Tyrosine is an amino acid that is naturally produced in the body from another amino acid called phenylalanine. It can be found in many types of foods, especially in cheese, where it was first discovered. In Greek, “tyros” actually means “cheese”. It is also found in chicken, turkey, fish, certain dairy products, and a lot of other high-protein foods. This article will explain everything you need to know about tyrosine and it will help you decide whether or not to start increasing your intake.
Health Benefits of Tyrosine
Tyrosine is a popular dietary supplement that is commonly used to improve your attention and focus. It produces important brain chemicals that can help your nerve cells communicate and it may even help to regulate your daily moods. For people who have phenylketonuria (PKU), tyrosine is an essential amino acid. Tyrosine can also improve the quality of your sleep and keep you mentally alert.
Despite these health benefits, supplementing with tyrosine can sometimes have a few side effects, especially if it interacts with any other medications you might be taking. Most people do not need to take L-tyrosine because their bodies have a mechanism for regulating tyrosine supply. If you do not consume enough tyrosine from food, your body can make more. If you consume too much, your body will break it down and get rid of it.
Other benefits that have not been proven with research have included help with dementia, high blood pressure, narcolepsy, schizophrenia, weight loss, premenstrual syndrome, Parkinson's disease, chronic fatigue syndrome, alcoholism, and even cocaine addictions.
In the next few sections, we will offer you all you need to know about your tyrosine levels, including a lot more information about some of the side effects and the dosages that are recommended for most people to maintain their wellness.
What Does Tyrosine Do?
Tyrosine helps the human body create, produce, and synthesize several important chemicals and substances, such as the synthesis of the following:
Dopamine: Dopamine regulates your reward and pleasure centers. This important brain chemical is also important for memory and motor skills.
Adrenaline and noradrenaline: These hormones are responsible for the fight-or-flight response to stressful situations. They prepare the body to “fight” or “flight” from a perceived attack or harm.
Epinephrine and norepinephrine: Tyrosine is involved in the production of the stress neurotransmitters epinephrine and norepinephrine.
Thyroid hormones: Thyroid hormones are produced by the thyroid gland and they are mostly responsible for regulating metabolism.
Melanin: This pigment is what gives your skin, hair and eyes their distinctive color. Dark-skinned people tend to have a lot more melanin in their skin than light-skinned people.
Improving Mental Performance in Stressful Situations
Stress is something that everybody experiences from time to time, but too much stress can negatively affect your reasoning, memory, attention and knowledge by decreasing neurotransmitters. For example, when rats were exposed to cold (considered an environmental stressor), they experienced impaired memory function due to a decline in neurotransmitters. However, when the rats were given a tyrosine supplement, the decline in neurotransmitters was reversed and their memory was restored.
A few human studies have discovered the same results. In one study with 22 participants, tyrosine significantly improved working memory during a mentally demanding task, compared to a placebo. Working memory plays an important role when you are trying to concentrate intensely or follow complicated instructions.
In a similar study, another 22 participants were given either a tyrosine supplement or placebo before completing a test used to measure their cognitive flexibility (the ability to switch between tasks or thoughts). The quicker the participants could switch tasks, the greater their cognitive flexibility. Compared to the placebo, tyrosine was found to improve cognitive flexibility.
Two further reviews concluded that supplementing with tyrosine can reverse mental decline and improve cognition in short-term, stressful or mentally demanding situations. Although tyrosine may provide cognitive benefits, no evidence has suggested that it enhances physical performance in humans, and supplementing with tyrosine in the absence of a stressor will not really improve your mental performance. In other words, it won’t increase your brainpower.
Additionally, supplementing with tyrosine has been shown to benefit your sleep. A single dose of it helped people who lost a night’s sleep stay alert for three hours longer than they would have. When taken as a supplement together with a product like our SANA deep sleep formula, it can help you fall asleep faster and drastically decrease stress. Be aware that no significant influence has been noted on fatigue from l-tyrosine supplementation during times of acute stress.
Tyrosine Might Help Those With Phenylketonuria
Phenylketonuria (PKU) is a rare genetic condition caused by a defect in the gene that helps create the enzyme phenylalanine hydroxylase. Your body uses this enzyme to convert phenylalanine into tyrosine, which is used to create neurotransmitters. Without this enzyme, your body cannot break down any phenylalanine, so it all builds up in your body. The best way for you to treat PKU is to follow a special diet that limits foods containing phenylalanine.
Tyrosine is a non-essential amino acid, which means you don't have to get it from food. However, because tyrosine is made from phenylalanine, people with PKU can become deficient in tyrosine, which can contribute to behavioral problems. Supplementing with tyrosine in the form of food or as a pill may be a good way for you to avoid this, but the evidence is mixed.
Another review of 56 people also found no significant differences between supplementing with tyrosine and a placebo on any of the outcomes that were measured. The conclusion was that no recommendations can be made about whether tyrosine supplementation should be introduced into routine clinical practice. Further randomized controlled studies will be required to provide more evidence, as is also the case when it comes to tyrosine and depression.
Mixed Evidence Regarding Depression
Tyrosine has also been found in some cases to help with depression. Depression is thought to occur when the neurotransmitters in your brain become unbalanced. Antidepressants are commonly prescribed to help realign and balance them. Because tyrosine can increase the production of neurotransmitters, it’s claimed to act as an antidepressant.
However, early research doesn’t support this claim. In one study, 65 people with depression received either 100 mg/kg of tyrosine, 2.5 mg/kg of a common antidepressant or a placebo each day for four weeks. Tyrosine was found to have no antidepressant effects. Depression is a complex and varied disorder. This is likely why a food supplement like tyrosine is ineffective at combating its symptoms.
Nevertheless, depressed individuals with low levels of dopamine, adrenaline or noradrenaline may benefit from supplementing with tyrosine. In fact, one study among individuals with dopamine-deficient depression noted that tyrosine provided clinically significant benefits. Dopamine-dependent depression is characterized by low energy and a lack of motivation. Until more research is available, the current evidence does not support supplementing with tyrosine to treat symptoms of depression.
Some Common Side Effects of Tyrosine
Tyrosine is “generally recognized as safe” (GRAS) by the Food and Drug Administration. It has been supplemented safely at a dose of 68 mg per pound of body weight per day for up to three months. While tyrosine is considered to be safe for most people, it can cause some side effects such as insomnia, restlessness, palpitations, headaches, an upset stomach, or heartburn. Also, it can interact with certain medications such as monoamine oxidase inhibitors, thyroid medication, or medication for Parkinson’s disease.
Tyramine is an amino acid that helps regulate blood pressure and is produced by the breakdown of tyrosine. Tyramine accumulates in foods when tyrosine and phenylalanine are converted to tyramine by an enzyme in microorganisms. Many types of cheese, cured or smoked meats, soy products, and some types of beer contain high levels of tyramine. Antidepressant medications called monoamine oxidase inhibitors (MAOIs) block the enzyme monoamine oxidase, which breaks down excess tyramine in the body.
Combining MAOIs with high-tyramine foods can raise your blood pressure. However, it is unknown if supplementing with tyrosine may lead to a buildup of tyramine in the body, so caution is necessary for those taking MAOIs. The thyroid hormones triiodothyronine (T3) and thyroxine (T4) help regulate growth and metabolism in the body. It is very important that your T3 and T4 levels are neither too high nor too low. Supplementing with tyrosine may influence these hormones.
This is because tyrosine is a building block for the thyroid hormones, so supplementing with it might raise their levels too high. Therefore, people who are taking thyroid medications or have an overactive thyroid should be cautious when they are supplementing with tyrosine. Also, people with hyperthyroidism or Graves disease should really avoid using any kinds of tyrosine supplements because they may increase the levels of the thyroid hormone.
Levodopa (L-dopa) is a medication commonly used to treat Parkinson’s disease. In the human body, L-dopa and tyrosine compete for absorption in the small intestine, which can interfere with the effectiveness of the drug. This is why doses of these two drugs should be separated by several hours. Tyrosine is currently being researched for alleviating some of the symptoms that are associated with cognitive decline in older adults.
How to Supplement With Tyrosine
Tyrosine is readily available as a dietary supplement. You can purchase it alone or blended with other ingredients, such as in many pre-workout supplements that are on the market. Supplementing with tyrosine may increase the levels of the neurotransmitters dopamine, adrenaline, epinephrine, and norepinephrine, which can improve memory, cognitive function, and overall performance in stressful situations.
As a supplement, tyrosine is available as a free-form amino acid or N-acetyl L-tyrosine (NALT). NALT is more water-soluble than its free-form counterpart, but it has a low conversion rate to tyrosine in the body. This means that you would need a larger dose of NALT than tyrosine to achieve the same effect. Be aware that supplements are generally not regulated by the FDA in the same way food and drugs are. The FDA does not review tyrosine supplements for safety or efficacy before they hit the market.
To get the benefits of tyrosine before a tough workout, you may want to try taking it in conjunction with our CONSTRUO Post-Workout product. This is premium whey isolate and a full five grams of leucine, which primes your body to start repairing muscle, and gives it the building blocks to do so. It also contains creatine monohydrate to keep your muscles full and ready to perform during your next workout.
Controlling the Dosage
Tyrosine is commonly taken in doses of 500–2,000 mg at two periods of about 30 to 60 minutes before exercise, even though its benefits on exercise performance are somewhat inconclusive. It does seem to be effective for preserving mental performance during physically stressful situations or periods of sleep deprivation when it is taken in doses ranging from 45–68 mg per pound of body weight. This would be up to 10 grams for a 150-pound person. These higher doses may cause gastrointestinal upset and so they may be split up into two separate doses, taken about 30 and 60 minutes before a stressful event.
Using Tyrosine in Your Diet
Tyrosine is a popular dietary supplement used for a variety of reasons. In the body, it’s used to make neurotransmitters, which tend to decrease under periods of stressful or mentally demanding situations. There is good evidence that supplementing with tyrosine replenishes these important neurotransmitters and improves mental function, compared to a placebo. While tyrosine has many benefits, their significance remains unclear until more evidence is available.
Tyrosine is an amino acid that the body produces from phenylalanine. Supplementing with it is thought to increase important brain chemicals, which affect your mood and stress response. Studies show that tyrosine can help maintain your mental capacity when taken before a stressful activity. However, there is no evidence that supplementing with it can improve your memory. PKU is a serious condition that may cause tyrosine deficiency.
More studies are needed before recommendations can be made about treating it with tyrosine supplements. Tyrosine can be converted into neurotransmitters that affect mood. However, research doesn’t support supplementing with it to combat symptoms of depression.
Tyrosine is considered to be safe for the majority of people. Supplementing with it has been shown to be safe, even in high doses, but has the potential to interact with certain medications. Taking tyrosine as a free-form amino acid is the best form of the supplement.
Some of the best anti-stress effects have been observed when it’s taken in doses of 45-68 mg per pound of body weight about 60 minutes before a stressful event. Keep in mind that all this information does not replace medical advice from your doctor or healthcare provider and it is not meant to cover all possible uses, precautions, interactions or adverse effects.