take that will mitigate the negative effects while enhancing the beneficial effects of caffeine, such as increased reaction time, improved performance in mental tasks, and a boost of energy (without the anxiety). It might sound too good to be true, but it isn’t. The non-protein amino acid I’m referring to is called L-Theanine.

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Coffee and L-Theanine

The combination of caffeine in coffee with the nootropic L-Theanine has been proven to have many positive cognitive effects, such as improved mental performance and reduced anxiety.

a cup of black coffee
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More About L-Theanine

  • L-Theanine is one of the components of tea and has a whole host of mental and health benefits. The presence of Theanine explains why we get the positive effects of caffeine from tea, without the jitters that can accompany coffee. This is true even when the caffeine concentration in a tea and coffee serving is the same.
  • L Theanine is also found in some species of mushrooms. Apart from these two sources, Theanine is mainly consumed in supplement form.
  • L-Theanine is known as a nootropic. A nootropic is basically defined as a neuro-enhancer that has no side effects.

Is Coffee a Nootropic?

Caffeine is not generally understood to be a nootropic, though many still consider it to be one. This is because nootropics must have no known side effects. Despite the cognitive performance effects of caffeine, too many cups of coffee can be bad for us. That being said, we have to consume a large amount of coffee per day in order for the levels of toxicity to even be noticeable. It is almost impossible to overdose on coffee. It is, however, quite easy to consume too much caffeine, when consuming it in pure pill form.

Nootropic Coffees

Coffee by itself may not be technically considered to be a nootropic, but many bio-hackers mix powerful nootropics with coffee to make various nootropic coffees. Coffee and Theanine is one of the most popular of these.

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Why does Caffeine in Combination with L-Theanine Work so Well?

L-Theanine and Stress

Essentially, L-Theanine is a stress reducer. This is good for mental performance. Stress and corticosterone have been shown in clinical trials to decrease mental performance.

On the other hand, caffeine causes the adrenaline levels in our bodies to spike. While moderate coffee consumption has positive cognitive effects, over-consumption of the substance can cause our adrenaline levels to go too high, which leads to stress and actually inhibits mental performance and memory. All this is saying is that L-Theanine in combination with caffeine gives us improved mental performance, uninhibited by anxiety or stress.

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Gaba and Adenosine Receptors

One of the known effects of caffeine is that it is an adenosine blocker. Adenosine is what is responsible for making us tired. Caffeine takes the place of adenosine in the brain, stopping us from feeling sleepy.

In contrast, L Theanine releases a different neurotransmitter, called GABA. GABA works to counteract the effects of caffeine and to help us feel more relaxed. I have personally benefitted from taking L Theanine before bed, and found that it really improved the quality of my sleep.

L Theanine and Blood Pressure

Studies show that L Theanine may also be effective in reducing blood pressure. This is another reason why it works so well with caffeine, which is known to increase blood pressure.

While more research is necessary, this is an exciting aspect of Theanine and might mean that people suffering from high blood pressure might not need to rely so much on blood pressure medications.

These factors mean that a combination of coffee and L Theanine have more cognitive benefits than caffeine in isolation.

It is no surprise, therefore, that L Theanine is being marketed as a dietary supplement to accompany coffee. The theanine/coffee combination is particularly useful to consumers of caffeine who are sensitive to its effects.

Coffee and L Theanine Dosage

In order to get the maximum nootropic effects from these two substances, the recommended coffee to L Theanine ratio is 1:2. That translates to 200 Mg L Theanine to 100 Mg caffeine – which is the amount you can expect to find in your morning cup of joe.

Bear in mind that doses of caffeine vary wildly from beverage to caffeinated beverage. For example, one cup of coffee contains between 50 and 100 mg of caffeine, whereas most energy drinks will have upwards of 200mg of caffeine per serving.

black coffee
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L Theanine Products

Coffee and L Theanine Drink

A common way for L Theanine to be consumed is as a powder mixed into morning coffee. Speaking from personal experience, I can tell you that L Theanine is totally flavorless and unnoticeable in coffee. This is great, as I can’t stand adding substances to my joe that change its taste. L Theanine allows coffee lovers to enjoy it their brew in all its original taste and glory.

Coffee and L Theanine Pills

While coffee with L Theanine in capsule form isn’t really a thing, a caffeine and L Theanine supplement is common and can be bought easily on Amazon. This makes sense, as pills are swallowed whole and we don’t taste them as consumers. There would therefore be very little point in making coffee and Theanine pills.

Dosing Caffeine and L-Theanine

When you get your coffee and add L theanine to it, you need to make sure you get the perfect ratio between the caffeine and the theanine.

Black Coffee
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Coffee and L Theanine for ADHD

In this study, consumption of the combination of coffee and L Theanine was shown to be beneficial in children with Attention Deficit/hyper activity disorder. Results from the study showed a faster response to stimuli and an improvement in cognitive tasks and attention tasks. The part of the brain associated with mind-wandering was quieter than normal when observed with a brain scan. This suggests L Theanine could be very effective as an aid for individuals with ADHD.

Tips and Tricks for Combining Theanine and Coffee

  • Don’t overdo it!
  • If you use too much l-theanine you’ll end up feeling sluggish, lethargic, and unmotivated. The same goes for too much caffeine. Too much will leave you jittery, anxious, and unable to focus. As with anything, balance is key.
  • Mixing different types of nootropic powders together isn’t recommended unless you really know what you’re doing. It is recommended that you try L Theanine by itself, without any other nootropics. This is especially important when you’re starting out and getting used to it.
  • Experiment with taking Theanine at different times of the day. During the morning, L Theanine might be effective for your focus, mood, and productivity. In the evening, it might help you to relax and to sleep better. Play around and see what works best for you!
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Potential Side Effects when Combining L Theanine and Caffeine

Potential Side Effects of L Theanine

  • In rare cases, L theanine can cause dizziness. This is not scientifically supported, but one or two individuals have reported dizziness after consuming high amounts of L Theanine.
  • Potential side effects of L Theanine can also include low blood pressure. While normally a good thing, those with already low blood pressure should be careful when taking L Theanine, which is known to lower blood pressure.
  • Because limited research has been done on the subtle and long-term effects of L Theanine supplements, pregnant women should abstain from taking L Theanine until more research has been done.
  • This regular user of L Theanine talks about how drowsiness is possible with excessive consumption of L Theanine. We should be especially aware of this when we are in dangerous situations, such as operating heavy machinery or driving.
  • Though Theanine has been shown to help with sleep in clinical studies, there are some anecdotes from people who have actually found L Theanine unhelpful, and even inhibitory, for sleep. This might be due to the increased focus that comes from consuming Theanine. Our bodies are highly individual. What works for some people may not work for your particular biology. Discontinue the use of Theanine if you find you are experiencing negative effects from it.

Side Effects of Caffeine

We are more familiar with the side effects of caffeine. When consumed in excess, caffeine can cause:

Symptoms of Too Much Caffeine:
  • Anxiety
  • Sweating
  • Jitters
  • Irritability

The combination of caffeine and L Theanine is especially exciting, therefore, for those who love caffeine but are sensitive to its effects.

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L Theanine and coffee are a match made in heaven. If you haven’t tried it yet, we highly recommend you do so. Your coffee drinking experience will never be the same!

Featured Image Credit: Unsplash


Kate MacDonnell

Kate is a lifelong coffee enthusiast and homebrewer who enjoys writing for coffee websites and sampling every kind of coffee known to man. She’s tried unusual coffees from all over the world and owns an unhealthy amount of coffee gear.

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