- Uses a very good Bacopa monnieri extract
- Folate may help prevent cognitive decline
- Majority of the ingredients don't affect cognitive function!
- MCTs are just man-made, processed fats - nothing special!
- ALCAR is not a nootropic
- Lemon balm does nothing
We have no idea why this nootropic is so popular. Irwin Natural Brain Awake contains just one potent, scientifically-proven cognitive enhancer. The rest of the formula is just useless plant extracts and low doses of common amino acids. Not a professional nootropic at all.
Irwin Naturals Brain Awake Review: What does it do?
Brain Awake is a natural nootropic supplement made and sold by Irwin Naturals. You might have heard of these guys before; they make a staggeringly wide range of supplements covering every category you can think of. Brain Awake is their specialist, full-spectrum nootropic. What is it supposed to do exactly?
According to the website, Irwin Naturals Brain Awake can:
- Promote focus and mental clarity
- Improve information retention
- Increase “feelings of energy”
- Improve performance on “cognitive tasks”
The website goes into a little more detail on how Brain Awake works. According to Irwin Naturals, this nootropic “delivers powerful brain-boosters…that calm and nourish the CNS”. They say it produces deeper, more long-term benefits than other nootropics.
Does Irwin Naturals Brain Awake really work? How safe is it? Will Brain Awake cause side effects? Is it worth the money? We answer these questions and more in our detailed Brain Awake review below!
Irwin Naturals Brain Awake Ingredients
Here is the Brain Awake formula as shown on the Irwin Naturals website:
We’ll quickly run through the Brain Awake ingredients, highlighting the key features of each one and explaining what they can do – or rather can’t do – for cognitive function. If you have any questions or concerns, please post them in the comments at the end.
MCT Oil – 1000mg
Medium Chain Triglycerides are the ‘hot topic’ in the health and fitness world right now. There are hundreds of bloggers and YouTubers who incessantly talk about the amazing powers of MCTs. They assert that they are the ideal “brain fuel”; that they “trigger” ketosis; that they enhance cognitive function. None of these things are true. The brain’s fuel of choice is glucose. Starvation triggers ketosis. MCTs have never been shown to enhance cognition in clinical trials.
Medium chain triglycerides are just fatty acids arranged in a particular way. They are not naturally-occurring in the human diet – unless you regularly press coconuts and palm kernels for oil of course. In fact, all MCTs are processed foods. They do nothing but provide extra calories. They have no special effect on the brain.
Acetyl-L-Carnitine – 500mg
An amino acid typically used for its energy-enhancing properties. Athletes typically consume ALCAR before training in order to increase power output. Supposedly, ALCAR works by increasing mitochondrial efficiency. More efficient mitochondria means more energy output, which means more effective training.
There is absolutely no evidence that ALCAR has a meaningful impact on cognitive function. It may well support energy metabolism, but that does not carry over to noticeably better brain cell function. Certainly not at 500mg – a standard dose for a pre-workout. Bodybuilders have been using this stuff for decades and they haven’t found it to be a powerful nootropic!
Bacopa monnieri – (50% bacoside extract) 300mg
Bacopa monnieri is probably the best natural memory-enhancer in the world. It has been shown time and again to be effective at improving performance in memory-based tests. Just 12 weeks of daily Bacopa monnieri supplementation is enough to significantly improve recall, information retention, and working memory function. Brain Awake provides 300mg of 50% extract. This is excellent; it is far better than the standard dose of 150mg of 24% extract! Everybody is going to see improvements in memory function from this kind of dose of Bacopa monnieri.
Holy Basil – 200mg
This has been selected for its ursolic acid content. We do not know why – ursolic acid has not been studied in humans. Animal studies suggest it might be effective for fat loss, but that’s all. There is absolutely no evidence – nor even a reason to think – that it works as a cognitive enhancer. This is just a healthy-sounding filler for the Brain Awake label in our opinion.
L-Theanine – 100mg
This amino acid is found in very high concentrations in black tea. It lessens the worst side effects of caffeine consumption and enhances its focus-boosting effects. Theanine also promotes relaxation, lessens the symptoms of anxiety, and reduces sleep latency. If you’re a heavy caffeine drinker, theanine supplementation might do you the world of good. By itself though, it has few nootropic properties.
Tea Extract – (95% caffeine) 52mg
We have no idea why Irwin Naturals have opted for an expensive tea-derived caffeine instead of just using purified caffeine. Caffeine is caffeine; it doesn’t matter where you get it from. The fact that the caffeine in Brain Awake is from tea doesn’t mean it’s “calm caffeine” – the molecule has the same effects in the body regardless of the source. In any case, 50mg is a pretty pointless dose; less than an espresso, but enough to put you off if you want a stim-free nootropic.
Lemon Balm – 30mg
Lemon balm is often sold as a natural sleep aid. It has been used as a tea to bring on sleep for a long time. But modern science has this far failed to show that it does definitely work better than placebo. We’ve read a small number of studies looking at lemon balm and sleep, and we’ve so far been mightily unimpressed.
But even if it did work, Brain Awake is not a sleep aid! Why is lemon balm in a stack designed to make you more focused?! Feeling sleepy is the opposite of what we want. We think this is another case of Irwin Naturals using ingredients that sound healthy for the sake of the label.
Rosemary Extract – (3%) 30mg
There is absolutely no evidence whatsoever to support the claim that rosemary enhances cognition. We cannot think of a single reason why Irwin Naturals would have added this common cooking herb in Brain Awake. Lots of people consume rosemary in large quantities when they’re cooking – they might use it on an almost daily basis. Why would 30mg affect mental performance? This is just another example of Irwin Naturals putting ingredients that sound vaguely healthy in their nootropic. Not great!
Our thoughts on the Brain Awake formula
In our opinion this is a low quality nootropic supplement. Irwin Naturals Brain Awake offers terrible value for money.
There is just so much dead weight in this formula. Most of Irwin Natural Brain Awake is useless for enhancing focus, memory, and clarity.
The main ingredient in Brain Awake is just a processed oil. There’s absolutely nothing special about MCT oil – medium chain triglycerides are not the perfect food for the brain as some claim; glucose is the brain’s preferred fuel. MCTs are just like any other fatty acid (except they’re not found in the normal human diet).
Holy Basil does nothing.
ALCAR makes no real difference to your cognitive function.
Lemon balm has no proven nootropic – or sleep promoting – properties.
Rosemary does not affect cognition – certainly not at 30mg!
The caffeine dose is weak; the fact that it comes from tea is meaningless.
That is an awful lot of useless ingredients to have in a single supplement.
Irwin Naturals Brain Awake is mostly ineffective for promoting focus, memory, mental energy, and long-term brain development or health. It does not deliver on its promises.
Side Effects: Is Irwin Naturals Brain Awake safe to use?
We can’t see anything in the Brain Awake formula that we deem a side effect risk. We can’t see any reason for you to be seriously worried about side effects while using this supplement.
Brain Awake’s ingredients are all well-understood substances. They are all commonly consumed around the world on a daily basis. None of them are thought to pose health risks (at least when consumed in these doses).
However, everybody is different. You need to read the label carefully and ensure that this nootropic is safe for you.
In Conclusion – Is Irwin Naturals Brain Awake a good nootropic?
We think Irwin Naturals Brain Awake is a very low quality brain supplement.
The formula is absolutely full of unproven, ineffective ingredients. Some of them are just commonplace foods with no nootropic properties whatsoever. The majority of the formula is actually impotent when it comes to boosting cognitive performance.
A lot of the ingredients have seemingly been chosen because they sound vaguely healthy. They certainly haven’t been chosen for their cognition-enhancing abilities!
MCT oil is not a nootropic. It is a heavily processed source of fatty acids.
Eventually the hype will fade and people will see these fats for what they are – simple, man-made fats.
Overall, Irwin Naturals Brain Awake is a poor nootropic. If you want a supplement for improving all-round mental performance, there are definitely better options than Brain Awake!
Brian Johnson is a former academic researcher, psychologist, and tireless proponent of bio-hacking. Brian has dedicated all of his time since leaving academia and private practice to promoting the benefits to be obtained from the application of biotechnology and bio-hacking supplements. He has years of experience with nootropics, as well as prebiotics, probiotics, and other natural nutritional supplements. He has published scholarly research on natural nootropics; you can find his papers on his Google Scholar page.