Athletes Need To Train Their Brains | STACK
X

Become a Better Athlete. Sign Up for our FREE Newsletter.

Athletes Need to Train Their Brains

March 31, 2013 | Z Altug

large braind

The average adult brain represents approximately 2% of total body weight. Your brain is constantly firing, even when you're asleep.(1)

In fact, your brain accounts for 20 percent of the energy your body uses. That might not seem like a lot, but it's the same amount used by your skeletal muscles, which comprise 40 to 50 percent of your body weight. If you want to perform at your best, you have to train your brain. (See also Develop Your Brain Game.)

How to Get More Out of Your Brain 

  • Get enough bright light every day. Light increases the brain's serotonin levels, needed to enhance mood and vitality.(2)
  • Reduce blood pressure, since low blood pressure has a positive effect on cognitive function.(3)
  • Eat foods rich in omega 3 fatty acids.
  • Eat blueberries since they can boost memory in older individuals (and could be important for veteran athletes).(4)
  • Eat a healthy breakfast and try not to skip meals.
  • Get plenty of aerobic exercise, since it may help preserve brain size (gray matter volume) and reduce the risk of cognitive impairment.(5)
  • Perform strength training at least once or twice a week.(6)
  • Get adequate rest, relaxation and sleep, since it helps repair and restore the body and brain.(7) A study showed that sleep following physical therapy sessions promotes off-line motor learning of the skills practiced during rehabilitation.(8) This implies that you need to sleep in order to retain and learn whatever your coach taught you in practice.
  • Be socially interactive with many people by joining clubs, volunteering or teaching.(9) Being a lone wolf does not help your brain.
  • Challenge your brain in as many ways as possible by engaging in music, art, reading, writing, math, and dancing—and play games like chess, crossword puzzles or computer games.

For further information, check out the following websites:

References

(1) Clark DD, Sokoloff L. "Circulation and energy metabolism of the brain." In Siegel GJ, Agranoff BW, Albers RW, et al. Basic Neurochemistry: Molecular, Cellular and Medical Aspects. Philadelphia: Lippincott-Raven, 1999.

(2) Brawley EC. "Enriching light design." NeuroRehabilitation. 2009;25(3):189-199.

(3) Nagai M, Hoshide S, Kario K. "Hypertension and dementia." American Journal of Hypertension. 2010;23(2):116-124.

(4) Krikorian R, Shidler MD, Nash TA, et al. "Blueberry supplementation improves memory in older adults." Journal of Agricultural and Food Chemistry. 2010;58(7):3996-4000.

(5) Erickson KI, Raji CA, Lopez OL, et al. "Physical activity predicts gray matter volume in late adulthood: The Cardiovascular Health study." Neurology, 2010; 75(16):1415-1422.

(6) Liu-Ambrose T, Nagamatsu LS, Graf P, et al. "Resistance training and executive functions: a 12-month randomized controlled trial." Archives of Internal Medicine. 2010;170(2):170-178.

(7) Lupien SJ, Fiocco A, Wan N, et al. "Stress hormones and human memory function across the lifespan." Psychoneuroendocrinology. 2005;30(3):225-242.

(8) Siengsukon CF, Boyd LA. "Does sleep promote motor learning? Implications for physical rehabilitation." Physical Therapy. 2009;89(4):370-383.

(9) Ybarra O, Burnstein E, Winkielman P, et al. "Mental exercising through simple socializing: social interaction promotes general cognitive functioning." Personality & Social Psychology Bulletin. 2008;34(2):248-259.

 

Z Altug
- Z Altug, PT, MS, CSCS, NSCA-PT, is a licensed physical therapist and athletic performance specialist out of Los Angeles. He co-authored the 2012 Healthy Lifestyle...
Z Altug
- Z Altug, PT, MS, CSCS, NSCA-PT, is a licensed physical therapist and athletic performance specialist out of Los Angeles. He co-authored the 2012 Healthy Lifestyle...
Must See
Derrick Rose Explains How He Stays Positive
Views: 4,826,223
Abby Wambach Will Do Whatever It Takes
Views: 2,692,522
Dashon Goldson: "You Just Gotta Have Heart"
Views: 2,914,233

Featured Videos

James Harden on Becoming a Franchise Player Views: 72,181
Path to the Pros 2015: Devin Smith Views: 28,813
Blake Griffin Interview and Cover Shoot Views: 574,246
Load More

Resources

STACK Fitness

Everything you need to be fitter than ever

STACK Conditioning

Sport-specific conditioning programs

Coaches and Trainers

Tips and advice for coaches and trainers

Magazine

Latest issues of STACK Magazine

STACK 4W

Women's sports workout, nutrition and lifestyle advice

Gamer

Gaming, entertainment and tech news

Basic Training

Military-style training for athletes

News

Find the latest news relevant to athletes

Most Popular Videos

Dwight Howard Stays in the Gym All Night
Views: 3,880,088
Two-Ball Dribbling Drill With John Wall
Views: 3,359,483
Colby Lewis's Four-Seam Fastball Technique
Views: 5,011,383
Drew Brees Will Not Be Denied
Views: 7,789,434
Dwight Howard Stays in the Gym All Night
Views: 3,880,088

Load More
More Cool Stuff You'll Like

4 Tips for Building Confidence

How many times have you wished you had more confidence but aren't sure how to get it? You are probably not alone since this happens to most of us quite...

How Mental Flexibility Boosts Your Game

What's Your Backup Plan When 'Plan A' Fails?

How to Improve Mental Focus on the Baseball Diamond

5 Tips for Playing Mentally Tough Tennis

Build Mental Toughness in the Weight Room

6 Ways Sport Parents Are Doing It Wrong

Tips to Be a Better Leader

How Nik Wallenda Prepared to Walk Across the Grand Canyon

The Art of Strength and Conditioning Coaching

How to 'Keep Your Cool' on the Football Field

Get Tough on Your Goals to Get Fit

Why You Should Be Training Instead of Exercising

Use Sports Psychology Against Your Opponents

Visualize Yourself Winning, and You're Halfway There

How Mental Performance Affects Your Workouts

Study: Athletes Think Faster, More Accurately Than Non-Athletes

The One Word You Should Never Say to Yourself

Regain Your Confidence by Getting BIG

Can a Faster Brain Increase Sports Performance?

4 Obstacles to Better Goal Setting

Don't Take Your Headphones to the Gym

Home Field Advantage Is Real, Says Science

Why Athletes Must Focus on Developing Their Own Identity

How Clayton Kershaw Gets in the Zone

4 Reasons Your Team Is Losing

Growth Mindset: How to Think Like a Champion

Does Home Field Actually Confer an Advantage?

5 Tips to Becoming a Successful Athlete

5 Steps to Becoming a Better Coach

Stress Exposure Training for Basketball

Overcome the 5 Most Common Mental Mistakes in Sports

Overcome Your Fear of Failure

Make Goals, Not Deals

Mental Warm-Up: How to Build Confidence Before a Game

The Holistic Approach to Impactful Sports Coaching

5 Steps to Changing a Bad Habit

Positive Affirmations for Athletes

How Mentally Tough Are You?

A Coach Describes What It

3 Ways to Develop Your Football Warrior Mentality

6 Ideas to Build a More Cohesive Team