Bruce Mars, Unslpash


By Gina Southern-Monson, RYT, CHWC

Contributor


In the world of health and fitness, the pursuit of natural, sustained energy without unwanted side effects like jitters or crashes has led many to explore the world of nootropics. New-WHAT? I know, it sounds like a made-up word, but I assure you these cognitive enhancers are real, and gaining popularity with people who are tired of the traditional energy drinks that are loaded with incredible amounts of caffeine, tons of sugar, artificial flavors and colors, and a slew of other ingredients that many are not keen to put in their bodies. 


Nootropics, a word that roughly translates to “to bend or shape the mind” in Greek, are also known as “smart drugs”, and they offer a unique approach to enhancing motivation, energy, and focus. Here we’ll explore the world of nootropics, their diverse benefits, and why they could be a game-changer in the landscape of pre-workout and energy drinks, catering to everyone, even women, older individuals, and those with autoimmune or nervous system issues, which have historically been left out of the energy drink and supplement conversations (did you know across different supplements, only 0–8% of studies investigated women exclusively, while fewer (0–2%) were specifically designed to compare sex-based responses?). We’re REALLY hoping that changes soon. 


Understanding Nootropics:


The word nootropics encompasses a diverse range of compounds, including herbs, vitamins, minerals, botanicals, pharmaceuticals, amino acids, as well as some synthetic substances, all designed to optimize cognitive function. Unlike traditional stimulant drinks and supplements, which may come with unwanted side effects like jitteriness and crashes, nootropics aim to enhance brain health and performance without compromising long-term well-being, which makes them perfect additions to energy drinks and pre workouts. 


Nootropic combos like caffeine and l-theanine are not widely found in energy drinks and pre workouts yet, (you can find them in our gentle pre-workout here), but given the science-backed evidence touting their benefits in relation to motivation, energy and focus, there’s no doubt we’ll be seeing many more of these type of drinks and supplements that include nootropics in the future.


Conditions Natural and Pharmaceutical Nootropics Address:


ADHD

Alzheimer’s

Anxiety

Narcolepsy

Dementia

Lack of focus

Lack of motivation

Lack of energy

Sleep issues


Naturally Occurring Nootropics:


  1. Caffeine: Found in coffee, tea, and energy drinks, caffeine is a well-known stimulant that can improve alertness and concentration.

  1. L-Theanine: Often found in tea, l-theanine is an amino acid that can promote relaxation and reduce anxiety when combined with caffeine. L-theanine and ashwagandha are often paired to combat stress and anxiety.

  1. Creatine: Known for its benefits in physical performance, creatine may also have cognitive benefits, especially in vegetarians/vegans or those with low creatine levels.

  1. Bacopa Monnieri: An herb used in traditional medicine, Bacopa Monnieri has been studied for its potential to improve memory and reduce anxiety.

  1. Lion's Mane Mushroom: This mushroom has been studied for its potential to support cognitive function and nerve health.

  1. Omega-3 fatty acids: Found in fish, algae, and certain nuts and seeds, omega-3 fatty acids are essential for brain health and may support cognitive function.


In studies, the individual substances above show promise as singular ingredients and are often used in isolation in supplements and drinks. However, a study from 2022 suggests that in healthy, young adults, multi-ingredient nootropics may provide even more enhanced cognitive performance, such as the popular caffeine and L-Theanine combo (the star ingredients of bia blends gentle pre workout). 



A few examples of drinks that utilize multi-ingredient nootropics outside of the energy and pre-workout space are MudWtr, a coffee alternative that pairs several adaptogenic mushrooms with other ingredients beneficial ingredients like black tea, and Moment, a brand that offers still and sparkling beverages made with ashwagandha and L-Theanine that are meant to encourage calm in the body.   

 

Pharmaceutical Versions of Nootropics:


Several pharmaceutical examples of nootropics exist, each with its specific indications and mechanisms of action. Some common pharmaceutical nootropics include:


  1. Modafinil (Provigil): Modafinil is a wakefulness-promoting agent primarily used to treat narcolepsy, a sleep disorder characterized by excessive daytime sleepiness. It is also prescribed off-label for conditions such as shift work sleep disorder and obstructive sleep apnea. Modafinil works by increasing levels of neurotransmitters like dopamine and histamine in the brain, leading to enhanced wakefulness and alertness.

  1. Methylphenidate (Ritalin) and Amphetamine Salts (Adderall): These stimulant medications are commonly used to treat attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD). While not traditionally classified as nootropics, they can improve focus, attention, and cognitive function in individuals with ADHD. They work by increasing the levels of dopamine and norepinephrine in the brain, which enhances concentration and reduces hyperactivity. The combination of caffeine and l-theanine looks to be a promising option for those with ADHD (a condition an estimated 8.7 million Americans suffer from) looking to shift away from pharmaceuticals. Vitamin B6 has also been shown to be effective in people with ADHD, as adequate B6 levels can increase alertness and decrease anxiety-like symptoms. Foods high in B6 include bananas and spinach.

  1. Donepezil (Aricept) and Rivastigmine (Exelon): These medications are acetylcholinesterase inhibitors used to treat Alzheimer's disease and other forms of dementia. While not directly classified as nootropics, they can improve cognitive function and slow the progression of cognitive decline by increasing levels of acetylcholine, a neurotransmitter involved in memory and learning.

  1. Piracetam: Piracetam is one of the oldest and most well-known synthetic nootropics. It is used primarily in Europe to treat cognitive impairments and dementia, although it is not approved for use in the United States by the Food and Drug Administration (FDA). Piracetam's exact mechanism of action is not fully understood, but it is believed to enhance cellular membrane fluidity and modulate neurotransmitter systems, leading to improved cognitive function.

  1. Memantine (Namenda): Memantine is an N-methyl-D-aspartate (NMDA) receptor antagonist approved for the treatment of moderate to severe Alzheimer's disease. It works by blocking the effects of excessive glutamate, a neurotransmitter involved in learning and memory, thereby helping to improve cognitive function and slow the progression of dementia symptoms.

These pharmaceutical nootropics are used to address various cognitive impairments and disorders, including attention deficits, sleep disorders, dementia, and Alzheimer's disease. However, it's important to note that while these medications can be effective for their intended purposes, they may also carry risks and side effects, and their use should be supervised by a healthcare professional.



Benefits of Nootropics:


  • Nootropics for Motivation: Nootropics ignite the internal drive, amplifying motivation and determination to conquer even the most challenging workouts or tasks. By targeting neurotransmitter pathways associated with motivation, such as dopamine and norepinephrine, these compounds empower individuals to push through mental barriers and stay on course towards their goals. Many stimulant-type drinks, drugs, and supplements for motivation tend to get you amped up and hyper-focused, only to either result in mania and/or feeling awful when you come down from the “wired high”. Nootropics for motivation work differently, and result in more of a “calm focus”.  Which definitely sounds better to me (hello, fellow ADHD-ers!).

  • Nootropics for Energy: In contrast to the fleeting energy spikes of caffeine alone, nootropics offer a smoother, more sustained source of vitality. By modulating neurotransmitter levels and promoting mitochondrial function, these substances provide a steady stream of energy that endures throughout the day, without the dreaded crash. Say goodbye to being wired and tired.

  • Nootropics for Focus: In today's fast-paced world filled with distractions, maintaining focus is paramount for optimal performance. Nootropics sharpen cognitive acuity and enhance concentration, enabling individuals to zero in on their workouts with unwavering precision.

  • Nootropics for Mood: Many nootropics boost mood-enhancing properties, fostering feelings of well-being and reducing stress and anxiety. A common nootropic combo for stress reduction is l-theanine and ashwagandha.

The Power of Caffeine and L-Theanine for Brain and Body:

Among the myriad combinations within the nootropic space, caffeine paired with l-theanine stands out as a dynamic duo. Derived from tea leaves, this synergistic blend offers a harmonious balance of stimulation and relaxation, making it an ideal addition to pre-workout energy drinks. There have been several studies on the beneficial effects of caffeine and l-theanine in combination.


  • Caffeine: A renowned stimulant, caffeine heightens alertness and energy by blocking adenosine receptors in the brain, thus staving off drowsiness. Its benefits extend beyond mere wakefulness, as caffeine also enhances physical performance and mental focus, earning it a coveted spot in many pre-workout formulations.

  •  L-Theanine: This amino acid complements caffeine's effects by promoting relaxation and reducing anxiety without inducing drowsiness. By elevating levels of neurotransmitters like GABA and serotonin, L-theanine mitigates the jitteriness and potential crash associated with caffeine, resulting in a smoother, more sustained energy boost.

B Vitamins in combination with Caffeine and L-Theanine:

While B vitamins are nothing new in the pre-workout world, B vitamins in combination with l-theanine and caffeine could be a game changer. As mentioned above, B vitamins, particularly B6, can help with managing anxiety and focus. B vitamins also play a crucial role in energy metabolism and cognitive function, making them valuable additions to the discussion of nootropics in energy drinks and pre workout powders. 

When combined with nootropics, B vitamins can enhance their cognitive and energy-boosting effects. For example, studies have suggested that B vitamins may potentiate the effects of l-theanine and caffeine on cognitive performance by supporting neurotransmitter synthesis and energy metabolism. Additionally, B vitamins combined with l-theanine may help mitigate side effects of caffeine, such as jitteriness and anxiety, by promoting a balanced and sustained release of energy. 


By supporting energy metabolism and neurotransmitter synthesis, B vitamins synergized with other cognitive enhancers may promote sustained energy, focus, and mood elevation without the crash. Incorporating this combination (like we do in bia blends) may provide a comprehensive solution for enhancing both physical and mental performance.


Can Nootropics Change the Energy Drink and Pre-Workout Game?


Nootropics vs. Traditional Pre-Workout Drinks:

Traditional pre-workout beverages typically rely on high doses of caffeine and synthetic stimulants for a rapid energy surge. While effective in the short term, these formulations often lead to tolerance, dependence, and undesirable side effects like heart palpitations and insomnia. As such, more and more people are seeking out natural energy and pre-workout beverages, some looking for low stimulation or even non-stim pre-workouts altogether.


In contrast to the traditional drinks and supplements that are highly stimulating and often cause unwanted side effects, pre-workout drinks infused with nootropics embody a holistic approach to energy and performance. By addressing underlying cognitive processes and supporting brain health, these beverages deliver a cleaner, more sustainable source of vitality, devoid of the crash or dependency associated with traditional stimulants.


Conclusion:


In the quest for optimized mental and physical performance, and holistic well-being (mental health is just important as physical health in our book!), harnessing the power of nootropics offers a natural, gentle pathway to enhancing motivation, energy, and focus. 


Whether you're an athlete pushing boundaries, a professional striving for focus and motivation, or one of the millions struggling with anxiety looking to calm your mind, incorporating cognitive enhancers into your routine could unlock new dimensions of mental and physical wellbeing. And within the energy drink and supplement categories, products fortified with nootropics could be the game-changer you’ve been looking for. Ingredients that empower you to face challenges with calm focus, propelling you towards your aspirations with newfound motivation, without unwanted side-effects like over-stimulation, jitters, or sleep disturbance caused by many of the traditional energy drinks and pre workouts that have been marketed to us for decades as the “only answer” for our mental and physical fatigue.


It's safe to say over here at bia blends, we’re all about ingredients and products that support gentle energy, enhanced mood, healthy cognition, and overall mental and physical well-being, and are excited to see where the world of nootropics for motivation, focus, energy, and calm takes us!