Posted on

Get in “The Zone”- It’s not about your muscles…it’s about your brain

As time passes and you get to spend more time in your sport, practicing and mastering your technique, which some experts say it happens after 10.000 repetitions, you start figuring out that mental strength plays a significant role in your success.

Your ability to stay focused, calm, make fast and timely decisions will separate you from the crowd. This might distinguish good form excellent performance.

On top of the mental or mindfulness training as part of their training routine, athletes rely on pre-workout/tournament supplements. This is something that can help improve their mental performance and get in “the zone. These days every single pre-workout combo has caffeine (synthetic) combined with the latest, “the most potent” creatine release on the market, BCAA and other ingredients whose name is hard to pronounce. And that’s not a good sign.

Although these will provide heightened feeling and might put you in a “good” state before your workout, it might not be safe taking it on a long-term and might contain banned substances. For this reason, you should consider a more reliable and cheaper solution. I explain this below.

Coffee (caffeine)

Many athletes put their trust in their double espresso, Red-bull, and pre-workout combo. This brings mental and physical arousal desired before every performance. In an interview with Mijat Vojdinich, he says that he takes caffeine tablets before a competition, which helps him be more aggressive in the tatami during his performance.


Studies show that caffeine can increase the power output of the muscle, increase fatigue tolerance and oxygen uptake. I’m also telling this from my personal experience as well. Popping 300 mg (three tablets) before your 1500m test makes difference. Trust me.

Caffeine is the least expensive and widely abundant nootropic found in natural form in green tea and coffee. In this form, it comes together with other natural nutrients that give potential antioxidant and anti-inflammatory properties of the coffee.

Consuming synthetic caffeine does not provide the same benefit on cognition and psychomotor behavior. BTW it is highly addictive if you have not figured it out by now. Because of this, you might want to pay attention about how often and when you consume it.

What should you know about the caffeine

One thing you should get familiar with is the “half-life” of the caffeine, which ranges from 3-7 hours. This means that after consuming a cup of coffee (100mg caffeine), it takes around 5 hours for the body to metabolize 50 % of the caffeine. This means, after 5 hours, you are left with 50mg in your body. And after 5 more hours, you still have 25mg left. This is the reason you might have a hard time falling asleep at night although you had your coffee at 4 pm.

How fast your body metabolizes caffeine depends on whether you are fast or slow metabolizes.  How you react to a cup of coffee, and whether you can easily fall asleep at night depends on your genetic makeup, more precisely, the mutation in the CYP1A2 gene.

Long story short, if you get jitters after drinking coffee, popping a caffeine pill or galp your pre-workout drink, coffee might give you disadvantage and leave your nervous system overstimulates and unable to focus. No one wants shaky legs and out of control body on the tatami.

Now, I’m not saying that you should ditch your morning or pre-workout coffee. But I do suggest thinking twice and check the label before spending money on supplements.

Also, consider some less expensive and safe alternatives that will give you the biggest bang for your buck. Those alternatives are compounds known as nootropics are found in nature as part of different plants. The one that I have been experimenting with lately is L-theanine.


To amplify and see even more benefits from coffee (caffeine) consumption, you can combine it with other nootropics, such as L-theanine. L-theanine is an amino acid known by its calming effect, find in the green leaves. This is the reason why some people get the jittery effect for coffee but not from a green tea.

L theanine is an amino acid that has depression reliving effect, improves memory and focus and boots over-all cognitive performance. Since being restless and overexcited is the last thing you what to happen on the tatami, L-theanine might happen to be the perfect companion to your coffee that will keep you out of troubles.

As mentioned before, L-theanine can reduce depression. However, unlike other anti-depressants, it does not numb or down-regulates the nervous system. Quite opposite. L-theanine promotes alert relaxation by increasing the level of calming brain chemicals.

Caffeine (coffee) + L-Theanine = improved karate performance

Both caffeine and L-theanine provide some cognitive benefits and are classified as nootropics. However, when put together, you get the perfect Yin-Yang combination. Karate performance requires physical and mental performance. Due to the nature of the sport, often, what is going on in your head is more important than how physically fit you are. Your ability to stay calm but focused (in the zone) while stepping on the tatami and performing your kata, or ability to reduce external distractions, and increase reaction time in kumite, play a significant role in your success. And this effect you can get when stacking with caffeine (coffee) and L-theanine together.

The recommended dose and the ration caffeine: L-theanine is 1:2. This means that for 100 mg caffeine (one cup of brewed coffee) you should consume 200mg L-theanine. Those sensitive to coffee should start with a smaller dose, 50mg caffeine (long espresso) and 100mg L-theanine.

Consume the nootropic stack 30-60 minutes before your practice.

Other benefits of stacking L-theanine with caffeine may include:

  • Enhanced concentration
  • Increased motivation
  • Improved mood
  • Reduced anxiety and restlessness

Negative effects

L-theanine has been shown to be safe without any serious health risks. However, in some people, it can cause red skin and rushes.

Although safe, before deciding to give it a chance and stake it with your morning or pre-workout coffee consult with your doctor.

When talking about nootropics, make sure you know the ingrediency and their amount. Also, this is not a “limitless” pill that will give you superpowers making you able to see your opponent’s punches and kicks in slow motion. This is a two in one combo that is made from caffeine and amino acid. No special ingredients. However, when put together, provide an enhanced mental state.

Remember that there should not be any side effects or any highs and jittering effects when consuming nootropics. If you experience such a thing, check the dose or the label.

NOTE: The information shared in this post is for informative purposes and is not meant to be used, nor should it be used, to diagnose or treat any medical condition. For diagnosis or treatment of any medical problem, consult your own physician.