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Being able to deliver our best work exactly when we need it — to deliver that talk, presentation, elevator pitch, to make that sale, persuade potential investors and customers, powerfully influence our audience every day — is a crucial skill, one that can lead to long-term success at work and in life.
It’s definitely been a key factor in the many daily wins in my life lately.
In the past four months I’ve put much more focus on the consistent practice of what I’ve learned over the years of my coaching career — neuroscience-based nutrition and lifestyle habits — to make myself wake up every day feeling my absolute best.
Four months ago, I moved from London to Playa Del Carmen, Mexico, where I designed my meal plan, sleep routine, light routine, work bouts, breaks, exercise, social life and studying to deliver my best work every day. And to be honest, I’ve been blown away by how well it all worked.
I can’t remember a single morning waking up not feeling motivated, not driven to get after it, brain fogged or unfocused with overwhelming anxieties — it all has completely disappeared from my life. My new default best-me state led me to have enough courage to finally put an end to my 15-year weight loss coaching career to transition to neuroscience-based coaching for entrepreneurs and professional athletes. I started speaking at online and in-person events almost every week. Coming from someone who thought she had a fear of public speaking and was barely able to put together a couple of sentences on stage, that was huge for me. I’ll be one of the main speakers at an upcoming local event for digital nomads. I successfully applied to speak at a local TEDx — what a change!
I share this with you to demonstrate how fast and profound the change can be in your life. I feel like I’m a completely different person, the one that I’ve always imagined myself being, living that best life we all talk about often.
When people hear the name of one of my new programs, Focused Brain Nutrition and Lifestyle, they often ask, can I really eat for focus? Is it some sort of a supplement regime? Smart drugs, microdosing?
It has to do with chemicals indeed, just not the ones in drugs and supplements.
Related: The 12 Covenants of Success
The connection between brain states and food
Any brain or mental state — feelings like focus, drive, motivation, anxiety, brain fog, feeling sad, kind or grateful — are all chemical states in our brain. Food, too, consists of pounds of chemicals that we eat every day. Food changes our brain chemistry at every meal.
Can we eat for more focus? The answer is a definite yes. Focus is a cocktail of very specific neuro-chemicals, and it has a recipe.
Here’s my favorite breakfast to help your brain make more focus neuro-chemicals.
Related: 9 Simple Ways to Transform Your Morning Routine and Boost Productivity
Breakfast for brain chemicals of focus
Dopamine, norepinephrine, acetylcholine.
Our brain produces these three chemicals every time we are in deep focus, working on an important task or learning. Let’s cook to help our brain make more of them.
Focused salmon scramble with a shot of espresso
You’ll need three eggs, three to four ounces of salmon and some coffee. Why are eggs so awesome for focus states? You’ll hit two neuro-chemical targets with one food.
Egg yolks are one of the richest sources of choline, which turns into the neurotransmitter acetylcholine in the brain (a neurotransmitter is something that helps neurons to communicate between each other). It’s a neurotransmitter of attention, alertness and the mental flexibility that’s required to learn, form memories and deliver outstanding work.
If you have troubles remembering the details of your latest project or a client case, or you lose your train of thought often, eggs are your essential superfood.
The amount of choline in three eggs covers almost 100% of your daily requirement. Not into eggs? If you’re in the mood for 150 grams of liver, six cups of tofu, nine potatoes, 7.5 cups of broccoli or 18 cups of rice, go for it.
Eggs also deliver a punch of vitamin B5 that we need to convert choline in eggs into the one we can use in our brain — a double egg win for focused attention, memory and alertness.
But wait: That’s not all.
Eggs happen to have l-tyrosine too. This is a building block of dopamine, another neuro-chemical of focus, motivation, drive and purposeful pursuit of our goals, especially challenging ones. Without dopamine mice starve to death because they feel so unmotivated — even when food is readily available.
Three eggs deliver 75% of your recommended daily dopamine amount. So if eggs do so much, why do we need salmon as well? To convert l-tyrosine into dopamine, we need a good amount of vitamin B6, which will “swim” into our mouth with three to four ounces of salmon (or chicken breast).
Slice the salmon thinly, and it’ll cook as fast as eggs. I always choose salmon over chicken breast because it also has Omega-3 fats that are essential for the healthy, high-performing brain.
We got our drive and motivation. We got our attention focused. What are we still missing?
We’re missing norepinephrine, coffee and a jolt of stress to keep us getting after a challenging task at hand until completing it in a speedy and efficient manner.
Norepinephrine (adrenaline in the brain) is a neurotransmitter that makes us feel alert, awake and focused. It helps our brain to mobilize resources for fast thinking and fast action. It’s the good stress we need, a neuro-chemical kick in the butt that gets us started and keeps us going. In the right amounts, it’s a powerful focus booster. Too little, and we might get sleepy; too much, and we might trip ourselves over the edge of sharp focus into self-diminishing anxiety.
A shot of espresso is a perfect solution: It’ll boost your norepinephrine along with dopamine and acetylcholine with its 50-80 mg caffeine, keeping Starbucks venti anxiety at a distance. (A Starbucks venti drink contains up to 470 mg of caffeine, and consuming more than 400 mg of caffeine per day has been associated with increased anxiety levels.)
Don’t have an espresso machine? Home-brewed coffee works too, delivering 70-140 mg of caffeine per cup.
While you’re sipping on your espresso, keep a glass of water with some lemon juice next to it. We use vitamin C to convert more of that dopamine we made with eggs and salmon into norepinephrine to sharpen the edge of focus a tiny bit more.
Now that I got your focus sharpened, let’s get to work and get things done. Nutrition is a powerful tool to change not just our health and fitness but our mental state, brain performance and personal productivity as well. The fields of nutritional psychiatry and brain nutrition for high performance are starting to emerge, but there’s no reason you can’t start using it now to get ahead in life and business. The science is out there — just not evenly distributed — and it’s my mission to make it available to a wider audience today.
Related: 18 Proven Ways to Stay Focused That Increase Productivity