What are Nootropics? The "Smart Drug" Supplements Explained


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Understanding Nootropics


Nootropics are a class of “smart drugs” (supplements designed to increase cognitive brain function) are gaining traction in the supplement industry. Although they have been around for decades, they have only been made available to the public in the last few years.

Nootropics have gained popularity over recent years because of recent media coverage glorifying the use of nootropics. In 2011 The Movie Limitless was released by Relativity Media which depicts A-list movie star Bradley Cooper as a washed up writer who takes a type of Nootropic to become not only a fantastic writer, but also the best version of himself that he possibly can. The movie was so successful, and the idea of nootropics is so fascinating that CBS created a spin-off show in 2015, and nootropics have only become more popular since then.

If you’ve been looking for increased energy, mental clarity and more focus (an overall increase in brain power) to help you take life to the MAX, keep reading to see if Nootropics might be right for you.


How do Nootropics Work

Unfortunately, there is not one simple answer on how nootropics work. There are many different types of nootropic compounds (see list of effective Nootropics below), and they all work with the brain’s neurotransmitters in different ways. (The brain is still the most complicated organ to understand within the human body).

Obviously, the movie example of Limitless and what they did for Eddie Mora (Bradley Cooper’s Character) is unrealistic and made for entertainment, but nootropics do work. Although the science behind nootropics is very complicated and still has much to be figured out. With today’s technology it is relatively easy to measure and see an increase in brain function, multiple studies on a variety of the most effective nootropic compounds have proven their effectiveness.


List of Effective Nootropics

In the fitness and sports nutrition industry you can find some single component nootropics, but often you will find supplements that are a nootropic stack (multiple compounds combined to enhance the benefits of the overall supplement. Below is a list of effective nootropics you want to ensure that your nootropic supplement of choice has in it. (Although all in one supplement probably isn’t necessary).

Effective Nootropics Include:


5-HTP – Made in the body from L-Tryptophan and converts into Serotonin. Serotonin promotes healthy sleep patterns, (quality sleep is one of the most under-rated components of a healthy lifestyle) and is the most important neurotransmitters that regulate mood.

Adrafinil Works very similar to Modafinil (see below) because it converts to Modafinil in the liver. Like Modafinil it is used to increase mental energy (alertness), focus, attention span, and concentration. Unlike Modafinil, Adrafinil is legal in almost all places without prescription.

Choline Choline is a basic nootropic taken to help improve cognitive function and overall mood. Choline is known to some as the “feel good” nootropic because it also helps relieve headaches.

Huperzine A An herbal nootropic that is known to help with memory retention and mental performance. Huperzine A is a great nootropic for beginners to start with as it is easy to tolerate in small doses.

Modafinil A nootropic that should be used with caution because of its powerful nature. Modafinil was first created to treat sleep disorders like narcolepsy and sleep apnea. Modafinil increases mental energy (alertness), focus, attention span, and concentration. Modafinil is available online in the US without a prescription, but a prescription is required in other parts of the world. Modafinil should always be used with caution.

Noopept Often considered the strongest nootropic available (and the first Nootropic I was exposed to in Blackstone Labs Resurgence BCAA product), mainly helps boost memory and the ability to retain information. Noopept has also been shown to improve reflexes and improve mood.

Pramiracetam Another extremely powerful nootropic that is believed to improve cognitive function, boost memory, and promotes the ability to retain information. Pramiracetam differs from other nootropics by not effecting one’s mood.

Pyritinol Used by many as the “hangover pill” because it reduces inflammation in the cerebrum. Pyritinol is made of two Vitamin B6 molecules bound together by two sulfur atoms. Pyritinol has also been used as a compound to treat Alzheimer’s disease.

Vinpocetine A synthetic alkaloid derived from the periwinkle plant and has been found to help improve memory by increasing blood flow to the brain. Most importantly, Vinpocetine can help reduce neural inflammation and prevent stressor and toxins from causing amnesia.


Are Nootropics Safe?

Nootropics are extremely safe and non-toxic to the human brain, but as with any type of supplement there is still some potential of side effects with nootropics use.


Nootropics Side Effects

The most common side effects associated with Nootropics at this time are headaches, intestinal and system issues. Sometimes headaches occur when using nootropics because the brain is working harder and demanding more Acetylcholine than your body can produce. Choline acts as a precursor to Acetylcholine and safety increases your body’s supply to counteract the headaches.

An excessive dose of nootropics in the body may be a threat (something that the body is not used to), so your body will want to expel this from it system, causing the intestinal issues. This can lead to diarrhea, nausea, or simply stomach discomfort. The easiest way to eliminate these side effects is to adjust to a more comfortable dose of your desired nootropic.

Insomnia and/or fatigue can also be unintended consequences of taking nootropics supplements, as your brain is working harder and on overdrive.


Natural Nootropics in Food

Not quite ready to give nootropic supplements a try? You can find nootropics in everyday foods that you eat and help give your brain a boost!

To get more Nootropics in your every day diet, increase your intake of the following foods:

Berries – There are many types of berries and all of them are high in antioxidants. Antioxidants help destroy free radical, including ones that can affect the brain. Berries can improve neuron communication which also enhances memory and overall cognition.

Coffee and Dark Chocolate – Caffeine is also great for producing nootropic effects. Coffee and dark chocolate are two natural foods that have a high concentration of caffeine. Both foods also stimulate the brain improving focus and alertness.

Fish – Because they are high in Omega 3 fatty acids, fish is known as “brain food”. Omega 3 fatty acids help slow the decline of mental function, thus helping to keep your brain functioning at optimal levels.

Nuts – Nutrient packed nuts (more specifically walnuts) help boost mood and cognitive function because like berries and spinach, nuts are high in antioxidants.

Spinach – I am starting to understand why Popeye ate his spinach. Spinach has a lot of health benefits including benefits for your brain. Spinach (and other dark leafy greens) contain a high concentration of antioxidants that help expel free radicals. Spinach is also high in Vitamin E which increases brain tissue and assists in the release of dopamine.


How to Take Nootropics

If you do decide to take a nootropic supplement, whether that be a single nootropic compound, or a nootropic stack like many of those found in the fitness and sports nutrition industry it is important to know how to take nootropic supplements.

Nootropics should always be taken in accordance with the manufacturer’s directions on the labels. Some nootropic supplements require multiple doses throughout the day and others only require one dose daily.


Highest Rated Nootropics

Below are the supplements that I feel are the top-rated nootropics currently available in the supplement industry. Some are stacks while others are just individual products.


  1. Onnit_Alpha_BrainOnnit Alpha Brain: Even though, I am not able to purchase and sell Onnit’s Alpha Brain on Just Max Fitness Nutrition because I don’t have a brick and mortar store, I still feel like this is the best Nootropic stack on the market. Alpha Brain’s ingredients have been clinically studied to prove their effectiveness. Alpha Brain also only requires one daily dose, so it is also extremely easy to take.   If you want to try Alpha Brain but still want to support the JMFN Story, you can purchase it through my Amazon Affiliate Link here.


  1. TLM Research’s F1 Focus – F1 Focus by TLM Research offers a superior nootropic blend, second to only Alpha Brain. By adding Ginkgo Biloba to popular nootropics like Choline Bitartrate and Huperzine A F1 Focus is designed to be taken 30 minutes prior to needing increased focus. Simple and effective!


  1. Havasu Nutrition’s NeuroIgnite – NeuroIgnite is another nootropic stack that combines Huperzine A with Gingko Biloba to improve clarity, focus and memory. NeuroIgnite also provides similar directions to boost your brain function, on pill a day is all you need.


  1. Jarrow Formula’s 5-HTP – By supporting serotonin synthesis, one of the brain’s most significant neurotransmitters 5-HTP can help improve mood. 5-HTP also helps improve the digestive functions with a brain-gut connection. As more studies are released each year, we are also seeing the importance of good gut health as it relates to our overall health. For the price, 5-HTP by Jarrow Formulas is easily on of the best single component nootropics on the market.


  1. Jarrow Formula’s Citicoline CDP Choline – Choline is in the above section titled “List of Effective Nootropics” and is known as the feel-good nootropic for its ability to boost one’s mood.




Overall, Are Nootropics worth it?


In closing, nootropics can help improve mood, boost memory, and increase the ability to learn. There are certainly more studies that should be done to prove the effectiveness, (they just haven’t been studied for as long as compound like creatine monohydrate to prove their effectiveness 100%) but there are certainly several scientific studies out that already prove their worth.

As the operator of JustMaxFitnessNutrition.com, and the supplement guy who vows to provide accurate (and scientific) information to the best of my knowledge, I conclude that nootropics can be useful in the proper scenarios. I have provided 5 of the better nootropics above based on my research and personal experience, but you can certainly do your own research to make sure you are getting a properly dosed product that will work for you.


Have any previous experience with nootropics? Tell the JMFN Nation about it below!



Need a question regarding nootropics answered? Ask it below and I will answer it in the comments section as well.


- Joshua Myers, Founder of Just Max Fitness Nutrition

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