To get ahead in life, you need to be alert and on the ball, with your head in the game. And you just can’t do that if you’re half asleep during the day, just going through the motions.
And that’s where nootropics and supplements for brain health come in. Consider this article your brief guide to nootropics…
We’re going to be covering what nootropics are exactly, how you may be able to benefit from using them, how effective they are, and the science behind it all, before discussing whether there are potential side effects and how to use nootropics safely.
Then we’re going to top that off with a summary on the best nootropics before wrapping up with a final conclusion. And without further ado, let’s get down to the nitty-gritty!
What Are Nootropics?
For those of you who don’t already know, nootropics, also commonly referred to as smart drugs, are substances that are intended to boost brain performance in one way or another.
Nootropics are often to be found in many foods and beverages. They include vitamins, minerals, amino acids, and more. Caffeine is a classic example.
If you feel you’re not getting enough nootropics in your diet, you can of course take them as a supplement.
In more recent years, nootropics have been produced synthetically, by combining naturally occurring chemicals.
Most nootropics and related supplements are perfectly legal for purchase and consumption in the USA.
Some (not all) nootropics are even FDA-approved for specific medical purposes, for example for narcolepsy and sleep apnea, and for attention deficit hyperactivity disorder, or ADHD.
Potential Benefits Of Nootropics
So, we’ve mentioned that nootropics can boost brain performance, but what does that mean exactly?
Well, it means a number of things, because they can have multiple effects, depending on which nootropic or brain supplement you take.
As a general rule, nootropics come under the banner of cognitive enhancers. And it is believed that they can boost your brain power in a number of different ways.
Here’s a list of the range of ways they can boost brain performance:
- Energy levels
- Mental stamina
- Mental composure under pressure
- Information processing
- Reasoning skills
- Short term memory
- Verbal acuity
Just How Effective Are Nootropics
Studies on the effectiveness of nootropics as cognitive enhancers are still very much in the early days.
Clearly their benefits to those with relevant medical conditions is well established, but as for their use to boost brain function in normal healthy individuals, there is evidence out there in the form of small, short term studies.
As for how effective they are, this would require bigger studies to ascertain. And it is likely (i believe) that such studies will be granted funding in the future.
But the point to remember here is this. No two people will necessarily react the same to the same nootropics.
Take caffeine as the classic example. Many people get a great boost from caffeine and use it to boost their work-outs or mental performance.
But others can react badly, becoming jittery and unnecessarily anxious, which can only be counterproductive.
A Brief Guide To The Science Behind Nootropics
Nootropics are thought to boost brain function. And they can do this in a number of different ways.
Here’s a quick breakdown for you:
- Boosting blood flow to the brain
- Enhancing the communication between brain cells
- Boosting the energy levels inside the brain cells
- Raising alpha brain waves to promote an alert yet relaxed mind state
- Neuroprotection – protecting the brain from toxins, and finally
- Boosting brain cell regeneration
(There are also those who say that these effects are actually minimal, and that the true benefit is a placebo effect, the belief that things are improving because you have taken a pill or supplement.)
Which effect you get from a nootropic depends entirely on what combination of substances are included in your nootropic or brain performance supplement.
And this goes for side effects, too, which leads us onto our next section.
Safety And Potential Side Effects
Due to a lack of large scale studies, the side effects of some nootropics are more widely recognized and established than others.
For example, Ritalin and Adderall can produce anxiety, stomach pain, and nausea. Other common nootropic side effects include mood imbalance and lightheadedness.
Best Nootropics (A Summary)
Now, we’re going to touch very briefly on some of the most popular types of nootropics and brain performance supplements.
The effects of caffeine supplements are the most thoroughly researched of all nootropics. Their effects are very predictable, and you will probably already know how effective they may be for you.
L-theanine works by raising the levels of certain chemicals in the brain known as neurotransmitters. These neurotransmitters include serotonin, GABA and dopamine, and they are important for communication between brain cells.
These neurotransmitter circuits influence your mood, alertness, and more.
Citicoline is thought to increase the levels of phosphatidylcholine in the brain, which in turn increases the levels of other chemicals in the brain, and in particular acetylcholine, which is important for memory.
Adderall is a cognitive enhancer and stimulant which is used by ADHD sufferers to improve their focus and concentration. If this is what you want, but you cannot get a prescription, then you should consider alternatives, be they natural or synthetic.
If you feel that you have issues with your brain performance, then your first course of action would be to rectify your brain performance with relevant lifestyle changes, for example getting plenty of sleep and exercise, and eating a healthy well-balanced diet.
After that, your next go-to would be to head over to your family doctor and establish whether prescription medication is called for.
If not, then, the choice whether or not to take or not to take nootropics or brain performance supplements is entirely in your hands.
You need to weigh up the potential benefits against the different side effects, and decide what is right for you, and your circumstances.
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