John Backus

Cost Analysis: Trubrain Proprietary Nootropic Blend vs. Generic Equivalent

This is a traditional blog post
Trubrain touts itself as a nootropic blend “designed by top Neuroscientists” to create optimal conditions for “memory, complex reasoning, and sustained energy.” I’m currently (as of August 8th, 2013) trying out their stack and I really like it. While I do enjoy the product, I am not a fan of the $125 dollar pricetag.
truBrain

truBrain touts itself as a nootropic blend “designed by top Neuroscientists” to create optimal conditions for “memory, complex reasoning, and sustained energy.”1 I’m currently (as of August 8th, 2013) trying out their stack and I really like it. I had not tried many of the ingredients in the stack before so it is nice to try a new set of nootropics. The pre-capping of the pills plus the packaging of the product is also pretty convenient. I am not a fan of the $125 dollar pricetag for a one month supply.2

Assuming that I’ll probably want to continue this stack and cut costs at the same time, I decided to analyze the costs of truBrain vs. creating my own equivalent stack. Here is my breakdown:

truBrain stack

truBrain has 7 substances in their daily on the go packs and 1 substance in their “boost” packets (pramiracetam). Those ingredients are:

  1. Piracetam
  2. Acetyl-L-Carnitine
  3. CDP-Choline
  4. EPA & DHA
  5. Magnesium
  6. Pramiracetam
  7. L-Theanine
  8. Tyrosine

Their blend is for every work day of the week, so they ship 44 packets each month. 40 of those packets are for work days, 20 A.M. and 20 P.M. The other 4 packets are their pramiracetam boost packets. Here is what each of the 3 packet types looks like along with what each packet type contains:

From left to right: “turbo boost” (1 pill), “A.M.” (6 pills), “P.M.” (4 pills)

The dosages they list for each ingredient are

Ingredient Dosage
Piracetam 3
Acetyl-L-Carnitine 0.5
CDP-Choline 0.25
EPA & DHA 1.2
Magnesium 0.2
Pramiracetam 0.3
L-Theanine 0.2
Tyrosine 0.35

Assuming that the dosages listed above are for an entire days worth for the daily packets while the pramiracetam dosage is for the packet itself, we can conclude that the monthly dosages work out to be:

Ingredient Dosage # Per Shipment Total Dosage
Piracetam 3 20 60
Acetyl-L-Carnitine 0.5 20 10
CDP-Choline 0.25 20 5
EPA & DHA 1.2 20 24
Magnesium 0.2 20 4
Pramiracetam 0.3 4 1.2
L-Theanine 0.2 20 4
Tyrosine 0.35 20 7

Generic Equivalent Costs

Blend Ingredients

Piracetam

Vendor Type Quantity Total Cost Quantity per Dollar
NutraPlanet Powder 700 $46.99 14.9
Peak Nootropics Powder 500 $39.99 12.5
Pro V Supplements Powder 500 $58.74 8.51

Acetyl-L-Carnitine

Vendor Type Quantity Total Cost Quantity per Dollar
NOW Foods Capsules 100g (200 capsules of 500mg) $25.32 3.95
Doctor’s Best Capsules 70.56g (120 capsules of 588mg) $19.53 3.61

CDP-Choline

Vendor Type Quantity Total Cost Quantity per Dollar
SmartPowders Powder 25g $23.99 1.042
Jarrow Formulas Capsules 15g (60 capsules of 250mg) $16.99 0.882
Jarrow Formulas Capsules 30g (120 capsules of 250mg) $30.99 0.968

EPA & DHA

Vendor Type Quantity Total Cost Quantity per Dollar
Pure Encapsulations Capsules 180g (180 capsules of 1000mg) $45.50 3.96

Magnesium

Vendor Type Quantity Total Cost Quantity per Dollar
NOW Foods Capsules 72g (180 capsules of 400mg) $8.99 ~8.01
Doctor’s BEST Capsules 48g (240 capsules of 200mg) $16.95 ~2.83

Pramiracetam

Vendor Type Quantity Total Cost Quantity per Dollar
SmartPowders Powder 25 $30.00 0.83
PeakNootropics Powder 50 $59.99 0.83

L-Theanine

Vendor Type Quantity Total Cost Quantity per Dollar
SmartPowders Powder 20 $11.99 ~1.67
NOW Foods Capsules 12 (60 capsules of 200mg) $16.44 0.73

Tyrosine

Vendor Type Quantity Total Cost Quantity per Dollar
SmartPowders Powder 1000 $38.99 ~25.65
SmartPowders Powder 250 $13.99 ~17.87
NOW Foods Capsules 60 (120 capsules of 500mg) $9.97 12.04

Other Monetary Costs

Capsule Filler

truBrain conveniently caps all of your nootropics into easily consumable pills at exactly the right dosage. Many of the generic equivalents I listed come at a cheaper price because they are in bulk powder form. Ingesting some of these powders can be unpleasant3. To cap your own pills for a truBrain like experience you will have to buy a capsule filler which will run about $22.

Milligram Scale

To measure out the correct dosages accurately for your capsule filler you’ll need to buy a milligram scale. A cheap milligram scale will run just over $22.

A.M./P.M. Organizer

truBrain also organizes your pills into A.M. and P.M. packages. To replicate the morning/evening division you can for a few more dollars.

Gelatin Capsules

Finally, to cap your powders you’ll need to pickup empty gel capsules which will run about $9 for 1000.

Assuming you’re going for the cheapest route of the options above you will most likely be capping Piracetam , CDP-Choline , L-Theanine , and Tyrosine . So if you adhere to the 20 supplementing schedule that truBrain suggests you will burn 140 . At $9 for 1000 capsules this effectively adds a $1.26 monthly cost to the equation.

Generic Alternative Breakdown

Now that we know some of the generic nootropic prices out there in the wild, we can get a more precise idea of how much money it would take to assemble our own generic truBrain nootropic regimen. Using the truBrain montly totals and the cheapest g/$ products found, we get:

Ingredient truBrain Monthly Quantity Generic Dose Cost Generic Cost
Piracetam 60 14.9 $4.03
Acetyl-L-Carnitine 10 3.95 $2.53
CDP-Choline 5 1.042 $4.80
EPA & DHA 24 3.96 $6.06
Magnesium 4 8.01 $0.50
Pramiracetam 1.2 0.83 $1.45
L-Theanine 4 1.67 $2.40
Tyrosine 7 25.65 $0.27

Assuming we want to cap our powder, we also need to factor in our gelatin capsules:

Item Cost
1000 Gelatin Capsules $9.10

So the monthly cost for generic truBrain comes to:

truBrain Ingredient Generic Cost
Piracetam $4.03
Acetyl-L-Carnitine $2.53
CDP-Choline $4.80
EPA & DHA $6.06
Magnesium $0.50
Pramiracetam $1.45
L-Theanine $2.40
Tyrosine $0.27
1 Month Supply of Gelatin Capsules $1.26
TOTAL $23.30

We also need to factor in our one-time starting costs for the first month. That comes to:

Item Cost
Capsule Filler $21.80
Portable Pill Organizer $9.44
Milligram Scale $22.19
TOTAL $53.43

So altogether our costs are:

  Cost
First Month $76.73
Every Other Month $23.30

Subscription Costs

truBrain is sold on a subscription model so you are sent 20 days worth of nootropics every month. They offer traditional pricing tiers for users that buy in for the long term. Those pricing tiers look like this:

Subscription Length Price per month
1 Month $125
3 Months $112
6 Months $98
12 Months $79

Here is a comparison of the prices for truBrain over time versus the cost of the generic equivalent

Time Period truBrain Compound Cost Generic Compound Cost Total Savings by going Generic
1 Month $125 total ($125/month) $76.73 $48.27
3 Months $336 total ($112/month) $123.33 $212.67
6 Months $588 total ($98/month) $193.23 $394.77
12 Months $948 total ($79/month) $333.03 $614.97

Conclusion

truBrain offers convenience, quality assurance, and stupid easy packaging. They do all the neuroscience and dosage calculations so you don’t have to. That is very useful if you don’t have hours and hours to spend researching and capping pills. truBrain also sells its patients by parading around its neuroscientists as a marketing ploy for comforting potential customers that may be new to nootropics. These attributes are all great, but do they justify the near $650 annual markup?

Is truBrain worth it?

Deciding whether truBrain is worth it for you should really come down to how valuable you think your time is worth. So with the variables:

you should buy truBrain if

For example, I think it will take me about 1 hour on average per month to create 140 pills and 1 hour per month to organize those pills. I want to supplement for at least 12 months and the generic route will save me $614.97 for that time period. If I cap pills when I’m tired and would be otherwise unproductive I can value my time cheaply at about .

So under these calculations I wouldn’t order any more truBrain.Note

Notes

These calculations do not take into account every single cost difference between generics and truBrain. There are shipping and handling costs for the generics which might add up if you are shipping in generics at the same regularity as you would be receiving truBrain. I also only scoured the web for the first few links on each generic that I could find on amazon or another well known vendor (I would rather limit information than mislead people into the hands of scammers).

While the worth calculations do take into account time spent for generics I didn’t include other time expenses like the marginally greater amount of time spent buying each nootropic individually which is most likely greater than the time required to buy truBrain. Between bulk ordering and amazon subscriptions though I figure that the marginal time lost ordering generics is fairly insignificant. Another possible issue might be that generic capsules may not equate to the ideal dosage that truBrain strives for, so there might be additional work required to redistribute capsules in new proportions.

Finally this analysis doesn’t take into account truBrain’s loading phase which is designed to transition new users into the truBrain nootropic regimen. I emailed truBrain about the differences between their loading phase packets and normal packets but haven’t heard from them yet.


Citations:

2. Pricing on truBrain signup page
3. Some powders like piracetam taste generally terrible. I can personally say that Phenylpiracetam is one of the worst things I have ever tasted. Others seem to share my sentiment about racetams.
4. Attribution to Windell Oskay for gelatin capsules picture

Notes:

1. Attribution to Windell Oskay for gelatin capsules picture
2. I clarified on Reddit that I simplified this calculation for the example. My actual use case would be more complicated

Edits:

1. Added milligram scale to list of first month costs. Thanks to reddit user danorexic for pointing that out.

If you notice any errors in this post or know of cheaper generics not already listed please let me know in the comments so I can credit you and update this post. If an employee from truBrain sees this and notices any errors or overlooked information then please feel free to contact me.

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