Ashwagandha: Strength of a Horse with Peace of Mind

What is Ashwagandha Powder?

Ashwagandha is a well known Ayurvedic supplement that many people take for its stress-relieving and anti-anxiety benefits. However, its name implies a much different function. Also known as Withania somnifera, Ashwagandha means ‘Smell of Horse,’ which refers to the supplement’s distinct smell as well as the conventional ideology that it will give you the power and virility of a horse.

Ashwagandha for Physical Performance

ashwagandha plantWhile Ashwagandha powder may not truly confer the power of a horse upon you, there is scientific evidence to back up its claim as a performance enhancer. Many performance supplements are limited in their scope; they commonly boost performance for athletes in tandem with an exercise program, but do not improve performance for sedentary individuals. Ashwagandha is rare in that it works for both groups.

One study looked at healthy, but primarily sedentary individuals. Each participant was given 750-1250mg of Ashwagandha extract per day for a 30-day period. Despite a complete lack of exercise, participants were able to increase their lower back performance by 15.4% and their quadriceps output by 21.5%. [1] Ashwagandha has also proven effective for boosting lean muscle growth and decreasing fat in sedentary individuals, although in minute amounts. [1]

A different study aimed at elite cyclists measured Ashwagandha’s ability to affect maximal oxygen consumption (VO2 max), which indicates relative aerobic physical fitness. Participants were given 500mg of Ashwagandha extract for an 8 week period. The results were impressive. Individuals VO2 max increased by 12.5% and their time to fatigue increased by 7.2% as well. [2] This means that Ashwagandha not only increased these elite athlete’s aerobic fitness, but also boosted their exercise duration, allowing them to perform better for longer periods of exertion.

In addition to improving physical performance, Ashwagandha can also reduce Low-Density Lipoprotein (LDL), also known as the “bad” cholesterol. In studies, Ashwagandha reduced LDL cholesterol by 10%, regardless of whether the participant had high cholesterol or not. [1, 13, 14]

When it comes to virility, Ashwagandha has some interesting benefits. Supplementing with Ashwagandha can improve sperm quality by regulating reproductive hormones levels and oxidative stress. [9] It is also able to boost testosterone in infertile men, though further study is needed for men not affected by this condition. [9]

Ashwagandha for Anxiety

Find the Correct Ashwagandha Dosage for AnxietyAshwagandha is a powerful adaptogen, meaning it is an efficacious way to prevent the effects of physical and mental stress. [3] Ashwagandha is able to reduce cortisol levels, a hormone that releases in response to stress as well as suppress neuron excitation as a direct effect of stress. [4, 10, 11] Plus, Ashwagandha, like l-theanine, is effective at improving social interactions by reducing anxiety. [4]

Ashwagandha is also great for fatigue, another hallmark of stress. In fact, one study showed that Ashwagandha combined with counseling was able to reduce anxiety symptoms by 56.5%, while individuals given a placebo only saw an anxiety reduction of 30.5%. [5] However Ashwagandha isn’t just known for its anxiolytic effects, it is also an effective method for improving mood. [4]

Ashwagandha for Cognition

Ashwagandha is a neuroprotectant and generates antioxidant enzymes within the brain. [6] This supplement is also able to stimulate neurogenesis, which boosts the growth of brain cells and communication between neurons; it also plays a part in recovering from cognitive decline. [7] Ashwagandha has some anti-amnesic benefits as well, which have positive implications for age-related memory loss. [8]

Ashwagandha is also able to improve longevity. In one study, Ashwagandha supplementation resulted in a 20% increase in cellular lifespan. [12] Ashwagandha is also able to protect brain cells against oxidative damage. [12]

Ashwagandha Dosage

The proper Ashwagandha dosage is going to depend on the extract strength. For an Ashwagandha Extract containing 2.5% Withanolides, a standard dosage is 500mg two to three times per day.

Ashwagandha Review

Video Transcript

The reason I’m taking Ashwagandha is mostly for performance purposes, because I’ve heard claims that it can increase performance in fitness and exercise. I like to work out. I do a lot on my time. I like to lift a lot of weights. Also, I’ve heard that it’s really good at increasing sociability.

Now, I’m not exactly anxious. When it comes to social encounters I’m pretty social, but I don’t look forward to them. I think that’s something pretty cool that Ashwagandha Is capable of. I know a lot of people have the same issue and concerns, so if those claims hold up, that would be pretty awesome.

I meant to mention that I’m also interested in the research showing Ashwagandha to be an effective cognitive enhancer. I want to find out personally how well it does that. Researchers in Japan discovered that it’s capable of causing neurogenesis, which is basically causing brain cells to grow, and making them more easily capable of communicating with one another, which increases cognition.

To set a baseline of where I’m at now,I tested myself with dual n-back tests, which is basically used to assess working memory. Before taking Ashwagandha I scored 88%, which is all right but nothing too impressive. After taking Ashwagandha at 200 milligrams, I waited about 15 minutes for it to kick in, and then I did the dual n-back test again and scored 70%. To make sure my results were accurate, and I wasn’t distracted by anything, I did it again. I actually scored less this time, at 57%.

So, it definitely had an effect on me. I felt really out of it, and a little loopy. The Ashwagandha has a tendency to have that effect, so it wasn’t exactly the best thing for working memory. At the end of this, I’ll be testing myself again, with another dual n-back test, but not after having dosed Ashwagandha , just after waking a little bit. Now I have an idea of whether or not it actually improved my cognition, or whether that’s mostly for people with brain damage, and other diseases that the study showed.

Day one of taking Ashwagandha , I decided to take 400 milligrams before I went to a workout, which, on this date, was boxing. I did that about an hour before. It kicked in about 15 minutes afterwards, and I didn’t necessarily feel too tranquilized, which was good, because you don’t want to be too relaxed when you’re boxing. But, I felt a little out of it, somewhat of a detached state. It wasn’t too bad.

I went to work out. Had a great workout. I noticed I was very relaxed, very loose, and I was reacting naturally, which is ideal when you’re boxing, versus forcing anything. I was in a great mood. I was really almost annoyingly in a good mood, and I was very sociable, which is different when I’m working out, boxing especially. I tend to keep to myself at that time in particular.I didn’t feel any kind of slowdown or none of that that I expected, which was awesome. So, that’s day one.

Day two, I split my 400 milligram doses over the day. Two 200 milligram doses and I noticed the same things as day one. The same effects – the same calming effect – within 15 minutes. Other than that, there was really nothing noticeable this day.

Day three was a bit more factful than day two. I took my 200 milligram pills in the morning. It kicked in almost immediately. I had an improved mood, and I felt more clear-headed in my priorities. It seemed more obvious. I’m pretty sure that was because I was less stressed, so I was functioning a little more, mentally well. I was thinking more clearly.

My second dose, I decided to go with 400 milligrams because the 200 milligrams wasn’t affecting me quite as much as I had hoped, and seeing as how I’m bigger than most people – I’m 250 pounds – I figured maybe I should be taking a bigger dose because of my weight.

The 400 milligram dose, I actually only feel a bit out of it, and I still felt a bit anxious mentally in the same situations, which was strange, because normally I wouldn’t be so anxious in those situations. What was really interesting was even with the bit of anxiety that I was feeling, I felt more motivated to deal with those situations than I normally would, prior to taking Ashwagandha .

It was an increase in anxiety, but there was also an increase of the drive to deal with that specific anxiety. Anybody that’s dealt with anxiety, knows that there’s usually more of a desire to escape, rather than face the situation. It compounds upon itself. I think it’s pretty cool that I had more of a motivation to deal with the situation, rather than get out of there.

Something I forgot to mention about day three was this really intense feeling of detachment from everything. It’s almost that feeling when you’re dreaming, except you’re wide awake and you’re not quite sure if you’re dreaming or awake. A really uncomfortable feeling.

Day four, that feeling went away quite a bit and I was feeling much more sociable than even prior to that. I actually almost went up to some random guy at the gym and started telling him something, which is something I – that’s just, you know, you don’t do.

Part of me wonders if the dreamlike feelings are a result of some kind of chemical change or something, because the day before, I felt completely different from day four. That dreaminess was gone, but this day I felt very sociable, and I went out. I typically spend my weekends a little more isolated. It’s just how I usually prefer it, but I wanted to go out. I was pretty sociable with people in general. I thought the effects would have subsided by day four, but it just seemed like they continued to increase and benefit me.

Day five there was not much to report. I just felt a little less inhibited, and the anxiety effects were a little less noticeable. I think this is where [Collin’s time 07:38] set in, but not so much.

Day six was just about the same as day five. There was not much to report, and the effects of Ashwagandha felt diminished quite a bit. But, they were still noticeable enough.

Day seven, the effects of AstroGin aren’t coming on quite as strongly as they were before, but they’re still somewhat noticeable. I think it’s one of those things you just grow accustomed to, and it kind of works in the dark now. It’s not so much that it stopped working, or you grow too tolerant of it. It’s just that you grow used to it, for lack of a better term.

I’ve noticed that my sleep has improved a lot, because I do have trouble sleeping big time, at night. Getting to sleep. Typically, I’ll lay in bed for 30-40 minutes at a time, with my eyes closed, and nothing happens. But with this, after about 10 minutes, I’m out. I’m asleep, which is pretty awesome, because normally I have a lot of trouble getting to bed, staying in bed.

As far as negatives, the only real thing I can think of is the taste, which I don’t think is that bad, but I also don’t really think pramiracetam or piracetam are that bad tasting, so my opinion probably doesn’t count on this one.

The only drawback I can think of right now of Ashwagandha , is that I’m feeling it may be making me feel a little too relaxed and too laid back in certain situations where I don’t want to be relaxed or laid back. For example, getting something done by a due date. Or, let’s say, when I’m boxing, and I’m a little too relaxed about the guy punching me in the face. That’s not something where you just want to be overly calm.

Basically, I’m just saying that stress, in certain situations, isn’t necessarily a bad thing. Also, I’m starting to think that it’s making me a little sleepy during the middle of the day, so I may be switching up my dosing regimen. We’ll see.

Sources

  1. http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/23125505
  2. http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/23326093
  3. http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/17959291
  4. http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/23439798
  5. http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/19718255
  6. http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/10816336
  7. http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/15956813
  8. http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/15711595
  9. http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/19501822
  10. http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/1718335
  11. http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/19444606
  12. http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/19587106
  13. http://www.lifeforce.net/pdfs/withania_review.pdf
  14. http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/11116534

Adrafinil Dosage, Benefits and Side Effects Reviewed

What is Adrafinil and How Does it Work?

caffeine alternatives for energy

When caffeine is not enough, individuals go in search of stronger stimulants. However, not all stimulants are created equal when it comes to liver health

Adrafinil is a nootropic substance with stimulant properties discovered in the late 70s by a group of French scientists. Once ingested, adrafinil converts into modafinil; however, it does so by way of the liver.

Individuals can supplement Modafinil directly, but this requires a prescription. Because of this, many choose to supplement with Adrafinil as it is easier to obtain, even though it may come with a dangerous cost to the liver.

Adrafinil is commonly used to boost wakefulness and reduce excessive tiredness. It also increases hypocretin levels, a neurotransmitter that affects alertness and also causes increased production of dopamine.

Taking adrafinil stimulates the central nervous system, which causes an increased level of alertness without the jitters associated with other stimulants.

Those who supplement with adrafinil often do so because they have problems staying awake, or have careers that require extra alertness such as shift workers, surgeons, etc. It is often prescribed to the elderly and those with sleep disorders, and has been used by truck drivers to overcome mental fatigue.

Adrafinil Side Effects and Liver Damage

Adrafinil is popular for one simple reason: it works well. It’s effects are long-lasting, and clinical trials have shown no decrease in effectiveness over time [1]. This undoubtedly makes it an ideal choice for anyone looking to increase their attentiveness and mental function with an easy-to-take and readily available supplement.

Unfortunately, some findings do show that constant use of this supplement may lead to liver damage over extended periods of time.

The reason for this possible side effect is due to the breakdown of adrafinil into modafinil, a process that occurs in the liver, which causes an increase in liver enzyme levels. While small amounts of the supplement are not shown to cause this type of injury, consistent habitual use can lead to liver toxicity and cause permanent damage.

Knowing this, it is advised that adrafinil be taken with caution due to its concentrated and powerful nature. Therefore, long-term or day-to-day use is definitely not recommended with this particular supplement. By design, the liver needs time to recover from increased enzyme levels, and over-use of adrafinil does not allow a recovery period.

Adrafinil Dosage

Milk thistle for liver health

Milk thistle can help detox your liver.

Adrafinil should only be taken at the recommended dosage, 150 to 300 milligrams per day. However, it should not be taken on a daily basis, and should not be used for a period lasting more than 6 months, at least not without cycling on and off to allow the liver much needed recovery time.

Individuals who wish to extend their adrafinil usage can help their liver recover by taking supplements known to boost liver health. Unfortunately, the liver issues caused by overuse cannot be avoided, only treated. Milk thistle supplements are an excellent option as they help to protect and detoxify the liver [2, 3].

However, for those who would rather avoid the risks of adrafinil, there is another nootropic supplement available to increase wakefulness that comes without the liver damage: Phenylpiracetam. When used correctly, phenylpiracetam can be just as effective as adrafinil.

Phenylpiracetam, an analog of piracetam, is a newcomer for the racetam family, but it is already soaring in popularity. Not only that, many individuals on Reddit feel Phenylpiracetam’s stimulant and wakefulness enhancing properties are much stronger than adrafinil.

Like adrafinil, phenylpiracetam is available over the counter. Individuals should take 100-200mg of phenylpiracetam 2-3 times a day. Phenylpiracetam works best when taken on an as-needed basis rather than daily.

Sources

  1. http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/11191710
  2. http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3326063/
  3. http://ar.iiarjournals.org/content/26/6B/4457.long

A Review of Nootropics Use in Sports

nootropics athletics

Nootropics can help your athletic performance.

Most individuals take nootropic supplements to boost cognition, to improve their focus, to help them study for a test, and so on.  However, many athletes may be surprised to find that nootropics can help them to perform better physically.

It would make logical sense that a supplement that can improve focus and clarity would have a positive effect on the body’s response to physical activity. The better you can focus on the task at hand, the better you will perform. Certain nootropics even directly improve muscle contraction and growth.

Some nootropics like phenylpiracetam are so effective at improving athletic performance that they are banned from competitive sports; others are equally as effective and entirely fine to use for any sport. So how do nootropics work with your body to improve your athleticism?

How Nootropics Help Athletic Performance

nootropics soccer

Nootropics can help boost cognition, which can help you think on your feet.

Taking nootropics affects the brain’s levels of neurotransmitters, which helps the brain to connect with muscle tissue and send out signals.  Raising neurotransmitter levels can help the brain to communicate more efficiently with the rest of the body, and can improve reaction times by promoting a higher level of cognition.

Specifically, most nootropics increase acetylcholine, the neurotransmitter commonly known to improve memory and learning. However, acetylcholine also improves muscle control as well as balance. Mental and physical fitness are linked, and so a quicker and healthier brain produces faster reflexes and greater endurance.  The effects of individual nootropics on physical activity vary, however, so you will need to choose wisely.

Benefits of Different Nootropics in Sports

 

nootropics hockey

Nootropics can also help build muscle (so that you win a fight or two in hockey).

Alpha GPC has been linked to increased levels of growth hormone as well as quicker fat oxidation, meaning that it promotes muscle gains and helps to burn fat leading to improved physical performance and body composition [1].  Aniracetam, in addition to being more potent than other racetam supplements like piracetam, can help to reduce anxiety as well as increase focus [2]. 

Oxiracetam increases spatial learning, which helps your brain to improve physical coordination. Huperzine A prevents the breakdown of acetylcholine to improve memory and muscle control; it also increase alertness.

All of these nootropics will improve neuronal communication between the brain and body, but also have specialized individual effects.  With all of these options to choose from, it is a simple matter of picking a nootropic and seeing which is best for your sports performance.

Which Nootropics Are Right For You?

You may be curious about trying nootropics to improve physical performance, and there are many excellent choices out there.  Be careful of taking supplements that may be banned from a particular sport, but otherwise experiment and find what works best for you.

Weightlifters find Alpha GPC and Huperzine A 1% helpful in doses of 300mg and 10mg respectively, usually stacked together.  Other athletes may find aniracetam and oxiracetam useful in doses around 750mg two times per day.  Find the stack or single supplement that works best for you, and enjoy greater athletic success!

Sources

  1. http://www.nutritionjrnl.com/article/S0899-9007(12)00089-5/
  2. http://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/S0014299901010056

Is Sublingual Administration Safe for Nootropics?

nootropics sublingual

Nootropics can boost your creativity.

Sublingual administration is one of many ways to take a supplement for maximum effect.  It is done by putting a supplement under the tongue and allowing it to diffuse into the bloodstream through the mucous membrane beneath the tongue.  Taking substances this way can lead to faster effects because they go straight into the bloodstream rather than being passed through the liver first or being degraded by stomach acid.

While this seems like an effective way to take nootropic supplements, many users may wonder if this method is safe.  While the majority of nootropics are perfect safe to take sublingually, some are better than others to ingest this way.

Which Supplements Can I Take Sublingually?

The effects of taking a nootropic sublingually depend on the composition of the substance.  Anything that is more acidic, like phenibut, may make the mouth sore, as do substances like adrafinil.  Some are just not as effective because they dissolve slowly, like sulbutiamine.

nootropics writing

Nootropics can also boost your writing ability.

These types of supplements are best taken orally with water or juice for optimal safety and efficacy.  The ideal nootropic for sublingual administration is one that dissolves quickly and is more effective when it is absorbed directly into the bloodstream and skips the liver.

Racetam supplements, like aniracetam and coluracetam, as well as derivatives like noopept, are much more effective when they are absorbed into the tongue’s mucous membrane.  Nootropics like Alpha GPC also dissolve quickly, and have no associated taste. It also helps that many nootropics, coluracetam and noopept in particular, have very minute dosages which makes sublingual supplementation much easier.

Is It Better To Take Nootropics Sublingually?

sublingual nootropics

Sublingual administration involves putting the supplement under your tongue.

Sublingual administration is not necessarily better or worse than oral administration, and choosing to take nootropics this way entirely depends on the needs of the individual.  Taking nootropics beneath the tongue allows the user to take smaller doses because they are more effective, more concentrated, and work faster.

Also, users trying to avoid stress on the stomach and intestinal tract may take supplements sublingually to avoid side effects related to the digestive system.  Bypassing the stomach also means better absorption and less degradation, making the supplement more potent [1].

While sublingual administration seems better and more effective, it can be difficult to find nootropics designed to be taken this way. Generally, racetams as well as l-theanine and vitamin B6 will be widely available this way.  Otherwise, many supplements are only intended for oral administration.

The Safest Way to Take Nootropics with Sublingual Administration

The best way to remain safe when taking nootropics is to follow the instructions and dosages and only use sublingual administration when the supplement is intended for this form of absorption.  These supplements are entirely safe when taken as intended, but may irritate the mouth if used incorrectly.

As with any supplement, it’s best to pay attention to the guidelines to enjoy maximum positive effects.  However, finding nootropics designed to be taken sublingually can be a great way to enjoy quick and powerful cognitive effects without losing significant amounts of the supplement as the body breaks it down.

Sources

1. http://www.examiner.com/article/new-methods-of-nootropic-administration

ALCAR Benefits

Choline is an essential nutrient that serves as both a nootropic supplement and an athletic performance enhancer. Choline supplements cause the release of acetylcholine, which improves memory and mood as well as allowing better communication between nerve cells and muscle cells.

Since choline has multiple benefits, it makes sense to use as a dietary supplement.  However, using choline on a regular basis or several times a day can cause some people to experience the “choline blues.”

This refers to a slight depressive state that can be stopped by discontinuing use of the supplement for a period of time.  Rather than dealing with the blues, individuals can take an alternative supplement, ALCAR, to experience the same effects.

ALCAR versus Choline

ALCAR, also known as Acetyl-L-carnitine, is a modified amino acid that has a variety of health benefits.  Like Choline, it causes increased production of acetylcholine, as well as dopamine, the feel-good hormone.

Its main function is helping the body to break down fatty acids and produce energy, but it also works as a neuroprotectant, removing damaged fats from the brain and strengthening neural connections.

While Choline can delay fatigue for athletes, ALCAR can actually help with muscle recovery [1].  ALCAR helps to regulate carnitine levels, which are essential for the conversion of fat to energy, while supplemental choline mostly gives an extra boost at the end of a workout or athletic event.

Though they both increase acetylcholine, ALCAR has a few more benefits and doesn’t result in any negative mood reactions.

ALCAR Benefits Continued

A very important benefit of ALCAR is its ability to break down fats, both for energy production and to rid the brain of harmful fatty acids.

It can easily cross the blood-brain barrier, which is why is has such powerful mental effects.  While the supplement can increase alertness and elevate mood, it also protects to brain against deterioration and keeps the nervous system healthy.

Additionally, this supplement can lower blood pressure to improve heart health, reduce anxiety and feelings of stress, and even increase fertility in men.  Most significantly, ALCAR doesn’t produce anything similar to “choline blues” since it boosts dopamine.

ALCAR Benefits Vs Choline

ALCAR is entirely safe in dosages between 300 and 500 milligrams, and shouldn’t produce any noticeable side effects if taken correctly.  It’s natural, has a wide array of benefits, and is perfect for both athletes and nootropic users.

Anyone experiencing the blues while taking choline supplementsshould consider trying ALCAR as an easy way to feel better both physically and mentally.

Sources

1. http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/1864226

Piracetam, Noopept, Theanine and Caffeine: Hack your Brain for Increased Productivity

You’re going to run a marathon. You’ve already decided. Well, in your heart at least, because you still haven’t gotten off the couch to start that elaborate training routine you’ve come up with.

So what do you do in the meantime? Dream up how great it will be when you finally run. The adrenaline as you pass over the finish line, the cheers from your friend and family, the pride that you’ll feel. Dreaming big will make sure that you act big, won’t it? After all, you need concrete goals to get anywhere.

Take those big dreams, toss in some supplements for focus, maybe a few more supplements for concentration, and you’re pretty much guaranteed to succeed. Right?

Unfortunately some recent studies indicate not necessarily [1]. One study had some participants envision a happy resolution to a crisis in another country, while the rest were just asked to state the facts of the crisis. When later asked to donate $25 or more, it turns out the participants who only recited cold facts were much more likely to donate.

The results were repeated in two more trials. One used similar procedures (this time related to donating time to a charity) while the other replaced stating the facts with imagining wasting time — establishing that it wasn’t stating facts that increased will to act, but it was positive dreaming that reduced it.

The takeaway here is that, to a certain extent, positive fantasies reduce the amount of effort you’re willing to put into making that fantasy come true. The downside is that it’s not exactly easy to quit daydreaming. Every second you spend distracted from a task is very likely a second you’re going to spend imagining how great it will feel once you finish.

Fortunately with nootropics, it’s not just a matter of you trying to force yourself to focus. By adding a few crucial supplements for focus to your daily routine, you can watch your concentration skyrocket. Less time dreaming, more time doing — what more could you ask for?

Piracetam

Start off your pursuit of boosted concentration with piracetam powder, one of the oldest and most widely researched nootropics out there. Before we go any further on its concentration-boosting benefits, take a moment to consider that piracetam also shows promise for positive effects on cognition, learning, and memory [1]. If your area-of-needed focus is academic or otherwise cognitively oriented, you’re looking at added benefits from piracetam straight from the get go.

On to its benefits for focus and concentration: Piracetam has repeatedly shown itself to benefit both, allowing users to participate in tasks for longer, less interrupted stints — it makes cognitive flow easier. Piracetam, an AMPA modulator, induces this effect by increasing the amount of oxygen that gets to the brain [2]. Communication between brain hemispheres is boosted, manifesting as a feeling of focus and clarity.

Noopept

If piracetam isn’t quite cutting it or you’re just looking to up your edge even further, check out noopept. It’s actually derived from the racetam family, meaning that it has some similarities to piracetam. It’s definitely its own beast though, and you’ll find a clear cut illustration of the differences before you even start to read up on the effects. While a typical piracetam dose will run between 1 to 3 grams, noopept powder is about a thousand times stronger, working efficiently at doses as small as 10 mg [3].

This might make you think it’s simply a jacked up piracetam, but noopept has its own distinct effects. Noopept is touted for anti-anxiety benefits in addition to its cognitive gains [4]. The upshot of this is that you spend less time worrying — if you aren’t worrying, it’s a heck of a lot easier to stop working. Add in the facts that noopept has shown to be neuroprotective and that its effects actually build over time [5], and you’re looking at a very potent productivity aid.

Caffeine and Theanine

Last but not least, a knock-out combo that will see your morning coffee benefiting you in completely new ways. While both of the following are effective supplements for concentration on their own, mixing l-theanine and caffeine powder will produce a synergistic effect that goes well beyond what you’d get from taking either individually.

Theanine is actually an amino acid that you’ve probably come across before without realizing it: it’s found in green tea. Taken on its own, it affects both your GABA and glutumate receptors, and is well-documented for having calming, relaxing effects [6].

Caffeine on its own stimulates a whole slew of neurotransmitters, but leaves you feeling wired and sets you up for an eventual crash. Together? Theanine takes the edge off of caffeine, smooths out the comedown, and makes it much easier to focus. A trialed study found that participants on a combination of theanine and caffeine were much better at focusing on difficult cognitive tasks [7]. So next time you grab a coffee to give yourself energy boosts, add in some theanine – and unlock your full potential.

Focus and concentration don’t come easy, and even with nootropic supplementation require discipline and practice. With the right stack, though, it’s possible to “hack” your brain into increased productivity. Experiment with combinations and compounds, find what works best for you, and boot those endless daydreams out of your head!

Sources

  1. http://www.psychologytoday.com/blog/ulterior-motives/201302/positive-fantasies-can-reduce-future-effort
  2. http://examine.com/supplements/Piracetam/
  3. http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/12596521
  4. http://examine.com/supplements/Noopept/
  5. http://www.braintropic.com/noopept/
  6. http://examine.com/supplements/Theanine/
  7. http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/18681988

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 , and increased dopamine has been linked to self control [5].

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 [6].

Piracetam also improves mental functioning and clarity by restoring membrane fluidity while reducing oxidative stress [7].

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 [8].

Lithium appears to encourage GABA in the body while protecting against glutamate-induced toxicity and cell death, related to a number of diseases [9].

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 [10].

It has been observed to demonstrate protective effects against oxidative damage while reversing and prohibiting cognitive impairments [11], and to reduce obsessive behavior [12] by increasing glycine [13]. In other studies, it has increased serotonin, dopamine, and GABA without increasing sleepiness [14] while inducing alpha waves in the mind (brainwaves associated with relaxed alertness) [15], 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 [16]. 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)  [17], and this is believed to be a reason for its ability to increase mental and physical capacity [18].

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 [19].

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://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/20428999
  6. http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/1794001
  7. http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC1615864/
  8. http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC2248201/
  9. http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3167234/
  10. http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/23097345
  11. http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/23395732
  12. http://www.hindawi.com/journals/np/2009/768398
  13. http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/16493792
  14. http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/17182482
  15. http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/18296328
  16. http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/22347152
  17. http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/23272529
  18. http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/20378318
  19. http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3660385/

Custom Acetylcholine Enhancing Stack

This is a post sent in to us by Eric Balaster of Pure Nootropics. I thank him for taking the time to write this. Opinions expressed are those of the author.

Most beginners to nootropics typically start with one of two combinations. The first is caffeine and L-theanine, which has a variety of studies that can prove the synergy between the two. The other includes piracetam and choline, which was one of the first nootropic stacks developed in the 1970s. Since then, thousands of people have found piracetam useful for preventing neurological decline and improving memory.

The supplementation of choline with piracetam strongly improves the effects in both animal and human trials. However, utilizing the right choline source can make the effects even more pronounced. The objective of the choline supplementation is to provide a precursor to acetylcholine, but this custom stack can prove more beneficial.

All Angles of Acetylcholine

My custom acetylcholine enhancing stack for use with racetams is particularly useful because it attacks all angles of the neurotransmitter. Rather than simply providing raw materials for acetylcholine synthesis, it is useful to consider enzyme blockers and synergistic compounds that can increase cognitive function.

CDP Choline

CDP choline is not the most efficient choline source by weight, but there are a number of advantages. Alternatives like soy lecithin and choline bitartrate are poorly absorbed and utilized for acetylcholine synthesis in the brain. CDP choline has the added benefit of creating cytidine, which is quickly converted into uridine [1]. Many studies point towards uridine for providing positive neuro protective capabilities as well, which makes it nearly as useful as choline.

Dosage: 200 – 525 mg / day

Acetyl-L-Carnitine

Although CDP choline provides some raw materials for choline and uridine production, acetyl-L-carnitine (ALCAR) is also a useful agent. It is a basic amino acid that provides a number of physiological benefits (especially for vegetarians), but is particularly useful for acetylcholine synthesis [2] to aid CDP choline.

Dosage: 500 – 750 mg / day

Spanish Sage

To compound the supplemented choline, Spanish sage is an excellent inhibitor of cholinesterase, which is the enzyme responsible for preventing full acetylcholine usage. Only small doses are required to have the desired effect [3], but young and healthy adults [4] respond well to this natural herb.

Dosage: 200 – 300 mg dried sage leaf / day

Diet and Tracking Your Stack

Depending on the types of foods that you eat, getting enough choline might not be a huge problem. There is a lot of choline in eggs, dairy products, and even some vegetables, so your supplementation will vary largely depending on your dietary intake. Furthermore, it is useful to track your cognitive abilities throughout the experimentation phase. You may find through subjective testing that your doses of these ingredients are too high (and thus causing a headache).

The only way to really know whether the piracetam and choline stack is working to improve your memory is through significant cognitive testing. Using enzyme inhibitors and the right types of choline for synergistic interaction can vastly improve the efficacy of nootropics.

Sources

  1. http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/10974208
  2. http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/6790669
  3. http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/20937617

About the Author

Eric Balaster is a self-described biohacker and nootropic lover. He has turned his interest of biology and physiology into a business called Pure Nootropics that offers independent third-party smart drugs for safe and convenient consumption.

Mind-Body Connection Stack Critique

A reader recently wrote in asking for my input on their theoretical stack. After looking it over I realized this was a fairly extensive question that deserved a detailed response.

Many nootropic stacks are geared toward boosting one particular thing, usually memory or intelligence. But what about a stack that doesn’t stimulate a certain area per-se so much as give you an all-around platform for mental and physical health?

Keeping your brain and body healthy while building a strong mind and body connection is a sure fire way to see cognitive improvements across the board. It’s not just about enhancing your brain: it’s about giving your body the nutritional tools to keep itself in tip-top shape. Supplementation can be tricky, though, since overstimulation of one part of your brain can have negative effects on others.

If you’re looking for a more holistic stack, it’s crucial you have the right mix of supplements taken at the right time in the right combinations. With that in mind, here’s a three-part daily stack designed to maximize your brain’s own innate potential.

Morning (before meal):

Caffeine 50 mg
L-theanine 100 mg
Noopept 20 mg
Lion’s Mane Extract 1000 mg

Morning (after meal):

Pramiracetam 250 mg
Choline Bitarte 500 mg

Before work-out (or other exercise):

Rhodiola Rosea 250 mg
ALCAR 500 mg
Ashwaganda Root 950 mg
Lion’s Mane 1000 mg

Evening, before bed

L-theanine 100 mg
Valerian Root 200 mg
Magnesium 400 mg
GABA 400mg

Now it’s time for a closer examination of the how and why of this stack. Essentially, it’s targeting three crucial aspects of holistic health: focus, energy, and rest. A substance-by-substance breakdown of how you’re benefitting from this stack:

FOCUS

Caffeine/Theanine: Caffeine’s stimulatory effects aren’t exactly a secret; caffeine is the most common nootropic, even though it’s not usually perceived as such.  Here’s the thing: it’s way more than a jittery energy booster that makes you crash a few hours later.

Caffeine increases levels of numerous neurotransmitters – norepinephrine, acetylcholine, dopamine, serotonin, epinephrine, and glutamate [1]. All of these are associated with focus and mental performance. Its critical downside is its notorious “crash”. This is where a theanine supplement comes in.

Theanine, found naturally in green tea, boosts and normalizes your GABA function [2]. Broken down, this has a calming affect which is directly synergistic with caffeine. Add a spoonful of a theanine in your morning coffee and you’re basically looking at all the benefits of caffeine minus the crash and jitteriness [3]. It’s hands-down the ideal way to kick off your daily nootropic regime. Take theanine on its own in the evening to settle into a calm, relaxed state.

Noopept: An offspring of the esteemed racetam family, noopept has shown to have dramatic impacts on memory and cognition with little to no side effects [4]. Even better, noopept powder also boosts neuroprotective effects. So you’re not only improving your focus with a daily dose of a noopept powder – you’re making your brain safer and stronger.

Lion’s Mane Extract: Extract from lion’s mane mushrooms has a unique function: it stimulates nerve growth factor, or NGF [5]. NGF belongs to a family of proteins that play a part in maintaining and regenerating neurons during our adult life. Bad news is as we age, our body produces less and less.

Lion’s mane, however, ensures high levels. Absence of NGF has been linked to age related memory loss [6], so if you’re looking for long-term upkeep of your cognitive health, lion’s mane is crucial. You’ll want to take it again later, since cumulative dosing is more effective.

Pramiracetam/Choline: Pramiracetam, usually found in the form of pramiracetam powder, is a bit different from other substances on this list in that it’s fat-soluble. In other words, pramiracetam powder won’t get metabolized correctly if it isn’t broken down by some fat or oil. This makes it an ideal substance to follow up with after a meal. Taking pramiracetam with a choline source boosts pramiracetam powder’s efficacy while simultaneously keeping your acetylcholine levels from dropping too low.

ENERGY/PRE-WORKOUT

Rhodiola Rosea: Rhodiola Rosea is derived from a flower that has been used for centuries to prevent fatigue. As an adaptogen, it both stabilizes your physiological processes and reduces stress on cells. It gives you energy, boosts focus, and allows your body to work harder and longer with less fatigue [7]. It’s an ideal supplement to any physical activity – which is itself crucial to a healthy mind-body connection.

ALCAR: ALCAR, or acetylcarnitine, is an essential nutrient, which means your body needs it but doesn’t naturally produce it. ALCAR will give your physiological processes an all-around boost. Cells rebuild faster (great for exercise,) immune functions are boosted (maintains health,) and mental and physical energy increase [8]. It does all this by getting fatty acids to your mitochondria (cellular power houses) faster.

Ashwaganda Root: Like the other two energy-boosting compounds, Ashwagandha root extract reduces cellular stress, allowing you to do more at least cost. It’ll also boost your immune functions, grant some neuroprotective benefits, and increase physical energy [9]. Crucially, it also indirectly promotes testosterone production: important for sexual health, overall energy, and muscle building [10].

REST

Valerian Root: While its mechanisms aren’t completely understood, valerian root functions by affecting your GABA system. This is the neurotransmitter responsible in large part for mood and calmness. At low doses, valerian has a calming effect, while at higher doses it’s been hailed as a sedative [11]. Either way, it’s a great way to transition into restful part of your day and prepare for sleep. You’ll want to take this and the rest of this part of the stack no more than an hour before bed.

Magnesium: Magnesium isn’t naturally produced in the body, but has a whole slew of benefits when you sufficiently supplement with it. It allows your muscles to relax (they tense up if you’re low on magnesium) and helps your body produce protein [12]. In other words, it’s a great way to follow up a strenuous day and make sure your body fully maximizes its recovery phase.

GABA: As you may have guessed from the name, GABA directly affects your GABA transmitters, meaning it will work synergistically with your valerian and theanine supplements. On its own, it’s a powerful amino acid that helps reduce stress and anxiety while increasing nerve signaling. Cap off your stack with this to make sure your sleeping body is doing everything it can to recover and prepare for the next day.

Remember, as with any stack, it’s important to cycle your nootropics to maintain maximum efficiency. Look to take a day or two off every few weeks, or to cycle your nootropics individually.

SOURCES:

  1.  http://emedicine.medscape.com/article/1182710-overview
  2.  http://www.drhoffman.com/page.cfm/417
  3. http://jn.nutrition.org/content/138/8/1572S.long
  4.  http://examine.com/supplements/Noopept/
  5.  http://examine.com/supplements/Yamabushitake/
  6. http://curezone.org/forums/am.asp?i=587180
  7. http://examine.com/supplements/Rhodiola+Rosea/
  8. http://examine.com/supplements/L-Carnitine/
  9. http://www.lef.org/magazine/mag2006/jun2006_report_ashwa_01.htm
  10.  http://nutrientjournal.com/ashwagandha-extrac-may-suppress-cortisol-increased-testosterone/
  11. http://ods.od.nih.gov/factsheets/Valerian-HealthProfessional/
  12. http://ods.od.nih.gov/factsheets/Magnesium-HealthProfessional