Want to See Results? Track the Progress of your Nootropic Stacks

If you’ve never taken nootropics, it’s a good thing you came upon this article. If you have, which is more likely, how have they worked? For most, answering this question takes some thinking, and the answers are rarely impressive, generally faltering somewhere between “I feel smarter and more productive” and “nothing happened at all.”

This response is fine if you want to blindly ingest supplements and hope for the best but not if you want to get the most out of your experience. To get the most out of your experience, you need to look at your progress the same way athletes look at their training — by collecting data and tracking it to provide yourself with concrete benchmarks to improve upon.

What is Tracking?

When I’m not writing, I’m usually out training someone. Beyond the yelling (I like to call it motivation) and knowledge I provide, a lot of my job comes down to documenting what my clients are doing when they’re with me.  And their job (it’s a team effort) is tracking what they’re doing when they’re not with me, specifically by keeping note of what they eat daily.

If I go into a session with no idea of what we did at the prior workout, there’s nothing to build upon. Each workout may as well be the first as we awkwardly try to remember how many repetitions were performed, for how many sets, and with how much weight. The same thing applies to a client keeping track of their diet — sure they ate well yesterday, but how did they gain weight if they only had salad and water this week? Probably because they forgot to keep note of the extra-fat, extra-everything meals they had on those other days.

You are, or will be, on a diet of a different kind, made up of compounds meant to improve the powerhouse that is your brain.

Why Should you Track Mental Performance?

Benefits and Effects – Being familiar with the way a compound affects you allows you to make better decisions about when to supplement with it. I know to take aniracetam when I need inspiration because it gives me a flood of ideas, but not to take it when I’m trying to settle down mentally.

MoneyNootropics aren’t expensive when you compare their cost to their benefits, but if you continue using a compound that doesn’t work with your biology, you’re throwing money away.

Stacks – Because it’s your biology, only you can find out what mix of supplements works best for you. There are some combinations I’ve discovered that put me in the most perfect state of mind, but I only realized that by documenting my results.

How do you Track your Results?

You’ll need to document your cognitive ability as it stands without nootropics, so taking baseline assessments is necessary. I recommend pulling up a spreadsheet and creating a row entitled “Baseline.”  If you don’t have spreadsheet software Google Drive let’s you make spreadsheets for free.

Skip the first row, and name the columns:

Date

Alertness

Focus

Working Memory

Long-Term Memory

Reasoning

Mental Clarity

Mood

Dose Taken

Alertness, mental clarity, and mood are subjective and I suggest marking them 1-10, 10 being best and 1 being nonexistent/bad mood. Memory, concentration and reasoning can be tested subjectively at Cambridge Brain Sciences.

To measure working memory try “paired associates,” “digit span,” or the  “monkey ladder” tests. For long-term memory, you can complete the above tests as well as “spatial span.” Reasoning is best tested with “odd one out,” and “double trouble” is good to measure concentration.

After you run through each of these tests, record your results in the appropriate column.

What Next?

Now that you have your baseline, you’ll have an idea of what kind of improvements you’re making with each compound. To track each compound properly, write the name of the substance in its own row, and only test one at a time until you know for sure what it is doing and how it affects you. I suggest revisiting the spreadsheet at least once a week and noting any changes. Remember to track the dose as well to know how more or less affects you, and consider a “tolerance” column for appropriate compounds like phenibut.

This breakdown is by no means a comprehensive guide to tracking your performance, but it’s an easy place to start. For results that are a bit more thorough (and for a good mental workout), try out Dual-N-Back, a free game that shows you where you are mentally while being enjoyable. I’d try to explain it, but it’s better if you try it out. If you decide to add this to your data-collection, add a column labeled “Dual-N-Back,” and mark your results there.

These simple steps can have an enormous impact on the quality of your results while keeping you optimistic about the benefits you’re seeing. The little bit of effort that goes into tracking can save you a lot of headache in the long run and cut down on trial and error.  Optimizing your cognition requires you to be proactive, but so does anything worth achieving.

A Six-Part Neuroprotective Stack for Longevity and Cognition

Priceless memories are often a computer crash away from being lost forever. Those crashes seem to come out of nowhere too, but that’s normally not the case.

First, you push your hard drive, not giving it any mind until the clicking starts. The clicking that lets you know things are going south, but that gets ignored, and before you know it, bad sectors (the parts that hold information) have filled up every inch of space until the drive no longer works and you have an oversized paperweight that used to house your cherished data.

Like your computer, your brain can accumulate damage over time that leads to failure, and no matter how quickly damage comes on, it’s usually a long time in the making and at a much higher cost.

This stack of six compounds is designed to prevent that damage from happening by protecting neurons, the basic building blocks of the Central Nervous System that transmit information throughout the body. When neurons die all sorts of cognitive complications arise [1].

Ashwagandha Extract – Intelligence and Protection

Ashwagandha extract is an Ayurvedic supplement revered for its use as an anxiolytic, cognition enhancer, and for its neuroprotective qualities, and for good reason since it protects neurons from oxidative stress. It does this by suppressing cortisol release while simultaneously activating choline acetyltransferase (an enzyme necessary in the production of the neurotransmitter choline), in turn causing enhanced serotonergic signaling and protection from neuronal death [2].

In other words, it protects brain cells and helps prevent health complications associated with neuronal death [1] by increasing the amount of chemicals related to a positive mood (serotonin) and decreasing those that promote stress and its related neurodegenerative chemicals (cortisol).

The most amazing benefit of Ashwagandha extract is the fact that it increases the growth of axons and dendrites [3]!

Axons and dendrites are the parts of neurons that transmit information between one another and the better their ability to do this, the more intelligence you have.

Already off to an impressive start, right?

Alpha GPC Powder – Free Radical Protection Plus Self Control

A choline supplement usually taken for nootropic purposes, Alpha GPC acts as a precursor to the neurotransmitter acetylcholine. Low supplies of acetylcholine have been associated with age related memory loss. Acetylcholine protects from free radicals and increases antioxidant production [4].

Alpha GPC powder can also help those that have trouble with self control and being overly impulsive. This impressive effect happens due to Alpha GPC’s ability to increase dopamine, serotonin, and GABA in the frontal cortex of the brain – the part of the brain responsible for emotional responses and decision making. The disruption of this area of the brain is the reason for impulsive behaviors [5], and increased dopamine has been linked to self control [6].

Not only is Alpha GPC powder much more than an “add on” to your nootropic stack, it has the ability to potentiate the next compound in this stack, piracetam.

Piracetam – Mental Clarity

Perhaps the most popular nootropic, piracetam offers benefits like increased communication between the two hemispheres of the brain by enhancing acetylcholine usage, improving long term memory, attention, and creativity [7].

Piracetam also improves mental functioning and clarity by restoring membrane fluidity while reducing oxidative stress [8].

Lithium orotate – Mood and Mental Protection

Lithium orotate is a mineral used to for a variety of conditions including attention disorders and it has shown effectiveness at lesser doses than lithium carbonate (its drug form requiring prescription) due to its ability to cross the blood-brain barrier [9].

Lithium appears to encourage GABA in the body while protecting against glutamate-induced toxicity and cell death, related to a number of diseases [10].

People that supplement with lithium orotate report having more self-control and improved mood.

Theanine Supplement – Promotes Health and Calm Focus

Theanine is another component of this stack that causes significant reversal of glutamate-induced toxicity [11].

It has been observed to demonstrate protective effects against oxidative damage while reversing and prohibiting cognitive impairments [12], and to reduce obsessive behavior [13] by increasing glycine [14]. In other studies, it has increased serotonin, dopamine, and GABA without increasing sleepiness [15] while inducing alpha waves in the mind (brainwaves associated with relaxed alertness) [16], promoting the perfect state of calm and mental focus.

Rhodiola Supplement – Adaptation and Longevity

Rhodiola rosea is another adaptogen in this stack, and Rhodiola’s upregulation of Neuropeptide Y is a big reason why [17]. This neuropeptide is a molecule in the brain that restores calm after stressful events, the stimulation of which both relaxes you and increases your ability to handle stress (like exercise for your stress-response)  [18], and this is believed to be a reason for its ability to increase mental and physical capacity [19].

Like many of this stack’s other supplements, Rhodiola has demonstrated antioxidant effects, but what’s really amazing are the results of a study that demonstrated Rhodiola has life-extending abilities [20].

The benefits of this stack compound upon one another and make for powerful neuroprotection while improving mental health.

Remember, it’s never too early to start taking care of your mind, but it can be too late.

Sources:

  1. http://www.ninds.nih.gov/disorders/brain_basics/ninds_neuron.htm#death
  2. http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/19444606
  3. http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/12395110
  4. http://ageing.oxfordjournals.org/content/35/4/336.full
  5. http://ajp.psychiatryonline.org/article.aspx?articleid=175211&resultClick=1
  6. http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/20428999
  7. http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/1794001
  8. http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC1615864/
  9. http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC2248201/
  10. http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3167234/
  11. http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/23097345
  12. http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/23395732
  13. http://www.hindawi.com/journals/np/2009/768398
  14. http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/16493792
  15. http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/17182482
  16. http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/18296328
  17. http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/22347152
  18. http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/23272529
  19. http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/20378318
  20. http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3660385/