Other Subject Area

Exercise Performance


International Journal of Exercise Science 14(2): 727-741, 2021. Huperzine A has shown the ability to acutely improve cognitive function in certain populations, and therefore is commonly added to pre-workout supplements. However, its effects have not been studied in exercise-trained individuals. OBJECTIVE: We hypothesized that acute consumption of huperzine A would improve cognitive function during exercise, which may be beneficial for exercise performance. METHODS: From January to April, 2018, 15 exercise-trained individuals (11 women [height 166 ± 2 cm, weight 60.5 ± 3.0 kg] and 4 men [height 173 ± 4 cm, weight 82.0 ± 11.0 kg], BMI 23.5 ± 1.4 kg/m2, age 30.4 ± 3.6 years) were studied in a double blind randomized-sequence cross-over study, in which they underwent tests for cognitive function (digit span, verbal/word fluency, and Stroop), neuromuscular performance (sharpened Romberg and dart throwing), and exercise performance (estimated aerobic capacity, hand-grip strength, vertical jump, and push-up) after acute ingestion of huperzine A (200 mcg) or placebo. One week separated the two trials. RESULTS: No measures of cognitive function differed between placebo and huperzine A trials (all p ≥ 0.296). Heart rates (157 ± 4 vs. 158 ± 4 bpm; p = 0.518) and ratings of perceived exertion (13.7 ± 0.56 vs. 13.9 ± 0.61; p = 0.582) did not differ between placebo and huperzine A trials, respectively. Ratings of subjective difficulty post-exercise (0-10 scale) were significantly higher (5.7 ± 0.38 vs. 6.8 ± 0.38; p = 0.002) in the huperzine A trial than the placebo trial. No differences were observed for neuromuscular or exercise performance measures between groups (all p ≥ 0.497). CONCLUSIONS: Huperzine A does not enhance cognitive function during exercise despite it being marketed as a cognitive enhancer. Because of its inability to enhance cognitive function, its inclusion in pre-workout supplements warrants reconsideration. Other more practical and effective strategies should be considered.

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