Dynamic Duo

Sometimes, people and things just go better together. Think of all of those great double acts down the years: Laurel & Hardie; Abbott & Costello; caffeine & l-theanine … wait, what now?

As regular readers might already know, caffeine, much like many a great comedian, can be a funny old customer. On the one hand, scientifically proven to enhance focus, boost energy, and improve endurance. On the other hand, often linked with insomnia, high blood pressure and headaches, especially in larger doses. Not such a barrel of laughs…

Many a double act has benefited from hyperactive crowd pleasers like caffeine though (and do bear with us on this one,) so too have they leaned on their sober straight men. The one that brings it all back to Earth – the element that makes it CLICK.

Who the L?

Enter l-theanine. Also sometimes simply called ‘theanine’ this is a naturally occurring amino acid found in some plant species. First extracted from green tea leaves, it is thought to play a large role in the drink’s distinctive flavor.

By itself, l-theanine boasts a number of beneficial properties. A muscle relaxant, it slows the heart rate, and has been shown to reduce nervous stress (that’s stress at nerve level, not the stress of being nervous.)

It’s when l-theanine is paired up with our old pal caffeine, however, that some pretty amazing things begin to happen.

Synergy Baby, Yeah!

They call it synergy – two elements interacting to become more than the sum of their parts. For not only does l-theanine appear to counteract some of caffeine’s apparent downsides, it actually ENHANCES some of its upsides as well.

Let’s begin by taking a closer look at what it neutralizes:

Under Pressure

Caffeine is what is known as a vasoconstrictor. This means that it tightens our blood vessels. As mentioned above, people that regularly take caffeine often exhibit higher blood pressure as a result.

According to Mayo Clinic’s Dr. Sheldon G. Sheps, a hike of up to ten points is possible after just one cup of coffee. {1}

Researchers at Northumbria University in the UK discovered that l-theanine not only actively counteracted this phenomena, it eliminated it entirely. {2} No pressure on that one then..


Probably not much helped by its vasoconstrictive properties, caffeine is also a proven anxiogenic. This means that it can produce unwelcome feelings of anxiety and tension. This is particularly true of the larger doses found in some pre workouts.

A study conducted at Japan’s University of Shizuoka in 2012 reported that l-theanine reduced both blood pressure and anxiety amongst fourteen test subjects. {3}

The reason for this is that l-theanine promotes alpha brain wave activity. Alpha waves are associated with the wake-sleep cycle, and encourage us to feel relaxed. L-theanine has even been successfully prescribed to children with ADHD (Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder,) which helped them sleep more peacefully.

It’s clear then that l-theanine is more than capable of tempering some of caffeine’s more undesirable side effects. But what about those deluxe double benefits we mentioned above?

Focus on Focus

It’s well documented that caffeine can sharpen our concentration and focus. According to some cross-university research published last year though, the cognitive benefits of theanine ‘[are] comparable with that of caffeine.’

Not only that, but when combined, the results can prove even more significant. Research published by Unilever compared the effects of 50mg of caffeine both with and without 100mg of l-theanine on twenty-seven participants, with each asked to perform various processing activities.

Caffeine alone was found to improve subjective alertness and accuracy. The combination of caffeine with l-theanine produced similar cognitive effects, but was also shown to increase speed and limit distraction. {4}

The dosages used by the scientists at Unilever – 50mg of caffeine to 100mg of thenaine – are significant. The general consensus is that a ratio of one part caffeine to two parts l-theanine produce the most synergistic results. As we know, it’s all about balance, and that 1:2 ratio seems to be key.

Spot The Difference

Now, there is a chance you’re thinking that all of this sounds a bit too good to be true. And to be honest, we wouldn’t hold that against you. After all, there’s plenty of others out there saying various combo supplements will produce similar results.

What makes the l-theanine and caffeine mix that bit different, though, is the scale of independent, academic research behind it. We’ve quoted a few research papers throughout this article, and at the time of press there are over four hundred others on examine.com alone.

Unlike rather a lot of supplement double acts then, the combined effects of l-theanine and caffeine have been tested A LOT. The last decade has seen a raft of publications in respected peer-reviewed journals like Biological Psychology and Nutritional Neuroscience, not to mention scientific reviews like Science News.

To put it another way, the scientific community has looked into this. And, broadly speaking, they’re all pointing toward the same conclusion – that this combination, given the right ratio, boosts both mood and mental performance, minus the associated ‘caffeine crash.’

Seems like this is one double act that really could have you laughing all the way home.

Pre Workouts containing L-Theanine and Caffeine

We’ve put together some details on Pre-Workout supplements containing this combination of ingredients below;

4 Gauge
4 Gauge Pre-WorkoutBuy10LowHighMonk Fruit
Legion Pulse
Legion PulseBuy7HighMidStevia
  1. https://www.mayoclinic.org/diseases-conditions/high-blood-pressure/expert-answers/blood-pressure/faq-20058543
  2. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/25761837
  3. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/23107346
  4. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/18681988

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