Brain Rocket Fuel: The Best Nootropics for Studying
While it’s not all that common, some nootropics users feel little to no benefit from the piracetam-choline combination. The reasons for this are not entirely clear, but these reports usually come from younger, less-experienced users; youthful exuberance or improper dosing are likely suspects.
However, it’s often the case that these nootropics simply can’t get the job done. Medical students, lawyers, bankers, math majors, and other high pressure, cognitively-rigorous career tracks demand more than the basic nootropics can offer.
Study nootropics that go the extra mile
There is no competition for first place: Modafinil (and its stronger brother, Armodafinil) wins by a long shot. Adrafinil – its prodrug – is converted to modafinil in the liver, yet the focus effect is less noticeable.
Modafinil’s effects are not so much a charge of energy or even stimulus, but rather a long-lasting plateau of alertness and easy focus. You will feel awake and alert for upwards of 10 hours after taking doses as low as 200 mg, even taken on a sleep-deprived exam-day. On other days, I might take 100 mg moda to last the entire day, and only 3 or 4 days a week.
The current paradigm is that liver function test results would be similar for bio-equivalent doses, as in, 200 mg modafinil versus 300 mg adrafinil.
Modafinil can be purchased online from international retailers, but it’s expensive and can take weeks before arriving in the mail — a problem if you have a test in the near future. The next best thing is a proper nootropics study stack.
Before we go into details about the “best” or “strongest” nootropic stack, it’s important to answer a few questions. Note: if you cannot address these questions honestly and accurately, then taking nootropics for studying will do more harm than good.
Hopefully that got your attention.
The first question you must be able to answer is: what are your study goals and how do you think nootropics will help you realize those goals? If you’re someone who has difficultly getting motivated, then you’ll want nootropics that energize and motivate you to work.
If, on the other hand, you have trouble sitting still and are easily agitated, “energizing” nootropics will do more harm than good; supplements for focus and relaxation will result in much higher rates of productivity.
Now, most students who are looking for the perfect study nootropics are already shooting themselves in the foot because there is no such thing. In their attempts at the perfect stack, students will mistake good side effects of nootropics with less desirable side effects.
Don’t confuse energy with focus
There is no greater culprit of this confusion than caffeine. Students often blinding chug coffee and energy drinks hoping to somehow magically plow the information into their brain. This is a horrible state for retaining information (and for memory recall)! Amping yourself up with caffeine — a potent stimulant — is a silly idea if you’re going to be sitting in a chair for hours on end.
Another case of using nootropics improperly is taking Choline with Huperizine A. Both supplements are powerful acetylcholine boosters. Best practice is taking one or the other, but not both.
Balance is everything
If you’re designing a stack and feel the need to include both, limit HupA doses to twice weekly, and do not take it at night. Especially not with a choline supplement as this will cause your acetylcholine levels to skyrocket.
High ACh levels prevent a good night’s rest and inhibit memory consolidation during sleep (one of the essential phases of information retention during hardcore study binges).
If you must drink caffeine
To tell an advanced math student that he or she should stay away from caffeine is probably not worth your time. The famous mathematician saffsadfsafd has said, “a mathematician is a machine for turning coffee into theorems”.
In my humble opinion, anything that can get people off the destructive cycle of caffeine tolerance-dependence is progress. The half-life of caffeine is so short that if proposed as a drug agent today it would be laughed out of the room by every pharma company in the world.
Your time frame
The second question that must be answered before building a study stack: when do you want the nootropics to take effect?
Personally, Piracetam (most researched, safest racetam) and AGPC were working pretty well for me, though 2-3 weeks of your study time could be very foggy. When I started l-dep that was not good for about 8 days but I really had to reduce the dosage before then.
In the beginning I completely lost the desire and ability to study well. ALCAR seems to work better now than piracetam on a lose dose of dep. I have some pyritinol and l-phen on the way. I’m less sure about the other things I’m taking.
It took several months to get noticeable effects if I can call them that. It is hard to know if it’s placebo but I have to think I am understanding concepts better even though I could just be learning knew ways to study through exam feedback.
It’s important to ease into your stack by slowly escalating the dosage of each nootropic, but also to be aware that some drugs will take time before providing any kind of noticeable benefit.
Can’t afford modafinil? No problem.
My advice, take any combination of the following nootropics (listed in order of importance, from most important to least):
- Fish Oil (or, budget allowing, high quality Krill Oil), through its Omega-3 Fatty Acids, stimulates the part of the brain dedicated to learning;
- Pyritinol (200 mg, 2-5x/day). Pyritinol uses a doubled vitamin B6, creating energy, awareness and overall concentration;
- A B-Vitamin Complex to sharpen the mind;
- Galantamine (2-4 mg, 2-4x/day). Also an ACh booster, but less harsh than AGP-Choline. Galantamine also has neuroprotective properties — a healthy side effect when cramming new bits of information into your cerebrum for weeks on end!
- L-Theanine (200-600 mg/day). L-Theanine is a green tea derivative working as a psychoactive substance that raises dopamine and serotonin levels, thus causing an increase in learning potential and improving memory.
Rounding out the general stack
If you can afford them and are looking to maximize your brain health and power, add the following herbal remedies to your stack.
- Bacopa monnieri whole herb extract, 225 mg
- Ginkgo biloba standardized extract, 120 mg
- Korean Red / Panax Ginseng, 500 mg
Take one recommended dose of each with a full glass of water, just before bed.
Compliment your nootropics with a healthy diet
Your diet should be even more strict: 1-3 eggs a day, NO SUGAR, high nutritional value foods with a multivitamin and B-complex.
Get regular sleep, and take a handful of walking-breaks during the study process to keep your circulation up (regular exercise couldn’t hurt, even 15-20 min/day; good sex is also recommended, both for the exercise and stress relief).
That’s really not that hard to pull off. Aside from theanine, trying to amp your brain up by taking more than the recommended dose of the other three supplements can make you too jacked up to sit still. It’s that sweet sweet balance you want to aim for.
What to avoid
- High doses of caffeine. If you need a small cup of coffee or tea to get rolling in the morning, fine. But don’t chug chug chug to just get through the day. The biggest killers of productivity are caffeine and sugar crashes.
- Energy drinks.
- If HupA made it into your stack, limit doses to twice weekly and do not take it at night.
- Bacopa has a relaxing or even fatiguing effect for many people, so it may not be conducive to studying. Also, there are suggestions in the literature that its memory effects take a month or two to kick in, though some people seem to think it’s immediately beneficial. For these reasons, you might want to take one dose at night: 500 mg is plenty.
- Vinpocetine has an anti-dopamine mechanism, so it may not be the best solution (though some do like it). Not a problem: you’ve replaced vinpocetine with good vasodilators like pyritinol and/or ginkgo.
Lastly, I would replace choline with ALCAR for a couple of reasons. First, myself and a few others find the combo with piracetam synergistic. Second, it seems to have a ‘gentler’ mechanism of increasing ACh, perhaps because choline is stored in cell membranes and will increase ACh over a longer period.
Still eat those eggs, though!