I was going into final exams this last fall and looking for something to amp up my studying to make up for all of the not studying. I had heard hundreds of ads for Alpha Brain from listening to the Joe Rogan Experience over the years and had some friend suggest it to me with some positive testimonials. I thought I’d give it a try myself.

What is Alpha Brain?

Some background: I worked at GNC for two years in college. At this point, I think a lot of supplements, while maybe effective, are possibly harmful. Some are plain snake oil. Others seem to not worth the short-term benefit for unknown long-term health consequences.

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The few supplements I have come to think are actually beneficial for me these days are whey protein powder, creatine monohydrate, and maybe BCAAs. I try more and more to get my nutrients from food rather than supplements, but that’s something I’m still working on.

While I have done some research on racetams and other nootropics over the years, I never got around to trying any myself. I

thought Typically, I wouldn’t have enough time for shipping before finals and that I might not want to go add anything harmful to my body. My diet and sleep habits also tend to get worse around finals. Because law school finals are so competitive, I thought trying Alpha Brain couldn’t hurt.

My short conclusion is that Alpha Brain worked to give me a slight edge in my finals studies. I noticed an increased focus and ability to concentrate for longer periods of time compared to what I perceive as my baseline. I experienced uncomfortable side effects on Day 3 when I doubled the dosage. I also experienced decreasing effectiveness toward the end of my bottle. I would be willing to try another cycle would to better determine if the effects I experienced were more than a placebo.

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I took two and a half weeks off of work to finish the semester out strong and I was willing to take any reasonable competitive edge I could get within my time, wallet, and sanity.

I chose to take Alpha Brain when I woke up. I researched the effectiveness of many of the various ingredients, which are effective in the system anywhere between 45 minutes to an hour and a half after ingestion.

Daily Log:

Day 1 (11/28/18)- 2 at 8:45 p.m.–felt a little something; noises sounded crisper; maybe more energy, also had a LOT of caffeine (bang energy); stayed up until 4 a.m. (caffeine?); no special dreams

Day 2 (11/29/18)- 2 @ 9:40 a.m.–slightly more energetic/focused; eye twitching; body twitching (lats a lot); slightly more focused; less coffee than day before (2 cups) and no coffee until about an hour after took pills (pills maybe felt like a cup of coffee); felt pretty good on 5 hours (usually that’s not enough for me); not noticing memory/recall but seem like I can think a little more quickly verbally and more alert; no special dreams.

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Day 3 (11/30/18) 2 @ 9:45 — Eyelid/brow twitching, but no body twitching. No special dreams last night. Felt like drinking coffee this morning. Got 7 hrs sleep. Drank yerba matte tea and 1.5 cup coffee today before lunch. 2 more AB @ 1:45 p.m.

  • Was in a good mood. For instance, saying hi to strangers (more than normal). I learned during my research ingredients in Alpha Brain increase a levels of a neurotransmitter called acetylcholine, known as the “learning neurotransmitter,” and involved in muscle contraction as well. This may explain increased twitching/spasms
  • 3:45 p.m. (1.5 hrs)–felt v uneasy/hot; twitchs/spasms throughout back/lats, biceps, eyebrows; focused, but tired from lack of sleep
    –felt v sick in car ride at night with headaches and dizziness and nausea; food and water made it feel slightly better

Day 4 (12/1/18) @ 10:00 a.m. — feels like coffee; normal twitching not too much though; main effects after an hour; still feeling effects up to 4 hours later; feel focused but not wakeful, opposite of coffee

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Day 5 (12/2/18) @ 12:30 p.m. — same as yesterday; noticed was still wakeful at around 4:00 p.m. and onward to about 8:30p.m.; had large coffee and energy drink earlier; wrote book today, studied, etc.; feeling p productive as usual

Day 6 (12/3/18) @ 11:30 a.m. — slightly more jittery/awake; had large coffee this morning; 7.5 hrs sleep; no twitches at moment; do not recall having twitches yesterday, last felt on day 4; (felt v productive last night)

Day 7 (12/4/18) @ 11:49 a.m. w/ an energy drink; ~6.25-.6 hours of sleep; felt sick to stomach @ 1:20 p.m. (1.5 hours after) have felt this feeling before sort of and have noticed effects sort of “kick-in” whatever that means around 45 mins to 1.5 hours after ingestion; eye/leg VERY SLIGHTLY twitching, but not like previous days; phone interview today and talking with people feel more focused/know what to say at right time (eg w Lizz at the gym); fell asleep around 2:00 a.m. but got tired around 11 and was still working (could be caffeine too)

Day 8 (12/5/18) @ 1:17 p.m. – crazy vivid dreams last night, not lucid; slept for 11 hours (which could be reason for dreams); large coffee + energy drink (it’s that time of year); at around ’50 I definitely notice some focus/speed uptake; memory would be hard to know (haven’t been testing memory, and can’t know what I haven’t remembered…), but focus is spot on;

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Day 9 (12/6/18) @ 10:45 a.m.; normal dreams; energy drink this morning; feel more alert and at it but have been sleeping more past few nights (might be catching up from studying for finals); lessened twitching in muscles (almost none); slightly more focused and awake, but still feeling tired even though got 7-8 hours;

Day 10 (12/7/18) @ 10:17 a.m.; more vivid dreams; only about 7 hours of sleep; worked all day and stayed productive and took 3-hour law school exam at night and felt like could keep going after, test went well too; (billed 10 hours including test); sort of normal for me but did have a kick; nothing super noticeable; remembered a lot of stuff easily on test (only studied the week leading up to exam)

Day 11 (12/8/18) @ 12:36 a.m.; very vivid color dreams last night; feeling some switching around 70′ in; light eye twitching continued; did not study much rest of the night, but felt tuned in when I did

Day 12 (12/9/18) @ 10:18 a.m.; vivid dreams last night again; feeling some twitching; 7.5 hours sleep (2-9.30 a.m.); studying for crim pro final tomorrow; feeling focused; had large coffee, sipping a monster; not sure feeling much different than before other than the twitching earlier; took a break between 12:45 and 5 for Friendsgiving and studied until 11:30 p.m., not sure if Alpha Brain helped because I’ve done this kind of thing before; worked pretty efficiently

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Day 13 (12/10/18) @ 8:10 a.m.; took 3.5-hour exam from 9-12:30; felt a little tired actually; 7ish hours of sleep last night; passed out rest of the day; felt twitching feeling and maybe more focused but not much new effect; took 4-hour nap (happy to close out exams!!); drafted some articles and worked on the website at night; very vivid dreams last night again and had lucid dreams during my nap earlier, which I could control (forget the dreams).

Day 14 (12/11/18) @ 11:00 a.m.; 9 hrs sleep; large coffee; no twitching today; vivid dreams last night, not lucid

Is Alpha Brain worth the money?

Maybe. The slight boost I got while finishing out a semester of law school, working to get my journal article published, participating in a tax clinic, and holding an executive position on a scholarly journal to me, was worth $34.95 from Amazon. Any edge I could get was going to be welcome, and at less than a cup of Starbucks coffee each day over the course of that time, the price was not particularly egregious.

People who are looking for an incremental boost in their focus, endurance, or working memory may find Alpha Brain helpful in short bursts of several weeks or less. My experience and those of other reports online suggest that there may be decreasing effectiveness over time as one’s body adjusts to Alpha Brain. For sustained daily use, I think Alpha Brain is less justified as compared for use in a short-burst competitive course of study.

At least in the world of Joe Rogan Experience, Alpha Brain is number one. Experts seem to agree that tailoring a stack for the needs of the particular user may be the cheapest and most effective options. Alpha Brain did give me a boost, but it may have been cheaper and more effective to purchase individual ingredients and combine them in a stack.

Author: Ryan Ullman

Ryan Ullman is an attorney at the boutique law firm Spence | Brierley in Baltimore, Maryland. He is particularly interested in technology, productivity, peak flow states, music, and the outdoors.

12 thoughts on “Snake oil? I tried Onnit’s Alpha Brain. Here’s what happened”

  1. Good morning, thank you for the important topic and details you gave about your own experience about Alpha Brain, but I think it is not worth spending all that money, there are natural alternatives, perhaps better.

  2. yes i also noticed constant muscles twitching!, i had to stop for a week or so for a new delivery and the twitches started to go away, then i started using it again and suddenly twitches are back, unsure as to what is in this nootropic that causes it but i think i will leave it. i got an MRI and blood test but both came back normal. so not sure what is in this supplement but ill discontinue use as its effects arent worth these side effects.

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