New categories of supplements and vitamins pop up all the time, but not all of them prove beneficial or effective enough to last. Nootropic supplements, though, appear to be here to stay. They are sometimes called "smart pills," but that's a misnomer since nootropics don't increase your intelligence per se. They just help your nervous system work better. "Smart pills" also doesn't take into account the physical benefits nootropics can have.
When you take a nootropic supplement, you might not feel it working right away. It doesn't give you a tingle like beta-alanine. But once you dig into your workday, or your workout, you might notice yourself feeling more focused, dialed in, and ready to face whatever challenge is ahead of you.
Sound appealing? It should. Here are five supplements that can help you discover this headspace.
What it does: Nitrosigine is a form of the amino acid arginine. Research has found that this nootropic can enhance the ability of gamers to complete mentally difficult tasks. But what works in esports can work in real-life sports, too. If you're playing a sport and you're able to execute your strategy cleaner and faster, you're improving your game.
In addition to improving mental performance, nitrosigine has physical benefits, too. It's a potent nitric-oxide booster that can help decrease fatigue and increase the pump during workouts.*
How much to take: Supplements often contain 500 milligrams-1.5 grams of nitrosigine. Tend toward the upper end of that range.
These formulas will help you to improve mental focus so you can be ready for anything life throws at you, whether it's on the field, in the gym, or at the office.
What it does: Cognizin is a form of citicoline, which is turned into acetylcholine. This nootropic supplement can help your nerves function efficiently. If you can enhance how fast your nerve impulses fire, you can enhance reaction time, mental focus, and even your memory.*
How much to take: The recommended dose is 200-1000 milligrams.
3. Caffeine Plus L-Theanine
What they do: You know caffeine, the world's most popular stimulant. But what you might not know is that L-theanine can help boost caffeine's upside and mitigate the downside.
Caffeine is a stimulant, whereas L-theanine has a relaxation effect. L-theanine is used with caffeine to enhance cognition while lessening the potential jittery side effects of taking caffeine on its own. This combination allows your body and brain to be more relaxed while simultaneously promoting a quicker reaction time, enhanced pain threshold, and the ability to do more work. It can help you feel more focused and waste less energy while achieving your goals.*
How much to take: Depending on your tolerance, 100-200 milligrams of caffeine or slightly more is a normal dose. Add 50-250 milligrams of L-theanine to feel its benefits.
What it does: Theacrine is an alkaloid that can act as a stimulant, but without having over-stimulatory side effects. This nootropic can improve your reaction time and ability to multitask. It can be combined with caffeine, nitrosigine, or cognizin. These supplements don't interfere with its function, and studies show it even has a synergistic relationship with caffeine.
How much to take: The recommended dose is 125-200 milligrams, on its own or with other nootropic ingredients.
5. Vitamin B12 and Iron
What they do: Vitamin B12 and iron are two important micronutrients that we largely get from eating meat and other animal products. They're not technically nootropics, but if you're deficient in either, your cognitive abilities can suffer. Getting adequate levels of these nutrients in your body can help brain function similarly to nootropics.
Being vegetarian or vegan increases risk of deficiency in these micronutrients, and lifting or playing sports on top of that can make a deficiency worse. That's why you'll find both on registered dietician Paul Salter's list of essential supplements for plant-based dieters.
How much to take: The recommended vitamin B12 dose is 2.4 micrograms. Iron dosages can vary based on need, but common recommendations are 8 milligrams for men, and 18 milligrams for women.
Are you covering all your bases when it comes to vitamins and micronutrients?
Just remember, nootropics are only one piece of the puzzle. Want to learn more about how building a sound approach to nutrition can improve your overall performance and physique? Follow Bodybuilding.com's Foundations of Fitness Nutrition course.
*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.