Are nootropic drinks worth the hype?
What do you get when the sober curious movement collides with a booming supplement industry? A new type of beverage: the nootropic drink.
“This is a huge market right now and I don’t doubt that it will continue to grow,” says Angie Asche, Centr’s nutrition expert and sports dietitian.
We asked Angie to help us separate the marketing hype from the evidence, so you can feel empowered in your search for the best nootropic drink.
What are nootropic drinks?
Sometimes marketed as a healthier alternative to alcohol or a way to feel more ‘social’ without getting tipsy, nootropic drinks claim to boost your brain health and mood with functional ingredients.
Normally that’s done through the inclusion of adaptogens – plant-based ingredients that might be beneficial for boosting alertness and stress resilience, among other things.
Do nootropic drinks work?
The hype may be big, but Angie recommends exercising a little caution before you buy.
“It’s important to remember that even though these are marketed as beverages, they’re a supplement – they contain a supplement facts label not a nutrition label. There is no active regulation of the ingredients in the product, manufacturing, or the claims being made.”
While the benefits of individual ingredients are often backed by research, Angie says, not every company is transparent about how much of each ingredient you’re getting in a single can or bottle.
“The dose really does matter,” Angie says. “Unfortunately, you’ll often see that they don’t specify how much is actually in the product. They just group everything under a ‘proprietary blend’, so it’s hard to say if the dose is going to be effective or not.”
“While some of these natural molecules do have scientifically proven benefits to mental clarity, focus, and other cognitive properties, others don’t have the same amount of evidence or proof to back up the bold claims being made,” Angie says, adding that they are not always safe for people taking common mood medications like monoamine oxidase inhibitors (MAOIs) or selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors (SSRIs).
Common nootropic drink ingredients
We asked Angie to take us through the evidence for some of the more popular nootropic ingredients:
- Caffeine is well-researched and proven to increase mental alertness and concentration.
- L-theanine, an amino acid, is also backed by quality research and can help you to relax without causing drowsiness. When combined with caffeine, it provides short-term mental benefits during high-stress situations.
- L-tyrosine, an amino acid that produces neurotransmitters like dopamine might help in reducing stress during exposure to acute stressors. However, you should not combine large doses with MAOIs.
- Rhodiola Rosea has been shown in some studies to reduce fatigue, but may cause sleep disturbances and is not suitable for individuals taking MAOIs.
- GABA, a neurotransmitter, has mixed research results.
- 5-HTP, an amino acid naturally produced from tryptophan, is often recommended in combination with GABA. However, further studies are needed, and caution must be exercised when taking these supplements alongside SSRIs or MAOIs.
So, are they worth it?
“The cost of these drinks is often way too high in my opinion,” Angie says, reiterating that it’s important to read the labels carefully before you buy.
Important: If you’ve got questions or concerns on whether nootropics or other supplements are right for you, speak to your doctor.
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