The Nutrition-Cognition Connection: Nootropics for Achieving Higher Brain Functions
Introduction

Entrepreneurs, CEOs, executives, intellectuals, and professionals are high-performance people required to be on top of their game around the clock. They need to maintain focus, remember details with clarity, and pool information to make important business decisions quickly, while also maintaining a steady focus and productivity day after day.

High-performing individuals are expected to have a consistently high level of mental clarity, flexibility, and energy. They cannot afford to let distraction, fatigue, or social anxiety get in their way [1]. As leaders and influencers, they are responsible for being more on top of their game than any other member of the team.

Does this resonate with you?

If this sounds like you, you are likely fully aware that this is a lot to ask of any individual.

The good news is, high-performing people like yourself do not need to leave it up to chance. There are research-backed actions you can take to support your mind and body in being a tip-top leader of your organization.

What You Need to Know: The Nutrition – Cognition Connection

Psychologists and health scientists know of several factors that impact your mental efficiency, clarity, sharpness, and flexibility. Some of these include:

  1. Sleep [2]
  2. Mental plasticity [3]
  3. Physical activity [4]
  4. Hormonal changes [5]
  5. Environment [6]
  6. Mental, emotional, and psychological problems [7]
  7. Dehydration [8]
  8. Diet and nutrition [9][10][11][12]

We will go into detail about each of these factors in another article, but we want to take the time to expand on number eight, diet and nutrition because it is a field with a mix of established and burgeoning research on how we can modify what we consume to see improvements in our cognitive performance.

The Basics: Macro and Micronutrients

The building blocks of nutrition are macronutrients and micronutrients – both terms you have d. Macronutrients are all of those components that we need in larger quantities, and that can be broken down into energy. There are three macronutrients: fat, carbohydrates and protein. The proper balance of fat, carbohydrates, and protein can impact our weight, our body distribution, and yes, our mental clarity [9].

In the most basic sense, if we aren’t getting enough energy from macronutrients, we will essentially feel sleepy and have a harder time making decisions. This is bad news for people in high-performing positions that need to be alert to think strategically and quickly throughout the day.

It is important to know that different dietary approaches will argue for different macronutrient distributions to favour mental sharpness [which we won’t go into detail about here], but there is no magic bullet.

Micronutrients are elements needed in much smaller quantities and include vitamins and minerals. Vitamins and minerals have hundreds of thousands of important biochemical roles in the body, including communication between cells, growth, metabolism, bodily fluid balance, fighting off illness, and countless others. When we have a vitamin or mineral deficiency, some of the most common symptoms are difficulty concentrating, lack of attention, or memory loss [13].

Key Takeaway: To achieve optimum mental power, high-performing individuals need to ensure they are consuming a balanced diet and meeting their nutritional needs.

The Cutting Edge for the Extra Boost: Nootropics

Having balanced nutrition is important, but if you are searching for a way to go above and beyond the basics in terms of mental performance, budding research is showing that there is more you can do.  Basic macronutrient and micronutrient balance do not necessarily help us reach our full cognitive potential.

That is where nootropics come in. Nootropics are cognitive enhancers, sometimes called “smart drugs,” that can help you boost your creativity, memory, decision-making, information processing, knowledge application, and other higher-level brain functions [14].

While some nootropics are developed as a therapy for specific brain conditions, there are hundreds of naturally-derived nootropics that can benefit healthy people who feel a need to fulfil higher-than-normal demand for high cognitive performance [15][16][17].

Some natural nootropics include Ashwagandha, L-Theanine, Bacopa Monnieri, L-Tyrosine, and Theacrine, among others. Without a doubt, some benefits cannot be achieved with micronutrient and macronutrient balance alone.

Just like the well-kept secret of some of the most successful entrepreneurs: achievement is revealed not in big strides or extreme measures, but rather in tiny gains [18]. If you focus on getting 1% better every day, the math shows that you will be 38 times better a year from now. If you allow poor nutrition, sleepiness, or distraction let you get 1% worse a day, you’ll hit rock bottom by the end of the year.

Key Takeaway: Good nutrition is not enough to unlock higher cognitive functions. Nootropics could be among the tiny gains you can commit to in order to help your brain reach its full potential.

Conclusion

There is a reason why entrepreneurs, CEOs, business leaders, and intellectuals are set apart from the rest in terms of what they expect themselves to achieve, and what the world expects them to achieve. You, as a high-performance person, have more drive, more energy, and make quicker more strategic decisions than the average Joe. The pressure to successfully and consistently make competent and conscious decisions is surpasses that of most, if not all, other members of the team.

Those expectations can make you feel like you cannot let your brain have a bad day. While big lifestyle elements like exercise, environment, and diet are all important bases for cognitive health, the basics aren’t enough for most high performers. Nootropics – plant-derived elements that boost cognitive performance, can help your brain put in that daily extra 1% you need to succeed as a leader.

References

You can find external sources referenced in the article below:

[1] Misner, Ivan. “The Danger of Continuous Partial Attention.” Entrepreneur, 26 Nov. 2014, entrepreneur.com/article/240254.

[2] Terman, Lewis M., and Adeline Hocking. “The Sleep of School Children, Its Distribution According to Age, and Its Relation to Physical and Mental Efficiency.” Journal of Educational Psychology, vol. 4, no. 4, 1913, pp. 199–208., doi:10.1037/h0072166.

[3] Slagter, Heleen A., et al. “Mental Training as a Tool in the Neuroscientific Study of Brain and Cognitive Plasticity.” Frontiers in Human Neuroscience, vol. 5, 2011, doi:10.3389/fnhum.2011.00017.

[4] Paluska, Scott A., and Thomas L. Schwenk. “Physical Activity and Mental Health.” Sports Medicine, vol. 29, no. 3, 2000, pp. 167–180., doi:10.2165/00007256-200029030-00003.

[5] Yeap, Bu B. “Hormonal Changes and Their Impact on Cognition and Mental Health of Ageing Men.” Maturitas, vol. 79, no. 2, 2014, pp. 227–235., doi:10.1016/j.maturitas.2014.05.015.

[6] Stansfeld, Stephen, and Bridget Candy. “Psychosocial Work Environment and Mental Health—a Meta-Analytic Review.” Scandinavian Journal of Work, Environment & Health, vol. 32, no. 6, 2006, pp. 443–462., doi:10.5271/sjweh.1050.

[7] Gross, James, and Muñoz, Ricardo. “Emotion Regulation and Mental Health”. Clinical Psychology: Science and Practie, vol. 2, issue 2. 1995, doi: 10.1111/j.1468-2850.1995.tb00036.x

[8] Grandjean, Ann C., and Nicole R. Grandjean. “Dehydration and Cognitive Performance.” Journal of the American College of Nutrition, vol. 26, no. sup5, 2007, doi:10.1080/07315724.2007.10719657.

[9] Rogers, Peter J., and Helen M. Lloyd. “Nutrition and Mental Performance.” Proceedings of the Nutrition Society, vol. 53, no. 02, 1994, pp. 443–456., doi:10.1079/pns19940049.

[10] Lieberman, Harris R. “Nutrition, Brain Function and Cognitive Performance☆.” Appetite, vol. 40, no. 3, 2003, pp. 245–254., doi:10.1016/s0195-6663(03)00010-2.

[11] Ross, A.p., et al. “A High Fructose Diet Impairs Spatial Memory in Male Rats.” Neurobiology of Learning and Memory, vol. 92, no. 3, 2009, pp. 410–416., doi:10.1016/j.nlm.2009.05.007.

[12] Li, Wang, et al. “Memory and Learning Behavior in Mice Is Temporally Associated with Diet-Induced Alterations in Gut Bacteria.” Physiology & Behavior, vol. 96, no. 4-5, 2009, pp. 557–567., doi:10.1016/j.physbeh.2008.12.004.

[13] Vazir, Shahnaz, et al. “Effect of Micronutrient Supplement on Health and Nutritional Status of Schoolchildren: Mental Function.” Nutrition, vol. 22, no. 1, 2006, doi:10.1016/j.nut.2004.07.021.

[14] Froestl, Wolfgang, et al. “Cognitive Enhancers (Nootropics). Part 1: Drugs Interacting with Receptors.” Journal of Alzheimer’s Disease, vol. 32, no. 4, 2012, pp. 793–887., doi:10.3233/jad-2012-121186.

[15] Hanumanthachar, Joshi, et al. “Evaluation of Nootropic Effect of Argyreia Speciosa in Mice.” Journal Of Health Science, vol. 53, no. 4, 2007, pp. 382–388., doi:10.1248/jhs.53.382.

[16] Giurgea, Corneliu E. “The Nootropic Concept and Its Prospective Implications.” Drug Development Research, vol. 2, no. 5, 1982, pp. 441–446., doi:10.1002/ddr.430020505.

[17] Colucci, L, et al. “Effectiveness of Nootropic Drugs with Cholinergic Activity in Treatment of Cognitive Deficit: a Review.” Journal of Experimental Pharmacology, 2012, p. 163., doi:10.2147/jep.s35326.

[18] DeSchutter, Julian. “The Power of Tiny Gains.” DAMN EARLY DAYS, DAMN EARLY DAYS, 10 Oct. 2017, www.damnearlydays.com/daily-dose/the-power-of-tiny-gains.