To put it simply, nootropics are substances that improve cognition. Increased focus, enhanced memory, and greater productivity are common benefits that people use nootropics for. But did you know that some nootropics can also help you lose weight?
While nootropics are usually not taken for weight loss, there are several that can help you lose weight. For some people, weight loss might be an unwanted side effect. But for many, it’s an added benefit.
In this article, we’re going to take a look at 4 nootropics for weight loss. We’ll examine the science behind each substance and see what people around the internet are saying about them.
Nootropics For Weight Loss
The first substance on our list of nootropics for weight loss is one of the most-commonly used smart drugs in the world: modafinil. It’s been around for decades, has tons of evidence to support it’s safety and effectiveness, and for most people it works great.
Modafinil is in a class of substances known as eugeroics or wakefulness-promoting agents. It’s used as a prescription drug in several countries to treat a variety of disorders. And modafinil is also extremely popular among nootropic users. It’s highly effective, has an excellent safety profile, and is readily available online.
Modafinil users often report an increase in focus, motivation, and productivity, and an improvement in memory and mood. Several studies, including a systematic review published in 2015, have supported these claims. And the researchers who wrote the review noted that “we did not observe any preponderances for side effects.”
In addition to modafinil’s nootropic benefits, it can also be useful for weight loss. There are numerous anecdotal reports around the internet of people finding it easier to lose weight while taking modafinil. And there is quite a bit of science to support the reliability of these reports.
A study published in 2004 compared modafinil’s weight-loss potential to that of amphetamine, a well-known appetite suppressant. This study showed that modafinil reduced food intake comparable to amphetamine. Another study from 2006 looked at the effect modafinil had on people with atypical depression. In addition to improving the participants’ depression, modafinil was also responsible for causing significant weight loss compared to the placebo group. Additionally, this study noted that modafinil was well tolerated.
Lastly, a 2016 study looked at the effect modafinil had on impulse control. Participants either got modafinil, atomoxetine, or a placebo. While the participants in the atomoxetine and placebo groups did not show any changes in impulse control, those in the modafinil group showed significantly-reduced impulsivity. For people who have trouble controlling their food intake, modafinil may help to reduce impulsive food choices.
There’s no doubt that, for most people, modafinil is not only effective as a nootropic, but also for weight loss. It can help you to reduce caloric intake and to make less impulsive decisions in and out of the kitchen.
It’s no secret that caffeine can increase alertness, reduces fatigue, and improve overall cognition. There’s a good chance you’ve got some of this nootropic coursing through your veins right now as you read this. Caffeine is the most-widely-used nootropic around the world and has been for a very-long time. In the United States, 85% of people consume at least one drink containing caffeine every day, coffee being the most common.
Of all the substances with nootropic properties out there, none have been as extensively researched as caffeine. A PubMed search for “caffeine” turns up more than 33,000 results. By comparison, “modafinil” shows less than 2,000 results, “ginkgo” less than 5,000, and “piracetam” just under 4,000. Caffeine has a ton of research to support its use as a nootropic. But there is also quite a bit of research that shows it can aid in weight loss, as well.
A systematic review and meta-analysis (a paper that combines and examines the results of several studies) published in 2019 showed that caffeine intake can promote weight loss – fat loss in particular. This meta-analysis looked at 13 different studies on the effect caffeine has on weight loss, fat loss, and body mass index (BMI). It found caffeine to promote a reduction in BMI, body fat, and weight in general.
Caffeine’s effect on weight loss involves its ability to increase metabolic rate, thermogenesis, and lipid oxidation. Most of caffeine’s metabolism boost comes from its ability to burn fat. Though caffeine does burn fat for everyone, just how much it burns can vary. One study from 1995 showed that caffeine burns more fat in younger men than in older ones. Another study from the same year showed that caffeine burned more fat in lean women than it did in obese ones (29% increase in lipid oxidation compares to 10%).
And how you consume your caffeine can matter, too. While coffee contains more caffeine than tea, certain types of tea may offer additional weight-loss benefits. A paper published in 2013 showed that hot tea consumption was associated with lower BMI. Interestingly, iced tea consumption was associated with higher BMI. And a 2005 study showed that participants who regularly consumed small amounts of caffeine lost weight when they started consuming green tea.
For some people, caffeine can help them to lose weight. However, it often comes with unwanted side effects like anxiety, insomnia, and the dreaded crash a few hours after consumption. Fortunately, there are several nootropics that can be stacked with caffeine to reduce or even eliminate these side effects.
3. Acetyl L-Carnitine (ALCAR)
This is an acetylated form of l-carnitine, a substance the body produces naturally. Acetylation is a chemical process that slightly alters l-carnitine so it can cross the blood-brain barrier (BBB) easier. Acetyl L-Carnitine, often called ALCAR, is used for its ability to improve mood, memory, and cognition in general. And there is some science to support its use as a weight-loss supplement.
As a nootropic, ALCAR is often taken for its memory-boosting properties. This has been studied for decades in both animals and humans, healthy and diseased. A short-term study (40 days) published in 1986 found that acetyl l-carnitine improved the memory of elderly participants without causing any side effects. A much-longer study (1 year) published five-years later done on Alzheimer’s patients showed similar results.
Nootropic users also use ALCAR for its ability to improve mood. A systematic review and meta-analysis published in 2018 looked at ALCAR’s effect on depression. It examined the results of twelve randomized, controlled trials. This review concluded that supplementing with ALCAR decreased depressive symptoms on par with prescription antidepressants and with far-fewer side effects.
In addition to ALCAR’s nootropic benefits, it may also help you to lose weight. A systematic review and meta-analysis published in 2016 looked at the results of nine studies. This review concluded that supplementing with acetyl-l-carnitine did result in weight loss. However, ALCAR’s weight-reducing effect decreased the longer it was taken.
Acetyl l-carnitine isn’t generally considered a strong nootropic. However, some people find it to be very helpful. And it’s often included in various nootropic stacks.
Like modafinil, this nootropic is also used as a prescription drug. N-acetylcysteine, or NAC for short, is a medication used to treat a number of conditions including acetaminophen (Tylenol) poisoning, cystic fibrosis, and chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD). As a nootropic, NAC is used for its ability to reduce certain types of anxiety and unwanted thoughts, among other things. And these nootropic benefits may help some people to lose weight.
N-acetylcysteine can have a wide range of nootropic uses. Some people find no benefit to NAC supplementation while many others claim it has dramatically improved their quality of life. A 2011 review published in the Journal of Psychiatry and Neuroscience looked at the benefits of NAC supplementation on brain function. This review found evidence that NAC could help in treating a number of addictions (cocaine, gambling, nicotine, etc.), obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD), and even schizophrenia.
OCD is characterized by unwanted thoughts and behaviors. It’s an anxiety disorder that affects just over 2% of the population. We all have unwanted thoughts from time to time, but the diagnosis of OCD is made when they cause significant impairment to normal functioning. A 2012 study examined the effect NAC supplementation has on people with treatment-resistant OCD. This study found NAC to be both effective and very safe.
While there haven’t been any human studies done on NAC and weight loss, it is reasonable to believe it may help some people to lose weight. If you have trouble controlling your eating behavior, NAC’s ability to reduce unwanted thoughts and behaviors may help. Although no studies have been done, there are anecdotal reports of people losing weight while taking NAC.