Have you ever heard the term “smart drugs?”
If so, you may have already done some research into nootropics to see how they can change your life. If not, let me introduce you!
Nootropics, a.k.a. “smart drugs,” are a wide variety of different substances that can improve memory, focus, brain function, and even athletic performance. The best nootropics occur naturally in our bodies and diets, although most of us don’t have a diet rich enough in the right foods to get the most benefit from these compounds. Luckily, we have the opportunity to supplement our diet with an array of nootropics in the form of pills, powders, and liquid additives that can completely change your ability to perform. I’m a huge proponent of these smart drugs, and benefit greatly from supplementing additional nootropic drugs into my diet every day.
In this article I want to introduce what nootropics are, the ones I take on a daily basis, and how you can couple these same nootropics with your foods to maximize mental clarity and getting sh*t done - i.e. productivity.
What exactly are Nootropics?
By definition, nootropic is a compound that increases mental functions including memory, motivation, concentration, attention, energy levels, happiness, and even overall physical performance. Some of these compounds exist already in the brain like phosphatidylserine, some come from our diet like caffeine, and some are synthetic like Piracetam. Everything from the caffeine molecules in coffee, to pharmaceuticals like Adderall are considered nootropics as they have an effect on neurotransmitters in the brain and subsequently how the brain functions.
There are dozens of nootropics available both over the counter and with a prescription, but in this article I’m only going to introduce 5 non-prescription nootropics that I take on a daily basis to increase focus, memory, and even athletic performance.
5 Common Nootropics I Use Daily
- L-Theanine is an amino acid that has structural similarity to glutamine and both neurotransmitters that are produced from it (GABA and glutamate). Benefits include reduced anxiety and stress as well as an increased ability to relax. If taken close to sleep times, this effect likely also leads to an increase in sleep quality. My main use for L-Theanine is as an antagonist to caffeine where it can reduce high blood pressure and jitters from high doses of caffeine. The combo of caffeine and L-theanine reportedly promotes focus and cognition.
- Phosphatidylserine, or PS, is one of the most significant phospholipids in the brain, a compound similar to a dietary fat that comprises and protects certain types of brain tissue. It is vital for cognitive function, and although the body synthesizes it, supplementation in older individuals seems to improve memory and cognitive capacity.
- Alpha-GPC (Alpha-glycerophosphocholine is a choline-containing supplement that appears to be pharmacologically active at higher doses and it appears to have cognitive-enhancing properties and attenuate the rate of cognitive decline in the elderly. Alpha-GPC at high doses (1,200 mg) appears in studies to be effective in mild to moderate Alzheimer's disease. In terms of athletic performance, alpha-GPC has been shown to increase growth hormone production and enhance power output.
- Caffeine (Coffee)
- Found in or synthesized primarily from coffee, Caffeine is a powerful stimulant, and it can be used to improve physical strength and endurance. Habitual caffeine use is also shown to reduce risk of Alzheimer's, cirrhosis, and liver cancer. Caffeine provides increased energy through a sense of wakefulness by competing with adenosine in the brain, the molecule that tells your brain you’re tired.
- One of the most heavily researched supplements in the world, Creatine is a molecule that's produced in the body from amino acids and carries a phosphate group that can be added to ADP to create ATP, or if you remember from high school biology, the body’s primary energy carrier. This increased ATP availability can increase muscular endurance and power output in anaerobic fitness as well as highly demanding mental activity. There is also some evidence that shows a possible correlation to increased testosterone through creatine supplementation, although there may be other factors that influenced increased testosterone in each of these studies.
*Disclaimer* Always consult your physician before adding any supplements to your routine.
Where Can You Find Nootropics
The nootropics I’ve listed above are all supplements I consume in powder form, but they can all come from natural sources. As a side note, I add all of these supplements to my morning coffee, just before I get to the grind of things like writing these articles!
- Creatine can be found in red meat and fish.
- L-Theanine is found in large amounts of tea.
- Phosphatidylserine in cow brains, pig spleen and chicken hearts.
- Alpha-GPC in red meat products and organ tissue.
- And of course, caffeine in coffee, tea, and cacao.
If you’re interested in trying any of the supplements in my list check out nvrrest.com for coffee, supplements, and more.
Don't Want To Take Supplements?
If you’re not interested in supplementation then try to ensure a diet full of healthy fats, meats and fish, eggs, greens, and definitely coffee :) If you avoid breakfasts and lunches with heavy sugars you’ll have a clearer head regardless of supplementation. If you’re eating heavy breakfasts or lunches like sugary cereal you may experience huge dips in energy and motivation. This is due to the quick release of glucose that spikes insulin and makes you crash. Instead, eating breakfasts and lunches with complex carbohydrates will release glucose more slowly and allow your blood sugar to remain stable while providing you a more consistent stream of energy.
Proteins like eggs and bacon are on my top foods for breakfast, just make sure you stay light on the bacon due to it’s sodium content. Nuts, yogurts, and greens are also amazing breakfast, lunch, and snack foods.
Now, one important thing to clarify is that your diet and meal timing has to be specific to you. Lunch and dinner refers more to the times of day you would want to be most productive. If you’re an endurance athlete and are looking to consume heavier portions of carbohydrates, you may want to put those meals toward the end of your day and front load the more protein and fat heavy meals to maximize both productivity and recovery for your body.
Diet varies significantly for all of us, but the general rules apply to most of the population - avoid processed foods, sugars, alcohol, and try your best to source foods that are sustainable and clean.