Ask a group of neurohackers which are the best nootropics and youll get a symphony of opinions. But when you drill down to what people are taking every day you start to see a pattern.
Experienced biohackers working on cognitive enhancement find its easier to focus their brain hacking goals into a few well-defined categories. Then look for the best nootropic to address each one.
One thing we learn quickly in the biohacking community is that there is no one-pill solution to cognitive optimization. We soon find that it takes a stack of several supplements to get to where we want to go.
And our list looks something like this
Best Nootropics for
Cognition, Decision-Making, Focus, Flow, & Thinking
Acetyl-L-Carnitine, Aniracetam, CDP-Choline, Lions Mane, NALT, Noopept, B-Complex
Learning & Memory
Aniracetam, Bacopa Monnieri, CDP-Choline, DHA, L-Theanine, Noopept, Phosphatidylserine, Pine Bark Extract
Anxiety & Depression
Aniracetam, CDP-Choline, Bacopa Monnieri, Rhodiola Rosea, Sulbutiamine, B-Complex, Lithium Orotate
Energy & Motivation
Acetyl-L-Carnitine, Alpha Lipoic Acid, CDP-Choline, Rhodiola, CoQ10, PQQ
Brain Repair & Maintenance
Acetyl-L-Carnitine, Aniracetam, CDP-Choline, DHA, Phosphatidylserine, Noopept, Vinpocetine, Rhodiola Rosea, Pine Bark Extract, Lithium Orotate
I have my favorite nootropics after 12-years of trial and error. And chances are that what works for me may work well for you too. The nootropics Im talking about here are part of the stack I use every day.
Youll notice in the categories above that some nootropics work in multiple areas of cognitive enhancement. The obvious benefit is fewer nootropics in a well-rounded stack.
And once you dive into the neuroscience behind each nootropic, youll find synergy on how many of these compounds work together. This extends to smaller doses of each for a bigger benefit.
Brain optimization comes with a lot of experimenting to find what works best. Trying different compounds, keeping a log of what works and how well, and a considerable investment.
Naturally, Im on the lookout for how to save money without cutting corners. So once Ive narrowed my stack choices, the search begins for a quality pre-made nootropic stack that will save me buying individual packs, tubs of powder or capsules.
Fortunately, I found the best pre-made nootropic stack in late 2015 which covered the bulk of the nootropics Id selected for my stack. Its called Mind Lab Pro.
Ill talk more about Mind Lab Pro in a few minutes and how it ties into my brain hacking goals.
The company that makes MLP just recently introduced a new line of supplements called Performance Lab. Offering even more options for brain optimization. More on that later as well.
Before I get into detail on how my stack works, here are what many neurohackers consider the best nootropics available today.
For a more detailed dive into how to build the best nootropic stack, check my other posts:
Beginners Guide to Nootropic Stacks
How to Create the Best Nootropic Stack
Here well do a quick review on building a great nootropic stack.
The more we learn about some of nootropics that have been used for thousands of years for cognitive enhancement. The more we realize these natural compounds are often as good as or better than modern prescription medications.
As you gain experience, youll also come to realize that some pre-made nootropic stacks simply dont make sense. Amounts are well below therapeutic doses to expect any reasonable kind of benefit.
And understand that no one is a master of the science and art of nootropics. Dont believe anything I have to say. Find out for yourself if something is true. And change course when you need to if you want to achieve your neurohacking goals.
Next, well take a closer look at each of the nootropics I recommend and use every day.
Each of the nootropics covered below contain links through to a complete and thorough report. When you click through to each individual nootropic supplement review youll find more detail on what it is, why we use it as a nootropic, how it feels, mechanism of action in the brain, side effects, forms available and recommended doses.
Youll also notice in the table above and each nootropic listed below some are marked with an asterisk (*). This means it is part of the Mind Lab Pro formula of two capsules per day.
Each of these nootropics are generally regarded as safe and non-toxic at recommended doses. Your mileage may vary. How you respond to each of these compounds depends on a host of variables including:
So please click through to each nootropic and read the side effects, prescription drug interactions and any other notes or warnings. But in general, these are among the safest cognitive enhancers we know of.
Read more about Nootropics Safety and Side Effects
ALCAR helps transport of fatty acids into mitochondria where theyre needed for energy metabolism.[i] Fueling your cells power plants can boost physical and mental energy.
ALCAR is a necessary ingredient for acetylcholine formation.[ii] Which boosts memory, mental alertness, and fluid thought.
The antioxidant properties of Acetyl-L-Carnitine provide neuroprotective qualities, boosts Brain-Derived Nerve Growth Factor (BDNF) and promotes cerebral blood circulation.
Aniracetam is one of the best nootropics available today. Its well-known among experienced nootropics users for reducing anxiety, depression, fear and improving sociability.[iii] But it does so much more.
Aniracetam enhances your brains ability to repair damaged cell membranes. It desensitizes glutamate (AMPA) receptors in your brain.[iv] Which boosts neural signaling by increasing the effectiveness of glutamate. Resulting in better focus and concentration.
Aniracetam also improves memory and recall by releasing 200 300% more acetylcholine in the brain.[v] Which increases focus, and clarity of thought.
Bacopa Monnieri is one of the best nootropics for studying. Researchers at Banaras Hindu University in India showed Bacopa as effective for anxiety as the benzodiazepine drug lorazepam. Unlike benzodiazepines, Bacopa did not cause memory loss. But in fact, it boosted cognition.[vi]
Another study done in Portland Oregon demonstrated that 300 mg of Bacopa per day for 12 weeks:
A valuable addition to any great nootropic stack, CDP-Choline is a multitasker which improves cognition and brain function, improves focus and motivation, and reduces fatigue.
CDP-Choline aids in the synthesis of acetylcholine, and the release of dopamine.[viii] Both neurotransmitters involved in learning and memory.
CDP-Choline also helps in the repair of brain cell membranes. The cytidine in CDP-Choline converts to uridine in your body. And works as a bridge between choline and neuron membrane synthesis. Uridine is needed to synthesize phosphatidylcholine (PC) which is needed to repair damaged neuron membranes.[ix]
Choline is so vital to cognition and nerve function that without it, we couldnt move, think, sleep or remember anything. And one the best ways to provide your brain and body with the choline it needs is supplementing with CDP-Choline.
DHA (docosahexaenoic acid) is an omega-3 fatty acid. DHA is crucial for the healthy structure and function of your brain. Your brain is made up of 60% fat. And much of that fat is DHA.
DHA can turn on brain-derived neurotropic factor (BDNF). Improving neuroplasticity leading to better learning and memory. And DHA acts as an anti-inflammatory by reducing the enzyme COX-2.
If you suffer from chronic depression, within a few weeks of adding DHA to your nootropic stack, you should feel the depression lift. Your cognition will be better. Youll think clearer and quicker. Your memory and ability to learn will improve. And youll likely have more energy and motivation.
But it is very likely you wont think to attribute these improvements to adding DHA to your stack. Something else will get the credit.
Lions Mane Mushroom is an ancient Chinese remedy for improving cognitive performance, and overall health.
In our modern world, Lions Mane makes it into some of the best nootropic stacks. Why?
Because Lions Mane stimulates enzyme production that releases Nerve Growth Factor (NGF).[x] It stimulates the repair and creation of neurons (neurogenesis). Boosting neurotransmitters and signaling that effects memory, learning, recall, and mood. And Lions Mane helps eliminate brain fog. Restoring memory and mental alertness. And lowers anxiety and depression symptoms.[xi]
Lions Mane is a great compliment to any nootropic stack including Aniracetam, CDP-Choline and DHA (Omega-3s) for an immediate cognitive boost.
Lithium is an alkali mineral considered essential for human reproductive health, and general health and wellness. Microdosing lithium using Lithium Orotate has become one of the best additions Ive made to my nootropic stack in years.
Lithium calms you by decreasing sensitivity of post-synaptic norepinephrine receptors.[xii] Preventing the release of this neurotransmitter for fast stabilization of mood and reducing aggression.
Lithium upregulates brain-derived neurotrophic factor (BDNF), nerve growth factor (NGF), neurotrophin-3 (NT3) and their receptors. And lithium stimulates the proliferation of stem cells in the brain. All boosting neurogenesis and assisting in repair from all types of brain injury.[xiii]
Lithium increases brain gray matter, increases DNA replication for neurogenesis, prevents apoptosis, increases N-acetyl-aspartate (NAA), inhibits beta-amyloid secretion and protects against damage once its formed, chelates aluminum, and protects against glutamate toxicity.
Lithium provides a calming effect in healthy people as well as those dealing with depression, bipolar disorder and mania.
Adequate levels of lithium have been shown to reduce suicide risk in multiple studies worldwide.
Some say Lithium Orotate works better than any prescription that theyve ever tried to treat severe depression.
Lithium Orotate could be one of the most effective and least expensive additions to your nootropic stack this year. Highly recommended.
N-Acetyl L-Tyrosine produces the catecholamine-triad of neurotransmitters dopamine, norepinephrine and epinephrine. As your dopamine levels increase, youre better able to concentrate, organize your thoughts, and stay productive.
NALT can be an effective treatment for ADHD symptoms. NALT works in synergy with pharmaceutical drugs like Ritalin and Adderall by boosting extracellular levels of dopamine. Helping these drugs be more effective. And mitigating side effects like crashes when the stimulant wears off.
N-Acetyl L-Tyrosine also improves memory and cognition under acute stress.[xiv] It helps improve decision making, flow state and creativity, cognitive flexibility, and working memory.
NALT is a great addition to any nootropic stack, especially if youre dealing with ADHD or ADD.
For more tips on how to deal with ADHD and ADD symptoms, see my post:Best Nootropics for ADHD/ADD
Noopept is a peptide-derived nootropic related to the racetam-family of nootropics. Much more potent than piracetam (up to 1,000X), its mechanism of action in your brain is similar to other racetams.
Noopept seems to stimulate dopamine, nicotinic, and serotonin receptors. It boosts cognition, memory, retention, logical thinking, improves reflexes, and improves mood.
Noopept has also been shown to increase Brain Derived Neurotrophic Factor (BDNF) and Nerve Growth Factor (NGF). Both critically important for memory formation and brain repair.[xv]
And we have clinical evidence that Noopept boosts Alpha and Beta brain wave activity.[xvi] You become calmer and more creative. Its easier to go into flow. And you are more prone to making innovative and resourceful decisions.
For more tips on supporting flow, see my post:
How to Hack Your Flow State with Nootropics
Phosphatidylserine is one of the best nootropics because:
Phosphatidylserine (PS) is arguably one of the most effective and important nootropics we have available today. It has a reputation for improving alertness, attention, cognition, memory, recall and mood.[xvii]
Pine Bark Extract is one of the best nootropics around but relatively unknown to the nootropic community. Its a naturally derived standardized extract of French maritime pine bark.
Pine Bark Extract helps prevent decreases in dopamine, norepinephrine, and the glutathione (GSH) and GSH-disulphide reductase (GSSG-R) ratio. Neurotransmitter problems which contribute to hyperactivity in ADHD.[xviii]
Pine Bark Extract helps boost blood flow to and within your brain.[xix] By increasing nitric oxide (NO) which helps dilate blood vessels. And helping repair and maintain the health of the lining of blood vessels. Crucial to overall brain health, maintaining signaling pathways and leading to improved learning and memory.
And Pine Bark Extract prevents accumulation of oxidatively damaged proteins. And may reduce the risk of diseases like Parkinsons, Alzheimers, and Huntingtons.
In Russia, Rhodiola Rosea is widely used as a remedy for fatigue, poor concentration, and decreased memory. Its also believed to make workers more productive.
As one of the best nootropics around, this adaptogen helps reduce stress and fatigue, increase energy, alertness and stamina, while boosting mental performance under periods of chronic stress.
Research shows Rhodiola Rosea can increase attention to detail-oriented tasks by improving concentration over a prolonged period. Making it one of the best nootropics for studying.
Rhodiola Rosea boosts mood by influencing serotonin and norepinephrine levels in your brain, and the feel-good opioids like beta-endorphins. It also helps in neurogenesis by repairing and growing new neurons. As well as activating the synthesis and re-synthesis of ATP, your body and brain cells main energy source.
One more reason to add Rhodiola Rosea to your nootropic stack it helps reduce the inflammatory C-reactive protein. And salidroside, one of many components of this incredible herb, protects neurons from oxidative stress-induced cell death.
Sulbutiamine is one of the best nootropics in my stack. Its a synthetic derivative of Vitamin B1 (thiamine). Two Vitamin B1 molecules joined together helps thiamine more easily cross the blood-brain barrier.
Sulbutiamine is directly involved in the citric acid cycle that provides adenosine triphosphate (ATP) energy for your mitochondria. It has been shown to improve glutamatergic, cholinergic, and dopaminergic neurological transmissions. It may also increase the density of D1 dopamine receptors.[xx]
Sulbutiamine also contributes to the production of the enzyme PDH which is essential in making the neurotransmitter acetylcholine.
I love this nootropic because it boosts cognition, memory, decision-making, improves athletic performance, reduces chronic fatigue[xxi] and erectile dysfunction,[xxii] and is one of the best antidepressants Ive ever used.[xxiii]
L-Theanine is an amino acid which naturally occurs in green and oolong tea. Many consider it the best nootropic when combined with caffeine for the synergistic effect of lowering blood pressure, rejuvenate and relax, boost thinking ability, improve focus and change your mood.
This amazing amino acid:
Most neurohackers report a calming effect within 30 45 minutes of taking L-Theanine. Cognition gets a boost, and energy levels rise without the jitteriness caused by stimulants like caffeine.
Some report L-Theanine has stopped their anxiety and panic attacks. (Just dont combine it with anti-anxiety meds like Xanax).
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