Before we get into specific types of nootropics, let’s briefly discuss some of the ethical concerns around sport and supplementation. I don’t think that much of what I am going to discuss here is all that controversial, but you never know.
I know most of you are not professional athletes so all this doping talk is not relevant to you, but it is still important to address. Why should amateurs be able to improve their games with supplementation while professional athletes cannot? Regardless, no matter what sport we talk about, at the elite, world class level, there is undoubtedly supplementation with at least the cutting edge of non-banned substances, if not with actual banned substances (in a smart less detectable way I am sure). I don’t want to argue whether that is right or wrong, but I will say that the use of smart, safe, non-banned supplements to maximize athletic or cognitive performance is just fine in my opinion if one so chooses.
Now, that’s not to say I believe supplementation is absolutely necessary for maximizing athletic performance, or optimal health for that matter. In fact, if your diet and lifestyle, including sleep and stress management, is all in check, I don’t think any supplementation is necessary for optimal health; except maybe during times of excess strain like when we get sick, or are travelling, or you are going through a time of high stress, etc. In these instances sometimes smart supplementation can help us escape with less effect on our body.
However, what happens when we participate in athletic or cognitive tasks (like high level executive type thing) that challenge us at our highest level, or above our skill set; this is where elite performance enters the equation. Now, I don’t necessarily think that supplementation is necessary for elite performance, but if all other aspects of life (diet and lifestyle) are in check, smart supplementation may improve performance. The caveat here is that the supplements needs to be high quality, safe, and specific to what one wants to improve on.
Now, the other thing to consider here is that at a level of world class, elite physical performance, the training and lifestyle requirements are likely at a level where they are maximizing performance but putting optimal health at some risk. This is something else that supplementation may help with. However, since we are talking about golf today, this factor won’t really come into that much play. While professional and amateur golfers most definitely hit the gym and do other forms of training to maximize their on course performance, the level and amount at which this training is done is not likely to reach a detrimental level…for most golfers.
You may also ask whether professional golfers use supplements, and while I am not going to go into a huge list, the answer is a resounding yes! For instance, Tiger Woods has a supplement company endorsement, this supplement company has a list of pro golfers using their product, Ernie Els supports this product, the controversy over Vijay Singh and his use of Deer Antler spray, joint supplement use, etc. These are just a few example out of many.
Today I will strictly be talking about supplements that have the potential to protect our brains and improve cognitive function. I will talk in more specifics in the next post, but just to make one thing clear, I will ONLY be talking about non-banned supplements and any of the products and ingredients listed are NOT on the PGA Tour banned substance list.
What Are Nootropics
Since we are discussing nootropics, I guess I should define what a nootropic is. Nootropics are a class of cognitive enhancing supplements that improve concentration and memory; basically overall cognitive functioning. Nootropics are often used to increase attention, improve focus, as studying aids, improve motivation, induce calm feeling, improve cognitive aspects of sport performance, etc. Sometimes nootropics are also referred to as “smart drugs” as they are associated with increased intelligence, motivation, and mental energy. I know the above seems like a loose description but in reality, nootropics do not have a very specific definition. Here is the best I could find: Nootropics refer to cognitive boosting substances with extremely low toxicity that that are suitable for long-term use.
You may be wondering how these substances actually improve cognition. The answer is that each type of nootropic works in different ways. In part 2 of this series I will be discussing some specific nootropic substances and how they are theorized to work.
Nootropics for Golf?
Anyone out there that has ever played tournament golf, and some of you that just play for fun, clearly understands that high level cognitive functioning is absolutely necessary to play your best. Many sport psychologists and professionals rank golf as one of, if not the most, mentally demanding and draining sports out there. Even the greats of the game recognize this fact as you can see from the below quotes:
- Jack Nickalaus – “Golf is 80% mental, 10% ability, 10% luck.”
- Jim Flick – “90% of golf is mental, and the other 10 % is mental too.”
- Chi Chi Rodriguez – “Golf is 95% mental and 35% psychological”. Some math issues here but you get the point
- Yogi Berra – “Ninety percent of the game is half mental.” Math issues again but same idea
- Lee Westwood – “It’s such a psychological game, golf, that the smallest wrong thing at the wrong time can distract you from what you are trying to achieve”
Clearly there is no doubt about the importance of cognitive functioning in golf, and here are some of the main reasons why:
- During a round of golf, you will spend more time thinking about your game than actually playing it. Between each shot you have vast amounts of time to lose your concentration, allow stress to take over, think about the mistakes you have made, the mistakes you could make, the mistake you made last time you played this shot, how far above par you are, how far below par you are, what score you are on track to shot, the mechanics of your last swing, the mechanics of your next swing, etc. etc. I hope I didn’t overwhelm you with that because these thoughts just brush the surface of what can go on in your head during a round of golf.
- You are hitting a stationary ball! This creates a non-reaction based sport. What I mean is that in most other sports the athlete is responding to a moving ball (or object) leading to more of a reflex reaction (ie. there is less conscious thought behind the movement). Think of it this way. If I throw a ball at you, you will likely do 2 things based on your skills: catch it or move out of the way. These reactions will also be done with very little thought. Enter golf…how often do you think a golfer stands over a stationary golf ball and swings without a thought in their head about how to swing the club; and that’s just the beginning of the things that can go through your head right before you swing.
- Visualization is a key to high level golf. Once a solid skill foundation is set, seeing shots in your mind before to make them is key. Not to mention belief that you are able to make the shot you envisioned.
- Full concentration on each shot is a must. If you lose concentration during one shot, it may be the difference between your best round ever and a mediocre round. Or, if you are on the PGA tour, it may mean the difference between a $50,000 check and a $200,000 check.
- You must take full responsibility for your own actions on the course. This can sometimes be a hard pill to swallow without causing self doubt, anger and frustration. All of which destroy your game.
- Positivity and calm are 2 must haves for a full round of golf. Negative thoughts, anger, panic, worry, etc. all play havoc with our games. This wouldn’t be such an issue if a round of golf was only 1 hole, but golf is a long game where very little goes exactly how we want it too, making it extremely difficult to keep negative emotions out of our head.
- Creativity on the course is also necessary to play our best. Whether we are trying to escape the trees after an errant shot, or deciding what type of shot we want to hit (draw, fade, low, high), we need a creative mind.
- We need to have the ability to read and understand the constant changes in our environment during a round of golf. This applies to wind, humidity, temperature, reading a green, the type of grass, the consistency of the ground under our ball, etc.
The takeaway from all of this is that non-banned substance supplementation is widely practiced and there is no reason not to experiment with high quality SAFE supplements that may improve our game. It is also clear that golf requires high cognitive functioning and improvements in cognition through the use of nootropics may improve golf performance…given that they actually work and increase cognition in the first place.
Part 2 of 2 in this series will focus specifically on many different nootropic substances, what their claimed effects are, and any scientific research supporting such claims. When able, I will also be outlining how these substances may increase cognitive performance. Some of the nootropic substances I will discuss include: L-tyrosine, choline (DMAE, Alpha GPC), acetyl-I-carnitine (ALC), huperzine A, bacopa, ginkgo biloba, CoQ10, gotu kola, 5-HTP, casozepin, extramel, taurine, pterostilbene, L-theanine, oat Straw, phosphatidylserine, artichoke extract, forskolin, L-phenylalanine, pyroglutamic acid, piracetam, oxiracetam, and aniracetam . Stay Tuned!
The Barefoot Golfer