What did you eat last night or this morning? Will you have the focus and energy you need throughout the day? Will your todo list grow or shrink? Even health conscious eaters may be shooting themselves in the foot. I frequently see common patterns with my clients that hinder them from consistently being in a high performance state. They suffer from brain fog and can't regularly get into that high energy mode. I continue to find three things working against them. They're not avoiding brain fog foods. There are not enough high energy foods in their diet. Finally, they're not using supplements to cover the gaps. There's new data and helpful practices like intermittent fasting, the keto diet, and more that are worth learning about. Whether you have bonuses dependent on tough deliverables or ambitious goals for your career or life, you can't afford to not read this!
Come Out of the Brain Fog
Recent studies have found found links between low grade inflammation and brain fog. Additional data shows that most everyone has reactions to sugar, gluten, and dairy. For some it's severe, and for others it's mild, but it still causes inflammation. I personally had to change my diet to address auto-immune issues. As a bonus I no longer had headaches, my energy levels increased, and my focus and clarity of thought became higher and consistent. I've since connected with many others with similar experiences and frequently read about more. Unfortunately, there's a lot of foods on this list that are considered "ok" that people really enjoy. I advise committing to giving up all of it for at least six weeks, but push for ninety days. Record energy levels, ability to focus, mood, headaches, and anything else you want to add. Keep it simple and use a 1-10 scale with 10 being awesome!
Foods to Avoid
Please keep in mind that the diet of what we eat matters, so avoid grain fed beef, farmed fish, etc.. They tend to eat junk to fatten them up to increase profit. If this is is not possible, then try to make sure it's the leanest cut you can get, because the junk ends up in the fat. Remember, being in a high performance state requires us to fuel ourselves properly, so avoid these foods.
- Vegetable Oil
- Anything Fried
- Grain Fed Beef
- Conventional fruits and vegetables, but especially those that are heavily sprayed
- Artificial everything (sugar, color, flavor, sweetener, etc.)
As a bonus I no longer had headaches, my energy levels increased, and my focus and clarity of thought became higher and consistent.
To adopt a specific diet that will keep you on the right path, I would consider reading one of the following. The Bulletproof Diet by Dave Asprey, Eat Fat Get Thin by Mark Hyman MD, or the Whals Protocol by Terry Whals MD. Terry Whals beat MS by changing her diet alone, so that's worth a read in general. Here's an article from the Huffington Post that offers some non-diet ways to combat brain fog for additional benefit. We'll never beat brain fog and achieve high performance if we can't stop bombarding our body with these foods, so make a commitment to test it for yourself.
Eat High Energy to be High Energy
Not all food is created equal in regards to nutrition. The goal of eating is not to be full, but rather to provide us with the nutrition we need to live and perform. Our bodies are very resilient and will find ways to make something work for periods of time, but this usually comes at a cost. Can we "live" on burgers and fries, it depends on what you mean by "live", but generally speaking yes. Will you feel great, be in a high performance state, and be able to solve complex problems or create innovative solutions? Most likely not. That said, what foods will provide us with high levels of energy? The three diets mentioned earlier are different forms of a keto diet. A keto diet avoids carbohydrates and glucose. This causes the body to break fatty acids down into ketones which are used for energy.
A Better Source of Energy and More
There are many benefits from a keto diet worth mentioning, but we'll start with energy. Ketones are more efficient than glucose and is why the need to snack frequently goes away. Ketones also promote increases in energy producing mitochondria in the brain. Along with this they also reduce oxidative stress in the body, reduce inflammation, and neural protection which becomes more important as we age. Of course always talk to your doctor, but research the keto diet on your own (Avoid Adkins...it does not focus enough on quality). Here's an article from Scientific American discussing some of what I've mentioned here and more. Regardless if you're on a keto diet or not, there are common foods that show up on many diets worth mentioning. Remember, high performance needs high quality food!
- Eat a lot of vegetables, but especially dark green leafy ones
- Eat moderate (4-6 oz per meal) clean sources of protein (grass fed beef, wild caught fish, farm eggs with very orange yolks). Too much protein can turn into sugar and spike insulin. Body builders and athletes will need more, but the key is to avoid excess.
- Eat plenty of healthy fats (olive oil, avocado, grass fed butter, nuts).
- Cook with fats that are solid at room temp or have a high smoke point.
- Cook food at lower temperatures to avoid damaging the nutritional value or creating carcinogens from smoke (sorry, but smoked meat is just not good for the body).
High performance is much more than a strong will and determination.
Here's some additional reading from Mark Hyman on Energy, Mitochondria, and Oxidative Stress. In this article Mark goes deeper into the science behind what happens when we pump empty calories into our bodies. The short and sweet answer is we have low energy, age faster, and suffer from a wide range of disease and health issues. Do yourself and your loved ones a favor and get informed, make a change, and find new levels of energy you did not know were possible.
Supplement Your Gaps
Vitamins and supplements are more important than they have been in the past. One of the biggest reasons behind this is related to mass production of food and the depleted soil we have in the United States. The food we eat today is not the food our grandparents were eating. I've always been surprised, when traveling in Central America, about the difference in size between the produce and animals versus here in the US. When I was younger I would have believed we had superior processes and therefore product, but now I know it's because that's how produce and animals are supposed to be naturally. They can't afford to feed the animals the crap that fattens them or spray the chemicals all over the produce, so they don't.
Critical Supplements to Start Taking Now
Most people walking around are deficient in Vitamin D and Magnesium. Vitamin D is critical for bone strength, hormone regulation, immunity, and countless other things. Magnesium deficiency can cause heart related issues, metabolic syndrome and more. Vitamin C is important for immunity, collagen production (healthy skin), and is used to produce glutathione (the master anti-oxidant). You may want to consider blood tests to see exactly where you are and measure over time. If you're focused on being high performance, you want to make sure you're not deficient first. Here's a list of supplements you should be taking.
- Vitamin D
- Vitamin K2 (especially for vegetarians and vegans)
- Vitamin C
The food we eat today is not the food our grandparents were eating.
I would read more about the various reasons we need supplements in Dave Asprey's post on this topic. For a more complete list of supplements to consider, I would also read Dave's post about what he considers most important, the reasons why, and the dosages.
Brain fog is not a random thing that just happens. High performance is much more than a strong will and determination. We all want to crush our goals and be successful, so give yourself an advantage! Avoid foods that cause inflammation. This will allow your body and mind to focus on being productive instead of undoing the damage from a poor diet. Whether you switch to a keto diet or not, do not feed the body empty calories. There's plenty of overlap with foods between low fat Mediterranean diets and keto that provide high energy. They both push lots of vegetables, healthy fats, and moderate levels of protein. Regardless if you're on a keto diet or not, make sure the source and quality of the food is high. Avoid mass produced, non-organic, etc... Lastly, start taking supplements and spend some time learning why you need to.