Feed Your Brain

Remember when I saw this sign at the turn around point of my 55 mile ride?

It is so true. As athletes, we can sometimes lose focus. When you are on a run or ride, or swim or whatever that you have done time after time, it is all too easy to get in the zone and lose focus.

One way to avoid losing focus is to make sure your brain is getting the nutrients it needs – before, during and after workouts.

Your brain is made of approximately 100 billion nerve cells called neurons, which gather and transmit electrochemical signals. For these brain cells to communicate effectively, they require chemicals called neurotransmitters. So what does your brain need to function at its best?

Your brain uses glucose as its only fuel supply. Unlike your muscles, brain cells cannot store glucose, so they depend on a steady supply, consuming about 120 grams a day. Glucose deficit, brought on by not eating enough, can cause confusion or dizziness, AKA bonking. Bonking is no bueno and can be dangerous. Eating through out the day and during long workouts will keep glucose levels stable.

This isn’t so much as a “need” as it is a “might help”. There are a lot of studies about the benefits of caffeine intake during exercise. I am not a caffeine pusher or anything, but I know I personally feel the benefit. I choose engineered products with caffeine, like my Black Cherry Shot Bloks and Mocha Clif Shots. Shortly after eating these, I feel more alert. And I also always have one cup of coffee in the morning.

Blood is mostly water, and blood delivers nutrients to the brain. So, it doesn’t matter how many carbs you eat or how much caffeine you drink, your brain will not reap the rewards unless you stay hydrated.

Your brain is sheathed in fat and omega-3 fats may improve brain cell communication as well as regulate the immune system and decrease inflammation. Inadequate amounts of omega-3 fats can be associated with depression and other brain disorders. Chow down on salmon, sardines and trout.

Other important nutrients for the brain
Vitamin C: bright fruits and veggies like bell peppers, oranges
Vitamin B12: milk, cheese, yogurt, and poultry
B6: chicken, fish, pork, as well whole grain cereals, nuts, and legumes
Folic Acid: range juice, leafy green vegetables, and dried peas and beans

The moral of this story is to eat a balanced diet full of fresh fruits, veggies and whole grains with the addition of whatever proteins your diet allows.



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