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How to Improve Cognitive Performance

My mental optimization routine is something that I am very passionate about. Performing at an optimal level mentally is important for me on a daily basis but there are also days when we need to use our brain more than other days. Here is my nutrition-based, exercise-based and lifestyle-based routines that I’ve refined over the years, solely backed on scientific evidence, to help improve my cognitive performance.


Nutrition-Based: Let’s talk about Blood-Sugar Levels. It is SO important to keep these values stable! Different foods trigger different parts of the brain to light up. To increase mental performance, you want to aim to keep your blood-sugar levels even - either by fasting or reducing protein and carbs during times you want to be more aware. On some mornings when I want to increase my performance, such as on days when I have an exam or important interview, I will usually begin my day with just a green tea or MCT oil. 

  • Try to consume more brain foods:

    • Antioxidants: Blueberries, leafy greens

    • B-Vitamins and Folic Acid: Flax seeds have both and Omega-3-fatty acids!! Sprinkle it daily in your cereal, smoothies, anything!

    • Vitamin E: This vitamin can be found in nuts and is associated with less cognitive decline as you age.

    • Magnesium: Dark chocolate (also helps release endorphins and serotonin to heighten mood)

    • Omega-3-Fatty Acids: Fatty fish (salmon); Flax seeds

    • L-Theanine: Green tea (matcha) and black tea; promotes relaxation

    • Enhance blood flow: Avocados, garlic, cayenne, ginger, cinnamon 

    • Most important of all: WATER! Every single function of your body depends on water, so it is critically important that you get enough of it.


Exercise-Based: HIIT (High Intensity-Interval Training)! There is serious, concrete evidence why this works. When exposing our brain to stress, our brain has to adapt to the stress. Our brain pumps out proteins (BDNF - Brain Derived Neurotropic Factor) when exposed to stress that produces new neurons, allowing us to immediately grow by increasing neurochemicals and blow flow to our brain while adapting. Increasing high levels of activity can essentially preserve your overall mental function by increasing the size of the anterior hippocampus, a part of our brain responsible for both short-term and long-term memory. This allows us to pull from our memory stores a lot quicker. HIIT training can be very effective in just 10-20 minutes max. I do body-weight exercises in addition to my gym routine that help increase my heart rate to about 70% of my maximum heart rate.


About Brain-Dervied Neurotropic Factor:

  • This protein promotes the survival of nerve cells (neurons) by playing a role in the growth, maturation (differentiation), and maintenance of these cells. 

  • Take a look at the evidence-based science from the National Institute of Health (click here). 


Supplements: ADAPTOGENS! Herbs or medicinal mushrooms that optimize your body’s functions by adapting to any internal or external stressors in your body.

An absolute staple in my diet -- mushrooms and living organisms that work to help your body find balance and modulate ultimately where it needs to go. These organisms adapt your brain to make changes to challenges. Adaptogens can not only balance hormones but they also work in our brain. My favorite is Chaga - I drink 1000 mg in a powder-form as a latte or tea once a day in the morning. This adaptogen helps to balance acetylcholine in the brain - which is necessary in order for us to function; our brain uses acetylcholine to produce energy. Essentially, without acetylcholine, we wouldn’t be able to think clearly. To balance your body’s ability to utilize and process acetylcholine is essential, especially when you want to optimally perform. Reishi mushroom is another very powerful adaptogen to increase nerve growth, giving our brain a greater capacity to handle information. 


Below is a list of adaptogenic herbs and medicinal mushrooms that I use personally on a rolling weekly basis. I add them mostly to my matcha green tea, coffee or smoothies. It is important to not use the same ones every day; I fit them into my everyday life according where I am in life at the time or what symptoms I am currently dealing with. Stay tuned for a blog going in-depth about Ayurvedic medicine.


Ashwaganda - My favorite herb and antioxidant; used in Ayurvedic medicine and elicits a calming effect

Reishi - Medicinal mushroom; anti-inflammatory and immune-modulating

Cordyceps - Medicinal mushroom; immune-modulating and anti-aging (very high in antioxidants); helps with fatigue

Chaga - My other favorite medicinal mushroom! Immune-modulating. I drink this form as a tea latte with coconut milk.

Rhodiola - Ancient chinese herb; supports mental clarity, weight balance and can even help support creativity.

Holy Basil (Tulsi) - Herbal supplement; stress-management and immune-boosting; I drink this form in a green tea!


Life-Style Based: Really know how to instantly de-stress yourself. It’s easy to think about the concept without actually doing it. Most of us can feel too overwhelmed in the moment to even think about how to de-stress. If we keep reminding ourselves the following concepts, this will easily help you transition into a less stressful lifestyle.

  • Start my assessing your mental focus

  • Focus on ONE thing at a time

  • Practice mindfulness - either by meditating or any practice that makes you feel calm and at ease

  • Know what distracts you and voluntarily remove it

  • Intermittent fasting - stay tuned for a blog post on this concept! I am a true believer of IF and have been utilizing this method for years now.

  • Constantly re-write your tasks as they are needed and completed

  • Don’t sleep deprive yourself. Aim for 7-9 hours a night. This is the only time when our body can truly regenerate itself naturally - so, don’t cheat yourself out of it!

I hope these concepts help you to better understand mental cognition and ways to improve it not only on a daily basis but to incorporate some of these routines into a healthy lifestyle. Thanks for tuning in! :-) 

In a world deluged by irrelevant information, clarity is power.

- Yuval Noah Harari

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