when to take choline bitartrate

Advanced Guide to Choline in Nootropic Stacks

David Tomen
David Tomen
10 minute read

best form of choline supplement

Choline is often the center of a great nootropic stack. Because without adequate levels of choline in your brain, the rest of your stack is unlikely to work very well.

Choline is neither a vitamin or mineral.  It is a water-soluble “nutrient” related to the B-Vitamin group. Choline was recognized as an “essential” nutrient by the US Institute of Medicine in 1998.[i]  “Essential” because your body cannot make enough choline on its own. You need to get it from food, or a supplement.

Choline is found naturally in eggs, liver, beef, salmon, cauliflower, Brussels sprouts and breast milk. Eggs are often considered “brain food” because they supply high amounts of choline.

Choline is needed by your body for liver function, normal brain function and development, nerve function, muscle movement, cellular energy and metabolism.

Choline assists in methylation involved in genetic expression and the repair of DNA, nerve signaling, and detoxification.

Your brain has a huge appetite for choline. It is critical for the synthesis of the key neurotransmitter acetylcholine. Which your brain uses to maintain clear communication between its billions of neurons.

In fact, choline is so vital to cognition and nerve function that, without it, we couldn’t move, think, sleep or remember anything.

Choline and acetylcholine are needed for the basics of attention, focus, memory, mood, thinking, and sleep.

Not enough choline and you deal with poor recall, memory loss, fatigue, brain fog, inability to learn, feeling irritable or distracted, and difficulty walking or staying balanced.

Stacking Racetams with Choline

If you use any of the racetam-family of nootropics in your stack, you likely should add a choline supplement. Because the racetams all affect choline and/or acetylcholine use in your brain in some way.

  • Aniracetam – releases more acetylcholine (ACh)
  • Coluracetam – increases choline – ACh conversion through the High Affinity Choline Uptake (HACU) process
  • Noopept – modulates ACh transmission
  • Oxiracetam – enhances choline-acetyltransferase (ChAT) which is used to synthesize acetylcholine
  • Piracetam – potentiates the flow of, and increases the effect of ACh
  • Phenylpiracetam – increases the density of ACh receptors
  • Pramiracetam – increases choline – ACh conversion through the High Affinity Choline Uptake (HACU) process
  • Nefiracetam – potentiates nicotinic acetylcholine receptors

I’ll dive into more detail on how each of the racetams affect acetylcholine in your brain in the post on acetylcholine. For now, you should know that when a racetam affects ACh in some way, it usually means you need to make sure more ACh is available. Or the racetam will not be as effective.choline bitartrate vs phosphatidylcholine

The other primary issue facing neurohackers are racetam-headaches. These headaches are unique because they usually only happen in a part of your brain. You’ll get to recognize them for what they are with more experience.

Racetam-headaches are caused by using a racetam without enough supplemental choline. Your brain is telling you it’s starved for choline.

Who Needs Choline

Even if you’re not interested in nootropics or brain optimization, anyone over 45 years can benefit from a good choline supplement. You’ll experience more alertness, energy, faster recall and better memory.

We all need choline for clarity and mental energy. And we have several nootropic supplements to choose from to boost choline in the brain. And increase the synthesis of acetylcholine.

We’ll review the best nootropics for boosting choline in your brain next.

CDP Choline and Alpha GPC together

Best Forms of Choline Supplements

Alpha GPC

Alpha GPC (L-Alpha Glycerylphosphorylcholine) is a choline source derived from soy or sunflower lecithin. This highly bioavailable form of choline quickly enters your brain.

As a nootropic supplement, Alpha GPC is about 40% choline by weight.

Alpha GPC naturally occurs in your brain as a byproduct of phosphatidylcholine (PC). When your brain needs more choline, and choline floating around in your brain is running low, it breaks down PC from cell membranes. And turns it into Alpha GPC.

The combination of the omega-3 fatty acid DHAAlpha GPC, and phosphatidylserine (PS) is used to form brain cell membranes.[ii]

And like other choline supplements, Alpha GPC provides the choline needed to synthesize acetylcholine.

But Alpha GPC is unique from other forms of choline. It helps increase human growth hormone.[iii] It restores and boosts nerve growth factor receptors in the brain.[iv] And stimulates the release of dopamine.[v]

One study in particular demonstrated why Alpha GPC is a favorite among neurohackers. 32 healthy volunteers received either Alpha GPC or a placebo.  Ten days later they were injected with scopolamine to induce amnesia. The researchers found Alpha GPC was able to prevent the impairment of attention and memory normally caused by scopolamine.[vi]

The researchers showed that memory function in healthy young people could be boosted simply by taking Alpha GPC as a nootropic supplement.

Choline Bitartrate

Choline Bitartrate is choline combined with tartaric acid to increase bioavailability. One of the least expensive forms of choline, it’s about 40% choline by weight.

Like other choline supplements, Choline Bitartrate provides the choline needed for acetylcholine synthesis. But neurohackers have found this form is not nearly as effective as other forms of choline.

However, if Choline Bitartrate is the only choline supplement you have available, we do have the science to prove it works as a nootropic.

A research team in the Netherlands gave 28 volunteers 2 grams of Choline Bitartrate or a placebo. An hour and 10 minutes after taking the supplements, they had participants attempt to hit the center of a target.

The volunteers who used the choline supplement were not only more accurate at hitting the target center than the placebo group. The also did it faster.

The researchers concluded there was a “choline-induced bias” towards precision, speed and accuracy.[vii] Now logic tells us that you’d have this positive outcome with any choline supplement. So if all you have to take is Choline Bitartrate – you’ll be OK.

Choline Citrate

Choline Citrate is choline combined with citrate which is an ester of citric acid. Citrate is involved in the transport mechanism of acetyl units from its site of synthesis in mitochondria to the site of acetylcholine synthesis.[viii]

And citrate plays another important role in the brain. Citrate is an intermediate in the Krebs cycle (also known as the TCA cycle or Tricarboxylic Acid cycle, or Citric acid cycle).

Citrate synthase catalyzes the condensation of oxaloacetate with acetyl CoA to form citrate. Citrate then acts as the substrate for aconitase and is converted in aconitic acid. This cycle ends with the regeneration of oxaloacetate.

This series of chemical reactions is the source of 2/3’s of the energy we get from food. Most of the energy made available by these steps is transferred to form NADH. Which then drives adenosine triphosphate (ATP) synthesis that fuels mitochondria and provides the energy needed for brain cells.[ix]

One of the less expensive versions of choline, Choline Citrate is about 50% choline by weight. And like other sources of choline, provides the raw material needed to synthesize acetylcholine.

Acetylcholine is the neurotransmitter needed to signal muscle movement.[x] But Choline Citrate is unique because it helps prevent fatigue, muscle aches and pain following a workout.best choline source reddit

I have personal experience with the benefits of Choline Citrate. For years, I saw a rheumatologist who injected cortisone into my shoulder muscles to relieve excruciating pain. Once I began supplementing with 3 – 4 grams of Choline Citrate per day, the severe muscle pain in my shoulders was gone.

So Choline Citrate provides the double benefit of improving concentration, energy levels, focus and memory. Along with less muscle pain and faster recovery after a workout.

CDP-Choline (Citicoline)

CDP-Choline (Cytidine Diphosphate Choline or cytidine 5′-diphosphocholine) is also known as Citicoline. This naturally occurring choline source is present in every cell in your body.

The CDP-Choline supplement is unique as a choline source. Once it’s digested it separates into cytidine and choline. When it gets to your brain it converts back to CDP-Choline.

Choline is needed for the synthesis of acetylcholine. And cytidine is a component of Ribonucleic acid (RNA). This molecule is involved in coding, decoding, regulation and the expression of genes. And once it gets into the brain, it converts to uridine.

When choline is in short supply, neuronal signaling resorts to grabbing choline molecules from phosphatidylcholine (PC) in cell membranes. This is where uridine steps in. Uridine is used to synthesize phosphatidylcholine (PC). Supplemental CDP-Choline provides the uridine needed for this synthesis. Which means that CDP-Choline helps repair those same cell membranes. To maintain neuron integrity.[xi]

CDP-Choline is only about 18% choline by weight. But it packs a punch when it comes to brain optimization. And is a favorite nootropic stack addition with many experienced neurohackers.

CDP-Choline vs Alpha GPC

When it comes to choosing between CDP-Choline or Alpha GPC for your nootropic stack. There really is no contest. These two choline supplements work well together.

The synthesis of acetylcholine (ACh) is largely dependent on the choline provided by phosphatidylcholine (PC).

Alpha GPC is a byproduct of phosphatidylcholine (PC). And supplemental CDP-Choline provides the uridine needed for PC synthesis.

So taken together, you provide your brain with the type of choline it needs right down at the cellular level.

Combining CDP-Choline together with Alpha GPC
 is a winning combination for any nootropic stack.

when to take choline bitartrate

Side Effects of Choline

Choline is considered safe and non-toxic. Small amounts are made in your body. And it is an “essential” nutrient.

But too much choline, like all nutrients and supplements, can become toxic if too much is taken. Or your body does not need supplemental choline.

My wife is a classic example. This stunningly beautiful, charming, intelligent women turns into the Wicked Witch From the West if she takes a choline supplement.

Like any nootropic used for brain optimization, neurotransmitter balance is key. Excess acetylcholine will depress levels of dopamine, norepinephrine and serotonin.

Serotonin and acetylcholine have an inverse relationship in your brain. In other words, as one goes up, the other goes down. So taking too much of a choline supplement can boost ACh too much. And force serotonin levels to drop.

Symptoms of too much choline or acetylcholine can include:

  • Irritability or anger
  • Anxiety and/or depression
  • Fatigue or feeling overly sleepy
  • Trouble concentrating, brain fog, lack of focus
  • Mental confusion or fatigue
  • Decreased motivation
  • Negativity, pessimism, rumination
  • Poor memory
  • Problems understanding or performing tasks
  • Feelings of helplessness or hopelessness
  • Diarrhea, constipation, gas, bloating, nausea, vomiting, dizziness
  • Muscle weakness
  • Tingling or numbness in the arms or legs
  • Joint pain, discomfort or swelling[xii]

Nootropics Expert Recommendation

Every one of us needs choline to function. Choline is an essential nootropic supplement for anyone whose goal is brain optimization.

Choline is needed to synthesize acetylcholine (ACh). We need choline for cell-membrane signaling (phospholipids), lipid transport (lipoproteins), and methyl-group metabolism (homocysteine reduction).[xiii]

We need choline to provide the acetylcholine affected by any of the racetam-family of nootropics.

Your brain will start to literally consume itself to get the building blocks it needs to make acetylcholine. If you don’t provide it with enough choline.

My favorite choline supplements after years of trial and error are CDP-Choline (Citicoline) and Alpha GPC. If I’ve got muscle pain, I’ll take Choline Citrate for a few days. Until the pain goes away.

I use 500 mg of Cognizin™ (branded form of citicoline) per day in my nootropic stack. Cognizin is included in the double-dose of Mind Lab Pro I use every day.

Whenever I feel a racetam-headache coming on I’ll take 500 mg of Alpha GPC. And the headache is gone within 15 minutes.

Your Mileage May Vary. Each of us has a unique body and brain. So what works for me may not work as well for you. Listen to your body and give your brain the choline it needs.

As an Amazon Associate I earn from qualifying purchases. This post may also contain other affiliate links and I will be compensated if you make a purchase after clicking on my links.

[i] Zeisel S.H., da Costa K.A. “Choline: an essential nutrient for public health.” Nutrition Reviews. 2009 Nov;67(11):615-23. (source)

[ii] Kidd P.M. “Neurodegeneration from mitochondrial insufficiency: nutrients, stem cells, growth factors, and prospects for brain rebuilding using integrative management.” Alternative Medicine Revue. 2005 Dec;10(4):268-93. (source)

[iii] Ceda G.P., Ceresini G., Denti L., Magnani D., Marchini L, Valenti G., Hoffman A.R. “Effects of cytidine 5′-diphosphocholine administration on basal and growth hormone-releasing hormone-induced growth hormone secretion in elderly subjects.” Acta Endocrinologica (Copenhagen).1991;124(5):516-20. (source)

[iv] Vega J.A., Cavallotti C., del Valle M.E., Mancini M., Amenta F. “Nerve growth factor receptor immunoreactivity in the cerebellar cortex of aged rats: effect of choline alfoscerate treatment.” Mechanisms of Ageing and Development 1993 Jun;69(1-2):119-27. (source)

[v] Trabucchi M., Govoni S., Battaini F.  “Changes in the interaction between CNS cholinergic and dopaminergic neurons induced by L-alpha-glycerylphosphorylcholine, a cholinomimetic drug.” Farmaco Sci.1986 Apr;41(4):325-34. (source)

[vi] Canal N., Franceschi M., Alberoni M., Castiglioni C., De Moliner P., Longoni A. “Effect of L-alpha-glyceryl-phosphorylcholine on amnesia caused by scopolamine.” International Journal of Clinical Pharmacology, Therapy, Toxicology. 1991 Mar;29(3):103-7. (source)

[vii] Naber M., Hommel B., Colzato L.S. “Improved human visuomotor performance and pupil constriction after choline supplementation in a placebo-controlled double-blind study.” Scientific Reports 2015 Aug 14;5:13188. (source)

[viii] Sterling G.H., O’Neill J.J. “Citrate as the precursor of acetyl moiety of acetylcholine” Journal of Neurochemistry 31(2):525-30 · September 1978 (source)

[ix] Ebenhöh O., Heinrich R. “Evolutionary optimization of metabolic pathways. Theoretical reconstruction of the stoichiometry of ATP and NADH producing systems.” Bulletin of Mathematical Biology. 2001 Jan;63(1):21-55. (source)

[x] Sanders L.M., Zeisel S.H. Choline – Dietary Requirements and Role in Brain Development Nutrition Today 2007; 42(4): 181–186. (source)

[xi] Wang L., Pooler A.M., Albrecht M.A., Wurtman R.J. “Dietary uridine-5′-monophosphate supplementation increases potassium-evoked dopamine release and promotes neurite outgrowth in aged rats.” Journal of Molecular Neuroscience 2005;27(1):137-45. (source)

[xii] Overstreet D.H., Janowsky D.S. “The Role of Acetylcholine Mechanisms in Affective Disorders” American College of Neuropsychopharmacology (source)

[xiii] Penry J, Manore M. ‘Choline: an important micronutirent for maximal endurance-exercise performance?’  International Journal of Sports Nutrition, Exercise and Metabolism. 2008;18:191–203. (source)

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Join The Discussion - 82 comments

April 12, 2024

can you take choline and gaba within the same day

    David Tomen
    April 12, 2024

    Yes you can.

Andrew Nash
January 23, 2024

Hello David, I love your content and I will be subscribing to your YouTube channel. My question is: I’m a 29 year old healthy male. I would like to supplement with citicoline and Alpha GPC daily to help me focus while studying for my college chemistry course. My concern is that I am prescribed 75mg of the generic SSRI Sertraline that I split into a 50mg dosage before bed and a 25mg dosage upon waking. I’ve used this prescription now for over 10 years with no issues. My plan of action for nootropic utilization (assuming I’m a viable candidate for their use) would be to supplement the recommended daily dose of citicoline in the morning and then liquid sublingual Aplha-GPC once daily as needed half an hour before my studies. What risks do I run (if any) by combining these nootropics with my SSRI? Could I be risking seratonin syndrome or some other condition with this combination? Thanks in advance. – Andrew

    David Tomen
    January 26, 2024

    Andrew, most supplements do cause Serotonin Syndrome when combined with drugs with the exception of St. John’s wort. And acetylcholine and serotonin are two very different neurotransmitters.

    You only need 300 mg Alpha GPC or CDP-Choline twice per day with 500 mg ALCAR twice per day. I recommend CDP-Choline for long-term use instead of Alpha GPC. See my review on Alpha GPC for “why”.

      Andrew Nash
      January 27, 2024

      David, thank you for your expertise and respond. I see where your reply says that most supplements “do” cause seratonin syndrome when combined with drugs but when reading the rest of the explanation for context I believe that you meant “do not”. Thank you again for your knowledge sir, I appreciate your help!

        David Tomen
        January 27, 2024

        Andrew, my mistake and thanks for pointing it out. Just keep in mind that any supplement that directly increases serotonin such as 5-HTP and L-Tryptophan are a problem when combined with SSRIs. And any supplement that directly increases dopamine such as Phenylalanine, L-Tyrosine or L-DOPA will cause problems if combined with MAOIs.

October 18, 2023

What about TMAO, why isn’t it in the article?
I think this is worth considering objectively from all sides.

    David Tomen
    October 18, 2023

    John, because I could not find any evidence that TMAO was a problem attributed to supplementing with Alpha GPC or CDP-Choline.

September 29, 2023

I need some help with a stack. I am a beginner and after reading and watching a good amount of your videos I have a good idea of a stack I want to try. I am thinking about taking:

Alpha-GPC, Bacopa Monnieri, Phosphatidylserine, Huperzine A, L-Theanine and Aniracetam

adding Omega 3 supplement as well as I hear that its good for increasing the benefits of all the above.

I am still working out the dosages. I am worried that there are too many choline boosters on my list. I do not want to suffer drawback major drawbacks right off the back but I need something solid to start off with. If you see this please let me know what you think. Also, I am still confused how how I should cycle because I hear building up a tolerance is a thing

    David Tomen
    October 1, 2023

    Derek, those supplements are fine to use as a combo. The only critical ones you are missing, and the importance of this depends on your age, you may need to boost dopamine by using L-Tyrosine, 400 mg magnesium chelated before bed and 800 – 1,000 mg DHA (Omewga-3).

    I include recommended dosages and timing in each of my individual supplement reviews which you can find by scrolling through this list: https://nootropicsexpert.com/nootropics-list/

    The only thing you need to “cycle” is Huperzine-A because it has a 12 – 14 hour half life. Use it only every 2nd or 3rd day.

December 10, 2021

Hi David,

Thank you for your article, it’s really the best one I’ve seen on this subject.

I’m like your wife, I get really angry if I take Choline in any form, same if I take Aniracetam or Piracetam. I’m fine with Oxiracetam, though.

I’m not so sure it’s because of “too much Choline” but rather that there’s some sort of imbalance to begin with, perhaps with the serotonin/dopamine, and taking Choline just disturbs it even more.

Do you have any suggestion on how to explore this farther? Is your wife able to balance Choline supplements while taking something else?


    David Tomen
    December 11, 2021

    Roy, I’ve never looked deeply into why some react badly to choline supplements. But I suspect it has something to do with genetics.

    I’m great at research but in this case I came up dry. My wife avoids any supplement that even remotely looks like choline because of her experience with it. So has never attempted to find a way to balance it by taking something else.

November 28, 2021


50 and just started taking Aniracetam 750 mg 1 time a day. On day 5, skipped 1 day. Also took a cdp-choline first 3 days, then backed off as I started to get knee joint pain and read choline could cause gout flair or arthritis flare, though I have neither in my history. I also read some studies says choline can reduce inflamation. So confused.. My pain started on day 4 after after a long normal work day on my feet. Got sharp pain in left knee almost unable to walk and then increasing aches in left knee. I didn’t knowingly injur myself nor have had problems with them prior. No arthritis or gout either. Also some pain in wrists…tho much less intense. Is the joint pain due to the Aniractam and or choline and what supplement could alleviate this? I am finding positive results with aniractam greatly reducing long term depression and general brain fog just a few days in. I feel more myself on a low dosage than I have in a long long time except for the bad knee/joint aches and pain that is really setting me back. Your guidance is appreciated.

    David Tomen
    November 29, 2021

    Amy, try switching to Alpha GPC as your choline source and see if the problem persists. I have never heard of choline causing gout but that is one easy way to test it. CDP-Choline may just be the wrong supplement for you.

September 10, 2021

Hi David can you please tell me if taking b_vits,citicholine, PS, ginkgo,grape seed extract,rhodilia rosea in the morning??

    David Tomen
    September 10, 2021

    Lee, taking those supplements in the morning is fine. But the Citicoline and PS you take in the morning should be dose again at noon for all-day benefit.

Marcie Webber
June 19, 2021

Quick question.
What is the difference between Cognizin (ie Bestvite/ MLP/Healthy Origins) and CDO-choline Citicoline in others?
Is one better than the other? Or is it just a brand and are they of of equal quality?

I am learning a lot from your website and still hunting.
I am much in love since the beginning with your Head First…but digital??
i am not a computer literate and soon will be retiring in a 3rd world country.
Please David, have your book publish even in paper back where I could flip pages anytime anywhere for quick reference.
I have copied most of your articles r/t supplements I am currently taking not knowing they are nootropics as i related to you in previous email.
Thomas Levy’s recommendation on brain support.

On the other hand, I am wondering how i can print the 600 pages you were saying. maybe put them in sections a staple can accommodate.
Anyway, will be asking some computer expert how I can accomplish this.
Much love to you and great gratefulness for all u are doing lovingly to help us.
I am not done with my search but will soon reconnect with you once I finalize my first so called stack you neurohackers call.

After 30 days of MLP, David I can’t help my tears right now scribbling these lines what a big relief I felt lifting the most troubling challenges in my whole body I suffered for a long time. It was more of the physical aspect eradicating joint pains, GERD, low back stiffness, constipation and most of all I feel so light and airy, flexible and eat one real meal brunch @ 12noon and a light dinner more of a snack @ 6p a day which has been my practice and feel the fullness and feel body has fully absorbed. No bloating! Amazing!

I just got my Double Wood Sulbutiamine and started today. Very nice people gave me 20% off pack of 2 which was already discounted. I am starting slowly 200mg BID.
God’s blessings be yours for all charitable hours and expertise you share with His other children imprisoned with devil’s device: addiction to yummy unhealthy lifestyle being enslaved with Fast Foods, refined sugars, and drugs stimulants, nicotine and ETOH ruining our body, His Holy Temple.
Shalom! Happy Sabbath! Thanks again with great respect.

    David Tomen
    June 19, 2021

    Marcie, that’s a long “quick question”. Cognizin is a patented form of CDP-Choline (also called Citicoline). If a company licenses a patented ingredient for use in their supplement it usually means higher quality. Because the supplement should be purer.

    The way to distinguish between different brands that all contain Cognizin is to find out what the “other ingredients” are in that formula. Avoid supplements that have magnesium stearate, silicon dioxide, silica, and all the other garbage they put in these supplements. And always choose a supplement that has only the stated ingredients on the label + a capsule. And nothing else.

    I am working on the 2nd Edition of Head First. And it will be available worldwide as a hard cover, paperback or in digital form. But it is still months out. So if you can hold off on printing anything that would be great. And sorry for wait for the next Edition. Finding the time to finish it has been my biggest challenge.

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