By Michael Martin
If you've never heard of L-theanine, you're not alone. Unless you've been researching relaxation supplements or pre-workout ingredients, you may not be familiar with this lesser-known amino acid.
Found in green tea, L-theanine is believed to help promote relaxation and support sleep quality. But it can also help you get a great workout.*
That may sound like a contradiction — how can a supplement to help relaxation possibly promote athletic performance?
There's a simple, science-backed explanation: When combined with caffeine, research suggests L-theanine can help improve performance and focus and help offset some of the negative feeling some may experience from a caffeinated pre-workout supplement.*
Want to learn more about L-theanine and how it can help your workouts? We've compiled the need-to-know info and key benefits of this calming supplement.
Stay in the zone with the combination of caffeine and L-theanine in LADDER Pre-Workout! Shop all premium supplements.
"People take L-theanine for a variety of reasons, most of which revolve around a calm-yet-alert mental state," says Paul Falcone, senior scientist at LADDER.
Because it promotes relaxation, L-theanine is often found in products that claim to help reduce your feelings of stress or to help you fall asleep without leaving you feeling drowsy or groggy.
You'll also find L-theanine paired with caffeine from green tea in LADDER Pre-Workout.
That's because research suggests L-theanine and caffeine have a beneficial effect when combined. L-theanine may counteract some of the less-pleasant effects of caffeine, so you can increase focus and delay fatigue without feeling overly amped.*
L-theanine can be used for a variety of reasons. Here are a few of its potential benefits.
L-theanine can help support relaxation without causing drowsiness, and research suggests it may have a beneficial impact on daily stress.
L-theanine works by blocking an excitatory substance called glutamic acid and increasing alpha waves, which correlate with a relaxed and focused state of mind, says James Greenblatt, MD, an integrative psychiatrist in Waltham, MA, and author of Integrative Medicine for Depression.
According to one review of studies, supplementing with L-theanine may help people achieve a more relaxed state of mind.
L-theanine may help to promote the right mindset for sleep — but because of the way it works, it shouldn't leave you feeling drowsy.
A primary reason people might have trouble falling asleep is due to temporary feelings of anxiety — they can't turn their mind off, Falcone says.
L-theanine seems to help quiet those anxious thoughts, helping relax the mind which may allow sleep to happen naturally.
In a 2019 study, people who took L-theanine reported greater sleep satisfaction after eight weeks than people who took a placebo.
In a 2017 study, participants taking L-theanine self-reported less tension and improved calmness. Those who combined L-theanine with caffeine also reported improved alertness and better performance on attention-switching tasks.
Focus is a key reason why L-theanine is an ingredient in LADDER Pre-Workout.
"L-theanine helps the body adapt to the effects of stress," Falcone says. "Exercise is a stressor, and L-theanine can help us have a clearer, more focused mindset."
In a randomized, placebo-controlled study in 2019, 30 participants were given either 200 mg of L-theanine or a placebo daily for four weeks. Those who took L-theanine reported better sleep quality and improved performance on cognitive tasks when compared to the placebo group.
Studies have found that caffeine's benefits on focus and attention are maintained and supported by adding L-theanine, Falcone says.
LADDER Pre-Workout combines caffeine for sustained energy with L-theanine to help further support focus and attention.
"Who doesn't need a little more focus — and a little more relaxation?" Falcone adds.
In one study published in the journal Neuropharmacology, participants who took 50 mg of caffeine and 100 mg of L-theanine made fewer errors when performing a task than a group who took a placebo.
And a 2018 study found that taking 200 mg of L-theanine and 160 mg of caffeine improved participants' concentration better than a placebo or either supplement alone.
Research suggests that between 200 mg and 400 mg of L-theanine per day is the ideal amount for helping to promote a relaxed state of mind even among people exposed to stressful situations.
Greenblatt notes that you may choose to divvy up your servings of L-theanine — for example, supplementing with around 200 mg twice daily rather than a single 400 mg supplement.
Keep in mind the effects may not be instantaneous for everyone. "While most people experience benefits within a few days, for some, the effects seem to occur more slowly," Greenblatt adds. It may take up to a full month to feel the effects — but with time, you'll likely start to notice the positive impact on your mental focus and your performance.
* These statements have not been evaluated by the Food and Drug Administration. This product is not intended to diagnose, treat, cure, or prevent any disease.