I used to go braindead at 4:00 p.m.
I couldn’t understand what it was about that afternoon hour, but every time it rolled around, I’d get tired, groggy, and lose focus. I lacked the mental clarity I had earlier in the day, and I was less productive because of it.
Through a combination of podcasts, articles, medical seminars, and investigation into my genetic makeup, I learned about nootropics — “smart drugs” designed to optimize the brain’s natural function. Unlike old-school productivity supplements (like coffee), nootropics contain a precise mixture of nutrients, allowing people to take more of the right stuff for them.
The last several years have been awfully kind to nootropics. From 2018 to 2020, the global market grew from $2.6 billion to $9.57 billion, and should continue to expand at an increasing rate.
And from personal experience, nootropics have been awfully kind to me. Through a multi-year process of trial and error, I’ve figured out the ones that work best for my brain. Because nootropics are so customizable, everyone’s regimen will look slightly different. But if you’re interested in how nootropics can impact your brain, these eight are a good place to start.
Here are 8 of my favorite nootropics:
- Magnesium L-threonate. Magnesium comes in many pill forms, but I like L-threonate because it’s easily absorbable and targets your brain. Magnesium L-threonate is what I’d call a “normal” supplement — very popular, easy to take. L-threonate is currently in clinical trials to determine whether it can be used as a learning aid for people with dementia. I take magnesium L-threonate daily.
- Qualia Mind. Qualia Mind is a bit more hardcore. It contains 28 active ingredients (including B-12, caffeine, and bacopa), and is designed to enhance memory, cognition, focus, productivity, and overall brain health. I don’t take Qualia Mind daily — only when I need to fine-tune my focus.
- Alpha-GPC. In the U.S., Alpha-GPC is only available as a dietary supplement, but some European countries prescribe it medically. Its aim is to increase acetylcholine, a naturally occurring brain chemical central to learning and memory functions.
- Lion’s Mane Mushrooms. Well-known to mycologists (people who study mushrooms), Lion’s Mane is full of essential nutrients, including complex carbs, vitamins, and minerals. Scientific studies of the mushroom have shown it to heal neural pathways and protect against long-term learning and memory slowdowns.
- Methylfolate. Methylfolate is a medically recommended B-vitamin supplement. It contains folic acid, which is essential to the body’s production of healthy cells. It’s particularly beneficial for people who are naturally deficient in folate — either for genetic or lifestyle reasons.
- Glutathione nasal spray. Glutathione (GHS) deficiency has been linked to a handful of major degenerative conditions, including Alzheimer’s, multiple sclerosis, and Parkinson’s Disease. Doctors have begun prescribing GHS in nasal spray form, which studies have concluded to be safe and generally effective. You’ll need a prescription to get GHS nasal spray.
- Ashwagandha. Ashwagandha is an herb, and a longtime staple of Ayurveda medicine. Studies have linked it to a number of health benefits, including better sleep, lower stress, and increased testosterone. Unlike straight-up testosterone supplements, ashwagandha helps the body naturally produce more testosterone, a healthier approach.
- L-tyrosine. Another chemical naturally produced by the body, tyrosine is an amino acid central to mental focus. I use it for sharper thinking, but people use it for a range of purposes, including breaking addictions to alcohol and cocaine.
Benefits of nootropics:
I’ve experienced higher energy levels, greater clarity, more happiness, and higher productivity as a result of fine-tuning my nootropic regimen. I don’t take all of these every day (I suspect my bowels would disagree with that approach). Instead, I practice self-awareness through meditation — slowing down, focusing on breathing, tuning into my body’s condition, seeing what it needs.
No nootropic cocktail is a cure-all. Solid lifestyle habits — good sleep, balanced diet — are the foundation of mental clarity. But a well-balanced regimen can be a powerful tool for anyone looking to optimize their body and mind for productivity and focus.