7 of the Best Nootropics For Motivation and Energy

Many people say motivation doesn’t come in a pill, but certain nootropics prove them wrong. The best nootropics for motivation improve dopaminergic neurotransmission either directly or indirectly. Dopamine is extremely important for motivation; without sufficient dopamine rats starve themselves to death despite having access to food without needing to do any work.[1][2]. Now you may not be having problems with eating, but what about your goals? What about those dreams you’ve had? Many of us have tried forcing ourselves to start working on them but in the end most of us simply burn out.

We all struggle to get things done from time-to-time, but if you’re struggling on a consistent basis then there may be something wrong with your dopaminergic system. This is especially true if the task you are trying to accomplish is something you’re interested in. Is there a pill for motivation? Depending on why lack motivation, the answer may be yes. Of course there is no drug that will make you enjoy boring and tedious work, but there are a few substances that can decrease the negative feelings. There are also a few nootropics that can alter your feeling of reward and give you a boost of drive. Motivation has to come from within, but in order to get motivated you must first have drive.

Think of motivation as a car and your drive as the gas for the car. If you are missing one or the other, the car will not move. For most of us, we are simply missing the drive or the gas. We have the goals in our heads and we want to work on them, but we simply lack the energy. Luckily, there are nootropics for motivation that can help increase your drive.

Neuroscience definitions

Before getting into the list of the best motivation nootropics it is important to learn about the concepts and definitions that are used extensively in this article so you can get a better understanding on how these nootropics work.

MAO-B – Short for monoamine oxidase type B, it is an enzyme that binds to dopamine phenethylamine (PEA) and breaks them down into what are known as metabolites. These metabolites include 3-4-dihydroxyphenylacetic acid (DOPAC) and homovanillic acid (HVA). The metabolites are harmless themselves but can react with free radicals and cause oxidative stress to the neurons resulting in neuronal death.
Phenethylamine (PEA) – An endogenous (found in the body and brain) compound that acts like an amphetamine, releasing dopamine and noradrenaline. PEA has a short half-life because of MAO-B, one of the primary metabolizers of PEA. PEA can be supplemented but its effects are very short-lived. However, if MAO-B is fully inhibited, PEA’s duration of action is much prolonged resulting in a noticeable amphetamine-like stimulatory effect.
Striatum – An important part of the brain that’s responsible for reward, motivation, and reward perception. The striatum is part of the brain’s reward system.

Summary

NootropicMain BenefitsNeeds to be takenCost
Modafinil

  • Increased wakefulness

  • Increased energy

  • Improved focus

  • Improved mood


Acutely - tolerance occurs in some people$$
Uridine

  • Upregulation of dopamine receptors

  • Improved mood

  • Improved memory

Chronically - Effects are maximized after 2 weeks$
Oxiracetam

  • Mild stimulant effect

  • Improved memory and learning

  • Increased creativity

Chronically - usually 2 weeks before benefits are seen$
Phenylpiracetam

  • Noticeable stimulant-like effect

  • Enhanced mood

  • Lowered tolerance to dopaminergic nootropics

Acutely - it works right away. Some tolerance develops overtime$$
Sulbutiamine

  • Improved focus

  • Increased energy

  • Improved memory

  • Upregulation of dopamine D1 receptors

Chronically - Upregulates D1 receptors after regular dosing$
Selegiline

  • Improved mood

  • Increased libido

  • Improved memory and learning

  • Enhanced immune system

  • Potentiates dopaminergic nootropics

Chronically - Inhibits an enzyme that breaks down dopamine. Dopamine accumulates after a few weeks$
Tianeptine

  • Antidepressant effects

  • Decreased anxiety

  • Improved mood

Chronically - Effects in research are seen after chronic dosing$

Modafinil

Modafinil is one of the best nootropics for motivation

Undoubtedly one of the best nootropics for motivation, modafinil is often touted as the limitless pill, NZT-48. It improves mood, focus, attention, motivation, working memory, and improves task enjoyment.[3][4][#5] Modafinil is by far one of the most widely used nootropics for improving productivity. Its effects are comparable to that of Adderall, but without the side effects. Users of modafinil often report an enhancement in their motivation and mood without feeling drugged, unlike Adderall. Modafinil doesn’t have any risk of dependence nor withdrawal.

A double-edged side to modafinil is its long duration of action. It lasts for 12-15 hours in most individuals.[7] This can either be good or bad depending on your situation and intent of use. If you want to take a pill in the morning and have it last for most of your working day then modafinil is an excellent choice. But, if you are feeling tired or unmotivated later in the day and want a pick-me-up pill then modafinil may not be the best option as it can hinder your sleep. Of course you can always use it to stay awake past your normal bed-time. But, it is very important you do not intentionally avoid sleep as this can worsen your cognition in multiple ways and modafinil cannot normalize all the impaired cognitive processes that comes with sleep deprivation.

Combining caffeine with modafinil can result in a synergistic effect further enhancing the motivational properties of modafinil. Caffeine increases the dopamine d2/d3 receptors in the striatum and modafinil increases dopamine in this area of the brain.[8][9] The striatum plays a critical role in reward and motivation as well as reward perception.[10][11][12] More dopamine receptors means more activation of dopaminergic neurons. In layman’s terms, this means that there is in increase in dopaminergic activity in the brain which results in an increase of motivation and task enjoyment.

Because of its unique profile and low side effects, modafinil is great to combine with other nootropics for motivation.

Uridine

Uridine for motivation Uridine is a nootropic that can modulate the dopaminergic system. In short, it improves dopaminergic neurotransmission on its own by enhancing dopamine release and by increasing dopamine receptor density, but it seems to also decrease the dopaminergic activity of other substances.[13][14][15][16] In a sense, uridine is ideal if you don’t plan on taking any dopaminergic nootropics.
There are many positive anecdotes regarding Uridine, some of which include:

  • Improved mood
  • Increased motivation
  • Improved memory and learning

But there are also many negative anecdotes, specifically those complaining that uridine doesn’t do anything. The majority of these are from users who did not take uridine sublingually. This is extremely important as most of the uridine ingested orally is destroyed by the liver and the gastrointestinal tract.[17] In fact, uridine is readily found in food, but little to uridine reaches the bloodstream. In short, uridine needs to be taken sublingually for it to work.

Oxiracetam

Oxiracetam for motivation A nootropic of the racetam family, oxiracetam is widely regarded as stimulating in nature and can have a positive effect on motivation. Many anecdotes exist for this nootropic and its positive effects on motivation. Some find it very stimulating in a way similar to that of adderall while others say its only mildly stimulating, no more than that of caffeine. In rats, oxiracetam was found to have a stimulant-like effect.[18][19] Furthermore, oxiracetam was unable to prevent scopolamine’s deleterious effect on memory when dopamine and noradrenaline was depleted, but not when serotonin was depleted.[20] This suggests oxiracetam’s benefits come from an interaction with dopamine and noradrenaline.

Because of its sweet taste and water-solubility, many users like to pour it in their tea or coffee as a sweetener. Whether you respond to oxiracetam or not, it can be useful in creating a placebo effect. By taking something you know motivates you, like adderall for example, and also drinking tea or coffee mixed with oxiracetam, you are training your brain to link motivation with oxiracetam. You’d have to do it on a consistent basis though.

You might be wondering why oxiracetam and not just regular sugar or a sweetener. The answer to that is a double-placebo effect. Oxiracetam is a drug whereas sweeteners are just sweeteners. With drugs you expect some kind of reaction even if you’re skeptical about it. Also, sugar and sweeteners are found in almost everything and don’t have a unique taste like oxiracetam does.

Phenylpiracetam

Phenylpliracetam for motivation One of the most potent racetam nootropics, it’s been used in Russia as a doping agent. Phenylpiracetam, like oxiracetam, is also thought to be stimulating. But, what separates phenylpiracetam from oxiracetam is the fact that it upregulates dopamine receptors D1, D2 and D3.[21][22] All of these receptors are involved in reward and motivation. In case it’s not motivating by itself, phenylpiracetam synergizes perfectly with other nootropics for motivation as most of them work by increasing dopamine rather than increasing dopamine receptor density.

Some of the anecdotal benefits of phenylpiracetam:

  • Reduced brain fog
  • Increased energy and alertness
  • Increased drive and motivation
  • Enhanced creativity
  • Enhanced physical stamina
  • Improved tolerance to cold

Sulbutiamine

Sulbutiamine for motivation A synthetic version of Vitamin B1 (Thiamine), sulbutiamine is known for its effects on motivation, mood, and memory. Sulbutiamine seems to increase motivation by increasing the dopamine D1 receptor density.[23]. Many anecdotes exist for this nootropic. Some of its pronounced effects are:

  • Reducing fatigue
  • Improving mood
  • Increasing motivation
  • Increasing sociability

While sulbutiamine improves motivation on its own, it may not be enough for some people. It’s also a rather subtle nootropics. Combining it with other nootropics for motivation can result in a synergistic effect. Modafinil is a good choice to combine with sulbutiamine.

Selegiline

Selegiline for motivation One of the best nootropics for motivation. Selegiline, also known as Deprenyl, is an irreversible MAO-B inhibitor used to treat Parkinson’s disease, a condition in which dopamine-producing neurons die resulting in a decrease of dopaminergic activity in the brain. MAO-B, short for monoamine oxidase type B, is an enzyme that binds to dopamine and phenethylamine (PEA) and metabolizes them effectively rendering them useless. An irreversible MAO-B inhibitor is a substance that binds to the MAO-B enzyme and permanently destroys it. However, this does not mean it results in a lifelong effect, but instead a long duration of action. It typically takes 2 weeks for MAO-B levels to get back to normal after discontinuing selegiline.[24][25]

Selegiline can be thought of as a subtle nootropic that enhances the effects of other dopaminergic nootropics. It’s not particularly stimulating on its own, but does increase motivation in a subtle manner. Of course, there’s always a difference in how people react to nootropics and some users report strong dopaminergic actions like increased libido, improved mood, increased confidence, increased motivation, increased desire to obtain money whereas others only report subtle benefits. Dopamine isn’t just broken down by MAO-B, MAO-A and COMT also play a role.[26][27] It seems that those that benefit from selegiline have the optimal balance between MAO-A, MAO-B, and COMT for selegiline to produce its beneficial effects.

Of note is that selegiline primarily increases dopamine in the striatum which plays an important role in reward and motivation.[28][29][30] Combining caffeine, modafinil, and selegiline can have a strong synergistic effect as all these nootropics increase dopaminergic activity in the striatum. However, it is important to reduce the dosages of each as too much dopamine will result in over-stimulation and subsequently restlessness. The last thing you need is to be unable to sit down and focus on a task.

Tianeptine

Tianeptine skeletal figure An antidepressant nootropic, Tianeptine is great for those suffering from depression and anxiety. This drug is great for giving a mood-lift and reducing depressive symptoms. If your lack of motivation is the result of depression or low mood then Tianeptine may be helpful in increasing motivation. Originally thought to be a serotonin reuptake enhancer, it is now known that Tianeptine works by altering glutamateric activity.[31][32]

Some of Tianeptine’s anecdotal benefits include:

  • Improved mood
  • Decreased anxiety
  • Increased motivation
  • Improved focus
  • Decreased negative thoughts

Tianeptine is great for motivation regardless if you’re depressed or not as it increases dopamine release in the nucleus accumbens and the frontal cortex.[33][34] The nucleus accumbens plays an important role in motivation, reward, pleasure and reinforcement learning while the frontal cortex plays a role in attention, memory, planning, and executive function.[35][36][37] Planning is an important part of motivation as is executive functioning. You don’t want to be very motivated and not have a solid plan to follow through on. Just mindlessly doing tasks without planning is a great way to fail your goals and will leave you unmotivated after realizing you were just wasting time.

This nootropic also seems to increase dopamine D2 and D3 sensitivity in the nucleus accumbens.[38] Because of this, Tianeptine can be quite synergistic with other nootropics for motivation.

Conclusion

Despite what some may say, motivation can come in a pill. What does not come in a pill, however, is the discipline to maintain a good work ethic. These nootropics for motivation will enable you see the reward or pleasure in a task, and will fuel your drive. What they will not able to do is push you into completing a task you do not want to work on. If you truly wish to work on something, but just lack the energy or drive then these nootropics will indeed help you. But, if you are looking for something to motivate you to work on boring tasks then you will not find much help here. In spite of that, modafinil can reduce the negative feelings associated with boring tasks.

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