B-Vitamin nootropic complex

Beginners Guide to Nootropic Stacks

David Tomen
Author:
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.

nootropic-stack-synergy

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.

beginners-nootropic-stack-tips

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

Don
July 22, 2022

Hi David,

when you state, speaking about the vitamin B complex: “Make sure you get a formula that is considerably higher than RDA recommendations.”
Do you intend something around 130%-300% or 1000%?

    David Tomen
    July 23, 2022

    Don, it varies from vitamin to vitamin. Life Extension (https://geni.us/8Ig2A) (Amazon) has a good bioactive B-Complex at the right dosage’s. The RDA is the bare minimum of each to keep you alive. Not to thrive.

Dave
February 20, 2022

Very interesting site you have going on here. I’m educated in health care, but this is a relatively new science even among professionals to the degree and scrutiny found on this website. Also, thanks for posting clinical references for studies performed.

I’d like to ask a favor if you may, and that’s to put into quantifiable context (i.e. clinical studies and your own antidotal evidence gathered through the years concerning the general population) the different nootropics listed. Also, your impression of “Bulk supplements” as this is a company that’s quite prominent among the masses for overall supplementation.

An example of what I mean regarding “quantifiable context”; Lions Mane Mushroom: CS (clinical studies) 7.5/10, Antidotal 8/10 – both of which are understood to be your personal opinion, nothing more. This would help so much to gain overall context to what is “sort of worth it” vs. a “no brainer” for supplementation.

ALCAR: CS 9/10, Antidotal 9.5
DMAE: 6.5/10, 5.5/10 (all are just hypothetical examples).

Finally, is DMAE the best supp. for preventing/removing Lipofuscin, as you don’t necessarily recommend DMAE as there are better alternatives. Do those alternatives address Lipofuscin to the degree of DMAE?

Thanks in advance your your responses, I look forward to more insights from you.

    David Tomen
    February 21, 2022

    Dave, I’m not sure it you a joking or are serious. Every single supplement I have reviewed on Nootropics Expert provides specific benefits. If you are working on developing a nootropic stack for yourself and you need help I am available for personal consultations. Here is a link to my calendar: https://calendly.com/davidtomen/60min

      mason
      April 21, 2022

      Hello Sir,
      I’d like to know your opinion about Brain Pill and Noocube compared to the the ones that you outlined (Mind Lab Pro & Performance Lab).
      Thanks!

      Mason

        David Tomen
        April 22, 2022

        Mason, Noocube is basically a slimmed down multivitamin with some Taurine added. Brain Pill targets a couple of specific functions like memory and cognition.

        Neither are in the same league as Mind Lab Pro which is considered a “universal” nootropic formula.

        As for Performance Lab it depends on which formula you are referring to. One thing for sure is Noocube is not in the same league compared to any Performance Lab formula. Not even the Performance Lab NutriGenesis Multi. And any PL formula uses higher quality ingredients than what Brain Pill uses.

Kenneth
January 21, 2022

Hi,
I love your passion for your work with nootropics. Big respect.

I’m new at nootropoics and have read a lot.
I like to increase my motivation, energy and libido. Can
L-tyrosine together with iodine and selenium be a good choice? Or should l combine L-tyrosine with cdp-choline?
Or should l try something else?

Thanks

Cindy J. Crawley
November 13, 2021

This Spring (2021) you helped me get started with Nootropics through a consultation. Wanted to say thank you and tell you and your followers how well I have progressed. I started with basics like Alpha GPC, Lions Main, L-Tyrosine, Pine Bark, Phenylpiratem, Tart Cherry, Lemon Bark, L-Tryptophan and probably something else. I have since added Rhodiola, Vinpocetine and Polygala. After fighting depression for so many years and being lethargic and sleepy, I am a new person because I’m happy, productive and not taking long naps as I used to. I started off taking Adrafinil but don’t need that any longer. Had tried anti-depressants, all SSRi’s, with no luck and now I understand why they didn’t work after reading your material and listening to your podcasts and doing some of my own research.
I’d still like to try other (maybe all!?!) nootropics like some of the other racetams and bacopa. Don’t care for Ashwaganda nor L-Theanine. I do have to be careful though to not push myself too hard due to some health issues.
Thanks again and good luck to everyone else out there. I promote Nootropics to family and friends but unfortunately they are too pessimistic.

    David Tomen
    November 18, 2021

    Cindy, that is great news and thank you for the report. Much appreciated.

Joe
November 8, 2021

David –
Thank you for the thousands of hours of research and publication on this site!

I’m looking to start my first stack (I imagine there will be ‘winners’ and ‘losers’ that will adjust this list). Would you recommend starting each supplement one at a time to determine possible side effects? Or are there some from this list I can join together will relative ease?

My main purpose is to reduce anxiety / increase stress resistance and improve cognition / memory:

Day Time:
CDP-Choline
Lions Mane
Pine Bark Extract
DHA (not from fish oil)
L-Theanine
Phosphatidylserine
Aniracetam
Bacopa Monnieri
Sulbutiamine
Complex B (3,6,9,12)

Night time:
Lemon Balm
Passion Flower
Chamomile

Any advice is appreciated!
Thanks!

    David Tomen
    November 8, 2021

    Joe, that’s a great start but you are right. I do not suggest taking them all at once if you’ve never used any of these before. Because if anything goes wrong you’ll never know what caused it.

    Doing it this way will take you a week or more to get through the list the first time. Try one for a day and if it works without any side effects add the next one the next day. If here are not problems then add the next one the next day. Etc.

    The key to making this work getting the dose right and the timing. Some of these supplements need to be used 2 or even 3-times per day to get their full benefit all day long.

    And some are fat-soluble so take your stack with a tablespoon of unrefined coconut oil another healthy oil to ensure absorption of the fat-soluble supplements.

Dallas Gibson
October 28, 2021

Hello fellow brain hacker! Question: Where do you buy your nootropic supplements from? I’m looking to create custom stacks and want to buy each supplement in my stack individually to create it.

Jed Stuart
July 20, 2021

Has anyone combined modafinil, uridine monophosphate and alpha GPC together? If so, what was your experience and what were the dosages?

Debbie
February 4, 2021

Hi David,
I have been trying a few nootropics out for sleep, anxiety and healthy brain/memory and recently depression but I’m haven’t totally sorted the problems yet. My question is how long do I take a nootropic before I know if it works for me?

    David Tomen
    February 4, 2021

    Debbie, great question and it depends on the supplement. You should feel the effects of amino acids such as L-Tyrosine or L-Tryptophan within 30 mins. of taking the supplement.

    But adaptogens often take much longer. A couple of them take consistent daily use for up to 3 – 4 weeks before you get its full benefit.

    Nutrients like vitamins and minerals are dependent on effective levels present in your system. For example, if you are deficient in magnesium it may take a few days of consistent use before you get your levels to where they should be and maintain that level after that.

    But to complicate things even more for you there is no ‘one pill’ solution. It often takes a combination or ‘stack’ of supplements to reduce your symptoms depending on the cause.

    So it may take you experimenting for 2 or 3 months using various supplements and combinations before you nail it. It took me 2 1/2 years to fully recover from my bottom about 7 years ago.

    Fortunately, it shouldn’t take you as long because I and the rest of the nootropics community have learned so much since then. And you can use the information you find here on Nootropics Expert to reduce your overwhelm. And use a more targeted approach to solving your issues.

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