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Struggling to focus? Feeling tired all the time? We’ve found seven of the best super supplements to boost your brain power like a boss
Do you find yourself always needing another double expresso or countless cups of tea to help your brain wake up and stay focussed during the day?
Well, today, you’re in luck, as Healthista writer Charlotte Dormon has worked her way through a truckload of nutritional supplements to find out which ones can actually improve our brain power to help us feel more focused for longer and, in general, help our us feel much perkier and brighter throughout the day.
Fancy holding off on that extra espresso and giving something else a go?
Before you close this post down in horror at the thought of giving up your morning latte, fear not. We all know a hectic morning commute can be helped with a shot of caffeine, but so many of us are just going waaaaay over the recommended limits just to keep our brains boosted at work.
This can leave us feeling jittery, depressed and overeating sugary and fatty foods later in the day, all of which causes hormonal imbalances and makes us store extra fat around our tummies due to the excess cortisol we are producing from too huge doses of caffeine.
Fancy holding off on that extra espresso and giving something else a go? Here are Charlotte’s top tried and tested caffeine-free brain boosters to help you boss it better…
#1 Pukka Herbs, Mind Focus
Well known for their organic herbal teas, Pukka herbal experts have formulated a vegan-friendly supplement with a blend of Indian Ayurvedic and western herbs, including – turmeric, tulsi, rosemary and brahmi.
These herbs are well recognised to support overall brain health and cognitive function, including enhanced memory, mood and specifically to aid concentration during long periods of focus – think long meetings, studying and presentation writing.
I found these very helpful as I could take them on an empty stomach with a glass of water or cup of tea first thing in the morning.
As well as emotionally to make decisions, I was able to think more clearly when writing and get far less distracted than I would normally.
If I have too much caffeine, I find it hard to focus and often jumble my thoughts and words – plus drive people mad as I can’t sit still and can’t shut up taking too much!
I also like the fact that the ingredients, including turmeric and rosemary, have been shown to protect the brain due to the high levels of antioxidants, of which help prevent cognitive decline.
Turmeric has been well documented for helping prevent age-related brain health issues, now I am 42 years old, this is something I know is important to address.
READ MORE: Brain food: 7 key nutrients for a healthier brain
#2 BetterYou, B12 Oral Spray
B12 is an essential B vitamin that can often be challenging to get from your diet, especially if you don’t eat a lot of red meat. It is also depleted when taking certain medications and if you have poor digestion.
Low B12 often results in brain fog and poor memory, as well as fatigue.
This cherry-flavoured vitamin spray from Better You allows you to top up on B12 by simply spraying it into your mouth for rapid absorption.
Taking B12 has been a total game-changer for me. It’s something I used to remember to take a lot a few years ago, then stopped when I was taking a general multivitamin, which also had B12 in it, so didn’t feel the need to top up.
I found when I was teetotal (not drinking any alcohol), I wasn’t so foggy-headed and felt my brain was quicker and my memory was fast to recall.
This summer, as it was our first bit of real freedom after the lockdown period, I did end up drinking a lot more alcohol than usual. This did make my brain feel slower, and memory recall was not as good as when I was booze-free.
I started taking B12 every day for a couple of weeks and noticed a big difference in my overall energy levels and remembering important tasks. It’s easy to use and tastes nice and can be taken with or without food.
#3 Link Nutrition, Brain Food
This food-based nutritional supplement combines functional mushrooms, Lion’s Mane and memory-boosting herbs, ginkgo, bacopa and turmeric. Plus, brain-nourishing vitamins and minerals, zinc and B6, to enhance mental performance.
This is 100 per cent one of my absolute favourite supplements for overall brain performance. I found it helped me feel focused and calm throughout the day and helped my mood feel more stable – with less of a lull in the afternoon.
I didn’t feel the effects straight away, but after five days, I could feel the benefits and continued to take two capsules each morning, or sometimes split them morning and afternoon.
#4 elete Electrolyte, liquid drops
Dehydration is one of the biggest problems that cause us to feel fatigued and our brains to perform badly.
Just as little as two per cent dehydration can result in a decrease in performance, so not drinking enough water is defo going to make you struggle to concentrate.
Caffeine is also a strong diuretic, so drinking too much of that and not enough water is going to hinder our mental superpower.
Electrolytes are trace minerals, such as potassium, sodium, magnesium and calcium. They are usually found in small amounts in certain minerals and spring waters but will change from each brand.
Tap water does not have the same electrolyte balance, so adding drops to your water helps keep the amount of water in your body balanced, as well as maintain pH levels and help move nutrients in and out of cells.
Electrolytes also help muscles, nerves, and organs work properly, all of which can help you to feel better throughout the day.
I have a water filter at home, and although it works its magic to purify my London tap water to improve the quality of my H2O, it does not contain the trace minerals we need in order to improve our electrolyte balance.
I started to add in a few drops of the elete electrolytes to my water in the morning and afternoon and did find that I noticed a more ‘fresh’ headed feeling throughout the day. Although I wasn’t so keen on the salty taste – sodium is important to help the electrolyte balance – I just remedied this by adding a little squeeze of lemon or some fruit slices.
I really noticed a big difference in adding it to my water prior to a workout and in my water for my workout, as I felt much more hydrated and mentally less fatigued.
READ MORE: Feeling burned out? 7 benefits of taking a ‘brain break’
#5 Hybrid Herbs, Cordyceps powder
Cordyceps are a medicinal mushroom that greatly improves endurance and makes a good alternative to coffee when the ground powder is added to hot water to make a similar-style drink.
It will enhance performance without causing the adrenaline spike and cortisol load that you get from excess caffeine.
Cordyceps are especially good for enhancing sports performance by helping increase stamina and helping the body adapt to stress more effectively.
I have been a big fan of Cordyceps for many years and used to take Hifas da Terra Mico-Cord capsules prior to any endurance events, long hikes, intense workout classes, or a full day of fun dancing at a festival, as a much better alternative to energy drinks.
The Hybrid Herbs cordyceps powder was as a way of giving my de-caff coffee a bit of extra power. My first coffee of the day was straight-up regular caffeinated coffee with my coconut milk, but for my second and sometimes third coffee, when I had been up working from the early house, I switched to de-caff and then added a teaspoon of cordyceps powder to my coffee.
What I found, unlike when I drank too much regular caffeinated coffee, was I felt so much better in the afternoon, with no low mood or energy slump – plus I wasn’t making my way to the local Tesco for a bar of chocolate as a way of trying to perk myself up.
I also found I slept a lot better and had more endurance for my workouts.
#6 Wiley’s Finest, Omega 3 EPA/DHA capsules with vitamin D3
Omega 3 from fish oil contains EPA and DHA, which are essential for our brain health. Omega 3 has been shown in numerous studies to improve memory, mood and concentration.
Our brain is 80 per cent fat, so feeding our minds with good omega-3-rich fats greatly helps improve cognitive function.
Vitamin D3 has also been shown to be essential to help with brain health, and low levels are associated with low mood and poor concentration.
Wiley’s Finest sources their omega 3 from clean deep sea fish and are tested for purity and contamination. Most of us do not eat enough oily fish which can be detrimental to our brain health, both short and long term.
Dementia and other age-related cognitive decline issues are on the rise, so topping up on omega 3 is a simple way to brighten up your brain, especially if you don’t eat enough sardines, mackerel, anchovies or wild salmon.
Although I was taking one vegan DHA and one omega 3 capsule and having around one portion of oily fish a week, I wasn’t taking them consistently.
Omega 3 supplementation is not something you can ‘feel’ straight away, but taking it on a regular basis will make a difference as it’s something we need to improve our minds.
As one of my key areas to improve was concentration and memory, I started taking two to three capsules a day divided into two meals. I did not – thank goodness – get the fishy aftertaste that many of the supplements I have tried before have given me, and they did not make me feel queasy either.
After two weeks of taking these, the things I noticed were not just about brain health and a stable mood, but my PMS and period pain were greatly improved too compared to previous months.
I also found my skin was softer and hydrated – a real bonus. I didn’t get a mental energy boost like the B12 or Brain Food supplements, but I did feel my forgetfulness was improved, and as my hormones felt more harmonious due to less PMS related issues, I was able to feel more productive during the month than I would otherwise.
READ MORE: Brain fog at work? 6 ways to boost your focus
#7 Spatone, liquid iron sachets
Iron plays a vital role in energy production in our body. As a component of red blood cells, it carries oxygen to cells throughout the body; that oxygen then becomes part of the process of energy production. When we are low, our bodies are just struggling along, and our mental performance is hindered.
Just like our brain-boosting vitamin B12, many of us don’t get enough of the essential energy supportive mineral iron.
Food sources of iron include, meat, and in particular, liver and organs. Liver and kidney pie, anyone? Eek, not for me thank you.
It’s always worth getting your iron levels checked by your GP if you can before you take a supplement, but if you have been previously told by your doctor or a health practitioner that you have low levels or are prone to being low in iron, it can be well worth taking extra supplementation to top up, especially if you are vegan or vegetarian, or don’t eat red meat.
Low levels of iron can result in constant fatigue, often people complain that no matter how much sleep they are getting, they still just feel exhausted.
Women who have heavy menstrual bleeds can also be prone to be low in iron, so it’s a good ideal to supplement during and post period.
Spatone, unlike other forms of iron that can cause digestive discomfort – constipation most commonly – is a natural source of iron-rich water that is from Trefriw Wells Spa, located in Snowdonia National Park, North Wales. You simply tear the sachet and drink it straight, or add it to a little juice.
I was told by my GP many years ago that I was deficient in iron and have always been conscious about getting a supplement to support this.
I have always been pretty good at taking my Spatone on a regular basis, but whenever I do go through a few months of not taking it consistently, I do notice a change in my energy levels and find it hard to go out in the evening after work and in general just feel a lot lazier due to lack of energy.
After my period is a time when I feel pretty wiped out, so this is when I spend a few days topping up on my iron with Spatone. I use the apple one as I find it tastes a whole load better and it also has a little vitamin C added to improve absorption.
I think the Spatone supplement sachet is easy to take and does not, in my experience, cause any digestive problems.
I have also recommended this to friends who have never taken iron before and regularly complain about feeling fatigued. After two weeks, they always call me to say they feel a lot better and not as tired as normal.