Brain Food, For A More Powerful Mind.
Brain Food, For A More Powerful Mind
Nutrition goes much deeper than just body composition, so how does nutrition affect neurotransmitter pathways?
And how does nutrition affect subtle changes in psychological and behavioural parameters?
The links between nutrition, cognitive productivity and the links between environment, human behaviour and nutrition are outstanding!
Understanding these links is surely the key to improved cognitive and physical performance.
A couple years ago (depending on when you read this book), I was asked by a mining company to produce a report outlining the reasons why they see their mine sites experience a higher accident incident rate immediately after lunch.
We can take this information and link it back to the effects certain nutrients place on the brain.
In this chapter we are going to go over the above mentioned and help you understand why it’s so important to approach physical, mental health and performance from a whole, well-rounded approach.
Optimal brain function results from highly complex interactions between numerous genetic and environmental factors. This can include food intake, physical activity, age and stress.
Nutrition and dietary choices are one of the biggest mediators in cognitive function and physical performance.
But likewise, our environment, age, stress and physical activity all play a role in our nutritional and dietary choices.
Every individual will respond to different nutrients on an immediate level, as well as a long term cycle.
Nutrition and environment affect the epigenetics of an individual and can shape his/her actions, personality and overall well being.
Poor nutrition can lead to long term health issues such as heart attacks, diabetes, obesity and cancers. We’re not just talking about portion control here, the food choices you select have a direct effect on health as well.
As well as not providing our bodies with the correct micro nutrients required for normal biochemical reactions to occur, poor nutrition can also cause permeable gut syndrome, bacterial overgrowths, parasites and yeast infections, among other digestive issues.
Correct nutrition is the first step in achieving the best performance both physically and mentally for any individual.
Another example of poor nutrition, this time in terms of volume and frequency rather than selection, is the effect carbohydrates have on insulin production and insulin sensitivity at the cell.
- The more carbs you eat, the more glucose you end up with in your bloodstream. The more often you do this, the more resistant you become at the cell and start producing less insulin.
- Some carbs absorb faster than others, magnifying this process.
- So if someone is slightly insulin resistant and they consume a large portion of fast absorbing carbs, we end up with high levels of blood glucose as the body struggles to process them.
This situation leads to diabetes. We also know that diabetes and poorly managed blood sugar levels lead to Alzheimer’s.
The further away from homeostasis the individual is, the more disruption nutrients can play on neurotransmitter pathways.
The un-healthier you are, the less effective your brain will work.
Something very important to pay attention to:
- The more neurotransmitter disruption we see, the more the individual can rely on food for support — think comfort food or cravings during PMS.
- Carbs promote melatonin and serotonin release (the ‘feel good’ hormones), which is why we turn to them for comfort.
- But then we get the knock-on negative effect that these poor choices make.
- High levels of carb absorption also affect the activity of orexin cells, which control the sleep/awake cycles.
- Carbs promote production of serotonin and melatonin which can make us feel drowsy — think everyone having a nap after the Christmas dinner.
Not a great situation if we’re in the middle of our working day or in the middle of something important like driving.
- Not all carbs are equal, more wholesome carbs are going to have a lesser effect, but total volume still needs to be addressed.
- Healthy proteins and good dietary fats can help regulate blood sugar levels; combine this with wholesome carb sources and timed accordingly, then we can achieve an optimally functioning human.
- Poor nutrition leads to cognitive fog, poor health, poor performance and mistakes in the workplace among other things.
- Neurotransmitter deficits occur long before obesity or diabetes emerge, so trying to identify certain people who may be affected by poor nutrition is impossible — the reality is, we all are.
We’re only just beginning to learn the total cost of poor nutrition. We all think of weight management when we think of food-related issues but the reality is, it goes a lot deeper than that.
Likewise, our environment plays a massive role in the nutritional choices we make.
If someone is depressed, they may well find some level of enjoyment from food. If an individual is stressed or tired, they are going to turn to food as well.
So good nutrition alone is a hopeless cause. In conclusion, the only way to operate at an optimal level – with both cognitive pathways and physical performance – is to take a whole, well rounded approach to health and fitness; both at the gym and in the workplace.
Some study papers to support my report are below:
- Carbohydrates and cognitive function
- Effects of nutrients on brain function
- Nutrition, the brain and cognitive decline: insights from epigenetics
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