Caffeine is one of the oldest cognitive enhancers known to man. For hundreds of years people from many cultures around the globe have used caffeine in order to improve their mood and effectiveness. Detractors of caffeine like to harp on a few side effects, but overlook many of the benefits. Countless studies have shown caffeine to be an effective tool for increasing concentration, enhancing blood flow and circulation, and even improving metabolism.
Unfortunately, caffeine can be pretty addictive and too much of a good thing is assuredly a bad thing.
Lately, I’ve given myself a test to quit caffeine and over the course of a month developed a three step system that helped wean myself (and others) off of caffeine.
Part two of this 3-step process is to find alternatives to replace caffeine and that is the focus of this article. There are a host of nootropics and smart drugs that can replicate or relieve the effects of caffeine if you know of and use them correctly.
Handling Stress: Adaptogens and Life Without Caffeine
Headaches. Brain fog. Dullness. These are the usual suspects when anyone tries to quit caffeine. Even when people use a weaning process to consume less caffeine, it’s possible to experience these side effects and they are not fun.
Stress comes in many forms, but for our purposes we aren’t talking about the kind of stress that you feel from too many responsibilities at work. This is the kind of stress that includes headaches and brain fog, and is an actual stressor to the body (other stressors include extreme cold, lack of calories, etc).
Some of the best supplements for handling this type of stress are adaptogenic herbs, which have been used for a similar purpose for thousands of years.
Rhodiola Rosea – one of the most used nootropics for handling a life without caffeine is rhodiola rosea. This adaptogenic herb is considered one of the most popular for reducing feelings of fatigue and stress. A meta-analysis (the most comprehensive form of study) showed that rhodiola was an effective tool for increasing mental performance under periods of stress (i.e: not having a morning cup of joe!).
Taking a dosage of rhodiola to help cycle off of caffeine is common within nootropic circles. Even Examine.com founder Sol Orwell uses it for this purpose.
Panax Ginseng – this is the most famous adaptogenic herb and while it is popularized in energy drinks, using an authentic panax ginseng product can help with post-caffeine living. It isn’t as commonly used for the same purposes of rhodiola, but it can be an effective tool nonetheless.
L-Tyrosine – at first glance L-tyrosine may look like a normal amino acid, but it is special for the purposes of overcoming physical stress. One study helped military personnel using L-tyrosine to withstand cold and altitude stressors while maintaining their cognitive performance. L-tyrosine operates with similar systems in the brain as caffeine (dopaminergic), which means it can also replicate some of the mood and concentration benefits of the substance as well.
Increasing Focus and Concentration
Assuming most people don’t consume coffee for the taste, there are other benefits people enjoy with caffeine. Primary among these are focus and concentration advantages that help people maintain a higher level of productivity in the workplace (or student dorm room).
Some of these alternatives are even more high-powered than caffeine so use them with caution.
Noopept – considered to be 1,000 times stronger than Piracetam, this nootropic drug can be a powerful stimulant depending on your brain chemistry. Developed in the 1970s, the drug is quite safe and often used in countries to treat memory loss and decline. Anecdotally, Noopept is used as a stimulant.
In fact, Noopept can be so stimulating, a Redditor found a mainstream pre-workout supplement (called Prosupps Hyde V2), which included the drug as one of the ingredients. With noopept you have a good combination of well-researched, safe, and stimulating at the same time.
Phenylpiracetam – while less researched than the Noopept counterpart above, Phenylpiracetam is considered to be more potent and stimulating. As a replacement for caffeine, there aren’t many nootropics that can match. In a Reddit thread about racetam usage, most respondents claimed Phenylpiracetam was the best. According to one person “It’s awesome. It’s basically like overclocking your
at the lowest dose of 100 m
g, it’s possible to use Phenylpiracetam as a replacement for caffeine. At some of the higher doses (like 4-500 mg), it becomes even more stimulating than caffeine. It’s so powerful, the world anti-doping committee has listed it as a banned substance for Olympic athletes.
Modafinil – definitely one of the most powerful of the caffeine alternatives, Modafinil (also known as Provigil) has gained increasing popularity in Silicon Valley and on Wall Street. With recommendations from the likes of Dave Asprey and even Tim Ferriss, Modafinil has become the wonder drug many people were looking for.
When replacing caffeine with Modafinil it’s better to take a measured and cautious approach. Modafinil interacts with some of the same mechanisms as caffeine (increasing dopamine and adrenaline), which can replicate many of the side effects of caffeine that may have caused you to quit in the first place.
Although Modafinil is safe relative to Adderall or other amphetamine-based drugs, it may be a bit of overkill especially to take it often. If you’re using Modafinil, try to keep usage to once or twice per 10 days. Also, given that Modafinil requires a prescription in many countries, using an alternative called Adrafinil is probably a safer bet.
Life After Caffeine
Shaking a caffeine habit is not as difficult as you think especially with the nootropics and smart drugs we have outlined for you above. Not all of these are going to help you (and some might hurt if abused), but it’s important to at least reset your relationship with caffeine through whatever means necessary.
Using the nootropics above will help your body to adapt to the stress of not having caffeine and improve your focus and attention without the substance.