Our Nootropics expert and nutritionist James Dixon takes a look at one of the most popular supplements in the cognition enhancing space in this Alpha Brain review…
Modern life taxes us quite badly. A lot is asked of us, as we seek to balance forty-something hour work weeks, life commitments, try to take care of ourselves and those around us, and are subjected to a bombardment of information and media like never before.
It’s hard for our brains to keep up and it’s hard not to let stress levels get the better of us.
There are plenty of solutions. Detaching from social media and the online for significant periods of the day can be very beneficial. Trying to limit your workload is always a good idea, if easier said than done. Look after your physical and mental wellbeing, and try to get plenty of rest.
Then we can also look to diet and supplementation.
Specifically, consider a nootropic if you want to be able to do more, function optimally, without getting too stressed by it all. And if you want a good nootropic, there are only really three or four I would recommend above all others. Alpha Brain is one of them.
But how does it really stack up against the others? Let’s find out as we get this Alpha Brain review started.
TLDR: Alpha Brain Verdict
Alpha Brain is amongst the best nootropic supplements that money can buy. Though not my personal favorite, it’s still very good.
I’ve still used it myself a couple of times (outside of this review) and got great results from it. It is intelligently made and scientifically valid – moreover, it makes you feel fantastic and operate at 100%.
What is Alpha Brain?
Alpha Brain is a nootropic, a ‘smart drug’. Nootropics are a brand of supplements designed to support optimal cognitive health and wellbeing, whilst also mitigating the effects of stress and anxiety from which many of us typically suffer.
It comes to us from Onnit, a company founded in 2011 by Aubrey Marcus, alongside controversial podcaster Joe Rogan.
This rang alarm bells for me when I first came across Alpha Brain a few years ago. Rogan isn’t known for is scientific scruples – he is famous for peddling unfounded claims and theories, giving equal weight to unscientific conspiracy nonsense as he does to well-founded argumentation.
However, my fears proved unfounded with Alpha Brain – it’s actually one of the more clinically rigorously tested nootropics out there.
Onnit has a range of over 250 fitness and wellbeing related products, covering everything from workout gear to supplements. Alpha Brain is perhaps the best-known of these, boasting a great deal of publicity and a userbase in the tens of thousands (to date Onnit have sold over a million bottles of the stuff, making it one of the world’s most popular supplements available.)
As a nootropic, Alpha Brain is primarily concerned with aiding cognitive health and health function and improving memory, giving you greater focus, drive, and mental clarity, whilst also mitigating the effects of stress, which can all-too-often diminish our cognitive abilities.
It manages this by combining a potent blend of completely natural ingredients all clinically proven to positively affect one or more areas of your cognitive health and function.
Unlike many similar nootropic products, Alpha Brain is caffeine free. It’s also free from dairy, gluten, and nuts, making it good for pretty much all comers.
What does Alpha Brain do?
Alpha Brain is just like any other good, high-quality nootropic supplement. It is designed primarily with the goal of optimizing your cognition functions. It should put you into a bit of a flow state, or ‘in the zone’, as Onnit themselves claim.
This all sounds quite vague, as it needs to do. Nootropics work across a broad array of areas to give you quite a fundamental boost to your cognitive function. As such, we can only sum the benefits as a whole up in quite broad terms.
Here, the idea that you will simply ‘think better’ isn’t as erroneously simplistic as it sounds – it’s quite an accurate description of how you will feel when taking something like Alpha Brain.
We can be more specific, however.
Firstly, Alpha Brain can improve your memory, especially your working memory. If you find yourself forever with words or names stuck on the tip of your tongue, Alpha Brain can help. It will allow you improved recall whilst aiding executive function – short term memory, adaptable thinking, and so on.
It should also lead to improved focus and clarity, and a reduction in brain fog. This means less time procrastinating, more time feeling the flow of work and being able to simply tune into it and get it done. It means less time trying to think your way out of a brain fog and more time and energy going into actually using your brain.
You may also find your reaction times improving. Athletes and gamers will likely benefit the most from this, but anybody should be glad of faster reactions, giving you the ability to react physically and mentally far more efficiently to what’s going on around you.
Finally, Alpha Brain should help you to deal with stress and anxiety far more ably. This means diminishing the effects of stress and anxiety on your brain and body, keeping you calmer. It also means enabling you to think with greater clarity in moments of stress, which would be helpful to most of us.
There are a couple of potential downsides in all of this. There are some side effects associated with Alpha Brain that you need to be wary of. These include reports of users experiencing headaches, nausea, and sleep issues. These concerns are never too severe and shouldn’t put most of us off using Alpha Brain. However, if you already struggle with any of these symptoms, you may want to think twice before taking it.
Alpha Brain is also pretty expensive, far more so than many of its competitors. Some of these competitors are actually a bit better than Alpha Brain, at least in my experience.
I don’t think Alpha Brain is a rip off. Far from it – it is good value for money for the benefits it gives you. But just know that there are some more budget friendly options out there if this is a concern for you.
Alpha Brain ingredients
Alpha Brain is sort of a byword for quality. Everything is made in Onnit’s headquarters in Austin, Texas, and is all third-party tested in reputable laboratories for quality control. This is a big deal – it’s rarer than you might hope for the modern day supplement market to give us this kind of rigor.
This being said, I do have a gripe with Alpha Brain’s ingredients list. It’s not in the list itself – everything included rests on a solid bedrock of clinical data. It’s more in the information they give you about the ingredients.
A lot of what they include is hidden behind the idea of a ‘proprietary blend’. This means we will never know exactly how much of each ingredient goes into the final product, which means you won’t know exactly what you’re putting into your body.
I’m not quite as concerned as I usually am with this, however. The quality control, the information we do get, and the results I and many others have experienced from Alpha Brain all point to it being well-dosed. It’s just always a shame to see proprietary blends, especially if other, potentially better nootropics (think NooCube and Mind Lab Pro) are far more open with their dosing.
The formula is clever. It’s split into four parts – three of Onnit’s proprietary blends, alongside a good dose of cat’s claw extract.
It begins with Onnit’s Flow Blend. It totals 650 mg, though we don’t have any information on how this breaks down across the individual ingredients.
The Flow Blend includes two amino acids that I always like to see in a nootropic, l-tyrosine and l-theanine.
The former aids neurotransmitter production and healthy maintenance, whilst also potentially improving your mood through its effects on dopamine. The latter is a common treatment for anxiety. Together, they should keep your brain healthy and working optimally during short bursts of stress.
You also get oat straw extract in the Flow Blend. Extracted from the stems and leaves of the sativa plant, there is evidence to suggest that it can aid brain function in a couple of ways.
Namely, it can be good for your mental wellbeing, mitigating the effects of stress and anxiety whilst helping to fight depression. It can also potentially help to optimize testosterone output, which is crucial especially for male health.
Finally, the Flow Blend contains phosphatidylserine, an ingredient often used to treat neurodegenerative diseases like Alzheimer’s, as well as neurodivergent concerns like ADHD. Its main role is improving attention and memory, giving you far better recall and focus.
Then you get Onnit’s Focus Blend, which totals 240 mg and begins with one of my all-time favorite nootropic ingredients, Alpha-GPC.
Alpha GPC is a naturally potent choline compound. Choline is a chemical that we find in our brains. It works as a precursor to acetylcholine, a key neurotransmitter that is involved in attention and memory, among other things. It is key to learning and maintaining focus and has even been used as an auxiliary treatment for Alzheimer’s disease.
The Focus Blend also includes water hyssop, or bacopa monnieri, another incredibly common ingredient in nootropic supplements. It is typically found in the wetlands of India, where it has seen centuries of use in traditional forms of medicine as a treatment for anxiety and memory loss.
There is a growing body of clinical research validating this use – it has been shown to improve memory and learning whilst also fighting the effects of stress and anxiety.
I also like to see Huperzine A in a good nootropic, aka toothed clubmoss of firm moss. It’s a native ingredient to eastern parts of Asia, where it too has seen long use in traditional medicine forms. It is something of a natural treatment for Alzheimer’s and is thought to help protect the brain from toxins.
The final blend comes in the form of Onnit’s Fuel Blend, which weighs in at 60 mg in total.
It contains the essential amino acid l-leucine, a plant metabolite that forms a key part of protein biosynthesis. It enables skin and bones to heal properly whilst also encouraging hypertrophy (muscle growth) and lean body mass. I’m not quite sure what role it’s meant to play for a nootropic.
The Fuel Blend also contains pterostilbene and vitamin B6. Pterostilbene is a potent antioxidant and anti-carcinogenic compound. This should enable improved cognitive performance whilst also protecting your brain from the effects of aging.
Meanwhile, vitamin B6, a water-soluble vitamin naturally found in a range of foods such as eggs, cereal, chicken and potatoes, is key to maintaining immune health and enabling regular brain development.
The Fuel Blend is a little underwhelming. Or, rather, it’s a little scattershot – it’s far less coherently put together and, I think, far less useful than the other blends.
Alpha Brain’s final component is 350 mg of cat’s claw extract. Cat’s claw is a woody vine native to the Americas, mostly South and Central America. It has a long history of use in traditional medicines from that part of the world. It is also thought to have properties useful for treating Alzheimer’s disease, amongst others. However, there is very little clinical data speaking to its efficacy.
Using Alpha Brain
Some of Alpha Brain’s formulation is a little suspect. Or, rather, it doesn’t make too much sense. It all relies on robust clinical data, except for cat’s claw. It’s all coherently designed, except for the Fuel Blend. So it’s good, there are just a couple of issues with how it’s put together.
It’s also very expensive, which makes these slip ups fairly egregious. There are a couple of similarly priced nootropics out there – some better priced ones, too – that are far more coherent, that include only ingredients whose clinical credentials are sound.
However, I’m not quite prepared to write Alpha Brain off just yet. In fact, I would thoroughly recommend it to anybody looking to try a good nootropic. It might not always be my first choice – Mind Lab Pro and NooCube, its two main competitors, are simply too good – but it’s a solid option. And it’s fantastic to use.
Forget what a supplement is like on paper. If it does what you want it to and is easy to live with, it’s a win. And Alpha Brain certainly does what it’s meant to, and it’s very easy to live with.
The main benefits are a little slow in coming. There are nootropics out there, like Mind Lab Pro, that begin to work pretty much immediately.
You’ll get some benefit from Alpha Brain in the short term, after just a day or two. However, the main benefits come later on. They begin after around a week and build from there. I would advise anyone take it for at least six weeks to feel the full weight of what it can do for you.
And it can do a lot for you. Its blends work in concert, even if they are a little funny in isolation (or, at least, Onnit’s Fuel Blend is).
The flow state you get from it is pretty profound. We’ve all felt a flow state now and again. You know the feeling – you’re in the zone. You seem to glide through your work without feeling distractions, with everything feeling effortless even as you do your best work.
Alpha Brain can give you this consistently.
You won’t have to wait for once in a blue moon. You will be able to elicit it every single day if you want to. This is wrapped up with the focus element, of course – there are no distractions as you work, allowing you to remain fully focussed on whatever it is you need to focus on.
I also found myself drinking a fair amount less coffee than I would without a nootropic. I use coffee for energy and focus. Though the effect is more profound with something like NooCube, I had enough energy, and everything was easy enough, whilst taking Alpha Brain that I was good to go.
I didn’t need to pump myself full of caffeine.
This meant smoother energy levels, without the peak and crash, and far less of the irritability and anxiety that comes from prolonged caffeine use.
My final take
As above, Alpha Brain is a solid offering. I wouldn’t put it at the head of the pack, but it certainly makes top five, and that’s a hell of an achievement in a marketplace that is becoming ever more crowded and popular.
It’s a bit pricey for the formula you get. I would like to see a few more relevant, coherent ingredients in the Fuel Blend. I would like to see a little more scientific backing for cat’s claw extract. It seems a little tacked on at the end for something with such a shaky foundation.
I would also like to see Onnit do away with their proprietary blends. If you’re paying this much for something, you should know what your money is buying. Of course, you sort of do. The blends are dosed – you can see how much of each you’re getting. And the ingredients list is there. But you should be able to see breakdowns.
And this is forgetting the more important part. Screw money. You should always be able to know what you’re putting into your body.
Exactly what, exactly how much. This isn’t about value for money. It’s a fundamental question of health.
The issue is academic here – you get decent third-party testing and reams of positive user experience, few side effects, no serious ones, and all the ingredients are benign. But the issue is still important. You have a right to know what’s going in whenever you take a supplement.
So coherence, cost, and transparency let it down a little. These knock it a few rungs from the top spot.
However, I would certainly use it again. The effects were tremendous. I would certainly recommend you try it – you’ll love the effects, too. Despite a few flies in the ointment, Alpha Brain is still one hell of a good supplement.