5 New Year Supplements For Better Brain Power And Focus

With the new year approaching perhaps it's time to look into new ways of prolonging and supporting your physical health and mental prowess.

If you are one of those people who can multi-task effectively and have your email, tweetdeck, facebook messaging and text messaging turned on at the same time and still work while simultaneously answering constant interruptions, I need to meet you. Focusing on one thing is hard enough these days without the growing number of distractions that consume our time. And, even though multitasking isn't the most effective way to get anything done it may seem like a necessity at times.

So how can you shut out distractions when you need to concentrate yet multitask when your time is being stretched in multiple directions? Try our Top 5 Supplements for fine tuning your brain power and focus.

1. B Vitamins

Have you ever run low on fuel (especially carbohydrates) and felt fuzzy and irritable? And then you eat and all of the sudden you feel better and your ability to think and concentrate returns to normal. Well, it isn't just the food and increase in blood sugar that is helping you function. The B Vitamins play an integral role in brain functioning.

The Bs are a part of the enzymes and coenzymes in your body that take the energy from carbohydrates, fat and protein and help turn it into a form your body can use to function. In addition, several B vitamins are absolutely essential for proper brain and nervous system functioning.

Several B Vitamins Are Absolutely Essential For Proper Brain And Nervous System Functioning.

2. L-Carnitine

L-Carnitine is a conditionally essential micronutrient. It is considered "conditional" because our body can make it but, at times our demand for L-Carnitine exceeds our supply and supplementation may be the best route for increasing our L-Carnitine levels.

Our body's stores of L-Carnitine are concentrated in our heart and skeletal muscle where this micronutrient plays a vital role in energy production. Studies in rats indicate that L-Carnitine supplementation may put up a roadblock against age-related declines in memory and cognitive impairment. Does it help humans too? Some scientists believe that giving a nutrient cocktail of Alpha-Lipoic Acid, L-Carnitine and Coenzyme Q10 may be one of the most effective nutrition-based solutions for improving cognitive decline in older adults.

3. L-Tyrosine

Tyrosine is a nonessential amino acid that our body can make from the amino acid Phenylalanine (although people with PKU must consume Tyrosine). Some studies indicate that supplementation with Tyrosine may improve alertness after sleep deprivation and delay a decline in performance on psychomotor tests after skimping on sleep.

Tyrosine May Improve Alertness After Sleep Deprivation.

In addition to possibly helping people perform better during times of sleep deprivation, supplemental L-Tyrosine may also be beneficial during times of stress. Under stressful conditions, the human brain may not synthesize enough Tyrosine to manufacture essential compounds like your flight-or-fight Catecholamines: Epinephrine and Norepinephrine as well as the neurotransmitter Dopamine, which has a number of functions in the brain from helping control behavior to learning and memory. Therefore, supplemental Tyrosine may improve performance, memory and learning during times of psychological stress.

4. Phosphatidyl Serine

Phosphatidyl Serine is a phospholipid that is present in cell membranes and plays a role in cell functioning. Most research has examined the role supplemental Phosphatidyl Serine plays in enhancing memory and cognitive functioning.

For the athlete, Phosphatidyl Serine has been shown to minimize physical and mental stress. Doses used in sports studies range from 200 - 800 mg. A study in golfers found that just 200 mg phosphatidylserine taken daily (in a bar) for six weeks had a tendency to improve perceived stress as well as a statistically significant improvement in the number of good ball flights during tee-off.

Most Research Has Examined The Role Supplemental Phosphatidyl Serine Plays In Enhancing Memory And Cognitive Functioning.

5. Theanine

Studies show that L-Theanine reduces psychological and physiological stress and increases alpha-brain wave activity to produce a dose-dependent relaxed yet alert state about 40 minutes after it is ingested. Take it with Caffeine and you have one dynamic duo that stimulates areas of the brain to increase alertness, boost reaction time, memory and performance on cognitive functioning tasks.

In one study, L-Theanine (250 mg) and Caffeine (150 mg) together led to faster simple reaction time, faster numeric working memory reaction time and improved sentence verification accuracy - all functions we perform on a daily basis.

Conclusion

If you want your brain functioning at maximum capacity you need to treat it the same way you treat your body - exercise your mind by reading, solving puzzles and figuring out tasks that take brain power. And, feed your brain with the right foods including a good mix of protein, healthy fats, and carbohydrate (focus on fruits and vegetables since these are among the best sources of antioxidants and essential nutrients). Lastly, try one or more of these powerful supplements that support brain functioning.

Before taking any supplement, talk to your physician. The supplements listed here are not intended to diagnose, treat or cure disease. And keep in mind, more isn't always better.

References:

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  15. Food and Nutrition Board, Institute of Medicine. The Role of Protein and Amino Acids in Sustaining and Enhancing Performance. Washington, DC: National Academy Press, 1999. Available at: http://www.nap.edu/books/0309063469/html/.

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About The Author

Marie Spano, MS, RD, Vice President of the International Society of Sports Nutrition (ISSN) is a registered dietitian with a MS in Nutrition...

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