Supplements For A Fighters Mental Edge
The Winning Mental Edge
The nutritional needs of the combat sports enthusiast are certainly complex. Other athletes generally have the luxury of focusing on just one basic area. For instance, to be an offensive lineman in the NFL, one has to bulk up. Whether you get that bulk by massive caloric intake or by hefty doses of steroids, the result is the same: a 325 pound man who can hold back and knock down another 325 pound man.
It’s not so simple for the participant in combat sports. While brawn is certainly needed, a guy with a bodybuilder physique and nothing else is most certainly going to get his ass kicked in the first minute of the first round just as easily as a scrawny punk.
Without speed to move those muscles and even more importantly, without the mental acuity to coordinate every single split-second decision, one can never hope to reach the top of the combat sports mountain. Fortunately, there are now supplements on the market not only for bulking up, but also for sharpening the mind to gain that crucial mental edge.
The term nootropics, which is derived from a Greek word meaning “acting on the mind,” is used to describe supplements used to enhance mental functioning. With the hard facts that memory tests decline steadily after age 25, and that by early middle age, a person starts to lose 1% of their brain volume yearly, pharmaceutical companies have been scrambling to devise a magic pill giving us the memory of a Rhodes scholar.
While many of the medications currently on the market are for major mental problems such as Alzheimer’s disease, there are several available supplements that could easily be used for the combat sports participant.
Having been discovered in the 1960s, Piracetam is one of the oldest nootropic supplements. Since that time, over 100 scientific papers have been done on Piracetam’s effect on mental functioning, and virtually all of them validate the belief that Piracetam is remarkably safe and effective.
It has been shown to be able to increase memory and learning in both normal subjects, as well as, those suffering from the cognitive problems seen in patients with Alzheimer’s. While its mode of action isn’t entirely clear, it is thought that Piracetam exerts its actions by increasing energy production in the brain, along with boosting cerebral microcirculation and increasing the brain’s efficiency in using glucose and oxygen.
Because of this, Piracetam has been used on several expeditions to Mt. Everest, combating memory and cognitive deficits caused by low oxygen problems encountered at high altitudes.
While having a great memory and an increased learning ability can be of use to just about anyone, there is another aspect of Piracetam that may have special significance. Piracetam, in a manner yet unexplained, seems to increase the flow and speed of information between the right and left hemispheres of the brain.
Many researchers who examine the peak performance of athletes in “the zone,” that is the time in competition when everything seems to flow perfectly, when there is integrated and synergistic functioning of both brain hemispheres. For a combat sports athlete who is just one punch or kick away from losing, a supplement that keeps them in “the zone” could very well mean the difference between winning and losing.
Unfortunately, for those of you who want to try out Piracetam, you’ll have to get it from a Mexican or European pharmacy since it is not available in the States.
Hydergine is another nootropic supplement that may help provide a razor-sharp mental edge to combat sports participants. Studies over the past 20 years have shown that Hydergine can have significant positive effects on mental capabilities and help slow down the aging process of the brain.
It seems to do this by many different ways, including the increase of protein synthesis and oxygen delivery to the brain, as well as, limiting damage done to the brain by molecules known as free radicals. For the combat sports enthusiast, Hydergine has also been shown to increase alertness and reaction time in otherwise normal subjects. Unlike Piracetam, Hydergine is available in the U.S., with a doctor’s prescription.
DMAE or dimethylaminoethanol
DMAE or dimethylaminoethanol is another widely used nootropic supplement, and one that is available in the U.S. without a doctor’s prescription. DMAE, which is widely used as a prescription medication in Europe under the trade name Deanol-Riker, has been shown to increase memory and energy levels by increasing the amount of a neurochemical in the brain called acetylcholine.
DMAE is not at all chemically similar to caffeine, a common misconception since both substances promote mental alertness. While both certainly increase mental alertness, DMAE does not cause unwanted secondary symptoms such as jitteriness and nervousness like caffeine does in high doses.
Even though there are some exotic sounding nootropics available for use today, combat sports participants looking to gain a mental edge also need to remember that the brain needs good old-fashioned nutrition as much, if not more, then any other organ in the body.
The B-vitamins (B6, B12 and folic acid) help the brain make essential neurotransmitters and keep levels of homocysteine under control. Homocysteine, a derivative of the amino acid methionine, can exert toxic effects in the brain if levels become too high. Food such as eggs, peanuts, green leafy vegetables and soy are all high in the important B-vitamins.
Another common danger to optimal brain functioning are free radicals. These molecules, which are produced in every cell in the body, especially in the hard-working cells of the brain, can cause cellular damage and death. To protect against the ravages of free radicals in the brain, a diet high in antioxidant vitamins, chiefly vitamins C, E and A derivatives (the carotinoids) is advisable.
An easy way to remember what foods are high in antioxidants is to think colorful, as in colorful fruits and vegetables such as oranges, strawberries and blueberries.
One day, in perhaps the not-so-distant future, researchers will come up with medications and supplements tailored to meet the diverse needs of students, scholars and athletes. However, until that day occurs, the combat sports athlete wishing to maximize their chances of coming out ahead might want to seriously consider adding nootropics to their supplement regime, giving them that winning mental edge.