What is Tyrosine (Amino Acid)?
L-tyrosine, or simply tyrosine, is an amino acid required to synthesize several neurotransmitters. Tyrosine hydroxylase enzymes found in dopaminergic cells convert tyrosine into levodopa (L-DOPA), the direct precursor to dopamine. The body converts L-DOPA into the catecholamines (monoamine neurotransmitters) norepinephrine and epinephrine. Although many foods contain dopamine, it’s unable to cross the blood-brain barrier (BBB). The body must synthesize dopamine in the brain from amino acids, and tyrosine is the most common amino acid found in foods.
Tyrosine converts into several other important physiological compounds. The thyroid uses tyrosine to develop triiodothyronine (T3) and thyroxine (T4) hormones, and it’s necessary to create the benzoquinone structure of Coenzyme Q10 (CoQ10). The body also uses tyrosine to synthesize the skin pigment melanin. It is one of the 20 amino acids that cells use to synthesize proteins as well.
Potential L-Tyrosine Benefits
Tyrosine Supplements for Mental Stress
Mental stress or situations that require high cognitive demands rapidly deplete catecholamines, particularly dopamine and norepinephrine. As catecholamine levels diminish, cognitive performance suffers. Several human studies have shown that tyrosine supplements help improve working memory, cognitive flexibility, and task switching by replenishing these critical catecholamines. Another study reported that l-tyrosine improves alertness in sleep-deprived individuals, too. Animal studies show l-tyrosine also effectively attenuated the effects of environmental stress on memory, such as cold exposure.
Tyrosine Supplements as an Antioxidant
Tyrosine supplements may exert neuroprotective effects in the brain, too. When catecholamines decrease in neuronal tissues, oxidative stress increases. Oxidative stress can lead to numerous adverse health effects, such as premature brain aging and neurodegenerative conditions. Researchers believe tyrosine supplements act as an antioxidant by increasing the availability of the catecholamines L-DOPA, dopamine, and noradrenaline, which may also help scavenge free radicals.
L-Tyrosine and Theanine
Theanine is another supplement that is great for reducing stress and enhancing cognition. Taking l-tyrosine and theanine together before a mentally stressful event may provide even greater mental energy and focus.
L-Tyrosine and 5-HTP
L-tyrosine is necessary to synthesize dopamine, and 5-HTP is the precursor to serotonin. Dopamine and serotonin both play a critical role in regulating moods. However, these amino acids often compete with each other, leading to an imbalance of dopamine or serotonin. Taking l-tyrosine and 5-HTP may help rectify this issue and enhance mood.
Tyrosine Supplements for Athletic Performance
Tyrosine supplements may enhance exercise performance. Physical exercise impairs catecholamine function and leads to mental fatigue. While tyrosine does not exert a direct effect on exercise capacity, it does improve mental performance. For athletes, enhancing cognitive function allows for more successful execution of motor skills and tactics.
Potential L-Tyrosine Side Effects
Most individuals tolerate tyrosine supplements well. However, it may interact with some medications, including Monoamine Oxidase Inhibitors (MAOIs), L-DOPA, and thyroid medications. Consult with a physician before taking any new supplements.
References & Research
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