Too Much Caffeine in Your Diet? Try Some L-Theanine

It’s time for the 3rd ingredient in the “Stress Less for Poker Success” formula. After this one, only two more ingredients to go before you have the perfect formula for a stress free life. Ah, you can almost feel the relief already.

Before I dive into the third ingredient, I just want to give you a quick recap on the first two ingredients.

Personally, I use Rhodiola rosea only during times of intense stress. I’ll typically begin using it two to three days before the expected stress and continue using it 3-5 days after it has ended. It probably has one of the largest amounts of clinical evidence supporting its benefits in terms of nutraceuticals. In my opinion, it’s an excellent, well-studied nutraceutical.

Bacopa is considered my long-term stress supplement. I use it 365 days a year. It helps to neutralize the stress of everyday life. On top of that, it also has some cognitive-enhancing abilities. What it lacks in clinical evidence, it makes up for in real-world feedback. You can’t argue with a supplement that’s been used for hundreds of years in Ayurvedic medicine.


I think it’s blindly apparent that we live in an energy-addicted world today. It seems that we can’t get enough energy. We have Red Bull which quickly became a billion dollar drink. Then there was 5 Hour Energy, for those that thirsted for energy yet wanted to avoid caffeine. Now there’s umpteen different energy drinks along with hundreds of different energy pills. We’re definitely a society that’s overdosed on energy. C’mon people, relax a little.

That’s exactly what the dietary supplement industry is predicting for the next couple of years: a complete reversal. Now longer will we search for energy, but we’ll NEED relaxation. Thus, they predict that supplements that affect GABA, a relaxing neurotransmitter, will be the next big craze. What caffeine is to energy, GABA is to relaxation. Ativan, Xanax, Restoril, etc all work via GABA receptors in the body. Heaven knows, those prescription drugs are already a hot item.

This is why you’ll probably hear a lot more about L-theanine in the next couple of years. In fact, don’t be surprised if a major energy drink begins adding l-theanine to its mix. Get used to seeing “enriched with l-theanine for a relaxed energy.”


L-theanine is an amino acid most commonly found in tea. In fact, the relaxing effect of tea is primarily a result of l-theanine.

Mechanism of action

It works through a variety of mechanisms. However, the 4 that are most important to us are:

Its ability to increase the levels of serotonin, dopamine, and GABA activity. These three neurotransmitters are extremely important for relaxation, mood, and energy.

Its ability to increase alpha brain wave activity. Alpha brain waves are thought to correlate with a relaxed, yet alert state in humans.

Its ability to counteract some of the negative stimulant effects of caffeine. In fact a couple studies have shown that a combo of l-theanine and caffeine is superior to caffeine alone with regards to mental performance.

Its ability to block the harmful effects of excitatory neurotransmitters that can destroy brain cells.


The typical dosage is 200mg taken anywhere from 1-3 times daily. I’ve found this to be almost exactly what I need. I may need a little larger dosage if I’ve taken a lot of stimulants during the day. However, always titrate to a dosage that works for you. It’s extremely safe so you won’t have to worry about overdosing.

Why I like it

It’s extremely safe and well-tolerated. That’s always of the utmost importance.

Just like Rhodiola rosea, I don’t use this every day. Typically, I’ll only use it during times of intense stress or when I’ve consumed a large amount of stimulants. I’ve found it to be one of the few supplements to counteract the negative effects of stimulants. It works.

In addition, even though there have only been one or two studies to show this, it supposedly has some cognitive-enhancing abilities. As we all can agree, this is a benefit we’re looking for.

Why for poker players

Compared to every nutraceutical I’ve talked about thus far, l-theanine probably will be most beneficial to poker players. Why? I’ve noticed poker players are energy junkies. Caffeine, Red Bull, Ritalin, etc are commonly used, especially by the on-line players. Energy. Energy. Energy. Take a capsule of l-theanine, and not only do you block the negative effects associated with stimulants, but you also improve their cognitive-enhancing abilities. That’s called synergy.

Poker players have to remember that being over-stimulated is just as bad as being mentally fatigued. Both can cause mental mistakes. Playing energized and overzealous is inferior to playing relaxed and focused. Relaxation is the missing ingredient for the endless amounts of energy products available today. Please remember, the energy drinks and products on the market today are designed for physical energy (working out or waking up after a long night) not for mental energy. It’s like trying to fit a square peg in a round hole.

In addition, the typical energy supplement further increases your stress response. The goal behind these products is to get you in that flight-or-fight mode, aka stress. Thus, you’re putting an additional amount of stress on your mind. Not good. Remember, stress kills brain cells.

Relax a little man. It may just be the answer you were looking for. Balancing relaxation with stimulation is the key to success at anything that requires mental performance.

As always, I’ll post the studies in the next couple of days.