What Are Nootropics and How Do They Work in Our Body?

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You may already use them, but, what are nootropics? Simply put, they’re natural or synthetic compounds that enhance performance by helping with concentration, memory, motivation, mood, and stamina.

Caffeine is a common nootropic; it’s no accident that you feel awake and ready to go once you’ve had that first cup of coffee. Indeed caffeine enhances your performance, keeps you alert, and lifts your mood, to a certain point. It will also make you irritable sometimes. Have you ever had one too many energy drinks? It’s not a pleasant feeling; all the benefits go right out the window.

The point is, it’s imperative that we understand how these substances work within our brain if we choose to use nootropics as a way to augment our attitude and peak our performance. There may be ample benefits, but why are nootropics’ so influential to our behavior? It all boils down to brain chemistry. Undoubtedly, what works well for some of us may not be the right choice for others. Still, many athletes choose nootropics to optimize their performance. Nootropics enhance cognitive functioning and muscle control, so it makes sense to consider them as part of the regime.

How Do Nootropics Work?

A nootropic affects the brain’s neurotransmitters, by either increasing, inhibiting, or modulating their production. The question, “what are nootropics,” therefore, takes a little time to answer.

Neurotransmitters are chemicals produced by neurons and are known as “the body’s chemical messengers.” They regulate our attitude, cognizance, drive, and endurance. Consequently, it’s vitally important to understand how neurotransmitters and nootropics react with one another because it’s not a case of one size fits all. To the contrary, using nootropics should be based on the individual. If there are any chemical imbalances in the brain, a nootropic may exasperate one problem just as quickly as it will aid in another.

What are nootropics: Six neurotransmitters affected by them

Out of the hundred or more neurotransmitters, there are six that are widely recognized. Dopamine may be the most well-known neurotransmitter; it activates the brain’s pleasure center. This chemical affects neurons responsible for memory, movement, learning, and our emotions as well as addictive behavior. Caffeine is an example of a nootropic that stimulates dopamine production, so it’s no surprise that it makes us feel good and is at least mildly addictive. Of course, just how strongly it affects you depends on your brain chemistry.

Seratonin production induces neurons that regulate sleep, our appetite, how high our tolerance is to pain, and our mood. Low levels of this neurotransmitter may cause depression and aggressive behavior. Norepinephrine is released naturally by the body when we’re under stress. This neurotransmitter triggers the fight or flight response with increased blood flow, heart rate, and heightened awareness.

Glutamate is an excitatory neurotransmitter that sends an impulse to fire off the nerve cells, and Gamma-aminobutyric acid – GABA – is an amino acid that acts as an inhibitory neurotransmitter. GABA does the opposite of Glutamate, telling cells not to send an impulse. Remember our old friend caffeine? It suppresses GABA in addition to increasing the dopamine. Without GABA, nerve cells fire without restraint. Maybe that’s why we feel so jittery after consuming too much caffeine.

Acetylcholine is a molecule, classified as a neurotransmitter that affects our muscles, memory, and emotion. Among its diverse activities, it’s a neuromodulator which enhances or impedes the actions of other neurotransmitters. For example, when norepinephrine triggers the flight or fight response, acetylcholine calms our system back down.

What Are Nootropics Stacking?

The idea behind nootropic stacking is to maximize their cognitive effect. Stacking may magnify a single nootropic or combined, regulate the outcomes of one another. There are specific stacks for desired results; however, combining ingredients may have unexpected consequences due to poor absorption, or an unforeseen interaction brought on by the brain’s chemistry.

What Are Nootropics That Are Commonly Used?

What are nootropics? From mood enhancers to memory maintenance and even an increased ability to learn new things, nootropics offer the promise of a healthier, happier brain. Some nootropics build better neural connections, such as Creatine, Ginkgo biloba, and Krill oil. Their assets accumulate over time. Their benefits won’t be noticed immediately, unlike caffeine, and Rhodiola Rosea which give you an instant boost, aiding in concentration and helping you to react quicker as well as battling fatigue.

Ginkgo biloba

Ginkgo biloba is an ancient nootropic, and there’s plenty of scientific evidence backing up its claim of enhanced mood, better concentration, and more vitality. It regulates neurotransmitters and slows down cognitive decline. Moreover, it stimulates dopamine production and increases blood flow to the brain, supplying neurons with oxygen and glucose for energy. It even acts as an antioxidant.

On the other hand, there is a risk of increased bleeding when you take aspirin or anticoagulants. It can cause hypomania in patients with depression, particularly if they are taking Saint Johns Wort or melatonin. Additionally, people using insulin should keep an eye on their glucose level if they’re using Ginkgo Biloba.

Vitamin B-12

All of the brains neurotransmitters depend on Vitamin B-12. It helps synthesize dopamine, GABA, serotonin, and Norepinephrine, thereby increasing our attentiveness, memory, and our brain’s ability to learn and perceive our surroundings. Vitamin B12 also increases the brain’s serotonin and dopamine production, which helps decrease anxiety and depression. Similarly, it reduces feelings of fatigue and increases pain tolerance.

While Vitamin B-12 is non-toxic and considered safe, it isn’t always easily absorbed through food and should be balanced with folic acid when you’re using it as a nootropic.


An amino acid that’s already living in your body, L-Tyrosine aids in the manufacturing of the chemicals dopamine, norepinephrine, and epinephrine which are all part of the brain’s chemistry. The claim is that L-Tyrosine works as well as Adderall and amphetamines to calm ADHD. It does regulate hormones, sharpens memory, and eases cognitive stress.

While L-Tyrosine is considered non-toxic, some people do experience migraines and stomach issues. It’s thought that this may be an indication that their levels are optimal, so they probably don’t need to supplement.

Other concerns have to do with adverse reactions mixing with medications. Using L-Tyrosine when taking an MAO inhibitor, for example, causes a rapid rise in blood pressure, which results in a variety of negative consequences, including a potential heart attack. The inhibitor blocks an enzyme whose job it is to prevent dopamine production and allows for more dopamine to make it to the brain. So, adding the nootropic would increase dopamine levels to a dangerous high, because as we already know, L-Tyrosine is implemental in manufacturing dopamine in the first place.


The liver produces creatine, which provides the energy it to all of the cells in your body and brain. It’s one of the most effective nootropics for athletes. Creatine fuels the brain and muscles, boosting performance and preventing mental fatigue. It also protects neurotransmitters and acts as an antioxidant.

Using too much creatine can be difficult for the liver and kidneys to process. Make sure to check with a doctor to determine what dosages are safe for you. It amps up your energy so don’t take it when you want to go to sleep. Other side effects include headaches, reduced appetite, and muscle cramps.

Rhodiola Rosea

What are nootropics Rhodiola Rosea role in performance? This nootropic is an enzyme that’s in our cells already; it uses stored fat to produce energy. It also reduces inflammation and cuts down on the fat and sugar accumulations in our blood. Additionally, it’s known to decrease depression and mood swings as well as reduce fatigue and heighten the senses. All this leaves you feeling alert as Rhodiola Rosea repairs and aids in the growth of more neurons.

Side effects don’t kick in unless you take too much Rhodiola Rosea. If so, you may experience dry mouth, nausea, upset stomach insomnia and you may lose weight. The big thing here is to think about its interaction with other medications, such as anti-depressants. The issue is increasing serotonin levels to a dangerous rate. Proceed with caution when you’re using nootropics that increase this neurotransmitter because you may run the risk of developing serotonin syndrome.

Krill oil

Fish oil packs a punch with Omega three fatty acids which are instrumental in reducing inflammation and repairing cell membranes. Consequently, Krill oil increases memory functions and acts as an antioxidant. It’s often the first answer to the question, “what are nootropics?”

This nootropic may cause depression in some people. Other issues include fishy burps, but that happens more with fish oil other than Krill. The lesson here is to look at the label because not all fish oil supplements are created equal.


This nootropic ramps up the brain’s metabolism, increasing energy and helping you to feel alert. Acetyl-l-Carnitine also improves memory and aids in fluid thought processes as well as acting as an antioxidant in the brain and providing neuroprotection.

Side effects are rare, but sometimes people experience nausea, and they become restless. There is a risk of seizure if there is a disorder already present.

Alpha-Lipoic acid

Athletes will benefit from this nootropic that converts nutrients to energy at a cellular level. Alpha-Lipoic Acid is a water and fat-soluble antioxidant that reduces inflammation too.

This nootropic may have a few side effects such as diarrhea and fatigue. It can lower blood sugar levels, and reduce thyroid hormone levels, as well as Thiamin. Additionally, it competes with Biotin so it will require higher doses when used in conjunction with the Vitamin B complex.

Choline Bitartrate

Here’s a nootropic that promises to reduce fatigue and ramp up your motivation. Choline Bitartrate is used throughout the brain and body to maintain the lines of communication. It is instrumental in controlling balance, stability, and mobility. Choline Bitartrate enhances brain cell production and aids in repairing damaged membranes.

This nootropic is non-toxic; however, there are side-effects for some users. Sleep issues, headaches, fluctuations in blood pressure, nausea, and blurry vision are among the problems. Stop taking the nootropic at the onset of any of these symptoms.


Here’s another nootropic that provides sharp focus, recall, learning ability, and improved mood. It’s a derivative of the neurotransmitter, GABA, though it doesn’t have any effect on the GABA receptors. Instead, Piracetam increases blood flow and oxygen to the brain; a natural choice as a memory booster and to improve focus. But it’s also used to relieve pain because of its anti-inflammatory properties.

Piracetam requires a prescription throughout the world but sells over the counter in the United States. Headaches can cause problems, although stacking Piracetam with a choline supplement proves to be a good way to avoid the pain.


Unlike the other nootropics on our list, Noopept is synthetic. There are many more synthetic nootropics developed individually and for use in stacks, and this one is an excellent example of their general use.

By stimulating dopamine, nicotinic, and serotonin receptors, Noopept effectively boosts brain power in the areas of cognition, memory retention, and logical thinking. Noopept improves brain nerve growth factor ( BNGF), according to proponents. The nootropic also improves reflexes and helps you to feel calm, enabling you to get into the zone.

Noopept is nontoxic as long as you don’t go over the recommended dosage and works best when combined with choline. Side effects may include headaches, fatigue, or insomnia.

What Are Nootropics and Are They for You?

So, what are nootropics and are they for you? The right nootropic will benefit athletes and help them get into the zone with heightened mental ability, better muscle performance, and by elevating your mood. Of course, the health of your brain and it’s specific chemistry will alter the results accordingly.

Nootropics are serious medicine, even though you can easily purchase them over the counter. So when you’re trying out a nootropic, take the lowest dose to start and remember some are cumulative, which means you may not feel a nootropic’s effects right away. It’s a good idea to keep a journal so that you can track your mood and any related side effects. Asking the question, “what are nootropics” was a great starting point.

This information in this article is not as medical advice. We always recommend consulting a medical professional before making changes to your diet or medications.

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