You saw the movie Limitless or your friend told you about these brain enhancing supplements. Maybe Tim Ferriss and Dave Asprey mentioned nootropics and now you are on the hunt to improve your cognitive function.
Whatever has led you here, there is a good chance you need help to determine which nootropic supplement you should take.
Believe me, I’ve experienced it before. Not only have I needed help myself, but a survey of thousands of our readers yielded some interesting results:
“I often feel mentally lethargic and I have problems keeping myself engaged in complex mental work or problem solving.”
Another person named Jim (not his real name) needs nootropics supplements to “concentrate on writing software for long-hours and be able to retain information I’m reading on how to solve specific problems…”
There are two parts for understanding which nootropic supplements to start with. Below, we will outline the two steps and why they are so important (and a few shortcuts so you don’t waste time).
Part 1: What Does Science Say?
The feedback response from Jim above shows a clear desire to increase concentration and learning ability / memory retention. Ambitious goals.
Now that he has clearly identified his goals, it is time to search using that criteria. While the homepage of Nootropedia includes a main menu meant for this purpose, we are talking about a more comprehensive supplement goal reference guide that includes more depth and analysis.
As much as we would love to create one, Nootropedia could not do a better job than the Examine Supplement Goals Reference.
The guide was made for people to search specific goals. For example, if Jim still wants to improve his concentration and learning ability, he can open the PDF and find clickable links that send him to the relevant page.
The page is going to look something like this:
As you can see, the goal is at the top. Then there are three nice features that make the reference guide useful:
- Scientific Studies – you have the number of studies and links to go read more yourself. For the nerds in the group, that’s great.
- Level of Evidence– this is based on the criteria Examine sets out, but we’ll explain why they’re trustworthy below.
- Easy Reference Link– if I’m done or want to look for something else, there is a simple “Back to…” link within the PDF.
Given that the Examine reference guide has 194 goals and 846 pages, the ease of use is necessary.
For the purely scientific part 1, the Examine team is perfect. The four primary editors include credentialed PhDs, pharmacologists, and master of public health (MPH). Additionally, they’ve got PhD staff reviewers and a list of half a dozen advisors … suffice it to say you can trust them to know their science.
Editor’s Note: In case you are wondering whether the reference guide is worth buying, here is a personal recommendation. Last night at 7:24 PM, my girlfriend asked via text “…I want to look up something on Examine…” This is a guide I’ve had for 3 years and it is still handy. In my opinion, this is the 1 nootropics list every brain hacker needs. – Mansal Denton, Nootropedia Editor
So Jim decides to click the Examine Supplement Goals Reference and finds scientific support for his nootropic goals.
Part 2: Personal & Anecdotal Experience
As Jim reads through the Examine Supplement Goals Reference, he’s ecstatic to find some options based on scientific research in a laboratory setting… but something is missing.
Driving home from work, Jim listened to Bulletproof podcast #127 called “Tim Ferriss: Smart Drugs, Performance, & Biohacking”  where they talked about great concentration tools like phenylpiracetam, modafinil and CILTEP, which don’t make much of an appearance in the scientific literature.
To balance the purely scientific data, one must seek anecdotal information from reliable sources in order to meet nootropic supplementation goals.
One common mistake people make with nootropics is focusing too heavily on the scientific literature OR anecdotal reports. You need to have a balance (and reliable sources of both).
For example, there are hardly any studies on phenylpiracetam, but many people swear by it. Here is what you do:
- Open the Reddit Nootropics group
- Find the search bar in the upper right (you don’t need an account)
- Check the box “limit my search to /r/Nootropics”
- Hit enter
What you are going to find is a host of anecdotal reports from (at the time of writing) a community of nearly 75,000. The first result says “I took phenylpiracetam every day for three months straight”. Another below says “phenylpiracetam is Amazing for Sociability”
The same theory can apply to another great community called Longecity, which spawned one of the more popular nootropic stacks used today (CILTEP) with no scientific evidence to support it .
Whether you have sifted through Reddit, Longecity, or another source, you now have some information to go by even if there aren’t studies that prove it.
Just make sure you use the anecdotal reports responsibly. Some people take attack doses far beyond what is recommended or combine ingredients that are considered risky. Pay attention to what other commenters say and try to take all of the information into consideration before making any final decision.
You Are a Special Flower
With these two tools you will be able to find nootropic options that help achieve your goals. Part 1 includes getting what we consider the best nootropics list and supplement reference guide you can have so that you always have compiled research at your fingertips.
In the second part you learned how to look for new, experimental, and less well-researched drugs via reliable online communities so you can get a broader spectrum of information.
Even after these two parts, consider that your brain, practices, and needs are unique compared to everyone else. If you remain mindful of how nootropics impact you specifically, it will help save you more time, energy, and money on things that do not serve you.