Onnit’s Alpha Brain is Problematic AF!
A critique of the popular, celebrity-endorsed Nootropic Stack
In this article, I’ll do more than just criticize and point out flaws. I’ll point out how Onnit could improve this product and I’ll suggest an alternative, Neuro-Stack by Akua Life, a product that has a whole lot more credibility and integrity behind its formulation, marketing, and creation. Of course, you might say Jonathan it looks like you’re getting paid by these guys to bash Alpha Brain and promote their product. Where’s your integrity? Yes, I am affiliated with Neuro-Stack and I’m a certainly fallible human but my integrity is only as good my arguments. I’d urge you to just evaluate the arguments and evidence I present about these two products.
In my view, the cardinal sin that Alpha Brain commits is not proving that it contains the advertised ingredients. And Alpha Brain is not unique in this — this is a huge problem with the supplement industry in general. Nobody is verifying that supplements actually contain the vitamins, nutrients and Nootropic ingredients on the label or listed on their website. Somebody who just wants to make money can build an eCommerce store, create some graphics of a bottle or label and list a bunch of ingredients that empower our health but actually just fill the capsules with sawdust (or whatever) and make a killing. It’s an often undiscussed ethical hazard of being in the supplement game. If you don’t see a certificate of analysis (COA) for the ingredients of the product you’re really making a faith-based decision to consume it. Onnit’s is probably not doing this because they are a big company with a lot of money, the value of their multi-million dollar brand is probably not worth the risk of betraying their customers to maximize profits a little more but as industry leaders, they really should take that ethical step and just make their COAs public.
I’m sure there’s a good reason why they don’t do this — It’s probably because some of the individual ingredients are of questionable quality. Not all Bacopa (or any other ingredient for that matter) is created equal, there’s really good stuff that is produced by organic farms that is stringently tested and then there’s cheap stuff from China which is probably not pure and may contain problematic toxins and heavy metals — you really don’t know if you don’t see a COA. In the case of Alpha Brain, they just list the ingredients…
For many of the ingredients, they don’t give us any additional information about the sourcing of the ingredients or specific derivatives used. Without more information, it’s fair to assume that they are just using what’s most cost-effective.
This is where Neuro-Stack really differentiates itself. They list out all the specific derivatives used…
For many of the ingredients, they use specific, patented versions of very proven Nootropic ingredients like…
- Vitamin B6 (Pyridoxal-5-Phosphate)
- Vitamin B8 (Myo-Inositol)
- Vitamin B9 (Quatrefolic®)
- Organic Lion’s Mane (Hericium Erinaceus)
- CDP Choline (Citicoline)
- Cat’s Claw (10:1 Uncaria Tomentosa)
- L-Theanine (Suntheanine®)
- Black Pepper Extract (Bioperine®)
Huperzine — The Profiteer’s Nootropic Ingredient
Two very popular Nootropic ingredients make me raise a skeptical eyebrow when I see them in a product. DMAE and Huperzine. DMAE is an awful pseudo-Nootropic with some concerning (and often undiscussed) side effects, thankfully Alpha Brain doesn’t contain it but it does contain 400 micrograms of Huperzine-A. Huperzine is an effective energy Nootropic but less is really more.
- Very few of Onnit’s customers probably know that large doses of maybe toxic. You want to be taking minuscule amounts of the stuff. At doses over 50 micrograms you run into side effects like insomnia, anxiety, high blood pressure, slowed heart rate, restlessness, sweating, loss of appetite, contraction of muscle fibers, constipation, and twitching.
- Huperzine stays in your system for at least 24 hours. When you consume 400 mcg of huperzine the next day after you think that Alpha Brain’s effects have worn off there’s actually still 200 mcg in your system. The Huperzine in your system really accumulates when you then take another 400 mcg, or maybe more if you mega-dose Alpha Brain, taking 6–8 capsules the way Joe Rogan describes doing frequently on his popular podcast. Huperzine really doesn’t belong in your daily stack.
The final really important thing to understand about Huperzine is that it is cheap — really cheap at .0006 cents per dose or 2 cents for a months supply! If you want to make a killing, get into the Huperzine business! The folks at Akua Life omit Huperzine from their product in the best interests of their customers.
My view on Onnit
Having been the internet’s smart drug dealer for the better part of the decade, I have some experience dealing with Onnit and without getting into too many sordid details I think they may be doing too many psychedelics there in Austin! My experience with them was of the organized irresponsibility that characterizes large bureaucratic organizations and companies. Usually, how a company does one thing is how it does everything. My experience with various departments of Onnit furthers my suspicion of their products’ quality assurance.
If you watch just a few of the podcasts that they produce you’ll see that they really embrace a lot of postmodern pseudo-social science and wuwu new age spirituality. Which is good for marketing I’m sure but this really doesn’t seem like very appropriate corporate cultural for the rigorous endeavor of creating scientifically-backed health products.
The Cost Question
The final crucial point of comparison is cost. A 45 day 90 capsule supply (for most biohackers, a month’s supply) of Alpha Brain (with 18000 micrograms of Huperzine!) is about $68 (a lot cheaper I’m sure when they run discounts). Neuro-Stack is about $60 for a month’s supply of 120 capsules. So ignoring all the other blatant issues with Alpha Brain, economically, it’s clear which is a better value.