8 Ways to Boost Brain PowerSep 30, 2023
I'm obsessed with figuring out how to do things better.
In fact there's something called the Minimum Effective Dose (MED), which is right up my alley.
Maybe you will like it too.
The MED is simply the smallest dose that will produce a desired outcome.
Anything beyond the MED is wasteful.
For example, water boils at 100°C at standard air pressure.
Water is not “more boiled” if you add more heat.
At home, you would save money on your gas or electric bill if you didn’t continue to increase the temperature in your hot-water heater – thereby conserving resources for something else more productive.
The same goes for weight loss or, more accurately, fat loss.
It’s more time-and-resource efficient to know the MED for actions required to trigger removal of stored fat.
This is a useful concept for my client-athletes looking to get leaner without adding a lot of volume to their training program (read: longer workouts).
Now I'm going to share a little secret with you, which I used to think was very odd until recently.
For many years I've used my personal workout (the time I exercise myself) as an opportunity to de-stress but also generate ideas and figure out problems.
Now for the weird part.
A strange phenomenon occurs, around 20 minutes into my workout:
- My brain feels more creative
- Ideas come in rapid-fire succession
- Answers to problems appear
I'll take notes on my whiteboard, in between sets of barbell squats or bike sprints or whatever I'm doing that day.
Perhaps you've experienced similar mental clarity too.
So it was refreshing to read this article which discusses how training can make your brain function better.
That's what I've been experiencing all of these years!
Also highlighted are the benefits of sleep, getting a coach, and much more.
The full-text article, from Outside magazine, is posted below and it takes about 10 minutes to read... well worth it.
How to Boost Brain Function With Exercise
By Brad Stulberg
Working out smart can make you, well, smarter. For years, study after study has shown that a good sweat improves brain function. But what’s the optimum dose? Only recently are scientists figuring out the proper prescription and timing necessary to achieve the biggest boost. Following new research out of Stanford University and the Mayo Clinic, companies like Google and Reebok, plus many online-coaching platforms, are strategically using physical activity to make employees smarter and more productive.
“They’re moving beyond just viewing exercise as something to keep their workforce healthy,” says John Ratey, a Harvard psychiatrist and author of Spark: The Revolutionary New Science of Exercise and the Brain. “They realize it’s important for performance.”
Try these tips to get a bigger cognitive boost from your next workout.
1. Rise and Shine
Train in the morning, says Ratey, right before you need to be your sharpest. Just 35 minutes of moderately intense running, rowing, or other aerobic exercise primes your brain for peak intellectual performance by balancing neurochemicals that contribute to cognitive functioning. While the benefits of morning exercise linger throughout the day, they are strongest in the 90 to 120 minutes following a workout.
Combining brain and body tasks strengthens the anterior cingulate cortex, one part of the brain associated with perception of effort, making hard work feel easier, says Samuele Marcora, a physiologist at the University of Kent. The results are long lasting. After, say, repeatedly riding a bike trainer and reading a tricky book simultaneously, both the reading and the biking will seem easier when performed individually.
A recent study from Stanford University found that just ten to fifteen minutes of brisk walking can make you significantly more creative—although researchers have yet to pin down the exact reason why. One hypothesis is that the coordination required for walking occupies the brain region responsible for linear thinking, freeing up capacity for creative insight. In fact, anything that gets your heart rate up will increase blood flow to the brain and can provide an uptick in cognition. Ratey suggests strategically timing these mini sessions for the afternoon; research shows that as the day wears on, mental energy gets depleted. There's a lot of overlap between athletics and work, and the world's best apply the same principles to, say, training for a marathon as they do to building a business.
Though building up your body and mind to tackle athletic challenges may seem like a unique endeavor, that’s not the case. Performance is performance, and there are many parallels between training for a marathon, making great art, and building a business that lasts. All are challenges that demand hard work and self-control in pursuit of a goal that is days, months, or even years away. Persistence is key, as is the ability to cultivate, sustain, and channel motivation. Put simply, the overlap between professional, creative, and athletic success is huge.
4. Prioritize Consistency Over Heroic Efforts
“People who don’t do creative work for a living often assume that it’s like what they see in the movies—that it’s 36 hours of muse-fueled blitz, sitting at a typewriter with a cigarette, pouring out genius,” says Ryan Holiday, creative strategist and author whose latest is Perennial Seller: The Art of Making and Marketing Work That Lasts. But that’s simply not the case. Though inspiration can suddenly strike, turning it into a tangible finished product is a matter of sustained effort, he says. “It’s getting up every day and doing the work…taking thousands of passes and polishes.”
The same holds true for athletic development, according to Steve Magness, professional running coach and my co-author of Peak Performance: Elevate Your Game, Avoid Burnout, and Thrive with the New Science of Success. “It’s okay to do what I call ‘see God’ workouts every once in a while,” he says, “but the best athletes are the best not because of a few massive efforts, but because of consistency over a long duration.”
5. Seek Mentorship
Having a mentor in entrepreneurial pursuits is “invaluable,” says Bob Kocher, a partner at Venrock, one of the largest venture capital firms in Silicon Valley. “Someone who cares about you, knows more than you, who will give you both good and constructive feedback and create opportunities is a blessing beyond imagination.” Additionally, a good mentor helps you avoid making the same mistakes they have. “We all need to grow, learn, and take risk,” says Kocher. “Having a mentor makes this massively easier.”
A trusted coach is equally invaluable. A coach lets an athlete focus all their energy on execution, on showing up and getting the work done. Nic Lamb, who won the Titans of Mavericks in 2016, puts it like this: “Having trust in a coach is key. It removes the mental weight of needing to think about your workout. Instead, you can devote your full focus to showing up and executing.”
6. Sleep Deeply
“When you’re working on a book, your brain is like a laptop that won’t go into sleep mode—it’s just getting hotter and hotter,” says Holiday. “Sleep is not just about rest. It’s the period where the mind is shut off and reset. You need that, or you will catch on fire.” Kocher has observed that when entrepreneurs sacrifice sleep, they also “sacrifice creativity, self-control, and attention span.”
Studies from researchers at Harvard demonstrate that our brains make sense of, consolidate, and store all the information we are exposed to during the day when we sleep. Additional research shows that sleep is integral to restoring willpower: When sleep is lacking, so is self-control. Sleep, of course, also restores the body. It’s only after you’ve been sleeping for at least an hour that performance-enhancing anabolic hormones like testosterone and human growth hormone—both of which are critical to health and physical function—are released.
7. Put Yourself in Good Company
“I seek out people who know things I don’t and try to learn from them,” says Kocher, who adds that he surrounds himself with positive, smart, and diverse people who bring new perspectives and are not afraid to challenge him. Starting a business is hard, not only because you need to maintain motivation through ups and downs, but also because it can be easy to get stuck inside your own head. A supportive, honest, and open-minded peer group helps solve these problems, says Kocher, and encourages an entrepreneur to “pressure-test their thinking, assumptions, and ideas.” Magness likes to say, “We is far more powerful than me.”
A training group or team doesn’t just make you better because people are pushing you, he says, “but it also gives you a purpose beyond yourself.” A comprehensive analysis published in the journal Medicine and Science in Sports and Exercise found that one of the most powerful motivators to stick with a fitness program is being in a supportive environment.
8. Focus on What You Can Control, and Don’t Ever Become Complacent
“All work leaves your hands at some point,” says Holiday. And what happens next is almost always out of your control. “People either like your work of art or they don’t. The ball goes in or it doesn’t. Your time was good enough or it wasn’t.” Worrying about the result is a distraction from what you really should be thinking about: how you can respond, and what happens next.
According to Holiday, this premise is just as true for a successful result as it is for a failure. “I think people believe arriving is the big win. Don’t get me wrong—it’s an honor to make the NFL, or to be a published author, or to be invited to represent your country at the Olympics. But to me, that’s only the beginning. I want to beat myself each time,” says Holiday. “A lot of what goes into creating a body of creative work is the same thing that goes into being a great athlete: preparing, learning, not being complacent, finding ways to challenge yourself, and staying healthy. Look at Tom Brady: He looks better right now than he does on his 2000 draft-pick card. He’s smarter, wiser, and more dedicated. That’s the model to look at, I think.”
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I was born to coach and am very passionate about helping my client-athletes lose bodyfat, get strong, and slow aging (you can't "reverse" aging).
Every week I'm proud to witness men and women achieving their goals (like the 50-year-old client getting back to the same weight he was nearly 20 years ago).
And I can help you start moving in that direction too. But, as the article explains, it helps to have a smart plan and an experienced coach.
Dedicated to your success,
P.S. - Whenever you're ready, I can help you get leaner, stronger, and slow aging. And you can start no risk, no hassle for 14 days.