Tyrosine, abbreviated Tyr, is a non-essential amino acid that the body can produce from the essential amino acid phenylalanine.
Tyrosine has many important functions in the body including the synthesis of proteins and other crucial substances. In fact, tyrosine is a precursor for the catecholamine hormones (such as adrenaline) and neurotransmitters, specifically epinephrine and norepinephrine (also called noradrenaline), and dopamine, an important chemical for executive functions in the brain such as motivation, reward and reinforcement. Tyrosine is also involved in the production of thyroid hormones for the regulation of metabolism and growth, and in the production of melanin , the pigment found in the skin, hair and eyes.
Although tyrosine is a non-essential amino acid for the majority of us, it is essential for a few people with a rare inherited disorder called phenylketonuria. People with phenylketonuria are unable to break down the amino acid phenylalanine, a condition that leads to dangerous increases in blood phenylalanine levels.
Since tyrosine is the precursor for brain chemicals such as dopamine and norepinephrine, it may play a role in relieving mild-to-moderate depression. Also, some studies have shown that tyrosine could improve concentration before a stressful event but there’s no evidence of memory improvement. That being said, taking tyrosine supplements can lead to some side effects such as digestive issues, headaches, fatigue and heartburn. As it can interact with certain medications and should be avoided by people with certain health conditions, tyrosine supplementation should not be taken without talking to a doctor or health care professional.
Tyrosine can be naturally found in many foods from animal and plant sources. Some of the top tyrosine foods include soy products (e.g. tempeh, tofu, natto), seafood (e.g. whelk, cuttlefish, octopus), meat (e.g. beef, veal, pork), poultry (e.g. goose, turkey, chicken), eggs, dairy products (e.g. cheese), fish (e.g. salmon, tuna, tilapia, trout), legumes (e.g. beans, soybeans), seeds (e.g. pumpkin seeds) and nuts (e.g. almonds).
Athletes have higher needs in protein than sedentary people and both quality and quantity of protein is important. Athletes’ intake of essential amino acids, including phenylalanine, the precursor of tyrosine, need to be adequate along with sufficient energy intake and exercise, to support muscle growth, maintenance and repair. In sports, there is no scientific evidence that tyrosine improves physical performance, strength or anaerobic power. However, it appears to be effective in preserving attention under stress.
In conclusion, our tyrosine levels impact many aspects of our mental and physical health. In order to make sure that your tyrosine levels are balanced and steady, make sure to test your levels and to evaluate how you can make the right changes to rebalance your body and mind.