How and Why To Stack Nootropics
“The whole is greater than the sum of its parts.” -Aristotle
OK, Aristotle wasn’t actually talking about nootropic stacks, but the wisdom certainly applies. Nootropics that work well on their own can become great when properly combined; combining nootropics, known as “stacking,” can really maximize the benefits of all the various components, making each one more potent, effective, enjoyable, and perhaps even longer-lasting and safer than they would be if taken separately.
How Stacking Works
The basic concept behind stacking is to create combinations of nootropics and related supplements that interact positively in some way. Stack components are generally chosen because they offer one or more of the following characteristics:
Synergistic action – in some cases the components of a stack work synergistically, each making the effects of the other more pronounced and powerful. Caffeine and L-theanine are good examples of synergistic action; caffeine is a mild stimulant and L-theanine has calming properties, but the two are frequently taken together because each enhances the action of the other. This duo is often included in nootropic stacks because they’re known to potentiate racetams and other cognitive enhancers. In many cases, stacking is a safer, more effective, and better tolerated means of increasing potency than simply increasing dosage of single substance.
Supplementary action – Some supplements are routinely added to stacks because they provide substances that are essential to the workings of other stack components. High quality choline is an excellent example of a supplementary stack component, particularly in combination with nootropics like piracetam, pramiracetam, and aniracetam, which stimulate the production of the neurotransmitter acetylcholine. The action of these nootropics makes a powerful draw on the brain’s choline stores, and a shortage of choline can limit their effectiveness. Stacking high quality choline with this type of nootropic can not only amplify the effects of the nootropic, it may even prevent side effects like the “racetam headache” that some users experience.
Complementary action – Sometimes different smart drugs are stacked because they’re complementary, each providing an effect that goes particularly well with the effects provided by the other components in the stack. An example of complementary stacking would be to take two or more nootropics, each noted for very different effects, at the same time. Some smart drugs are known for their ability to improve memory and focus, while others are noted for their mood-boosting properties. Adding both types to a stack can result in a combination of heightened cognitive capabilities and significant mood enhancement that neither nootropic alone could provide.
How To Get Started With Stacking
For experienced nootropic users stacking can be a gratifying and highly personalized process of combining the perfect components to achieve their specific goals. But for new smart drug users or those who are just new to the concept of stacking, deciding what components to combine can be baffling. Here’s a simple and very effective stack that will get you going with stacking, and the rationale behind the combo can serve as a reference for future stacks.
A Good First Stack (1-2 times per day)
- 1 g Aniracetam
- 300 mg Alpha GPC
- 10 mg Noopept
- 200 mg L-Theanine
- 100 mg Caffeine
The Stack Components Explained
Aniracetam – This stack starts with aniracetam, a powerful and popular nootropic that improves general cognition, reduces anxiety, and enhances mood. Aniracetam is readily available, moderately priced, and very well tolerated when taken at recommended dosages. Like most racetam-type cognitive enhancers, aniracetam boosts brainpower by stimulating the release of acetylcholine, the neurotransmitter most associated with learning and focus. It enhances memory by stimulating the transmission of glutamate, a neurotransmitter strongly associated with information storage, and it also increases levels of dopamine and serotonin, which improve mood and reduce anxiety.
Alpha GPC – A potent natural nootropic in its own right, Alpha GPC is an ideal source of the choline needed to keep the acetylcholine system functioning at a high level. It’s particularly crucial in this stack because the action of aniracetam makes a powerful draw on the brain’s choline stores, and Alpha GPC’s rapid and reliable action makes it both an outstanding supplementary component and an excellent potentiator that can significantly increase the positive effects of aniracetam.
Noopept – This powerful, fast-acting nootropic is both synergistic with and complementary to aniracetam in this stack. Like aniracetam, noopept enhances memory, learning, clarity, and focus, and taken together, the two nootropics potentiate each other. Noopept also has strong energizing effects and may actually interfere with sleep if taken late in the day, so aniracetam’s mood enhancing and anxiety reducing properties are an excellent complement to it. Noopept also has neuroprotective properties and studies show that it improves overall brain health. Noopept’s mechanism of action isn’t completely understood, but it’s believed to be similar to that of aniracetam and other members of the racetam family. However, it is many times more potent than the racetams, and is extremely fast acting. It reaches maximum concentration in the bloodstream very quickly, and its effects are noticeable in as little as 15 minutes. Because of its extreme potency, recommended doses of noopept are low in comparison to other nootropics.
L-Theanine/Caffeine – This duo rounds out the stack, providing both synergistic and complementary benefits to the other stack components. L-theanine is a naturally-occurring amino acid that has many nootropic properties; not only is it known to enhance memory and improve general cognitive function, it also has a reliable calming effect. It works synergistically with caffeine, which acts as a mild stimulant. The L-theanine/caffeine combination improves focus and cognitive performance, boosts mood, memory, and motivation, and reduces anxiety. As components of a stack, they potentiate other nootropics as well as each other.
Building Your Own Stacks
Stacking doesn’t have to be complicated. The aforementioned stack is an example of what many nootropic users use but the real journey is researching different components and testing out what works best for you. Do your research (good resources include Braintropic and r/Nootropics), experiment responsibly, and take every opportunity to learn as much as you can. The more you know about nootropics and how they work, the better you’ll be able to create a stack that works best for you, which will realistically constantly evolve as you learn more about yourself and nootropics.