Most of us have busy, complicated lives. From when we get up till when we go to bed, obligations and people compete for our time … and compete for another scarce resource. Whether it’s completing a challenging work project, learning in or out of school, following through on a commitment to healthy living (like eating a nourishing meal or doing a workout), having rewarding social interactions, or even participating in relaxing activities like meditation, listening to music, or reading a novel, much of what we do every day comes with a cost and competes for a resource that is in limited supply and can be easily exhausted. For these things, and many others, the cost is paid in mental effort and the resource that runs out is mental energy.
It makes intuitive sense that cognitively demanding tasks would cost effort and require extra energy. The brain will, after all, be working harder. It’s not as intuitively obvious that physically challenging tasks also tap into our mental effort and energy reserves. But scientists have found that it isn’t physical fatigue that prevents us from doing our best during an exercise session; it’s mental fatigue that gets in the way.
Whether it’s at work, school, the gym, home, or wherever a busy life takes us, when we’ve exhausted our ability to exert mental effort whatever we are doing feels harder. The result is we either do it poorly or stop doing it altogether. If we want to do better, we’ll need more mental energy. As you continue to read, you’ll discover more about mental energy, including what it allows you to do, what it is, and what you can do to get more of it. For now the key thing to remember is that Qualia Nootropic Energy was designed to support mental energy, the resource you need to apply the effort needed to accomplish more of the things that are most important to you.
Systems of the Brain
In the best-selling book Thinking, Fast and Slow, Daniel Kahneman introduces a two character model of how the brain “thinks.” He calls these two characters System 1 and System 2. System 1 is the “fast thinker.” This character is instinctive, emotional, impulsive and quick to act. Using System 1 doesn’t take conscious mental effort; it happens for us unconsciously and automatically. The “slow thinker” is System 2. It’s more cautious, deliberate, and logical. Unlike System 1, using System 2 requires conscious attention and mental effort.
These two characters—fast and slow thinking—are part of the Nootropic Energy formula because the main things that determines which system gets used are the brain’s willingness and capacity to exert mental effort. When this willingness or capacity is low, System 1 gets used by default. When it’s higher, System 2 can be used. The choice about which gets used will impact performance at work, school, the gym, social settings, and home. While System 1 is going to be good enough for some things; in lots of others it won’t be. In these other areas, we’ll perform better and be more successful when System 2 steers the ship. What are some of these areas?
System 2 specializes in cognitively demanding skills and tasks such as (1) directing attention and concentrating, (2) digging into memory to retrieve information, (3) sustaining high levels of mental or physical effort, (4) processing and working with information, (5), avoiding distractions and impulsive behaviors, (6) exerting self control and managing emotional responses, and (7) responding appropriately in social settings. There’s obvious upside to being able to do more of these. But attention and concentration require effort. They come at a cost, hence the idea of “paying” attention. The same is true for these other skills, many of which are executive functions, the higher level brain skills we need in order to be successful: they cost effort.
Kahneman’s experiments and observations are consistent with neuroscience research, which often portrays the brain as being somewhat lazy, perfectly willing to take the path of least resistance and invest the smallest amount of effort possible. In other words, if door number 1 is the easy way out and door number 2 requires putting in effort, the brain is going to choose door number 1 ... unless we invest mental effort into consciously overriding it.
Another consistent finding in brain research is that sustaining mental effort is exhausting. If we expend more mental effort in cognitively demanding tasks, less is available to be used for something else. And if we keep investing mental effort the “reservoir” gets drained; there’s only so much effort we can expend before we run out. When our effort reserves starts to run low, we experience mental exhaustion/fatigue, brain fog, lack of drive or motivation, mental and emotional stress, irritability or impatience, difficulty making healthy choices, or any of the many other ways of our brain letting us know that it doesn’t have the energy to put into things that require extra effort.
The picture that emerges from research is that (1) the brain tends to be unwilling to expend effort unless it’s required, and (2) the capacity to exert mental effort is limited. The question then becomes is there something that might increase the willingness and capacity to expend effort? The short answer is yes; and it’s mental energy.
Cognitively demanding tasks require an investment of effort, and effort, like other types of work, requires energy, in this case, brain or “nootropic” energy. When there’s not enough energy available to invest in mental effort, the brain is going to take the easy route. This means System 1, not System 2, will be steering the ship.
Using System 2 requires effort and takes mental energy. When we don’t have enough mental energy to sustain cognitive effort, or if we didn’t have enough available in the first place, we’re not going to have a lot of choice, System 1 is going to be doing our thinking for us. The tasks that require mental effort, the different skills System 2 specializes in, are energy intensive. If we want to be able to do more of them, we need more mental energy.
Nootropics (/noʊ.əˈtrɒpɪks/ noh-ə-TROP-iks) (colloquial: smart drugs and cognitive enhancers) are substance used to support brain function and mental performance. These performance areas include cognitively demanding skills and tasks like alertness, attention, concentration, focus, processing speed, executive functions, motivation and memory.
What Is Thinking?
Kahneman uses thinking as a way to describe the brain’s primary function—taking in, processing, transmitting, and using information. The brain performs these functions using cognitive skills, which collectively allow us to perceive, reason, understand, learn, and remember.
Specific cognitive skills, all of which require mental energy and are part of Kahneman’s System 2, include sustaining attention, avoiding distractions, processing information quickly, being able to change our mind or point of view, moving attention between two or more activities, holding information in short term memory as we use it, and using logical reasoning to see patterns and solve problems.
Cognitive scientists have names for many of these skills. As examples: (1) The ability to avoid distractions is called “response inhibition;” (2) Being able to change our mind or point of view shows “cognitive flexibility;” and (3) Holding information in short term memory as we use it is “working memory,”
Related cognitive skills are grouped together into bigger cognitive domains. Two of the three mentioned above—cognitive flexibility and working memory—are core skills used in a domain called executive function. Other cognitive domains include complex attention, learning and memory, and social cognition.
These domains are interrelated, and depend on each other. As an example, the ability to use executive functions would be compromised in the absence of attention. So, things we do or take that support one, will often support others. With that in mind, let’s learn a bit more about several cognitive domains and skills.
Complex attention includes much of what we mean when we say we’d like more focus. It’s our ability to direct our cognitive resources where we want for however long we want, while blocking out distractions. Attention can be directed towards objects in the environment around us; it can also be on our own actions or thoughts. Complex attention is not a single process, but rather a group of attention sub-processes. When they work together, we remain alert, have fast reaction times, and stay focused on desired tasks long enough to finish them.
There are several types of attention—focused, sustained, alternating, divided, and selective. Focused attention is the ability to concentrate attention on what we want. Sustained attention is being able to maintain focus over a long period of time; it’s how well we can stay on task. Alternating attention is the ability to rapidly shift focus back and forth between two or more stimuli. Divided attention is multitasking; it is being able to handle more than one task at a time. Selective attention is when we are able to maintain focus despite distractions.
Whether we feel tired or energized will make a huge difference in our capacity to focus. Attention requires being alert and staying vigilant. In brain research, the physiological and psychological state of being alert and vigilant is called arousal. The arousal state is considered part of complex attention, because it allows us to rapidly detect and respond to changes. In a sense, arousal is the base of the cognitive pyramid, with complex attention resting on top of it (with other domains like executive function and memory even higher up). If we don’t have arousal, performing cognitive skills at a higher level on the pyramid, simply put, won’t be on the menu.
The last part of complex attention is processing speed, which is how quickly we are able to process and respond (i.e., react) appropriately to incoming information. Processing speed is not just about being fast; it is the ability to perform tasks quickly and accurately. Processing speed, like attention, depends on being alert and vigilant. But it also has to do with the speed of neuronal signaling. So enhancing neurotransmitter signaling across neural networks can support processing speed.
Most of the skills within complex attention are System 2 jobs, costing extra mental effort and energy. Similar to other things that require effort, attention is finite; it is a limited capacity that can be temporarily used up. How quickly we use it up, and how rapidly we are able to replenish it, will largely depend on whether we have sufficient mental energy.
Building a Complex Attention Stack
Attention, processing speed, and reaction times start with arousal, the ability to be alert and vigilant. There’s a reason that caffeine is one of the most used and best studied compounds for cognitive enhancement and sports performance: it specializes in producing arousal. The right amount of caffeine can support alertness, quicker reactions, processing speed, and focus. We use an organic coffee fruit extract (Coffeeberry® Energy) to give an amount of caffeine in the middle of the studied range for supporting cognitive enhancement.
We chose the organic coffee fruit extract, rather than pure caffeine, because a cup or coffee is more than just caffeine. Coffee fruits are a source of polyphenols, a group of plant compounds that help cells perform better. Coffee polyphenols support the brain by being antioxidants and promoting neuroprotection. Some degree of the enhanced alertness and positive mood from drinking coffee may also be due to the non-caffeine compounds. The non-caffeine compounds in coffee possibly contribute to the associations between coffee intake and healthy aging. As an example, a cellular house-cleaning process called “autophagy” helps cells stay healthy. In one preclinical study, both caffeinated and decaffeinated coffee supported autophagy, leading the researchers to conclude that it was the coffee polyphenols, not caffeine, that enhanced cellular function.
If we want more of the skills that caffeine supports, the answer isn’t larger and larger amounts of caffeine (or in this case higher and higher amounts of Coffeeberry® Energy. Caffeine, like most things, isn’t a “more is better” compound; it follows the Goldilocks principle, with a range where it gives the best support. When we review research, we look for additive benefits and synergies—ingredients that might extend or amplify each other. This is where Enxtra® Alpinia galanga extract enters the stack. In a clinical study, this extract supported alertness and focus for up to 5 hours. When combined with caffeine, it can prolong caffeine’s nootropic benefits (the upside) and help prevent caffeine’s downsides.
When it comes to complex attention, arousal will only get us so far. As the energy drink market has matured, there’s been a growing consumer interest for what might be thought of as “calm energy”—the more centered and relaxed feeling of being in the flow we get when focus and mood are layered on top of alertness. Adding L-theanine into the stack supports these more desired states, enhancing focus, calm energy, and mood, while supporting the ability to switch tasks and block out distractions.
Doing things faster is great; doing them faster and more accurately is even better. This is where choline sources, like Alpha-Glycerylphosphorylcholine (alpha GPC), that can cross the blood-brain barrier come into the stack. Choline helps build a chemical messenger (neurotransmitter) called acetylcholine that is involved in brain functions including attention, concentration, mental focus, and memory formation and recall. Acetylcholine is also involved in activating muscles. So boosting it can help muscles work more efficiently, especially in activities that require power or force.
Do you want to be able to outperform others at work, school, home, or the gym? Is setting goals and succeeding in life important to you? If the answer is yes, you’ll want to boost your executive function.
Executive function is the collection of mental processes and skills that allow us to manage ourselves and our resources effectively so we can succeed at life. They allow us to (1) set goals and modify our behaviors to accomplish them, (2) plan and organize our days, (3) stay focused and avoid distractions, (4) be flexible when circumstances change or unanticipated challenges arise, (5) resist temptations/distractions and urges to act impulsively, (6) respond to feedback and correct mistakes, (7) manage emotions and make better decisions, and (8) evaluate and improve our behaviors.
Executive function is the responsibility of Kahneman's System 2, because it requires slower, more deliberative, and more logical thinking. Executive function sits higher up the cognitive pyramid than complex attention, and has a command and control role. Not surprisingly, using executive function require exerting mental effort (and hence nootropic energy).
It's easier to continue doing what we have been doing than to change our actions or behaviors. It is easier to give into temptation than to resist it. It’s easier to drive past the gym on the way home after a challenging day rather than stop for a workout. it's easier to be on auto-pilot rather than to take control and steer our lives where we want them to go. Doing the more difficult thing, in each of these cases, requires effort, and that effort has a mental energy cost. Because of this, if we want to improve our executive functions we’ll need more mental energy.
There are three core categories of executive function and they all require significant investments of mental energy. These are:
- Working Memory
- Cognitive Flexibility
Inhibition involves being able to control attention, behaviors, thoughts, and/or emotions. Actions that fall into the inhibition category include exercising self-control, resisting temptations, overcoming urges to act impulsively, stopping a behavior at the appropriate time, choosing what to pay attention to, and tuning out distractions. An investment of mental effort is required for anything where inhibition is involved.
Working memory is what we use to hang on to information while we are working with it. It differs from short term memory (i.e., just holding information in the mind for a brief time), because working memory involves holding the information while performing tasks on it (i.e., manipulating, processing, and making decisions on it). A rough analogy is the RAM (random-access memory) on a computer, which serves as both temporary storage and working space for the operating system and applications. Like RAM, working memory isn’t unlimited. And as the name implies, it is doing work, so requires mental energy.
Cognitive flexibility includes being able to think “outside the box” (closely linked to creativity), seeing things from different perspectives (including putting ourselves in someone else’s shoes), adjusting behavior to changing environmental circumstances, and quickly and flexibly adapting to circumstances. It is the ability to change what you are thinking about, how you are thinking about it, and even what you think about it—in other words, the ability to change your mind.
These three core functions support one another. Rarely, if ever, is one needed but not at least one of the two others. And they are collectively used to build the higher-order executive functions such as reasoning, problem solving, decision making, planning, emotional control, and monitoring our behaviors and performance.
Building An Executive Function Stack
Dopaminergic signaling is a lynchin for executive function. Dopamine plays a large role in brain activities linked to reward, motivation, and pleasure, and has a crucial part in modulating focus, motivation, cognitive flexibility, and emotional resilience. It’s also one of the main regulators of motor control and coordination of body movements, so is important for exercise and muscle performance. N-acetyl-L-tyrosine (NALT) is an acetylated form of the amino acid L-tyrosine. It is used as a nootropic because it acts as a precursor for the important brain neurotransmitter dopamine.
Signaling is about more than just proving building blocks for neurotransmitters. It also entails the enzymes that make the neurotransmitter and the receptors that respond to it. This is one of the reasons we include Wild Blueberry Fruit Extract and Saffron: they support aspects of overall dopamine signaling.
Working memory is a core executive function. We included a clinically studied American Ginseng (Cereboost™) in part because it supports working memory. But, this isn’t all it does. Cereboost™ has enhanced attention accuracy, secondary memory, and self-rated calmness. Executive functions require extra mental effort and energy. Ginsengs are among the most studied adaptogens—plants thought to have anti-fatigue and stress supporting properties. In the case of Cereboost™ these show up in supporting brain skills and mood states that are often among the first to go when mental fatigue or stress increase.
Cognitive flexibility is another core part of executive function. Inositol-enhanced Bonded Arginine Silicate (nooLVL™) is included in part because it enhances mental flexibility and other executive functions. It also supports focus and processing speed, which are essential parts of the complex attention needed for executive functions to perform at their best. nooLVL™ can rapidly increase blood levels of L-arginine, which promotes circulation to metabolically active tissues, like the brain and muscles. This plays a big role in allowing these tissues to perform their functions at a high level, because ultimately it’s the increase in blood flow that allows for the increase in activity.
Learning & Memory
Learning and memory include all the processes that allow us to store and retrieve information and personal experiences. It’s because of learning and memory that we have our sense of identity and self: we remember who we are, what we’ve done, where we’ve been, and who we’ve traveled through the journey of life with. Learning and memory are also what allows us to accrue academic and professional knowledge. And, they are the basis for the adaptation and change that occurs as our brain does it’s best to match us to the needs of our current environment and prepare us for the future.
All of our senses—vision, hearing, smell, taste, and touch—are involved in learning and memory. We can picture things we’ve seen or recall what we’ve heard; we can also remember things we’ve smelled, tasted, or touched. In fact, the way we unconsciously learn about food and its nutrition value is through smell and taste; a process called flavor learning.
We have both short- and long-term memory. Short-term memory is what we use to retain new information for brief periods of time. It’s what we rely on to remember a person’s name when we meet them for the first time. Short-term memory is very limited; it gets filled quickly. Unless we commit the information to long-term memory, it will be pushed out and forgotten to make room for new incoming information. Long-term memory is where memories of the past—things we’ve learned and done—are stored. It’s what we’d use to remember the name of a long-time friend. Long-term memory has enormous capacity to store information. Note: The working memory mentioned under executive function uses short-term memory, but is considered an executive function, because it entails working on something while it’s held in short-term memory.
Long-term memory can be broken into two major types. One is called declarative (sometimes called explicit) memory. Anything we are consciously trying to remember uses declarative memory. This type of memory includes (1) remembering facts and events (episodic memory), (2) the time, place, people, emotions, or any other kind of contextual information related to a memory (contextual memory), (3) knowledge about the meaning of words and objects (semantic memory), and (4) general knowledge.
The other type of long-term memory is procedural (sometimes called implicit) memory. Creating these memories usually requires doing something repeatedly until it becomes somewhat automatic (i.e., we can do it without having to think much about it). Driving a car, riding a bike, throwing or shooting a ball are examples of this type of learning and remembering that occurs through routine.
The last part of complex learning and memory is the learning part. We can learn things intentionally or implicitly, with implicit learning occurring when complex information is “learned” in an incidental manner, without awareness of what has been learned.
Learning and memory depend on building new connections between neurons. It also consists of strengthening some existing connections and pruning others. These occur by building, storing, releasing, responding to, and recycling neurotransmitters like acetylcholine and dopamine. Collectively, this is all part of brain signaling, which is the major user of cellular energy in the brain.
Building a Learning And Memory Stack
Learning and memory depend on signaling processes within the brain that strengthen connections between some neurons and weaken others. The neurotransmitters acetylcholine and dopamine play large roles in learning and memory. This is why we include both Alpha-Glycerylphosphorylcholine (alpha GPC), a building block for acetylcholine, and N-acetyl-L-tyrosine (NALT), a precursor for dopamine..
Signaling is about more than just proving building blocks for neurotransmitters. It also entails the enzymes that make the neurotransmitter and the receptors that respond to it. This is one of the reasons we include Wild Blueberry Fruit Extract and Saffron: they support aspects of overall dopamine signaling, and no surprise, enhance aspects of memory.
Stress and fatigue are like kryptonite for memory, as well as executive function. Memory requires extra mental effort and energy; it also takes time, so is a more “adaptive” process. We include two plant adaptogens to help with mental energy and provide better stress support. Cereboost™ American Ginseng extract has been clinically shown to support working memory and secondary memory. Celastrus paniculatus, “the intellect tree,” enhances mental acuity, supports memory, and alleviates mental fatigue and stress. It was believed that people using this plant would be able to learn new information more quickly, and more accurately and efficiently recall it later.
Social cognition encompasses all the brain processes that allow us to perceive, recognize, and evaluate social phenomena, so that we can respond and behave most appropriately for the specific circumstance. It includes (1) the ability to recognize our own emotions (both positive and negative), (2) estimating what other people might be thinking or feeling from their gaze, facial expression, body movement, etc., and (3) being able to consider what another person’s thoughts, desires, or intentions might be (this is called Theory of Mind).
The ability to understand the feelings of another person is called empathy. It is one of the most important skills within social cognition. For some people, empathy comes easy. But for many people, experiencing empathy feels hard; it is work This is described in a scientific paper called "Empathy is hard work: People choose to avoid empathy because of its cognitive costs," which found that, despite empathy being a virtue, it’s often avoided because it requires mental effort.
Empathy for others, how we interpret and explain other people’s behavior, the quality of social interactions, communication with colleagues, friends, and family, our mood and emotional resilience to circumstances are all influenced by social cognition skills.
It’s easier to show patience, be friendly, have empathy, communicate effectively, manage emotions, and tell ourselves better stories about what and why someone did something when we aren’t already mentally drained or exhausted. This is because, like other cognitive skills, we are better able to practice better social cognition when we have more mental energy available. If you want to be the best social version of yourself at work and home, part of the answer is energy.
Building a Social Cognition Stack
Social cognition skills like empathy and emotional resilience, and prosocial behaviors such as altruism, cooperation and getting along with others, tend to be under-represented in the modern world. Why? We think a big part of the reason is that for many of us they require extra effort; they don’t come easy. And, because of this, they are among the first cognitive skills to be pulled off the menu when we have maxed out our mental effort and energy capacities.
While the neurotransmitters acetylcholine and dopamine are often thought of as the stars of the attention, executive function, and memory universe, when it comes to social cognition, serotonin signaling is the star. We include Saffron and L-tryptophan, because they support the serotonin signaling system, and aspects of mood, social cognition, and prosocial behaviors.
While L-tryptophan tends to be mostly thought of as a building block for serotonin, it is in actuality a building block for a number of important molecules. One of these is NAD+, an essential compound for making cellular energy (i.e., ATP). But NAD+ isn’t just made in one way; it’s an example of biological redundancy (i.e., there’s more than one way make NAD+). We also included Niacinamide because it is used in a completely different way to make NAD+.
We mentioned that stress and fatigue are like kryptonite for memory and executive function: the same is true for social cognition. When we are feeling stressed, it seems like social skills and emotional resilience are often the first cognitive skills to be sacrificed. Most of us benefit from a bit of extra stress support. We made sure to have your back when we created Qualia Nootropic Energy. Cereboost™ American Ginseng extract has been clinically shown to support self-rated calmness. Celastrus paniculatus, “the intellect tree,” was used traditionally to alleviate mental fatigue and stress. And L-theanine increases alpha brain waves (α-waves), which are thought of as a marker of relaxation.
How is Brain Energy Used?
Like all types of work thinking requires energy. In fact, pound for pound the brain uses the most energy of any organ. A quote taken from a 2018 article published in Frontiers in Psychology titled “Mental Work Requires Physical Energy: Self-Control Is Neither Exception nor Exceptional” gives a sense of the amount of energy the brain uses.
On a second by second basis, the human brain uses more energy at rest than a human thigh during a marathon. While only accounting for 2% of total body mass, the adult human brain uses roughly 20% of daily caloric intake. The brain is also highly selective in terms of fuel.
What is all this energy used for? When we met System 1 and System 2, we learned that some cognitive tasks require more effort, and hence mental energy than others. Exerting self-control—inhibiting, overriding, and altering our dominant responses and impulsive behaviors—pulls from an exhaustible energy reserve that is depleted by prior efforts of self-control. Using the brain for tasks that require complex thought and intense concentration comes at a cost of needing more energy than routine mental processes. Sustaining alertness and monitoring the environment for important information (i.e., vigilance functions such as hearing and vision) are another big energy consumer. Let’s look at why this is the case using the auditory (hearing) information processing system as an example.
The auditory system never sleeps. It’s constantly vigilant, alert to background sounds even while we are sound asleep. This vigilance helps keep us safe from danger, but it comes at a cost of using higher amounts of energy. Evolutionarily speaking this trade-off makes sense. If there’s something dangerous, we need to know about it immediately. So hearing requires very fast and precise signaling and this costs energy. Processes that can safely be done at a slower speed require and consume less energy.
Brain processes that require bigger investments of energy tend to be the hardest hit when energy is running low. This means that complex thinking, concentration, mental alertness, and visual and auditory processing speed suffer when mental energy is insufficient. The flip side is that improvement in these areas is a clue that more mental energy is available.
Scientists estimate that between one quarter to one third of brain energy is used by neurons and glial (non-neuronal) cells for the housekeeping and maintenance functions needed to keep them healthy and functioning. But the majority of the brain energy budget, between two thirds to three quarters, is used for signaling (yes, this is the same signaling we just mentioned when talking about hearing).
Groups of nerve cells form neural circuits to carry out small scale functions. Neural circuits interconnect to form large scale brain networks, which carry out more complex functions (e.g., hearing, vision). Signaling encompasses all of the functions that neurons, or nerve cells, use to send and process signals as they communicate with other neurons across these networks.
An important part of signaling is making, storing, releasing, and recycling chemical messengers called neurotransmitters (e.g., acetylcholine, dopamine, serotonin). In the brain, neurotransmitters send signals across synapses—the tiny gaps between brain cells where neurotransmitter signals are sent and received. This communication allows nerve cells to work together across neural networks. And it’s at these synapses where the bulk of energy is consumed.
While signaling, in general, consumes the majority of brain energy, different mental states and tasks affect how and where the brain consumes energy. Depending on the cognitive task or challenge, neurons in different regions of the brain will be activated (i.e., fired) and signal other neurons. To make sure they have the energy and other resources needed for the increased activity, blood flow to and energy use in the activated areas is increased. Neuroscientists can see this using functional magnetic resonance imaging (fMRI), with different areas of the brain “lighting” up when in use.
The activity of different brain regions increases and decreases depending on what the brain is doing. When an area of the brain is in use, energy demands in that area go up. And blood flow to that region increases. The more cognitively demanding, the greater the increase in blood flow.
A key thing to remember is that mental alertness, auditory and visual processing of information, complex problems, decision making, goal setting, sustained attention, self-control, and many other tasks require the brain to step up its use of energy. It’s not enough to want to do better in these areas; we also need the energy to be able to put in the mental effort.
Scientists often describe the brain as being lazy. They conclude this because experiments suggest that the brain (1) is unwilling to expend effort if it doesn’t need to, (2) has a hard time staying focused, and (3) doesn't like to work hard for very long.
Research into human behavior has identified a tendency they call the fundamental attribution error. This error means that when it comes to interpreting people’s behavior, human beings invariably overestimate the importance of character and disposition traits (i.e., laziness, willpower, etc.) and underestimate the significant role context— circumstances and situations—has on how we behave.
Do you think it’s possible that this same error is being made when describing the brain’s behavior? It appears to be lazy, but what if appearances were deceiving and the issue isn’t character, but circumstances? If this were the case, we’d expect the brain to perform better in tasks that require more effort when it gets better support. And, in fact, this is what scientific studies show. When the brain is given better nutritional support, it’s both willing and able to do more thinking.
What Role Does Sugar Play In Brain Energy?
The brain needs two main things to perform at a high level: energy and protection. When these are provided good things happen; if they are missing they won’t.
The cellular currency of chemical energy is ATP. This is true for cells throughout the body, including the specialized cells in the brain, such as neurons and glial cells. An exercising muscle will have an increased need for ATP. The same is true with brain activity: ATP needs increase in the areas where there’s more brain activity. This makes sense because ATP is essential in the signaling processes that use a majority of the brain’s energy.
ATP is made in cells by (1) breaking down sugar (glycolysis) and fats (beta-oxidation), (2) using the end-product (acetyl CoA) of glycolysis and beta-oxidation to fuel the Krebs cycle, and (3) taking output from the Krebs cycle (NADH as an example) through mitochondrial oxidative phosphorylation (OXPHOS or electron transport). Oxygen (from the air we breathe) is essential for these linked energy generation processes.
While sugars and fats can be used as cellular fuel, glucose (blood sugar) is the brain’s preferred energy source. Based on PET scans, the brain needs about 62 grams of glucose over 24 hours; some brains need a bit more and some a bit less. To put this amount in perspective, this is about what would be found in 3 tablespoons of honey. While the brain can use ketones (a byproduct of being in ketosis), it can't run exclusively on them. Even in ketosis, the brain requires no less than 30% of energy from glucose.
The brain is very selective about what it lets in. When thinking about this “selectivity,” it can be helpful to keep in mind the following: (1) Whatever the brain can make for itself, it does make; (2) If the brain can’t make something, but needs it (i.e., it's brain-essential), the nutrient or compound is allowed in. It’s the job of the blood-brain barrier—a border area between circulating blood and the brain—to let some things in and keep others out. Glucose is on the relatively short list of nutrients that are allowed entry. Cholesterol, as an example, isn’t: the brain makes any cholesterol it needs itself.
While blood sugar is allowed to get into the brain (and is granted immediate entry when demand is high), this process is somewhat akin to a line at an exclusive nightclub. Blood sugar is on the guest list, but there still needs to be room available inside the club before it’s allowed entry. This admission process is handled by specific “sugar gates” present in the blood-brain barrier that open when the brain needs glucose and close once enough glucose has been supplied to meet demands. The result of this gated entry is that glucose in the brain and blood form distinct pools.
Because the pools are distinct, the relationship between blood sugar and brain glucose levels isn’t straightforward. Low blood sugar (hypoglycemia) will usually result in insufficient brain glucose, but the relationship can’t be inferred when blood sugar is normal or high. In other words, if blood sugar is low, odds are the brain won’t have enough fuel to perform cognitively demanding tasks. But if blood sugar is normal or high, the brain could still be running low on sugar, or it could be low in certain areas that are working hard.
During times of mental stress the amount of glucose supplied to the brain increases. Once sugar is in the “brain pool,” it circulate in the brain’s local capillaries, and is sent to where it’s most needed to support brain activities. When neurons in a particular brain region fire, capillaries in that local area dilate to deliver more blood than usual, along with extra glucose and oxygen. The active brain cells use the sugar and oxygen to make the energy they need to continue to be active.
Difficult cognitive tasks deplete local brain glucose supplies. This acts as a limiting factor for continuing to perform the task at a high level unless glucose is replenished. But, “difficulty” has more to do with the amount of brain activity than our perception of something being (or not being) hard. Engaging in a challenging memorization task, for example, feels hard: It will cause blood flow, energy use, and glucose metabolism to increase in the parts of the brain involved in memory formation; other brain areas will show no such increase. In contrast to memorization, visual processing might not feel as hard, but can increase metabolism and cause depletion of glucose from brain structures that process visual information. In both cases—memorization and visual processing—performance will pay the price if glucose isn’t replenished as fast as it’s being consumed.
Local glucose depletion acts as a limiting factor in sustaining performance during difficult cognitive tasks. Conversely, consuming sugar can improve performance in demanding tasks (but not simple ones). Glucose administration has been repeatedly found to enhance attention, memory, auditory and visual processing, emotional regulation, mental flexibility, and performance in other cognitively demanding tasks. Doses of sugar used to support cognitive performance are often based on body weight in scientific studies, with a commonly used amount being about 15 grams of sugar for a 125 pound person. Non-sugar sweeteners don’t provide this same nootropic benefit to the brain, because they are not a source of fuel for the brain.
How Is Qualia Nootropic Energy Different?
- Give lasting energy*
- Boost mental energy and motivation*
- Increase alertness and focus*
- Enhance working memory and productivity*
- Support reaction times and processing speed*
- Overcome perceived fatigue during exercise*
- Work fast*
When you absolutely need to be the best version of yourself reach for a Qualia Nootropic Energy.
Expect More From Yourself and Expect it Faster
QUALIA NOOTROPIC ENERGY contains 12 ingredients that work synergistically to boost energy and motivation, increase focus and productivity, and enhance the ability to perform at your best* — in as little as 30 minutes!
Why Try QUALIA NOOTROPIC ENERGY?
- Fast acting and long lasting
- Real results
- Easy to use … convenient to carry
- Clinically studied ingredients
- No non-nutritive sweeteners
- 4 grams of coconut sweetener
- About as much caffeine as an 8-ounce cup of coffee
- Non carbonated
- Non-GMO, Vegan, Gluten-Free
Real People, Real Results
QUALIA NOOTROPIC ENERGY gives you the clean mental energy to perform at your best. It is designed to help you do better in all the tasks that require mental energy. These include focusing and avoiding distractions, planning and organizing, adjusting to changing circumstances and new demands, learning and recalling information, processing information and reacting quickly, and managing emotions and behaviors. Whether it is a work project, a learning session, a social gathering, or an athletic performance, taking a QUALIA NOOTROPIC ENERGY shot can help you shift into a higher performance gear.
Benefits Most People Feel
More than 4/5 (83%) people reported excellent and good responses to QUALIA NOOTROPIC ENERGY.†
More than 4/5 (83%) people reported excellent and good responses to QUALIA NOOTROPIC ENERGY.†
Over 3 /5 (62%) continued to feel a boost from QUALIA NOOTROPIC ENERGY for more than 4 hours; for 15% the results lasted more than 8 hours.†
Enhance Energy and Motivation
More than half (56%) reported increased energy and motivation after taking QUALIA NOOTROPIC ENERGY.†
More than half (54%) reported getting more done after taking QUALIA NOOTROPIC ENERGY.†
Overcome Challenges and Manage Stress
Almost half (49%) felt better able to deal with problems or challenges after taking QUALIA NOOTROPIC ENERGY; 44% felt better able to deal with stressful situations.†
Work and Communicate Better with Others
Over half (55%) felt sharper and better able to express what they want in conversations after taking QUALIA NOOTROPIC ENERGY; close to 4 out of 10 (38%) felt more patient than usual when dealing with people; about 1 out of 3 felt more light and playful.†
†Based on proprietary survey in 69 people after 5 days of Qualia Energy.
Don’t just take our word for it. These are a few publications from scientific journals highlighting our nootropic energy ingredients.
A study found in the National Institutes of Health (Pubmed 28910196) reported that Alpinia galanga (EnXtra™) supports mental alertness on its own and response time when combined with caffeine.*
A study found in the National Institutes of Health (Pubmed 20676609) reported that American Ginseng (CereboostTM) supports working memory, reaction time accuracy, and calmness.*
A study found in the National Institutes of Health (Pubmed 27869715) reported that Inositol-stabilized arginine silicate (the main ingredient in nooLVLTM) supports mental flexibility, processing speed and executive functioning.*
A study found in the National Institutes of Health (Pubmed 26869148) reported that L-theanine supports attention and visual reaction time.*
A study found in the National Institutes of Health (Pubmed 29420994) reported that the combination of caffeine and L-theanine supported faster reaction time and better focus (i.e., decreased mind wandering).*
A study found in the National Institutes of Health (Pubmed 3246461) reported that L-tryptophan reduced perceived exhaustion and increased total exercise time (i.e., suggesting it helped overcome mental fatigue).*
A study found in the National Institutes of Health (Pubmed 29042830) reported that Alpha-GPC supported maximum velocity and maximum mechanical power in lower body exercise testing.*
QUALIA NOOTROPIC ENERGY combines 12 scientifically studied ingredients to support a broad array of cognitive and athletic skills that require mental energy.
N-acetyl-L-tyrosine and alpha-GPC act as building blocks for molecules in the dopamine and acetylcholine pathways, which are used for attention, focus, learning, memory, and muscle activation.*
Nutrients like L-tryptophan and niacinamide help cells make cellular energy by supporting NAD+.*
Coffeeberry® (a source of caffeine) enhances alertness, processing speed and motor reflexes.*
L-theanine promotes focused attention and mental alertness, but does it in a way that supports a calm, relaxed energy.*
Herbal extracts of Celastrus paniculatus (the intellect tree), EnXtra® (Alpinia galanga) and Cereboost™ American Ginseng have been studied for promoting alertness, attention, working memory, and energy, while alleviating mental fatigue and stress.*
nooLVLTM supports exercise performance by enhancing muscle blood flow. It also supports mental accuracy, focus, processing speed, and executive function.*
Blueberry and saffron extracts support cognition and visual performance, while also playing a role in the systems that promote social behaviors and emotional responses.
Organic Coffeeberry® Whole Coffee Fruit Extract
The caffeine we get in a morning coffee, a cup of tea, or an energy drink can help us perform better physically and mentally. It does this by promoting arousal (wakefulness), which is a necessary ingredient for being able to pay attention and react quickly. Not surprisingly, this has led to caffeine being one of the most studied substances as an ergogenic aid for sports performance and a nootropic for brain function. While caffeine gets most of the attention, coffee polyphenols support healthy function by acting as antioxidants and being neuroprotective. Most nootropics use pure caffeine; a better approach is using a coffee extract that gives caffeine and the naturally occurring coffee fruit polyphenols.*
EnXtra® Alpinia galanga Root Extract
EnXtra® is a clinically studied and standardized Alpinia galanga extract. The similarity in appearance to ginger has led to one of its common names, Thai ginger. In some traditional medical systems, it is regarded as being superior to ginger. In humans studies, EnXtra® has been synergistic with caffeine. Supplementation with EnXtra® has supported alertness and focus for up to 5 hours with and without caffeine. EnXtra® can be used as a replacement for caffeine or used with caffeine to prevent a crash and prolong caffeine’s nootropic benefits, especially with enhancing reaction times.*
Cereboost™ American Ginseng Root Extract
Panax quinquefolius is commonly called American ginseng. It is the same genus as Asian ginseng (Panax ginseng) and prized for many of the same reasons. Both American and Asian ginseng contain similar active constituents called ginsenosides. The ginsenosides are thought to be responsible for many of the adaptogenic (i.e., stress and fatigue support) and health-promoting properties associated with ginseng. Cereboost™ is a clinically studied American ginseng root extract standardized for ginsenoside content. Cereboost™ has enhanced attention accuracy, working memory, and secondary memory. Self-rated calmness improved at 3 and 6 hours suggesting an anti-fatigue / anti-stress benefit.*
Celastrus paniculatus Seed Extract
Celastrus paniculatus is native to India, where it’s used by local healers primarily as a brain tonic for reasons that are consistent with one of its common names, “the intellect tree.” Today we’d recognize these uses as offering cognitive support. These uses include enhancing mental acuity, supporting memory, and alleviating mental fatigue, stress. It was believed by native healers that people using this plant would be able to learn new information more quickly, and more accurately and efficiently recall it later.*
Inositol-enhanced Bonded Arginine Silicate (as NooLVL™)
nooLVLTM is comprised of two components: Bonded (inositol-stabilized) arginine silicate (Nitrosigine®) plus additional inositol. It can rapidly increase blood levels of L-arginine, which promotes circulation to metabolically active tissues, like the brain and muscles. This plays a big role in allowing these tissues to perform their functions at a high level. nooLVLTM enhances exercise performance and post-exercise recovery, while also supporting brain performance, enhancing mental flexibility, focus, processing speed, and executive function.*
L-theanine increases alpha brain waves (α-waves), which are thought of as a marker of relaxation. An increase in α-waves is associated with relaxation, focused attention, and mental alertness. This brain state also reduces the perception of stress. L-theanine has nootropic benefits on its own; it also has synergism with caffeine and compounds that can be metabolized into caffeine such as theobromine. Stacking L-theanine with caffeine supports a more centered feeling of mental energy, alertness and focus than with caffeine on its own, which can show up in enhanced ability to switch tasks, perform them more accurately, and do them while feeling calmer and less stressed.*
Alpha-glycerylphosphorylcholine (Alpha GPC)
Alpha-glycerophosphocholine (alpha-GPC) is one of the best sources of choline, a nutrient that’s very important for the brain and muscles. The brain uses choline to build a chemical messenger (neurotransmitter) called acetylcholine, which is involved in brain functions including attention, concentration, mental focus, and memory formation and recall. Acetylcholine is also involved in activating muscles. So boosting it can help muscles work more efficiently, especially in activities that require power or force.
N-acetyl-L-tyrosine (NALT) is an acetylated form of the amino acid L-tyrosine. It is used as a nootropic because it acts as a precursor for the important brain neurotransmitter dopamine. Dopamine has a large role in brain activities linked to reward, motivation, and pleasure, and plays a crucial part in modulating focus, motivation, cognitive flexibility, and emotional resilience. It’s also one of the main regulators of motor control and coordination of body movements, so is also important for exercise and muscle performance. Supplying NALT (or other sources of L-tyrosine) seems to be especially important to support performance during stress or cognitively demanding tasks.*
L-Tryptophan can be used to make and important cellular energy compound called NAD. L-tryptophan has enhanced aspects of exercise performance when taken before working out, presumably because of this role in cellular energy production. L-Tryptophan is also a precursor for the synthesis of the neurotransmitter serotonin. This might be why low-to-moderate doses of L-tryptophan supports skills that fall into the social cognitive domain: these include prosocial behaviors like cooperation, empathy, getting along with others, and altruism. And L-tryptophan can be used to make the neurohormone melatonin, which regulates sleep-wake cycles and nighttime body clock functions. This has led to L-tryptophan being used to support healthier sleep cycles.*
Niacinamide can be used to make NAD. NAD is found in every cell in the body. It's used to (1) make cellular energy (ATP), (2) protect cells from damage, and (3) activate processes linked to healthier aging. Research shows that as we age levels of some NAD metabolites (NAD+ as an example) decline substantially. This decline leaves us at greater risk for unhealthy aging, because without sufficient NAD+ cells aren't able to do the work needed to perform at their best. Many scientists and doctors believe maintaining higher levels of NAD+ is one of the keys to increasing the amount of time we spend in good health.*
Wild blueberries (Vaccinium angustifolium) are native to North American and are both smaller and have more intense color than cultivated blueberries. They also have higher anthocyanin and polyphenols content, which are the phytochemical compounds that are thought to be largely responsible for why blueberries support cognitive function, vision and brain health.*
Saffron has been used and traded as a spice for at least 4000 years and is considered the world's most costly spice by weight. There’s been a growing body of scientific research in the use of saffron for health purposes, including in areas such as mood, cognition, vision, sports performance, appetite regulation, metabolic function, and women’s health.*