Preface – Relationship with Natural Stacks, a Manufacturer of Nootropics

To preface this article on my personal experimentation with nootropics (used interchangeably with the term “smart drugs” these days), I’d like to first be transparent about how this article came about. I regularly digest boatloads of information regarding health, fitness, medicine, science, and general wellness. I’m deeply interested (more like borderline obsessed) in not only what makes our bodies and minds tick, but also the actions we could take to improve the mechanisms that drive the quality of our performance.

I was approached by a Natural Stacks employee to test some of their products. Why? I developed an interest in nootropics, started researching the subject, was made aware of the company in podcasts, and eventually stumbled upon their brand and interacted with them via social media. Subsequently, they reached out to me to sample their supplements. Prior to these events, I had had no affiliation with the company.

Natural Stacks logo
Natural Stacks logo

Natural Stacks is a company that manufactures and sells performance-enhancing supplements. They promote their products as being free from GMOs, artificial colors, artificial flavors, and gluten. Their capsules are also vegetable-based. Judging by what I’ve seen in the supplement industry, the quality of their products sets them apart from the crowd. By quality, I’m referring specifically to the ingredients they use, which all seem to be naturally occurring compounds. When I am educated and aware of, maybe, 95% of the ingredients on a nutrition and food label with few suspicions with what I’m reading, that’s typically a good sign. Their ingredients are quite simple, which I like – no signs of heavy processing, no funky flavors, no fillers, and no “proprietary blends” or other observable means of masking ingredients, which is quite common with many companies in the supplement industry.

The areas that I would like to get more clarity around are:

  1. How much of what they label is actually in the product?
    • It would be great if we could see some third party testing results as many supplements don’t always contain exactly what is listed on the label. Not that this is common practice, but the more transparent a company is, the more I’d trust them.
  2. With respect to their cognitive-enhancing supplements, what do they consider clinically effective doses and do their supplements contain those doses in practical, realistic, and safe serving sizes? After all, the poison is always in the dose.
    • Since scientific research is one of the reasons for their differentiation among the rest of supplement industry, I’ve love to read the peer-reviewed articles and journals they’re using as the basis for the ingredients in their products.

Given that my overall assessment of Natural Stacks and their products didn’t raise any red flags, I agreed to sample their supplements. Writing this article, on the other hand, was entirely my idea and not something they asked or paid me to do.

Note #1: This is not an article about what nootropics or smart drugs are. This is an article summarizing a month-long experiment I had taking Natural Stacks nootopics and the assessment of their impact on my test-taking abilities. If you want to learn more about nootropics or smart drugs, please follow the links below. In short, nootropics (and smart drugs) are essentially chemicals that can be administered to enhance cognitive function and ability (focus, mental alertness, memory, etc.) and can include over-the-counter substances such as caffeine and fish oil to prescribed medications such as Ritalin (methylphenidate) and Provigil (modafinil).

Note #2: I am not a scientist, brain expert, or a supplement expert. I am a wellness advocate preoccupied with optimizing health and performance.. and a proud nerd at heart with a love for experimentation and analyses.

Now, without further ado, below are the details of my n = 1 nootropic experiment.

What Did I Test? – Nootropics Impact on Cognition

Very simply, I wanted to test the impact nootropics had on enhancing cognitive performance.

How Did I Measure Results? – Mental Aptitude Tests

Because I have a full-time job, I couldn’t exactly dedicate hours per day testing the individual components of executive function (memory, focus, mental processing speed, organization, etc.), so I assessed three broad-sweeping cognitive aptitude tests for ease of measure. Why aptitude tests? Because results are easily measured with quantitative scores. You either get answers right or wrong – plain and simple. Plus, I’m no scientist, so I don’t have access to more sophisticated testing apparatuses. I established baseline scores and used those scores as benchmarks against subsequent scores post-nootropic administration.

The three tests considered were:

  1. General Aptitude Test
  2. IQ Test
    • Test site –
    • Note – After scrapping #1, I introduced a replacement exam. There were only 10 questions, which created volatility in test scores. I continued taking this test throughout the experiment, but in the end, relied largely on the Wonderlic test mentioned below. The results were all over the map, so I’ve excluded the scores from this article.
  3. Wonderlic Test
    • Test site –
    • Note – Some questions were repeated in tests, though not nearly as frequent as #1 above. This skewed results, but I struggled to find a better test, and for the sake of saving time and not going overboard with selecting aptitude tests, I ended up using this to analyze the impact of nootropics on my test-taking abilities.

What Supplements Were Taken? – Natural Stacks Nootropics

The Natural Stacks representative supplied me with samples of supplements that were focused around enhancing both cognitive and physical performance. For the purpose of this test, I kept things simple and experimented with a subset of the supplements that were provided:

  1. Natural Stacks Dopamine Brain Food
  2. Natural Stacks CILTEP Nootropic Stack
Natural Stacks - Dopamine & CILTEP bottle packaging side by side
Natural Stacks – Dopamine & CILTEP packaging
Natural Stacks nootropics (CILTEP & Dopamine) pills in hand
Natural Stacks nootropics (CILTEP & Dopamine) pills in hand

How Was the Test Implemented? – On a Planned Schedule

The duration of the test was four weeks long. I took the supplements on four consecutive days each week (restricted to work days where mental demands are high), and on the fourth day of each week, re-took the mental aptitude tests. No supplements were taken on weekends as a means to reset to a clean state so I could experiment with a new dose and stack variation the following week. Cognitive aptitude tests and nootropics supplements were always taken in the morning on an empty stomach. This was a recommendation from the Natural Stacks representative. I also did not want digestion to skew the test results in any way (varying absorption rates).

Below is a timeline of events:

  • Week 1 – Dopamine
    • Baseline test – General aptitude test and Wonderlic test (the former was scrapped)
    • Day 1 – 2 Dopamine capsules (started with a lower dose first)
    • Day 2 – 3 Dopamine capsules (no adverse effects, dose set to recommended maximum daily amount)
    • Day 3 – 3 Dopamine capsules
    • Day 4 – 3 Dopamine capsules
    • Post nootropics test – Wonderlic test
  • Week 2 – CILTEP
    • Baseline test – IQ test (new baseline test introduced)
    • Day 1 – 2 CILTEP capsules (started with a lower dose first)
    • Day 2 – 3 CILTEP capsules (no adverse effects, dose set to recommended maximum daily amount)
    • Day 3 – 3 CILTEP capsules
    • Day 4 – 3 CILTEP capsules
    • Post nootropics test – IQ test and Wonderlic test
  • Week 3 – Dopamine + CILTEP + With Coffee
    • Day 1 – 2 Dopamine + 2 CILTEP capsules (started with a lower dose first)
    • Day 2 – 3 Dopamine + 3 CILTEP capsules (no adverse effects, dose set to recommended maximum daily amount)
    • Day 3 – 3 Dopamine + 3 CILTEP capsules
    • Day 4 – 3 Dopamine + 3 CILTEP capsules
    • Post nootropics test – IQ test and Wonderlic test
      • Test taken with one cup of coffee
  • Week 4 – Dopamine + CILTEP + With and Without Coffee
    • Day 1 – 3 Dopamine + 3 CILTEP capsules
    • Post nootropics test – IQ test and Wonderlic test
      • Test taken without coffee
    • Day 2 – 3 Dopamine + 3 CILTEP capsules
    • Day 3 – 3 Dopamine + 3 CILTEP capsules
    • Day 4 – 3 Dopamine + 3 CILTEP capsules
    • Post nootropics test – IQ test and Wonderlic test
      • Test taken with one cup of coffee

What Were The Test Results? – Improvement in Test Scores Over Time

Wonderlic test results trended over time with date markers on nootropics & supplementation specifics
Wonderlic test results trended over time

My Experience with the Test and My Interpretation of the Results

This was a fun experiment. I had heard so much about nootropics and smart drugs in the past few years, and I was really interested in knowing whether the supplements could actually enhance cognition or that it was just a bunch of marketing BS. There was only one way to find out for myself – by initiating an n = 1 experiment. I’m not one to believe in marketing hype, so self-experimentation has always been my tried and true method of figuring out what works best for me. It’s a no brainer.

On the Test Setup

Since I had virtually no previous history of taking nootropics, I took the precaution of setting up the experiment in a way where I could slowly introduce new supplements and dosages into my system. This is the approach I typically take when experimenting with any foreign compound. I was advised that stacking Dopamine and CILTEP would potentially produce the greatest cognitive impact, so I worked my way up to that point. I began by taking both Dopamine and CILTEP alone to ensure I could manage the recommended daily maximum dose before stacking the two together. I also wanted to measure changes in test scores against baseline for each individual nootropic supplement, which could then be also used as a benchmark against the combination of both supplements. In the latter stages of the experiment, I introduced coffee out of sheer curiosity. I wondered if it would amplify the nootropics effects with caffeine. This and the change in baseline aptitude tests (general aptitude test to IQ test) were the only areas that were unplanned.

On the Test Results

The trending of my Wonderlic test scores after each 4-day bout of taking nootropics was interesting to watch over time, particularly when I introduced, removed, and re-introduced caffeine. Over the course of the experiment, my Wonderlic test scores grew by 90% (score = 21 to 40) from baseline to the final test, just about doubling my baseline test score in four weeks. So, the question of the hour is – did taking nootropics improve my cognitive ability, enabling me to score higher on aptitude tests?

Yes, maybe.

There’s no denying that my aptitude test scores improved while taking nootropics. But, was it solely because of the supplements or was something else at play? The improvement in my test scores could have also been attributed to the fact that I was repeatedly exposed to the same test. We’ve long understood the power that repetition can have on increasing work output and efficiency, particularly in the beginning phases of undertaking any new task or process. This, in conjunction with the supplements, could have both impacted the test scores and perceived improvement in cognitive performance.

What was really intriguing was the change in week on week (WoW) growth rate on test scores when I stacked Dopamine and CILTEP, and started playing around with caffeine. The week when I combined the two nootropics and caffeine together (Week 3) showed the highest WoW growth rate in test scores, up 36% (score = 38). This appeared to be more effective than taking Dopamine or CILTEP alone. However, since I also introduced coffee into the mix, that was likely a factor in the jump in performance as well.

Week on week growth rate of Wonderlic test scores with details on nootropic supplementation
Week on week growth rate of Wonderlic test scores

I decided to remove caffeine from the equation and re-test the Dopamine and CILTEP stack at the start of Week 4. The rate of change in test scores dropped dramatically, down 11% WoW (score = 34), but with a score still higher than when I tested Dopamine and CILTEP alone. Given that, stacking the two seems to be more effective than taking the nootropics in isolation, and it also illustrated that caffeine likely contributed to Week 3’s accelerated growth rate.

To confirm that theory, I decided to re-introduce caffeine with the same Dopamine and CILTEP stack at the end of Week 4. As I suspected, the rate of growth shot back up into the black, up 18% WoW (score = 40). After seeing these trends emerge in the last three tests, I am fairly certain caffeine played a role in either the effectiveness of the nootropics and/or my overall cognitive function, the latter of which would be no surprise given caffeine’s long-studied effects on cognition.

Again, I may have just been getting more familiar with this particular test, and thus, increased the speed at which I answered questions. I’ll never know the exact contribution that each factor had on these trends. However, it is still compelling to see material improvement in test scores in such a short period of time and that we should recognize that we are capable of optimizing mental performance in a meaningful way.

After the final test score of 40 at the end of Week 4 (only two points off from Week 3’s score of 38), I figured any additional tests would likely produce marginal test score improvements so I decided to end the experiment.


In summary, I believe that nootropics could have a beneficial impact on cognitive performance, and the results of this test warrant further experimentation. This n = 1 case study has many limitations – the amount of time devoted to experimentation, the small sample size, biased tests that were not fully randomized, and the lack of specificity in testing the many facets of executive function, to name a few.

Moving forward, I’ll continue to take nootropics and plan to do so when situations arise that require me to operate at high levels of mental acuity. And I’d be sure to combine the supplements with a cup of coffee! As I did not exhibit a negative reaction to the Natural Stacks nootropics – at least as far as I can tell – I’d continue taking them until I have reason not to.

Products I’d Consider Testing in the Future

Ting Wang

Can Nootropics Improve Test Scores & Make You Smarter? Yes, Maybe.