TruBrain is a nootropic "stack" developed to increase productivity and peak cognitive performance. It comes in both drinks and capsules, but the drink package is the most accessible way to try out this high-end nootropic supplement. TruBrain is unique in that it comes in three different formulations to take at different times of day.
TruBrain Morning is designed to get you up and ready to go in the morning, TruBrain Afternoon keeps your energy levels high when you hit the post-lunch sag, and TruBrain Boost is reserved for when you really need a kick in the pants for some late-night studying or afterhours project work.
TruBrain keeps the individual formulations secret—the nutrition label only lists the aggregate ingredients in a morning and afternoon supplement packet. Still, we can learn a lot from what's in the product as a whole.
The formulation is built around brain fuel—there are omega-3 fatty acids, amino acids, and proven cognitive-sharpening compounds.
TruBrain contains a solid 200 mg of the omega-3 fatty acid DHA, which is suspected to have a role in promoting brain health; however, research thus far has come up empty-handed. A 2008 study in the journal Neurology found that 26 weeks of omega-3 fatty acid supplementation in 300 elderly subjects had no effect on cognitive performance (1).
That's far from the only important ingredient in TruBrain, however. Of greater interest to nootropic fans are potentially its most potent ingredients, piracetam and oxiracetam. These are two chemically related compounds that are suspected to have a substantial nootropic effect. A 1999 study by researchers in Germany found that a piracetam treatment over the course of six weeks in aged rats restored cognitive performance to pre-aging levels (2).
This was confirmed not only on performance testing, but on biological tests conducted after the rats were euthanized. After administration of piracetam, the rats had higher levels of specific neuroreceptors in specific locations in the brain. To date, human studies are lacking, but piracetam and its sister compound oxiracetam look promising.
As with many other nootropics, TruBrain also supplies the amino acids tyrosine and theanine. Tyrosine (listed as L-tyrosine on the label) is used to build neurotransmitters, compounds your brain uses to send signals across neurons.
Provide more of these raw building blocks, the logic goes, and your brain will have more fuel to work faster. Tyrosine seems to help improve cognitive performance under stress: a 1994 study by J.B. Deijen and J.F. Orlebeke at Vrije Universiteit in The Netherlands found that 16 subjects performed better on cognitive testing done with 90 dB background noise (a stressor that is known to negatively impact cognitive performance). After tyrosine administration, cognitive task performance was improved versus a placebo (3).
Theanine is suspected to play a role in the health benefits associated with green tea, and it seems to have strong activity with neurotransmitter receptors in the brain (the structures that "receive" the signals sent by the neurotransmitters).
Clearly, several of the ingredients in TruBrain have effects that promote cognitive function. One interesting angle to consider is how they interact with each other. This is usually impossible to answer, since there are so many potential supplement combinations and permutations that they are usually not well-researched, but in the case of TruBrain, a few interactions are known.
Interestingly, the cognitive benefits of the amino acid theanine seem to work synergistically with the known benefits of caffeine.
A study by Peter Rodgers and other researchers at the University of Bristol in the United Kingdom found that caffeine and theanine seem to counterbalance each other—caffeine alone can cause jitteriness and anxiety, but when theanine is added, blood pressure is lowered. Cognitive performance was similar, meaning the theanine didn't counteract the positive alertness-boosting effects of caffeine (4).
This means that you should probably opt for the caffeinated version of TruBrain if you want optimal effects. It does come in an uncaffeinated form, but in this case you'd be relying more on the piracetam and oxiracetam to provide benefits.
From the list of ingredients as a whole, it's clear that the primary goal of TruBrain is to directly augment your brain's performance—tuning it up and topping off its neurotransmitter "fuel" to allow better performance on cognitively demanding tasks.
It's not so much for better quality sleep, higher overall energy levels, or improving your mood. It's a thinker's supplement, through and through.
As a caffeinated supplement, TruBrain is bound to have many of the same side effects as other caffeinated drinks—jitteriness, irritability, interference with sleep. Make sure you take the drink packets in the correct order—the "morning" blend likely has more caffeine, and the "boost" packet almost assuredly has a good amount. Save the boosts for when you know you're going to be up late.
The good news is that Rodgers et al.'s research suggests that theanine might dampen some of the negative effects of caffeine, helping you mellow out and feel less jittery.
As for the other ingredients, most are generally recognized as safe, meaning they're found in abundance in natural foods anyways. The only major exceptions are piracetam and oxiracetam; these are not typical food ingredients.
Piracetam appears to be quite safe; a large study of almost 1000 patients prescribed piracetam for treating a stroke found no statistically significant incidence of adverse effects compared to a placebo (5).
Oxiracetam appears similarly safe; a 1982 study that used a tremendously high dose (2.4 grams per day!) found no negative side effects (6).
The Bottom Line
Though there's no major research on TruBrain itself, most of the compounds included in it have at least some scientific evidence indicating that they can boost cognitive function.
TruBrain is designed as a direct upgrade to your brain's performance: it's best for promoting focus, memory, concentration, and thinking power.
The ingredients are solid, and the risk of side effects is quite low. The only ingredient with well-known side effects is plain old caffeine, which is probably the oldest nootropic known to mankind. The only real downside? The cost. TruBrain is definitely on the expensive side.