The Best Nootropic Stack for Beginners (Expert Shawn Wells)

Originally published at: The Best Nootropic Stack for Beginners (Expert Shawn Wells)

In our second podcast episode, Optimizing Brain Performance with Shawn Wells, the master formulator dropped so much information it was tough to keep it all straight. But one of the most important pieces was around the 40-minute mark, where we talked about Shawn’s best nootropic stack for beginners: The best… …(Read more on the PricePlow Blog)


Any idea what happened here?

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I know this is an old, and I mean OLD post, but the nootropic section here doesn’t get enough love, so I figured why not. This is a weird stack IMO.

First, let me say Shawn Wells is obviously a very smart and educated dude, but I’ll go out on a limb and say I have an issue or two with his recommendations:

600mg Alpha-GPC is a pretty big does, but 3x per day? You don’t think that’s going to the point of diminishing returns? It’s also not exactly a cheap supplement. 1.8g/day Alpha-GPC is spending a considerable amount of money that could either be saved (if you’re new to nootropics and don’t want to break the bank), or used to make a more comprehensive stack (which I’ll discuss later).

The cheapest I see Alpha-GPC for is Swanson, and it’s $48/month for 1.8g/day. That’s more than most full nootropic stacks cost, just for one ingredient, and at a dose much higher than what’s been shown to be effective. Well, a dose on the middle-high end of the effective dose, but taken 3x/day anyway.

I’m also not entirely sold on the DHA fish oil, at least not enough to put it in the “top-4” for a nootropic stack. For one, I’d be wary of extrapolating results from ADHD to healthy normal subjects, and, while helping prevent cognitive decline and whatnot is great, I don’t know if that really warrants a place in the top-3. The article mentions one study showing acute cognitive benefits in healthy young subjects, but the research as a whole on healthy young subjects seems to be pretty inconclusive.

For reference, the study that showed acute cognitive benefits used 1.16g/day DHA (and 170mg EPA).

However, another study noted that 12 weeks of supplementation with fish oil containing 450mg/day DHA and 90mg/day EPA had no impact on cognition in healthy young subjects:

Perhaps the dose used was too low (only 40% of the other dose), but another study found that 400 or 1000 mg/day DHA given to healthy children (aged 10-12) that found:

The results here do not suggest that supplementation with these doses of DHA for 8 weeks has any beneficial effect on brain function in cognitively intact children.

Finally, one study, which was admittedly in mild/moderately depressed individuals, used fish oil containing 630mg/day EPA and 850mg/day DHA for 12 weeks found “there was no evidence of effects of supplementation on cognitive function.”

So the jury still seems to be out on the cognitive benefits of high-DHA fish oil in healthy young subjects IMO. That’s not to say it’s not generally healthy, and isn’t good for promoting longevity and whatnot, but as a “top-4 nootropic” for beginners? I’m far from sold TBH, at least for something that healthy younger people will likely notice benefits from.

I’m genuinely curious as to how Bacopa didn’t make the list if I’m being honest. It has a LOT of research showing it improves memory and cognition in healthy/normal/young subjects.

I could definitely see the utility in at least dialing back the MASSIVE 1.8g/day dose of Alpha-GPC to a more reasonable dose (600mg/day should be plenty), and spending that money on 300mg/day of Bacognize or Synapsa bacopa extract (and you’d still have money left over after that). I also see a much stronger consensus that bacopa improves cognition/memory in healthy/normal/young subjects than high DHA fish oil does, so I could also argue for bacopa over DHA if I had to keep the list at 4, and couldn’t simply add the bacopa to the list.

I could also see arguments being made for rhodiola too. It’s an adaptogen, and is more going to restore cognition to optimal levels during times of high stress (physical or otherwise), but it’s a great supplement that has been shown to improve physicians’ performance during night duty, improve cognitive performance and test scores in university students, improve reaction time, and reduce stress and anxiety, etc.

Hell, for the $32/month you’d save from cutting back from 1.8g/day to 600mg/day Alpha-GPC, you can add 300mg/day Bacognize bacopa and 500mg/day rhodiola (standardized to 3% rosavins and 1% salidroside), and still SAVE about $20/month.

I just REALLY don’t get the 1.8g/day Alpha-GPC TBH.

Shawn has some interesting theories and as someone whos on the patent for both teacrine and dynamine, gotta respect them. For him, biohacking is life and budget isn’t really his concern

That being said alpha GPC is a balancing act for me and I think that dose would put me into brain fog zone. So I have to agree there.

look our for a 6% salidroside we’re helping someone produce in Q1, I think it’s going to be a strong contender in the nootropic game.

Oh, I definitely respect him, and he knows his stuff. I made sure to preface my post with that, but it still comes off as a bit of a strange list and doses IMO. He even discusses lower doses of Alpha-GPC here, in his top 10 supplement list:

I’m just thinking for a “beginner,” they may not want to spend $50/month on one ingredient, ESPECIALLY when 1/3 of that dose, or even less according to some studies, has been shown to still have benefits and be effective. IIRC, doses as low as 250mg have shown some benefits, with 600mg being the dose most often used for increasing power output. That said, while 250mg and 500mg were found to increase serum free choline, neither dose improved psychomotor vigilance performance, so it’s possible that higher doses may be needed.

In the 250 and 500mg study, serum free choline was increased by 132% and 59% compared to placebo, while, in another study, 1000mg increased serum plasma choline by 38-51%.

As for the salidroside, while that should reduce the dose needed, which is great for saving space in capsules and potentially also for having less impact on the taste of powders, which can both be useful for product formulation, if not for actual effects, what do you propose the utility is over a 3% rosavin and 2% salidroside extract (what I prefer, and probably the closest you’ll get to the SHR-5 extract that’s been used in so many studies with great results).

I know you don’t need huge doses of salidroside for benefits, with studies showing benefits using daily doses of 2.8mg, 3.3mg, 4.5mg, and 14.1mg salidroside, and one that found no significant differences between 9mg and 13.5mg salidroside, suggesting that there may not be additional benefits to higher doses past a certain point. In fact, the study noted that “There was a possible trend in favour of the lower dose in the psychometric tests. No such trend was found in the physiological tests.” Now, 9mg salidrosides was the “lower dose,” but is hardly a “low” dose, as it’s still much more than what was still found to be effective in multiple other studies.

So if we’re looking at 9mg salidrosides, a 3% rosavin and 2% salidroside extract would need 450mg, while a 6% extract would only need 150mg (if we go down to 4.5mg salidrosides, which still isn’t the lowest dose that was found to have benefits, we’re looking at 225mg vs 75mg), but I wouldn’t say that the rosavins are completely inert/useless; does this 6% extract have any rosavin content? A lot of the old Soviet research discusses the importance of a “true” rhodiola extract not being standardized for only once active compound.

But I do see how saving up to 300mg could help in product formulation, potentially around half a capsule worth of powder saved or 2/3 less of a potentially bad/herbal tasting extract to try to flavor, but that should just mean it’s more likely to be included in a product than it actually providing benefits beyond other rhodiola extracts dosed optimally, no? Although I suppose companies that may underdose it due to space and/or flavor issues may be able to dose it more optimally now, so that’s a bonus for sure.

Agreed on alpha gpc like I said previously.

It’ll be 2% rosavins. There will be some good human data on it, I’ll share here when it’s ready for sure

Cool. Glad to see it’s not just essentially isolated salidroside. I know you can’t spill the beans yet, but you have human data suggesting that doses higher than 9mg salidroside are superior to lower doses for cognitive/fatigue benefits? Or that this ratio of salidroside to rosavins is superior to the more common 3% and 1-2% extracts at equal doses of salidroside? Or just that this extract works well in humans, which we have no reason at all to doubt? Again, I know you probably can’t tell me much, if anything, more yet, but I’m a huge fan of rhodiola, so I’ll be eagerly be waiting for more info whenever it comes.

We’re mostly looking at cognitive benefits- I’ll have full details for you when ready brother!

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Awesome! I’ll be eagerly waiting. Rhodiola is definitely a top-tier ingredient for me, and if there’s new research on it, that’ll definitely have my interest.

Yeah the concept started with just “the industry needs more high yield patented extracts”

We figured theres enough Ashwaghandas out there (just saw a new one this week?), but we’re big fans of rhodiola.

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I know there’s the classics (KSM-66 and Sensoril), and Arjuna Natural (the makers of BCM-95, BosPure, OxyStorm, etc.) has an ashwagandha extract (Shoden) standardized for a crazy 35% withanolide Glycosides, measured properly by HPLC. I think they launched it a year ago, if that? I haven’t seen it used in anything really, and I don’t know how it’s priced, but I know KSM-66 just has such a big name and reputation by now that it’s become the go-to (with good reason; it’s a very studied extract, and high-quality for sure, and priced pretty well).

It does seem like almost all of the rhodiola out there is your run-of-the-mill 3% rosavin and 1% salidroside extract. Or something that has a ton of one and almost none of the other (I saw this a lot in bulk extracts more than anything though). Even the 3% R and 2% S extracts that are closer to the old SHR-5 extracts are much less common, even though they’re literally double the salidroside content. 6% is huge, especially with a still-solid 2% rosavin content to go with it.

And the bacopa market is probably fine with Bacognize and Synapsa.

Ashwagandha and rhodiola are both on my short-list of favorite supplements for sure though. Right up there with creatine and spirulina. And bacopa (although bacopa is just for memory/cognition, while the others are much more versatile in their benefits).

Yup! Shoden is what I was thinking about. Don’t forget about Nooghanda, my personal favorite.

Definitely agree with you!

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I’m glad I revived this OLD thread!

SpecNova seems to play it really close to the chest with info on their Nooghanda extract compared to the other “big three” extracts though.

Edit: what about it do you prefer? You notice more/different benefits/effects?

Back to the topic of fish oil, it may be able to help you see better in the dark, so that’s pretty cool:

These data suggest that blood DHA
levels can affect the ability of an individual to dark adapt, and confirms that any changes in dark
adaptation ability caused by the fatty acid are rapidly reversible when DHA levels are returned to

The dosage used in the study was 3 tablets per day, with each tablet containing 780mg EPA and 260mg DHA (so a total of 2.34g EPA and 780mg DHA per day).

I feel way more of the cognitive benefits without any ‘sedative’ feeling, which from speaking to them at SSW sounds like exactly what they were aiming for!

I’ve seen KSM in some pre supplements or nootropic supps that have raised the question if it’s a good idea with the sleepy factor some can get

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Funny you mention that; I take my KSM-66 in the evening/night (all 600mg/day), so that makes sense!

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I use PES Tru Multi which contains KSM 66, but will occasionally take it standalone (NutraBio brand) at night which absolutely helps with sleep