You’ve cut down on the carbs, limiting your diet to brain healthy greens and proteins. All week you’ve been sleeping 8-plus hours per night. And all that excess ADHD energy? You took care of it at the gym this morning — as you do every morning at the on-campus recreation center. In other words, your brain and body are in tip-top shape.
Why then can’t you answer a single damn question on this final exam?? Here’s why: your dumb ass forgot to study for the test.
Also, we lied about the healthy diet, sleeping patterns, exercise, etc. We all know you’re a slob — you’re too busy pretending to study to actually take care of yourself. And, paradoxically, you’re also too busy pretending to take care of yourself to even do a good job at pretending to study. So, what is one to do?
Of course, the obvious answer is to shape up, bucko, and take care of yourself. Sort yourself out. And the good grades will follow …Unfortunately, this is much easier said than done. And while nootropics aren’t the answer to all of your studious problems, they do offer supplementary support to the busy students looking to better their academic performance (and cognitive wellbeing).
Which is why we’ve put together this Best 5 Nootropic Supplements for Students guide. Enough slouching around. Let’s get to it!
Table of Contents
Quick List: Best 5 Nootropic Supplements for Students
|#1 – Mind Lab Pro – Universal nootropic designed for 100% brainpower.|
|#2 – Study Juice – Dopaminergic energy to power through homework and exams.|
|#3 – EVL FocusMode – NALT-powered mood, memory, and motivation boosts.|
|#4 – Brain Awake – Clean, green, and calm mental stimulation.|
|#5 – Alpha BRAIN Instant – Powder drink packets for on-the-go enhancement.|
Jump to our Best 5 Nootropic Supplements for Students analysis, or read through our Nootropic Supplement Guide for Students to learn how nootropics can improve your learning and academic routine — as well as what makes for an effective nootropic learning stack.
Nootropic Supplement Guide for Students
Today’s Lesson: Brain-Hacking is Not Academic Cheating
Or at least nootropic brain-hacking doesn’t qualify as cheating. Which is important to note in this day and age of pharmaceutical smart pills and rampantly abused prescriptions: true nootropics enhance short-term cognitive boosts as well as long-term brain protection. Smart drugs often enhance the short-term at the expense of the long-term.
In this sense, smart drugs — e.g., Adderall, Vyvanse, etc. — essentially operate as academic performance enhancing drugs (PEDs), carrying similar legal, ethical, and safety concerns as steroids do in the athletic circuit. Because have no doubt: these so-called smart pills supply remarkable, reliable, acute bursts on mental focus, concentration, and performance.
And they feel good in a dopamine depleting sort of way.
Yet, the legal, ethical, and safety concerns on smart drugs don’t quite translate over to nootropic usage. There are good reasons for this:
- Legal – Most manufacturers sell nootropics freely as dietary supplements across the world except for a few compounds that straddle the line between natural and synthetic (e.g., Hup-A).
- Ethical – As dietary supplements, nootropics improve cognitive function by improving or restoring natural bio pathways as opposed to spiking unnatural, synthetic levels of brain activity.
- Safe – According to Dr. Giurgea’s original definition, nootropics are inherently safe — “[absent] of usual pharmacological side effects of neuropsychotropic drugs”– or they’re not nootropics.
Most manufacturers source nootropics from derivatives of natural substances as opposed to the lab-synthesized smart pills on popular demand.
For the health conscious student, nootropics provide the safe, healthy answer to naturally enhanced cognition.
Having said that, nootropics obviously won’t replace a healthy collegiate diet, exercise, adequate sleep, and, of course, studying. But they will make juggling all of these tasks easier for the willing student, potentially preserving enough neurons to extend your learned knowledge beyond graduation day. (After all, that’s ultimately why you’re going to school, right?)
The Cost of Caffeine (and Other Stimulants)
While we’re not exactly anti-caffeine puritans (two of the Best 5 supplements on this post have caffeine), we don’t qualify the drug as a bona fide nootropic. And the same can be said of other popular cognitive stimulants found on-campus. With all of the natural nootropics currently on the market, caffeine reads more like a crutch, one that gives a nootropic formula only the impression of working.
Conversely, genuine nootropics enhance brain function for both the now and the later. Pre-grad and post-grad. Plus, when you calculate the daily dollar average of sucking down all those coffees, energy drinks, etc., odds are a nootropic’s daily price-per-serving average comes out much cheaper – something to think about while you’re already thinking about everything else.
Nootropic Benefits for Students
Students may jump into the nootropic lifestyle with limitless Bradley Cooperesque ambitions …but don’t buy into the hype. The best nootropic supplements for students won’t have you predicting stock market trends or wooing nerd-loving bar goers (you don’t need any assistance with that, right?), but they will amplify your academic game in a number of positive ways.
- Memory – whether it’s short- or long-term memory, nootropics can improve the process of “remembering” for better information recall on test day.
- Focus – some days, even the most avid student has a hard time paying attention, and nootropics may help through various neurochemical pathways.
- Energy – students have notoriously poor sleep and resting habits. Get better sleep, and then supplement an ATP-increasing, fatigue-reducing nootropic stack.
- Stress – chronic high stress levels lead to poor studying habits. Nootropic adaptogens may interrupt the downward stress spiral.
- Anxiety – the angsty, sweat-palmed inability to perform may impair even the best student’s test scores from time to time. Certain anxiolytic nootropics may help.
Obviously, not all nootropics are equal. Some improve memory more so than energy. Others can accomplish a number of benefits (improved memory, alertness, etc.).
On that note, not all nootropic benefits are equal, either. For instance, when brain energy levels start to tank, so does everything else: memory, focus, and stress. Therefore, if you’re feeling lethargic (i.e., you have to drag your feet to class every morning and afternoon), an energizing nootropic should answer the call.
However, our plan of attack involves finding a diverse stack of effective nootropics to cover all key brain benefits germane to a successful student career. But what exactly does that stack look like?
What Students Should Look For in a Nootropic Supplement
Many nootropic supplements claim to benefit memory, focus, energy, etc. Yet, judging by many of the nootropic customer reviews on the internet, few brain stacks actually deliver on these claims. To the average nootropic user, figuring out the ins and outs of every nootropic on the market can be an annoying task. This is why we’ve summarized the essential features of the best nootropic supplements for students below. Check it:
Cholinergic Memory Enhancers
As a natural nootropic, choline converts to several key brain compounds:
- Acetylcholine – neurotransmitter associated with learning, memory, and neuromuscular functionality.
- Phosphatidylcholine – helps form cell membranes which, in turn, support neuronal cell structure and permeability.
Cholinergic memory enhancers may improve a brain and body’s cholinergic status by supplying raw choline material, boosting acetylcholine receptor sensitivity, or inhibiting acetylcholinesterase (the enzyme responsible for breaking down acetylcholine). If you want to optimize memory performance, pick a stack that addresses several cholinergic pathways — from the synthesis of acetylcholine to inhibition of its breakdown.
Dopaminergic Motivation Boosters
Some days you either can’t get motivated or you flat out won’t want to. But, unfortunately, midterms do not care about your motivation levels. If anything, that’s partially what they’re testing: your academic motivation to get the good grades.
To help boost your drive and willingness to learn, you’ll need to target dopamine. That’s right, the pleasure pathway brain chemical more often associated with sex, drugs, and burgers than calculus and biology. Yet, interestingly enough, not only does the brain release dopamine in response to accomplishing a mental task, but it also spikes in anticipation of novel learning opportunities.
Or at least it does for some students. For others, the dopamine release needs gradual coaxing to reach healthy reward-seeking behaviors. And some nootropics may ease this pursuit by amplifying dopamine sensitivity or providing dopaminergic precursor material, as is the case with our Editor’s Choice.
ATP Brain Energizers
Perhaps your motivation is low because you didn’t get enough sleep. Or you can’t remember everything you studied the past two days because you didn’t sleep the past two nights, disallowing overnight memory consolidation to occur. And now you’re desperate for a quick pick-me-up that doesn’t rhyme with snowcane.
Luckily, there’s a healthier and, believe it or not, non-stimulant answer: nootropics. By targeting the fundamental metabolic pathways underlying brain energy — e.g., ATP synthesis, neurotransmissions, synaptic plasticity — some nootropics can help increase the brain’s baseline activity levels for better educational stamina and endurance.
Adaptogenic Stress Reducers
The adaptogen class of supplements shares a substantial amount of Venn diagram space with nearly every health supplement genre — from testosterone boosters to fat burners to, yes, cognitive enhancers. This is due to the fact that stress affects nearly every part of the body. And, if left unchecked, stress may negatively affect the body in serious ways.
One of the elusive properties of stress: how individuals use the term “stress” to refer to any number of physiological discomforts:
- Psychological Stress – the subjective experience of being mentally overwhelmed.
- Oxidative Stress – high levels of free radical damage in the body.
- Chemical Stress – negative chemical interactions within the body.
- Temperature Stress – exposure to extremely hot or extremely cold temperatures.
And more. However, while not all adaptogens cover all types of stress, several do a great job at ameliorating stress in its most basic and common forms, particularly those that pertain to mental performance.
With memory, motivation, energy, and stress out of the way, let’s focus strictly on supplement quality in the final pointer in this segment. We’re not referring to cognitive potency here (whatever that means), but rather ingredient potency. In other words, does the body easily absorb the ingredients? Are they highly bio-active? Or are they dull and impotent?
Two formulas may share roughly the shame ingredients, yet one may work way, way better than another by enhancing its potency. And the ways that supplements do this include:
- Black Pepper Extract – in tiny doses, black pepper extract (piperine) may significantly enhance a formula’s nutrient absorption. Nootropics like turmeric actually require piperine to work.
- Standardized Extracts – by focusing strictly on bio-active constituents, standardized extracts maximize an ingredient’s bio-efficacy.
- Concentrated Herbs – herbal powders are great for teas, but in capsules and tablets you’ll want the highly concentrated, bio-active stuff to get the most bang for your buck.
- Branded Ingredients – premium nootropic forms subjected to clinical testing are sometimes the best and safest way to go.
For the best results in class, nootropic supplements should supply a mix of the above listed supplement pointers.
If you’re worried now that you’ll have to apply these principles all on your lonesome, worry no more. We’ve compiled a short list of the best 5 nootropic supplements for students that we like.
Now, pay attention and take notes.
Best 5 Nootropic Supplements for Students
#1: Mind Lab Pro
Mind Lab Pro functions as a “Universal Nootropic,” raising the cognitive bar across-the-board for all types of thinking.
As such, Mind Lab Pro suits the needs of all types of thinkers — from engineers to artists. Hell, even teachers’ as well. It’s no wonder that all the leading nootropic experts including David Tomen (from NootropicsExpert.com) and Greg of YourInception.com rate Mind Lab Pro as the #1 product available.
And it hits every cognitive note with its smartly-selected, science-backed nootropics, centering on perhaps the best nootropic ingredient in the game: citicoline (or CDP Choline). The manufacturer resorts to the premium Cognizin® brand.
Yet, it isn’t this ingredient alone that makes Mind Lab Pro the No. 1 best nootropic supplement for students. By stacking various nootropics that individually target different aspects of brain health via key brain bio-pathways, Mind Lab Pro’s formula ensures that all cognitive cogs are in working order. The result: 100% brainpower, baby.
This unique, comprehensive approach is what elevates Mind Lab Pro to the top spot for students: the supplement’s laser focus on a universal benefit — 100% brainpower — targeted through six brain pathways. Brain energy, brain chemicals, brain circulation, brain waves, neuroprotection, and neuroregeneration.
As every veteran student knows: it’s always a good idea to cover all topics, in case one of them’s on the test.
Mind Lab Pro | Nootropic Scorecard for Students
|Student Nootropic Benefits||Score||Notes|
|Memory Enhancers||5/5||Bacopa monnieri, Citicoline, Phosphatidylserine|
|Motivation Boosters||4/5||N-Acetyl L-Tyrosine, B Vitamins|
|Brain Energizers||5/5||Citicoline, Maritime Pine Bark Extract|
|Stress Reducers||5/5||Rhodiola rosea, Bacopa monnieri, L-Theanine|
|Potency Enhancers||5/5||Standardized herbs, brands, and clean caps.|
|Nootropic Rating for Students||4.7||Best overall nootropic supplement for academics|
|Price: $65, one-month supply|
|Any Deals? On their website, buy a two-month supply for a cheaper price-per-serving count. Or buy the three-month supply (get one box free for a total of four boxes), including free worldwide shipping.|
|Read our Mind Lab Pro Review|
#2: Study Juice
It’s all in the name: Juice for Studying. Except for the fact that Study Juice isn’t literal juice — nor is it exclusive to students. Its emphasis on clean, dopaminergic energy and anti-stress adaptogens make it a juicy, prime focus enhancer for the caffeine-loving academician.
With several ingredient brands in its formula, Study Juice ranks as one of the more premium nootropic supplements. And what’s more, Brain Forza sells its premium formula at a surprisingly affordable price.
Again, perfect for the students.
Of course, student doesn’t dedicate every waking moment to studying. With that in mind, Study Juice seems to also benefit more “fun time” creativity activities with an academic lifestyle: gaming, exercise, etc. Git juiced, yo.
Study Juice | Nootropic Scorecard for Students
|Student Nootropic Benefits||Score||Notes|
|Memory Enhancers||2/5||Betaine Anhydrous and B6, potentially improves memory impairment by reducing homocysteine|
|Motivation Boosters||5/5||N-Acetyl L-Tyrosine, B Vitamins, Catuaba Bark Extract|
|Brain Energizers||4/5||Guarana Extract (Caffeine), Theacrine, Vinpocetine, ALCAR|
|Stress Reducers||5/5||Rhodiola rosea, Schisandra chinensis, Ashwagandha Extract, L-Theanine, Ginseng Extracts|
|Potency Enhancers||5/5||BioPerine®, herbal extracts, branded ingredients|
|Nootropic Rating for Students||4.2||Great for mood, motivation, and energy – albeit caffeinated energy.|
|Price: $34.95, one-month supply|
|Any Deals? Reformulated as Brain Lift, Brain Forza’s website listing of Study Juice includes a “Subscribe & Save” option for a 15% discount on a user-modified shipping schedule.|
|Read our Study Juice Review|
#3: EVL FocusMode
Bearing a somewhat similar design to Study Juice, EVLution Nutrition’s FocusMode stacks caffeinated energy boosts with adaptogenic stress relief, supplying a whopping 600 mg n-acetyl l-tyrosine per serving.
A fantastic nootropic for the tired, stressed mind (i.e., the student’s brain) further complemented by Zembrin’s anti-anxiety mood enhancement benefits.
For memory enhancement, FocusMode also notches in a solid dose of alpha-GPC and choline bitartrate. Granted, choline bitartrate is a much inferior option to alpha-GPC or citicoline. Yet, the formula’s tiny addition of huperzine-A may assist FocusMode’s cholinergic boosts by inhibiting acetylcholinesterase, the enzyme responsible for breaking down acetylcholine.
Altogether, EVL FocusMode rounds out to an impressive on-the-spot “exam day” focus booster, with the potential to improve memory performance and mood as well.
EVL FocusMode | Nootropic Scorecard for Students
|Student Nootropic Benefits||Score||Notes|
|Memory Enhancers||3/5||Alpha-GPC, Huperzine-A|
|Motivation Boosters||5/5||N-Acetyl L-Tyrosine, a lot of it|
|Brain Energizers||4/5||Guarana Extract, Theacrine|
|Stress Reducers||4/5||Zembrin, N-Acetyl L-Tyrosine|
|Potency Enhancers||4/5||Branded ingredients and concentrated herbs|
|Nootropic Rating for Students||4.0||Heavy kick of L-tyrosine and guarana for acute bursts of energy and motivation.|
|Price: $29.99, one-month supply|
|Any Deals? Depending on where and when you buy, FocusMode occasionally sells at a Buy 1, Get 1 50% Off deal.|
|Read our EVL FocusMode Review|
#4: Brain Awake
Is your brain awake? Well, you read this far down the Best 5 Nootropic Supplements for Students review, so it is awake (possibly thanks to caffeine).
That’s partially how Brain Awake intends to awaken your brain — with a modest dose of caffeine. However, what makes this nootropic supplement particularly stand out is its premium profile of high quality herbal extracts and B vitamins.
More specifically Brain Awake has bacopa and holy basil extracts for reliable reductions in stress hormone cortisol, B vitamins for enhanced cerebral circulation and brain chemicals, and AlphaWave® branded l-theanine for further damage control on that caffeine.
Brain Awake makes for a great relaxing complement to the student’s usual liquid diet of coffee, caffeine, and trimethylxanthine.
Brain Awake | Nootropic Scorecard for Students
|Student Nootropic Benefits||Score||Notes|
|Memory Enhancers||4/5||Bacopa monnieri Extract, std. to 50% bacosides|
|Motivation Boosters||2/5||B Vitamin Complex|
|Brain Energizers||3/5||Tea Extract, ALCAR|
|Stress Reducers||5/5||Holy Basil Extract, L-Theanine, Bacopa monnieri, Lemon balm, Rosemary extract|
|Potency Enhancers||5/5||BioPerine®, concentrated herbs, branded ingredients|
|Nootropic Rating for Students||3.8||Best overall test supplement for mature men|
|Price: $22.99 for 20 liquid soft-gel servings|
|Any Deals? If you buy through Irwin Naturals website, the manufacturers cover shipping and handling costs. Orders usually ship within one to two business days.|
|Read our Brain Awake Review|
#5: Alpha BRAIN Instant
Joe Rogan Experience listeners are likely already familiar with Onnit’s featured cognitive enhancer Alpha BRAIN. However, Onnit also sells Alpha BRAIN in “instant” drink mix pouches that supply better dosages and more servings per purchase.
Alpha BRAIN Instant divides its formula into the following proprietary segments:
- Flow Blend – Features BIG List favorites l-tyrosine, l-theanine, and phosphatidylserine.
- Focus Blend – Alpha-GPC, bacopa, and hup-A for enhanced cholinergic brain activity.
- Fuel Blend – The instant formulation includes the addition of BioPerine, an awesome potency-increasing extract.
For the frugal student looking to get Onnit, Alpha BRAIN Instant is easily the better option between Alpha BRAIN vs. Alpha BRAIN Instant. And the powder packs make it easy to toss these nootropics into your water bottle in between classes for on-the-go consumption (not that popping a couple of caps is all that difficult, but you know what is? Resisting Alpha BRAIN Instant’s fruity flavors.)
Alpha BRAIN Instant | Nootropic Scorecard for Students
|Student Nootropic Benefits||Score||Notes|
|Memory Enhancers||4/5||Bacopa Monnieri, Alpha-GPC, Huperzine-A|
|Motivation Boosters||3/5||L-Tyrosine, B6|
|Stress Reducers||4/5||L-Theanine, Oat Straw Extract, Bacopa monnieri|
|Potency Enhancers||4/5||BioPerine®, herbal extracts, some average forms|
|Nootropic Rating for Students||3.6||Best overall test supplement for mature men|
|Price: $59.95, one-month supply|
|Any Deals? Onnit provides a Subscribe & Save 15% purchase option, if you buy through Onnit’s website.|
|Read our Alpha BRAIN Instant Review|
Conclusion on the Best 5 Nootropic Supplements for Students
While the tone and language of this guide primarily speaks to the college-age student, nothing suggests that your days as a quote-unquote “student” end with graduation day. With that in mind, the points listed above on the best nootropic supplements for students very much apply to the conscious individual who remains eager to learn, be it professionally or recreationally.
Of course, these are only the best five nootropic supplements for students. The world of cognitive enhancement is HUGE, and perhaps these supplements didn’t address your particular learning needs. Perhaps the issue isn’t in the mind but in the body.
Or perhaps you’re simply studying something that you hate. And that no matter which supplements you’re taking, you just can’t make it work.
Our suggestion: Figure it out. Find your passions. And once you’ve managed to get to the proper starting point, give nootropics a try. You don’t want to exit the starting block dragging your feet.
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Kumar N et al. Efficacy of Standardized Extract of Bacopa monnieri (Bacognize®) on Cognitive Functions of Medical Students: A Six-Week, Randomized, Placebo-Controlled Trial. Evid Based Complement Alternat Med. 2016; 2016: 4103423.
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Puig MV et al. Dopamine modulation of learning and memory in the prefrontal cortex: insights from studies in primates, rodents, and birds. Front Neural Circuits. 2014; 8: 93.
Silveri MM et al. Citicoline enhances frontal lobe bioenergetics as measured by phosphorus magnetic resonance spectroscopy. NMR Biomed. 2008 Nov; 21(10): 1066-75.