A sharp cognitive function and balanced demeanor are vital keys to success in our modern society. Today’s cutting-edge professionals and academics are looking for ways to boost their performance. With the help of nutrients that have mental enhancing abilities, they can build resilience to stress and emotional upset.
In the following article, we will take a closer look at the role of phenylalanine in addressing the needs of the brain and maintaining optimal neurological function.
What is Phenylalanine?
Phenylalanine is an essential nutrient which means the body must acquire this amino acid from food sources or supplementation. Within the human body, phenylalanine is used as the raw material for other important molecules to be formed.
The body uses phenylalanine as a basis for several important compounds. Tyrosine and L-dopa are just a few, which are then used to make the neurotransmitters norepinephrine and epinephrine.1
Benefits of Phenylalanine Supplementation
In a healthy person, phenylalanine can be important for strenuous mental efforts and a key to increased creativity and focus. The following section covers some of the ways this essential nutrient can benefit your mental performance.
Enhanced Working Memory
When you start a mental task, the brain opens up a temporary working space where it can hold and process the information for the task at hand. This specially allocated portion of cognitive functions is known as the working memory. If the working memory is limited, the associations, creativity, and even enjoyment can also be restricted.
Improved levels of tyrosine in the body have been proven to enhance working memory in healthy adults. One way to promote this enhanced cognitive function is through balanced phenylalanine in the diet.2
Improves Attention and Focus
Norepinephrine, also called noradrenaline, is an important chemical communicator that improves alertness and attention spans. Norepinephrine is a big part of the stress response and increases awareness during times of perceived danger or distress.
Prolonged conditions of stress exhaust the brain’s supply of this important cognitive drug. Additionally, it can lead to feelings of fatigue and mental failure. Conditions of low noradrenaline are commonly associated with cognitive deficit. Noradrenaline supplements are often recommended for ADHD symptoms.
Improving the raw materials the body needs to replenish its noradrenaline supplies is the first step towards enhanced alertness and focus. As source material for noradrenaline, phenylalanine plays a key role in keeping noradrenaline levels adequate. Finding ways to reduce and balance the stress response can greatly improve cognitive function.3
Creative Flow States
Athletes, spiritualists, artists, and professionals in many lines of work are constantly seeking the benefits available from the state of flow. In this state, the mind and body are fully engaged in a particular challenge with the exclusion of distractions. Self-judgement is diminished and tasks can be addressed from endless resources of creativity, inspiration, and energy.
This enigmatic state has been studied extensively by the psychology and medical communities. According to Steven Kotler, an award-winning journalist, researcher, and New York Times Best Selling Author, “the state of flow represents a cascade of brain chemistry in action.”
Steven explains that the increased levels of dopamine, norepinephrine, feel-good endorphins, and serotonin are all performance-enhancing drugs. In turn, they make you smarter, faster, energized, and more creative.
Of course, those who will be summoning this enigmatic state regularly will need to keep their nutrient levels high. Phenylalanine has shown support in maintaining sufficient levels of neurotransmitters in the brain.4
Risks and Precautions for Phenylalanine
Even though phenylalanine is beneficial and essential to the human body, it can be harmful in higher doses. Make sure you consult with a qualified medical professional and consider the following risks and precautions.
Phenylketonuria (PKU) is a condition where the body stores high quantities of phenylalanine. This can lead to serious and even fatal conditions. This is one reason pregnant mothers should not supplement with this nutrient as there is a chance of harming a PKU infant. Babies must be screened at birth to choose the best diet plan for PKU children.
Levodopa is a medication that addresses Parkinson’s by improving the levels of L-dopa in the body. Phenylalanine can negatively affect the absorption or action of levodopa. Therefore, these medications should not be taken together.5
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Monoamine oxidase inhibitors (MAOIs) can also interact poorly with phenylalanine. Some interactions can lead to a spike in blood pressure and may cause a stroke or heart attack. Those taking medication should consult their medical provider before beginning supplementation.
Final Notes on Phenylalanine Supplementation
Phenylalanine has shown mainly positive effects on healthy individuals. So, it is best to check your health with a medical professional before starting your supplementation plan. Another option would be to increase the amount of phenylalanine in your diet. Some foods especially rich in this essential nutrient include:6
- Cheese nuts
- Lean meats (beef and lamb)
- Chicken and turkey
- Fish and seafood
- Whole grains
Many people still don’t get enough phenylalanine in their diet even after making these changes. If you feel you could benefit from the effects of phenylalanine in your diet speak with your medical provider. Never forget the value of a slow and intuitive approach to improving physical and mental conditions through supplementation.
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