Strategies to optimize brain function can help to increase learning capacity and promote long-term memory while making work days and study sessions more efficient. Implementing practices that target cognitive performance also provides a level of neural protection that can contribute to a healthy brain throughout the life span. When it comes to keeping your brain sharp and maximizing its power for optimal performance, there are three pillars to consider: Sleep, movement and nootropic nutrition.
Adequate sleep is required for the brain to function optimally. While we appear to be resting while we engage in sleep, the brain is working hard to consolidate memory and strengthen neural connections.
Consolidating memory is the process through which short term memory gets converted into long-term memory. It is through this process we are able to recall information more readily and with ease.
As we sleep, a series of chemical and structural changes take place in the brain that take information from the day and embed it “deeper” into our memory. This helps us not only to recall memory but to relate and connect it to other information. It allows us to make sense of and put the information together in a holistic manner.
Beyond the neurophysiological processes that take place during sleep, focus and alertness are adversely affected after a night of sub-optimal sleep. This automatically hinders our cognitive ability- no matter how much coffee we drink, or energy enhancers we consume.
When it comes to learning, retaining and performing cognitive tasks, pulling an “all nighter” is not the best course of action. According to science, rest will help you perform better- whether you are taking a test, meeting a deadline or pitching an idea. Everyone requires a different sleep time; the goal is 7-9 hours and to wake up feeling refreshed.
The way we move our body and how frequently has a surprising impact on memory, learning and overall cognitive performance.
Regular exercise has been shown to benefit the brain through multiple mechanisms. There is substantial evidence that overtime, exercise increases the volume of the hippocampus- the part of the brain largely responsible for learning and memory.
In addition to this, it’s been documented that those who regularly move their bodies have a higher activation in regions of the brain responsible for thinking. These individuals are able to put information together in a rapid and meaningful way.
Exercise also increases blood flow to the brain, it reduces inflammation and promotes healthy insulin levels which all play into how well we’re doing on a cognitive level.
Don’t currently follow an exercise program? No problem, the research shows that after one bout of high intensity exercise (think sprints/HIIT), BDNF- a protein that increases the number of brain cells in upregulated.
Nootropics are a class of nutrients that have specific functions in the brain. There are several nootropics available, but Acetyl L-Carnitine (ALCAR) is quickly becoming a favourite due to the myriad mechanisms through which it works to promote memory and cognition.
ALCAR is able to cross the blood brain barrier, allowing it to exert its effects directly in neural tissue. ALCAR is the only form of carnitine that is able to do this, standard carnitine supplements work primary in cardiac and muscle tissue.
When in the brain, ALCAR is able to:
- Protect brain cells from oxidative stress and promote their survival. This helps memory in both the short and long-term
- Helps increase production of acetylcholine- an important neurotransmitter used in learning and memory
- Protect the mitochondria, which produce the energy used by the brain
- Support the health of the hippocamps (that important structure known as “the seat of memory and learning)
In addition, studies have shown ALCAR to decrease mental exhaustion, allowing for more sustained energy levels and less time spent taking those elusive “brain breaks”.
Putting it All Together
Prioritizing sleep and combining it with a targeted movement regimen and a powerful nootropic will have a profound impact on productivity, focus, memory and retention.
Above the physiological changes that occur in the brain by implementing these practices, the body benefits in several other ways such as increased immunity and a sustained energy.
Each sachet of Lypo-Spheric® Acetyl L-Carnitine has 1000mg of bioavailable carnitine with an affinity for brain tissue and 1000mg of essential phospholipids which provide added protection in the realm of cognition!
Let us know in the comments if you put this cognitive enhancing protocol into practice!
Author: Lisa Kowalyk, CNP, B.Kin