Best Future You – Harnessing Your Body’s Biochemistry to Achieve Balance in Body, Mind, and Spirit
My 13th book, Best Future You, is out!
Over the next several weeks, I’ll be posting excerpts from the book and blogging frequently about the main concept in the book – which is the idea of harnessing your body’s internal cellular biochemistry to achieve true balance in body, mind, and spirit – and in doing so, help you to become your “Best Future You” in terms of how you look, how you feel, and how you perform on every level.
Chapter 6 – Feel Your Best
A Multi-Dimensional Approach to Supporting Energy
Caffeine is perhaps the best-known and most-researched enhancer of cognitive function and perceived energy levels. Research on the physiological effects of caffeine in relation to human mental and physical performance is extensive. Caffeine is quickly absorbed and can appear in the bloodstream within 15-45 minutes of consumption with peak concentrations evident one hour post-ingestion and decreasing by 50-75% within 3-6 hours. Overall, the findings from hundreds of research studies investigating the effects of caffeine supplementation on physical and mental performance indicate a positive combined effect on both the central (brain and nerves) and peripheral (muscle and fat) systems. Caffeine is known to boost the effects of brain neurotransmitters including serotonin (mood), dopamine (concentration), and acetylcholine (focus).
Research also shows that the amount of caffeine we consume matters. Consumption of about 100-200mg (about 1-2 cups of coffee) tends to deliver many of the “energizing” effects of caffeine, without the side effects associated with caffeine over-consumption (tension, irritability, headaches, insomnia). For healthy adults FDA has cited 400mg/day as an amount not generally associated with dangerous, negative effects. FDA has not set a level for children, but the American Academy of Pediatrics discourages the consumption of caffeine and other stimulants by children and adolescents. Finally, caffeine consumption has also been linked to a reduced risk of Alzheimer’s disease, Type 2 diabetes and Parkinson’s disease, meaning that caffeine can be part of a healthy approach to supporting mental and physical energy levels.
“Energy” Vitamins and Minerals (Niacin, Vitamins B6 & B12, and Magnesium)
Every energy-related reaction that takes place in the body, relies in one way or another on vitamins and minerals as “cofactors” to make the reactions go. For example, B-complex vitamins are needed for metabolism of protein and carbohydrate, while magnesium is needed for proper muscle contraction and nerve function. It is fairly well accepted in the scientific community that subclinical or marginal deficiencies of essential micronutrients, especially the B-complex vitamins and magnesium, can lead to psychological and physiological symptoms that are related to fatigue.
Monterey Pine Bark Extract (New Zealand Pine Bark Extract)
Pine bark extract, particularly from Monterey or New Zealand pine (Pinus radiata), is one of the richest sources of specialized brain-supportive compounds called proanthocyanidins, that have been shown to balance stress hormones and neurotransmitters, including cortisol, epinephrine, and dopamine – leading to improvements in mental focus, concentration, and irritability.
Green Tea Extract
Green tea (Camellia sinensis) has been associated with a wide-range of benefits for health and longevity. In particular, specific polyphenol compounds from green tea (epigallocatechin-3-gallate; EGCG) may both protect and enhance brain function by blocking the formation of beta-amyloid plaques that have been linked to the onset of Alzheimer’s disease and other neurodegenerative conditions. In addition, green tea consumption has been independently associated with significantly better mental function (global cognition), memory (information processing speed), and problem solving (executive function).
DMAE, or Di-Methyl-Amino-Ethanol, is a naturally-occuring amino-alcohol that serves as a precursor for production of the brain neurotransmitter, acetylcholine (responsible for nerve transmissions and cognitive function). In the diet, it is found in high concentrations in “brain food” such as anchovies and sardines. DMAE has been used since the 1950s to improve memory, focus, alertness, and mood while stimulating neural (brain) activity. Many researchers believe that DMAE may serve a mental energy function by increasing the brain’s capacity to produce acetylcholine, which commonly declines with aging and memory loss.
Nicotinamide ribosome (NR)
Nicotinamide ribosome (NR) is a metabolite of vitamin B3 (niacin) that has been shown to effectively increase cellular levels of nicotinamide adenine dinucleotide (NAD) needed for mitochondrial function, cellular energy, neurological function, and optimal aging. NAD levels typically fall during aging, but NR supplementation has been shown to improve endurance, enhance respiratory exchange ratio (RER, an index of fat metabolism), increase production of new mitochondria, and improve cognitive function (mental energy). In one study of aged mice (2 years old), increasing levels of NAD with NR feeding resulted in a restoration of youthful mitochondria levels (to levels seen in 6-month old mice). In human terms, that would be comparable to a 60-year-old restoring their mitochondria levels to those of a 20-year-old.
Quercetin is a water-soluble flavonoid typically found in red wine, onions, and apples. In the body, quercetin plays a role in both improving blood flow and in elevating norepinephrine levels, both of which have been linked to increased cellular and whole-body energy levels.
Theanine is a unique amino acid found in the leaves of green tea (Camellia sinensis). A unique aspect of theanine is that it acts as a “non-sedating relaxant” to help increase the brain’s production of alpha-waves (those associated with “relaxed alertness”). This makes theanine extremely effective for combating tension, stress, and anxiety—without inducing drowsiness. By increasing the brain’s output of alpha waves, theanine helps to control anxiety, increase mental focus, improve concentration, and promote creativity.
What Would You Do With More Energy?
I find it interesting, that once people understand the actual underlying triggers of their fatigue (low mood, lack of focus, high stress, etc), they are empowered to DO something about restoring their natural levels of mental and physical energy.
I also find it interesting that the type of “energy” (vigor) that people derive from the multi-dimensional approach described above is probably better described as “motivation” because it is a particularly “actionable” type of energy that makes people feel like getting up and doing something. These people tend to use that energy in proactive ways – starting a business, being active with their family, volunteering in their church or community, even just walking their dog.
However you decide to use your new-found “energy,” I hope that you will give some though to “paying it forward” and helping someone that you care about to achieve the same high level of mental and physical energy in their own life.
Thanks for reading – please tune in for the next installment, where we’ll shift gears away from “Feeling Your Best” toward “Looking Your Best” with Chapter 7 about skin health.
Shawn M Talbott, PhD, CNS, LDN, FACSM, FAIS, FACN
Nutritional Biochemist and Author
–The Secret of Vigor
– How to Overcome Burnout, Restore Biochemical Balance, and Reclaim Your Natural Energy
–Killer at Large –
Why Obesity is America’s Greatest Threat – an award-winning documentary film exploring the causes and solutions underlying the American obesity epidemic
–The Immune Miracle
– The All-Natural Approach for Better Health, Increased Energy and Improved Mood (GLH Nutrition, 2012)