Doctors begin their careers with the Hippocratic Oath vowing to…
First do no harm.
While I’m not a doctor as an online educator the same ethos underlies my endeavors to inform about supplements and technology that people can use to empower mindset and productivity along with restoring health.
Among Biohackers there’s a predilection for risk. Perhaps due to my conspicuous position as a self experimenter and the personality I inject into my videos I’ve received a number of emails and messages from people (usually young men) asking me about experimental smart drugs, research chemicals, microdosing LSD or psychoactive chemicals in the legal fringes.
I consistently urge conservative self experimentation to these people, whatever your Biohacking goals are…
- Being more energetic, focused and productive
- Improving mood and mindset
- Improving memory
- Having better sex
- Making gains in the gym
…There’s better ways of doing it than taking risks with unproven research chemicals, taking extreme dosages of supplements or invasive technological interventions.
Do the research before you order or ingest anything
First, don’t assume that anything is safe just because it’s for sale. Online and even in your local pharmacy you can find plenty of supplements for sale in enticing packaging that imbue credibility which you really should not be taking.
Before you order or ingest anything I’d urge you to do at least an hour of actual research on it.
- Go on Youtube and look up all the vlogs that other people have made about their experiences with it. Watch all of these.
- Go onto some online forums (like Longecity and Reddit) and read what people are saying about their experiences. If you run across a few reports of undesirable side effects like a headache or trouble sleeping that’s not necessarily a deal breaker BUT if there is a significant quantity of reports of bad side effects that’s a pretty good reason to not use it.
- Testimonials and anecdotes can be misleading and of course the placebo effect is going to skew whatever results are being reported. So importantly you want to look at what the actual science is saying also. So search for papers and studies on the supplement on Pubmed: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/advanced. For some supplements you’ll find hundreds of studies and papers, look for the more recent human studies which are placebo controlled and read the conclusions that the researchers reached in the Abstracts of the studies. If there’s very few published studies on a supplement and it’s unclear what benefit they have in human trials that’s a red flag.
- On LimitlessMindset.com you’ll find a database of over 50 popular Nootropic ingredients, in plain English I assign a risk grade to the Nootropics from A+ to F. You may also want to checkout the excellent objective website Examine.com which has many meticulous articles describing in depth the potential downsides of various supplements.
IF there’s consistency between the positive effects being reported in the anecdotes and the findings of the studies and papers and if there’s a lack of red flags or serious downsides discussed then go ahead with experimenting with the supplement.
Ideally you also want to ask your doctor, physician or a trusted practitioner about any supplement you’re thinking about using. But doctors can often be misinformed, cynically skeptical or sometimes recommend harmful pharmaceutical drugs so ideally you want to get a second or third opinion from other professionals also. So you should really complete research steps 1–4 with any drug that your doctor recommends as well.
It may sound like a lot of work but true health requires doing your own research and critical thinking!
Finally, if you’ve done the research and are still confused as to whether you should be taking something send me a message with a few details and I’ll offer an informed opinion.
Not all Nootropics are created equally safe. I advise starting with the more safe ones and then only if you’re really disappointed moving onto the riskier options.
The Adaptogens are often what I recommend first to my family and close friends when they ask me about something to give them extra energy. They’ve been the subject of hundreds of high quality human studies done around the world and have over thousands of years earned a prestigious position in Eastern medicinal traditions.
Rhodiola Rosea is (probably) the best Adaptogenic Nootropic for energy and mood.
Eleuthero is the fatigue overcoming and immune system booster that keeps me healthy during the winter months.
Ashwagandha is the stress relief and anxiolytic that I reach for when I want to relax after a long day or get some restorative sleep.
Horny Goat Weed is my go-to for optimizing sexual hedonism, male performance enhancement and as testosterone hack for masculine energy to take on life.
The Racetams are the class of synthetic chemicals which have become synonymous with smart drugs but a really conservative biohacker would NOT want to use all of them. Some of the newer Racetam derivatives I’m suspicious of but there’s a few of them which are very safe…
Piracetam the original smart drug has been the subject of hundreds of human trials, including long term population studies.
Oxiracetam I call the discipline molecule and you should really try it to find out why! For those who are adverse to stimulants Oxiracetam provides a very subtle focus imbuing effect.
Aniracetam has an anxiolytic effect which many find lends them some much needed clarity.
Phenylpiracetam is an upgraded version of Piracetam which lots of biohackers love because it’s a hardcore focus promoter for logical, cognition demanding tasks.
Numerous human studies have found that (even higher dosages) of Piracetam and many of the related Nootropics are remarkably safe and side effect free BUT based upon anecdotal evidence they are a less conservative performance enhancement option than the Adaptogens.
Every couple of years you’ll hear about someone (usually a reckless young man) who dies of an overdose involving supplements or ostensible Nootropics. Almost always excessive dosage is to blame.
A sapient biohacker is keenly aware of human biodiversity and the significant variability of responses that different people have to different dosages. A dose that is mind blowing for one person maybe utterly underwhelming for someone else.
- So start with a conservative dosage. There’s no good reason to start any supplement at a high or extreme dosage. Large attack dosages are a myth, if anything they’ll just build up a tolerance to the Nootropic so that you need more of it in the future to experience any benefit, which is not very economical.
- Some Nootropics require accumulation over time to really work. You may need to take them for days, weeks or even months for their beneficial effects to become apparent.
- You may try a Nootropic at a moderate dosage and experience an initial desirable effect but find subsequent dosages really underwhelming. This does NOT mean that you should drastically increase the dose. Usually what this means is that the initial dose exhausted a particular neurotransmitter or neurobiological mechanism. The smart move at this point is to find out what cofactors the Nootropic requires and try it again at the initially dosage with those cofactors. Or it maybe that your diet is deficient in the nutrition that your body needs to properly process the Nootropic. Often non-response is just a sign that this Nootropic is not for you — try something else.
What dosage should you be taking? The best place to find this information is the human studies on pubmed, the abstracts will almost always mention the dosages used but a lot of times they do so in confusing scientific jargon.
You can find credible and clearly understandable dosage recommendations in the Nootropics Ingredients section of LimitlessMindset.com or on Examine.com.
You can’t always trust dosage recommendations on the products’ packaging or manufacturers’ website. Sometimes they’ll recommend unnecessarily high dosages so always double check the dosage.
Stacks and Stacking
Upon venturing into the Biohackingsphere you’ll be barraged with promotional content for branded Nootropic stack products and maybe further confused by discussion of stacking.
Stacking just means combining different Nootropics
The most risk averse approach is to take a single ingredient Nootropic alone and see how it effects you. Once you find something that helps you consistently try adding another Nootropic alongside it and see if the cumulative effect is worthwhile. You can repeat this process adding as many different ingredients to your personal stack as you would like.
However the more things you add the more there’s a chance of an adverse reaction, the less conservative of an intervention it becomes.
Nearly any stack that you can think of has been tried thoroughly by people on Internet forums so you can get a good idea of which stacks produce the best effect by reading other’s experiences.
However, few stacks have been studied in clinical environments by trained scientists so you’re taking a bit of a chance.
Nootropic stack products are a mixed bag, some are great but a lot are kind of a waste of time and money. For the reasons I describe below many stacks are problematic; they aren’t the most conservative Biohacking option…
You’ll have to evaluate stacks on a one-off basis
- Do they display their products’ certificate of analysis verifying the ingredients?
- Are their customer testimonials substantial and legitimate?
- Are there real people standing behind the product or is it just a faceless eCommerce operation?
- Do they have a customer service operation? A phone number? A legitimate address?
- Do they pay their affiliates a really high proportion of the products cost?
Risk Factor: Purity
Another perpetual concern with Nootropics is purity. If you don’t see a certificate of analysis for product with a spectroscopy showing greater than 97% purity that’s a red flag. Bacopa for example is a pretty good long term Nootropic for memory BUT there’s concern with metal toxicity with the herb — apparently a number of batches of Bacopa have been badly contaminated with toxic metals.
My Risk Philosophy
Some Biohackers are VERY risk averse, like Justin who I interviewed, he’s the Mind behind the very popular anti-aging forum Longecity.
However, I’m more of a risk seeking or Antifragile Biohacker. Which is not just because I’m reckless and want to treat my neurobiology like an amusement park. I have some quite rational reasons for seeking risk.
To philosopher, practitioner extraordinaire Nassim Taleb, in his manifesto on risk Antifragile…
The first step toward antifragility consists in first decreasing downside, rather than increasing upside ; that is , by lowering exposure to negative Black Swans and letting natural antifragility work by itself (2886–2887)
For antifragility is the combination aggressiveness plus paranoia — clip your downside , protect yourself from extreme harm , and let the upside , the positive Black Swans , take care of itself . (2929–2931)
When it comes to Nootropics the upside is so great and the downside is relatively minimal. The sky is the limit with the potential upside of Nootropics. Whereas the downside risk, is very minimal.
For example; one of my favorite smart drugs is Nicotine, but I can’t really say that Nicotine is a risk free drug. Some studies have indicated a very weak carcinogenic effect, this is debated though, some researchers say that Nicotine alone is none-carcinogenic and as safe as say caffeine. However, I’ll continue to use Nicotine because the upside of Nicotine is tremendous, I get paid to do creative work and Nicotine is the best stimulator of this that I’ve found out of the +100 smart drugs I’ve used.
As an entrepreneur, Nicotine is like an employee that appreciably increases the productivity of my company who I don’t have to train or manage who demands a salary of less than $10 a month. To me, at least, that minimal cancer risk it may have is offset by its upside. Since I make more money, I can afford other good supplements, good food and good lifestyle habits that significantly mitigate overall cancer risk. Since I make quite a bit more money, if I get sick, I’ll be all the more able to afford it.
Conversely, many of our other lifestyle and consumption habits have very limited upside with either moderate or significant downside.
For example, my avocado salad is not exactly a performance enhancer, it’s a relatively healthy meal that’s just going to power me through my day. Or perhaps someone eats a more average diet of carbs, sugary snack foods and fried meat along with GMO fruits & veggies. There’s barely any upside to this diet, it just barely assuages hunger and the downside is that it causes spikes in blood sugar that drive you to eat every few hours. The long term downsides are heart diseases, diabetes, Alzheimer’s and ultimately death.
There’s a number of Nootropics that are definitely riskier (I’ve tried most of them), someone with lower risk tolerance would want to stay away from…
- Amphetamines (Ritalin, Adderal, Vyvanse)
I’m also a big fan of Biohacking without Nootropics
I’ll from time to time have someone contact me privately and they’ll have tried Racetams, Modafinil, Phenibut or whatever and the Nootropics work for a time but have diminishing benefits or undesirable side effects, before just adding more Nootropics I always recommend first that they implement none-Nootropic performance enhancing lifehacks like…
- Brain training
- No fap
- Cold showers
- Diet optimization
- Energetic breathing
- Sleep hacking
Discussed further in these videos…
The imminent biohacker Ben Greenfield did a keynote worth watching about a number of low tech biohacks
- Do the research before you order or ingest anything.
- Start with the safest and most effective Nootropics (the Adaptogens and the Racetams) and then move onto more risky options if you need to.
- Be conservative with dosage.
- Stacking is a mixed bag. Start by taking things individually. Nootropic Stacks should be evaluated based upon objective criteria.
- If you ingest or order a supplement without seeing a certificate of analysis, that’s a faith based decision that it contains the ingredients advertised.
- Ultimately, the most risky thing is the mainstream approach to health; which results in disease, cognitive decline and death.
- There’s plenty of ways to biohack other than using Nootropics or smart drugs.