The nootropic effect of intermittent fasting, coffee, and nicotine

Intermittent fasting combined with coffee and nicotine makes a surprisingly effective nootropic. And unlike the usual nootropic drugs, there are no debilitating side effects, even with everyday use.

What is a nootropic?


A drug or other substance that enhances memory, concentration, or other cognitive functions.

Basically nootropics sharpen mental function. They’re also known as smart drugs.

The category is wide, and includes very common and widely used things like caffeine, but also more extreme stimulants such as amphetamine.

Nootropic drugs

I’ve tried drugs that could be classified as nootropics. The mind-state achieved was remarkable, but there was a cost in the form of a bad headache and fatigue that lasted days.

Further, drugs often lose their effect over time as we build tolerance, and many come with a risk of addiction.

This all means that regular use of strong nootropic drugs isn’t feasible.

The nootropic effect of intermittent fasting

Fasting increases production of the neurotransmitters epinephrine and dopamine. They’re responsible for its nootropic effect, which I’d describe as a stimulating mental clarity that makes me feel focussed and productive.

My preferred protocol is to stop eating at 7 pm, with the next meal roughly 17 hours later the following day (about noon).

The timing works well for getting up and straight into the day’s work without having to mess around with food.

Plus caffeine and nicotine

The nootropic effect of fasting is noticeable by itself. But there’s great synergy to adding caffeine and nicotine, both of which have nootropic effects on their own.

Source and dose

I make no special effort to take caffeine, it comes with the black coffee I drink throughout the morning. (Black coffee is very low in calories, thus doesn’t break the fast.)

I drink about 3-5 strong cups per day, but anyone’s optimal dose will be determined by individual caffeine tolerance and sensitivity.

For nicotine I opt for lozenges at 0.5 mg doses as and when desired. The lowest strength lozenges I’ve found are 1 mg, so I have to break them in half.


Nicotine safety

It might seem foolish to tout the benefits of nicotine given its association with smoking. They’re not the same thing though. The harms of smoking are clear, but nicotine by itself isn’t the same risk. That doesn’t mean without risk—at this point the science isn’t clear.

We can at least say it’s addictive, but much less so than smoking when used in gum or lozenges. (I’ve taken breaks from nicotine lozenges and would compare the withdrawal effects to stopping coffee.)

Addiction is not inherent to nicotine, as is evidenced by nicotine therapy being used to curb cigarette addictions. Gums and patches have less potential risk for addiction than do cigarettes (with inhalers in the middle) due to speed nicotine reaches the brain.

As the science stands, there’s some gamble involved in using nicotine. Anyone’s decision to try it or not depends on their level of risk tolerance. For me its cognitive and mood benefits are worth it.

Fasting adaptation

There’s an adaptation period to Intermittent fasting. It’s easiest to gradually extend your fast each day by an hour instead of jumping straight into it. I didn’t know this when I got into it, and felt pretty shaky and hungry during the fast for a week or so.

Though once you get used to it, it’s surprising how long you can go without eating. I’ve had times where I’ve realized it’s 6 pm and I haven’t eaten all day, but still feel great.

Lean foodie-ism with focus

As both a formerly overweight foodie and a physique enthusiast, I sought out intermittent fasting as a means to stay lean while being able to eat in the most flexible way possible. The nootropic aspect was accidental.

Being able to eat anything while staying lean feels miraculous enough, but the nootropic effect is a really nice bonus.

If the idea of a daily nootropic without the extreme side effects of strong drugs appeals to you, intermittent fasting, black coffee, and nicotine might be worth trying. For me its lack of side effects makes it the perfect nootropic.

2 replies on “The nootropic effect of intermittent fasting, coffee, and nicotine”

Interesting. I have been IFing since the start of September ’16 (16-23 hours fasting) and drink 4 or 5 big mugs of black English breakfast tea during the am and vape nicotine throughout the day. I’ve been feeling very sharp and focused and have been losing about a pound of weight every single day (at least as of time of writing) which seems higher than what I’ve seen most people report. Must be my caffeine-nicotine combo’ giving me a boost in the fat loss department!

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