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"L-tyrosine changed my life" 3 viral benefits dissected by science

Published Jan 28, 2021 | Updated Feb 9, 2024
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Around two years ago a viral trend “l-tyrosine changed my life” flooded social media platforms like YouTube, TikTok and Reddit. People were reporting feeling happier, more productive, energetic and feeling less stressed. As with anything that promises a magnitude of benefits, it begs the question - are these so-called claims true? Let's set the record straight by diving into the science behind tyrosine and its evidence-based benefits for health and well-being below.

1. Does tyrosine increase motivation?

Getting things done faster and better. Sounds great right? Britt, a TikToker for all things beauty, fitness and health, claimed tyrosine helped them get more done faster, stay more productive and kick-start their days. And the science agrees! Tyrosine is the building block to your reward and pleasure chemical dopamine which is linked to motivation. The Journal of Psychopharmacology published a study that found tyrosine supplementation increased the alertness of participants 5 hours post-ingestion[1], while an investigation into diets depleted in tyrosine also highlighted an association between decreased dopamine production and slower reaction time in alertness tasks[2]. When you anticipate an event or are experiencing it, your dopamine levels spike and induce motivation and alertness. This response is important because it encourages you to either act on the perceived benefit or avoid something unpleasant[3]. Motivation also plays a significant role in your sexual libido. When anticipating sexual activity, erotic stimuli trigger a dopamine release which in turn encourages you to seek reward. MRI scans revealed that whilst in a subconscious state, adults who looked at erotic images for 6 minutes had a surge of dopamine release and activity in reward-related brain areas[4].

2. Does tyrosine make you happier?

One of many Reddit users, HalfLifeSux reports getting a boost in energy and feeling much happier after tyrosine supplementation. Acute tyrosine depletion studies have induced lower mood in healthy women with mild seasonal changes to mood and behaviour and it’s therefore believed that an imbalance of dopamine in the brain adversely affects mood[5]. L-tyrosine and the building block to your feel-good chemical serotonin, called 5-htp, have been widely studied to test their impact on serotonin and dopamine. Dopamine is released in regions of the brain that are involved in emotional connection and mood. How does l-tyrosine make you feel? It can boost your feelings of happiness. A 2015 study published in The Journal of Neuroscience found that “boosting dopamine increased happiness resulting from some rewards”[6]. 

3. Optimal stress response

Can l-tyrosine help you feel less stressed? Beverly, a lifestyle YouTuber claims it does. While tyrosine is far from a relaxant, there is some evidence that shows it can improve two outcomes where acute stressors are involved[7]. In short-term stressful situations, clinical reviews suggest that tyrosine may help improve decision-making when dopamine is depleted, particularly in cognitively demanding tasks[8]. A military study revealed that memory, tracking, and cognitive performance improved in cadets who consumed l-tyrosine[9]. Those tasks occurred whilst they were undergoing high-intensity training and additional stressors such as heat. Further studies have suggested the administration of l-tyrosine may promote deep thinking known as convergent thinking when multitasking during creative tasks[10]. Research on the administration of l-tyrosine measuring patient self-assessment of fear, stress, and tension was able to demonstrate that l-tyrosine reduced fear expression when subjected to unpleasant audio and visual stimuli[11].

The mechanisms behind l-tyrosine

L-tyrosine is the building block of your reward and pleasure chemical messenger dopamine. Dopamine is released when you derive pleasure from sex, great food, and a sense of accomplishment. According to the Natural Medicines database, dopamine is responsible for modulating emotional states, the sex drive known as libido, body movements[12], and the capacity to handle everyday stress[13]. Tyrosine has been shown to release spikes of dopamine in regions of the brain involved in emotional response and reinforcing behaviours[14].

How long does it take for tyrosine to work?

To sum up, it takes about two hours. A 2015 US military clinical review of studies found that "the effects of tyrosine are found 60-300 minutes after ingestion; plasma levels peak at about 120 minutes[15]”. Accordingly, administering tyrosine approximately 2 hours before performance tasks should be the golden rule.

Is it OK to take tyrosine every day?

Studies say yes. You might want to pay closer attention to your dietary tyrosine intake, especially if you follow a vegan diet. Tyrosine is found in protein-rich foods and the highest sources are found in animal-based proteins[16]. The top plant-based sources of tyrosine are seaweed, pumpkin leaves and cooked mustard greens. A 2010 Cochrane review also found those people with a rare genetic condition who struggle to break down another essential dietary compound called phenylalanine may benefit from tyrosine supplementation[13,17]. Anecdotal evidence found online such as L tyrosine Reddit discussions frequently discuss high dose tyrosine[17] but these can cause side effects including headaches and nausea[18]. Speak to a nutritionist or healthcare professional about tyrosine supplements and buy from reputable health food stores such as Whole Foods Market, Planet Organic or even l-tyrosine from Holland and Barrett. brain feed has an 800 mg natural tyrosine supplement from fermented corn that is available for 15% off for first-time customers with code ‘NEW15’.

Trying to feel motivated, rewarded, and pleasured whilst running low on dopamine may feel like running a marathon with a pulled muscle. That’s why it’s important to keep your tyrosine levels up at all times.

 

References

[1] Grevet, E. H., Tietzmann, M. R., Shansis, F. M., Hastenpflug, C., Santana, L. C., Forster, L., Kapczinski, F., & Izquierdo, I. (2002). Behavioural effects of acute phenylalanine and tyrosine depletion in healthy male volunteers. Journal of Psychopharmacology, 16(1), 51–55. 

[2] Hildebrand, P., Königschulte, W., Gaber, T. J., Bubenzer-Busch, S., Helmbold, K., Biskup, C. S., Langen, K.-J., Fink, G. R., & Zepf, F. D. (2015). Effects of dietary tryptophan and phenylalanine–tyrosine depletion on phasic alertness in healthy adults – A pilot study. Food & Nutrition Research, 59(1), 26407. 

[3] Dopamine regulates motivation to act, study shows (2013). Asociacion.

[4] Oei, N. Y. L., Rombouts, S. A., Soeter, R. P., Van Gerven, J. M., & Both, S. (2012). Dopamine Modulates Reward System Activity During Subconscious Processing of Sexual Stimuli. Neuropsychopharmacology, 37(7), 1729–1737. 

[5] Cawley, E., Park, S., Aan Het Rot, M., Sancton, K., Benkelfat, C., Young, S., Boivin, D., & Leyton, M. (2013). Dopamine and light: dissecting effects on mood and motivational states in women with subsyndromal seasonal affective disorder. Journal of Psychiatry & Neuroscience, 38(6), 388–397. 

[6] Rutledge, R. B., Skandali, N., Dayan, P., & Dolan, R. J. (2015). Dopaminergic Modulation of Decision Making and Subjective Well-Being. Journal of Neuroscience, 35(27), 9811–9822.

[7] Mahoney, C. R., Castellani, J., Kramer, F. M., Young, A., & Lieberman, H. R. (2007). Tyrosine supplementation mitigates working memory decrements during cold exposure. Physiology & Behavior, 92(4), 575–582. 

[8] Jongkees, B. J., Hommel, B., Kühn, S., & Colzato, L. S. (2015). Effect of tyrosine supplementation on clinical and healthy populations under stress or cognitive demands—A review. Journal of Psychiatric Research, 70, 50–57. 

[9]Deijen, J. B., Wientjes, C. J. E., Vullinghs, H. F. M., Cloin, P. A., & Langefeld, J. J. (1999). Tyrosine improves cognitive performance and reduces blood pressure in cadets after one week of a combat training course. Brain Research Bulletin, 48(2), 203–209. 

[10] Colzato, L. S., de Haan, A. M., & Hommel, B. (2015). Food for creativity: tyrosine promotes deep thinking. Psychological Research, 79(5), 709–714. 

[11] Soranzo, A., & Aquili, L. (2019). Fear expression is suppressed by tyrosine administration. Scientific Reports, 9(1), 16073.

[12] Is tyrosine the best dopamine-boosting supplement to take? (2018). Nootriment.

[13] Grevet, E. H., Tietzmann, M. R., Shansis, F. M., Hastenpflug, C., Santana, L. C., Forster, L., Kapczinski, F., & Izquierdo, I. (2002). Behavioural effects of acute phenylalanine and tyrosine depletion in healthy male volunteers. Journal of Psychopharmacology, 16(1), 51–55. 

[14] Godfrey, N., & Borgland, S. L. (2019). Diversity in the lateral hypothalamic input to the ventral tegmental area. Neuropharmacology, 154, 4–12. 

[15] Attipoe, S., Zeno, S. A., Lee, C., Crawford, C., Khorsan, R., Walter, A. R., & Deuster, P. A. (2015). Tyrosine for Mitigating Stress and Enhancing Performance in Healthy Adult Humans, a Rapid Evidence Assessment of the Literature. Military Medicine, 180(7), 754–765. 

[16] Foods highest in Tyrosine (2018). Nutrition Data.

[17] Webster, D., & Wildgoose, J. (2013). Tyrosine supplementation for phenylketonuria. The Cochrane Database of Systematic Reviews, 2013(6), CD001507. 

[18] How true is this statement about l-Tyrosine? Is it basically worthless because of such high doses needed? (2021). Reddit.

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