From Nootropics Enthusiast, To Nootro-Skeptic
Definition of Nootropics: a substance that enhances cognition and memory and facilitates learning
The beginning of my journey
I ventured into the weird, enigmatic, sometimes exciting and potentially harmful world of nootropics about two and a half years ago. For a myriad of reasons, I wanted to optimize my brains potential. After damaging my body and brain for eighteen years of severe alcohol abuse, I decided that I needed to repair some of the damage done. Rather than consulting a psychiatrist or my MD, I did what most people naturally do. I hit he internet in search of answers.
I spent countless hours reading articles and watching YouTube videos on individual compounds, stack suggestions and reviews on premade formulas. I exhausted every resource at my disposal. I tried a few premade stacks, I tried a few stacks suggestions from various websites and YouTubers and even experimented with my own concoctions. On the outset of my journey, I was attempting to navigate this industry with a faulty compass. I was relying on nootropics blogs, videos, Amazon reviews and a few e-books.
Beware the guides, health/fitness “Gurus”, and internet experts
The internet is awash with good and bad (sometimes Very bad) information on nootropics. Google nootropics and you will find a veritable cornucopia of blogs, ads for the latest “Limitless” pills, and plethora of so-called experts on YouTube. There is a vast number of personal trainers, programmers, gamers, and health “Gurus” turned nootropics “experts”. They all have their targeted audiences.
- Your fitness expert is going to target athletes, and other fitness enthusiasts looking for that extra mental drive for their athletic/fitness endeavors. And they really bring the Bro-Science. Usually, they have minimal or zero knowledge or understanding of the compounds they promote, Whether a single compound or a stack from a well known supplement brand. In summation, they don’t know what they are talking about.
- Your Programmer, executive, hyper productive types are going to aim at those who wish that there were 32 hours in the day. The people that want to maximize their productivity, or nail that meeting that they’ve been preparing for all week. Those looking for a nuerological software upgrade. Studentsalso fall prey to these “experts”. You want to ace that exam, right? Might have to pull an all-nighter studying and still be able to focus on tomorrows lecture? Again, usually with these “experts” we see minimal knowledge of the compounds they recommend. But, it’s the “SECRECT” to their success.
- There are some who do a little bit of homework before they disseminate their expertise. They’ll provide stats, references, and sometimes even some studies. Sadly, they are usually animal studies or human studies that are lacking conclusive data.This however does not stop them promulgating their “knowledge” and “expertise” on the subject of what to ingest in order to optimize your cognitive abilities and/or ameliorate certain symptoms.
Finding the black cat, in a dark room, that wasn’t there
After hours upon hours of reading and watching videos on nootropics and trying out some of the suggested compounds and stacks, I thought I’d found “IT”. Problem is, there is no “IT”. Getting into things like Racetams and Noopept have diminishing returns. They also have a short half life. Some of them have also been linked to serious psychiatric adverse side effects. Not to mention, some other horrendous physical side effects. So, the “IT” that I found wasn’t there after all. I kept chasing that Black Cat though.
If I was going to renovate my brain, I needed to know how it worked. I needed to understand the actual effects of the chemicals I was flooding it with. This lead to the study and new found love of neuroscience. Instead of watching nootropics videos, I watched lectures given by Ivy League educated Doctors. Instead of reading books by health and fitness experts, I began reading neuroscience textbooks and non fiction literature on the brain. I began reading neuroscience blogs.
While I am still a layman, I have a better understanding than I previously did of the structure and function of the brain. It’s electro-chemical language. Understanding the difference between neurotransmitters and neuromudulators. I, of course, came to find out that a lot of the info that I had digested was either, at worst, completely bunk or at best slightly inaccurate.
Do your due diligence
As I mentioned earlier, the internet is awash with all of the latest info and sales pitches for that magic memory pill. The fact of the matter is, the supplement industry is not very well regulated and a lot of the dubious claims made by the companies go unchecked. The amounts of listed ingredients could be inaccurate. The references could be outdated or not even human trials. If you intend to try any of these stacks or individual compounds, make sure the company is vetted and ask for certificates of analysis. And please look for clinical trials on these compounds.
“Nootrition” Not Nootropics
The best way to optimize your cognitive abilities is via nutrition and exercise. Getting the right nutrients to your brain through a healthy and balanced diet is key in optimizing your potential. Exercise and healthy restorative sleep are also key. I do still take a supplement to fill in the gaps, but a healthy lifestyle, diet and exercise have made an undeniable impact on my life and my cognition.
Don’t be like me
Learn about the most magnificent organ in your body before you start ingesting copious amounts of capsules in order to enhance or optimize it. Don’t do this backwards. You’ll notice that I didn’t mention any specific nootropic compounds or stack suggestions. I’m not an MD, or a Neurologist. I am not qualified to advise you on what to eat, drink, or otherwise, do with you body. That is up to you. If you decide to try any kind of nootropics, please talk to your doctor first. Everyone wants to be operating at peak levels most of the time, but please don’t “Neuro-hack” yourself into the emergency room.
A few resources
You are reading this on neuromafia.com, so you are already on the right track. Browse through the archives as there is a wealth of information right here. Other useful and reliable websites include:
- sfn.org (Society For Neuroscience)
Also, books. I know this may sound archaic to some of you younger readers, but there are a lot of great works out there that will equip you with a better understanding of how your most important organ works. And I’m sure most of these titles will be available in a digital format if you prefer using a tablet or other electronic device for reading. I’m old fashion, and love the smell of ink.
- “Understanding The Brain” by John E. Dowling
- “Foundational Concepts In Neuroscience” by David E. Presti
- “The Secret Life Of The Mind” by Mariano Sigman
- “30-Second Brain” editor Anil Seth (part of the 30-Second series. Great jumping off point)
There are many, many more books out there that are enjoyable reads. You don’t necessarily have to devote yourself to diving into a 600 page textbook, although that isn’t a bad idea either. Oliver Sacks has written some incredibly interesting books on neurological disorders. Michael Gazzaniga’s work is always an interesting and illuminating read.
Hopefully, this has been helpful to you dear reader. Get to know your brain before trying to optimize it. You may find out that there is no optimization needed.