Eating to fuel your body is one thing, but your brain also needs additional nutritional support to truly achieve peak performance. Use these foods that increase serotonin and dopamine, and mindful eating practices to make sure you’ve got all your bases covered.
Your nutritionst, Matt Lovell, is a nutritional therapist with a special interest in elite sports performance. He is also a Kinetica Sports brand ambassador.
Whether you’re looking for an advantage in the boardroom, on the sports pitch or before your workout, it’s important to give your brain and body the nutrients they need for success.
Eating your brain stronger means you’ll be able to make faster decisions under pressure, you’ll have a better memory and laser- like focus for your exercise goals.
However, to achieve this you need to learn to manipulate your neurotransmitter production.
Which are the most important neurotransmitters?
There are a few neurotransmitters in the brain.
These are the brain chemicals that communicate information throughout your brain and body using selected amino acids.
Neurotransmitters are effectively brain hormones which govern the way you think and behave, so learning how to eat right to improve your cognitive processes will have a snowball effect on your exercise performance.
The four we’ll be focusing on are acetylcholine, GABA, serotonin and dopamine. Here’s how to eat and supplement for success.
Foods that increase serotonin and dopamine
What it does: this gives you your motivation to exercise, the get-up-and-go and the feelings of reward.
When you use it most: when thinking about starting exercise.
Best time to supplement: in the hours before a board meeting or workout.
Ingredients your body uses to make it: tyrosine, muira puama and Acetyl L-Carnitine (ALCAR).
Foods that increase your dopamine
- cottage cheese
- wheat- germ
- sesame seeds
Wheat-germ sandwich with chicken breasts, beetroot, cottage cheese and a sprinkle of sesame seeds.
What it does: your happiness neurotransmitter, this regulates your feelings of wellbeing, cravings, sleep and emotions.
When you use it most: during your downtime, long after your sweat has been showered off.
Best time to supplement: the hours after a board meeting or after a workout
Ingredients your body uses to make it: 5-Hydroxytryptophan.
Foods that increase your serotonin
- brown rice
- oily fish
- pumpkin seeds
- honeydew melon
Granola bar with a fruit salad made of banana, honeydew melons and mango, sprinkled with pumpkin and flaxseeds.
Foods that increase acetylcholine and GABA
What it does: you need this to switch on your nervous system, memory and muscles.
When you use it most: the hours before your workouts.
Best time to supplement: the hours before a board meeting or workout.
Ingredients your body uses to make it: dimethylethanolamine (DMAE), lecithin, alpha-GPC, phosphatidylserine.
Foods that increase your acetylcholine
- brussels sprouts
- collard greens
Salmon steak (400g) covered with a shrimp sauce, 1 cup broccoli, 1 cup cauliflower.
Gaba (gamma-aminobutyric acid)
What it does: this helps with motor control functions, like catching a ball, and then goes on to relax you after exercise so you recover faster.
When you use it most: after your workout when you’re recovering.
Best time to supplement: the hours after a board meeting or after a workout.
Ingredients your body uses to make it: valarian.
Foods that increase your GABA
- miso soup
- citrus fruits
Blend up the following ingredients: 1⁄2 cup yogurt, 1 cup berries, 1 pear, 2 egg whites, 2 tbsp chia seeds.
Mix your own neurotransmitter boosting pre-workout
If you want to mix a pre-exercise pick-me-up, or you need to be in a peak mental state, then the following ingredients will put you in peak physical and mental condition. Take it 20-30 minutes before the big event.
- Acetyl L-carnitine (ALCAR): 3-5g
- L-tyrosine: 5-10g
- DMAE powder: 500-1,000mg
- Creatine: 3-5g
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