In a dream world, being productive would be something we all know how to do in our sleep. It seems we're all trying to be efficient superhumans who consistently excel at life. Sure, it sounds amazing, but the reality is perfection is impossible. We're all dealing with distractions, which makes staying focused so damn hard sometimes. Especially, for instance, when you have one more hour on the clock at work and your bed is practically shouting your name (yet feels so far away).
Tons of things get in the way of your focus, but remember: You are in control of how you respond. Thankfully, we don't have to play this concentration game alone. There are healthy supplements on the market that will aid in pivoting your brain back into focus mode. Many of them also reduce anxiety and will make you feel calmer and more relaxed, which is perfect for productivity. We tapped health experts who have a wealth of knowledge on supplements and the right ones to take. Mike Roussell, Ph.D., co-founder of Neutein and Neuro Coffee; Suzie Welsh, the founder and CEO of supplement company Binto; and Jeffrey Gladd, MD, member of the vitamin company Care/of's scientific advisory board, spelled out the supplements they support for dodging brain fog for good. Ahead are the 14 best supplements for focus.
Are you admittedly addicted to coffee but not a fan of the jitters that come along with caffeine? These supplements reduce those jumpy side effects while helping you hone in your focus. "This is an amino acid found in green tea that can increase feelings of calmness and creativity," explains Roussell.
Consider this stuff brain food. According to Welsh, DHA actually makes up 25% of the fat in the brain, which is critical to its function, cognitive health, and activity, which in turn, studies show, helps with focus. "DHA is critical for optimal brain function and health as we grow and age, and especially during pregnancy or while breastfeeding," Welsh reiterates.
This is an adaptogenic herb that has been tied to relieving stress for ages. "Studies have shown that Rhodiola can help enhance mental function and improve energy, particularly in people who are experiencing stress," Gladd explains. "Consider this herbal supplement as an alternative to caffeine as a way of supporting focus."
When I start my days with a big cup of coffee, easing into work mode feels easier. There's a reason for that. According to Roussell, caffeine is the most widely used psychoactive drug in the world. "It stimulates alertness by blocking adenosine receptors in your body," he explains. Being alert goes hand in hand with feeling focused.
Gladd also stands behind caffeine. "Caffeine is the most popular choice when it comes to energy-boosting stimulants, and its health benefits are strong," he says. "It can enhance mental function and improve energy. That said, many people suffer from caffeine intolerance, and consuming it can cause them to experience irritability, anxiety, and insomnia." So read on for even more healthy alternatives.
Magnesium is widely used for setting the mind into a calmer, more relaxed state. So if you're looking for a dose of chill, this calming supplement will zen you out as well as aid in concentration. "This is helpful for those who may suffer from ADHD or ADD," Welsh points out. "When using magnesium, you can relax and focus more easily."
Roussell credits this compound as a stimulant that goes through different pathways in your body, like dopamine. However, you won't experience uncontrollable jitters, increased heart rate, or feelings of anxiety that regular caffeine may give you.
Besides the fact that B12 aids your DNA synthesis, red blood cell formation, and a healthy nervous system, it zeroes in on your focus. "B12 is often used to fight fatigue and help with energy," Welsh says. "B12 is one of the essential B vitamins needed for healthy metabolism and brain function. This includes focus."
"Stress causes an increase of cortisol in the body, which can lead to that intense fight-or-flight feeling," Gladd describes. "The feeling is important for situations when we're in danger, but not so much when we experience stress daily, and who doesn't? Ashwagandha, another adaptogen, has been shown to help protect the body from the toxic effects of stress on the brain."
This is a bottle of all-natural, plant-based ingredients that zaps distraction. "It increases focus after two hours of taking it, as well as improving sustained focus with daily use," explains Roussell. "Neutein works by reducing oxidative stress in the brain, allowing it to function in an optimal way."
Probiotics are like magic pills for good gut health. Welch calls the gut the body's second brain, and if that's thrown off, so is our mental health, aka our focus. "[The gut] produces many of the same neurotransmitters as the brain does, like serotonin, dopamine, and gamma-aminobutyric acid, all of which play a key role in regulating mood," explains Welsh. "In fact, studies show that 90% of serotonin is made in the digestive tract." For brain focus, Welsh recommends that you find probiotic supplements that have lactobacillus and bifidobacterium in them.
B vitamins, including B12, aid with focus. These vitamins generally promote a healthy nervous system and positive mood. However, Gladd brings up the fact that it's important to supplement these vitamins with a healthy diet. "Ideally, our B vitamin needs are satisfied by a diet rich in a wide variety of whole foods, and a healthy digestive tract with allows us to absorb nutrients effectively," Gladd explains. "Sadly many of us suffer from dietary insufficiencies or digestive issues, so vitamin B supplementation might be a useful option for rebalancing the body to help support better focus and higher energy levels."
This is another plant-based adaptogen option that'll do nothing but good for your body and stress levels. Roussell says Rhodiola Rosea has been shown to reduce mental fatigue during periods of high stress, which in turn helps improve focus.
In addition to the aforementioned DHA, EPA is another fatty acid that's crucial for boosting focus and optimal brain function. "Many people don’t get enough EPA and DHA just through their diets, so adding a supplement to your daily regimen can help provide an edge in mental focus," Gladd says.
This is an organic coffee alternative. If you're trying to minimize your caffeine intake, try this out. "Most people enjoy the taste and say they feel a boost in energy or focus," Gladd says.
Other Helpful Ways to Stay Focused
Gladd is a proponent of exercise and a healthy diet free of processed foods, baked goods, and sugar, which will slow you down. "Start to pay closer attention to how your body and mind feel, and notice if your brain is asking for a pause. Let your brain take a break when it needs one," he suggests. "Starting a meditation practice can also help with daytime relaxation as well as restful sleep. Consider some of these supplements as a way help improve energy levels. Then channel that drive into a new fitness routine." Welsh adds that you must, must stay hydrated with at least 72 ounces of water per day.
She also believes it all boils down to a balanced diet. "Food is medicine," she says, and you should try to eat small, frequent, and healthy meals throughout the day. "Hunger prevents you from focusing and it diminishes brain power. By eating well, like a balanced diet that includes plants, fiber, complex carbs, protein, and fats, you'll be able to maintain that focus throughout your workday. Oils, nuts, and fish, especially salmon, are full of DHA that you need for brain function." Sometimes, it's as simple as taking a walk. "Getting up and going for a walk can clear your mind and help you focus," she explains. "A change of scenery is always a good idea. Or move on to another task if you can. Sometimes just mixing up the work does wonders!"
In terms of exercise, Welsh highly recommends running, walking, and yoga because these force you to confront your thoughts and clear your mind. On the other hand, Roussell suggests trying high-intensity workouts. "Doing a short bout of intense exercise, like interval training, can help stimulate your brain so that it is ready to work and focus. This also helps reduce stress hormones that can impair your ability to focus. Also, cut back on TV. I find that cutting down on screen time, especially for bedtime, helps me sleep better through the night and makes me feel ready to face the day with focus in the morning." Speaking of sleep, here's Roussell's suggestion: "Getting seven to nine hours of sleep is an essential step for maintaining clear and sustained focus during the day," he says. "Your brain doesn't work as fast or as well when you are sleep-deprived."
You've got this.
Be sure to consult a healthcare professional before incorporating supplements into your routine.