There is a lot of information out there on Nootropics. It’s even debated what makes a substance fit into the nootropic category. The broad definition is anything that enhances cognitive ability and increases the ability of your mitochondria. So essentially nootropics are substances that allow you to rock whatever it is you want to rock.
Below is a breakdown of nootropics to take to bump up your brain’s ability to perform and your mitochondria’s ability to make your brain and body perform better. And no, this isn’t an all-encompassing list of everything; it is simply the quick and dirty of what to take if you are looking to start down the path of nootropics…which I highly recommend since we all want to be everyday rock stars. Read our ultimate nootropics guide.
How to start rocking it:
Is a fast acting, fat-soluble, highly bioavailable nootropic that is within the racetam family (there are 7 main racetams total) that increases blood flow to the brain which promotes holistic thinking, meaning it allows you to put pieces of the mental puzzle together much more efficiently. This improves learning, memory building, and memory retrieval. It can also help improve mood (decreases depression and anxiety) and help stave off mental decline. You can get headaches with racetams so take with a dose of choline such as from eggs or Alpha-GPC.
|Dosing: I personally take Pure Nootropics Aniracetam capsules (750 mg) along with Jarrow Formulas Alpha GPC capsules (300 mg) and Muscle Pharm Carnitine Core capsules (1000 mg). I take one of each capsule 2x/day.|
2. Acetyl-L-Carnitine (ALCAR):
This is a pretty well-rounded nootropic. Our bodies do make ALCAR and we can get it from animal protein, but supplementation has a lot of benefits, both physical and mental. ALCAR is highly bioavailable and well tolerated by most. ALCAR is able to cross the blood-brain barrier and therefore can lessen mental fatigue while improving overall cognitive function and learning ability. It possesses antioxidant properties and can prevent and repair damage to brain cells caused by free radicals while reducing toxins in the brain. Also as we get older, ALCAR can slow dementia and memory loss. It is also effective in the elderly (as well as younger folk) to boost mood and act as an antidepressant.Choline enhances ALCAR’s capabilities and ALCAR compliments racetams abilities too (these 3 do make a nice combo). ALCAR is also good for the body as it improves metabolism efficiency and reduces blood pressure and insulin resistance.
3. Modafinil (Provigil) and Adrafinil:
Adrafinil is a precursor to Modafinil. Adrafinil is considered a prodrug, meaning it’s the inactive form of a drug that is metabolized into an active form of a drug, in this case that is Modafinil. So why not just skip taking Adrafinil and go straight for the Modafinil? Well mostly because around here you can’t get Modafinil without a prescription. It is usually only prescribed if you have narcolepsy or shift work sleep disorder. So what exactly are Adrafinil and Modafinil? Both are considered synthetic stimulants that don’t produce amphetamine-like effects like Adderall does. Modafinil is often compared with Adderall, which is a combo of amphetamines, but they are definitely not the same thing and in no way do I recommend taking Adderall. Both Adrafinil and Modafinil are taken to promote alertness and wakefulness and can help people focus and complete tasks. However, they are not intended to be taken every day. Also note that because Adrafinil is a prodrug, it needs the liver to metabolize it into Modafinil. This action makes it hard on the liver. So, if you can’t get Modafinil, and take Adrafinil instead, don’t take it every day by any means, and also help boost your liver health with some milk thistle (wild artichoke) or dandelion root. Artichoke extract, which isn’t the same thing as milk thistle, can also help improve liver function. More on artichoke extract below.
|Dosing: I personally take Pure Nootropics Adrafinil capsules (300 mg) on days I know will be full of stress, long hours, and require a lot of focus.|
Is a non-dietary amino acid that is relaxing but not sedating. It works synergistically with stimulants, like caffeine (which is also considered a nootropic by some), to get the stimulant boost with the edge knocked off by the L-theanine. Doing this allows you to increase response time, memory retention, and mental stamina. L-theanine can be consumed by taking supplements or through drinking green tea (the only dietary source of L-Theanine). It does work nicely to consume it by drinking green tea (Camellia sinensis) as the tea also has the benefits of catechins and caffeine. The overall benefits of L-theanine include relaxation, perceived stress reduction, and attention (focus) promotion. L-Theanine also positively regulates nitric oxide, which has cardiovascular health benefits.
Dosing: I personally take Now Foods L-Theanine capsules (200 mg). I pop one with my morning coffee on days I need intense focusing capabilities and a little stress reduction.
That’s nicotine, not cigarettes or chewing tobacco. They are not the same thing. Do NOT smoke or chew, it’s really freaking bad for you! Now that I am done with my PSA, let’s move on to nicotine.
Caffeine and nicotine are in the same chemical family and act as defense mechanisms in plants to keep from being eaten. There are several plants that make nicotine in order to defend themselves. While yes, tobacco is the most famous of these plants to make and store nicotine, nightshades like tomatoes and potatoes do the same. Even cauliflower has traces of it, and you can’t go anywhere without hearing how awesome that stuff is for you (btw: I love cauliflower, just making a point).
Nicotine can be harmful to little animals, but that doesn’t include us unless we take extremely high doses, then it becomes toxic and maybe even lethal. In case you are wondering, the standard consensus is that a lethal dose of nicotine is 0.8mg/kg (30-60 mg –depending on the size of the person). To put that into perspective, if you choose to ingest nicotine by using the gum: 1 piece of standard purchased at your local supercenter store with no prescription needed nicotine gum comes in doses of either 2 or 4mg. However, there are studies that claim that it would actually take 0.5 grams (500 mg) of nicotine to kill a healthy adult, but do NOT try this at home.
Nicotine also causes vasoconstriction. This can be damaging to blood vessels and create cardiovascular complications, especially with prolonged, continuous use. I have warned you about nicotine, so be cautious on dosing and don’t use it every day! Use common sense when taking nicotine, and in fact, use common sense with anything you decide to ingest, nootropic or otherwise.
Nicotine definitely has a lot of benefits. It can be used to make us more attentive, improve short-term memory, motor function and response time, as well as suppress appetite and enhance pleasure, all thanks to the nicotinic receptors in our brain. Yep, our brain actually has little receptors made for nicotine, so it is ready to handle and use this stuff.
Dosing: I personally take 1mg doses by using Equate Brand (it’s from Walmart) nicotine gum. It comes in 2 mg dose pieces of gum; I just bite in half, tuck up in my cheek and enjoy the focus it allows me. I don’t use this very often, but when I do I can see a real difference in mindful task productivity.
Side Note: don’t actually chew the gum or swallow it…you will get a stomachache…so be careful.
6. Bacopa Monnieri:
Is a herb well known in the Ayurveda world of medicine. It’s a naturally derived plant adaptogen and helps manage stress and anxiety and therefore improves overall cognition and brings about mental alertness while improving mood. Some of the effects of Bacopa Monnieri aren’t felt immediately. Often continuous use is needed to feel an improvement in mental ability, although the stress management and mood improvements do not seem to take as long. Bacopa may suppress sperm production, but not testosterone levels and sex drive. So if you are trying to conceive, you may want to skip this one.
Dosing: I personally take Himalaya Organic Bacopa/Brahmi capsules (750mg). I take 1 capsule 3x/week in the mornings.
7. Forskolin & artichoke extract:
Coleus forskohlii is an Ayurvedic herb, with its main bioactive ingredient being forskolin. Forskolin is thought to increase testosterone and protect against cancer and inflammation. Forskolin also increases cyclic adenosine monophosphate (cAMP), a molecule necessary for learning and creating memories.
Forskolin is more effective when paired with artichoke extract. Artichoke extract inhibits PDE4 (an enzyme that breaks down cAMP). If you can impede PDE4 you make the cAMP more available, and therefore you can boost our learning, memory, and even your motivation.
Dosing: I personally do not take forskolin & artichoke extract. So I cannot personally vouch for this one or give you the brand I take. However, Bulletproof carries CILTEP, the first commercial combination of artichoke extract and forskolin. Dosing suggestions are to take 1-3 capsules in the morning on an empty stomach.
8. Oxaloacetate (OAA):
Is the everyday name for the molecule 3-carboxy-3-oxopropanoic acid and synonymous with oxaloacetic acid (depending on acidity). OAA is an intermediate of the Krebs Cycle, which in a nutshell is the chemical reactions that occur within the mitochondrial matrix (space between the inner membrane) that release stored energy through oxidation of acetyl-CoA into CO2 and ATP (the energy currency of our cells). Since OAA is an intermediate to the Krebs Cycle, there is thought that supplementing with it will support energy production at the cell level, create new mitochondria, and promote longevity. Also OAA is known as a glutamate scavenger, which is a positive thing, because glutamate (a neurotransmitter) can, if left unchecked, excite your brain cells to death (not a positive thing). So using OAA to scavenge excess glutamate can help eliminate brain fog.
Dosing: I personally do not take OAA. So I cannot personally vouch for this one or give you the brand I take. However, Bulletproof carries KetoPrime, which is a lozenge form of OAA, with some Vitamin C and B12 thrown in. Dosing suggestions are to take 1 lozenge in the morning.
& 10… (& 11). Mitochondrial Stack of Pyrroloquinoline Quinone & Coenzyme Q10 & Nicotinamide Riboside: I put these 3 together because they seem to work best as a stack.
Pyrroloquinoline Quinone (PQQ): Is considered an essential micronutrient, since the body can’t make this stuff. PQQ is significant for both longevity & energy production. It’s critical because PQQ protects against oxidation and stimulates mitochondrial biogenesis where damaged or reduced mitochondria are found.
Coenzyme Q10 (CoQ10): Is a micronutrient that improves mitochondrial health and increases energy production. By doing this it reduces the deteriorating effects of aging that are associated with mitochondrial DNA damage. Both CoQ10 and PQQ are a critical participants in the production of ATP in the mitochondria (think Krebs Cycle again). As a supplement it’s best to take it in the form of Ubiquinol because this is the active form of CoQ10.
Nicotinamide Riboside: Is a distinctive member of the vitamin B-3 group of vitamins and is a precursor to NAD+, which is a critical component of the processes involved in mitochondrial ATP production (yes, the Krebs cycle, again). NAD+ is also a substrate to several enzymes, including a protein family called sirtuins. Sirtuins have various roles with one of them being to promote mitochondrial biogenesis to boost the numbers of mitochondria, including those in the cardiac and muscle cells. By increasing them you improve aerobic endurance.
You probably guessed by now that the creation of mitochondria and the actions of the Krebs Cycle are tremendously vital. Since you have the highest concentration of mitochondria in your brain’s prefrontal cortex and the second highest in your heart, using this stack to improve mitochondrial functions improves your overall capacity both physically and mentally. If you boost the powerhouses of your cells (especially in the brain and heart) then you are essentially turning yourself into one tough, adaptive, fat burning, mentally clear, long living, cancer free beast of a rock star!
Dosing: I personally take Jarrow Formulas Ubiquinol Plus Pyrroloquinoline Quinone capsules (100 mg of Ubiquinol with 10 mg PQQ). I take it with Thorne Research NiaCel (Nicotinamide Riboside Supplement with ChromaDex) capsules (125 mg). I take these 2 capsules together 2x/day.
May your path be clear:
Hopefully, this list is helpful to you and gets you where you need to go. There are so many nootropics out there that you could dedicate your time trying to cover them all and still be continually learning about them. As I mentioned before, many substances, if they enhance your mind and mitochondria, are considered a nootropic, even things like LSD. Yes, even LSD (in micro-doses only) is considered a nootropic. I myself am not that adventurous to start using LSD, plus it’s not exactly legal where I’m from, but many claim it works for them. Just be careful what you choose and listen to your body and mind (and the law).
Things to remember on your path to becoming a rock star:
- The list above is only a quick list to start with. It is definitely not all-encompassing.
- I have suggested (not promoted) brands and doses of nootropics you can try. Feel free to expand your search, but always find a reputable seller that has been 3rd party lab testing and is upfront about their products.
- Take nootropics in pill form (as opposed to free powder form) so you know you are getting the dosing right.
- Start slow and see how you feel. If they make you feel horrible quit taking them!
Once you find what works for you, you will know it and you will feel amazing! So find YOUR nootropic path and go be a rock star in whatever you do!!!
Asprey, D. 2016. Bulletproof. 13 Nootropics to Unlock Your True Brain.
Examine.com. 2017. Examine.com, Inc.
Jamieson, J. 2015. 8 Weeks Out. Conditioning Supplements That Really Work.
Mayer, B. October 4, 2013. National Center for Biotechnology Information. U.S. National Library of Medicine. National Institutes of Health. Archives of Toxicology. How much nicotine kills a human? Tracing back the generally accepted lethal dose to dubious self-experiments in the nineteenth century. V: 88(1). Pages 5-7. doi: 10.1007/s00204-013-1127-0.