Two of the most widely-used cholinergics in the nootropics world are Alpha-GPC and Choline Bitartrate. These two brain supplements, along with Citicoline, are the most effective natural cholinergics you can purchase over the counter today.
For those of you that don’t know, a cholinergic is a source of choline which, when taken as a supplement, raises brain choline levels. Choline is an essential nutrient needed for maintaining normal cognitive function, liver function, and physical performance. It is of particular interest to nootropics researchers because it is needed for the production of acetylcholine, a key neurotransmitter in the autonomic and central nervous systems.
Acetylcholine is important to us because it is the main neurotransmitter responsible for executive cognitive function. This makes it the neurotransmitter responsible for focus, learning, working memory, and information processing. More choline in the brain means more acetylcholine, which means more raw brainpower – what’s not to like?!
Unfortunately, dietary choline is actually not very bioavailable. On top of that, choline is prevalent in organ meats and eggs; foods which you may not want to eat in large quantities on a regular basis. It is therefore difficult to get an adequate intake of choline every day, making dietary supplements necessary. This is why people turn to choline supplements like Alpha-GPC and Choline Bitartrate.
But you will often see either Alpha-GPC or Choline Bitartrate being used in the greatest nootropics and smart drugs, with manufacturers claiming that their formulation is the best on the market. So which is actually better, Alpha-GPC or Choline Bitartrate?
How are Choline Bitartrate and Alpha-GPC different? What are their benefits? How are these cholinergics similar? What does the clinical research have to say? Which is the best source of choline? Which is the best nootropic for focus, learning and mental energy? We answer all of these questions and more in the article below. If you have any questions, please post them in the comments section at the end.
Alpha-GPC is held as one of the most effective choline supplements in existence (alongside Citicoline). It is a central ingredient in many of the top nootropic supplements on sale today; most notably it is one of the main active ingredients in Alpha Brain.
Alpha-GPC is so widely used in nootropics because its benefits are so broad. The main benefits associated with Alpha-GPC consumption include:
- Increased concentration and focus
- Faster information processing
- Better working memory function
- Reduced brain fog
Obviously, these benefits are largely the result of Alpha-GPC’s effect on acetylcholine levels in the brain. Alpha-GPC quickly raises acetylcholine availability, which broadly improves executive cognitive function. The speed at which Alpha-GPC works is one of its main selling points; both clinical trials and anecdotal data suggest that Alpha-GPC starts working in as little as 30-45 minutes.
Another major benefit of Alpha-GPC is that it may potentially be effective for treating age-related cognitive decline and promoting brain health in the elderly. Several clinical trials have found that Alpha-GPC supplementation improves memory function in older people showing symptoms of mild cognitive decline and age-related memory loss.
Alpha-GPC Recommended Dosage
The choline content of Alpha-GPC is roughly 40%. So for every 100mg of Alpha-GPC you take, you are ingesting 40mg of choline. That is more choline by weight than you get from any other natural cholinergic you can buy today. That is not to say that other dietary supplements aren’t better options for increasing choline intake, but Alpha-GPC does give you the most choline for your money.
To achieve the acute effects of Alpha-GPC, those relating to cognitive performance, it is recommended to take at least 400mg 30 minutes prior to when you want to feel the effects. For rapid and significant improvements in focus and processing speeds, people typically take up to 600mg of Alpha-GPC.
For promoting long-term brain health, you can use a lower dosage and simply take Alpha-GPC more frequently. To help prevent cognitive decline related to old age, studies suggest a daily dose of 300mg of Alpha-GPC is sufficient. However, this will not produce the same rapid-onset effects on cognitive performance as doses of 400mg and up.
Alpha-GPC Clinical Research
The reason Alpha-GPC is such a popular ingredient in high-spec nootropic stacks is that it is unarguably effective. There are dozens of clinical trials attesting to its ability to sharpen focus, enahnce learning, and accelerate processing speeds.
Alpha-GPC’s role in dementia treatment has also been studied quite extensively, and we now have a decent amount of data from which to draw early conclusions.
From the available clinical data, it seems likely that Alpha-GPC can effectively reduce symptoms of age-related cognitive decline. It may not be able to halt the progression of dementias, but multiple clinical studies have found that Alpha-GPC improves memory and broader cognitive function in people with mild to moderate dementia as well as those with age related cognitive decline (source).
Interestingly, a number of studies have found that Alpha-GPC works well for people with mild to moderate Alzheimer’s disease when used in combination with approved Alzheimer’s drugs (source).
There is also a great deal of scientific evidence supporting the claim that Alpha-GPC promotes brain health. Researchers have found that Alpha-GPC supports healthy brain cell maintenance and synthesis, which supports good cognitive function over time. This correlates well with the data showing good results from Alpha-GPC supplements in people with dementia and cognitive impairment.
Choline Bitartrate Benefits
Choline Bitartrate is not considered one of the best forms of choline to take as a supplement.
But just because choline bitartrate isn’t the best form of choline around doesn’t mean it isn’t an effective choline supplement when used properly.
Similarly to Alpha-GPC, Choline Bitartrate is a cholinergic which proimarily works by delivering choline to the brain. This in turn increases acetylcholine levels in the brain, which broadly enhances cognitive function.
The main benefits associated with Choline Bitartrate include:
- Sharper focus
- Faster information processing
- Better working memory function
- Quicker decision making
- Faster reaction times
- Better mind-muscle connection
Like Alpha-GPC, Choline Bitartrate is also thought to support long-term brain health and good cognitive function as you age. Because Choline Bitartrate effectively raises choline levels in the brain, it supports healthy brain cell maintenance and efficient brain cell production. This goes some way to mitigating age-related cognitive decline.
As with all cholinergics, the benefits of choline bitartrate are significantly greater when it is used in conjunction with other effective natural nootropics. For focus, memory and mental clarity, we recommend taking a cholinergic with L-Theanine, Caffeine and Tyrosine.
Choline Bitartrate Recommended Dosage
As mentioned above, Choline Bitartrate is not considered the best choline supplement as far as potency is concerned. You will always need to consume a far larger dose of choline bitartrate than Alpha-GPC to obtain the same results.
To see acute effects from Choline Bitartrate, it is recommended to take at least 600mg. The ideal starting dose of Choline Bitartrate is 600mg rising to as much as 1500mg per day. Benefits of Choline Bitartrate typically take around 60-90 mintes to kick in. This makes it much slower acting than Alpha-GPC, and roughly as fast as Citicoline.
If you’re using Choline Bitartrate to boost intakes of choline in otherwise healthy adults who may be deficient, then 500mg per day is more than enough when used daily for long periods.
For pregnant women looking to avoid neural tube defects, it is advised to take no more than 450mg of Choline Bitartrate per day.
Some people recommend taking up to 3000mg of Choline Bitartrate per day. While this no doubt produces results similar in intensity to Alpha-GPC and Citicoline, such doses of Choline Bitartrate are much more likely to cause adverse effects.
Adverse effects from large doses of Choline Bitartrate are similar to those from large doses of Alpha-GPC, and include headaches, confusion, loss of focus, lethargy, and muscle spasms. Lowering intake of choline can usually eliminate these side effects.
Choline Bitartrate Clinical Research
Many of the studies done on the effects of choline supplementation have used large doses of choline bitartrate.
A significant proportion of the studies looking at treatments for choline deficiencies have used choline bitartrate and seen good results, especially in the context of at-risk pregnant women looking to avoid neural tube defects in their babies.
However, there are several studies showing minimal or no effects from Choline Bitartrate supplementation at all. In one study, researchers conducted three separate experiments on human volunteers; in each study, participants were given choline bitartrate and then given memory based tests to perform. The researchers in that study did not find any acute benefits in the group given Choline Bitartrate compared to the placebo group (source). What is notable about this study is that participants were given 2g of Choline Bitartrate before having their cognitive performance tested, so nobody can blame low dosing!
Clearly, it is important to look at the scientific evidence behind the use of Choline Bitartrate before deciding whether ot not it is worth using. What is equally clear is that the results from Choline Bitartrate are far less consistent than those from Alpha-GPC.
Alpha-GPC vs Choline Bitartrate: Which is better?
So which is the better choline supplement, Alpha-GPC or Choline Bitartrate?
If you’re simply looking to boost your daily choline intake to support overall health and performance, then realistically either Alpha-GPC or Choline Bitartrate is fine to use.
But if you’re looking for a potent nootropic to quickly enhance overall cognitive performance, we think Alpha-GPC is much better than Choline Bitartrate.
Alpha-GPC is more bioavailable than Choline Bitartrate, meaning you can take much lower doses and get the same results. This makes it much more conducive to stacking and a lot less likely ot cause side effects.
Not only that, but the clinical evidence behind Alpha-GPC is much stronger than it is with Choline Bitartrate. With Alpha-GPC you do not have the same conflicting and unimpressive results that you see with Choline Bitartrate. So when it comes to Alpha-GPC vs Choline Bitartrate, the winner is clearly Alpha-GPC.
But it isn’t just about Alpha-GPC vs Choline Bitartrate.
What about other choline supplements?
For a dietary supplement, any good quality choline supplement will do really. But for performance, it is much better to use Alpha-GPC, or better yet, Citicoline. Citicoline is probably the best form of choline to take if your goal is cognitive enhancement, long term brain health, and mental energy. And the most effective way to take Citicoline is to stack it with complimentary nootropics which enhance brain performance in different ways.
Brian Johnson is current Editor of Vagarights.com and a long-time writer for VAGA. A former psychologist, Brian is passionate about improving mental health and finding ways to stave off cognitive decline. He is an expert on nootropics, cognitive enhancement and biohacking more broadly. You can see his work on Google scholar.