One of the most critical aspects of achieving optimal performance as a surfer is paying attention to your mental health. Everything starts with the mind. Your goals, your values, your decisions, your ability to learn and focus, managing your fears, and acting on your passions all come from your mind.
To help me boost my mental health as a surfer, I make nutrition a top priority. I also build routines and disciplines around what I eat.
YOUR BRAIN ON FOOD
The majority of our brain is made from fats. In the remaining brain matter, you find proteins, amino acids, and micronutrients. Each component of the brain has a specific impact on the way we function and our level of energy. The way you feel after lunch or the late night alertness you might be feeling when going to sleep are probably the effects of food on your brain.
Your brain’s superstars are essential omega-3 and -6 fatty acids. Eating omega-rich foods like nuts, seeds, and fatty fish is crucial to the creation and maintenance of cell membranes. Saturated fats, however, can compromise brain health.
Proteins and amino acids are the building blocks for growth and development. They manipulate how we feel and behave. Amino acids contain the precursors to neurotransmitters that play the role of messengers, which in turn carry signals between neurons affecting things like mood, sleep, and attentiveness.
Antioxidants in fruits and vegetables help the brain fight what could destroy brain cells, enabling your brain to work well for a more extended period. And without power from micronutrients like vitamins B6, B12 and folic acid our brain would be susceptible to brain disease and mental decline.
For the brain to efficiently transform and synthesize these valuable nutrients, it needs fuel – a lot of it. While the human brain only constitutes only about two percent of our body weight, it uses up to twenty percent of our energy resources. Most of this energy comes from carbohydrates that our body digests into glucose.
Carbs come in three forms: starch, sugar, and fiber. On most nutrition labels they are all lumped into one total carb count, however the ratio of sugar and fiber effects how the body and brain respond. A high glycemic food like white bread causes a rapid release of glucose into the blood and then comes the dip. Blood sugar shoots down and with it our attention span and mood.
On the other hand oats, grains and legumes have a slower glucose release, enabling a steadier level of attentiveness.
OPTIMISING MENTAL PERFORMANCE THROUGH NUTRITION
For sustained brain power, opting for a diversified diet of nutrient-rich foods is critical. A diet with a balanced combination of foods will help keep your mood stable.
Here is how you can optimize your mental performance:
1. Limit consumption of sugar, saturated fat, and processed foods.
Foods that are high in saturated fat like cheese, ice cream, and red meat can trigger inflammation in the brain. This prevents your brain from getting the oxygen and nutrients it needs to perform at its best. A high fat-diet has also been associated with reduced cognitive function and memory.
2. Increase your intake of fruits and vegetables.
You don’t have to get rid of animal meat entirely, but you should increase your consumption of fruits and vegetables as the nutrients from these foods help preserve brain function and fight inflammation.
3. Optimize your omega-3 to omega-6 ratio
Omega-3s come from flax seeds, hemp seeds, walnuts, and fatty fish. Omega-6s are often found in vegetable oils like hemp seed oil and sunflower oil. Both omega-3 and omega-6 fatty acids improve brain structure and cognitive ability.
4. Eat foods rich in Vitamin E
Vitamin E helps keep the brain razor sharp. It has also been found to help prevent Alzheimer’s disease, a degenerative disease of the brain. Regular intake of Vitamin E is a key factor in keeping your brain healthy and slows down brain aging.
Some foods rich in Vitamin E are:
5. Include Vitamin B12 sources into your diet.
This vitamin supports proper operation of the brain, the whole nervous system, and improves memory, concentration, and focus. In fact, a Vitamin B12 deficiency is associated with depression.
Some foods rich in Vitamin B12 are:
6. Include brain-boosting foods into your diet.
Other than the foods rich in omega-3s, Vitamin E, and B12, there are several other foods that have been mainly found to help with mental performance.
Orange and other Vitamin C rich foods
7. Try different diets.
There are many types of diets that you can try to improve your mental performance. Intermittent fasting, low-carb and ketogenic diets could boost brain health. They are similar in many ways and can have powerful health benefits. They can help with weight loss and fight diabetes as well as significantly increase brain function.
1. There is a strong relationship between what you eat and your mental performance.
2. A diet with a balanced combination of foods will help you keep a steadier mood and level of energy.
3. Try different types of diets and find what works for you and add it to your optimal performance routines.
Editor’s Note: Dris Mi is a sports mental performance coach and contributor to The Inertia whose work we’re really stoked on. He’s dedicated himself to sharing insights and philosophies on the mindset that will help every surfer reach their highest potential and we really love that.
So if you’re one of those surfers looking to become a better all-around slider of waves, take some time to check out pieces from his optimal performance series covering things like steps to waking up earlier and more here.