8 Best Nootropics For Athletes & Sports In 2023

Written on January 1, 2023 by | Reviewed by William Gallagher, MNeuroSci

In this article, I'll look at the 8 best nootropics for athletes and sports. I'll also cover the potential risks and side effects you may run into and the benefits you can expect.

As an athlete, you know that your performance is only as good as your mental state.

Whether you're in the middle of a race or prepping for one, having a clear and focused mind can make all the difference. That's why many athletes are turning to nootropics to help them boost their mental game.

Today, I'll take a deep dive into some of the best nootropics for athletes and sports, including what they can do for your mind and body and what science says about them.

So without further ado, let's jump straight into it, shall we?

The best nootropics for athletes and sports, according to scientific evidence, are:

  • Mind Lab Pro
  • Modafinil
  • Caffeine + L-Theanine Stack
  • Alpha GPC
  • Ashwagandha
  • Bacopa Monnieri
  • L-Tyrosine
  • Phenylpiracetam 

1. Mind Lab Pro

Mind Lab Pro is the perfect supplement to take when you want to relax and improve your mood. It contains a blend of 11 nootropic ingredients which are:

  • Citicoline
  • Phosphatidylserine (PS)
  • Bacopa Monnieri
  • Organic Lion’s Mane Mushroom
  • Maritime Pine Bark Extract
  • L-Tyrosine
  • L-Theanine
  • Rhodiola Rosea
  • Vitamin B6
  • Vitamin B9
  • Vitamin B12

Lion's Mane Mushroom reduces anxiety and promotes a better mood. Additionally, it is classified as an adaptogen. Adaptogens are natural substances that help athletes deal with physical and mental stress.

Studies on animals and isolated neuronal cells have revealed that adaptogens like Lion's Mane exhibit neuroprotective, anti-fatigue, antidepressive, anxiolytic, nootropic, and CNS-stimulating activity [1]Panossian, Alexander, and Georg Wikman. “Effects of Adaptogens on the Central Nervous System and the Molecular Mechanisms Associated with Their Stress-Protective Activity.” Pharmaceuticals … Learn more.

Meanwhile, Vitamin B6 is an essential vitamin that promotes a healthy nervous system and brain function. Low levels of Vitamin B6 have been associated with depression, anxiety and neurodegenerative diseases [2]Hvas, Anne-Mette et al. “Vitamin B6 level is associated with symptoms of depression.” Psychotherapy and psychosomatics vol. 73,6 (2004): 340-3. doi:10.1159/000080386.

Phosphatidylserine (PS) is a substance that has been linked to improved exercise capacity and performance. A recent study found that short-term oral supplementation with PS led to increased exercise capacity during high-intensity cycling and tended to increase performance during intermittent running [3]Jäger, Ralf et al. “Phospholipids and sports performance.” Journal of the International Society of Sports Nutrition vol. 4 5. 25 Jul. 2007, doi:10.1186/1550-2783-4-5.

Mind Lab Pros

  • All-natural ingredients
  • Cognitive boosting effects
  • Improved mood and focus
  • Boosted exercise performance potential

Mind Lab Pro Cons

  • Can be expensive for people on a budget

Mind Lab Pro in Summary

Mind Lab Pro is a nootropic blend. It contains 11 nootropics that can improve mood, focus, and memory. It also boosts exercise performance potential in people who take it as directed.

Overall, if you want a safe and all-natural way to improve your mental state while exercising, Mind Lab Pro is an excellent choice.

2. Modafinil

Modafinil (Provigil) is a powerful wakefulness-promoting nootropic that has been shown to improve cognitive function and vigilance. Researchers originally designed Modafinil as a narcolepsy treatment, but people now commonly use it to improve cognition.

Modafinil has been shown to increase dopamine in the brain by blocking dopamine transporters. It also activates the histaminergic system in an indirect manner, presumably via attenuation of the inhibitory GABAergic input to the histaminergic system [4]Ishizuka, Tomoko et al. “Action of modafinil through histaminergic and orexinergic neurons.” Vitamins and hormones vol. 89 (2012): 259-78. doi:10.1016/B978-0-12-394623-2.00014-7.

Researchers have investigated how Modafinil affects both mental and physical performance during and after strenuous exercise. One study found that Modafinil is effective in improving executive function over time [5]Rattray, Ben et al. “Effect of acute modafinil ingestion on cognitive and physical performance following mental exertion.” Human psychopharmacology vol. 34,4 (2019): e2700. doi:10.1002/hup.2700.

This particular study was placebo-controlled, double-blind, and used a randomized crossover design.

It's worth noting that Modafinil is a banned substance in many professional sports leagues. If you are an athlete and are considering taking Modafinil, it's important to check with your coaches or athletic governing body before using it.

Modafinil Pros

  • A powerful wakeful-promoting nootropic
  • Improves both mental and physical performance during exercise
  • Is useful for improving focus and alertness in athletes

Modafinil Cons

  • Banned by many professional sports leagues

Modafinil in Summary

Modafinil is a powerful nootropic that has been shown to improve both mental and physical performance during exercise. It is an effective tool for improving focus and alertness in athletes, but you should check with your coaches or athletic governing body before taking it.

3. Caffeine + L-Theanine Stack

When it comes to improving athletic performance, many people turn to Caffeine for a boost.

However, too much caffeine can lead to jitters and anxiety, which can actually hinder performance. L-Theanine is an amino acid found in green tea that can help offset Caffeine's side effects, promoting focus and concentration without the negative effects.

One study examined the combined effects of L-Theanine and Caffeine on cognitive performance and mood. This study aimed to see if there would be any difference in cognition and mood between 50 mg caffeine with 100 mg L-theanine, and just 50 mg caffeine, in healthy volunteers [6]Owen, Gail N et al. “The combined effects of L-theanine and caffeine on cognitive performance and mood.” Nutritional neuroscience vol. 11,4 (2008): 193-8. doi:10.1179/147683008X301513.

The effects of these treatments on word recognition, rapid visual information processing, critical flicker fusion threshold, attention switching and mood were compared to placebo in 27 participants.

They found that Caffeine + L-Theanine improved performance on cognitively demanding tasks, specifically in visual processing and attention switching.

This makes it a great nootropic for athletes that want that extra boost of focus and energy to perform their best but without the jittery side effects of Caffeine alone.

Caffeine + L-Theanine Stack Pros

  • Well-researched combination with powerful nootropic effects
  • Improves cognitive performance and mood
  • Readily available over the counter
  • Cheap and effective

Caffeine + L-Theanine Stack Cons

  • Not ideal for athletes who are sensitive to caffeine

Caffeine + L-Theanine Stack in Summary

Caffeine + L-Theanine is one the most popular stack for athletes looking to improve their performance. It has been extensively studied and found to have a range of benefits for both cognitive function and mood.

While the side effects of Caffeine can be detrimental, this stack is well-tolerated and effective.

4. Alpha GPC

L-Alpha glycerylphosphorylcholine is a natural choline compound found in the brain that has been studied for its potential to treat Alzheimer's disease and other forms of dementia.

It's thought to play a role in cognitive function and cellular communication. When taken as a supplement, Alpha GPC is absorbed into the bloodstream and crosses the blood-brain barrier (BBB), which can then be used by the brain.

In terms of athletic performance, Alpha GPC has been shown to be effective at increasing lower body force production after 6 days of supplementation [7]Bellar, David et al. “The effect of 6 days of alpha glycerylphosphorylcholine on isometric strength.” Journal of the International Society of Sports Nutrition vol. 12 42. 17 Nov. 2015, … Learn more.

The study suggests that adding Alpha GPC to the speed and power athletes' diet can help them enhance their muscle performance.

Alpha GPC Pros

  • Well-studied nootropic compound with a range of benefits
  • Improves athletic performance by increasing lower body strength
  • Available over the counter as a supplement
  • Boosts cognitive function and memory

Alpha GPC Cons

  • Can take several weeks to experience the results

Alpha GPC in Summary

Athletes favor the nootropic Alpha GPC because it's a natural choline compound that has been shown to enhance concentration and athletic ability.

While it can take several weeks to experience results, many athletes choose Alpha GPC as their go-to cognitive enhancer for sports as it has been well-studied and shown to be effective at improving physical performance.

5. Ashwagandha

Ashwagandha is a reputed herb in traditional Ayurveda, which is a form of ancient Indian medicine. It's traditionally used to help relieve inflammation, improve sleep and boost the immune system.

A study done in 2021 showed that Ashwagandha not only helps with stress but Athletic performance as well. The plant's root extract was given to 50 healthy adults who were then put into 2 groups, those taking ashwagandha and a placebo group [8]Tiwari, Shashank et al. “A double-blind, randomized, placebo-controlled trial on the effect of Ashwagandha (Withania somnifera dunal.) root extract in improving cardiorespiratory endurance and … Learn more.

The Ashwagandha group took 300 mg 2 times a day for 8 weeks. The maximum aerobic capacity (VO2 max), which is an indicator of cardiorespiratory endurance, was then measured.

The study found that, compared to the placebo group, those who took Ashwagandha saw a significant increase in VO2 max levels and, thus, better cardiorespiratory endurance.

Ashwagandha Pros

  • A natural adaptogen that helps the body deal with stress
  • Helps relieve inflammation, improves sleep, and boosts the immune system
  • Increases athletic performance and endurance by improving VO2 max levels

Ashwagandha Cons

  • Takes weeks to experience the full benefits

Ashwagandha in Summary

Commonly used in traditional Ayurvedic medicine, Ashwagandha is a popular supplement for athletes due to its ability to improve VO2 max levels and enhance cardiorespiratory endurance.

6. Bacopa Monnieri

Bacopa Monnieri is a nootropic herb that has been used traditionally in Ayurvedic medicine to improve memory and cognition, as well as treat anxiety. It's an adaptogen that will help your body respond more effectively to stress.

Bacopa Monnieri works by decreasing stress hormone cortisol levels and increasing neurotransmitters in the brain, such as serotonin and dopamine. This can help improve focus, memory, mood, and cognition.

Bacopa monnieri extracts contain active triterpene bacosides and flavonol glycosides. These have been shown to improve cognitive function and psychological state, making them potentially useful for sports performance enhancement [9]Kennedy, David O. “Phytochemicals for Improving Aspects of Cognitive Function and Psychological State Potentially Relevant to Sports Performance.” Sports medicine (Auckland, N.Z.) vol. 49,Suppl 1 … Learn more.

Bacopa Monnieri Pros

  • A natural adaptogen that helps the body respond to stress
  • Improves memory and cognition
  • Helps relieve anxiety, which can improve focus and concentration during sports

Bacopa Monnieri Cons

  • Can be hard to find high-quality extracts
  • May take a few weeks to experience the full benefits

Bacopa Monnieri in Summary

Used traditionally in Ayurvedic medicine, Bacopa Monnieri is a popular nootropic herb that can help improve memory and cognition while reducing stress and anxiety. This can benefit athletes looking to boost their cognitive performance during sports.

7. L-Tyrosine

L-Tyrosine is a non-essential amino acid with many important bodily functions. One of its most well-known roles is as a precursor to dopamine, norepinephrine, and epinephrine - also known as the "fight or flight" hormones.

These hormones are released in response to stress and help increase heart rate, blood pressure, and blood sugar levels. This can benefit athletes who need an extra energy boost during competition.

L-Tyrosine has also been shown to improve cognitive flexibility and memory formation [10]Steenbergen, Laura et al. “Tyrosine promotes cognitive flexibility: evidence from proactive vs. reactive control during task switching performance.” Neuropsychologia vol. 69 (2015): 50-5. … Learn more. This is thought to be due to its role in dopamine production, as dopamine is known to be involved in learning and memory.

Additionally, L-Tyrosine may help to reduce fatigue during prolonged exercise. It does this by increasing protein synthesis in the muscles, which can help repair damaged tissue and reduce inflammation.

L-Tyrosine Pros

  • A non-essential amino acid that is important for cognitive function and energy production
  • Boosts physical performance by improving heart rate, blood pressure, and blood sugar levels
  • Reduces fatigue during prolonged exercise

L-Tyrosine Cons

  • A mixed track record for efficacy in clinical trials

L-Tyrosine in Summary

As a non-essential amino acid, L-Tyrosine is important for many biological functions, including cognitive function and energy production. This can benefit athletes who need an extra boost of energy during competition.

8. Phenylpiracetam 

Although Phenylpiracetam is banned by the World Anti-Doping Agency due to its reported psychostimulatory and cold resistance properties, it is incredibly popular among athletes for its role in enhancing physical performance.

Phenylpiracetam is a derivative of Piracetam, which is the first nootropic ever created. It increases choline uptake and stimulates acetylcholine receptors in the brain to improve memory and learning.

Phenylpiracetam also works as an anxiolytic, decreasing anxiety and improving mood.

This can be important for athletes who may experience high-stress levels before a competition or during training.

Phenylpiracetam Pros

  • Enhances focus, concentration, and cognitive flexibility
  • Improves mood and reduces anxiety
  • Increases physical performance pressure
  • A more potent version of Piracetam, with fewer side effects

Phenylpiracetam Cons

  • Banned by the World Anti-Doping Agency

Phenylpiracetam in Summary

As a derivative of Piracetam, Phenylpiracetam is a powerful nootropic that can enhance physical performance and improve mood and concentration. This makes it a popular choice among athletes who must stay focused during training or competition.

What Are the Best Nootropics for Athletes & Sports?

The best nootropics for athletes and sports are:

  1. Mind Lab Pro
  2. Modafinil
  3. Caffeine + L-Theanine Stack
  4. Alpha GPC
  5. Ashwagandha
  6. Bacopa Monnieri
  7. L-Tyrosine
  8. Phenylpiracetam 

My list contains a blend of different nootropic compounds that can help boost athletic performance and improve focus, concentration, and cognitive flexibility.

You'll also find both natural and synthetic nootropics on this list. Synthetic nootropics are usually the most powerful and effective, but they may also carry a higher risk of side effects.

In contrast, natural nootropics are generally considered to be safer and better tolerated, though they may not be as potent or effective.

What Are the Benefits of Nootropics for Athletes & Sports?

The benefits of nootropics for athletes and sports include:

  • Improved focus, concentration, and mental clarity
  • Increased energy levels
  • Reduced stress and anxiety
  • Enhanced physical performance

Whether you're a professional athlete or a casual fitness enthusiast, nootropics can help you stay at the top of your game.

With continued use over time, they can even help improve long-term cognitive health and reduce your risk of age-related cognitive decline.

So if you're looking for an edge in the gym or on the field, the nootropics covered here may be exactly what you need.

What Are the Side Effects of Nootropics for Athletes & Sports?

best nootropics for athletes and sports

The side effects of using nootropics for athletes and sports include:

  • Headaches
  • Stomach upset or nausea
  • Dizziness or difficulty sleeping
  • Increased anxiety or agitation
  • Changes in blood pressure or heart rate

It's worth noting that the side effects associated with nootropics depend largely on the specific nootropic used, as well as the dosage and duration of use.

There's also a big difference between synthetic compounds and natural nootropics, which can have different effects and side effects.

If you're considering using nootropics to boost your performance in sports or fitness, it's important to consult with a healthcare professional first to discuss the risks and benefits of these compounds.

Overall, however, nootropics for athletes and sports are generally considered safe when used in moderation and under the guidance of a qualified healthcare professional.

Final Thoughts: Do Nootropics Really Work for Athletes & Sports?

So do I personally think that nootropics can help athletes in sports?

Yes, they can be an effective tool for improving athletic performance, focusing, concentration, and overall cognitive function.

While some risks are associated with using these compounds, most side effects are mild and temporary when used responsibly. And the potential benefits of nootropics for athletes in sports are very promising.

Scientific research is still lacking in some areas, but the early results are very promising. So if you're looking for a boost to your training, nootropics may be worth trying!

Ultimately, it's up to each athlete to decide whether or not nootropics are right for them. But with proper guidance and moderation, these powerful compounds can be a valuable tool for improving performance, both mentally and physically.

References

References
1Panossian, Alexander, and Georg Wikman. “Effects of Adaptogens on the Central Nervous System and the Molecular Mechanisms Associated with Their Stress-Protective Activity.” Pharmaceuticals (Basel, Switzerland) vol. 3,1 188-224. 19 Jan. 2010, doi:10.3390/ph3010188
2Hvas, Anne-Mette et al. “Vitamin B6 level is associated with symptoms of depression.” Psychotherapy and psychosomatics vol. 73,6 (2004): 340-3. doi:10.1159/000080386
3Jäger, Ralf et al. “Phospholipids and sports performance.” Journal of the International Society of Sports Nutrition vol. 4 5. 25 Jul. 2007, doi:10.1186/1550-2783-4-5
4Ishizuka, Tomoko et al. “Action of modafinil through histaminergic and orexinergic neurons.” Vitamins and hormones vol. 89 (2012): 259-78. doi:10.1016/B978-0-12-394623-2.00014-7
5Rattray, Ben et al. “Effect of acute modafinil ingestion on cognitive and physical performance following mental exertion.” Human psychopharmacology vol. 34,4 (2019): e2700. doi:10.1002/hup.2700
6Owen, Gail N et al. “The combined effects of L-theanine and caffeine on cognitive performance and mood.” Nutritional neuroscience vol. 11,4 (2008): 193-8. doi:10.1179/147683008X301513
7Bellar, David et al. “The effect of 6 days of alpha glycerylphosphorylcholine on isometric strength.” Journal of the International Society of Sports Nutrition vol. 12 42. 17 Nov. 2015, doi:10.1186/s12970-015-0103-x
8Tiwari, Shashank et al. “A double-blind, randomized, placebo-controlled trial on the effect of Ashwagandha (Withania somnifera dunal.) root extract in improving cardiorespiratory endurance and recovery in healthy athletic adults.” Journal of ethnopharmacology vol. 272 (2021): 113929. doi:10.1016/j.jep.2021.113929
9Kennedy, David O. “Phytochemicals for Improving Aspects of Cognitive Function and Psychological State Potentially Relevant to Sports Performance.” Sports medicine (Auckland, N.Z.) vol. 49,Suppl 1 (2019): 39-58. doi:10.1007/s40279-018-1007-0
10Steenbergen, Laura et al. “Tyrosine promotes cognitive flexibility: evidence from proactive vs. reactive control during task switching performance.” Neuropsychologia vol. 69 (2015): 50-5. doi:10.1016/j.neuropsychologia.2015.01.022