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How to Give Your Energy a Boost

Attain Focused Alertness with L-Theanine

I’ll never forget the moment that I was invited to attend a danjiki (a 5 day fast) and study with the Buddhist monks at the base of Mt. Shigisan in Japan. Maybe the invitation was so memorable because it was extended to me while a group of us were enjoying a business dinner in an upscale Las Vegas hotel restaurant and anything but fasting and meditation was on my mind.

I would spend the first half of my trip visiting Taiyo – manufacturers of many things that serve the Natural Health Products industry, but of specific interest to me was their well-researched and highest quality amino acid L-Theanine.  There are many L-Theanine products on the market, but Taiyo’s Suntheanine is the only one backed by science for its safety and efficacy.

The fast wasn’t easy, but it was easier than I had imagined.  I felt more emptiness in my head than I did in my stomach.  All we were allowed was water and green tea.  We learned how to make matcha and practiced how to be mindful.

Monks – and the Japanese population at large - drink a lot of green tea.  Besides the powerful antioxidants that green tea so proudly features, it also contains a very potent concentration of L-Theanine.  This amazing amino acid with so many health virtues may just be one of the many secrets that monks employ to achieve their higher state of consciousness.  Which brings me to what exactly L-Theanine is for. What has always intrigued me is a monk’s ability to remain calm and hyper-focused during their meditation routine. Their brain waves are known to be in a dominant alpha wave state many hours of the day - we all need more of that!  Interestingly, the L-Theanine found in green tea can help improve attention by promoting a sense of calmness and focused relaxation by enhancing the release of dopamine and by increasing brain alpha waves - the brain waves associated with a focused relaxation.  Research also shows that L-Theanine can help reduce symptoms of ADHD hyperactivity and improve sleep in that same population.

If hyperactivity is having too much “energy”, perhaps let’s consider for a moment what energy – feeling good and having real energy - actually means.  Energy is the life force. We all want more of it. Without it, we aren’t emotionally balanced.

The reality is that we need more of it to keep up with the demands of everyday life. We strive to be focused and improve productivity, while performing better, faster, stronger, and working longer days. But how do we achieve more energy?  Before I give you my answer, we need to redefine energy.  A calm, focused and alert attention is the type of energy we all desire. Or at least this is what we should desire. To achieve emotional balance and highest quality of life, we want energy that makes us more efficient, but not frazzled and distracted.

For many in North America sugar, caffeine and energy drinks offer a quick fix, but these are stimulants, they don’t offer us true energy.  In fact, think about it for a moment. How did caffeine even become associated with the meaning of energy? Sure it gives you a jolt first thing in the morning and typically 20 mins after consumption, but it doesn’t ever achieve the long lasting effect we need.

Caffeine in moderation is ok, that’s about 2-3 coffees a day maximum (or roughly 2-300 mg caffeine). But beyond that, it could actually be dangerous.  I learned that monks very rarely, if ever, consume coffee. (The green tea they consume contains a moderate amount of caffeine but its effects are largely negated by theanine). High amounts of caffeine can cause symptoms such as heartburn and trouble falling asleep, anxiety, panic attacks and may in the long term, impair learning and memory. And this goes for energy drinks.  It has become clear to us that many of us are addicted to these. Why? Because, according to scientists, it turns out that caffeine has many of the same addictive properties as morphine, heroin, and even cocaine.

Here’s how this works. We all run on rechargeable batteries called the adrenal glands. They sit on top of your kidneys and are in charge of the basic alert response. If you feel stress, your adrenal glands activate by pumping out adrenaline. This makes you more alert, stronger, faster, and even more productive for the short term.  Your heart beats faster, you’re sweating. You are ready for "fight or flight".  

To balance you out, your body creates Noradrenaline.  Noradrenaline is the “Happy Hormone” messenger. It signals to us that everything is going to be alright. Monks have a lot of this hormone. They meditate it into their brain with the help of green tea!

After abusing caffeine, energy drinks or any form of stimulants for too long – you throw yourself out of balance. In effect, you become noradrenaline deficient. In fact, this is the one of most common reasons patients arrive at my clinic doorstep. They’re burnt out and looking for a better solution for real energy and emotional balance.

Theanine in green tea, or Suntheanine in capsule form is part of that solution.  Together with taking 10 mins out of your day to practice meditation or mindfulness will improve your focus, returning you to a more balanced and clearer you. You may be wondering if you can get enough Theanine from green tea alone. Monks drink between 8-10 cups a day. That’s hard to do.  But in supplement form, Suntheanine comes from a natural fermentation process that gives you that calming and focus-enhancing component in green tea in a capsule form. It’s kinda like having a Buddhist monk in a pill!

Multiple human clinical trials have shown Suntheanine to promote a calm, alert, focused state without drowsiness.  My bottom line? Keep caffeine intake at or less than a moderate 2-300mg daily, look for beverages and supplements that contain the Suntheanine form of L-Theanine, and find a few minutes for deep breathing and relaxation.

It’s time to break through the fatigue, dust off the mental clutter, and sharpen your mind!