Do you feel moody a lot? Do you lack concentration and focus? Do you feel mentally tired and fatigued? Well you might not be fuelling one of the most important organs in the body, the brain. You need to ask yourself does your diet adequately fuel your brain? If you're not, you could be struggling with the above.
Your brain is a wonderful and powerful organ, it constantly controls all of your bodies conscience (you think it responds) and unconscious (no need to think, it does it automatically) tasks. Every time you breath, blink, heart beat, digest, secrete hormones, think, problem solve, control your temperature, talk, move... you get the idea, your brain controls that. To communicate and control all aspects of your body your brain has around 100 billion neurons in the average human brain. To put that into context here's that number again... 100000000000 neurons...
'Do you lack concentration and focus?'
You don't need me to point this out, but you need to fuel this fascinating organ to get the most out of it and keep it working effectively and efficiently. The brain uses 20% of the energy needed in the human body. A fifth of energy and nutrient required, is solely for your brain. Now importantly your brain has a very specific and particular fuel source it requires to operate and work... glucose. Where do we get glucose from you ask? Carbohydrates.
Now carbohydrates are a nutrient that are completely misunderstood and have a 'bad' reputation in some circles. Many trainers (rubbish ones if you ask me) hugely restrict or eliminate carbohydrates from clients diets which is actually counterproductive as they are your muscles and body's main and primary source of energy, but for your brain its the only source of energy. Now your body (everything but your brain) when low on carbohydrates, will convert fat to help fuel and in certain low calorie/energy situations protein to keep you going. But unfortunately your brain will not. It needs glucose.
Usually when you ask people what carbohydrates are you get answers such as bread, pasta, potatoes, rice … and brilliant they are right, but these are one type of carbohydrate, namely starches. Now low GI starch (Glycaemic Index- Slow releasing sugar) carbohydrates are brilliant for sustaining energy levels and feeding a steady source of glucose to your brain and body. But remember carbohydrates also come in the form of fruit and vegetables. Now guidelines suggest depending on activity levels, 50% of your diet should be made up from carbohydrates. Now most adults (depending on their weight, activity levels and gender) usually require 200 to 250g of carbohydrates per day. The easiest way to break that number down is 50% starch and 50% fruit and vegetables spread throughout the day. But remember everybody is different so find a good personal trainer to help you work out your nutrient intake and make it specific to you! Get in touch with the Witness The Fitness Training Studios, if you need help with this.
The Back Up Plan
What happens if I don't get enough carbohydrates in my diet or I go a long time without eating, will my brain suffer? Well your body if you don't know it by now is amazing and generally has some back up plans and in the this case, that is the liver. The liver can store around 100g of glucose, and is generally holding onto this when your overall sugar levels drop and the brain might need a pick me up. For example you've gone a long time without eating and your blood sugar levels are dropping as my body uses the energy. Now they brain senses these drops and instructs the liver to start to release some of its stored glycogen (stored glucose) into the blood stream to help keep the body going a little longer until the next time you eat.
'your body if you don't know it by now is amazing'
Generally if you're getting around the average amount of carbohydrate in your diet, you're going to fuelling brain well and helping your concentration and focus throughout the day, that only leaves one little thing left to give your brain the best foundation to do its job well... hydration.
So you've been out at the weekend, you had to many sherbets and alcoholic beverages and as we know alcohol along with destroying the vitamins in your body is also a diuretic which means it dehydrates you and strips water from the body, large amounts of caffeine from tea and coffee can also do the same and how does your head feel? Ive got a headache, I slept terribly and can't focus on anything, even simple tasks... ergh just leave me alone, I need to rest. Sound familiar?
Interestingly dehydration has strong links and is a known factor in dementia and proper hydration can reduce the risk and symptoms. So remember your brain like your other organs in your body works brilliant when hydrated.
So stay hydrated, the advice of 2 litres of water per day is generally a good start, but remember that amount can go up and down depending on our activity levels. But as a generally rule we need 1.5 litres per day for daily bodily function such as breathing, digestion, sweat and other internal functions.
So the two keys of success of brain power is carbohydrates and hydration! Look to get a good varied amount of carbohydrates in your diet and stay hydrated.
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