3 Supplements That Will Make You Smarter

Most of us are taking supplements that improve our physical performance: Protein, Creatine, Fish Oil, Apple Cider Vinegar, and Zinc. All that good stuff.


But our cognitive function is a much more important factor in our happiness and success in life. Bicep peaks and deltoid seperation are nice, but the ultimate determinant of what you earn, what you accomplish, and what you leave behind in this life, is based upon your ability to think.

If you’re interested in a deep dive into the world of supplements and habits that have the potential to expand your cognitive abilities, there are a variety of resources linked in this post. What follows is a quick and dirty introduction to three safe, effective, and easy-to-procure smart drugs — Nootropics:

1. Caffeine + Theanine

Theanine is a chemical found in green tea that produces a calm, relaxed, and focused state. It’s fine to take on it’s own, but it really shines in combination with a high dosage of caffeine. Caffeine is an excellent Nootropic (hence why everyone consumes it before and during their workday) but it causes an unpleasant ‘jitteryness’ in high doses. Theanine keeps you calm and level.

Theanine is cheap and you can order it on Amazon. (As a bonus, Theanine is also the pill that cures approach anxiety.) I get my caffeine fix in tall, strong coffees, but if you’re not into yellow teeth and going for a piss every half hour, you can find cheap caffeine pills as well.

2. Modafinil

As I wrote in my comprehensive post on Modafinil:

“In my experience, one 200 mg dose gives me twelve straight hours of phenomenal state, focus and mental clarity. Think of how you feel when you’ve had a great night’s sleep, you’ve been eating clean and training hard, juicing regularly, and you’re invested in your work. Modafinil is a pill that unlocks that productive potential for a full day.”

Modafinil is the real deal. It is not quite the Limitless drug, but it’s about 10% of it, which is still pretty impressive.

It is quite easy to obtain from your doctor, provided you are suffering from narcolepsy or shift-work sleep disorder. You can also order generic meds online if you pinky swear that you have a prescription. I have heard on good authority that Meds For Bitcoins is a reliable source, although I am not affiliated with them.

3. Melatonin

I have experimented with a large number of Nootropics, but I have found none that are superior to the effects of a good night’s sleep.

Getting sleep can be hard today though. Blue light tricks our brains into thinking it’s dawn, especially if you haven’t installed Flux. Dates and last minute resistance can run late. And of course, you’re now pumping your body up with stimulants like caffeine and Modafinil.

Melatonin is a chemical that your body produces when it’s time to sleep. Supplementing with Melatonin before bed will make it easier for you to fall asleep, and increase the quality of sleep that you do have. Read Gwern’s breakdown of this useful little pill for all the information you could ever want and a few more pages after that. Melatonin is cheap via Amazon or in your local drug store. Pop a milligram half an hour before bed, sleep like a baby, and wake up ready to conquer the world.

The world is full of safe and effective methods of making yourself smarter. Ironically enough you would be stupid not to make use of them.

Read Next: The Pill That Cures Approach Anxiety

50 thoughts on “3 Supplements That Will Make You Smarter”

  1. Never head of Modafinil but I did fucking see limitless. I will be ordering that shit now.

    1. word to the wise. A) its fantastic B) its addictive.
      Most of my colleagues in top tier universities used it for exam cramming, and to keep a social life whilst also studying. It’s used often in silicon valley as well.
      it works but there are others that are less pill poppingly easy.
      recommend reddit.com/r/nootropics for more info
      also tim ferris, and joe rogans podcast episode on JRE, i forget which one

      1. Link below to Tim Ferriss talking Modafinil on a podcast with a mantra similar to that of JRE.
        “I would sooner do an extended cycle of low-dose anabolic steroids than I would use Modafinil.”
        Just a word to the wise – do your research before popping pills…

        1. Great interview. I agree with Tim Ferris here — it’s hard to get a free lunch with drugs. Health benefits of zinc supplements totally unproven. Melatonin also suspect — it stays in your system, and works primarily via the placebo effect. Caffeine isn’t harmless either — can lead to acid reflux, and long-term usage basically hard to gauge.
          Exercise and eating a balanced diet of whole foods is about all we have to go on.

    2. It is also a controlled substance in the US, “scheduled” like codeine or Adderall.
      Possession without a prescription is therefore a criminal offense.
      Very similar but not as nice or effective is adrafinil which is not available by prescription in the US. Better, it is not a controlled substance.

      1. Adrafinil is metabolized to Modafinil in the body, damaging your liver in the process. I would be wary.

      2. If you’re ever in Mexico it can be bought there under the name “Modiodal.” No prescription required. Bringing it back into the US is not legal, but your chance of being caught is small.

  2. Have you ever tried amphetamines such as adderall? Most of your description of Modafinil’s effects sound similar to what I experienced taking doctor-prescribed amphetamine salts.
    If so, how would you say Modafinil compares?

    1. adderall fucks with your dopamine levels. it feels great while you’re on it but when it wears off you won’t feel as great (you’ll probably feel horrible actually)

      1. Adderall is powerful and can can fuck you up, but I wouldn’t dismiss it’s use altogether. I’ve found most people take far too much. You will feel like crap after taking 5 or 10 mg or 20s like most. I’ve found after cutting it up to 2.5mg doses, it’s more manageable. If you are slugging through the day and need a boost to your momentum, it’s a nice pick me up. Wait 2 hours after initial 2.5 and if you need more then take another 2.5. Don’t use it everyday. As a matter of fact only use it when you def need it. As with any of this stuff it isn’t Limitless, but it has helped me keep my job after many a post mid-week bang hangover.

        1. I would not recommend you take modafinil every day either. It is great for jet lag or hangovers though. You can also get some over the internet real easy.

        2. I googled “modafinil order” and picked one of the sites that did not have “modafinil” in the URL (those probably would work too)

    2. I haven’t tried Modafinil but I have tried Noopept, which is supposedly of similar potency and effect.
      It was cool and all and I would recommend it- if you don’t have access to adderall/focalin/concerta/vyvanse/etc. According to *someone I know*, ADD stims are way better, the only downside is that they can be addictive and at least in the case of addy and concerta, can be harsh on the way down. Focalin, though, that’s the shit.

  3. I regularly take caffeine, theanine, and melatonin. And I have taken (and probably will take again) modafinil. I have several comments.
    agree that they can be very useful. They greatly increase
    concentration and reduce the need for sleep. Moreover, the time that
    you are awake becomes much more productive. I am a big believer in
    noortropics in general, and modafinil in particular. That said:
    mg of modafinil, at the beginning, is WAY too much. Take, AT MOST, 50
    mg until you see how your body reacts. It is a powerful stimulant and
    can f#$k you up. Be very, very careful.
    I have combined
    modafinil and caffeine and had very negative side effects, like
    headaches, nausea, feeling like I was having a stroke, heart
    palpitations, etc. I will never combine them again. They are both
    stimulants and can have a synergistic effect.
    I built a
    tolerance to modafinil in a few months. Increasing the dosage did not
    overcome this problem. I believe that it is best to cycle on and off to
    be most effective.
    Theanine and modafinil is a much better
    combination that theanine and caffeine. That said, theanine can reduce
    the jitteryness of caffeine. In general, theanine is a great
    supplement. It is terrific for mood, and it is supposed to have
    noortropic properties on its own.

  4. I have just recently added curcumin to my daily supplements. It has a noticeable antidepressant effect and has really driven my sex drive up. I don’t know if it’s the curcumin by itself or if there’s a synergistic effect with the stuff I’m taking to boost my testosterone levels (‘m 56).
    Y’all might want to investigate it.

  5. I’ve been using Modafinil for about 9 months now and I’ll drop my experience. When I first started taking it, my focus was more than I could handle. I literally found myself cleaning my entire apartment because I didn’t want to stop. Vacum, Windex, doing laundry, organizing my desk, making my bed, etc. When it came to my studies, the only way I can describe the feeling is sort of like your reading a book that you are really into, except it could be on anything your trying to internalize.
    After a couple months, the effects subside a bit, but if you do take it everyday your not going to have any problem getting out of bed, because the minute you take it, 5-10 minutes later, it’s like you were never even tired.
    It being addictive… I wouldn’t say that much about it, but what I will say is once you start moving at this new pace you find your self at, you kind of don’t want to stop, but in no means does it feel like your a crackhead trying to get crack no matter what means lol
    I usually pop a modafinil in the morning, then 1-2 hours later pop a caffeine pill to baseline the effect for the rest of the day for me, but that’s just me. I’m going to look into adding Theanine though.

  6. Melatonin helped me fall asleep, but gave me horrific dreams more than a couple times.

  7. I’m a big believer in herbal therapy and nutrition. In fact, I think nutrition alone could cure most of the problems doctors merely throw the pharmaceutical mafia’s pills at.
    Many times I believe most of the population’s nutrition is intentionally kept in a poor state by the government-corporate-pharmaceutical complex. The mantra of the economic paradigm we live in is, “You have to create problems to create profit. There is no profit under the current paradigm in saving lives, putting balance on this planet, and having justice and peace.”
    We are also told to eat the wrong kinds of diets. Humans throughout their evolutionary history have consumed mostly vegetables, meats, and fruits. But the Matrix would have us believe we need to consume more grains, bread, and carbohydrate than anything else. I could write pages and pages on getting proper nutrition but I’ll save that for another time.
    I’ve found that St. John’s Wort combined with a Vitamin B6 tablet is an unbeatable cure for depression, at least for me. Living in the late days of the once great nation America gets a lot of guys bummed, especially the way men are treated by the society. Not only is it a great antidepression combo, but I have experienced mental clarity like never before, high levels of energy, I can think much more clearly, and handle complicated tasks with ease.
    There are countless ways to improve nutrition, but just eating natural, unprocessed foods is a big start.

    1. This.
      People could cure half of their diseases, be they physical (e.g. obesity) or mental (e.g. depression) if they just fuckin ate the right way.
      If you put shit like highly processed industrial food in your system, shit will also come out.
      Just try eating paleo for a week and see for yourself.

  8. Actually, the better way to optimize brain function is to consume enough omega-3 (DHA, EPA), add some Acetyl l-carnitine and don’t eat high carbs during the day (makes too much serotonin). A good way to do it is to eat mostly paleo (fat, protein, veggies, minimal fruit) during the day and eat dense carbs (provided your body fat is less than 13%: good choices being rice, yams, tropical fruits etc.) at the last evening meal that helps with relaxation.

    1. The diet you suggest would result in far-less physical energy.
      Perhaps suitable for a sedentary office-drone struggling with weight, but if you’re a person combining athletic activities with business activities in your day, you need easier energy sources.
      Carbs in the day, proteins in the evening (digested while the body is resting) is the perfect structure for an active lifestyle.

        1. This is the same ‘terrible advice’ that any credible sports nutritionist working in the field in the present day would give you.
          Paleo is a diet for the sedentary, I’d consider it if I had a severe accident rendering me largely immobile.
          Otherwise, I’d prefer to avoid the associated heart attacks, impotence and reduced energy associated with such a diet.

        2. Lawrence, you’re an idiot. I have ate virtually zero carbs for the last three days (outside of carbs from avocados and the like) and just did my third day in a row of Crossfit. I have way more energy than when I used to eat whole grains.
          Replace grains with healthy fat and you are good to go.

        3. ‘three days’
          Ah, the smell of hyperbole, it must be a crossfit enthusiast.
          Serious, present-day athletes do not endorse crossfit or paleo, as such programs are supported entirely by anti-science, short-term anecdotal evidence as opposed to credible long-term studies.
          But sure, screw the science, some guy called Chris has been doing something for 3 days and is now declaring that anyone eating differently from him is an ‘idiot’.

        4. Dude, are you a troll or a complete retard?
          The Paleo/caveman/stone age/hunter-gatherer/ancestral/traditional diet is what human beings have been eating for hundreds of thousands of years, and have evolved on. Like it or not, it’s not theory founded on “studies” either short term or long term, but actual fact.
          I don’t disregard your right to have an opinion, but putting down something so potentially life-changing, and that based on (a very ill informed) understanding of it, and probably putting off someone who might benefit, is a very irresponsible move.
          Paleo based on “short term anecdotal evidence”? Have you even fucking read Mark’s Daily Apple or Robb Wolf’s site?
          Fucking dumbass.

  9. I’m good on smarts and concentration. my problem is short term memory. It’s like I can work through problems like super quick, and I’m usually right, but if I don’t immediately write it down, I tend to forget and have to start over. Anyone have a remedy for that?

  10. From my experience, the best nootropic is phosphatidylserine. I take a bottle (2X15 or 30) three or four times per year. It is not a fast-acting agent, but helps build nerve cells so works on the foundation.
    Vinpocetine gives a nice mental pick-me-up, especially sublingually. but can cause headaches and fuzzy vision.
    DMAE goes well with morning coffee. Too much can make one frantic.
    Piracetam and analogues never seemed to do much good for me EXCEPT for high altitude adaptation – good for skiing.
    Hydergine is great stuff but prescription – the above are not. One can get a bit spacey on hydergine and there are some similar pills that are even more prone to LSD-like disassociation.

  11. I’ve experimented with the racetam class of drugs, which you can buy over the internet without a prescription. And you can easily find lots of scientific papers about these drugs, if you care to study the literature.
    I don’t know about the long-term effects, but when I first started to take aniracetam at night, I would have unusually vivid dreams, then the effect subsided after a few weeks.
    The philosopher Francis Bacon writes, “Seek ye first the good things of the mind, and the rest will be either supplied, or their loss will not be felt.” Closer to our time, Ayn Rand writes, “Man’s mind is his basic tool of survival.” And the economist Julian L. Simon writes, “In short, our cornucopia is the human mind and heart, and not some Santa Claus natural environment.” If we could come up with a strategic invention which would solve a whole lot of problems at one fell swoop, I can’t think of a better candidate than to find some safe, effective combination of hacks to make people smarter, even dramatically so, like in the film Limitless.

    1. This has nothing to do with the article in question but I was browsing some of your comments and I just wanted to say kudos for an impressive range of excellent points on a wide variety of topics. I may have a different religious orientation than you do, but I find myself emphatically agreeing with all of your points. Cheers.

  12. Modafinil is good, but like any stimulant, there are tolerance and “buy-now-pay-later” issues. It may be a bargain lunch, but it’s not a free lunch.
    Piracetam/choline and Noopept are both cheap, effective and safe, and their effects actually grow with time. The effects are subtle, but after a week or two, you’ll start noticing that everything just seems… easier. Work, social interaction, expressing yourself, memory, getting stuck in to a task, problem-solving – everything will just click a little bit better. They’re not going to revolutionise your life or anything, but I think the cost/benefit profile is pretty favourable.
    Melatonin, if taken long-term, will cause your body to produce less of its own melatonin. Use sparingly. Bear in mind that an average melatonin pill contains around 100x what your body produces naturally in a day.

  13. i wouldn’t recommend jumping on the pharmaceutical ride until other methods of self improvement have been exhausted

  14. As I do more research on nootropics, I’m beginning to agree more with herbal and nutritional means of enhancing the mental state before resorting to pharmaceuticals. They’re that much more effective if you use them judiciously on top of an optimized lifestyle. But if you desperately need a pick-me-up to finish a term paper or grind through an overtime shift, I’d say Frost’s suggestions here are great. They won’t make you “smarter” but they will help you be at your brightest for when you need it right away.

  15. Caffeine supplementation isn’t all that effective in the long run for people in the modern day. The problem is that 20 years of Red Bull and Starbucks and the resultant proliferation of caffeination have left a lot of people’s adrenal glands in a state of diminished function.
    Put simply, if you’re taking caffeine every day, after a month you will require it just to achieve a normal level of function. I use it only twice a week to counter this.
    Modafinil is fantastic, less tolerance forming than caffeine and with far fewer side-effects. A one day on, one day off schedule is the perfect way to enjoy its benefits long-term (there is a hangover after 2 consecutive days of Moda).
    Phenylpiracetam is the closest ‘nootropic’ legally available to the fictional Limitless drug. It’s akin to Modafinil but with far greater physical benefits (albeit not the best for those of you with dicky hearts).

  16. Two micronutrients that will make your brain works better, help maintain proper hormonal balance, increase libido and help do heavy metals and halogens detox and there is high probability that you are deficient in those elements.

    Take a look at references and do your research. You may find that you need one of them or both.

  17. I guess all these supplements featured here help an individual sleep better except for Modafinil. It’s actually the first time i have heard about it. I used to take supplements for losing weight but i’ve never tried other supplements for better sleep or supplements that will make me smarter. I always have caffeine as i love to drink coffee but never tried caffeine and theanine together though.

  18. good post, mate!
    i’d like to add a few things from my own experience….
    modafinil is awesome, but there’s quite a bunch of people who do not respond to it at all. i am one. i can take 200mg of modafinil and feel a little bit jittery/dizzy one hour later and then can go straight to bed. no effect on wakefulness or mental clarity. there’s a whole reddit thread on it. my suggestion is for every new user to get genetic testing first to find out if you’re a responder before you put in the effort to get ahold of a controlled substance.
    melatonin is great, but the huge downside is that your natural melatoin productionsivelnrgulates once you start to supplement and thereby it fucks up a lot of other things.
    a great alternative to get more restful sleep is to take the l-theanine you already have before going to bed. you can check the stuff of bio-hacker dave asprey on this. l-theanine makes you get way more deep sleep, which results in being more energetic in the morning.

  19. What about nootropics? noopept, piracetam, phenylpiracetam stacked with alpha GPC? http://peaknootropics.com. I do agree with l-theanine + caffeine that is something I use on the daily but I find noopept + alpha GPC + ALCAR to be my sweet stack. Seriously try it our guys it has changed my life for real

  20. These are good, but my personal trinity of favorites are as follows:
    I selected this one because it’s supposed to boost memory retention significantly. The ancient Rishi Indians supposedly used bacopa in order to boost their memory enough to memorize extensive vedas that they would recite orally for up to weeks on end. If it’s good enough to do that, it’s definitely good enough for me.
    Gotu Kola
    Li Ching-Yuen, a famous chinese herbalist, was rumored to have lived well over 250 years thanks in no small part to natural herbal supplements like gotu kola. Regardless of his incredible age being possibly more than a myth than reality, there is no denying gotu kola’s miraculous health potential. It can improve memory, overall intelligence as well as reduce anxiety. Medical studies have been shown that it does improve memory in rats, although human studies have not been conducted.
    Ginko Biloba
    Most people are familiar with this one. What they are not familiar with is that the ginkgo tree is noted for its longevity, with species currently in existence well over 1500 years old. It is one of the oldest known trees, dating back 270 million years.
    This plant is so resilient it survived the Hiroshima bombing, one of the few known plants to do so.
    That being said, its medicinal properties are extensive and most people are familiar with them so i won’t go into details about that here.
    I take these 3 with no silica involved, and i can say that my overall memory has improved considerably, and i’m certain it has a positive effect on my IQ as well.

    1. Those sound pretty interesting. Do you have to use all three of those in unison to experience any improvements to cognition? Bacopa is a bitch to find where I am but the other two are widely available. I was considering just going with Ginko.

      1. No, i just take them in unison as a matter of convenience.
        Try getting bacopa online if you can’t seem to find it in stores.

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