If you are new to nootropics, and don’t know where to start, this post is for you.
I’ll not insult your intelligence and suggest starting with something simple like caffeine and L-Theanine. Instead, let’s put together a stack that’s simple, safe and powerful. And won’t crush your monthly budget.
First, let’s lay the ground rules for building a stack. Dr. Giurgea, the chemist who came up with Piracetam in 1963, gave us a list of 5 criteria that a substance must have to be considered a true nootropic.
Dr. Giurgea suggested that a true nootropic:
- Enhances memory and the ability to learn
- Assists brain function under disruptive conditions such as lack of oxygen and electroconvulsive shock
- Protects the brain from chemical and physical toxins like anticholinergic drugs and barbiturates
- Increases natural cognitive processes
- Must be non-toxic to humans, nor stimulate or depress the brain
The bottom-line is this stack must be safe to use even long-term. You’ll make improvements to cognition and mood. And if you decide nootropics aren’t for you, you’ll simply go back to baseline where you started. With no damage done and nothing to repair.
Here we’ll put together a simple nootropic stack based on the above criteria. A stack that will:
- Enhance concentration and focus
- Improve your mood and lower anxiety
- Increase your energy without irritability and avoid a crash when it wears off
- Boost your memory
- Reduce stress and fatigue
- Boost learning ability
Sound good? Let’s get started…
Nootropic Stack Synergy
It’s important to understand that a nootropic stack should work synergistically. Because each supplement has a different mechanism of action in your brain and body. And each supplement in your stack should support the other nootropics in your stack.
Once acetylcholine does its job, the enzyme acetylcholinesterase comes in and breaks down acetylcholine.
But if you use more than one acetylcholine (ACh) precursor or supplement, you can boost ACh too much. Excess ACh can cause depression, irritability, muscle pain and a host of other problems.
Also keep in mind that a nootropic like Huperzine-A inhibits acetylcholinesterase. Which increases ACh levels in your brain. So if you are using Hup-A in your stack, you may want to cut back on your dose of Alpha GPC, CDP-Choline or other choline supplement.
Many nootropic supplements either increase ACh or inhibit acetylcholinesterase. If you take more than one choline supplement, you’ll hit a ceiling and not get a synergistic effect. The same goes for other neurotransmitters, and many other supplements in our List of Nootropics.
Cumulative Effect of Nootropics
Keep in mind that the effect of some nootropics can be cumulative. And the effects build up in your brain over time. A good example is Huperzine-A which has a half-life of 24-hours.
Dosing Hup-A everyday means your body never has a chance to get rid of some of the Hup-A, and it builds up over-time. Even in the short-term. Which can be toxic. So you should cycle Huperzine-A and restrict use to every 2nd or 3rd day.
For each nootropic you are considering, always, always read dosage recommendations, side effects and possible interaction with other nootropics or prescription drugs.
Water-Soluble vs. Fat-Soluble Nootropics
Another thing to consider is that some nootropics are water-soluble. And some are fat-soluble.
Water-soluble nootropics are generally easily absorbed. Fat-soluble nootropics however, require a quality fat to ensure they get used by your brain. And can cross your blood-brain barrier and enter brain cells.
This explains why some supplement labels recommend you take their nootropic with a meal. The manufacturer is implying that it’s a fat-soluble supplement. And they’re counting on the fat in your meal to boost bioavailability.
Whenever I’m about to take my nootropic stack, I always precede it with a tablespoon of extra virgin, cold-pressed coconut oil.
You can also use extra virgin, cold-pressed olive oil. But I prefer coconut oil because the MCT’s are like rocket fuel for my brain. In addition to helping my brain absorb whatever fat-soluble nootropics I’m using.
Beginner Nootropic Stack
This stack works well for someone just starting out with nootropics. And it works well for experienced neurohackers as well.
CDP-Choline (Citicoline) 250 mg per day taken in the morning. This highly bioavailable source of choline easily crosses the blood-brain barrier.
CDP-Choline is metabolized in your body to form choline and cytidine. Choline aids in the synthesis of the neurotransmitter acetylcholine (ACh) in your brain. And cytidine converts to uridine which is important for forming brain cell membranes.
Bacopa Monnieri (45% bacosides) 450 mg per day taken in the morning. Bacopa is an adaptogen which helps prevent the chemical and physical effects of stress. Instead of just suppressing them like prescription antidepressants.
Bacopa Monnieri is used to reduce anxiety, depression and stress. And helps boost memory, concentration and reaction time. Bacopa is also used for neuroprotection by helping to maintain a healthy balance of neurotransmitters. Bacopa is also effective in treating many of the symptoms of ADHD.
Lion’s Mane Mushroom 500 mg to 3 gm per day depending on polysaccharide content. Lion’s Mane prevents neuron damage and boosts Brain Nerve Growth Factor which is important to forming new neurons (neurogenesis).
Lion’s Mane can help improve focus and attention, boost cognition, repair brain cells, and help anxiety and depression.
N-Acetyl-L-Tyrosine (NALT) 300 – 500 mg per day taken in the morning. NALT is a highly bioavailable form of L-Tyrosine which is used in your brain to synthesize dopamine. And the neurotransmitter norepinephrine.
NALT helps alertness, concentration, executive function, focus, libido, memory, and works like an antidepressant.
L-Theanine 250 – 500 mg per day taken in the morning. Or split in two doses. One in the morning. And one at noon.
Or you can drink 3 or 4 cups of organic green tea during your day. Green tea is an excellent source of L-Theanine. It works quickly and helps increase both dopamine and serotonin. The “feel good” neurotransmitters in your brain.
L-Theanine stacked with caffeine provides a synergistic effect that helps promote cognition, motivation and attention. With no caffeine jitters.
Vinpocetine 10 mg dosed up to 3-times per day. Vinpocetine helps brain blood flow by dilating blood vessels. And reducing viscosity or blood thickness.
Boosting cerebral circulation with Vinpocetine increases levels of oxygen and glucose which maintains healthy levels of neurotransmitters. And promotes better concentration, focus and memory.
DHA (Omega-3) 1000 mg per day taken in the morning. Your brain is made up of 60% fat and much of it is in the form of DHA. This fat helps in the formation of brain cell membranes. And plays a vital role in how neurons and synapses function.
Low levels of DHA can lead to ADHD, anxiety, depression, obesity, suicide, and increased risk of Alzheimer’s and dementia.
B-Vitamin Complex daily in the morning. Make sure you get a formula that is considerably higher than RDA recommendations.
- Vitamin B1 (thiamine) is essential for producing the neurotransmitter acetylcholine. It helps turn nutrients into adenosine triphosphate (ATP), the fuel used by your cell’s mitochondria. And contributes to the myelin sheath that protects neurons from damage.
- Vitamin B3 (Niacin) is used in the synthesis of Coenzyme-A which helps form Acetyl-CoA. Acetyl-CoA joins with choline (which you get from CDP-Choline) to form acetylcholine. Niacin is also a precursor to NAD and NADH needed for ATP synthesis to fuel brain cell mitochondria. And Niacin stimulates the production of dopamine, norepinephrine and serotonin. Neurotransmitters involved in cognition, learning, memory, mood and recall.
- Vitamin B5 (Pantothenic Acid) is required for the synthesis of Coenzyme-A to produce acetylcholine. You may not realize the full benefit of the rest of this nootropic stack containing CDP-Choline, or any of the racetams you may decide to add to this stack, without Vitamin B5.
- Vitamin B6 (Pyridoxine) helps your body make serotonin, norepinephrine and melatonin. Your body also requires Vitamin B6 to absorb Vitamin B12 and to make red blood cells and cells for your immune system.
- Vitamin B8 (Inositol) is involved in brain cell signaling, and is a component of brain cell membranes. Inositol helps boost serotonin and dopamine receptor density. Improving the effectiveness of serotonin, GABA, glutamate and dopamine neurotransmitters in your brain.
- Vitamin B9 (Folate) aids in the production of DNA and RNA in your brain cells. And works closely with Vitamin B12 to make red blood cells, and help iron work properly in your body and brain.
- Vitamin B12 (methylcobalamin) is needed to regulate homocysteine levels which are linked to inflammation in your brain and body. And B12 is a cofactor in the synthesis of neurotransmitters dopamine, GABA, norepinephrine and serotonin.
Our beginner nootropic stack covers all the criteria mentioned in the introduction to this post.
Nootropic Stack Cost
Approximate costs of each:
- CDP-Choline (Citicoline) $26 (25 grams)
- Bacopa Monnieri $9 (90 capsules)
- Lion’s Mane Mushroom $10 (60 capsules)
- N-Acetyl-L-Tyrosine (NALT) $7 (100 grams)
- L-Theanine $4 (30 capsules)
- Vinpocetine $5 (30 capsules)
- DHA $10 (60 capsules)
- B-Vitamin Complex $11 (100 B-100 capsules)
For approximately $82 per month you can begin optimizing your brain. I suggest using a tablespoon of extra virgin, cold-pressed coconut oil before each of your doses. To ensure maximum bioavailability and absorption by your body and brain.
Accurately Measuring Nootropic Powders
Nootropic powders usually come with a measuring scoop to help you calculate your dose. For a more accurate measurement, I recommend using a scale like the American Weigh Scales Digital Pocket Scale.
And you can make your own capsules using a simple tabletop machine like the Capsule Connection Capsule Machine which you can get usually for under $20.
Try a Professionally-Formulated Nootropic Stack
You may also want to consider trying Mind Lab Pro, a high quality premade nootropic stack which contains all the supplements in our beginner’s formula. Mind Lab Pro also contains Phosphatidylserine (PS), Rhodiola Rosea and Pterostilbene. For less than buying each nootropic supplement on its own.
For a more advanced nootropic stack, or one tailored to an issue you want to address (cognition, memory, depression, energy and motivation or brain repair and maintenance), see “How to Create the Best Nootropic Stack”.
Each of the nootropics mentioned in the Beginners Guide to Nootropic Stacks have links to individual pages here on Nootropics Expert. Each nootropic article contains dozens of clinical studies. And much more detail on how each nootropic supplement helps optimize your brain.
If you have any questions about your stack, or comments about the Beginners Stack we covered here, please leave a comment below. Or go to the Nootropics Expert Forum for input and feedback from our community.