Can supplements really help you focus? Science Behind FocusAid

To say it was difficult getting good grades in high school while balancing competitive sports, family obligations etc. feels as silly as admitting I cried over a difficult physics exam. Now I laugh at my previous concept of “difficult” with the context of college, grad school, and adulthood. But balancing everything in high school was hard, and I was in high school during the early 2000s, before energy drinks and Starbucks took over the world. Then energy drinks came along, and I balanced two jobs while I was a full-time student in college, then two different jobs while I was in grad school. Caffeine changed my life in more ways than one, and I’ve been studying the science behind energy drinks since the day I declared myself a biochemistry major back in 2003.

The Energy Drink of the Month for June & July 2018 is FocusAid.

Energy Drink of the Month June July

The label says,”NOT AN ENERGY DRINK” but this beverage contains caffeine and it’s not a coffee or a tea, so I’m calling it an energy drink anyway. It’s not a stereotypical energy drink, but I’ve been saying for over a decade now that not all energy drinks look like their Red Bull, Monster, and Rockstar forefathers. This is exactly why I started this Energy Drink of the Month series in the first place.

Science Behind Focusaid – Focusaid Ingredients and What They Do

How CAFFEINE, Green Tea Leaf Extract, and Yerba Mate Leaf Extract help you focus

o   The most obvious answer here is that it’s hard to focus when you’re sleepy.

o   The specific reason caffeine and all sources of caffeine help you focus is caffeine enhances dopamine signaling in the brain

o   Dopamine is a neurotransmitter, a chemical that sends signals/messages to nerve cells

It helps me to think of neurotransmitters as the owls in Harry Potter that deliver messages

o   Caffeine blocks adenosine, which means adenosine can’t block dopamine, which means LOTS OF MESSAGES!!!

Caffeine Enhances Dopamine Signalling
Caffeine enhances dopamine signaling. Dopamine is a neurotransmitter – a chemical that sends messages to nerve cells [Sources: doi: 10.1038/tp.2015.46 and doi: 10.1016/j.neuropharm.2015.10.020]

How B Vitamins help you focus

o   Numerous reactions in the body depend on B-vitamins so a deficiency of B-vitamins like thiamin, niacin, B6, B12, and folic acid leads to symptoms like confusion, memory loss, and reduced attention

o   If the reactions in your body are all gears in a machine, then B-vitamins are the teeth in those gears – they are necessary pieces of those reactions. Eating more B-vitamins doesn’t speed up those reactions, but a deficiency means one of the gears isn’t working optimally

Head Gears


How Vitamins C and D help you focus

o   Neurotransmitters send messages to nerve cells. In order to focus, you need to be able to send and receive those messages in the most efficient ways. Vitamin C helps make those neurotransmitters which means, just like with B-vitamins, it’s a deficiency of Vitamin C that’s going to limit your ability to focus.

o   The association between Vitamin D and cognition is new – so new that before 2005 there were less than 10 research articles on the topic! An international panel of experts has agreed that hypovitaminosis (a long-term deficiency) increases the risk of cognitive decline and dementia in older adults age 65 and up. [doi: 10.1111/joim.12279]

Energy Drink of the Month June July (2)

How Acetyl-L-Carnitine helps you focus

o   Carnitine plays a key role in how fats are metabolized but the body makes carnitine, so you don’t have to worry about deficiency.

o   You also don’t have to waste your time understanding how carnitine improves cognition since there’s a dearth of evidence suggesting it does. Let’s move along then… [doi: 10.1002/14651858.CD009374.pub3.]

How Alpha-Glyceryl Phosphoryl Choline (Alpha GPC) helps you focus

o   Alpha GPC gets metabolized into phosphatidylcholine, which is a metabolically active form of choline. [doi: 10.1016/j.fct.2011.03.012]

o   Choline helps with focus because choline is a precursor to acetylcholine and acetylcholine is a neurotransmitter.

o   The neurotransmitter acetylcholine is essential to normal cognition and brain function and age-related memory loss might be related to long-term choline deficiency

o   Several scientific reviews conclude adequate choline nutrition is essential for maintaining optimal cognitive function and higher choline intake is related to better cognitive performance [PMCID: PMC5612430; doi: 10.3945/ajcn.110.008938]

How Ginseng Root helps you focus

o   It doesn’t. When a source as reputable as the Cochrane Library says so, that’s good enough for me:

“Currently, there is a lack of convincing evidence to show a cognitive enhancing effect of Panax ginseng in healthy participants and no high-quality evidence about its efficacy in patients with dementia.” [doi: 10.1002/14651858.CD007769.pub2.]

How Rhodiola Rosea root helps you focus

o   It doesn’t. Like with ginseng and carnitine, there’s not enough evidence to suggest otherwise.

How Gamma Aminobutyric Acid helps you focus

o   GABA is another neurotransmitter. However, GABA amounts are tightly regulated in the body meaning orally ingested GABA doesn’t alter human physiology enough to have an effect []

Caffeine Content and the 5 Levels of Fatigue

Since this beverage contains 55 mg caffeine from yerba mate and green tea extracts, it fits Fatigue Level 2. Fatigue Level 1 is where you are tired because you’re dehydrated – in that case non-caffeinated liquids like water are the best solution (pun intended). But when you’re past the dehydrated-kind-of-tired, you enter Fatigue Level 2, where you need some (but not a whole lot) of caffeine.

A cup of green tea contains 45 mg caffeine on average so how you feel after a cup of green tea is a good indicator, caffeine-wise, for how you’ll feel after drinking FocusAid.


With roughly the same amount of caffeine as a cup of green tea, this Fatigue Level 2 drink is for people who want less caffeine than a cup of coffee or 8 oz Red Bull. FocusAid also caters to people trying to avoid artificial sweeteners, colors, and flavors – this drink is only sweetened by agave and stevia. FocusAid’s label states it is “NOT AN ENERGY DRINK”, and it’s a drink more inclined to help you focus than wake up.



I’ve researched the science and safety behind energy drinks and their ingredients since 2003. This book is the culmination of my research:

Explore the CAFFEINE INFORMER database

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