What is Adam Optimizer?

Neha Vishwakarma 21 Dec, 2023 • 7 min read


In deep learning, optimization algorithms are crucial components that help neural networks learn efficiently and converge to optimal solutions. One of the most popular optimization algorithms used in training deep neural networks is the Adam optimizer, and achieving optimal performance and training efficiency is a quest that continues to captivate researchers and practitioners alike. This blog post deeply dives into the Adam optimizer, exploring its inner workings, advantages, and practical tips for using it effectively.

Learning Objectives

  • Adam adjusts learning rates individually for each parameter, allowing for efficient optimization and convergence, especially in complex loss landscapes.
  • Incorporating bias correction mechanisms to counter initialization bias in the first moments facilitates faster convergence during early training stages.
  • Ultimately, Adam’s primary goal is to stabilize the training process and help neural networks converge to optimal solutions.
  • It aims to optimize model parameters efficiently, swiftly navigating through steep and flat regions of the loss function.

This article was published as a part of the Data Science Blogathon.

What is the Adam Optimizer?

The Adam optimizer, short for “Adaptive Moment Estimation,” is an iterative optimization algorithm used to minimize the loss function during the training of neural networks. Adam can be looked at as a combination of RMSprop and Stochastic Gradient Descent with momentum. Developed by Diederik P. Kingma and Jimmy Ba in 2014, Adam has become a go-to choice for many machine learning practitioners.

Adam Optimizer

It uses the squared gradients to scale the learning rate like RMSprop, and it takes advantage of momentum by using the moving average of the gradient instead of the gradient itself, like SGD with momentum. This combines Dynamic Learning Rate and Smoothening to reach the global minima.

Adam Optimization Algorithm

Adam Optimizer and algorithm

Where w is model weights, b is for bias, and eta (looks like the letter n) is the step size (it can depend on iteration). And that’s it, that’s the update rule for Adam, which is also known as the Learning rate.

Adam Optimizer

Steps Involved in the Adam Optimization Algorithm

1. Initialize the first and second moments’ moving averages (m and v) to zero.

2. Compute the gradient of the loss function to the model parameters.

3. Update the moving averages using exponentially decaying averages. This involves calculating m_t and v_t as weighted averages of the previous moments and the current gradient.

4. Apply bias correction to the moving averages, particularly during the early iterations.

5. Calculate the parameter update by dividing the bias-corrected first moment by the square root of the bias-corrected second moment, with an added small constant (epsilon) for numerical stability.

6. Update the model parameters using the calculated updates.

7. Repeat steps 2-6 for a specified number of iterations or until convergence.

steps | Adam Optimizer

Key Features of Adam Optimizer

1. Adaptive Learning Rates: Adam adjusts the learning rates for each parameter individually. It calculates a moving average of the first-order moments (the mean of gradients) and the second-order moments (the uncentered variance of gradients) to scale the learning rates adaptively. This makes it well-suited for problems with sparse gradients or noisy data.

2. Bias Correction: To counteract the initialization bias in the first moments, Adam applies bias correction during the early iterations of training. This ensures faster convergence and stabilizes the training process.

3. Low Memory Requirements: Unlike some optimization algorithms that require storing a history of gradients for each parameter, Adam only needs to maintain two moving averages per parameter. This makes it memory-efficient, especially for large neural networks.

Practical Tips for Using Adam Optimizer

1. Learning Rate: While Adam adapts the learning rates, choosing a reasonable initial learning rate is still essential. It often performs well with the default value of 0.001.

2. Epsilon Value: The epsilon (ε) value is a small constant added for numerical stability. Typical values are in the range of 1e-7 to 1e-8. It’s rarely necessary to change this value.

3. Monitoring: Monitor your training process by monitoring the loss curve and other relevant metrics. Adjust learning rates or other hyperparameters if necessary.

4. Regularization: Combine Adam with regularization techniques like dropout or weight decay to prevent overfitting.

Practical Implementation

Gradient Descent With Adam

First, let’s define an optimization function. We will use a simple two-dimensional function that squares the input of each dimension and defines the range of valid inputs from -1.0 to 1.0.

The objective() function below implements this function.

from numpy import arange
from numpy import meshgrid
from matplotlib import pyplot

def objective(x, y):
    return x**2.0 + y**2.0

# define range for input
range_min, range_max = -1.0, 1.0

# sample input range uniformly at 0.1 increments
xaxis = arange(range_min, range_max, 0.1)
yaxis = arange(range_min, range_max, 0.1)

# create a mesh from the axis
x, y = meshgrid(xaxis, yaxis)

results = objective(x, y)

figure = pyplot.figure()
axis = figure.add_subplot(111, projection='3d')  
axis.plot_surface(x, y, results, cmap='jet')

# show the plot

Adam in Neural Network

Here’s a simplified Python code example demonstrating how to use the Adam optimizer in a neural network training scenario using the popular deep learning library TensorFlow. In this example, we’ll use TensorFlow’s Keras API for creating and training a simple neural network for image classification:

1. Importing Library:

import keras # Import the Keras library
from keras.datasets import mnist # Load the MNIST dataset
from keras.models import Sequential # Initialize a sequential model
from keras.layers import Dense, Dropout, Flatten
from keras.layers import Conv2D, MaxPooling2D
import numpy as np

2. Split Data in train and test:

# Load the MNIST dataset from Keras
(x_train, y_train), (x_test, y_test) = mnist.load_data()

# Print the shape of the training and test data
print(x_train.shape, y_train.shape)

# Reshape the training and test data to 4 dimensions
x_train = x_train.reshape(x_train.shape[0], 28, 28, 1)

x_test = x_test.reshape(x_test.shape[0], 28, 28, 1)

# Define the input shape
input_shape = (28, 28, 1)

# Convert the labels to categorical format
y_train = keras.utils.to_categorical(y_train)
y_test = keras.utils.to_categorical(y_test)

# Convert the pixel values to floats between 0 and 1
x_train = x_train.astype('float32')
x_test = x_test.astype('float32')

# Normalize the pixel values by dividing them by 255
x_train /= 255
x_test /= 255

# Define the batch size and number of classes
batch_size = 60
num_classes = 10

# Define the number of epochs to train the model for
epochs = 10

3. Define model function:

  Builds a CNN model for MNIST digit classification.

    optimizer: The optimizer to use for training the model.

    A compiled Keras model.

def build_model(optimizer):
    model = Sequential()
    model.add(Conv2D(32, kernel_size=(3, 3), activation='relu', input_shape=input_shape))
    model.add(MaxPooling2D(pool_size=(2, 2)))
    model.add(Dense(128, activation='relu'))
    model.add(Dense(num_classes, activation='softmax'))
    model.compile(loss='categorical_crossentropy', optimizer=optimizer, metrics=['accuracy'])
    return model

4. Optimization in Neural Network:

optimizers=['Adagrad','Adam','SGD']#import csv
histories ={opt:build_model(opt).fit(x_train,y_train,batch_size=batch_size, 
epochs=epochs,verbose=1,validation_data=(x_test,y_test)) for opt in optimiers}

Advantages of Using Adam Optimizer

1. Fast Convergence: Adam often converges faster than traditional gradient descent-based optimizers, especially on complex loss surfaces.

2. Adaptive Learning Rates: The adaptive learning rates make it suitable for various machine learning tasks, including natural language processing, computer vision, and reinforcement learning.

3. Low Memory Usage: Low memory requirements allow training large neural networks without running into memory constraints.

4. Robustness: Adam is relatively robust to hyperparameter choices, making it a good choice for practitioners without extensive hyperparameter tuning experience.

Problems with Adam Optimizer

ADAM paper presented diagrams that showed even better results:

Problems with Adam Optimizer, Train loss and Validation loss

Recent research has raised concerns about the generalization capabilities of the Adam optimizer in deep learning, indicating that it may not always converge to optimal solutions, particularly in tasks like image classification on CIFAR datasets. Wilson et al.’s study highlighted that adaptive optimizers like Adam might not generalize as effectively as SGD with momentum across various deep-learning tasks. Nitish Shirish Keskar and Richard Socher proposed a solution called SWATS, where training begins with Adam but switches to SGD as learning saturates. SWATS has shown promise in achieving competitive generalization performance compared to SGD with momentum, prompting a reevaluation of optimization choices in deep learning.


Adam is one of the best optimization algorithms for deep learning, and its popularity is growing quickly. Its adaptive learning rates, efficiency in optimization, and robustness make it a popular choice for training neural networks. As deep learning evolves, optimization algorithms like Adam will remain essential tools. Still, practitioners should stay open to alternative approaches and strategies for achieving optimal model performance.

Key Takeaways:

  • Adam adjusts learning rates for each parameter individually, allowing efficient optimization by accommodating both high and low-gradient parameters.
  • Adam’s adaptability and management of moments make it efficient in navigating complex loss landscapes, resulting in faster convergence.
  • Hyperparameter tuning, particularly for the initial learning rate and epsilon (ε), is crucial for optimizing Adam’s performance.

I want to take a moment to say thank you. Thank you for taking the time to read this blog and for your interest in Adam Optimizer in Neural Networks.

Until next time, stay curious and keep learning!

Frequently Asked Questions

Q1. What is the Adam optimizer? How does it work?

A. Provide a concise explanation of the Adam optimizer’s principles and its adaptive learning rate mechanism.

Q2. When should I use the Adam optimizer?

A. Explain scenarios and use cases where the Adam optimizer is suitable and its advantages over other optimization algorithms.

Q3. What hyperparameters should I tune when using Adam?

A. Discuss key hyperparameters like the initial learning rate and epsilon (ε) and provide guidance on how to set them effectively.

Q4. What are the common challenges or issues when using Adam?

A. Address potential problems, such as sensitivity to hyperparameters or convergence issues, and offer solutions.

Q5. How can I switch from Adam to another optimizer during training, like SGD?

A. Describe strategies like SWATS for transitioning from Adam to a different optimizer as training progresses.

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Neha Vishwakarma 21 Dec 2023

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