The term 'Smart Drinks' was originally coined to describe drinks that improved cognition under typical conditions often found in our lives: mental and chemical stress, as caused by environmental toxins, sustained mental effort, as when involved in late-night computer hacking, and the physical stress that can frequently be caused by lots of work, or all night dancing to high BPM's. Since I've been lucky enough to read a bit and apply this knowledge to finding out about nutrition and the brain, I'll describe here what I consider to be Smart Drinks - drinks that use nutritive elements of a natural diet to positively effect brain function. I don't look as Smart Drinks as drugs, but they frequently can have therapeutic (and druglike) effect. And this is not through reliance on adding stimulants or sedatives, but instead, through application of a savvy knowledge of the way our bodies assimilate and use nutrients- foods-...
Using these techniques, you can use foods to attain the results you might not be able to get reliably with drugs. I'm not talking about a druglike effect, I'm talking about much more subtle, but still noticeable, positive effects on alertness, stress resistance and energy level. I first got an inkling of what these formulas could do when I was still in high school, when I first became fascinated with somewhat psychoactive compounds, many of them technically classified as foods, that did not cause perceptoral distortion, but instead, subtly seemed to release creative energy blocks within the body. After gaining an understanding of what these compounds were doing, I realized that a lot of these mental changes were basically changes in neurotransmitter levels, and I began experimenting with taking measured doses of tryptophan, tyrosine, phenylalanine and choline at various times of the day. You have probably also experienced a lot of these changes, but just didn't realize that these subtle effects were psychoactive.
Remember the last time you got sleepy after a big dinner of turkey or pasta? Didn't you feel a lot more rested the next day? We all remember feeling energetic after a big high-protein meal in the morning. Over time, and after getting a *lot* of help from friends, I realized that a lot can be discovered by listening to your body's natural "neurotransmitter signals"... and that a well thought out vitamin/neurotransmitter precursor/augmentation recipe can improve your quality of life tremendously. Athletes can get tangible benefits in performance too, particularly at high altitudes. I settled on a regimen of 3 to 6 grams of tyrosine in the morning and niacin/B6 based serotonin support in the early evening. Of course nobody's neurochemistry is typical. You may need something completely different. I'll try to explain my approach.. Basically, these amino acids are the cofactors and "precursors" of very important brain chemicals "neurotransmitters" the messengers of the brain.
These "Smart Drinks" are highly targeted micronutrient foods.. foods for the brain. Nutrients can affect brain function, and the biological effect of consuming them at different times of the day is also highly significant. Your body has evolved mechanisms which we can take advantage of. "Tryptophan is converted in the terminals of certain neurons into the neurotransmitter serotonin. In other cells choline is converted into the transmitter acetylcholine. In still another population of cells tyrosine acts as the precursor of dopamine, norepinephrine and epinephrine, which are collectively called the catecholamine transmitters. An increase in the brain blood level of a precursor nutrient subtly enhances the synthesis of the corresponding neurotransmitter. The enhanced synthesis can in turn cause the neuron to release more transmitter molecules when it fires, amplifying the transmission of signals from the neuron to the cells it innervates. "These days, drugs are popular in psychotherapy, etc. but these drugs are often too strong, and too broad in their effects. (they have unwanted side effects.) They can also be expensive way out of proportion to their cost. (My main beef is with the way that this limits access to often-neccesary drug therapy. Recent research on environmental toxins, inadequate nutrition, and their effect on the developing brain make the implications of this particularly cruel in the developing world, where a nightmare of environmental toxins must have substantial effects on pediatric brain development.) But enough of a tangent, Whenever you have a problem, it is best to approach the problem with the less intrusive and most natural methods (which I would say are nutrients) first. If those methods fail to completely address the problem, then you might be able to bring in the power tools..
When I was approached by friends and asked to create my interpretation of what Smart Drinks should be for one of the first Bay Area cyberclubs, ToonTown, I drew upon a host of papers I had read on depression, stimulant use and abuse, nutrients that effect brain function, military research I had read about the use of amino acid supplements to protect the mental function of soldiers under battlefield stress, material I had read about defective dopamine transport mechanisms in many people because of genetic abnormalities, and what I knew about the conditions and the drugs commonly consumed at raves. The picture painted by this research seemed to me to lead me to what I ended up with. Basically, two products based on expensive stimulant and alcohol recovery formulas that I had seen used by physicians in the drug recovery industry, and the first-generation brain-drink products like the MLM, etc. products...(also without their high expense and my perceived shortcomings) Smart Drink Recipies Some background: Tyrosine's ability to reduce the negative effects of the dopaminergic stimulants had certainly been known in the quasi-underground neuroscience interest community since the mid to late 80's. The need certainly wasn't being met by the vitamin industry, largely because of their immense greed. The products that were out there at the time, mostly the caffeine/sugar products that we were/are all are so familiar with .. just weren't doing it for us, so we had to make our own. That's still largely the situation, (although the economics of Internet distribution might make a more evolutionary product more economically feasable now..) so that's still what I suggest.
Perhaps by understanding these neurotransmitter deficits, and making formulas to reduce them, I thought, we could reduce some of the negative effects of the rave environment.
Computer programmers also would use them, and initially they were our best customers. And also perhaps some of these formulas might be useful for people under less stressful conditions as well. Even the people with dopamine system based neurological problems, like people in recovery.. and also the people who have ADD/ADHD who are being treated with dopaminergic stimulants..which can have negative side effects.. I ended up with several formulas that worked for me, but people should experiment with what is available to them. The most valid approach to making nootropic drinks would be to apply these principles to your daytime and evening diet 'with a gourmet flair'. With a little imagination, these recipies can be adapted into cybercafe drinks.. as I did with Nutrient Cafe in the early 90's As I said earlier, in the morning, I supplement with catecholamine precursors..(tyrosine and/or phenylalanine) and maybye a bit of DMAE... (Precursors of acetylcholine serve far better as catalyzers of the initial rise in catecholamine turnover than caffeine, because they don't let you down later on, It has been shown that DMAE or choline initiates a "cascade" effect on catecholamines. When I combined DMAE with tyrosine in a citrus (and initially spirulina, which we later dropped..) based drink in 1990 it eventually led to the wildly popular "Renew-You(TM)". (no longer available)
Here is a simplification of it's recipe: Renew-You is based on a heaping teaspoon of L-Tyrosine, (you might want to 'melt' the tyrosine in some hot water..) DMAE and orange juice.. ) and of course lots of other co-factors and other nutrients, but tyrosine and DMAE is the essense.. Don't scrimp on the tyrosine.. I have found large amounts of tyrosine to be much more effective as a catecholamine precursor than phenylalanine. One study I've seen suggests 'frequent feedings throughout the early part of the day', as the best way to use tyrosine. Also: Don't consume tyrosine or phenylalanine in the late afternoon or evening unless you are planning on getting involved in some serious exercise. (in other words, unless your neurons are aroused..) They compete with tryptophan- blocking off the production of serotonin.. which you need for good rest. So, that's it for the morning formula, what about lunch? A midday "business lunch" recipe might consist of precursors of acetylcholine.... (choline or DMAE..) along with the cofactor vitamin B5.I also like to add a dollop of ginkgo extract, but here, let the buyer beware.. Ginkgo is so expensive that most vitamin preparations are worthless.
Choline or DMAE taste very bitter, so here, you'll need a strong tart flavor to cover up the taste. For example, I used to use grapefruit and cranberry juice with choline and other nutrients in a drink I called 'Intellex (TM)' Everyone's neurochemistry is different, and so it is worthwile to experiment with different combinations of nutrients, and as importantly, different times of consumption. But, unless you are turning your day upside down. (like dopaminergic stimulant-takers, who can experiment with disregarding this advice..) you should, in general, avoid phenylalanine or tyrosine in the latter part of the day.. Low serotonin causes irratibility and agression, and prevents you from getting restful sleep..(This is why L-Tryptophan, serotonin's precursor, was so good at helping people sleep well when it was available.) I can't buy L-Tryptophan at my vitamin store anymore, but in the evening I try to increase serotonergicity of dietary tryptophan. This is done by supplementation with niacin and B6, consumption of carbohydrates to stimulate insulin, and/or tryptophan-laden foods like turkey or soy... Or L-Tryptophan itself, if you can get it and trust the evidence against it's removal from the market. (coincidentally, just as the SSRI market began to take off..) So the best advice I can give you is to read and carefully experiment. Effective amounts of nutrients must be consumed, but especially if you are consuming atypically large amounts of a substance, again, read up, so you can be aware of the risks. It's also wise to inform your doctor if you are taking large amounts of any substance. So, watch your step...if you don't - you could get burned..
Please send me your experiences. I am still doing research on food-based neuronutrition. A particular interest is the use of neuronutrients in stimulant recovery. Quite bluntly, I believe precursor loading is a valuable potential therapy for drug addiction that is being overlooked. Watch for a web page giving references here soon. (time permitting) Some nutrients used in 'Smart Drinks' include: L-Tyrosine - an amino acid and the most direct precursor of norepinephrine and dopamine. This is the nutrient most used in recovery. First used in a drink by Nutrient Cafe in 1990. Shows promise in many areas, particularly for people under stress or with abnormal brain function. Choline (trimethylaminoethanol) - A B-complex vitamin that your body uses to manufacture acetylcholine, a neurotransmitter involved in the formation and recall of memories. Take this with vitamin B5. Available in many forms, choline chloride and bitartrate being the cheapest. Can increase acid stomach problems markedly.
Synergizes (as does DMAE) with the pyrrilidones. (piracetam/pyroglutamate family) Good in alcohol recovery. Pyroglutamic acid, arginine pyroglutamate - Natural pyrrilidones, found naturally in high quantities in fruits and beer. Enhancing effect on some cognitive function, especially in people with brain disfunction. Some studies have indicated that pyroglutamate may help improve cognition in aging alcoholics. Many people with ADD have also found help from a close relative, piracetam (Glaxo 'Nootropil' is best, available cheaply in Mexico.) Effect may seem to diminish with daily use. DMAE (dimethylaminoethanol) - A B-complex nutrient that is used,like choline, to manufacture acetylcholine in the body. DMAE is found in large quantities in fish, and this is thought to be why people have always thought of fish as "brain food".
Also somewhat useful in alcohol recovery. DL- or L-Phenylalanine - An amino acid that is the precursor of tyrosine and hence dopamine and norepinephrine, the main alerting neurotransmitters and those most depleted by stress,stimulant drugs etc. L-Phenylalanine is also the precursor of phenethylamine,a alerting amine thought to modulate libido and agressive behavior. DLPA may also have some use in treating depression. In addition to fish,other natural foods that are high in "smart nutrients" include soy products,almonds and other nuts,brewers yeast,some fruits,and raw chocolate. Two herbs that also have been associated with smart nutrition are Ginkgo biloba (very useful, but quite expensive...
Check the label of ginkgo products carefully.) and Siberian (eluthero) ginseng. Other herbs and vitamins that may have cognitive-enhancement properties are St. John's wort (hypericin is a interesting site-specific MAO inhibitor, but it must be taken for a month before it's effects can be measured.) Beta-carbolines -like the alkaloids in Syrian Rue and passionflower may also be nootropic in small doses. There are many others. Many vitamins enhance or inhibit various metabolic pathways, sometimes with nootropic effect. Read up on toxicity before overdosing ones- self with vitamins, though. For example, when taken in the evening, vitamin B6 (never more than 50 mg. / day) can help improve serotonin metabolism.
A different, but synergistic effect can be derived from non-time-release niacin. Although it's useful to promote sleep, I have not seen any evidence that melatonin has any nootropic properties. Good sleep is highly nootropic, as well as a potent GH releaser. For this reason it is extremely regrettable that after the tryptophan debacle L-Tryptophan was never researched with an eye to discovering the real story. Despite many unanswered questions about the series of incidents that caused it's removal, and very real evidence that it helped in many neurotransmitter -related medical conditions, including many kinds of drug addiction, L-Tryptophan was never returned to the US market. If you _really_ found benefit from tryptophan and can't replace it, 5-hydroxytryptophan, (5-HT) the immediate precursor of serotonin, is available, although hard-to-find, in the nutritional supplement market. Insomnia may also be a symptom of diseases like sleep apnea, ADD, or depression, so check with your doctor. Small amounts of gammahydroxybutyrate (GHB) when used to assist sleep are nootropic - mostly by dramatically improving the quality of sleep in some people. The improvement in mood can be measured. (I've seen it help friends with depression that wasn't helped by other drugs) Researchers in Illinois have published some amazing reports of older people actually feeling much younger due to the increased GH release during deep sleep, something many people rarely get. Note that the amounts of GHB used to improve sleep in this way are MUCH lower than "recreational" doses. Research on nontoxic sleep aids should be promoted, but unfortunately some deaths (due to overdoses by uninformed people) the war on drugs has made GHB controversial. (Note: GHB can depress breathing, so it should not be used casually. Especially when combined with other drugs, such as alcohol, or taken in high doses, it has caused deaths and irreversable brain damage due to suppression of the breathing reflex!) For those with sleeping problems, GHB should be available by prescription, but again, since it is unpatentable, there is no route in the current medical system for research to be done. (funded) even though the number of people with sleep problems is huge. (UPDATE: GHB is now illegal, with all that implies, in California, due to several deaths.) DHEA, a hormone/hormone precursor, has also shown a lot of evidence that it improves cognition in some, particularly aging people. (possibly by increasing estrogen, a hormone that women produce until menopause, and men manufacture from testosterone, both of which DHEA is a precursor to) In response to many questions, in my (and many others) opinion, caffeine or Ephedra - i.e.: 'Ma Huang' are _not_ appropriate ingredients for Smart Drinks. Ephedra can be dangerous if combined with some drugs, and it isn't a clear-headed stimulant. It's primary use is as a decongestant. Caffeine is a lot better consumed as coffee.. These ephedra products are ludicrously expensive and sometimes dangerous. Note: Please dont email me asking for information on nootropic nutrients or drugs, unless you are actually doing research in this area... What you see is what you get for the time-being. Most nootropic drugs are officially unavailable in the US- but if you need one be activist in asking your doctor about it. They can prescribe them, and even if you cant get them that way, you can (with slight difficulty) sometimes order them direct for personal use. Almost all nootropics are remarkably safe.