Nootropic Ingredients in Energy Drinks

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Should you even bother with nootropic drinks if you already drink energy drinks? While the term “nootropic” isn’t new, marketing something as a nootropic is a new, growing trend. As a result, let’s look at five of the top” nootropic ingredients which are also found in energy drinks. Are they safe? Do they even work?

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According to Caffeine Informer, “Nootropics are one of the fastest-growing supplement categories and these products are flooding the marketplace.”

What is a nootropic?

According to Webster’s dictionary, the word means “a substance that enhances cognition, memory, and facilitates learning.

Therefore, nootropic supplements contain a blend of herbs and other ingredients believed to promote optimal brain function.

[Source: Caffeine Informer, “Nootropics: Caffeine, Ingredients, and Warnings”]


Shocker. Caffeine is a no-brainer (pun?) for a nootropic drink. For instance, there’s decades of scientific evidence showing caffeine improves your cognitive function.

There’s no doubt caffeine helps you focus…

…unless you’re Hungry, Angry, Lonely, or Tired (see this podcast episode from Caffeine At Midnight)


This ingredient is considered a nootropic because it can boost your creative thinking and help you stay calm. In short, it’s safe to use and you need about 50 milligrams (about the amount you’d get in 2 cups of tea) to be effective.

Furthermore, L-Theanine is naturally found in tea and is found in energy drinks that use tea as a source of caffeine.

However, while theanine helps you remain calm, it might be powerless to help if you’re already riled up. Some (but not all) research suggests caffeine-theanine combinations DO NOT help you focus if you’re already stressed out.

See “How Caffeine-Theanine Interactions Affect Mood and Attention


According to this systematic review of creatine and cognitive performance, creatine DOES improve the short-term memory of health adults.

On the other hand, is creatine really an “energy drink ingredient”? Some energy drink companies say yes. However, I’ve ranted several times how I don’t support combinations of caffeine and creatine. So let’s not go there again.

In conclusion, in most studies, you need a whopping 5 grams to be effective. Yes, this is WAY too much to put into a liquid because it just clumps at the bottom.

cute version of research lab rat


Panax ginseng is associated with decreased fatigue and increased cognitive performance.

Especially in rats.

For humans, research isn’t consistent, but you need 200-400 mg to be effective. Check your labels!

Ginkgo Biloba

Poor ginkgo.

As I’ve lamented in my first book on energy drink ingredients:

“Ginkgo is popular for its potential effects on memory and cognition, bu the key word here is “potential”. A randomized, double-blind placebo-controlled (aka legit) trial followed over 3000 people for over 8 years…[G]inko biloba at 120 milligrams twice a day was not effective at reducing dementia or Alzheimer’s disease.”

However, I do wonder if the reason why ginkgo research is so mixed because of rampant economic adulteration. In other words, what if the “ginkgo” in some of this research wasn’t really ginkgo?

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2 thoughts on “Nootropic Ingredients in Energy Drinks

  • It’s tough to determine nootropic effects because a lot of these compounds never make it to controlled trials as they’re not considered ‘drugs’. Most of the literature on them are small trials in less reputable journals or in animal models. Hopefully regulatory agencies will change their approach to nootropics in the future!

    • That’s an excellent point! Plus with long-term cognitive health there are so many confounding factors that it seems impossible to be able to prove something like caffeine or Ginkgo could make a significant difference. And with energy drinks and nootropics, the sheer number of possible combinations of ingredients also adds complexity and uncertainty.
      Thanks for reading and commenting! I’m a huge fan of your work!

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