Often used in nootropics, energy drinks, and supplements, studies have shown that the nonessential amino acid l-tyrosine is a precursor for the vital neurotransmitter’s dopamine, epinephrine, and norepinephrine. Researchers believe that tyrosine may aid in cognitive performance, productivity, memory, learning, and beneficial under times of severe stress or cognitive challenge. We’re going to talk more about the benefits of tyrosine, how it works, and why this amino acid is critical to boost brain function.
Tyrosine is a nonessential 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 fundamental in the creation of a group of neurotransmitters called catecholamines, which include dopamine, adrenaline (epinephrine) noradrenaline (norepinephrine), melanin, and thyroid hormones.
Dopamine is what’s known as a neurotransmitter. Neurotransmitters are chemical messengers, that can both excite and inhibit certain signals, such as anxiety, stress, and fear to your brain and the central nervous system. It is associated with reward mechanisms in the brain which includes feeling pleasure, achieving heightened arousal, and learning.
Tyrosine is a precursor to another catecholamine, epinephrine (also known as adrenaline) which is responsible for your body’s flight or fight response to fear and stress. It also creates norepinephrine (noradrenaline) which increases blood pressure and heart rate. It has a direct effect on your alertness, arousal, decision-making, attention, and focus.
Tyrosine is also used to make thyroid hormones and produces melanin your skin’s pigment.
Research suggests that tyrosine acts as an adaptogen, helping to minimize the effects of stress and anxiety. Tyrosine passes through the blood-brain barrier, where it is absorbed and converted to dopamine through enzymatic reactions and is then converted to norepinephrine [R]. Dopamine and norepinephrine can become depleted under stressful situations, and research suggests that tyrosine may help restore and elevate dopamine and norepinephrine levels.
The brain needs tyrosine to make dopamine, which is vital to cognitive processes like memory and learning. Researchers believe that this co-dependence of functionality may link tyrosine to better brain function.
A small randomized controlled study investigated the effects of tyrosine on cognitive flexibility and the ability to switch between tasks in situations with high cognitive demand in 22 women and found that tyrosine significantly improved working memory during a mentally demanding task, compared to placebo. Cognitive flexibility is defined as the ability to switch between tasks, thoughts, or procedures. Better cognitive flexibility can help with concentration and productivity [R].
Another study conducted at the Naval Aerospace Medical Research Laboratory in Pensacola, FL examined the effects of tyrosine on cognitive performance during extended wakefulness otherwise known as sleep deprivation. Subjects performed tasks throughout the night after 24 hours of sleep deprivation. Results found that a single dose of 150mg of tyrosine helped those who lost a night’s sleep stay alert for three hours longer than usual [R].
Mental and cognitive function are critical in sports performance. Staying focused, alert, and having more cognitive flexibility is paramount in organized sports as well as long-endurance training.
CrossFit for example, is comprised of constantly varied high velocity functional training movements, Olympic lifting and high-volume workouts. Continuous movement between lifts and executing with correct lifting form, requires extreme focus and cognitive flexibility.
Lifting heavy weight and combining high volume aerobic movements, will cause physically, fatigue, remembering workout programming, while you are experiencing extreme fatigue, is considerably difficult and requires cognitive flexibility and optimal mental focus and processing [R].
Research suggests that increased dopamine levels can improve prolonged exercise capacity. An interesting study investigated if tyrosine supplementation increases exercise capacity in the heat.
8 male participants underwent two separate time trials and consumed either 500mg of placebo (dextrin) or the same drink with 150mg of tyrosine per kg of bodyweight. The results show that acute tyrosine supplementation is associated with increased endurance capacity in the heat in moderately trained subjects [R].
Several studies have shown that the effects of tyrosine on dopamine and norepinephrine can induce greater mental and athletic performance [R, R]. The main effects of L-tyrosine that have been reported are acute effects in preventing a decline in cognitive function in response to physical stress [R].
The brain is dependent upon tyrosine to make catecholamines, which are responsible for memory and learning. Therefore, there is a direct correlation and association with tyrosine brain function.
However, studies have shown that tyrosine benefits with memory may affect younger adults and have no effect on older adults. according to a study published in e-Neuro, aging 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.
Yet, higher tyrosine intake is associated with improvements in mental performance according to a study in Psychological Research [R]. Other research has indicated that tyrosine indubitably improves cognitive flexibility and mental processing.
Tyrosine is a critical factor in the creation of catecholamines and the neurotransmitters dopamine, adrenaline, and noradrenaline. 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 a supplement with tyrosine may aid in better mental and physical performance.
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