10 Best Workout Supplements & Recovery Nootropics for Optimal Performance

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When it comes to workout supplements and optimizing your fitness goals, the right supplementation can make a significant difference. 

Nootropics, often referred to as “smart drugs” or cognitive enhancers, are gaining popularity in the fitness world for their ability to boost mental and physical performance, giving you much more power for sports. 

In this article, we will explore the best ten supplements for workout that can supercharge your workouts, improve endurance, reduce fatigue, and support recovery. From creatine for explosive energy to CBD oil for post-workout relaxation, these nootropics can all be valuable additions to your fitness regimen.

Table of Contents

picture of woman on her hands nootropics for exercise
Natural nootropics for exercise

1. Creatine - before and after workout for muscle gains

Creatine Monohydrate Powder
Creatine Monohydrate powder

Creatine belongs to the most popular ergogenic aids and is the best-selling dietary supplement on the fitness market. It is also one of the most researched nootropics for exercise today.

Creatine is a combination of three amino acids – glycine, arginine, and methionine. But this simple compound is involved in many processes in the body and the brain. Nevertheless, more than 95% of creatine is stored in muscle.

We can find it in many protein-rich foods like fish and meat, especially beef, chicken, and rabbit meat. During creatine supplementation, your own creatine synthesis is suppressed, which can be beneficial to health because creatine production in the body is quite strenuous.

The most important effect of creatine is that it contributes to energy production in the body during weight lifting or high-intensity training.

Creatine benefits for exercise:

  • Helps supply muscles with energy for short-term, predominantly anaerobic activity by increasing growth factor levels 1 (IGF-1).

  • Creatine, enables the production of ATP, thanks to which you can train longer and more intensely.

  • It can lower blood sugar levels and increase glycogen production. The more glycogen athlete stores, the more energy the muscles have.

  • Creatine leads to a reduction in fatigue and an increase in energy levels in people with sleep problems, as well as to a reduction in fatigue with high-intensity exercise.

What you should know is there are various types of creatine, some better than others. The standard creatine monohydrate was effective at building muscle. However, it came with undesirable side effects including cramps, water retention, and bloating. To be entirely reliable, it also had to be ingested with carbohydrates.

Not exactly a great concept if you are trying to lose body fat.

The new creatine ethyl ester in capsules and powder does not require excess carbs to make the most of its performance. Creatine ethyl ester uses “ester orb” innovation to make the supplement more lipophilic. This modification of the original creatine has a far better absorption rate and longer half-life than the original.

2. Caffeine + L-theanine - pre-workout combo for calm energy

Get now Smart Caffeine
Caffeine + L-theanine capsules

Caffeine is a strong stimulant used to improve productivity and increase energy levels. Precisely because of these properties, it is often an integral part of fat burners, which, thanks to it, are able to increase energy consumption and encourage better results.

In addition to improving fat burning, increasing productivity, concentration, it also has an excellent effect on metabolism. Its energy performance will be assessed, especially by athletes who are on a diet or in the shaping phase that requires high energy consumption.

Caffeine benefits for exercise:

  • Caffeine can sharpen your psychological acuity, increase your endurance.

  • There has even been recent proof that it will immediately increase max bench (by 1.5%).

There are different forms of caffeine, and caffeine anhydrous is the purest for optimum absorption and effect. Many excellent pre-workout supplements have included caffeine anhydrous. But, for some people, it increases side effects like heart racing and jittery.

That’s why it is smart to include nootropic L-theanine in the stack. L-theanine is an amino acid that relaxes and calms the central nervous system.

That addition will produce energy and focus benefits, as L-theanine works in synergy with caffeine and reduces all of its flaws.

Caffeine + L-theanine benefits for exercise:

  • While caffeine raises energy, heart rate, and blood pressure, L-theanine helps balance the stimulating effects of caffeine.

  • The combination of caffeine and L-theanine prolongs its effects on energy and concentration, and also reduces mental exhaustion

  • This stack improves memory and response time and reduces fatigue and headaches.

If you don’t like caffeine alone, pair these pre-workout nootropics and enjoy the greater benefits. You can also try it in a ready-made solution like Smart caffeine.

3. L-Tyrosine - pre-workout for motivation and stress support

Get now L-tyrosine powder
L-tyrosine powder

Tyrosine or L-tyrosine is an extremely popular dietary supplement used to raise alertness, attention, and focus, as well as motivation. That’s the reason it is often found in pre-workout supplements.

Its basic function in the human body is the production of chemicals in the brain that help nerve cells communicate and even regulate mood and motivation. Tyrosine is a natural precursor in the production of several biologically important substances including dopamine, adrenaline and noradrenaline, thyroid hormones, and melanin.

The results of the studies suggest that tyrosine may have a relatively broad spectrum of effects. It significantly improves working memory in mentally demanding tasks, and it is this memory that plays an important role in concentration and following instructions during training.

L-tyrosine benefits for exercise are both pre-workout and post-workout:

  • Tyrosine can help with endurance training, memory retention, and attention during stressful situations. 

  • It replenishes catecholamine neurotransmitters after the workout and improves sleep quality.

  • Optimal tyrosine levels can even help burn fat, although there are no clinical studies to confirm the effects of tyrosine on weight loss.

L-tyrosine benefits combines very well with B vitamins, which are also involved in the conversion and synthesis of catecholamines.

4. Rhodiola Rosea - no stress and fatigue for prolonged exercise

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Rhodiola Rosea extract

Rhodiola rosea is a powerful adaptogenic plant that grows in the colder parts of the world. It is valued primarily because it helps the body defend itself against stress. In addition, it can eliminate fatigue and improve thought processes, which makes it a peculiar nootropic.

Whether Rhodiola is for you depends a lot on your needs, goals, and type of training. The subjective effects of Rhodiola are most noticeable when we train passionately.

The reason lies in the fact that due to prolonged exercise, our body begins to run out of blood glucose, which reacts with the release of stress hormones. The same leads to numerous adaptations that worsen the result. One of them is a vascular contraction (like caffeine effect), higher pressure and pulse, the release of sugar into the blood, redistribution of blood to specific muscles, and suppression of the immune system.

Adaptogens indirectly help in the “recycling” of many stressors, thus enabling the body to function better.

Rhodiola benefits for exercise:

  • Rhodiola gradually increases VO2max and improves stress response that has proven to be the best strategy for long-term progress in most endurance athletes.

  • Rhodiola especially improves the immune system as it reduces the presence of stress hormones, thus enabling a faster return to the homeostatic state.

In order to feel the effects of Rhodiola, it is necessary to take at least 200 mg of standardized extract, which the athlete takes at least one hour before the activity.

Try pharma-grade ”Golden root” extract, as an aid during carbohydrate loading before the competition, and to increase the level of physical performance. Also, during the recovery period of the training process and more. 

5. Ashwagandha - strength and mood for endurance in sports

Get now Aswagandha powder (12% withanolides)
Ashwagandha powder

Among the best nootropics for exercise, Ashwagandha is another great adaptogenic plant that reduces stress response in the body. This effect is reflected through enhanced immune resistance, alleviation of mood, and insomnia. In the western world, it is given the Latin name Somnifera, which indicates its help in peaceful sleep too.

Ashwagandha is full of antioxidants, and thanks to its antioxidant action, it can slow down the aging of the body, and the death of brain cells, and it also fights toxins that destroy the cells of our body. It also contains flavonoids that come in handy in the winter months because they protect vitamin C from oxidation.

Athletes who play endurance sports – cyclists, triathletes, swimmers, soccer players, runners – get the most out of ashwagandha.

Aswagandha benefits for exercise:

  • Aswagandha improves the ratio of testosterone to cortisol during sports activity. As a cortisol modulator, it prevents sports injuries in fitness due to the direct reduction of muscle injuries at the micro-level.

  • It reduces muscle inflammation and fatigue, which indirectly leads to an increase in the percentage of lean muscle mass.

  • Studies showed that ashwagandha significantly increased VO2 max in the long run. The largest increase in VO2 max was recorded between 8 and 12 weeks of ashwagandha intake.

Most of the positive effects in sports are related to taking 500-600 mg per day. Some forms are better than others, like ashwagandha extract powder standardized to a whopping 12% withanolides. It’s on par with the famous KSM-66 extract, but it costs less.

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Natural nootropics for endurance in sport

6. Quercetin - for better post-workout recovery

Lipo Quercetin
Liposomal Quercetin

Quercetin is a polyphenolic flavonoid found naturally in plant foods, especially in apples, onions, cranberries, and blueberries. The effect of quercetin supplementation on human metabolism has been investigated for the past 45 years.

Muscle inflammation most often occurs after training that includes eccentric actions (actions during which muscle stretching occurs). Muscle inflammation usually lasts for a few days after training, and some of the most common features include: muscle pain, temporarily decreased strength, muscle swelling, decreased range of motion.

Because of its antioxidant properties, several studies have examined the impact of quercetin consumption on reducing muscle damage and inflammation.

It seems that consuming quercetin can allow for shorter muscle inflammation as well as faster recovery of strength, which will allow us to perform better in the next workout.

Consequently, there is a possibility that quercetin consumption may improve the building of new muscle tissue.

Quercetin benefits for exercise:

  • Quercetin might increase the number of mitochondria in muscle

  • Reduces oxidative stress

  • Decreases inflammation and allows faster recovery of strength after training.

  • Quercetin improves endothelial function (blood flow).

No safety concerns of taking quercetin have been reported for 1,000 mg/day or less for up to 8 weeks.

These 500 mg high-quality quercetin tablets are great for all the mentioned benefits.

7. Phosphatidylserine - reduces pain and fatigue

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Phosphatidylserine softgels

Phosphatidylserine is a non-essential amino acid that protects the immune system and participates in the transmission of nerve impulses, which contributes to better brain activity. Thus, phosphatidylserine contributes to better concentration, memory, and work of the central nervous system.

For athletes, phosphatidylserine is one of the important nootropics for exercise, protecting muscle mass and melting fat. It is involved in the production of the amino acid tryptophan, closely related to the secretion of so-called serotonin. This hormone of happiness is responsible for improving mood and reducing fatigue.

Phosphatidylserine deficiency leads to mood disorders, fatigue, poor athletic performance, muscle catabolism, nervous system problems, loss of concentration and memory.

If you do cycling, running, training, or running long distances, phosphatidylserine helps reduce muscle pain even after a strenuous workout. 

Phosphatidylserine benefits for exercise:

  • It provides relief to sore muscles, and also reduces joint inflammation.

  • Phosphatidylserine offers protection against increased cortisol levels, which often occurs due to overtraining.

  • Significant physical accomplishments without feeling all the pain and fatigue.

The recommended daily doses of phosphatidylserine in dietary supplements range from 100-200 mg. It is commercially available in capsule or powder form in combination with other amino acids.

To enhance athletic performance and recovery, you can try standardized Smart PS™ Green phosphatidylserine softgels.

8. ALCAR (Acetyl-L-Carnitine) - energy for mind and body

ALCAR Acetyl L Carnitine powder
ALCAR HCL powder

L-carnitine is a biological form of carnitine that is formed from two amino acids, lysine and methionine, in the kidneys. It is a substance that plays a vital role in the metabolism of fats in the body.

It is responsible for the conversion of triglycerides into energy, especially in low-intensity activities, with a decrease in lactic acid levels in the muscles.

The best form of carnitine is acetyl-L-carnitine (ALCAR), which serves as a precursor to our major learning and memory neurotransmitter (acetylcholine), which transmits signals through cell walls and is involved in mitochondrial and hormone health (less cortisol, more testosterone).

ALCAR benefits for exercise:

  • ALCAR affects both the aerobic and anaerobic mechanisms and reduces muscle injuries.

  • ALCAR is an anti-aging supplement that removes toxic byproducts of mitochondrial metabolism.

There are forms of L-carnitine that, even in small amounts in an anaerobic environment, contain metabolic processes reserved for light exercise – and consequently increase fat burning.

We recommend buying acetyl-L-carnitine or L-carnitine tartrate and consuming it in combination with a small amount of caffeine, green tea, and adaptogens.

If you want enhanced cellular energy production and neuroprotective, then stack it with alpha lipoic acid, PQQ, and CoQ10.

9. Cordyceps militaris - pre and post-workout relieve

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Cordyceps extract capsules

Many scientists and botanists agree that Cordyceps militaris is the most powerful fungus in the world. Cordyceps has found application in several areas due to its positive effects.

Because of its ability to increase the level of ATP (adenosine triphosphate) in the cell, which is responsible for releasing energy in the cell, and the ability to increase oxygen consumption, Cordyceps is used by athletes and people who are exposed to great efforts.

The increase in energy generated by consuming Cordyceps is not obvious, as with the use of central nervous system stimulants (e.g., coffee), but the increase in energy is caused by an increase in cellular ATP.

Cordyceps benefits for exercise:

  • Cordyceps boosts the production of ATP molecules, which are key to delivering energy to muscles, and this can improve the way the body uses oxygen.

  • Cordyceps lowers the level of bad cholesterol, responsible for the development of cardiovascular disease because it leads to the accumulation of plaque in the blood vessels.

  • After long and strenuous activities, Cordyceps has been shown to be very helpful in relieving muscle inflammation.

As a dietary supplement, Cordyceps is recommended to be taken in doses of 1000-3000 mg per day. In these amounts, Cordyceps does not record any side effects and has a positive effect on health.

You should look for the whole fruiting body Cordyceps militaris extract.

10. CBD oil - post-workout calming effect and repair

Get now CBD oilCBD is a non-psychotic part of the cannabis plant and is no longer restricted by the World Anti-Doping Agency (WADA), and it appears to be safe for consumption by the public and athletes around the world.

It is the subject of several studies and provides relief from physical and mental pain. In addition to the positive effects, it also has side effects and is still banned in several countries around the world.

CBD can react with other medications, so it is not out of place to consult your doctor about taking CBD oil.

Cannabidiol-containing products can be helpful in treating skin, muscle, or joint problems. The anti-inflammatory CBD properties make this cannabinoid one of the most beneficial nootropics for exercise and recovery.

CBD benefits for exercise:

  • CBD helps modulate the inflammatory process in the muscles by stimulating the production of anti-inflammatory properties in the body.

  • CBD can contribute to increased range as well as sleep quality by producing a calming effect on the brain and nervous system.

  • CBD oil can relieve stress by interfering with the hormones adenosine and serotonin.

  • CBD improves energy balance and strengthens immunity by integrating with cannabinoid receptors in the body.

In the fitness world, CBD is used in many forms – such as drops and oils, salves, isolates, gummies, and CBD energy drinks. The most common form used is CBD oil that contains CBD mixed with an inert carrier oil, such as coconut oil or hemp seed oil.

CBD oil is generally safe, with a daily dose of 300 mg taken safely orally for 6 months. 

Workout supplements Conclusion

While the research on the best nootropics for exercise may not yet be as extensive as desired, it is evident that certain ingredients hold great promise in enhancing both physical and mental capabilities. These compounds are emerging as key players in optimizing overall performance.

The future of workout supplements appears to lie in the integration of nootropics, a trend poised to further empower athletes and enthusiasts alike. These compounds have the potential to elevate various aspects of physical fitness, including strength, endurance, focus, motivation, and stress resilience. Additionally, they can contribute to overall physical well-being.

In conjunction with traditional pre-workout supplements like BCAAs, protein, NO2 boosters, and essential minerals, the inclusion of nootropics represents a smart and comprehensive approach to enhancing performance. It is crucial to recognize that, once a solid training regimen is established, paying attention to the finer details, including the incorporation of the best nootropics for working out, can lead to notable improvements.

As the scientific community continues to explore this intriguing intersection of brain and body, athletes and fitness enthusiasts may soon harness the full potential of nootropics to achieve new heights in their physical pursuits.

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