When looking at ways to maximise performance and becoming the best athlete possible, we always emphasise the physical…
But what about the mental? Surely we can’t forget about the brains behind the performance operation.
Being shredded, strong, fit and robust is great, but if you can’t think clearly and decisively, you’re ability to express your skill-set properly will be awful…and therefore making you worse at your sport.
You’re probably reading this expecting a single supplement or nutrient that is going to improve your cognitive function, but it’s not quite as simple as that. However, the answer to the problem is.
The answer I’m afraid is really boring, not sexy and isn’t going to sell any headlines.
Garcia et al (2018) reported that your cognitive capacity can be greatly influenced by components of your diet.
For example, there are some good associations between low GI foods and concentration, improved attention and memory, where diets rich in sugar are associated with the opposite. Coincidentally, this has been shown to improve test scores during exam time.
When dietary protein is low, there are less amino acids available to create neurotransmitters needed for learning, reasoning and memory.
In addition to this, the quality of fat in the diet can have a marked influence on memory capacity and cognitive deterioration – for example, diets high in saturated fat show a decline, where diets low in saturated fat and high in polyunsaturated fatty acids (DHA) have preventive effects. Therefore, following a Mediterranean approach would be highly beneficial.
Individuals that have adequate amounts of vitamins B1, B6, B12, B9, D, choline, iron and iodine in their diet can improve intellectual performance whilst preventing a decline in cognitive function.
Likewise, adequate antioxidants in the diet (vitamins A, C, E) play a really important role in managing inflammation and are associated with preventing mental deterioration.
Anecdotally, this is the first things athletes I work with notice when they join my coaching programmes…Their mental focus throughout the day is better, meaning they can stay engaged with their tasks and have greater impact.
Sometimes, the best answers are the most simple – adequate nutrition is essential…follow a high quality diet with plenty of fruit, vegetables, essential fats and protein to ensure you’re not deficient in anything.
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