Paraxanthine outperforms caffeine in exercise/focus study

A new placebo-controlled study showed paraxanthine boosted cognitive function during exercise-induced stress better than caffeine alone and better than a combination of the two. The small size of the study means more research is needed to confirm the effects.

May 22, 2024

3 Min Read

At a Glance

  • Paraxanthine is a metabolite of caffeine and is being developed as a stand-alone ingredient.
  • Caffeine supplementation has some drawbacks that paraxanthine could circumvent.
  • This study showed paraxanthine could boost focus under exercise-induced stress.

A recent study suggested paraxanthine may perform better than caffeine in helping maintain focus after strenuous exercise. The study was funded by the developer, Ingenious Ingredients.

The new study was published in the Journal of the International Society of Sports Nutrition (JISSN). It was conducted by researchers associated with Texas A&M University under a contract from Ingenious Ingredients, which has been developing the substance for more than a decade. The company is a partnership that includes notable figures such as Ralf Jäger, Ph.D., and Martin Purpura, Ph.D., who are also principals in the scientific consulting firm Increnovo.

The goal of the current research was to compare the cognition support provided by paraxanthine alone or in combination with caffeine in a model of exercise-induced mental stress.

Caffeine is tried and true, but has drawbacks

Caffeine is one of most common naturally occurring nootropic nutrients in beverages and is used by hundreds of millions of consumers daily. In sports nutrition, the ingredient is used both as a metabolism booster as well as for its ability to boost focus and attention. There has also been some research showing that caffeine helps athletes utilize their fat stores more efficiently during endurance events.

However, caffeine comes with some drawbacks. It is a central nervous system (CNS) stimulant, and high doses leave some users feeling jittery, with a faster pulse and raised blood pressure. Some consumers report gastrointestinal (GI) discomfort with higher doses. Habituation is an issue as well. In addition, genetic differences mean that some people metabolize caffeine quickly, and so have difficulty in deriving the full benefit from use of the substance.

Paraxanthine is one of several metabolites of caffeine. It has been shown in Ingenious Ingredients’ previous research and that done by others to have some of the nootropic benefits of caffeine but without some of the drawbacks, such as the unwanted cardiovascular effects. Directly supplementing with paraxanthine could also theoretically bypass the roadblocks thrown up by genetic differences in caffeine metabolism.

In the current study, the researchers recruited a cohort of 12 trained runners, only one of whom was female. They were all between 18 and 40 years old, and all were able to maintain a pace of 8 minutes a mile or faster.

Study design tested three different formulas, plus placebo

In the double-blind placebo-controlled study, the participants agreed to visit the lab five times in all. In the first visit, baseline blood draws were taken and baseline cognitive measures were recorded using a couple of standard tests, such as card sorting.

In the following four visits, all of the runners were in turn given one of four different supplements. These consisted of a 400 mg placebo, 200 mg of placebo and 200 mg of paraxanthine, 200 mg of placebo and 200 mg of caffeine, or 200 mg each of paraxanthine and caffeine.

After taking the assigned supplement, the runners performed the battery of cognitive tests again. Then they did a 10-kilometer run on the treadmill at their own pace (8 minutes a mile or faster) with rates of perceived exertion, performance times and heart rates recorded at every kilometer.

After finishing the run, the participants took the cognitive tests again and did a 30-second anaerobic capacity test.

Results encouraging, but still somewhat preliminary

The researchers noted that the small sample size and the fact that only one woman was included were limitations. In addition, the natural variability of cognitive performance, mood and motivation from day to day was difficult to account for in a study of this scale and duration. Nevertheless, they said the results were encouraging. The paraxanthine supplementation showed a definite trend toward better results on some of the cognitive measures.

They concluded that acute paraxanthine supplementation “improved some measures of executive function, attenuated attentional degradation, and mitigated cognitive fatigue before and after exercise. We also observed some evidence that paraxanthine ingestion promoted more significant improvements than caffeine independently while co-ingesting paraxanthine with caffeine did not provide any additional benefit. These findings indicate that paraxanthine may serve as a viable alternative to caffeine in helping maintain cognitive function during prolonged exercise.”

Subscribe and receive the latest insights on the health and nutrition industry.
Join 37,000+ members. Yes, it's completely free.

You May Also Like