DETERMINING THE BEST RACETAM NOOTROPIC FOR YOUR COGNITIVE GOALS

best racetams

Racetams are a family of synthetically produced, unregulated drugs. Several of the 20 or so racetams currently on the market are well-known for their nootropic properties. While the nootropic racetams all improve memory and learning, each has its own particular cognitive-enhancing profile. One may be best known for its ability to improve focus and concentration, while another may be better known for boosting creativity. Here you’ll find out how to determine which racetam is the best choice to meet your specific brain building goals.

What Are Racetams?

A nootropic is a supplement, drug or other substance known to improve cognitive functions such as logic skills, motivation, mood, creativity, or memory. Racetams (pronounced rass-uh-tam) are a category, or family, of synthetic drugs. Many, but not all, racetams are used for their powerful nootropic benefits.

The first racetam — piracetam — was synthesized by the Romanian chemist and psychologist Dr. Corneliu Giurgea i 1964. Since the creation of piracetam about 20 other racetams have been synthesized.

In order to be considered a racetam, a drug must have a chemical structure that includes a pyrrolidine nucleus. An explanation of pyrrolidine nucleus is one that only a chemist would love and understand, so we’ll just leave it at “a saturated ring of four carbon atoms and one nitrogen.” And add that what’s only important (to non-chemists) is that the pyrrolidine nucleus is responsible for much of any racetam’s cognition-enhancing effects and, because all racetams have such a nucleus, all racetams are molecularly related.

While all racetams have a pyrrolidine nucleus, they all have differences in other areas of their molecular structure which causes each racetam to provide different cognitive benefits. The intent of this post is to describe the different benefits of the most popular nootropic racetams so that you can better choose which one — or ones — meet your specific cognitive improvement goals.

Cognitive Benefits of Popular Nootropic Racetams

Piracetam was the first racetam. Since then about 20 other similar drugs that are considered to be in the racetam family have been developed. About half of these are used for various medicinal and health purposes, while the remaining are used primarily for their nootropic benefits.

All of the nootropic racetams provide learning and memory benefits. Beyond that, each has its own cognitive benefit or benefits. One may be best known for it’s ability to increase focus and concentration, another for helping to reduce anxiety, and still for enhancing creativity. So which racetam is best for you depends on your cognitive goals, or areas you’re hoping to improve.

Piracetam

The racetams listed here aren’t presented in any specific order — with the exception of piracetam. As the original racetam, it’s the oldest, most studied and researched, and most commonly known and used of all the racetams. It’s also the first drug synthesized expressly to make people smarter. So we begin with it.

As is the case with many racetams, one of the chief ways in which piracetam effects cognition is by increasing the number of acetylcholine receptors on the walls of neurons (brain cells). Cell receptors come in different types — a cell receptor of one type allows a cell to interact with one particular type of neurotransmitter.

An acetylcholine receptor acts as a cell lock of sorts — it’s designed to only allow acetylcholine molecules to unlock it, at which point the cell is triggered to carry out a function specific to the acetylcholine neurotransmitter. The acetylcholine neurotransmitter is heavily involved in many cognitive processes, including memory, learning, motivation, and attention. More acetylcholine receptors means the brain will release more acetylcholine, enabling neurons that interact with this neurotransmitter to do more.

cholinergic receptors

As is true of all of the racetams listed in this post, piracetam brings about memory and learning benefits. Additionally, piracetam heightens awareness, motivation, and focus — which makes it a good racetam choice for students who want to improve their studying.

Piracetam has been marketed as a compound that can enhance cognitive function without sedating or stimulating effects. That’s important to many people because some racetams do have a stimulatory effect, so some people become understandably concerned about getting a piracetam high. While this may be a concern, it’s unfounded — for piracetam and most other racetams. The stimulatory effect that some racetams provide doesn’t “get you high” — it only makes you more mentally alert and in some cases gives you a bit of an energy boost.

Modafinil is a prescription drug that’s been referred to as the first safe smart drug. Piracetam was developed more than a decade prior to modafinil, so that claim is dubious at best. Comparisons are sometimes made between modafinil and piracetam, but the two drugs aren’t really designed with the same goals. While modafinil is a cognitive enhancer, due to its stimulatory effects it’s primarily prescribed for narcolepsy and excessive sleepiness. Modafinil carries the risk of adverse psychiatric reactions. Piracetam is also a cognitive enhancer, but it isn’t stimulatory, doesn’t require a prescription, and has no major side effects. In the nootropics battle of piracetam vs modafinil, piracetam — and other racetams — wins.

Many of the racetams that have been developed since piracetam are more powerful and faster acting. Compared to other racetams, piracetam dosages need to be much higher. Because it isn’t fast acting, a person taking it needs to understand that piracetam effects won’t be felt for at least a week, if not longer.

Piracetam has been around for so long, and is so well understood that it is often the “go-to” choice for those new to supplementing with racetams. But it is far from the strongest racetam, so for most people a better option is probably one of the newer, more potent racetams. Still, piracetam does provide nootropic benefits and is the least expensive of all the racetams, so there is still a place for this grandfather of racetams.

Piracetam Dosage

As a not particularly powerful nootropic, effective dosages of piracetam need to be much higher than other racetams.

Anywhere from 2,000 mg to 6,000 mg (2 gm to 6 gm) per day, divided into two or three doses, are necessary to experience the cognitive effects of piracetam. As you’ll see after reading about the other racetams, this is a dosage that is two to twenty times as much as recommended for most of these drugs.

Aniracetam

Developed in 1964, piracetam was the first racetam, followed several years later by aniracetam. The main goal in developing aniracetam was to come up with a racetam with the cognitive benefits of piracetam, but faster acting (piracetam takes a week or more to start showing results) and more potent (piracetam has to be taken in high dosages to deliver results). Aniracetam accomplishes those goals — and more. In a battle of piracetam vs aniracetam, to most people the clear winner is aniracetam.

The aspect that separates aniracetam from almost all other racetams is in it’s ability to enhance sound perception and the vividness of colors. And, most interestingly, many people who take aniracetam experience increased lucid dreaming — the awareness that you’re dreaming, and often then the ability control the storyline of your dreams. The sound, color, and dreaming benefits of aniracetam make it understandable why this racetam is popular with people looking to primarily enhance their creativity.

The fact that aniracetam may increase the frequency of lucid dreaming doesn’t mean this racetam has a mellowing effect. To the contrary, it acts as a mild stimulant, and enhances concentration and focus. When you add up these diverse benefits it makes sense that aniracetam is one of the most popular racetams with students needing to improve their studying.

To top it all off, aniracetam is an anxiolytic — a substance with anti-anxiety properties. Aniracetam decreases social anxiety and enhances overall mood.

Aniracetam Dosage

Daily dosages of aniracetam are about a third of that of the less powerful piracetam — most people take between 600 mg to 3,000 mg per day. Aniracetam has a fairly short half-life, meaning its effects aren’t long-lasting. For that reason, regardless of the amount you take in a day, you should split that total amount into three or even four doses each day so you feel its effects throughout the entire day.

Oxiracetam

Most racetams are known for their short-term cognitive benefits — people take them to improve their mood, or energy, or studying, for the time period that they’re taking the racetam. Oxiracetam, on the other hand, is popular for people concerned about long-term neuroprotection.

Neuroprotection — the protecting of the brain from damage, or helping the brain recover from damage — is a somewhat unique property of oxiracetam. Along these same lines oxiracetam promotes long-term potentiation. Long-term potentiation, or LTP, is the process of the strengthening of neuron (brain cell) connections. LTP plays a role in neuroprotection and in actually developing new brain cells.

Aniracetam is faster acting than piracetam, and oxiracetam is faster acting than aniracetam. While oxiracetam provides long-term neuroprotection, the improvements in focus, logical thinking, and problem solving that it provides peak quickly, meaning that it’s best to take this racetam only about an hour before you want to experience its full effects — as would be the case if you’re taking an exam in school.

Like aniracetam, oxiracetam has anxiolytic properties that help if you experience frequent anxiety.

Oxiracetam Dosage

Oxiracetam dosages are very similar to aniracetam dosages — anywhere from about 600 mg to 3,000 mg per day. Like aniractam, the amount of oxiracetam you take daily should be split into three or even four doses to ensure you experience its effects throughout the day.

Phenylpiracetam

Phenylpiracetam is an analog of piracetam — it’s molecular structure is very similar to piracetam, differing in just the addition of what’s known as a phenyl molecule. While the molecular differences are slight, the small addition makes the efficacy, or efficiency, of phenylpiracetam tens of times greater than that of piracetam. Unquestionably, in a showdown of piracetam vs phenylpiracetam, phenylpiracetam wins hands down.

phenylpiracetam molecule structure

Phenylpiracetam is known for greatly enhancing concentration, focus, and comprehension. In addition to improving memory and learning (like all of the racetams listed here), phenylpiracetam is stimulating both mentally and physically. It gives such a physical boost that it is actually on the banned substances list of the Olympic World Anti-Doping Agency.

While phenylpiracetam is strongly stimulating, most users report that the extra energy isn’t accompanied by the jittery feeling common with another stimulant — coffee. And while phenylpiracetam is stimulating, it is an anxiolytic that can help with anxiety and depression.

A small amount of phenylpiracetam goes a long way — its effects kick in quickly and are longer lasting compared to most other racetams. There’s a lot to like about it, so it’s not surprising that phenylpiracetam has recently become the racetam of choice for experienced racetam users.

Phenylpiracetam Dosage

Phenylpiracetam is one of the most potent racetams, and as such the daily dosage is from as little as 100 mg up to a maximum of 600 mg. Because of its strength it’s recommended that users new to this racetam start on the low end (100 mg per day) and over time increase the daily dose if that lower amount doesn’t seem to be providing satisfactory results.

The only downside to phenylpiracetam may be that many people build a tolerance to it quickly. To combat this it’s suggested that a person not take it each day, every day, indefinitely. Instead, try taking phenylpiracetam just two or three days per week so that your body doesn’t become immune from its benefits.

purenootropics phenylpiracetam

Coluracetam

Like aniracetam, coluracetam enhances sound and color. Coluracetam though, has an even greater role in vision enhancement than aniracetam. Users report visual improvements in a variety of areas, from optical vividness, to color identification, to shape recognition. Sharper contrasts, more radiant lights, and even “seeing the world in high-definition” have all been mentioned by some people who take this racetam regularly.

Cognitively coluracetam improves short-term memory, recall ability, reading comprehension, and alertness, making it another favorite of students facing important tests and exams.

Coluracetam has neuroprotective properties that have researchers looking into its possibilities in treating people with Alzheimer’s disease and other brain-related diseases. Related to neuroprotection is neurogenesis — the creation of new brain cells (neurons). Coluracetam has the ability to promote neurogenesis, though how this racetam carries out this action is not well understood.

Coluracetam Dosage

Coluracetam is a powerful racetam that requires only a small amount to be effective. A typical daily dosage is 10 mg to 60 mg, with 20 mg or 40 mg daily being most common. Most people who have taken dosages of 100 mg or more in a day find little to no additional benefits beyond taking lesser amounts.

Pramiracetam

Pramiracetam is a strong racetam with a long half life — the benefits of a single dose can easily last eight hours.

The chief cognitive benefits of pramiracetam are increased focus, concentration, and long term memory. Pramiracetam increases alertness and boosts mental energy levels, making it a useful racetam for students who need to log long hours studying. While pramiracetam has a stimulatory effect, that stimulation doesn’t come with the jittery side effects many students experience when they take Adderall or Ritalin.

Pramiracetam is known for its synergistic effects with other nootropics — whether those nootropics are other racetams or altogether other supplements. For this reason pramiracetam is often found in nootropic stacks (combinations of nootropics taken together).

Pramiracetam Dosage

Pramiracetam is highly concentrated, meaning dosages should be much less than piracetam — but not as low as the very powerful phenylpiracetam. Daily dosage can be anywhere from 100 mg to 1,200 mg, with many people comfortable with a dosage in the midrange — 400 mg to 600 mg daily.

Pramiracetam is stimulating, so if you split your daily dosage into two doses, as is common, take the second dose in the afternoon rather than the evening. Taking pramiracetam at night may cause sleeping difficulties.

Fasoracetam

Fasoracetam is one of the newest racetams on the market. Fasoracetam is best known for its ability to improve focus, concentration, and comprehension. Unlike most racetams, fasoracetam does this without a stimulatory effect. While many people prefer a nootropic that is stimulatory, some people don’t. If you want a racetam to help you focus and work on math or other complicated tasks — without any added stimulation — then fasoracetam may be for you.

Fasoracetam Dosage

As far as dosages go, fasoracetam is the most potent of all the racetams. A daily dosage between 20 mg and 80 mg are recommended, with most people preferring the low end of that range — a single 20 mg capsule once a day, or perhaps twice a day.

Racetam Comparison Cheat Sheets

There is no single racetam that is best or right for all people. They’re all good, but good in their own ways. The racetam — or racetams (you can combine them) — you choose will depend on your particular cognitive goals. The following two cheat sheets, or tables, should help you decide what you’ll want to experiment with.

Cheat Sheet: Best Racetams for Specific Nootropic Goals

Have a specific cognitive goal in mind? Use the following table to determine which racetams best meet your goal.

BEST RACETAMS FOR SPECIFIC NOOTROPIC GOALS
GOAL (AREA OF IMPROVEMENT) BEST RACETAM(S)
General Memory & Learning All Racetams
Sound Enhancement Coluracetam
Aniracetam
Color Enhancement Coluracetam
Aniracetam
Lucid Dreaming Aniracetam
Anxiety & Depression Reduction Aniracetam
Piracetam
Phenylpiracetam
Math & Logical Thinking Aniracetam
Piracetam
Phenylpiracetam
Focus & Concentration Oxiracetam
Fasoracetam
Pramiracetam
Coluracetam
Aniracetam
Phenylpiracetam
Long Term Memory Pramiracetam
Oxiracetam
Mood Aniracetam
Phenylpiracetam
Oxiracetam
Motivation & Energy & stimulation Phenylpiracetam
Coluracetam
Oxiracetam
Creativity Coluracetam
Aniracetam
Neuroprotective Phenylpiracetam
Oxiracetam
Coluracetam

Cheat Sheet: Major Nootropic Benefits of Each Racetam

This table summarizes the cognitive benefits of each of the racetams discussed in this post.

MAJOR NOOTROPIC BENEFITS OF EACH RACETAM
RACETAM PRIMARY BENEFITS
bottle aniracetam
Aniracetam
General Memory & Learning
Sound Perception
Color Vividness
Lucid Dreaming
Anxiety & Depression Reduction
Focus & Concentration
Mood
Creativity
bottle coluracetam
Coluracetam
General Memory & Learning
Sound Enhancement
Color Enhancement
Focus & Concentration
Motivation & Energy & Stimulation
Creativity
Neuroprotective
bottle phenylpiracetam
Phenylpiracetam
General Memory & Learning
Anxiety & Depression Reduction
Focus & Concentration
Mood
Motivation & Energy & Stimulation
Neuroprotective
bottle oxiracetam
Oxiracetam
General Memory & Learning
Math & Logical Thinking
Focus & Concentration
Long Term Memory
Mood
Motivation & Energy & Stimulation
Neuroprotective
bottle pramiracetam
Pramiracetam
General Memory & Learning
Math & Logical Thinking
Focus & Concentration
Long Term Memory
bottle fasoracetam
Fasoracetam
General Memory & Learning
Math & Logical Thinking
Focus & Concentration
Piracetam General Memory & Learning
Anxiety & Depression Reduction

Supplementing Racetams With Choline

One of the primary ways racetams benefit cognition is by increasing acetylcholine levels. Acetylcholine is a neurotransmitter that plays a major role in memory, focus, learning, mood, attention, and sleep. More acetylcholine is definitely a good thing, but it comes at a cost. Acetylcholine, or ACh, is synthesized from choline, so an increase in acetylcholine will almost certainly deplete choline levels.

Choline is considered an essential nutrient because your body makes very little of it, and is dependent on obtaining it from the food you eat. Because supplementing with a racetam increases your body’s demand for choline (to produce more acetylcholine), you really must consider taking a choline supplement along with your racetam supplement.

Without a sufficient increase in choline the racetam won’t be able to spur the creation of more acetylcholine. This will result in the racetam being less effective than expected, and for some people also results in headaches. A piracetam headache is your brain’s way of telling you it is facing a choline shortage.

The solution to preventing piracetam headaches and getting the maximum benefits of a racetam is to take a choline supplement along with your racetam supplement.

Choline comes in a few different forms, with two of these forms — Alpha GPC and CDP choline (also called citicoline) — being the most bioavailable. Higher bioavailability means they’re used most efficiently by the body.

Optimal Choline Complex from Pure Nootropics is a good choice for a choline supplement as it consists of a combination of both these preferred forms of choline.

purenootropics optimal choline

Conclusion

The racetam family of about 20 synthetically produced compounds includes several that are powerful nootropics. Each of these nootropics have been shown to improve learning and memory, but each also targets specific areas of cognition. Before choosing a racetam supplement it’s best to determine which one is best suited to your particular cognitive-enhancing goals.