The Health Benefits of Tyrosine

Can tyrosine improve memory, thinking, athletic performance, and stress?

Possible side effects of tyrosine

Verywell / JR Bee

More focus, improved memory, boost in athletic performance. That’s why tyrosine is such a popular active ingredient in many nootropics (brain enhancing) and athletic supplements.

Tyrosine is a nonessential amino acid—so you don’t need to get it from food—made from the essential amino acid phenylalanine. It’s found in almost every tissue in the human body and used to make the brain chemicals dopamine, norepinephrine, and epinephrine, as well as thyroid hormones and the skin’s pigment-producing cells melanin.

Though a nonessential amino acid, tyrosine is found in foods like chicken, eggs, fish, nuts, and oats. It’s also a dietary supplement. Tyrosine is also known as L-Tyrosine and N-acetyl L-tyrosine (NALT). Here is what you need to know.

Tyrosine Benefits

Purported tyrosine benefits include boosting brain power, improving athletic performance, and reducing stress. The amino acid is also given to people with phenylketonuria (PKU) because they lack the gene that makes the enzyme needed to metabolize phenylalanine into tyrosine. Though there's some evidence that supplemental tyrosine provides health benefits, the research is limited.

Mental Performance

The brain needs tyrosine to make dopamine, which is a neurotransmitter vital to thought processes like memory and learning. Because you need tyrosine to make dopamine, researchers have looked at how supplementation with the amino acid may boost brain function.

A 2013 study published in Frontiers in Behavioral Science investigated the effects of a tyrosine supplement on thinking and memory in a small group of young college students. The investigators found that supplementation with the amino acid improved mental performance in the young participants when engaged in high-demand cognitive tasks. 

However, tyrosine supplementation may not have the same benefits on mental performance in older adults, according to a 2018 study published in e-Neuro. Aging affects dopamine function in the brain and is responsible for some of the cognitive changes that occur as people get older, such as mild memory loss. 

Though tyrosine supplementation benefits mental performance in young people, it may have the opposite effect in older adults. The authors of the 2018 study found tyrosine supplementation in older adults decreased mental reaction time and response rate.

That being said, higher intakes of tyrosine from food seems to benefit memory and abstract thinking in younger and older adults, according to a 2019 study in Psychological Research. Though there were differences in thinking and memory between the two age groups, those that consumed more tyrosine from food showed improvements in overall mental performance.

Athletic Performance

Tyrosine is a common ingredient in supplements for athletes because of its potential for improving cognitive and physical performance. 

A 2015 study published in the European Journal of Physiology found that tyrosine supplementation improved cognitive performance and mental effort in a small group (eight participants) of male soccer players.The participants took the tyrosine supplement 5 hours and one hour before exercising.

A more recent study published in 2019 in the Journal of the International Society of Sports Nutrition investigated the effects of a caffeine, theanine, and tyrosine supplementation on athletic and mental performance in a small group of male college athletes (20 participants).

The researchers in this study found that that the mixed supplement improved movement accuracy during bouts of exhaustive exercise. The authors suggested that a supplement with low-levels of caffeine, threonine, and tyrosine may benefit athletes who participate in sports that require quick movements.

Though promising, the authors of this study noted that the research on tyrosine supplementation alone for mental and physical performance is limited. 

Stress Management

Tyrosine is a nonessential amino acid in most cases, but becomes a conditional amino acid when the body is under stress (physical or emotional), according to the National Library of Medicine. Tyrosine is a key component for producing the chemicals and hormones needed for the body’s stress response, also known as fight or flight. Your needs for tyrosine may increase during periods of stress.

There is some evidence that tyrosine supplementation may enhance cognitive performance in high-demand (stressful) situations, but more research is needed to better understand how the amino acid may benefit how the body responds to stress.

Phenylketonuria (PKU)

PKU is a rare, inherited metabolic disorder. People with PKU have a defect in the gene the body uses to break down the essential amino acid phenylalanine. Without this gene and enzyme, phenylalanine levels build up in the blood.

A low-phenylalanine diet is the primary treatment for PKU. People with the metabolic disorder take a nutritional supplement that provides all of the other essential amino acids plus tyrosine. 

A slow-release amino acid supplement with tyrosine may help maintain normal blood levels of tyrosine in people with PKU, according to a 2020 investigation published in the Journal of Pediatric Endocrinology and Metabolism. Maintaining consistent levels of tyrosine in the blood may improve clinical outcomes for people with PKU.

Possible Side Effects

Possible side effects from tyrosine supplements include stomach upset or headaches. Though rare, it’s also possible to have an allergic reaction to these types of supplements because of cross-contamination, hidden ingredients, or source of the amino acid. 

Tyrosine also interacts with a number of medications. You shouldn’t supplement with tyrosine if you take:

  • Monoamine oxidase inhibitors: Medications to treat depression such as rasagiline (Azilect), selegiline (Eldepryl, Zelapar), isocarboxazid (Marplan), phenelzine (Nardil), and tranylcypromine (Parnate).
  • Levodopa: Parkinson’s disease medication
  • Thyroid hormones: Synthroid or Levothroid

The primary treatment for attention-deficit disorder (ADHD) is stimulant medication that increases dopamine and norepinephrine levels in the brain to improve focus for learning. People with ADHD may take tyrosine supplements in an effort to produce the same effects. However, there’s no evidence to support the use of tyrosine supplements for ADHD.

People with migraines shouldn’t take tyrosine supplements because they may trigger a migraine headache.

Dosage and Preparation 

There’s no specific dosage for tyrosine supplementation. However, most studies use a dose of 150 milligrams per kilogram of body weight.

Some supplement makers may suggest dividing tyrosine into three daily doses taken 30 minutes before each meal. Mount Sinai says taking tyrosine supplements with vitamin B6, folate, and copper may improve conversion of the amino acid into brain chemicals.

Tyrosine is a nonessential amino acid found in a wide variety of foods, such as pumpkin seeds, peanuts, avocados, bananas, oats, wheat, soy, eggs, chicken, and fish. It’s possible to get an adequate supply of tyrosine by eating a balanced diet with a variety of foods from all the food groups, eliminating the need for supplementation. 

Talk to a health care professional before adding any dietary supplement to your daily routine. They can help determine if the supplement is safe for you and what dosage is appropriate.

What to Look For 

Supplements aren't regulated by the FDA. When looking for a supplement, carefully read the Supplement Facts label and the list of ingredients and active ingredients. Some supplements may contain added ingredients that may cause side effects or interact with medications or supplements.

You should also look for a trusted third party label, such as the U.S. Pharmacopeia, NSF International, or ConsumerLab. These labels indicate the supplement was tested by an independent lab. 

Avoid any dietary supplement that makes claims it can treat a disease or the symptoms of disease. According to the FDA, it’s illegal for supplement manufacturers to make these types of health claims.

Frequently Asked Questions

  • Can tyrosine help me lose weight?

    You may find tyrosine in weight-loss supplements, but there’s no evidence that the amino acid can help you lose weight. Tyrosine is a precursor to brain chemicals that speed-up your metabolism—dopamine, epinephrine, and norepinephrine—which is why it’s a popular ingredient in these types of supplements.

  • Does tyrosine cause insomnia?

    Tyrosine supplements may act as a stimulant and affect sleep. However, there’s no direct link between tyrosine supplementation and insomnia. But tyrosine supplementation has been shown to improve alertness in those who are sleep deprived.

  • How long does tyrosine take to work?

    In cognitive and athletic performance studies, participants took supplements about 30 to 60 minutes before a mental or physical task. Though there’s no specific time for how long tyrosine takes to work, these studies show that they may provide benefits soon after consumption.

  • When should I take tyrosine?

    You should take tyrosine supplements as directed on the supplement package or from your primary care provider. Mount Sinai suggests adults take tyrosine supplements in three divided doses 30 minutes before meals.

12 Sources
Verywell Fit uses only high-quality sources, including peer-reviewed studies, to support the facts within our articles. Read our editorial process to learn more about how we fact-check and keep our content accurate, reliable, and trustworthy.
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  10. Porta F, Giorda S, Ponzone A, Spada M. Tyrosine metabolism in health and disease: slow-release amino acids therapy improves tyrosine homeostasis in phenylketonuria. J Pediatr Endocrinol Metab. 2020;33(12):1519-1523. doi:10.1515/jpem-2020-0319

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By Jill Corleone, RD
Jill is a registered dietitian who's been learning and writing about nutrition for more than 20 years.