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In recent years, several different nootropic supplements have burst into the mainstream here in the U.S., gaining popularity amongst everyone from tech gurus and top-level business professionals to college students and even the elderly.
Also sometimes referred to as cognitive enhancers or smart drugs, nootropics are substances that, through a number of different pathways, help to improve mental function and performance — i.e. they can enhance things like your attention, focus, memory, and information processing.
With celebrity endorsers like Joe Rogan, Onnit Alpha Brain has emerged as one of the most popular nootropic supplements currently on the market. However, while it may be backed by well-known social media personalities, the ingredient profile of Alpha Brain has multiple shortcomings.
Ultimately, that means that a single serving doesn’t contain enough of some or all of the listed ingredients to elicit any kind of real, measurable improvements in mental function or performance. In order to demonstrate some of the shortcomings of Alpha Brain, we’re comparing it to our own physician-formulated nootropic supplement, Brain by Dioxyme.
Before we dive too deep into the product comparison, however, let’s first take a look at some of the main qualities you should be looking for in a safe and effective cognitive-enhancer.
What Should You Look For In a Nootropic Supplement?
The ultimate goal of taking a nootropic substance — whether it’s for your attention, memory, learning, etc — is to achieve real, measurable improvements in your cognitive performance.
First off, that means you only want to be taking nootropic supplements with ingredients that have been found to be effective across multiple well-designed human trials. On top of that, you also want to be taking those ingredients at appropriate dosages — even if you’re taking a particular substance that’s known to be effective, in order to feel those effects, you have to be consuming an adequate amount.
The unfortunate reality, however, is that many nootropic products — no matter how popular — ultimately don’t contain substances that have been proven effective. Or even if they do, many products contain underdosed ingredients, meaning that a single serving ultimately doesn’t contain enough of the substance(s) to elicit the desired effects.
Secondly, even if a product does contain an adequate amount of a given ingredient, in the long run, it’s going to be less effective than a supplement that combines multiple appropriately dosed, proven ingredients.
That’s because each substance works through its own unique pathway, so combining multiple proven substances ultimately has synergistic effects — i.e. together, the substances become more powerful than any one ingredient is on its own. In order for that to happen though, you have to be taking the right substances at the right dosages.
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What’s In Onnit Alpha Brain?
What Are The Shortcomings of Alpha Brain?
On top of containing proprietary blends, which obscure important ingredient information, Alpha Brain also contains many underdosed and/or ineffective ingredients, which at the end of the day, means a single serving is likely not enough to elicit any kind of real, measurable improvements in mental function or performance.
⫸It Uses Proprietary Blends
Proprietary blends have inherent limitations due to the fact their ingredient compositions typically aren’t clear — i.e. you may only have limited information on the ingredients included in the blend.
The Onnit Flow Blend
In the case of Alpha Brain, we ultimately don’t know how much l-tyrosine, l-theanine, or phosphatidylserine is in the “Onnit Flow Blend”, so at the end of the day, you really have no way of knowing how much you’re actually taking.
L-tyrosine is a non-essential amino acid that’s been shown to improve things like your working memory and creative thinking but only at dosages of 300+ mg, which Alpha Brain may likely not contain.
The effective dose for l-theanine, on the other hand, is 100 – 200 mg, which could technically be present in the blend, however, in order to have any kind of significant effects on cognitive performance, l-theanine has to be combined with caffeine, which isn’t listed as an ingredient in the supplement facts.
The Flow Blend also contains phosphatidylserine, a natural cell signaling phospholipid that some research has shown to be an effective cognitive-enhancer, however, we ultimately don’t know how much of it is in a single serving. Because it’s last on the ingredients list, however, we know that there’s likely not very much of it in the blend, which at the end of the day, means you’re unlikely to feel any of the purported effects.
Onnit Fuel Blend
While we also don’t have the dosage information for the ingredients in the “Onnit Fuel Blend”, we do know that it contains nowhere near enough leucine to elicit any kind of real, measurable effects.
Leucine is an important essential amino acid and one of the 3 BCAAs. Amongst other things, it may help with some aspects of cognition, but only at dosages in the range of 4 – 6 grams. Because the entire Fuel Blend is only 60 mg, however, there’s simply no way it contains enough leucine to have any kind of impact on brain function or performance.
The standard dosage for pterostilbene (a proven and powerful antioxidant) is 50 mg, however, because it’s listed after leucine on the ingredient list, we know that there simply can’t be 50 mg of pterostilbene if the whole blend is only 60 mg.
⫸Alpha Brain Contains Underdosed Ingredients
Unlike the other proprietary blends in Alpha Brain, the Focus Blend does include some dosage information. However, based on the included details, the ingredients in the blend are all underdosed, which ultimately means that even if they have been shown to be effective, there isn’t enough in a single serving to actually feel those effects.
It’s Underdosed in Choline
While the dosage info for alpha GPC isn’t directly listed in the “Onnit Focus Blend”, we know that the 240 mg blend contains 100 mg of bacopa monnieri and less than 1 mg of Huperzia Serrata extract, which leaves us with about 140 mg of choline.
However, that 140 mg is significantly below the standard dose of 250 mg – 500 mg, which ultimately means that there’s not enough choline in a single dose of Onnit Alpha Brain to affect any kind of positive changes in mental function or performance.
It’s Underdosed in Bacopa Monnieri
Bacopa Monnieri is one of the few ingredients in Alpha Brain that we actually have dosage information for. Although there’s lots of evidence to suggest that it’s an effective cognitive-enhancer, most studies with positive findings involved dosages between 300 – 450 mg — that’s 3 – 4.5 times the amount found in a single serving of Alpha Brain.
So although research does suggest that Bacopa Monnieri can help to enhance cognition, there’s simply not enough of it in Onnit’s proprietary blend to elicit the kind of real, measurable effects that have been observed in clinical and experiential trials.
It’s Underdosed in Huperzine-A
Alpha Brains is also underdosed in huperzine-A, which is a natural alkaloid compound extracted from the Huperzia Serrata plant. Huperzine-A has been found to improve cognition and mental performance in several different clinical trials — particularly in studies involving Alzheimer patients — but only at dosages in the range of 50 mcg – 200 mcg.
The issue with the “Focus Blend” in Alpha Brain is that while it contains 400 mcg of the whole Huperzia Serrata plant, only 1% of that actually translates into huperzine-A, which equates to just 4mcg — far below the dosage range at which clinically meaning full effects have been observed.
What Makes Brain by Dioxyme a Better Choice?
⫸It Contains a Clinical Dosage of Alpha GPC Choline
As opposed to Alpha Brain, which only contains about 140 mg of Alpha GPC per serving, Brain by Dioxyme contains a clinical dosage of 300+ mg of Alpha GPC choline — it’s only in the 300 – 500 mg range that the cognition-enhancing effects of choline have been observed.
⫸It Has the Right Amount of L-Tyrosine
Compared to Alpha Brain, which likely doesn’t contain an adequate amount of l-tyrosine to elicit any kind of measurable effects (dosage information isn’t provided), Brain by Dioxyme contains over 300 milligrams of l-tyrosine, which research suggests is within the optimal range to experience significant improvements in things like memory and creative thinking.
⫸It Combines L-theanine With Caffeine
As we mentioned earlier, in order for l-theanine to have any kind of real, measurable effects on cognition, it has to be paired with caffeine.
That’s why Brain by Dioxyme features over 200 mg of extended-release caffeine, which on its own, has been shown to improve certain aspects of cognitive function. Once paired with l-theanine, however, the effects of the caffeine become amplified, leading to even greater improvements in things like your attention and alertness.
⫸It has a Better Ingredient Composition and No Proprietary Blends
It’s not just Alpha GPC or l-tyrosine that make Brain by Dioxyme the superior product, it’s the total sum of its ingredients. Unlike Onnit Alpha Brain, which is underdosed in just about every ingredient it contains, Brain by Dioxyme features only proven substances at clinical dosages.
It also contains no proprietary blends, which means that you know exactly how much of each substance you’re taking — you won’t be left to guess whether or not you’ve taken enough to feel the effects.
At the end of the day, that means that each ingredient in Brains actually does something to enhance your mental capabilities; the ingredients aren’t just there as fillers or attention-grabbers, they’re there because they work.
Although Onnit Alpha Brain may be a popular product backed by celebrity endorsers like Joe Rogan, it contains proprietary blends along with underdosed and/or ineffective ingredients, which at the end of the day, means that a single serving likely doesn’t contain the right amounts of the right ingredients to elicit any kind of perceivable changes in your cognition.
Brain by Dioxyme, on the other hand, contains nothing but clinically dosed, proven nootropic ingredients, so you know that when you take it, you’re actually going to see real, measurable improvements in mental function and performance.