Have you ever sat down to write a paper or complete a creative project and felt completely and utterly frozen? Or perhaps there’s a problem that’s just rattling around in your brain, and you can’t seem to find the solution? If you’re looking for ways to get past your blocks, finding the best supplements to get unstuck may be the way to go.
In most cases, it’s not that a solution or a killer paper doesn’t exist within you. It’s that you can’t quite access them.
In this article, we’ll explore what it means to feel “stuck” and how specific supplements may give your brain exactly what it needs to push through and find the answers you’re looking for.
The 7 Best Supplements For Getting Unstuck
Medium-chain Triglycerides (MCTs) for Brain Fuel
Sometimes your brain really just needs more fuel.
MCTs (medium-chain triglycerides) are a type of fatty acid that’s metabolized differently than long-chain triglycerides. Typically, when fat is digested, it first has to travel through your lymphatic system before it can be delivered to your liver for processing. MCTs, however, take a different route and are sent directly to your liver upon entering your circulation. From here, MCTs are converted into bundles of energy called ketones, which are a preferred fuel source for your brain. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4937039/#:~:text=These%20results%20suggest%20that%20ketones,ketones%2C%20glucose%20uptake%20decreases%20accordingly
Many people who follow a ketogenic diet, in which ketones are the primary fuel source, report sharper thinking and significantly reduced brain fog.
Research shows that taking MCTs may increase energy metabolism in your brain, especially when glucose levels are low. https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/29914035/ https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC2671041/
Mango Leaf Extract (Zynamite®) for Focus
Zynamite is an extract of the mango plant, studied to boost mental and physical performance. Traditionally, mango leaf tea has been used to remedy fatigue and exhaustion, and today researchers are finding that it also possesses nootropic qualities.
Research shows that mango extract may induce electrical changes in your brain activity, supporting faster reaction time and reduced mental fatigue. https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/32473365/
Other studies show that mango extract improves memory impairment in animals and reduces oxidative damage in cognitively impaired rats. https://www.hindawi.com/journals/omcl/2014/132097/
Noopept for Accessing Information
Noopept is a cognitive-enhancing drug that’s been studied for its potential benefits in Alzheimer’s disease.https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/19145356/
Research shows that Noopept may increase brain-derived neurotrophic factor (BDNF) in the hippocampus of the brain. BDNF is a key molecule involved in your brain’s plasticity, allowing for functional changes related to learning and memory.https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/19240853/
Your hippocampus is the area in your brain responsible for regulating emotion, learning, and storing long-term memories.https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3548359/
Due to its roles in both emotion and learning, the hippocampus is intimately involved in the brain fog that can come with increased stress and anxiety. Therefore, supporting this area of the brain assists in managing stress and the “stuck” feeling that comes with mental overwhelm.
Panax Ginseng for Mental Stamina
If you’re stuck on a problem that seems too complex to tackle, Panax ginseng may be just the supplement for you.
Mental fatigue is real, and sometimes being stuck is really just a symptom of being tired. And not just physically tired, but mentally drained.
Research shows that Panax ginseng can reduce brain fatigue and enhance sustained mental endurance in just one dose.https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/15982990/ Some research suggests that it works by enhancing the uptake of glucose by your brain cells, and therefore giving your neurons a boost in energy.https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/16401645/
In one study, participants taking Panax ginseng were able to complete complex math equations with less mental demand than those who did not take the supplement.https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/16401645/
Caffeine for Alertness
It may seem like low-hanging fruit, and in some ways, it is, but caffeine can be one of the most powerful compounds to push you out of brain fog. If you wake up in the morning feeling half-alive, a little hit of caffeine may be all you need to perk those brain cells up.
Research shows that caffeine not only gives you a physical boost in energy but it can also enhance your problem-solving skills. If you’ve been ruminating on something and can’t seem to find the solution, caffeine may be your key to logical reasoning, leading to creative problem solving.https://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/abs/pii/S1053810019303435
Ashwagandha is an herb that’s been used in Ayurvedic medicine for thousands of years to support healthy nervous system function. Today, many people take ashwagandha to support a healthy stress response due to its ability to increase mental and physical resistance towards stressors.https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3573577/
The first step to getting out of a mental rut is to give yourself a break. It can feel like the last thing you want to do when you’re already behind and feeling unproductive, but the pressure of getting things done will only dig you further down into the hole you’re trying to get out of.
Reducing your stress can help pull you out of a mental rut.
When you release the pressure valve that stress can put on your mind and body, your brain can be open to new ideas and ways of seeing things. In turn, that block that’s kept you in a rut can finally release, allowing you the spaciousness to move forward.
If you’re under acute stress, you may not want to wait for ashwagandha to kick in, which can take some time since this is a whole plant as opposed to an isolated nutrient.
This is where l-theanine comes in. L-theanine is an amino acid that combats feelings of stress and overwhelm, and research shows it may be beneficial in stress-induced cognitive impairment.https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC6836118/
It’s suggested that l-theanine works by calming sympathetic activation, the mode of your nervous system active in your fight or flight response. In acute stress, l-theanine was also effective at slowing heart rate. https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/16930802/
If you’re someone who has a hard time starting work because your mind starts wandering or your body gets fidgety, l-theanine may be the supplement for you.
What Makes A Supplement Helpful For Getting Unstuck?
Feeling “stuck” can come in a variety of different flavors. For some people, it’s the creative process that overwhelms you in a paralyzed state. For others, it may be the stress of finding a solution that makes the solution feel so out of grasp. And still, for some, it’s just general fatigue — there’s no more energy available to push forward, so you just throw the towel in.
Regardless of how you got there, a few crucial aspects of brain function can give you the boost you need to break through your cognitive blocks.
First, and perhaps most importantly, you need to calm your brain down. If you’re stressed about not being able to finish a project, the stress is going to just add to the pressure you’re putting on yourself. And if you think you can shame yourself into a flow state, think again.
Second, make sure that your brain has the physical energy it needs to do its job. Just like any other organ in your body, if your brain isn’t getting the fuel it needs to function optimally, the doors to solutions and creative thinking will only be slightly ajar instead of wide open.
And third, supporting overall cognitive functions like learning and memory is crucial for getting unstuck. You have an incredible reservoir of information inside that brain of yours, but it’s no good if you can’t access it.
Luckily, a handful of research-backed supplements support the above mental processes to help you get out of your holding pattern and start the flow of information. You can find your ideal supplement blend by taking this quiz.
How To Choose Which Supplement Is Right For You
You may be wondering which supplement is the right choice for you. If you’ve been feeling fatigued and drained, you could start with some caffeine to see if that does the trick. Otherwise, look to supplements like Zynamite and Panax ginseng for an extra cognitive boost.
If it’s overwhelmed that’s holding you back, look to calming herbs like ashwagandha, or nutrients like l-theanine that can shut down your fight or flight mode. And if you just want an overall nutrient boost to your brain, go for Noopept or MCTs.
It often takes a little trial and error, and using a combination of supplements is usually a good call since mental blocks can build on themselves resulting in fatigue and overwhelm, along with a general sense of not being able to think clearly.