Often used in nootropics, energy drinks, and dietary supplements, studies have shown that the non-essential amino acid L-tyrosine is a precursor to the vital neurotransmitters dopamine, epinephrine, and norepinephrine. Researchers believe that tyrosine may help with cognitive performance, productivity, memory, and learning, and be beneficial during times of high stress or cognitive challenge. We’ll talk more about the benefits of tyrosine, how it works, and why this amino acid is important for enhancing brain function.
What is L-Tyrosine?
Tyrosine is a non-essential amino acid that is naturally produced in the body from another amino acid called phenylalanine and is one of the 20 amino acids used to build and grow protein cells.
Tyrosine is essential in the formation of a group of neurotransmitters called catecholamines, which include dopamine, adrenaline (epinephrine), norepinephrine (norepinephrine), melanin, and thyroid hormones.
Dopamine is what is known as a neurotransmitter. Neurotransmitters are chemical transmitters that can excite and inhibit certain signals, such as anxiety, stress, and fear, to your brain and central nervous system. It is associated with reward mechanisms in the brain that include feeling pleasure, achieving increased alertness, and learning.
Tyrosine is a precursor to another catecholamine, adrenaline (also known as adrenaline) which is responsible for your body’s flight or fight response to fear and stress. It also releases norepinephrine (noradrenaline), which raises blood pressure and heart rate. It has a direct effect on alertness, wakefulness, decision-making, attention, and concentration.
Tyrosine is also used to make thyroid hormones and produce the skin pigment melanin.
The benefits of tyrosine
May help with stress and cognitive performance
Research indicates that tyrosine works as a supplement, helping to reduce the effects of stress and anxiety. Tyrosine passes through the blood-brain barrier, where it is absorbed and converted into dopamine through enzymatic reactions and then converted into norepinephrine. [R]. Dopamine and norepinephrine can become depleted under stressful situations, and research indicates that tyrosine may help restore and raise dopamine and norepinephrine levels.
The brain needs tyrosine to make dopamine, which is vital for cognitive processes such as memory and learning. Researchers believe that this co-dependence of functions may link tyrosine to better brain function.
A small randomized controlled study looked at the effects of tyrosine on cognitive flexibility and the ability to switch between tasks in situations of high cognitive demand in 22 women and found that tyrosine significantly improved working memory during a mentally demanding task, compared to a placebo. Cognitive flexibility is defined as the ability to switch between tasks, thoughts, or actions. Better cognitive flexibility can help with focus and productivity [R].
Another study conducted at the Naval Aerospace Medical Research Laboratory in Pensacola, Florida examined the effects of tyrosine on cognitive performance during extended wakefulness otherwise known as sleep deprivation. The subjects performed the tasks all night after 24 hours of sleep deprivation. The results found that a single dose of 150 mg of tyrosine helped those who lost their sleep at night stay alert for three hours longer than normal. [R].
Mental and cognitive function are critical to athletic performance. Maintaining focus, alertness and having more cognitive flexibility is crucial in organized sports as well as long endurance training.
CrossFit for example, consists of consistently varied, high-speed functional training movements, Olympic lifting and high volume training. Continuous motion between lifts and correct execution of the lift requires intense focus and cognitive flexibility.
Lifting heavy weight and combining high-volume aerobic movements will cause physical fatigue, and remembering to program the exercise, while experiencing severe fatigue, is very difficult and requires cognitive flexibility, optimal mental focus and processing [R].
Research indicates that increasing dopamine levels can improve the ability to exercise for extended periods. An interesting study looked at whether tyrosine supplementation increased the ability to exercise in the heat.
8 male participants underwent two separate time trials and consumed either 500 mg of placebo (dextrin) or the same drink with 150 mg of tyrosine per kg of body weight. Results show that acute tyrosine supplementation is associated with increased heat endurance in moderately trained subjects [R].
Numerous studies have shown that the effects of tyrosine on dopamine and norepinephrine can lead to greater mental and athletic performance. [R, R]. The main effects of L-tyrosine reported are acute effects in preventing the decline of cognitive function in response to physical stress. [R].
May improve memory
The brain relies on tyrosine to make catecholamines, which are responsible for memory and learning. Therefore, there is a direct link and link to tyrosine brain function.
However, studies have shown that the benefits of tyrosine with memory may affect young adults and have no effect on the elderly. According to a study published in E-NeuroAging affects dopamine function in the brain and is responsible for some of the cognitive changes that occur as people get older, such as mild memory loss.
However, a higher intake of tyrosine is associated with improvements in mental performance according to a study in psychological research [R]. Other research has indicated that tyrosine undoubtedly improves cognitive flexibility and mental processing.
L-tyrosine Benefits: Takeway
Tyrosine is a critical factor in the formation of catecholamines and the neurotransmitters dopamine, adrenaline, and norepinephrine. Studies have found that tyrosine helps improve memory and mental processing and acts as an adaptogen to reduce stress. Adding more protein to your diet or adding a supplement with tyrosine may help improve mental and physical performance.
Are you looking to supplement with L-Tyrosine?
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