Stressed Out? L-Tyrosine Can Help You Feel Better and Get More Done
By: Spencer Brooks
March 30, 2020
- Tyrosine (also called L-tyrosine) is a nootropic supplement that can boost your brain and balance your mood so you can manage stress and stay focused.
- Tyrosine supplies what your body needs to generate three important neurotransmitters: dopamine, norepinephrine, and adrenaline. Studies show tyrosine might also help with mood and help people enjoy life.
- Tyrosine is common in food, but to get its brain-boosting, stress-relieving benefits, you want purified tyrosine in supplement form. Read on to learn about the right dosage and best source of tyrosine.
L-tyrosine is an amino acid (the building block of a protein) with some pretty cool benefits for your brain, mood, stress recovery and more. Getting plenty of tyrosine, either through diet or from a supplement, can make a major difference in your brain function. Keep reading to learn how it works, how to take it and all the bonuses it offers.
Table of contents
Tyrosine is essential when you’re under stress or need to power through something requiring a lot of focused attention. If you run out, you might start to feel like you’ve hit a mental wall. That’s because tyrosine is a precursor to some of the most important neurotransmitters in your brain. Without tyrosine, your body can’t make:
- Dopamine, for mood and motivation
- Norepinephrine, for muscle recovery and blood flow
- Adrenaline, for focus and drive
When you’re under physical or mental stress, your neurotransmitter bank account can start to run low. But if you have plenty of tyrosine in your bloodstream, that extra stash will replenish the neurotransmitters before stress can deplete them, allowing you to stay sharp for longer without getting burned out.
And because tyrosine is a building block for so many major brain chemicals, it benefits you in a lot of different ways. Let’s take a look at the main benefits of tyrosine, and how you can make sure your brain gets plenty of it.
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Relieves stress and helps you focus
Stress depletes your brain’s norepinephrine stores, and when norepinephrine runs low, your memory, focus, and general cognition all suffer.
If you’re dealing with a lot of stress, tyrosine can help. Tyrosine keeps your brain performing at its best during stress and improves your focus with tasks that demand mental endurance. In this way, tyrosine is a nootropic — it helps your brain tackle challenges, without getting burned out.
Related: If you’re feeling overwhelmed, check out these self-care tips to bounce back when life has you down.
Tyrosine turns into dopamine, a central neurotransmitter that controls pleasure and motivation. Dopamine also influences serotonin, and together, the two are thought to play a central role in regulating your mood.
If you’re feeling blue, tyrosine may be able to help. Depressed women who took tyrosine saw an improvement in mood. When they switched to placebo, the improvement disappeared, and when they went back to tyrosine, the improvement returned, suggesting that tyrosine plays a role in improving symptoms of depression.
Other studies in humans and rodents support tyrosine’s mood-lifting benefits. A 2016 rodent study found that tyrosine is involved in the body’s stress response and restores normal levels of noradrenaline (norepinephrine) in the brain. A study of people dealing with chronic stressors found that tyrosine improved stress-induced depression symptoms.
It’s worth noting, however, that there have also been studies on tyrosine for depression that found no benefit. Depression is complicated and depends on a lot of different factors. It could be that tyrosine helps with some types and not with others. Whether or not it works for you may depend on your personal biology.
That said, there aren’t any notable risks or side effects to taking tyrosine. So if you want to lift your mood, tyrosine is worth a try.
Should you take tyrosine for your thyroid?
Tyrosine is also a precursor to levothyroxine, a thyroid hormone that’s low in people with hypothyroidism or Hashimoto’s thyroiditis. It seems reasonable to think that tyrosine would be great for you if you have an underactive thyroid, but that might not be true.
In mice, tyrosine replenished thyroid hormones that were low due to stress. But in humans, there’s no evidence that tyrosine improves thyroid function. In fact, some hormone doctors report that patients who take tyrosine see a further decrease in thyroid function. In theory, that could happen because tyrosine boosts norepinephrine, which regulates thyroid hormones and is already often too high in people with hypothyroidism.
If you have concerns, talk to your doctor before taking tyrosine.
You can get tyrosine from foods like chicken, turkey, fish and cheese, but if you want the cognitive benefits of tyrosine, you’re better off taking a supplement.
Purified tyrosine gets pushed directly to neurotransmitter synthesis, while tyrosine in food ends up going to your muscles, along with all the rest of the amino acids you eat.
Fortunately, tyrosine supplements are inexpensive and very effective.
Tyrosine side effects
Tyrosine supplements are quite safe. There are no major reported side effects of tyrosine, even when people took it three times a day at higher doses.
- Does tyrosine give you energy? Yes, but it comes in the form of endurance. It might not make you feel like jumping up and going for a long run, but if you’re doing a 5k, it could help you push yourself to beat your personal best. A study of eight cyclists riding in the heat found that tyrosine gave the participants a boost of endurance that helped them go further before they bonked.
- Does tyrosine make you sleepy? It may help with fatigue. One study found that when comparing levels of tyrosine in patients, those with lower levels overall felt more fatigue than those with elevated tyrosine. Those with increased tyrosine levels also felt they had a higher quality of life. That said, some people say tyrosine can make them sleepy. Keep reading to learn about how much tyrosine to take and how to experiment with your dosage.
Tyrosine dosage and sourcing
- What type of tyrosine should I buy? You can get tyrosine on its own, or in special blends designed to amplify its brain-boosting effects. Bulletproof Smart Mode contains a patent-pending blend of ingredients, including tyrosine, rosemary and artichoke leaf extract.
- How much should I take? Take one serving of Smart Mode in the morning or whenever you need a mental boost.
- When should I take tyrosine? Some sources suggest taking it first thing in the morning with a breakfast of complex carbohydrates and protein. But you can take tyrosine anytime you need it, especially if you’re stressed.
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This is an updated version of an article originally published October 2018.