There is really no right or wrong answer to the question posed in the title, in reality it all boils down to you, who you are and what your goals are in life.  There are some great combination nootropic formulas out there these days, or, if you’re a little more into fine tuning you will definitely want to look into going your own way and creating your own little mixes. 

Why would you want to just buy a supplement with pre-combined ingredients?   Well the first answer that would make sense is that you’ll do it for the convenience factor, right?  Everything is in one formula and there’s not hunting around for multiple pills and potions every day.  That’s a great reason.  We have to consider that not everyone is looking for the perfect formula, there are plenty of us who just want something that works, something that gives us a brain boost and preserves our brain function into older age.  Awesome.   

There are definitely some great supplements out there that will do just that provided we take them long term and don’t stop.  We review ten formulas on the site here so far, and many we give a solid thumbs up to, some we give a thumb’s down to as well, but we’ve tried the all in one products and we know that they are ones that work well.  Others are just a scam to take your money, but other’s are quite well thought out and have been formulated due to many hours of solid research. 

Remember, nootropic supplementation is all about long-term gradual improvements in brain health, they should be safe, with good ingredients, and they should work over time.  Again, there are lots of formulas to choose from, ones without caffeine, ones without GMO’s and so on.  There are vegetarian options, vegan options, and companies that promise to source their ingredients from certain areas of the world.  Obviously some of this is marketing hype, but of course, for certain audiences these factors are very important.  For us is the most important factor is does it work?  Is it scientifically sound and does it work for you?  If it’s non-GMO, locally sourced and it doesn’t work, is it worth your money?  We think not. 

As little as a few years ago we didn’t have all these options, but now we do and those looking for simplicity without the tedious fine-tuning would do well to find a supplement that works and just stick with it.   

Rotate Products To Find The One That Works For You 

If you do choose to go the route of the one in one nootropic formula, we would simply say that – it would be a good idea to try several and rotate them in and out.  So, you could try say three different formulas for a month or two and see which one performs best for your particular body and brain system.  It just makes sense to do this.   

Then once you find the optimal one that works best you can simply stay on it indefinitely.  Remember, a good nootropic doesn’t poop out on you like a pharmaceutical can.  These are meant for long-term usage.  It a product does stop working as well as it used to then it could be you subjectively don’t remember how your mind used to work with the supplement or you truly need a very short break from the product.  Short breaks from things to make them work better is a practice that is very intimately tied to herbology, and it is worth a shot.  Again, think long term here and you’re all good. 

Taking Things To The Next Level By Creating Your Own Concoctions 

Now, let’s say we found something that really works well for us in an all in one and we want to fine tune things or take things to the next level?  Ahh, well now you’re ready to create your own formulas from a multitude of different nutraceuticals, amino acids, vitamins, minerals, and synthetics (if you so choose). 

This route isn’t for everyone, however it is a great way to get more out of your nootropic stack.  Having said that, things can get expensive in a hurry and there is a lot of trial and error involved, this isn’t for everyone.   

But, the results can be dramatic and for those who do the work you may very well stumble upon the exact right formulations that truly boost your cognitive abilities.  We’re all different, with different genes, different environments, and different lifestyles.  It just makes sense that we will all react very differently with different nootropic compounds.  Follow me? 

Alright then.  If you’ve already rotated a few one in one supplements and settled on one that really works well for you, well then you have a leg up on those who are completely new to nootropics and want to start doing things on their own.   There is obviously something in the nootropic supplement that you’re taking that works for your particular system.  What to do next?  In our book now is the time to start buying individual ingredients of a similar function or the same ingredients in the pre made supplement and start increasing the dosages. 

If you want to try and create your own nootropic stack and you’ve never tried an all in one product then you’ll have to start experimenting blindly to find things that being to work for you.   

In the field of nootropics the most likely place to start for anyone would be with nootropics that work on the acetylcholine system, as these are the first nootropics.  The so-called “racetams” should be your first trial run, there are various compounds and dosages, so start low and so slow.  If you feel a positive effect from daily usage then you should add a source of dietary and supplementary choline.   

How do you feel afterwards?  If you feel worse, then you should likely discontinue choline supplementation as your acetylcholine levels are probably going to high (your sensitive to it).  Any time you get an adverse reaction either back off the dosage or discontinue the product.  Yes, you can see where this would get expensive if you’re trying a lot of different things.   

However, we’re buying data, aren’t we?  We are literally buying a map of what works and what doesn’t work for our unique system.  Don’t know about you, but I would pay a very large sum to have the keys from that data.  If you’re in search for amazing clarity, calmness and vigor I would think you would agree that this unique blueprint of what makes you personally run optimally is worth it’s weight in gold. 

So, we start with the acetylcholine pathway, are there other things which we can try to boost this system?  Yes, and the next step would probably be trying ALCAR.  ALCAR can work well for those of us who do not do well after adding choline as well.  It is a non-choline derived acetylcholine booster and it works on another indirect pathway.  It’s fairly cheap, you don’t need large doses of it, and it can work amazing well, so it’s definitely worth a shot especially if a choline supplement like citicholine didn’t work well for you. 

Now that we have our acetylcholine system optimized (not too high and not too low) we will be enjoying subtle yet profound cognitive benefits that grow over time.  By continuing to take your supplements you are working wonders to preserve and boost your brain function.  Kudos.  So, you probably not wondering - are there other things we can do?  Yes indeed, there is so much more that we can do to fine tune and improve, it is an endless journey. 

Diet, exercise, and meditation, along with social activities, stress reduction and living the life you want to live all work like mad to improve basic brain function and achieve top brain states.  These should not be glossed over, however these things are not the main topic of our discussion.  In addition to boosting brain functions, all the aforementioned things work to decrease anxiety and depression symptoms. 

Do you ever suffer from anxiety or depression symptoms?  If you’re honest you’ll probably say that you have or you do in varying amounts, at least from time to time.  Alright then, you’re human, you’re normal.  Can nootropics help keep the blues and paranoia away?  They can and have for many thousands of people, it’s not as well known a treatment as medications, but it is an excellent option. 

This fact is also important, improvements in anxiety and depressive symptoms in virtually every single case will lead to better over all brain function.  So, even if your symptoms are mild or intermittent, you’ll want to pay attention to this part of the story. 

Older theories about anxiety and depression point to deficiencies in certain neurotransmitters (serotonin and dopamine) as the cause of these disorders.  New theories believe it’s all based around inflammation of the brain.  Could it be that both of these theories are partially correct?  We believe that is highly likely. 

So how do use nootropic compounds to battle these demons?  Well, the first thing we should all be doing is fighting inflammation in our bodies in whatever means necessary.  Things like turmeric, ginger root and others are highly nootropic in nature, though not commonly thought of as so in the main stream.  Turmeric is proven to increase BDNF in the brain, a compound that encourages new cell preservation.  In key areas of the brain, preserving these cells leads to decreases in anxiety/depression and also likely holds the key to fighting off dementia.   

Do you see the connection here?  This is powerful stuff, and these are things everyone should be taking or at least incorporating into their diets.  At the very least as a preventative measure, though, if you do suffer from depression or anxiety you should now that this can work as well as anti-depressant medications (yes, there are studies that have been done, and no they don’t tend to make the front page of the New York Times…surprise, surprise). 

All adaptogens most likely increase BDNF and other compounds which promote neurogenesis, synaptogenesis, and cell growth in the brain.  They have all also been proven to be anti-inflammatory in nature, again, should we be surprised here?  All of these things are coming together now.  Ginseng, bacopa, and ashwaghanda are all highly nootropic and are worth a try.  You can rotate them so that you don’t build up any tolerance to them and each one fights depression/anxiety as well as promotes brain health.  Anxiety and depression symptoms can be seen as warning signs of a brain that’s not functioning optimally. 

Are you neurotransmitter deficient?  This is very difficult to tell without special urine analysis.   But, however let’s look a bit closer at what we know serotonin and dopamine do in the brain.  Dopamine is the chemical that causes us to want to seek rewards, and serotonin is primarily the neurotransmitter that calms and focuses us.  They tend to work in opposition, so if one is high the other is low, however, if one is low for a long time they can both go low.  Scary thought, and yes this is possible with bad depression. 

Instead of taking pharmaceutical medications for anxiety and depression we can create our own neurotransmitters with simple amino acids and b vitamins.  Crazy, right?  But it’s as true as the blue sky over your head.  If you are deficient you will probably feel the different within hours, not in weeks like with pills.  Dopamine is primarily formed from the amino acids tyrosine and vitamin B6, serotonin is primarily made from the amino acid tryptophan and B6.  There are co-factors like other b vitamins, iron, zinc, magnesium and so on.  So you should take a multi-vitamin-mineral complex, especially if your diet is suspect. 

Doing this will feel highly nootropic for those who are deficient.  If you’re not deficient you will probably not feel a thing.  Reasons for deficiency can be genetic or could be due to digestion or food allergy issues (issues you’re probably not aware of).  Some people may need to supplement these amino acids for the rest of their lives to have full cognitive function.  If so, then so be it because cognitive function is often fully restored.  If you are depressed or anxious and this doesn’t seem to work for you then you need to add different modalities.  Just because you take the right materials to make neurotransmitters doesn’t mean you’ll be fully healed if you’re an alcoholic, drug abuser, eat a terrible diet, or get no exercise.  It doesn’t work that way.  Common sense tells us that there are many factors involved here, however, the tyrosine + tryptophan combination has worked wonders for many. 

What about taking synthetic pharmaceuticals like Adderall or the like?  Well, in the long term there are big risks for going that route.  However, we know that we won’t be able to dissuade everyone, in fact you may know people that dabble with Adderall and are just fine, no side effects show and they receive all of the benefits.  Ok, well, that doesn’t mean you’ll react that way, just know there are risks and be sure to practice rotation of the drug if you do choose to experiment with it, take days off and taper your dosages. 

In fact, with natural, protective nootropics in your daily diet and strict rotation off of Adderall the chances of your blowing our your system actually decrease substantially.  If you’re taking large doses of this drug daily you are taking a very large risk, if you’re using lower dosages occasionally, even if recreationally you may be fine.  But please don’t take that as us condoning use of it.  You could get a similar effect from extremely large dosages of caffeine + tyrosine + no carb diet + sleep deprivation.  Of course after a while you would get highly irritable in either situation. 

The goal of nootropics should be brain health, safety, and balance.  Yes, there is a dark side to the world of smart pills and nootropics and a lot of people can get away from dabbling, but it’s risky.  To minimize risks as with any nootropic, go low and slow.  Don’t be stupid and pop 60mg of Adderall if you’ve never taken it before that is lunacy. 

Caffeine is a very reliable and mild nootropic.  Of course it can be abused and we do recommend taking short breaks and maybe an occasional long break from it.  However, it stacks very well with theanine, a stack in which you get both calm serenity as well as alertness.  It is a very popular stack and one that works well for thousands of people, especially if you don’t have any anxiety issues. 

When formulating your own stack you should ask yourself about your personality, drive and energy levels and be brutally honest with yourself.  If you’re a type A personality looking to fine tune things with nootropics then you’ll probably do well with racetams, ALCAR, and adaptogens.  You’re very likely high dopamine genetically and pushing things with high doses of caffeine or tyrosine would easily push you over the edge.   

In fact a lot of type A’s get very edgy, if they admit it.  They would probably do well on lower dosage tyrosine and higher dosage theanine and tryptophan.  The would more likely balance the system and take the edge off of things.  Caffeine may be a bad idea for high dopamine types, and things like theanine solo or calming herbs like valerian could work well. 

If however, you are very relaxed and laid back (a little too laid back) then introducing stimulating nootropics is probably a very good idea.  Higher dosages of tyrosine could be warranted, as well as caffeine.  Dabbling with stimulant pharmaceuticals may not carry as much risk as well others.  Again, caution with this. 

Creating your own stack is a great option for many of us, especially if we are truly serious about our brain health.  There are so many options and combinations to explore.  If you are experimenting a lot just remember to only adjust one factor at a time and be very scientific about things, if you do things very willy nilly then you will never really get good data. 

Addressing any anxiety or depression should be a first priority because you cannot function in your highest gear if you don’t take care of that.  If you have any addictions or lifestyle issues, you’ll also want to address those because taking nootropic stacks will only work well if we’re working with a brain that is not constantly tearing itself down. 

There are many benefits to putting the time and effort into creating your own nootropic stack, and we of course recommend doing so.  However, for those people who love convenience and ease of use, finding a good well-rounded nootropic product that works well for you is a great option.  To be sure taking something is much, much better than doing nothing.  And, one of the greatest effects of nootropics is gained over time, steadily protecting your neurons so you preserve optimal function even into older age, this can definitely be achieved with all in one products.  For the adventurer and alchemist, there are worlds to explore, and you can explore as much or as little as you like. 

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