Do you ever have those times when you get into the zone and feel like you have amazing focus and creativity, but have no idea how you got there?
As a student and entrepreneur I used to struggle with this – if I only I could feel that way every day. Well you can. From research and self experimenting I determined that this 4 step method can be used anytime to enhance focus and creativity.
Step 1- Fast overnight for atleast 12 hours
Usually when you wake up with brain fog there is one common event, you ate way too late at night. Employing an overnight fast will help this. By going into sleep in a fasted state you encourage growth and regeneration during sleep. For instance, you get an elevation of human growth hormone (HGH). HGH is responsible for regeneration of tissue throughout the entire body and brain. Research shows that snacking before bed impairs our ability to secrete HGH during sleep.
The fast is also intended to promote ketone body production. When we have circulating ketone bodies (especially beta-hydroxybutrate) which are transported into the brain, our focus and creativity is enhanced. This happens for a few reasons, for one ketones (BHB) in the brain increase production of the neurotransmitter GABA, which can really cause a calming focus effect. They are also anti-inflammatory, lowering levels of (neuro)inflammation can reduce feelings of brain fog.
That being said, just 12 hours of fasting will not induce production of ketones in everybody, but you will certainly feel better than if you ate 8 hours ago (immediately before you hopped into bed).
Step 2- 1 cup warm H20 + pink sea salt + lemon + adaptogenic herb
The warm water is to improve absorption, and attract blood flow to the digestive system. From here, the other ingredients are primarily to combat the biochemical consequences of excess stress.
Pink sea salt provides some added sodium that literally every cell in our body requires to function optimally. The adrenal glands in particular, which regulate the levels of cortisol throughout the body need sodium to function and deal with stress. Unfortunately, we have been mislead to believe that sodium causes heart disease, but there is absolutely no association between heart attack and sodium intake unless you are already at risk. In fact, the opposite has been found – higher sodium intake was related to lower mortality.
Stress also accelerates the use of vitamin c. As you likely know, adequate levels of vitamin c will support our immune system, since particular immune cells require it, namely T cells and different phagocytes.
Lastly, the adaptogenic herb is really to control cortisol and hormone production. If you haven’t heard of adaptogenic herbs then you are missing out. Most of these work on our HPA axis (hypothalamic-pituitary-adrenal axis) in beneficial but often unknown ways.
Briefly, the hypothalamus of our brain sends signals to the pituitary, which then relay signals to the adrenal glands to produce cortisol at appropriate times of the day (if your system is working). We want cortisol first thing in the morning to energize and wake us up, but then we want it to come back down so we can go about our day without the feeling of stress and anxiety. You can’t focus if you are stressed and anxious and this will help that. I like rhodiola rosea, you can feel the focus and mood boosting effects of this one immediately. Ashwaganda is another great one.
Step 3- 1 cup coffee (or tea) + balanced OR keto breaky (or no breaky at all)
This step is really completely optional. For me, my favourite is 1 small cup of coffee with one of two breakfasts; balanced or keto style (meat & nuts are my favourite).
Balanced- 1 small piece of sourdough bread, 3 eggs, ½ sweet potatoe, meat (e.g. pastured bacon), and ½ avocado. I usually eat this if I plan to train/have a very physically active day.
Keto style- my favourite is some kind of meat (bison, beef, bacon, fish etc.) cooked in coconut oil or pastured butter + a handful of raw nuts (e.g. almonds, cashews, pistachios).
Option 3 would be to eat nothing at all, or drink a fatty coffee with 1 tsp.-1 tbsp. MCT oil or coconut oil + 1 tsp.-1 tbsp. of pastured butter.
Regardless, the goal is the keep insulin low and avoid sugar. No cheerios or lucky charms. Riding the insulin roller coaster (hyperglycemic to hypoglycemic and all over again) can impair memory and focus.
Step 4- Brief ALL OUT Exercise
This is the most important one for me. I say brief because under 10 minutes is really all it takes, and you have friggen work to do- isn’t that why you are getting focused in the first place?
No a walk does not count. Research shows that certain cognitive benefits of exercise are only achieved at high intensity (for e.g. over 85% V02max – you could not hold a conversation). You are getting a reduction of cortisol AFTER the workout, and you are also getting a boost in BDNF (which may or may not provide immediate focus, but is certainly beneficial in the long run).
Other than this, you might get a release of endorphins plus a boost of dopamine in the brain. Both of which will make you feel fantastic and put you in a positive mood going into that work grind.
So it’s time to get focused.
“Salt and Heart Disease: A Second Round of ‘Bad Science’? – The Lancet,” accessed September 26, 2018, https://www.thelancet.com/journals/lancet/article/PIIS0140-6736(18)31724-0/fulltext.
Kate V. Allen et al., “Effects of Acute Hypoglycemia on Working Memory and Language Processing in Adults With and Without Type 1 Diabetes,” Diabetes Care 38, no. 6 (June 2015): 1108–15, https://doi.org/10.2337/dc14-1657.
Yong Kyun Jeon and Chang Ho Ha, “The Effect of Exercise Intensity on Brain Derived Neurotrophic Factor and Memory in Adolescents,” Environmental Health and Preventive Medicine 22 (April 4, 2017): 27, https://doi.org/10.1186/s12199-017-0643-6.