How To Get Laser-Like Focus Through Nutrition
Feeling in a fog lately? Has your mind not been as sharp as usual? This can be a frustrating situation to find yourself in. One moment, your brain is firing on all cylinders, next thing you know, it’s as if a dark cloud has rolled in, dulling your mind.
Recently I’ve found myself in such a situation. I was looking for every possible explanation as to why my mind was not as sharp and clear as usual. Sometimes it can feel as if your focus will never return.
I thought maybe I wasn’t getting enough rest, so I slept in. That did little to counter the effects of the fog that had rolled into my head. Next, I examined my motivation.
A lack of motivation is a common culprit when you’re struggling to focus. If there is not an underlying driving force behind your actions, concentrating your attention is a difficult task.
Yet, my motivation was still present. I felt the same levels of ambition and drive as before. At this point, my irritation grew immensely. I thought I would never land on the true reason for my worsening focus.
That’s when I turned to an area so crucial to focus, yet so often overlooked…food. Your nutrition plays an integral role in the ability of your brain to focus and hold concentration for an extended period of time.
The higher the quality of nutrition entering your body, the stronger your mind will become. A strong mind is one that focuses well, dispelling any dark clouds which seek to block your ability to concentrate.
How Food Influences Focus
For the most part, food ingestion is centered around its effects on the body. As a lifelong athlete and weightlifter, this has been my main concern in terms of nutrition.
I saw food as a fuel source, available at my disposal to build strength within my body. However, a strong body is no use to us without the combined addition of a strong mind.
A brain easily distracted and unable to concentrate will counteract most of the benefits a strong body will provide you on the field or court. As athletes and performers, strength of mind should come prior to strength of body, or at least simultaneously.
If you allow yourself to neglect the brain, at one point or another, the strength you’ve obtained physically will only take you so far.
There are many ingredients to a mental health diet, from positive affirmations, meditation, exercise, and visualization.
But prior to all of this, the first area you need to give attention to is nutrition. The benefits gained in the mind once you adopt a healthy diet are incredible, the main one being increased focus.
When we start to examine all the positive aspects of a healthy diet, it becomes evident why it has such a profound impact on your ability to focus.
Most of the research out connecting diet to focus centers around individuals with ADHD. In an article on healthline.com, Freydis Hjalmarsdottir highlights the main links found between certain foods and levels of focus.
The main takeaway was children with ADHD were not eating a well-balanced diet. They had nutrient deficiencies which led researchers to further examine the role certain nutrients played in the children’s ability to focus.
"If you allow yourself to neglect the brain, at one point or another, the strength you’ve obtained physically will only take you so far."
When it comes to building neurotransmitters, the signaling pathways in your brain, amino acids play an integral role. There are three amino acids, in particular, used to make three valuable neurotransmitters, which have been shown to be lacking in children with ADHD.
These include phenylalanine, tyrosine, and tryptophan, which are important in the production of dopamine, serotonin, and norepinephrine.
These three neurotransmitters are known to play an important role in the regulation of mood. Individuals with anxiety and depression are often seen to have an imbalance in these three.
Since an imbalance in these three neurotransmitters increases your risk of anxiety and depression, it makes sense why they would impact focus.
As depressive and anxious thoughts fill your mind, it becomes more difficult to retain focus. Even a small amount of anxiety or depression will result in a worsened attention span.
Essential Vitamins and Minerals
Obtaining an adequate amount of vitamins and minerals from your diet can be difficult. Especially if you are not paying attention to what you’re eating. A deficiency in certain vitamins and minerals is a key factor in your ability to focus.
Low levels of zinc, magnesium, calcium, and phosphorus have been repeatedly shown in children with ADHD. Examining deeper, multiple studies have confirmed the benefits of zinc supplements on ADHD symptoms.
Iron also has an impact on attention. Several studies have revealed similar benefits as zinc supplementation when adding additional iron to the diet of those with ADHD.
While more research is still needed, the studies reveal a link between vitamins and minerals and one’s ability to focus.
Omega-3 Fatty Acids
Omega-3 fatty acids are an important piece to a well-functioning brain. So much so that in general, children with ADHD have lower levels of omega-3’s than children without ADHD.
This information reveals an incredible correlation between these fatty acids and attention. Further research shows that not only does focus become impaired with a lack of omega-3’s, but learning and behavioral problems become more prevalent the lower the levels.
In experimentation, studies have shown an improvement in ADHD symptoms with regular supplementation of omega-3 fatty acids.
Benefits of Improved Focus
We know there is a link between nutrition and focus. The nutrients discussed above highlight some interesting correlations between the two.
There has also been research showing that the elimination of preservatives, sweeteners, food additives and allergenic foods improves symptoms of ADHD.
Understanding the impact nutrition has on your ability to focus, you now need to question why. Why is it important for you to pay attention to your diet in order to reap the benefits of improved focus?
Well, as an athlete or performer, or someone seeking success in their life, focus is crucial. Gaining the ability to center your attention on what you want is vital in working towards a goal.
To highlight the importance of improving your focus, here are four benefits you can expect once you begin working on increasing this skill.
Benefit #1: Reduced Stress
Now, who wouldn’t want less stress in their lives? Feeling stressed, worried, anxious, or whatever you want to call it weighs heavily on the mind and reduces your chances of attaining success.
But how does focus play into stress reduction? Stress and worry come about due to your continual thinking about the future.
Even if you’re stressing over something in the past, the reason for your concern comes from the fear of negative consequences expressing themselves in the future.
One reason focus reduces stress is the ability it provides you to stay in the moment. When you are focused on a task, I mean completely focused, that is where all your attention is being directed.
This allows no room for anxious and worrisome thoughts to enter your mind. Another way focus reduces stress is the power it provides to get work done. Whether it’s training, school work, or work for your job, being focused will increase your productivity.
"Stress and worry come about due to your continual thinking about the future. Even if you’re stressing over something in the past, the reason for your concern comes from the fear of negative consequences expressing themselves in the future."
Benefit #2: Increased Work Quality
Who do you think will churn out higher quality work, someone with poor focus, or someone who can place all their attention on one task? The obvious answer is the latter of the two.
When you have the capability to focus completely on whatever it is you’re doing, the effectiveness of your work will improve.
For athletes, this means higher quality production in training and greater output during competition. For students, this means learning more and receiving higher grades. For professionals, this means producing work that you are proud of.
As your mind bounces from one idea to another, never settling on one subject, producing quality work becomes very difficult. But once you gain control over your attention, all of a sudden you see a spike in production.
Benefit #3: Better Time Management
Once you begin to improve your focus, your ability to manage the time given to you each day will get better as well. This mainly comes from the fact that distractions will not play such a role in your life.
When we have poor concentration, it’s easy to grow distracted. When you’re working, and constantly having your attention bounce from one thing to another, you quickly realize how much time you’re wasting.
Learning to hold your attention keeps you free from distractions. Leading to you utilizing time in a more efficient and effective manner.
Benefit #4: Improved Mindfulness
Mindfulness means being fully present in the moment. Sounds a lot like focus doesn’t it?
The greater focus you develop, the more you’ll be able to center your attention in the current moment.
Being mindful, especially during a competition, leads to greater production, reduces anxiety, and protects yourself from negative thinking.
When you start cultivating better focus, it will become easier to become mindful. As your attention becomes fixed on something, you will steadily shift your awareness into a more mindful state.
Nutrition Tips to Boost Your Focus
Understanding how nutrition impacts focus and the benefits increased focus provides, how can you leverage nutrition to boost your ability to concentrate?
There are four steps I am going to outline in the rest of this article. But one point I would like to make first is consistency.
If you wish to reap the rewards of improved focus through a tailored approach to nutrition, you cannot simply try a new diet one day and then give up.
To see results, consistency is going to be crucial. Give yourself a time period of consistency and you will begin to see results appear in your life.
Step #1: Map Out Your Diet
To start, you need to map out what you’re going to eat on a daily basis. The last thing you want to do, if your aim is to use nutrition in a meaningful way, is to be thinking about what to eat on a daily basis.
If each day you wake up and ask yourself, “What should I eat today?” it will be difficult to see the result you’re hoping for.
For one, this will be exhausting. The energy required to pay constant attention to what you’re consuming will wear you down over time.
Also, this leaves too much room for error. Without a clear picture of what you’re going to eat, you open the door for cravings and weaknesses, derailing your progress.
So, you want to start off by mapping out what you’re going to eat each day. A great way to do this is by planning out your meals at the beginning of each week.
That way, you don’t have to eat the same thing for dinner, let’s say, but you have made a plan for what you want to eat.
When you’re mapping out your diet, you need to be sure to include foods that will help boost your focus.
Step #2: Include the Right Food
What should you include in your diet in order to maximize focus? Well, it will depend on what you enjoy eating since there’s no point outlining a meal plan you know you’re honestly not going to follow.
Luckily, it’s not necessarily the meals that matter, but the food selection within the meals. When crafting your diet, be sure to include some of the foods listed below, as they’ve been proven to improve focus.
- Green Tea
- Leafy Green Vegetables
- Fatty Fish (high in omega-3’s)
- Dark Chocolate
- Flax Seeds
Step #3: Make Your Eating Habitual & Routine
Now that you have your diet mapped out, including some foods proven to boost memory, it’s now time to turn to the more psychological side of the equation.
When it comes to eating, the best way to ensure your diet will stay on point is to make eating a habit. What do I mean by making eating a habit? Well, it’s all about utilizing routine.
If you are aiming to adhere to your new diet, targeted to boost focus, it must become part of your routine. Aim to eat at the same time every day.
This will keep you from skipping meals, and over time, your mind and body will become accustomed to eating the right foods at the right times.
Step #4: Allow Yourself Some Breaks
In contrast to the previous step, you do not want to become a bully towards yourself. Yes, it is vital to make eating part of your routine. But we are all not striving to become rigid, serving only our diets.
Allow some opportunities for you to take a break from your new diet. Schedule a cheat meal, allow Friday nights to be filled with foods you enjoy.
The key to making any diet last is flexibility. I truly believe, allowing yourself opportunities to break from the daily grind of sticking to your meal plan is a crucial piece of lasting success, as long as your meal plan is tailored to helping you improve focus.
"The key to making any diet last is flexibility. I truly believe, allowing yourself opportunities to break from the daily grind of sticking to your meal plan is a crucial piece of lasting success."
There is a link between the food we eat and our ability to concentrate.
If you are currently struggling with focus, a great place to start is by examining your diet. What are your eating habits? Do you have any of the foods listed in the article included in your meal plan?
Maybe you’ve never even thought about mapping out what you eat. I encourage you to look at your diet through the eyes of a researcher and truly seek to understand how what you’re eating is impacting your focus.
How does your focus, or lack thereof, impact your performance? Do you eat any of the foods shown to improve focus? Let me know in the comments below.
If you are interested in improving your performance and reaching your full potential, click here to learn more about how mental performance coaching.
I hope you enjoyed this article, and if you found it helpful please feel free to share it with others. If you have any questions please don’t hesitate to contact me.
Thank you for reading and I wish you the best of success in all that you do.
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