What Are Brain Supplements? What to Know About Nootropics

By Molly Apel
Reviewed by Theresa Greenwell for Scientific Accuracy on 01/31/2024

What Are Brain Supplements? What to Know About Nootropics

  • There’s no single vitamin or mineral that will help you remember where you parked the car.
  • Instead of looking for a miracle brain pill, look for supplements that support your brain’s natural processes. Like the rest of your body, your brain needs energy, antioxidants and nutrients to perform at its peak.
  • Try these two brain supplements: Bulletproof Energy + Focus keeps you focused and sharp, thanks to coffee fruit extract. Bulletproof Smart Mode is formulated to help fight mental fatigue and brain fog without any stimulants.

The best brain supplements, also called nootropics, come in handy when you want to feel sharp, alert and focused. But how do they work? A single vitamin or mineral won’t help you remember where you parked the car. Instead, the best brain supplement solutions give you an extra edge thanks to nutrients that help support cognition and fight brain fog.

Here’s how they work, plus our top picks to fuel your next big idea.

What are brain supplements (aka nootropics)?

Nootropics are cognition- and mood-boosting “smart drugs” that range from plant extracts to chemicals produced by the body. The term “brain supplements” is actually a huge category of supplements that may help improve brain function—and they all work in slightly different ways.

Some supplements can help fill in the gaps in your diet, like vitamin B12 to support healthy brain cells. Other compounds like L-tyrosine help reduce feelings of stress, which can put a lid on distracting thoughts.

It’s tempting to think that a single pill will give you a photographic memory or give you the motivation to tackle a big to-do list. While there isn’t a single pill that can magically boost your brain, you can ensure your brain has a steady supply of the nutrients it depends on to perform at its peak.

“Supplements” is the operative word here. Healthy eating and regular exercise is the most effective way to keep your brain sharp into old age. The following supplements support your brain on the cellular level, providing more energy, neutralizing free radicals or promoting neurochemical changes that help you get in the zone.

Brain supplements to perform at your peak

1. Support body and mind with Greens

Hand holding a cup of Bulletproof Greens next to it's container

What if you could access nootropics, vitamins, minerals, superfoods, digestive aids, probiotics and a full serving of vegetables all in one cinch-to-scoop daily powder? Bulletproof Greens is a powerhouse supplement that bolsters your body and mind so you can conquer the day, while meeting your wellness and daily nutrition goals in a simplified way.†

2. Fuel your brain with medium-chain triglycerides (MCT oil)

Woman in orange jacket pouring Brain Octane Oil onto a spoon above orange mug

Your brain is a huge energy-sucking machine, consuming up to 23% of the energy your body uses.[1]

Your gray matter depends on either glucose (carbs) or ketones for fuel. Studies show your body can convert medium-chain triglycerides (MCTs) into ketones faster and easier than other fatty acids. And older adults actually might even get better at converting MCTs to ketones.[2] [3]

So, add MCT oil to your routine. For the biggest ketone boost, we like Bulletproof Brain Octane MCT oil. It’s C8 MCTs, aka the most ketogenic MCT. That means you’ll have more brain-powering ketone energy available when you supplement with Brain Octane MCT oil. If you’re wondering how to use it, it’s a key ingredient in the Bulletproof Coffee recipe.

Related: The Ultimate Guide to MCT Oil and MCT Supplements

2. Protect your brain with polyphenols

Supplement from bottle of Superfood Antioxidants

Free radicals are bad guys. These unstable molecules are looking to steal electrons from your body, breaking down your cellular walls through the process of oxidation. What causes oxidation? Stress, environmental toxins, diet and everyday body processes—just to name a few.

One way to combat these electron thieves is to keep some polyphenols around. Polyphenols are strong antioxidants that neutralize free radicals by sacrificing themselves for your cells. They step in front of your cell and offer up an electron or hydrogen atom to satisfy the free radical, and your cell walls stay intact.[4]

Polyphenols are found in delicious things like dark chocolate, berries, cherries, red wine and tea. To get the protection of polyphenols without lifting a finger, opt for Bulletproof Superfood Antioxidants/a>. It’s made with extract from polyphenol-rich berries and botanicals for a potent punch of antioxidant cellular protection.

If you want your brain supplement to do double-duty, try Bulletproof Smart Mode. You’ll get a polyphenol boost from artichoke leaf extract and rosemary. Smart Mode also contains a blend of ingredients to promote clear-headed concentration, like pantothenic acid (aka vitamin B5) to support brain cells and L-tyrosine to reduce feelings of stress and exhaustion. Pretty smart.

3. Support your brain as you age with Methyl B-12

Hand holding serving size of Bulletproof Methyl B-12

The body needs vitamin B-12 to make essential things like red blood cells, nerves and DNA.[5] Studies show that a B-12 deficiency has a seriously negative effect on your brain. According to the Institute of Medicine in Washington DC, between 75-90% of people that have a vitamin B-12 deficiency also have neurological disorders.[6]

You naturally get a dose of B-12 in animal products, such as milk and meat. To make sure you’re covering all your bases and supporting your brain as you age, take a highly bioavailable supplement like Bulletproof Methyl B-12.

4. Get relaxed and focused with GABA

A hand holding a bottle of Bulletproof Zen Mode

Your brain performs better when it’s relaxed. The neurotransmitter GABA (gamma aminobutyric acid) helps regulate the communication between your brain cells. It also generates relaxation and a feeling of well being by promoting the production of alpha brain waves (while reducing beta waves). These effects promote focus, mental clarity and performance under pressure.[7]

You’ll get focus from the relaxation power of GABA in Bulletproof Zen Mode. Along with GABA, you’ll also feel the mood-leveling effects of Kanna, L-theanine, magnesium, 5-HTP and vitamin B6. Additionally, you can unlock the benefits of GABA through Bulletproof Sleep Gummies while settling in for a night of restful zzzs.

5. Stimulate neurons with whole coffee fruit extract

Bottle of Energy + Focus supplements

Brain-derived neurotrophic factor (BDNF) has a hand in the growth of new neurons. It helps brain cells connect and build new neural pathways, and it also protects brain cells.[8] The changes in synaptic plasticity that BDNF generates are key to learning and memory.[9]

Whole coffee fruit concentrate has been shown to boost levels of BDNF by 143%, delivering your body what it needs to build neurons and neural pathways, along with some extra built-in protection.[10] For high-quality Arabica coffee fruit extract, take Energy + Focus in the morning. You’ll start your day with memory and cognition support—plus caffeine.

Read next: 13 Anti-Aging Supplements to Turn Back the Clock

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