Citicoline is easily one of the best nootropics in existence. It is used in all of the top nootropic stacks on sale today, such as Mind Lab Pro, and it has tremendous benefits when used in isolation for purposes of cognitive enhancement.
Despite it being one of the most widely used nootropics in the world, few people understand how Citicoline actually works, or what it does for the brain.
For example, one question we see asked time and again is “does Citicoline give you energy?”
It’s not surprising to see this question asked. Nootropic supplement manufacturers constantly promote citicoline as a supplement for increasing mental energy.
So does Citicoline raise energy levels?
How does it work?
Let’s take a closer look at how Citicoline works to see if this popular brain supplement really gives you more energy.
What is Citicoline?
Citicoline is a naturally occurring compound found in every animal, particulrly in the organs (and especially in the brain). It is an intermediate in the generation of various important brain compounds from choline.
Chemically, Citicoline is a compound made of choline and cytidine, another compound with major implications for brain cell health and activity.
Citicoline is what we call a cholinergic. This is simply the term we use to describe a compound which effectively increases choline availability in the brain. Specifically, a cholinergic is a substance which either produces or mimmicks the activity of various choline-based compounds in the brain such as acetylcholine and phosphatidylcholine.
Choline itself it not a cholinergic as it does not reliably increase acetylcholine or phosphatidylcholine levels in the brain. This is because it does not reliably cross the blood brain barrier.
Cytidine, the other part of Citicoline, is a priary constituent of RNA. Obviously, RNA is needed for the production of new brain cells. Studies show that Cytidine supplementation supports brain cell development and growth. Cytidine supplementation has also been shown to potentiate glutamate activity, which would have antidepressant effects.
How does Citicoline work?
Citicoline has several different mechanisms of action, some of which are significantly more important than others.
Citicoline primarily works by increasing the production of acetylcholine in the brain.
Acetylcholine is the main executive neurotransmitter in the human brain; it is responsible for speech, muscle contraction, information processing, reasoning, working memory, and more.
Supplementing with Citicoline has been shown to significantly increase acetylcholine levels, which in turn was found to dramatically improve focus, attention, learning, working memory function, and overall brain activity.
Due to the presence of Cytidine, Citicoline also promotes brain cell health and maintenance over the long-term. Having healthy levels of CDP-Choline (the name for Citicoline when it is in the brain) is essential for the propr formation of new brain cell membranes, and for the maintenance of existing brain cell membranes.
Supplementing with Citicoline has been shown to significantly improve brain cell health over the long term. Some trials looking at Cognizin (a highly bioavailable form of Citicoline) found as much as 24% improvements in brain cell membrane formation.
But that isn’t all Citicoline does!
Citicoline supplementation is also implicated in increasing mental energy levels.
Does Citicoline raise energy levels?
Yes, Citicoline can be said to raise energy levels. But importantly, it doesn’t raise energy levels in the same way as a stimulant like caffeine, and it doesn’t raise physical energy in any way. As a result, Citicoline does not keep you awake or cause the side effects associated with caffeine consumption.
Citicoline raises mental energy in a very unique way. Clinical trials show that Citicoline supplementation increases levels of ATP in your brain cells. ATP (adenosine triphosphate) is the “energy currency” of your cells; it is the cycling of ATP into ADP and back again which releases energy from food. Having higher levels of ATP means more ready access to energy.
So Citicoline can be said to give you much more energy. However, it doesn’t suppress fatigue and increase CNS activity like stimulants. Instead, it gives you enrgy by increasing the amount of ATP your cell mitochondria have access to, allowing them to release more energy in a short space of time.
Citicoline is one of the best natural nootropics to use for increasing mental energy, focus, attention, and learning. It does not raise CNS activity like a stimulant; instead, it gives your brain cells the materials they need to release energy from food as efficiently and as quickly as possible.
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.