Taking Nootropics Pre-Workout: A Complete Guide

  • By Performance Lab
  • 9 minute read
Taking Nootropics Pre-Workout: A Complete Guide

When it comes to training, there’s no shortage of supplements that prep your body for battle. They increase blood flow for better nutrient delivery, prevent fatigue, increase alertness and focus, and give you the pump that every athlete and lifter strives for from a good training session.

But while the body may be prepared for what’s to come, what about the mind? Getting your head in the game—literally—is just as important as getting your body warmed up and ready to lift. But far too often, we neglect and undervalue the mental aspect of training.

If you’ve ever looked into supplements for brain health, you’ve likely come by something called nootropics—a class of supplements designed to enhance cognitive function and brain health.

But when it comes to athletic performance, nootropics are next-level. They can elevate your workout from average to amazing at the drop of a hat and give you results you never thought were possible.

In light of that, we’re breaking down the link between nootropics and your athletic performance, and where you should look for a sharper performance in and out of the gym.

What Are Nootropics?

Nootropics are all the rage where better brain power is concerned. They’ve risen in popularity massively over the past several years due to their ability to enhance cognitive function and performance, along with memory, focus, creativity, intelligence, and motivation. But more recently, they’ve taken a spin into the fitness world.

Clinically speaking, nootropics are a class of cognitive-enhancing drugs used to treat patients with cognition deficits and are most commonly used for people who have Alzheimer’s disease (AD), schizophrenia, stroke, attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD), aging, and any other condition affecting the brain 1.

Essentially, nootropics are a group of (usually) natural supplements designed to boost brain function and elevate mental performance. But they serve a dual purpose. They not only boost brain function but also work to make the brain healthier 2.

They act as vasodilators against small arteries and veins in the brain, and supplementing with nootropics has been shown to increase blood circulation to the brain while at the same time providing important nutrients, and increasing energy and oxygen flow to the brain 3.

What’s surprising to most people is that despite only constituting about 3% of total bodyweight, the brain actually takes around 15% of total body blood and oxygen supply, so increasing flow thereby boosts function.

We’re not going to get into the nitty-gritty of how nootropics work in the brain, but there are a few mechanisms by which nootropics work that may be important to know 3:

  1. Glutaminergic signaling — Glutamate is the main excitatory neurotransmitter in the brain and plays an important role in cognitive function via activating NMDA receptors
  2. Cholinergic system — The system associated with acetylcholine and the subsequent up-regulation of glutamate secretion
  3. Amyloid Precursor Protein (APP) — Modulation of APP, which mediates the formation of neurotropic APP fragments that play an important role in memory function
  4. Secondary messenger — Involvement of various enzymes and selective protein-to-protein interactions that regulate cognitive performance
  5. Other — Some research suggests insulin pathways may also play a role in the function of nootropics on mental performance, as well as the angiotensin receptor

What Nootropics Pre-Workout Can Do For Your Performance

While things like nitric oxide boosters or BCAAs can elevate your workout performance, nootropics are stepping in as another game-changer in the supplement world.

How many times have you gotten halfway through your workout, and you just can’t muster up the energy or drive to push through to the end? Or maybe you loaded up the bar all set to hit a 1RM and couldn’t push through because you psyched yourself out?

Your brain has a lot of power over how your body performs, which is why nootropics can make a massive difference for your performance.

Regardless of your goal—strength, mass, size, weight loss, better agility—if you can get your brain charging at the right level, your workouts will be significantly more efficient, and your results will be at another level.

Basically, your mental state can make or break your workout, so adding nootropics to your pre-workout stack can help you get your head in the game and put you in a space where you’re unstoppable.

But how do they do this?

1. Better Focus

If you find yourself constantly checking your phone and watching other people instead of doing your workout, chances are you could benefit hugely from a nootropic. Nootropics support sharper focus, which will translate directly into your performance because where the mind goes, the body follows.

While caffeine isn’t always seen as a nootropic, it offers some powerful cognitive benefits. It stimulates the body’s central nervous system and, in doing so, boosts the production of a neurochemical called dopamine, which plays a role in regulating your ability to focus and maintain concentration 4.

Some research indicates that caffeine may also slightly improve vigilance performance and reaction time in habitual caffeine consumers 5.

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2. More Energy

There’s no denying that some pre-workouts pack a major punch, but some offer such a big punch that they can actually hinder your performance because of things like jitters, nervousness, and anxiety associated with megadoses of caffeine.

However, nootropics are great because they give you a much cleaner, smoother, longer-lasting energy as opposed to jacking it up as regular pre-workouts do.

One of the best nootropic ingredients for this is L-theanine. It’s an amino acid found in green tea that boosts alpha brain wave activity and plays a role in regulating some brain chemicals 6.

Taken as a pre-workout, L-theanine can strengthen the mental aspects of exercise, support relaxed alertness, positive mood, and cognitive clarity for calmer, cleaner stimulation that is precision-tuned for peak performance.

3. Stress Resistance

Training is stressful for the body, and while exercise-induced stress can be beneficial, if you’re not recovering properly or you’re going overboard with exercise, it can actually lead to chronically high cortisol, which interferes with muscle gain, recovery, and can lead to fat and weight gain.

And while we love to add caffeine to our pre-workouts, it’s exacerbated the problem by increasing cortisol levels further, which can eventually lead to burnout and the slew of problems that arise with that.

One of the great things about nootropics, however, is that a lot of them act similar to adaptogens. That is, they support your body’s stress response and its ability to cope.

But they also help support neurotransmitter levels, and increasing the concentration of certain brain chemicals can significantly impact your workout performance.

But that’s not it. By supporting stronger focus and attention, a nootropic pre-workout also delivers:

  • Increased physical strength
  • Improved work capacity and training volume
  • Enhanced power output
  • Less fatigue
  • Stronger motivation
  • Better endurance
  • Improved reaction time

The Best Nootropic Supplements To Take Pre-Workout

1. Performance Lab Caffeine+

Meet the world’s first ultramodern stimulant supplement that offers peak stim benefits with none of the side effects. It’s the most powerful moderate-dose stimulant that is fine-tuned for precision and performance.

Unlike other stimulant supps that megadose caffeine and push your body into overdrive, leaving you anxious, nervous, jittery, and unable to sleep, Performance Lab Caffeine+ gives you balanced, optimized, and productive caffeine stimulation.

It’s a smarter and cleaner stimulant with Natural Caffeine 50 mg + Suntheanine® 100 mg, delivering greater dosing precision, fewer side effects, and superior performance-tuned stimulation.

Caffeine Plus' ultramodern design also helps restore caffeine-depleted brain chemicals with Ajipure® L-Tyrosine + NutriGenesis® B-Complex to support healthy recovery from all caffeine-driven activities.

Key Features

  • Patented, cutting-edge nutrients from Suntheanine®, Ajipure®, and NutriGenesis®
  • 50 mg caffeine serving size for dosing precision, stacking safety, and stim control
  • Suntheanine® 100 mg for enhanced caffeine effects to promote calmer, cleaner stimulation precision-tuned for peak human performance
  • Ajipure® L-Tyrosine 250 mg to restore caffeine-depleted neurotransmitters, regulate caffeine triggered stress hormones, and support clarity during chaos, distraction, and fatigue


  • Caffeine enhanced for superior nootropic, athletic, and thermogenic performance
  • Promotes alert, revitalized performance during multitasking, stress, and fatigue
  • Increases alpha brainwaves to balance caffeine energy with relaxation, creativity, and clarity
  • Helps reduce jitters, crashes, and other negative effects of caffeine overstimulation
  • Promotes balanced physiological responses to caffeine-induced stress
  • Helps replenish caffeine-depleted brain chemicals for daily use with less burnout
    Find out more about Performance Lab Caffeine+ here

    2. Performance Lab MCT

    MCT is a staple in the ketogenic world, but it turns out it could also be a game-changer for your performance in and out of the gym. Performance Lab MCT is a fast-acting metabolic fuel that supports peak mind-body performance. Unlike other MCT products derived from GMO coconuts, hydrogenated, and chemically processed with hexanes, Performance Lab® MCT is the ultimate MCT oil upgrade using only C8+C10 MCTs sourced from 100% organic non-GMO coconuts, cold-extracted with hexane-free technology, and 3X distilled for purity. It delivers quick, convenient mental energy and enhanced results in the most convenient format.

    Key Features

    • State-of-the-art MCT—Clean, pure, triple-filtered and calibrated to 60% C8 and 40% C10
    • C8/C10 MCTs only—More potent, effective, and easier to digest than coconut oil
    • Fast brain fuel—Rapidly metabolized into ketones that can cross the blood-brain barrier, enter powerhouse mitochondria within brain cells, and fuel production of ATP energy that powers all cognition
    • Premium MCTs; 100% non-GMO organic-certified coconut source; shelf-stable


    • Fast-acting performance fuel for cognitive and metabolic function
    • Promotes mind-body vitality during intense exercise and fasted training
    • Optimizes and protects brain cells’ powerhouse mitochondria
    • Neuroprotective support for long-range brain health and mental energy
    • Flavor-neutral to mix easily into coffee, shakes, smoothies, or dressings
      Find out more about Performance Lab MCT here

      3. Performance Lab Omega-3


      Say goodbye to traditional fish oils and trade them for something better—it’s time to upgrade. Performance Lab Omega-3 is sourced from the cleanest, safest, and vegan-friendly source—algae.

      It’s the purest, more potent and sustainable EPA+DHA omega-3s derived directly from their original source in all aquatic ecosystems to bring you the highest potency omega-3 supplement on the market with none of the typical drawbacks of fish oil supplements.

      It’s ultra-clean, containing no heavy metals, PCBs, or toxic contaminants; is environmentally friendly and sustainable; and traceable from start to finish.

      Key features

      • 100% plant-based source of omega-3 fatty acids
      • Optimal 2:1 DHA to EPA ratio associated with balanced immune responses
      • Supplies natural triglyceride Omega-3s; 70% more absorbable than synthetic ethyl esters
      • Easy to take: No fishy smell, fishy aftertaste, or related gastric distress
      • life’s™OMEGA algal oil delivered in NutriGels®—the world’s first vegan, carrageenan-free softgels
      • Ultraclean—No mercury, heavy metals, PCBs, or toxic contaminants associated with fish oil


      • Enhances cell membrane structure and function for healthy whole-body performance
      • Supports heart health, circulation, and overall cardiovascular performance
      • Maintains healthy brain, eye, and nervous system performance
      • Supports protein synthesis, muscle preservation, and muscle recovery
        Find out more about Performance Lab Omega-3 here

        4. Performance Lab Mind

        Performance Lab Mind is the ultimate nootropic for brainpower, brain health, and burnout resistance. It’s the only nootropic that enhances cognition and helps your brain recover from intense mental exertion.

        Performance Lab® Mind enhances performance-driven cognitive functions like focus, speed, energy, memory, motivation, and more, and is the only nootropic supplement designed to help you bounce back faster by fighting stress burnout, all while supporting brain health over time.

        Mind features Cognizin® clinically proven to boost brain energy by 13.6% and eco-friendly Sharp-PS® Green, plus the highest-potency Maritime Pine Bark Extract (95% proanthocyanidins) on the market.

        It’s a revolutionary, stim-free brain formula designed to promote peak human performance under pressure. Combining multi-tasking nootropic ingredients in advanced forms for optimal neuronutrient delivery to enhance full spectrum cognitive function, promote healthy recovery, and support sharper bounce-back.

        Key Features

        • Revolutionary stim-free mental energy for a clean cognitive lift with no crash
        • 100% natural prebiotic-infused NutriCaps® made from pullulan (fermented tapioca)
        • Powerful patented brain boosters Cognizin® Citicoline and Sharp-PS® Green Phosphatidylserine
        • Ajipure® L-Tyrosine 250 mg—The master precursor that forms key brain chemicals for mental performance
        • Maritime Pine Bark antioxidants support long-range brain health and brain cell regeneration


        • Supports focus, memory, motivation, mood, multitasking and more
        • Promotes peak mental performance in high-pressure environments
        • Encourages blood flow to the brain, helping oxygen, glucose and neuronutrient delivery
        • Supports flexible, fluid and healthy neural structure linked to memory and learning
        • Restores brain chemicals for healthier, sharper bounceback from mental exertion
        • Enhances neural regeneration for long-range brain health and mental clarity
          Find out more about Performance Lab Mind here

          Final Thoughts

          If you thought that the only thing to elevate your workout performance was a pre-workout, we have news for you.

          Nootropics are some of the most powerful supplements out there that complement pre-workout supplements for optimal brain activity.

          It’s better focus, more intensity, and greater mental drive to push you through some of the most mentally challenging stimuli out there. So, if you’ve mastered the physical aspect of training, it’s time to take the mental aspect up a notch with nootropics.


          1. W Froestl, A Muhs, A Pfeifer. Cognitive Enhancers (Nootropics). Part 1: Drugs Interacting with Receptors.Alzheimer’s Dis. 2012; 32:793–887.
          2. JF Dartigues, L Carcaillon, C Helmer, N Lechevallier, A Lafuma, B Vasodilators and nootropics as predictors of dementia and mortality in the PAQUID cohort.J Am Geriatr Soc. 2007;55(3):395-399.
          3. NA Suliman, CN Mat Taib, MA Mohd Moklas, MI Adenan, MR Hidayat Baharuldin, R Basir. Establishing Natural Nootropics: Recent Molecular Enhancement Influenced by Natural Nootropic. Evid Based Complement Alternat Med. 2016;2016:4391375.
          4. M Solinas, S Ferré, ZB You, M Karcz-Kubicha, P Popoli, SR Goldberg. Caffeine induces dopamine and glutamate release in the shell of the nucleus accumbens.J Neurosci. 2002;22(15):6321-6324.
          5. A Nehlig. Is caffeine a cognitive enhancer? J. Alzheimer’s Dis. 2010; 20 Suppl 1:S85-94.
          6. GN Owen, H Parnell, EA De Bruin, JA Rycroft. The combined effects of L-theanine and caffeine on cognitive performance and mood. Nutr Neurosci. 2008;11(4):193-198.