Increasing Athletic Performance with Nootropics

by Josh Hodnik

Nootropics, also referred to as cognitive enhancers, smart drugs, and memory enhancers are supplements, synthetic peptides, and nutraceuticals that are reported to improve focus, thought connection, memory, and sometimes wakefulness. These drugs are primarily used to treat cognitive or motor function difficulties that are associated with such disorders as Alzheimer’s disease, Huntington’s disease, Parkinson’s disease, and ADHD. Among students, nootropic use has become popular to increase productivity. Sales of cognitive enhancing supplements exceeded $1 billion is 2015, and the demand for these compounds has continued to increase rapidly. One reason for the continued demand is that competitive athletes are taking notice at how nootropics can have a positive impact during training sessions and competition.

There are several different classes of nootropics, and because some compounds don’t fit into any specific classification, they may be grouped in several different categories depending where the information is taken from.


One of the oldest and most commonly class of nootropics is the Racetams. One example is Piracetam, which was first developed for use in 1964. The Racetams all share a 2-pyrrolidinone cycle. Others in this group include Aniracetam, Oxiracetam, Coluracetam, and Phenylpiracetam.
Out of the Racetam group, Phenylpiracetam seems to be the most effective. It is favored by athletes that are looking to take a nootropic to enhance performance, as it increases stamina, recovery, and endurance. It provides energy and clean focus that is similar to that of an amphetamine. When dosed correctly, it helps to optimize performance during workouts and competitions. It has recently made its way to the World Anti-Doping Agency’s banned substance list. This would not be a preferred nootropic for any drug tested athlete. A typical dose of Phenylpiracetam ranges from 100-400mg per dose. Due to its potency, it is usually advised to start at 100mg to assess tolerance.


Another group of nootropics is the Afinil class. This includes Modafinil, Armodafinil, and Adrafinil. These compounds are considered eugeroic or wakefulness-promoting agents. They possess similar traits to that of an amphetamine by stimulating neural activity. They have been shown to increase the synthesis and release of norepinephrine, which in turn increases learning and memory. A stimulation of the Autonomic nervous system also occurs, leading to enhanced levels of energy. With Afinils, an increase in noradrenaline and dopamine occurs, which can result in an enhanced mood and focus. It has been thought that the military has used Modafinil for many years to increase focus, energy, and alertness during times of sleep deprivation. It has also been banned by the World Anti-Doping Agency, and it was rumored to be very popular among many professional and Olympic athletes before it was tested for due to its performance enhancing effects. As with Phenylpiracetam, the dosage with Modafinil is generally between 100-400mg daily for improved focus, concentration, and physical performance.

Synthetic Peptides

There is a newer group of nootropics that are considered synthetic peptides. These include Noopept, Sunifiram, Unifiram, IDRA-21. And PRL-8-53. These nootropics do not fit into a drug class, and in depth knowledge of exactly how they work and their side effects are somewhat unknown. Most of these peptides have no human trials to refer to.

Benefiting the Athlete

These compounds all have a positive impact with memory, learning, and concentration, but they also can be beneficial to athletes. It has been proven that memory, focus, and learning are connected to Serial Reaction Time (SRT). SRT is known as a parameter used for measuring how quickly a person responds to stimuli. For example, a person pushing a button after hearing a cue to do so. This is something that is important to almost any athlete, as the ability to think quickly is usually required with most sports. When a Sprinter moves off the starting blocks, or an NFL defensive back breaks for the ball, Serial Reaction Time is a very important thing. A slower guy can often beat a faster guy if his Serial Reaction Time is faster. Often times, improving the SRT can make a person faster. In the gym, and with the sport of bodybuilding, there is a huge mind to muscle connection, this is where nootropics come into play.

Nootropics have been shown to increase:
-Mental Connectivity
-Thought Speed
-Anxiety Suppression
-Overall Energy

These are all attributes that could benefit any bodybuilder. Some of the nootropics listed in the groups above, such as Modafinil are prescription drugs, but many are not. It is still too premature to determine whether or not any of the synthetic peptides are safe for human use long term. Phenylpiracetum and Adrafinil are probably the safest combo to increase athletic performance and mental focus while in the gym.

Typical Starting dose to assess tolerance:
-Adrafinil 300mg
-Phenylparicetam 100mg

These doses are the lowest dose that are used for these compounds, but they do work synergistically and can amplify each other’s effects. Both of these compounds, if used properly, and tolerated well, can definitely increase an athlete’s performance and increase a bodybuilder’s effectiveness in the gym.