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Caffeine and theanine exert opposite effects on attention (2017) (nih.gov)
271 points by chalst 8 days ago | hide | past | favorite | 243 comments





Theanine has been shown to have a noticeable relaxation without sedative effect, and a minor decrease in anxiety, within minutes of ingestion.

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.


>Caffeine+Theanine is the third highest recommended home treatment for focus (behind exercise and sleep) on r/nootropics for whatever that's worth.

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.


I'm sure it's primarily because caffeine and theanine are culturally accepted and available cheaply over-the-counter. Modafinil is prescription-only (at least in the US), and speed/amphetamines are likewise illegal.

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.


But the two aren't even comparable in terms of effect IMO. I already have caffeine tolerance so at this point I'm drinking coffee out of habit and not to go through withdrawal, but even when I reset my tolerance a few times getting back into it does almost nothing compared to modafinil (aside from getting jitters when I overdo it)

I just skimmed r/nootropics and it seems like the side effects and prescription requirement of modafinil disqualify it as a home recommendation.

If the recommendations were purely about effectiveness all recommendations would likely be prescriptions...


Interesting. My anecdotal experience with modafinil is that I get extreme anxiety and elevated heart rate without any additional focus benefits. In fact, it detriments my ability to focus.

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 got that the second time I used modafinil and went with whole pill (did half the first time). Later on I did whole pills every time and had no sideffects (a couple of times I would get noticeably elevated HR, but I was awake 12+h at that point and need moda to get through the night)

What dosage? I've tried 25mg, 50mg, 100mg and 200mg doses for Modafanil at different stages for a month. I was really trying to get off of Adderall at the time, but nothing really worked for me.

200mg worked for me, started with 100mg to see if I would get sideffects, but I never used it over 2-3 days in a week.

Different strokes for different blokes, I guess.

Paranoid suspicion was my #1 effect. No thanks.

Modafinil or Methylphenidate? Modafinil never made me paranoid but I know at least one person with psychosis caused by Methylphenidate.

I avoid both nowadays because work isn’t worth risking health.


What are the health risks with either?

For Modafanil or Adderall?

You can try Armodafinil instead of modafinil, it cause less anxiety. Also not popular but apparently effective, amantadine is an interesting dopaminergic.

re. Modafinil, I heard it mentioned by a reputable programmer on twitter and decided to try it. I used it regularly for several years, and it was extremely useful in helping with focus and staying on task. I feel like it helped me in a breakthrough phase of my career. The problem I found was that I could only tolerate it 2-3 times per week over the long term. Any more than that, and the edgy/anxious/irritable side effects would build up to intolerable levels. Not to mention I was buying from questionable sources online, figuring it would be too difficult to talk a doctor into prescribing me some.

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.


I daily take modafinil, actually prescribed to me. I have bad problems when I take either ritalin or adderall. Not being able to sleep for over 24 hours, and panic attacks being some of the more annoying ones. Modafinil on the other hand the difference is more subtle, where if I try I can focus but I'm not trying to focus on something.

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.
Do folks generally have luck getting it prescribed for ADHD and its ilk these days?

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 haven't been able to get modafinil for ADHD (n=1). I have heard of people getting prescriptions for modafinil because of their work schedules (e.g. being tied to the hours of a stock exchange in a different time zone).

Ah, that's interesting. Maybe I could wrangle something like that.

Have you been at a low dose for a long time? Is there something you do to reduce tolerance?

The nootropics community is usually more about substances with reliable effects across the whole spectrum of neural fauna. Modafinil has side effects that are really bad for productivity in a substantial percent of the population, like it doesn't work or it's really bad for some people with GAD or OCD and people prone to addiction or with ASD.

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.


Could you please expand on what you mean by "neural fauna"? I'm not sure I understand what you're referring to.

Everyone's brain is different and substances may don't affect everyone in the same way. Like how some people get addicted to coffee or cigarettes and some don't, some people get the benefits of Modafinil without the side effects and some don't. Cognitive disorders are one way to categorize this but it can be more complex than that. People with OCD or GAD are an extreme example, there's a lot of different personality types and brain structures out there, that's the "neural fauna" I'm talking about.

> I'm surprised modafinil isn't no. 1

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.


It has that effect for me... but unfortunately I don't always get to choose the task. Sometimes I'll get really interested in the wrong thing, as opposed to work.

But overall I do find it beneficial and preferable to Adderall.


Yes, same thing, I get distracted easily, but modafinil is like a cheat code to getting stuff done.

-afanils don't work for everyone. Modafinil makes me both jittery and tired, and I can't focus for more than a minute; kind of like I'm badly jet lagged and just need to pass out.

My problem with Moda/Armoda is that I feel like a tweaker when I'm on it, and I only take enough to get an effect. I get sweaty, physically stressed, and just generally feel like I'm taking something that is not in my body's best interests. I have to drink liters of water to avoid a headache. I also have noticed some of the dopamine effects(increased risk taking and addictive behaviors). I'm slightly bipolar though(type II, pretty mild) so maybe it's just not for people like me.

It does work pretty well for focus though, and is really nice for my middle-aged brain which often is tired throughout the day.


Do you have a site you use to purchase your modafinil? And how did you decide dosage?

EDIT... and it looks like this is a controlled substance. I didnt know


I'm not sure about HN policy here regarding linking to such things. For a couple of years I ordered from Afinil Express, who have semirecently changed their name to Shark Mood. You can guess/Google the URL. For security you'll definitely want to use cryptocurrency and not a credit card; apparently the issue is shady overseas card processors and not the merchant(s) themselves FWIW.

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.


Gf had a huge stash she ordered from India years back. I almost ran through them over the years so will need to restock but it doesn't seem as big of a deal as getting rec drugs, more like ordering steroids

It’s only schedule IV. The other stimulants are schedule II because they can be abused.

Have you tried Dexedrine? It’s the right handed enantiomer of adderall which has less pronounced effects on heart rate, etc.

Dexedrine is great for me except for two things. I need to drink a tremendous amount of water and I don’t grind my teeth but I sort of lightly chatter them together. Apart from that it enhances just about everything - memory, focus, ability to socialize, executive function.

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).


Awesome, thanks for sharing your experience! How does adderall compare to it? What about modafonil?

I can't compare it to those, but I have tried Lisdexamfetamine. It's supposed to break down slower and more steadily, creating less intense spikes and drop offs in the uptake of amphetamines, but my experience was very poor. I'm not sure why.

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 always take theanine with my caffeine (that is, I drink tea).

I've recently switched over to green tea and really wish I had earlier.

What did you switch from? Coffee? Coffee has some decent health benefits as well, but probably isn't so great for your anxiety levels. :-)

Yes from coffee. I was almost at a pot/day and it was not helping.

I switch to espresso a couple years ago and never looked back. A double shot latte in the AM is enough to keep me going and I don’t need a full pot. If I’m especially tired I’ll do a straight espresso shot in the afternoon.

Agree. Coffee is a pretty bad drug. I wish there was at least some stigma against drinking it every day, but instead we're bombarded with studies that say it protects against cancers ... but only of you drink min 3 cups every day.

I mean, these studies are scientific and probably true, but I wish coffee's bad effects were studied more.


Interesting. As a Chinese I used to drink tea but years ago I switched to coffee for better flavour. Maybe I should try milk tea instead.

Don’t give up on the flavour, there is a massive range of Chinese tea that’s indescribably amazing. I mean, duckshit oolong, da Hong pao, puerh…

I worked at an American Chinese restaurant that had fantastic oolong tea. Whenever I bought it from Asian supermarkets it was literally the worst quality tea I’ve ever tasted, below the Lipton tea that’s for making sweet tea.

Part of the problem there is that the domestic market consumes most of the best grades of all types of teas. But it's possible to get really amazing Chinese and Taiwanese teas from tea importers in the US[1] and EU. Some of them are pricey, but not all (and tea is generally not too expensive per cup, compared with lots of other beverages).

1: https://www.uptontea.com/teas/c/oolong-tea/pgsize/12/filter/...


Buy online, check out the /r/tea wiki [0] and specifically the user vendor list [1]

[0] https://old.reddit.com/r/tea/wiki/faq

[1] https://old.reddit.com/r/tea/wiki/vendors/page_01


Look for "Tie Guan Yin" (Iron Goddess of Mercy) Oolong. It's a lovely starting point. Usually good across most brands. Medium-light and naturally floral/fruity quality to it. The amount you use and the temp and time for brewing are also different for Oolong compared to black teas.

I've found Pu Erh tea is a great transition as a coffee drinker. It has that strong earthy/malty flavor, even if it doesn't have the caffeine.

Just make sure you buy it from a brick instead of the loose leaf (which tends to be lower quality imo).


Pu Erh is great but you have to be careful with it if you have low blood pressure. I learn't the hard way after I once brewed some after having a beer and straight down passed out in the kitchen, like fell to the floor passed out. I do have low blood pressure and usually took Pu Erh while sitting down but after that I just stopped taking it allover.

A study of teabags sold in British supermarkets in 2011 found that the teabags containing the most L-theanine per cup (24 mg versus 8 mg per cup) were the lower-quality brands containing black tea, with a supermarket brand of black tea having the highest theanine content. The study demonstrates that brewing time is a major determinant of the amount of l-theanine extracted. Addition of sugar and small quantities of milk make no significant difference, while larger quantities of milk reduced the measured theanine content.

source: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Theanine

Hm, i ask myself if the reduction in measured theanine is just by dilution or if the milk reacts with the theanine.


Or put some pure theanine powder in your coffee. I use this brand because there is no cellulose or other non-soluble ingredient in the powder that ends up floating on the liquid:

https://www.iherb.com/pr/metabolic-maintenance-l-theanine-20...

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.


I’m addicted to matcha. Just so happens to have high levels or l-theanine.

I have personally observed something similar with black tea but I am not sure if's just the theanine + EGCGs or something else.

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.


> 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 know Starbucks et al market the above as 'chai', but I think 'masala' (as in 'masala chai' [1]) should be the keyword.

[1] https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Masala_chai



> It's made of milk, black tea, cardamom, cinnamon, and negligible/no sugar

Maybe you mean no added sugar? Milk has 1.5g of sugar / oz (about half that of orange juice, as a comparison).


I use l theanine everyday to avoid heart palpitations with coffee. Is there any long term damage I’m doing from this daily combo??

Within minutes? Are you snorting it? can anything get through you that quickly orally? Sounds like placebo

If consumed dissolved in a liquid on an empty stomach, it can be absorbed rather quickly.

Would you also conclude that the study shows evidence that in a caffeinated body the theanine's only work is to reduce the effects of the caffeine?

What conclusions would you draw from that if you want to focus more?


Simple protocol: one coffee cup in the morning to wake up. Green or black tea through the day as needed.

Somewhat related: In his recent book "This is Your Mind on Plants", Michael Pollan also discusses caffeine addiction. Transcript of an interview with him on Tim Ferriss' blog:

https://tim.blog/2021/06/30/michael-pollan-this-is-your-mind...

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.


Do you think doing a job involving more physical than mental labor made it easier to get through the withdrawal? It seems like pushing through the stupor is tough but doable for physical stuff, whereas with mental work (like programming) you can be pretty much knocked out of commission until the symptoms subside.

> Do you think doing a job involving more physical than mental labor made it easier to get through the withdrawal?

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.


Neat to hear from a planter, you guys are at the front of the pack when it comes to maximising physical performance.

Are you working in BC right now?


Yes, brush cutting, probably till the end of August or so. I have never logged bigger trees, and I would rather not do this either, for ethical reasons. (My logic: it feels sort-of OK to take care of trees already planted -- even though this is also part of the intensive forest management industry, and it helps to create monocultures --, but let's try to preserve as much of the older forests as we can.)

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":

https://vimeo.com/62827819


You don't have to quit caffeine cold turkey. You can just ramp down from n cups of coffee/day to 1 cup, then switch to n cups of tea/day (black or green) and ramp down to 1 cup, then switch to low-caffeine or caffeine-free tea, then stop entirely.

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
I think you're rather lucky! Whenever I successfully wean myself away from caffeine... one reason I can never stay away is because when I go back to it, it feels so good.

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.


Addiction is real :)

Not the person you asked but: absolutely yeah.

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.


Exactly, i find mental work close to impossible a few days after quitting caffeine. I can do social stuff to an extend and get manual labor stuff done, but not anything requiring initiative and self discipline.

Curious, do you use anything else? I like trying out various ideas on long or difficult hikes. One category that consistently helps is the anti-inflammatory category.

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...)


Nope, nothing else. I have been heavily relying on yerba mate -- one sip or tiny cup works wonders during heavy tree planting sessions. This has always been my secret weapon, because, in contrast to coffee, it doesn't seem to cause a feeling of fluid loss.

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.


I'm not sure if this is exactly what you're getting at, but, in the anti-inflammatory category, glucosamine and aspirin are both great, and have some pretty good science behind them.

I’d be interested in talking with you about a project I’m working on (forestry-related, not caffeine-related), if you’re open to it.

Info@madronus.com


This is the kind of paper that yesterday article about how we should assume all medical research is fraudulent warned about.

That's why I usually pay most attention to meta-analyses, if the studies aren't huge and preregistered:

https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/24946991/

That meta-analysis kinda suggests theanine doesn't really have much effect; caffeine improves attention.


That article was about fraud. So, are you accusing the authors of this research paper of fraud? Do you think they just made up the data? Maybe altered their figures?

Or are you just accusing them of doing poor research? Did you read the paper?


What was the article from yesterday? I feel like I missed something helpful.


Yeah, holy crap, if your alarm bells aren't ringing from the moment you start reading a paper like this by now I don't know what to tell you.

Alarm bells? I’m not sure I follow. What’s “this” kind of paper? Their methods seem rational. Many references on previous research are mentioned. Do you think we’re being gaslighted or something?

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.


I read the paper. I don't think it is bad. They don't actually make many claims in their conclusions. I do worry about the N (they don't attempt any sort of effect size analysis, but that is, unfortunately, common enough), and I have a some quibbles with how they do their response time analysis, but otherwise the methods are rational, and conservative.

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.


Has anyone actually read the paper? I hit a paywall.

And the abstract doesn't even give enough information to describe what they actually found. It gives p-values, but not effect sizes.


N=36 and testing protocol of 4 servings over a short period of time is all you need to know.

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...)


>N=36

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.


What you'd hope is that someone would use that result to get funding for a bigger study. I've got a lot of sympathy for the sceptical position, but you've got to start somewhere.

"As you know from teaching introductory statistics, 30 is infinity." -Gelman

Just wanted to say that this quote is hilarious. I tried to look it up, but couldn't find anything. What's it from?

Andrew Gelman, a semi-famous statistician. Author of some good textbooks. I'm not sure of the original source, but here's a list of chestnuts from his website: http://www.stat.columbia.edu/~gelman/book/gelman_quotes.pdf

> N=36

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.'


> I'd be more impressed if you demonstrated why the sample size lacks the power to demonstrate an effect.

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 not just about raw numbers though, you need to consider the experimental design, which looks really tight in this case.

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.


It absolutely does, but also leaves me even less inclined to make much of the abstract alone. You clearly have access to the fulltext. I don't, so the abstract and hearsay from others is all I've had to go on. But my concern about a repeated measures study is that that extra power doesn't come for free. It comes along with a bunch of new and subtle ways for endogeneity to sneak into your model, and, sadly, the menu of techniques for dealing with that introduce a lot of new ways to (accidentally or otherwise) engage in p-hacking.

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.


There's pharma companies worth over a billion dollars based on studies with a smaller sample sizes so I don't see N=36 as a deal breaker especially when there's very little money incentive here.


Googling the title didn't find me any full-text PDFs, but sci-hub should have it.

I simply can't understand why it is still uncommon to sleep at the office, while they give this psychoactive drug called caffeine for free.

According to wikipedia, caffeine is the world's most widely consumed psychoactive drug.


If you sleep at the office you're wasting time and slacking.

If you can keep your eyes open while staring at an open email you're being productive.


Sadly this is the truth. It's all about perceived work and not actual work.

[flagged]


Please don’t turn this place into reddit.

You need to master the art of sleeping in your office chair with your back to the door. Keep an interesting piece of paper handy to be reading when someone comes in instead of staring at a blank screen.

You mean you're not in a giant open office? Nice.

Well that was a reference to a bygone era when I did in fact have a corner office with an amazing view and yes a door! It was my first job as an intern decades ago. What I've been crammed into since then has never come close. The company at the time wanted to show how great they were by letting the most junior have the best seats.

Since working from home due to the pandemic I’ve been able to wean myself completely off caffeine. To not get tired in the afternoons, I take a 15-20 minute nap each day after lunch. I think this has been good for me, and I’m worried that when I have to go back to the office I’ll be dependent on coffee again.

I wish I could nap. For me, a nap turns one normal day into two short days - a bright productive one and a dark groggy one. I've even tried the coffee-then-20-minute-nap method to no avail.

For me, naps are an exercise in lying still with my eyes open. Even more frustrating IMO. Am I winning the misery olympics?

This possibly sounds like being over tired. Are you able to fully relax at different points in the day, or would you say you are an always on the go type? If the latter it could be you have a sleep/relaxation deficit that the napping can't pay back.

Although mileage varies and all that.


> For me, a nap turns one normal day into two short days - a bright productive one and a dark groggy one.

Same here, but the productive one is after the nap!


My wife and I are the same way -- we never seem to feel refreshed from midday naps. Is there something we're doing wrong? :)

It's fairly common in China. Sure you have to 996 but that includes an hour for napping post lunch.

First time hearing of 996, for anyone else curious that's a 9am-9pm 6 days a week work schedule.

Do also check out https://996.icu/#/en_US :)

That's disgusting.

Couldn't fit title and date into 80 chars, so the story title is edited:

     Caffeine and theanine exert opposite effects on attention under emotional arousal, Grace E Giles et al., Canadian Journal of Physiological Pharmacology, January 2017.

I'd call the current title of this post blatantly wrong. In common use, "emotional arousal" and "arousal" have very different meanings.

I'm still able to edit the title: care to suggest another version that fits within 80 chars? The title alone fits, one char to spare, but I didn't want to pass off a 4-y.o. paper as if it was pharmacological news.

Possibly something like this: Caffeine and theanine have opposed effect on attention when stressed (2017)

Based on the definition of emotional arousal, stress isn't 100% accurate, but perhaps better than aroused.

[1] https://www.thefreedictionary.com/emotional+arousal


That theanine has a beneficial effect on stress, via cortisol suppression, is a long-standing hypothesis. That it has other effects under the article's umbrella term of "emotional arousal" is one of the interesting novelties of the article for me.

Too late to edit the title now, but for the benefit of next time, I'm still interested in suggestions.


Almost skipped an otherwise interesting topic because of this.

Agreed; in fact, it makes two points that have different impact:

> 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.


So is it fair to say that with tea relative to coffee, you get all the cognitive benefits and none of the arousal downsides (e.g, anxiety)?

Not none. The downsides are moderately decreased in my experience. I’m not sure the amount in tea, I suppose it varies greatly, but I’ve tried several different l-Theanine doses and caffeine mostly still feels like caffeine, just slightly modified.

In my experience, many of the negative effects are greatly reduced. When my dad first brought back a box of PG Tips from a work trip in London, I discovered I could drink like, ten cups and still function. Only moderately burned out.

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!


In my experience it’s been that tea gives me far less anxiety, but still a nonzero amount. It doesn’t wipe it out entirely, but it reduces the physiological symptoms of anxiety.

I understood "arousal" to be the emotional sort of arousal, but I see your point.

I noticed when I switched from cream to oat milk, the coffee hits a little differently. It feels stronger. I'm not sure if its some interaction with milk. But paper should consider what is consumed with the coffee too. Some people will add sugar, and some even add butter.

I'm... using caffeine powder sublingually... Fast acting, no stomach problems.

Different brands have noticeably different strength, though, gotta be careful. The less bitter the powder, the better imo.


In your experience, what is the brand with the least bitter powder?

Having tried half a dozen brands, I prefer Scitec Nutrition 100mg caffeine capsules.

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.


Probably something to do with the fat. There's something called bulletproof coffee or butter coffee where they add butter/coconut oil/mct oil and I think it's supposed to satiate you more as well as keep you from getting all jittery.

Coffee might bind to the cream more and then absorb slower. I notice with a teaspoon of butter I get a much less jittery experience. (The bullet coffee thing).

Have you tried drinking it black as well? I wonder if it’s added sugar that a lot of oat milks have or something drowsy-inducing in milk.

I haven't really. I switched to Oatmilk, because I was getting stomach cramps about once a month. Still haven't figured out if the milk was causing it, because it happened again after the switch. Maybe its something in the coffee, maybe the pesticides they use or maybe I don't clean the coffee machine frequently enough. I drink as many as 5 cups in day. So I'm might have a bit of a problem.

Oat milk has more carbs than the rest of the alt (?) milks, and sometimes more than cow. Def could be the reason for feeling better.

possibly the lipids in cow's milk slow the ingestion of caffeine. depends on the oat milk you drink and how much fat it has in its ingredients.

Oat milk has added vegetable oils like sunflower, which have higher amounts of unsaturated fats i think. Someone mentioned coconut oil, which is high in satarated fat, could make a difference.

I have a theory that the jittery/anxious feeling people say they get from caffeine is mainly due to the size of the dose and "quickness" of it. If you find that theanine fixes it, then great. But I'd also suggest trying 100 mg time-release caffeine and see how it goes. You might be surprised. This also has the benefit of needing less total caffeine while lasting you longer through the day. (Just a heads up: many brands only say they're time-release but don't seem to actually have the coating/capsule/matrix that you'd expect from an actual time-release pill.)

Agreed, if I drink a lot of strong coffee fast, I’m basically shaking for the next hour or so.

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.


The Italians in your office would have wanted espresso!

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.


Right but there are standard serving sizes so “four cups worth” is a well-defined amount, subject to cultural variations I’m sure.

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.


At least where I am, mocha is coffee + chocolate + milk, which is strange, because another common name of the stovetop espresso machine is a "Moka Pot", named after the Yemeni city of Mocha. A confusing fun fact for the day.

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!


Adding to the confusion: there's also the Mocha varietal for Arabica coffee beans. :) https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Mocha_coffee_bean

This looks like an excellent writeup for anyone interested: https://dailycoffeenews.com/2019/02/07/the-coffee-roasters-c...


I don't like watery coffee, so I mix mine 2/3 decaf. I have 4-5 cups throughout the morning. It keeps it a nice, even caffeine hit.

I drink my coffee over the course of a few hours, if I have to slam it down, say I suddenly need to leave the office, it makes me feel incredibly anxious and shaken. Taken slowly it has no noticeable effect except to my ability to get tired a tonight, I drink it entirely for the taste so that's actually a bummer. I've considered switching to decaf.

I find it gets cold fast. Do you have a heated mug? Suggestions?

Mine start cold, it's two shots of espresso in a tall glass of cold milk and no sugar. Basically an iced latte without the ice (too much work!). I do love a nice warm coffee on a wintery day but most of the time I'm drinking cold coffee as it's pretty hot where I am in Australia.

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.


I switched from a double shot in the morning (my only cup of the day) to two single shots, spread out over ~3 hours. My first is at 6 when I first wake, then another around 10 after my run and breakfast. Definitely feel less of the jitters.

I've seen this in many places; people will take L-theanine to counteract any jittery effects of caffeine, but I never noticed anything. What L-theanine is helpful for is going to sleep and calming one's mind.

I have. I can drink green tea (including strong matcha), which does contain l-theanine, probably daily, but I cannot drink coffee daily for more than maybe 2 weeks without experiencing adverse affects. Even one cup of coffee can leave me agitated. Supplementing coffee with l-theanine completely eliminates agitation.

Can you drink cola without adverse effects?

Because I can. And coffee gives me issues after a week or two.

Therefore something seems wrong about giving caffeine all the blame.


I don't drink soft drinks generally, and certainly not in those quantities, but I vaguely recall feeling anxious after drinking cola before.

> 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.


> And coffee gives me issues after a week or two.

Have you tried drinking an equivalent amount of cola (in terms of caffeine dosage) every day for a week or two?


Yes, I think so. I drank a lot of (diet) cola at some point, like 1 gallon a day. Never got any issues similar to the ones I got from coffee.

A gallon of diet coke has less caffeine than one Starbucks venti drip coffee (~380mg vs ~400mg).

How much coffee do/did you drink per day?


Like 3-5 regular cups a day (not Starbucks). Then after two weeks even 1 cup became too much. Switching to a gallon of cola then didn't cause any problems.

Black tea is also very high in l-theanine. Regular green tea is not, but matcha (which you consume) is as well.

I can also drink black tea for longer durations than unsupplemented coffee. When I drink green tea, my typical choice is sencha, but it is not nearly as concentrated as the matcha. So I suspect the caffeine is therefore lower than my typical cup of coffee, hence the reduced agitation?

> Regular green tea is not

Not…very high? Just “regular” high?


I am extremely sensitive to caffeine, it makes me super jittery and I can feel my heart race.

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.


Taurine and GABA synergize similarly with caffeine.

Indeed. When I am over-caffeinated I am energized but not exactly effective. L-theanine centers my mind.

I wish caffeine made me feel anything.

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.


You might have adhd. I fall into extremely high doses because a high level of stimulant use is needed to get to a “normal” baseline.

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.


>I wish caffeine made me 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.)

I took:

  2 caffeine pills
  4 coffee's
  2 cans of coke
It worked. I was very jittery, and had the shakes. But I survived the shift, and by the time the shift was over (7am) the sun was up, and I had a 1 hour drive to get home.

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.


Neat that the point is that they offset each other. Not just that they have opposite effects used individually, but when combined they are no different from a placebo.

I'll have to dive more on what the local processing means.


In the context of the experiment its whether participants paid attention to global or local features when making comparisons. Imagine a target object, a square made up multiple triangles. Then you have two options to select from: a square made up smaller rectangles (global similarity), or a hexagon made up of triangles (local similarity). Anyway, that's how its explained in the article.

Anecdotally, I have found l-theanine supplementation at night to work very well for insomnia and restful sleep.

Same, though it does seem to make dreams more vivid. Probably important to be careful of dosing. Less may be more.

Source? If this is true, it would explain a lot for me!

JRE had someone on recently about neuroscience. He said he cautions people against taking theanine for sleep if they’re prone to sleep walking.

which brand do you use?

I typically grab whatever is reasonably priced. Right now I have the NOW branded 100mg capsules. I avoid the larger dosages for reasons mentioned in sibling comments.

AFAIK it is not one of the supplements which requires careful brand selection (like a magnesium supplement).


Looks like Hong Kongers may be onto a good thing with yuenyeung, the local blend of coffee and tea:

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Yuenyeung


"Tea is perceived as more relaxing than coffee, even though both contain caffeine. L-theanine in tea may account for the difference."

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.


Some people, myself included, prefer the taste of coffee, though. So if I can just add some flavorless theanine and get some nice cognitive effects out of the deal, that's great.

You wouldn't mix tea in your coffee to do that. You would just buy L-Theanine powder and mix it in. It's not flavorless but due to the small quantity needed you shouldn't taste it once mixed in your coffee

Sure, but the folks in HK might enjoy that particular mix, right? I'm just trying to say that mixing in tea with your coffee isn't pointless or run counter to this particular study.

Coffee has other side-effects. If you are trying to quit smoking, for example, the task at hand will be far easier if you do not drink coffee. Nicotine breaks down caffeine and smokers who are coffee drinkers are subjected to heightened agitation due to increased caffeine intake when they stop smoking. Psychologically, this higher level of agitation is misinterpreted as nicotine cravings. It’s a vicious circle.

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.


Not just Hong Kong, but Singapore and Malaysia too. :)

It's also much better with processed milk — usually condensed (lots of added sugar) [1] by default, or evaporated (no added sugar) [2].

[1] https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Condensed_milk

[2] https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Evaporated_milk


36 participants on metabolic processes study seems like a small sample size

Not defending ridiculous claims based on small sample sets, but isn't this how it's supposed to work? You run some tests and notice a pattern and develop an hypothesis, and then continue to expand the test to see if it holds true? Then other groups perform the same tests to hopefully receive the same results so that we end up with known facts. Essentially, the definition of scientific method.

Yeah, but people aren't actually that interested in the scientific method here. Criticizing things is an easy way to appear smart, and that's the main point.

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.


I've been mixin L-theanine to my office coffee for years. It might be pure placebo, but I feel like I can concentrate better with it.

How's the taste? Notice any huge changes?

L-Theanine is somewhat sweet and... chalky, perhaps. It's a little savory/funky too. Not altogether an unpleasant flavour. I occasionally take a teaspoon of unpacked L-Theanine powder and stir it into a glass of water. It doesn't mix very readily, but once it does, it's barely noticeable (at least to my palate). I don't notice it when I repeat this process with green or black tea, so I would be surprised if anyone could detect it in coffee.

It doesn’t really taste like anything. Biggest thing is that you need to stir it quite a bit more than something like sugar to get it mixed

Although slightly higher in cost, you can get Theanine in pill form.

I've been taking tabs with 100mg of caffeine and 250mg of l-theanine after lunch and I found it better than a large coffee.

Do you take anything for sleep?

No. I've taken melatonin in the past and I don't know if it worked or it was just placebo because I changed also some habits like not going to bed with my tablet to watch Youtube. After taking the pill I didn't stare at any screen and I kept the lights as low as possible to help my body produce more melatonin.

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.


Theanine is supposed to help with sleep too

This isn't super surprising based on my personal experience. I take theanine in the morning to help clear my mind before working and also before bed to stop my mind from racing.

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.


I see a lot of people say "I take theanine" but what do you mean exactly? You just drink tea or does it come in other forms?

L-theanine is readily available in supplement form in the US (e.g. $6 for a bottle of 100 pills). I don't take it regularly but that's mostly because I haven't examined the evidence carefully.

Probably supplements. Be careful about what you buy though, internet is full of random "made in china" supplements containing god knows what

It comes in natural things like mushrooms / green tea, but its also synthesized in capsules / powder / products like neurogum.

>Caffeine reduced flanker conflict difference scores on the Attention Network Test (p < 0.05), theanine increased difference scores (p < 0.05), and the combination did not differ from placebo. Thus, under emotional arousal, caffeine and theanine exert opposite effects on certain attentional processes, but when consumed together, they counteract the effects of each other.

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.


They used "highly arousing negative film clips and pictures" to stimulate, so since it's negative clips under that kind of stimuli coffee would be worse.

I don't follow your reasoning. Worse at what precisely?

I've had a chance to look at the paper. So there were two tasks, one which contrasted global and local information processing when comparing figures based on global or local features, and another which measured three aspects of attentional control: alerting, orienting, and interference, in which the primary measure of interest was response time. There was no contrast between an emotional arousal treatment and a non-aroused treatment, as I had thought. Instead, this contrasts with previous literature that did not compare caffeine and theanine under conditions of emotional arousal.

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)


Anecdotally I've found that taking some l-theanine with coffee helps takes some of the edge off of the caffeine.

I've taken L-Theanine in the morning with coffee, but I found that it seems to limit the effects of my stimulant medication for ADHD, which I suppose makes sense. I will likely try taking it in the afternoon if I drink another cup of coffee.

Interesting. In what way? I just started a generic version of concerta and so far haven't found L-Theanine to have any negative effect, though I mostly get it from green tea and only take it in supplement form.

I vaguely remember theanine helped me sleep.

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.


I've been off caffeine for 3 months from now. It is harder to start to work until I get engaged into what I am doing (previously it was instant after the coffee shot), but I am getting used to it and I feel way less stressed during the day and more balanced in the aspects of energy and mental states.

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 (previously medicated) anxiety disorder has disappeared since I stopped drinking more than one coffee a day and started supplementing with l-theanine.

If you get anxiety from bodily sensations then caffeine is no bueno. It pretty much gives you the initial sensations of a panic attack then sets you off from there.

Which brand?

With the caveat that I am sure it doesn’t matter, Puritan’s Pride 200mg

Copious amounts of coffee + ltheanine was very popular on my college campus around midterms/finals.

I used them heavily in college, then less in my early professional life, then more heavily when I had very young kids, now back to what feels like a reasonable 100mg caffeine + 200mg L-theanine a day.

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.


That's such a great idea... I've done this with cigarettes and I've had similar thoughts about how I no longer enjoy coffee either.

Any recommendations on this self experiments to see how much coffee does or does not affect you?

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.


I guess it depends on what you're looking for?

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 was asking more in the general case for coffee.

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.


I don't have a source for this, but I've heard that coffee legitimately does affect some people differently. Because some people have a gene for an enzyme that metabolizes caffeine very effectively, and others don't.

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.


Would love to read a bit more on that. If anyone has a good source on variation of caffeine susceptibility, I'd be grateful!

And the point on being careful extrapolating makes sense. I will work on that.


This will interest you "Interindividual Differences in Caffeine Metabolism and Factors Driving Caffeine Consumption" : https://pharmrev.aspetjournals.org/content/70/2/384

It's hard to tell without knowing of strong your coffee is, your pink grapefruit intake and most importantly your sensitivity to caffeine.

This feels like I'm getting phished. :) Pink grapefruit intake? Awfully specific.

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!


I don't know about grapefruit and caffeine specifically, but it's at least a great example from a tongue-in-cheek perspective. Grapefruit has a kind of ridiculously long list of drug interactions. It seems like pretty much everyone I know over the age of 65 is under doctor's orders to stay away from it.

https://www.fda.gov/consumers/consumer-updates/grapefruit-ju...


How's your sleep?

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.


Fine? I have apnea, so that dominates any sleep concerns I have. But, I've never used an alarm clock in my life and I can still reliably wake up on time every day.

If you have a company you can ship it to, you can still buy pure caffeine powder from bulk supplement retailers. (No one will sell to individuals anymore because of the safety risk.)

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 %.


I have little doubt that pure caffeine would impact me. My question is on the rush from coffee. To me, it is just a tasty drink. I don't feel more awake after it. At all.

Articles mentioning caffeine and or theanine always remind me i'm drinking too much coffee and need to cut down.

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.


Commencing self experiment in 3,2,1...

Combining with this other little jewel found on HN earlier this afternoon:

https://sudo.fm/?ambience=1,50|2,50


Anecdotally, Caffeine+L-Theanine makes my anxiety worse and my ability to focus severely decreased, basically the opposite effects of what people seem to achieve with this combo.

As compared to caffeine alone? Or as compared to nothing?

Caffeine alone. I should probably give it a try without caffeine, and probably take a T-break on the caffeine too. But I'm not sure I have the motivation to do that.


Does anyone else suffer from GI issues like epigastric pain (acidity) brought on by tea/coffee consumption? How do you deal with it?

For coffee, I've seen people recommend putting in a dash of baking soda in the drink to reduce the acidity though I haven't tried this. I also tried some of the low-acid coffees and they were fine though the flavor is in no way comparable to my favorite poison :). Drinking these beverages when you are not expecting to recline (e.g. in the morning and early afternoon) may also help.

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.


I don't suffer GI issues because of coffee consumption, but I do have GI issues that I'm currently resolving with Visbiome.

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.


Could you talk more about what your acid reflux was like? I'm curious about finding new ways to treat my own. Been on 20-40mg of (es)omeprazole daily for a decade.

I have GERD and take esomeprazole daily. I used to take omeprazole but it gave me headaches

I was taking theanine pills for a while and I definitely felt like it had a positive impact on my overall mood

They are both good in the right proportions, harmony matters

Neither does anything to me at all (at least mentally)

The lady at the Korean grocery store seemed suspicious when I bought the last tea set they had. (They hadn't sold one in years.)

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.




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