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Do Athletes Take Nootropics? (According To Experts)

Tyler Sellers
Published by Tyler Sellers
Fact checked by Donald Christman, BHSc FACT CHECKED
Last updated: March 14, 2023
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Working as a personal trainer, I’ve encountered many clients using nootropics to sharpen their focus and increase mental performance.

As natural nootropics are generally legal and fair game for athletes, these cognitive enhancers are increasingly popular amongst the sporting community.

I dove into three weeks of research in order to gain further insight into how athletes use such supplements, and this is what I found.

Quick Summary

  • Nootropic supplements may improve strength, motivation, focus, and overall mental performance.
  • Athletes are increasingly turning to nootropics to give them an edge in sports performance.
  • Natural smart nootropics are not prohibited in sports, but synthetic nootropics are, and using them can disqualify athletes from competitions.

Do Athletes Use Nootropics?

Man holding nootropic supplement while holding a glass of water

Yes, athletes use nootropics due to their capacity to achieve optimal brain energy and physical abilities naturally.

Also known as smart drugs, nootropics help athletes improve their reaction time, allowing them to think quickly and make intuitive decisions that will give them an advantage with the help of ingredients like magnesium.

Whether because of nutrient deficiency or brain burnout, natural nootropics can help athletes improve their motivation, focus, and overall brain functions, enabling them to respond better to situations in a fraction of a second.

This is especially pertinent as sports require exceptional levels of attention, and the more effectively an athlete reads the situation and reacts physically, the better they will usually perform on the field.

What’s more, nootropics can help athletes master their technique and perfect the skill that they strive for by improving cellular energy production and boosting circulatory oxygen flow.

Sportspeople may also take nootropics to avoid physical to reduce the negative effect of oxidative stress and regulate the stress hormone (cortisol) response.

What Are The Benefits Of Nootropics For Athletes?

Holding a variety of nootropics pill

The benefits of nootropics for athletes are improved memory, energy levels, and overall mental and physical performance.

Nootropic supplements are believed to eliminate free radicals from the body, which improves blood flow to the brain, and in turn, will enhance cognitive performance, such as the processing speed of information, creativity, focus, and mood in healthy adults [1,2].

Athletes cannot compete at their best without enough rest and energy.

Nootropics may allow them to naturally attenuate mental fatigue, learn new complex ideas, train for extended periods, and, most importantly, stimulate recall to improve decision-making during competition.

Additionally, as catecholamine neurotransmitters (dopamine and norepinephrine) are essential for stress reactions as well as maintaining mood and motivation, athletes might utilize nootropics to raise their catecholamine activity.

However, it is essential to keep in mind that you won’t immediately get results and that nootropics take time to witness noticeable results because the substances need to penetrate the blood-brain barrier to stimulate improved mental capabilities.

How Do Nootropics Work?

Holding white pill close up image

Nootropics work by boosting neurotransmitter levels, blood flow to the brain, and your central nervous system [3].

Some examples of the critical nootropics ingredients for athletes are:

  • N-Acetyl L-Tyrosine (NALT) - L-Tyrosine can support cognitive energy under stressful situations and avoid energy crashes by increasing the rate of noradrenaline synthesis [4].

“I think you could make the argument that tyrosine supplementation can make the more rigorous or laborious aspects of that workout a little bit more tolerable from a subjective perspective.”

- Erix Trexler, Fitness Expert.

  • Magnesium - Magnesium is believed to protect brain cells and improve memory and learning abilities by regulating unique chemicals called neurotransmitters [5].
  • Bacopa monnieri - Previous research proved that this herb could help significantly boost reaction time and overall cognitive health [6].
  • Acetyl-L-Carnitine (ALCAR) - L-Carnitine can support learning, mental clarity, and memory by increasing acetylcholine production. It also increases dopamine and, as a result, improves motivation [7,8].
  • Taurine - It can decrease oxidative stress and neuroinflammation, resulting in improved cognitive function [9].
  • L-Glutamine - L-Glutamine can help to support mental energy by reducing inflammation [10].
  • Caffeine - It can boost focus, alertness, and motivation by blocking adenosine receptors in the brain. Its long-term use is proven to decrease the risk of cognitive decline [11].
  • B Vitamins - B6, B12, B1, B3, and B2, can prevent cognitive decline and boost neurotransmitter production [12].
  • Choline - Choline is required for neurotransmitter acetylcholine production and plays an important role in brain health function and improving athletic performance [13].
  • Phosphatidylserine (PS) - is believed to be efficient in helping athletes reduce exercise-induced stress and avoid physical decline that can occur from excessive exercise by minimizing spikes in the steroid hormone cortisol [14].
  • Ginkgo Biloba - Ginkgo biloba extract has anti-inflammatory, antioxidant, and neuroprotective properties, which may be helpful in boosting working memory and information processing speed [15].
  • Rhodiola Rosea - Previous research proved that Rhodiola rosea could help prevent a decrease in physical performance, fatigue, and feeling of weakness caused by stress thanks to its antioxidant and anti-inflammatory effects [16].

Natural Nootropics for Athletic Performance

Holding supplement from the container

Nootropics are cognitive-enhancing supplements that build neurotransmitter pathways and promote neural plasticity, which helps many areas of your life.

Athletes can benefit from nootropics in multiple ways, including improving focus, which is necessary for a successful training session or intense sports game, as well as enhancing exercise capacity and reducing fatigue.

Additionally, nootropics have been found to reduce levels of oxidative stress brought on by physical exertion enabling hardworking athletes to push through workouts without feeling drained afterward.

Natural nootropics are often found to be safe alternatives to synthetic products.

Nootropics side effects should be rare if consumed within recommended doses, and with proper monitoring, side effects should be rare.

For example, exceeding the accepted dose of caffeine content (400 milligrams) can cause many adverse effects, including:

  • Dependence [17]
  • Anxiousness [18]
  • Insomnia [19]
  • Heart problems [20]

Another cognitive enhancer often reported to cause adverse effects when exceeding the recommended dose is Gingko Biloba.

This latter has been proven to occasionally cause stomach upset, headaches, and blood thinning [20].

While natural smart drugs are not banned in sports, synthetic nootropics are banned, which can disqualify competitors from sporting events.

To stay up with the rules of competition, athletes must research dietary supplements banned by World Anti-Doping Agency (WADA) or US Anti-Doping Agency (USADA), such as phenylpiracetam, the first synthetic nootropic.


Do Nootropics Help With Sports?

Yes, nootropics help with sports because they can support healthy brain function by protecting the brain from damage and improving communication between neurons. Nootropics can help improve focus and motivation, all of which are essential for enhancing physical performance.

Are Nootropics Legal?

Yes, nootropics are legal as they are considered dietary supplements by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA). This means that they do not have to prove that nootropics are effective or safe before selling them.

How Do Nootropics Affect The Brain?

Nootropics affect the brain in a variety of ways, but most seem to boost blood flow and cell growth in the brain. This helps keep the brain healthy and functioning at its best. Some of the most popular include caffeine, L-Theanine, and Bacopa monnieri.

How to Improve Athletic Performance With Nootropics?

With the help of nootropics, athletes can improve energy levels and overall cognitive functioning.

Combining a healthy and regular diet and stacking the right nootropics can help you reach your peak potential.

Fortunately, our team came up with a list of the best nootropics on the market:

These performance-enhancing supplements are produced by reputable companies without banned substances, so athletes can obtain beneficial supplementation without risking disqualification for their sport.

Our team well-studied the ingredients and tested all these nootropics for a few months, and we witnessed significant cognitive benefits like enhanced focus and motivation and reduced mental fatigue during our training.


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