Given this past year, we could all use hefty doses of calm and focus.
This isn’t only a combatant of 2020 either. Regardless of the year, so many of us lead fast-paced lifestyles where productivity is put on a pedestal and relaxation is difficult to come by. Aside from grasping the low hanging fruit that are eating well, exercising regularly, and sleeping soundly, what can we do to ensure our mental health is well taken care of?
There’s a purpose for the phrase “brain food.” What we consume can have a drastic impact on productivity both in our professions and in our workouts. In this article, we’ll delve into the specifics regarding how supplementation can improve calm and focus.
Research asserts that over 80% of adults use caffeine each and every day1. That’s a huge number, and it isn’t exaggeratory to refer to caffeine as a cultural staple. Often consumed in liquid form, caffeine’s consumption promotes many positive effects including increased wakefulness, improved reasoning and attention.
How does this work?
Basically, caffeine acts to block the action of adenosine, which is a central nervous system depressant2. In other words, caffeine indirectly keeps the volume dial turned up within the nervous system for a period of time. In this way, caffeine keeps you focused for lengthy periods of time. And the best part, doses of caffeine needed to exhibit these effects are relatively minimal with some research3 demonstrating effects at doses as low as 60 mg3.
No, green tea isn’t exactly a supplement per se, however its benefits speak for themselves and deserve recognition on this list. From a broad perspective, green tea consumption has shown benefits regarding cardiovascular health, metabolic efficiency and anti-aging properties4.
In addition to these benefits, green tea has shown promise in reducing stress in large-scale research. In a study conducted by Hozawa et al.5, researchers found that subjects who regularly consume green tea experienced lower levels of psychological distress. I don’t know about you, but the term psychological distress has certainly rung true over the past year. This reduction in anxiety opens the door for our body to resume a more calm state throughout the day.
Here’s another supplement whose effects are wide-ranging. The omega-3 fatty acids in fish oil have been shown to improve cognition, as well as metabolic and heart health. As they pertain to this article, research concludes supplementing with fish oil is capable of improving working memory and focus6.
Further, the folks at Examine.com have done some tremendous research, drawing evidence-based conclusions ranging from mild to moderate for fish oil’s efficacy in increasing relaxation, decreasing anxiety and blood pressure.
Last but certainly not least is the ginseng plant. The most popular forms of this herb are American ginseng and Asian ginseng. The former harvest is typically implicated for those who desire increased relaxation.
In a study conducted by Reay et al7, thirty young adults were given 400mg doses of Panax ginseng for eight days. Researchers found that these participants demonstrated improvements in calmness and mentation during the supplementation time interval.
Calm and focus are virtuous mental states allowing us to work and play better. Given the wild year we’ve experienced, the information regarding these supplements may be more beneficial than ever. If you find yourself chronically stressed and/or unable to focus appropriately, consider including healthy doses of these compounds into your diet.
1. Iraki J, Fitschen P, Espinar S, Helms E. Nutrition Recommendations for Bodybuilders in the Off-Season: A Narrative Review. Sports. 2019;7(7):154.
2. Kamimori GH, Mclellan TM, Tate CM, Voss DM, Niro P, Lieberman HR. Caffeine improves reaction time, vigilance and logical reasoning during extended periods with restricted opportunities for sleep. Psychopharmacology. 2014;232(12):2031-2042.
3. Wilhelmus MM, Hay JL, Zuiker RG, et al. Effects of a single, oral 60 mg caffeine dose on attention in healthy adult subjects. Journal of Psychopharmacology. 2016;31(2):222-232.
4. Chacko SM, Thambi PT, Kuttan R, Nishigaki I. Beneficial effects of green tea: A literature review. Chinese Medicine. 2010;5(1):13.
5. Hozawa A, Kuriyama S, Nakaya N, et al. Green tea consumption is associated with lower psychological distress in a general population: the Ohsaki Cohort 2006 Study. The American Journal of Clinical Nutrition. 2009;90(5):1390-1396.
6. Stonehouse W, Conlon CA, Podd J, et al. DHA supplementation improved both memory and reaction time in healthy young adults: a randomized controlled trial. The American Journal of Clinical Nutrition. 2013;97(5):1134-1143.
7. Reay JL, Scholey AB, Kennedy DO. Panax ginseng (G115) improves aspects of working memory performance and subjective ratings of calmness in healthy young adults. Human Psychopharmacology: Clinical and Experimental. 2010;25(6):462-471.
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