B-Vitamin nootropic complex

Beginners Guide to Nootropic Stacks

David Tomen
David Tomen
10 minute read

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:

  1. Enhance concentration and focus
  2. Improve your mood and lower anxiety
  3. Increase your energy without irritability and avoid a crash when it wears off
  4. Boost your memory
  5. Reduce stress and fatigue
  6. 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.

For example, acetylcholine’s function in your brain is needed for encoding new memories, reasoning, concentration, cognition and growth of new neurons (neurogenesis).

Once acetylcholine does its job, the enzyme acetylcholinesterase comes in and breaks down acetylcholine.

You can increase acetylcholine by adding Alpha GPC, CDP-Choline or Acetyl-L-Carnitine (ALCAR) to your stack.

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 vs. fat soluble nootropics

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 unrefined coconut oil.

You can also use extra virgin 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 twice per day taken in the morning and at noon. 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 (24% bacosides) up to 250 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) 500 mg twice per day taken in the morning and at noon. 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 100 mg 3-times per day.

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.

Pine Bark Extract 100 mg dosed up to 3-times per day. Pine Bark extract helps boost cerebral blood flow by increasing nitric oxide which helps dilate blood vessels. And helps repair and maintain the health of blood vessel linings.

Boosting cerebral circulation with Pine Bark Extract 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.

Synergistic with CDP-Choline, DHA helps in the formation of phosphatidylserine (PS) and phosphatidylcholine (PC). Two important components that make up your brain cell membranes.

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 cellular energy produced by your cell’s mitochondria. And contributes to the myelin sheath that protects axons from damage for better brain cell signaling.B-Vitamin nootropic complex
  • 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 in 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) $19 (60 caps, 250 mg)
  • Bacopa Monnieri $18 (60 caps, 300 mg)
  • Lion’s Mane Mushroom $30 (60 caps, 500 mg)
  • N-Acetyl-L-Tyrosine (NALT) $12 (120 caps, 300 grams)
  • L-Theanine $18 (90 caps, 150 mg)
  • Pine Bark Extract $10 (30 caps, 300 mg)
  • DHA $16 (60 caps, 500 mg)
  • B-Vitamin Complex $11 (100 B-100 capsules)

For approximately $134 per month you can begin optimizing your brain. I suggest using a tablespoon of unrefined coconut oil each time you take your supplements. To ensure maximum bioavailability and absorption by your body and brain.

Accurately Measuring Nootropic Powders

Nootropic supplements are now easily available in easy-to-use capsules. Your can save some some money by buying bags of powder if you are willing to spend the time making capsules. But dosage recommendations are critical so you must measure accurately. 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 Capsule Filling Machine which you can get usually for under $40.

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), and Rhodiola Rosea. For only $69 a bottle it’s less than buying each nootropic supplement on its own.

Another good option for a quality pre-made stack is made by the sister company to Mind Lab Pro. Performance Lab® has a complete line of supplements including two nootropic stacks containing the nootropic ingredients featured in this post.

Performance Lab® Mind contains Citicoline (as  Cognizin®), Phosphatidylserine (PS) (as Sharp PS® Green), L-Tyrosine (as Ajipure®) and Maritime Pine Bark extract for only $69 per bottle. Supporting focus, mental processing speed, cognition under stress, multitasking, motivation, memory, and brain health recovery.

Performance Lab® Energy contains ALCAR, R-Lipoic Acid (as Bio-Enhanced® R-Lipoic Acid), Coenzyme Q10 (as MicroActive® Q10), PQQ (as BioPQQ®), and Piperine (as BioPerine®) for only $69 per bottle. It’s a caffeine-free method of enhancing energy for body and mind. Supporting cellular ATP energy production, mitochondrial genesis and function, fat metabolism, and overall metabolic efficiency.

For a more personalized 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 has 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.

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.

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Join The Discussion - 101 comments

April 13, 2018

I used OptiMind for a week and burned out my adrenals, with the caffeine in it and the supplemental coffee I drank. It wasn’t worth it to get so much done in a week and now this week I am so tired I can hardly lift my head. I know the supplements to take to regain my adrenals and it will take a few more weeks to get back to normal.

Will MindLab Pro do the same thing? I thinking, since it doesn’t have caffeine, it may not. Wondering what your opinion might be?

    David Tomen
    April 14, 2018

    Sylvia, I’m happy to hear you now understand what to watch out for in a nootropic stack. It really irks me that companies add caffeine and other stimulants to their pre-formulated stacks. Because they think their customer wants to “feel” something immediately. People are smarter than that and beginning to catch on to this trick.

    Mind Lab Pro will NOT hurt your adrenals. In fact, MLP contains ingredients to help repair your brain and body. I’ve been using it every single day for over two years. And I have dealt with adrenal fatigue. My adrenals are healthy again and my brain is firing on all cylinders. I highly recommend Mind Lab Pro.

March 27, 2018

Hi David.

As some users have already declared, your webpage is one of the most informative out there. Clearly, as you already know, nootropics is a very big universe and if you don’t know where to start…the experience could be nothing but horseshit.

On the other hand, i’m here for asking you a bit of advice. Few months ago i was taking noopept (30 mg per day) along with citicoline (300 mg per day), and Omega-3 (316 mg of EPA and 381.6 mg of DHA, among other vitamins). However, i experienced some headaches and brain fog. What did i do wrong?, according to me, this is a very basic stack and the effects were the opposite as i expected. Let me tell you, i´m from mexico and these products are not that cheap. Please, could you steered me towards the right direction? Thanks!

    David Tomen
    March 27, 2018

    Rafael, headaches are usually caused by using a racetam with not enough choline. Noopept is not technically a racetam but it does affect acetylcholine use in your brain. It could be you need to double your dose of Citicoline. Or Noopept is simply not the right nootropic for you.

    Omega-3 supplements can be trick as well because much of what if on the market are toxic because they are either rancid from spoilage. Or the fish used to make the supplement is full of heavy metals. That could cause problems.

    And vitamin selection is critically important. Because most contain synthetics your body cannot use. And have fillers and “other ingredients” that are toxic to your body.

    Hit the “Blog” button up top and see my posts on vitamins and minerals for more. And don’t give up on the racetams. You may want to try some with a longer track record like Piracetam. But always, always follow the dosage instructions that are in each review here on Nootropics Expert.

December 13, 2017


New to nootropics here. I am reading up on everything and read the beginners stack. Would you recommend starting with mind lab pro? Could anything be added to that for a beginners stack?

I’m a young male who needs help with focus and memory, as well as anxiety and depression. Focus and memory would be the top priority. Not sure wether to by each nooptropic individually, or if there is some I can take additional from mind lab pro all while being cost effective.

Thank you

    David Tomen
    December 13, 2017

    Evan, that is a great question about where to start with nootropics. If I knew back when I first started with nootropics what I know now, I would start with the highest quality pre-formulated stack I could find. And build from there.

    I’ve found that Mind Lab Pro is about the best pre-formulated stack on the market today. And a great way to get started experimenting with nootropics. If you were using MLP everyday, you should start noticing a real improvement in memory, focus, anxiety and mood within a couple of weeks. Some notice an improvement much sooner.

    But I would also add a high quality DHA (Omega-3) supplement, coconut or MCT oil, and either Aniracetam or Piracetam. Check out the review for each of those here on Nootropics Expert. Pay close attention to the dosage notes for each. A quick way to find them is the Table of Contents here > https://nootropicsexpert.com/nootropics-list/. But click through to the full review for each.

    Last bit of advice for now is get a real understanding on how memory works in your brain. You’ll find that here > https://nootropicsexpert.com/best-nootropics-for-learning-and-memory/. And to learn more about anxiety and depression check out this post > https://nootropicsexpert.com/best-nootropics-for-depression/

November 13, 2017

Hi David,
Is Mind Lab Pro your company? Or are you affiliated with it? It was peculiarly awesome like your book, I felt a link between the two. If so, I would like to resell this product in the USA. please contact me. Thanks!

    David Tomen
    November 13, 2017

    Sage, Mind Lab Pro is not my company. But I love their product and have been using it daily for the last two years. It’s the best pre-formulated nootropic stack I’ve found so far. I believe they have an affiliate program. Please check out their website for an affiliate link.

November 13, 2017

BRO, SERIOUSLY, thank you so much for all you dedicated research and time. I am also a research professional and know how hard and time-consming it can be. You really nailed it. much love to you.

January 24, 2017

I’ve been using Mind Lab Pro myself and having great results with it. Thanks for the recommendation.

    April 7, 2017

    I was just actually going to buy the product myself and after reading your testimonial I am considering buying it now. Thanks!

December 31, 2016

How about any racetams?

    David Tomen
    December 31, 2016

    I decided to leave out racetams in this post because I wanted this to be a true beginner’s stack. With supplements most people can get at their local vitamin shop or health food store.

    Racetams in my opinion, are for more advanced neurohackers. You really need to know what you’re doing. Know where to get quality product. Know how to measure accurately. And know how to dose and cycle. This is certainly not beginner stuff.

    For more advanced nootropic users, I have detailed suggestions for specific neurohacking goals on this page: https://nootropicsexpert.com/how-to-create-the-best-nootropic-stack/ which includes several racetams.

      January 1, 2017

      Amazing. thank you very much for the detailed reply.

      Yes, I agree.

      Your blog is one of the most detailed/logical among the ones I’ve seen.

      Thank you for taking the time to share your knowledge.

zaid khan
December 10, 2016

can i use alpha gpc in place of cdp choline?

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