Alpha Brain by Onnit Labs touts itself as being the ultimate, fully balanced brain-boosting pill, promising enhanced focus, increased mental agility, improved memory and, strangely, a lucid sleep state, allowing you to think, even while you sleep.
Bold statements, but seeing that they’re backed by professional poker players, Superbowl champions, mixed martial artists and, most importantly, pro-gamers, I had to give them a try.
The pills themselves are a little pricey, averaging at a dollar a pill in the US and almost double that here in the UK, with a recommended dosage of 1 or 2 a day.
The idea behind nootropics is to take on nutrients that can get through the blood-brain barrier and feed your brain with additional supplies. In theory, this should allow your brain to handle greater loads, or handle the same loads better. There are a lot of supplements available on the market, but they often require a tonne of research, trial and improvement with customized mixing, and a labyrinth of Latin words to get your head around.
What Onnit are offering is essentially a pre-mixed supplement, no balancing and studying required. You just take it, and go about your business. The fact that it’s one-size-fits-all means that it’s not going to be as effective as others on the market, but it is a lot easier, and what you’re really paying for, is the convenience.
Looking at the ingredients, the first thing I notice is the absence of Piracetam, or any racetam. The racetam family are some of the most popular and proven nootropics on the market, and one that I personally trust, so to see it replaced with a lot of brandilized, unknown, untested chemicals made me skeptical.
The main two selling points of Alpha Brain are Alpha GPC and AC-11, which are typically associated with the likes of Alzheimers treatment, and DNA repair, and for that reason, are often tied in with memory-improving supplements. AC-11 is sold in virtually anything as a miracle-cure, and isn’t something I believe in. The only reason I mention it, is because they write it boldly on the bottle, as though it’s something important.
Most studies found on AC-11, and on Alpha Brain in general are private studies, often seemingly sponsored, and with little to no backing (not to mention; no FDA approval of their claims). If you find a medical survey anywhere on them, typically, it takes one google of the labs name, and you’ll find they benefit from promoting its ingredients.
After trialing an entire bottle, I can’t be sure of exactly how effective they were but I did notice a few things.
- Improved focus in the mornings
- Reduced lethargy and drowsiness
- Reduced mental fogginess – more driven
- Faster wake-up times
I took one a day for a month, each morning with a cup of coffee and a decent breakfast. I mixed it up a little, later in the month, experimenting with dosages and how they were taken.
- Taking them on an empty stomach had a side effect of nausea within the hour.
- Taking them before bed (as recommended for the “lucid dream state” effect) had no impact at all. At no point in the month did I feel any difference in dream quality.
- Taking 2 in the morning provided noticeable improvements.
- Taking 2 spread across the day seemed to make no difference.
At the end of the month, I also found that I noticed not taking them, which is the main thing telling me that they aren’t just snake oil. However, they also felt weaker by the end of the month, making me think that by the second month, if I continued, I’d need to double my dosage, taking me up to around £60 a month in the UK, unless I bulk-bought. For the price that they are, I’d say they aren’t worth it; or there are, at least, better options. For the sake of mere convenience, you might as well mix it, save yourself money and get better results.
A standard multivitamin, a good night’s sleep and a coffee won’t be quite as good, but good enough for most.