Onnit Alpha Brain Review

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Medically reviewed by:
Dr. Jennifer Hughes

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Our editorial team reviewed Alpha Brain, a nootropic supplement from Onnit, for ingredient quality, research-supported benefits, side effects, and more. Overall, Alpha Brain performed well thanks to its safety, affordability, and quality, with our team noticing a significant productivity boost.

Our Rating:

A-

» Rating Methodology

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Our Rating Methodology

We determined this rating by evaluating the following factors:

  • Ingredient Quality: A
  • Supporting Research: B+
  • Reported Side Effects: B+
  • Brand Experience: A-
  • Value for the Price: B+
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Welcome to our Alpha Brain review!

A flagship product of Onnit, claimed by the brand to provide “daily cognitive support,” Alpha Brain comes in several variations, including capsules, Focus Shots, Instant, and Black Label.

To provide a fair and comprehensive review, our editorial team critically evaluated Onnit’s ingredient sourcing, manufacturing, customer support and other key metrics surrounding this product to see if they measure up to the brand’s claims.

When all categories were scored, Alpha Brain received an overall score of A-.

Here’s a quick breakdown of each Alpha Brain product:

The capsules are caffeine free, and come in 30-count or 90-count tubs.

Alpha Brain Capsules
  • Description

    Nootropic supplement (capsule) designed to support memory and cognition.

  • Price

    30ct: $34.95 ($29.71 for subscribers)

    90ct: $79.95 ($67.96 for subscribers)

Onnit claims this supplement works in rhythm with your brain’s existing “processing circuitry” to facilitate focus, memory, and cognition.

If interested, you can try a free 15-day supply of this product (just pay shipping) here at Onnit’s Alpha Brain free trial page.

The Focus Shots are also marketed to athletes as an energy-boosting supplement.

Alpha Brain Focus Shots
  • Description

    Nootropic supplement (shots) designed to enhance memory, cognition, and energy.

  • Price

    6ct (2.5 fl oz): $23.99 ($20.39 for subscribers)

    24ct (2.5 fl oz): $76.77 ($65.25 for subscribers)

Available in two flavors, these liquid supplements include tyrosine, ashwagandha, and other nootropic compounds.

Nootropics are ingestible substances (prescription drugs and/or natural foods) that may enhance memory, focus, and concentration.

Like the Focus Shots, Alpha Brain Instant powder provides a drinkable option for those opposed to swallowing capsules.

Alpha Brain Instant
  • Description

    Nootropic supplement (instant powder) designed to enhance memory and cognition.

  • Price

    30 ct: $50.96 ($59.95 for subscribers).

Finally, Black Label is Onnit’s “top shelf” version of the original Alpha Brain supplement featuring the addition of more potent ingredients like phosphatidylserine.

Alpha Brain Black Label
  • Description

    Nootropic supplement (black label capsules) designed to enhance memory and cognition.

  • Price

    80 ct: $124.95 ($106.21 for subscribers)

Alpha Brain Black Label is marketed for the serious “competitors,” whether that means athletic competition or whatever form your daily grind takes. 

About Onnit

Founded in 2010 and recently acquired by Unilever, Onnit was the brainchild of Aubrey Marcus.

Prolific podcast host, MMA enthusiast/commentator, and TV personality Joe Rogan is also an Onnit co-founder and a member of their pro team.

Marcus and team describe the mission of the Texas-based brand as “total human optimization,” referring to a balanced standard of physical, mental, and emotional/spiritual well being.

Since the brand’s inception more than a decade ago, Onnit has risen to Inc. 500 status, amassing a catalog of supplements, fitness equipment, food, apparel, and more along the way.

Fitness is one aspect of Onnit’s mission; on The Aubrey Marcus Podcast, the founder has engaged with thought leaders from various industries to help further his and his audience’s pursuit of “total human optimization.”

In addition, the founder runs his own relationship seminars and public speaking engagements covering such topics as relationship management and personal development.

Pros and Cons

To learn more about how we rank supplements, you can view our editorial process here.

Here’s everything we learned and experienced throughout our own trial of Alpha Brain products.

  • Pros
  • Seems helpful for focus and increasing attention span
  • Product’s ingredients have robust supporting scientific data
  • Competitively priced for the quality
  • Excellent consumer education and support from Onnit
  • Cons
  • Almost all nootropics require more long-term study data (adverse effect potential)
  • May impair sleep patterns if taken later in the day
  • Nausea reported as a potential side effect
  • Several upsell screens in the checkout process

Ingredient Quality

Summary:

Grade: A 

Onnit employs responsible sourcing and formulation standards, earning them an A for ingredient quality.

Between our review of the Onnit website and follow-up conversations with members of their team, we learned that Onnit sources ingredients from various partner farms that practice sustainable, humane methods.

The products are then manufactured at Onnit’s headquarters in Austin, Texas and tested by third-party labs for contaminants and banned substances. 

When we asked about the maltodextrin content of Alpha Brain (and some of their other products), the Onnit team explained to us that it is a carrier for ingredients being extracted from raw plant materials; it isn’t added by Onnit after the fact.

As a result, the maltodextrin content is negligibly small (around 0.5% of daily carbohydrate intake), and since it is not used in greater quantities to enhance flavor, we don’t consider it an incriminating entry on this particular ingredient list.

Finally, many of Onnit’s products bear the Rainforest Alliance seal, meaning they adhere to the program’s “three pillars of sustainability: social, economic, and environmental” according to the Rainforest Alliance website.

Speaking of, let’s take a closer look at the complete ingredient list and the research behind it. 

Supporting Research

Summary:

Grade: B+

Despite the mixed results from multiple clinical trials (a rare level of research for a uniquely formulated supplement), the individual ingredients in Alpha Brain have thorough evidence to support the benefits on the label.

Since Alpha Brain is marketed as a focus, energy, and mood-boosting product, we expected to see a diverse cast of objectively supported nutrients.

In a later section, you’ll find a more in-depth breakdown of each ingredient’s purported benefits according to research. 

For now, here is the full list of Alpha Brain (standard capsules) ingredients, which we’ve annotated with concentration levels (per serving) for the active ingredients:

IngredientDescription
Vitamin B6 (as Pyridoxine HCl) (10mg)Vitamin with dozens of roles in the body (and brain) including boosting energy
Onnit Flow Blend: L-Tyrosine, L-Theanine, Oat (straw) Extract, Phosphatidylserine (650mg total)Nootropic extracts to enhance cognition, memory, and focus.
Cat’s Claw Extract (Uncaria tomentosa) (bark)Medicinal plant
Onnit Focus Blend: L-Alpha glycerylphosphorylcholine (Alpha GPC), Bacopa (Bacopa monnieri) (aerial parts) Extract (100mg), Toothed Clubmoss (Huperzia serrata) (whole) Extract [Standardized to 1% Huperzine A, 400mcg] (240mg total). Blend of nootropic compounds and plants to enhance cognition, memory, and focus
Onnit Fuel Blend: L-Leucine, Pterostilbene (60mg total)Nootropic compounds that exert protective effects on the brain among other benefits

Other ingredients: Maltodextrin, Vegetarian Capsule (Hydroxypropyl Methylcellulose, Water), Rice Hull Concentrate (Nu-Flow)

Between the Focus Shots, Black Label, and Instant varieties, these active ingredients also make an appearance:

IngredientDescription
Vitamin B12 (Methylcobalamin) (Focus Shots)
Energy-boosting vitamin with dozens of other roles in the body an brain
N-Acetyl L-Tyrosine (Focus Shots)
Amino acid useful for boosting cognitive function
Organic KSM-66 Ashwagandha (root) Extract (Focus Shots)
Medicinal plant known as an “adaptogen” for its ability to boost stress response in humans
Cognizin Citicoline (cytidine 5 – diphosphochiline) (Focus Shots)
Compound shown to enhance focus and attention
Lion’s Mane (Hericium erinaceus) (fruiting body) (Focus Shots)
Edible mushroom that shows neuroprotective effects against inflammation and neurodegenerative diseases
InnovaTea Natural Caffeine [from Green Tea (leaf) Extract]
Compound that enhances alertness and mood
Mucuna pruriens (velvet bean) Extract [Standardized to 15% L-Dopa] (Black Label)
Plant containing L-Dopa, a compound that enhances dopamine uptake in the brain
Caffeine Anhydrous (Black Label)
Compound that enhances alertness and mood
Marigold (Tagetes erecta) (flower) Extract (Black Label)
Plant rich in compounds that boost cognition speed
Black Pepper (fruit) Extract (Instant)Plant source containing piperine, a nootropic compound that enhances memory and cognition

Several of these nutrients have been proven (or strongly suggested) in studies and trials to enhance mood or cognition in some way, which we will explore in more detail below.

The lack of high-fructose corn syrup, artificial flavors, and harsh preservatives bodes well for Alpha Brain and the many people already taking it. 

Overall, these are high-quality ingredients, both in what they offer and what they don’t.

Here’s a look at the state of the evidence for the individual active ingredients in Alpha Brain.

L-tyrosine

The same Donders Institute study above highlighting a side effect of L-tyrosine also explains how it “improve(s) cognitive performance in young adults, especially during high environmental demands” by beneficially altering the release of substances like dopamine and epinephrine.

Given the cognitive boost and the circumstances surrounding it (young people, high environmental stress), this bodes equally well for job interviews and athletic competitions.

Ashwagandha

Widely lauded for its sleep-promoting benefits, ashwagandha was shown in this review by the International Institute of Herbal Medicine to enhance brain function by heightening its resilience to stress, while also providing immune support and antioxidants.

This provides a doubly effective combo against the effects of stress, poor sleep habits, diet, environmental hazards, and other factors that tax the brain.

Cognizin Citicoline

This aptly named compound protects the brain by stabilizing cell membranes and suppressing free radicals, and is so effective in this regard, it’s currently receiving the nod by clinician researchers for traumatic brain injury, stroke, and Parkinson’s treatment. 

Lion’s Mane

Finally, this fungus native to northeast Asia and some parts of Europe was shown by a study from the University of Hong Kong to exert antioxidative, antidiabetic, anticancer, and anti-inflammatory effects, among others.

Evidence for Benefits

We’ve rated the amount of evidence there is for each purported benefit of Alpha Brain:

  • Improved FocusStrong Evidence
  • Positive MoodModerate Evidence
  • Decreased StressModerate Evidence

Alpha Brain Reported Side Effects

Summary:

Grade: B+

Balancing the lack of long-term research on some ingredients with this seemingly strong safety profile, we award a B+ for side effects.

Considering the fairly low frequency and severity of reported Alpha Brain side effects, we give Alpha Brain a B+ for side effects.

Even some of the most potent, health-affirming botanicals often contain side effects, and in many cases, certain conditions like quantity consumed or pre-existing health issues can exacerbate these issues.

In this study by the Donders Institute for Brain, Cognition, and Behavior (Netherlands), researchers found that n-acetyl L-tyrosine, despite its many benefits, could actually cause cognitive decline in study participants over the age of 60.

While research on the adverse effects of Lion’s mane is still very much in its infancy (especially for long-term effects), anecdotal evidence of allergic reactions to the fungus has surfaced. 

Side effects are very rare, but the most commonly reported side effects of L-theanine include headaches and sleepiness.

The safety profile of Alpha Brain is high for brain-boosting supplements.

However, almost all of the active ingredients in Alpha Brain are filed under “little to no long-term effect data” by researchers, so it’s always important to closely monitor your use and defer to your physician for any questions or concerns.

Brand Experience

Summary:

Grade: A-

Airtight customer and product support help Onnit stand out in the brand value department. New and returning customers have access to everything they need, including ample product information, flexible shipping and return policies, and more.

onnit alpha brain product page

The material is all beginner-friendly and properly disclaimed (statements not evaluated by FDA).

We appreciated not having to click through four or five pages to access all of this information; it’s all arranged in easily flowing sections on whichever Alpha Brain product page you’re visiting.

We also want to call out the return policy, which gives customers 90 days to receive a full refund if conditions are met. 

onnit checkout

However, the checkout process was a little heavy on the upsells (three consecutive pages), and the threshold for free shipping is a little high ($150), which is why this isn’t a more solid A.

Overall, Onnit has invested in clear, comprehensive consumer education and support for each of their four Alpha Brain products. 

Price

Summary:

Grade: B+

Overall, Onnit’s range of industry-leading nootropic products are priced well when formulation quality is taken into account.

Here are the retail prices for each of the four Alpha Brain products (subscribers save 15%):

ProductPrice (Subscription Price)
Standard Capsules (Learn More)$79.95 ($67.95)
Alpha Brain Instant (Learn More)$59.95 ($50.96)
Alpha Brain Black Label (Learn More)$124.95 ($106.21)
Focus Shots (Learn More)$76.77 ($65.25) (24 pack), $23.99 ($20.39) (6 pack)

As expected, the standard capsules and Alpha Brain Instant present the most economical options, giving one-a-day users the opportunity to use this product consistently for well under $100 a month.

Considering the addition of premium brain-boosting ingredients like mucuna pruriens and phosphatidylserine, we’re not going to call the Alpha Brain Black Label price point outlandish, but unless you seriously need a premium product on a regular basis, it’s more feasible to maintain with one of the cheaper products.

Speaking of premiums, the Focus Shots charge a smaller one than expected, so we won’t hammer home the point of saving with the capsules if you prefer this (more fun) method.

Alpha Brain Free Trial

Especially as it concerns any product that’s going into your body, the reviewers and consumers in us know all too well the importance of trying before you buy, which is why we want to recognize Alpha Brain’s particularly generous free trial.

Shipping and tax are the only thing you’ll pay for a 30-count bottle (15-day supply), and there’s no pressure to lock into the subscription program if the product isn’t for you.

The trial period is 25 days after the initial order, and if you do decide to continue, you’ll receive a significantly discounted 30-count bottle (15% off) every fifteen days.

It’s a decidedly pro-consumer move for Onnit, and for their potential customers, a pressure-free introduction to one of the best nootropics on the market.

Our Experience: Does Onnit Alpha Brain Work?

Summary:

One to two servings of Alpha Brain products a day provided noticeable benefits in a few important areas: focus, mood, and adaptability to stress.*

*Note that our experience may not reflect your own.

We required fewer breaks when completing complicated tasks, and in several instances throughout our trial, “lost time” while deeply immersed in said tasks.

This is what’s referred to as the flow state: a period of intense focus and productivity marked by increased emission of alpha brain waves.

Considering the name of the product and the powerful nootropics therein, we don’t see a coincidence, but a well-targeted effort to gently and sustainably shift your brain into a higher gear. 

None of our testers reported adverse effects, and in the majority of cases, the benefits lasted for around half the workday.

We also noticed a marked improvement in effectiveness with Alpha Brain Black Label, which produced an even stronger and longer-lasting sense of focus and clarity.

Finally, we also had a noticeable improvement in mood, which was especially recognizable in the area of anticipatory anxiety (stress that precedes important events).

As for the taste and texture, both the Tropical and Peach flavors were well-received among our testers, with the general preference leaning towards the latter.

alpha brain focus shot tropical flavor
Onnit Focus Shot Peach

The Tropical flavor was tasty, but a little more bitter than expected, where the Peach flavor seemed to be more accurate.

The texture was smooth and the thickness landed between watery and syrupy, so we had no issues trying to force down an excessively thick, grainy, or otherwise unpleasant shot.

Especially considering the number of nootropics crammed into each of these products, we have no complaints regarding taste or texture. 

Overall, we were satisfied with both the effectiveness of this product and the conscientiously designed ingredient lists. 

Our Verdict

Summary:

Overall Grade: A-

For its high safety profile, formulation quality, and more, Onnit Alpha Brain makes it into the top tier of nutritional supplements, but still leaves room for improvement in the realm of supporting research.

We found Onnit’s suite of moderately priced, well-reviewed, and highly effective nootropic supplements to live up to the hype as it concerns our initial experiences with the products.

Importantly, the brand avoids spurious claims, ticking all the right boxes when it comes to educating consumers about the regulatory status and safety profile of their products.

Each product we tried produced noticeable effects that seemed to enhance our concentration without jitters, crashes, or hangovers, and we noticed no side effects.

While most nootropic ingredients still need more data in the way of long-term side effects, every ingredient used in Alpha Brain has been reported to have very little to no adverse effects in the short- and medium-term.

We feel confident in recommending Alpha Brain products to anyone who has decided (ideally, with a doctor) to try nootropics for a steady boost in brainpower.

Alpha Brain Capsules
  • Description

    Nootropic supplement (capsule) designed to support memory and cognition.

  • Price

    30ct: $34.95 ($29.71 for subscribers)

    90ct: $79.95 ($67.96 for subscribers)

If you like Onnit Alpha Brain, check out our other reviews of Onnit products.

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