It’s not just the smart kids of Silicon Valley start-ups using nootropics, they’re the next biggest thing in sports supplements.
Article by Sarah Berry
Known as smart drugs, nootropics (derived from the a greek word meaning “Towards the Mind”) are used as a cognitive enhancer and to increase focus; not that some in the fitness industry couldn’t use a boost in that area but they seem an unlikely fit.
Not so, says PT and nutritionist Moodi “Diet Doctor” Dennaoui.
“I think that their popularity has increased in the word of fitness,” says Dennaoui. In fact, he adds, in many new Australian supplements, “there’s more emphasis on nootropics than stimulants”.
“You don’t want to have a massive hit of caffeine and not be able to focus the buzz,” Dennaoui, who happens to be an ambassador for supplement brand Body Science, said.
“I’ve seen that a lot with fat burners. People will get on them at the gym and they’re buzzing but not focused.”
Dennaoui has experienced the negative side effects of too much buzz and too little focus as the result of a dodgy supplement.
He says his training partner gave him a strong dose of workout supplement, Jack3D, which is now banned in some countries.
“I could barely breathe,” he recalls. “I was getting blurred vision and my heart was racing so fast I couldn’t work out.”
Dennaoui says experiences like this highlight the importance of knowing what you are taking (he urges caution with proprietary blends that either don’t list all the ingredients or don’t list the exact quantities) as well as the potential benefits of the addition of nootropics to harness extra energy.
“For mental acuity and focus, it does work well,” he says. “Unless it’s a synthetic drug designed to mimic brain function, it’s fine.”
Others, however, aren’t so sure.
Nootropics are any substance that can alter brain function, says sports dietitian Dr Joanna McMillan, so can include anything from caffeine to amphetamines.
“I have noted that lots of gym supplements are stacking all sorts of ingredients,” McMillan says. “My fear is that, while sounding very scientific, they have very little evidence to show efficacy or safety.
“Or where there have been studies this has been for the compound alone and not in a stack, where the effects of synergistic compounds may be quite different. I recommend extreme caution with stacked products for that reason, especially those that have patented blends and so don’t actually tell you exactly what is in them.”
Dr Jason Mazanov, an international expert on the management of drugs in sport, adds that supplement companies are not required to support the claims they make and that although taking uppers and downers is not new, even when individual supplements have been studied, we don’t know the cocktail effect.
“People are experimenting with these drugs on their bodies,” Mazanov says, adding that the supplements industry “has a problem with supplements being contaminated”.
It’s hard to know for sure what you’re taking and what the long-term impact is. “You just don’t know,” he says.
Dennaoui agrees that “we know more about individual ingredients than cocktails. Supplement companies are technically experimenting with their formulas”, so says that it’s important to “trust the supplement and supplement brand and be educated and informed”.
McMillan’s concern, like Mazanov’s, is that often, with supplements and blends, we’re playing a guinea pig game with our own bodies.
“The bottom line is that I suspect many supplements do nothing, some may actually cause harm and a small number may well be useful in certain situations – but there should be much tighter controls over what they are allowed to claim on pack,” she says.
“This is not a well-regulated industry. The buzz experienced by the way is often just from a high dose of caffeine… you could just have a double short black and save a lot of money.”
Dennaoui insists that a good nootropic supplement is “far superior” to coffee and provides sustained energy and clarity, while Mazanov has one piece of advice for anyone trying any new trend designed to enhance your performance:
“The clear message is talk to someone who is qualified – not your trainer, not your coach, not the guy on the internet who is pumped out of his gourd.”
Read more at: stuff.co.nz