Getting Started With Brain Supplements or Nootropics
This blog post will guide you through the sometimes-confusing and always-interesting sphere of brain enhancement. We will examine the different types of nootropics and brain supplements you may come across, as well as address what they can do if you need them, among other topics.
The first step to take is to identify what kinds of cognitive enhancers you might encounter. There are two main sorts we've seen: natural nootropics or pharmaceutical 'smart drugs.' We'll expand on these categories below.
If you are interested in the topic of brain supplements or nootropics, you should also consider checking out our Smart Pill UK 2019 Review - Which Ones To Try and Which To Avoid article.
Type 1: Pharmaceutical smart drugs/nootropics
These products are those you might find on an online pharmacy, sold in dubious circumstances. They might comprise things like Modafinil, Ritalin or Piracetam when used as smart drugs, though all sorts of other pharmaceuticals smart drugs are also available.
The term ‘smart drug’ might be mistaken with nootropics as a whole, though this isn’t entirely fair.
The vast majority of these pharmaceuticals are prohibited for sale to people without a prescription in the UK under the 2016 Psychoactive Substances Act, meaning the people selling them are committing a crime.
This is why these drugs are only available from illicit sources, such as online pharmacies overseas that are working outside of the jurisdiction of the British MHRA (Medicines and Healthcare products Regulatory Agency). These drugs can quite harsh for some - often their effect is too great, causing jitters and restlessness for those that take them.
Others, however, find the first dose very exciting and mentally invigorating. Side effects can be minimal for some users on the first dosage, however, for many, the side effects build up quickly. These can be alleviated by cutting back on the dosage, but then this has knock-on effects on mood, with many feeling irritable.
Type 2: Natural nootropics
The second kind of cognitive enhancers you might encounter are natural nootropics. They’re so-named because they’re nootropics which rely solely on natural substances, such as superfoods, herbals, amino As, vitamins and minerals.
These cognitive enhancers include products like Brainzyme, Nootrobox’s Kado 3, or BrainSmart Ultra, and may also be called brain supplements or something similar.
As with smart drugs, there are many more food-based cognitive enhancers than these three that you might find in your research. These supplements frequently use ingredients like caffeine and theanine in a nootropic stack - that is, a mix of ingredients (natural or pharmaceutical) intended to work together to product a brain-enhancing effect.
If nootropics use only natural components, they’re generally legal under British law. This means natural nootropics are more well-regulated, and may thus be safer than the pharmaceutical alternative.
However, this is not always the case. For example, products containing bacopa monnieri should be viewed with caution, as this herb is prohibited by the MHRA.
Natural nootropics are more subtle than their pharmaceutical counterparts, while still providing a strong nootropic effect in many cases. They generally do not cause restlessness or over-activity, instead promote calm thought and focus.
They are also very useful in the short-term, such as staying up in an emergency use situation, however, they continue to have good results when taken for medium and long-term periods.
They can increase concentration, motivation, mental energy and overall productivity. Side effects are minimal due to the natural source of the ingredients, however, some people report feelings of increased thirst, which can be alleviated easily by drinking extra water.
What can nootropics do?
Nootropics are sometimes called smart pills. The media often sensationalises their effects, taken to an extreme in movies like Limitless where a nootropic turns a man into a genius almost overnight.
So, it’s important to get a grounded sense of what a nootropic can actually do for you if you choose to take one.
Nootropics should not be overestimated. They cannot make you smarter or turn you into a genius.
Indeed, it’s often a good idea to make lifestyle choices (which we’ll address shortly) to help enhance your brain’s performance rather than using a supplement, as it’s impossible to form a tolerance to good sleep, exercise and good food.
Likewise, they should not be underestimated. A nootropic can give you extra concentration, motivation, and help you stay alert. They can’t directly make you smarter, but they can help you perform at your full capacity.
This might help you make yourself smarter, through hard work and effort. They can help you get more done and might make you feel good doing it as many nootropics encourage the release of dopamine, serotonin or GABA.
Do I really need a brain supplement?
However, before you commit to a purchase, it might be wise to consider whether you actually do need a brain supplement. Cognition can be helped markedly by positive lifestyle choices - such as getting enough sleep, eating properly or positive thinking.
If you feel that you need support, a supplement can be a good temporary solution. However, we would always recommend making changes in your habits that are conducive to good cognitive function.
You might try something like replacing a chocolate bar with a piece of fruit or veg, which can contribute to better nutrition and thus better cognition. Increasing your water intake can also help, as even a low level of dehydration can impair your mental performance.
You could also exercise more, trying to hit 150 minutes of moderate aerobic exercise per week - this can contribute to better fitness, weight reduction, improved mood and all sorts of other benefits alongside a sharper mind.
Reducing or eliminating bad habits - smoking, drinking or drugs - would, of course, help your overall health and may improve cognitive performance.
Finally, you can try mindfulness - take a few minutes whenever you can to focus on your breathing and ‘centre’ yourself. This gives your mind some time to clear itself and can help you feel rejuvenated in the middle of a long day.
Are brain supplements safe?
A big concern, particularly for something that’s meant to affect your brain, is whether a product is safe or not. This is not something to be taken lightly, as nootropics can cause problems or side effects for people in some instances.
We would recommend checking for the indication that a supplement is compliant with regulations from bodies like the Department of Health, Trading Standards or Food Standards. This will ensure that it doesn’t contain anything that’s been banned under British law as being dangerous or unsuitable for human consumption.
You might also want to check reviews - if many people claim that they feel bad side effects from a product, it might be wise to give it a miss.
Many natural products manage to avoid most side effects as their natural-sourced ingredients are less harsh than pharmaceuticals, and work more synergistically with your body.
What brain supplement should I try?
So, you’ve tried making some positive changes to your life, and still, feel that you’d like to try a brain supplement? Your next step should be determining what cognitive enhancer would be best for you.
To do this, it’s necessary to decide what you need it for, as there are numerous different supplements available for purchase with specific purposes in mind.
If, for example, you’d like an entry-level, milder brain supplement that provides you with calm focus and energy, you should try something like Brainzyme Focus Original.
If you're feeling unmotivated, you can get a strong boost to focus, energy and motivation from Brainzyme Focus Pro. It helps you think clearer and get more done.
If you're often stressed, Brainzyme Focus Elite can provide you with a stress-free focus boost. It helps you feel less tense, whilst boosting your concentration and energy.
These are just our three favourite natural nootropics - you might want to research what supplement can fulfil your specific needs. Additionally, we strongly recommend doing your research into any supplement that you’re considering. There are many products which might appear legal or are even being sold by large chains, but they contain illegal ingredients or make claims that aren’t allowed by the MHRA.
If you’re concerned about a product, it might be worth getting in touch with Trading Standards to inquire about its legitimacy.
You might also want to ask your doctor, particularly if you have a pre-existing medical condition or are taking any medication.
How long should I take a brain supplement for?
If you’ve picked up some brain supplements, you might also be wondering how long you need to take them to feel an effect, or whether you shouldn’t take them for too long.
This, of course, varies from product to product, but we can give some suggestions:
Frequently, brain supplements need a few weeks of consumption for you to feel their full effects. Both natural and pharmaceutical nootropics also have this dynamic and need to be taken for a while for the most impact.
However, some products are able to produce an effect quickly. Brainzyme works within an hour, which is due to the large amount of choline in it (equivalent to 500 grams of broccoli) and matcha green tea, which contains Theanine, an ingredient that's linked to improvements in concentration, according to some studies.
Often, natural nootropics can be taken for as long as you want. With pharmaceuticals, there can be an issue of tolerance. Modafinil and Adderall, when used as study drugs, have been known to form a tolerance, meaning you need to take more of the drug to get the same effect.
Also, bear in mind that everyone’s body is a little different. Your friend might not form a tolerance to something as quickly as you, but you might feel an effect faster than them.
Determining the specifics of this might need a bit of experimentation on your part, as online reviews probably won’t reflect your personal experience exactly.
When should I take nootropics?
Again, this varies. If a product isn’t meant to have an effect for a couple of weeks, planning out when you take it becomes quite important.
However, with many faster-acting products, it’s often sufficient to take them just before you’ll need them - for instance, maybe an hour before your exam if you’re using a brain supplement as a study aid.
It would be best to trial these products beforehand, as you wouldn’t want to have a bad reaction to a supplement in the middle of something important, though natural products tend to have very few side effects.
It’s also a good idea to check if a cognitive enhancer should be taken with food. Some will advise this, and others might advise taking their brain supplements on an empty stomach. Be sure to read the instructions provided with your purchase carefully.
Aside from a more subtle result, food-supplement based cognitive enhancers are generally safer than pharmaceutical nootropics.
Food supplement cognitive enhancers tend to be perfectly safe if consumed in moderation. Moreover, there’s frequently a lot of research done on the superfoods, herbs and amino acids these supplements often contain, as they’ve been around for a lot longer than smart drugs.
The lack of pharmaceutical ingredients also means that most food-supplement based cognitive enhancers are legal in the UK, which, along with the factors mentioned above, makes them much more dependable than study drugs.
Alternatively, if you enjoyed this article you should also consider checking out the following related blog posts:
Biohacking: How to Take Control of Your Biology.
The 13 Best Natural Nootropics for Brain Health .
The Best Over the Counter Concentration & Motivation Pill for Studying and Work?
* = Anecdotally, the improved concentration from BrainZyme enables increased motivation.
** = Important note - whilst BrainZyme is scientifically proven to support concentration and mental performance, it is not a replacement for a good diet, moderate exercise or sleep. BrainZyme is also not a drug, medicine or pharmaceutical. It is a natural-sourced, vegan food supplement with ingredients that are scientifically proven to support cognition, concentration, mental performance and reduction of tiredness. You should always consult with your doctor if you require medical attention.