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 - 80 comments

Kevin L
May 17, 2019

Thank you for all your articles and videos, Dave. I’m new to nootropics, and you’ve been the best guide to this complicated world. It feels so good to be able to take my mental health in my own hands after so many doctors have let me down.
I have just one question though; do I need to cycle choline sources like I do with nootropic drugs? I’ve only ever found one article that says you don’t need to cycle choline sources. I started experimenting with Alpha GPC, ALCAR, and Citicholine about a month ago. Other articles I’ve read say that Uridine sources should be cycled to avoid tolerance. So maybe Citicholine should be cycled because it increases Uridine. I don’t know about the others though.

    David Tomen
    May 17, 2019

    Kevin, Alpha GPC, ALCAR and Citicoline are all naturally produced by your body. As long as you follow dosage recommendations there is no reason to cycle choline supplements. It just doesn’t make logical sense when you understand the science behind it and mechanism of action in your brain.

Francisco Rodriguez
May 6, 2019

Hello David, thanks for your very helpful answers. I have one question, would you recommend a combination of daily intake of Phosphatidylserine (100 mg x 3) and CDP Choline (300 mg x 1) for improving short-term and working memory, concentration and focus? Thanks!

    David Tomen
    May 7, 2019

    Yes, that is a good stack for improving short-term and working memory, concentration and focus.

December 11, 2018

Hi David,

I want to combine Alpha GPC, CDP-Choline, and DMAE. Do you have a recommendation as to how much I should take of each?

Thank you!

    David Tomen
    December 12, 2018

    Luke, you’ll find my dosage recommendations in each individual review of these nootropics. But if you are stacking all three I’d keep the dosage at the lower end for each.

Go Irwan Santoso
December 4, 2018

If we’re taking any of the Racetams, can we supplement the choline using ordinary egg yolks?

    David Tomen
    December 4, 2018

    You will not get enough nor a consistent amount of choline to support using racetams with egg yolks only. For best and consistent results with racetams you need accurately measured acetylcholine precursors like Alpha GPC or CDP-Choline.

Haakon Martin Bjerke
October 23, 2018

So ive just had my first day with CDP choline. This morning i had 1 cap = 250mg and about 45 mins later i had a ZEN-like moment where my brain was in that perfect state. However it did not last but ive felt pretty good all day and now have a noticable increase in attention as ive read twice as many articles compared to my usual study routine.

So here’s my question. You may be familiar with the Neocortex-guy who has a bunch of videos on nootropics on youtube (name Ryan?). He claim that CDP choline has a halflife of 60 hours in the body. How does this work? As i understand it there are many converstion taking place, so is it the increase of ACETYLCHOLINE in the brain that is limited to 60 hours? It may have been better to ask him directly but i’d also like to share this with you and have your opinion. Thanks in advance, big hugs =)

    David Tomen
    October 23, 2018

    Haakon, it’s a little more complicated than that. Pharmacokinetic studies show citicoline elimination occurs in two phases mirroring the biphasic plasma peaks, mainly via respiratory CO2 and urinary excretion.

    The initial peak in plasma (blood) concentration is followed by a sharp decline, which then slows over the next 4-10 hours.

    In the second phase, an initially rapid decline after the 24-hour plasma peak is similarly followed by a slower elimination rate. The elimination half-life is 56 hours for CO2 and 71 hours for urinary excretion. (http://archive.foundationalmedicinereview.com/publications/13/1/50.pdf).

    And it seems that once your system reaches a certain ‘peak’ then taking more of CDP-Choline does not provide any further benefit. Because your system cannot absorb anymore CDP-Choline. (https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/10974208)

October 16, 2018

I am about to take a supplement that has a fairly high Cholinergic dosage- with both CDP, GPC, and Uridine (Legion Athletics Ascend). I’m concerned as the dosage is 850mg- what are your thoughts on this?

    David Tomen
    October 16, 2018

    Janice, it may be too high of an acetylcholine precursor dosage. But it really depends on the person. I could likely get away with it. But you may not. The only way to tell is try it and see how you feel. If unusual fatigue sets in 30 – 60 minutes after you take it then you know it’s too much for you.

September 11, 2018

Hi David,

Can you Please tell me WHY We should NOT Take Any (Soy or Sunflower) Lecithin Powder to get Choline…and can you also please tell me where I can purchase your book Head First I checked Chapters it’s NOT THERE, I’m in Vancouver British Columbia Canada…Thank you so much, N

    David Tomen
    September 12, 2018

    Nigel, soy or sunflower lecithin is an inefficient way to get choline. It supplies phosphatidylcholine (PC) which then must be converted in your body and brain to release choline. Which is then used to produce acetylcholine. Choline on it’s own is not helpful. So it’s much more efficient to use a choline supplement like Alpha GPC or CDP-Choline which is a more direct way to synthesize acetylcholine.

    The other problem is lecithin is extracted from soy or sunflowers using the solvent hexane. The same stuff they use to make varnish and glue. And unless you get “organic” soy or sunflower lecithin, your supplement comes from beans and seeds that are GMO’s.

    And my book Head First is only available right now on Nootropics Expert. You can get your copy here: https://nootropicsexpert.com/store/

Francisco Silva
January 5, 2018

Hi David,
So i´m gonna take 15 mg of noopept and 100 mg of cdp-choline. I want to start low… Can i add alpha gpc here? If so, what would be the dosage of cdp choline and alpha gpc? These two combine in all stacks that need some choline sources?

    David Tomen
    January 5, 2018

    Francisco, I suggest using either Alpha GPC or CDP-Choline because it is the only way you will be able to find out which works better. But either definitely should be used with Noopept. Along with a healthy fat like Coconut or MCT Oil.

    And to get the full benefit of either choline supplement I also recommend following the low end of the dosage recommendations for that supplement. And not the dose you are suggesting. While 100 mg may be enough for your Noopept dose, you will not get the full therapeutic benefit of the choline supplement at such a low dose.

      January 6, 2018

      Hi David, first of all thank you so much for your fast and understandable answers.
      I haven´t yet ordered noopept because i have some doubts and i want your opinion.
      So, i am a college student and mainly my exams are solving physical and math problems. In about 10 days my exams will start.
      What you think it´s the best nootropics to help me studying and solving these problems during these days?
      I have been searching a lot and noopept seems to be an excellent option for me, but it seems the half life is too short… How can i handle with this if my gold is studying during these days about 8h-10h? There´s any difference between noopept powder and capsules? May i take noopept for 30 days in a row?
      And you say it´s better taking noopept with a faty meal, so it is not advisable taking it early in the morning before or after breakfest?
      At the moment i´m taking in the morning B vitamins complex, 100 mg CoQ10 and 1000 mg DHA. It´s safe to take this 3 supplements like 365 days a year?
      Again, thank you so much for your answers.
      Best Regards,

        January 6, 2018

        And what are your advised dosage of cdp-choline stacking with noopept? I will order 200 mg tablets.

        David Tomen
        January 6, 2018

        Francisco, you can use Noopept every day. In the dosage notes when I recommend a meal containing healthy fats or using coconut or olive oil, it means Noopept is likely at least partially fat-soluble and requires fats for better absorption. So you can take your stack before, during or after a meal. But I suggest using a tablespoon or coconut, MCT or olive oil as well.

        Your B-Vitamins, CoQ10 and DHA can all be taken with your morning Noopept dose. If you need it working all day, take 10 mg of Noopept in the morning and again at noon. Along with 200 mg of CDP-Choline each time.

        And while you are preparing for exams and during exams you may also want to consider Phosphatidylserine (PS). I would try 100 mg in the morning with the rest of your stack, 100 mg at noon and possibly another 100 mg about 4 PM. https://nootropicsexpert.com/phosphatidylserine-ps/

        February 1, 2019

        David, this is pure gold. Tnx.

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