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4 Mental and Athletic Performance Benefits of Nootropics

The exciting and growing field of nootropics provides a wide range of benefits for your brain. 

From enhancing cognitive functions to improving sports performance, nootropics supplements can be beneficial to the everyday lives of many people.  

But before we dive too far into the benefits of nootropics, let’s briefly discuss how they actually achieve their brain-enhancing effects

How Nootropics Work

The brain works in many ways similar to how a central processor of a computer does.  A CPU has a series of transistors, circuits, logic gates, and memory arrays interconnected by electrical wiring.

The neurons that make up the brain have similar interconnectivity, but instead of communicating neuron to neuron electrically, they transmit their signals chemically. Scientists call these chemicals neurotransmitters.

Nootropics work by modulating a series of neurotransmitters including the monoamines (dopamine, adrenaline, noradrenaline) acetylcholine, adenosine, and ATP.  They can do this by increasing the production of specific brain chemicals, which bind to neurotransmitter receiving sites to either block the effect of the neurotransmitter or upregulate the entire system.

Since different nootropics work by stimulating different neurotransmitters in the brain, their effects can vary substantially from one substance to the next.  However, with the right choice of ingredients, we can stimulate our brain to improve its function from many different perspectives.

Benefits of Nootropics

1. Support Brain Power

The conscious intellectual process of acquiring knowledge, comprehending it, using it and committing it to memory, aids in all aspects of human performance.  Such cognitive functions may ultimately entail several different facets including:

  • Memory
  • Focus
  • & Recall

Many different neurotransmitters play a role in improving cognitive functions like these.  Concentrated mental tasks require maintaining and enhancing the signaling that occurs between neurons. The neurotransmitter acetylcholine, which scientists believe increases the signal to noise ratio of sensory processing, modulates this process.

nootropics neurotransmitters

Such modulations may be helpful for learning new concepts, committing facts to memory, writing for extended periods of time, and perhaps most importantly, recalling what you’ve learned in the most critical of times.

The cognitive benefits of nootropics may also be helpful for those performing daily work-related tasks.  Business people often use them for presentations, public speaking, and staying on task in the office. 

While synthetic drugs like Adderall seem to get most of the attention, there are actually plenty of naturally occurring nootropics which have also been shown to improve cognitive functioning.  Here are just a few:

  • Choline
  • L-tyrosine
  • L-carnitine
  • Ginkgo biloba 
  • Bacopa Monnieri

2. Stimulate Creativity

In addition to improving memory, some nootropics also help to boost creativity.   In fact, they’ve become extremely popular amongst everyone from artists and musicians to silicon valley’s tech elite.

If your profession depends upon your creativity, you know that finding it on a daily basis may be fleeting.

Sometimes your creativity is there and at other times the creative spark is dull. Nootropics can aid in the creative process and perhaps provide the central nervous system the energy it needs to get the creative juices flowing.

Several different nootropics have been found to boost creativity:

Acetyl L-carnitine is a derivative of the amino acid L-carnitine and it can increase acetylcholine and dopamine in the brain. Some have suggested that it stimulates creativity by enhancing right and left brain communication.

nootropics cognition

The DEA classifies Phenibut as a neuropsychotropic drug that works like GABA at the GABA B sites in the brain. Currently, Australia classifies it as a poison.

Well if that doesn’t scare you, what proponents of Phenibut like is that it produces a soothing, tranquil feeling often associated with meditation. It also produces a mild dopamine stimulation that science associates with creativity.

Sulbutiamine is a Japanese designed nootropic based off the B-vitamin thiamine. It specifically targets mental chronic fatigue and reduces psycho-behavioral inhibitions. That is another way of saying it frees your mind for creative thoughts.

Coluracetam is a relatively new nootropic known for sensory enhancement. Coluracetam enhances sounds and vision, lowers anxiety, and modulates creativity. It also increases choline uptake in the brain, thus increasing acetylcholine production.

3. Support Healthy State of Mind

The neurons in the brain and throughout the nervous system communicate with one another via several unique chemicals called neurotransmitters. They affect what the neurons say to one another and how they say it.

Different neurotransmitters balance each other. Think of it as filters that modulate the system. Too much of one: the brain may be overexcited. Not enough of another and the brain may not have the focus that you desire.

The different states of mind are chemically modulated by several neurotransmitters, and these may be affected by fluctuating levels of certain micronutrients.

The neurotransmitters GABA and noradrenaline are necessary for maintaining a placid state in the mind.  When adequate levels are not present, it may affect how you feel.

The amino acid L-tyrosine is used throughout the nervous system. You may recognize it as an ingredient that is used in many energy drinks.

Nootropics and Anxiety

The body uses L-tyrosine to synthesize neurotransmitters and the hormone thyroxine. It is useful for supporting your brain’s neurological functions and energy levels.

Here are some other ways neurotransmitters can affect your mental state:

Noradrenaline is a neurotransmitter associated with the classic fight or flight situations. When you are placed into a stressful situation, noradrenaline is released so you can respond to the threat. Thus it is critical to have adequate supplies released at the right times.

When you experience stress, your brain releases noradrenaline to stimulate your nervous system, increasing your mental energy and processing.  Once released, however, it can take time to replenish levels of noradrenaline once your body fully depletes its reserves.

This is for example, why so many people feel sluggish and down after the effects of drugs like Adderall have worn off -- it depletes the noradrenaline stores.

Nootropics like l-tyrosine, however, increase the rate of noradrenaline synthesis so that you’re not only less susceptible to stress but also less likely to experience an energy crash.  

L-Theanine promotes the generation of alpha waves, bringing about feelings of inspiration, fearlessness, and fantastic productivity.

Racetams are also used to improve these states as well as physician-directed, pharmaceutical anxiolytics and anti-depressants.

Common nutraceuticals used for improving the energy and processing in the brain are:

  • L-theanine
  • Bacopa Monnieri
  • L-tyrosine
  • Taurine
  • Choline
  • 5-HTP

4. Promote Sport Performance

Nootropics have several benefits when it comes to athletics but perhaps the most important has to do with what athletes refer to as ‘getting into the zone’.

Sports performance is all about reaction time, reading the field, and facilitating the practiced, ingrained, neuromuscular connections of mind and body.  Learning, memory, and focus are tightly intertwined and affect serial reaction time. This is the time necessary for an individual to perceive a signal input, process it, and react.

The more effectively the athlete reads the situation and reacts physically, the better their performance will be. For an athlete, performing this seamlessly, and without conscious thought, can mean the difference between being a star with a 7 or 8 figure salary, or one struggling to pay the rent.

Nootropics can improve signal processing, concentration, and mindset, as well as enhance neurotransmission that can diminish with fatigue. Athletes must avoid fatigue as it is a real biologic event that lowers the ability to effectively concentrate.

Athletes, however, must be careful with what they take.  Some nootropics are so effective for sport that they are now banned by WADA and USADA.

This means athletes in the Olympics, the Major Leagues, Tennis, and the UFC are prohibited from using several nootropic substances.

Natural nootropics are not banned from sport though. The most common, caffeine, is a pure central nervous system stimulant that can also potentiate the effect of other nootropics. 

For instance, it’s not uncommon for nootropic users to stack caffeine with L-theanine. Interestingly, L-theanine, when used alone, is a relaxing agent, but when mixed with caffeine, improves cognition and attention.

Creatine is also a nootropic for sport. Besides the pure ATP energy effect that creatine has on muscular performance, it also increases intelligence test scores and memory.

Studies show that choline, in addition to improving cognition and attention, may also decrease athletic fatigue and improve athletic performance.


Nootropics can offer numerous benefits to a wide variety of people. A number of different nootropic supplements can support healthy brain function and stimulate improved mental capabilities, including enhanced cognition and creativity.

These benefits also translate well into sports, where athletes’ performances are improved by the ability to think and react more quickly and clearly.

Because different nootropics have varying effects and last for different amounts of time, combining them together can be even more beneficial than taking them alone. Stacking the right nootropics together is the best way to produce maximal effects.

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