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Best Nootropics for Flow States

March 12, 2022

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Flow states are profound states of task enhancement. They occur when we are able to disengage from our thoughts and focus entirely on a task without having to think. To enter a peak-performing flow state, a certain combination of skill, motivation, and attention is required. The best nootropics for flow states may aid in initiating and enhancing the associated brain functions.

In short, the best nootropics for flow states are, in no particular order, organic bacopa monnieri leaf extract, alpha GPC, L-tyrosine, uridine, citicoline, organic huperzia serrata leaf extract, and L-theanine. Also, they are all included in their purest and most bioavailable form in MAXIMUM MIND. Find out how and why below.

We’ll discuss how flow state affects the brain in this guide, as well as how the best brain-boosting nootropics may help us enter that sweet flow state zone a little more easily.

“Success is most often achieved by those who don’t know that failure is inevitable.”
— Coco Chanel

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WHAT ARE NOOTROPICS?

“The only difference between the master and the novice is that the master has failed more times than the novice has tried.”
―Stephen McCranie

First things first, what are nootropics? Corneliu Giurgea, a Romanian neuroscientist, coined the term nootropic (pronounced new-tropic) in 1972. He believed that smart drugs should be invented and made widely available for the purpose of enhancing the general population’s brain health and increasing human intelligence.

According to Dr Giurgea’s findings, nootropics enhance cognition, memory, alertness, concentration, creativity, and attention. They became known as cognitive enhancers, substances that amplify the way the brain’s many cognitive functions operate and how we process information.

Simply put, cognitive enhancers (or nootropics or smart drugs) are prescription or off-the-counter drugs or supplements that enhance cognition. Some nootropics contribute to brain health while others can be quite dangerous.

Since Marco’s Grounds only works with safe and natural compounds in their purest forms, for most of our discussions we will restrain ourselves to natural nootropics that increase cognition safely.

 


What Is the Term “Flow State”?

“If people are doubting how far you can go, go so far that you can’t hear them anymore.”
— Michele Ruiz

Have you ever lost track of time and self-awareness while engaging in a pleasurable activity? If this is the case, you may have been in a flow state.

According to one study published in Frontiers in Psychology, flow is a psychological state characterized by “energized concentration, optimal enjoyment, complete involvement (in a task), motivation, and intrinsic interest.” [1]

In other words, flow refers to an optimal state of task completion. It can occur during a continuous task in which we have specific objectives, receive prompt responses, and require a good mix of skills and motivation to complete. For example, expert meditators frequently enter flow states during their practice.

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Have You Experienced Flow States?

“Success is something you attract by the person you become.”
—Jim Rohn

The best nootropics for flow states can assist in achieving peak performance regardless of who you are or what you do.

Consider a time when you were engaged in an activity that you genuinely enjoyed. For instance, perhaps you painted an entire picture or completed a workout without the interference of your conscious thoughts.

Perhaps you were taken aback when you realized how much time had passed while concentrating on the task at hand. This is the way flow states operate.

Our analytical mind switches off, and our skillset takes over, allowing us to become one with the task at hand and optimize our performance. This makes it easier to stay focused on the task at hand and avoid distracting thoughts and external stimuli.

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Flow States Dive

“The secret of getting ahead is getting started.”
— Mark Twain

According to experts, flow states are associated with the brain’s explicit and implicit memory and learning functions. 

Explicit memories are those that can be recalled deliberately and consciously, such as experiences, events, and facts. Implicit memories are unconscious memories associated with motor activities such as driving or painting.

The explicit memory and learning systems are associated with “higher cognitive functions,” whereas the implicit memory and learning systems are associated with “skill-based learning.”

According to research, the brain switches off the explicit, more analytical system and activates the implicit system when in a flow state. Thus, cognitive control is a critical aspect of the potential for flow states, according to research published in Conscious Cognition [2].

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Who Benefits from Flow States?

“Do one thing every day that scares you.”
― Eleanor Roosevelt

Every person encounters flow states at some point in their lives. For instance, athletes and competitors such as football players, soccer players, and poker players frequently enter states of flow during competition.

When artists such as writers and musicians immerse themselves in their craft, they also experience flow states. It is also something we can experience while playing chess or even doing the dishes.

It’s as if we eventually become inextricably linked to whatever craft we choose to master and being practice on a continuous basis.  Our brains stop second-guessing our abilities and being preoccupied with the consequences of our actions. Then, when we accomplish the task at hand, we feel a sense of accomplishment. This may help to explain why various studies have linked flow states to happiness.

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Flow and the Act of Creation

“If we have the attitude that it’s going to be a great day, it usually is.”
— Catherine Pulsifer

Additionally, flow states frequently are associated with creative tasks such as drawing or poetry. For instance, Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi, a renowned psychologist, is highly regarded for his research on flow states and creativity.

Csikszentmihalyi demonstrated that we frequently enter a trance-like state of pleasant task completion when we create. He believes that this state exists only at the juncture of high challenges and high skill levels.

Csikszentmihalyi’s visual representation of how flow occurs is as pictured in the image below.

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The state of flow is not limited to creative tasks. There is no way of knowing when a person’s combination of ability and motivation will take precedence. The presence of flow states is entirely dependent on the task at hand, the individual’s skill level and internal motivation to complete it.

Regardless of the task, certain brain functions are associated with flow states. We’ll discuss them in greater detail below.

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The Brain During Flow States

“We are what we repeatedly do. Excellence, then, is not an act, but a habit.”
— Aristotle

Numerous brain functions and neural connections interact to create flow states. We’ll go over which brain functions are involved in this section. Then, we’ll theorize on ways to strengthen the brain to facilitate the induction of flow states.

Increased Concentration and Cognitive Control

In the brain’s frontal and right central regions, flow states are associated with increased theta activity and decreased alpha activity. Theta waves calm the explicit system, allowing us to concentrate on the task at hand without feeling stressed. This may assist in eliciting the calm concentration and cognitive control associated with flow states.

Alpha waves indicate our working memory’s workload when we are in flow states. As such, we can hypothesize that enhancing theta activity and moderating alpha wave activity for focus may aid in the induction of flow states.

Flow Transient Hypofrontality

Transient hypofrontality refers to the prefrontal cortex’s suppression of the conscious, analytical explicit system. It is associated with meditation, dreaming, and other states of consciousness that are not fully conscious.

EEG scans demonstrate that the explicit system does not work as hard as the implicit system does during flow states. As a result, strengthening implicit system functions may aid in inducing flow states.

Reduced Stress and Anxiety

Stress and anxiety are reduced during flow states. Flow is associated with decreased stress and anxiety because it slows prefrontal cortex activity.

Excessive physiological arousal has been shown to impair the ability to enter flow, as shown in research published in the Journal of Experimental Social Psychology [3]. Thus, buffering cortisol and excitatory neurons for anxiety and stress reduction may contribute to the induction of a state of flow.

Increased Neurotransmitter Activity

Flow states release dopamine, epinephrine, endorphins, anandamide, and serotonin. According to one study published in Neuroimage, those who frequently experience flow states have higher levels of dopamine available for use in the brain’s “striatal regions. [4]”

Another study published in Consciousness and cognition this time confirmed this. Dopamine contributes to the optimization of focus and motivation during flow state [5]. Additionally, it has been demonstrated that the flow state results in the release of brain chemicals such as norepinephrine, endorphins, anandamide, and serotonin. This chemical flood makes flow extremely pleasurable and addictive.

Further, by increasing the release of these necessary neurotransmitters, we may be able to aid in the induction of flow state and in improving their duration.

Increased Cerebral Blood Flow

According to a study published in Social Cognitive and Affective Neuroscience, cerebral blood flow increased in the left inferior frontal gyrus and left basal ganglia of the brain during a flow state [6]. Thus, increasing cerebral blood flow in specific areas of the brain may aid in inducing flow states.

However, depending on the task, the required brain areas may vary.

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Best Nootropics for Flow States

“Very often, a change of self is needed more than a change of scene.’
— A.C. Benson

Certain natural nootropic ingredients in MAXIMUM MIND enhance similar brain functions to flow states. As a result, they could also enhance our ability to transition into a flow state that is compatible with an existing flow state in order to amplify its effects.

Several of the best nootropics for flow states are included in MAXIMUM MIND.

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L-Theanine

L-theanine is a naturally occurring nootropic supplement that is well-known for its calming effects on the brain. It is a component of green tea leaves and may work even more effective when combined with caffeine.

This natural nootropic has a substantial amount of research to support its beneficial effects. Indeed, Zen monks have used it for centuries to induce a state of calm focus necessary for flow during meditation.

L-theanine has been shown in studies published in Biomedical and Pharmacology Journal to enhance focus and buffer excitatory brain chemicals, thereby resolving cognitive dysfunction [7].

According to another study published in the Journal of Physiological Anthropology, L-theanine can help alleviate stress and anxiety [8]. Yet, another study, this time published in the Journal of Clinical Nutrition, establishes that it acts as a moderator of alpha wave activity, which is similar to what occurs during flow states [9].

L-theanine utilizes these alpha waves to assist us in concentrating on time-consuming tasks. Another study indicates that L-Theanine has a beneficial effect on cerebral blood flow, mood, and cognition [10].

Given that L-theanine assists with cerebral blood flow, has a calming yet non-sedative effect, and manages alpha brain waves, it appears quite natural to classify it as one of the best nootropics for flow states.

Read more about L-theanine on the Marco’s Grounds Deep Dive.

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Organic Bacopa Monnieri Leaf Extract

Bacopa monnieri is a nootropic herb with numerous beneficial effects on cognition, particularly in men and women over the age of 35, as published in a study from the Journal of Pharmacy & Pharmaceutical Sciences [11]. It specifically assists in increasing serotonin and GABA levels in the brain.

GABA is an inhibitory brain chemical that acts as a buffer for excitatory neurons such as cortisol, thereby balancing stress responses. Then, serotonin is involved in the regulation of brain functions associated with mood and stress.

Given that flow states are associated with increased serotonin and decreased stress, bacopa monnieri may be beneficial for inducing them and having them stay for longer.

Bacopa has been shown to aid in learning and the storage of new memories. This is relatively undisputed information. Also, according to one study published in Complementary and Alternative Medicine, it has antidepressant properties, which may help us relax and concentrate more easily [12].

Another study from Neurochemical research indicates that Bacopa may help maintain a healthy balance of neurotransmitter activity in the cerebral cortex, which then provides the building blocks for increased flow states [13].

For these reasons, bacopa monnieri is naturally one of the best nootropics for flow states.

Find additional information about bacopa on the Marco’s Grounds Deep Dive or read more about the benefits of bacopa here.

N-Acetyl L-Tyrosine (NALT)

By replenishing depleted brain chemicals, N-acetyl L-tyrosine may facilitate the onset of flow states.

For instance, N-acetyl L-tyrosine replenishes catecholamine chemicals that are depleted as a result of aging. These substances contribute to the synthesis of epinephrine, norepinephrine, and dopamine. As a result, replenishing depleted catecholamines may enhance concentration, memory, and motivation for flow states. 

N-acetyl L-tyrosine may be especially beneficial for men and women aged above 35. 

L-tyrosine has been shown to help counteract the depletion of working memory, especially the one associated with aging, as shown in a study published in Pharmacology, Biochemistry, and Behavior [14].

Low catecholamine levels are associated with memory problems, as researchers could show in research published in the Journal of Separation Science [15]. As a result, increasing these levels can aid in memory improvement, which is critical for task completion and flow states.

Another study demonstrates that L-tyrosine can improve cognition, particularly under stressful conditions [16]. Finally, stress reduction can aid in the induction of flow state.

For its outstanding role in increasing overall cognition while mitigating stress and enhancing working memory, tyrosine makes it one of the best nootropics for flow states.

Read more about N-acetyl-L-tyrosine on the Marco’s Grounds Deep Dive or find out more about the benefits of L-tyrosine here. 

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Alpha GPC

Alpha GPC is a choline-containing phospholipid that functions as a precursor for the biosynthesis of acetylcholine, a critical neurotransmitter. It is a nootropic form of choline that acts as a building block for increased acetylcholine levels in the brain.

Acetylcholine is a critical component of brain neurotransmission; it is involved in both fight or flight and rest and relaxes autonomic nervous system mechanisms. It is a signaling molecule involved in the activation of muscles.

Alpha GPC has been shown in studies published in the Journal of the International Society of Sports Nutrition to not only protect our brains from age-related cognitive decline but also to boost brain energy. It aids in the maintenance of a healthy mood, concentration, mental performance, and recall [17].

Alpha GPC also improves focus and concentration as well as strengthens and protects brain cells, thereby increasing the brain’s overall endurance and performance.

For its overall increase in mental performance coupled with its stimulant-free energy-boosting properties, alpha GPC makes it to the top of our list of best nootropics for flow states.

Read more about alpha GPC on the Marco’s Grounds Deep Dive or find out more about the benefits of alpha GPC here.

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Organic Ginkgo Biloba Leaf Extract

A variety of ailments can be alleviated with the help of this antioxidant-rich plant. Even with its many benefits, it’s an underappreciated nootropic.

Ginkgo enhances blood flow to the brain and passes the blood-brain barrier. This is beneficial for mental energy and clarity. You’ll be able to think more clearly and benefit from deeper chains of thought due to your increased brain sharpness and mental vitality. Further, as stated above, flow states rely on optimal blood flow to the brain. Hence, the importance of ginkgo in this topic.

Research published in the Journal of Neural Regeneration Research shows that Ginkgo Biloba administration enhances stem cell health across many brain areas [18]. Naturally, this is a huge benefit.

Despite being used for centuries, ginkgo is still in its early stages of research when considering its benefits on brain health. Therefore, it’s likely that there are benefits we don’t even know of yet.

Ginkgo comes naturally among the best nootropics for flow states for its mental clarity and blood flow enhancing capacities.

Read more on ginkgo biloba on the Marco’s Grounds Deep Dive.

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Methylated B6 and B12 Vitamins

Methylated B vitamins are beneficial for brain health due to their neuroprotective effect. While other nootropics can help you think deeper, methylated B vitamins help you think, period.

However, a preliminary study indicates that vitamin B6, specifically, may have further potential for promoting the attention needed to stay on a task until its completion. According to research in Magnesium Research, Vitamin B6 appears to have a soothing impact on the nervous system in younger populations when paired with magnesium, suggesting that it may promote states of relaxed focus needed for better flow states [19].

For this reason, methylated B vitamins and particularly B6 and B12, are among the best nootropics for flow states.

Read more about methylated B vitamins on the Marco’s Grounds Deep Dive or find out why you should never supplement non-methylated B vitamins.

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Other Ingredients

Our cognitive supplement MAXIMUM MIND also contains various other ingredients that are some of the best nootropics for flow states.

Uridine: Uridine is a potent cognitive enhancer. It is a nucleotide base. It is a crucial building compound in RNA. We can simply say that life cannot exist without uridine. In adulthood, synapse turnover and the formation of new neural connections to accommodate new learning mean adequate uridine supply is necessary [20]. In other words, uridine promotes new brain cells, which is naturally an excellent benefit for flow states.

Marco’s Grounds supplements contain uridine’s phosphorylated form, making it more stable and helping it survive through the digestive system. It is also essential for sleep regulation as it supports slow-wave sleep and rapid eye movement (REM) sleep.

Uridine is one of the best nootropics for flow states and should not be ignored within a holistic supplementation strategy.

Citicoline and Huperzine: Along with alpha GPC and uridine, both citicoline and huperzine A significantly increase acetylcholine levels, as already discussed within this post. As such, we’ll refrain from repeating ourselves. 

Concluding Thoughts

“Keep your eyes on the stars and your feet on the ground.”
— Theodore Roosevelt

We covered some of the best nootropics for flow states with bacopa, alpha GPC, L-tyrosine, uridine, citicoline, huperzine A and L-theanine. It is important to note that our list is not exhaustive, and we limited ourselves to nootropics with excellent safety profiles.

The best nootropics for flow states can be a formidable addition to the toolbox of anyone interested in superior task performance. MAXIMUM MIND formulation optimizes cognitive performance across all states of consciousness. Additionally, it decreases stress reactions and promotes relaxation, allowing for supreme concentration.

Why not experience the best nootropics for flow states in their purest form along with other clinically studied compounds for increasing brain performance and health with MAXIMUM MIND?
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MAXIMUM MIND

Clinically Studied

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Literature

  1. Marino Bonaiuto et al. Optimal Experience and Personal Growth: Flow and the Consolidation of Place Identity. Front Psychol. 2016; 7: 1654.

  2. Dietrich A. Neurocognitive mechanisms underlying the experience of flow. Conscious Cogn. 2004 Dec;13(4):746-61.

  3. Peifer C et al. The relation of flow-experience and physiological arousal under stress — Can you shape it? Journal of Experimental Social Psychology. 2014.

  4. De Manzano Ö et al. Individual differences in the proneness to have flow experiences are linked to dopamine D2-receptor availability in the dorsal striatum. Neuroimage. 2013 Feb 15;67:1-6.

  5. Gyurkovics, M., Kotyuk, E., Katonai, E. R., Horvath, E. Z., Vereczkei, A., & Szekely, A. (2016). Individual differences in flow proneness are linked to a dopamine D2 receptor gene variant. Consciousness and cognition, 42, 1–8.

  6. Ulrich M, Keller J, Grön G. Neural signatures of experimentally induced flow experiences identified in a typical fMRI block design with BOLD imaging. Soc Cogn Affect Neurosci. 2016;11(3):496-507.

  7. Boddu V. S et al. A Focus on the Effect of L-Theanine on Improving Depression and Cognition in C57BL/J Male Mice Subjected for Chronic Stress-Induced Neuroinflammation. Biomedical and Pharmacology Journal.

  8. Yoto, A., Motoki, M., Murao, S., & Yokogoshi, H. (2012). Effects of L-theanine or caffeine intake on changes in blood pressure under physical and psychological stresses. Journal of physiological anthropology, 31(1), 28.

  9. Nobre, A. C., Rao, A., & Owen, G. N. (2008). L-theanine, a natural constituent in tea, and its effect on mental state. Journal of clinical nutrition, 17 Suppl 1, 167–168.

  10. Dodd, F. L., Kennedy, D. O., Riby, L. M., & Haskell-Ramsay, C. F. (2015). A double-blind, placebo-controlled study evaluating the effects of caffeine and L-theanine both alone and in combination on cerebral blood flow, cognition, and mood. Psychopharmacology, 232(14), 2563–2576.

  11. Stough, C., Scholey, A., Cropley, V., Wesnes, K., Zangara, A., Pase, M., Savage, K., Nolidin, K., Lomas, J., & Downey, L. (2013). Examining the cognitive effects of a special extract of Bacopa monnieri (CDRI08: Keenmnd): a review of ten years of research at Swinburne University. Journal of pharmacy & pharmaceutical sciences : a publication of the Canadian Society for Pharmaceutical Sciences, Societe canadienne des sciences pharmaceutiques, 16(2), 254–258.

  12. Mannan, A., Abir, A. B., & Rahman, R. (2015). Antidepressant-like effects of methanolic extract of Bacopa monniera in mice. BMC complementary and alternative medicine, 15, 337.

  13. Krishnakumar, A., Anju, T. R., Abraham, P. M., & Paulose, C. S. (2015). Alteration in 5-HT₂C, NMDA receptor and IP3 in cerebral cortex of epileptic rats: restorative role of Bacopa monnieri. Neurochemical research, 40(1), 216–225.

  14. Thomas, J. R., Lockwood, P. A., Singh, A., & Deuster, P. A. (1999). Tyrosine improves working memory in a multitasking environment. Pharmacology, biochemistry, and behavior, 64(3), 495–500.

  15. Liu, L., Li, Q., Li, N., Ling, J., Liu, R., Wang, Y., Sun, L., Chen, X. H., & Bi, K. (2011). Simultaneous determination of catecholamines and their metabolites related to Alzheimer’s disease in human urine. Journal of separation science, 34(10), 1198–1204.

  16. Jongkees BJ et al. Effect of tyrosine supplementation on clinical and healthy populations under stress or cognitive demands–A review. J Psychiatr Res. 2015 Nov;70:50-7.

  17. Parker, A. G., Byars, A., Purpura, M., & Jäger, R. (2015). The effects of alpha glycerylphosphorylcholine, caffeine, or placebo on markers of mood, cognitive function, power, speed, and agility. Journal of the International Society of Sports Nutrition, 12(S1), P41.

  18. Wang, J., Chen, W., & Wang, Y. (2013). A ginkgo Biloba extract promotes the proliferation of endogenous neural stem cells in vascular dementia rats: neural regeneration research, 8(18), 1655.

  19. Mousain-Bosc M. Improvement of neurobehavioral disorders in children supplemented with magnesium-vitamin B6. I. Attention deficit hyperactivity disorders. Magnes Res. 2006 Mar;19(1):46-52.

  20. Wurtman, R. J. (2014). A nutrient combination that can affect synapse formation. Nutrients, 6(4), 1701-1710.

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The materials and information provided in this post, document and/or any other communication (“Communication”) from Marco’s Grounds LLC. or any related entity or person (collectively “Marco’s Grounds”) are strictly for informational purposes only and are not intended for use as diagnosis, prevention or treatment of a health problem or as a substitute for consulting a qualified medical professional. Some of the concepts presented herein may be theoretical.

References to any non-Marco’s Grounds entity, product, service, person or source of information in this or any other Communication should not be considered an endorsement, either direct or implied, by the host, presenter or distributor of the Communication. The host(s), presenter(s) and/or distributor(s) of this Communication are not responsible for the content of any non-Marco’s Grounds internet pages referenced in the Communication. Marco’s Grounds is not liable or responsible for any advice, course of treatment, diagnosis or any other information or services you chose to follow without consulting a qualified medical professional. Before starting any new diet and/or exercise program, always be sure to check with your qualified medical professional.

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