What are nootropics?
The word nootropic comes from the Greek words “noos” meaning the “mind and “tropein” meaning “towards” and was coined by Romanian psychologist, Corneliu Giugea in 1972. He used this term to describe a class of compounds that selectively act “towards the mind.” (1) These substances, a mixture of food-derived vitamins, antioxidants, lipids, and phytochemicals have research to support a boost in creativity, memory, focus, decision making and other high level brain functions. Many of them support performance and supply both immediate and sustained energy without a resulting crash seen with stimulants. Let’s go over a few of them that have shown to have some benefits.
You can find a comprehensive article done by our own, Dr. Scott Stevenson here on the Mountain dog site, but let’s go over a few of the benefits. (2) Several studies have demonstrated that theacrine activates locomotor and reduces fatigue. In a double -blind study, compared to a placebo, oral administration of 200 mg of theacrine resulted in more energy, less fatigue, better concentration, and mood. (3) The cognitive improving effect of theacrine is associated with its regulating brain glucose metabolism, inhibiting phosphodiesterases and restoring levels of fatigue related neurotransmitters such as 5-htp, dopamine and their metabolites. (4)
Additionally, theacrine is effective for increasing energy and reducing fatigue while having only a minor impact on heart rate and blood pressure. (5) Theacrine is particularly effective at improving cognition when combined with caffeine. A combination of 125 mg of theacrine with 150 mg of caffeine moderately improved cognitive performance as assessed by trail making test (5). The Trail Making Test is a neuropsychological test of visual attention and task switching. It consists of two parts in which the subject is instructed to connect a set of 25 dots as quickly as possible while still maintaining accuracy. In another study with subjects taking either theacrine alone or combining theacrine with caffeine Run Time to Exhaustion testing improved 27-38% demonstrating that theacrine plus caffeine favorable impacts endurance performance.
Alpha GPC (L-Alpha Glycerylphosphorylcholine, choline alfoscerate) is a highly bioavailable form of choline and is a precursor to the biosynthesis of acetylcholine, a neurotransmitter involved in cognitive functions such as learning, memory, concentration, recall and focus, and in physical functions such as power, strength, force and agility. Choline is considered an essential nutrient because it’s vital to cognition and nerve function that without it we wouldn’t be able to move, think, sleep or do anything.
Alpha GPC boosts acetylcholine levels in the brain. This improves the communication between neurons in the brain which boosts memory, clarity and processing. In one study of 32 healthy volunteers, the group was split with half receiving Alpha GPC or a placebo for 10 days and the other half a placebo. On the 11th day they were injected with scopolamide, a drug used to induce amnesia. Before and 0.5, 1, 2, 3, and 6 hours after injection the subjects were given attention and mnemonic tests. The researchers found Alpha GPC was able to prevent the impairment of attention and memory normally caused by scopolamine. (7)
Theobromine, a natural methylxanthine (purine-derived group of pharmacologic agents that have clinical use because of their bronchodilatory and stimulatory effects) is a compound that influences our moods and state of alertness in a positive way. The mechanism of action appears to be inhibition of phophodiesterases and a blockade of adenosine receptors. Theobromine, which is found in cocoa in higher amounts than caffeine, is a reason why chocolate increases feelings of wellbeing and satiety. The main mechanisms of action are inhibition of phosphodiesterases and blockade of adenosine receptors. (8) When phosphodiesterase is inhibited, cAMP and cGMP are not broken down and their levels inside the cell increase. This increase leads to a decrease in the levels of calcium in the cell resulting in vasodilation and relaxation of smooth muscle tissue. (9)
Theobromine also increases working memory. Researchers investigated whether theobromine acts on the CaMKII/CREB/BDNF pathway in a way that might improve the cognitive and learning function in rats. Ca2+/calmodulin-dependent protein kinase II (CaMKII) has been strongly implicated in the memory formation of different species as a key regulator of gene expression. The control group was fed the base diet and the non-control group got the base diet plus theobromine. The radial arm maze task, novel object recognition test and the Y-maze test were used. In all behavior tests, working memory seemed to be improved by theobromine ingestion and additionally the CaMKII/CREB/BDNF pathway levels were significantly elevated in the theobromine rats compared to the control group. (10)
Coffeeberry (or Coffee Fruit) is the small, greenish to reddish unripe fruit that is produced by the same plant as the coffee bean, the coffee tree. The beans are found inside the pit of the coffee fruit. There is evidence to support coffeeberry promoting better memory, cognition, and brain health by increasing levels of brain derived neurotrophic factor. (11) BDNF are neurotrophins that play a critical role in the differentiation and survival of neurons during development. Increased levels of BDNF are considered protective against Alzheimer’s as the disease is associated with lower levels of BDNF. (12) Since BDNF is associated with building new neural pathways, coffeeberry might enhance learning potential. (13) Lower BDNF levels are associated with depression, so it’s possible that coffeeberry can help increase feelings of wellbeing and provide anti-depressant benefit. (14)
Huperzine A (Huperzia serrata leaf extract) improves memory and mental function. It’s a Cholinesterase inhibitor which means that it increases levels of acetylcholine, the chief neurotransmitter of the parasympathetic nervous system. Lower levels of acetylcholine interfere with memory and cognitive function. (15). In one study, 34 pairs of middle school students were given either 50 mg of Huperzine A or a placebo for four weeks. At the end of the trial, the group given Huperzine A scored higher on the Memory Quotient test and had markedly elevated scores in Chinese language lessons. (16)
When to take
Nootropics can come in handy in a number if situations ranging from academic to athletic. If you are someone that doesn’t do well with coffee for digestive or other reasons, nootropics can help give you a mental edge to take on your day. If you have a test to take or an article to write (me) it can give you the boost of focus and cognition you need to perform better. For athletes, it can increase mental focus and provide endurance benefits to train harder and longer. John Meadows designed Neuro Stim with these benefits in mid. I mix one scoop of Granite Supplements Neuro Stim with a scoop of Granite Vaso Blast. I’m someone that doesn’t like a lot of stimulants as I don’t want to feel jittery heading into the gym so the combination of theacrine, GPC, Theobromine with a smaller dose of caffeine in the Neuro Stim is perfect for me. Additionally, I like to use a scoop often when I’m sitting down to do my work for the day or write an article such as this. I invite you to enjoy the benefits of nootropics by trying a product like Granite Supplements Neuro Stim.
- Flordis Global. (2020, January 14). What are nootropics? Flordis Global. Retrieved October 18, 2021, from https://www.flordishealth.com/health-insights/natural-medicine/what-are-nootropics2/.
- Stevenson, S. (2021, September 26). Theacrine: The “Clean Freak” Ain’t goin’ no where! Mountain Dog Diet. Retrieved October 18, 2021, from https://mountaindogdiet.com/member/chem/theacrine-the-clean-freak-aint-goin-no-where/.
- Ziegenfuss TN, Habowski SM, Sandrock JE, Kedia AW, Kerksick CM, Lopez HL. A two-part approach to examine the effects of theacrine (TeaCrine®) supplementation on oxygen consumption, hemodynamic responses, and subjective measures of cognitive and psychometric parameters. J Diet Suppl. (2017) 14:9–24. doi: 10.1080/19390211.2016.1178678
- Samii A, Nutt JG, Ransom BR. Parkinson’s disease. Lancet. (2004) 363:1783–93. doi: 10.1016/S0140-6736(04)16305-8
- Butawan M, Stockton MB, Bloomer RJ. Effects of a single dose of TeaCrine®, caffeine, or their combination on subjective feelings, cognitive performance, and hemodynamics in men and women. J Int Soc Sport Nutr. (2017) 14 (Suppl. 2):31. doi: 10.1186/s12970-017-0188-5
- Bello, M. L., Walker, A. J., McFadden, B. A., Sanders, D. J., & Arent, S. M. (2019). The effects of TeaCrine® and caffeine on endurance and cognitive performance during a simulated match in high-level soccer players. Journal of the International Society of Sports Nutrition, 16(1). https://doi.org/10.1186/s12970-019-0287-6
- 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
- R;, M.-P. E. O.-A. A. F. (n.d.). The relevance of theobromine for the beneficial effects of cocoa consumption. Frontiers in pharmacology. Retrieved October 18, 2021, from https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/25750625/.
- Boswell-Smith, V., Spina, D., & Page, C. P. (2006, January). Phosphodiesterase inhibitors. British journal of pharmacology. Retrieved October 18, 2021, from https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC1760738/.
- Islam R;Matsuzaki K;Sumiyoshi E;Hossain ME;Hashimoto M;Katakura M;Sugimoto N;Shido O; (n.d.). Theobromine improves working memory by activating the CaMKII/Creb/BDNF pathway in rats. Nutrients. Retrieved October 19, 2021, from https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/31010016/.
- Reyes-Izquierdo T;Nemzer B;Shu C;Huynh L;Argumedo R;Keller R;Pietrzkowski Z; (n.d.). Modulatory effect of coffee fruit extract on plasma levels of brain-derived neurotrophic factor in healthy subjects. The British journal of nutrition. Retrieved October 21, 2021, from https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/23312069/.
- Bathina, S., & Das, U. N. (2015, December 10). Brain-derived neurotrophic factor and its clinical implications. Archives of medical science : AMS. Retrieved October 21, 2021, from https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4697050/.
- Robinson JL;Hunter JM;Reyes-Izquierdo T;Argumedo R;Brizuela-Bastien J;Keller R;Pietrzkowski ZJ; (n.d.). Cognitive short- and long-term effects of coffee cherry extract in older adults with mild cognitive decline. Neuropsychology, development, and cognition. Section B, Aging, neuropsychology and cognition. Retrieved October 21, 2021, from https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/31829793/.
- Dwivedi, Y. (2009). Brain-derived neurotrophic factor: Role in depression and suicide. Neuropsychiatric disease and treatment. Retrieved October 21, 2021, from https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC2732010/.
- Yue, J., Dong, B. R., Lin, X., Yang, M., Wu, H. M., & Wu, T. (2012, December 12). Huperzine A for mild cognitive impairment. The Cochrane database of systematic reviews. Retrieved October 21, 2021, from https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC6464949/.
- Sun QQ;Xu SS;Pan JL;Guo HM;Cao WQ; (n.d.). Huperzine-a capsules enhance memory and learning performance in 34 pairs of matched adolescent students. Zhongguo yao li xue bao = Acta pharmacologica Sinica. Retrieved October 21, 2021, from https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/10678121/.