Can Nootropics Improve Your Golf Game Part 2 – Amino Acids

nootropicsNootropics Introduction

Welcome back to my series on nootropics and golf; specifically, can they improve our golf game.  In part one of this series I answered this question by outlining the mental/psychological demands of golf, and why increased psychological/cognitive capacity would no doubt improve our on course performance.  I also discussed some of the issues to consider when deciding to use supplements in the first place; mainly, you should not use banned substances, they should be the best quality supplements you can find, and all other aspects of your diet and lifestyle should be in check first.

Today I will be focusing on amino acid compounds that are considered to have nootropic properties.  All of these nootropics have very low/no toxicity and all of them are naturally occurring compounds since they are the building blocks of proteins.  When and where possible I will also try to outline any known interactions of these compounds with other drugs.  However, please take note that this article is simply for educational purposes and the use of any of the below products or substances should be reviewed with your medical practitioner.  As always, your health is your health, take responsibility for it.

All of the below nootropic amino acids are common ingredients in many supplements claiming cognitive enhancements, some of these products are even specifically targeted to golf.  A list of common nootropic products that use some of the ingredients I will review (in this and future articles) include, but are not limited to: Golf Fuel, Golferaid, Golfer X Nutrition Round Control, Alpha Brain, Ciltep, Choline Force, and Natural Factors PQQ-10.  Please note that I have not listed the compounds in any type of hierarchical order.

Amino Acid Nootropics


Tyrosine is simply one of the 22 amino acids (building blocks of proteins) that build proteins.  Tyrosine is contained in many high protein foods including meats and cheeses.  However, this specific amino acid is a precursor to the neurotransmitter dopamine (1), which is a key player in mood, alertness, concentration, motivation, and endurance; altered levels of this hormone have also been linked to Parkinson’s disease, schizophrenia, ADHD, restless leg syndrome, and dopamine dependant depression (2, 3).  Tyrosine has also been shown to increase brain levels of norepinephrine (1, 4) which is associated with vigilant concentration.

But the question is, does oral tyrosine actually increase brain levels of dopamine and norepinephrine in humans? The theory is that increasing the tyrosine to other amino acid ratio in our body triggers more tyrosine to cross the blood brain barrier and lead to the possible production of dopamine and norepinephrine (1, 4).  However, this only seems to take place under situations of higher than normal demands for these 2 hormones such as highly cognitively and physically demanding, stressful situations.  In stressful situations oral supplementation with tyrosine has shown positive correlations with cognition and also physical performance (1, 4, 5).  Since competitive golf is arguably one of the most stressful and cognitively demanding of sports, it seems that tyrosine may be beneficial.

Drug interaction information:

Acetyl-I-Carnitine (ALC)

Carnitine is a molecule made in the body from the combination of lysine and methionine, while ALC is simply carnitine with an acetyl group attached to it.  The acetyl group is not super important other than the fact that ALC seems to be more bioavailable than carnitine and is quickly converted to carnitine on the blood.  Carnitine is a key player in energy metabolism as it is involved in the transport of fatty acids and enzymes into the mitochondria of our cells; allowing for the production of ATP (energy) (6, 7).  If you haven’t heard yet, Mitochondrial dysfunction is at the core of many, if not all, neurodegenerative conditions (8, 9, 10).  One of the main reasons for this is that the brain is one of the most metabolically active organs in the body (7), meaning that it uses a huge amount of energy.  Therefore, anything that disrupts available energy in the brain will affect cognitive ability.  Furthermore, the production of ATP in the mitochondria releases a certain amount of damaging free radicals that our body must neutralize using it’s antioxidant system.  This occurs even when our mitochondria are functioning normally, imagine how many free radicals could be released if our mitochondria are dysfunctional, oxidative stress and inflammation galore.

Fortunately, ALC has been shown to improve cognition due to improved mitochondrial function and the inhibition of neuronal cell apoptosis (cell death) (6, 7).  Improvement in cognitive function with ALC includes less mental fatigue, reduced risk of neurodegenerative disease and overall cognitive functioning (7).

Drug interaction information:


L-Theanine is another one of the 22 amino acids that build proteins.  It is mainly considered to be contained in plant and fungal food sources, specifically green tea.  L-Theanine is absorbed quickly through the intestines and is able to cross the blood brain barrier (11, 12, 13).  It has also been shown to elevate brain theanine levels in animal models for up to 5 hours (11, 12).  The importance of this is that theanine in the brain can impact production and action of the neurotransmitters γ-Aminobutyric acid (GABA), dopamine, and serotonin (11, 13).  Specifically, theanine’s action on these neurotransmitters lead to it’s ability to induce feelings of relaxation and stress reduction (11, 12, 14).  Supplementation with theanine has been shown to reduce the psychological and physical stress response to perceived stressful situations (12, 14) as well as increase alpha brain waves (associated with states of relaxation) (11).  Now, does relaxation lead to improved cognitive function.  Well of course it does, particularly during acute stressful events like say a golf tournament where the more stress you feel the worse you’re likely to perform.  Aside from that, theanine has also been shown to increase energy, clarity of thought, efficiency, alertness, and perceived work performance, along with also being a neuroprotective agent (11, 12, 13, 14, 15, 16).

Drug Interaction information:

Pyroglutamic Acid

Pyroglutamic acid, is an amino acid derivative that is part of the glutathione (our master antioxidant) cycle.  Unfortunately, I was not able to find very much scientific literature on pyroglutamic acid, and the most recent article I could find was from 1990…not very recent.  However, it seems that pyroglutamic acid is structurally similar to the racetam group of nootropics, specifically piracetam, and has similar cognitive effects, albeit milder (17). A study from 1990 found that pyroglutamic acid reduced age related memory impairment (18) and the suggested mechanism for this improvement is based on evidence that it increases the level of the neurotransmitters GABA and acetylcholine (17, 19).  Interestingly, increases in GABA have a sedative or relaxing effect, while acetylcholine is important for attention, learning and sensory perception.  So, does this mean that pyroglutamic acid can help to induce a state of relaxed vigilance? If so, this would be excellent for golf.

Drug Interaction Information

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5-Hydroxytryptophan (5-HTP)

5-HTP is an aromatic amino acid, meaning that it is an amino acid with an attached molecule called an aromatic ring.  5-HTP is made in our bodies from the essential amino acid tryptophan and readily crosses the blood brain barrier where it increases the central nervous system synthesis of the neurotransmitter serotonin (20).  5-HTP is isolated via extraction from the seeds of the African plant Griffonia simplicifolia (20).  Serotonin regulates mood and social behavior as well as playing a role in regulating appetite, digestion, sleep, memory and sexual desire/function (20); subsequently, it has been used to treat depression, fibromyalgia, insomnia, binge eating associated with obesity, cerebellar ataxia, and chronic headaches (20, 21).  While many of you may not have depression or mood issues, what’s interesting is that inflammation can lead to a decrease in brain serotonin and, thus, an increase in depressive feelings (20)…just what we don’t want to on the golf course.  Another important point is that stress causes increases in inflammatory markers in our bodies…so since golf can be quite stressful, 5-HTP may be beneficial for some golfers.

To illustrate 5-HTP’s effect in stressful situations, it has been shown to improve mood and brain derived neurotrophic factor (22) in romantically stressful situations, meaning that not only did it make these individuals feels happier in a perceived sad situation, it also protected their neurons from damage and death.  Furthermore, 5-HTP administration prior to a panic inducing event may reduce the severity of cognitive symptoms (23).

Drug interaction information


Phenylalanine is used by our body to make tyrosine via the intermediate molecule Phenylethylamine (27), which in turn is a precursor to the neurotransmitter dopamine (see above section on tyrosine).  So, theoretically, if we increase phenylalanine in our system we should also increase tyrosine and subsequently dopamine; however, it is not that simple.  Our bodies have to be efficient at converting phenylalanine to tyrosine and this is not always seen, particularly in individuals with alzheimer’s and schizophrenia (27).  Furthermore, a high ratio of phenylalanine to tyrosine in our systems has been linked to increased inflammation and neuropsychiatric symptoms (27, 28).  These findings do not necessarily mean that in the healthy population the conversion of phenylalanine to tyrosine is not sufficient; so, it is fully possible that phenylalanine supplementation could increase tyrosine and have similar effect to tyrosine supplementation (see above); however, I was not able to find scientific evidence of it’s impact on cognition in my research.  Therefore, while it is likely safe in a healthy population, theoretically, it does not seem to be as effective as tyrosine.  However, since I have no science to back this up, self experimentation is the best way to find out.

Drug interaction information:


Leucine is another amino acid used by our body to synthesize proteins.  Related to brain metabolism, leucine readily crosses the blood brain barrier where it is used largely in the synthesis of the most abundant neurotransmitter glutamate/glutamic acid (26).  Proper metabolic regulation (synthesis and degradation) of glutamic acid is essential in reducing the risk of neurodegeneration (26).  Also, glutamic acid is involved in the production of GABA and acetylcholine (see above section on pyroglutamic acid).  While I could not find any studies of whether leucine supplementation improves cognitive function, given it’s role in neurotransmitter metabolism it seems reasonable.  Also, leucine has been shown as the most effective amino acid to induce muscle anabolism/muscle protein synthesis (27)

Drug interaction information:

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Phospholipid Nootropics


While Phosphatidylserine is not an amino acid and, therefore, does not fit with the title of this post, I could not find another category for this compound within future posts.  Phosphatidylserine is a phospholipid, a basic building block for the walls of each of our cells.  Rich dietary sources of phosphatidylserine include offal and fish.  In humans, phosphatidylserine concentration is highest in the brain where it makes up 15% of all phospholipid content ( 24); indicating that it is of great importance for cognition.  In fact, evidence shows that it can improve mood and cognition during stress and cognitively challenging tests in individuals with cognitive decline as well as young healthy adults (28, 29, 30).  It has also been observed to improve physical endurance performance (30).  Based on animal studies, the beneficial effects of phosphatidylserine are hypothesized to be do to: it’s activity as an enzyme cofactor in cell development and growth; it reduces cellular susceptibility to death; it activates an enzyme in the brain required to produce energy; it may increase the neurotransmitters acetylcholine, dopamine, and noradrenaline; it is an anti-inflammatory, it is an antioxidant, and it can reduce cortisol release from intense physical exercise (30).

Drug interaction information

Well, there you have it, a comprehensive list of amino acid nootropics and one phospholipid nootropic that seem to have good potential to increase cognitive performance and subsequently our golf game.  Remember to make sure you are medically cleared to take any of these substances prior to use.

My next post in this series will focus on plant extract and vitamin nootropics, following that will be a post specifically on the racetam group of nootropics.


The Barefoot Golfer


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