When most people think about optimizing their physical performance, they mainly focus on how exercising and eating right will improve their physical bodies. While these are very important pieces to the puzzle, you can’t ignore the significant impact an optimized mind has on physical performance.
An Optimized Mind
Where does the human mind physically exist? Most people would choose the brain as their answer, and they’re not wrong. But the mind is not an isolated system. Certainly, we cannot think, rationalize, remember, learn and anticipate without the brain, yet our brains are dependent on our bodies as a whole. The brain needs oxygen from blood, nutrients from the digestive system and even adrenaline produced by the adrenal glands atop the kidneys. The mind, located in the brain, is intimately connected with the rest of the body.
A reverse relationship also exists. The performance of the body is also closely related to the mind. Of course, our bodies need our physical brain, but optimizing physical performance largely depends on your state of mind. If you’re depressed, anxious, distracted or stressed, you simply won’t perform as well as if you’re happy, focused and relaxed.
Here are some excellent ways of helping get both your mind and body into peak shape:
Physicians discovered long ago that aerobic exercise - physical activity that causes a rise in heart rate - is excellent for the cardiovascular system. We now know that aerobic exercise also helps the mind. A 2012 paper in the Journal of Neuroscience put it well: “Regular aerobic exercise has beneficial effects on the brain, including improving mood and cognitive function.”
An additional study offered further evidence that aerobic exercise benefits your brain on a biochemical level, and a healthy brain increases physical performance. Mood can also be elevated through exercise. For example. during one test, researchers decreased athletes' oxygen levels, which normally causes depression. However, the continuous cycling done by the athletes negated this depressive effect and kept them in a positive mood.
The bottom line is even if you already engage in other physical activity, like weight training, it’s important for optimizing physical performance that you also include aerobic exercises like running, swimming or rowing.
Most of us understand the basics of good nutrition by now:
• Limit sugar intake.
• Eat lean protein like baked or grilled chicken or fish rather than red meat. For the vegans and vegetarians, beans, tofu, and broccoli are sources of protein as well.
• Fresh fruit is good in moderation.
• Get plenty of vegetables, especially the leafy variety.
But just as important as what you put in your body is the amount you put it. Recent research has found that caloric restriction - in other words, eating less overall - offers quite a number of benefits. As a whole, “…intermittent energy restriction/fasting may optimize brain function and forestall metabolic and neurodegenerative diseases.”
Of course you need energy for physical performance, but skipping a meal or limiting your portions can help your body and mind. In fact, a comprehensive study demonstrated that caloric restriction enhanced brain plasticity and reduced the risk of developing Alzheimer’s disease in humans, while lowering anxiety in animals. Furthermore, the study also discussed that intermittent fasting, or eating every other day, appeared to have neuroprotective effects, while religious fasting “resulted in marked reductions in scores on tests of tension, anger, confusion and depression.”
While most people can tolerate caloric restriction and intermittent fasting without any ill health effects, you should always consult with your physician and follow their advice before beginning any such program.
Nootropics, sometimes known as “brain boosters” or smart drugs, are supplements that promote cognitive enhancement. While some, like caffeine and l-carnitine, also provide a physical energy boost, most nootropics offer physical benefits by putting you in a better state of mind. For example, l-theanine can help with relaxation without sedation. This would be ideal to de-stress before a sports game so that you can perform without anxiety.
Another example is a nootropic like alpha-GPC, which provides focus while also boosting energy. Physical performance is not always about raw power. You also need focus and skill to reach your optimal levels, and supplements like alpha-GPC can help.
Nootropic stacks are also an option. These are combinations of nootropics that are designed to enhance an effect or offer complementary benefits. An example would be combining a nootropic that enhances mood with another that promotes focus.
Many training and exercise experts such as famous trainer and author, Ben Greenfield, recommend nootropics for both better physical performance and enhanced body/mind balance. With a healthy diet that includes smart calorie restrictions, plenty of aerobic exercise and nootropic supplements, peak physical performance is within your grasp.