This blog post goes out to all the nootropics newbies and new comers who want to dive head first into the exciting world of enhancing cognitive performance.
It's important to start with the absolute basics before diving deeper into some more novel ingredients or more complex "stacks" that include many different ingredients.
As such, we are giving you our top 3 recommendations for nootropics that we think all beginners should be taking.
1. Caffeine + L-Theanine
Caffeine is the classic stimulant we all know and love - found in copious quantities in coffee, pre-workouts and energy drinks.
Caffeine works as a CNS stimulant primarily by binding to adenosine receptors (adenosine antagonism), blocking adenosine from binding to exert its calming effect.
Caffeine does increase wakefulness and energy quite significantly, but sometimes can lead to unwanted side effects like anxiousness, jitters or increased body temperature and heart rate.
This is why we advocate the addition of L-Theanine - a naturally occurring amino acid found in green tea.
L-Theanine has been shown to increase levels of GABA, Glycine and Serotonin in the brain, which are inhibitory neurotransmitters known to elicit a calming effect.
L-Theanine is also structurally similar to Glutamate, an excitatory neurotransmitter and thus binds to Glutamate receptors and blocks the action of glutamine (glutamate antagonism).
Not only this, but L-Theanine supplementation has been shown to stimulate alpha-brain waves, the brain wave frequency most associated with calm, meditative states.
The combination of Caffeine + L-Theanine, particularly in a 1:2 ratio e.g. 100mg Caffeine to 200mg L-Theanine has shown positive effects in improving subjective alertness, improved speed and accuracy of performance in an attention switching task and reduced susceptibility to distracting information in this study here.
This other study showed that the combination of L-Theanine and Caffeine was able to eliminate the vasoconstrictive effects and behavioral effects of caffeine in this study here.
So next time you're sipping on your favourite cup of coffee, think about adding roughly 200mg of L-Theanine for a smooth, calm focus effect.
2. Bacopa Monnieri
Bacopa Monnieri is a herb that has been used for 100's of years in both Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM) and Traditional Indian Medicine or Ayurveda.
It is one of the most well studied natural nootropic herbs, and has been shown to have positive effects on long term brain health, including memory.
There are many popular, patented/trademarked extracts of Bacopa Monnieri available on the market, such as Bacognize, Synapsa, Bacopin and Bacomind. These extracts are all standardised to various levels of Bacosides, the main constituent compound found in the whole herb.
Bacopa acts through the following mechanisms of action to exert its effects:
1. Anti-oxidant neuroprotection
2. Acetylcholinesterase inhibition and/or choline acetyltransferase activation
3. B-Amyloid reduction
4. Increased cerebral blood flow
5. Neurotransmitter modulation (acetylcholine, dopamine, serotonin)
A 6 week study of the administration of 300mg Bacognize, a popular Bacopa extract on medical students, saw a statistically significant improvement in tests related to cognitive function.
Bacopa, unlike the Caffeine + L-Theanine combo, will not give you an immediate or what we call an acute boost. It will however, provide brain health and cognitive benefits when taken consistently and chronically over periods of 6-12 weeks or longer.
3. Omega 3 EPA/DHA
Omega 3 EPA and DHA are fatty acids found in high quantities in fatty fish, algae and several high fat plant foods.
Omega 3's are hugely important in the human body as components of the phospholipids in cell membranes. DHA is particularly high in the retina, brain and sperm cells.
Most people do not consume enough fish or get enough sources of Omega 3 from their diet. If you consume fatty fish less than 2 times per week, or not at all, then you should consider supplementation with Omega 3 DHA/EPA. A dose up to about 500mg-1000mg per day seems to be beneficial.
Some observational studies suggest that diets high in omega 3's are associated with a reduced risk of cognitive decline, Alzheimer's disease and dementia.
DHA is an essential component of cellular membrane phospholipids in the brain and therefore may protect cognitive function by helping maintain neuronal function and cell membrane integrity.
Supplementing with additional Omega 3's seems most beneficial for those suffering from mild cognitive decline that are approaching Alzheimer's or Dementia, or those with depressive symptoms.