Nootropics. Smart supplements of the future?
National Product Specialist
Athletic Alliance Sport Supplements
@garrettyull on instagram
Nootropics are drugs or supplements capable of enhancing cognitive function and preventing cognitive decline. That has to be one of the coolest sounding categories in the nutraceutical world. I mean, we’re talking essentially “smart supplements,” yet so many supplement users have never even heard of nootropics yet alone tried them.
Personally, I can’t imagine my life without them since adding them to my regimen. Nootropics have been an absolute life changer for me. I‘ve dealt with debilitating anxiety and ADD throughout my life and nootropics have helped me rectify that by stimulating the brain for the ADD side of things and soothing the brain for the anxiety side of things.
When I first started experimenting with nootropics, you’d have to buy all the ingredients separately and it was all trial and error. There were a lot of ups and downs along the way. There wasn’t as much research to work off of. Nowadays you can purchase nootropic products that combine a myriad of different ingredients to help you find the sweet spot. It takes the guess work out of it.
The benefits of nootropics are broad spectrum and far-reaching. I call them “quality of life” products as I believe they can truly improve your quality of life. Nootropics are ingredients or products designed to improve cognitive function on one or more fronts. Why then, do we see nootropic ingredients popping up in pre-workouts and fat burners? Not surprisingly, what benefits the mind also often benefits the body. Can you benefit from nootropics? Surely.
Whether you’re looking for an edge in the workplace, on the field or behind the desk, nootropics have you covered. Maybe you’re looking to correct a condition like ADD or anxiety disorders, perhaps just a little more energy to get through your day. If anything about the idea of nootropics appeals to you, I urge you to read on.
With all that’s available in this budding category, there’s sure to be something that appeals to you. What kind of benefits can you expect out of nootropics? A lot! Nootropics can help with memory recall and storage, reflexes, creativity, focus, concentration, articulation, stress and anxiety, reduce/regulate cortisol and improve athletic performance and mind/muscle connection. You just need to choose the right one.
I believe the more complete the offering, the better the choice when it comes to nootropics. But maybe you just want a bit of a boost. Maybe you just want a little bit more of a mind/muscle connection and better focus at the gym. If that’s the case, maybe you don’t need a pure nootropic product. Maybe you’re better off going with a pre-workout that incorporates nootropic ingredients to provide the desired effect. Maybe you’re curious, but fat burning is the higher priority. There are a handful or thermogenics that now include ingredients like Rhodiola Rosea for stress, anxiety, memory and adrenal function. Others contain theanine with their stimulants to aid focus, concentration and minimize the side effects of caffeine and the like.
If full-on nootropics interest you though, go for a well thought out, balanced nootropic formula, something designed to offer as many benefits as possible. You’d be surprised the effect just adding a nootropic can make to your gym performance, body composition and day-to-day function.
Look for clinically validated doses of validated ingredients. There are a number of tried, tested and true ingredients available. Some of my favourites are adaptogens like Rhodiola and Bacopa, acetylcholine boosters like Alpha-GPC and Huperzine-A, natural stimulants like Guarana, calming agents like theanine and GABA and specific amino acids like tyrosine and taurine. All of these tend to have synergistic effects when stacked together, complimenting one another nicely.
Stimulants and theanine – the original nootropic stack. If you’re looking for something basic, you can start off with caffeine and theanine. It helps stimulate and soothe to optimize focus and concentration. Look for natural sources of caffeine like guarana as they often contain synergistic alkaloids like theobromine which also help with alertness. Theanine is naturally occurring in teas and has a non-sedating, relaxing effect, improving attention and reducing symptoms of stress. This mix alone, has impressed many with its simplicity and efficacy.
Alpha-GPC and Huperzine-A – This is another one of my favourite stacks. It works to increase acetylcholine on two fronts, by increasing production of this vital neurotransmitter as well as preventing the breakdown thereof. Acetylcholine is your primary neurotransmitter of the parasympathetic nervous system. Acetylcholine is important to all mental processes, memory and cognition and controls all movements in your body including heart beats, digestion, and you guessed it, lifting weights. You can see why I love this mix so much. Severe depletion of acetylcholine is associated with Alzheimer's disease.
Adaptogens – Adaptogens reduce the effects and markers of stress while also increasing energy levels. In essence they help you find that sweet spot between under and overstimulated and can prove beneficial to nearly everyone. Many have a favourable effect on cortisol, others raise testosterone and many have been shown to have direct benefits to memory and cognition. So not only do these contribute to the cognitive aspects of a nootropic product, but many have benefits to body composition through various mechanisms as well.
My favourite adaptogens for cognitive function are Bacopa and Rhodiola. Both have strong evidence as to the cognitive benefits and bacopa has even been shown to increase nerve ending growth and repair damaged nerve endings. Bacopa has a strong anti-anxiety effect whereas rhodiola is better known for its energy and mood boosting effects. Ashwagandha is another great adaptogen. It’s cognitive boosting effects aren’t as pronounced but it can increase testosterone and has wonderful benefits to energy, stress levels and mood.
Non-adaptogenic herbs – Still some other herbs can prove beneficial in nootropics, ingredients like gingko biloba. Gingko biloba has had a following for quite some time. It’s believed that gingko increases blood flow to the mid and anterior cortexes of the brain improving memory and alleviating cognitive decline. Herbs like passion flower and chamomile have strong calming effects to help tackle anxiety.
Amino acids – Some amino acids have nootropic traits or synergistic effects when stacked with nootropics, amino acids like taurine and tyrosine. Taurine helps with cellular hydration and proper nervous system function, allowing other ingredients to work more effectively. Tyrosine increases dopamine and norepinephrine, increasing energy and elevating mood. Tyrosine may be particularly beneficial to those with ADD which is widely recognized as a lack of catecholamines like dopamine and norepinephrine. Tryptophan increases serotonin aiding in relaxation, elevating mood and improving sleep quality.
With so many options, offering such an array of benefits, you can see why I believe nootropics can be of value to anyone and everyone! Those are just some of my favourites. There’s a whole world of nootropics out there, whether you’re looking for individual ingredients or well thought out stacks.
Choosing the right product – with so many products containing nootropics now available, choosing the right one(s) may seem like a daunting task. It needn’t be. Don’t be shy to ask for help. A Popeye’s employee would happily guide you.
Top things to look for in a pure nootropic:
- Timed-release. Many nootropic ingredients have short-lived effects. Picking a timed-release option can help extend the active life of the product, giving you all the benefits for a longer period of time. This is particularly valuable when you’re taking this for day-to-day performance.
- Know what you want to achieve with your selection. Without knowing what desired effect you’re going for, it’s tough to guide someone or make a selection. It’s okay to want many of the potential benefits. Figure out what’s high priority for you and go from there. If you’re looking for a laundry list of benefits you can stack or…
- Look for a complete, well thought out blend. These are my personal favourite products. The work has been done in terms of choosing and stacking ingredients, and they’re usually formulated to appeal to several different aspects of cognitive function. Because of the synergistic and complimentary effects of the selected ingredients, you not only get a more effective product, but you also get exceptional value. If cost is a factor, a complete, well thought out blend is definitely the way to go.
Top nootropic ingredients to look for in pre-workouts:
- Anything that increases acetylcholine. Personally, my favourite options are Alpha-GPC and huperzine-A but there are other options like Citicoline and choline bitartrate as well. Increasing acetylcholine not only helps get you in the zone, but also helps with mind/muscle connection and muscle fiber recruitment. Additionally, Alpha-GPC cause a sharp increase in growth hormone which may prove beneficial to recovery and body composition.
- Theanine. I don’t know about you, but I don’t like the jittery, shaky feeling I get from many pre-workouts, so I always keep an eye out for this ingredient. It helps increase focus and gets rid of that edgy feeling. Look for a 3:2 ratio of caffeine to theanine to find that sweet spot.
Top nootropic ingredients to look for in fat burners:
- Adaptogens have so many benefits. I think it’s always worth including 1 or 2 in a supplement regimen. The reason I like them in fat burners is that they help regulate cortisol, a really nasty hormone for body composition. They not only help fat burning, but they also help maintain muscle mass, reduce water weight and generally elevate mood.
- Acetyl-l-carnitine. This not only helps fat burning directly by facilitating the conversion of fat into energy, but it also improves memory and elevates mood. Its effects are relatively short lived though, so look for this in products that you take more than once daily.
Brain fuel for enhanced nootropic effects:
- Your body produces more ATP for the same amount of oxygen using ketones glucose, making ketones the preferred fuel source for the brain. I’m sure you’ve all heard of the benefits of ketosis, or ketones, to cognitive function. Ketones improve cognitive capacity and are neuroprotective. Does this mean you need to follow a keto diet to get the most out of your nootropic? No! There are several great powdered ketone products that give you all the benefits to cognitive function without the need for a keto diet. Just mix your ketones with water and you’re off to the races. 3-4g is all you need to take your cognitive performance to the next level.
So, there you have it, my thoughts on nootropics, some of my favourite ingredients, exogenous ketones and my tips for choosing the right product for you. Can nootropics benefit you today or tomorrow? You be the judge, but surely you see why I believe they can benefit everyone. Don’t forget, aside from the immediate benefits, most nootropics prevent cognitive decline as well. So, go on, get out there and ask some questions. Give nootropics a try and see what they can offer you.
Thanks for reading!