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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

DIY AlphaBrain Stack

Alphabrain DIYThere’s been a lot of hype about Onnit’s AlphaBrain recently, but the price along with some of the ingredients have left many balking.

While some of the ingredients are solid additions, others have nootropic fans wondering why they’re included at all.

Over at Reddit, many users questioned the inclusion of Oat Straw, declaring it useless and with good reason: there is very little clinical or scientific evidence to support its supposed nootropic abilities.

AC-11 is another inclusion that has raised many eyebrows. In a different Reddit post, users  denounced AC-11 as a gimmick. One individual, /u/ZombieChalmers,  went so far as to call it “a superfluous ingredient used to differentiate alpha-brain from other products”.

Then there is the issue of cost.

If you’re used to buying powders in bulk and capping them yourself, $34.95 for a 15 day supply or $79.95 for a 45 day supply may strike you as outrageously overpriced.

In this case, the convenience does not outweigh the cost.  Thankfully, there is a way to create a similar stack for way less and without the pointless supplements.

Alphabrain Ingredients

Supplement Amount per serving (2 caps)
Alpha GPC 100mg
Huperzine A .5% 40mg
Vinpocetine 5mg
AC-11® 350mg
Phosphatidylserine (From Soy) 50mg
Bacopa (50% bacosides) 100mg
Pterostilbene 750mcg
L-Tyrosine 300mg
L-Theanine 200mg
Oat Straw (20:1) 100mg
Vitamin B-6 10mg
All supplement and pricing info for AlphaBrain was obtained from Onnit’s site

Getting More For Less

From my preferred supplement source, you can find replacements for the following:

Supplement Serving Size Cost per 100 Servings
Alpha GCP 50% 500mg 50g for $23.99
Huperzine 1% 20mg 2g for $19.98
Vinpocetine 10mg 1g for $2.99
Resveratrol (chemically related to Pterostilbene) 250mg 25g for $15.95
Phosphatidylserine 20% (From Soy) 100mg 10g for $7.95
N-Acetyl L-Tyrosine (NALT) 400mg 50g for $5.49**
L-Theanine 200mg 20g for $5.33

**125 servings

Cost Breakdown

That’s $81.68 for a 100 day supply of a very similar stack (thus breaking down to $36.76 for a 45 day supply and $12.25 for a 15 day supply). As you can see, this 100 day supply costs only slightly more than Onnit’s 45 day supply. That is awesome savings.

Supply 100 Days 45 Days 15 Days
HSW Cost $81.68 $36.76 $12.25
Onnit Cost $79.95 $34.95

Many prefer to buy supplements in bulk so as to avoid having to reorder stacks every month or so. Additionally, these supplements are available in smaller and larger sizes for those who want to go smaller or bigger. Bear in mind, the larger the size, the more you save!

While capping your own supplements may seem like a lot of work, it can save you big bucks at the end of the day, not to mention you can customize your stack to avoid publicity stunts and useless “nootropics” like Oat Straw.

What Do These Supplements Do?

Alpha GPC: This is a choline source that is great for improving memory and learning. There are multiple choline sources on the market; however, Alpha GPC has a higher absorption rate. Find it here.

Huperzine A: This supplement helps with memory retention by increasing acetylcholine levels. Those looking to improve their memory and focus will benefit from an increase in acetylcholine.

Vinpocetine: Vinpocetine enhances memory function and increases blood flow to the brain.

Resveratrol: This antioxidant is perhaps most famously found in red wine and is known for it’s ability to boost cellular health, cardiovascular health, blood flow to the brain, and more.

Phosphatidylserine: This supplement supports a strong memory as well as numerous neurotransmitter system such as acetylcholine, dopamine, seratonine, and more.

NALT: NALT is believed to be easier to absorb/more bioavailable than L-Tyrosine. NALT transforms into L-DOPA, which is a precursor for many neurotransmitters such as dopamine, norepinephrine, and more. All of this can result in a boost in mood and cognitive function.

L-Theanine: This is an excellent supplement to reduce anxiety as its stress fighting abilities promote a sense of calm and wellbeing. Additionally, theanine can support a healthy immune system.

Benefits of Sulbutiamine and Caffeine Nootropic Combo

Sulbutiamine and caffeine is a fairly new nootropic combination but seems promising. Sulbutiamine is a nootropic that is designed to improve your mood, boost your memory and give you an increase in energy. What makes this combination unique is that sulbutiamine has energy boosting properties similar to that of caffeine, but of course it is taken with caffeine which can give you even more energy and possibly reduce the effects of a caffeine crash. Sulbutiamine raises the levels of thiamine and thiamine phosphate esters in the brain, which results in increased focus and endurance.

Sulbutiamine Benefits

Scientific studies have also been done to learn more about sulbutiamine benefits. Research has shown that sulbutiamine effects people who suffer from asthenia, which is a medical condition where people experience severe fatigue and muscle weakness. This is because sulbutiamine helps aid in boosting energy and athletic performance. Sulbutiamine is also often added to energy drinks and studies have been done that shows significant increases in mental focus and reaction time performance. The sulbutiamine dosage that is recommended is between 200mg and 500mg up to two times daily with food. Anyone taking sulbutiamine powder or capsules should never exceed that amount within a 24 hour time period.

Another study done for mice was said to have improved memory by increasing retention, which resulted in increased performance. It has also been tested on patients with chronic post infectious fatigue (CPIF) with doses of 400mg daily, which noted that the group had significantly less fatigue than the group with the placebo. Improvement was reportedly noted in 91.37% of the people tested with multiple sclerosis, with 74.13% of them reporting that the improvement was substantial. In addition to improved mental focus and increased fatigue, there are also reported effects on the eyes and sexual performance.

Thiamine is known to be lower in glaucoma patients, with studies that show that thiamine injections increase visual acuity, and sulbutiamine is a molecule in which two thiamin (B1) molecules are bound together. The study showed that sulbutiamine was able to reduce cell death when cells were deprived of serum. Sulbutiamine benefits for psychogenic erectile dysfunction have also been noted, which was said to have increased performance. Sulbutiamine seems to have a lot of benefits and positive effects, so what happens when sulbutiamine is tied in with the benefits of caffeine in a nootropic combo?

Caffeine Benefits

Caffeine is also highly stimulatory and improves physical performance when it comes to both endurance and strength. It is also classified as a nootropic due to its mentally stimulatory actions and sensitization of neurons. When caffeine supplements are combined with sulbtiamine powder or capsules, the affects become apparent. It is reported that this nootropic combo will give you a high boost in energy, with significant increases in endurance. It has been reported that the crash that comes as caffeine wears off is greatly reduced, which is more than likely due to the sulbutiamine supplement that is added. This nootropic stack is highly effective and a great choice if you want to see improved mental performance and increased physical endurance.

Sources:

  1. http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/4059305
  2. http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/15951087
  3. http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/10573727