A Beginners Guide To Nootropics For Brain Power, Energy and Focus
Whether you want to focus more or because you want to try a "smart drug" to enhance your cognitive ability, you wound up here. Our definitive guide to nootropics will give you the ins and outs of brain supplements and is the absolute best place to start.
Learn about the basics of nootropics brain supplements
This definitive guide to nootropics will give you the Ins and Outs of brain supplements and is the absolute best place to start.
Our nutrition expert, Tony Gill, provides a comprehensive guide to these natural cognitive enhancers (also known as smart drugs, brain supplements and brain enhancers) to provide you with all the information you need to make the best choice for your needs…
Are you considering using nootropics but aren’t sure where to begin?
You’ve come here for a reason and that’s because there’s an overwhelming amount of information surrounding nootropics.
I congratulate you for that because before you go grabbing just any brain enhancing supplement off the shelf (or trying to make your own nootropic stack), there are a few necessities you absolutely must know.
After all, this is your brain. It’s arguably the most important part of your body and it can be incredibly easy to do more damage than good.
There are half a dozen different goals, but one thing is for certain, nootropics are #2 to a miracle weight loss pill in terms of what people want most.
That means there are a lot of pitfalls waiting out there for you, misinformation and subpar brain supplements.
It’s not an easy world, but the best place to start is to figure out what your goal is.
Each nootropic and even each ingredient has a different purpose. By deciding on a goal right away, you can weed out a lot of products you don’t want – as well as skip over tons of articles you don’t need to read.
If you haven’t decided what you’d like to do yet, I’d recommend you finish reading this guide first. If you’ve already got an idea of what you’d like to do, you can jump over to our Nootropic Uses and Benefits article. But you should definitely keep this article open in another tab or bookmark because this guide can benefit everyone on the spectrum from “I just started my search for smart drugs” to “I’ve been making my own nootropic stack for years now.”
What are nootropics?
Nootropic is an incredibly odd word. Most people get tropic because they’ve heard similar words with that ending before. But ‘noo’?
Here's a little bit of trivia for you: nootropic is derived from the Greek word, noos (mind) and the French word (tropē), turning. What you're trying to do with any nootropic is to turn your mind somewhere - whether that's just turning it up or turning it on; you are trying to get your cognitive abilities working like you on a good day when you need it.
A nootropic can be as simple as a cup of coffee (caffeine that can increase your focus), or as complex as a combination of ten synergistic ingredients that can help with focus, reaction time, and your memory.
What are nootropics used for?
The main benefits of different nootropics include:
- Focus and concentration
- Memory enhancement
- Ease anxiety, stress and depression
- And even weight loss
This is just an overview of nootropics benefits. Read more on our article about the Benefits of Nootropics if you’re looking for a more intense dive into the possibilities.
What’s important to know is that nootropics are not a recent discovery by any means. Their use was used as early as 5000 BC as part of India’s Ayurveda.
Later in this article, we'll help you figure out how to look for the best nootropic stack for your goal.
How do nootropics work?
Nootropics generally work by enabling or inhibiting various chemicals in your brain and body – which is why it’s very important you’re only taking high quality ingredients or nootropics that work well together.
Read more about how they work in our article What Do Nootropics Do.
It’s important to realise that whatever nootropic you decide to use, it’s not going to simply make you better. You’ve still got to put the work in. However, certain things, like a better memory, will certainly be easier to come by.
What is a nootropic stack?
A nootropics stack is a grouping of two or more nootropics that you take at a single time – so that they work synergistically.
There are dozens of ways to combine different nootropics, but the easiest place to start is with coffee and green tea. Kind of.
Coffee, obviously contains caffeine. Green tea has considerably less caffeine. It does contain L-theanine though and that’s what you want.
L-theanine and caffeine create an ideal beginner nootropic stack because the supplements are easy to come by and the benefits are easy to see.
If taken alone, you’ll want to take them in a 1:2 ratio (caffeine to L-theanine). Your tolerance will be very individual but an example would be 100mg of caffeine to 200mg of L-theanine. The L-theanine will calm the effects of caffeine a bit and allow you to focus better.
If you’re looking for the best nootropic stack, keep reading because you need more than just two ingredients and it gets a little complex. The good news is that an optimal stack has already been created.
What are the best nootropics to take?
The best nootropics to take depend on your end goal and where you’re at.
Ingredients like Tyrosine can help brain signalling to aid the flow of information by synthesising dopamine transmitters.
Others support brain energy (like Zinc), or can encourage certain brain waves; like L-Theanine which supports Alpha Brain Waves for relaxed focus.
Combining caffeine with L-Theanine will help with concentration.
Certain types of turmeric (curcumin) grades have been proven to help attention and performance on memory tasks. Although absorption of certain nootropics, especially curcumin, is not very good without assistance. Only a small percentage of curcumin is absorbed for your body to use, and in most cases, a black pepper extract will help increase the bioavailability of nootropics.
But remember you must consider your circumstances, if you’re taking SSRIs (anti-depressant medication), you don’t want to take a supplement with 5-HTP. You’re already working on increasing serotonin so you don’t want to boost it beyond what the SSRIs are doing.
Are nootropics natural?
Not all nootropics are natural. Some of the most popular nootropics are of the racetam family. Racetams are a class of drug that share a pyrrolidone nucleus; some of these such as Piracetam, Aniracetam and Oxiracetam are considered nootropics. They’re synthetically created in labs.
Synthetic nootropics aren’t limited to racetams, but the list is extensive.
The two most prominent synthetic nootropics are the medications Modafinil and Adderall.
Modafinil is a drug that will keep you awake without caffeine, but it may lead to reliance on it. It has a multitude of drug interactions, including with antibiotics, so you definitely need to mind what you’re taking. Its side effects include everything from fever to muscle weakness to depression.
Adderall is safer than modafinil, though it’s basically an amphetamine. It is used in the treatment of ADHD (Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder). But taking Adderall long-term leaves you at high risk for mood swings, mental changes, etc.
Rather than relying on potentially dangerous chemical compounds created in a lab, it’s much better to choose natural nootropics.
More often than not, natural nootropics are ingredients that your body will recognise (as food) and absorb easier and better. You can even get more nutrient dense sources of caffeine including nootropic grade coffee bean extracts and Kola Nut (below).
Are nootropics legal?
Certain nootropics are legal to be used by professional athletes and others aren’t.
There was a time when high caffeine levels would have gotten you kicked out of the Olympics for doping, but that restriction has since been repealed.
However, high levels of Adderall and any other medically controlled substances are illegal for competitions – especially sports. That’s if, IF, you have a prescription for these pills. If you don’t, you’re illegally using a controlled substance.
Modafinil, a high-powered stimulant, is outlawed by the World Anti-Doping Agency (better known as WADA).
When in doubt, it’s better to abstain from medical nootropics than take them, however, most natural nootropics will pass competition regulations – as long as they’re used in reasonable levels and if used for sport passed the Informed Sports test for that batch.
Are nootropics safe?
Not all nootropics are safe. I can’t say this enough that nootropics affect your brain in some manner. I’ve been working with nootropics for over 10 years and my preference is still to find a high quality natural nootropic stack than to build one myself.
Some nootropic stacks are going to be safer than others. The beginner stack of caffeine and l-theanine mentioned earlier has a long history of safety at higher levels. You’ll have an easy time making your own nootropic stack like that, but the benefits may not be exactly what you’re looking for.
A beginner nootropic stack is more likely to have a number of safety and clinical studies backing them, so that’s why a product containing caffeine and L-theanine are perfect for people just wanting to stick their toes in the water.
Utmost Me is a UK natural supplement and nootropics company. Find out more about Utmost Me.