Gaby Vaca-Flores, RDN, CLE, demystifies L-tyrosine by investigating both its clinically demonstrated benefits and unfounded myths.
With the help of TikTok, L-tyrosine has gained a ton of popularity as of late. Yet as is the case with many internet fads, there are claims that are factual and others that seem too good to be true.
Keep reading to learn what L-tyrosine can and can’t do.
What is l-tyrosine?
L-tyrosine is the active form of tyrosine, a non-essential amino acid. (Amino acids are the building blocks of protein.) However, L-tyrosine holds other impressive jobs throughout the body ranging from producing hormones to boosting cognitive function.
Specifically, L-tyrosine helps make the starting material for a group of neurotransmitters called catecholamines. These include:
Before we get to what this amino acid can’t do, let’s first look at the proven benefits of L-tyrosine.
It Enhances Cognitive Performance + Flexibility
One of the most scientifically supported claims for L-tyrosine is its potential to help healthy individuals respond more effectively to short-term stress and mentally demanding situations.
When you experience physical or emotional stress, neurotransmitters bear that burden. This may result in mood changes, poor memory, and focus.
However, research shows that tyrosine may prevent the decline of dopamine and epinephrine, two important cognitive resources. Hence, supplementation can help your mind stay sharp when you need it most.
Another way that L-tyrosine benefits mental performance is through boosting boosting cognitive flexibility. You can think of cognitive flexibility as mental multi-tasking. Moreover, it refers to one’s ability to switch between multiple thoughts.
Again, tyrosine supports cognitive flexibility by avoiding the depletion of neurotransmitters.
It Supports energy + endurance
Unlike caffeinated energy boosters, L-tyrosine has the potential to improve long-term energy levels. L-tyrosine supports energy in the form of endurance, meaning that it can help improve your energy levels over time.
One 2011 study compared the effects of L-tyrosine against a placebo in male cyclists. Participants who supplemented with L-tyrosine were able to exercise for longer. Additionally, they saw improvements in their capacity to train in the heat.
Although L-tyrosine helps provide the starting material for neurotransmitters that affect energy, the connection between L-tyrosine and energy levels remains fairly unclear. That’s why supplements often pair L-tyrosine with other energizing ingredients to help fight fatigue.
Perhaps surprising to many followers of the trend, there are more unsupported claims for L-tyrosine than actual evidence-backed benefits.
That said, let’s debunk some L-tyrosine myths.
It Won’t Give You a Tan
Earlier, we saw that L-tyrosine helps produce melanin, the pigment that makes up skin color. The logic behind this myth is that by supplementing with L-tyrosine, you can induce melanogenesis (the production of melanin).
Although melanin production starts with L-tyrosine, it actually depends on several other processes to create its final product. This process is then regulated by several physical and biochemical factors including:
- hormone levels
- exposure to UV rays
The bottom line is that adding tyrosine into your routine won’t result in a greater production of melanin or a deeper skin tone.
It Isn’t “Natural Adderall”
On social media, L-tyrosine and the phrase “natural Adderall” are often used interchangeably. Since L-tyrosine helps produce mood-boosting neurotransmitters, TikTokers suggest that it can replace this medication that has similar mechanisms.
Adderall is a neuro-stimulant treatment that helps increase dopamine and norepinephrine levels. Poor expression of dopamine and norepinephrine is linked to several behaviors including impulsive and compulsive tendencies. Stimulants such as Adderall can help affected individuals ease these behavioral symptoms.
But unfortunately, there’s an overgeneralization suggesting that since L-tyrosine plays a role in neurotransmitter production, it can simply replace medications like Adderall. However, there’s currently no evidence to support that L-tyrosine can match up.
In fact, the amount of L-tyrosine needed to effectively raise neurotransmitter levels to an amount that influences behavioral change remains unknown. And unlike L-tyrosine, stimulants like Adderall have hundreds of studies that speak to their efficacy and standardization to address such behavioral conditions.
It Doesn’t Induce Weight Loss
In addition to claims of sunless tanning and replacing prescription medications, there are also rumors that L-tyrosine is good for weight loss. The logic behind this myth is that it can boost metabolism through its thermogenic effect.
Catecholamines, like the neurotransmitters produced by tyrosine, are necessary for the activation of thermogenesis, and are thus integral for healthy metabolism. However, there’s little data that points to a direct link between tyrosine consumption and pounds lost.
The good news? There are a number of studies that showcase L-tyrosine as beneficial for people who experience cognitive or mood problems resulting from calorie-restricted diets. One study in particular also found that tyrosine is able to offset cognitive disturbances during dieting without resulting in an increase of body weight.
What to look for in an l-tyrosine supplement
When shopping around for the best L-tyrosine supplement, look at the product label to see it listed in its free form.
Compared to its counterpart, n-acetyl l-tyrosine (NALT), the free form amino acid simply listed as L-tyrosine has a higher conversion rate in the body. This means that you get to take a smaller dose without compromising its effects.
HUM’s Uber Energy formula packs 500 milligrams of L-tyrosine in its free form. For that reason, it’s a good choice for anyone looking to boost their cognitive health and energy levels over time.
The Bottom Line
While most TikTok claims fall short, the research behind L-tyrosine’s benefit to support cognitive performance is impressive.
Further, there’s evidence backing up its ability to support natural energy, and it holds surprising promise to regulate mood in dieters.