Lubricating the brain: Nootropics, pt 1

Sometimes you just need an extra “kick” to get things moving. Here are my results with various “nootropics” or cognitive enhancers.


I didn’t try coffee until I was 22 and didn’t drink it regularly until a year ago.

At the time I was having problems with a recurring, rather annoying spasm in my right eye-lid and nose. I had read that low doses of caffeine was could treat this and began to use it.

I’m not 100% sure if it did the job, but the other effects I read about during research intrigued me. In particular among them were caffeine’s ability to help the body recover post-workout when taken with carbs/protein, its anti-aging effects, and finally, as a jump-starter.

I’ve since experimented with coffee naps and caffeine-aided workouts, among other things.

My experience: 

Caffeine kicks in within 3-5 minutes of my first sips of coffee, usually signaled by a rather intense wave of what I can best describe as ‘positivity’ flooding over me.

I had caffeine’s effects explained to me as ‘taking the breaks off’ one’s brain, where now dopamine and glutamite run free. Which in a way makes sense, given that my energy levels don’t change during caffeine consumption.

I think its important to note that I definitely don’t achieve or do more when ingesting caffeine; rather, my thoughts seem more focused and optimistic, leading me to believe that progress is occurring, despite normally not acting on said thoughts. I still have much more success brainstorming and writing when ingesting alcohol than caffeine.

Lion’s Mane (+ caffeine & chaga)

A favorite of Buddhist Monks, this mental-growth promoting “bearded mushroom” has experienced a huge surge in popularity recently thanks in part to Tim Ferriss and his glowing praise of affiliate Four Sigmatic’s mushroom coffee, which according to Ferriss, “…lit [him] up like a Christmas tree.”

I gave Four Sigmatic a try when I began to focus more on endurance training this winter. The goal was to use it to wean me off of the 4 or so cups of strong coffee I had been drinking a day. At the time coffee was leaving me feeling hollow, jittery, and uneasy as opposed to the previously mentioned normal effects.

Four Sigmatic describes their blend of arabica, lion’s mane and chaga as a jitter-free drink.

My experience: My first cup of mushroom coffee had no noticeable effects other than a bad headache, which I attributed to caffeine withdrawal.

I waited a day and tried again, and this time the drink had a really nice effect.  I experienced a gradual, smooth, elevated sense of mental clarity that peaked after roughly an hour but stayed with me the rest of the day.

I paired the drink with a 30-day challenge involving juggling and cross-brain movement, and whether it was the juggling or the drink, or a combination of the two stimulus, I did in a sense feel ‘on fire’ over the next two weeks. I felt like I could actually ‘feel’ the new connections being made in my brain, as I learned new movements, which was a really unique, enjoyable feeling.

This was the sharpest I’ve ever felt mentally.

The feeling was very natural and completely jitter-free, thanks in part, I assume, to the lowish amount of caffeine present (40 mg) in each serving.

Best of all, I was able to cut my caffeine consumption down from 100-200mg/day to the 40 or so mg that I ingested with the mushroom coffee, and was able to do so without any noticeable withdrawal.

Lion’s Mane, isolated

After weaning myself from caffeine, Four Sigmatic’s ‘Lion’s Mane Elixir’ was next up for me. As opposed to the mushroom coffee, this is more of an isolated version of Lion’s Mane. It also contains about 3x the amount per packet, at 1500 mg compared to the 500 mg in the coffee. Without the caffeine and chaga I should have been in theory more able to accurately identify what Lion’s Mane was doing for me.

I’ve only taken it twice but didn’t notice much of a difference compared to the Lion’s Mane + coffee mix I had been taking.

Next up: the more “hardcore” nootropics.






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