Nutrition for unique insights, flowing creativity, lasting motivation and enhanced brain productivity.
Imagine what it’d be like to feed your brain’s full potential.
This morning I went out for my regular sunrise walk on the beach in Playa Del Carmen where I’m currently embracing nomadic lifestyle as an online nutrition coach.
Before my walk I decided to take the garbage out. I also had my phone and my headphones in my hands — multitasking all the way and every day! In the lift I dropped it all! I stepped on my headphones, and thought to myself, “What a wonderful morning already! And I still haven’t figured out my presentation flow for Nutrition for Productivity workshop I’m doing later today!”
I usually listen to podcasts on my morning walks (or any walks really). And that morning I couldn’t — the garbage accident. I b*tched about it for a while in my head and then I embraced it — I looked around and started paying attention to the beautiful sunrise unfolding in front of me. I didn’t listen to anything, I wasn’t scrolling through anything, I just walked, allowing my brain to stay empty.
Any neuroscientist would tell you, that figuring out a complex problem, that requires a unique creative solution, requires giving the brain an incubation period, while not working actively on the problem and on anything else mentally-demanding. You see, I knew that, but it always feels so inefficient, such a “waste” of time, that I barely ever use it!
By the end of the walk I had the whole workshop structure and flow, point-by-point, put together and ready to go. I jotted it all down in my note app, I finished the presentation at home in the next 30 minutes, and delivered one of my best workshops so far! I was proud of it! And participants paid me (even though the workshop was free) — they felt like they got too much value to give nothing in return.
Productivity. That’s why you are here, right?
Productivity isn’t about making ourselves to sit in front of the computer for more hours, grinding through the projects, one slide, one email, one sentence at a time.
Productivity isn’t about ticking off things from our to-do lists — if it was we’d all be successful business owners and professionals with outstanding careers.
Productivity isn’t about punching in more hours, pulling all-nighters, overcaffeinated and underslept.
Productivity is about delivering exceptional work that matters. Productivity is about changing lives, changing the world.
Productivity is about delivering exceptional work that matters. Productivity is about changing lives, changing the world.
And this kind of work we can only hope to deliver, when we build the foundation of physical and mental health, providing the building blocks of excellent performance through nutrition.
Hardware is primary! No app runs well on an outdated, poorly-maintained computer!
Brief history of evolution of human brain and productivity 101.
We started as monkeys. Then, we started eating better, some combination of migration, better tools and fire/cooking to unlock nutrients available in foods around us. Our hungry brain, that consumes a quarter of our nutrition, grew larger. Then, we built this mind-blowing civilization, that we are all enjoying. Now, I’m typing out this blog in the hope to spark your own brain micro-evolution to get you to the next level of results and productivity.
The end. (Or maybe just the beginning…)
Brain is the hungriest, the most sensitive to nutrition organ in our body. It means, that when our nutrition is “stupid” — our brain capacity to do its best work suffers first. No creative insights, outstanding memory to impress, no unique insights that make people call you a genius, no breakthrough ideas and off-the-chart creativity for you. Sorry! You didn’t eat for it!
The science of nutrition for a well-functioning productive brain is out there — it’s just not evenly distributed. Even I as a nutritionist had to gather it piece by piece, over many years, from multiple sources to put it all into a system that works and delivers results consistently.
Here’s what I learned and successfully put into practice in my life and with my go-getters clients, who want more from this life.
NUTRITION FOR PRODUCTIVE BRAIN
Focused attention, fast processing speed, great memory and ability to learn, more unique insights and AHA moments of connecting the dots due to flowing creativity.
Even 2% dehydration will contribute to: poor focus and concentration, poor memory, slower processing speed and harder time learning and understanding new concepts, irritability (especially when things get hard), and headaches, that also might be quite annoying when you are trying to get the job done well.
SECRET SAUCE: Water is not enough! Hydration isn’t just about liquids consumed (and no alcohol in your blood that causes dehydration) — it’s also about a beautiful dance of 2 electrolytes, sodium and potassium, that allow the water with all the chemical substances to freely flow in your blood and in your cells, allowing the perfect condition for nerve cells’ communication. Dehydrated brain is a “stupid” and slow brain! (Also probably cranky and b*tchy)
Sodium, salt. Most people get enough in their diet, although all the talk about the “goodness” of a low-salt diet made some people hyper-aware and possibly salt deficient. Get at least 5g or 1 teaspoon of salt every day. If you are an athlete, you sweat a lot (sauna, heat, working out, hot climate), you eat mostly whole foods — you most probably need more. (Especially if you feel like you are about to faint every time you get up, or it feels like your blood sugar is low even though you eat a balanced diet.)
Potassium. Most people don’t get enough. 4–5g or 4000–5000mg is a great amount to shoot for. Where do I get it from? Definitely not from supplements, due to the effects on heart rate and blood pressure (can be deadly). I get that amount eating 2 pounds or 1 kg of fresh fruit, cooked veggies, a cup of beans or one sweet potato, 500 ml of yogurt/kefir. Foods, that are especially great for potassium: palm hearts, bananas, avocados, portobello and button mushrooms, potatoes, spinach, beans, some animal foods like salmon and chicken livers. Main sources — lots of fresh fruit and veggies.
If you feel puffy and hold more water — not enough potassium might be the reason.
FUEL THAT LASTS
Brain isn’t just thirsty, it’s also very hungry, especially for blood glucose. Scientists say, we need to EAT at least 130g of carbs just to satisfy the brain’s needs for blood glucose. 1 banana is about 27g, a cup of cooked oats is about the same, 1 medium sweet potato is about 20g.
SECRET SAUCE: Eating “fast” carbs from sugars in energy drinks, coffee and tea drinks, juices, all kinds of snacks, added sugars in “healthy” items like yogurts or protein shakes, bread and pastries — eating carbs that are extracted, highly-refined (think white powder) and isolated from whole foods, isolated from lots of fiber and water, other nutrients, this eating pattern creates a roller-coaster of energy, a roller-coaster of mood and productivity. You are on and off all the time. High and low. Rise and crush.
Eat “slow” carbohydrates at each meal, more of them in the most active parts of your day. Slow carbs are carbs with lots of fiber, a part of whole foods. These carb sources release their energy in a balanced, in a slow way, helping our brain to have a consistent energy supply, that translates into balanced, calm productivity throughout your days, helping you consistently deliver phenomenal work!
What? You thought your brain doesn’t care about protein? Just the sugar? Protein is for muscles?
The brain is hungry for all kinds of macro and micro nutrients! Just like your muscles — it takes a whole orchestra of chemical compounds to make it perform like an elite athlete!
For one, dopamine, the molecule of more, the molecule of drive, the molecule, that makes us want to go after things, especially things that require effort — we need tyrosine, an amino acid, a building block of many proteins to make it! The more we eat — the more chances we have to make lots of dopamine, lots of motivation, lots of drive to get after it and get things done! Especially when things get hard!
Where can we eat more tyrosine?
SECRET SAUCE: Beef, lean pork, fish, chicken breast, tofu are especially rich sources. Eat some (4–6 oz or 120–180g) at each meal! Build that brain muscle and get the job done!
Protein is needed to make many other neurotransmitters that send messages throughout the brain (like dopamine), and other chemicals that make the brain work optimally. Animal protein is best because of a complete more-dense profile more compatible with human biology. Basically, it’s more effective. (Plant-based people, please, don’t get emotional, science isn’t about beliefs or ethics, it’s about facts).
“The human brain is nearly 60 percent fat. We’ve learned in recent years that fatty acids are among the most crucial molecules that determine your brain’s integrity and ability to perform. Essential fatty acids (EFAs) are required for maintenance of optimal health but they can not synthesized by the body and must be obtained from dietary sources. Clinical observation studies has related imbalance dietary intake of fatty acids to impaired brain performance and diseases.” ~ PubMed, “Essential fatty acids and human brain”
The brain is a fat-ass and for a good reason! All the electrical activity requires good insulation!
Not all the fats will do, of course, not all the fats are equally important and essential. There are some fats like DHA (from omega-3s family), that make up 90% of omega-3s in the brain and 25% of total brain fat, these seems to be crucial for a well-developed optimally functional brain. (They are in fatty fish mostly — that’s why all the fish oil supplements.) There are other omega-3s and omega-6s, that our brain and all cells in our body need to communicate between each other, to send electrical and chemical signals, that are absolutely essential for our learning and memory and well, the work you deliver or not!
SECRET SAUCE: Eat your fatty fish as often as possible, not just salmon — herring, mackerel, sardines, eat your shellfish, oysters and mussels. Make your brain electric and speedy — increase the speed of your connection!
And don’t forget to eat things like flax, walnuts, other nuts and seeds, avocados and olives for other good-for-the-brain-and-body fats, and all the other nutrients!
My personal routine: fatty fish as a main course a couple of times per week, 10–12 ounces or 300–400g. A can of sardines almost every day. Mussels once a week, 300–400g. A handful of walnuts (best plant omega-3s/6s ratio), and couple of handfuls of other nuts and seeds.
There’s this other nutrient, that we realized not so long ago is essential for human brain health and performance. You can eat a lot of it in eggs (yolks) and liver, also when you eat lots of beans, peanuts, whole grains, you get a good amount.
What does this superhero do?
It helps us to get into focused-attention state to learn better, memorize things, AND it helps to get better REM sleep — sleep state for creativity and mental health.
SECRET SAUCE: Eat a couple of eggs every day or some liver (2–3oz, 80g) and add plant sources like beans, grains, nuts on top to maximize your creative choline.
Now, with this knowledge applied to your plate consistently, and with the addition of lots of berries, fruit and vegetables, exclusion of added sugars, processed foods, alcohol and fried foods — now, you have a foundation for your own brain evolution, that will take your work to the next level, and will take your life to the uncharted territory of exciting opportunities and limitless achievements!
These are, of course, not the only things that matter — sleep hygiene, light environment, stress management, the flow of work and breaks, movement and physical fitness, breathing — there are many more tools that can be used to amplify our brain’s capacity to deliver outstanding work, but it’ll flow a whole lot easier, when our nutrition is on point and our brain has all the building blocks to do its best, delivered optimally and consistently.
Deliver the work that matters. Deliver the work that changes lives.