Nootropic Cycling is a great way to get more bang from your buck when it comes to supplementing with nootropics. Like sticking with minimum effective dosing, it not only will save your wallet in the long term but it will also cut down on the possibility of undesirable side effects and ensure supplements are more effective when you take them.
Like with many things, nootropics can build up tolerance over time. This is in part due to the principle of homeostasis. Your body and brain aim on seeking a sort of an equilibrium. For instance, caffeine works to keep you from being because its shape is similar to adenosine, the neurotransmitter that signals tiredness. If you continually use caffeine to block your tiredness though, your body will make more adenosine than usual to compensate.
Homeostasis is maintained throughout the body keeping your heart rate, blood pressure glucose levels, fluid balance, temperature and other factors at around the same level for the most part. When you take a nootropic that uses a certain mechanism of action, you only “trick” the body and brain for so long.
In some other cases. In some cases, taking a certain nootropic daily, eventually you’ll get to the point where the brain downmodulates production of the neurotransmitter it works on or causes the receptor in question to be less sensitive. This is directly opposed to what we’re trying to accomplish. In yet other cases, the body simply becomes accustomed to the compound itself and doesn’t respond as strongly to it. Either way, in many cases, with many nootropic supplements you’ll experience more and more of the law of diminishing returns if you try to take them daily without breaks. At this point, you might be tempted to try to take more of the same to get the initial “kick” you received, but remember you get the same effect from one cup of coffee without tolerance as you would from a pot once you’re addicted to having a pot or more a day.
With most nootropics, the issue of addiction and habituation shouldn’t be too serious. With some people, of course, anything is an addiction risk. If you have an addictive personality or impulse control issues you might find yourself unable to limit your time playing video games, cruising social media sites, eating chocolate cake, watching television, etc. These are cases of psychological habituation and addiction. Except in the cases of compounds like tianeptine and phenibut, the issue of physical withdrawal and serious side effects resulting from addiction to nootropics is rare. That said, every person is different and you should learn to know your body and try to exercise impulse control and stick with minimum effective doses when nootropic cycling. Less is more in the case of the cognitive enhancers.
One way to avoid the trap of tolerance is nootropic cycling. Nootropic Cycling means taking nootropics on a schedule rather than day after day without breaks. With many nootropics the idea of at least taking weekends off is a good idea (5:2 schedule). With some you might be able to take them nearly daily for a period of a few weeks, but then would want to take at least a week or two off. Piracetam, for instance is generally safe to take daily for a 3:1 (3 weeks on, 1 week break) schedule.
All nootropic compounds are different, however and the way they react to different people will add another variable to this, but a good idea is to research the compound you’re interested in and search for advice on the cycle that is recommended.
Velvet bean extract contains l-Dopa, the precursor to dopamine. Even patients who are prescribed l-Dopa for Parkinsons or other conditions are urged to take a “drug holiday” where they abstain for a day or two on occasion.
One trick is, if you notice the same amounts of a compound not offering palpable effects, it is probably time to ease off and take a break. You might want to find another route to get the same effects. For instance, after a couple weeks taking a racetam to boost acetylcholine production for learning and memory, you might want to try something like Huperzine-A or Bacopa monnieri which are acetylcholinesterase inhibitors. Acetylcholinesterase in the enzyme that causes acetylcholine to break down in the synaptic gap. It essentially makes the same amount of acetylcholine last longer, the way it works is somewhat similar to how traditional antidepressant SSRIs (selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors) work.
Another thing you could do to help with your cycling and to get to know your own metabolism, is to use cognitive tracking. Cognitive tracking involving tests (like dual n-back or other similar cognitive tests for instance) and keeping a faithful log of what supplements at what time schedule. It’s not a bad idea to keep track of your diet and exercise this way as well. Nutrition and exercise is the cornerstone of physical fitness with is the foundation for cognitive health.
According to some anecdotal information from online nootropics communities, adrafinil is best used on a cycle of 2-3 times per week or (at most) 1 week on with a 2 week break following. It’s not recommended for long term usage not only because of potential psychological habituation and tolerance, but also because of the strain it puts on your organs when it metabolizes into modafinil.
As we mentioned, phenibut is notorious for some users as a means to produce tolerance and, if unchecked, terrible side effects. Supplements like phenibut and tianeptine should be used very sparingly. At the most a couple times in a week and breaks of at least 2 to 3 days should occur before you try them again. Sulbutiamine can offer a great kick of energy, focus, motivation and even a mood boost, but it’s most effective for many people on a week on, week off schedule for nootropic cycling phenibut.
Racetams, while not addictive or habit forming, may create a sort of tolerance which some have blamed for foggy-headedness when discontinued suddenly. Phenylpiracetam especially is notorious for building up tolerance and should be used no more than 2 to 3 times a week and not back to back. Noopept, while not a racetam, is similar in action to many of the racetams. It has an interesting effect though. It has an immediate effect but also builds up a metabolite that makes it more effective after a period of 3-5 days. You might want to take it 5 days on and 2 days off or at the most take it a couple weeks with a month break. Some users, however have suggested a 56 days on, 4 days off schedule for noopept.
Choline shouldn’t be an issue as it is not only water soluble but a nutrient your body and brain needs anyway. Even caffeine is most effective if you stick to a cup or two of coffee a day and take 2 to 4 days off each week. This has been a basic intro to the concept of nootropic cycling, next week we will go into some greater detail about the mechanisms behind cycling using noopept and some other common nootropics as an example.
Remember that everybody is different because every body is different. Always do your due diligence but remember that when it comes to anecdotal research, what is true for one person might not be so for yourself. It’s always best to err on the side of caution. Cognitive tracking and keeping a journal of your diet an exercise habits and supplement schedule as well as your subjective mood and objective cognitive faculties (by way of cognitive tracking tests) is not only a great way to learn more about how these factors come together to result in optimum performance, it’s a great way to learn more about yourself and learn the way your body works. That’s one of the main secrets behind cycling and cognitive hacking in general. Getting to know the subtle changes in yourself so that you can coax the best out of yourself with certain specific practices.
When beginning any supplement regimen, nootropic cycling or not it’s best to consult with your primary care practitioner. This is especially vital if you’re currently under a doctor’s care or taking any over-the-counter or prescription drugs for an existing ailment.