What do Arnold Schwarzenegger, Gary Kasparov and Serena Williams all have in common? What single factor unites the former Governor of California and the most prolific bodybuilder of all time, to his equally dominant counterparts in the fields of chess and tennis?
Focus is why champions rise and losers fall. But what does it take to be in the zone? How do we keep our brains laser sharp and mentally focused?
Eat fat. Fat is not just fuel, it’s super fuel, for the brain.
Fat makes up 80% of your brain and nervous system. The majority comes in the form of saturated fat, followed by omega-3 DHA fat from animals, and omega-6 unsaturated fats. Paradoxically, official U.S. dietary guidelines do not support the intake of saturated fat (see here), blaming it for cholesterol and heart disease, and instead, replacing it with carbohydrates.
But evolution has a different take. Humans pre-date modern agriculture; which is responsible for the grains so abundant in today’s carbohydrate-rich diet. We were not born to metabolize carbs. We came into the world depending on fat from our mother’s milk; something that has not changed in thousands of years.
How does fat provide super-fuel for the brain? It does so through the release of compounds known as ketones. These are molecules found in fat, which release energy to the brain through your bloodstream. They are said to be more stable than glucose, last longer and are in abundant supply.
To be in a state of ketosis (Kee-Tow-Sis) your diet needs to comprise 80% fats and less than 5% carbs so that the brain adapts to ketones instead of glucose as its primary fuel source. According to Nora Gedgaudas, a renowned international expert on the paleo diet, the master ketone ‘D-beta-hydroxybutyrate‘ is said to generate ATP (energy) more efficiently than glucose.
It is also a fact that Reactive Oxygen Species (ROS): a byproduct of our cells metabolizing, are a hallmark of aging, stroke, and neurodegeneration. Ketones are said to inhibit the production of ROS, thereby minimizing neurodegeneration and maintaining a healthier brain.
If you want to sharpen your focus, increase productivity and strive to be super-human, eating fat may just be the ticket.