In our line of work, high stress, you get knocked down all the time and are expected to get up and continue as nothing happened. How do you cope? Yes, you need passion but that is sometimes not enough, even athletes take a host of supplements and athletics is nowhere as stressful as running a business. Some entrepreneurs also have ADHD (common in the business world)  and struggle to concentrate and focus due to no cause of their own.

Today I will talk about the other things that help entrepreneurs to get through the day, not all of it is healthy but some can’t function without it and its better than not being able to earn a living or not being able to send your children to school or living in a van down by the river.

Many entrepreneurs can’t go without their energy drinks or without their daily Supradyn, Berocca, Turbovite or energy booster sachets. Energy drinks contain caffeine contained in guarana which is a stimulant (and not forgetting those that drink multiple cups of coffee a day), and without this, they can’t function.

If you have no problems with mental aspects, if your mind is clear, you eat healthy etc. then you shouldn’t probably start taking the stuff I am about to talk about.

There has been a growing movement around boosting brainpower to give entrepreneurs the edge in business. What is known as nootropics / smart drugs / cognitive enhancers / brain boosters “drugs, supplements, and other substances that are claimed to improve cognitive function, particularly executive functions, memory, creativity, or motivation, in healthy individuals”.

Executive functions are described as “a set of cognitive processes that are necessary for the cognitive control of behaviour: selecting and successfully monitoring behaviours that facilitate the attainment of chosen goals.” So you can see why these are popular among entrepreneurs. The goal is to improve memory, focus  and productivity, things which are valueable in business.

The movie Limitless has popularized the concept of a magic drug and many entrepreneurs try to develop a “stack” to give them an edge in business.
A nootropic stack is a combination of “brain boosters”. “Many of these drugs tend to work synergistically, which means when two or more are taken together, their effects combine to create greater effect than any one nootropic would have on its own. When you combine these supplements to enhance their effects, it’s called a stack”[source].

So maybe you take 300mg bacopa monnieri, 200mg ginkgo biloba and 1000mg Lions Mane and that is a stack.

What do I think of this?

I have always had a problem concentrating in school, maybe I had a mild case of ADHD but this is what piqued my interest in supplements to help me concentrate or “brain boosters” going back to high school when I occasionally took ginkgo biloba.

For the last three years, I have been taking KeenMind (bacopa monnieri 160mg x2) daily; according to the manufacturer “KeenMind is a natural medicine that’s clinically proven to support memory, concentration and learning retention when calm focus is required (take note of the bold part). Beneficial during times of stress”. I take this alongside The Real Thing Mega Omega Supreme  (Omega 3, 1600mg x 2) and a Centrum Active multivitamin (Ginseng 200mg among others). Before KeenMind I used to take Ultima Brain Fuel every day.

Bacopa monnieri is one of the better-researched nootropics (I will get to this point later on), some studies have been done, there are some side-effects like if you have a thyroid disorder you shouldn’t take it, it has also shown to decrease fertility in men while taking it but as the reigning pull-out champion of the world and someone not intending to have children soon (or ever) to me this is a positive as its like male birth control.

So what does this perennial, creeping herb do?

For me it calms my mind without clouding it, allowing me to focus, which is usually hard because I have a lot of things going on. It is a mild downer and anxiolytic (relieves anxiety) besides the side effects mentioned above this calming effect is not always good there are some negatives to this, it makes you less alert,  causes fatigue sleepy/tiredness needing you to take an energy supplement to get you through the day. I don’t believe that bacopa monnieri should be taken on its own, it should be part of a stack, for some the calming effect is too much (and they often stop taking it), even for me on some days I can feel it. But I have been able to hyperfocus something I have struggled to do before.

Here is the thing, this combination is a lesser of two evils for me, some people take prescription drugs as nootropics even though they have not been diagnosed with AHDH,  if you look at ADHD drugs like Adderall which boosts your levels of serotonin, norepinephrine, and dopamine. These are neurotransmitters in your brain that calm and relax you so you can focus better (sound familiar). Some people also get fatigue from that even though it is a stimulant. That is a far stronger drug.

I personally have obtained Concerta (Methylphenidate), best known by its trade name Ritalin outside of a medical setting so I can’t say whether the dosage was sufficient but it wasn’t that wonderful compared to what I’m used to.   In healthy adults, Ritalin improves short-term memory, information-processing speed and attention, you need a script but it is a widely abused as a nootropic.

So what other options are there.

Mainstream pharmacies in SA like Clicks, Dischem only stock the better-researched “brain boosters”  ginkgo biloba, bacopa monnieri. I have taken almost every brand name available on SA shelves (Eye Q, Himalays Mentat, Neurovance, Exam Cocktail, Concentration Cocktail, Vita Ginkgo biloba among others) as well as various different Omega 3’s. It is really nothing special compared to KeenMind + Real Thing (which is one of the most potent Omega 3’s on the market, there are some websites that sell more variety of supplements and there are also websites that specialise in nootropics that have a wider range. I have not gone too exotic, sticking to herbal supplements, I don’t want to become too dependant on drugs. There are some that take the synthetic Russian nootropic Noopept while others take drugs prescribed for ADHD to improve focus. Noopept medical name is N-Phenylacetyl-L-prolylglycine ethyl ester which sounds a bit too exotic to me.

Do they really work?
If you have shortcomings then it might be able to help you. Some people don’t believe in supplements and I have no idea if Keenmind supports all the claims it makes (learning, memory retention) but it definitely calms me, which in turns helps me focus on doing the things in front of me and not running off to do the 100 other things I need to do, it has also helped me stay calm in very stressful situations, it’s like smoking a joint without the mental fog. And having taken ADHD drugs before albeit without a script I know what they do. So next time if you see me all poker-faced while negotiating it might be that I am high on KeenMind rather than being a good negotiator.