Nootropics are one of the most science fiction sounding concepts to have entered mainstream use today. Essentially, a nootropic is a ‘smart drug’ – a supplement or medication that can make a person smarter, whether that means they’re more focussed, they have a better memory or they are better able to understand complex subjects.
By using nootropics it is possible to upgrade your mind, in just the same way that a bodybuilding supplement can help you to upgrade your muscle.
But while this might sound like science fiction, the reality is that people all around the world are already using them. And among the chief users are the ‘1%’ – the world’s wealthiest and smartest people.
So the question is: can you really make yourself more intelligent by taking a pill? If you could… should you? And which pills are these one-percenters really using?
One of the most popular smart drugs of all is a medication called modafinil. Modafinil was originally designed as a treatment for narcolepsy – a condition that causes people to fall asleep at random and without warning. To this end, the principle mechanism of action for modafinil is to work on ‘orexin’ – a substance found in the brain that regulates sleep and wakefulness.
Modafinil is incredibly potent at helping people to stay awake for longer and can prevent many of the negative side effects of sleepiness – like sluggish thoughts, lethargy and brain fog.
But what’s even more fascinating is that modafinil can also go far beyond this to enhance focus, recall and attention. In fact, modafinil is so potent that it has been researched by the military as a potential supplement for fighter pilots – the idea being that it could help them to react faster and make smarter tactical decisions in a pinch.
Modafinil is openly used by many high achieving individuals. It’s particularly associated with Dave Asprey, who runs the blog ‘Bulletproof Exec’. He explains how he used it every single day to build his business and how he couldn’t have achieved that without it.
Should you use modafinil? While it isn’t shown to have any side effects, modafinil also hasn’t been tested in the long term. As Tim Ferriss says: there is no such thing as a ‘biological free lunch’. It’s also possible that modafinil might actually negatively impact on some abilities – such as creativity. So it’s your call, but proceed with caution!
Piracetam is the most popular among the ‘racetam’ category of nootropics. What this does is to increase attention and awareness by helping the brain to produce extra ‘acetylcholine’. This is one of the most important ‘excitatory’ neurotransmitters and therefore can help the brain to become more active, while also increasing memory and even subjective experience of color and sound.
Whereas modafinil acts almost immediately and has a half-life of around 10 hours, Piracetam needs to build up in the system over time. Those who advocate it though claim that it can then be highly effective at improving almost every aspect of their cognitive function.
Should you use it? For the most part Piracetam is considered one of the very safest options when it comes to nootropics but the problem is that some people find it causes brain fog and headaches. So again, proceed with caution.
If you’re looking for something a little gentler that will still get the job done, then try l-theanine. L-theanine is an amino acid that has perfect synergy with caffeine; helping to further enhance the wakefulness and concentration benefits while at the same time preventing the jitters and shakiness that caffeine can cause on its own.
L-theanine, like caffeine, is completely natural and available in the diet. In fact, l-theanine can be found alongside caffeine in some green teas. That said, you’ll need more than the naturally occurring quantities of each to see a really profound effect.
When you combine caffeine with l-theanine in a supplement form, you can expect to notice longer-lasting focus, vigilance, calmness and creativity. The best part? There are no known side effects, it’s completely legal and freely available and it’s not likely to carry any risks that we don’t know about.
So if you’re really looking for a nootropic to give you a mental edge, try this winning combination! This happens to form the backbone of many commercial nootropic supplements, so picking any of these will be a good place to start – especially as they tend to pack in additional benefits as well.