So Exactly What Are Nootropics?
Nootropics also known as 'Smart Drugs' 'Memory Enhancers' and 'Cognitive Enhancers', are non-toxic, neuroprotective, functional foods.
While there are many different types, what all Nootropics have in common, is that they stimulate the mind and improve mental functions.
Such as cognition, intelligence, memory, focus, concentration, and not least, motivation!
The word 'Nootropic' comes from the fusion of two Greek words: Nous - meaning 'mind' or 'understanding' and the word Tropus - meaning 'to turn or bend'
This might all sound a little scary, but it really is not! Nootropics are in fact considered very healthy for our brains and body, if like with everything else, you don't abuse them!
What are Nootropics used for?
Nootropics are used for countless of things and there is not really a specific group of people that benefit more from them than others.
What they can do for most people, is to enhance their ability to learn, remember, focus, and concentrate.
5-HTP is the first that comes to mind. 5-HTP is the direct precursor to one of the most vital neurotransmitters, 'Serotonin'.
When you have low Serotonin levels, depression often follows. Taking supplements like L-Tryptophan and 5-HTP can help replenish your Serotonin levels.
A Friendly Warning
It's important to be aware that you should never take Nootropics or any neurotransmitter precursors (including 5-HTP) if you are on anti-depressants. Why? Because that's basically like taking two anti-depressants, since the above mentioned supplements have very similar effects on our neurotransmitters.
So what types of Nootropics are there?
Well the thing about Nootropics is that it is such a broad topic with so many areas, that you can't just say "Want more energy? Take Nootropics!"
It doesn't work like that, there are many different types of Nootropics, as well as there are different people, with different minds.
You should also know that the various effects you can get, are dose dependent, meaning that e.g. 100 mg of the drug "Picamilon" (a combination of GABA and Niacin) will give a calm anti-anxiety effect, while at higher doses it can give a mind and even body-stimulating effect.
In fact some bodybuilders use Picamilon as a stable in their workout stack.
Here is an overview of some of the most commonly taken Nootropics
Vinpocetine is extracted from the Periwinkle Plant. It is a so-called cerebral-vasolidator. This means that it specifically targets blood-flow going to the brain.
Why is this important? Well take this into consideration, our brains alone take up about 20% of our entire body's oxygen supply.
The less oxygen we have in our brains, the less optimal all of our mental functions work.
So what Vinpocetine does, is increase cerebral blood flow and while doing that it improves the amount of glucose and oxygen uptake in the brain.
The improved blood circulation has a detoxifying effect which helps the brain's ability to remove toxins from neurons and cells. It also prevents the accumulation the age pigment called 'lipofuscin'.
So to cut it short, Vinpocetine provides our brains with fresh nutrients while flushing out the old.
The 'Racetam' Family
What all Racetams have in common, is that they increase neuronal activity in various areas of the brain, resulting in improved memory formation and better memory recall.
Racetams should not be taken lightly, while overdosing on Racetams is close to impossible (although you can theoretically overdose on anything), it is still important to do your homework before experimenting with them.
The most common side effect experienced with Racetams, is headaches. This sometimes happens because when the Racetam increases neuronal activity (making your brain work better) at the same time your Acetylcholine neurotransmitters are depleted at a faster pace than otherwise.
Fortunately there's a solution for that problem!
Which brings me to the next example
The neurotransmitter Acetylcholine is responsible for many things, especially optimal short and long-term memory recall.
There are many types of Acetocholine precursors (think of precursors as the building blocks for neurotransmitters, just like amino acids are what make up muscle tissue), some of the most common ones are Alpha GPC, DMAE, Acetyl-L-Carnitine, GPC-Choline, and Choline Bitartrate
When you deplete your Acetylcholine levels, one of the consequences (among feeling drowsy and slow) is often headaches.
It is the same thing that happens when experiencing a brutal hangover. Depleted neurotransmitters are the consequence of punishing your brain with excessive amounts of toxic alcohol. The reason you get the so-called "black holes" (memory loss) when getting drunk, is because you are depleting your Choline levels.
Does this mean that Choline supplements are helpful for treating hangovers?
You got that right!
However Choline supplements are even more effective if you take them before getting blasted. Remember "An ounce of prevention is better than a pound of cure".
But remember to differentiate with the Racetam and alcohol symptoms. Racetams actually make your brain work harder, giving you cognitive benefits, which sometimes comes with the price of temporarily decreased Acetylcholine levels.
The alcohol symptoms however, are happening by killing your brain cells while you are having a blast at the pub, club, or wherever.
There's nothing wrong with that, if that's your thing, but the difference is important to emphasize.
What both examples have in common, is that they can be prevented, or treated with great results by supplementing with Choline sources.
Choline are found in great quantities in eggs. In fact they contain so much choline that extra Choline supplementation is not necessary if you are taking Racetam supplements. However it is important that you eat a Choline rich source with the Racetam, not several hours before or after.
This is why Choline supplements are very convenient for busy people, because you can experience the benefits without having to walk around with a back pack full of boiled eggs!
It is much easier to eat 1-2 grams of Alpha GPC, than eating 5 - 10 whole eggs in a sitting, and that's why I always use supplementation to prevent or treat hangovers.
Always remember, that Nootropics are supplements, and just that. Nothing beats real food, I firmly believe in combining whole foods with supplements that fit my personal needs.
If you are busy and often on the run while doing brain-challenging tasks, you can benefit greatly from taking Nootropics. But when you are off work-duty, the simple greatest Nootropic available is, healthy foods, and exercise.
You should never forget that.