Study Supplements: Squeeze the Most Out of Your Ability

Study Supplements: Squeeze the Most Out of Your Ability

Study Supplements aim to improve concentration, alertness and reduce mental fatigue, among other cognitive abilities

Supplements for Students

For those of you who have to study, either because an exam is coming up or because we are competing, sometimes time is thrown at us and not for lack of it. Sometimes it’s because of the economy and efficiency of cognitive abilities.

It would be great to be able to study, render, process and retrieve information faster, wouldn’t it?

You may not know it, but there are extremely powerful pharmacological products available that are used to treat neurodegenerative diseases and/or neurobiological disorders such as ADHD, conditions such as Asperger’s, etc…

Which we will not treat as they require a doctor’s prescription from a neurologist or specialist.

But, what if I told you that…

  • There are supplements for this purpose, for neuromodulation
  • Although of lesser magnitude, the effect is significant, openly sold and without the undesirable effects of psychostimulant substances such as those mentioned in the previous paragraph
  • Do you want to increase your cognitive performance?

Cognitive performance

Read on to discover which study supplements can help you

Supplements to improve brain function

There are an infinite number of products that can improve cognitive performance by secondary routes such as products rich in PUFAS omega-3 for reduction off inflammation, group B vitamins, or vitamin C for its antioxidant function or adaptogens for its anxiolytic action.

In this case we are going to talk about nootropic substances, which you can find on the Internet, cited as “cognitive enhancers drugs”, are substances that through different mechanisms enhance the ability to process information, apply knowledge and choose preferences.

In other words, they are just: supplements to study

These substances can act by various routes, among which the action on receptors, enzymes, ionic channels, nerve growth factors, transporters, metal chelators…

Supplements to improve brain function

In general they increase brain functionality by generally altering the neurotransmitters in the brain

In this case we will focus on a number of substances from different groups that could form a basic combination aimed at improving cognitive performance


Caffeine is possibly the most effective substance for improving cognitive functioning because of its psychostimulant effect

Caffeine has the ability to non-selectively agonise adenosine receptors (A1, A2A, A3 and A2B) preventing their coupling and thus avoiding the central sedation effects generally induced by this neurotransmitter.

Caffeine adenosine

In this way, caffeine has a marked stimulating action at a central level, significantly increasing the waking state

We could understand the action of caffeine as a cap that prevents water (adenosine) from passing through the hole (receptor) in the bottle (brain) and thus from being “contaminated” (relaxation and neurological depression)

Improvement of cerebral blood flow

400mg of caffeine have shown, through transcranial Doppler sonography studies, how it increases blood flow through the anterior and middle cerebral arteries, favouring blood circulation, something that can be translated as an acute increase in the functional efficiency of the neuronal relationships of the cerebral cortex (extracted from Glade, 2010).


Its effectiveness will be conditioned by the expression of the CYP1A2 polymorphism that conditions xanthine metabolism and influences its ergogenic effects. It is effective in the AA genotype and to a lesser or no extent can have undesirable effects on CA/CC expression. (Guest et al. 2018)

In people who respond to caffeine consumption, a dosage of 100mg would be sufficient to improve cognitive capacity, requiring higher concentrations in the case of tolerance

Caffeine to Study

Caffeine is one of the best supplements to study as it increases:

  • Attention;
  • Alertness;
  • Concentration;
  •  Mental clarity.

And from doses as low as 32-50mg. (Glade, 2010) even though the most effective dose is higher.

This effect is especially useful in moments of “brain fog” after extensive periods of mental effort, partial sleep restriction or cognitively demanding activities

Its effectiveness on mood and speed of reaction is conditioned by the degree of tolerance developed because of its chronic consumption. Meanwhile, other effects such as the enhancement of selective attention and memory do not.

Caffeine to Study

This is why, depending on the characteristics of the activity to be carried out, restricting its consumption for a certain period may or may not be a useful strategy

Caffeine should be the base substance of any stack for the enhancement of cognitive abilities


Caffeine is the “base” compound. However, it is easy to experience side effects when using it, mainly due to excessive activation of the nervous system.

There is a substance known as L-Theanine, an amino acid that can be found in tea. It has relaxing properties thanks to the boost in GABA production. We could say that L-Theanine is a precursor amino acid of the inhibitory neurotransmitter of the central nervous system.

But can this help or hinder us?

The fact is that, while its isolated use presents contradictory results on the enhancement of cognitive capacity, its use in combination with caffeine seems to exert a synergistic action improving markers such as alertness.

This is extracted from the “Bond-Ladder” factors, which take into account alertness, mood and relaxation with different weighted values

Thus, the net positive result is higher than caffeine consumption in isolation, than the values presented in the study. Its priority effect is to prevent the degeneration of the state of alert rather than to increase it per se.

As achieved with the combination of caffeine + L-Theanine

L-Theanine Caffeine Placebo

Similarly, the caffeine + theanine stack showed a slightly greater reduction than caffeine in the fatigue experienced as well as in mental fatigue


The caffeine + theanine mixture decreased the prevalence of headaches 90′ after consumption (similar to the effect of caffeine alone)


Memory and Mental Fatigue Delay

It is also interesting to see how the use of caffeine + theanine significantly increased (compared to the use of caffeine alone) the speed of delayed word recognition.

One manifestation of lexical memory, while other manifestations such as graphic or numerical recognition did not show significant improvement with respect to the isolated use of caffeine although they did with respect to placebo.

We could conclude that in the absence of further rigorous trial literature available, L-Theanine is a compound synergistic to caffeine and that its combined use can improve certain markers of cognitive performance and mitigate loss of performance over time

What Dosage of Caffeine and Theanine?

In this case the doses used to obtain the previous results of Haskell et al (2008) are, perhaps, excessive amounts for an average user, having used the caffeine group 150mg, theanine group 250mg. and the combined group the same amount of both (150mg.+250mg.)

There are studies such as Owen et al (2008), where with doses of 50mg of caffeine + 100mg of L-Theanine they managed to improve the speed and precision in the development of a task of attentional change after 60′ of its ingestion and reducing the susceptibility to distraction during the activity both 60 and 90 minutes after its intake.


The authors conclude that:

“In particular, L-Theanine and caffeine in combination appear to significantly improve aspects of memory and attention to a greater extent than caffeine alone” (Owen et al. 2008).

Continuous Consumption for Results

After the basic combo of “caffeine + theanine”, which can be the pillars of a stack aimed at improving cognitive capacity, the rest of the compounds lack acute effects of a similar magnitude to the previous ones.

Other alkaloids, cousins of caffeine, such as theobromine present in cocoa, theophylline in tea or nicotine, can be used. These act in synergy with each other by similar routes.

However, the fact that they do not have acute effects does not mean that they are useless. On the contrary, they are very effective compounds but require long-term consumption in order to notice their effects.

This is because the substances I am going to name are based on stimulating biogenesis and nerve repair to the brain layer

Supplements for students

This is a slow and sustained process that ends up increasing cognitive capacity in the long term

Similarly, some substances are based on the principle of acting by increasing the concentration of neurotransmitters useful for memory and cognitive ability activities, stimulating their release or preventing their enzymatic degradation


In this respect, Choline is the king of substances to increase the concentrations of acetylcholine in the brain. It is a neurotransmitter involved in the synapse, and can have either excitatory or inhibitory activity depending on the receptor used.

Acetylcholine is to some extent the neurotransmitter most involved in learning and attention

Effects of Acetylcholine

The effects of acetylcholine can increase the different types of coding of new memory episodes in different cortical structures.

The role of acetylcholine on attention has been repeatedly demonstrated in a multitude of tasks. Acetylcholine is related to accuracy of response, willingness and reflective attention as well as speed of response. (NCBI, 2018)

Increase Acetylcholine concentrations

To increase the concentrations of acetylcholine at brain level, several ways can be used. The most usual is by increasing the concentrations of the neurotransmitter by increasing the concentrations of choline through exogenous administration.

However, choline in its base form, shows less effectiveness in raising serum choline values than other forms such as Alpha-GPC.

which due to its molecular weight results in a more significant increase than other forms of choline

Choline graphic

Thus, we could classify alpha-GPC as a more efficient choline supplement in order to increase its concentrations and therefore its availability to cross the blood-brain barrier

Alpha GPC

There is little literature on this subject. However, there is a test in rodent models that having received a dose of 0.75mg/kg of Scopolamine (an acetylcholine receptor antagonist substance that generates acetylcholine degradation in brain tissue), the administration of Alpha-GPC did not increase acetylcholine concentrations at brain level.

Graphic alpha GPC

However, although the use of Alpha-GPC does not appear to increase acetylcholine levels per se. The trial did find that administration of the substance stimulated endogenous production of acetylcholine, with production being 2.5 times higher than in the control group

Comparative alpha GPC

The long-term consumption of the substance in combination with the last basic compound we are going to talk about, acetyl-L-Carnitine or ALCAR, would be especially advisable.

ALCAR (Acetyl L-Carnitine)

The base substance, L-Carnitine, has no effect on the production of acetylcholine. Like its D-isomer it is highly ineffective because of its limitation to cross the blood-brain barrier.

However, the carnitine molecule with the L-isomer, nested in an acetyl group, crosses the blood-brain barrier relatively easily


It has a molecular structure similar to acetylcholine, which improves cholinergic transmission by donating the acetyl group to the choline molecules present.

It can increase the production of acetylcholine, both in the striatum and in the hippocampus. Through an exocytosis sensitive to a Ca2+ dependent mechanism.

Which is strongly related to the integrity of the impulse flow of cholinergic neurons (Imperato, Ramacci, Angelucci, 1989)


Stack recommended to improve cognitive ability

In short, the “basic stack” (or supplements to study) to improve cognitive capacity in broad terms would be:

  • At least 50mg of caffeine + 100mg of L-Theanine before the study period (100mg + 250mg being “optimal”)
  • During the previous weeks at least 1000mg of choline (preferably ALPHA-GPC) + 2000mg of ALCAR daily (based on evidence presented in Vermeulen & Scholte, 2004)

This is our guide to the best Study Supplements so far, I hope you liked it and if you have any questions leave it in comments.

Bibliography Sources

  1. Gatti, G., Barzaghi, N., Acuto, G., Abbiati, G., Fossati, T., & Perucca, E. (1992). A comparative study of free plasma choline levels following intramuscular administration of L-alpha-glycerylphosphorylcholine and citicoline in normal volunteers. International Journal of Clinical Pharmacology, Therapy, and Toxicology, 30(9), 331–335.
  2. Haskell, C. F., Kennedy, D. O., Milne, A. L., Wesnes, K. A., & Scholey, A. B. (2008). The effects of L-theanine, caffeine and their combination on cognition and mood. Biological Psychology, 77(2), 113–122.
  3. Lopez, C. M., Govoni, S., Battaini, F., Bergamaschi, S., Longoni, A., Giaroni, C., & Trabucchi, M. (1991). Effect of a new cognition enhancer, alpha-glycerylphosphorylcholine, on scopolamine-induced amnesia and brain acetylcholine. Pharmacology, Biochemistry, and Behavior, 39(4), 835–840.
  4. National Center for Biotechnology Information. PubChem Compound Database; CID=187, (accessed Nov. 15, 2018).
  5. Owen, G. N., Parnell, H., De Bruin, E. A., & Rycroft, J. A. (2008). The combined effects of L-theanine and caffeine on cognitive performance and mood. Nutritional Neuroscience, 11(4), 193–198.
  6. Vermeulen, R. C. W., & Scholte, H. R. (2004). Exploratory open label, randomized study of acetyl- and propionylcarnitine in chronic fatigue syndrome. Psychosomatic Medicine, 66(2), 276–282.

Related Entries

  • Do you know which are the most important Nootropics? To discover click here.
  • Neurotransmitters are substances that are released into our body… continue reading....
  • Alpha-GPC is able to improve sports and cognitive performance before training. More information at this link.
Review Study Supplements

Memory - 100%

Concentration - 100%

Alertness - 100%

Delayed Mental Fatigue - 100%

Avoidance of Distractions - 100%


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About Alfredo Valdés
Alfredo Valdés
A specialist in Pathophysiology and biomolecular effects on nutrition and sportive activity who will show you the elaborate world of sports nutrition in his articles, employing a simple and critical writing.
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