If you’re like most people who use Nootropics, you don’t just use one at a time (often known as stacking); this is a good way to optimize your performance but can present some issues, mainly in making it difficult to determine which Nootropic substance you are reacting to (either positively or negatively). There are three main ways of determining which Nootropic may be causing your reaction: Google-Fu, Simple Search, and Binary Search. Each search form has its own merits and disadvantages which I will outline, and show why Binary Search can be one of the strongest and fastest ways to solve the issue.
The first way to figure out which substance is causing your reaction is by Googling it; this way can be effective but relies on a few assumptions that can make it inefficient. The first issue you can run into is not finding anyone else who has documented the same reaction that you are having; if no one else has ever had that reaction (or one similar) you probably won’t find anything. The other issue with Google-Fu is you end up relying on anecdotal reports from other users, which can be extremely unreliable.
Simple Search is as the name implies; if you react to a stack that you ingest, you would stop all use, then re-introduce each substance one-by-one until you react again, which would then highlight which substance is the issue. For example, if you are taking a stack with 8 substances in it, Simple Search would require up to 7 days to determine which substance is the culprit; not the most efficient way of going about determining what is causing your reaction.
Binary Search is most often used in programming to find a specific instance or value within a set of variables; it can also be applied to finding which substance you are reacting to in a similar (but much more efficient) form to Simple Search. It is similar to Simple Search in you eliminate all substances from your system, then reintroduce them; however, unlike Simple Search, you reintroduce multiple substances at once, allowing for greater efficiency. The example of an 8 substance stack used in the Simple Search portion of this article would go something like this (assuming you are taking substance A, B, C, D, E, F, G, and H):
– Day 1: Take substances A, B, C, and D; if you do not have the reaction then you know if wasn’t one of those that caused it and you also know the culprit is either substance E, F, G, or H
– Day 2: Take substances E and F; if you do not have the reaction, then you know it was either substance G or H that caused the reaction
– Day 3: Take substance G; if no reaction, then you know it is most likely substance H that is causing the issue
– Similarly, if you reacted on Day 1, then you can apply the same method to those first 4 substances to determine which one caused the reaction.
As you can see, in the case of this example you have been able to isolate the offending substance in 3 days, instead of the 7 needed when using Simple Search. Keep in mind, this is assuming it is a single substance causing the issue; a slight modification of Binary Search can also be used to determine if there is an interaction between 2 or more of the substances you are taking that is causing the reaction.
Editor’s Note (By Mike)
Other people have done an excellent job with the Binary Search approach to nootropics and supplements. There’s an excellent paper on the subject by PJ Woolf on pubmed (http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/19396735) and another good summary by reddit user Javastripped here (http://www.reddit.com/r/Nootropics/comments/13bbi0/protip_do_a_binary_search_of_your_supplements_to/)