How Turmeric Improves Mental And Physical Performance

When I'm working with a client to improve their physical or mental performance, there's two factors that we always address first. These factors are so fundamental to the functioning of the body and brain, it's next-to-impossible to meaningfully improve performance or well-being without addressing them first and foremost.

First on this list is to determine the level of chronic inflammation a person has, and then find the causes of the inflammation and eliminate them as much as is possible. I've written at length about inflammation and how damaging it can be to the performance of the brain and body. In short, inflammation results in decreased energy metabolism, accelerated aging, increased risk of many diseases - and more generally, a body that feels like crap.

The second factor we address is the client's level of toxin exposure, primarily from the diet, the environment and the products we interact with. Toxin exposure is one of the primary causes of chronic inflammation, but the consequences of persistent exposure to toxins can go a bit deeper. Toxins disrupt cell functioning by damaging enzymes, cell receptors and other proteins critical to a properly functioning metabolism and endocrine system. Needless to say, minimizing these impacts of toxins in the body can produce huge improvements in well being and performance.

Turmeric: A Performance Enhancer?

This gives a bit of context to why I believe so strongly in turmeric root as a tremendously powerful tool for promoting well-being and vitality - and even go as far as to call it a legitimate performance enhancer.

Turmeric is perhaps the most powerful "nutraceutical" I know of for addressing not just one, but both of these issues I obsess over so deeply in my own diet and wellness practices, as well as those of my clients.

Inflammation Fighter

First a bit of background on inflammation:

Inflammation is effectively a response of our immune cells to a perceived threat of infection. Unfortunately, in our highly contaminated modern world, immune systems are often constantly triggered, producing crippling chronic inflammation.

When the immune cells encounter a threat, they release molecules called cytokines that instruct cells in the surrounding tissues to trigger their inflammatory signaling cascade (often referred to as the NF-Kappa-B pathway). 

Turmeric and curcumin (one of the primary active compounds in turmeric) effectively interrupt this inflammatory signaling system by inhibiting a critical enzyme (COX-2) in that NF-Kappa-B pathway. The result is a significantly blunted inflammatory response. [1][2]

Turmeric is so effective at reducing the inflammatory response it's been successfully used to treat a number of inflammation-driven diseases, and often more effectively than the common (and often toxic) prescription drugs. 

In studies, turmeric has shown to be comparable or occasionally superior to prescription drugs in treating several types of arthritis, cardiovascular disease, inflammatory bowel diseases and even inflammation-driven neurological diseases like Alzheimer's and major depression disorder. [3][4][5][6][7]

Pretty amazing stuff.

So how does this relate to your mental and physical performance? For a number of reasons I outlined in depth in my Inflammation Series, an inflamed body and brain simply don't perform as well as they could. Energy metabolism is suppressed, the body is more prone to injury and recovery from training becomes less efficient. At a simpler level, an inflamed body feels like crap and as any athlete knows, it's difficult to perform at a high level when this is the case.

Boosts Body's Antioxidant Systems

I've spent plenty of time in previous articles explaining why eating a diet rich in antioxidants is one of the better practices you can adopt for promoting overall health and vitality. (as you might have guessed, turmeric is indeed quite rich in toxin-neutralizing polyphenols)

There's another fascinating level to turmeric's antioxidant activity. In all of our focus on eating antioxidant rich foods, we can forget that some of the most powerful antioxidants we know of are actually enzymes produced by our own bodies.

Turmeric has the unique capacity to actually stimulate our body's production of our four most powerful antioxidant enzymes. Studies have shown that turmeric increases levels of superoxide dismutase, glutathione, and glutathione reductase enzyme levels in blood and glutathione-S-transferase and superoxide dismutase enzymes in liver. [8]

This radical stimulation of our body's natural toxin-protective systems likely accounts for a lot of the neuroprotective and DNA-protective activity researchers have observed turmeric to have.

Indeed, several studies have shown turmeric extracts to have significant neuroprotective activity against toxin-induced oxidative neurological damage. [9] [10]

Getting Turmeric In Your Diet

Perhaps the only real drawback to using turmeric on a daily basis is that it can be fairly annoying to deal with. Neither raw turmeric root nor turmeric powder are particularly convenient, especially if you want to take large doses.

Turmeric extracts simplify the process tremendously, which is why we recently decided to add a turmeric extract to our flagship superfood meal replacement product, Synchro Genesis.

This "daily maintenance dose" of turmeric extract works wonders in keeping inflammation in check, protecting the brain from oxidative damage and stimulating antioxidant enzyme production.

We also have a full-on "therapeutic dose" turmeric beverage product a few weeks away from launch (as of 9/19/14), so without saying too much, let me just say that having this product in my fridge the past few weeks has been a minor revolution in the way I deal with inflammation. Stay tuned on this.

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[1] http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/11566484

[2] http://www.jbc.org/content/270/42/24995.full

[3] http://www.inaactamedica.org/archives/2012/22745140.pdf

[4] http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/18588355

[5] http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/16240238

[6] http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/24335167

[7] http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/23832433

[8] http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3195121/

[9] http://www.plosone.org/article/info%3Adoi%2F10.1371%2Fjournal.pone.0101251

[10] http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/17569212

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Cinnamon Vanilla Chia Porridge Recipe (paleo, ketogenic and low-glycemic)

When I'm evaluating a food as a potential dietary staple, I'm looking for a few key traits: it should be nutrient-rich, low-toxin, low-glycemic and hopefully, convenient. There are few foods that meet all of these criteria as well as chia seeds.

These seeds come from the Salvia Hispanica plant, native to many parts of Central and South America. Historical records show chia has been cultivated in these areas for thousands of years, and was likely equally as important as a food source as maize in Aztec times.

I could spend a few paragraphs telling you how awesome chia is nutritionally, but this infographic does a pretty good gob:

 

Beyond this impressive nutrient profile, there's even better reasons why I'm so in love with this chia recipe. 

First - It has an almost insignificantly low glycemic load (the measure of how much a food raises blood sugar), so it is a perfect food if you're following a ketogenic diet or modified intermittent fasting, two dietary protocols I follow personally and recommend *highly* to anyone looking to get more performance out of their brain and body. This recipe has a total of 25g of carbohydrate, of which almost all are dietary fibers that will not impact blood sugar.

Second - It's so damn convenient. I keep all of these ingredients in my office and can have a super-nutritious snack in about 5 minutes. 

What You'll Need

  • 5 Tbsp (about 2.5 oz or 65g) of Chia Seeds
  • 1.5 Tbsp Xylitol (natural sugar-free sweetener)
  • 4oz Water
  • 4oz Vanilla Almond Milk (Califa is best I've found)
  • A few shakes of cinnamon 
  • A few slices of low glycemic fruit like strawberries or blueberries (optional)
  • 2 Tbsp Cocotella (highly recommended)
  • A 16oz (or larger) jar with lid

How You'll Make It

  1. Add the ingredients to your jar in this order - water then almond milk then xylitol then chia seeds. Immediately after adding the chia seeds, screw on the lid and shake the jar vigorously for 15-20 seconds.
  2. Remove the lid and add cinnamon to taste.
  3. Shake vigorously again about once a minute for the next 5 or 6 minutes.
  4. Voila! You're done. Told you it was almost too simple to be true. 
    90% of the time I eat it straight out of the jar, but if you want to be fancy and "plate" your snack, be my guest. 
    You can also add fruit or Cocotella at this point if you want, but neither are necessary (although I highly recommend the Cocotella - see below)

Xylitol?

I figured this ingredient would draw the most confusion and/or criticism, so let me explain. 

Xylitol is a natural sweetener derived from the birch tree. It is a sugar alcohol, meaning it has a taste very close to sugar, but is processed very differently once it enters the digestive system. Where a normal sugar would digest quickly and show up as a blood sugar spike relatively quickly, xylitol is processed and converted to blood sugar very slowly, over the course of hours. Additionally, about half of the xylitol will never be converted to blood sugar and will make it into the lower portions of the digestive tract as dietary fiber, where gut bacteria will convert it into beneficial fatty acids.

Xylitol is completely non-toxic and can be used in place of sugar in most recipies at a 1-to-1 ratio.

Cocotella: Highly Recommended Addition

For all of the amazing nutritional traits of chia seeds, perhaps the one thing they lack is a quickly-processed energy source to keep energy levels and cognitive performance high in the short term. This is where Cocotella comes in.

Cocotella is our small-batch artisan chocolate coconut butter. Like all coconut butters, it is a rich source of medium chain triglycerides (MCT's) a specific type of fat that converts to energy very quickly in the body and has been shown to have numerous cognitive-boosting effects. 

This addition takes an already delicious and highly nutritious recipe and makes it highly functional.

 

Looking for more healthy recipes?

The Synchro Recipe We Can't Stop Eating - "Synchro Spheres"

Synchro Salad Recipe - Version Two (Avocado-Vinegar Dressing)

The Secret Dark Side Of Kale



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