If you train your brain hard, you have to feed it!
When I go to the gym (the body gym) I see many people carrying a plastic bottle with some powder inside. After having done the workout, they mix the powder with water and drink the whole thing.
After training, the body starts creating new muscle fibers. For that, it require proteins, and the powder they drink is composed of the proteins the body needs to build muscle.
Conclusion: the training makes effect because the nutrients are ready to be used as the training requires.
The same occurs with the brain!
Every time you learn new things, the brain creates new connections and neurons, it uses the already existing ones, and it also strengthens the axons and connections. But for all that, the brain needs the proper materials to be delivered to its cells.
What follows is a list of the nutrients the brain needs to function properly. After that, you will find a list of the foods that provide them. Use your criteria to create your own diet combining those foods (but keep close to Insanity Mind for a future post with the diet for the brain).
Nutrients For The Brain
The main nutrients the brain needs are:
- Vitamins: they perform many different activities in the brain. There are different vitamins that work in the brain:
- Vitamin A: protects the membranes of the neurones from waste materials (known as free radicals).
- Vitamin B: is required to develop neurons. There are different flavors of vitamin B and you should take all of them.
- Vitamin C: is important to generate neurotransmitters.
- Vitamin E: repairs damaged neurotransmitter receptors.
- Minerals: are required in the cells to metabolize energy, but also are good cleaners of free radicals. If free radicals are not removed the neurons can die. Minerals help in the cleaning work. The main minerals involved are:
- Magnesium: helps providing the conditions to perform the neuronal metabolism.
- Selenium: one of the best antioxidants (i.e. cleaners of free radicals).
- Zinc: acts as an antioxidant destroying many of the free radicals.
- Aminoacids: they are the building blocks of muscles, they are also necessary in the brain to build neurotransmitters.
- Fats: a large part of the brain is made of fats (the glia). There are two types of important fats in the brain: omega-3 fats and omega-6 fats.
- Carbohydrates: neurons need glucose to work properly. Glucose is provided by carbs. The best carbohydrates for the brain are the complex ones, because they deliver energy slowly and constantly.
- Water: the brain if mainly composed of water. You should drink quite a lot to maintain the brain hydrated.
Food For The Brain
The most convenient food for the brain is that which provides the nutrients above, but also have a low glyzemic index. Foods with low glyzemic index take longer to be digested, which results in a continued production of energy, instead of providing peaks of them.
Keeping a constant level of glucose in the blood is very important for brain health. That is why foods with low glyzemic index are preferred. Also, in order to maintain the glucose level, you should split your meals in 5 intakes.
What follows is a list of good foods for your brain. Prepare five meals per day, combining them.
- Fruits and vegetables are full of the antioxidants that can fight those free radicals, have lots of vitamins and minerals, and usually have low glycemic index. Dried beans provide also proteins and glucose. Take 5 servings per day from the following list:
- Fruits: açai berries, blueberries, apples, cherries, grapes, bananas, lackberries, cranberries, strawberries, raspberries, oranges, blueberries, blackberries, plums, beets and kiwis.
- Vegetables: avocados, asparagus, broccoli, brussels sprouts, cauliflower, tomatoes, romaine lettuce, soybeans, spinach, potatoes, garlic, red bell peppers.
- Dried pulses: soy beans, lentils, garbanzo beans, black beans.
- Fish provides the fatty acids the brain needs as well as proteins. Deep-water fish, such as salmon, are rich in omega-3 essential fatty acids. Other oily fish that provide the benefits of omega-3 are sardines, herring and tuna.
- Nuts and seeds. Nuts and seeds are good sources of vitamin E as well as proteins. Add an ounce a day of walnuts to your meals. You can try hazelnuts, brazil nuts, filberts, almonds, cashews, peanuts, sunflower seeds, sesame seeds, flax seed, and unhydrogenated nut butters such as peanut butter, almond butter, and tahini.
- Whole grains. Whole grains provide energy for the brain. such as oatmeal, whole-grain breads, and brown rice are complex carbohydrates. They provide, brown rice , stabilized rice bran
Additional foods that are good for the brain include dark chocolate, eggs, olive oil or flaxseed oil (provide good fats to the brain).
Good Tonics For The Brain
- Green tea: full of antioxidants and flavonoids that prevent blood clots on the brain. Take 2 or more servings per day.
- Ginkgo biloba: stimulates blood irrigation on the brain. Take 100 mg per day.
- Soya lecithin: provides the main fosfatidilcoline, a basic component of the neurotransmitters. Take 5 g per day.
- Acetyl-L-Carnitine: improves the production of the neurotransmitter acetylcholine. Take 500 mg per day.
- Ginsen: very effective to reduce the production of cortisol, the stress hormone. Take 1000 mg per day.
- Coenzyme Q10: increases the energy production in the neurons. Take 40 mg per day.
Supplements For The Brain
There are three reasons why I take supplements:
- I am training hard with my brain and body through the Insanity Mind training, which requires extra nutrients.
- Additionally, the ability of the body to absorb nutrients decreases with age. So as we get older, we have to eat more to have the proper amount of nutrients in the body.
- If I took all the nutrients I need from meals, I should take more than 2500 calories per day, what would make me extremely fat quickly.
The way to avoid getting fat without having to renounce to properly feed my body and brain is by means of taking supplements.
There are a lot of different supplements to take, and which one is the best is the subject for a future post. In order to be practical here, I will recommend you the ones I personally take, those are GNC Mega Men Sport. You can check the components list in the figure of the right, and look for a similar one if you don’t like my suggestion. This supplements provide the vitamins and minerals your body and brain need as recommended above, but if you don’t like the brand, you can look for a different one containing a similar composition.
Additionally, for aminoacids and proteins I also take protein powder (like the ones that people the gym take). I buy GNC Whey Isolate 28.
Important note: supplements should not replace a proper diet of 5 meals a day. Supplements are just that, supplements.
Optimal brain nutrition comes from a varied diet which includes vegetables, fruits, fish, cereals and legumes. Additionally, if you want to take the most of your training you should include tonics and supplements.
In future posts you will find those foods that you should avoid, and a specific day-by-day diet for an optimal brain nutrition. Stay tuned!
But in the meantime…
…any food, supplement or tonic that you would like to recommend us?