ONNIT Alpha Brain Review: The Nootropic Gold Standard?10 min read
It’s important to think about the power of marketing when we make consumer choices, and with this brand of Nootropics – Alpha BRAIN – the personality behind the product is a huge factor.
It may have been one of the first – or only – nootropics you have heard of, due to its early arrival on the market and enduring popularity, not to mention the massive marketing effort behind it.
This was the first nootropic supplement I heard of and still remains one of the most popular brands. So, is ONNIT’s Alpha Brain still the “go to” nootropic or has it had its day? Join me as I find out in my in-depth review.
The founder of the brand ONNIT, Aubrey Marcus, is a bestselling author. His book Own the day, Own your life has been a runaway success and counts among its fans celebrities such as Lance Armstrong.
He is not only the face of Onnit (a health brand which founded its marketing on his idea of ‘Total Human Optimization’), you may have heard about him as he has boosted his celebrity through popular podcasts, public speaking and being vocal about his experimental fitness journey.
When you look at ONNIT, the brand, it’s a compelling story, how one day he was ‘just like you, sitting there’ all aimless and without focus, knowing he had so much more potential to fulfil.
He invented his range of Total Human and ONNIT products to enable him, and others, to fulfil this potential. With a huge marketing machine behind it, this looks like the blueprint for launching a nootropic and supplements brand – one which you can really believe in.
I believe that a time is coming where taking nootropics like Alpha BRAIN will be a standard human adaptation to get things done. Like drinking coffee. Except in a lot of ways, I like Alpha BRAIN better than coffee. It has no stimulants and works by directly stimulating neurotransmitters. So it won’t wear out your adrenals. But if you like coffee, enjoy them both at the same time. Go ahead and be on fire. Laying down on the pillow after a long day of crushing it is one of the most satisfying feelings in lifeMarcus says
What can I say, it’s compelling stuff and one of the reasons I am a fan of this company.
Background on ONNIT
You might have already read some of my reviews of ONNIT products ( my ONNIT Earth Grown Nutrients review for example) so you may know that I am a fan of the brand. I believe they are normally pretty honest and transparent about their products and the fact that the founder has a compelling story to tell and is 100% behind everything about his brand is really strong.
The brand began in 2010 to make ‘cutting edge nutritional supplement combinations’. Alpha BRAIN was launched in 2011 with the intention of helping consumers to optimize both mind and body. Although not a new concept, the brand was one of the first to market this nutritional brain care as part of an otherwise holistic approach to fitness of mind and body.
They now have testimonials from scientists and athletes who have helped to support the company to become a multimillion dollar key player in the market.
The brand carries nutritional supplement lines including blended products (fats and oils, proteins, power foods and coffees) and individual vitamin, minerals and superfoods.
They are best known for their Total Human branded range and have recently launched keto-diet supporting supplements, New Mood (a stress support supplement), NCT oil and Nitric Oxide.
Alpha BRAIN instant is also available in dissolvable powdered form which comes in individual sachets.
What Ingredients are inside Alpha BRAIN?
The packaging states that Alpha BRAIN is ‘Clinically studied with Huperzine and Bacopa extract’. The marketing for Alpha BRAIN suggests it can do a number of things:
- Heightened focus
- Improved memory function
- Brainwave optimization
- Reduce stress
I’m particularly interested in how the individual ingredients might be seen to have these effects, specifically how supplements like this can help to promote alpha brain waves (those that help to keep you in a focused – or ‘flow’ – state). Is this even a thing they can do??
So, what’s inside the Alpha BRAIN formula?
- Vitamin B6 (as Pyridoxine (HCl) – 10mg
- ONNIT Flow blend (650mg): L-Tyrosine, L-Theanine, Oat straw extract, Phosphatidylserine
- Cat’s claw (bark) extract (350mg)
- ONNIT Focus blend (240mg): Alpha glycerylphosphorylcholine (GPC), Bacopa monnieri extract (100mg), Huperzia serrata extract (as 1% Huperzine A) -400mcg
- ONNIT Fuel blend (65mg): L-Leucine, Vinpocetine (5mg), Pterostilbene
Let’s break this down. AlphaBRAIN has a few proprietary blends, however they have been a little more transparent with some of the amounts (for example they obviously consider the ‘herbal elements’, Bacopa and Huperzia to be important enough to have given ingredient amounts on the label).
This could be because there is enough evidence to suggest that these herbal extracts (which have been used in traditional medicine for centuries) have nootropic properties. The standard dose for Bacopa is 300mg (source) and for Huperzine-A 50-200mcg. (source).
Alpha GPC appears to have cognitive enhancing properties but there is little evidence in humans (https://examine.com/supplements/alpha-gpc/)
L-Tyrosine doesn’t have a clear dosage. This is disappointing.
In a blend of 650mg we don’t know if you are getting more than the recommended minimum dosage of 500mg, in fact it’s unlikely. (source).
There is evidence to support the use of L-Tyrosine though in cognitive functioning improvement.
L-theanine, an amino acid (also found in green tea) is thought to help to relax but not sedate. More research is needed. The recommended dose is 100-200mg (Source).
Phosphatidylserine is a phospholipid and is important for brain function. It is synthesised in the body and research on taking it as a supplement is ongoing. The normal dose is 100mg daily rising to 300mg (source).
It’s unlikely that the dosage in the proprietary blend in AlphaBRAIN is this big but we just don’t know.
As far as I can find in my researching Oat Straw and Leucine are not considered to be nootropics, and I couldn’t find any research on the ONNIT site for the inclusion of Leucine in the blend. The ONNIT Fuel blend could be included as the ingredients are linked to building muscle mass.
Cat’s Claw is given in a specific dose however I struggled to find any research suggesting it had nootropic or anxiolytic properties.
Importance of Knowing Ingredient Dosages
I have written about the importance of knowing exactly what’s inside your supplement of choice before. Alpha Brain is not as bad a culprit as many over the counter supplements but it’s far from perfect.
Are There Any Side Effects to Alpha BRAIN?
The manufacturers have been clear to include a disclaimer on their packaging and marketing materials that Vinpocetine may cause miscarriage or harm fetal development.
L-Tyrosine has a stimulatory effect and therefore if you are susceptible to stimulants you should take with caution and beware of interactions with other stimulants (such as caffeine).
Does Alpha Brain Actually Work?
The suggested serving size is 2 capsules. This may give you a base-line dosage of some of the more potent and better-researched ingredients. It’s very hard to tell when manufacturers use proprietary blends and that’s why this is one of my pet peeves in the supplement-manufacturing market.
As I have discovered with some of my research around nootropics supplements there is a fine line between what companies say their product can do and how much they test this hypothesis.
One of the issues I have in answering the question ‘does it work’ is that very few products are tested as a complete supplement to improve cognitive functioning, the reason being that this would involve a huge number of trials and evidence-gathering, at a phenomenal cost to the manufacturer. This may be one of the reasons that Onnit have chosen to market Alpha BRAIN by saying the product is ‘clinically studied to help healthy individuals…’.
The ingredients that have actually been researched and studied, were most likely tested on healthy individuals (as it would be unethical to do so on unhealthy subjects, or would create problematic data if studies were on subjects with a specific impairment). They have been careful to include such caveats so as to not encounter the argument that the product doesn’t actually solve existing problems.
This being said, we all suffer brain fog, right? The elusive ‘fix’ to this problem is what nootropics claim to bring and in that sense can we ever really test the hypothesis?
Let’s look at the suggested improvements in the ONNIT marketing:
Heightened focus; Improved memory function; Brainwave optimization; Reduce stress.
Some of the included ingredients have evidence to support the claims that they could improve memory or cognition. I struggled to find evidence around reducing stress, however.
Alpha BRAIN Customer Reviews
The reviews of Alpha BRAIN on their site are pretty compelling. Like I said earlier in this review the brand ONNIT has a massive following and people will continue to buy their stuff in absolute droves. I wanted to do some researching around so looked on Amazon at their reviews.
I am a little suspicious as it looked as though many of the negative reports had been removed and I had to look for all the sellers of this particular product to find some balance.
Great product5-star review
Five stars. I am more focused. the effects are more noticeable when you take them every day5-star review
like overclocking the brain5 stars
makes me feel sickone star
Feel VERY sick after taking2 stars
Some buyers report getting a headache and nausea when taking this product, and recommend the dose is reduced to the absolute minimum. It seems you might get used to the product over time and that benefits improve after you have been taking it for a while.
How to Take Alpha BRAIN
The recommended dosage of Alpha BRAIN is two capsules per day and guidelines are to avoid taking more than three capsules of Alpha BRAIN in a day.
Any Money Back Guarantee?
ONNIT carries a Keep It Money Back guarantee which applies to the entry size only (30ct) for first-time purchases only. This will also only apply to tubs purchased from the official website.
Where to Buy Alpha BRAIN
What’s the Cost of Alpha BRAIN?
The cost of this brand is on the high side but they sometimes do reduce the price (now is a good time to buy it from their store with 90 capsules costing just $67.96 rather than $75.95).
Especially if you take the full recommended dosage means one bottle could ONLY last 15 days. With the Subscribe and Save model you save 15% on any products which are automatically shipped to you monthly.
My Verdict: Alpha BRAIN
This is a hugely popular brand and one of the first premium nootropic supplements with a very keen following. As I have already said the founder, Aubrey Marcus, has an interesting story and has a successful career as an author, coach, vlogger and with his supplements marketing he is looking at really cornering the market.
For me, the problems with Alpha BRAIN stem from the proprietary blends.
I do believe that there are some potent ingredients included in the blends, but I’m not sure they have gone far enough in terms of revealing the amounts used. I’d really like to see a little more transparency as their customers and fans clearly feel that the products work. Perhaps they could consider a little more honesty on their labelling or coming clean about what ingredients really have a noticeable effect.
I suppose for me it comes down to this: maybe not the Alpha, but definitely not the Omega, Alpha BRAIN is a sure shot in the face of mental fog.