Mark Pierson is a Senior Research Associate at Johns Hopkins University with a Master’s of Science degree in clinical psychology
TruBrain think drinks are liquid nootropics developed by neuroscientists trained at the University of California, Los Angeles (UCLA). These drinks were developed to solve the problem that ‘typical’ energy drinks do not enhance focus. TruBrain think drinks come in thin, eco-friendly, recyclable cardboard packaging that has a reported 92% reduction in waste compared to plastic containers according to their website. This is a unique aspect of truBrain think drinks, because most nootropics come in tablet form within a plastic bottle that can rattle in your bag and make you sound like a walking pharmacy. The truBrain pouches are compact, highly portable, and rather convenient considering you do not have to measure out various powders or take a myriad of tablets to ingest nootropics. The packaging, in and of itself, is a conversation starter. As coworkers would pass by my office, they would ask, “What’s that?” Most of these folks have never heard of ‘nootropics’ let alone a liquid supplement designed to boost energy and cognition.
TruBrain primarily consists of oxiracetam (800 mg: 34%), acetyl-L-carnitine (500 mg: 21%), N-acetyl-tyrosine (350 mg: 15%), CDP-choline (250 mg: 11%), magnesium (200 mg: 9%), L-theanine (160 mg: 7%), and caffeine (80 mg: 3%). The percentages of these active ingredients depend upon which truBrain blend you choose to drink (i.e., original, boost, or caffeine free), especially in regards to caffeine and L-theanine. The original blend contains 80 mg of caffeine and 160 mg of L-theanine, whereas the boost contains 100 mg of caffeine and 200 mg of L-theanine. The largest proportion of truBrain’s ingredients is oxiracetam, a nootropic from the racetam family, and has been shown to increase the release of glutamate (i.e., one of the primary, excitatory neurotransmitters in the brain ) in the hippocampus of rats. (2) Unfortunately, most of the research conducted on oxiracetam has been conducted using the animal model with inconsistent cognitive enhancing effects in humans. (3) Acetyl-L-carnitine (or ALCAR) is an amino acid of L-carnitine, which is broken down in the bloodstream and used by the body to transport fatty acids into the mitochondria for breakdown as well as assisting in acetylcholine production (i.e., one of the primary neurotransmitters associated with learning and memory). (4) ALCAR has been suggested as a potential treatment for dementia; however, meta-analyses have not supported ALCAR as a viable treatment to augment cognition for aging adults. (5) N-acetyl-tyrosine (or tyrosine) is an amino acid precursor to dopamine (i.e., a neurotransmitter associated with learning and memory) and norepinephrine (6); interestingly, tyrosine has been noted to increase cognitive function under stress (7) and help sustain working memory while multitasking. (8) CDP-choline (or choline) is a water-soluble nutrient, related to B-complex vitamins, which is a necessary precursor molecule to the neurotransmitter acetylcholine (i.e., one of the primary neurotransmitters associated with learning and memory). (9) The last notable ingredient in truBrain is L-theanine: an amino acid analog of glutamate that has psychoactive properties such as reduction of physical and mental stress (10) and improved cognition. (11) If theanine sounds familiar, it’s probably because it’s found in – and usually extracted from – green tea. An interesting detail about theanine is that it promotes alpha wave production in the brain (12), which is thought to play a role in neuronal coordination and communication. (13)
The truBrain Experience
Upon tearing the tab off of the truBrain package, I personally felt awkward sucking a liquid out of a pouch. That awkwardness was quickly subsided by an incredibly delicious, fruity flavor that probably comes from the addition of pomegranate and other natural sweeteners (i.e., stevia, blue agave, cranberry, and sugar cane). As far as taste goes, in my opinion, truBrain is far more palatable than your ‘typical’ energy drink! These drinks would be a great ingredient to add to fruit smoothies or juices; however, I think they taste great on their own. One thing you may want to know about nootropics with oxiracetam – or other racetams – is that you need to take them persistently over time for maximum effects. (3) In other words, it’s not a quick fix that will turn an imbecile into Einstein with a single dose. To be fair, truBrain does advise their consumers to, “be patient and keep in mind that it may be helpful to have more frequent doses in the beginning.” TruBrain’s recommended dosage is two think drinks daily (e.g., once in the morning and once in the afternoon) and they report the onset for think drinks is about 45 minutes and the effects can last up to five hours. The onset and duration of cognitive clarity purported by truBrain was accurate in my experience. In general, truBrain is effective in clearing up ‘mental fog,’ which allowed me to focus on tedious tasks at hand. The experience was cognitively cleaner and smoother than that of energy drinks and, to reiterate, tastes way better! If you are looking for a non-jittery jolt, I definitely recommend truBrain’s boost blend, because it has more caffeine and L-theanine. (Note. truBrain recommends that the boost blend should be taken at least five hours before you plan to go to sleep) The boost blend, in particular, does not make you feel skittish unlike other commercially available nootropic blends or stacks that rely heavily on caffeine for cognitive enhancement. However, I did notice substantial sympathetic nervous system arousal with the boost blend: the get-up-and-go factor is quite impressive. Unfortunately, truBrain does not sell the boost blend by itself; instead only a few of the ‘turbo packs’ are included with each subscription for a, “particularly work-heavy day.” Also, you read that correctly: truBrain is offered in subscriptions, which makes sense considering racetams ought to be taken consistently over time for maximum effects. You can buy truBrain as either a monthly subscription or one time purchase in 15, 30, or 60 drink quantities, although the one time purchases are noticeably higher.
|Drink Quantity||Monthly Subscription||One Time Purchase|
|Note. Prices were assessed at the time of this writing and may vary in the future.|
The pricing may seem steep, however, if you are a regular coffee drinker or gulp down energy drinks on the regular, you may want to compare the costs to your monthly caffeine budget. Also keep in mind that coffee and energy drinks chiefly accomplish autonomic nervous system arousal without the focus component – of course this varies from person to person so please hold back the flak. It’s just food for thought. TruBrain think drinks are advertised as vegan, gluten free, contain no GMOs, generally recognized as safe (GRAS) certified, sustainable (i.e., recyclable packaging), and consists of all natural flavorings.
As a person with a background in the social sciences, I appreciate that truBrain not only set out to create a drink that escalates focus, but more importantly, they plan to put the drinks to the test. The company claims that their next study, fully funded by Dartmouth College, aims to quantify the impact of truBrain’s effects on focus and alpha waves in the brain: I cannot wait to see the results. TruBrain also pays it forward by donating a portion of their proceeds to the Brain Research Institute at UCLA. If you are interested in more information about truBrain, their website has a fairly extensive frequently asked questions (FAQ) section.
- (1) http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/10736372
- (2) http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/2253698
- (3) http://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/0165017394900116#
- (4) http://www.altmedrev.com/publications/15/1/76.pdf
- (5) http://onlinelibrary.wiley.com/doi/10.1002/14651858.CD003158/abstract
- (6) http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/6885965
- (7) http://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/0361923094902003
- (8) http://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/S0091305799000945
- (9) http://ajcn.nutrition.org/content/94/6/1584.abstract?sid=3af7108c-0055-49f4-9dfb-52bd432c1dfd
- (10) http://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/S0301051106001451
- (11) http://online.liebertpub.com/doi/abs/10.1089/jmf.2009.1374
- (12) http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/17272967
- (13) http://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/S0166223607000264