After caffeine (which has become so common these days, it’s a wonder it hasn’t turned up in breakfast cereal and peanut butter), L-tyrosine is one of the most common supplements on the market and in pre-workout formulas.
So why is L-tyrosine so common? If you take a look at the marketing for L-tyrosine, there is one word that keeps coming up to describe this supplement—focus.
6 Potential Benefits of L-Tyrosine
- Improves Focus
- Reduces Stress
- Aids Weight Loss
- Boosts Energy Levels
- Fights Off Cold Stress
- Improves Memory Under Stress
L-tyrosine is an amino acid that is found in foods such as meat, nuts, beans, and dairy products. There are claims that L-tyrosine can help the body produce more adrenaline and dopamine: two hormones (called “catecholamines”) that reduce physical stress when exposed to harsh conditions like extreme cold.
L-Tyrosine and Acute/Cold Stress
“Cold stress” is a term that refers to the physical stress the body experiences when exposed to cold temperatures. This type of stress can be debilitating if you’re not careful. Most of the studies on L-tyrosine and acute stress are unique in that they involve experienced military personnel using high doses of L-tyrosine.
One study by Fujita Health University in Japan examined L-tyrosine’s effect on stress. The study participants took 10 grams of L-tyrosine (split into 2 gram doses five times a day).
The study found that L-tyrosine was able to mitigate some of the effects of environmental stress and high-intensity training stressors. This reduction in stress included the stabilization of blood pressure and mood, as well as the prevention of stress-induced cognitive decline during sleep deprivation.
Researchers also found that 150 mg of L-tyrosine per kilogram of bodyweight reduced the cognitive side effects of sleep-deprivation and improved working memory.
The benefits of L-tyrosine are, so far, specific to high-intensity training or environmental stressors such as cold stress. High doses of L-tyrosine can also combat many of the side effects of high-intensity acute stressors brought on by heavy, prolonged training.
However, this refers to exercise at the level of military boot camp training, which is exercise and endurance training at its most extreme (picture carrying an inflatable raft on your head for four miles—welcome to Navy Seal training).
When experiencing short-term stress, our supply of catecholamines determines how we respond to stressors in the external environment. The mere presence of catecholamines is enough to prevent many of the side effects of stress, as the body must escape the threat of continual stress before our built-up supply of catecholamines runs out.
If our catecholamine supply runs out and the stress threat doesn’t go away, our body shifts the stress response from catecholamines over to cortisol, which, unlike catecholamines, is intended to deal with long-term stress.
Once the body shifts to cortisol and runs out of catecholamines, we experience high levels of stress, a weakened immune system, and high blood pressure. L-tyrosine is useful for providing extra catecholamines to delay the inevitable crash, at least for a while. But combatting stress this way requires high doses of L-tyrosine in the body.
Ultimately, L-tyrosine only delays the inevitable, preventing a person from succumbing to high-intensity stress too soon, while still allowing the body to function. If you experience extreme stress caused by frequent bouts of high-intensity exercise, it’s only a matter of time before your body crashes—unless you give yourself enough time to recover.
Safety and Side Effects
L-tyrosine is safe at doses of 68 mg per pound of bodyweight (which is 150 mg per kilogram of bodyweight). While L-tyrosine is safe for most people, L-tyrosine can cause side effects.
If you’re taking medication and concerned about any adverse side effects, you should speak to your doctor before taking L-Tyrosine.
The clinically effective dose of L-tyrosine is much higher than other supplements. For example, the amount of L-Tyrosine used to combat acute stress is 68 mg per pound of bodyweight (or 150 mg per kilogram of bodyweight).
These are doses that are as high as a third to half a scoop of protein powder, which are doses that cannot fit into tiny little capsules. Therefore, if you want to mitigate the effects of stress using L-tyrosine, you will need a much higher dose than anything found in typical pre-workout supplements.
Effectiveness of L-Tyrosine
Research into L-tyrosine often focuses on L-tyrosine’s link to catecholamines and acute stress, not energy and focus. With this in mind, L-tyrosine can boost your catecholamine supply, or, at the very least, prevent your catecholamines (stress inhibitors) from running out. That’s all L-tyrosine has been verified to do.
However, people often believe that L-tyrosine improves cognition and works as a stimulant to improve physical performance and reduce fatigue.
Unfortunately, L-Tyrosine proves to be inferior to caffeine and several other supplements in this respect. So while L-tyrosine can offer some benefits when it comes to fighting off stress, don’t expect L-tyrosine to improve your focus or physical performance.