An Athlete’s Guide To L-Dopa

L-Dopa is most widely known for its role in Parkinson’s Disease. But what actually is it? What does it do? And how can athletes benefit from it? 

What Is L-Dopa?

L-dopa is an amino acid and precursor of dopamine, however, it plays a role in both epinephrine and norepinephrine as well. L-dopa is naturally produced in animals and plants and produced from the amino acid, L-tyrosine.[1]


L-dopa is a compound from which dopamine is made within the body.[2] Optimal levels of dopamine help your body regulate blood flow, maintain a proper appetite, and even play a part in learning and cognitive function.


Mucuna pruriens is a tropical bean abundant in L-dopa. In fact, it’s often referred to as the “dopamine bean” because it’s such a powerful source. This adaptogen can be used to lower stress, reduce anxiety, improve focus, boost libido, and improve mood.[3] These benefits are due to the levels of L-dopa found within this “dopa bean”.

How Does L-Dopa Increase Dopamine?

Unlike dopamine, L-dopa has the ability to cross the blood-brain barrier. This is how it increases dopamine in the brain.[4]


Think of the blood-brain barrier (BBB) as a filter, allowing some substances in while keeping others out. Once L-dopa passes the barrier, it’s taken up by dopaminergic neurons which then convert it to dopamine.


But when it comes to L-dopa and Mucuna, how can an athlete benefit from them?

Benefits of L-Dopa and Mucuna For An Athlete

  1. May help in the secretion of HGH
  2. May increase testosterone
  3. May improve mental alertness
  4. May increase motivation

#1: L-Dopa May Help In The Secretion of HGH

As we discussed above, dopamine helps regulate blood flow, appetite, and cognitive health. But did you know it’s also linked to the production of human growth hormone (HGH)? This hormone (as you could probably guess) is associated with many different muscle-building benefits including optimal muscle growth and development and plays a significant role in recovery as well.  

One study shows that dopamine agonists play a key role in moderating the secretion of HGH and insulin-like growth factor-1 (IGF-1).[5]  

As we age, the amount of HGH secreted by the pituitary gland declines, making it harder to maintain and develop muscle mass and strength. That’s why supplementing with mucuna is key. 

#2: L-Dopa May Increase Testosterone

Some studies looking at patients with Parkinson's Disease showed that L-dopa was able to prevent the decrease in testosterone levels.[6] This is thought to be due to dopamine’s ability to inhibit prolactin (a hormone responsible for lowering the levels of luteinizing hormone and testosterone).

Mucuna pruriens was shown to increase testosterone levels in infertile men from ages 25 to 40.[6] Treatment with mucuna pruriens significantly improved dopamine, adrenaline, and noradrenaline function as well.

Another study found that mucuna pruriens improves male fertility by its action on the hypothalamus-pituitary-gonadal axis.[7] This study examined several groups of infertile men. Serum testosterone and luteinizing hormone levels were decreased in all subjects along with their sperm count. Treatment with mucuna pruriens significantly improved T, LH, dopamine, adrenaline, and noradrenaline levels in infertile men. In fact, sperm count was significantly recovered in infertile men after this treatment.

#3: L-Dopa May Improve Mental Alertess

L-dopa has been shown to improve symptoms in Parkinson’s disease, one of those symptoms includes maintaining daytime alertness. L-dopa, as it turns out, has the ability to induce higher levels of alertness when compared to other treatments.[8

#4: L-Dopa May Improve Motivation

While most athletes are intrinsically motivated, adding L-dopa and mucuna pruriens to your diet could improve the rate in which you’re motivated. 

Pretty cool, huh?

In fact, L-dopa appears to be involved both in goal-directed and motor behavior. On the inside, dopamine-producing neurons extend into neighboring motivational and motor parts of the brain. And on the outside, when scientists block dopamine release, rewards such as food, sex and cocaine stop reinforcing behavior.[9]

Bottom Line

While everyone could benefit from supplementing with L-dopa and mucuna pruriens, athletes may increase their performance in the gym and on the field even more when adding this to their routine. 

DANE MILLER

Dane Miller is the owner and founder of Garage Strength Sports Performance. He works with a select handful of clients on building comprehensive programs for fitness and nutrition. Several times a year he leads a workshop for coaches, trainers, and fitness enthusiasts.

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