11

votes

Optimizing Mental Performance

Answered on August 19, 2014
Created January 08, 2012 at 2:50 PM

My Paleo diet has certainly made me leaner, happier, healthier, and many other things, but I sometimes struggle when I have to do intensive, challenging, creative work. I used to fuel these moments with burger king, coffee, candy bars, and cigarettes. I still (ab)use coffee, and I occasionally dose myself with some (lots of) cheap sugar for a very predictable boost, but it inevitably ends badly. I'm needing the mental energy now, but started a Whole 30 with the new year, so I won't be hitting the vending machine any time soon.

Has anyone played around with this? What, on the food side, makes you most productive at work, art, writing, or any other intellectually challenging things you do?

77877f762c40637911396daa19b53094

(78467)

on January 09, 2012
at 07:36 PM

Both. Mental clarity goes way up with fasting. I've done IF using fast five and done week long fasting.

Ca2c940a1947e6200883908592956680

(8574)

on January 09, 2012
at 01:33 PM

Really? Never heard this before. Is this a product of IF or do you mean actually during a fast?

Dfada6fe4982ab3b7557172f20632da8

(5332)

on January 09, 2012
at 11:30 AM

Weirdly? We may not have evolved eating a lot of butter, but most of us didn't actually process coconuts every day either.

96440612cf0fcf366bf5ad8f776fca84

(19413)

on January 09, 2012
at 10:50 AM

Yeah, I thought the same thing, but then I tried it, and it works nicely. If you don't want the oil slick at the top, start with coconut oil at the bottom, stir in a teaspoon of cocoa powder really well, then pour the coffee on top. No more oil slick

3eca93d2e56dfcd768197dc5a50944f2

(11697)

on January 09, 2012
at 04:04 AM

Coconut oil is magical for mental health.

Medium avatar

(4878)

on January 09, 2012
at 01:44 AM

Been smoking much? It is spelled cannabis and obviously isn't helping your mental performance. LOL.

4de8f1be3ed89b2b0de3463349fb1737

(964)

on January 09, 2012
at 12:40 AM

I've never tried kefir. Gonna guess no one's making it done here in the middle-of-nowhere, but I'll ask around!

4de8f1be3ed89b2b0de3463349fb1737

(964)

on January 09, 2012
at 12:38 AM

I'll take everything but the metal :) Coconut oil in coffee? I've done milk but not oil. Sounds slimy!

1d0497f8781845ab371b479455bfee8e

(11157)

on January 08, 2012
at 05:32 PM

I'm much more productive when I can tune everything out and crank up some metal.

4de8f1be3ed89b2b0de3463349fb1737

(964)

on January 08, 2012
at 03:42 PM

Great answers, all, will chase this dark chocolate square with a little fish oil, and throw a roast in my crock pot for later ;)

B0fe7b5a9a197cd293978150cbd9055f

(8938)

on January 08, 2012
at 03:10 PM

Thanks for the question, Molly, I have exams soon :) Will try ghee already, see what it does.

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11 Answers

4
96440612cf0fcf366bf5ad8f776fca84

(19413)

on January 08, 2012
at 03:04 PM

Try a tiny bit of 85%, or better yet 90% dark chocolate. You could also try some butter, or ghee, apparently eating butter works to sharpen our minds. Weirdly worked better than coconut oil.

DMAE works nicely for me, but over all, never found anything that works better a coffee with coconut oil, and putting on noise canceling headphones with some Metal to drown out the noise of my cow-orkers. :)

4de8f1be3ed89b2b0de3463349fb1737

(964)

on January 09, 2012
at 12:38 AM

I'll take everything but the metal :) Coconut oil in coffee? I've done milk but not oil. Sounds slimy!

96440612cf0fcf366bf5ad8f776fca84

(19413)

on January 09, 2012
at 10:50 AM

Yeah, I thought the same thing, but then I tried it, and it works nicely. If you don't want the oil slick at the top, start with coconut oil at the bottom, stir in a teaspoon of cocoa powder really well, then pour the coffee on top. No more oil slick

Dfada6fe4982ab3b7557172f20632da8

(5332)

on January 09, 2012
at 11:30 AM

Weirdly? We may not have evolved eating a lot of butter, but most of us didn't actually process coconuts every day either.

1d0497f8781845ab371b479455bfee8e

(11157)

on January 08, 2012
at 05:32 PM

I'm much more productive when I can tune everything out and crank up some metal.

2
Bbaeb252415d6123214e1b98c17117ac

(414)

on January 09, 2012
at 11:27 AM

I don't have any food answers, but I'll add meditation, at least 10 minutes in the morning, and physical exercise. Both have been shown as having positive results on brain activity.

Meditation:

Psychological Functioning in a Sample of Long-Term Practitioners of Mindfulness Meditation https://webspace.utexas.edu/neffk/pubs/baermeditators.pdf

The Effects of Mindfulness Meditation on Cognitive Processes and Affect in Patients With Past Depression http://www.openground.com.au/archive/Effects_of_Mindfulness.pdf

Loving-Kindness Meditation Increases Social Connectedness https://www.stanford.edu/dept/psychology/cgi-bin/drupalm/system/files/LKM+Article.pdf

Mindfulness meditation training changes brain structure in 8 weeks http://esciencenews.com/articles/2011/01/21/mindfulness.meditation.training.changes.brain.structure.8.weeks

Short-term meditation training improves attention and self-regulation http://ppesports.com/uploads/MBM_Short-Term_Impact_on_Performance.pdf

Exercise:

How Exercise Can Strengthen the Brain http://well.blogs.nytimes.com/2011/09/28/how-exercise-can-strengthen-the-brain/

Forced Exercise's Effects on the Brain http://well.blogs.nytimes.com/2011/10/12/what-parkinsons-teaches-us-about-the-brain/?src=me&ref=general

Finally, as mentioned, calorie restriction and intermittent fasting

Calorie restriction and intermittent fasting can help regenerate brain matter http://www.dailygalaxy.com/my_weblog/2009/09/reboot-your-brain-science-says-its-possible-a-galaxy-classic.html

2
77877f762c40637911396daa19b53094

(78467)

on January 09, 2012
at 04:02 AM

Fasting. Plain and simple. Nothing better for mental alertness. Best thing about it? It's free.

2nd best. Cold water immersion or a cold shower.

Live them. Love them. They will make your brain sharper and help you live longer.

77877f762c40637911396daa19b53094

(78467)

on January 09, 2012
at 07:36 PM

Both. Mental clarity goes way up with fasting. I've done IF using fast five and done week long fasting.

Ca2c940a1947e6200883908592956680

(8574)

on January 09, 2012
at 01:33 PM

Really? Never heard this before. Is this a product of IF or do you mean actually during a fast?

2
6869a1f2294b3a717a53645589a91d18

(1689)

on January 09, 2012
at 03:10 AM

I've collected some studies on mental health here, http://flare8.net/health/doku.php/mental_function

2
Bdf98e5a57befa6f0877f978ba09871c

on January 08, 2012
at 03:36 PM

I'm going to try other things people mentioned, but I'd also like to add that full fat Greek yogurt has helped me a lot in grad school. Omega-3s also do wonderful things to my brain when I need to pump out work.

2
F02990386b12528111740ad6279ba29d

(1363)

on January 08, 2012
at 03:23 PM

A good nights rest and consistency in my diet seems to be the best for me. I'm not a coffee person though. After a solid crock pot meal I feel particularly energetic.

1
E5c7f14800c5992831f5c70fa746dc5c

(12857)

on January 09, 2012
at 01:15 PM

Sugar+coffee+b1

1
96bf58d8c6bd492dc5b8ae46203fe247

(37227)

on January 08, 2012
at 05:58 PM

If you know anyone who makes it, I definitely get more alert after drinking a little fresh water kefir. I think the probiotics wake up my gut because I get a little hungry a while later and I seem to be "fully operational" mentally.

As mentioned above, nothing helps if I'm sleep deprived. I enjoy coffee but the caffeine is more soothing than stimulating. It's the water kefir that says, "Wake up!"

As Caleb said, I also have full-fat yogurt and a little fruit for breakfast and that does very good things for my energy level as well.

Oh, one more thing. Getting outside for a short while when the sun first comes up also helps me become fully alert.

4de8f1be3ed89b2b0de3463349fb1737

(964)

on January 09, 2012
at 12:40 AM

I've never tried kefir. Gonna guess no one's making it done here in the middle-of-nowhere, but I'll ask around!

0
Bfddc0ab925c8ea0e0c2e87198514907

on January 09, 2012
at 01:25 PM

You need a wide range of vitamins (B,C,D,E), EFAs (oily fish is known to be very good for the brain) and good sugars; i.e. ones that come bundled up with vitamins and minerals (fruit, potatoes).

0
Ada7566560b407664313a451adefa377

(206)

on January 08, 2012
at 11:51 PM

A little bit of canibus, dark chocolate, green tea, and blueberries.

Medium avatar

(4878)

on January 09, 2012
at 01:44 AM

Been smoking much? It is spelled cannabis and obviously isn't helping your mental performance. LOL.

0
7f7069fc4d8d2456cec509d0f9e9bb34

(865)

on January 08, 2012
at 05:44 PM

I sometimes stack green tea, ginko, and Arginine when I need to get stuff done. It gives me enough energy and clarity. I find it much harder to OD on green tea than coffee in the afternoon.

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