Did you know that drinking daily a few cups of coffee could protect you against Alzheimer’s disease?
10 May 2021
It seems every few weeks there is a pre-made nootropic stack (unique blend) coming to the marketplace. Many have no real merit, others little, and a few stand out above the rest in their popularity and success.
Often times, as we have discussed with Onnit’s Alpha Brain and Nootrobox, this is a result of shrewd business, fundraising, and PR. All of which are perfectly acceptable and worthy of recognition, but make it difficult to analyze based on merit.
An older nootropic stack called truBrain has achieved some level of notoriety and success with a unique approach. They have combined above-board marketing and PR with grey area nootropic compounds. Although they may help some people, it might also garner the wrong (FDA) attention.
We will review truBrain, try to separate fact from fiction, and give you a final verdict on whether the nootropic drug is worth the money. Our conclusion at the end might surprise even the most skeptical nootropics user.
Making Racetams Mainstream!
The term “nootropic” was derived by a Romanian scientist in the 1960s who synthesized a compound called piracetam. Since then, the drug (and derivatives like oxiracetam) have grown in popularity within the nootropic community on Reddit and Longecity.
Popular figures like Dave Asprey and Tim Ferriss have even mentioned taking these racetam drugs, but until truBrain, these were not mainstream. Usually, the racetams were used behind closed doors. The most notable reason for this are the racetams grey legal status in the western world. Used as a prescription drug in other countries (like Russia and former Soviet Union) in the west they are neither a supplement nor a prescription drug. These drugs are in limbo. Our fear is that because truBrain is backed by neuroscientists and has mainstream appeal and marketing, it will get the substances regulated by the FDA (or even DEA).
Of course, truBrain making racetams mainstream is a double-edged sword. While there is fear regarding the attention they attract, there are some benefits of truBrain and associated ingredients. The truBrain drinks have the following ingredients:
The truBrain drinks dosage is low in a few areas. Piracetam is colloquially used in doses of 2400 – 3600 mg, but probably requires more like 6 – 9 grams according to most research. As you can see, the truBrain drinks only have 1000 mg and then 800 mg of oxiracetam. While there are synergistic mechanisms going on between oxiracetam, piracetam, acetyl-L-carnitine, and CDP choline, the drinks could probably use a little more piracetam to get the true effects (assuming someone only drinks one per day).
Within the drink formulation, the only other problem seems to be a low centrophenoxine dosage in the “Boost” formula, but that does seem relatively minor given the interaction with other drugs. A truBrain review of the drink ingredients has more criticism than the capsules. With 2.4 grams of piracetam, the capsules have more than doubled the mere 1000 mg drinks. Combined with adequate ALCAR, oxiracetam, CDP choline, and theanine, the capsules seem relatively well-made.
There are merits of the truBrain formula despite the flaws. For one, the focus on the ingredients and adequate dosages is encouraging. Most evidence suggests caffeine and L-theanine should be combined in a 1:2 ratio for optimal focus and concentration (without the side effects). Magnesium is a major deficiency and notoriously incorrectly dosed. Magnesium glycinate is one of the best / most bioavailable options.
N-Acetyl-L-Tyrosine (NALT) is one of the most valuable ways to optimize dopamine levels for focus and concentration (it is safer than mucuna pruriens in the long-run, but more effective than basic tyrosine). Another misconception we’d like to point out is the subjective “feeling” that comes with nootropics and specifically truBrain.
Although we know the mental feeling of caffeine, which includes alertness, focus, and increased mood, not all nootropics provide this benefit. Much of the truBrain formulation is built around cholinergic compounds, which are purported to support learning ability, memory formation, and general cognition. If you buy truBrain and expect to feel like Adderall or modafinil, you are missing the point of the stack.
Despite the many merits of truBrain, the cost is quite high. The cost per day (for the drinks) is anywhere between $2.08 and $2.45. The capsules are even more expensive at $6.25 per serving ($125 / month for 20 servings).
Here are some contrasts:
Qualia is $6.77 per serving (though this includes 42 ingredients with a similarly conscious formulation).
Nootrobox is $4.50 per serving (if using the entire lineup of 4 nootropics).
Alpha Brain is $2.33 per serving (for a less quality / consciously created nootropic).
While truBrain is quite expensive, it is well-formulated and isn’t outrageously higher than any other unique formula. If you are looking for already blended products, you are going to be spending more money and that’s something to get used to.
Though truBrain has been around for many years, there have been some negative truBrain reviews and even side effects from the online community members.
Statements like the following can be quite damning for truBrain: “Day 3 of using trubrain and it causes severe headache. I haven’t been able to find an official response from trubrain despite many people complaining about these headaches in various posts across a few forums…”
“Trubrain’s stack does wonders for ADHD and depression, and their customer service is amazing…” Or this statement “wow, that may be the first pre-made stack with sufficient amounts that I have seen. Obviously it’s much more expensive than buying things in bulk. However, the mixture and amounts look good…”
Given the sometimes shady nature of the nootropics and supplement industry in general, it is customary to provide certificates of analysis for consumers to better understand the quality of the product and contents that they consume. On the truBrain website, there is a section dedicated to the science where they make the claim “…we also conduct independent quality testing for all of our batches at an independent ISO 17025 certified analytical laboratory in the United States…”
Given that truBrain grasps marketing very well, it’s curious that they would not promote their certificates of analysis more prominently than the bottom of their science page.
For any nootropic, but especially racetams and grey area nootropics probably synthesized in China, certificates of analysis are imperative.
For truBrain representatives: please provide the certificates of analysis that you already have for your products so that consumers can evaluate them as other brands (such as Nootrobox) have done.
The involvement of neuroscientists with truBrain has been both helpful and risky. It’s helpful in that the lead neuroscientist, Dr. Andrew Hill, has a great reputation and understanding.
It is potentially risky given that it adds a level of validity to a product Hill has described as something that worked for him more than anything else: “I’ve been pretty upfront about truBrain being largely based on what I’ve been taking myself for a few years, but the increased variability of individual response to other ‘racetams beyond piracetam is one reason we settled on piracetam as a racetam for truBrain.”– Salamandyr (aka Dr. Andrew Hill).
Given the regulatory fears we have mentioned earlier, this might be a risk, but we are hoping nothing comes of it. The addition of scientific-minded individuals within the nootropics community is both welcome and encouraged amongst other companies.
Like any other nootropic stack, whether truBrain is worth it depends highly upon your individual needs and budget. If you are willing to spend $90 – 120+ per month for enhanced cognition, the stacks are created with relevant doses and high quality formulas.
Many of the truBrain nootropics revolve around the cholinergic system, which influences memory and learning ability. This is a great place to start for those new to cognitive enhancement.
With adequate doses and novel formulas, truBrain could be a long-term cognition booster… if the FDA / DEA lets them.