If I’ve learned one thing since becoming a father, it’s that my mental energy, memory, and focus now come at a premium. At times my toddler still sleeps irregularly, and, consequently, so do I. I’ve also taken on many new responsibilities at work, plus I have new students at my martial arts club and new clients in my freelance writing business. I love staying busy with good things, but I’m starting to feel a little thinly spread.
What’s a busy parent to do?
I’ve never been into performance enhancers or drugs–never tried steroids, don’t even like taking Motrin–and I try to keep my athletic supplements to a minimum. I try to adhere to the true meaning of supplement–as in, I don’t put anything into my body unless I’m lacking a healthy, natural source in my diet. Fish oil, green drinks, and vitamin D pretty much do it for me!
Still, like most of you, I have a little too much on my plate these days. And I’m having a little trouble keeping up. So, shortly after my son was born, I spent some time “ingestigating” different combinations of mental supplements, called nootropics, or smart drugs, meant to help you think more clearly and for your mind to perform more effectively. I’ve tried several different combinations to determine which are best for each type of mentally demanding situation faced by new parents. Here are my findings!
Best Remedy for a Sleepless Night When Your Baby is Teething
The first question people asked me when I became a new dad was “Is he sleeping? Are you sleeping?” My answer: “sometimes.” My son wasn’t too bad at night, but he was inconsistent. And that would leave me pretty foggy in the morning–not a good thing for a teacher who needs to get to school early! Even if your kids are older, I bet you have your days when even 5-hour Energy won’t cut it.
I’ve tried several different caffeinated beverages but generally don’t like the way they make me feel. I’m a lot more sensitive to caffeine than when I was younger. I switched to yerbe matte and green tea for a while, but with my son’s wonky sleep habits, these mild beverages often leave me yawning. I needed a solution to clear the morning fog without forcing me to spend it in the bathroom.
Wouldn’t it be nice to chug a ton of coffee without getting the jitters? Take L-theanine with your morning joe, and you’ll be all set. An amino acid derived from green tea, it creates a strong calming effect when taken as an extract. Why would I want to take that when I’m too sleepy to see straight, you might ask? Here’s why: L-theanine works antagonistically with caffeine and negates many of its deleterious effects. You know that feeling when you’re halfway through your first cup of coffee, and you feel like this?
But, not long after, you feel like this?
Well, 400 mg of L-theanine and two cups of coffee will keep you flying! If you’re trying to limit your caffeine intake, you’ll also find that this combo improves your alertness and focus to such a degree that you won’t need to rely on a travel mug. Or, if you miss your morning trips to Dunkin Donuts, you could always switch to decaf. I won’t tell!
Best Way to Get Over the Afternoon Hump
Fans of the Joe Rogan Experience podcast have undoubtedly heard of Alpha Brain. A “complete balanced nootropic”, these bulky, little pills contain the aforementioned L-theanine plus other ingredients like Alpha GPC, antioxidants, and B Vitamins. It’s also rich in acetylcholine which is a neurotransmitter capable of speeding up and focusing your thinking.
If you believe the hype about this supplement, you’d think it will make you like this:
Joe Rogan and the other endorsers of Alpha Brain promise razor sharp focus, unbridled athletic performance, and unprecedented lucid dreams. I noticed a more subtle effect–better focus and retention, a slight improvement in mood, and a definite urge to write. I’ve always been a vivid dreamer, so I haven’t noticed a big difference when taking Alpha Brain at night. My friends and family are pretty tired of me recounting all my screwy dreams over the years (The members of Van Halen are wearing puppy suits and dancing in a flower garden?), so I wish they’d try a supplement before bed so maybe they could join in the fun!
Along these lines, reviewers of Alpha Brain, and nootropics in general, say the supplement’s effectiveness has a lot to do with your body chemistry; apparently, I experience the most benefit in the early afternoon before a workout. Alpha GPC has been clinically proven to improve the benefits of exercise, including increased production of human growth hormone, and I’ve noticed a difference in my performance in the weight room while following the StrongLifts 5×5 protocol. If you’re not one to get droopy in the afternoon, or if you train at a different time of day, I encourage you to experiment with Alpha Brain to see what works best for you.
I do have one caveat about taking Alpha Brain. One ingredient I have mixed feelings for is vinpocetine. It improves vasodilatation, which, in turn, improves brain function. However, I find that if I have caffeine when I take Alpha Brain–even hours before or after–it makes me lightheaded. That’s why I don’t usually take it in the morning unless I feel well rested and don’t need too much coffee. Again, trial and error when trying these supplements is crucial.
Best Supplement to Take When you Need to Work Late
Remember when a pot of coffee used to get you through an all-nighter in college? Remember how crappy you felt the next day? Now students are downing Red Bulls and adderall (i.e., legal speed). I never tried that particular cocktail, but I’m guessing it would incapacitate me. After a few false starts using piracetam, I think I’ve found a better solution.
Unlike when I was in college, I can’t sleep in after a late night of work. I need to be at school and ready to teach by 7:30AM! For those nights when I’m trying to finish grading papers, complete a few blog posts, and meet a deadline for one of my SEO clients, I now rely on a stack of piracetam and soy leichten.
Piracetam is the only real drug I’ve tried during this study. It was originally developed to alleviate symptoms of dementia and Alzheimer’s in the elderly, but studies show it benefits cognition and retention in healthy people as well. I read a lot about it on Reddit (a great place to start researching nootropics, by the way) and decided to try it for a few weeks. I took many different dosages at different times of day. Nothing. I began feeling bad for all those elderly folks who were prescribed the drug, but then I read that piracetam works best when stacked with a choline source such as soy leichten.
After taking this stack, I felt an effect similar, yet weaker, than Alpha Brain. My mind “opens up” when I take it, which is very refreshing after putting my son down for the night and then digging into a pile of work. Taking piracetam and soy leichten before bed will give you the mental boost you need to get a few things done before succumbing to sleep. What’s nice is that after squeezing an extra hour or two of productivity out of your day, you won’t feel groggy or hung over in the morning. The stack not only increases nighttime alertness, but it also helps you sleep well.
One problem with piracetam is that it’s not sold as a supplement in the US. Ebay is one way to find a domestic supplier, but I purchased directly from Smart Drugs for Thought. They enjoy good reviews on all their seller sites and somehow have a line of products for sale on their website. Their plant’s proximity to Mexico may have something to with it, but no one’s come rooting through my kitchen pantry, so I think they’re legit.
Furthermore, there are some reasons to avoid soy leichten–especially if you have a soy allergy. I agree with this article in that the benefits outweigh the negatives though, and I avoid most processed foods so my exposure is pretty limited. You may want to try a different source of choline to go with piracetam or you may not even need to add anything at all.
I’d like to say I did all the hard work for you, but, like I mentioned before, nootropic effectiveness is highly specific to the individual. These are the stacks that work best for me at times when I need help with mental focus, physical performance, and memory retention. Let us know what works best for you!
One last thing. Keep in mind that, while nootropics or smart drugs in general do not carry side effects, they do interact with medicines you may be taking. Always check with your doctor before trying any supplements.
[NOTE: This post was previously published on another old blog of mine I recently discontinued. Sorry if you’ve seen it before, but thanks for reading!]