Fuel your brain, not only your muscles

 Picture this: your alarm sounds at 6 am in the morning, you quickly go shower and wake up your kids for them to get ready for school. 8 am and you are leaving them on the gate and then rush to the gym for your morning workout since you are training for a running competition next weekend. Finished the workout, you have to rush home to sit on a project you are working on, then go to the grocery store, and then back again to school to pick up the kids. Around 9-10 pm you can finally relax a bit, but you feel so drained. By Thursday you skip training and you think: why did I signed up for that Sunday run, I am so tired!



Does this sound familiar? 

If you are training for a competition (like the King of the Mountain race this weekend) or for a specific goal (like losing some fat or gaining muscle) and you have to cope with your normal life (work, kids, projects, you name it!), it’s most likely that you are feeling something is wrong about your energy levels since you feel exhausted (and moody) by the end of the week.

Most of the people that train for sports put a lot of attention on what they are eating to fuel their muscles, to recover fast and to have energy during training and competition. But do they think about the fuel they are giving to their brain? Brain food is not only important for people that have high demanding jobs or are studying for a master’s degree or training for a sport

Fueling the brain

Our brain is constantly working, even when we sleep. It consumes 20% of our caloric intake and also makes your body consume even more energy by sending messages through the neurones and throughout our body.

The brain demands a constant supply of no other thing than glucose, which is the simplest form of carbohydrate. Unlike the muscle cells, the brain cells can’t store glucose, so we need to be providing this fuel constantly.

These carbohydrates can’t be from a refined sugar source (table sugar, corn syrup or processed sweets) since a really high sugar level can damage the brain cells. The best carbohydrate sources for our brain are in the whole grains and legumes. These are the type of carbohydrates that don’t make this “spike and crash” effect on our body and brain. They provide the glucose to the brain, without doing any sugar spikes to the body.

Also, there have been studies suggesting that consuming carbohydrates before and/or during training, delays the brain fatigue, so you will be more concentrated and focused during your workout.


Amino acids

Our brain works because of the communication between neurones in the form of neural impulses carried by some molecules called neurotransmitters. In a simpler form, the neurotransmitters are the ones that carry messages from one neurone to another.

Neurotransmitters are made from amino acids, which are the simplest forms of proteins. You can find the amino acids in chicken, lean beef or fish, in eggs and dairy, and in bee pollen. If you are plant based, you can find them in peanuts and some seeds or by mixing legumes with whole grains (which as we said before are the fuel for the brain as well). They exist also as supplements.

Other nutrients

Omega 3

When we talk about brain food we have to talk about omega 3. They have numerous health benefits in health and sports, and of course for our brain. Oily fish (such as salmon, trout, tuna and mackerel) or fish oils are the best sources of omega 3 available. Also, a great source is the flax seeds and flax seed oils. Recent studies are suggesting that this plant-based source is even more beneficial for the brain than the fish oil, because of the type of omega 3 it contains.



Antioxidants are naturally occurring nutrients that slow down the ageing process and protect your cells from the harmful effects of free radicals. Antioxidants are found everywhere in the whole plant-based foods: berries, green leafy vegetables, plums, apples, grapes, beans, cacao, celery, tomato, etc. This list can go on and on. By following a plant-based approach diet, you will get plenty of antioxidants as needed for your brain to work at its best.

It is well known that daily physical exercise improves the memory, skills and brain functions. And as you read through this article, the well-balanced food improves your mental performance. So once again, be mindful of your daily choices so you can be a greater version of yourself every day!


Fuel your brain, not only your muscles

Licensed Sports Nutritionist
& Muay Thai Fighter


Marcela Soto is a Nutritionist and Dietitian, with a specialization in Sports Nutrition. She earned her undergraduate degree in Human Nutrition at the University of Costa Rica in 2008, then completed her masters degree in Integrative Health and Human Movement in the Universidad Nacional de Costa Rica in 2010 and a postgraduate degree in Integral Health and Human Movement with emphasis in Athletes and Sports Nutrition. She has clocked more than 2,400 hours of supervised practice and more than 75 hours of continuing educational units, ensuring she stays on the cutting edge of her field.

Marcela also contributed to nutrition science with the publication of her graduate and master’s degree theses, and an article published in the peer-reviewed Journal of Food Science.

Marcela has worked as a private nutritionist for top athletes, gaining experience in running weight loss, detox, and sports nutrition programs to help athletes improve their performance. She has also worked as a nutritionist in fitness gyms, cross-fit gyms, boxing, MMA and Muay Thai gyms.

She is also a professional Muay Thai fighter, with more than 8 years experience, still competing in events for Thanyapura throughout Thailand.

Marcela is able to use her experience as an athlete, as well as her sports nutrition background, to provide all her clients with the best nutritional advice possible. Her focus is on Science and Healthy Lifestyles, promoting an active, natural, balanced lifestyle where what you eat is the base of all.

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About the Author

BochakornBOCHAKORN BOONSERM (MAAM) began her education in conventional medicine as a nurse, then shifted to embrace natural healing and integrative medicines. Her training and certifications abroad include: Nutrition and Western Herbal Medicines, Acupuncture and Moxibustion.

During her therapeutic sessions, she may also incorporate other aspects of integrative medicines when required, including: acupuncture, cupping therapy, moxibustion, nutritional, supplements and herbal recommendation.

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