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Do Nootropics Really Boost Productivity? Before you buy, do a deep into dive into all the potential positive and negative impacts.

By Ben Angel

Opinions expressed by Entrepreneur contributors are their own.

Jackie Niam | Getty Images

The following article is excerpted from Ben Angel's Unstoppable 2nd Edition, out now on Entrepreneur Press. Purchase it via Amazon | Barnes & Noble | IndieBound | Bookshop.

No matter where you look, the latest and greatest health supplements are being promoted from every side of the internet. But before you buy a brand just because it cites a couple of scientific studies, it's important to dive deeper to see how a specific health protocol — or, in this case, a nootropic — may impact you.

1. Treat the cause, not the symptoms

As with antidepressants, which may make people feel great for a while but fail to address underlying physical causes (e.g., nutritional deficiencies, inflammation, toxicity, overgrowth of bad gut bacteria, hormones or food sensitivities, to name just a few), nootropics can also mask symptoms while failing to cure the actual problem. The day I drank ketone ester, I felt incredible. I wasn't physically or mentally showing any signs of vitamin D deficiency, but I was still severely depleted. Nootropics and medication can help you feel better temporarily, but your symptoms may later emerge in a different manner. It's vital that you seek assistance from a functional doctor to find out the underlying cause. And, as in my case, more than one factor may need to be addressed before you can become unstoppable and reach your goals. Also be sure to do your research online and speak to your doctor about any possible medication interactions before you try nootropics. If you are still concerned, look for nootropics that are naturally present in everyday foods, rather than using supplements.

Related: How Controlling Your Food Sensitivities Affects Productivity

2. Refuse to buy into the hype, and run your own experiments safely

Just because one nootropic works for an influencer, or even me, that doesn't mean it will work for you. If you choose to experiment, do so safely, and be sure to record your daily experiences in a journal to track whether you experience a difference in overall performance. Key observations you will need to make include:

  • Quality of or impact on sleep
  • Ability to focus and concentrate
  • Any energy crashes (specifically from caffeine)
  • Digestive symptoms (upset stomach/constipation/bloating)
  • General mood (agitated/calm/focused/intense/happy/sad)
  • Optimal dosage (symptoms can occur if you overdose on anything — find your sweet spot)
  • Stimulatory effect (stimulated to the point you can't sleep, or feel anxious and can't focus)

While I have carefully curated and reviewed the nootropics that follow with safety in mind and the risks outlined where necessary, your own observations will be vital in helping you fine-tune what works for you. I recommend trialing each nootropic for at least 30 days before you decide whether it's a winner or a waste of time. Whichever ones you choose, if you're also going to gorge yourself on inflammatory junk food and stay up late every night, don't expect to see positive effects. Nootropics are only one part of a healthy lifestyle. To discover what works best for you, start with just one nootropic and isolate your experiments whenever possible. Avoid overlapping or stacking them in the initial phase, especially if you are new to nootropics.

3. Be aware of the risk of addiction

Just like with medication, you can develop a tolerance to nootropics. This is your body's way of seeking homeostasis so that your internal functions remain in a stable state. When people take nootropics for the first time, they may feel the effects immediately through a process known as "physiological surprise," in which the nootropic is disrupting homeostasis, allowing the nootropic benefits to take effect. When you take nootropics consistently, your body adapts to them and the response is numbed over time. Does this mean nootropics may be addictive? For some, the answer is yes; for others, no. This is one of the reasons I favor nootropics that are naturally found in foods, like L-Tyrosine, L-Theanine and L-Carnitine.

One exception is nicotine, which I use in incredibly low doses and take a break from on weekends. I also carefully track how much I'm using. Most people, of course, use caffeine, which can be highly addictive, with its benefits reducing over time with consistent consumption. That's why you need to drink more coffee or tea now to experience the same level of energy and alertness as when you first tried it. Then there are nootropics such as psychedelics, which have a high potential for abuse. These should be used only as part of a clinical study. For all these reasons, you should carefully select which nootropic you use and cycle them so you can continue to feel their benefits. This could mean you take one nootropic, such as L-Tyrosine, Monday through Friday, give yourself a break on weekends, and then stop taking it entirely for a week every couple of months. Through daily observation, you will notice when its benefits begin to decline. This is your signal to take a short break so it can regain its effectiveness.

Related: How to Diagnose Failure to Achieve Success

4. Consider your identity type and start slow and low

Catalysts should only require fine-tuning. You are already in an optimal physical and mental state, so you may only require small doses of nootropics to feel a difference. As your overall energy is consistent, taking too much may overstimulate you, leading to a point of diminishing returns. Your objective may be to support your body and brain during stressful and busy times.

Synergists' goals may be supporting brain, memory and energy. Begin your experiments with a lower dose than the one recommended on the bottle and scale up to the recommended dosage only if a small dose is ineffective. If the recommended dosage overstimulates you, drop it down again. Your bio-individuality plays a tremendous role in how you respond. Be cautious about introducing nootropics that contain too much caffeine, as you will want to prevent afternoon crashes.

Defenders and Guardians should avoid all nootropics with caffeine for reasons I shared earlier and start by focusing on simple, one-ingredient nootropics instead of nootropic stacks. Do this in conjunction with cleaning up your diet, reducing stress, and improving sleep, and always follow your health practitioner's recommendations.

Are nootropics the only way to get into the zone? Not at all! But many are packed with other beneficial vitamins and minerals that help with well-being and cognition. However, others require a warning label and should be avoided, so proceed with caution and in good health.

Ben Angel

Entrepreneur Network Contributor

Tackle AI's toughest questions with Ben Angel, mapping the business terrain for 20 years. Master the AI landscape and reach peak productivity and profits with insights from his latest work, "The Wolf is at The Door — How to Survive and Thrive in an AI-Driven World." Click here to download your 'Free AI Success Kit' and get your free chapter from his latest book today.

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