Wednesday, 7 November 2012

Optimizing Mental Performance

Whether you’re in the thick of midterm season, or just catching your breath before you have to dive into finals, you are probably feeling overloaded—like your brain can’t possibly store one more bit of information. Optimizing focus and mental performance isn’t as huge an undertaking as it might sound. You don’t have to go to the health food store to hunt down a supplement that claims it will turn you into Einstein by using rare extracts from the rain forest. Here are a few proven suggestions that can aid with the cranium crunches:

Get your omega-3s
                I know everyone probably saw this one coming, but I have to mention it. Omega-3 fatty acids are essential, concentrated in brain tissue, important for all things neurological, and potentially neuroprotective. Plus, they have far reaching health benefits beyond brain function!

Eat your protein
                Brain enzymes, neurotransmitters, proteins and peptides all need amino acids! Bourre states “The quality of dietary proteins influences the nature and the quantities of cerebral proteins and neurotransmitters.”

Fuel your brain with sugar...
                No wait! I didn’t mean skittles! The brain requires glucose—at rest, the adult brain consumes about 20% of dietary energy. The best thing to do for your brain (and the rest of your body) is to give it a constant, regular supply of energy. That means you should eat foods with a low glycemic index, so that the sugars are released slowly. Avoid crazy spikes and dips in blood sugar.

                Physical activity improves brain function, neurogenesis (yup, making new brain cells!), and memory. Get on that treadmill!

                I won’t even go into detail for this one; we all know how well our brains work after a looooong night. Please sleep.

Works Cited:
Exercise improves memory. Philadelphia Tribune. Sep 16 2007:19-19
van Praag H. Neurogenesis and exercise: Past and future directions. Neuromolecular Medicine. 2008;10(2):128-40
Bourre JM. Effects of nutrients (in food) on the structure and function of the nervous system: Update on dietary requirements for brain. part 2 : Macronutrients. J Nutr Health Aging. 2006;10(5):386-99.

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