Applying the science of brain health gives coaches a new opportunity to impact, touch and transform the lives of thousands of clients. The potential to be effective by using the neuroscience and data of the brain is almost liberating, and there’s a robust amount of data proving the efficacy of coaching community to inspire and foster change in others.
True, in many cases, the sole reason why coaching is so effective for some clients is simply because the coach, mentor, trainer, or instructor has a proven track record of success. The Certified Brain Fitness Coach also has a chance to make the same potential impact and ideally, clients will be drawn to work with you for your ability to elevate their lives to a new level. For this reason, it is important for Coaches to embrace some principles in your own life, as your clients will feel the authenticity behind the information being shared with them. They will most likely respond better when they see congruency with other good coaches.
Let’s turn our focus to the application of the principles that have been introduced in prior chapters for use with different types of clients that you may eventually serve. What you have learned in this course will serve as an anchor for knowledge; going forward, we hope coaches will then build a template to help guide your clients towards optimal brain health.
Strategies to assist and serve a client are broad in range. But regulating behaviors controlled by various parts of the brain is essential in cognitive flexibility and the skill we informally call going with the flow. Excessive activity in some regions of the brain can result in the symptoms we have
listed throughout this course; the main theme of it all is this: keeping the brain healthy and optimized involves physical activity, dietary modifications, and nutrient support. All of this will especially help create the neurochemistry needed to properly regulate activity in the prefrontal cortex.
Clients with injuries to the prefrontal cortex may benefit from a more rigorous, sustained form of aerobic exercise, as they are seen to result in enhanced serotonin in the brain when looking at modifications in the diet.
A nutrient-dense, high-protein/complex carbohydrate regimen containing tryptophan is also a best practice for clients with traumatic injuries to the brain. This is believed to be due to tryptophan being converted to 5-HTP, then used by the brain to produce serotonin.
Foods in this group include:
- amaranth and millet
- sweet potatoes
- green leafy vegetables
- blue green algae (spirulina)
- brown rice
The goal is to have a higher nutrient-dense carbohydrate and protein that produce serotonin in the brain.
Ensure your client is taking a foundational multivitamin, omega-3 fatty acids, bone broth, and B vitamins to provide the proper amount of raw materials to create the neurotransmitters required for optimal health. Your brain fitness clients should always have adequate vitamin D support, too.
As a best practice, encourage clients to get a baseline vitamin D test and start supplementing with 5000IUs daily; retest in six months. Most people require between 5000-10,000IUs per day to get to the optimal levels of vitamin D stabilized. Be sure to include magnesium, particularly if your client has anxiety or depression.
The majority of serotonin is produced in our gut – therefore, a probiotic is recommended; if your client is consuming cultured/fermented foods daily remember to suggest the need rotate probiotics every few months to diversify the species of bacteria that populate the gut.
However, we always must use caution; for example, 5-HTP can help to support mood – but we would never want to recommend this to a client currently on an antidepressant. In fact, ANY recommendation you discuss with a client should include your client consulting with their physician. This is vital if they’re taking any medications, to confirm that there are no contraindications.
What about a client with a short attention span? Or, procrastination, lack of motivation, fatigue, impulsivity, or distractibility? There’s a brain- based protocol that will support the production of dopamine which will enhance activity in the prefrontal cortex, improving energy and focus. Rigorous, high-intensity interval training is one of the best ways to boost dopamine. This type of high-intensity interval training can be accomplished through many sports including sprinting, boxing, or martial arts – but can also be done in the gym using the treadmill, elliptical, rowing machine, Stairmaster, jump rope, or free weights.
Be sure to vary the time, the weight and the distance of the exercise (i.e. running distance). The most effective dietary strategy for this client would be a high protein diet that supports enhancing the concentration of dopamine in the brain. The stimulating neurotransmitter foods to include for this type of client’s diet consist of organic grass-fed beef and chicken, wild fish, (especially salmon and halibut) raw nuts and seeds, walnuts, almonds, hemp, and chia seeds, sea vegetables, green leafy vegetables, nut butters, chocolate, and green tea.
The most effective nutrient support for your client should be a foundational multivitamin, omega-3 fatty acids, probiotics, and the adaptogenic herbs rhodiola and ashwagandha – all of which serve to enhance dopamine and regulate stress in the body.
Spirulina will provide nutrients and enhanced energy supplementation with the amino acid tyrosine – the precursor to dopamine. Try suggesting substituting coffee (which is the chemical form of producing dopamine) in favor of a green tea variety. In addition to supporting dopamine production, green tea will serve to protect telomeres.
Clients who require balance training and improvement of coordination may be athletes who have sustained concussions; they might be clients who have sustained a traumatic brain injury, aging clients with balance issues (susceptible to falls) or your client may have Parkinson’s disease. There are specific types of movement training dietary modifications and nutrients in support of improving balance, stability, and motor skills. The coordination centers are in the cerebellum, a structure located at the back of your brain. It accounts for 10 percent of the brain’s volume but contains over 50 percent of the total number of neurons. It is involved in the maintenance of balance and posture, coordination of voluntary movements, motor learning, and cognitive functions.
The cerebellum makes connections to the frontal lobes through the frontal cerebellar circuits and any activity that engages the cerebellar circuits will also benefit specific functions of the frontal lobe. Coordination training has been associated with improvements in working memory and therefore this type of client will benefit from coordination exercises to improve balance, motor skills, physical coordination, muscle strength, and postural stability.
This approach may include various forms of Chinese Martial Arts including Tai Chi, and Qi Gong, in addition to yoga, racket sports (like tennis) which are considered cognitively engaging coordination exercises. Swimming (dry land style) has been taught to Parkinson’s patients to help with movement concerns. Dance and use of a balance or stability ball may be explored as strategies, too.
Modifying Eating Plans
Clients might see more progress under a plan that consists of a high protein, low carbohydrate diet, to boost dopamine production. This is similar to what we would recommend to support focus.
Remember, the cerebellum is connected to the frontal lobes; when they are working optimally, you will observe enhanced function of coordination centers. This supports the theory that we might push for including more foods that support the production of dopamine.
Your clients can be a wide range of the population. It may include those who have suffered from debilitating traumatic brain injury, and perhaps present with mood disorders; or, your clients may have been diagnosed with a mild cognitive impairment. The truth is, everyone could use the knowledge you now have to help improve the function of the brain and the mind. Ultimately, the mind will serve each of us in its highest capacity when we address its health holistically – supporting focus and attention, enhancing your creativity, and productivity are manifestations of this ideal outcome. To reach the goal of a clear mind, one must rid the body of toxic substances and only ingest clean foods and fuels to attain peak performance. remember that the mind is a dynamic organ and at any time we have the power to change it by our thoughts, our words, and our actions.
The key is to get your client engaged in daily exercise that brings them fun and enjoyment. If your client is anxious, depressed, stressed, or distracted, then direct them to the more tailored approaches involving physical activity discussed previously.
For many, exercising outdoors in nature has a healing effect on the body. Your clients may prefer doing their cardiovascular and aerobic training in this setting. It is believed the benefits are derived from engaging in moving the body with physical fitness concurrently establishing new networks of high- level thinking patterns in the brain.
In an article from the New York Times, the author referred to running as the thinking person’s sport. In fact, a study published in the Frontiers of Human Neuroscience reported findings that observed the brains of competitive distance runners having different connections in areas known to aid in sophisticated cognition than the brains of healthy sedentary people. Mastering certain activities can alter the workings of the brain and running has been shown to be intellectually demanding and can impact the thinking patterns in those who run -even when not running! Another study, out of the University of Arizona, tested the brains of runners versus non- runners in an MRI scanner and found enhanced connectivity in areas of the brain needed for high level thought. For the runners in the study, this included areas of working memory, multitasking, attention, decision making, and processing of visual and sensory information. This is because running involves complex navigational skills including responding to the environment, juggling memories of past runs, analyzing current conditions, and continuing with the sequential motor activities of running – which can be more complex than they appear.
The optimal diet for a clear mind is not likely to surprise anyone – it is one that is high in antioxidants, plant-based foods and includes plenty of fruits and vegetables. It is low in processed foods and refined sugars. A low to moderate fat intake – primarily from plant- based sources and moderate protein intake the goal is to reduce inflammation in the body. This will also help to make for an efficient fuel-burning machine.
Intermittent fasting can also allow the body time to rest from the process of digestion so it can focus on restorative functions.
Consumption of green juices and aloe vera juice is easy to digest and they are loaded with nutrient-dense minerals, and enzymes while having properties that lower the bacterial and viral loads in the body.
The best nutrient support for a clear mind includes a foundational multivitamin, a plant-based omega- 3 fatty acid, vitamin B to support the central nervous system, vitamin C to support immune function, and vitamin D, to help prevent degenerative diseases of the brain (Alzheimer’s disease, etc.)
Magnesium is a critical mineral for the brain, as is zinc for immune support. Probiotics help support the microbiome, coenzyme q10 and coconut oil will act as fuel sources for the brain. Curcumin – a potent anti-inflammatory – can cross the blood-brain barrier and help to reduce the buildup of toxic beta-amyloid in the brain. This is being studied currently for its ability to halt the sequence of events that are believed to result in symptoms of Alzheimer’s disease.
The nutrients described as important for the brain include:
- N-acetyl Cysteine
- Alpha-lipoic Acid
- Gingko Biloba
- Huperzine A
There is strong evidence-based research that clearly shows the measurable effects on brain function with exercise, including elevated executive function, greater connectivity in areas of higher level thinking, enhanced working memory, refined motor skills, and improvements in sensory processing. Another benefit is increased gray matter volume in the hippocampus. We know that this is required for working memory.
Keeping the Benefits of Proactive Brain Health Measures
Do the benefits and brain function adaptations reported cease if there is a cessation of exercise? An original research article in the Frontiers in Aging Neuroscience examined this theory by performing a research study in elite athletes, defined as those who ran 35 miles or greater each week. These athletes were between the ages of 50 to 80 and the method used include functional MRI’s to measure changes in perfusion or blood flow before and after a 10- day rest period. The results: taking a brief time off resulted in lower blood flow to the hippocampus, the region of the brain involved in higher level memory formation.
It is reasonable to conclude that extended rest from exercise will cause changes in perfusion patterns in the brain. As Brain Fitness Coaches, we want to strive for our client to optimize their brain to always be well perfused. It is the blood that transports critical nutrients and oxygen to tissues, and this perfusion is responsible for removing the toxic waste.
Now that you have learned more about the brain, your credential should provide you with more than information; it should also give you more confidence that you can coach your clients to attain the highest potential from this vital organ. It may also result in more favorable client outcomes.
The thoughts we think, the nutrients we consume, the fluids we drink, the health of our body, our ability to regulate our stress, and our exercise and lifestyle habits are all powerful modulators of the 100 billion neurons and 100 trillion synaptic connections in the brain. It is now time to understand the totality of greatness that our brain is capable of. This complex system is one demanding constant reflection to understand. It is time to think of ways you can be of service to clients and their brain health.
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