Our brains are the most nutrient- and energy-dependent, yet toxin- and stress-vulnerable organ we have. 60% of our brains are white matter, which acts as a subway connecting different regions of grey matter and carrying nerve impulses between neurons. White matter integrity is linked to faster neural conduction between brain regions and superior cognitive performance. Therefore, how entrepreneurs fuel, feed, support and rest their bodies plays a monumental role in brain function. Here are five ways entrepreneurs can improve their lifestyle to maximize their brain health.
Eat a Brain-Healthy Diet
We’ve all heard the phrase “you are what you eat.” This rings true for your brain, too. For optimum brain functioning and health, I recommend a diet low in carbohydrates and high in fats. On the ketogenic diet, or keto diet, you eat mostly healthy fats, consume high-quality protein in moderation, and restrict carbohydrates. The reduction in carb intake puts your body into a metabolic state called nutritional ketosis. During ketosis, your body no longer relies on glucose as a primary energy source. Instead, your liver converts fat into ketones–which are a great, slow-burning source of fuel for your brain. Ketones also increase the brain-derived neurotrophic factor (BDNF), which works to support your brain’s existing neurons while encouraging new neuron and synapse growth.
Sustain Your Brain with Supplements
For optimum levels of brain functioning, entrepreneurs should combine a keto diet with nutritional supplements. Not only will you provide your brain with long-lasting fuel, you’ll get ahead of the challenge of switching from burning glucose to burning fat for energy. To support your central nervous system and brain function, I recommend incorporating vitamins and supplements, such as:
Oligonol – a supplement derived from lychee fruit and helps with post-meal glucose stabilization to keep the body in ketosis. Oligonol also has proven effects on decreasing inflammation and oxidative stress, therefore avoiding damage to the brain (1).
Psychobiotics – a type of probiotic that specifically provides mental health benefits. While researchers are still working to identify more psychobiotics that could be used to modify gut bacteria and alleviate anxiety, depression, and more, two strains of probiotics have been proven to benefit mood: Lactobacillus helveticus and Bifidobacterium longum (2).
Fish oil and omega-3 fatty acids (DHA) – to help with cell membrane health and act as a neuroprotective agent.
Magnesium L-threonate–to enhance synaptic density and decreases brain aging by nine to 14 years (3).
Understand the Gut-to-Brain Axis
In a healthy digestive system, the cells that form the paper-thin lining of the small and large intestines are packed very closely together. In fact, they’re so close that only what should pass through—digested food and water—can enter the bloodstream. But the tight junctions of the gut lining can easily be disrupted and become too porous. Antibiotics, diets high in chemical-laden processed foods, sugar, alcohol, anti-inflammatory drugs such as aspirin and ibuprofen, food intolerances, and many other dietary factors can damage the gut lining and force it to become more permeable. These same factors also affect the balance of both the trillions of beneficial and harmful bacteria in the gut. When this balance is disturbed, harmful bacteria can get the upper hand and cause an increase in gut permeability.
The result is intestinal hyper-permeability, commonly referred to as “Leaky Gut Syndrome.” This condition allows toxins, bacteria, undigested food particles, and other undesirable gut contents to enter the bloodstream and circulate to the rest of the body, including your brain. Your gut not only affects your mental state in how you feel physically, but the reverse is also true: Your mental state affects your gut and gut health. This makes following a brain-healthy diet like the keto diet, and supplementing your diet with vitamins, all the more critical to your brain’s health.
Mens sana in corpore sano is a Latin phrase, usually translated as “a healthy mind in a healthy body.” The phrase is widely used in sporting and educational contexts to express the theory that physical exercise is an essential part of mental and psychological well-being. The same applies to entrepreneurs. Whether it’s sitting too much in an office all day or foregoing exercise for an after-hours meeting, many entrepreneurs aren’t physically active enough. This not only impacts your weight, but inactivity impacts your brain’s health, too. The antidote? Get moving!
Studies show that adults who spend at least 68 minutes a day doing moderate physical activity have better glucose metabolism, which signals a healthy brain. Those who exercise also have greater brain volume in the areas of reasoning and executive functioning (4). Even light aerobic exercise on an elliptical machine or stationary bike, or a 20 minute High-Intensity Interval Training (HIIT) workout positively impacts BDNF (5).
Get More Sleep
Let’s face it, most people aren’t getting enough rest–but entrepreneurs are notoriously guilty of skimping on sleep. It’s time to change that. Why? Good sleep enhances cognition, concentration, productivity, problem solving skills and memory. Sleep also helps the brain commit new information to memory through a process called memory consolidation. Sleep studies have shown that people who sleep after learning a task performed better on tests than those who didn’t sleep. Meanwhile, poor sleep has been shown to impair brain function. A study on medical interns revealed that interns on a work schedule that deprived them of a normal sleep routine made 36% more serious medical errors than interns on a schedule that allowed for more sleep.
To perform at the top of your game, find creative solutions to business problems, and stay ahead of your competition, you need to feed, exercise, and rest your body and brain properly. As an entrepreneur, you may thrive in a fast-paced lifestyle, but your brain needs a breather to function at its best. Using these tips will help to maximize your brain health–and subsequently fuel your passion and sustain your business ventures, too.
(3) Sun Q, Weinger JG, et al. Regulation of structural and functional synapse density by L-threonate through modulation of intraneuronal magnesium concentration. Neuropharmacology, 2016 Sep;108:426-39
(4) Dougherty RJ, Schultz SA, Kirby TK, et al. J Alzheimers Dis. 2017;58(4):1089-1097
(5) J Appl Physiol (1985). 2015 Dec 15;119(12):1363-73. doi: 10.1152/japplphysiol.00126.2015. Epub 2015 Oct 15.