Nootropics can be your micro-brain boost
The go-go-go lifestyle of the current age — which has us allocating even our time on the porcelain throne to catching up on emails — can be seriously taxing on our bodies and brains.
In response, productivity warriors and creatives alike are turning toward brain-boosting aids known as “nootropics” or “smart drugs.”
According to Jennifer T. Haley, MD, FAAD, nootropics “are broadly defined as anything that enhances your cognitive capacity and performance, from memory to creativity, motivation to concentration.”
Nootropics have been around since the 1970s, according to biohacker and American College of Sports Medicine Exercise Physiologist Fiona Gilbert, but have re-emerged thanks to anecdotal evidence and online testimonials that they decrease stress and increase mental stamina.
Like stress tonics or anxiety hacks, nootropics may be the micro-boost you need to get through your work day. Keep reading to learn which may be the best smart drug for you based on your brain-boosting needs.
Reach for ginseng to beat mental stress
f you’re not familiar with this herbal supplement, now’s a good time to learn. Thanks to its brain-related benefits, it’s also categorized as a nootropic.
One 2010 study tested a 400 milligram (mg) dose on 30 participants for 8 days. Participants showed improved calmness and ability to do math.
treatment for stress
improved brain function
Try it in its natural form: Ginseng can be consumed as a root, which you can eat raw like a carrot or lightly steamed to soften it. The recommended amount is 2 one-centimeter thick slices. It can also be added to homemade soups or teas for an earthy taste.
Supplement form: Ginseng can be found in powder, tablet, capsule, and oil form. It’s best to start with 200 to 400 mg of the extract and gradually increase from there.
POSSIBLE SIDE EFFECTS: For the most part, ginseng is safe to consume. However, Gilbert says, “headaches, dizziness, anxiety, insomnia, nervousness, nausea, diarrhea, agitation, dry mouth, and rapid heart rate are always a possible side effect of taking nootropics, especially if they’re taken incorrectly.”
Add MCTs to your coffee to sharpen your brain
Medium-chain triglycerides (MCTs) or fatty acids have been widely studied for their brain-health properties (especially in people with Alzheimer’s).
For example, according to one study from 2013, MCT supplements helped increase brain energy by 9 percent. But most notable is the research which suggests that MCTs can provide energy to dying brain cells, keeping neurons alive in the face of Alzheimer’s.
general brain health
brain energy anti-stress
Try it in its natural form: If you want a natural version of MCT, opt for coconut oil. The recommended dose in most studies has been 2 tablespoons (or 30 ml).
Supplement form: Brew up a pot of coffee bulletproof style by adding MCT coconut oil, which is a rich source of MCTs. Dave Asprey, founder and CEO of Bulletproof recommends starting with 8 to 12 ounces of coffee and 2 tablespoons of an MCT source. “This will provide longer lasting energy rather than a drink that simply helps you wake up — all in all, clean energy without the negative effects of caffeine and sugar crashes is key,” he says.
POSSIBLE SIDE EFFECTS: One study found that some people will experience adverse reactions such as diarrhea, dyspepsia, and flatulence. So if you begin taking MCTs and have those effects, stop taking them. MCTs are also very high in saturated fats and calories, which means it could negatively affect your cholesterol levels and weight loss initiatives. However, as long as you keep to 1 to 2 tablespoons per day and use it to replace — not add — to your normal fat intake, these negative effects are unlikely.
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If you have writer’s block, take L-theanine
L-theanine is an amino acid that’s a major component of black and green tea. But on its own, research shows that it may promote anything from relaxation to arousal.
One small 2007 study found that L-theanine intake resulted in a reduction of stress responses such as in the heart rate relative to the placebo.
Another study found that consuming L-theanine can both increase mental focus and arousal.
feeling of calm
Try it in its natural form: L-theanine can be found in green, black, and white teas — with green tea containing the most L-theanine — usually with 25 to 60 mg.
Supplement form: The average recommended dosage of L-theanine is a 200 mg dose taken twice a day in either pill or powder form. Brianna Stubbs, PhD, the Head of Science of HVMN, a nootropic supplement company, recommends taking Sprint, which combines L-theanine with caffeine for an optimal brain boost without energy spikes that can come from taking caffeine alone.
POSSIBLE SIDE EFFECTS: According to Memorial Sloan Kettering Cancer Center, something called “polyphenol EGCG,” which is found in green tea can actually reduce the efficacy of some chemotherapy drugs, so it’s worth chatting with your healthcare provider before investing if you have a pre-existing condition.
If you have a midday slump, try rhodiola rosea
“Rhodiola rosea is an adaptogenic nootropic that may improve cognitive function, enhance memory and learning, and protect the brain. It also helps with emotional calming and protects against emotional stress,” says Haley.