Supplement Stacks for Sex, Sleep, Stress, and More
By: Bulletproof Staff
February 23, 2017
Supplements are a tricky business. With so much misinformation and no regulation, it can be overwhelming to know where to start with them. What are good brands? What’s the dose? What about purity? Delivery method? Form? Time of day to take them? With food or without?
You can find a Bulletproof break down of basic supplements here. It’s a good place to start if you’re putting together a baseline supplement routine. What you’re about to read is geared more toward enhancing specific facets of your life when you want them: sleep, stress, sex, mood, and focus/memory. You’ll get all the details about how to supplement, including recommended brands, and stacks to use.
What is a “stack”?
The term started in the bodybuilding community and refers to a group of different nutrients that work together to enhance the intended goal. Big muscles are cool, but big brains and getting busy in the bedroom are cooler.
The supplements in this article are split into stacks you can take together, but you can also try each compound individually. Experiment to find a balance that works for you.
Magnesium stimulates GABA and melatonin release, helping you fall asleep faster, reach deeper phases of sleep, and wake up less at night . You’ll feel it within a few minutes. Magnesium also prevents muscle cramps while you sleep.
Dose: 400-600 mg
Time taken: Before bed
Phenibut is GABA (the major calming neurotransmitter in your brain) with a phenyl ring attached, which allows the molecule to pass your blood-brain barrier and reach receptors in your brain. Phenibut was originally developed for Russian astronauts, to ease the stress of flight and help them sleep in space. It relieves anxiety and drives you into deeper sleep . Phenibut is also a nootropic: it boosts cognition, giving you relaxed clarity of thought.
Phenibut can be addictive, so it’s very important to take it correctly. The two common mistakes people make are taking phenibut daily and increasing the dose over time. Phenibut’s effects last for 48-72 hours, so you only want to take it once every three days (twice a week max). You also want to cycle it to avoid tolerance. Go two weeks on phenibut, two weeks off. Don’t go past 250mg doses; if you stop feeling the effects at 250mg, cycle off for a couple weeks. Don’t mix phenibut with alcohol, either. It amplifies the effects, which can be dangerous.
Recommended brand: Nootrostop
Dose: 250 mg (never higher)
Time Taken: Anytime, but only twice a week max (Monday and Thursday, for example). Do two weeks on phenibut, two weeks off.
Kava is like chamomile on steroids. It contains compounds called kavalactones that increase both GABA  and serotonin , two neurotransmitters that are key for priming your body to sleep. You can brew kava tea or buy an extract. Be warned: it tastes like mud. Don’t be alarmed if kava makes your mouth go numb; it’s two natural anesthetics, dihydrokavain and dihydromethysticin, binding to receptors on your tongue. You can find a full breakdown of kava here.
Dose: 1-2 teabags, or follow package instructions for extracts
Time taken: An hour before bed, with fat (kavalactones are fat-soluble)
Bulletproof Sleep Mode contains L-ornithine, an amino acid that decreases cortisol response and normalizes sleep patterns . It also has melatonin, the hormone you produce throughout the day that makes you sleepy at night. Most melatonin supplements contain anywhere from 2-10mg melatonin, which is excessive and can lead to issues over time. Sleep Mode has 0.3mg, a dose that’s still bioactive but far more sustainable.
Recommended brand: Bulletproof
Dose: 2 softgels
Time taken: before bed
Note: Kava and phenibut work on different GABA receptor subtypes, which means they aren’t dangerous when you mix them. That said, the combination will really knock you out. That’s great if you have trouble sleeping, but it can also be overwhelming for some people. If you find you feel especially groggy and you don’t like it, drop either kava or phenibut.
Stress & anxiety
Kava is also great for stress. Kava extract is comparable to benzodiazepines like Valium when it comes to relieving stress and anxiety, with none of the side effects [6,7,8]. It relaxes you without impairing mental clarity, either , which makes it a nice alternative to drinking. See the breakdown above for dosage. The one difference is that for stress, you’ll want to take kava in the morning, and maybe a couple more times throughout the day.
L-theanine curbs both your physiological and psychological stress responses . It also promotes alertness, leaving you in a calm, focused state . Pair it with caffeine to increase your cognitive function , or take it on its own to chill out.
Recommended brand: Powder City
Dose: 200 mg
Time taken: With a fat source (L-theanine is fat-soluble)
Ashwagandha is a powerful adaptogen. Randomized, double-blind, placebo-controlled studies have found that ashwagandha decreases cortisol response by 15-30% in healthy but stressed adults [13,14]. “Ashwagandha” is Hindi for “smell of horse,” referring to the herb’s potent smell and taste. Get this one in pill form to avoid the unpleasantness.
Recommended brand: Powder City
Dose: 500-1000 mg
Time taken: Morning
Astragalus is one of the better-studied Chinese/Korean herbs. It contains polysaccharides that protect your mitochondria from stress-induced oxidative damage [15,16], which makes it a good choice if you’re chronically stressed or pushing to meet a deadline.
Recommended brand: NOW Foods Astragalus Extract
Dose: 500 mg
Time taken: With a fat source (astragalus is fat-soluble)
He Shou Wu is rich in antioxidants and contains chrysophanol, which protects against inflammation and improves brain function under stress . It also reverses liver damage in vitro .
Recommended brand: Now Foods
Dose: 560 mg
Time taken: With a fat source (he shou wu is fat-soluble)
Gynostemma, also called southern ginseng, doesn’t have solid clinical studies to back up its effect on stress. It’s on this list because data from 40 Years of Zen has found that gynostemma reliably increases alpha waves, the brain waves associated with a calm meditative state. Not convinced? Try it on its own and see if you feel a difference.
Recommended brand: Paradise Gynostemma Extract
Dose: 250 mg
Time taken: With fat (gypenosides, the active compounds in gynostemma, are fat-soluble)
Maca gets both men and women in the mood [19,20,21]. It also improves sperm motility  and erectile dysfunction . You want gelatinized (cooked) maca – raw maca has antinutrients and extra starches. Some maca gets moldy, which can affect cognition. If you feel like you lose mental clarity after taking it, try switching brands.
Recommended brand: Gaia MacaBoost (it’s paired with ginger and cacao, which makes it taste far less disgusting than pure maca powder)
Dose: 3-5g (1-2 tbsp)
Time taken: With a fat source (maca is fat-soluble)
Tribulus terrestris is a powerful aphrodisiac in both men and women, although we still don’t know how it works [24,25,26]. Tribulus does not increase testosterone, which many marketers claim, but it does reliably increase libido and erection strength.
Recommended brand: NOW Foods Tribulus Terrestris Extract
Dose: 1000 mg
Time taken: Morning or an hour before sex, with a fat source
EPA & DHA, the two animal-based omega-3 fatty acids, improve mood and ward off depression . They also curb inflammation and prevent cognitive decline. Wild fatty fish like salmon, anchovies, mackerel, and sardines are high in EPA and DHA. You can also supplement, and probably should, as most people don’t get nearly enough omega-3s through diet alone.
Dose: 500-1000 mg
Time taken: Morning
5-HTP is what your body naturally makes from the amino acid tryptophan. From there, 5-HTP is converted into serotonin and melatonin. You know serotonin, the neurotransmitter responsible for boosting mood and emotional well being – all while helping your body deal with stress? But your body can sometimes struggle with turning 5-HTP into that all-important happy neurotransmitter. Supplementing with 5-HTP — which readily crosses the blood-brain-barrier — is the easiest way to organically support your levels of the mood-lifting neurotransmitter serotonin.
Recommended brand: Bulletproof 5-HTP
Dose: 50 mg
Time taken: Take one capsule, up to 6 times spread evenly throughout your day, to support emotional well-being and a balanced mood.
Mucuna pruriens is high in L-dopa, the precursor to mood-boosting dopamine . Mucuna has been used to relieve the symptoms of Parkinson’s related to low dopamine, a discovery that later led to researchers manufacturing synthetic L-dopa as a treatment. Even if you’re in good shape cognitively, mucuna can give you a boost in mood.
Recommended brand: NOW Foods mucuna extract
Dose: 100-200 mg
Time taken: with food
Magnesium deficiency can contribute to depressed mood, and many people are deficient in it [29,30]. Try supplementing with 400-600 mg per day. Even if it doesn’t help with mood, it’ll help with stress and sleep, and sleep is essential to balancing hormones and neurochemicals related to mood. See above for brand and timing recommendations.
Focus & memory
There are a lot of different ways to increase your focus and memory. This guide to smart drugs breaks down 13 different options for you to try. Everyone’s brain is different; experiment to find out what works for you. The three smart drugs below are a great place to start and work for most people.
Aniracetam doesn’t have many studies behind it, partly because it’s in a regulatory gray zone. It’s legal to buy without a prescription, but it’s effective enough that it may become a drug soon. It markedly improves both memory and mental turnover, which explains why so many people take it for public speaking (far fewer “ums” and “ahs”). One study in rats found that aniracetam improves memory and counters depression .
Recommended Brand: Nootrostop. Go for capsules; racetams are bitter and don’t dissolve in water.
Dose: 650 mg, 1-2 times daily
Time taken: Morning, with a fat source (and afternoon for a second dose, if you’d like)
Phenylpiracetam is a cousin of aniracetam with slightly different effects. Most studies focus on using phenylpiracetam to repair brain cells: it helps restore neurologic function after strokes  and in patients with epilepsy-related brain damage . Anecdotally, healthy people report increased memory, faster recall, improved ability to switch attention, and more energy from phenylpiracetam.
Recommended Brand: Nootrostop
Dose: 100 mg, 1-4 times daily
Time taken: Morning, with a fat source (and more throughout the day, if you’d like)
Note: Members of the racetam family, like the two above, deplete acetylcholine, a neurotransmitter that affects energy and attention . Some people are choline-dominant, and won’t have an issue taking racetams. Others don’t produce as much choline, and may crash a few hours after taking racetams. If you feel sleepy or low-energy after taking racetams, add in a choline source. You can either take a choline supplement or down a couple pastured raw egg yolks in the morning.
L-tyrosine is a precursor to dopamine, epinephrine, and norepinephrine, three crucial neurotransmitters for focus and mood. Supplementing with it can improve cognitive function under pressure , which has led to tyrosine research by the military, for possible use with soldiers . You get tyrosine in your diet, but supplementing with it in purified form drives more l-tyrosine to making new neurotransmitters, as opposed to getting it with the other amino acids contained in dietary sources, where it favors things like protein synthesis .
Recommended brand: Bulletproof
Dose: 500-1000 mg
Time taken: any time
What else would you like to see supplement stacks for? Anything this article missed? Leave your thoughts in the comments below. And for more on supplements, check out the basic Bulletproof guide to daily supplements, as well as this breakdown of 13 nootropics for a sharper brain. Thanks for reading and have a great week!
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