Make Your Brain Your Bitch Part 1: Nutrition
My purpose for writing this article is to describe the nutrition, supplementation, and lifestyle factors that you can adopt to have your brain work at peak mental performance.
When it comes to being in peak mental performance, there are A LOT of things to consider.
First, what TF does it mean to be in peak performance mentally?
So to be more specific, what I would like to discuss specifically is how to improve Cognition which is a direct asset to pretty much anyone, ESPECIALLY someone running a business or who has to constantly be creative and solve problems.
While health and simply looking good have always been a top motivator for me to eat well and be healthy, improving my “cognative abilities” has recently come to the forefront of my focus and is something that I see a lot of otherwise “healthy” people to neglect.
“Cognitive abilities” are brain based skills we need to carry out any task from Small to hard. Specifically this has to do with how we learn, remember, problem-solve, and pay attention, rather than with any actual knowledge.
As the sole owner of my business, our success as a whole depends on my ability to perform at my best as much as possible. It means that everytime I sit down to get something done that I am as productive as I can possibly be every minute. If I am constantly dealing with brain fog, low energy, and stress, my productivity will suck and the growth of my business will reflect that.
It’s easy to overlook mental performance when you’re focused on eating healthy and exercising, simply because, you EXPECT your brain to be working optimally. However, this is not always the case. Over exercise, under recovery, calorie restriction can all an impair cognitive ability. Alot of this has to do with neural inflammation. And this is especially applicable if you DON’T Already have good nutrition habits.
I want to squeeze the most out of my body and mind at all times so I can perform optimally. For me, long hours of focus was EXTREMELY tough for me at first and still is but to a lesser degree. While I had a pretty good diet, their were some other tweaks that I made which made a huge impact.
So Nutrition first
Inflammation is the killer of all cognitive abilities.
The brain actually HAS its own immune system. Microglia are immune cells in the brain whose job it is to protect the brain and spinal cord from pathogens and clear away metabolic debris. Once one of these cells is activated, it creates inflammation for the rest of its life span!
Here is a list of things that activates these cells
-high carb diets
-lack of exercise
-chronic stress (mental or physical)
Any nutritional plan of attack has to prioritize keeping inflammation to a low.
1) Find Your “Carb Sweet Spot”
This is something I consider for myself and all of my clients regardless of whether or not performing better cognitively is their main concern. This is especially an important factor to consider if longevity is something you are after as well.
Coming from Dr. Peter Attia, “One of the tenets of living as long as possible is maintaining the lowest average glucose with a minimal standard deviation.”
What THAT means is, when glucose enter your system (which is when you eat), how quickly can you get it out of your system. How effective your body is at shuttling glucose into the Liver and muscle as stored glycogen dictates your glucose homeostasis.
There are ways to determine what your carb sweet spot is that I will talk about in another article.
As a general rule of thumb. If you exercise more, you need more carbs. If you don’t exercise, you don’t need as many carbs.
As much as I would like to throw out a number, it’s hard to give a general recomendation for how many carbs to eat. Here is a great article by Chris Kresser that can help you determine your optimal carb intake —>https://chriskresser.com/the-3-step-process-to-determining-your-ideal-carbohydrate-intake/
2) Eat Fats!
Your brain is predominately made up of fat. The myelin sheath, a fatty coating that insulates your brain cells so electronic signals can travel faster, can break down in the absence of cholesterol. Cholesterol comes from saturated fats specifically.
So yes, I am saying NOT to avoid saturated fat and cholesterol. These are NOT the causes of heart disease!
Eating processed carbs in conjunction with crappy saturated fats (highly processed meats) is the issue. More on this here —>https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/20071648
-Grassfed Meats, Wild fish, avocado, olive oil, coconut oil, dark chocolate are all high in quality fats to help your brain work at full capacity.
3) Prioritize Polyphenols
Your body is constantly taking in free radicals, it’s the price we pay for breathing. When cells use oxygen to generate energy, free radicals are created as a consequence of ATP production by the mitochondria.
Excess free radicals causes a buttload of issues including cancer, arthritis, aging, autoimmune disorders, cardiovascular and neurodegenerative diseases.
Polephenols (a group of over 500 phytochemicals, which are naturally occurring micronutrients in plants) neutralize free radicals and prevents them from doing damage
Polyphenols ALSO help your body to make more Brain Derived Neurotrophic Factor, which cases your brain to build new brain cells.
Great sources of Polyphenols include:
All veggies, blueberries, pomegranates, green tea, coffee, dark chocolate.
The following is MY diet specifically on days when I know I will be spending long hours doing focused work.
Keep in mind, I am a 220lb 26 y/o active male. So…I eat alot
5 eggs (saturated fats and protein)
Half avocado ( More fats and polyphenols)
Mixed green salad covered in Tumeric and MCT oil (Polyphenols and MCT’s- readily accessable energy for your brain)
1 tbsp raw cacao (polyphenols and cacao helps improve blood flow to the brain)
Keeping fat high and protein moderate in the A.M., and adding insome MCT’s gets your body producing ketones which are an excellent source of energy for your brain
Work from 8-12, with intermittent short neighborhood walks. (research shows it helps boost creativity, improves attention, and makes you happier. Plus I just hate prolonged sitting)
8 oz grass fed beef (85% lean) cooked in coconut oil (saturated fats and protein)
A cooked veggie or a raw salad covered in extra virgin olive oil (polyphenols from veggies AND the olive oil)
Work all afternoon, again with a walk every 1.5 hours. I utilize the Pomodoro technique, so usually after 3 intervals I take a 10-15 minute walk break
I will add carbs in once the majority of my busy work is done for the day. And the amount is determined by whether or not I worked out.
8 oz of a leaner meat, i.e chicken ( when I add in carbs, I lower fat)
1 cup of a starch, i.e sweet potato
Bunch of veggies
Fat source- i.e avocado
Part 2- Supplements
Part 3- Lifestyle