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Alpha BRAIN Review: A boost to your memory and focus?

Does Onnit’s nootropic work, and is it safe? Find out if it will improve your brain function.

Last Updated: Feb 8, 2022
Alpha Brain Review

We’ve all been there: tired, sluggish, letting mistakes slide by that you’d normally notice and correct, drinking cups of coffee (plural) and still feeling like you can’t get past the wall of fog. Difficulty with concentration, focus, and other cognitive tasks are growing more and more prevalent. In response to these struggles, nootropics (substances that improve brain function) are gaining popularity.

Alpha BRAIN is a nootropic supplement that was designed by popular podcaster, UFC commentator, and ex-Fear Factor host Joe Rogan. Made in Austin, Texas by supplement and lifestyle optimization company Onnit, Alpha BRAIN was created to help you sharpen your mind, improve your memory, hone your word recall, stay focused, and more without using caffeine or other stimulants.

Sounds like a no-brainer to use, right? Nootropics are still highly controversial in the scientific community, so that answer might not be as simple as it seems. We looked into Alpha BRAIN to help you decide if it could be as good for you as it sounds.

Pros

  • One of the most cost-effective nootropics on the market right now
  • Free 15-day trial with subscription order
  • Formula includes promising ingredients with some scientific backing
  • 15% discount for military, first responders, and medical providers
  • Free shipping on orders over $150
  • 10% off your first order when you sign up for Onnit’s email newsletter

Cons

  • Likely that many ingredients are at a dose too low to have major effects for everyone
  • Lack of transparency about some valuable information
  • Nootropics are not inexpensive

Bottom line

If you would describe yourself as sensitive to things you ingest (like caffeine), and you want to try one of the more affordable nootropics without buying a full months’ worth, then Alpha BRAIN might be a great choice for you. On the surface, it has everything: dedicated fans, celebrity endorsements, an ingredient list that is (mostly) clinically relevant, and a scientific study proving it has positive effects to a certain extent. However, we found that its ingredients are not available in high enough doses to provide a predictable clinical benefit for everybody. Many people swear by Alpha BRAIN, yet a considerable amount of testers and customers don’t feel any sharper from taking the supplement.

Our Top Picks

Alpha Brain

Alpha Brain is a dietary supplement designed to boost cognitive function. While not the most potent on the market, it’s also more affordable than many.

This supplement aims to help you think more clearly under stress, recall information faster, and focus on complex tasks – all without serious side effects of caffeine. Not everyone will experience those effects, which is why the 15-day trial period is valuable.

90 Count
Reviewed by Innerbody Research
$80
30 Count
Reviewed by Innerbody Research
$35

What is Alpha BRAIN?

Alpha BRAIN is a nootropic and the flagship product from Onnit, a supplement brand created by Aubrey Marcus in 2011. Alpha BRAIN was inspired by celebrity Joe Rogan, who was interested in the potential nootropics held in enhancing cognitive function. Rogan, who says he’s taken the supplement regularly since before the product’s launch in 2010, claims Alpha BRAIN improves his recall of words, focus, and performance in shows to such an extent that he “doesn’t want to do anything without it.”

This nootropic supplement comes in capsules to take twice a day. Inside of these capsules are four proprietary blends of vitamins, herbs, and amino acids designed to improve your cognitive functioning and increase the amount of time you spend in “flow states.” When you feel “in the groove” on a project, run, or piece of art and you look up to see hours have flown by without you realizing it, you’ve been in a flow state. These states are often considered the pinnacle of productivity without compromising your mental health.

These flow states occur when the brain is functioning with alpha waves, a state of overall neurological activity that is found in deep relaxation and quiet rest. Alpha waves tend to disappear when you exert concentration on a task (replaced instead by beta waves, a higher frequency) and are found most often when you close your eyes.

Alpha BRAIN is BSCG-certified, meaning it doesn’t contain any ingredients banned by international athletic associations nor does it have contact with any during the manufacturing process.

Studies

While we don’t yet know for sure if Alpha BRAIN works as advertised, a 2016 study from the journal Human Psychopharmacology found that after six weeks, people aged 18 to 35 who took Alpha BRAIN performed significantly better on neuropsychological tests measuring verbal memory and executive functioning than their peers who didn’t.

The study was published twice – once in 2015 in the Journal of the International Society of Sports Nutrition, and again in Human Psychopharmacology in 2016 with significant improvements in explanations of how they did things. It’s important to note that this study was performed by members of both the scientific community and the Onnit team themselves, so the study may be biased. We don’t know whether or not this influenced the work.

Another study from 2018 showed that Alpha BRAIN had no noticeable or statistically significant effects on soldiers’ mood, cognitive function, or marksmanship when taking the nootropic at a dose slightly higher than recommended (3 capsules per day rather than 2). This study was also funded by Onnit, though they didn’t work with the research team directly.

Other Alpha BRAIN products

The Alpha BRAIN we discuss in this article is the staple of its product line. However, Onnit has created three other Alpha BRAIN-based products:

  • Alpha BRAIN Instant, an identical dietary powder in six flavors
  • Alpha BRAIN Black Label, which contains additional brain and eye health-driven ingredients (including small amounts of caffeine) at a higher price
  • Alpha BRAIN Focus Shot, an identical liquid version of Alpha BRAIN in two flavors

How does Alpha BRAIN work?

Alpha BRAIN is a nootropic supplement and what some call a “stack” because it relies on multiple nootropic ingredients to create one cohesive, detailed product. Whether or not you realize it, there’s a strong chance you’ve already tried a nootropic substance. Common nootropics include:

  • Caffeine
  • Nicotine
  • Ginkgo biloba
  • Lion’s mane
  • Creatine
  • L-theanine
  • Rhodiola Rosea
  • Ginseng
  • Stimulant medication like amphetamine (Adderall) and methylphenidate (Ritalin)
  • Some sleep medication like modafinil (Provigil)
  • Some Alzheimer’s and Parkinson’s medication like donepezil (Aricept) and selegiline (Zelapar)

Alpha BRAIN is made of four separate proprietary blends. The nootropic supplement doesn’t contain caffeine, but it does contain:

  • Vitamin B6
  • Onnit Flow Blend (L-Tyrosine, L-Theanine, Oat Straw Extract, Phosphatidylserine)
  • Cat’s Claw Extract
  • Onnit Focus Blend (Alpha GPC, Bacopa Extract, Huperzine A)
  • Onnit Fuel Blend (L-Leucine, Pterostilbene)

Each of the blends are designed to target a different mechanism within your brain to help it function at its peak. Onnit Flow Blend is designed for “promoting alpha brain wave production,” Focus Blend for optimal acetylcholine levels, and Fuel Blend for optimal nervous system communication.

On the Alpha BRAIN webpage, Onnit specifically walks through each of the individual ingredients, what it’s thought to do, and how they see it as helping Alpha BRAIN accomplish its duties.

Dosing and concerns

It’s difficult to find any information on how much of each ingredient is actually in Alpha BRAIN. Since Onnit designs its own blends, the Supplement Facts sheet only provides how much of each blend is in every dose, not how much of each ingredient. The scientific study of Alpha BRAIN contains some of this information, but the article is behind a paywall and isn’t always easy to find or understand.

Likewise, looking deeper into the ingredients reveals a clear problem with the supplement: not all of the ingredients have studies backing up Onnit’s claims, and those that do require large amounts of each vitamin, mineral, and herb to create the increase in cognitive function that Onnit claims. Since it isn’t clear how much of each ingredient is in Alpha BRAIN, and reaching out to the company doesn’t clear up that information, it’s difficult to say whether or not any of the ingredients can be found in levels high enough to make a difference.

Some ingredients have clear explanations of how it might work that make sense to include in a product like Alpha BRAIN on concept. Phosphatidylserine, for example, is a fat that helps to cover the myelin sheath, the outer coating of a nerve, and helps it send information quickly. However, a lot of the information that we have on phosphatidylserine isn’t directly applicable anymore, since the ingredient was made from cow neural tissue for a long time. This practice stopped with the onset of Mad Cow Disease; we’ve been making it from soy and cabbage for several years, yet there are few reliable studies delving into whether it has the same effects when derived from plants.

Customers report mixed effects of Alpha BRAIN: some experience grand effects, some experience none at all. There are numerous theories as to why this happens, but nothing is confirmed yet.

Dreams

One of the more interesting effects of Alpha BRAIN – which doesn’t always come up in their advertising – is that it creates intensely vivid, often lucid, dreams. This is because the product primarily appears to influence acetylcholine.

Acetylcholine is an important neurotransmitter that works with the parasympathetic nervous system to calm the body after a fight-or-flight response. It also orchestrates some of the release of other neurotransmitters that influence mood, hunger, memory, and more. Nicotine acts on acetylcholine in the body, for example, so the effects of a cigarette mimic an acetylcholine release. Interestingly, acetylcholine seems to influence the start of REM sleep at night and, since it’s involved in muscles where dreams seem to be active, can influence your dreams.

Acetylcholinesterase inhibitors are molecules that stop acetylcholine from breaking down, keeping the neurotransmitter around and influencing the body for longer. Higher levels of acetylcholine during sleep also means that you’ll experience REM for longer, which creates longer dreams that you’ll have a higher likelihood of remembering.

Alpha BRAIN contains several products that both boost acetylcholine at the start and prevent it from leaving your system as quickly, increasing your overall levels of acetylcholine from both ends of the process. Even those who don’t find they get a lot of everyday effects from Alpha BRAIN often find that their dreams are weirder because of the product’s reliance on acetylcholine to impact the body.

It’s worth noting that other nootropics and prescription medications to improve cognitive function also frequently cause observable changes in dreaming.

How much does Alpha BRAIN cost?

There are a few different configurations of Alpha BRAIN that you can order. While they all contain the same formula at the same dose, there are different quantities you can take home at different price points.

Alpha BRAIN comes in both 30- and 90-count bottles. However, a standard dose is two pills per day, so each bottle only contains a 15 and 45 day supply, respectively.

  Standard Cost Cost with Subscription Standard Cost Per Day (vs Subscription)
Alpha BRAIN 30 count $34.95 $29.71 $2.33 ($1.98)
Alpha BRAIN 90 count $79.95 $67.96 $1.78 ($1.51)

While these bottles aren’t cheap, Onnit does the math on their website to show you exactly how the cost per day (using their subscription service) is less than their top three leading competitors – which is still mostly true, even without the subscription discount. The one exception is their “Competitor A” which costs $2.14 per dose, slightly lower than the cost per dose of a 30-count bottle of Alpha BRAIN without a subscription discount.

Shipping prices vary depending on your location. Onnit uses:

  • FedEx SmartPost Presorted Standard (four to nine business days)
  • USPS Priority Mail (three to eight business days)
  • FedEx Home Delivery (one to three business days)

Our testers found that the cost of shipping for each of these three services averaged between $7 and $11. Free shipping is available for orders over $150.

Onnit is so sure that you’ll love Alpha BRAIN that they will give you your first bottle with a subscription for almost nothing. All you’ll have to pay is shipping and tax on your first bottle of Alpha BRAIN.

If you don’t love your Alpha BRAIN supplement, any unopened containers that you have can be returned for a refund.

Onnit also offers a 15% discount to all military members, first responders, and medical providers. You’ll need to verify your identity at checkout with ID.me to access the reward, but after you verify once, Onnit will retain that information and apply the discount at checkout every time.

Subscription program

Like many other supplement brands, you can easily order a subscription of Alpha BRAIN so you never have to run out. This will ship one bottle of either 30 or 90 pills to you at a regular interval with a 15% discount. You can schedule your refills to occur:

  • 7 days
  • 15 days
  • 20 days
  • 30 days
  • 45 days
  • 60 days

Your card won’t be charged until each package ships, so you can cancel your subscription at any point without penalty.

Privacy

Onnit, the company that creates Alpha BRAIN, records a typical amount of information from you with every visit. This includes standard identifying information you’d use at checkout and interactions you have with pages on their website. However, they do not sell any of this information to third parties, nor do employees have access to it. All traffic and checkout pages use bank-level encryption to keep your information safe.

Getting started with Alpha BRAIN

You can purchase Alpha BRAIN at many major retailers, but if you want a subscription to save money, you’ll need to purchase from the Onnit website.

Ordering is easy:

  1. Select your pill count, whether or not you’d like a subscription, and quantity.

  2. Add to cart. Your cart will show your individual items and their separate prices, any discounts, and your total overall cost.

  3. Provide a delivery address and pick a shipping speed.

  4. Input your payment information, through either a major credit card, PayPal, or a gift card.

  5. Wait for your package to arrive!

How we evaluate health products and services

At Innerbody Research, we customize our evaluation criteria depending on the type and nature of the health-related service. For health-related products and services, we have five areas that we use for our evaluations, including:

Quality: How well does the company deliver its core service(s) and product(s) to the customer? For testing services, does the company adhere to the latest and most advanced testing technologies and achieve a very high degree of accuracy? For non-testing telehealth services, is the quality of the service and/or product high enough that we would recommend it to loved ones without hesitation? If not, why not?

User-friendly: How intuitive and user-friendly is the product and/or service? Does it achieve a good degree of user-friendliness for its customers?

Value: Are you getting your money’s worth? Are there any hidden costs or charges? Does the company offer discounts?

Privacy: If health data is stored, will your data be stored securely? Are payments secure?

Customer support: Particularly in situations where ‘one size fits all’ doesn’t make sense, how well does the company help to make the service ideal for you?