L-theanine and the Ketogenic Lifestyle

When I first started on my ketogenic journey I imagined that my energy would skyrocket.  What I experienced, however, was nowhere near that vision of becoming a “Keto Superwoman”.  The first few weeks left me battling bouts of extreme fatigue and lack of concentration.  Ironically, I also adopted horrible sleeping habits because my brain would not stop chattering.

Apparently this scenario is prevalent amongst keto beginners and a common reason why some cave on the program well before reaching a state of ketosis.  These erratic patterns are also known to show up throughout the course of the ketogenic journey primarily due to our body making continuous adjustments as we introduce new regimes such as the transition to “clean keto”, intermittent fasting, elimination of trigger foods, etc.

Now although I was introducing electrolytes, amping up my calcium/magnesium, doubling my superfood intake and exploring new supplements such as L-Carnitine, I just couldn’t shake the “body/brain fog”. However, this interesting and somewhat amusing rollercoaster led to my discovery of L-theanine — a wonderful supplement that was initially introduced to me as a “natural option to Clonazepam (Valium)”. On further research, I discovered that this compound offers a wealth of benefits, all of which I will touch on in this blog.

Reasons for Keto Fatigue and Insomnia 

Following is my attempt to explain the wonders on how the body operates, so the information below is by no means described on a professional level.  I choose to explore and share these types of “mechanics” in my blogs because I believe that for us to be successful on our ketogenic journey, it is important to understand the “whys”.

Termed as “keto fatigue” and/or “keto insomnia”, the “cycle” of experiencing low energy levels and varied sleep patterns is a natural process that takes place when your body is transiting from a carb-heavy fuel system to a fat-burning ketogenic machine.

Carbohydrates are typically the body’s main source of energy as they supply the body with glucose (sugar in the blood), which is the brain’s primary fuel source.  When glucose levels are low due to carb restrictions, your liver starts to produce ketones from the fatty acids, motivating your brain to utilize the ketones as its alternative energy source.  During this transition, your body naturally goes through major adjustments that cause fluctuations to your overall energy levels – highs and lows.  The “highs” cause the surge of energy that affects your sleep patterns.

Carbohydrates are also associated with improving brain access to L-tryptophan, which is the amino acid involved in the production of serotonin.  Serotonin is a neurotransmitter that converts into melatonin — known as the “sleep hormone.”

Low levels of serotonin and melatonin combined with higher than normal energy levels equal ketogenic insomnia.

Since serotonin is mainly produced in the gastrointestinal (GI) tract, I have read that a quality probiotic should be enough to alleviate insomnia while supplementing with melatonin is also an alternative. However, the recommendation of L-theanine tends to be the most common product choice within reference to the keto lifestyle.

L-theanine Health Benefits

L-theanine is an amino acid that occurs naturally in all Camellia Sinensis teas (white, green, oolong, and black teas), and Bay Bolete mushrooms.  There are also manufacturers who craft up synthetic lines (read your ingredients carefully!)  As an oral supplement, it can be found as a complementing ingredient or as a stand-alone product.

The brands I have experienced — and highly recommend — include:

88Herbs Pharmaceutical Grade L-theanine

Sports Research L-theanine with Suntheanine®

Most commonly advertised to promote relaxation without the worry of drowsiness or sedation, L-theanine reduces stress, anxiety and improves attention by boosting levels of GABA, serotonin, and dopamine.  These chemicals are known as neurotransmitters that work in the brain to regulate mood, emotions, alertness, concentration, and sleep.  This powerful amino acid also lowers the levels of the stress hormone corticosterone.  When we are stressed out, our body increases the production of this hormone resulting in mental “fog”, memory loss, and learning disabilities.

Research also suggests that L-theanine triggers the release of alpha-waves, which are associated with focus, creativity and “wakeful relaxation.”  Wakeful relaxation is commonly described as the state you are in while meditating or during REM sleep.

On a side note, L-theanine commonly used to take away caffeine “Jitters”, and when combined with caffeine, focus and concentration increase immensely.

My L-theanine Review

From my experience, all of the above are true to this supplement.  What I noted most was a change in my sleep patterns.  An average night for me consisted of a semi-sleep state with a racing mind for hours upon going to bed, followed by the same pattern from approximately 4:30 am on.  Within a week of taking L-theanine, I noticed that I was actually falling asleep sooner and waking up later.  Over the course of a few weeks, my concentration increased and I actually felt an overall sense of “calm”.

When I starting supplementing with L-theanine, I used 88Herbs Pharmaceutical Grade L-theanine.  This brand caught my attention because of the “Pharmaceutical Grade” and the fact that the capsules contain 99+ percent pure L-theanine with no additives or chemicals.

For my next L-theanine purchase, I chose Sports Research L-theanine with Suntheanine®. 

Priced within the same range as 88Herbs L-theanine, this Sports Research brand boasts quality certifications and the addition of the highly regarded Suntheanine®. That to me is impressive.

In 2000, Taiyo International, a leading manufacture in the development and production of highly functional ingredients for the food and pharmaceutical industries patented Suntheanine®; Taiyo’s pure form of L-theanine.  At the 1998 Food Ingredients Europe, Suntheanine® was awarded the “Food Ingredient Research Award” and in 2000, awarded “Best New Product” at Nutracon.

*Suntheanine® is not an extract of green tea but rather is produced via a patented process that mimics the natural process in green tea leaves, resulting in a 100% pure L-isomer-theanine.  Human clinical trials have shown Suntheanine® to promote an alert state of relaxation without drowsiness, as indicated by an increase in Alpha brain waves, and a decrease in Beta brain waves.  Additional human clinical research suggests that Suntheanine® may improve the quality of sleep, diminishing normal symptoms of premenstrual syndrome (PMS), improving learning performance, heightening mental acuity, promoting concentration, reducing negative side effects of caffeine and supporting the immune system.
(*excerpt from https://www.suntheanine.com)

In closing

L-theanine is a “magic potion” regardless if you are new to keto, a veteran, or just seeking stress reduction, heightened concentration, and a good night’s sleep.  I highly recommend that you pay attention to the quality of the product to ensure that you are ingesting natural ingredients, as opposed to synthetic.

My top picks are 88Herbs Pharmaceutical Grade L-theanine and Sports Research L-theanine with Suntheanine® — both have delivered wonderful results, and continue to do so.

To view my tried-tested-and-true L-theanine product recommendation, click through HERE 

To view all the “Keto Approved” products that I have researched, visit KETO APOTHECA