Bottom line on brain health

I’ll admit, I’ve been inundated with questions regarding the posts I did on nootropics. So much so that I feel it is important to reiterate the following:

Nobody should be putting anything into their body without weighing both the risks and benefits first. What I share on this site is only skimming the surface of nootropics. Nothing I share should be construed as advice. Do your own due diligence and educate yourself.

As with any attempt to increase or decrease something you’ll need a baseline so you can measure the potential change. With nootropics the idea is to increase some function of the brain so you’ll need a way to measure the brain. More specifically, you’ll want to measure the exact function you want to increase. Perhaps it’s concentration or reasoning or memory. Maybe you just want to get brain back to where it was, like me.

There are commercial sites out there like Lumosity that you can use. However, I found Cambridge brain sciences to be the best platform to test. You can create your own “workout” routine for your brain and keep tabs on your scores to see if changes are occurring. Best of all it’s free!

After nearly 3 months of testing different nootropic stacks I’ve concluded that to find one that works for whatever it is your trying to improve is going to take a lot of work. Most people won’t do that and they just go read on Reddit about a stack and head to their local vitamin store to buy the supplements. Here’s my advice if that’s you. Don’t waste your time or your money! It takes discipline to find the right mix.

For me the following have helped me find my old brain. I walk, jog or run five times a week for a minimum of 30 minutes each time. A little over a year ago I read the book Spark and haven’t looked back since. I’m a firm believer in the overall health benefits of cardiovascular exercise and its impact on the brain.

I started eating better. No more fast-food and no snacking between meals. I began with a juice cleanse after watching the documentary “Fat sick & nearly dead”. It changed my life.

Lastly It’s been nearly a year since I built a standing desk . I don’t get that bogged down feeling in the afternoon. I’m more active outside of the office as computer time has changed to work time (i.e., less surfing the web). I’ll never go back to sitting at a traditional desk.

Bottom line is that combining a proper diet and exercise, along with plenty of sleep, can do wonders for overall brain health. At least it did (and still does) for me.

Long-term potentiation

Long-term potentiation (LTP) is thought to be the molecular event that contributes to learning. In a nutshell, LTP helps move whatever it is you’re learning from short-term memory to long-term memory. If you’re really bored you can watch a video that explains it better here.

There’s a lot of interesting research out there regarding chemically induced LTPs. I won’t bore you with the science behind it but should you want to learn more you can read the original research here.

The original experimenter attempting to create a  CILTEP (Chemically Induced Long TErm Potentiation) was Abelard Lindsay. Here’s a link to an interesting interview of Abelard.

The idea behind creating CILTEP involves inhibiting PDE4 while promoting the production of cAMP. This can be done, as the name would suggest, with some chemicals. Namely artichoke extract, as a PDE4 inhibitor, and Forskolin to increase cAMP levels.

If you want to absorb more of the information that you come into contact with then perhaps CILTEP is for you. It’s not going to give you the powers that Eddie Morra gained from taking NZT-48, but it might help in retention.

I took the following stack religiously, first thing in the morning on an empty stomach, for 5 weeks:

  • 800 mg of artichoke extract
  • 500 mg of L-Phenylalanine (don’t mistake this for DL-Phenylalanine)
  • 20 mg of Coleus Forskohlii root extract to get 4 mg of forskolin (check the label to see %)
  • 10 mg of vitamin B6

I’d wash this stack down with 10 oz of water mixed with a scoop of green super food for the micro-nutrients. Sadly, I’d say that I didn’t notice anything as far as retention goes or even an increased desire to learn for that matter. Bottom line is that the science behind it is cool and I so wanted it to work. I’m not giving up because I know you can get some bunk supplements and the levels might not be exact. I could also be a non-responder. I’ll continue to try different levels, other supplements, etc. all while measuring for changes.

I mention measuring for changes as that is an important part of understanding whether or not a nootropic is having an impact on you. It is extremely easy to fall victim to the placebo effect with this or any other nootropic stack. In my next post I’ll share the resources I used to keep track of my brain changes (or lack thereof).

What are you doing with your 0.1% edge?

I recently read The Edge Effect by Dr. Eric Braverman. If you are interested in nootropics or brain health, you should read it. Here’s a quick snippet:

For all that we humans tend to emphasize our differences, biologically speaking we are truly the same. The proof is in our DNA: the human genome sequence is more than 99.9 percent the same in all people. However, that 0.1 percent difference is all it takes for some of us to be healthy and others ill, some tall and others short, some quick-witted and others dull.

While DNA codes our behaviors and physical functions, it is not at the heart of what makes each of us unique. Our DNA is only as good as the transport system it creates for the transmission of information.

So what does make us unique? It’s the connection between the brain and the body. This connection is one aspect of “the edge.” When our edge is healthy we succeed, when it’s sick, we fail. A 0.1% edge isn’t much, or is it? Think about that before you answer. Time to get healthy and sharpen that edge!

Two popular nootropic stacks

I’ll start each nootropic post with the two paragraphs below.

Nobody should be putting anything into their body without weighing both the risks and benefits first. What I share on this site is only skimming the surface of nootropics. Nothing I share should be construed as advice. Do your own due diligence and educate yourself.

I want to make one point clear. The boost nootropics provide is only available with continued use. In other words, if you stop taking the nootropics the gains that have been made will begin to diminish back to prior levels.

Caffeine & L-theanine

I started with a simple stack (a stack is a combination of 2 or more supplements) of caffeine and L-theanine. My ratio was 2:1 in favor of L-theanine. I felt the best results with 200 mg of L-theanine and 100 mg of caffeine. At this level I experience the stimulating effects of caffeine but none of the irritating side effects like anxiety, increased blood pressure, and trouble sleeping.

In addition to neutralizing the common side effects of the caffeine, the L-theanine noticeably enhances my attention. I only take this stack when I’m really needing to focus on a project such as writing or research. I also won’t take this stack after 2 pm because I’ll have trouble getting to sleep that night and that is counterproductive in my book. The brain needs sleep.

Racetams

Racetams are considered the oldest nootropics. Dr. Giurgea synthesized piracetam in 1964. However, not all racetams are nootropics. Here are the ones I’ve read about:

I took a stack of phenylpiracetam and choline for one month. I didn’t feel the effects until after taking it every day for ten days. The racetam needs to build up in your body so patience is needed as well as diligence in taking it daily. I noticed clarity of thought when taking this stack as well as an increase in mental endurance.

Choline is needed to help the racetams cross the blood/brain barrier ( choline is one of the rare substances that can cross the blood/brain barrier). Choline helps maintain healthy synapses and membranes in the brain which tend to deteriorate with age. It’s found naturally in many foods but sadly most people don’t eat a healthy diet (a pound of broccoli contains 180 mg of choline) so a supplement is needed.

I took 600 mg of Alpha-GPC once daily for the choline and 200 mg of phenylpiracetam twice a day with the first dose on an empty stomach. thing in the morning. The choline allows the stack to break the blood/brain barrier and thus effective. If you do not have enough choline in your system you either suffer a massive headache or not feel the effects of the stack.

Cautions:

  • If you take L-theanine with piracetam it will inhibit some effects from piracetam. L-theanine is a partial inhibitor of AMPA receptors.
  • Drink plenty of water (you should anyways) when taking piracetams as they have water soluble properties.
  • More is not always better, especially with nootropics. In other words, don’t take crazy amounts of racetams and choline expecting to instantly “feel” it.

Coming up next I’ll post about Forskolin & artichoke extract. Wait, what?

What are nootropics?

As I grow older I’m very aware that my cognitive abilities are declining. I’m not as good with names. I find myself using scratch paper or a calculator to do simple math problems that I used to be able to do in my head. These are just a few examples that have motivated me to make life changes in the hopes of overcoming the cognitive decline.

I know that I’m not the only one that is experiencing a cognitive decline as the research out there agrees with me. In fact, with the advancement of technology, there’s a surge in research about brain health including ways to improve working memory, cognitive flexibility, motivation, attention and much more. It’s very exciting.

One vein of research I’ve spent considerable time in  involves the use of cognitive enhancers or nootropics to be specific. The overall idea is that there are certain amino acids, essential nutrients and other supplements that can aid cognitive decline, even give you an edge over others. Who wouldn’t want to be smarter, have superb recall and be able to grasp all concepts they encounter on a daily basis?

The answer to that question can be found with a few Google searches. Software, tutoring, secret tricks, pills, potions, all available to anyone willing to part with their cash. As an example, while nootropics are a small part, the overall supplement market is a 32 billion dollar industry . Keep in mind that with that potential comes a dark side full of charlatans, unfounded claims and abuse. DO YOUR DUE DILLIGECE!

Before we move further I want to make one point crystal clear. Nobody should be putting anything into their body without weighing both the risks and benefits first. What I share on this site is only skimming the surface of nootropics. Nothing I share should be construed as advice. Do your own due diligence and educate yourself.

To begin, let’s create a working definition of a nootropic. The term was first coined in 1972 by a Romanian chemist and psychologist named Dr. Giurgea. His criteria for a nootropic include:

  • A boost to memory and overall learning ability
  • Provide protection to the brain from injuries, either chemical or physical
  • Aid in controlling the cortex more effective
  • Have no sedative or stimulant effects
  • Possess negligible side effects and no detectable toxicity

There are others who’ve contributed research and requirements to an always debatable definition of nootropic, but I’m using the above. Keep in mind I’m not after a euphoric high or a buzz here. That’s not what nootropics are designed to do, at least the ones I want to use. I’m looking for that mental clarity, the ability to recall data when needed. To instatnly find the right word to use while making my point to others. I want my brain to work the way it did when I was younger.

Over the coming weeks I’ll be sharing more of what I’ve found in my time spent studying nootropics. Here’s a quick example. If you’ve ever taken a 5-hour energy shot you’ve used nootropics. I’m not talking about the caffeine, as that has a stimulating effect which doesn’t fit our working definition, but citicoline.

Caffeine is great as a stimulant but is often accompanied by jitters and the inevitable crash. However, if caffeine is taken with the common amino acid L-theanine the result is very different.  The combination has a longer lasting and more beneficial effect which boosts working memory, while reducing distractibility. Who wouldn’t enjoy that from time-to-time?