Michael Brooks
Feb 8, 2018 · 10 min read

I love coffee.

I’m that guy in the lunchroom whirling his handheld coffee grinder at 8:00 AM like some pepper grinder aficionado.

But I won’t lie. I will settle when the laziness sets in (I’ve been spoiled by our fancy coffee machines, I can’t help it). Starbucks’ medium and light roasts, for example; they’re pretty good, especially compared to what I’m used to elsewhere.

BUT. If you just happen to get me started on De Mello Palheta’s Butterfly Kiss or Pilot’s Kenyan blend…game over.

Strange enough, not everyone is fanatical as I am. For some bizarre reason, not everyone owns a pour over, an Aeropress, and multiple french presses.

Huh.

The truth: most people could care less about savouring that morning cup of coffee. When I ask team members, friends or family why they drink coffee, most admit it’s not out of enjoyment. Sure, that latte is pretty tasty, but there’s more to coffee than just a sweet, creamy treat.

The main reason for waking up and running to Tim Hortons, turning on the Keurig, or grinding beans for their french press is that coffee makes them feel focused, productive, and alert. Yes: coffee can actually be enjoyed. I’m living proof. But many have adopted it as part of a holy, daily routine.

I love the bold and delicate flavours or various roasts. But as much as I enjoy coffee, it’s also a tool. A tool I use every day that helps me get things done and keeps me on track.

We’ve used it that way for hundreds of years.

Why? You can thank the high levels of caffeine — a naturally occurring compound found in lesser amounts in cocoa, tea (camellia sinensis, which includes black, green, white, and other teas) and yerba mate.

Do you remember your first cup? Do you remember the rush, the clarity, and the energy?

Nothing compares.

This stimulant puts us in the zone; it helps us focus and gives us energy and alertness, which is precisely why so many North Americans enjoy at least one cup of coffee each and every day.

But have you ever had too much coffee? Have you ended up feeling anxious or jittery? Can’t sit still? Have a sudden case of the shakes? Can’t focus? Riddled by headaches?

These are just some of the side effects of high caffeine intake (or in some cases, caffeine sensitivity). And they suck.

So perhaps you avoid caffeine and/or coffee because of the jitters, the increased heart rate and feelings of anxiety. Maybe right now, in your current relationship with coffee, you want something more. You expect something more.

Sure, maybe you’ve accepted the coffee at work tastes terrible. Maybe its bearable after three packets of sugar and a few splashes of cream. But it does owe you more.

What if I told you there was a scientifically proven, cost-effective way to make coffee work harder for you? What if you could reduce the jitters and anxiety from coffee, but also amplify the good side effects of caffeine?

Who doesn’t want to squeeze jut a little more productivity out of their day? I certainly do.

Let me introduce my favourite new compound called l-theanine.

This is what happens when you add l-theanine to coffee. Okay, not actually, but that’s how I imagine it in my crazy head.

L-Theanine: The Friendly Amino Acid

L-theanine is an amino acid extracted from the leaves of camellias sinensis — the fancy-pants name for the common tea plant. It’s actually responsible for some of the savoury notes in green tea and is a common relaxant, often mixed with other natural supplements to induce feelings of calm and relaxation.

Also known as a nootropic — a cognitive enhancer (and 100% legal, in this case) — theanine can help improve cognitive function. However, it’s most significant benefit is it’s ability to reduce mental fatigue and stress in humans.

L-theanine affects the brain in a number of ways. Acting as a anxiolytic, it is known to amplify alpha brain waves, allowing for a type of calm alertness and even heightened creativity.

Theanine has also been shown to boost levels of GABA, as well as other hormones and compounds that promote calm, focus, regulated mood, and more.

By itself, l-theanine is effective nootropic. But when combined with caffeine…there’s a pronounced synergistic effect. This means you experience heightened focus, awareness, and energy, as well as reduced stress and improved mental endurance to even higher levels.

Again, sounds too good to be true, right? There must be some negative side effects.

Luckily, l-theanine has been shown to have basically zero levels of toxicity, dependency, or tolerance, meaning you could theoretically take large doses every day without negative side effects. Personally, I enjoy l-theanine as a sleeping aid in higher doses (500 mg or so). When combined with the ketogenic diet, I’ve had some of my deepest, most restful sleeps when supplementing l-theanine.

L-theanine’s mechanisms aren’t all completely understood yet, but they’re very well documented. I suggest you do a little research and see for yourself; it’s the safest nootropic out there, even more so than the caffeine from your coffee.

So you probably won’t need some complex machine to dose theanine. Least it looks cool.

Dosing Caffeine and L-Theanine

So how does one take caffeine and l-theanine together?

The simplest method would be to take a caffeine capsule and a l-theanine capsule half an hour before you want to experience the effects. The ratio of caffeine to theanine is generally 1:2 (100 mg of caffeine with 200 mg of theanine). Most theanine and caffeine capsules are available in 100 mg doses, so that would mean taking one 100 mg caffeine capsule (generally the same amount of caffeine in a cup of coffee!) and two 100 mg theanine capsules. But this is not always the case, so be sure to check all and any labels.

But the method above is probably a little less realistic. Caffeine capsules or bulk powder can be difficult a hold of mainly due to it’s potency.

What most people (including myself) are more likely to do is take theanine capsules or theanine powder with coffee as their caffeine source. In this case, take 200 mg (often times two 100 mg theanine capsules) with a cup of coffee. I usually add my theanine powder straight to my coffee (it doesn’t taste like much but you might prefer the capsules).

Simple. Adding l-theanine to your morning routine is quick, easy and, for many, makes a notable difference to their day.

What’s even better is that you can enjoy theanine on an empty stomach, with or without food, and it’s effectiveness won’t be inhibited. Some nootropics like phenibut run into absorption problems with excess food and liquid). Unlike many other nootropics, the caffeine-theanine combo is very well documented, extremely safe and works great multiple times a day (just don’t take caffeine at night, if you can).

Personal Recommendations

Below I’ve listed a few recommendations. The majority of these are from my vendor of choice — Nootropics Depot, which has an incredible track record when it comes to quality, transparency, and customer service. The links below are affiliate links. If you are uncomfortable using them, you can Google ‘Nootropics Depot’ in addition to the name of the product.

If you do happen to click my links, many, may thanks for your support. Your contributions help me create valuable content in the realm of self-improvement, nootropics, and other fields.

Nootropics Depot L-Theanine Power

1. If you want to most economical option, or want more control to experiment with your ideal dosage: Nootropics Depot L-Theanine Power

  • It’s economical. Seriously, at 1250 servings (if you prefer 100 mg doses of l-theanine) for under $12, you can order a tub and use it for well over a year if you took it every single day.
  • You can choose your delivery method with l-theanine powder. You can mix it with water, blend it in a smoothie, make a paste and take it sublingual, or just add it straight to your cup of coffee.
  • Pure l-theanine power has a very faint taste. Instead of being extremely bitter or sour like many other nootropics, l-thenaine has an almost pleasant, umami-like taste. This is why shade grown green teen has those extremely rich, flavourful notes: l-theanine builds up in the leaves in higher quantities when tea plants are deprived of sunlight, and the resulting liquor of said tea is rich and savoury.
  • Being able to experiment with your ideal dosage can be key, especially if you’ve never taken l-theanine before. Using pure powder gives you the flexibility, especially if you want to limit or increase your caffeine intake disproportionately.
Nootropics Depot L-Theanine Capsules — 200mg

2. If you want l-theanine in capsule form for easy, consistent dosages: Nootropics Depot L-Theanine Capsules — 200mg

  • For most, nothing beats a capsule. It’s relatively cheap (Nootropics Depot is cheaper than just about any other brand I’ve come across, especially when you order larger quantities), and at 200 mg per dose, most people won’t feel tired or ‘lazy’ when paired with a caffeine source of around 100 mg (a large light or medium roast coffee).
Nootropics Depot L-Theanine Sublingual Solution

3. If you want the absolute fastest delivery of l-theanine and prefer sublingual applications: Nootropics Depot L-Theanine Sublingual Solution

  • Sublingual l-theanine is a little more experimental, and thus, more expensive per dose on average. But some anecdotal accounts have found they prefer sublingual l-theanine when you need quick relief from stress, need a bit of a nightcap, or took caffeine earlier and need fast-working l-theanine to counteract the negative effects.
Nootropics Depot Caffeine + L-Theanine Capsules (2:1 and 1:2 ratios available)

4. If you know the exact ratio you need of caffeine and l-theanine, or just want to get the effects of caffeine and l-theanine with one capsules: Nootropics Depot Caffeine + L-Theanine Capsules (2:1 and 1:2 ratios available)

  • The advantage to caffeine and l-theanine blended in capsule form is that you get a consistent dose every single time. Once you know your ideal ratio and dosage, it’s never a guessing game.
  • Caffeine and l-theanine in capsule form are quite affordable. If you buy a coffee daily, a caffeine capsule (let alone a l-theanine and caffeine capsule) is more cost effective. So if you’re only looking for that buzz from coffee, these capsules might just do the trick.

Additional Tips and Tricks

I’ve included a number of my personal insights since using caffeine and l-theanine. They are all based off my own experiences; your own may differ.

  1. Play around with the ratios. You might need more theanine to feel that calm, collected focus when combined with caffeine. Or, you might need less, and feel tired after 200 mg of theanine. Do what works best for you, don’t be afraid to experiment.
  2. Don’t stress over not being able to buy/afford supposed ‘premium’ theanine or ‘suntheanine’ (a form of l-theanine that is as pure as possible, which is most certainly not worth the cost compared to regular l-theanine). Does your local Shoppers Drug Mart or Rexall carry theanine capsules? Great, those will probably do to start. Order from whatever vendors you can afford and trust (and be sure it’s 99% pure l-theanine and not cut with any filler). Some solid, proven online vendors include Liftmode, Purebulk and Nootropic Depot (my favourite, and they’re often the most affordable), but check out Amazon for well-rated products as well. It’s not very expensive, especially in powder form. Once you begin to delve more and more into nootropics, you’ll begin to notice purity and quality really do matter, so specialized nootropic vendors are the next step.
  3. Although theanine is extremely safe, it can can make you sleepy in high doses. Be weary of excessive doses (500 mg or more) when you are driving or operating machinery. Like any new health product, do your research and if you have questions, talk to a doctor to see if it’s right for you.
  4. Just because theanine synergies with coffee doesn’t mean you should over do it. I adhere to the ‘everything in moderation’ rule.
  5. Due to how caffeine is absorbed as a liquid in your body (some is absorbed in the mouth, throat, etc.), you may experience more immediate effects than taking caffeine capsules. Capsules only release their caffeine in the stomach, which may inhibit the total amount of available caffeine. See what works best for you!

If you get around to trying some theanine, let me know if it’s had any impact on your productivity or sleep. If you have any questions, feel free to shoot me a comment.


I hope you found this article insightful and relevant. Most of my Medium blogs are aimed at providing small — yet impactful — strategies to help you survive the workday, one step at a time.

If you enjoyed this post, please feel free to follow me for more weekly posts.

Thank you for reading.

Michael Brooks

Written by

Community manager + mindfulness practitioner. Also helping you survive the workweek, one day at a time.

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