Researching supplements can be overwhelming. There are a lot of anecdotal reports floating around on the internet, which tend to have little value compared with peer-reviewed research.
It's also easy to make the mistake of trialling multiple nootropics at a time. This makes it more difficult to gauge how an individual nootropic affects you. Stack tracking tools can serve as a kind of digital, shareable journal for your nootropics usage patterns.
In the last few years, a number of nootropics-related tools and resources have emerged. The possibilities are endless. Using them can help you stay organized, track your cognitive performance over time, share stacks, and discover insights into your nootropics usage. Looking back months ago, I often completely lose track of what I’ve taken and for how long, given how quickly my nootropic stacks have evolved.
In this post I want to share with you the tools and resources that have helped me organize my efforts to optimize cognitive performance.
Test Working Memory with a Familiar Simple Game:
Use Cambridge Brain Sciences to Test your Gray Matter:
Bolster your Vocabulary and Help Feed the Hungry:
Increase Fluid Intelligence with Dual N’ Back
Test your Visual Spatial Skills:
TrackMyStack has rolled out a number of features that make keeping track of supplement stacks effortless. I have no doubt that TrackMyStack will be to nootropics what Fitbit was for activity tracking. I think it’s worth delving into TrackMyStack’s features to get a better sense of the value it adds.
Creating your first stack
Stack creation is straightforward. All that’s required is naming your stack, writing a short description, and entering the nootropics or dietary supplements that comprise the stack.
TrackMyStack will automatically recognize nootropic names and set default dosages. These dosages can be easily overwritten according to your needs. For fun, I made this basic sleep stack:
Public stacks are shared with the community on trackmystack.com. Stacks can also be set to private if you’re using the website as a kind of personal progress journal or just a basic tool to keep track of what supplements you take every day.
TrackMyStack also has three other features that revolve around linking an entry to a particular stack.
- StackLog Post – this lets you self-report data, like levels of energy, focus & attention, memory, or mood. You can also record an experience and lifestyle stats (like total sleep or calorie daily calorie consumption). This entry is then linked to a stack. Months later, you can look back and evaluate how you responded to a particular nootropic or combination of nootropics.
- Conditions & symptoms – you also have the opportunity to note any symptoms or medical conditions. Like before, this information can be linked to a particular stack you or another user created.
TrackMyStack goes beyond simply creating a laundry list of supplements you’re taking. It can generate recommend dosages (based on Examine) and help you record your experiences and responses to nootropics in one place.
If you're dedicated, you could employ Gwern-style self-blinded trials of nootropics and record the data via the StackLog feature. Without this rigorous approach, experience reports are next to worthless given confounds like placebo or your expectations based on other user reports.
StackDB.net is comparable to TrackMyStack in terms of the ability to create lists of nootropics with information about dosage, comments, and so forth.
The stack creation function on StackDB.net is more user-friendly. But StackDB.net lacks the features of TrackMyStack that allow you to link your StackLog, medical conditions, and symptoms to an individual stack of supplements. This lack of functionality detracts from the overall value of StackDB.net. But since it’s more user-friendly, I’d probably use StackDB.net if I was purely interested in keeping track of the supplements I'm taking on a day-to-day basis.
The premise behind NootDB is excellent. It’s essentially a tool to compare nootropics vendors. It might help you answer questions like “which vendors sell encapsulated piracetam?” or “which vendor has the most competitive pricing for piracetam?” Or if you were looking for a more obscure, hard-to-find nootropic, you could enter it into the search bar on the homepage to locate a vendor that sells it.
NootDB seems to work by scraping product data (e.g. product photos and pricing information, powder vs. capsule) from nootropic vendors’ websites.
In practice, I think NootDB needs some tweaking.
This might be a matter of personal preference, but I’m a big fan of price tables. The ability to navigate to a nootropic like piracetam and quickly look at a table to see which vendor has the most competitive price for each size increment (e.g., 125g vs. 250g) is very valuable.
Right now, NootDB makes it difficult to make these kinds of comparisons quickly. Pricing info for different sizes are sometimes compared, and encapsulated and bulk powder are compared, which is like comparing apples to oranges. It seems likely that NootDB is in the beta stage of development, but when it’s complete and polished I have no doubt it will be an immensely helpful tool for nootropics shopping.
ModernAlkaMe proposes to offer “neuroscience based nootropic personalization.”
The general idea is that you provide information about your goals (e.g. improved sleep quality or increased wakefulness) and medical history. You’re asked questions about whether you or your relatives have any underlying medication or psychiatric conditions, what prescription drugs you’re taking, highest degree earned, and so forth.
The idea of ModernAlkaMe is compelling. It’s becoming clear that personalized medicine is the future. In medicine, genetics will increasingly inform treatment strategies and medication choices. For example, you might be able to sequence parts of a depressed patient’s genome and make an educated guess about which antidepressants they’re more likely to respond to.
Right now, ModernAlkaMe is like a black box. They don’t provide any documentation about how the algorithm works. I also wonder whether they are considering things like hepatic cytochrome P450 enzyme interactions, or what set of nootropics they’re including.
I think with more detail, documentation and transparency about the algorithm, ModernAlkaMe could be a fantastic tool.
No list of nootropics or supplement resources is complete without Examine.
Anyone who has spent more than fifteen minutes researching nootropics will probably have visited Examine.
At first it looked like Examine was going to be like an encyclopedia for dietary supplements. They’ve got a great value proposition. The Examine staff reads thousands of Pubmed.gov articles and distills them down to the most important details about a nutraceutical.
I’ve noted a shift in Examine’s overall strategy in the last year. Examine has been making articles more accessible and readable by opting to use less technical language with a simpler prose style. Examine is also trying to make the information they provide more useful. Articles sections like “how to take” are very useful.
PubMed is the pre-eminent nootropics resource.
It’s a repository of peer-reviewed articles about anything you can imagine. The majority of published papers indexed by PubMed are biomedical. One caveat is that the usefulness of PubMed is limited by whether or not you have journal access through an academic institution or your occupation.
Even without journal access, it can be helpful to perform a literature search and read some abstracts. I actually think that many abstracts listed on PubMed fairly accessible, and could be easily understood after reading a wikipedia article with some background information.
I also recommend signing up for PubMed alerts. Enter a few keywords you’re interested in following (e.g. “nootropic”) and PubMed will send you daily, weekly, or monthly update emails as new articles are published on the topic. This is a great method for monitoring advances in a field without having to browse PubMed everyday.