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Alpha Brain Review by Chess Player - Does it really work?

Learn more about how Alpha Brain supports memory, improves cognitive performance, and increases your mental processing speed of information.

Ed Latimore
Ed Latimore
Writer, retired boxer, self-improvement enthusiast

Hey crew, Ed Latimore here! Hope you’re all fighting fit and ready to punch through another day. Okay, let’s get into this straight off the ropes: we’re diving into something a bit different today.

I’m talking about Alpha Brain - yeah, you’ve likely heard about it, right? We’ve got some serious chat to have about this nootropic, and I’m here to give you the real, no-punches-pulled lowdown. It’s time for an honest-to-goodness Alpha Brain review, with all of my experiences and real-deal feedback.

Strap in tight, people – it’s about to get interesting!

The experiment I ran for this alpha brain review

I decided to take on the journey to the world of Alpha Brain, a popular nootropic claiming to significantly improve cognitive functions. In other words, it’s a supplement to make you super smart and alert. Now, I know you’re probably thinking, dude, are you seriously talking about a brain-boosting pill just like those in slickly-marketed commercials?

Yup, exactly that. But before you start with the eye-rolling, hear me out. This isn’t me waxing poetic with empty statements. I want to give you my honest-to-goodness experience as a first-time user. Plus, I gotta tell ya that I’d really done my homework before even considering taking Alpha. After all, who likes going on a wild goose chase, right?

What is Alpha Brain?

So, about Alpha Brain. Brought to us by Onnit, this nootropic contains natural ingredients aimed at improving mental speed, memory, and focus. The cool thing about this brain-booster is it doesn’t contain caffeine or gluten, my pals. Yup, you heard it right. Alpha Brain is safe for users who follow a caffeine-free and gluten-free diet.

But don’t just take my word for it—do the research. Check out the science behind it, the countless user reviews and their experiences, and weigh the pros and cons. Like any other change you introduce to your system, taking Alpha requires some thought.

I started my Alpha journey with a scoopful of optimism, swearing by the mantra “no pain, no gain”. Taking it was as easy as ABC—just a couple of capsules a day, and voilà, you’re part of the Alpha club. The first few days didn’t bring about any earth-shattering results. But, patience, my friend, is the name of the game; the gradual but perceptible improvements in my brain functions eventually surfaced.

When it comes to Alpha Brain, or any other nootropic, it’s not just about taking a supplement, but what that supplement can do for you. And if it can give your brain that extra push without compromising your caffeine-free and gluten-free diet, then it’s all the more power to you.

Ed Latimore with his son 3 month old that causes sleep deprivation
I'm smiling, but I'm secretly exhausted haha

The rest of this article goes into detail and gives a little background into the supplement, but I’ll give you a small spoiler alert:

This is one of the best nootropics you can buy that is not a neuropeptide or over-the-counter medication.

Even if you trusted my word enough to buy from that alone, you should still keep reading to learn more about how Alpha Brain supports memory, improves cognitive performance, and increases your mental processing speed of information.

Though if you do want to trust my word and support the site, I’d love if you bought it from my links here on the page. It means a lot!—>Get Alpha Brain here.

I also give you information on the company’s history, its founder Marcus Aubrey, and what led him to create Onnit Labs and help thousands improve their physical and mental performance.

This is one of the most thorough Onnit Alpha Brain reviews out there. I left no observation or research point unchecked.

Let’s get into it!

What is Alpha Brain and where did it come from?

Onnit logo

Alpha Brain is a nootropic supplement created by Onnit, a health and wellness company founded by Aubrey Marcus in 2010. The idea for Alpha Brain originated when Marcus began experimenting with various cognitive-enhancing supplements and nootropics in order to improve his own mental performance.

After being unimpressed and dissatisfied with the available options on the market at the time, he figured it was just time to make his own.

To develop Alpha Brain, Marcus worked with a team of scientists and experts in neuroscience, nutrition, and biochemistry. They researched various natural compounds that could enhance cognitive function and memory and eventually developed a formula that doesn’t include anything new on the market but combines them in a way that is synergistically more effective than any combination on the market.

In 2011, Onnit released Alpha Brain to the public, and it quickly gained a following among individuals looking to improve their cognitive performance. The supplement has been very well covered by the media and is one of the best-known and most popular nootropic supplements on the market.

Get it here

Joe Rogan and Marcus Aubrey
Joe Rogan has been a big campaigner of the supplement

Who is Aubrey Marcus, and why does it matter

Aubrey Marcus is an American entrepreneur, author, and podcast host and founder/CEO of Austin, TX based Onnit, a health and wellness company.

Marcus is known for his focus on optimizing human performance. His philosophy is based on the idea that we can all achieve our full potential by focusing on various aspects of our health and well-being, including nutrition, fitness, mindfulness, and personal development.

Aubrey Marcus founder of Onnit
Aubrey Marcus training

Marcus has also been recognized for his leadership and entrepreneurship. He has been named to the Forbes 30 Under 30 list and featured in numerous media outlets, including Men’s Health, The New York Times, and Entrepreneur. This guy is the real deal in terms of fitness and business.

When I did some more research into Aubrey Marcus, I also discovered he’s a poet and a filmmaker. If there was ever someone you’d consider a “Renaissance Man”, Aubrey Marcus would fit the bill.

Onnit Alpha Brain has been tested in clinical trials

Alpha Brain tested in clinical trials
Alpha Brain tested in clinical trials

The entire supplement was tested. Not a few of the individual ingredients, but the whole thing. This is relatively rare in the supplement world, where the FDA has no regulatory power. Supplements are not required to pass rigorous standards to be sold.

This means that your supplement could be full of sawdust. Supplement companies know that there are no regulations, so they have no real incentive to be honest because no one is checking and good marketing, and a few well-placed anecdotes largely the result of the placebo effect is the hustle du jour.

A 2016 study gave Onnit Alpha Brain or a placebo to 63 participants ages 18-35 for six weeks. The people who took Onnit Alpha Brain had better verbal recall and cognitive function than the placebo group.

From the study:

At six weeks, significant improvement was noted in tasks of delayed verbal recall and executive functioning for the Alpha BRAIN® group compared to placebo (p < 0.05)…Analysis of variance (ANOVA) was utilized to assess the impact of randomization on neuropsychological outcome measures across time points. Results indicated significant interaction effects for improvement in delayed verbal recall for the AlphaBrain(TM) group, F (1.61) = 4.07, p < 0.05, partial eta squared =0.06.

In other words, Alpha Brain works.

The word around the internet is that this study was self-funded, and the results of another self-funded study did not return such significant claims. That’s not to say the results are bogus or anything, but it’s always good to be aware of potential sponsorship bias.

Even if the study results don’t influence your decision, the individual ingredients have been tested, and they more or less all contribute to improved mental performance.

Onnit Alpha Brain Ingredients

Alpha Brain ingredients<figcaption>The Alpha Brain ingredients</figcaption>

Onnit Alpha Brain uses three proprietary blends and two individual ingredients. While the ingredients contained in the proprietary blends are listed, many of their individual doses are not.

I imagine this is done to defend against competitors looking to emulate their specific blend, as proprietary blends aren’t required to list the amount of the individual ingredients included within. I can only assume the ingredients are from.a verified, vetted, and trusted source.

From the FDA website:

**According to the Food and Drug Administration (FDA), the FDA requires all supplement manufacturers to list all of the ingredients in a product, on its label along with the appropriate amount of each in terms of weight. BUT! If the ingredients are part of a proprietary blend – the specific amount of each individual ingredient in the proprietary blend does not have to be listed, only the total **

The list of Alpha Brain ingredients, its three 3 proprietary blends, and their functions are as follows:

Onnit Flow Blend

The Onnit Flow Blend is formulated to promote alpha brain wave production. This is the only nootropic I’ve seen that claims to be able to do this. This is a powerful marketing tactic, as alpha brain waves are associated with flow state.

During flow state, the primary brainwaves produced are alpha and theta waves. These brainwaves are associated with a relaxed and focused mental state. The ingredients in the Onnit Flow Blend proprietary mixture help you express the combination alpha and theta waves more easily.

Alpha waves are produced when the brain is in wakeful relaxation and are associated with a relaxed yet alert mental state. This mental state is often characterized by a feeling of calm and focus, similar to the state experienced during meditation. Alpha waves are believed to help enhance creativity, improve memory, and promote mental clarity.

Theta waves are produced during light sleep and daydreaming and are associated with deep relaxation and inward focus. This mental state is often characterized by creativity, intuition, and inspiration. Theta waves are believed to help enhance visualization, improve memory, and promote mental and emotional balance.

During the flow state, the brain produces a unique combination of alpha and theta waves, which help to create a relaxed and focused mental state ideal for achieving a state of flow. These brainwaves are thought to play a key role in the ability to focus, maintain attention, and perform at a high level while feeling calm and in control.

Alpha brain Onnit Flow blend ingredients
List of ingredients to help get into flow state
  • L-Tyrosine: L-Tyrosine is an amino acid that helps to produce the neurotransmitters dopamine and norepinephrine, which are involved in cognitive function. mood, and reward-seeking behavior. (Source)
  • L-Theanine: L-theanine is an amino acid found in tea leaves and has been shown to promote relaxation and reduce stress. It has been proven to increase the production of alpha brain waves. (Source)
  • Oat Straw Extract: Oat straw extract is an herbal supplement that redues anxiety and stress, promotes relaxation, improves cognitive function, and reduces mental fatigue. This is accomplished by increasing blood flow to the brain and heart and allowing you to breathe more deeply. (Source)
  • Phosphatidylserine: Phosphatidylserine (PS) is a phospholipid found in high concentrations in the brain that enhances memory, improves attention, and reduces stress. It’s also involved in the production of dopamine. It’s got a host of neuroprotective benefits, but it also boosts moods, lowers cortisol, and helps you to relax. These are all things required to get into the flow. (Source)

Onnit Focus Blend

Acetylcholine is a neurotransmitter that is important for cognitive function, including focus and attention. It is critical in regulating various cognitive processes, including attention, learning, and memory. By increasing the availability of acetylcholine in the brain, it is believed that cognitive function, focus, and attention can be enhanced.

In addition, acetylcholine is believed to play a role in the regulation of the thalamus, which is a part of the brain that is important for attention and sensory processing. By modulating the activity of the thalamus, acetylcholine can help to regulate attention and focus.

The goal of the focus blend is to increase the amount of acetylcholine in the brain to improve your ability to focus while in flow state.

  • Alpha-GPC: Alpha-GPC is believed to work by increasing levels of acetylcholine. In addition, it’s also been shown to increase blood flow to the brain, improving oxygen and nutrient delivery to brain cells. This leads to improved brain function and focus.

    In addition, Alpha-GPC also increases the production of phosphatidylcholine, the ingredient found in the flow blend. (Source)
  • Bacopa Monnieri: Bacopa Monnieri contains compounds known as bacosides, which have been shown to have antioxidant and anti-inflammatory effects on the brain. These effects may help to protect brain cells from damage, inflammation, and oxidative stress, which can improve cognitive function, including focus and attention.

    Bacopa Monnieri also increases the production of acetylcholine. It’s been shown to improve blood flow to the brain, improving oxygen and nutrient delivery to brain cells, and leading to improved brain function and focus. Bacopa Monnieri also reduces anxiety and stress, which can interfere with cognitive function and attention. (Source)
  • Toothed Clubmoss Extract: Toothed clubmoss extract is an herb that naturally contains Huperzine A. This allows you to get even more of the benefits of Huperzine A. This herb is also been shown to have memory-boosting effects. (Source)

Onnit Fuel Blend

With your brain working a higher level, it needs to be fueled. Intense focus is active, even if you aren’t physically moving. This is why chess players can burn so many calories during a match.

These ingredients make it easier for your brain to ensure the calories in your body so that it can keep up with the demand you’re now placing on it.

L-Leucine and Pterostilbene
Ingredients for Alpha Brain Proprietary Fuel Blend
  • L-Leucine: L-Leucine is an essential amino acid that plays a vital role in brain function and cognition. It is one of the three branched-chain amino acids (BCAAs) important for healthy brain function.

    L-Leucine enhances cognitive function by increasing the availability of certain neurotransmitters, including dopamine, norepinephrine, and serotonin, which are important for mood, motivation, and cognitive function. These neurotransmitters play a key role in regulating attention, focus, and memory.

    In addition, L-Leucine has been shown to improve glucose uptake by cells, which can provide a steady source of energy for the brain. Glucose is a primary fuel source for the brain, and by improving its uptake, L-Leucine fuels cognitive function during arduous mental tasks. (Source)
  • Pterostilbene: Pterostilbene is a natural compound that belongs to the stilbene family of compounds. Stilbenes are a small family of phenylpropanoids produced in many plant species that have several pharmacological benefits. The most well-known of these stilbenes is resveratrol, the anti-aging antioxidant in wine and grapes. (Source)

    Pterostilbene is believed to enhance cognitive function and support healthy brain aging by several mechanisms. It is a powerful antioxidant and has been shown to protect brain cells from damage caused by oxidative stress and inflammation. (Source)

    Pterostilbene also improves blood flow to the brain, which can improve the delivery of oxygen and nutrients to brain cells, leading to improved brain function and cognitive performance. It has also been shown to increase the levels of dopamine and acetylcholine.

    Lastly, and most interestingly, pterostilbene is also believed to support healthy brain aging by promoting the growth of new brain cells and supporting the repair and maintenance of existing brain cells. It has been shown to activate several signaling pathways in the brain that are involved in cell growth, differentiation, and survival. (Source)

Individual Alpha Brain ingredients

These two ingredients appear to be supplementary to the rest of the primary ingredients of the 3 blends. They likely work synergistically, promoting an even greater ability to focus.

Vitamin B6 and Cats Claw Alpha Brain Ingredients
Other ingredients that contribute to Alpha Brain
  • Vitamin B6 (Pyridoxine HCI): One of the key roles of Vitamin B6 is in the production of neurotransmitters serotonin, dopamine, and norepinephrine. By increasing the availability of these neurotransmitters, Vitamin B6 may enhance cognitive function and promote mental alertness and focus. (Source)
  • Cat’s Claw Extract: Cat’s Claw extract is a natural compound that is derived from the bark and roots of the Uncaria tomentosa plant. It has been used traditionally in South American medicine for its anti-inflammatory and immune-boosting properties.Recent research suggests that Cat’s Claw extract may also have cognitive benefits. It contains several bioactive compounds, including oxindole alkaloids, which have been shown to improve cognitive function and memory. (Source)

The ingredients in Alpha Brain are safe and effective. With that said, I’m not your doctor. I’m not a doctor at all. None of this is medical advice. Just my experiences.

If you’re worried before you pick up some Alpha Brain, talk to your physician. Don’t just trust some guy on the internet who constantly talks about crackheads and used to get punched in the face for a living.

My overall experience with Alpha Brain

I take 2-4 Alpha Brain capsules in the morning on an empty stomach, depending on how much work I have to do and how well I slept the night before. As I write this, my son is a few days shy of 3 months, and as all new parents know, my sleep has been trash.

It takes about 90 minutes for it fully kick in, but you’re aware that something is happening within 15 minutes.

Alpha brain has not only helped me stay focused during the day, but I even got my rating over 1800 since I’ve been on it. I was also better able to study and learn from a loss (the few I had) while on Onnit Alpha Brain.  Considering how much sleep deprivation wrecks your cognitive performance, I consider this improvement.

Ed Latimore Chess Rating
Got up to 1800 in my rating using Alpha Brain

Alpha Brain has also helped me restart my newsletter, produce content for my website, and complete my book proposal while in this serious state of sleep deprivation (and general lack of an environment conducive to focus).

While I’m no stranger to nootropics, there’s a part of me that wondered if this was merely a placebo. This led me to dig deeply into the ingredients. That information is listed in the next section, but I discovered something interesting along the way.

Biggest Benefits of Alpha Brain

A longer flow state that’s easier to get into

This has so far been the primary benefit of Alpha Brain.

Writing is so much easier using Alpha Brain. I suspect it’s a combination of intense focus and the ability to express myself clearly. Using this supplement daily also functioned as “motivation in a bottle.” I had so many ideas clearly produced in my mind and such an urge to do them, I regularly stayed up until 2 in the morning working on them.

I can honestly say that this is the first nootropic to make me feel more productive. This is not to say that others I’ve used don’t work, but they’re most effective at making you stay focused on a task. Alpha brain does this while also not making you feel like you  need to do anything else.

It’s also worth noting that the brain is primarily producing alpha waves and theta brain waves when in the flow state. These are brain waves primarily associated with a feeling of calm alertness and are most conducive to meditation and feelings of being present.

Interestingly, these are the dominant brain waves in creative work and during an intense chess match. This explains why my chess play improves and mental speed increases while on Alpha Brain.

Alpha and Theta waves for flow state
Alpha and Thea waves are most present during flow state. Pic courtesy of

I’d say the biggest payoff for my Spanish is that I could listen to the language longer without getting overwhelmed as tried to translate in real time.

Anyone who regularly uses a foreign language knows that there is a real limit to how long you can keep the translation efforts going before you need a rest. I found that Alpha brain helped slow the language down and increase the time I could spend before I got lost in translation.

Alpha Brain isn’t going to magically boost your memory overnight, but it has a positive effect on information retention, I’ve noticed from early on. This benefit was especially evident when it came to recalling the vocabulary that I’d learned without doing nearly as much repetition as usual.

Now, I fully recognize this could result from naturally developing a feel for the language, but I’m just reporting my personal experiences on the supplement.

I need less sleep but function at a higher level

I use an Oura Ring to track my sleep. According to the ring, I’ve only been sleeping 4-6 hours a night, but I’m getting more than my recommended deep sleep.

Deep sleep is a specific phase of sleep where a lot of restorative activity takes place. (Source)

It’s agreed that you need to spend between 13 and 23% of your sleeping time in deep sleep. To put that in perspective, this means that if I got 7 hours of sleep, I should expect to spend 55 and 97 minutes in deep sleep. Well, I’m not getting 7 hours of sleep, but I’m spending well over 97 minutes in deep sleep.

During deep sleep, a variety of functions take place in the mind and body:

  • memories are consolidated
  • learned information and emotional experiences are processed
  • growth hormone is released, and physical recovery occurs
  • blood sugar levels and metabolism balance out
  • the immune system is rebuilt
  • the brain detoxifies

Without deep sleep, you begin to show the symptoms of sleep deprivation. I was honestly not expecting this benefit, but it’s been a bit of a lifesaver as I’ve got a lot of work, but my sleep is often interrupted because of my new child.

Oura Ring Sleep Data while on Alpha Brain
Forgive the Spanish. In the red box are my hours slept. In the green is how much was spent in deep sleep. I'm getting fewer hours but more out of them.

This benefit is interesting because, according to the research, I should theoretically be spending less time in deep sleep but more time in REM. This is clearly not happening. Even if the Oura Ring is inaccurate, I know how I feel.

I suspect it’s because the half-life of Huperzine A is 10-14 hours and Acetylcholinesterase, the enzyme that breaks down acetylcholine, acts very quickly. So, if I take the supplement at 8 am, by midnight, half is left in my body, and it is presumably half as effective at staving off acetylcholinesterase.

Gorilla Mind Smooth is a possible alternative

Gorilla mind smooth alternative to alpha brain
An alternative to alpha brain that I've written about

Gorilla Mind Smooth is another caffeine-free nootropic I’ve used and written extensively about. (Read my review here)

Gorilla Mind Smooth effectively does the same thing and even has an identical ingredient profile. There are two notable differences between them, one good and one bad.

  1. Positive. Because Gorilla Mind Smooth doesn’t mix the ingredients in a proprietary blend, you know the exact amounts you’re taking. This may not matter to most people, but I know there are some biohackers out there who need the numbers.

    If that’s you, or you just care about knowing the exact numbers, Gorilla Mind Smooth is probably better for you.
  2. Negative. Gorilla Mind Smooth has a serving size of 6 capsules. That’s a lot of capsules. Furthermore, it’s my opinion that the effect Gorilla Mind Smooth is not as intense nor does it last as long.

    This tells us that Alpha Brain likely has the exact amounts of the ingredients hidden in a propriety blend to keep competitors from knowing how to do more with less.

In comparing the two products, Alpha Brain is closer to a more intense product that the Gorilla Mind company no longer carries, called “Gorilla Mind Rush.” The active ingredient was dimethylaminoethanol (DMAE). Like the ingredients in Alpha Brain, DMAE increases the production of the acetylcholine.

I’ll probably continue to use Gorilla Mind Smooth, but Alpha Brain has definitely made its way into my nootropic stack. Get some here to add it to yours.

Potential side effects, warnings, and disclaimers

Most nootropics have ingredients that lack long term research, but Alpha Brain’s ingredient list is doesn’t contain anything that’s been linked with any side effects. Like any nootropic, you may experience jitters. You may also experience trouble sleeping if you take it too late in the day, as acetylcholine does promote wakefulness.

I personally didn’t experience any of these side effects. I’m just reporting on what other people have reported.. In fact, I’m sleeping better now that I’m on it. That may be because of the neuroprotective and neuro-regenerative effects of many of Alpha Brain’s ingredients. It may also be because I don’t take the supplement any later than 9 am.

Also, it’s been recommended that you don’t take this supplement everyday, as you can build a tolerance, making it far less effective.

As a disclaimer, I have to state the obvious: if you have any medical condition, you should probably consult your doctor before taking this. This post isn’t medical advice. It’s just my experience with a product.

In closing

In the realm of brain health, Alpha Brain shines as a remarkable nootropic supplement. Its emphasis on neural communication and promoting a healthy brain environment sets it apart as a potential aid in preserving cognitive health and combatting cognitive decline.

While no supplement is a magic bullet, Alpha Brain offers a thoughtful combination of ingredients that may support human optimization by fostering a sharper, more focused mind. Whether you’re a student, a professional, or someone looking to maintain mental clarity over the years, incorporating Alpha Brain into your regimen could be a step towards unlocking your cognitive potential.

Remember, though, to maintain a balanced lifestyle with a healthy diet and exercise to reap the full benefits of this supplement.

If this review helped you decide to buy some Alpha Brain, I’d love if you purchased through one of my affiliate links on this page. You can even set it up to be a recurring subscription.

It costs you nothing and helps me out.

Much love and the rest is up to you!

Buy here

Ed Latimore
About the author

Ed Latimore

I’m a writer, competitive chess player, Army veteran, physicist, and former professional heavyweight boxer. My work focuses on self-development, realizing your potential, and sobriety—speaking from personal experience, having overcome both poverty and addiction.

Follow me on Twitter.