The Best Nootropics for Social Anxiety
By: Dave Asprey
- Networking takes a lot of energy, and it can be stressful and exhausting.
- Nootropics — aka “smart drugs” — can help you perform better in social situations, lowering anxiety and giving you the mental and physical energy you need.
- The best nootropics for social anxiety are: aniracetam, l-theanine, nicotine, l-tyrosine, and theacrine.
- Read on to discover why these nootropics for social anxiety work and the best dosage for each.
- What about alcohol? Good networkers may appear to be drinking alcohol at social events, but find out what they’re really doing with that drink.
My job requires me to speak and interact with a lot of people, whether that’s talking onstage to a big crowd, networking at events, discussing cutting-edge research on the Bulletproof Radio podcast, or managing hundreds of employees. So it might surprise you to learn that I used to have a lot of social anxiety. When I’d meet people, insecurities would overwhelm me, and anxious thoughts would crowd my mind: “People don’t like me” or “Should I shake their hand?” or “That was a dumb thing to say.”
So if you get nervous in social situations, know this — I’ve been there and it sucks. I feel your pain.
The problem with social anxiety is that it’s likely getting in the way of your performance. Networking takes a lot of energy. It requires you to pay attention, remember details, focus, hold your body in a certain way, monitor your talking (Are you talking too much? Too little?), ask the right questions, listen, and the list goes on. You’re dealing with a lot of variables. It’s inherently stressful and requires more electrons firing in your brain than watching “Breaking Bad.” Being anxious is not going to help you manage that stress very well.
That’s why I recommend certain nootropics to calm your nerves and bring out your natural charisma. Nootropics are compounds that can improve brain function — increasing your mental energy and sharpening your mind. Read on to discover the best nootropics for social anxiety — giving you the stamina to deal with any stressful social situation.
Best nootropics for social anxiety
“Racetams” are some of the most widely used nootropics. Aniracetam is the only one of the racetam family that has potent anti-anxiety effects and increases memory I/O (gets things in and out of your brain), making it one of the best nootropics for social anxiety. A strong memory is key to being a good networker — you remember what a person has told you, either in the past or the present, and you can draw on that knowledge to add value to the conversation. When you’re able to meaningfully contribute to a discussion, you automatically feel more confident, and you leave a positive lasting impression. I’ve used aniracetam for years with great results.
Dose: Clinical trials use between 1,000 and 1,500mg a day. Take 500-750 mg twice a day, with food. Aniracetam is fat soluble, so take it with a bit of fat like Brain Octane to boost absorption.
There’s a reason why you feel calm yet alert after a cup of green tea. That’s thanks to l-theanine, a natural component of tea leaves that relaxes you and improves focus.  L-theanine works synergistically with caffeine, and together the two increase your reaction time (how quickly you recognize words, for instance), memory, and reduce mental fatigue. That’s a recipe for success when you’re talking to people — you’re chill but mentally with it.
Dose: Drink tea (green or black) for a gentle dose of l-theanine and caffeine. For a stronger boost, take 200mg of l-theanine, or 3 Zen Mode softgels, with your morning Bulletproof Coffee.
One of the best nootropics for social anxiety is nicotine. It may seem strange that I’m recommending it — isn’t nicotine bad for you? When you get it from cigarettes, then yes, absolutely — cigarettes are full of toxins like tar and carbon monoxide, and the high level of nicotine is addictive (and that’s just the start of a long laundry list of why cigarettes should be avoided at all costs). But a small amount of nicotine can be a good thing, and can give you mental energy to plow through any social situation. Nicotine improves short-term memory, sharpens reaction time, and make you more vigilant.
Dose: To be clear — I don’t recommend getting your nicotine from cigarettes and tobacco. I’m talking very small microdoses, far less than what you would get from smoking. My favorite way to get the benefits of nicotine is with a spray. One spray gives you about 1mg of nicotine — enough for a nice jolt of lasting energy. Learn more here about the advantages and drawbacks of nicotine, and other safe ways to take it.
Talking to people, especially at a work function or an all-day conference, can be stressful — l-tyrosine helps your brain stay the course without getting burned out. Here’s how it works: Stress depletes your neurotransmitter stores (neurotransmitters are your brain’s chemical messengers), particularly norepinethrine. Low levels of norepinethrine can leave you feeling mentally exhausted and scattered, and emotionally down — not a great combo when you’re looking to make an impression. L-tyrosine is an amino acid that helps your brain create neurotransmitters, easing stress and improving focus during taxing mental tasks.
Dose: 500mg a day of a high-quality supplement like Jarrow Formulas L-tyrosine.
Theacrine is an alkaloid (aka a plant chemical) found in a Chinese tea plant that wakes up your brain and gives you mental clarity, much like coffee. It has a similar chemical structure to caffeine, and studies show it may impact the brain in the same way — by binding to adenosine receptors. Adenosine is a chemical that makes you feel sleepy. Like caffeine, theacrine fools your nerve cells into thinking it’s adenosine, but instead of making you feel drowsy, it causes your nerve cells to fire up more quickly, increasing your alertness. Note that’s at high levels (48mg/kg in rats). Low levels (3mg/kg) of theacrine have shown the opposite effect, increasing the amount of adenosine in the brain.
So why not just drink coffee instead? While I’m a big proponent of drinking a Bulletproof Coffee in the morning, too much caffeine can leave you jittery. You can also build up a tolerance to caffeine over time, which means you need more coffee to get the same jolt of energy. Theacrine may not lead to the same tolerance build-up. In one study, 60 men who took 300 mg of theacrine a day for 8 weeks showed no signs of tolerance, measured by their energy levels, focus, and concentration.
Dose: Studies show that caffeine helps your body better absorb theacrine and boosts its effects. Take three Bulletproof Smart Mode softgels (each serving contains 100mg of theacrine) with your morning coffee.
A note on alcohol and social anxiety
Alcohol may seem like a great balm for social anxiety, but it’s going to impair your cognitive functioning — you won’t remember your conversations as clearly and you may end up saying something you regret. The fact is, people who are good networkers don’t drink alcohol. They may look like they’re drinking, but if you look closely you’ll notice they only hold their glass, but never drink from it. Instead, they throw their drink into plants when no one’s looking (true story). If you are going to drink, take a glutathione supplement — this “master antioxidant” helps your liver process the alcohol quickly. And check out this Bulletproof alcohol roadmap to learn what types of alcohol are the least harmful.
Remember, the goal here isn’t to be perfect — you want to show vulnerability and be authentic, and not be some superhuman distant person. That’s not going to make you any friends. So do what you can to be as energized and mentally alert as possible, but leave room for the real you to come out. That’s the sweet spot where true charisma lies.
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