We all have those days where coffee and a nutritious breakfast just doesn’t do it for us. You can’t seem to concentrate on the task at hand. You’ve been at work for 2 hours but still haven’t done any real “work.” You wonder why you can’t focus. Maybe you go grab a snack, scroll through Instagram, or look up flights to Tahiti.
Days like these are where nootropics (pronounced NEW-tro-picks) can come in handy. Nootropics are supplements that can be derived directly from real foods or made in a lab. They are taken to enhance cognitive ability, improve focus, and support overall brain health and function. You can consume nootropics in powder, drink, and pill form.
Now that self-experimentation and self-improvement is “in,” nootropics are becoming a buzzword and supplement companies are jumping at the chance to sell you a pill that claims to boost your brain power.
As always, not all supplements are created equal. We’ve compiled a list of the nootropics we’ve trialed and trust.
The Best Nootropic Supplements
If you’re new into the world of nootropics, I suggest starting with Four Sigmatic Mushroom Coffee.
This instant coffee powder (just add hot water) gets its brain power from lions mane and chaga, two powerful mushrooms. Yes, you read that right– mushrooms! Many nootropic products are harnessing the power of natural mushrooms that can enhance cognitive function. Pretty cool, right? Plus you get a little caffeine boost. I was skeptical of how it would taste but there’s zero “mushroomy” flavor.
The boost from these products does not feel like the same jolt you get from a large dose of caffeine or a focus-enhancing medication like adderall. There’s no jitters and no crash. It’s a mild, “whoa I just sat here and focused on the task at hand out for an hour without looking up” kind of boost.
If you don’t want a drink at all and would rather take a capsule to help with mental clarity, we recommend Host Defense. Host Defense is a great brand, started by the worlds foremost mushroom researcher and advocate (if there ever was such a thing), Paul Stamets. I like their Mycobotanical Brain Capsules.
One other capsule we recommend is Onnit’s Alpha BRAIN. Alpha BRAIN is backed by two double blind clinical trials conducted by the Boston Center for Memory. They were able to show improvements in memory, brainwave patterns, and focus when compared to placebo. Get more information about the studies here.
I would not recommend taking any of these products on a daily basis. Just like coffee, the more you drink it, the more your body gets used to it and the less you feel the difference. Save these supplements for the days when you really need it. My nootropic of choice is the Four Sigmatic Mushroom Coffee with lions mane and chaga. I take it on days when I’m getting interviewed or doing a presentation. It makes me feel like my brain fires faster. I also like to throw a packet in a smoothie with almond milk, frozen blueberries, and my favorite protein powder.
Is there a downside?
Just like caffeine or alcohol, nootropics will effect everyone differently. One downside for me is that Alpha BRAIN gives me a runny nose for a few hours after taking it. I have not had another client report a similar experience, so it might just be me.
A few clients have reported having odd or very clear (lucid) dreams while taking nootropics.
Be wary of new supplement companies popping up trying to capitalize on the nootropic trend. Always do your research up front before investing your money and time into any supplement. If you want more personalized recommendations, work with us one-on-one. We can help you find the nootropic that will benefit you the most and make sure you are optimizing your diet for cognitive ability.
Post by Megan Ware, RDN, LD. Read more about the dietitians at Nutrition Awareness here.
Disclaimer: This article is intended for informational purposes only. I am not a medical doctor and recommendations provided should not take the place of medical advice or treatment.
Some blog posts may contain one or more affiliate links. I was not paid by any of the companies above to review their products. All opinions are my own.