5 Worst Nootropics For Business Professionals (& Which To Use Instead!)

5 Worst Nootropics For Business Professionals (& Which To Use Instead!)

February 07, 2019

Let’s face it, being at your best mentally and physically is quite the task for business professionals, especially considering the ever-increasing work demands in modern society. Many people find themselves slaving away in a cubicle for 10 hours a day, staring at a computer screen until their eyes bleed.

Needless to say, this is not healthy for anyone (in fact, it can kill you). With the job market being so competitive these days, any advantage you can use to perform better than John or Jane Doe in the neighboring cubicle should be considered.

After all, losing your job because of poor performance won’t look good on your resume considering that you ultimately can control how you perform.

Naturally, this makes many business professionals wonder what they can do from a dietary standpoint to optimize their motivation and cognitive function on a daily basis.

The simple answer, for most people, is to reach for that fresh pot of coffee in the break room. Unfortunately, caffeine has a relatively short half-life and only goes so far; once it wears off you’re back to feeling subpar and unmotivated.

Given this, we are going to break down the worst and best nootropics for business professionals to consider using to maximize mental performance and productivity throughout the day.

5 Worst Nootropics for Business Professionals

Levodopa (L-DOPA)

L-DOPA is an amino acid that humans (and some animals) synthesize naturally from L-tyrosine. L-DOPA is a direct precursor to catecholamines (dopamine, adrenaline, and noradrenaline).

As such, supplementing with L-DOPA is purported to increase feelings of pleasure and motivation, since dopamine and adrenaline play a large role in reward-driven behavior.

However, L-DOPA stimulates both the central and peripheral nervous systems (actually more so just the latter). [1]

For many users, this results in a multitude of unwanted side effects, such as jitters, inability to sit still, nausea, muscle spasms, and feeling restless. Obviously, those are not going to make you more productive while sitting behind a computer or trying to think critically.

Your best bet is to avoid L-DOPA and opt for a different dopamine precursor instead, like L-tyrosine or DL-phenylalanine.


Picamilon is a synthetic compound originally created in the Soviet Union. It’s technically a prodrug of GABA - the primary inhibitory neurotransmitter in humans. GABA is thought to play a key role in reducing anxiety and stress, and anti-anxiety medications, like benzodiazepines, generally target GABA receptors.

Picamilon is a particularly intriguing nootropic because it permeates the blood-brain barrier and is broken down to niacin (vitamin B3) and GABA.[5] In turn, GABA receptors are activated and the niacin works to expand and relax blood vessels in the brain.

Sounds pretty great, right?

While picamilon is generally a beneficial nootropic, it’s not a reliable one to find over-the-counter or online since it’s patented to a Russian pharmaceutical company (picamilon is a common prescription drug in Russia). In the U.S., however, picamilon is not approved as a drug and does not meet the statutory definition of a dietary ingredient.

Thus, any supplement sold in the U.S. that contains picamilon is misbranded and can’t be trusted. You might be able to find it overseas, but again, there’s no way to really know if it’s picamilon or another chemical.

GABA (Gamma-Aminobutyric Acid)

Since picamilon isn’t a reliable option, many people assume that the prudent thing to do is simply consume GABA supplements.

Problem solved, right? Nope. That’s not how it works, unfortunately.

Taking pure GABA (orally) is an inefficient means of increasing GABA levels in the brain since it doesn’t readily cross through the blood-brain barrier.[8] In fact, picamilon was created to circumvent that issue.

GABA supplements may have some benefits regardless of their poor absorption in the brain, but they are generally not ideal for a productive day at the office.

1,3-DMAA (1,3-Dimethylamylamine)

Despite being banned by the FDA circa 2012, 1,3-Dimethylamylamine (1,3-DMAA) is still found in various sports supplements, particularly “black market” pre-workout formulas.

Some companies simply hide 1,3-DMAA under the guise of “geranium extract,” which is quite misleading. 1,3-DMAA started as a party drug used throughout much of Europe and slowly made it’s way into dietary supplements throughout the U.S. after more people became aware of potent stimulating properties (and euphoria in high enough doses).

Interestingly, 1,3-DMAA has a similar chemical structure (and effect) as ephedrine - a popular fat-loss ingredient that was banned by the FDA over a decade ago.

A case study from 2012 reported that two active-duty soldiers died from cardiac arrest after consuming pre-workout products with 1,3-DMAA.[12] Shortly thereafter, many supplement companies began to remove the harmful ingredient from their products.


Modafinil has become an increasingly popular nootropic of choice, thanks mostly to the ability to promote wakefulness and feelings of arousal. It is typically used as a prescription for treating conditions like narcolepsy and erratic circadian rhythms.

The mechanisms behind modafinil are still relatively unclear, but research suggests that this nootropic works by indirectly stimulating secretion of a neuropeptide called orexin and possibly by inhibiting dopamine reuptake.[6]

Orexin-containing neurons potently excite nuclei in the brain that play important roles in wakefulness, such as the dopamine, norepinephrine, and acetylcholine systems.[7]

While modafinil is a prescription medication in the U.S under the brand name Provigil; many overseas vendors claim to have “pharmaceutical grade” modafinil tablets that you can buy online without a prescription.

Similar to picamilon, there is no reliable way to assess the quality of these modafinil pills other than word of mouth and anecdotes.

Moreover, modafinil can have serious side effects and may be just as addicting as Adderall according to some new evidence, thereby increasing the likelihood of abuse and health complications.[9]


Higenamine is a plant-derived compound that acts as an agonist for adrenoreceptors in the body. By activating the adenylate cyclase enzyme, higenamine effectively increases cellular levels of cAMP which induces a variety of stimulatory effects and enables a stronger response to adrenaline.[8]

While higenamine may seem beneficial, a recent peer-reviewed study from Harvard University warns that supplements containing this compound should be avoided due to the unpredictable nature of it and inaccurate labeling.[10]

In fact, many of the sports supplements containing higenamine that were analyzed had more than twice as much higenamine as the labels claimed.

With a stimulant of this nature, the difference between taking 50 mg and 100 mg could result in drastic ramifications, especially cardiovascular issues.

Best Smart Drugs for Business Professionals


If you’re the type of person to start the workday off with a strong cup of joe, then L-theanine is precisely the nootropic you need to consider for maximizing your productivity. L-theanine is an amino acid found naturally in green tea leaves that works synergistically with caffeine by prolonging its effects.[2]

Even better, L-theanine helps take the “edge” off of caffeine so you don’t feel jittery. L-theanine also modulates your brainwaves (electrical impulses) in such a fashion as to make you feel calm yet attentive.[3]

Some people like to refer to the effects of L-theanine as “alert relaxation.” It’s tough to think of a much better feeling to have while working (especially if your job is stressful).

L-theanine typically only needs to be dosed at 100 mg per day (taken with or without caffeine), but some people may use up to 200 mg per day for increased benefit.

Acetyl-L-Carnitine (ALCAR)

ALCAR is a highly bioavailable form of L-carnitine (a quaternary ammonium compound found naturally in red meat, hence the prefix “carni-”). L-carnitine is crucial for transporting long-chain fatty acids into the mitochondria of cells so that they can be burned for energy.

Unfortunately, oral L-carnitine supplements are not well absorbed, nor do they readily cross the blood-brain barrier.

ALCAR, on the other hand, is able to pass through the blood-brain barrier and enhance mitochondrial activity in neurons. Research suggests that this effect can benefit cognitive function, energy levels, and slow the aging process.[4]

The most benefit from ALCAR supplementation seems to be at a dose of 2,000 mg per day (split into two doses). Start by taking 1,000 mg prior to breakfast; if you don’t notice much benefit, take another 1,000 mg in the afternoon on an empty stomach.


Theobromine is the primary alkaloid found in cacao and is essentially a methylated version of caffeine. Its primary role in the body is being a phosphodiesterase (PDE) inhibitor, thereby increasing cellular levels of cyclic adenosine monophosphate (cAMP) - an intracellular molecule that helps transmit signals from substances outside of cells.

While structurally and mechanistically similar to caffeine, studies suggest that theobromine has differential contributions to mood and cognition enhancement, which is precisely why it rounds out the CAFFEINE L-THEANINE formula.[11]

Nootropics for Business Professionals: Start Conservatively

Avoid the worst nootropics that were discussed in this article, especially if you’re a business professional; the last thing you want to do is show up to work looking like you’re coked out of your mind (or high on Adderall).

The good news is that the right nootropics (aka “smart drugs”) can be a healthy and effective alternative to dangerous and addictive pharmaceuticals and illicit drugs.

Whether you’re a desk jockey, a data analyzer, a CEO, a writer, or whatever mentally demanding job you might have, the recommended nootropics for business professionals in this guide are sure to boost your cognitive function and promote a calm disposition while you navigate your stressful workday.

If you’re new to the world of smart drugs, try starting with a simple formula that contains two or three nootropics, such as CAFFEINE L-THEANINE. As you gain more experience using nootropics you’ll get a clearer sense of which ones work optimally for you.

Furthermore, don’t overlook what you’re eating on daily basis, as nutrition plays a major role in your mental performance. For even greater productivity and less stress during the day, you can give intermittent fasting (IF) a try. Click here to read more about IF.


[1] Goodwin, F. K., Murphy, D. L., Brodie, H. K., & Bunney, W. E. (1970). L-DOPA, catecholamines, and behavior: a clinical and biochemical study in depressed patients. Biological Psychiatry.

[2] Juneja, L. R., Chu, D. C., Okubo, T., Nagato, Y., & Yokogoshi, H. (1999). L-theanine—a unique amino acid of green tea and its relaxation effect in humans. Trends in Food Science & Technology, 10(6), 199-204.

[3] Kobayashi, K., Nagato, Y., Aoi, N., Juneja, L. R., Kim, M., Yamamoto, T., & Sugimoto, S. (1998). Effects of L-theanine on the release of alpha-brain waves in human volunteers. Nippon Nogeikagaku Kaishi, 72(2), 153-157.

[4] Hagen, T. M., Wehr, C. M., & Ames, B. N. (1998). Mitochondrial Decay in Aging: Reversal through Supplementation of Acetyl‐l‐Carnitine and N‐tert‐Butyl‐α‐phenyl‐nitrone. Annals of the New York Academy of Sciences, 854(1), 214-223.

[5] Akopian, V. P., Balian, L. S., & Avetisian, N. A. (2006). The effect of hypokinesia on depression and on the central GABA-A receptor complexes in the rat brain. Eksperimental'naia i klinicheskaia farmakologiia, 69(2), 10-13.

[6] Willie, J. T., Renthal, W., Chemelli, R. M., Miller, M. S., Scammell, T. E., Yanagisawa, M., & Sinton, C. M. (2005). Modafinil more effectively induces wakefulness in orexin-null mice than in wild-type littermates. Neuroscience, 130(4), 983-995.

[7] Peyron, C., Tighe, D. K., Van Den Pol, A. N., De Lecea, L., Heller, H. C., Sutcliffe, J. G., & Kilduff, T. S. (1998). Neurons containing hypocretin (orexin) project to multiple neuronal systems. Journal of Neuroscience, 18(23), 9996-10015.

[8] Zhang, N., Lian, Z., Peng, X., Li, Z., & Zhu, H. (2017). Applications of Higenamine in pharmacology and medicine. Journal of ethnopharmacology, 196, 242-252.

[9] Krishnan, R., & Chary, K. V. (2015). A rare case modafinil dependence. Journal of pharmacology & pharmacotherapeutics, 6(1), 49-50.

[10] Pieter A. Cohen, John C. Travis, Peter H. J. Keizers, Frederick E. Boyer & Bastiaan J. Venhuis. (2018). The stimulant higenamine in weight loss and sports supplements. Clinical Toxicology

[11] Mitchell, E. S., Slettenaar, M., Vd Meer, N., Transler, C., Jans, L., Quadt, F., & Berry, M. (2011). Differential contributions of theobromine and caffeine on mood, psychomotor performance and blood pressure. Physiology & behavior, 104(5), 816-822.

[12]Eliason, M. J., Eichner, A., Cancio, A., Bestervelt, L., Adams, B. D., & Deuster, P. A. (2012). Death of active duty soldiers following ingestion of dietary supplements containing 1, 3-dimethylamylamine (DMAA). Military medicine, 177(12).

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