Imagine if, instead of rolling out of bed to brew a pot of coffee, you could quickly pop a sugar-coated, caffeine-infused gummy into your mouth to get moving.
Nootrobox, a hot startup out of Silicon Valley once dubbed the Birchbox of cognitive enhancers, has set out to make “chewable coffee” a reality. Its Go Cubes are made with real cold-brew coffee and aim to improve clarity and focus, without causing unwanted side effects like jitteriness.
According to founders Michael Brandt and Geoffrey Woo, chewable coffee could revolutionise your a.m. routine — if only the mainstream could sweep aside its suspicions about “brain-enhancing” drugs.
Nootropics, from the Greek words for “mind” and “to bend,” are chemical supplements that claim to make people feel better, smarter, and more alert — and
enhance long-term cognitive performance, increase working memory and resilience to stress, and allow people to stay awake during marathon work-sessions. The term was first coined by a Romanian doctor, Corneliu Giurgea, who studied a drug purported to improve memory.
So far, there’s very limited evidence that any nootropic supplement other than caffeine has much of an effect on mental performance. But the appeal is still obvious.
While most commercial nootropics come in the form of a pill, Go Cubes is one of the first “smart drug” products to be packaged as food (or candy, more specifically). Brandt tells Tech Insider that he believes this user-friendly strategy will help nootropics hit its stride in the mass market.
There is no official data on the usage of nootropics, mostly because the drugs fall into a largely unregulated area. The Food and Drug Administration classifies nootropics as supplements, rather than prescribed or over-the-counter medication, so manufacturers aren’t subject to strict regulatory processes.
Because of the lack of research, the average consumer is either unaware of them or totally put off. For decades, advocates contained their enthusiasm to online forums and rabbit-hole Reddit threads, where they shared their experiences and traded recipes for “stacks,” or DIY combinations of supplements.
Brandt and Woo want to make nootropics a little more user-friendly.
In spring 2014, Nootrobox launched its first product — a line of pills named Rise, Sprint, and Yawn, that contain only ingredients “generally regarded as safe” by the FDA. Nootrobox packages them in little glass bottles emblazoned with lightning bolts and bubbles, and customers can subscribe to receive monthly shipments of these pre-mixed stacks.
Over the summer, the company introduced Go Cubes via an Indiegogo campaign, making nootropics even more accessible. The bite-sized cubes are the equivalent to drinking half a cup of coffee, and cost roughly $US50 for 40 servings.
Go Cubes come in flavours like pure drip coffee, latte, and mocha, and have the texture of a gum drop. Each gummy squeezes in 50 milligrams of caffeine, a vitamin B complex to theoretically accelerate metabolism, and 100 milligrams of L-Theanine, an amino acid found in green tea, to cancel out the anxiety often associated with a caffeine buzz.
Nootrobox cites some evidence that the L-Theanine and caffeine combination is effective, though this evidence is very limited.
One study of undergraduates conducted by a research arm of corporate giant Unilever suggests this winning 2-to-1 ratio of L-Theanine and caffeine may improve alertness and accuracy when switching between tasks. Another Unilever study of 27 employees of the company shows an increased ability to push away distractions and focus on the task at hand. Other researchers have found an increase in alertness and accuracy due to a combination of caffeine and L-Theanine, but they say the effect of caffeine is mostly responsible. Further testing is required.
Brandt insists that Go Cubes aren’t a substitute for hard work; rather, they’re a way to tap into stored potential.
Every afternoon he blocks a few hours to work on an individual task that requires a productive state of mind.
“In principle, I can reach that state on my own,” Brandt says. “When I first started [using nootropics], what I thought was really cool is that they can help me reliably get into that state. I can take full advantage of that time every time.”
The company begins shipping later this year.
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