Alpha Brain is one of the more well-known brain supplements in the industry. Perhaps one of the bigger players out there, it enjoys a very healthy following online, as well as a moderate amount of media coverage too. Those who are familiar with the American stand-up comedian Joe Rogan will probably also have heard him plug Alpha Brain into his show every now and then – but of course, he’s probably being paid a hefty sum to do that.
Alpha Brain – the Complete Balanced Nootropic. We’ve been following Alpha Brain for a while now from their early days and it’s very nice to see their growth. Alpha Brain in the beginning used to strictly be a brain supplement, but recently, their branding and marketing is leading us to believe that they’re trying to position it as more of a workout supplement now.
Over time, we’ve witnessed their website looking less and less scientific, and frankly, more and more like a bodybuilding website. Of course, the many additions of new other fitness-related products also make this more evident. Today, Onnit (the company behind Alpha Brain) also sells kettlebells, steel maces, battle balls, sandbags, fitness DVDs, as well as other supplements that are all fitness-oriented.
We really believe it’s an interesting move for the company, but perhaps this brings up the question regarding Alpha Brain’s effectiveness today as a true nootropic or memory enhancer in comparison to what it used to be. Alpha Brain has gone through a few refomulations in the past, and this may have been to allow its formula to better complement their other fitness supplements. We wouldn’t really be surprised if that’s the case – as today, Alpha Brain really seems less like a memory enhancer and more of a general brain health supplement that will give you the focus and motivation you need when in the gym.
Nevertheless, Alpha Brain should still be considered a ‘nootropic’ in a sense, and the emails we get requesting its review are pretty hard to ignore. Let’s begin.
“Alpha BRAIN® is a complete, balanced nootropic created from scientifically tested Earth grown ingredients to specifically activate vital areas of neurotransmission.”
“The flagship complete balanced nootropic.”
“Whatever your goals, Alpha Brain is a powerful tool to
help maximize your cognitive capability.”
Alpha Brain Ingredients
With hefty amounts of information on Onnit’s website, you really don’t need to look further to find information on Alpha Brain’s ingredients. The website really does a good job of explaining what Alpha Brain is, what it does, and how its ingredients work. They cite a good amount of studies, and we really appreciate the fact that they’ve added a supplement facts readily available on their website.
Full Ingredients List:
Vitamin B6 – 10 mg
Onnit Flow Blend – 650 mg
Oat Straw Extract, Phosphatidylserine
AC-11 – 350 mg
Onnit Focus Blend – 240 mg
Alpha GPC, Bacopa Monnieri Extract,
Huperzia Serrata Extract
Onnit Fuel Blend – 65 mg
L-Leucine, Vinpocetine, Pterostibene
A quick glance at Alpha Brain’s formula might lead you to believe that it’s super complicated and scientific, but it’s actually a lot simpler than they are letting on. All they’ve done is grouped the ingredients so that you can easily tell which ingredient does what.
Under that, what they’ve actually also done, is ingeniously avoided disclosing how many milligrams of each ingredient is actually in the formula. From a consumer point of view, you might think that this was done to prevent other companies from copying their exact formula, but that is usually not the case. In most cases, we find that this is to trip up reviewers like us from accurately gauging at each ingredients effects (as some nootropics’ effects vary depending on dose), and then further preventing us from critiquing the formula when it does not produce the desired effects.
On the positive side of things though, the ingredients are of mostly high quality, and it is pleasing to see a company not cutting too many corners in the selection of their ingredients (choosing the more potent Alpha GPC instead of Choline Bitartrate, for example).
While we aren’t going to cover all of the ingredients, here are the key players in Alpha Brain’s formula:
Alpha GPC: As a precursor to acetylcholine – a neurotransmitter that helps in maintaining optimum memory function – Alpha GPC is a very effective brain booster and cognitive enhancer that has long-term benefits for brain health. It also has the ability to promote the growth of neurons in the brain, improving connectivity, while repairing damaged brain cells as well. While often thought of as the highest quality choline source, it is actually second only to CDP Choline. Still, it is much better than Choline Bitartrate.
Phosphatidylserine: Derived from soy, phosphatidylserine is a nootropic made from a strain of fat that binds with neurotransmitters in the brain. It heightens communication between brain cells and neurons, while also repairing damage to the brain from aging. In studies, it has been noted to boost memory and learning abilities.
Huperzine Serrata: As a lesser strain of Huperzine A, it is a natural supplement that is known as a cholinesterase inhibitor, increasing the levels of acetylcholine in the brain. In studies, it has proven to enhance memory storage, consolidation, and retrieval. It has also shown to be effective in boosting concentration and mental clarity. Due to the nature of its chemistry, Huperzine Serrata needs to be cycled, taking a couple of days off every week or so to maximize its effectiveness.
AC-11 (Uncaria Tomentosa): Despite the branding that Onnit uses, Uncaria Tomentosa, otherwise known as Cat’s Claw, isn’t that special at all. While it is considered a newer type of nootropic that enhances the body’s ability to repair DNA, it doesn’t really directly affect the brain aside from strengthening the immune system. Furthermore, studies on it are still quite limited in number.
We believe that Alpha Brain’s formula, while mostly high quality in nature, has gone a little bit too much over to the sporty side. While some of the benefits to the brain might not be evident under first observation (with the case of AC-11, for example), the benefits make sense from a bodybuilding standpoint. A healthier immune system could help prepare the body better to lift heavier weights. We believe it should have been substituted for something a bit more aimed at actually enhancing memory. And this reflects the whole formula in its entirety.
Test Results: Alpha Brain
Our tests with Alpha Brain lasted for a whole 45 days. We had a few volunteers come in to our lab (aged 18-39) who agreed to take Alpha Brain continuously and write down their findings in a journal. They also had to come report back with our lab every two weeks for general cognitive performance tests.
Our volunteers had a pleasant experience with Alpha Brain. Alpha GPC, Phosphatidylserine, and L-Theanine worked quite well together, along with the inclusion of Phoshpatidylserine to provide an experience that was overall a joy to have tested. We weren’t that surprised to see a substantial amount of positive entries from our volunteers, mostly detailing some neat experiences.
Very early on, we heard that some volunteers were experiencing some very vivid dreams, which we believe must have been due to the increased production of acetylcholine in the brain. Other notable experiences were also boosts in memory. Volunteers reported that learning new things like languages and studying for exams, while not much more enjoyable, became more efficient.
There were also some improvement in long-term memory, but that wasn’t present in all our volunteers.
Interestingly though, some of our volunteers who frequently go to the gym claimed that their performance had improved substantially. They can now lift heavier weights, run for longer periods, and needed shorter rest periods between sets. We believe this to be the immune system boosting properties of Cat’s Claw.
We did hear some negative comments though concerning minor diarrhea as well as anxiety and mood swings when taking Alpha Brain over long periods. We’d also like to note that due to Huperzine Seratta’s inclusion in the formula, it is advised to cycle Alpha Brain off for 1-2 days every week to get maximum results.
Aside from that, Alpha Brain had also affected our volunteers’ focus and motivation levels – however, those effects were temporary and would subside 2-3 hours after taking Alpha Brain.
It was a good test overall. However, there were still some minor hiccups and a few disappointments.
Other Online Reviews
While most of the reviews and user testimonials online were positive, we were actually quite surprised to see that there was a big chunk of negative reviews as well. Not as surprising though, is that Alpha Brain was reviewed quite extensively on Bodybuilding.com. For many, Alpha Brain did not help at all, while some also complained on its high price point.
From frankie on January 11, 2015 (Amazon)
I can’t say I noticed much of a difference with my daily activities. I did however notice that this product made my dreams more vivid and allowed me to remember them. I really enjoyed taking some a couple hours before bed. Unfortunately Alpha Brain is way too expensive to continue purchasing.
From Greg on November 2, 2014 (Amazon)
I did not know what to expect in using this product there were mixed reviews but I decided to try it anyway. The difference is subtle, your not going to wake up and be the next Enstine, but I felt that my thoughts were clearer and there was an improvement on my memory. I also feel that Alpha Brain helped me sleep at night, I was remembering my dreams. Those dreams seamed more real and I was able to be more focused on my thoughts and my dreams, I found that very helpful for a deeper sleep. I would recommend Alpha Brain to any one just to try it out. It worked for me and I will defiantly order it again!
From iRub1Out on September 11, 2014 (Amazon)
I purchased this product after they changed the formula from the “Original” formula
The original worked. Pure and simple, the new formula has literally no effect. Total waste of money now.
From tarGARYen on September 7, 2014 (Amazon)
For the price of the amount you get, this stuff should really deliver. I experienced no appreciable difference. I would be able to just suck it up and count my losses if not for the fact that they make a very bold claim of refunding unhappy customers and DO NOT HONOR THEIR WORD. And that is just not right. Beware the attractive marketing, people.
The only side effects our volunteers noticed from Alpha Brain were slight diarrhea and anxiety. If this occurs to you, please try coming off it for a few days and try again at a slightly lower dosage before returning to normal dosage a few days later.
Again, please note that Alpha Brain contains Huperzia Serrata, so to get maximum effectiveness out of it, we recommend taking 1-2 days off every 5-7 days. Otherwise, you might notice slight decrease in its effectiveness. Alpha Brain is not a supplement you should continuously take every day.
The pricing options of Alpha Brain are a little complicated. First off, you get the 30 count bottle, which goes for $34.95. This IS NOT a 30-day bottle. At the recommended serving of 2 capsules a day, it should run you only around 15 days.
The second option is for two 30 count bottles at $59.41. This is the true one month supply, so if you’re comparing prices, this is the one you should be looking at, and yes, if you’ve been doing your research, it’s actually quite an expensive offering. For a brain supplement that isn’t even fully committed to being purely a brain supplement, that’s a pretty steep ask. There are definitely other options out there that are better-rounded in terms of effects, while also being more potent. Equally, there are others out there too that are better, while being substantially cheaper.
There’s also a 90-count bottle at $79.95, but the bottom line is that Alpha Brain is a bit on the pricey side – which is also proven by the amount of reviews that complain on its price. If you’re on a budget, you might want to look elsewhere because we can’t really justify Alpha Brain’s price for the value.
RECAP: Pro’s vs Con’s
– Available via online merchants such as Amazon
– Could be good as a workout supplement
– Informative website
– Brain enhancing effects are quite limited
– Can purchase ‘more complete’ solutions for similar and LESS money
– The new formula is arguably worse than the old ones
– Onnit now branching off to fitness products, affecting Alpha Brain as well
The Bottom Line
With a company that is quick to relinquish neuroscience for fitness and bodybuilding, we can’t help but feel that Alpha Brain as a product is losing some focus. Every reformulation of Alpha Brain seems to bring out a supplement that is quickly becoming less and less brain supplement, while becoming more and more pre-workout.
Its formula’s potential is realized in the inclusion of high quality ingredients such as Alpha GPC (although we’d like to see how much better the formula would be with CDP Choline), Phosphatidylserine, Huperzia Serrata, and L-Theanine – as well as a number of other great nootropics as well. However, equally, it is brought down with ingredients like Cat’s Claw (aka AC-11) that is effectively only there to take up valuable space that could have been used to further increase Alpha Brain’s brain enhancing properties.
While the results from our volunteers’ tests were good, they were in no way exceptional either. Alpha Brain brought about improved short-term and working memory, as well as some minor improvements to focus and motivation. However, this can be easily be replicated by any other brain supplement that doesn’t charge a premium price like Alpha Brain. While we can’t recommend it to everyone due to its high price, those who are willing to spend a little more money might find in Alpha Brain an average nootropic that also doubles as a pre-workout supplement.