Natural Stacks’ Smart Caffeine is a synergistic combination of anhydrous caffeine and L-theanine. Anhydrous caffeine is the stimulant substance found in coffee, tea, and energy drinks, in the form of a dry, ultra-pure powder extracted from natural sources. It is more easily and quickly absorbed than caffeine from beverages, and unlike the caffeine in drinks, which varies depending on the brand, and the method of brewing, it is standardised. Each capsule of Smart Caffeine contains a standard amount of 100 mg of caffeine, allowing you to track your intake easily.
The one nootropic substance that most people use to increase their wakefulness, energy and focus is coffee. It is true that caffeine has a significant effect on the brain. It has a stimulant effect on the central nervous system. Caffeine decreases feelings of fatigue and increases alertness and wakefulness. There is also evidence that it enhances cognitive function, working memory and concentration.
However, caffeine on its own is far from the perfect ‘smart drug’, since it has some unpleasant side effects. These can include anxiety, jitters, insomnia, and headaches. Natural Stacks’ Smart Caffeine combines purified anhydrous caffeine with L-theanine, a unique amino acid found almost exclusively in green tea. The combination produces only the positive stimulant effects of caffeine, without the overstimulation and anxiety. L-theanine possesses calming, anti-anxiety activity, which counteract the negative actions of caffeine, allowing only the positive actions to come through.
L-theanine is a naturally occurring amino acid, isolated from green tea. It is similar in chemical structure to glutamate and is able to cross the blood-brain barrier. Theanine is able to reduce stress and anxiety, enhance cognitive function, and boosts mood. It works particularly well in synergy with caffeine.
There is a hypothesis that this might be what attracts people to drinking green tea, which of course also has caffeine. That, unlike coffee drinkers, they don’t experience the negative overstimulation, jitters and headaches. Instead they end up with a calm alertness. However, the amount of caffeine and L-theanine present in green tea is not really sufficient to produce a very noticeable improvement in alertness or cognition. It is a pleasant feeling if you are relaxing and don’t have anything to do, but not enough if you are required to do an important piece of work and need to be at your best mentally to achieve optimum results.
One of the exciting properties of L-theanine is its ability to induce alpha brain waves as verified by EEG studies carried out at unilever. Alpha waves are associated with relaxed alert states. On the other hand, the stimulating qualities of caffeine result mostly in beta waves. Beta waves are associated with overexcitement or stress and anxiety. It is difficult to produce one’s best creative or analytical work when the brain is exhibiting beta wave activity. Alpha waves occur at times when you can effortlessly focus on something and think clearly about productive problem solving. Working when in the alpha zone is far more productive than at other times, the mood of calm wakefulness and focus allows you to easily ignore distractions and focus on your work.
There is a growing body of scientific evidence that the combination of L-theanine and coffee can produce a focused, wakeful state and enhanced cognition. In one test carried out by Unilever and published in the journal of nutritional neuroscience, 44 young adults were given either 100mg of L-theanine and 40 mg of caffeine, or a placebo. They were then asked to subjectively assess their mood, and were also given a task-switching test. The test is commonly used in psychology to determine the ability of subjects to switch between different tasks, and tests executive function and cognitive flexibility. The volunteers who were given the caffeine-theanine combination reported better alert states, and performed better on the task-switching test than volunteers who were given a placebo. The authors concluded that the combination helped focus attention during demanding cognitive tasks.
Another study published in the journal of Nutrition compared the effects of taking 50mg of caffeine, 100 mg of L-theanine, separately and in combination, with a placebo control on performance during a demanding visual-spatial task. The researchers discovered that caffeine, or L-theanine produced no effects on the hit rate when ingested alone, but in combination they produced a significant improvement. In terms of the discriminatory index, although caffeine alone produced an enhancement, a bigger improvement was seen when caffeine was combined with L-theanine. In a different randomised, placebo-controlled, double –blind, balanced crossover study, conducted by researchers from Northumbria University, the synergistic effects of 250mg of L-theanine and 150mg of caffeine were tested on an array of cognitive tasks. The combination of substances led to an improvement in rapid visual information processing (RVIP) accuracy, faster working memory with numbers, faster simple reaction time, and improved sentence verification accuracy.
Reports of ‘mental fatigue’ decreased with both caffeine and the combination of caffeine and L-theanine, but the combination of substances also reduced ratings of headache and tired while increasing ratings of ‘alert’. The authors conclude that L-theanine and caffeine consumed together ‘have a different pharmacological profile than those containing caffeine alone’.
The above studies all support the hypothesis that the combination of L-theanine and caffeine works synergistically to enhance cognitive function and to produce an alert and awake state, without the negative side effects of anxiety, jitters, or headaches. This is now thought to be the combination that gives tea its mood enhancing effects. However, the concentration of caffeine and L-theanine in tea is too low to benefit from their synergistic actions fully. Since both substances have a very high toxicity threshold, Natural Stacks’ Smart Caffeine gives you 200mg of L-theanine and 100 mg of caffeine in each capsule. The recommended serving of 1-2 capsules when needed is well below the harmful levels of the two psychoactive substances, but is several times that found in a cup of tea, and sufficient for the two substances to produce maximum effect.
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