Commonly used in nootropics, energy drinks, and supplements, studies have shown that the non-essential amino acid L-tyrosine is a precursor to the important neurotransmitters dopamine, epinephrine, and norepinephrine. Researchers believe that tyrosine may help improve cognition, productivity, memory, learning, and be beneficial during periods of severe stress or cognitive challenges. We’ll talk more about the benefits of tyrosine, how it works, and why this amino acid is essential for boosting brain function.
Tyrosine is a non-essential amino acid that is naturally produced in the body from another amino acid called phenylalanine and is one of 20 amino acids used to build and grow protein cells.
Tyrosine is the basis for the production of a group of neurotransmitters called catecholamines, which include dopamine, epinephrine (epinephrine) norepinephrine (norepinephrine), melanin, and thyroid hormones.
Dopamine is what is known as a neurotransmitter. Neurotransmitters are chemical messengers that activate and inhibit certain signals, such as anxiety, stress and fear, to the brain and central nervous system. It is associated with reward mechanisms in the brain, including feeling pleasure, achieving high arousal, and learning.
Tyrosine is a precursor to another catecholamine, adrenaline (also known as epinephrine), which is responsible for your body’s flight-or-fight response to fear and stress. It also produces norepinephrine (norepinephrine), which increases blood pressure and heart rate. It directly affects your alertness, arousal, decision-making, focus and concentration.
Tyrosine is also used to make thyroid hormones and to create melanin, the pigment in your skin.
Research shows that tyrosine acts as an adaptogen, helping to minimize the effects of stress and anxiety. Tyrosine crosses the blood-brain barrier, where it is absorbed and enzymatically converted to dopamine and then to norepinephrine (R). Dopamine and norepinephrine are depleted in stressful situations, and research suggests that tyrosine may help restore and boost dopamine and norepinephrine levels.
The brain needs tyrosine to make dopamine, which is essential for cognitive processes like memory and learning. The researchers believe that this functional interdependence may link tyrosine to better brain function.
A small randomized controlled study investigating the effects of tyrosine on cognitive flexibility and the ability to switch between tasks in situations of high cognitive demand in 22 women found that tyrosine was significantly more effective than placebo Improved working memory during mentally demanding tasks. Cognitive flexibility is defined as the ability to switch between tasks, ideas, or procedures. 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 prolonged periods of wakefulness (also known as sleep deprivation). Subjects performed the task overnight after 24 hours of sleep deprivation. It was found that a single dose of 150 mg of tyrosine helped those suffering from insomnia stay awake three hours longer than usual (R).
Mental and cognitive function is critical to athletic performance. Staying focused, alert and having greater cognitive flexibility is paramount during structured exercise and long-term endurance training.
CrossFit, for example, consists of ever-changing high-speed functional training moves, Olympic lifts, and high-intensity workouts. Moving continuously between lifts and executing them with correct lift form requires extreme focus and cognitive flexibility.
Lifting heavy weights combined with a lot of cardio can lead to physical fatigue, remembering a workout plan, when you’re feeling extremely fatigued is quite difficult and requires cognitive flexibility and optimal mental focus and processing (R).
Studies have shown that increasing dopamine levels can improve long-term exercise performance. An interesting study investigated whether tyrosine supplementation increases exercise capacity in heat.
Eight male participants underwent two independent time trials drinking either 500 mg of placebo (dextrin) per kg of body weight or the same drink containing 150 mg of tyrosine. The results showed that acute tyrosine supplementation was associated with increased heat tolerance in moderately trained subjects (R).
Several studies have shown that the effects of tyrosine on dopamine and norepinephrine can induce better mental and motor performance (R, R). The main reported effect of L-tyrosine is to prevent the acute effects of cognitive decline due to physical stress (R).
The brain relies on tyrosine to make catecholamines, which are responsible for memory and learning. Therefore, there is a direct correlation and association with tyrosine brain function.
However, research suggests that the memory benefits of tyrosine may affect young people but not older people.According to published in electronic nerveaging affects dopamine function in the brain and contributes to some of the cognitive changes that occur in people as they age, such as mild memory loss.
However, according to one study, higher tyrosine intake was linked to improved mental performance psychological research (R). Other studies have shown that tyrosine undoubtedly improves cognitive flexibility and mental processing.
Tyrosine is a key factor in the production of catecholamines and the neurotransmitters dopamine, epinephrine and norepinephrine. Studies have found that tyrosine helps improve memory, mental processing, and acts as an adaptogen to reduce stress. Adding more protein to your diet and/or adding tyrosine supplements may help improve physical and mental performance.
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