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L-Tyrosine: Everything you need to know

Sorting through health and fitness supplements can be complicated. People now talk about these things as if they were scientists. In turning to something like L-Tyrosine, it can feel like people are talking the language of chemists more than that of people who exercise. 

L-Tyrosine is a popular dietary supplement that is thought to help with everything from building muscle to simple weight loss. L-Tyrosine is an amino acid, and to that end, it is likely to help with anything that requires the building blocks of muscles. 

As an amino acid, one would assume L-Tyrosine would play a substantial role in building muscle. But the facts are that L-Tyrosine does much more. L-Tyrosine plays some important roles in the body and metabolism. From boosting endurance to better brain function, L-tyrosine has many important health benefits. 

As we explore the facts of L-Tyrosine and the benefits of L-Tyrosine, we will also look into just how effective it can be. This guide is designed to give you the best information on L-Tyrosine so you can make the right decisions for including it as part of your regimen of health and fitness supplements. 

What is L-Tyrosine?

L-Tyrosine is one of 20 amino acids. L-Tyrosine is what is called a non-essential amino acid, which means that it can be synthesized by the body, and we do not necessarily need to get L-Tyrosine from dietary sources. 

Chemically, L-Tyrosine is called 4-hydroxyphenylalanine. As a non-essential amino acid, L-Tyrosine contains a specific side group that gives it a unique molecular structure. The prefix tyros are from Greek which means cheese. The person who first isolated L-Tyrosine found it in casein which is a cheese by-product. 

The primary functions of L-Tyrosine in the body are to help produce catecholamines like dopamine and adrenaline. L-Tyrosine is also important to the proper function of the thyroid. The connection to the function of the thyroid leads to one of the important uses of L-Tyrosine as a supplement for weight loss and weight control. 

What is L-Tyrosine used for?

In the body, L-Tyrosine is crucial for making some important substances. These include:

Dopamine

This is a chemical that regulates the pleasure centers of the brain and nervous system. It is also important for memory and motor skills. 

Adrenaline and noradrenaline

These hormones trigger the fight or flight response in the body. They make you ready for a perceived attack or threat. 

Thyroid hormones

The thyroid regulates your entire metabolism. 

Melanin

This is the chemical that gives pigment to the skin. Dark-skinned people have more melanin than light-skinned people. 

Given these biological functions of L-Tyrosine, we have found that it also works as an exercise and fitness supplement since making use of some of these functions can accentuate the goals of exercise and weight loss. 

For instance, by increasing levels of dopamine, adrenaline, and norepinephrine, you can increase performance in athletic endeavors. 

The effects of L-Tyrosine supplements in neurotransmitters can also potentially increase memory and mental performance. 

The benefits of L-Tyrosine include:

Improved brain function

There is current research that shows that L-tyrosine can help improve brain function. For example, one study that tracked the effects of L-tyrosine supplements on healthy college students found that those who had taken the supplement demonstrated marked improvements in memory and focus over test subjects who had been given a placebo. 

The results of these studies are being tested to see the effects of L-tyrosine on people who are living with cognitive degeneration as a result of things like Alzheimer's disease. 

Exercise performance

L-tyrosine has been shown to provide increased energy and endurance. This is great for all athletes and for anyone who works out regularly. These results are especially encouraging for endurance athletes like runners. 

One study showed that people who took L-tyrosine supplements in the form of a drink as part of the regular training and exercise programs had increased endurance. These test subjects were able to continue to perform at top levels even in extreme conditions like heat. 

Helps you deal with stressful situations

Researchers have discovered the L-tyrosine helps improve what is called cognitive flexibility. This is the brain’s capacity to switch between thoughts and tasks with efficiency. The reason some situations become stressful is that you are forced to quickly switch between one thought or task. This leads to an overload. 

In studies in which people took L-tyrosine supplements and were put through test situations that demanded cognitive flexibility, people were able to maintain working memory and concentration better than those who did not take L-tyrosine. 

Another study that focused on women found that those who took the L-tyrosine supplements demonstrated increased working memory when confronted with difficult and complicated tasks over others who took a placebo. 

These studies led researchers to explore the potential for L-tyrosine for those who suffer from mental decline. This research demonstrated that L-tyrosine significantly reversed declines in short-term memory, especially in stressful or demanding situations. 

Other potential uses:

Much of the research on L-tyrosine is in the early stages. But because L-tyrosine has been found to provide benefits for the body and the brain, researchers have begun to explore other areas and conditions that may be treated with L-tyrosine supplements. The conditions in which L-tyrosine shows promise include:

Alcohol use disorder

The early research shows that L-tyrosine may help treat alcohol use disorder when taken with other vitamins and nutrients. There is already evidence that L-tyrosine may help alleviate some of the symptoms of withdrawal from alcohol.   

Cocaine use disorder

The preliminary research has shown that L-tyrosine taken in the morning and tryptophan taken at night can help fight the withdrawal and cravings that come from cocaine use disorder. 

Alzheimer’s disease and other diseases that cause dementia

Studies indicate that a combination of L-tyrosine, 5-hydroxytryptophan, and carbidopa work to combat dementia that results from Alzheimer's disease. 

High blood pressure

Some early indicators show a link between L-tyrosine and reduced blood pressure. 

Excessive daytime sleepiness or narcolepsy

Research has shown that L-tyrosine can fight narcolepsy. Many people who were given an L-tyrosine supplement showed reduced symptoms. 

Schizophrenia

The research shows that people who suffer from schizophrenia respond positively and show fewer symptoms after taking a combination of L-tyrosine and a common drug called molindone. These results were much better than what doctors observed in people who took molindone alone. 

Skin wrinkles and damage from the sun

Studies show that a topical preparation that contains L-tyrosine, vitamin C, and several other compounds significantly reduces skin wrinkles and sun-damaged skin.  

The results of these studies lead researchers to explore the potential benefits of L-tyrosine for other serious conditions. These include:

  • Chronic fatigue syndrome (CFS).
  • Erectile dysfunction (ED).
  • Heart disease.
  • Obesity.
  • Parkinson disease.
  • Premenstrual syndrome (PMS).
  • Stress.
  • Withdrawal from heroin, morphine, and other opioid drugs.

Sources of L-Tyrosine

It is fairly easy to get plenty of L-tyrosine from dietary sources. The basic recommended levels of L-tyrosine can be obtained from the following sources:

  • Red meat
  • Pork chops
  • Fish (particularly fish such as salmon and tuna)
  • Chicken
  • Tofu
  • Milk
  • White beans
  • Seeds like pumpkin and squash seeds
  • Wild rice
  • Eggs

There are also effective L-tyrosine supplements available. These come in both pills and capsules. The Pre-workout supplement from NF Sports is an ideal supplement that contains ample quantities of L-tyrosine. 

How long does L-Tyrosine take to work?

L-tyrosine from natural dietary sources enters your metabolism in the same way that all nutrients do. To get the benefits from dietary sources you need to simply allow the work of the digestive system and metabolic processes to do their thing. 

L-tyrosine from supplements goes directly into your metabolism. As a pre-workout supplement, you will begin to see benefits within minutes of taking the supplement. In the form of a nutrition drink or supplement, L-tyrosine is almost immediately available to your muscles and your mind.  

How much l-tyrosine to take?

The form of L-tyrosine used in supplements is an amino acid called N-acetyl L-tyrosine (NALT). This form is water-soluble and readily available to the metabolism, but it has a low rate of absorption. This means you need to take higher doses to get real benefits. 

Tyrosine supplements are usually taken at doses as high as 500-2000 mg. The best result comes when these are taken 3-60 minutes before working out. 

If you are taking L-tyrosine to improve mental performance or to enhance cognitive flexibility you can take slightly different doses. Mental acuity can be gained with 45-68 mg per pound of body weight. If you weigh 150 pounds, and L-tyrosine supplement of 7- 10 grams per day is plenty. 

A general breakdown of dosage for specific purposes is below:

  • Alertness: 150 mg per kilogram of body weight (mg/kg) split into two doses following the loss of sleep.
  • Memory: 150 mg/kg to 300 mg/kg taken before a memory task
  • Mental Performance: 100 mg/kg to 300 mg/kg taken before a stressful mental task.

L-Tyrosine side effects

L-tyrosine is recognized as safe by the FDA. When taken in proper doses there are few ill-effects from L-tyrosine supplements. Some people have experienced headaches, nausea, fatigue, and heartburn while taking L-tyrosine supplements. 

However, L-tyrosine can interact with some medications in ways that are potentially dangerous. 

Monoamine oxidase inhibitors (MAOIs)

MAOIs are medications frequently prescribed to help control depression. As an amino acid, L-tyrosine is involved in the regulation of blood pressure. MAOIs have been shown to interfere with enzymes that help break down excess L-tyrosine. This can lead to a dangerous interaction between excess tyrosine and MAOIs which can lead to spikes in blood pressure. 

Thyroid hormone

Two important thyroid hormones, triiodothyronine (T3) and thyroxine (T4) are necessary to regulate growth and metabolism. L-tyrosine supplements can increase levels of T3 and T4. If you are taking thyroid medications, L-tyrosine supplement may lead to dangerous interactions because of increased levels of T3 and T4. 

Levodopa (L-dopa)

Levodopa, or L-dopa, is a common medication used to treat Parkinson’s disease. L-tyrosine competes with L-dopa for absorption in the small intestine. As are a result, taking an L-tyrosine supplement may inhibit the effectiveness of L-dopa to address Parkinson’s disease. 

You can still take L-tyrosine supplements if you also take L-dopa. However, you should space the timing between the two chemicals by several hours.  

Conclusion

It is easy to get lost in the science of nutrition and workout supplements. So many of these things appear to be so complex that you need a physician to sort through them. L-tyrosine is one such supplement. 

However, things get simpler and more accessible when we understand that L-tyrosine is simply an amino acid and another basic nutrient. L-tyrosine is one of 20 amino acids that our bodies make ourselves. 

We also get plenty of L-tyrosine in many of the foods most of us eat. Meat, chicken, and white beans contain solid amounts of L-tyrosine. The truth behind L-tyrosine is that most of us get it in our diets regularly.

But L-tyrosine is also a powerful workout and nutrition supplement. In its purified form and taken in pill or capsule forms, L-tyrosine provides extra energy and endurance for intense workouts. 

What is more, L-tyrosine boosts your brainpower. There is solid scientific evidence to show that L-tyrosine enhances memory and makes it easier to think fast. These are boosts most of us can use. 

Some benefits can help people who live with serious illnesses. Because of its ability to boost brain function, L-tyrosine may be useful in treating things like neurodegenerative disorders.

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