So you want to be a cholinergic biohacker? Well, one of the most basic things to be familiar with is acetylcholine, the learning and memory neurotransmitter. Many of the most well known nootropics are in the cholinergics class, but cholinergics are dependent on choline uptake. Memory storage and consolidation and even some factors related to movement are related to the cholinergic system. So the acetylcholine neurotransmitter is obviously vital to learning and memory as well as neuroplasticity. Acetylcholine deficiencies have been implicated in research studies of issues like Alzheimer’s and dementia and other age related cognitive decline issues so maintaining a healthy level of acetylcholine is an important part of keeping a healthy brain.
Cholinergics can upmodulate production of acetylcholine, but only with the necessary precursors, namely choline donors. All neurotransmitters have necessary precursors. In the case of acetylcholine it happens to be choline. Choline is found in fish, eggs, soy, lecithin and several other dietary sources. Choline, like the essential fatty acids, is vital for maintaining healthy baseline mental function and that’s the first step in cognitive enhancement. Remember, before you go putting a new roof on your house, you should ensure you are already seated on a firm foundation to be a cholinergic biohacker.
Acetylcholine isn’t a supplement you can pop back in a capsule, but as with the case of 5-htp and serotonin, precursors are available that can raise levels of the neurotransmitter when you supplement them. Remember if you are taking cholinergics like the racetams, you will need to ensure a proper level of choline is available to handle the enhanced acetylcholine production. This is especially important when over 90% of the world is already deficient in choline. If you try to take cholinergics while being deficient in choline your brain won’t be able to manufacture the acetylcholine and the result can be brain fog, headache and memory issues. In other words, the stark opposite to the stated goal of the cognitive enhancing bio-hacker. Choline supplements like choline bitartrate or tartate and Alpha GPC or citicoline will improve the levels of the essential fatty acid and brain nutrient, choline.
Not all choline donors are created equal. Choline bitartate and citrate are the most affordable options, but compared to other sources, have relatively low bio-availability and no standalone nootropic properties. Citicoline and Alpha GPC are more expensive but also more potent and possess added benefits besides simply staving off choline deficiency. There are even studies that compare their effectiveness to some racetams like piracetam or oxiracetam when used alone.
As with choline sources, cholinergics are not created equal either. There are three basic classes any budding cholinergic biohacker should become familiar with. Cholinergics act as acetylcholine agonists. Cholinergic agonists act to upmodulate the production of the learning and memory molecule, acetylcholine. Secondly are the choline donors themselves which are necessary for the brain to biosynthesize acetylcholine. Lastly, there are the acetylcholinesterase inhibitors. Acetylcholinesterase is an endogenous enzyme that works to break down acetylcholine in the synaptic gap. Inhibiting this enzyme allows the existing acetylcholine to remain in the synapse longer.
More acetylcholine means your brain finds it easier form new memories, consolidate and store them. Piracetam, aniracetam, pramiracetam, oxiracetam, phenylpiracetam and noopept are all well known cholinergics which may improve attention, focus, neuroplasticity and facilitate neuronal communication between the left and right hemispheres of the brain. Choline is water soluble so it won’t store in fat cells which is why it is so easily depleted, thus the reason to make sure you maintain proper choline intake through healthy diet and supplementation when you’re using cholinergics like the racetams. B-vitamins and the essential fatty acids are all closely related chemically and structurally speaking which is why you can’t just build up stores of them.
Choline is actually one of the most vital of the brain nutrients. Choline is not considered a b-vitamin despite being so closely related, it has finally been considered an essential nutrient however and its role in cognition is not to be taken lightly. Some studies suggest that mood balance, endurance and even strength output can be influenced by choline intake. This is why supplements like Alpha GPC may be a great idea to add to your workout stack.
Speaking of working out, acetylcholine is involved in movement as mentioned earlier. Fine motor movement and contractions are part of the realm of the cholinergic system which operates through an electro-chemical cascade set into place by acetylcholine. GPC may possibly stimulate human groth hormone release as well as having an effect on the pituitary gland that may improve muscle mass production. In addition to all that GPC may lower cholesterol in the liver as well as aiding detoxification for the new cholinergic biohacker.
B-vitamins and choline donors are vital to nerve formation and proper levels are helpful in ensuring a properly functioning nervous system. The brain’s gray matter itself is a lipidinous mass related to the essential fatty acids like choline and the B-vitamins. The gray matter itself is primarily composed of phsophatidyl-serine and phosphatidyl-choline (there’s that word again). As mentioned before, the essential fatty acids, B-vitamins and choline are all closely related chemically and structurally and exist as oily, lipidinous structures. Speaking of lipidinous, if you’re planning on using pure Alpha GPC, be advised that it is highly hygroscopic. In layman’s terms that just means it picks up moisture rapidly and readily from within the air. Unless it is combined with some excipient substance it will melt down into an oily mess at room temperature exposed to normal humidity conditions. This is why you often find GPC sold as a 50% mix with some other compound that prevents this degradation. GPC is still safe to use after it degrades, but storage and consumption might be a bit more messy than is worth handling, so if you’re dealing with 100% GPC make sure to keep it wrapped tight and use silica gel packets to absorb any moisture. GPC will even break down gel or vegetarian capsules once it converts into an oil.
Choline is a naturally occurring substance as well as an essential nutrient and possesses no major side effects or interactions when ingested at normal, recommended levels. The most common negative effects from overconsumption that have been reported include stomach ache and other gastric distress which may be possible with too high of a dose. Excess choline intake can also negatively impact mood, despite the fact that some research suggests it has a mood balancing and even possibly anti-depressant effect in proper doses.
When taking any supplement, it’s always important to follow the dosage instructions, stick to the recommended dosage and always start low as you can find your “sweet spot” later. Minimum effective dosing will not only save your wallet but also will lessen any potential for adverse effects. This goes for cognitive enhancers, other supplements and pretty much any substance you could consume.
If you’re planning on switching to a high choline diet and adding cholinergics to your routine, be sure to check with your primary care practitioner before becoming a cholinergic biohacker. Whether it’s a diet, exercise regimen, herbal teas or nootropic supplements, it’s always best to consult with a trained medical professional first and this is especially so if you’re currently under a doctor’s care for any pre-existing condition or if you take any over the counter or prescription medications.