Nootropics for weight loss can improve focus, mood, energy, motivation and more to help you succeed on your diet.
Nootropic supplements boost cognitive output for maximum productivity in whatever task we choose to work on -- including the mentally demanding task of losing weight.
Below, we first discuss links between cognition and weight loss, and then list which nootropic brain boosters may be effective for weight loss and why.
How Does Cognition Affect Weight Loss?
When it comes down to it, we can't lose weight if our brain's not in it. We need motivation, concentration, balanced mood, energy, memory and less stress in order to hone in on our weight loss goals. Brain-boosting nootropics had a banner year in 2018 as useful and effective supplements for leveraging cognitive function to excel at just about everything -- including weight loss. Consider the many ways that the brain regulates weight:
Lack of Motivation can Limit Weight Loss Success
When we set weight loss goals for ourselves, we can't complete them without motivation. For instance, we may set a goal to eat 1,000 calories per day for two weeks while working out four days per week. But sometimes, we just can't get motivated and stay motivated to stick with our goals.
Scientific research confirms the importance of motivation for weight loss. For example, one study concludes:
"...an intervention designed to enhance motivation for weight loss produced significantly greater weight loss than a standard behavioral weight loss intervention."<1>
So, how does motivation work in the brain? Well, it requires dopamine secretion for one. When we feel unmotivated, we may just need more dopamine to get going.
Similarly, nootropic supplements can initiate the production of dopamine in the brain to kickstart motivation for weight loss goals, potentially supporting your diet in a novel way.
Self-determination theory describes our human need to have competence, autonomy and relatedness for adequate motivation.<2>
In other words, humans like to have a sense of control over what we're doing (autonomy). We like to feel like we're doing things because we want to, not because someone or something other than our self is making us do it. We also like to know what we're doing (competence) and understand how it relates to our goals (relatedness).
For example, if we only want to lose weight to make ourselves look good for others, we may not be able to maintain motivation. However, motivation may come easier if we want to lose weight to enhance our overall health and well-being.
Fatigue Makes it Hard to Lose Weight
If we want to maintain any type of motivation, however, we may have to fight fatigue.
Chronic fatigue and daytime sleepiness have been linked to obesity in certain studies.<3> In the brain, fatigue and sleepiness can be characterized by various chemical imbalances including cortisol, melatonin and dopamine imbalances.
Luckily, fighting these imbalances to increase energy may help initiate weight loss. We think it may do so indirectly by improving focus, mood, memory and more, which help us diet and exercise more productively. But we need more research to see how it really works in the brain.
Nootropics for sleep may be especially helpful for fighting fatigue. After all, when we sleep better, we have more energy, right?
However, you should always look for supplements that provide energy without the negative side effects of coffee, caffeine and stimulants. Such ingredients can end up reducing long-term energy by keeping you up at night and actually inducing anxiety and energy crashes.
Sharpening Focus can Help us Lose Weight
Focus is another essential cognitive resource necessary for maximum weight loss. After all, if we can't focus, we may fail to complete workouts, eat right and achieve weight loss goals.
For example, focusing problems have been linked to obesity in several studies.<4><5> However, we need more research to conclude whether improving focus actually affects weight loss ability.
Regardless, if we want to focus better for weight loss, we should know how concentration works in the brain. Actually, it's linked to several different brain processes.
For instance, it is linked to alpha wave activity and a balance of certain brain chemicals. Specifically, inhibiting and thus balancing excitatory neurons like cortisol and dopamine may help us concentrate better. Luckily, nootropics for weight loss can help us do so.
Reducing Stress and Balancing the Mood Improves Cognition for Weight Loss
We all have different stressors and biological processes that can impact our mood. Unfortunately, stress and mood imbalance can reduce motivation and harm our ability to focus.
And as we mentioned above, enhanced motivation and focus can increase efficiency during exercise and daily dieting. Hence why reducing stress and balancing the mood can improve these cognitive processes and help with weight loss.
Specifically, the release of the stress hormone cortisol can affect our entire demeanor, ultimately reducing our motivation and mental willpower to complete our weight loss goals.<6> However, studies show that counteracting stress can reduce weight gain among obese women and men.
Thus, inhibiting this hormone and other excitatory chemicals may help us achieve weight loss goals faster.
Enhancing Memory May Help Curb Hunger
While it may sound surprising, improving memory can also help with weight loss. It's true.
Research on memory and weight loss show memory is vital for appetite control and thus, vital for weight loss.<7> It allows us to store and retrieve goal-related outcomes while making food-related weight-loss decisions. In other words, it helps us remember why we want to avoid certain foods.
In addition, enhancing memory may help with exercise for weight loss. Remember how we mentioned competency as a requirement for motivation above?
Well, being competent in any task requires us to remember how to do it. This is called implicit memory. First, we encode the process of completing a task, then we store it. Then, once we go to complete the task, we retrieve those intrinsic memories.
For example, when we learn how to do to a workout, our memory goes through the process of encoding, storing and retrieving. If our brain is no good at one or more of these processes, we may not be able to complete tasks as efficiently.
So, memory can impact competency, motivation hunger and thus, weight loss. And interestingly, competency and motivation are both prerequisites for flow state, which may help us work out more efficiently.
Oxidative stress is the imbalance between "free radical production and the endogenous antioxidant defense system."<8>
Free radicals, then, are molecules with odd numbers of electrons that can damage the muscles and prevent fat-loss. Their release is caused by physical and mental stress.
You see, intense exercise can cause physical and mental stress, which can cause the release of too many free radicals. This can increase oxidative stress, causing possible damage to the cells and preventing fat loss.
However, reducing oxidative stress may help us maintain a balance between the stress hormone cortisol, free radicals and antioxidants in the brain and body during exercise. In other words, it may help speed up workout results for weight loss.
Mental Techniques for Losing Weight
Can Cognitive Behavioral Therapy Help with Weight Loss?
Psychologists believe cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT) is extremely helpful for weight loss. But what is CBT?
Cognitive behavioral therapy is a type of mental health treatment that aims to change detrimental patterns of thinking and behavior by helping the patient unlearn such patterns. It can be done in many different ways depending on the patient's history of mental health and environmental experiences.
In general, psychologists who administer CBT tend to agree on wholesome weight loss plans for people who can't seem to lose weight. These plans may include customized intermittent fasting, self-monitoring of diet and exercise, therapy and sometimes medication.
Research on CBT for Weight Loss
Science shows CBT is an effective treatment for weight loss trouble. For example, one study confirmed CBT helped the most with weight loss in overweight individuals.<9>
Another showed those who underwent cognitive behavioral therapy did "significantly better" than a control group when it came to reducing binge-eating habits.
In addition, intermittent fasting, self-monitoring and even meditation are efficient cognitive weight loss tools with adequate research behind their positive effects. Hence why they are often used alongside CBT.
So below, we've outlined some tips on intermittent fasting, self-monitoring and meditation for weight loss.
Does Intermittent Fasting Really Initiate Weight Loss?
First off, what is intermittent fasting vs. regular fasting? Well, it's the process of cycling between fasting and not fasting instead of simply fasting outright.
So, instead of vowing not to eat for a week, maybe you just fast for 12 hours or 24 hours once a week. Or maybe you fast for six hours each day for five days out of each week.
You can even choose to avoid specific foods only on specific days. There are many different ways to do it.
Despite how you do it, though, intermittent fasting has shown to be effective for short-term weight loss.<10> Not to mention, it's a good way to reset the digestive system, unlike juice cleanses and detoxes that don't actually detox anything (our bodies do that naturally on their own).
Actually, studies show intermittent fasting can even enhance cognition and mediate stress reactions. This may be part of how it works for weight loss.
However, if we want to keep the weight off once we've lost it, we need to do more than just cycle through fasting each week.
Not only does long-term weight-loss require strategic eating, it involves balanced mental health, strategic exercising and wholesome nutrition.
And if we want to put these weight-loss strategies into action, we'll need to commit to self-monitoring.
Self-Monitoring as a Weight Loss Technique
Self-monitoring is a commitment to optimal mind and body awareness. It may require writing down a diet and fitness schedule each week or keeping a food and exercise diary.
Or, it may just mean paying more attention to what you consume and how much exercise you get. Some self-monitoring techniques for weight loss even involve meditation and/or journaling of everyday thoughts and happenings.
Journaling can help us identify stressors that may be stopping us from losing weight while meditation can help us reflect on our thoughts and actions in order to change them.
Despite your technique, though, research shows weight loss results are better when we self-monitor.
Can Meditation Help us Lose Weight?
Meditation may be one of the oldest forms of self-monitoring around, and we're not surprised. Did you know meditation can literally change the human brain?
It's true; our brains are characterized by neuroplasticity, or the ability to form new connections constantly. And meditation can initiate this process. Research even confirms it can shift the white matter in our brains for the better.<11>
For example, one study shows those who underwent mindfulness training paired with a diet plan gained no weight after two months. Another shows mindfulness intervention can reduce weight gain and "obesity-related behaviors." Actually, there are over 14 studies that confirm these results.
Have you heard of Flotation Therapy? It's a type of physical and cognitive therapy meant to soothe pain and irritability in the brain and body. Here's how it works.
In general, flotation therapy involves lying down in a tub full of skin-temperature water for anywhere from 60-90 minutes. The water is shallow enough that you don't need to worry about drowning (phew). It also contains a high concentration of salt meant to help you float.
So, you undress, insert earplugs, and enter a tub with the lights turned off. Then, you lie back and enjoy. The experience is meant to initiate sensory deprivation (removal of the 5 senses), which can reduce anxiety and any pain in the body.
Interestingly, research on flotation therapy has shown it really can reduce anxiety, stress, and balance the mood. Not to mention, it has also shown to help decrease pain and increase sleep quality.
Hence why flotation therapy might be a great tool for weight-loss. If we can recover faster after a workout by reducing pain while reducing anxiety and stress, we may be able to lose fat and gain muscle more efficiently.
Mind Lab Pro® Nootropics for Weight Loss
Nootropics for weight loss in 2019 and beyond address focus, energy, motivation, mood balance and stress-reduction, which we all need to achieve our weight loss goals.
Some brain supplements have even shown to impact weight loss specifically. Below, we'll list the best nootropics for weight loss and why they may work.
The powerful nootropic citicoline might help enhance memory and control appetite for weight loss. For example, one study suggests it may help with weight loss by curbing hunger.
Other studies explain how it can elevate dopamine production, which may have a positive impact on motivation for weight loss goals.<12>
In addition, citicoline has shown promise for enhancing overall cognition including memory in those with memory issues. And, sharpening cognition can help with weight loss, as we discussed above.
Overall, citicoline looks promising as a supplement that optimizes cognition and curbs hunger for maximum weight loss. But we would prefer more research to solidify this hypothesis.
This Ayurvedic herb supplement has shown to enhance focus, learning and memory, so it may also help us focus on our weight loss goals.<13><14> Actually, Bacopa Monnieri has a ton of research behind it and has been used in traditional medicine for thousands of years.
For example, Bacopa Monnieri extract has shown to initiate antioxidant effects that protect against damage from free radicals while manipulating acetylcholine levels. Thus, it may help reduce oxidative stress and increase exercise productivity. However, we do need more research to solidify its effects on weight loss specifically.
L-Tyrosine is an amino acid and precursor for dopamine, the brain chemical we need for motivation. And N-Acetyl L-Tyrosine or NALT is a premium form of L-Tyrosine that's easier for the brain to absorb.
All in all, L-Tyrosine may be an effective nootropic for weight loss. Research shows it can improve focus, working memory and sharpen overall cognition while mediating stress, which may be helpful. One study proves it can especially improve cognition during stressful situations.<15>
As we mentioned above, L-Tyrosine also turns into the motivation chemical dopamine in the brain. Thus, it may help maximize productivity and motivation for us to achieve our weight loss goals. However, we need more research on L-Tyrosine for weight loss specifically to prove this.
Rhodiola rosea is an herbal anti-stress supplement. It has shown to influence physical and mental behaviors caused by chronic stress in various animal and in vitro studies.
In addition, one human study tested 56 healthy physicians on their night shifts and confirmed the positive effects of Rhodiola rosea. It ended up reversing fatigue under stress for the physicians after three periods of 2 weeks of testing.
As a result, Rhodiola rosea may mediate stress to optimize weight loss indirectly during stressful exercise. However, we'd like to see more research on the subject.
L-Theanine is an amino acid found in tea. It has shown to manipulate alpha waves in the brain to induce a sense of tranquil concentration (perfect for meditation and exercise).
Since L-Theanine is often combined with caffeine, it can be hard to tell whether it optimizes cognition on its own. However, one electroencephalograph (EEG) study tested healthy, young people who were using L-Theanine as a supplement.
The results concluded L-Theanine increases alertness while increasing alpha wave activity for enhanced attention. And another study shows it can help us maintain concentration throughout long, hard tasks.
As such, L-Theanine may help us relax and focus to carry out weight loss techniques including meditation and exercise. However, we would like to see more research on it as a nootropic for weight loss, specifically.
Phosphatidylserine is a stress-buffering, memory enhancing supplement with a ton of research behind it. One small study specifically shows it can buffer cortisol and prevent free-radical damage during exercise.
In the study, 10 healthy men ingested 600 mg of either phosphatidylserine or a placebo each day for 10 days. Researchers took blood samples when the men were resting, then again throughout a 15-minute cycle of intense exercise.
Ultimately, the study concluded PS can help fight "exercise-induced stress and prevent physiological deterioration" from intense exercise. In other words, it may help with exercise productivity for weight loss.
In addition, various studies show PS can enhance memory. One explicitly shows it supports the formation of short-term memories and the consolidation of long-term memories while promoting memory recall, learning and focus.<16>
So phosphatidylserine may help increase focus, memory and, thus, the odds of slipping into flow state during exercise. This may all help with weight-loss indirectly.
Mind Lab Pro® nootropics for weight loss promote a focused, motivated and stress-resistant mindset for maximum dieting success.
This nootropic stack contains 11 research-backed ingredients combined into clean, vegan Plantcaps™ to enhance memory, mood, motivation, energy and focus while mediating all types of stress.
Mind Lab Pro® is also caffeine-free, in case you are consuming coffee separately or simply following a stim-free diet program.
Weight loss isn't easy, but nootropic supplements and smart pills may be a genius move to make it easier. Ultimately, enhancing cognition with the right nootropics for weight loss may help us work out and diet more efficiently.
For more information on how cognition affects the exercise that should be part of any weight loss regimen, check out our guide on nootropics for working out.
- Webber K.H. et al. The effect of a motivational intervention on weight loss is moderated by level of baseline controlled motivation. Int J Behav Nutr Phys Act. 2010; 7: 4.
- Ryan RM, Deci EL. Self-determination theory and the facilitation of intrinsic motivation, social development, and well-being. Am Psychol. 2000 Jan;55(1):68-78.
- Vgontzas AN et al. Obesity-related sleepiness and fatigue: the role of the stress system and cytokines. Ann N Y Acad Sci. 2006 Nov;1083:329-44.
- Cortese S and Tessari L. Attention-Deficit/Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD) and Obesity: Update 2016. Curr Psychiatry Rep. 2017; 19(1): 4.
- Racicka E. [Correlations between attention deficit hyperactivity disorder and obesity - a systematic review of the literature]. Psychiatr Pol. 2013 Jan-Feb;47(1):89-102.
- Van der Valk ES et al. Stress and Obesity: Are There More Susceptible Individuals? Curr Obes Rep. 2018; 7(2): 193–203.
- Higgs S and Spetter MS. Cognitive Control of Eating: the Role of Memory in Appetite and Weight Gain. Curr Obes Rep. 2018; 7(1): 50–59.
- Yavari A et al. Exercise-Induced Oxidative Stress and Dietary Antioxidants. Asian J Sports Med. 2015 Mar; 6(1): e24898.
- Palavras MA et al. The Efficacy of Psychological Therapies in Reducing Weight and Binge Eating in People with Bulimia Nervosa and Binge Eating Disorder Who Are Overweight or Obese—A Critical Synthesis and Meta-Analyses. Nutrients. 2017 Mar; 9(3): 299.
- Ganesan K et al. Intermittent Fasting: The Choice for a Healthier Lifestyle. Cureus. 2018 Jul; 10(7): e2947.
- Laneri D et al. Effects of Long-Term Mindfulness Meditation on Brain's White Matter Microstructure and its Aging. Front Aging Neurosci. 2015; 7: 254.
- Secades JJ and Lorenzo JL. Citicoline: pharmacological and clinical review, 2006 update. Methods Find Exp Clin Pharmacol. 2006 Sep;28 Suppl B:1-56.
- Dave UP et al. An open-label study to elucidate the effects of standardized Bacopa monnieri extract in the management of symptoms of attention-deficit hyperactivity disorder in children. Adv Mind Body Med. 2014 Spring;28(2):10-5.
- Kumar N et al. Efficacy of Standardized Extract of Bacopa monnieri (Bacognize®) on Cognitive Functions of Medical Students: A Six-Week, Randomized Placebo-Controlled Trial. Evid Based Complement Alternat Med. 2016.
- Jongkees BJ et al. Effect of tyrosine supplementation on clinical and healthy populations under stress or cognitive demands--A review. J Psychiatr Res. 2015 Nov;70:50-7.
- Glade MJ and Smith K. Phosphatidylserine and the human brain. Nutrition. 2015 Jun;31(6):781-6.