Bottom line on brain health

I’ll admit, I’ve been inundated with questions regarding the posts I did on nootropics. So much so that I feel it is important to reiterate the following:

Nobody should be putting anything into their body without weighing both the risks and benefits first. What I share on this site is only skimming the surface of nootropics. Nothing I share should be construed as advice. Do your own due diligence and educate yourself.

As with any attempt to increase or decrease something you’ll need a baseline so you can measure the potential change. With nootropics the idea is to increase some function of the brain so you’ll need a way to measure the brain. More specifically, you’ll want to measure the exact function you want to increase. Perhaps it’s concentration or reasoning or memory. Maybe you just want to get brain back to where it was, like me.

There are commercial sites out there like Lumosity that you can use. However, I found Cambridge brain sciences to be the best platform to test. You can create your own “workout” routine for your brain and keep tabs on your scores to see if changes are occurring. Best of all it’s free!

After nearly 3 months of testing different nootropic stacks I’ve concluded that to find one that works for whatever it is your trying to improve is going to take a lot of work. Most people won’t do that and they just go read on Reddit about a stack and head to their local vitamin store to buy the supplements. Here’s my advice if that’s you. Don’t waste your time or your money! It takes discipline to find the right mix.

For me the following have helped me find my old brain. I walk, jog or run five times a week for a minimum of 30 minutes each time. A little over a year ago I read the book Spark and haven’t looked back since. I’m a firm believer in the overall health benefits of cardiovascular exercise and its impact on the brain.

I started eating better. No more fast-food and no snacking between meals. I began with a juice cleanse after watching the documentary “Fat sick & nearly dead”. It changed my life.

Lastly It’s been nearly a year since I built a standing desk . I don’t get that bogged down feeling in the afternoon. I’m more active outside of the office as computer time has changed to work time (i.e., less surfing the web). I’ll never go back to sitting at a traditional desk.

Bottom line is that combining a proper diet and exercise, along with plenty of sleep, can do wonders for overall brain health. At least it did (and still does) for me.

What are you doing with your 0.1% edge?

I recently read The Edge Effect by Dr. Eric Braverman. If you are interested in nootropics or brain health, you should read it. Here’s a quick snippet:

For all that we humans tend to emphasize our differences, biologically speaking we are truly the same. The proof is in our DNA: the human genome sequence is more than 99.9 percent the same in all people. However, that 0.1 percent difference is all it takes for some of us to be healthy and others ill, some tall and others short, some quick-witted and others dull.

While DNA codes our behaviors and physical functions, it is not at the heart of what makes each of us unique. Our DNA is only as good as the transport system it creates for the transmission of information.

So what does make us unique? It’s the connection between the brain and the body. This connection is one aspect of “the edge.” When our edge is healthy we succeed, when it’s sick, we fail. A 0.1% edge isn’t much, or is it? Think about that before you answer. Time to get healthy and sharpen that edge!

Click to take the brain quiz

Click to take the brain quiz

Willpower

In his book Willpower: Rediscovering Our Greatest Strengths, psychologist Roy Baumeister suggests that we “have a finite amount of willpower that becomes depleted” as we use it. The good thing, as he points out, is that willpower is like a muscle in that it responds to strengthening exercises.

The biggest downfall of depleted willpower is that we feel other emotions more strongly. As a result, this leads to a one-two punch wherein: “Your willpower is diminished, and your cravings feel stronger than ever.” In other words, the willpower we use to resist one temptation comes from the same resource pool as the self-control exercised resisting another. This helps explain why diets are hard to stick to as well as why addictions can be so gripping.

What to do? Baumeister suggests focusing on one task or self-improvement goal at a time. Trying to attain several objectives at once leaves you with less energy because you use “the same stock of willpower for all manner of tasks.” Seems simple enough.

Another suggestion in the book mentioned research that showed changing one habitual behavior – such as using your left hand instead of your right or focusing on sitting up straight instead of slouching – will increase your willpower over time. The good news is that strengthening your willpower in one area leads to benefits in others. However, in order for a true increase in willpower to occur it requires more than a few simple exercises.

Reducing stress is a simple way to keep from depleting willpower. Research showed that during exams, college students’ self-control wanes in almost every area, including diet, personal hygiene and behavior. In addition, temptations they successfully resisted earlier in the semester such as smoking, drinking or staying up late, became much harder to withstand.

Ideally, Baumeister suggests that we can conserve willpower so that it’s available when needed to make a final push. It’s almost to say that willpower is the gas in the tank of success. This makes sense as there’s plenty of research out there that suggests glucose levels  directly impact willpower. In fact, a single act of self-control causes glucose to drop below optimal levels. In turn, the low levels of glucose impair subsequent attempts at self-control.

One last suggestion is something very simple, get plenty of rest. Resting reduces your body’s glucose requirements and improves its ability to use glucose in the bloodstream. Enough rest not only increases glucose levels but wards off mental fatigue which leads to overall poor functioning. While sleep requirements vary slightly for each of us, most healthy adults need between seven and a half to nine hours of sleep per night.

Further reading: