Nootropics– also called smart drugs or cognitive enhancers—are drugs, supplements, or other substances that improve cognitive function, particularly executive functions, memory, creativity, or motivation, in healthy individuals.
Around October this year I went to the doctor with what turned out to be whooping cough. In China they call it 100 day cough. It was horrible. I needed about 12-14 hours of sleep a day and by period 3, I was exhausted.
My work unquestionably suffered. I did everything I could to avoid it damaging my work, but it did. I woke earlier in the day, because that’s when I had more energy and I left work earlier and took a nap. I woke from the nap and got on with another few hours of work. I had taken on an extra load at work and I was seeking perfection in this .Just to make it worse, I was having a difficult time at home and that took up a lot of what little energy I did have. Both my wife, and I were grieving. A topic that I wont go into here, but needless to say I wasn’t coping and I was being strong for her. I was probably being lousy at that too.
I wanted to improve in the following areas: I wanted more energy, I wanted better sleep and I wanted to stabilise my emotions, especially given how difficult a time this was.
I decided that if it was possible to sub-optimal, it was possible to be optimal. Maybe baseline was me minus whooping cough, but maybe I could get healthy and then go beyond that point.
I started delving into the ways in which I could do this. I knew that I wanted something entirely backed up my science, but I knew that I wouldn’t have time to methodically test the effect on myself. I resolved to do this later and use my own intuition initially.
I looked at a lot of possible solutions. I enacted many of them. Nootropics was a word I’d heard banded about in various podcasts. I’m a huge fan of Doctor Rhonda Patrick and I knew that it was a burgeoning field of study.
I spoke to a friend who is completing a masters in nutrition and he gave me access to a whole field of research. I looked at the papers covering the major research and which supplements had good evidence for being effective. The following supplements had strong evidence for effectiveness in peer-reviewed articles.
I took a number of supplements over the course of around 12 weeks. I used some in conjunction as this is what the research indicated. I took others individually. Generally I took each supplement, or pairing for around 4 weeks.
Detailed below are my notes on the impact.
My notes on the supplementation.
– is one of the key ingredients found in green tea. It is believed to be one of the key ways in which buddhist monks enable themselves to enter deep states of meditation. I wanted to experience a sense of calm which allowed me to see my problems for what they really are. The perspective that this would allow me I hoped would allow me the liberation to deal with my difficulties.
I was also excited by research which stated that if it is used in combination with caffeine, it improves memory and cognitive performance. I started to add this to my daily coffee intake. I took one 50mg dosage with every cup of joe. I noticed a much deeper focus, and did not feel sleepy.
In truth I never felt sleepy taking L- Theanine. I found when taken in conjunction with Matcha tea, it helped me relax before bed. But that basically meant taking nearly 300mg. According to my fit bit, the nights when I took this 300mg dosage were filled with far deeper sleep. On average I was restless for only 8 minutes compared to my usual 20 plus.
The fitbit sleep tracker is notoriously useless, but any measurement is worth considering. I would say the evidence is that I moved less in my sleep. Generally speaking the general agreement amongst sleep doctors is that less movement equals better sleep. Though there are certain exceptions.
The research around Bacopa stated that impact on memory was only experienced in the subjects after 4-6 weeks. My personal experience tallied with this, I took an online memory test every Sunday night and the trajectory was upward and progressive. Bizarelly enough it began to dip at around 7 weeks and has remained roughly the same since. My conclusion is that the notable impact takes roughly 4-6 weeks to have impact, but that benefits decrease to an optimised level but you cannot maintain the peak point.
Notable research also suggests Bacopa has impact on:
- Attention- Increase.
- Anxiety- reduction
- Depression- minor reduction
- Forgetting- minor reduction
I couldn’t speak about depression and anxiety because as part of the grieving process I certainly had to make a number of changes which could account for my improved moods. Was bacopa a meaningful factor…possibly. The studies that show this only conclude a minor reduction in depressed feeling, and I would question whether this could be separated from asking participants to think regularly about their mood. Reflection may well have been the cause.
Perhaps the most researched product I tried during my six week trial. This was a supplement I took because of the research into long term effect. I wasn’t expecting to find any huge changes. Particularly given how unscientific I was going to be. I genuinely didn’t feel any different after taking this supplement. With the others, the effects were immediate but there is no research talking about immediate repercussions of taking this. Rather like cod liver oil it is about long term health support.
- Limits cognitive decline
- Stamina/blood flow
- Sleep (minor)
Second most researched. I was already taking this after gym workouts and weekend football, and have always found it amazingly effective in recovery. But I had no idea about its effectiveness in reducing fatigue.
Of all the supplements I considered this was by far the most effective. I took it with my coffee and L-theanine, I normally stop being useful about 4:30 but stay at work until 6 to avoid the traffic. Taking this supplement at 4:00 I often found myself staying until half 6 and not even noticing.
I would really like to test this in a more scientific way. As I’m absolutely certain it is revolutionary.
The one thing I’ve kept up is the ‘hacked’ version of coffee. I’ve also used L-theanine in conjunction with Zinc, Magnesium and Valerian tablets to help with sleep.
The coffee is unbelievably effective, I was drinking around five cups of coffee a day. I now drink two and add a spoonful of creatine and take a theanine tablet. The result is a much more effective work day and I would definitely recommend book ending your school day in this way.
As for the sleep, I have always struggled with sleep and I will definitely blog about the effectiveness of my new routine sometime soon. It’s been transformative.
I would also like to come up with some sort of actual test of my own to prove it works for me. Though, there doesn’t seem to be a lot of point though to be fair…I based my purchases on peer-reviews. I felt a difference. I guess that’s good enough for me.
Other supplements I considered and my rationale.
Huperzine Was perhaps the most ‘hyped’ supplement I found, yet there is not a lot of research – seems to promote neurogenesis ( the process of birth of neurons wherein neurons are generated from neural stem cells) but given my time constraint I decided to ignore this.
I decided that it was probably not a priority to try this. Minor impact on cognition and small impact in glucose reduction. Neither of which
I struggled to find a reasonably priced version and so couldn’t take these. Despite them being the most heavily backed by research. Bit gutting!
I deemed this too risky to take up. After 30 years without so much as a drag, it seemed ridiculous to take up the world’s biggest addiction study!
- Minor increase in memory and cognition
- Minor decrease in HGH
- Addiction risk – patches limit this.
- Appetite suppressant
Some research claims it has relaxing qualities though does have cognitive benefits. I decided that this wasn’t worth time.
Sounds absolutely amazing, but doesn’t appear to be commercially available. Please correct me if I’m wrong on this!
- Significant memory increase and cognition. Especially short term memory, and task orientated work.
Blueberries & fish oil.
Solve life essentially. I already eat blueberries like a kid would eat haribo and take fish oil every day.