Connecting the link between your brain and exercise and how can it affect your performance?
Understanding the complex relationship between your brain and how it interacts with the body during exercise, along with the physiology involved, one can start to piece together the potential detriment that mental fatigue can actually have on performance. This has led to an influx of new research in the field of sport psychology. If we are able to better understand what causes issues such as mental fatigue or burnout and how it affects exercise, we can then develop strategies to better deal with our mental health and optimize our exercise routines.
However, before we can understand mental fatigue and its connection to exercise, we need to be able to understand the link between exercise and your brain. In a book called Spark that was published in 2008 by John Ratey, he proved that exercise has more of an effect on your brain than any other part of your body. Exercise turns out to be a major contributor to boosting your motivation, focus, and memory. Exercise can act like a magic pill that instantly boosts your brain capabilities. In fact, exercise can boost your mental capabilities more than drugs such as Zoloft that has been known to have a significant impact on your mental capabilities.
Firstly, we need to briefly explain how the brain works. Your brain is not a fixed organ but is an adaptable organ that changes exactly like any other muscle in your body like weightlifting, for example, strengthening your arms. Remember that the brain is the most important organ in your body.
Everything we do, think and experience is governed by how our brain cells, or neurons, connect to each other. These connections are referred to as neurotransmitters or the body’s messengers. There are many different types of neurotransmitters in your brain, but the ones we will focus on and find most relevant is dopamine, serotonin, and norepinephrine.
The first one we need to consider is dopamine, a neurotransmitter that is responsible for your motivation. Its purpose is to seek and search for some type of reward to keep you motivated. This will usually give you the feeling of motivation to then drive you to get things done. In other words, the reason you might be unmotivated is that your dopamine levels are low. In fact, researchers tried an experiment that switched off the dopamine receptor in the brain of a rat and the results were astonishing.
The rat became so lazy that it chose to starve to death and didn’t move to eat the food that was presented to it because it was no longer motivated. The human brain works in a similar way where dopamine levels determine your motivation. The great news is that studies have proved that exercise instantly and significantly boosts your dopamine level, which means it will instantly make you feel more motivated.
The second neurotransmitter is serotonin. It is basically the police officer of your brain as it influences your mood, anger, aggressiveness and helps to keep your brain activity under control. In other words, if you feel anxious or depressed, or even stressed out, that is probably because your serotonin levels are too low.
This is why most of your anti-depressant medications are designed to try and boost your serotonin levels, as this will help you get out of your depression and reduce your stress. However, once again studies have shown that exercise has a direct influence on your serotonin levels, which means that exercise can improve depression.
The last neurotransmitter is Norepinephrine that is responsible for regulating your attention span. If you struggle to stay focused, it is most likely due to low norepinephrine. High levels of norepinephrine sharpen your attention and in contrast low levels make it hard to focus.
Exercise is unique as it also boosts your memory and learning abilities because of a protein called brain derived neurotrophic factor or BDNF for short. Studies have shown that the part of your brain that is responsible for your memory and learning has BDNF.
This is really great, as BDNF gets released when our blood is pumping, thus growing your brain cells and increasing your learning capacity. In other words, exercise can directly improve your memory. Imagine how your day would be if we could instantly boost your motivation, mood, and attention every morning. On top of that, it also increases your memory and learning capacity.
How many hours should you be exercising to boost your neurotransmitter levels?
According to numerous studies, six hours in a week is adequate to keep your neurotransmitters high throughout the day. It is also recommended to try and exercise right before studying or working as at that specific moment your neurotransmitters are at the highest level and your BDNF is rapidly being released. This explains why you feel energetic, motivated, and inspired after that morning jog. Is there a link between mental fatigue and exercise performance?
Numerous studies have tried to find a link between physical performance and a decrease in strength, power, and anaerobic work rate due to mental fatigue. However, most studies concluded that mental fatigue does not impact physicality, but rather has a negative impact on endurance performance due to a higher level of perceived exertion.
In other words, a tired mind will trick you into believing you are tired much sooner than you would normally be. As a result of this most study subjects show less progression than people that have high neurotransmitter levels. They are mentally less fatigued keeping themselves more motivated during workouts and can have a higher exercise output. The most important factor responsible for the negative impact of mental fatigue on exercise performance will be what the brain perceives as higher exertion.
How can we prevent mental fatigue and boost neurotransmitter levels?
The first step is to realize that your brain is in an energy slump and that you to gather the mental energy to break yourself out. This means you need to get up and move! As mentioned above exercise will increase blood flow to your brain bringing with it extra oxygen and nutrients to the tired brain cells.
The second and most overlooked step is to choose the correct brain food. Pick nutrient-dense options that balance out energy throughout the day. A sugary treat might make you feel great but as soon as your sugar levels drop, so will your mental energy. Due to the demands of our ever-changing and fast-moving lives, most of our major food sources are deprived of nutrients as additives and preservatives take centre stage in the diet of most people.
To ensure you get all the nutrients to safely boost your serotonin, dopamine, and norepinephrine levels it is highly recommended to take something with adequate natural compounds to supplement along with your exercise and diet. Prometheuz Health offers a wide array of products specifically designed to stave off mental fatigue to safely keep your neurotransmitter levels adequate so you can perform optimally in not only your workouts, but during your daily life.