What is Tyrosine?
Tyrosine, usually listed in the middle section of your supplement panel, it sits under a shroud of mystery. Oh tyrosine, wherefore art thou, tyrosine?
*fun fact: “wherefore” actually means why, not where, so Juliet was asking why Romeo was Romeo* End fun fact.
So let’s talk about why tyrosine is tyrosine.
Tyrosine is a nonessential amino acid the body manufactured from the amino acid phenylalanine.
It can be obtained through dietary sources like chicken, turkey, soy, milk, cheese, bananas and some nuts and seeds.
Tyrosine provides training results, but they’re all in your head.
No, literally—like in your brain.
Tyrosine Stimulates the Production of Brain Chemicals
This amino acid is vital to the production of neurotransmitters, or brain chemicals, including dopamine, epinephrine and norepinephrine.
Science check: neurotransmitters are the messengers between nerve cells and can influence your moods. They’re like the postal workers, but more reliable. Just kidding postal workers, don’t go all postal on us.
When you take pure tyrosine it crosses the blood-brain barrier and enters the central nervous system. It gives a nod to certain cells that recognize it like an old friend from high school after 20 years. These cells welcome tyrosine.
They take tyrosine and convert it into other chemicals that are hard to pronounce so they gave them shortened names like L-Dopa, and TH. Once converted they start making dopamine, and convert that into epinephrine (adrenaline) and norepinephrine.
Tyrosine is also involved in making thyroid hormones like T3 and T4. While not its primary function, it can assist in thyroid function.
But back to the thing you’re using right now to read this; your big ol’ brain.
First, let’s make the connection between the brain and exercise.
Guess how the body responds to exercise—like a tech-junky teen asked to put down their cell phones and help with chores—it’s soooooo stressful. OMG. When the body is under stress, it cannot make enough tyrosine, in particular.
Therefore, when taking tyrosine in pure form or obtaining it from dietary sources, you’re helping out your body during exercise (and stressful times.)
So, let’s talk about stress fighters.
Dopamine, Epinephrine and Norepinephrine: Dude Where’s My Stress?
Dopamine is a reward chemical. Produced in the adrenal glands, it is released when you get a raise, praise, win something or pour yourself a hard-earned bottle of wine. Oops, did we say bottle? We meant glass. Yes, a glass of wine.
If you don’t have enough, it can lead to depression and other syndromes and diseases.
Dopamine is important during training because your brain knows exercise isn’t exactly fun or intrinsically motivating alone. So, your brain has your back by releasing it when you are exercising to keep you going.
It’s kind of like your brain putting a hand over the mouth of the little voice that says “hey, we did 10 minutes of cardio, let’s stop now.” Or—“You’re tired, at least you got some exercise in, let’s stop and eat a donut. We totes earned it.”
Nope-the brain says “Be silenced you tiny voice of results-killing evil!” and dopes it up with some dopamine. Hey—thanks, brain.
Epinephrine-Fight or Flight
Dopamine is the precursor to the production of epinephrine. Epinephrine is the fight or flight trigger. Its release can be stimulated physically or emotionally.
Emotionally, recall a time where a morning person chatted you up as soon as you walked in the door at work. As blood rushed to your cheeks, betraying your annoyance with a crimson flush and your heart thumped in your chest, do you recall visualizing a throat-punch or running to the nearest bathroom to seek asylum? That…..that is epinephrine. Control yourself!
During exercise the adrenal gland releases epinephrine and boosts its concentration in your blood. It increases blood flow to muscles, heart rate and blood sugar levels. All of this keeps you energized to keep going—if you have enough. See what we did there? Yeah, you need it.
Norepinephrine is Released During Stressful Situations
Norepinephrine is like a General who mobilizes all soldiers for action. Released during times of stress, it increases alertness, focus, increases your heart rate, triggers the release of glucose and boosts blood flow. It also inhibits you from urinating or evacuating your bowels. Weird, huh? Every time we’ve seen a movie with a kid who urinates on himself out of fear obviously had a norepinephrine deficiency. Whaat?
Tyrosine also impacts other areas of the body including reducing stress hormone levels and improving overall cognitive performance, but for the most part, we care about feeling good while we work out, being motivated to keep working out and having enough of these neurotransmitters to get us through training and closer to results.
Fill Your Brain and your Supplements with Tyrosine
Now that you’ve filled your brain with some important info, make sure you fill your shaker with the right supplements. Get a pre-workout or intra-workout with tyrosine. You’ll silence that little voice in your head and get through your workouts with a brain-induced smile.