Nootropics, also known as “smart supplements” are a class of natural herbal remedies that are said to enhance brain health and cognitive function in healthy adults. For athletes, optimizing your brain health can have far-reaching effects and is critical for maintaining focus, clarity, sleep quality, and even for ensuring proper hormone function.
Today’s society is littered with distractions and stress, both of which can do a lot of harm to your brain in the long run. In a study done by the journal of public health, it was found that common lifestyle factors such as smoking, stress, social isolation, and non-vegetarian diets can lead to a much higher risk of mental health disorders (1).
As a result of this, nootropics and other novel remedies have begun to gain mainstream recognition for their ability to help keep your brain healthy, positive, and firing on all cylinders. They can help with everything from boosting focus, creativity, coordination, and even motivation. For athletes, this can be a very useful asset – staying focused during competition and while you are training can make the difference between a good and a great performance.
So how do these nutrients work? First, let’s take a look at what nootropics are and how they function:
What Are Nootropics?
The term “nootropic” simply refers to a class of naturally-occurring chemicals that contribute to improved brain function and health either through boosting healthy blood flow to neural tissue or by directly enhancing the action of neurons and related cells. There was actually a checklist of 5 points created by one of the pioneers of the study of these supplements, Dr. Cornelieu E. Giurgea (2). These points include:
-Enhance memory and learning capacity
-Safeguard the brain from disruptive conditions
-Protect the brain from chemical damage
-Increase the efficacy of neuronal action
-Possess little to no side effects
After learning about these criteria, you can see why these chemicals are referred to as “smart drugs”. They have the uncanny ability to help improve brain function and help you think critically with a fresh, clear perspective. Not only that, but you can even see improvements to your coordination and mood as well.
There are a ton of supposed nootropic supplements on the market due to the growing popularity recently. Synthetic drugs such as Adderal have even been classified as “nootropic”, although we believe that there are much more natural and powerful alternatives to these potentially damaging synthetic stimulants.
Huperzine is naturally occurring Chinese moss that has been used as a cognitive enhancer since ancient times. It was initially used as a medicine to help clear the mind so that patients could think and meditate more clearly about life.
Today, Huperzine A is praised for its ability to help with memory and also for its neuroprotective effects. It is able to give these benefits because of its effects on acetylcholine signaling. If you are unfamiliar with this important chemical, it is simply a neurotransmitter responsible for stimulating and regulating neurologic processes in the brain.
Acetylcholine has been tied to enhanced motor function, learning, and memory and was even shown to help enhance cognitive function in middle-aged adults (3). With Huperzine A, you can improve the responsiveness of your brain by boosting the presence of one of the most important neurotransmitters.
Extracts from the gingko biloba leaf were used by ancient Japanese monks to help improve focus and stimulate more creativity and attention. This magical extract is very popular in today’s culture for its ability to help boost alertness and help you stay focused. Its ability to improve heart health doesn’t hurt either.
Specifically for athletes, gingko biloba taken prior to performance can help to reduce the stress response you experience and help your muscles stay energized and not be dampened by its effects. It actually reduces the amount of cortisol that is released, which is a powerful stress hormone (4). Gingko biloba is able to give you these benefits because it helps to increase the amount of healthy blood flow to the brain, something that is important in older age as blood flow is reduced by a variety of different age-related factors.
The powerful cognitive benefits of Bacopa extract were first mentioned in the ancient Indian Ayurvedic texts, and upon modern scientific review, they are proven to be one of the most powerful nootropics out there. It was originally used to help the devout religious followers retain and understand more deeply the ancient texts. In can help to improve cognition, learning, coordination, and even is rife with adaptogenic properties.
Similar to Huperzine A, Bacopa is able to help improve the viability of Acetylcholine in the brain and allows you to be more responsive and receptive of new ideas. It also provides a neuroprotective effect on the brain by providing cleansing antioxidant properties.
Bacopa also has a pronounced effect on the neurotransmitter Serotonin. The extract helps your brain better modulate the production of this chemical which helps to control anxiety and the overall stress response. This is perfect for athletes who want a cognitive edge over the competition by having a higher threshold for remaining calm, more focused, and clear-headed during high-intensity competition.
If you are an athlete, you probably enjoy challenging yourself and breaking through plateaus and setting new personal bests. This is a task that is reliant on more than just physical prowess, being your best as an athlete also requires your mind to be focused and reactive. With nootropics, you can:
- Stay focused and clear-headed during exhaustive exercise
- Improve coordination and muscle memory
- Protect the brain from oxidative damage
- Reduce anxiety and stress
- Maintain control over stress and anxiety
Nootropics for athletic use is still a relatively new field, but the popularity is well-deserved. While Nootropics can be very beneficial, there will always be fakes out there. Don’t fall for the trends of synthetic nootropics that can cause harmful side effects and even lead to addiction. There are plenty of natural, herbal remedies that have been scientifically proven to have powerful cognitive benefits that are much safer and can lead to better performance for many years to come.
Never underestimate the importance of a healthy mind!
Thanks for the time and as always, take advantage of the smartest nootropic ingredients in Biotropic Labs’ line of supplements!
Scientific and Fitness Contributor
- Lifestyle Choices and Mental Health: a Longitudinal Survey with German and Chinese Students, https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC5956886/
- The Nootropic Concept and its Prospective Implications, https://onlinelibrary.wiley.com/doi/abs/10.1002/ddr.430020505,
- Xing SH, Zhu CX, Zhang R, AN L. EVID BASED COMPLEMENT ALTERNAT MED. 2014;20[14:36]3985. DOI: 10.1155/2014/363985. (WWW.NCBI.NLM.NIH.GOV/PMC/ARTICLES/PMC3930088)
- Reduction of rise in blood pressure and cortisol release during stress by Ginkgo biloba extract (EGb 761) in healthy volunteers, https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/12369732,