Performance in many sports is at least partially dependent on motor control, coordination, decision-making, and other cognitive tasks. This review summarizes available evidence about the ingestion of selected nutrients or isolated compounds (dietary constituents) and potential acute effects on motor skill and/or cognitive performance in athletes. Dietary constituents discussed include branched-chain amino acids, caffeine, carbohydrate, cocoa flavanols, Gingko biloba, ginseng, guarana, Rhodiola rosea, sage, L-theanine, theobromine, and tyrosine. Although this is not an exhaustive list, these are perhaps the most researched dietary constituents. Caffeine and carbohydrate have the greatest number of published reports supporting their ability to enhance acute motor skill and cognitive performance in athletes. At this time, there is insufficient published evidence to substantiate the use of any other dietary constituents to benefit sports-related motor skill or cognitive performance. The optimal dose and timing of caffeine and carbohydrate intake promoting enhanced motor skill and cognitive performance remain to be identified. Valid, reliable, and sensitive batteries of motor skills and cognitive tests should be developed for use in future efficacy studies.
Nutr Rev. 72(12):790-802.