We all know that a pre-workout supplement gives us an energy boost, enhances athletic performance and endurance, and allows us to gain the focus and motivation to complete a workout.
What you may not know is that some supplements, known as nootropics, help the brain with neuroplasticity, protect neurons and produce power, as well as other benefits to the central nervous system.
When you combine the two, you have a clear mind to focus on your workout, and the energy to complete it. In this review, we will examine nootropics and see how they work in pre-workouts or if they even work at all.
Along the way, we will answer your questions about nootropic pre-workout supplements and uncover all the truths. Let's get started.
What Is Nootropic?
Nootropics, also known as "smart drugs" or cognitive enhancers, are substances that can improve mental functions like memory, creativity, motivation, focus and energy. They are often used to enhance productivity and may include various natural and synthetic drugs, supplements, or other substances.
As such, these compounds aim to boost mental performance in several ways. They work by altering the brain's supply of neurochemicals (such as catecholamines), enzymes, or hormones, which in turn, optimize mental functions such as the ones mentioned above.
While some nootropics are pharmaceutical drugs (modafinil or methylphenidate) used to treat cognitive or motor function disorders, others are available over-the-counter as supplements.
The most common and arguably best nootropics you can get OTC include caffeine, L-theanine, alpha-GPC, and racetams (pramiracetam, aniracetam).
These substances can enhance alertness, focus and energy, making them extremely popular among students, professionals, and, lately, athletes looking to stay focused and gain a mental edge over their competition.
However, it's essential to approach nootropics with caution.
For starters, their efficacy is somewhat questionable (in a sense many can't agree on whether nootropics work or not), and while they do promise appealing benefits, ironclad research supporting those is quite scarce.
Additionally, research on their long-term effects and safety is often inconclusive or outright lacking. As you can imagine, some of them may come with side effects or interact negatively with other medications, so be careful.
In a nutshell, nootropics can be powerful tools for cognitive enhancement, but they require responsible use and a solid understanding of their potential risks and rewards.
What Is Pre-Workout?
Pre-workout is a dietary supplement commonly used by gym-goers and athletes to boost their athletic performance.
Typically containing ingredients like stimulants and various amino acids, pre-workouts can help improve nearly all aspects of physical performance as well as enhance cognitive performance, allowing for more intense and effective workouts.
Designed to boost physical performance by elevating energy levels, sharpening focus, improving blood circulation to muscles, enhancing endurance, and delaying muscle fatigue, these supplements often boast a variety of ingredients.
Common ones include stimulants like caffeine or betaine for energy and alertness, amino acids such as l-citrulline, l-theanine, l-tyrosine, beta-alanine, and creatine, which improve blood flow, muscle strength, and delay fatigue, as well as other ingredients like vitamins and minerals to support overall health and well-being.
That said, the landscape of the best pre-workout supplements is constantly evolving.
Nowadays, we have the best nootropic pre-workout supplements adding novel nootropic blend of ingredients like GABA, Huperzine A, and NALT (N-Acetyl Tyrosine) to their products, aiming to further boost their efficacy, as these elements aim to further enhance cognitive functions during toughest workouts.
At the same time, choosing the right pre-workout supplements isn’t about the most complex formula. In fact, it’s often quite the opposite.
With so many options, paying attention to the dosing and ingredients is paramount.
A high-stimulant pre-workout might lead to jitteriness or other side effects, and insufficient dosing can leave you utterly underwhelmed. Therefore, understanding your body's needs and responses while carefully reading pre-workout labels is vital.
Learn More - Can Pre-Workout Be Detected By A Drug Test?
Natural Vs Synthetic: Which Is Safer?
The best nootropic supplements come in a wide array of shapes, sizes, and types. You probably already take nootropics and don't even know it.
One of the most common is caffeine. Your morning cup of coffee or tea is a nootropic, by definition. Others include supplements like creatine monohydrate, ginseng, and ginkgo biloba.
Synthetic nootropics are typically prescription based, such as medicines for ADHD treatment or for combating Alzheimer's.
Natural ingredients are safer, and legal in all areas. Synthetic ones will require a trip to the doctor in most areas.
But synthetic options like racetams (neurotransmitter inhibitors) are allowed for sale over the counter in the US but require a prescription in the UK.
Why Should You Take Nootropic Pre-Workout?
The primary goal of a nootropic supplement is to work the brain instead of the body. A pre-workout supplement mainly does the opposite, focusing on muscles and performance instead of the brain.
When combined, you should get the best of both worlds. More endurance, physical abilities, and shorter recovery times while also having better mental clarity, extreme focus, and less mental fatigue.
Related Article - What Ingredients Should You Look For In Pre-Workout?
10 Main Benefits Of Nootropics In Pre-Workout Supplements
Mixed with a pre-workout, there are a lot of promises from nootropic ingredients and supplements.
If you decide to supplement with nootropics mixed with your favorite pre-workout powder, there are some benefits you can expect during your training session.
It is fairly well known that nootropic supplements offer better mental clarity, improved brain health, and stress resistance. But there is a lot more still being studied and evaluated.
Certain brain chemicals, mental sharpness, energy production, and psychological stress related to your fitness journey are all being looked at closely. Here is what we know so far.
1. Improved Physical Strength
Stimulants, such as caffeine, work in the brain to reduce the effects of adenosine. Adenosine sends signals to the brain to rest.
With caffeine and other stimulant-based nootropic pre-workouts, this rest signal is eliminated, and you can continue to push and workout harder for longer.
Caffeine and other stimulants can cut down on reaction time, giving you sharper attention to detail and better reflexes to adapt to your workout.
In addition, some pre-workout formulas specifically designed for neuro-protective benefits help reduce fatigue and increase mental processing or enhance cognition during a tough workout.
2. Improved Work Capacity & Training Volume
The best nootropic pre-workout could help you tackle longer training sessions (do more reps, sets, and get less rest throughout those workouts). In other words, you'd be able to move more weight around and see results faster.
As you probably know, there are nootropic ingredients, such as L-citrulline (precursors to arginine) which don't boost energy and focus, but instead improve blood flow and NO production, keeping your muscles functional for longer bouts of strenuous work.
Read Also - How Long Does Pre-Workout Last In Your System?
3. Enhanced Power Output
Some of the effects of caffeine are to enhance the central nervous system's ability to increase neural drive to the muscles.
With the nervous system engaged in this manner, you can produce higher levels of power and force.
Your brain health and cognitive performance are the basic building blocks behind the best nootropic pre-workout supplement consumption.
Apart from caffeine, some of the best nootropic pre-workouts contain creatine, too, which is known for improving your body's power output though ATP replenishment.
4. Reduced Fatigue
Muscle and mental fatigue are large issues during any workout. Pre-workout supplements have a primary effect of providing an energy boost to your muscles.
With stimulants and other nootropic ingredients involved, you can also add energy and focus benefits to your mental performance.
Keeping your mind involved and focused will only work to prolong your workouts and make each rep more effective. Tyrosine and caffeine work together to improve blood circulation and boost the drive and motivation/reward centers of the brain.
5. Enhanced Wakefulness
Sleep, or more specifically regular, consistent sleep, is the most effective preventative measure to fight mental performance fatigue.
In addition, caffeine can help make you retain mental sharpness and alertness and provide you with energy to shake off fatigue and sleepiness.
Too much caffeine, though, can lead to insomnia, pre-workout jitters, and restless sleep. Cycling your pre-workout intake and caffeine amounts can keep you below the 400 mg daily limit and get the most benefit when you do take it.
Sleep duration needs will depend greatly on your physical performance, brain cells' responses to sleep deprivation, and other side effects. Typically, though, you want one hour of sleep for every 2 hours you are awake.
Or in other words, you need to get at least 8 hours of sleep each day.
Of course, this is altered if you consume alcohol, have a longer training session, or have issues preventing normal sleeping habits.
Read Also - Does Pre-Workout Keep You Awake?
6. Improved Attention & Focus
Cognitive performance and physical performance are defined by the ability to continue to perform even when fatigued. L-theanine is a non-essential amino acid designed to enhance cognitive performance, more precisely, focus.
It promotes the production of GABA and can help you perform better and longer.
The neurotransmitter y-aminobutyric acid (GABA) blocks impulses between nerve cells and your brain.
By doing so, your body doesn't tell your brain it is tired, and you can maintain focus and performance levels to exhaustion.
Learn More - Why Does Pre-Workout Make You Feel Tired?
7. Increased Motivation
Motivation is a byproduct of noradrenaline and dopamine. To maintain levels of motivation and reduce the depletion of these important neurotransmitters, you can supplement with L-tyrosine.
This amino acid commonly found in pre-workouts has shown the ability to reduce noradrenaline depletion and prolong the dopamine receptors so you can stay motivated at work, in the gym, or at any time you need.
Many consider this to be the best nootropic, and along with other amino acids, essential vitamins, and citrulline malate, tyrosine is a must-have for many pre-workout formulas.
8. Enhanced Endurance
Endurance is defined as the ability to continue to perform high-level activities, even when fatigued.
As any gym enthusiast will tell you, gains come from the last rep, not the first. The more reps and sets you can push yourself to complete, the better your workout will be.
Caffeine, L-citrulline, and L-tyrosine all contribute to the mental and physical ability to maintain endurance throughout your workout. The latter options show up in highly fatiguing situations.
9. May Promote Memory Function
Memory is affected by a lot of factors. Attention span, age, physical and psychological condition, and even sleep quality or quantity all affect your memory.
The nootropic known as Alpha-GPC has shown some support in choline production in the liver. Choline reduces cognitive decline in the brain and central nervous system.
10. Improved Reaction Times
Your ability to react to situations, changes, or adversity as they happen is your reaction time.
Higher reaction times mean better performance and higher output and outcomes in various situations. Caffeine can help your reaction times by keeping you alert and ready.
With improved mental focus and endurance and memory enhancements from other nootropics, your reaction times can be low and your performance levels high.
7 Nootropics Ingredients To Look For
Because nootropics work in the brain first, and that, in turn, translates into bodily function or performance, you need to take the right nootropic compounds to achieve the effects you are after.
L-theanine is a natural nootropic from plants that has the primary function of helping to relieve stress and increase focus.
The main reason you will find it in a pre-workout mix, though, is that it can counteract the caffeine jitters, as opposed to boosting physical performance.
Another one of nootropic ingredients is L-Tyrosine, or more exact, N-acetyl-L-tyrosine. This is an amino acid compound nootropic that affects your norepinephrine, epinephrine, and dopamine levels and production.
Using this in your pre-workout can help you stay alert, fight mental fatigue, and may improve your memory.
B vitamins aren't typically seen as nootropics, but they can be. B3, 6, and 12 are the most common B vitamins found in pre-workouts.
They contribute to blood flow and vasodilation for muscle pump and help to convert your food into energy transported to your muscles.
Citicoline has several uses when taken for its nootropic properties.
Mixed with other compounds found in pre-workouts (like beta-alanine), it can improve focus and energy when you engage in high-intensity workouts.
5. Rhodiola Rosea
Another natural nootropic you may come across (or may want to do so on purpose) is called rhodiola rosea.
An herbal nootropic that helps eliminate stress reactions. It will regulate dopamine and serotonin levels to help stabilize your mood when under stress from working out.
6. Bacopa Monnieri
Bacopa Monnieri, aside from being fun to say, is an active antioxidant that works to improve other brain antioxidants.
It improves thinking, clarity, and mood . As an herb, you can take it in pill or powder form, adding to your pre-workout and getting the biggest benefits from the amino acids included there.
Caffeine is technically a nootropic and inarguably one of the most popular nootropic pre-workout ingredients. Along with dark chocolate and green tea, matcha tea and other stimulants, caffeine is the basis for energy boosts, mood enhancement, and performance boosting.
As for the brain health and performance, it helps cognitive function and improves alertness and focus.
While it does wear off in a few hours, as part of your pre-workout, it will push you through the entire routine.
Learn More - How Much Caffeine Is In Pre-Workout?
Common Questions About Nootropic As Pre-Workouts
Nootropics pre-workout mixes (such as BAMF High Stimulant Nootropic Pre-Workout) are available anywhere you find other supplements and formulas. This will include local shops like Walmart, Target, GNC, and CVS. You can also shop online at brand websites or Amazon.
After a crackdown on legal highs, some nootropics in the UK have been banned for over-the-counter sale. You can still get them from a prescription from your doctor. However, natural nootropics and herbal forms are still available in their single-ingredient form.
Creatine monohydrate does have science-backed cognitive enhancement properties. By this definition, it is considered a nootropic.
Some nootropics are adaptogens that are used to help manage hormone levels. Not all nootropics are adaptogens, but the few that are can help regulate or affect hormone levels.
Nootropics are still being studied and evaluated, and there is much we simply do not know yet. However, the short-term effects are typically safe when herbal, natural nootropics are concerned. Synthetic nootropics and prescription-only ones, however, may have some long-term side effects.
Nootropics are a relatively new feature for workout enhancement. There are those that swear by them and many that remain skeptical.
It may be that they work as expected, and it may be the placebo effect. Until science knows more, it may be hard to say.
What we do know, though, is that nootropics have a place in your pre-workout regimen, and you can benefit from their attributes just as you do your pre-workout powders that elevate your exercise performance.