The ancient Greeks understood that both a healthy mind and body are necessary for good health. In the 20th century, Dr. Roger Williams, who discovered pantothenic acid or vitamin B-5, did pioneering work in the area of nutrition and its role in health and longevity. At the same time that innovative physicians such as Kenneth Cooper were demonstrating that regular aerobic exercise helps to prevent heart attacks and strokes, epidemiologists like Ken Paffenbarger Jr. also found that it improves the quality of life.
The modern prescription for optimal health includes stress reduction and weight-bearing anaerobic exercise.
Brain-Boosting Nutrients And Drugs
In the 1970s, evidence began to accumulate that certain nutrients and drugs can improve not only physical functions but mental functions as well. These include important cognitive abilities such as concentration, learning, memory, and general thinking ability. The following text contains findings that indicate that taking certain nutrients and drugs can improve cognitive function as measured by brain cell structure and activity, standardized IQ tests, and other cognitive tests.
Before long, there were many books and articles written about “smart nutrients” and “smart drugs”, as well as radio and TV shows discussing them. Before long, “smart” nutrients were available at every health food store and pharmacy across the country. Bars began selling “smart” drinks, while offshore companies started selling smart drugs to Americans via mail-order.
Thinking Under Pressure
Since we now know that we can improve our cognitive function through nutrition, the next step is to help people think faster and better in tight situations through brain exercises.
Mental pressure refers to the stress and anxiety that comes from having to deal with difficult situations. This can include being tested in school, trying to meet a deadline at work, dealing with a health emergency, or having to make a quick decision in a competition.
The speed at which you can make a decision under pressure or in a crisis is a good indicator of cognitive function. How many times have you regretted not saying or doing something when you were under pressure? How many times have you felt that you missed out on a business opportunity because you didn’t react fast enough? Have you ever hurt someone you love by saying something you didn’t really mean?
This usually happens because we don’t think quickly enough, or because we let our emotions influence our thinking. We can’t think clearly either because there are too many cobwebs in our mind or because we’re letting our emotions block the way to calm, rational thought.
Many people have problems thinking quickly and effectively. As we grow older, this becomes a problem for all of us. As we age, our bodies slow down and our minds follow. The easiest way to show the difference between a young and old person is how they act when under stress. The difference between a 25-year-old and a 75-year-old is small, but in an emergency the 25-year-old is much better equipped to handle it.
Brain Exercises To Improve Mental Performance
researchers have started to create computerized brain games to assess and better subconscious reflexes that occur more quickly and deeply than conscious thought. Your brain must process a lot of information before you can even think about speaking or acting, including retrieving memories, comparing different types of data, deciding how important something is, and creating a coherent thought.
Training Your Ability To Focus
One of the most common mental deficiencies that affect people of all ages is the inability to focus or concentrate on the task at hand. These people have the ability to focus all their mental powers on the decisions they have to make in order to be successful. The majority of people find it difficult to focus their mental energy for prolonged amounts of time. This inability to maintain focus is one of the main reasons why people fail in various aspects in life, such as sports, business, the creative arts, or relationships.
THE VALUE OF EXERCISE AND NUTRITION FOR THE BRAIN
Children – The Developing Brain
Data suggests that children are becoming more sedentary and unhealthy, potentially causing chronic diseases such as type 2 diabetes and obesity to develop earlier in life. Studies have shown that there is a relationship between being overweight and poor academic performance. Research has shown that aerobic fitness can have a positive effect on cognition and academic achievement. Several studies have suggested that a child’s cognitive ability and school performance may be affected by their physical condition.
The food you eat can have a major impact on both the development and health of your brain. A healthy diet helps the brain create and maintain connections between cells, which is important for better thinking and academic success. Diet can positively impact how neurons function and change. Omega-3 fatty acids provide the building blocks for the brain. They are important for helping cells communicate with each other, which affects how well synapses work. However, diets rich in sugar or saturated fats or high in calories are considered harmful to neural function, as they act to elevate levels of oxidative stress and to reduce synaptic plasticity and cognitive functions. Brain function is closely linked to having a good diet, and what you eat affects your cognitive abilities. Several studies have found that eating breakfast has positive effects on the cognitive functioning of well-nourished children. Exercise has been shown to interact positively with dietary interventions, increasing the healthy effects on brain functioning and decreasing the unhealthy effects of a high-fat diet. Preliminary evidence suggests that a combination of exercise and dietary modifications may offer the most benefit for neural health promotion. Pivik et al. (2012) discovered that a morning meal influences complex mental functions in children aged 8-11. EEG readings were taken of children’s brain activity while they solved simple addition problems, both after an overnight fast and after either having eaten or skipped breakfast. The difference in performance between the fed children and those who continued to fast was significant. . The findings suggest that it is easier for children to think mathematically if they have eaten breakfast, because the neural network activity involved in processing numerical information is functionally enhanced. However, if children skip breakfast, they will have to put in more mental effort to do the same task.
The Elderly – Preventing a Decline in Brain Function
According to cross-sectional studies, cognitive functions such as processing speed, short-term memory, working memory and long-term memory decline in a linear fashion as people age. Age-related drop-offs in cognition have been connected to alterations in brain structure and function. It’s possible that physical activity could be key in lessening age-related cognitive losses. A recent study found that aerobic exercise has both general and selective benefits for cognitive function in older adults. The researchers found that while cognitive ability generally decreases with age, being physically active and having good aerobic fitness may help to prevent some of the cognitive declines. The benefits seem to be greatest for those processes that require a lot of executive control. A growing amount of evidence suggests that nutrients like flavonoids and other polyphenols may help reduce age-related cognitive decline.
NUTRITION TO INFLUENCE CENTRAL NERVOUS SYSTEM FATIGUE
Nutritional interventions, such as taking certain supplements or eating certain foods, can not only improve cognitive function but also help you exercise for longer or delay fatigue. Fatigue can be described as a sudden decrease in the ability to do physical activity, which causes an inability to produce the maximal amount of force. Both an increase in the amount of effort perceived to be necessary in order to exert the desired amount of force or power, as well as an eventual inability to produce that same level of force or power output, characterizes fatigue (Davis & Bailey, 1997). There are two types of fatigue, peripheral and central.
Monoamines are a class of organic compounds that serve important physiological roles as neurotransmitters in the brain. Monoamines are strong candidates for causing the central nervous system effects of fatigue during exercise. The neurotransmitters serotonin, dopamine, and noradrenaline play an important role in how neurons communicate with each other, and changes in the levels of these neurotransmitters during exercise have been linked to central fatigue. Initially proposed by Acworth et al. (1986), Newsholme and co-workers (1987) developed the first hypothesis compromising changes in central neurotransmission to explain fatigue, i.e., the “Central Fatigue Hypothesis.” This hypothesis was based on disturbances in brain 5-HT concentrations, as this neurotransmitter is involved in changes in sleep-wakefulness, emotion, sleep, appetite, the hypothalamic-pituitary axis, and numerous physiological functions (Meeusen et al., 2006). Tryptophan enters the central nervous system more easily during exercise because the muscles are using more of the branched-chain amino acids. This increases the ratio of unbound tryptophan to BCAA. This text is discussing how tryptophan crosses the blood-brain barrier and how this affects the levels of serotonin in the brain. Events that occur only in the brain can affect how tired a person feels and, as a result, might affect their ability to do something. An opportunity exists to control the central nervous system by making alterations to diet or by taking specific supplements that contain amino acids (BCAA, tyrosine), carbohydrates (CHO), and caffeine.
Branched Chain Amino Acids
It is possible that central fatigue could be limited by supplementing with BCAA. There is little evidence that BCAA supplements can improve exercise performance in humans, and it is not clear that they can delay fatigue during long-term exercise.
There is evidence that CHO supplementation may improve exercise performance by affecting the brain, either by a direct effect of glucose delivery to the brain or via neural signals from CHO receptors in the oral cavity to the brain. A study conducted in 2004 showed that rinsing a maltodextrin solution around in the mouth before and during exercise can lead to a 3% increase in performance. This suggests that the performance benefit may have been caused by receptors in the mouth sending signals directly to the brain without any solution being ingested. Research has shown that CHO mouth rinse can activate certain areas of the brain. This was discovered by observing brain activity after someone ingested a bolus of glucose, as well as after someone rinsed their mouth with a CHO solution. The studies mentioned show that there is a significant increase in brain activity as soon as carbohydrates enter the mouth and another increase 10 minutes later, likely when the carbohydrates are entering the bloodstream. Other groups have also looked into the effects of a CHO mouth rinse on someone’s ability to do something. Pottier et al. (2010) discovered that athletes who rinsed with a CHO-electrolyte solution improved their performance on a 60-minute time trial. Rollo et al. (2008, 2010, 2011) also found that this solution had ergogenic effects on different time trials. Most studies that found an effect were carried out when people were fasting. A study found that rinsing your mouth with carbohydrates in the fed state had no effect on your performance in a 45-minute or 60-minute time trial. The authors suggested that oral perception of carbohydrates perhaps only plays a role when blood sugar levels are low. A more recent study found that rinsing with a maltodextrin solution increased the amount of time until exhaustion in both fed and fasted states in non-athletic male subjects (Fares & Kayser, 2011). The findings of the study are new and suggest a possible explanation for how the studied phenomenon works. More research on CHO receptors in the mouth is necessary.
Optimal Cognitive Function: A New Approach
Exercise and nutrition are both effective methods for improving brain function. Although we have not explored the brain in depth during exercise, it is clear that physical activity and nutrition have positive impacts on brain health. In the future, nutrition interventions will be focused on brain activity during exercise.