Yes, there are problems with all studies, and it sure is fun to pile on, but a cursory search of examine.com confirms my own experience and that of amateur noot-ers: Theanine takes the edge off caffeine and helps focus. Caffeine+Theanine is the third highest recommended home treatment for focus (behind exercise and sleep) on r/nootropics for whatever that's worth.
You can find other studies here: https://examine.com/supplements/theanine/
I take it semi-regularly during times I'm over-consuming caffeine, but find that I come to resent its absence when I stop taking it.
I'm surprised modafinil isn't no. 1
I don't use it regularly to avoid developing a tolerance, but that thing has a profound impact on the ability to focus and power through, nothing else I've tried comes even close. I guess speed/amphetamine but that gets me euphoric and I notice elevated heart rate, I don't feel any different on modafinil other than focused and tiredness being blocked.
Instead of asking your doctor for psychoactive drugs or delving through the dark corners of the internet or dark corners of downtown alleys, you can get caffeine at Walgreens or Starbucks.
If the recommendations were purely about effectiveness all recommendations would likely be prescriptions...
Adderall on the other hand, while stimulating and euphoric, gets the job done. But it works so well that I have trouble focusing without it now. I’ve tried tapering off multiple times but always go back to it when my work quality suffers and I’m not contributing to tasks that my team needs done.
I avoid both nowadays because work isn’t worth risking health.
Eventually though I worried about the quality of the batched I was getting online and stopped taking it altogether. But I still really struggled with focus on a daily basis and started to wonder if what I was really doing was self medicating for undiagnosed ADHD. Thinking back on my life it did sort of fit. Though I am a "successful" developer and I'm doing fairly well at life, it has always felt like I had to struggle and fight a lot more than the average person just go get through the day and stay on task. So I talked to a doctor, tried ritalin and adderall and have settled on a low dose adderall routine that really works for me. It helps tremendously with focus and motivation, and if I am diligent about maintaining a good diet/exercise/sleep schedule, the side effects are very manageable with daily use. I still think about the modafinil days, because those were good times, and it was fun to have that all day I'm on fire feeling. Adderall is nice, but I can tell that if I upped my dose to get into the realm of intense focus that Modafinil used to give me, I would also be getting pretty "high" and the comedown side effects would probably be more unpleasant.
Highly recommend anyone considering it talking it over with their doctor first. The dose they sell via grey market can be rather high especially if you haven't had it before.
Highly recommend anyone considering it talking
it over with their doctor first.
The doctors I've mentioned it to were not receptive to prescribing it off-label for attention disorders.
They didn't really seem to think it was an awful idea per se but really couldn't endorse it, and naturally they were worried about the risks of ordering it from possibly-unreliable overseas pharmacies.
I'm not a proponent of having drugs be "prescription only", people should be allowed to eat what they want if they don't harm anyone else... but I personally put Modafinil under my list of stuff that you probably may need some help with if you want to try it.
Someone shared modafinil with me once. The effect is crazy.
As you say, it lets you focus on single task for quite a long time, without feeling tired. And I'm saying it as a person who can be easily distracted.
I never tried it again, not to mess with my brain.
But overall I do find it beneficial and preferable to Adderall.
It does work pretty well for focus though, and is really nice for my middle-aged brain which often is tired throughout the day.
EDIT... and it looks like this is a controlled substance. I didnt know
As far as dosage, it's really trial and error I suppose. Generally each pill is meant as a single dose AFAIK. You can always dip your toes in the water by starting off with 1/4 or 1/2 a pill.
I generally do 1/2 a pill before breakfast and 1/2 a pill before lunch (on work days) and roughly half that amount on off days.
The mild oral fixation and water thing is a little annoying, but overall it’s worth it for how much easier it makes a lot of things (including for my family).
It seemed as though I'd increase focus, but not use it as well. Even worse, I'd typically be quite aware of my misused attention. Otherwise I tended to notice physical side effects like dry mouth and perhaps not dizziness but a sort of floating, poorly grounded sensation at times.
I used it for 3 months and stopped using stimulants for close to a year as a result. It works really well for some people, but threw me off fairly badly.
In any case, the active ingredient in these is the same, the delivery is just slightly different.
I mean, these studies are scientific and probably true, but I wish coffee's bad effects were studied more.
Just make sure you buy it from a brick instead of the loose leaf (which tends to be lower quality imo).
Hm, i ask myself if the reduction in measured theanine is just by dilution or if the milk reacts with the theanine.
I twist the capsule apart, then pour its contents (the powder) out. Buying the powder inside capsules is a convenient way of measuring out a very small quantity of powder.
A while back, I noticed that 'chai' helps me focus and relax (improved mood, less anxiety, etc.) at the same time. It's made of milk, black tea, cardamom, cinnamon, and negligible/no sugar (personal preference).
I prefer coffee in terms of taste, but of all the things I have tried, this has been the best for me. Black tea alone doesn't have the same effect on me, nor does green tea, or coffee with or without milk/cream/sugar.
So I wonder if it's the combination that matter and not theanine alone.
I know Starbucks et al market the above as 'chai', but I think 'masala' (as in 'masala chai' ) should be the keyword.
Maybe you mean no added sugar? Milk has 1.5g of sugar / oz (about half that of orange juice, as a comparison).
What conclusions would you draw from that if you want to focus more?
I've been off caffeine and yerba mate (of which the yerba I consumed daily for the past 9 or so years) for two weeks. Feels really great, I admit being somewhat less sharp mentally (for now), but I still get everything relevant done. And -- maybe yet I feel kind of more... mentally balanced? Imagine having less thoughts throughout the day, but the ones you have, you'll like more. :)
It's like my energy levels are much more consistent, no sudden drops throughout the day -- and that's even when I'm doing heavy physical work. (I'm a full-time forestry worker, tree planter, brush cutter these days -- now not even thinking about the usual midday yerba mate kick I used to rely on.)
The tiredness that sets in at night also feels much more calming. So IMO it's a highly recommended shift overall -- I guess just the first 4-5-6-7 days without coffee/strong tea may be really hard.
Very probably, yes. IIRC, I have actually tried quitting yerba/coffee a few times earlier as well while doing mostly mental work. And I always failed. Currently my days in the forest consist of several 1.5h brush cutting sessions -- meaning, during that time, I am in nonstop movement, cutting the brush, unable to do anything else. During a break between the sessions, I am usually heavily dehydrated, so my body just wants a lot of water. I think I've even come to dislike the idea of having coffee or (really surprisingly) yerba mate at that point.
Currently I usually work 3x1.5h sessions every day, plus water drinking breaks and saw blade sharpening, so it's around 5-6 hours in the woods every day. And, in the forest you have no coffee shops, no other shops, no fridges. And, if you manage not to take coffee with you, there's simply no coffee at all nearby! I suppose that's the essential part of the whole trick.
I plan to return to mental work for the winter. I do think staying off yerba/coffee will be a struggle again for indoor work and/or cold season.
Are you working in BC right now?
I'm in Eastern/Northern Europe, so the tree planting season ended here in July. There will be a tiny amount of planting work in the autumn as well, though.
For those interested, I watched and liked this documentary about tree planting in Canada (where it appears to be a huge industry). It's from the early 2010s, so I'm not sure about the money part -- my gut feeling says that maybe the "huge money days" are getting over for this industry. But, who knows. I have modest needs, so I do say that a skilled tree planter still makes good money, even in my (poor) country. Here's the 1-hour movie "78 days":
Have been off caffeine for several years now. Took probably a couple months to reach a point where I felt comfortable going into an interview or important meeting without it. Now I don't miss it at all, but if I ever do have it, a cup of decaf coffee will have me buzzing for hours, and an espresso will make me extremely uncomfortable and jittery - crazy that that used to be my baseline intake.
Now I don't miss it at all, but if I ever do
have it, a cup of decaf coffee will have me
buzzing for hours, and an espresso will make
me extremely uncomfortable and jittery
However I feel lucky myself in a different way. Never been tempted by harder drugs because caffeine has taught me I'd never stand a chance against them lol.
Coding and other such mental work is very tough for me unless a lot of factors line up. But I can stay focused on physical tasks even if I'm feeling like garbage - even something like tennis that's both mental+physical.
edit: Are you talking about sudden "cold turkey" quitting + the subsequent withdrawal? The answer to that is hell no -- if I try anything that foolish I'm really in for some hurt. Luckily as others have noted, there's no need to experience withdrawal if you taper dosage down over a week or two.
I've also tried some pretty interesting nootropics including one that was designed to support work in extreme environments, and the difference in feeling from caffeine was pretty wild. (I did have some pretty fascinating but unwanted side effects while getting the dosage dialed in, basically what I'd call super soldier mode, so I hesitate to mention it by name...)
Also, during tree planting, I only occasionally eat a few carrots or other vegetables to help me finish the day. After that, a well-deserved meal will follow.
Disclaimer, though: I have experimented with intermittent fasting for several years, so I suppose my body has already adapted to long periods of hunger. Be careful with this stuff, though, and don't listen to my silly advice.
That meta-analysis kinda suggests theanine doesn't really have much effect; caffeine improves attention.
Or are you just accusing them of doing poor research? Did you read the paper?
I wouldn’t use this paper to make life decisions on my mental health or assume theanine will give me super powers, but that’s with all research. Nothing exists in a vacuum and shouldn’t be interpreted that way. Overall, I’d say this is potentially interesting for someone researching these chemicals.
Just because a whole bunch of news articles make big claims about a small little research paper like this, doesn't mean that the paper or authors did.
And the abstract doesn't even give enough information to describe what they actually found. It gives p-values, but not effect sizes.
Even if you assume all they find is true, the effect could disappear or change into something else one month after initiation (dose accommodation, etc...)
Since you seem so certain, I have to ask: have you done the math to show that 36 isn't enough to tell you anything in this case?
Depending on the effect size and probability distributions involved, N=36 can give you a pretty respectable picture. It's not good enough to be the final word on the matter, but most papers aren't aiming to be that, nor should they. It seems to me these researchers were trying to scientifically test an idea that floats around coffee communities (I've heard specifically that theanine in your coffee will do this). There's no reason to "go big" right away when doing such a study. You start small to see if there's any hope for the idea, then try to get funding for a larger study by publishing.
>4 servings over a short period of time
The definition of "a short period of time" is relative. In this study, what you're defining as a short period of time seems ludicrous. The participants were given the servings on entirely different *days*, which is far past the amount of time that caffeine or theanine are active.
Finally, the article on HN the other day about bad research was not about small sample sizes, it was about outright fraudulent data. It's certainly possible that this study is a fraud, but, even if we grant that the sample size is small and the delay between administration is too short, that's not evidence of fraud.
This is just a cheap shot.
I'd be more impressed if you demonstrated why the sample size lacks the power to demonstrate an effect. (Use math and show your work.)
Also, it's a common mistake to assume that if the sample size were 3 million instead that the study would be more 'valid.'
Unless and until someone in this thread gets a copy of the paper so we can find out the effect sizes involved, we simply aren't able to objectively assess the study's statistical power.
But even then, I'm perhaps more worried about the file drawer effect. The type 1 error rate is fixed at 5%, n=36 studies are cheap, and p>.05 studies never get published. And we're looking at exactly one paper here. As far as I'm concerned, you can't have credibility without replicability.
It’s a repeated measures study and from the looks of it all subjects spent time in each of the four treatments + control, so it’s direct comparisons of the same people in each condition. They used three separate measures. Accounting for all that, they are working with something like 540 data points, and the fact it’s the same people in each set is a nice little feature for direct comparisons rather than a limitation. They even double blinded everything. All of that has to count for something.
Since a lot of the things that matter happen behind closed doors, and aren't necessarily mentioned in the paper (elsewhere someone quoted Gilman, another of his good zingers is something to the effect of, "You don't talk about your exes during a date."), there's also just too much room for people to fire spitballs from the back row when you've got a complicated design like that.
On the other hand, a successful, independent replication can be quite compelling. Not only that, but it's on philosophically firmer ground. There's a reason why it was so central to Popper's original formulation of the scientific process. It's the empirical way to vet a result. Squabbling over the statistics, on the other hand, frequently devolves into a kind of sophistry with a different mix of greek letters. It's great fun for economists, but this isn't economics, it's science.
According to wikipedia, caffeine is the world's most widely consumed psychoactive drug.
If you can keep your eyes open while staring at an open email you're being productive.
Although mileage varies and all that.
Same here, but the productive one is after the nap!
Caffeine and theanine exert opposite effects on attention under emotional arousal, Grace E Giles et al., Canadian Journal of Physiological Pharmacology, January 2017.
Based on the definition of emotional arousal, stress isn't 100% accurate, but perhaps better than aroused.
Too late to edit the title now, but for the benefit of next time, I'm still interested in suggestions.
> Consumed together, caffeine and theanine exert similar cognitive effects to that of caffeine alone, but exert opposite effects on arousal, in that caffeine accentuates and theanine mitigates physiological and felt stress responses.
This is inline with the anecdotal evidence about theanine's mitigating effect on caffeine & stress.
If I had drank the same amount of coffee I'd've needed to lay down. It was great for all nighters playing Halo multiplayer.
All this time I thought tea's superiority was due to it having "more hydration" or something. This is so interesting to know!
Different brands have noticeably different strength, though, gotta be careful. The less bitter the powder, the better imo.
Pretty much the least bitter powder I tried, and the effects come on slow and steady.
I'm really curious what they do differently when extracting caffeine.
Most other brands have a comparably more dry powder that hits like a truck for me even at (supposedly) the same dosage.
My solution is dilution. I put about four cups worth of coffee into the filter, and then 1.3 L water in the tank. The result is very weak coffee that you can drink throughout the day, keeping you mildly caffeinated and hydrated simultaneously.
If you’re making coffee for people who can’t accept watery coffee, just brew normally and add water afterwards. The Italians in the office will curse your name, but that’s just a sign you’re doing it right.
That's actually an interesting point, we're generally talking about coffee as if it's all the same, but I see people here talking about instant grounds, drip coffee and then there is espresso, I'm sure they all work out quite different. If you're used to grinding your own beans you'll know different beans have different caffeine amounts, and different extraction methods all have different yields.
Where I am it's all espresso, thanks to Italian immigrants bringing over stovetop espresso kettles in the 40s and jumpstarting our now incumbent coffee culture. I've never even seen a drip coffee machine, it's espresso machines in petrol stations, offices, cafes, restaurants, people's homes.
If I pull an espresso shot for too long it's going to have more caffeine in it than had it pulled really quickly, even though it's the same amount of coffee/water solution in the cup. So one person's four cups a day is rarely going to match another persons four cups a day. I'm sure it's the same for instant coffee brands or grinds too, when you take it all into consideration it's going to be hard to know what caffeine intake anyone has.
What you call stovetop espresso we call mocha, which is decidedly not espresso in my book. I also find the amount of caffeine in espresso laughable, but I’m also Scandinavian and we drink some pretty dark coffee apparently.
My main point was that there isn't a well defined amount of caffeine in any measure of 'four cups'. If you have four cups of Moka Pot coffee and I have four cups of your dark coffee, I'm going to be buzzing while you'll you be cursing the Alfonso Bialetti for daring to invent the device. Even if you consider 'shots' of coffee to be a measure, each bean/blend/grind will deliver different mounts of coffee. I think it's just worth noting if we're trying to discuss the effects of caffeine, as people tend to speak in cups per day. It sounds like you would be very disappointed with four cups of my coffee!
This looks like an excellent writeup for anyone interested: https://dailycoffeenews.com/2019/02/07/the-coffee-roasters-c...
I find hot coffee goes bitter by the time it cools down, but cold coffee stays about the same in flavor for a lot longer.
Because I can. And coffee gives me issues after a week or two.
Therefore something seems wrong about giving caffeine all the blame.
> Therefore something seems wrong about giving caffeine all the blame.
Possibly, but in this case, my primary comparison is between coffee and coffee with l-theanine and that one difference by itself produces a very noticeable difference in effect. I do not know what else in coffee could be producing jitters other than the caffeine. Or what in the cola could perhaps be inhibiting the effects of caffeine.
Have you tried drinking an equivalent amount of cola (in terms of caffeine dosage) every day for a week or two?
How much coffee do/did you drink per day?
Not…very high? Just “regular” high?
For the last 4 years I've been adding 100mg of pure caffeine powder and 125mg L-theanine to a non-caffinated morning beverage. I even had someone secretly add or not add the L-theanine without telling me for a while, so it's as well controlled as an n=1 study can be.
The difference is pretty night-and-day for me, but obviously ymmv.
There's a lot of genetic difference in caffeine processing, and I happen to have almost every genetic variant associated with high sensitivity I could find studied.
I would need over 24 oz of coffee for anything.
But at that point I'm pushing potentially unsafe levels..
I wish we were taught more about taking drugs. Use caffeine since it's legal, for an example.
"Don't have caffeine 2 days in a row. Ask yourself if you really need the energy or are thirsty/bored. Etc...."
You could apply the same to alcohol to reduce alcoholism.
Of course tolerance is also a factor. I’ve been reducing my intake, for a while it was well over 1g/day, and that wasn’t really about trying to “feel” anything.
(intentionally NOT quoting the remainder of your post)
The only time I ever felt anything from caffine:
I was working the midnight shift. (At a service industry job, there were no customers so it was dead.)
2 caffeine pills
2 cans of coke
I was also surprised to learn while driving Truck, that some US States outlawed caffeine pills. (Ohio) It might have been available at a drug store though, I only had access to truck stops.
I'll have to dive more on what the local processing means.
AFAIK it is not one of the supplements which requires careful brand selection (like a magnesium supplement).
Tea already contains both substances. Adding coffee would only up the caffeine levels + whatever else is in coffee. Unless I'm misunderstanding the abstract, this seems to argue for only drinking tea to get both the "cognitive effects" and the calming effect of L-theanine.
Fair disclosure: I love the aroma of coffee and am a coffee drinker and a smoker. They are like bad friends for whom I have developed fond feelings.
It's also much better with processed milk — usually condensed (lots of added sugar)  by default, or evaporated (no added sugar) .
Empirical research has never been about some true/false binary; that's a myth perpetuated on HN. It has always been about strength of evidence, improving models, and opening paths for future research. I've seen people dismiss case studies by decrying that their n=1, for god's sake.
Some "rituals" before sleeping are helpful too, like turning every thing off and drinking a cup of linden tea or valerian tea and then going to bed. Even a rooibos or anything without caffeine works, the important part is the ritual where you relax and prepare your body for the night.
In addition to that I found out that a little bit of intensive workout helps a lot. You don't need a 10km run or to light weights for 2 hours. Just put some tension into your body. You can't do a push up? Do half and stay there hanging with some tension on your muscles. Stretch your body until you feel the burn for a while, specially legs and back. There are some yoga posses where you stretch and also use your strength and they don't require any experience. And of course, don't hurt yourself doing more than what your body can take.
I have found that taking caffeine and other prescription stimulants(Adderall)have a negative effect in some ways increasing my anxiety or otherwise hindering my ability of outside-the-box thinking. Subsequently I have stopped taking Adderall completely for about a month now and I feel a ton better.
Haven't seen the actual paper yet, but generally reduced difference scores is taken as "better" performance on a cognitive control tasks. Which would mean, caffeine better than theanine, and better than caffeine plus theanine. Don't really know that however, because you lose information when you take a difference score. For example, caffeinated individuals may suddenly find non-emotional stimuli just as distracting as emotional stimuli, and so difference between conditions disappears. That's why its important to note the change in all conditions (emotional vs non-emotional flankers) in all experimental groups.
For the first task, they found that in the caffeine treatment subjects were more likely to pay attention to global features when rating similarity relative to placebo, and that in the theanine treatment, they were more likely to pay attention to local features.
In the second task, they found no significant differences in alerting and orienting, so I won't discuss these. For executive control (interference resolution), there were differences. This task is a flanker task. They have to indicate the direction an arrow is facing when flanked by arrows that were either pointing the same direction (congruent), pointing the different direction (incongruent) or neither (neutral). They then computed difference scores by subtracting the mean response time from congruent trials from mean response times from incongruent trials. Ordinarily, incongruent trials are harder, so response times will be slower than in the congruent condition. To quote from the article, which substantiates what I said about how these difference scores are generally interpreted, "for executive control, higher difference scores indicate poorer functioning." So what were the results? Relative to placebo, in the theanine treatment subjects had significantly larger difference scores, which the authors would interpret as poorer executive functioning. Relative to placebo, in the the caffeine treatment, subjects had significantly smaller difference scores, which, again, the authors would treat has better executive functioning.
To reiterate what I said before: difference scores lose information. The authors do not show the raw mean response times by condition. So just because the difference scores were greater in theanine relative to placebo than in caffeine relative to placebo does not, in my opinion, unambiguously tells us about performance. For example, it could be that in the caffeine treatment, people get slower in congruent trials and the incongruent response times remained the same.
They also collected subjective ratings of mood. It's worth quoting them on that:
"Caffeine consumption, both with and without theanine, elevated feelings of tension, depression, anger, confusion, and total mood disturbance. In the absence of theanine, caffeine also enhanced feelings of vigor and depression. Such findings are consistent with previous studies showing that caffeine reliably increases self-reported
arousal measures across a range of doses (e.g., 100–400 mg caffeine) (Addicott and Laurienti 2009; Mahoney et al. 2011; Smith et al. 2006). Thus, under heightened emotional arousal, the mood effects of caffeine and theanine appear to be driven by caffeine."
So is caffeine or theanine better? Well the experimental tasks are really hard to interpret. I guess if you are doing something that requires a lot of control in a distracting context (say landing a plane, when your co-pilot won't stop talking about what they did in Morocco) in an emotionally stressful situation (your spouse just called to tell you that they want a divorce), maybe caffeine would be better than theanine ... for landing the plane at least. But you might get more depressed. (this last paragraph is mostly a bit of dark humor, don't take it too seriously)
I've had bad sleep forever, but since I've started concerta, my sleep is worse than ever.
Guess I should give theanine another shot.
It is not like now my life has changed, but before I needed the coffee to be able to work properly and now I do not.
My life improved significantly when I realized that I was drinking soda, energy drinks, or coffee for the caffeine, not the taste or "nutrition": they're all extremely acidic, and some are extremely sugary.
Instead of drinking my drugs, I drink from a water bottle and take a slow-release pill each morning with my multivitamin.
I ask because I don't get any high or rush from coffee, that I notice. I would be interested in tracking signs looking for impact. But I mostly just like the taste.
For a subtle effect like this, I would argue that it's not actually possible to experiment on yourself in a meaningful way. If you don't use a double blind protocol, then any real effect is going to be completely overwhelmed by things like the placebo effect. And the absolute minimum number of people required to implement a double blind protocol is three: one to assign treatment and analyze the data, another to administer the treatment and collect the data, and one person to actually get experimented on.
For this particular experiment, I'd go a step further and say say that the absolute minimum is 4, because you want to make sure that both alternatives are being tested under conditions where it's the participant's first time performing the cognitive task you're using for evaluation. That's only possible if you have separate participants for the treatment and control.
I mean, I know basically how many beers will get me drunk and am well aware of the times I drink. Coffee, though? I read tons of folks saying it affects them... But it feels similar to the folks saying vitamin d improved their life. I am not claiming they are false, but I am claiming I don't feel it.
Which, that may not even be true. In which case, I don't mind. It was all by way of illustrating, be careful trying to extrapolate from a sample size of 1. In fact, just don't do it. Conversely, don't assume an aggregate statistic accurately describes anybody in particular.
And the point on being careful extrapolating makes sense. I will work on that.
Coffee is as strong as I can find. I prefer the taste of robusta beans. Have taken to steamed milk lately, but no sugar.
I'll check out the link you put in the other post. Thanks!
Once I stopped drinking caffeinated soda my sleep quality improved massively. I was drinking it at least 8 hours before sleep, but apparently caffeine works close to 12 hours.
That makes it a lot easier to meter dosage for an experiment. You can also try to get consistent caffeine by using a consistent, fresh bean/roast, high quality burr grinder, and a brix meter to check extraction %.
For what it's worth though, I certainly notice the effects of theanine when I take it, usually 200mg upon waking before my first coffee.
Combining with this other little jewel found on HN earlier this afternoon:
However, if you feel these symptoms are pretty bad, it is worth going to a gastroenterologist - chronic upper GI acidity can lead to GERD and that can lead to esophageal cancer.
It's expensive, but it's really the only probiotic that has ever made a difference for me.
My acid reflux is almost completely gone because of it.
I think of it as a "high performance" teapot because I can heat water in a kettle and use Sencha + Matcha to have delicious and relaxing green tea in about 2 minutes and 30 seconds. I wash out the metal filter and it's ready to go again.