Brain Foods – The Art Of Brain Hacking: An Introduction To Nootropics

I try to live as drug-free as possible. I never smoked cigarettes or marihuana, never took any hardcore drugs. I quit alcohol about a year ago and today is my 101st day without caffeine (although I might re-introduce that at some point, there’s just something ritual about brewing coffee, the steam rising from the cup in the morning /sidetrack). Ever since watching the movie Limitless though, smart drugs have had my curiosity.

Tim Ferriss has experimented with Desmopressin nasal spray to ace his Chinese character tests, Dave Asprey openly admits to taking Provigil, so there must be something about these brain foods worth exploring. Luckily, my friend Moe from LifestyleApex has taken it upon himself to explore the depths of using nootropics for focus and will share his findings in this guest post, thus saving me the trouble. Take it away Moe!

It’s 11:30 AM and I’m sitting in math class, focusing intensely on the abstract geometry my teacher is explaining. Once explained, we get a set of questions to answer, which I solve successfully.

That particular school day ended at 3:30 PM. At 4:00 PM I was at my desk finishing homework and by 6:00 PM I was on my laptop, working on my first Python program. By 10 PM I was in bed, feeling satisfied with the successful day I had. What made me particularly happy was that I completed this Monday on 6 hours of sleep and a weekend of partying in London.

This was only possible because I took a simple nootropic stack in the morning.

You may have heard of these so-called “nootropics”. Nootropics are substances that enhance your cognitive ability in various ways. They are typically extracts of certain plants or synthetically produced substances.

These “supplements” have been receiving a lot of attention, particularly by high performance people such as software developers in Silicon Valley and bankers on Wall Street. Job competition is fierce and the expectations that are set are hard to fulfill. 100 hour workweeks are not uncommon for the academic elite.


To sustain a demanding schedule, more and more people are taking nootropics. These cognitive enhancing substances come in a wide variety and all have different impacts on the brain. Many nootropics can be purchased over the Internet or in a store, whereas other nootropics need to be prescribed by a doctor first. These prescription nootropics are typically referred to as smart drugs and they have very strong positive effects and side effects on the consumer. “Standard” nootropics tend to be milder in effect but also safer in consumption.

I have experimented with nootropics over the past 6 months and have found out what works for me, and what doesn’t. The information I am about to provide is based on my preferences and experience. However, I am not a medical doctor and I urge you to a) inform yourself and b) consult a doctor before taking any of these.

To start your nootropics journey, here are the top 6 nootropics and smart drugs you should know about.

1. Modafinil/Provigil

The flagship smart drug of them all: Modafinil, also called Provigil, is a well- known prescription smart drug on the market. It’s prescribed to people with narcolepsy, but it’s easy to get even if you don’t have the disorder. Modafinil is known for its ability to increase attention span, improve working memory and increase energy levels. The effects of modafinil, like the effects of any nootropic, vary from person to person. While some people experience Modafinil to have a natural alerting effect on them, others find that it gives them a very strong jolt.

Overall it’s a strong nootropic and its effects and side effects are not understood yet. If you’re starting off with nootropics, I would recommend that you go for one of the milder and safer nootropics first.

2. Acetyl L Carnitine

One of the milder nootropics, ALCAR (Acetyl L Carnitine) is a great natural energy booster. The amino acid helps our mitochondria increase its energy production, thus providing more mental and physical energy for us.

In terms of its nootropic benefits, ALCAR is great for increasing focus, energy and learning ability. Due to its anti-oxidant nature, ALCAR provides long-term brain health benefits, as it removes toxins from the brain.

ALCAR is a great nootropic for newbies as well as pros, due to its safe, yet noticeable effect on energy levels. If you’re starting off with nootropics, ALCAR is a great first purchase.

3. L Tyrosine

This amino acid is one of my personal favorites. When used intelligently, L tyrosine can eradicate any sleepiness after a short night and give you laser-like focus. It’s also used to combat physical and mental fatigue and stress, thus being ideal for college students or even soldiers! L tyrosine is one of the most underestimated nootropics in my opinion. I’ve found 1.5 gr on an empty stomach in the morning only 2-3 times a week helpful. Your body will most likely build a tolerance towards its effects if you supplement daily with it.

If you want to work a few hours more or withstand stressful times, L tyrosine will give you a helping hand.

4. A Choline Source: Alpha GPC, CDP Choline or Choline Bitartrate

A nootropic cabinet is never complete without a choline source. Choline is an essential nutrient needed for cell membrane synthesis and it’s a precursor for the neurotransmitter acetylcholine. Being one of the most “desired” neurotransmitters in the cognitive enhancement world, it’s no surprise that finding a great choline source is of upmost importance.

Acetylcholine is a quintessential neurotransmitter for decision-making, learning, memory and more. If you can increase your brain’s acetylcholine synthesis, you will most likely increase your brain function immensely.

There are three main choline supplements: Alpha GPC, CDP Choline and Choline Bitartrate. Without a doubt, Alpha GPC and CDP Choline rule supreme over Choline Bitartrate in terms of bioavailability. They both raise choline levels in the brain and therefore increase acetylcholine production.

Although Alpha GPC and CDP Choline aren’t cheap, their cognitive enhancement benefits are impressive to say the least. If you want an overall increase in brain function, either one of them does the job.

The only reason to go for Choline Bitartrate is if you are on a budget, as the supplement is very cheap.

5. Racetams

The term “racetams” refers to a group of nootropics. Piracetam, Aniracetam, Oxiracetam and Phenylpiracetam are the most used racetams in the nootropic community. Racetams are over-the-counter supplements in most countries and are, like Modafinil, still frowned upon. Their impact on overall cognitive enhancement cannot be denied however.

If you wish to give these highly effective nootropics a try, I recommend you do your own research on the various Racetams and see which one fits your needs.

You can’t say that one Racetam is better than the other; it depends on the individual and his or her goals.

6. Rhodiola Rosea

This natural herb is used for its energy and mood boosting properties as well as its ability to combat stress.

Stacks: Bringing Everything Together

Although you can take nootropics by themselves, you’ll have a better experience if you combine them into a “stack”. A stack is a collection of nootropics that complement each other in their properties and functions. Combining caffeine with L Theanine is a great stack, as the caffeine offers the jolt of energy and the L Theanine takes away the jitters. Racetams tend to deplete choline, making it a smart move to take a choline source with your racetam of choice.

To get you started, here are some stacks to try out:

Stack 1: 100mg Caffeine, 2gr L Tyrosine, 100mg L Theanine (energy, focus, stress resilience)

Stack 2: 1500mg Aniracetam, 300mg Alpha GPC (overall cognitive enhancement)

You can also take pre-made stacks such as Alpha Brain or CILTEP. These are pills containing multiple nootropics and are designed to increase your brains overall performance. While they may be a good place to start, the price of taking pre-stacked nootropics versus making your own out of powders isn’t worth it in the long run.

So there you have it, a starting point for your nootropics journey. I hope that you’ll give these cognitive enhancers a chance to show you how much help they can offer.

LifestyleApex will release a simple nootropic-stacking program for your computer soon. It’s free and very basic, so enter your email in the VIP box and I’ll notify you when the program will be available! Plus VIPs at LifestyleApex will be the very first to receive a copy of the soon to be released “12 Steps To Optimal Health” guide.

I’d say that’s a wrap! If you want to learn more about these kind of brain foods and how to use nootropics for focus, check out Moe’s site and follow @LifestyleApex on Twitter. He’s the expert.

Niklas Goeke

I am a German student on his way to becoming an entrepreneur!

  • Michal Olik

    Hey Nik, nice article, it can be interesting to try them. I also have good experiences with natural nootropics especially ginseng (noticeably better focus) and also catuaba.

    • Hey Michal, glad you like it, what are your thoughts on nootropics?

  • Joe Lambrett

    Hey Nic, thanks for all the information! I know you are not a doctor but maybe you know something more as I do about vinpocetine and bacopin. both are natural cognitive enhancer and I have seen that there are some nootropics at the market. The brand NootropicPlus uses them and the ingredients you described too, so maybe they would be a good start for me?

    • Hey Joe, since this was a guest post by my friend Moe and he’s the expert on nootropics (I’ve never taken any myself), I recommend you ask him about it:

      But I’d definitely prefer natural over synthetic for a first experiment myself.