Nootropics (or smart drugs) are dietary supplements that helps support certain brain functions, such as memory, mental speed, and focus.
For more advanced smart drug users who want intense focus, Optimind is the gold standard:
For Optimind, make sure you take it in the morning or early afternoon, cause the stuff will have you dialed in for several hours.
(unless you're like me and enjoy late-night scheming with a "boost")
For beginners, go with Alpha Brain.
To paraphrase the definition of “nootropic” as initially coined in this article by the researcher Girugea in 1972 (1), it is something that improves cognition without appreciable side effects, or provides from protection to the brain.
And since the release of the movie Limitless, its popularity has exploded. You wanted to pop a pill, turn your brain into a god-like computer?
If you're like me, you know there's no such thing.... Or is there?
So before you jump into this article thinking it's another "tell me which magic pill to take and become Einstein", you better take a step back.
No matter what people take, without basic nutrition and training principles in place, nootropics are limited to what they have to offer. That being said, there are some compounds and supplements out there, that can offer you the slight edge.
However, did you know that the effects of these smart drugs are not limited to boosting intelligence alone? Well, nootropics offer a host of many practical benefits that will surely help you on health goals and daily activities.
Cancer, mainly, is caused by free radicals that became cancerous over time.
Multiple studies done across the globe have demonstrated that green tea is one the most potent cancer fighting agents along with the phytochemical anthocyanin.
Researches have also shown that cancer risk is increased for individuals with high levels of cortisol from continuous stress. As you already know at this point one of the primary things that Nootropics do most consistently is decrease stress and regulate cortisol levels to a happy medium.
Neuroplasticity is the brain's amazing capacity to change and adapt. It refers to the physiological changes in the brain that happen as the result of our interactions with our environment; from the time the brain begins to develop in utero until the day we die. The connections among the cells in our brains reorganize in response to our changing needs. It also allows you to adapt to difficult situations, make new friends, and recover from brain trauma.
The essential building blocks of basic neuroplasticity components (synaptic connections and brain cells) are fatty amino compounds. Fatty amine compounds can be provided by natural nootropic agents such as vitamin B-12, krill oil and omega 3-fish oil.
Supplementing with those nootropics can help the brain better adapt to difficult situations while protecting it from age-related and environmental damage. Speaking of age...
Nootropics help in maintaining and balancing your brain chemicals resulting to a healthy psyche. Studies have shown that some nootropic supplements including DHA, alpha GPC, 5-HTP, DMAE and piracetam can help in preventing, treating and sometimes curing psychological problems such as anxiety, depression and schizophrenia (2).
Aging is an inevitable occurrence to humans. It is caused by oxidative stress and sometimes results in certain degenerative brain conditions such as dementia, Alzheimer’s disease, geriatric cognitive problems and post-stroke aphasia.
Thankfully there is good news.
The undesirable effects of aging and its associated conditions can be prevented, treated and sometimes, reversed through the supplementation of nootropic agents (yes, you read that correctly.)
This is because certain nootropics have neuroprotective properties and can keep your brain healthy and young. Some of the nootropics that aid in slowing down brain aging include DMAE, bacopa, L-carnitine, alpha GPC, piracetam and L-tyrosine.
What is the largest sexual organ in the body?
Hint: It’s not below the belt.
It’s your brain!
Because libido and sexual performance are affected by social, psychological and biological factors, your brain plays an integral role in sexual processes.
As such, maintaining a healthy brain and taking nootropic agents that can otherwise increase sex drive may be useful in increasing libido and sexual performance. My favorite nootropics to become a stallion in the bedroom include alpha GPC, aniracetam, ginkgo biloba, ginseng and L-tyrosine.
Although the majority of nootropic users enjoy the “energy boost” from nootropics most some are actually able to help in promoting better sleep. For instance, nootropic precursors of acetylcholine help in promoting REM (the restful type) sleep. DMAE on the other hand induces lucid dreaming (3). 5-HTP and melatonin help in normalizing sleep patterns and improving the overall quality.
Without adequate sleep your body is in chaos. In our 24/7 society, sleep nootropics are the answer to the question everyone's asking; how can more/better sleep.
Yep, you’ve read that right! Nootropic agents can help in preventing obesity through various mechanisms. Certain nootropics (alpha GPC, green tea) increase metabolism, energy and even block the “overeating signal” in your body.
Other nootropics (caffeine) promote focus and discourage hunger. In general however, nootropics tend to promote a healthy focused lifestyle ensuring that you aren’t spending multiple hours a day eating a pint of ben and jerry’s half baked ice cream while watching reruns of friends (we both know you’re guilty).
Nootropic agents also help in promoting an abundance of creativity on demand.
Whether you need to finish a very important paper (which you left to the very last minute) or you need some out there ideas for a blog post, smart drugs can help in improving your verbal fluency, writing dexterity and creativity.
Some nootropic supplements that can help in inducing these effects include piracetam, and L-theanine.
Acetylcholine is a neurotransmitter important in communicating your muscles and the grey matter of your brain (5). A 1996 Australian Study and a 2004 paper published in Powerlifting USA Magazine showed strong correlation between athletic performance and acetylcholine.
A very important job of Nootropic substances is to boost the primary neurotransmitter Acetylcholine. Several smart drugs that are able to promote good coordination between your body and mind include choline, alpha GPC and DMAE.
Nootropic can help in increasing and balancing out vital brain chemicals that play a large role in feeling outgoing and sociable (even if you are extremely introverted).
Like Bradley Cooper in the movie Limitless, increasing and balancing your neurotransmitters and creativity will naturally make you more confident and outgoing in social, dating and business situations. The go to “social” nootropic is phenibut; however you cannot take it everyday.
Racetams, the grandaddy of nootropics, are synthetic stimulants designed to improve brain function. And while there is much controversy, there are plenty of studies out there that point to its benefits.
One study, published in the journal Psychopharmacology, found that Piracetam improved memory in most adult volunteers (4).
Another study, published in the British Journal of Pharmacology, suggests brain function in elderly patients can be greatly improved after regular dosing with Piracetam (5).
Lastly another study, published in the Journal of Clinical Psychopharmacology, suggests it can help students, especially dyslexic students, improve their nonverbal learning skills, like reading ability and reading comprehension (6).
The first time I ever experimented with nootropics, I almost vomited. I had never tasted something so foul in my life. However the benefits far outweighed the bitter taste so I sucked it up.
Little did I know, there are various ways of coping with the taste to either mask it entirely or make the powders palatable.
The best ways I have found are too mix it with juice or to simply buy capsules. And while capsules may be an economically poor investment, they make up for it with their convenience and ease of dosing.
Choline is a nutrient that’s important for liver function, muscle movement, normal brain development, maintaining a healthy metabolism and supporting energy levels.
Now choline is the precursor of acetylcholine. Acetylcholine is the neurotransmitter responsible for remembering, comprehension and learning (7).
The go to nootropic for choline is Alpha GPC. Alpha GPC efficiently and quickly moves choline into the brain where it is readily used to increase neurotransmitter levels such as GABA, serotonin and dopamine. Furthermore it can stimulate new growth of brain cells.
Of all the smart drugs in the world, Modafinil is most often touted as the best. It’s great for boosting alertness, cognition and has very few, mild side effects.
Seems to only get more popular over time:
One study, by researchers at Imperial College London, even showed that Modafinil helped sleep-deprived surgeons become better planners, focus, and being less impulsive when making important decisions (8).
That being said, its long-term effects have yet to be studied (since its relatively new). Furthermore it is a prescription drug in which its off label use, is cognitive enhancement; thus getting your hands on some, certainly isn’t walk in the park.
A nootropic post wouldn’t be complete without covering the infamous adderall.
Adderall is a stimulant drug, engineered to treat symptoms related to ADHD. However it illegal, off label use of cognitive enhancement is well known and wide spread.
Unfortunately, while they may promote focus and energy in some people, others have dramatic side effect, to body and brain. Smart drugs in the stimulant class also tend to be addictive, producing spikes in dopamine and norepinephrine.
This leads to tolerance and habit formation, including adverse effects on appetite, mood stability, cardiac function, stress levels and possibly many other unwanted effects – especially on younger brains such as teens and young adults (9).
Mornings are the most valuable part of someone’s day and nootropics allow you to extract the maximum productivity out of this golden 4-6 hours you have everyday.
Instead of coffee, opt for nootropics, which will kick-in like a shot of adrenaline given by god himself.
The best part is that you won’t need another cup every 2 hours or so to maintain energy and focus.
DHA could be the single most vital nutrient that you need for optimal brain function. It is one type of omega-3 essential fatty acid and is a major building block of the brain that is responsible for the cerebral cortex.
Another important DHA function is that increases the “talking” between brain cells, keeping you healthy and every system running smoothly. This is the reason it’s imperative you supplement with omega 3 fish oil every single day.
If we are going to use a metaphor here, let’s use cooking. The dish would be the nootropic stack and the individual ingredients; spices and oils are the nootropics.
More spices and ingredients can yield a better dish. That being said you can over do it and ruin the meal.
The same goes for nootropics. More isn’t necessarily better, thus it would behove you to do your research. To dip your toes in the water, try a choline + piracetam stack or caffeine + L-theanine (my favourite).
Creatine? What? Yep, creatine is an extremely well-studied supplement that is mainly known for assisting in building muscle mass and strength. Don’t worry ladies, creatine won’t turn you into a walking hulk, but rather make you much more intelligent.
Studies have demonstrated that supplementing your diet with creatine, will improve your short-term memory and reasoning skills, which suggests that this is both a great brain and performance booster a.k.a. a nootropic (13).
It is also extremely cheap, thus it’s worth your while to pick some up.
While not primarily a nootropic, coffee does have similar properties which makes it a pseudo nootropic.
A large study was published in 2012 wherein researchers analyzed the coffee consumption of over 400,000 people. It was discovered that people who consumed the most coffee generally lived longer than those that drank less or none(14).
Furthermore the more they drank, the longer they lived (15). So if you start your morning off with a cup of Joe, keep at it!
Worldwide, bosses and co-workers alike loathe the mid-afternoon body and energy lull; you know, that sensation of needing a nap in middle of the day when you know you should be doing your best work.
Nootropics like B-vitamins, piracetam and caffeine (with L-theanine) will help you give you a strong surge of mental energy throughout toughest of afternoons and keep you performing at your best even after the clock strikes 5.
The benefits of nootropics are limitless. We are lucky to be born in a time where medical science has provided us the opportunity to feel better, get an edge or recover quicker by just popping a pill or taking a sip.
It’s time you unlocked your brain’s true potential and invested in nootropics.
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