We all struggle with motivation from time to time. Some more than others. Some, very little. But one thing is consistent: in most cases, a lack of motivation actually has to do with the brain’s neurotransmitters, and not some vague concept of motivation.
“And most people don’t realize this. And that can be a problem.”
People walk around their day to day lives having motivation problems, attributing them to the some nebulous outside world force. We’ve accumulated phrases as a species for things like this, like this is just “one of those days.”
It makes people think and proliferate the idea that what’s causing their whoas has to do with some arbitrary universal source, like Murphy’s law or some such well known human made karmic engine sounding nonsense.
Now, while I believe both in Karma and in Murphy’s law, I don’t believe they’re happening as much as people think. If people actually understood their brains, vitamin or mineral deficiencies, basic neurotransmitter functionality, more would be able to differentiate between a real universal intervention, and a mere lack of motivation resulting from some physiological underpinning, particularly one that involves neurotransmitters. That said, let me tell you a story.
Balancing the CatecholaminesÂ
Years ago (about 2), I made one of the biggest mistakes of my life and went on a low carb diet. For a while, I actually felt great and had some pretty interesting brain performance. When the body uses fatty acids for a fuel source for neurological function, the degree of wakefulness and mental capacity that results is pretty powerful. There’s no BS about it, “Ketosis” is a real nootropic.
However, that state is not sustainable for most people, especially highly active individuals like myself, and a degree of that brain function actually comes from surging levels of catecholamines, which eventually burn out. In other words, the ketosis put into use, epinephrine and norepinephrine, two neurotransmitters responsible for alertness and mental energy, at high levels.
But then eventually, it broke my brain. First, for those wondering, the entire process induced a series of health issues that I’ve mostly recovered from 2 years later, but that still exist in minor irritating form. The idea that losing weight is easier in Ketosis is preposterous. It completely discounts energy balance as the real facilitator, and makes you think that eliminating a major macronutrient is really the cause (when really, eating ketotic will normally end you on the lower end of the caloric scale, thus = weight loss).
But the real tragedy was the neurological burnout I ended up in as a result of this catecholamine depletion. The basic logic is:
- I was using high levels of epinephrine and norepinephrine.
- Eventually, I became deficient in these neurotransmitters.
- I ended up with, among other problems, a SERIOUS motivation issue.
My super pumped, wildly ambitious self left my body. I just could not make it happen. I had already started and was running a startup company at the time, and had zero motivation to show up everyday. And I couldn’t understand why.
But it was weird. Nootropics didn’t seem to be helping me at all. I was taking pramiracetam, ALCAR, and multiple choline sources on and off. But wait, doesn’t that assume that the neurotransmitters these chemicals effect are at the root of my motivation issues?
Yes. And they weren’t. I wasn’t having acetylcholine problems. It didn’t help me to have better acetylcholine receptor density (racetams), or better activation of glutamate receptors. I needed to target a different system. The system I just depleted and ran dry.
The catecholamines encompass three major neurotransmitters: epinephrine, norepinephrine, and dopamine. 2 of 3, and maybe 3 of 3, were put into use and highly taxed during my retarded ketosis experiment. Thus, they ended up at low levels.
I finally decided to take an L-Tyrosine supplement, realizing it was a neurotransmitter support nootropic, that not only is a precursor to dopamine in the brain, but also to epinephrine and norepinephrine.
I started dosing 500-1000MG (depending on the day) of L-Tyrosine, by itself, and within about 2 days I bounced right back into functionality. The lethargy and tiredness that was hitting me at 3PM and staying around until I either took a nap or just gave up and watched Netflix for the rest of the night, went away.
My energy immediately came back. I was pumped again to run my business, and everything started humming along quite nicely. And the moral of the story was, I had a deficiency in a few neurotransmitters, that I fixed it with a nootropic.
And I completely believe this is the case for a lot of other people.
I’ve had people report that they’re “back” from a 6 month hiatus from motivation and being driven, from taking the Cortex nootropic stack. Cortex works on both dopamine and acetylcholine, so it’s obvious that these people either had deficiencies in these neurotransmitters, or malfunctions in their signaling.
I know students that have nearly given up and wrote off schooling all together, who started to take nootropics (Aniracetam, Piracetam, Oxiracetam, more), and suddenly were able to study again and pulled through on their work obligation.
But why do imbalances happen to begin with?Â
Why do we suddenly end up with neurotransmitter imbalances, that taking certain nootropics can fix? Well, as we saw in my example with L-Tyrosine, sometimes we make ridiculous dietary choices and the body compensates by burning certain neurotransmitters at high quantity. But there’s more:
- Stress depletes neurotransmitters.
- Neurotransmitters cannot fully replete when your sleep is interrupted.
- Without the proper food intake, with chemicals that act as precursors to the brain’s neurotransmitters, your brain can’t make them. Eggs have a B vitamin in them called “Choline,” which the body uses to synthesize the neurotransmitter acetylcholine. Bananas have L-Tyrosine in them, which will help synthesize the catecholamines.
And more. As a cognitive biohacker, whenever I don’t feel right, I know there’s a reason. If I’ve got the flu, perhaps it’s the cytokines in my brain that the immune system activates to fight a virus or bacteria. If I’ve just taken a racetam, and didn’t properly dose with a choline source, I might have depleted acetylcholine stores for the time being.
Not sleeping appropriately for days on end, will start to really deplete neurotransmitters. And all of this will lead to neurotransmitter imbalance, which will lead to brain performance deficits, and the dreaded lack of motivation.
Nootropics can help you out of those deficits, and bring you back to motivation again. Fixing neurotransmitter imbalances can tip the balance back toward drive and ambition again. And as we evolve as a species, in science and technology, we need to evolve as laymen in understanding what underlies our “bad days,” and low performance brain states.
This doesn’t require you understand neurotransmitters like a neuroscientist would, but it does require you understand just a bit about the nomenclature and function of certain neurotransmitters. And the literature is readily available out there on the web.
Nootropics are major modulators of neurotransmitters. They can take you out of a fog, and into motivation again to get things done. They can turn your brain back on and put you in a place of passion and drive once again, and if used correctly, can be used in a maintenance capacity to keep the brain humming along in the areas that matter.
Here’s a list of some great nootropic compounds that might be able to help jumpstart some motivation in your brain:
- Aniracetam + CDP Choline
- Piracetam + CDP Choline
- Uridine monophosphate by itself
- Uridine monophosphate + Alpha GPC
- Uridine monophosphate + CDP Choline
- Oxiracetam and CDP Choline
- ALCAR, Uridine, and a choline source
- Caffeine + L-Theanine
- The Cortex nootropic stack
- The Nexus stack
- Huperzine A
- ALCAR by itself
- the CILTEP stack