The Two Drinks that Saved Me From Smart Drugs

The Two Drinks that Saved Me From Smart Drugs

“You know how they say we can only access 20% of our brain? This lets you access all of it.” –  Limitless

For centuries, we as humans have tried just about everything to boost our brain power through both natural and manmade substances. After going through my own testing of nearly everything I could get my hands on, I found a combination of two things that work really well in combination.

I still remember the smirk on my face after drinking my first cup of coffee in college. Suddenly everything was double the speed and I could take over the world. I recall one or two evil laughs happening. But after my caffeine-high ran it’s course, I felt let down. Years later I am still trying to recapture that beautiful high from that first jolt of caffeine.

The world of smart drugs was the first thing to draw my eye: the hundreds of startup CEOs in Silicon Valley quietly taking drugs like Modafinil and Piracetem is exciting. “Look at all of the successful things they have done!,” I thought to myself, “It must be their secret drug stash.” I set off the next few weeks getting my hands on every smart drug imaginable. The results? Everything has its tradeoffs. (You can find a copy of the smart drug testing excel spreadsheet I used at

It seems after all, that there is no magic drug. The potent combination of Artichoke Extract + Forskolin Root that helped focus me for a few hours then forced me to sleep for 10-12 hours that night to fully recover. The Modafinil that runs Silicon Valley made my heart race and actually reduced creativity.

It then hit me. There is no free lunch, everything comes with it’s setbacks. It is naive to think that it’s possible to enter a state of creative flow by popping a pill. There is definitely more at play, and my breakthrough came by realizing that the human body is a complex animal and unfortunately there isn’t any way to circumvent diet and sleep.

So what does work? I found two drinks that, when paired together, consistently bring my brain into a higher state. The secret is in realizing that the mind and body are connected.

First, a drink for the body. Sadly, most of us are not eating 10-12 servings of veggies a day (I’ve tried and failed many times, how are you supposed to make broccoli exciting?) The good news is that Dr. Rhonda Patrick, a nutritionist and researcher who can cut through BS easily, developed a micronutrient shake recipe that covers the broad spectrum of vitamins and minerals that prime the body. I drink a full cup every morning and notice a consistent brain buzz every time.
Additional tips:
1. Get a good blender (unless you like chewing on your shakes). I use the Blendtec Wildside and would highly recommend it.
2. Only buy organic if the ingredient is on the Dirty Dozen list, which highlights fruits/vegetables that have the highest known concentrations of pesticides.
3. The shake recipe produces about 64 oz, which is the perfect amount to fill a standard Nalgene and a Solo cup. Drink the Solo cup and toss it, because shake residue is tough to get out of glassware.

Second, a drink for the mind. Yerba Mate (pronounced mah-tay) brewed in a traditional way. South Americans have been enjoying this hot beverage with legendary origins for centuries. To this day, you’ll see the people of Argentina with their gourds packed full of mate walking gleefully through the streets. The magic behind the mate is a glorious trifecta of stimulants: caffeine, theobromine and theophylline. Oh yes, it works. But be careful, because many store-bought teabags and pre-brewed yerba mate drinks will strip out many of the effective ingredients. The best way to get the full experience is through traditional loose-leaf brewing.

Here is what I recommend:
1. The traditional brewing calls for a hollowed-out gourd  Unfortunately, they are hard to come by, crack easily and overall aren’t fun to deal with. Use a regular coffee mug.
2. Buy a bombilla, also known as a filter straw. The metal straws are pricier but bamboo works just fine.
3. Get authentic yerba mate. Amazon has two brands I like. Cruz de Malta has a better taste for beginners.
4. When brewing: boil water, let it sit for 5 minutes and then pour. Slowly sip yerba mate over the course of 30-40 minutes and feel your brain come alive.

After using both a micronutrient shake and yerba mate for months without putting them together, the discovery of the combination was as close as I’ve gotten to the wonder drug for higher thinking and creativity. After consuming a shake and a cup of mate, I can easily reach a higher creative state and extend a flow streak for 2-3 hours. Test out this recipe for yourself and let me know how it goes in the comments.

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