2019 is well under way and nootropics are only gaining momentum and popularity. Thousands including myself have multiple stacks up our sleeves to power through massive work loads and gain momentum in our lives. If you're just getting started with nootropics there's a lot of catching up to do, there's a lot of experimentation in your future. In this guide I'm going to take you from a complete nootropics noob to a smart drugs grand master. Today you take a massive red pill and see just how far the rabbit hole goes. Follow this guide carefully and you're guaranteed to come out the other side with a few solid stacks of your own, and a relentlessly efficient brain.
Why take nootropics?
Why would somebody seek nootropics? Why would you go out of your way to secure random bags of horrid tasting white powder? The short answer is raw mental performance. The long answer is much more nuanced. Nootropics bring a lot of value to the table with users reporting increased mental clarity, increased well being, marked reductions in anxiety, and marked reductions in day to day symptoms of depression and brain fog. The beautiful thing about nootropics is not only can nootropics clear the fog, but they do so with very little side effects. Nootropics by their definition are neuroprotective, have a low potential for abuse, and carry little to no harmful side effects. Now, this doesn't mean EVERY nootropic is going to work for you (as we will discuss later), but it does grant you peace of mind knowing there isn't any downsides to experimenting.
Nootropics for me measurably increase my subjective feelings of well being, my physical and mental energy, and put me in a state where I WANT to engage with the world and my day to day work loads. On a normal day without nootropics I find it extremely difficult to motivate myself and easily fall into pits of depression and self loathing. Thoughts run wild and emotions force me into my head making it impossible to do anything productive. It is abundantly clear to me that nootropics are ultimately a net positive in my life. Even though long term implications of taking nootropics have not been studied I have made a calculated risk to continue taking them. It's a simple matter of looking at the alternative and saying "No thank you!"
Nootropics offer a mental edge. Nootropics offer a safer alternative to individuals not wanting to go the pharmaceutical route. Depression, anxiety, ADHD, Bi Polar, etc. These are manageable conditions if you choose to take control out of the hands of the typical social conditioning machine which pushes pharmaceutical drugs. If you're reading this right now you have everything you need to take control of your mentality and your brain chemistry.
How do Nootropics work?
The mechanisms behind how nootropics work have yet to be fully understood although we do know they modulate certain neurotransmitters like Acetycholine and Dopamine. Nootropics like Piracetam are novel because they don't display any notable sedative or stimulating effects as seen in typical cognitive enhancing compounds like Caffeine or Amphetamines. Hence, nootropics carry little to no common side effects observed in some of these more hardcore pharmaceutical varieties. Many nootropics have demonstrated a clear ability to improve cognition and slow the rate of cognitive decline in the elderly. Most studies involving nootropics use elderly individuals as their subjects or rats which have been manipulated to exhibit impaired cognition. Passive avoidance tests in mice are used to determine changes to memory and other markers in the context of nootropics. Despite the lack of data on healthy human individuals many self reported healthy people report positive subjective improvements. I am one of those individuals and take Piracetam like medicine.
Let's dive into Piracetam as an example since it's the first nootropic ever synthesized and also the most well studied and researched. Piracetams mechanisms are not fully realized although we see marked improvements in areas of the brain especially in low oxygen environments. 1 Piracetam increases verbal memory. 2 Piracetam increases the formation of memory and reduces agitation in elderly individuals with organic mental disorders. 3 In the same study Piracetam also showed a marked reduction in paranoid ideations and behaviors in the patients. Subjectively I can say Piracetam levels me out and significantly reduces the amount of anxious thoughts in my head. I'm much more likely to let small annoying stuff go rather than endlessly dwell on them. I become almost icy to the external world and less effected. To an "introverted empath" this is an appreciated escape from the world of emotions.
More broadly, Nootropics such as the racetams are closely tied in with neurotransmitters like Acetylcholine. Acetylcholine is the most abundant neurotransmitter in the brain and responsible for a number of functions involved with learning and memory formation. Nootropics producing massive action in this part of the brain do so by modulating Acetylcholine and improving its overall functioning. Choline (a nootropic in its own right) is a precursor to making Acetylcholine. With Piracetam, we see an increased concentration of Choline uptake in the brain along with a marked decrease in Acetylcholine meaning Piracetam is cranking on the juice and burning serious brain fuel. 4 It's often recommended to add in a source of Choline when taking a racetam although this isn't always the best idea as I'll cover in the following section.
First steps and basic principles
So you're willing to invest in nootropics and give it a shot. Where do you start? Which nootropic do you start with first? My first piece of advice is always starting with a single nootropic. It's a common error of the new nootropics user to purchase a ton of nootropics and proceed to wash them all down at once. Maybe you read somewhere of a person taking 7 different nootropics with insane results. You go out and purchase the nootropics only to find out the same stack produces brain fog! What's going on here?
There are 2 main principles of taking nootropics.
1.) Taking the right nootropics
2.) Taking the right dose
Taking the right nootropics involves experimenting with nootropics on a singular basis. A nootropic that works well for me might not work well for you. If you start taking a slew of nootropics (the shotgun approach) and you get negative results, how do you know which nootropic caused the negative effect? Conversely, if you receive positive results you are still left in the dark knowing what nootropic is really doing the heavy lifting. Nootropics are expensive and it will be difficult to justify spending hundreds of dollars each month on multiple nootropics when really there's only one in there working for you.
To formulate a great stack requires figuring out the nootropics working well for you versus the ones that don't. As an example if you know you react favorably to Piracetam but you feel like crap after adding Noopept, then you know the Noopept is the cause. You can then choose to lower the Noopept dose in case you require a lower amount or disregard it completely.
It's crucial to understand it's not always about formulating some crazy stack. You might find you react well to a single nootropic. Nootropics are effective by themselves. They do not require any added nootropics although some are notably synergistic. The Piracetam + Choline and the Caffeine + L-Theanine stacks are notable examples. Sometimes I read peoples stack list and think "why?" Don't get hooked on the idea that you need to create the craziest stack possible. While it's worth it to experiment with combos, it's not necessary and you're only flushing money down the toilet (quite literally.) Most days I am taking a single nootropic or 3 at the most.
My recommendation is start with 4 grams of Piracetam daily for 14 days.
What to expect
So what exactly is going to happen when you start taking a nootropic compound? There's generally 3 things that can happen.
1.) You feel great, fired up, and motivated to get stuff done
2.) You feel like a pile of New York City garbage
3.) You feel nothing at all
In the case of option 1, fantastic! Keep going for a couple weeks to see if you either maintain positive results or reach a plateau. If you find you get diminishing results, take a break. With most compounds it's necessary to cycle off of them to maintain their full power. As with any compound, the brain compensates. You end up building a tolerance and the nootropic becomes ineffective.
In the case of option 2, there are a few things you can try. The first is lower your dose. It's entirely possible you took too large of a dose even if you're sticking to the recommended dosage range. Many people benefit from lower doses of certain compounds. For example, 200mg is far too stimulating for me but 50 - 100mg is just right. Remember, it's about finding the sweet spot. It's also entirely possible this is not the nootropic for you, in which case discontinue the compound entirely.
In the case of option 3, consider upping the dose or keeping the dose steady for a couple weeks. For some people, it can take weeks before any noticeable effects on cognition are observed. Once again, it's possible this is a nootropic that won't do much for you. Move on to something else.
Discovering your relationship to Choline and Acetylcholine
Many nootropics can be classified as Cholinergic or anti-cholinergic. Piracetam is anti-cholinergic because it uses up local stores of Choline in its process of modulating Acetylcholine.
I have found it practical to determine your sensitivity to Choline and Acetylcholine. Some people are what has been coined as "Choline Dominant." They already have tons of Choline rushing through their system. For these people, adding in extra Choline like CDP-Choline or Alpha GPC can induce depression and brain fog. Choline has the potential to depress the brain and blunt mental energy in high amounts.
As an interesting anecdote, a few studies have been able to either induce depression or a state of mania simply by modulating the Acetylcholine system. 5 Another study successfully used Choline to blunt the heightened and dangerous energy levels associated with a manic episode. 6 This shows you the power and potential certain nootropics can have on a system.
On the flip side, some people do not have the same abundance of Choline. When they take an anti-cholinergic compound like Piracetam they get headaches, brain fog, and other negative symptoms. It is necessary for these types to supplement extra choline when using such anti-cholinergics.
Knowing where you stand is a matter of taking either a cholingeric or an anti-cholinergic and observing the effects. For example, how do you react to 300mg of Alpha GPC? 400? 1000? Observe yourself under each change in dose. If you find you are becoming depressed even at low doses of Choline, then you are Choline Dominant. If you find you are feeling more focused and energized, you are someone who needs that extra Choline. For you, taking an anti-cholinergic without Choline will more than likely produce negative results.
Once you understand your relationship to Choline you can judge nootropics on paper based on their chemical relationship to Choline.
Conclusion + Resources
I firmly believe in the power of nootropics especially if you experience cognitive deficits. Brain fog, low mood, depression, etc can all be managed effectively with Nootropics once you gain the right information and knowledge. The key to success is going at this like a mad scientist. Taking control of your life and choosing life. Choosing to take full responsibility over your life and brain chemistry.
I recommend the following articles and of course check out my videos on You Tube.
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