Smart caffeine is a combination of ultra pure anhydrous caffeine purified from natural sources, and L-theanine from green tea. There is solid scientific evidence that shows that the combination of caffeine and L-theanine is much superior to caffeine alone in resulting in a calm alert state, characterized by increased alpha wave activity in the brain. The synergistic action of caffeine and L-theanine is what is thought to make tea such a popular drink. However the concentrations of either substance is really to low in tea to gain full advantage of their cognitive function enhancing properties. Each capsule of Natural Stacks’ Smart Coffee contains 100 mg of caffeine anhydrous and 200 mg of L-theanine and is optimized to give you all the benefits of enhanced cognitive function, increased focus, improved short-term memory, without the overstimulation of caffeine alone.

The Stimulant Action of Caffeine

Caffeine is an alkaloid present in several different types of plant that acts as a central nervous system stimulant. It is present in both coffee and tea, and is the most popular stimulant on the planet. Many people depend on coffee to help them feel more awake and help them get through the day. Although it does decrease feelings of tiredness and helps achieve mental focus, as a nootropic substance caffeine alone, especially in the form of coffee, leaves much to be desired.

Caffeine is the substance responsible for coffee’s effects on the body. These include decreased fatigue and increased wakefulness, improved concentration, and better cognitive abilities. Caffeine is both water and fat-soluble and it can easily cross the blood-brain barrier and affect the central nervous system.

Caffeine appears to achieve most of its effects through its actions as a competitive inhibitor of adenosine. Its chemical structure is similar to that of adenosine, and it is able to bind adenosine receptors, but not able to activate them. When caffeine is bound to the receptors it prevents adenosine from binding, so the receptors are inactive even in the presence of adenosine.

Adenosine is a nucleoside, and plays an essential part as part of adenosine triphosphate (ATP) in the management of energy by all cells. But it also has an important role as a neurotransmitter in the brain. It acts as an inhibitory neurotransmitter, promoting sleep and suppressing arousal.  In a review a team from Harvard University outlined how adenosine might be a significant controller of the sleep-wake cycle. Its concentrations increase after prolonged wakefulness, and it inhibits wake-promoting neurons via one set of receptors (A1) while stimulating sleep-promoting neurons via another set of receptors (A2). There is also some evidence that adenosine mediates the mechanism of hibernation in some mammals. You can see how blocking the adenosine receptors in the brain, as caffeine does, would result in increased wakefulness.  

Because of the complex network of different neurotransmitters in the brain, caffeine ends up affecting other major neurotransmitters including dopamine, acetylcholine, serotonin and GABA. For example adenosine’s A2A receptors are present in large numbers in the basal ganglia, which controls behavior. Scientists have discovered that those receptors interact with the dopamine system, a major player in the reward and arousal circuits in the brain. At high doses caffeine interferes with the activity of GABA neurons. This effect is thought to be the root cause of the increased anxiety, increased heartbeat and insomnia heavy drinkers of coffee can experience.

Adenosine also seems to act as a general cellular protector in the brain, and in the body in general, in times of stress, such as a lack of oxygen, or ischaemia. Adenosine acts to suppress metabolic processes, which would damage the cells.

Not all the effects of caffeine can be ascribed to its ability to bind adenosine receptors and block their action. It can also act as a phosphodiesterase inhibitor. Phosphodiesterases (PDEs), of course, are the enzymes that inactivate the second messengers cAMP (cyclic AMP), and cGMP. Since cAMP plays a crucial role in the brain, not least in setting up long-term potentiation (LTP), the basis of learning and memory, PDE inhibitors are of a big interest as therapeutic agents, and nootropics.

Caffeine also increases athletic performance. One of the explanations for the metabolic actions of the stimulant is the possibility that caffeine increases the oxidation of fatty acids as an energy source, rather than that of glycogen. Possibly this might happen as a result of caffeine’s effect on increasing the circulating levels of the hormone epinephrine, which causes the release of free fatty acids from lipids or triglycerides. The mobilized fatty acids can then be used for energy by beta-oxidation in the mitochondria, saving the muscle glycogen levels, and improving endurance.

Its actions as an adenosine and phosphodiesterase inhibitor explain the positive effects of caffeine in terms of combatting feelings of fatigue, increasing wakefulness and energy and enhancing cognitive function. However the fact that it is a non-specific inhibitor, acting on all types of adenosine receptors and all kinds of phosphodiesterase enzymes can produce some unpleasant side effects. As the US National Institutes of Health states: “Too much caffeine can make you restless, anxious, and irritable. It may also keep you from sleeping well and cause headaches, abnormal heart rhythms, or other problems”. Caffeine as a potential smart drug can certainly be improved by the addition of other substances that can counteract the negative side effects and prevent overstimulation and the subsequent crash which people who use too much caffeine experience.

Most people get their caffeine fix from drinking coffee, or energy drinks. However there are certain problems with using these drinks. For one thing it is impossible to control how much caffeine you’re getting, the amount of caffeine varies widely from one cup to another depending on the roast, the beans, and the method of preparation among other factors. Then there is the fact that many coffees, especially the cheaper brands, have impurities that may also cause headaches and jitters and add to the negative effects of caffeine. In contrast, Natural Stacks use ultra-pure anhydrous (without water) caffeine powder in their Smart Caffeine. You can be sure that you are getting 100mg of pure caffeine per capsule, and no contaminants or impurities.

L-theanine in Smart Caffeine from Natural Stacks

L-theanine is an amino acid, and an analogue of glutamic acid. However, unlike other amino acids, it is not used as a building block for proteins in our body. It is present almost exclusively in tea leaves. L-theanine has been found to working synergistically with caffeine to increase wakefulness without overstimulation, and appears to smooth over the negative effects of caffeine. On its own it produces a calm attentive states characterized by alpha brain waves, and produces a mild enhancement to cognitive function. However, studies have shown that when it is combined with caffeine the effect is larger than when either substance is given alone. The combination of caffeine and L-theanine is, of course, found in tea, especially green tea. However, the concentration of these substances is not high enough to produce the maximum effect. Each capsule of Natural Stacks’ Smart Caffeine contains 200 mg of L-theanine as well as 100 mg of caffeine, the optimum combination to harness the nootropic effects of those two phytochemicals and produce a calm, focused state that is ideal for unleashing your creativity or for solving problems.

Like caffeine L-theanine can cross the blood-brain barrier. Its chemical structure resembles the amino acid glutamate, which also acts as an excitatory neurotransmitter. However it does not bind the glutamate receptors, such as the AMPA or NMDA receptors, particularly strongly. It does increase dopamine levels in the brain, and might possibly increase serotonin levels. It also protects the neurons from damage by excessive excitation (excitotoxicity) by glutamate.

L-Theanine Induces Brain Alpha Wave Activity

Much of the research results about the relaxing and calming effect of L-threonine rely on subjective reports, where test subjects fill in a questionnaire about how they feel after taking the substance, or a placebo. However there is a method to objectively determine the state the brain is in, by recording the oscillations of the electrical activity in the brain with electroencephalography (EEG). Scientists at Unilever carried out EEG studies to measure the effect of L-theanine on brain activity, and detected an increase in alpha wave activity in people taking the theanine supplement.

There are four major types of brain waves detected by EEG, alpha, beta, delta and theta. Delta waves occur during deep sleep while theta waves occur during light sleep. Of the two awake types of activity, alpha waves, neural oscillations in the frequency range 7.5-12.5 Hz indicate a calm, relaxed state, while beta waves indicate an excited, stressed state. It is interesting to note that alpha waves only appear in children around the age of three. It has been shown that caffeine suppresses alpha wave activity in the brain and stimulates beta wave activity. Too much beta wave activity leads to mental stressed, which makes thinking clearly, making important decisions, or finishing demanding mental tasks almost impossible to do.

On the other hand, the team from Unlilever showed that consuming L theanine results in an increase in alpha waves, which indicate a calm state of mine. This clearly shows that taking of L-theanine can reverse the negative side effects of caffeine supplementation. You can take caffeine to produce alertness, focus, and enhanced cognitive function without being hampered by the increased anxiety and jitters.

Caffeine and L-Theanine Work Synergistically

But the function of L-theanine in Natural Stacks’ Smart Caffeine supplement is not just to ameliorate the negative side effects of caffeine. Theanine and caffeine work together to produce better results than either of them alone. This effect has been documented in several placebo-controlled studies. For example, in one trial carried out by a team at Unilever and published in the Journal of Nutritional Neuroscience. The effects of 100mg of L-theanine alone, or combined with 40 mg of caffeine was tested on a group of 44 volunteers. The test subjects were divided into four groups and given either the caffeine, or the theanine separately, or in combination, or a placebo. Their performance in a demanding visual-spatial task was then compared across groups. The researchers discovered that caffeine, and L-theanine, had no effect on the hit rate when taken alone. However, the combination of caffeine and theanine produced a significant increase when compared to the group taking a placebo. In another category, the discriminatory index, caffeine by itself produced an improved when compared to the effect of the placebo. However, the improvement was much bigger when it was combined with L-theanine.

This data was supported by another double-blind, placebo-controlled trial. In this study the volunteers were given 250 mg of L-theanine and 150 mg of caffeine and there cognitive performance was tested in a variety of ways. The volunteers who took the combination of substances performed significantly better on several tests, including sentence verification accuracy, rapid visual information processing and numbers memory. The subjects were also asked to give subjective estimations of how they felt. People who consumed caffeine and L-theanine reported less headaches and feelings of being tired, while reporting feeling more alert. These tests make it clear that caffeine and L-theanine working synergistically together, have more positive effects than either substance on its own.

Smart Caffeine from Natural Stacks brings together the highest quality, ultrapure, anhydrous caffeine and theanine to gain the maximum benefit from their synergistic action. By acting as a competitive inhibitor of adenosine and PDE enzymes in the brain, caffeine increases wakefulness and alertness, and enhances cognitive abilities. L-theanine works to suppress the beta-waves activity in the brain that caffeine creates, stimulating alpha-wave activity. It takes away the anxiety and jitters which caffeine can produce leaving behind a calm focus. Caffeine and L-theanine then work together to improve brain function. Each capsule of Smart Caffeine contains a standardized 100 mg of caffeine and 200 mg of L-theanine. This is well within safe limits, but far more than you would get from a cup of tea or coffee, and optimized to allow you to derive maximum benefits from the caffeine-L-theanine combination.

Further Reading:

L-theanine modulates the negative side effects of higher doses of caffeine:

L-theanine stimulates alpha-wave brain activity:

L-theanine and Caffeine work synergistically to enhance cognitive function: