Phenibut & Performance

By Kevin Cann – Contributor

For those of you out there that compete in sports we are always looking to gain an edge on the competition.  We attempt to work harder in the gym than the person next to us.  We leave with shaky knees, kidney cramps, and a bout of nausea that makes our post workout nutrition more difficult to swallow down.

These negative effects from a hard workout are caused by fatiguing in our central nervous system (CNS).  What if I told you there may be a supplement out there that can minimize the fatigue placed on the central nervous system.  This supplement is known as phenibut and has the backing of the strongest guys on the planet at Westside Barbell.

Phenibut is a naturally occurring neurotransmitter.  It is actually a derivative of the neurotransmitter GABA.  In resistance trained men GABA supplementation of 3g has been shown to increase resting and post-exercise growth hormone levels (1).

Phenibut differs from GABA in that it contains a phenyl group.  This allows phenibut to cross the blood brain barrier.  Phenibut’s ability to cross the blood brain barrier has made it a target of pharmaceutical companies to help treat certain disorders such as post traumatic stress syndrome, anxiety, and insomnia.

Phenibut has also been used to improve cognitive function.  This is most likely due to phenibut’s ability to elicit a response from another neurotransmitter known as dopamine (2).  Dopamine is our neurotransmitter responsible for memory, focus, and energy.  All three of those are important to our ability to perform.  In fact, dopamine has been a target of research looking at its ability to enhance performance in soldiers.

phenibut supplementPhenibut has the ability to enhance dopamine as well as resting and post-exercise growth hormone levels.  However, not much research exists discussing these possible performance enhancing abilities of phenibut.

In vitro studies have shown that phenibut may exhibit neuroprotective properties (3).  Other studies have shown that phenibut can become addictive and if one tries to stop taking it they may exhibit withdrawal symptoms (4).  I could not find any studies showing how it may be effective for athletes.

Phenibut is the main active ingredient in Westside Barbell’s Escape supplement.  Westside Barbell claims that this supplement has mood and cognition enhancing effects.  This may be true as GABA has positive effects on our mood.

GABA is kind of like our natural valium.  It helps us relax and mitigate our fight or flight response.  This has some positive roles in recovery as it is parasympathetic (rest and digest nervous system) by nature.  I use GABA in my practice to help improve sleep quality in clients.  GABA’s ability to elicit a response from our parasympathetic nervous system, improve sleep quality, and increase resting and post-exercise growth hormone definitely makes it sound appealing.

The reviews for phenibut online are outstanding.  Depending on what site you look at reviews range from 4 to 5 stars.  People rave about its ability to increase their recovery between workouts as well as phenibut’s ability to increase sleep and mood.  Some people claim that it cured their anxiety and insomnia.

Research has backed up these claims, but warns of the mitigating positive effects of continued use and risk of addiction.  Liftmode phenibut addresses this on their label and recommends that people do not use phenibut more than twice per week as there is risk associated with this as well as drawbacks to its positive effects.

Online retailers are selling phenibut between $13 and $30 depending on how much of it you are wishing to purchase.  This is relatively cheap for a supplement that might have such positive effects on our recovery and mood.

I think phenibut is worth a try with a few caveats.  If you suffer from mental illness, or are on any mood medications I would recommend staying away from phenibut.  However, if you are healthy and having a hard time recovering from hard workouts it may be worth a try.  I would not take phenibut more than twice per week due to the risk associated with addiction and also for the drawback in the positive effects of the supplement.  Maybe take it only on days where you are performing Max effort work in the gym.


(1). Med Sci Sports Exerc. 2008 Jan;40(1):104-10.

(2). CNS Drug Rev. 2001 Winter;7(4):471-81.

(3). (The FASEB Journal. 2012;26:672.6)

(4).  BMJ Case Reports 2013; doi:10.1136/bcr-2012-008381