Perform better on brain tests with better brain nutrition and you’ll train better, work smarter, and outperform your colleagues and competitors. With optimal brain nutrition it’s possible to counter the age-related decline in cognitive function and continue to have optimal motivation, memory, verbal acuity, and reasoning skills. Plus, you’ll feel better because your performance will be high and your body and brain will be in balance.
In part one
, I highlighted the top seven things you need to do for a better brain. Supplementing with DHA and getting the ideal ratio of omega-3s to -6s is most important for cognitive function and insulin management. Acetyl-carnitine and alpha lipoic acid help DHA work its magic on the brain, and they lower stress, while giving you energy when you’re feeling sluggish. Remember, gut health is essential for brain function, and probiotics are probably just as important as DHA for brain nutrition. Grass-fed beef and wild meats should be staples in your diet, and I suggest adopting the meat and nuts breakfast if you haven’t already.
Now that you’ve got all that down, here’s another eight tips for the best brain.
1) Don’t Sit All Day: Strategically Plan Training and Activity
Regular activity throughout the day is essential for optimal brain function. This is so important, it could be higher on the list, but here it is. We are a horribly inactive population at this point, and just because you work out regularly does not make you “active” if you spend eight-plus hours sitting a day. Being active improves insulin sensitivity and supports neurotransmitter function. It also boosts chemicals that make you feel better, making it essential.
There's evidence that as little as three days of physical inactivity can result in "robust changes" in glucose uptake and insulin health in young individuals. Glucose uptake decreased two-fold after three days, and researchers point to daily sitting for long periods as just as dangerous for insulin health and body composition, but it also directly influences brain function. Large variations in blood glucose from even short breaks in physical activity such as an eight-hour-a-day desk job lead to the production of free radicals.
Regular activity will increase glucose uptake, and as long it's not aerobic in nature, it will lead your body to produce antioxidants that abolish free radicals. Strength training is critical as is being active. If you have a desk job, take short brisk walks as often as possible throughout the day. Desk jockeys will likely benefit from training mid-day for better afternoon brain function, but depending on how hard your workout is, this may not be the case. Ideally, you'll train mid-morning, but that's not always possible, and people respond differently after training—some may feel very tired, others will be energized. Plan your training when you can get the most out of it. Also, perform physical activity of some kind on your days off from training. Recreational sports participation, vigorous walking, martial arts practice, bike riding, or more intense exercises for fat loss such as interval sprints can be used.
2) Get Enough Magnesium and Focus on Sleep
Both magnesium and sufficient sleep are essential for brain function. If you are chronically sleep deprived, your neurotransmitters will be off and you’ll have low creatine levels in the brain. Magnesium will help you sleep better and it is essential for memory.
Taking magnesium will improve brain electrical activity, meaning elevated learning and memory functions. In fact, research from MIT has shown that magnesium regulates serotonin release, and it is needed to produce enzymes within brain cells that control cellular and memory functions. Serotonin helps you sleep, but magnesium also calms the sympathetic nervous system and is particularly good for treating insomnia.
3) Minimize Exposure to Electromagnetic Fields (Cell Phones, Wifi, Microwaves…)
Do everything you can to minimize your exposure to electromagnetic fields that come from cell phones, wifi, microwaves, and just about all energy sources. Even the electrical outlets in your house emit electromagnetic radiation that will lower insulin sensitivity, mess with your sleep, and decrease brain function.
A new study performed on rats found that exposure to a mobile phone for two hours a day for 45 days resulted in a significant decrease in brain function. Also, exposure decreased levels of the hormone melatonin in the rats—melatonin makes you sleep and relax. At the same time there was a significant increase in reactive oxygen species that cause a chronically inflamed brain, and the production of various other chemical enzymes that support brain function were seriously impaired.
4) Take Huperzine To Improve Memory and Restore Connections in the Brain
Huperzine helps improve memory and restore the connections in the brain because it prevents the breakdown of acetylcholine. It’s perfect for anyone who is suffering from early-onset dementia or just needs a boost to their recall. Huperzine may be the number one supplement for improving memory, but the overall health benefits of omega-3s and carnitine are so great that you always want to start with those.
Extensive research shows that huperzine can improve brain function and memory, and two new studies consider it to be a “feasible treatment for the prevention of Alzheimer’s.” I suggest taking it with additional antioxidants with it such as vitamin E because this will help clean out free radicals that cause damage and inflame the brain. Remember, any inflammatory condition will interfere with neurotransmitter function, trigger cortisol , and impair insulin health. Be aware that huperzine makes some people feel edgy and not be able to sleep, indicating that they should only take it once or twice a week.
5) Take Phosphatidylserine to Support Brain Health and Lower Cortisol
Phosphatidylserine (PS) is a fantastic but lesser known supplement that improves brain function and helps regulate cortisol. Research shows that PS improves scores on cognitive function tests. One study of young men who took a brain function test found that taking PS increased speed of calculation by 20 percent, decreased the number of mistakes by 40 percent, and increased rate of correct calculation by 13 percent. Mood was also boosted by taking PS following the anxiety producing test.
PS also lowers cortisol and is very effective at minimizing the cortisol stress response to training. Take it before your workouts for improved drive and a greater anabolic response. Take note that one study found that pairing PS with gingko was particularly effective at improving secondary memory performance and speed of answers on a memory task. Gingko and PS each potentiate the brain benefits of the other, meaning for best results, you’ll take ‘em both.
6) Take Gingko for Detoxification and Memory Support
Take gingko to help the brain detoxify and support memory. Gingko prevents the shrinking of the hippocampus—when you are stressed your hippocampus shrinks and memory is impaired. It’s particularly effective in older individuals who are feeling their memory recall decline. For younger people under forty, gingko will delay memory decline, but won’t improve memory—it protects memory rather than improves it for the young. This is one of the reasons that some studies into the effectiveness of gingko have been inconclusive.
Another reason is that for gingko to be effective at improving memory, it needs to contain active ingredients called terpenes that are extracted from the gingko leaf. Many gingko products are derived from the stem, which do not support memory. Take note that gingko has the most proven track record for memory protection. It’s been used for over 4,000 years and is very effective at fighting stress. Get it in my Focused Response.
7) Cook with Turmeric and Take Curcumin
Curcumin is an antioxidant that comes from turmeric. When paired with DHA, it helps detoxify the brain and the gut (remember, the gut is the site where many of the neurotransmitters are made). Curcumin makes DHA more bioactively effective and together they reduce inflammatory biomarkers.
Cook with turmeric and you’ll have more flavorful food and you may boost curcumin levels. To ensure you’re getting the benefits, it’s a smart idea to supplement with curcumin because it is much more potent and a quality supplement such as Uber Curcumin: http://us.cpoliquin.com/product_p/ubercurcumin2.htm will have black pepper added to increase effectiveness in the body.
8) High-Protein Diet, BCAAs, and Vitamin B For a Superior Brain
Eat a high-protein diet and take BCAAs and perform better on brain tests. You will also improve reaction time and brain function. In my experience, your reaction time and quickness is developed by the time you are ten or twelve, meaning there’s little you can do to improve these much needed skills. But there is evidence that eating a high-protein diet will help. Participants in this study ate either a high-protein diet of 3 grams per kilogram of bodyweight, or a moderate-protein diet of 1.5 g/kg of body weight. At the end of the study period, the high-protein group performed significantly better on verbal fluency tests and had faster reaction time than those who ate the moderate-protein diet.
Researchers cite the elevated levels of branched-chain amino acids in the participants’ blood as the reason for better, faster performance. It’s likely they also increased brain creatine levels assuming they were eating more beef than previously. Greater reserves of creatine in the brain have shown to significantly support cognitive function.
Take note that if you supplement with BCAAs, which you should if you’re serious about training, new research shows you need to ensure you’re taking vitamin B because BCAAs can deplete your vitamin B levels. A symptom of vitamin B deficiency is feelings of anxiety and depression, which naturally will negatively affect brain function. A B-complex or a multivitamin will likely do the trick.
Boost Your Brain Power: Part 1
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