In the previous post Distraction Diet 3, I mentioned that I actually found a supplement that increases my ability to focus. That supplement is the amino acid L-Tyrosine. Before I explain how, I want to remind readers that I am not a fan of supplements. I think most are worthless at best and potentially dangerous. I’ll save that discussion for a future blog post. This post is just about L-Tyrosine, the greatest supplement I’ve ever taken.
NZT-48 is the drug taken by the main character in the movie Limitless. This fictional nootropic drug allowed the character to access 100% of his brain and accomplish amazing things in a short period of time. Of course, I’m not saying that L-Tyrosine is literally that powerful, but for me, it has had noticeable and predictable cognitive benefits.
Limitless (AMAZON USA)
Caffeine, Mood, and L-Tyrosine
My first exposure to L-Tyrosine was during my 2010 summer coffee detox. It was a suggestion I got from Nora Gedgaudas, the author of Primal Body, Primal Mind. The idea was as you remove caffeine, adding L-Tyrosine could improve mood and help with cravings. It did, but at the time I didn’t notice much more, probably because I was running at half speed due to the caffeine restriction.
Earlier this year I ran into L-Tyrosine twice more. One was a post on Jimmy Moore’s site about how it could reverse gray hair. That was interesting, but it was the second that captured my attention. I am a member of the Western Washington Paleo Enthusiasts and each month we get together for a Paleo Book club. The book selections are not just strict Paleo but come from a variety of health and fitness topics. I believe it was February that the book was The Mood Cure.
I didn’t read The Mood Cure. I just came to the meeting for the discussion. During the talk, I borrowed the book and did the self-tests. My results said I would benefit strongly from L-Tyrosine. So I started supplementing the next day.
Gray Skies Are Clearing
2011 was not a good year for me and 2012 started out pretty rough as well. I had tons of ideas for projects, but my focus was lacking. The INeedCoffee redesign was taking much longer than it should have. The L-Tyrosine came at just the right time. I started seeing benefits right away.
I would take a 500 mg capsule of L-Tyrosine in the morning on an empty stomach and I could feel my mood improving. Code blocks that I thought would take weeks to roll out on INeedCoffee were completed in days. The mornings when I felt my thinking was fuzzy were always the mornings that I had forgotten to take the L-Tyrosine. It wasn’t a stimulant or happy pill, but more like a gentle nudge in the right direction.
Before anyone says the word placebo, I could rattle off a list of a hundred different supplements that I’ve tried over the years that I wished dearly would have delivered some benefit. But they didn’t. Other than perhaps creatine monohydrate, this is the ONLY supplement I’ve had in the last 20 years that has an effect that is both noticeable and positive.
Do your own tests. The book has a series of quizzes to help the reader determine what supplement might help their mood the most. For me it was L-Tyrosine. I’d love to be able to answer more about The Mood Cure, but I haven’t read it yet. I do plan to read it soon. It certainly earned my trust.
UPDATE JULY 2012: If you are considering taking L-Tyrosine, please read the follow-up post Safe Use of 5-HTP and L-Tyrosine. Taking L-Tyrosine for long periods of time without balancing it out with 5-HTP, could lead to depleted serotonin levels.
May 22, 2012 — 10:26 am
I followed the book link to amazon and, after reading through the comments, decided that this was a book I wanted to read. I am not big on supplements, but your comments, the amazon reviews, and the book’s site have made me think that following the author’s suggestions could be beneficial.
I’ve ordered it and will receive it on Thursday.
Thanks again, and let us know when you read the book!
May 22, 2012 — 10:46 am
@Ali – I’ll be interested to read what it recommends for you or other readers and if the recommendations work. Right now I still have 300+ pages left in The Art of Fermentation textbook. After that, I’ll read The Mood Cure.
May 23, 2012 — 1:27 am
OK, I’m going to try this to.
I have been graying for a while now and find that I sometimes have uncontrollable urges to eat massive amounts of meat + starch (which will favor other amino acids uptake but suppress L-Tyrosine uptake) .
Reading up on L-Tyrosine, this might be an aid.
I’ll couple this with liver (b-vitamins, copper, zinc ) + carrot juice (carotene) + green tea to get a great TAN this summer !
May 23, 2012 — 6:17 am
The Mood Cure is a fantastic book. I got a lot out of it (I use Tyrosine now and then too as a result) and my wife got a lot out of it. She uses GABA to help deal with stress. It makes a difference.
That prompted her to write it up on our blog:
(first time commenter, long-time reader)
May 23, 2012 — 8:11 am
@Ahrand – I do recommend doing your own tests from the Mood Cure. Your results and supplement recommendation may vary from mine.
@Jeremy – Great posts on the book. I’m getting my copy soon and will pour through it to see if any other supplements are recommended for me,
May 23, 2012 — 8:49 am
That’s great. I tried L-tyrosine before reading the Mood cure and found that while it has very noticeable benefits similar to what you saw, it is also horrible for my sleep. Even tiny amounts in the morning caused hours of insomnia. Then again, I’m not one of the people who would benefit from it according to the Mood Cure. Apparently my serotonin/dopamine balance is tilted in the opposite direction. So that’s actually another plug for the credibility of the Mood Cure. The 5-htp she recommended in my case has only been partially effective, though, so I’m going to try the L-tryptophan alternative next.
FWIW, if I remember correctly, Dr. Dan Kalish recommends combining both L-tyrosine and 5-HTP as a reasonably safe way to proceed without professional guidance. His concern was that serotonin and dopamine can get out of balance if you supplement just one or the other in the absence of testing (listen to his “Brain Drain” interview on Underground Wellness). I have no idea if he’s right on that, but it’s an interesting possibility. I’m pretty sure I should avoid L-tyrosine for now, given my strong reaction to it, but I’ll keep it in mind for retesting later.
May 23, 2012 — 9:03 am
@Richard – Thanks for the feedback and podcast recommendation. Here is the link.
I plan to listen later today.
Good luck on your move to Austin.
May 23, 2012 — 11:38 am
I’ve also tried L-Tyrosine with noticeable benefits, but over time I did cause an imbalance
between serotonin and dopamine. Fortunately I did get testing done to find this out and have not taken L-tyrosine in awhile. I think the most prudent thing is to get tested for the serotonin/dopamine balance while you take the supplement.
May 23, 2012 — 5:27 pm
@Alan – Your comment has me a little concerned. How long did you go supplement with L-Tyrosine before the imbalance occurred? And what symptoms alerted you that there might be a problem?
May 23, 2012 — 7:11 pm
What specific brand L-Tyrosine supplement are you buying? I also distruct supplements but if I am going to try something I at least want to try the same brand that seems to get results for others.
May 24, 2012 — 4:06 am
MAS – Know you haven’t read the book yet but perhaps your book club discussion touched on this question: does “The Mood Cure” also address health/lifestyle factors that can remedy the underlying deficiency or imbalance or is the premise focused exclusively on supplementation? Are there any guidelines for when supplementation can be discontinued or stepped down? Other commenters who have read the book, please chime in on this one.
Also, MAS, what other supplements are you currently taking? I’ve seen you mention magnesium and D-3 (and the recent gelatin self-experiment). Do you supplement with fish oil?
May 24, 2012 — 7:31 am
@Stuart – Jarrow. Previously I used GNC with the caffeine detox, but I don’t think it was high quality.
@Geoff – It has been a few months since that meeting. I don’t recall any novel ideas other than L-Tyrosine and 5-HTP being discussed. Part of the meeting was how the book convinced one vegetarian to return to meat. I do not take fish oil anymore. Occasionally I take selenium, copper and a timed released Vitamin C.
May 24, 2012 — 9:58 am
*Very interesting.* Does anyone know of foods / animal parts that are naturally rich in L-Tyrosine?
May 24, 2012 — 10:04 am
Some info. from a U.K. supplement company I have found over the years to be reliable:
May 24, 2012 — 7:40 pm
@Glenn – I found this link to a list of foods.
But I still have a lot more to learn about this topic. Alan’s comment has me concerned that playing around with brain chemicals might have serious risks. The Mood Cure just arrived, so I’ll be digging deeply into this topic.
May 26, 2012 — 12:02 pm
I would recommend that you read the Ultramind Solution by Mark Hyman, MD. I got it from the library a couple of years ago. Lots of supplement reviews, their effects, and suggested regimens to ramp up to therapeutic levels. I found some of the supplements helpful. Dr. Hyman takes Tyrosine to increase his productivity. Tyrosine makes my blood pressure go up, so I was a bit concerned about taking it daily. I think it certainly affects everyone differently depending on their own individual chemical balance.
Mark "Brainstorming" Effinger
May 28, 2012 — 6:56 pm
Hi Michael – I ran across your blog via Twitter.
Yes, L-Tyrosine is most definitely an invaluable component of “mood control”.
A more refined version of it is Acetyl-L-Tyrosine. Smaller doses, much higher “gain” in terms of adoption.
One thing some people may notice on L-Tyrosine: You can, especially in the forst day or three of taking it, become hyper-focused, to the point of being intense with people around you. You yourself won’t notice it much. You’re inside the experience.
But the outside world will see it. My employees used to tell me I was being a bit of an a**hole on it. By about Day 3 I had become a bit less intense, yet still maintained good mood and focus.
When I formulated RealNZT, mood was one of the very first outcomes. The combination of elements provides for a serious Happy Pill (or drink) experience.
Good insights here. I’m now going through your older posts.
May 31, 2012 — 3:18 pm
OK…hear me out.
I know you have headaches. I haven’t had it done yet, but I recently heard that Reiki (eastern medicine energy therapy) helps with headaches. I know that it seems ridiculous but I am going to try it out for depression in the near future. I figure what do I have to lose (well other than about $50!) Anyway, just wanted to let you know about it in case you haven’t investigated its efficacy.
May 31, 2012 — 3:24 pm
@Thomas – I’m skeptical of Reiki, but that doesn’t mean it can’t work or can’t work for you. Give it a go and report back.
In other news, I finished reading The Mood Cure and have also started supplementing with 5-HTP. Once I have more data, I’ll do a full post.
Mark Alan Effinger
May 31, 2012 — 3:34 pm
@thomas – I have had a Reiki Master “work” on me. Not sure if it really did anything. But there was noticeable warmth where he was working.
@Michael – I highly recommend 5-HTP (50mgs-100mgs) as a nighttime assist. Try it multiple days in a row, and see if you notice any daytime depression. It can trigger a cycle in the brain that over time, can reverse (from depression to sort of a neutral feel). It was touted a number of years ago as a diet/appetite control element. But most of my clients found that taken during the day, it simply made them foggy-brained, and a little fatigued.
Have you tried Rhodiola Rosea? 100mgs 2-3 times a day, or 400-500mgs in the AM can do wonders for mood. The added benefit is it stimulates your immune system and overall endurance.
We find our clients “smile” when taking supplements with Rhodiola in them.
PEA or PEA and Hordenine combo (3 to 1 ratio) is an immediate boost to mood. If taken wrong, you will also have a slight crash after (a 20 minute nap will fix that). But the mood lift is very noticeable. Worth it if you’re experimenting.
Hope that helps!
May 31, 2012 — 4:32 pm
@Mark – I’m only 2 days into 5-HTP, so I don’t want to discuss any data yet. Way too soon. I might try one of the other supplements you listed, but not yet. I want to give full focus to 5-HTP. The Mood Cure actually scored me needing it just as much as L-Tyrosine.
Mark Alan Effinger
May 31, 2012 — 4:50 pm
@MAS – SMart move, Michael. Isolation is the only way (given that most of your other elements are stable – diet, exercise, sleep cycles, water intake).
Keep us posted. There’s a pretty good overview of both individual nootropic elements, and the combination of elements here:
Let me know if that’s helpful.
BTW: I’m 3 hours south of you in the Vancouver/Portland area.
May 31, 2012 — 5:24 pm
@Mark – Vancouver, WA = America’s tax haven. Well played.
Mark Alan Effinger
May 31, 2012 — 7:06 pm
@Matt – You read well between the lines, mon frere. Build in Portland, live in Vanhattan. Only way to fly.
Jul 19, 2012 — 6:48 am
Any update on your results with L-Tyrosine? Thanks…
Jul 19, 2012 — 6:51 am
@JamesK – Things are still going well, however there is more to the story than just L-Tyrosine. I am working on a post to explain what I’ve discovered. My plan is to have it out sometime next week.
Mar 26, 2013 — 7:56 am
Water and Eu-stress are the only supplements you shall ever need.. but then again, wants over needs always wins 😉
Apr 30, 2013 — 5:09 am
I started taking L-tyrosine along with omega 3 fish oil plus alpha omega something acid to boost acytholine, first few weeks I couldn’t believe it, I went from been severely depressed through out my entire 20’s to running at full optimal capacity, was very intense, I went from not knowing what horny is to wanting to have sex with nearly every woman I came in to contact with, I honestly dont think my brain had been producing its own dopamine till then, I also saw the movie Limitless and made the exact same comparison to what I was on, my mind was actually been completely overloaded and felt like it was burnt out in the mornings., I read somewhere that you can be immune to food supplements over time and in my experience the effect as reduced greatly but still a hell of a lot better then what I was before.
I wish to Christ doctors would prescribe this for depression instead of pharmacuticals and maybe I wouldnt have lost 15 years of my life, I had to do my own research to find this stuff after the mental health services wasted 5 years of my time.
Jun 3, 2013 — 10:10 am
Severe brain fog and fatigue have made me look for natural solutions to these problems. I’m taking 500 mg of l-tyrosine each morning on an empty stomach then I take another one mid morning but finding if I take another in the afternoon I cannot sleep as well at night. I’m also taking 50mg of 5htp each night, this really helps me sleep but sometimes I feel too tired the next day. All in all I’m wanting to be free from this horrible brain fog and weakness. I’m also taking care of my adrenals. I appreciate knowing I’m not alone these illnesses.
Jul 19, 2013 — 1:30 am
You are right about the L-Tyrosine. I have been taking it for about 5 weeks now while skipping a few days here and there in hopes I won’t become immune to it. I usually skip the days where I know I have a set plan that doesn’t require that ‘nudge’ to get things going. It was a tough 2012 for me as well which led right into my 2013. Was looking for some natural remedies. Just like you I don’t like to take supplements! I didn’t know how to explain it to my friend either but the L-Tyrosine really does bring on a better mood. It’s slight but enough.
What’s your advice on the total dosage? I’ve been balancing with 5-HTP (strangely this was my natural instinct and found your post about it today! Was reading your blog just last week on some paleo/HITT topics!). Basically, I take 500 mg of L-Tyrosine since I started but feeling it might be wearing off a bit and taking 1000 mg. Would you recommend a good amount?
Jul 19, 2013 — 7:31 am
@Winters – I did a follow-up post on dosage.
These days I only take L-Tyrosine when I am cutting way back on caffeine and have a low mood.
Aug 5, 2013 — 8:40 pm
Any thoughts on John Keifers CarbNite or Carbbackloading? We both seem to follow a mostly CLC diet.
Also, any thoughts on non monohydrate creatines? i got thos rec from Tim Ferriss Q and A online. on AMZN: All American EFX Kre-Alkalyn EFX, 240 Capsu… http://amzn.com/B00117ZRXQ
Aug 5, 2013 — 9:55 pm
@Henry – Sorry, I am unfamiliar with both.
Mar 6, 2014 — 9:33 am
Hi – just wondering if you’re still taking the L-Tyrosine at all – even in cycles? If so do you still see a benefit?
I noted that you stopped off 5-HTP entirely, if you are still taking the L-tyrosine does the absence of the counter balancing 5-HTP concern you?
Good luck with the bet!
Mar 6, 2014 — 9:37 am
@Trevor – Because I cycle off L-Tyrosine I am not concerned. Also I use a dosage that is very low (500 mg). During periods of high coffee usage I don’t take L-Tyrosine. When I start to detox (spring is soon), I’ll add it back. I still am a fan of the supplement.
Apr 4, 2014 — 6:20 am
Have you tried mucuna pruriens? It is one step closer to dopamine (direct precursor L-dopa) and the natural supplement contains a large amount of L-dopa. L-tyrosine I believe converts into L-dopa -> dopamine.
One thing I know about mucuna pruriens is it also contain 5HTP a direct precursor to serotonin. I think I read somewhere that dopamine should be raised in conjunction with serotonin but not sure of the source on this.
Do you find that L-tyrosine causes side effects when used for longer periods of time (ex. > 2 weeks?) I would love to also see a comparison between L-dopa and L-tyrosine if you ever choose.
Thanks for the great information. L-tyrosine is great but is L-dopa better? It is the same as debate between 5HTP and L-tryptophan. Some people claim L-try. to be better than the former even though it is a direct precursor. Interesting stuff and thank you for the post.
Aaron @ Peak Nootropics
Apr 4, 2014 — 7:08 am
@Aaron – I did a follow-up post that mentions 5 HTP and balancing the supplements.
I have not tried mucuna pruriens or l-dopa.
When I tried L-TYrosine it was for longer than 2 weeks. I probably wouldn’t use it for more than 2 months without a month off break for reasons I mention in the follow-up post. I tend to use L-Tyrosine more when I am trying to lower my caffeine levels.
Jan 12, 2015 — 2:26 am
hi, imho, phenylalanine in its L-form, also another precursor to dopamine, but uses slightly different pathway, is a better substainable solution for long term use, because L-tyrosine is sometimes unpredictable in my own experience.
I do not use it everyday though but when i do, it is between the range of 500mg to 1 grams on empty stomach, with preference for morning intakes or early pm.
You should use the L form as the D and DL form are useless for cognitive purposes.
Jan 12, 2015 — 9:44 am
@Kevin – Thanks Kevin for the info. I have read many accounts of people using phenylalanine to lower or eliminate their caffeine needs.
Jul 24, 2015 — 4:23 am
L-Tyrosine is so calming so energetic it make me more confidence,i Like Piracetam very much because how make me happy and alive ,i try everything but Tyrosine is so good for depresion,agresion,focus i think its because it have tremendous effect in Dopamine level…..i Think its about individual chemistry that i have love Dopamine maybe because i deplete Dopamine faster then anybody else….
Piracetam,Tyrosine,Omega 3 and Tianeptine is my best friends.Training is the Key.Remember.If you train ,eat healthy suplements is like strawberry on the top of cake…Cheerss…..
Sep 10, 2015 — 6:04 am
What’s the difference between 5htp and l-tryptophan? If I’m trying to balance the Tyrosine and can I use Tryptophan instead of the 5htp?
Sep 10, 2015 — 12:22 pm
Yes,Martha you can use Tryptophan instead 5htp,so 1500 mg of Tryp. is same as 50mg 5htp,so take 3gram before bed,and you are fine. Take it when you need it. Mon,Wen,Fri. Also take Tyrosin 3 times per week. Enjoy your life.Take care.