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Should You Combine Nootropics Into a "Stack?"

Several nootropic substances used together may give you more cognitive benefits.

Photo by Angel Sinigersky on Unsplash
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Source: Photo by Angel Sinigersky on Unsplash

Most people who use nootropics want it to be easy.

And it can be. In fact, it is often so easy that you likely already use at least one nootropic every day without paying much attention to it. If you’re like most people, you drink beverages containing caffeine.

As Andrew Scholey, professor in Psychopharmacology at Swinburne University stated on the Nootralize podcast, caffeine has traditionally been consumed via beverages such as green tea and coffee where not only caffeine contributes to the effects on the minds of the consumers. In a study conducted by Scholey et al., chlorogenic acid which is an active ingredient in coffee was found to improve mood in healthy human participants.

Caffeine is a vasoconstrictor; it temporarily reduces blood flow to the brain. According to Scholey, “… coffee contains these things called chlorogenic acids which increase blood flow.”

Increased blood flow to the brain is one mechanism by which nootropics can work to enhance cognitive performance.

Green tea contains caffeine and so-called catechins. Catechines can increase brain blood flow.

These nootropic substance combinations are super easy to use and have a long history in many cultures. Scholey hypothesized that people have learned over time to consume caffeine combined with vasodilators to get the best cognitive effects.

A combination of two or more nootropic substances is called a “stack."

Combining several compounds into a stack can have synergistic effects, such as in the cases of the ingredients in green tea and coffee.

The ease of use of a nootropic stack is perhaps the best reason to use it instead of single isolated substances. For instance, Performance Lab Mind is a popular commercially available stack that contains four science-backed ingredients; L-Tyrosine, Citicoline, Pine Bark Extract, and Phosphatidylserine.

I personally do not respond well to L-Tyrosine, which makes all pre-made stacks containing it useless to me. The lack of flexibility is probably the most significant negative aspect of a pre-made nootropic stack. If you decide to try a stack and discover that you get negative side effects from it, you will have wasted your time, money, and energy. While convenient, pre-made nootropic stacks remove your freedom to customize exactly what you’re taking.

As medicine evolves, more and more treatments are based on what makes a person unique. Whilst nootropics as discussed in this blog post are not intended to treat any disease, the field of personalized medicine certainly focuses our attention on some principles which self-experimenters can use to enhance their healthy minds. An individuals’ genes, lifestyle, and psychosocial circumstances are all factors that play a role in how people respond to different nootropics.

It is well-known that certain people are responders and others are non-responders to Creatine Monohydrate. If there’s one thing that essentially all authors of placebo-controlled studies on the effects of nootropics agree on, it is that there’s a large degree of individual variance in how different people respond to different substances.

There’s one other risk to be aware of before combining nootropics into a stack. Certain drugs and supplements can interact to cause negative and potentially dangerous side effects. If you’re uncertain about the safety of a nootropic stack that you plan to try, talk with your trusted medical professional.

So, should you use different nootropics in a stack? The answer is likely yes. It is probable that combining several nootropics will give you better results than using only one.

A harder question to answer is whether you should start your self-experimentation journey with a pre-made stack or a single substance.

If you start with a single substance, you can always add more nootropics to your regimen, but removing a substance from a pre-made stack is impossible.

The convenience of a pre-made stack is hard to achieve with patient self-experimentation. A pre-made stack is likely to not be as effective for you as a stack that you’ve mindfully tinkered with for years to arrive at.

If you want to enhance your cognitive performance quickly and spend very little time on it, a pre-made stack is probably your best bet  —  but you still may have to experiment with several stacks before you find one that works for you.

On the other hand, if you see cognitive enhancement as a long-term investment in your brain and mind, self-experimenting with single nootropic substances is likely to be the best route for you. If you’re going down this path, there isn’t necessarily anything wrong with combining several substances into a stack, but a slow patient gradual introduction of new ingredients to your regimen is probably the best strategy for maximal benefits with minimal risks.

This blog post was also published at blog.nootralize.com, it is not a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment.

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