• Daniel Bowman PhD

Your Amazing Brain.

Updated: Aug 10, 2018

This is the second of my weekly posts. Visit this blog to start your week right. Each Monday, I will provide you with either a vlog (video file) or a written post to elevate you to your highest level of performance. This post is about one of my favorite topics: Your amazing brain.

It only weighs 3 pounds but consumes 20% of your calories and blood flow with its 100,000 miles of blood vessels, which could wrap around the world four times! Your brain reinvents itself every day and every hour (as cells and connections in it change based on what you are learning) and is not like anyone else's. It determines how you feel and how you perform, but how much time do you intentionally devote to taking care of your brain and making it more powerful and healthy?

I've spent my entire career studying the brain and helping others improve the way their brains function. Due to advances in computer imaging, our knowledge of your brain is doubling every two years. We now know what activities and foods kill and grow neurons (brain cells). For example, exercise, sleep, and social activity grow neurons, while stress, sugar and alcohol kill neurons.

Your brain is part of your body, so everything that is good for your body is good for your brain. Healthy blood flow is essential for the brain, and anything that is good for your heart is particularly good for your brain. For example, fish oil thins blood and improves both heart and brain functioning. It's widely regarded as the most important supplement for brain health. But do you know research suggests fish oil is likely to be more effective when consumed at least twice a week it in its natural, unprocessed state, such as in salmon or sardines?

While all experts agree that weekly consumption of fresh cold water fish, such as salmon, helps your brain and heart, some question whether fish oil supplements have value. I believe (unless your doctor says otherwise) that there is sufficient research to suggest you should take a fish oil supplement daily for brain health, even if you are eating cold water fish twice a week or more. But do you know which brands of fish oil to choose (brands vary in whether they have traces of mercury, DHA to EPA ratios, and purity)? How many milligrams of fish oil should you take? Is it safe for children? Are there equally healthy alternatives to fish oil (such as flax seed oil)? It's questions like these that I can and will answer for you as your coach. One brand I recommend is Carlson Labs, which can be found on Amazon.

There are a number of supplements and nutrients that improve brain functioning, but some supplements that many people recommend are unlikely to help you. For example, Ginkgo biloba, won't help your brain and memory unless you already have dementia or Alzheimer's, and even then, newer studies indicate Ginkgo biloba is of little help. I can help you get through the maze of research and myths about supplements and nutrition and teach you what you can do to really boost your brain.

Brain health is essential to athletic performance. Having worked with players from over 10 different major league baseball organizations, I learned that all these teams give their players fish oil, and all these teams have three other supplements that they use (a multivitamin, vitamin D, and a probiotic), but the teams vary across other nutritional decisions. I've also worked directly with the University of Alabama's lead sports nutritionist and know what supplements she gives their athletes, which include the supplements listed above. The overlap in the supplements of the many elite athletic programs I have worked with is where the truth is most likely to exist, and their overlap is also backed by research. These same supplements used by elite athletic programs also help executives perform better and they even help in weight loss because people tend to eat more sugary foods and more in general when they are not feeling their best. Take care of your amazing brain.