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Last Updated on April 19, 2021

10 Natural Brain Boosters to Enhance Memory, Energy, and Focus

10 Natural Brain Boosters to Enhance Memory, Energy, and Focus

We humans have been given these wonderful information processors—our brains. Unfortunately, there’s a lack of education around how best to maintain a healthy brain as we get older or when we want to boost our learning. Natural brain boosters can help us avoid cognitive decline and utilize our amazing brains in a way that enhances memory, energy, and focus.

Water and certain foods are great brain boosters, but dietary supplements can often help in this area. We will go over a few of them here.

Brain boosters are also often referred to as nootropics, or smart drugs. Certain nootropics I cover in the proceeding article have also been proposed to treat certain mental disorders and illnesses.

Here are 10 natural brain boosters recommended by science:

1. Water

You’ve probably heard that up to 60% of the total human adult body is water. However, you likely haven’t heard that the brain and heart are composed of 73% water, and the lungs sit at about 83% water[1]. If your brain is about 3/4 water, and you are dehydrated, do you think it will perform effectively?

Chances are that a dehydrated human is not reaching peak performance on the next physics or math exam, or anything for that matter!

While most recommendations focus on drinking 8 glasses of water a day, new studies have revealed that may not always be the best rule to follow. To know when you should be drinking water and how much, just listen to your body. Your brain and body have evolved sophisticated techniques to inform you when you need water.

When the brain detects a lack of water, it will send signals that tell you you’re thirsty[2]. Once you begin to feel that, start drinking water until you feel satiated. Your body knows how to care for its brain health, so trust it!

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2. Krill Oil / Fish Oils

I’ve specified krill oil here, however, you are welcome to take any form of high quality fish oil supplement as a brain booster, another example being Alaskan wild salmon oil. I would, of course, suggest consuming fish instead of supplementation. However, you can benefit from both.

Omega-3 fatty acids are polyunsaturated fats responsible for most of the brain and mental health benefits of fish oil.

Fish oil primarily contains two types of omega-3 fatty acids — EPA and DHA. These fatty acids are critical for normal brain function and development throughout all stages of life. EPA and DHA play important roles in a developing baby’s brain.

In fact, several studies have correlated pregnant women’s fish intake or fish oil use with increased scores for their children on tests of intelligence and brain function in early childhood[3]. These EPA/DHA fatty acids are also vital for the maintenance of normal brain function throughout life. They are abundant in the cell membranes of brain cells, preserving cell membrane health and facilitating communication between brain cells.

Consuming fish or fish oils may also improve brain function in people with memory problems, such as individuals with Alzheimer’s disease or other cognitive impairments.

Fish oil supplements like the Infuel Omega-3 Fish Oil Supplement would be a nice option.

3. L-Glutamine

Glutamine is commonly classified as a “non-essential amino acid.” This may mislead people into believing that we don’t need it. However, simply put, “non-essential” means only that the body can synthesize this amino acid. It does not mean the substance is “unimportant” by any means.

In the brain, glutamine is a substrate for the production of both excitatory and inhibitory neurotransmitters (glutamate and gamma-aminobutyric acid, popularly known as GABA). Glutamine is also an important source of energy for the nervous system.[4]

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If the human brain is not receiving enough glucose, it compensates by increasing glutamine metabolism for energy, which has led to the popular perception of glutamine as “brain food” and its application as a brain booster and energy elevator. Often, glutamine users claim to feel more energy, less fatigue, and an overall better mood.

4. Lion’s Mane Mushroom

Lion’s mane mushrooms (Hericium erinaceus) are white, round-shaped fungi that have long, shaggy spines, appearing much like a lion’s mane. They can be eaten or taken in the form of supplements. Research suggests that they may offer a range of health benefits, including reduced inflammation and improved cognitive and heart health.

Lion’s mane is packed with antioxidants that may fight both inflammation and oxidation in the body. Inflammation contributes to loads of medical conditions, including diabetes, heart disease, and autoimmune diseases. In a 2012 study, the medicinal potential of 14 types of mushroom were evaluated, finding that lion’s mane had the fourth highest antioxidant activity, which researchers described as “moderate to high”[5].

It’s also possible that lion’s mane mushrooms can boost cognitive function, but the existing research is mainly on animals (mice), giving them better object recognition and recognition memory.

Though there is currently a lack of research around treatment, some researchers have concluded that the mushrooms may have the potential to reduce the risk of decline in cognitive health related to Parkinson’s or Alzheimer’s disease.

5. Turmeric & Curcumin

Turmeric is a plant, and curcumin is a compound found within turmeric. The main health benefits come from curcumin, but you can get this special substance by eating the turmeric plant.

10 Great Health Benefits of Turmeric

    Turmeric is widely regarded as one of the most powerful health and wellness supplements in existence[6]. This is because turmeric helps with more than just brain function, such as improving the total antioxidant capacity of the body. The latest studies on turmeric show that curcumin can cross the blood-brain barrier and has the potential to help clear plaques that cause cognitive decline[7].

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    Curcumin boosts Brain-Derived Neurotrophic Factor (BDNF), which is a type of growth hormone that functions in your brain, linked to enhanced brain function, such as improved memory and a lower risk of brain diseases. Curcumin may also aid in preventing the development of brain disorders such as Alzheimer’s Disease, making this one of the best brain boosters around.

    6. Ashwagandha

    Ashwagandha is one of the most effective remedies for anxiety and depression. Researchers report that it blocks the stress pathway in the brains of rats by regulating chemical signaling in the nervous system. Several controlled human studies have shown that it can effectively reduce symptoms in people with stress and anxiety disorders.

    In a 60-day study in 64 people with chronic stress, those in the supplemental group reported a 69% average reduction in anxiety and insomnia, compared to 11% in the placebo group. In another six-week study, 88% of people who took Ashwagandha reported a reduction in anxiety, compared to 50% of those who took a placebo.[8]

    7. L-Theanine

    L-Theanine is an amino acid found in green tea that has proven effects on the reduction of anxiety and is an overall great brain booster. This powerful substance can induce calming, tranquilizing effects while simultaneously improving alertness.

    L-Theanine, much like the brain-signaling chemical Glutamine, relieves anxiety. L-Theanine produces the opposite effect in the brain. While glutamate is the brain’s most important excitatory neurotransmitter, L-theanine binds to the same brain cell receptors and blocks them to glutamate’s effects. This action produces inhibitory effects, which has a calming, relaxing effect in which anxiety fades.[9]

    8. Resveratrol

    Resveratrol (3,5,4′-trihydroxy-trans-stilbene) belongs to polyphenols’ stilbenoids group. This natural polyphenol can be detected in 70+ plant species, especially in grapes’ skin and seeds, as well as discrete amounts in red wines and other human foods.[10]

    Resveratrol has several neuroprotective roles in various neurodegenerative impairments, such as Alzheimer′s, Huntington′s and Parkinson′s diseases, amyotrophic lateral sclerosis, and alcohol-induced neurodegenerative disorders. It has been shown that resveratrol protective effects are not limited to the anti-inflammatory and antioxidant activity, but also improved mitochondrial functions and biogenesis.

    A meta-analysis showed that resveratrol significantly decreased Profile of Mood States (POMS), including vigor and fatigue. However, it didn’t have any significant effect on memory or cognitive performance. So while Resveratrol may be a great solution for neurodegeneration, it likely will not yield direct cognitive performance benefits.

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    9. 5-Hydroxytryptophan (5HTP)

    5-HTP functions in the brain and central nervous system by increasing the production of the chemical serotonin. Serotonin affects sleep, appetite, temperature, sexual behavior, and pain sensation.

    Since 5-HTP increases the synthesis of serotonin, it is used for the treatment and prevention of several diseases, including depression, insomnia, obesity, and many other conditions, making this a great brain booster. It has been proposed that these conditions are heavily impacted by serotonin in the brain.[11]

    10. Caffeine

    This one is quite straightforward in that most are familiar with the substance and its effects. Caffeine has been proven to increase cognitive performance by way of improved memory and focus.

    I would like to stipulate that overconsumption of caffeine can be quite detrimental to one’s overall health by overstimulating the nervous system and adrenal gland, which can lead to increased levels of stress.

    When consuming caffeine, do so in moderation; never exceed 300mg (milligrams) in a single day, and realistically aim to stay below 200mg (about 2-3 cups of coffee).

    The Bottom Line

    This list of brain boosters and memory enhancers can offer a great place to start if you want to try giving your brain a helping hand. If you do try any of these substances, I suggest doing so individually, and not all together, so that you can determine what is working best for you in particular.

    Whether you’re looking for increased focus, more energy, or or improved memory, these suggestions can help. Make the most of your learning experiences by trying these out and boosting your brain’s abilities.

    More Tips for Enhancing Brain Power

    Featured photo credit: Liane via unsplash.com

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    Reference

    More by this author

    Adam Evans

    BioHacker, competitive athlete, researcher in many fields including health and fitness, science, philosophy, metaphysics, religion.

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    Last Updated on June 1, 2021

    Brain Training: 12 Fast, Fun Mental Workouts

    Brain Training: 12 Fast, Fun Mental Workouts

    Exercise isn’t just for your body. Just as important is keeping your mind strong by training your brain with fun mental workouts.

    Think of your mental and physical fitness the same way: you don’t need to be an Olympian, but you do need to stay in shape if you want to live well. A few cognitive workouts per week can make a major difference in your life.

    The Skinny on Mental Workouts

    Physical fitness boosts your stamina and increases your muscular strength. The benefits of working up a mental sweat and brain training, however, might not be so obvious.

    Research suggests that cognitive training has short- and long-term benefits, including:

    1. Improved Memory

    After eight weeks of cognitive training, 19 arithmetic students showed a larger and more active hippocampus than their peers.[1] The hippocampus is associated with learning and memory.

    2. Reduced Stress Levels

    Mastering new tasks more quickly makes the work of learning less stressful. A stronger memory can call information to mind with less effort.

    3. Improved Work Performance

    Learning quickly and remembering key details can lead to a better career. Employers are increasingly hiring for soft skills, such as trainability and attention to detail.

    4. Delayed Cognitive Decline

    As we age, we experience cognitive decline. A study published by the Journal of the American Geriatrics Society found that 10 one-hour sessions of cognitive training boosted reasoning and information processing speed in adults between the ages of 65 and 94.[2]

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    Just like in physical exercise, what’s important isn’t the specific workout. To be sustainable, cognitive workouts need to be easy and fun. Otherwise, it’s too easy to throw in the towel.

    Fun Brain Training Exercises for Everyone

    The best about fun mental workouts? There’s no need to head to a gym. Feel free to mix and match the following activities for daily brain training:

    1. Brainstorming

    One of the simplest, easiest ways to engage your brain? Coming up with solutions to a challenge you’re facing.

    If you aren’t good at solo ideation, ask a partner to join you. When I’m struggling to come up with topics to write about, I call up my editors to bat ideas around. Friends or co-workers are usually happy to help.

    2. Dancing

    Isn’t dancing a physical workout? Yes, but the coordination it requires is also great for training your brain. Plus, it’s a lot of fun.

    Studies suggest that dance boosts multiple cognitive skills.[3] Planning, memorizing, organizing, and creativity all seem to benefit from a few fancy steps.

    3. Learning a New Language

    Learning a new language takes time. But if you split it up into small, daily lessons, it’s easier than you might think.

    With language learning, every lesson builds on the last. When I was learning Spanish, I used a tool called Guru for knowledge management.[4] Every time I’d learn a verb tense, I’d create a new card to give me a quick refresh before moving on.

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    4. Developing a Hobby

    Like languages, hobbies take time to develop. But that’s the fun of them: you get a little better—both at the hobby and in terms of brain function—each time you do them.

    If you’re trying to train your brain and improve a certain cognitive skill, choose a hobby that aligns with it.

    For example:

    • Attention to detail: Pick a hobby that requires you to work patiently with small features. Woodworking, model-building, sketching, and painting are all good choices.
    • Learning and memory: Choose an activity that requires you to remember lots of details. Your best bets are hobbies that require lots of categorization, such as collecting stamps or coins.
    • Motor function: For this brain function, physical activities can double as fun mental workouts. Sports like soccer and basketball build gross motor functions. Fine motor functions are better trained through activities like table tennis or even playing video games.
    • Problem-solving: Most hobbies require you to problem-solve in one way or another. The ones that test your problem-solving skills the most, however, take some investigation.

    Geocaching is a good example: Using a combination of clues and GPS readings, geocaching involves finding and re-hiding containers. Typically done in a wooded area, geocaching is a fun way to put your problem-solving skills to the test.

    5. Board Games

    Playing a board game might not be much of a physical workout, but it does make for a fun mental workout. With that said, not all board games work equally well for cognitive training.

    Avoid “no brainer” board games, like Candy Land. Opt for strategy-focused ones, such as Risk or Settlers of Catan. Remember to ask other players for their input.

    6. Card Games

    Card games build cognitive skills in much the same way board games do. They have a few extra advantages, though, that make them worthy of special attention.

    A deck of cards is inexpensive and can be played anywhere, from a kitchen to an airplane. More importantly, a deck of cards opens the door to dozens of different games. Challenge yourself to learn a few in an afternoon.

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    7. Puzzles

    Puzzles are great tools for building a specific cognitive skill: visuospatial function. Visuospatial function is important to train because it’s one of the first abilities to slip in people struggling with cognitive diseases like Alzheimer’s.[5]

    Choose a puzzle you’ll stick with. There’s no shame in starting with a 500-piece puzzle or choosing one that makes a childish image.

    8. Playing Music

    Listening to music is a great way to unwind. But playing music goes one step further. On top of entertaining you, it makes for a fun mental workout.

    Again, choose an instrument you know you’ll stick with. If you’ve always wanted to learn the violin, don’t get a guitar because it’s less expensive or easier to pick up.

    What if you can’t afford an instrument? Sing. Learning to control your voice is every bit as challenging as making a set of keys or strings sound good.

    9. Meditating

    Not all cognitive exercises are loud, in-your-face activities. Some of the most fun mental workouts, in fact, are quiet, solo activities. Meditating can help you focus, especially if you have pre-existing attention issues.

    Don’t be intimidated if you’ve never meditated before. It’s easy:

    • Find a quiet, comfortable place to sit or lie down.
    • Set a timer for 10 minutes, or for however long you have to meditate.
    • Close your eyes or turn off the lights.
    • Focus on your breathing. Do not try to control it.
    • If your thoughts wander, gently bring them back to your breath.
    • When the timer goes off, wiggle your fingers and toes for a minute. Slowly bring yourself back to reality. Remember the sense of serenity you found.

    10. Deep Conversation

    There’s nothing more mentally stimulating than a good, long conversation. The key is depth: surface-level chatter doesn’t get the mind’s wheels spinning like a thoughtful, authentic conversation. This type of conversation helps in training your brain to think more deeply and reflect.

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    Choose your partner carefully. You’re looking for someone who’ll challenge your ideas without being confrontational. Stress isn’t good for brain health, but there’s value in coming up with creative arguments.

    11. Cooking

    When you think about it, cooking requires an impressive array of cognitive skills. Developing a cook’s intuition requires a good memory. Making sure flavors are balanced takes attention to detail. When something goes wrong in the kitchen, problem-solving skills come into play. Motor control is required to stir, flip, and whisk.

    If you’re going to cook, you might as well make enough for everyone. Invite them into the kitchen as well: coordinating with other chefs adds an extra layer of challenge to this fun mental workout.

    12. Mentorship

    Whether you’re the mentee or the mentor, mentorship is an incredible mental workout. Learning from someone you look up to combines the benefits of deep conversation with skill-building. Teaching someone else forces you to put yourself in their shoes, which requires empathy and problem-solving skills.

    Put yourself in both situations. Being a student makes you a better teacher, and teaching others gives you insight into how you, yourself, learn.

    Final Thoughts

    Your mind is your most important possession, and training your brain is needed to maintain its health. Don’t let it get soft.

    To keep those neurons firing at full speed, add a few fun mental workouts to your schedule. And if you’re still struggling to get your brain in gear, remember: there’s an app for that.

    More Tips for Training Your Brain

    Featured photo credit: Kelly Sikkema via unsplash.com

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    Reference

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