Theanine does not cancel out caffeine, but instead works to counter caffeine’s side effects. When you combine caffeine and theanine, there’s a pronounced synergistic effect. This means you experience the heightened focus, awareness, and energy associated with caffeine without the typical side effects of anxiety and jitters.
Theanine is one of the msot talked-about nootropics at the minute. While this amino acid has been used to enhance mood, sleep and mental performance for centuries, it is only recently that researchers have uncovered the true extent of theanine’s potential. As more clinical trials are conducted on theanine’s effects, we are finding that it is an extremely useful nootropic, a potent sleep aid, and a great way to mitigate the side effects of caffeine – all without causing any side effects!
In the last few years theanine has gone from an ingredient you sometimes see in caffeine pills to a central ingredient in all of the best nootropic stacks on the market right now. One of the main reasons it is so widely used in brain supplements and caffeine pills today is because of the synergistic effect it has on caffeine.
So how does L-Theanine affect caffeine exactly?
Does theanine cancel out the effects of caffeine?
Can theanine make caffeine more effective?
In this article, we’re going to look at the relationship between theanine and caffeine. We will explain how theanine interacts with caffeine, and whether or not it ‘cancels out’ the effects of the world’s most popular sitmulant. If you have any questions, please post them in the comments at the end.
What Is Theanine?
Theanine is more properly known as L-γ-glutamylethylamide or N⁵-ethyl-L-glutamine. It is an amino acid analogue of the amino acids L-glutamate and L-glutamine (two of the most important proteinogenic amino acids in the human body).
L-Theanine is found natually in high concentrations in black tea (and to a lesser extent green tea), as well as several other plants and fungus species. Today, you probably know theanine as an ingredient in caffeine supplements, energy pills, and nootropics. Theanine is easily one of the most widely used natural substances in brain supplements today. It is a central ingredient in most of the leading caffeine pills and nootropics on the market right now; a fact which does not look likely to change any time soon.
The reason L-Theanine is so widely used is that it has a braod range of highly desirable effects. Some of the main benefits of taking L-Theanine include:
- Reduced anxiety and stress
- Increased mental clarity and focus
- Reduced brain fog
- Improved sleep quality and reduced sleep latency
- Decreased side effects from caffeine
- Lower blood pressure
- Enhanced overall cognitive performance
Clearly, there is good reason for theanine to be used in so many different supplement types; it is a natural substance with a broad array of benefits and very low side effect risks.
Of these benefits, the effect that theanine has on caffeine is arguably the one that people are most interested in. It’s highly likely that you consume a significant amount of caffeine on a daily basis. If you don’t have at least 150mg of caffeine each and every day, then you are in the minority of human beings! It makes sense then that most people would be interested in a substance which attenuates the worst side effects of caffeine while making the stimulant even more effective. So how does theanine affect caffeine?
How Does Theanine Work With Caffeine?
L-Theanine works alongside and with caffeine; it does not really affect how caffeine works directly. L-theanine has been shown to allow caffeine to work to enhance focus and energy without causing anxiety or raising blood pressure. Theanine counteracts most of the worst side effects of caffeine without interfering with how caffeine works.
As we have already stated above, theanine has a synergistic relationship to caffeine. In simple terms, this means theanine accentuates and heightens the effects of caffeine while decreasing the stimulant’s worst side effects. Basically, you get more of the good and less of the bad.
But while this may be true in terms of subjective experience, it is not actually how theanine works. Theanine does not actually make caffeine any more powerful or potent; it doesn’t make it work any better as a stimulant. Instead, theanine makes you feel like caffeine is more effective by suppressing all of the adverse effects of caffeine which detract from the benefits.
For example, one of the worst effects of caffeine consumption is anxiety. This side effects can completely derail productivity and sap your motivation, completely countering the main benefits of using caffeine in the first place! Theanine helps reduce anxiety by increasing GABA activity, promoting serotonin release, and raising dopamine levels. This effectively prevents you from experiencing any increased stress or anxiety from caffeine, allowing you to feel the full force of the benefits.
Another side effect of caffeine consumption is the jitters. Theanine also works to cancel out this side effect by increasing GABA activity. GABA is the main inhibitory neurotransmitter in the human brain. More GABA receptor activity means less CNS activity, which means less tension, less anxiety, and less physical jitteriness!
So L-Theanine does not actually ‘cancel out’ caffeine. Instead, it counters the side effects of caffeine by reducing all of the things which caffeine spikes: CNS activity, anxiety, and so on. Taking theanine and caffeine together will not cancel out the benefits of the latter. Instead, you’ll actually get more benefits from caffeine and fewer side effects.
Theanine does not usually intract badly with any substances at all. In most cases, theanine reduces the side effects of drugs such as caffeine and alcohol. However, in some people theanine can negatively interact with other substances. If you are on any medications, especially SSRIs or antidepressants, you must tlk to your doctor before taking Theanine.
How Much Theanine Should I Take With Caffeine?
It is tempting to take larger and larger doses with theanine. It is a relatively cheap supplement – when you buy lower quality forms of the amino acid – and it has an incredibly low risk of causing side effects. Even at high doses, people rarely experience severe side effects from theanine. However, taking more theanine is not always a good idea.
Beyond doses of about 300mg, you are not really going to get any extra benefits from more L-Theanine. What is more important than dose with theanine is the quality of the theanine you are using and its dosage ratio to caffeine. You should never be taking more than 150mg of caffeine at any one time, so more than 300mg of theanine should never be necessary!
Of course, exactly how much theanine and caffeine you should take depends on you and your specific goals. The 2:1 ratio of theanine to caffeine is not set in stone; it can and should be manipulated if you have very specific things you want to accomplish.
Brian Johnson is current Editor of Vagarights.com and a long-time writer for VAGA. A former psychologist, Brian is passionate about improving mental health and finding ways to stave off cognitive decline. He is an expert on nootropics, cognitive enhancement and biohacking more broadly. You can see his work on Google scholar.