Studying is hard. Nootropics for studying can make it a little easier.
In our hyper-competitive academic world, some students take stimulants to boost alertness while studying.
Stimulants work, but may have negative side effects.
Study nootropics work on different pathways from synthetics. They can:
- boost multiple aspects of memory to help you retain knowledge;
- energize the brain without stimulants to power late-night study sessions;
- enhance recall and cognition on exam day to optimize test-taking.
This guide discusses how some of the best nootropics for studying may work, and how smart stacking strategies may help them to work even better.
Biohacking the Academic Brain with Nootropics
Used correctly, nootropics may not only acutely improve focus, attention, accuracy, mood, working memory, and energy that are required for effective studying. They may also support long-term brain health and function.
- This serves as the key distinction between natural nootropics and the so-called synthetic smart drugs that are increasingly used (and abused) by students, the latter of which often boost short-term measures at the cost of longevity.
As such, nootropics constitute one of the simplest means for students to improve their studying and ultimate academic performance.
In addition to optimizing overall mental performance, nootropics can enhance multiple cognitive functions related to effective studying:
- Memory Pathways - Memory is key for studying; nootropics can help with long-term memory, short-term memory, encoding, storage and recall; ultimately nootropics can help with better test performance.
- Mood and Motivation - If you are moody and unmotivated, studying may seem like an impossible task. Some nootropics help to spark motivation and uplift mood so you can hit the books with enthusiasm.
- Brain Energy - An energized brain studies more effectively, but stimulants for alertness can have some negative side effects. Nootropics for studying include clean, stim-free brain energizers.
As promising as individual nootropics may be for studying, their greatest potential may be realized when they are combined together -- a practice known as stacking that can help to elevate multiple study-related cognitive functions at the same time.
Mind Lab Pro® Nootropics for Studying
By stacking a diverse, bio-effective mix of nootropic ingredients, students may bolster their brainpower and studying capacity from multiple cognitive angles. The best research-backed nootropics for studying as of 2017-2018 include:
This Ayurvedic "Herb of Grace" is among the most legendary brain botanicals and nootropics for studying.
Bacopa monnieri, an Ayurvedic adaptogen, falls under a particular category of India's ancient health system: Medhya Rasayana -- which roughly translates to the essence of intellect ("medhya" meaning intellect and retention; "rasayana" meaning path of essence). In fact, one of the monikers for Bacopa is Brahmi, relating to the Hindu concept of Brahman, or "universal consciousness."
Whether or not you buy the mythical elements of this brain herb, the clinical benefits of Bacopa are harder to renounce. In one double-blind, placebo-controlled study, the 12-week administration of Bacopa monnieri was found to improve the following cognitive measures:
- Speed of visual information processing
- Learning rate and memory consolidation
- State of anxiety.<1>
Bacopa monnieri has a strong reputation as a nootropic for students, specifically: Researchers have suggested it may "decrease the rate of forgetting newly acquired information."<2>
Quality Bacopa supplements and stacks deliver the herb as a standardized extract; the best Bacopa extracts supply a bio-active concentrate of Bacopa's 9 active nootropic bacoside compounds.
Citicoline, or CDP Choline, is a stim-free mental energizer that can help power the brain through marathon studying sessions.
Of the dietary cholines, Citicoline is perhaps the best for nootropic bioactivity, due to its 1+2 cognitive enhancing punch. Upon digestion, Citicoline branches into two essential compounds:
- Choline - a precursor to neurotransmitter acetylcholine, the brain chemical associated with memory, learning, and basic cognition.
- Cytidine - a precursor to uridine, an RNA nucleotide base that may aid repair and maintain neuronal membrane growth.
Other nootropic cholines, such as Alpha-GPC, may compete with Citicoline's choline donor status, but only Citicoline satisfies the cytidine angle.
Why should students care? Because the choline + cytidine duo may boost:
- Neurotransmitter Synthesis - increasing acetylcholine numbers, as well as dopamine receptors.<4>
- Neuronal Plasticity - bolstering cell-to-cell communication.
- ATP Energy Levels - the basic currency for brain and bodily energy.<5>
For the late night studying, early morning note-taking students, Citicoline's maintenance and enhancement on membrane health and ATP energy may help to keep the brain fresher for longer.
While plasticity and ATP decreases don't become major issues until decades past a traditional graduation date, some research indicates that Citicoline may improve attention and psychomotor speed even among adolescents.<6>
What's more, the cholinergic nootropic may also improve measures of impulsivity and task performance among users who are ingesting, well ...let's say other popular, common college substances.<7>
A win-win for the smart students and slackers.
L-theanine is a non-sedative amino acid that supports relaxation and attention, promoting an ideal studying mindset.
Sourced primarily from Camellia sinensis (e.g., green tea) leaves, L-theanine is the psychoactive amino acid responsible for the feelings of relaxed focus and alertness that comes drinking tea. Much of this can be attributes to the amino's modulatory effect on alpha brainwaves -- the brain wave state most associated with:
- Calm, relaxed thinking without sedation.
- Alert, yet focused attention without stimulation.
- Self-regulation of stress.<8,9>
Drinking tea may induce the benefits of L-theanine, however given the wide variability of L-theanine concentration in tea leaves, it's not the most reliable method.
Many students remedy this by supplementing extracted and isolated L-theanine, consuming anywhere from 100 mg to 1,000 mg daily, with single servings ranging from the 100 mg to 400 mg range.
Due to the dose-dependent effects of L-theanine, as well as its high safety rating, users may gradually gravitate towards higher dosages for more profound benefits.
Brainwave modulation is an effect unique to only a few natural nootropics.
Yet, when it comes to long studying sessions and demanding lectures, L-theanine will only get you halfway there.
The other psychoactive compound responsible for tea's cognitive boosts is caffeine, a stimulant associated with increased attention (but decreased accuracy). Odds are you tend to choose coffee over tea for the former's higher concentration of caffeine.
However, due to the alert-but-calming effects of L-theanine and the energized-but-jittery boosts of caffeine, stacking L-theanine + caffeine may help to fill in the gaps of each nootropic while removing their rough edges.
The result: Clean, caffeinated focus and energy minus the jitters.
And the duo is perhaps the easiest nootropic stack to set up: just consume L-theanine with your next cup of coffee.
This brain chemical-supportive amino optimizes thinking under stress and after all-night studying sessions.
When the brain is tired, over-stressed, and over-excited, the body's natural tyrosine reserves are burned as fuel for catecholamine synthesis -- i.e., the production of excitatory energy and focus brain chemicals, such as norepinephrine, epinephrine, and dopamine.<10>
When tyrosine depletes, mood and motivation tank, leaving you with a screw-it attitude towards the end of a semester. Supplementing tyrosine may help to "unscrew" your attitude.
One of the most pertinent effects of L-tyrosine for studying is the amino's benefits on cognitive performance under sleep deprivation.
Following one night's sleep loss, subjects in a placebo-controlled experiment were found to significantly reduce the usual cognitive performance decline associated with all-nighters. Specifically, tyrosine improved measures of psychomotor and vigilance tasks for up to 3 hours.<11>
In the clutch, the best form of tyrosine (N-Acetyl L-Tyrosine) may be one of the nootropics for studying that gives you the final push you need to lead you safely and happily into the weekend and holiday.
- Pro Tip: L-tyrosine is only a co-factor in catecholamine synthesis. For optimal nootropic improvement, stack L-tyrosine with B vitamins, which are also key catecholamine co-factors.
Nootropic Memory Techniques for Studying
In addition to the above nootropics, there are a couple memory tricks worth adopting to further burn your studies into your neurons, including:
The Leitner System
Proposed by German science journalist Sebastian Leitner, the Leitner System is an implementation of the spaced repetition principle, which calls for the gradual exposure to information over time -- as opposed to cramming ten weeks' of studies prior to a final exam.
The exact methods of the Leitner System include sorting flashcards of information into sequential "learning boxes" or lists. Each card the learner solves gets moved to the next box or list, whereas incorrectly solved cards get moved back to learning box #1. Only when all of the cards have been moved to the final learning box has the learner learned the information.
Exercise and Fatty Acids
The easiest method of rotting a perfectly sound brain is to do nothing. No movement, no exercise. In fact, even a short 30 minute round of cardio or resistance training exercise may acutely improve cognition and working memory.<12>
Hit a mental wall in your essay? Go for a good, quick run.
Then follow that run with a serving of fish or other sources of brain healthy omega-3 fatty acids, the essential phospholipids demonstrated to improve various variables associated with test anxiety.<13>
In other words, it's not only okay to mix exercise with a fatty diet but it's great for the student's mind -- so long as it's the right kind of fats. And if you dare, tack on intermittent fasting to push your mind and body one big step further.
Mind Lab Pro® nootropics for studying help to optimize memory storage, recall and ultimate test-taking performance.
Nootropics may as well be renamed academic nutrition.
If the athletes have sports nutrition, then consider nootropics student nutrition. And similar to athletic sports nutrition, consider also that natural nootropics encompass the safe, legal methods of cognitive enhancement. Not all substances that enhance student performance can claim this.
Typically, a student's go-to is coffee, or any other reliable source of caffeine. The convenience of these nootropics is that they can easily be stacked with coffee, potentially enhancing the caffeinated brain boosts further.
Mind Lab Pro® supplies the natural nootropics covered in this article in a safe, non-caffeinated supplement stack.
This gives students the option of mixing premium grade cognitive enhancers with an energizing cup of coffee or simply taking it straight for 100% clean, relaxed brainpower for superior studying performance and top scores on exams.
- Stough C et al. The chronic effects of an extract of Bacopa monniera (Brahmi) on cognitive function in healthy human subjects. Psychopharmacology (Berl). 2001 Aug; 156(4): 481-4.
- Roodenrys S, et al. Chronic effectslo of Brahmi (Bacopa Monnieri) on human memory. Neuropsychopharmacology. 2002 Aug;27(2):279-81
- Rai D, et al. Adaptogenic effect of Bacopa monniera (Brahmi). Pharmacol Biochem Behav. 2003 Jul;75(4):823-30.
- Shibuya M et al. Effects of CDP-choline on striatal dopamine level and behavior in rats. Jpn J Pharmacol. 1981 Feb; 31(1): 47-52.
- Silveri MM et al. Citicoline enhances frontal lobe bioenergetics as measured by phosphorus magnetic resonance spectroscopy. NMR Biomed. 2008 Nov; 21(10): 1066-75.
- McGlade E et al. The Effect of Citicoline Supplementation on Motor Speed and Attention in Adolescent Males. Journal of Attention Disorders. 2015 Jul 15.
- Gruber SA et al. Citicoline Treatment Improves Measures of Impulsivity and Task Performance in Chronic Marijuana Smokers: A Pilot BOLD fMRI Study. Int J Neurol Neurother. 2015 Sep 30; 2(3): 1-8.
- Nobre AC et al. L-theanine, a natural constituent in tea, and its effect on mental state. Asia Pac J Clin Nutr. 2008; 17 Suppl 1: 167-8.
- Wacker MS. Alpha brainwave training and perception of time passing: preliminary findings. Biofeedback Self Regul. 1996 Dec; 21(4): 303-9.
- Fernstrom JD, Fernstrom MH. Tyrosine, phenylalanine, and catecholamine synthesis and function in the brain. J Nutr. 2007 Jun; 137(6 Suppl 1): 1539S-1547S; discussion 1548S.
- Neri DF et al. The effects of tyrosine on cognitive performance during extended wakefulness. Aviat Space Environ Med. 1995 Apr; 66(4): 313-9.
- Pontifex MB et al. The Effect of Acute Aerobic and Resistance Exercise on Working Memory. Med Sci Sports Exerc. 2009 Apr; 41(4): 927-34.
- Yehuda S et al. Mixture of essential fatty acids lowers test anxiety. Nutr Neurosci. 2005 Aug; 8(4): 265-7.