Are you the get-up-and-go type?
Or the chill-and-take-our-time dood(ette)?
Depending on where you land on this incredibly oversimplified spectrum, then the decision of this comparison review has already been made up for you: Take NITROvit if you’re the former, Alpha BRAIN if you’re the latter.
However, if you’re like me — an everyman, a modern-day Odysseus, a richly complex Renaissance thinker — a Nootropic Geek, then this review is no joke: We need to know exactly what we’re dealing with here. And fortunately we’re just the people — equipped with the smarts and the intelligence and the painfully good-looks — to figure it all out.
You can very neatly divide these formulas by personality type:
- NITROvit is for your type-A let’s-get-to-it workers.
- Alpha BRAIN is your let’s-chill and problem-solve stack.
Both have their unique — however, both are also very similar in their base bio-actions, thus warranting this review: Which supplement accomplishes these bio-actions better? Let’s start the review with:
NITROvit: Focus, Memory, Energy
For quick bursts in calm, caffeinated mental power, go with NITROamp, the L-theanine + caffeine combo under the NITRO name. However, for multipurpose, cholinergic, caffeinated memory power, go with NITROvit, the “Advanced Cognitive Nootropic” formula formulated by the one-and-only Archie Marks (don’t worry about it — I had to look him up, too).
Key features include:
- Cholinergic Brain Boosts — Bacopa, Citicoline, Huperzine-A
- Dopaminergic Mood Boosts — B Vitamins, Caffeine
- Antioxidant, Anti-Inflammatory — Alpha Lipoic Acid, PS, Taurine
And more. With so much bio-action, a little suspicion is warranted: Are the dosages adequate to cover all of these ingredients? Hmm… Read my in-depth review on NITROvit.
Alpha BRAIN: Flow, Focus, Fuel
One of the biggest names in the nootropic game, Alpha BRAIN is Onnit’s capsulated nootropic formula (the other formulation being Alpha BRAIN Instant, the liquid mix version of this formula and a member of my elite Best Nootropic Supplements of 2017 list), sporting 3 impressive (but proprietary — mehh) nootropic blends:
- Flow – For alpha brainwave flow-like thinking; L-theanine and oat straw
- Focus – For cholinergic enhanced focus and cognition; alpha-GPC, bacopa, hup-A
- Fuel – For enhanced cerebral circulation and antioxidation; vinpocetine and pterostilbene
And then there’s Onnit’s prized treasure, the ac-11® brand of cat’s claw extract, a natural, herbal mix of antioxidant, anti-inflammatory cat’s claw bio-activity, unique to the Alpha BRAIN formula. Read my in-depth review on Alpha BRAIN.
NITROvit and Alpha BRAIN are surprisingly similar in their bio-effects: Both have nootropic choline sources, bacopa, oat straw, and brain healthy antioxidants. However, the key features that set these formulas apart:
- Caffeine content
- Capsule cleanliness
NITROvit sports some junky FD&C-colored capsules, whereas Alpha BRAIN boasts of having a completely Earth-grown product. Even so, NITROvit does deliver a few fan-favorites over its Onnit counterpart, including:
- Acetyl-L-Carnitine – Crosses the blood-brain barrier to enhance mitochondrial energy output, but only seems to benefit elderly cognition.
- CDP Choline – Or citicoline, a Geek favorite for its two-part combination of choline and cytidine, a precursor to the nootropic uridine.
- Alpha Lipoic Acid – Known as the “Universal Antioxidant” for its well-demonstrated antioxidant capacity — great for brain health, not for acute cognition.
- L-Taurine – Common to energy drinks (namely Red Bull), despite its status as a sedative. I don’t consider it a major nootropic but it may take the edge off the next ingredient.
- Caffeine Anhydrous – Not a true Dr. Giurgean nootropic in my book but a reliable (albeit cheap) cognitive enhancer all the same.
- ac-11® Cat’s Claw – Only Onnit carries this trademarked extract of cat’s claw, an antioxidant, anti-inflammatory herb.
- L-Theanine – NITROvit needs this anxiolytic amino to smooth out the jitters on its caffeine — which Alpha BRAIN ironically doesn’t have.
- L-Tyrosine – Awesome anti-stress amino acid, particularly during conditions of stress that provoke the brain to burn natural tyrosine reserves.
- Alpha-GPC – NITROvit goes with citicoline; Alpha BRAIN sides with Alpha-GPC, a more compact choline source that misses out on the uridine.
- Pterostilbene – Similar to resveratrol in structure, yet 4x more bioavailable, potentially delivering 4x the antioxidant benefits.
- No Caffeine – A key difference between Alpha BRAIN and NITROvit: The latter has caffeine, the former does not (but goes great with it).
Potency & Quality
Let’s start positive. Both supplements display a little shine in their formulas — one more so than the other. Let’s start with the shinier shupplement:
Alpha BRAIN has a few things going for itself in this category worth mentioning. In no particular order, those things are: 1) the clean vegetarian capsules, 2) the ac-11® patented extract, 3) the herbal extracts (bacopa, oat straw), and 4) pterostilbene (as opposed to the more common resveratrol).
Are there things Alpha BRAIN could improve upon? Sure — the vitamin B6 form (P-5-P is better) and the L-tyrosine form (NALT is better) — but on the whole it’s an above-average supplement.
NITROvit, on the other hand, gives us CDP Choline, arguably the best nootropic form of choline …but that’s really it. Most of the remaining ingredients are just fine in their current forms, however several are not, including the plain powders (bacopa, oat straw) and the B vitamins (pyridoxine HCl and cyanocobalamin should be P-5-P and methylcobalamin).
Many of the dosages aren’t great either, but at least NITROvit doesn’t hide its dosages beneath proprietary blends (*cough* *cough* Alpha BRAIN *cough* *fart*).
Value: NITROvit vs. Alpha BRAIN
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NITROvit or Alpha BRAIN: Which is better?
NITROvit is better for acute energy and brain boosts.
A significant contributor to NITROvit’s energy is caffeine, which is, well, not the most unique ingredient — certainly not worth the near $60 price tag — however, NITROvit also gets its brain boosts from a smart addition of citicoline, a nootropic favorite of mine and many others. For a more nootropic punch, add NITROamp’s caffeine + L-theanine to the NITROvit stack.
Alpha BRAIN is better for creative thinking and brain flow.
Alpha BRAIN acknowledges its lack of caffeine with the mention that Onnit wanted to give its customers the option of adding supplementary caffeine (e.g., coffee) to this supplement or not. Personally, I enjoy Alpha BRAIN best with a side of coffee (although, I also personally enjoy Alpha BRAIN Instant more than the vanilla Alpha BRAIN here). To get the most of either supplement, take until all the servings are gone — thennn write your angry Amazon customer review.
Price-wise, both supplements could rework their dollar figure. And Onnit does exactly that for its Alpha BRAIN Instant formulation, despite adding more servings and more milligrams to the product. But looking strictly at the original Alpha BRAIN: Yeah, that’s too much for a 15 serving bottle.
Even so, discounting the price, I’m siding with Alpha BRAIN on this one for a couple reasons:
- Alpha BRAIN demonstrates higher quality.
- Alpha BRAIN delivers a brain-healthier formula.
While I’m not a major anti-caffeine bigot (as many nootropic traditionalists are), I do view it as a crutch to manufactured nootropics. It’s awesome that Onnit recognizes this, allowing its consumers the option of adding caffeine or not. NITROvit’s caffeine isn’t bad, but it should have offset it with L-theanine — rather than setting that ingredient aside for a completely separate product (NITROamp).