Taking supplements might seem like something you do purely for physical reasons: to build muscle, lose weight, improve health, or just have a better workout. But the benefits aren't all from the neck down!
Cognition-boosting supplements are more popular than ever to increase focus and performance during workouts, workdays, and just the hard work of beating your friends and enemies in gaming. Here are some of the most science-backed ingredients to prioritize for brain gains.
What Are Nootropics?
If you've ever had a cup of coffee or an energy drink before a workout, you know the positive impact caffeine can have on your focus, drive, and overall training session. Caffeine is just one ingredient in a broad category of supplements called nootropics that may boost your brainpower, affecting things like focus and fatigue.
Nootropics provide major training benefits, but many of them have benefits outside the gym, too! These cognitive enhancers are known for their positive effects on mental performance, and some have even been suggested to support memory, the recall of information, energy, and focus.*
Supplements For Optimal Brain Power
Nootropics are typically single compounds, and while one ingredient on its own may offer brain-supporting benefits, some of them can be combined (or "stacked") to offer even greater effects! Here's a look at the most potent ingredients and combinations.
Phosphatidylserine is an important chemical with widespread functions in the body. It's key in the maintenance of cellular functions, especially within the brain. Phosphatidylserine has also been shown to improve cognitive function before a bout of exercise. By supplementing with phosphatidylserine, individuals may potentially be able to obtain better results from exercise (by staying focused and alert) and at the same time improve mood and mental function.*
2. L-Theanine and Caffeine
L-theanine, a nonprotein amino acid common in green tea leaves, can have a significant impact on reducing normal everyday stress levels. Add caffeine to the mix, and you may experience a support in mood, perception of stress, and focus.*
Studies looking at the effects of L-theanine and caffeine have found a rise in focus, motivation, and mood, improved alpha wave levels (a sign of relaxation), and reduced heart rate and blood pressure.*
My all-time favorite supplement comes up with another win! For the same reasons we take creatine to improve muscle mass and strength, creatine can also support normal brain function.
Sound strange? It's really quite simple: Your brain, just like your muscles, uses ATP for energy. So it makes sense that increasing the availability of PCr (phosphocreatine) in your brain would help with ATP synthesis and energy formation.*
Choline is found in a lot of the foods we eat, but typically not in a large enough dose to have any meaningful benefit. Supplementing with choline can be a powerful nootropic because it serves as a direct precursor to acetylcholine—which can support memory.*
5. Bacopa Monnieri
Similar to choline and huperzine A, bacopa monnieri improves acetylcholine release, which can help enhance your memory. The traditional Ayurvedic herb can also reduce stress on dopaminergic systems, helping to increase feelings of happiness and pleasure. Supplementing with bacopa monnieri may lead to supported short- and long-term memory, better reasoning test performance, enhanced attention, and a reduction of normal stress.*
6. Rhodiola Rosea
While its traditional use may have been to prevent altitude sickness and to help cope with cold climates, Rhodiola Rosea is finding new uses as a mood supporter and antifatigue agent. Rhodiola helps to support serotonin levels, which can support your overall mood and may support reasoning skills, as well.*
7. Huperzine A
This popular herbal nootropic can help promote levels of acetylcholine within the brain. Increasing this important neurotransmitter means supporting memory and cognitive functions. Because you don't need a large dose of this ingredient to see beneficial effects, you might note its presence in many popular pre-workout blends.*
8. Asian Ginseng
Quite possibly the most researched nootropic, Asian ginseng has been shown to support memory, focus and attention, and mood. It may even be able to improve performance (both reaction time and endurance).*
*These statements have not been evaluated by the Food and Drug Administration. This product is not intended to diagnose, treat, cure, or prevent any disease.