Food, Mood, and Fat
In sports and in life, creating a brain environment that is relaxed, focused, and motivated will make our days more meaningful and more enjoyable. Serotonin is the brain neurotransmitter, or chemical messenger responsible for that happy feeling we sometimes get. Serotonin helps to relay messages from one nerve cell to another giving us this sense of well being. In many protein rich foods we find the component tryptophan which converts to 5HTP (5-Hydroxytryptophan) which in turn converts to serotonin. If serotonin is high, you are more likely to be positive, confident and optimistic. If it’s low, chances are you will be worried, sleepless and crave sugar. The whole craving sugar deal will cause you to overeat and yes, gain weight.
It is important to eat quality, high protein foods like organic meats and nuts to stock up on tryptophan. These foods are the key to maintaining adequate amounts of the amino acids necessary for proper neurotransmitter function. Adding these foods sounds simple, but it is easy to become serotonin deficient these days. In present times, there is less quality protein available since most non-organic meat supply feeds on low tryptophan grains like corn instead of the grasses and plants that wild game used to eat. Aside from choosing higher quality meats, one option is supplementing with 5-HTP. Doing so bypasses the need for tryptophan and immediately converts to serotonin. Other added bonuses: 5-HTP improves the quality of sleep, is less expensive than antidepressant drugs, better tolerated and has fewer, milder side effects. (If you are currently on an antidepressant and are considering 5HTP, do not go off of your medication or start any supplements without first talking to your doctor.)
An improved diet will significantly improve mood. Poor dietary habits including low calorie dieting, low protein diets, and too much sugar are the primary reasons why people suffer from low serotonin. Many studies confirm that eating sweet carbohydrates can temporarily increase serotonin levels, but then that ‘‘high” dissipates quickly and leaves us craving even more sugar. This process sets us up for a cycle of sugar addiction that’s hard to break. Julia Ross, author of ‘‘The Mood Cure,” says that ‘‘carbohydrate addiction, like alcohol and drug addiction is primarily a brain chemistry problem: the neurotransmitters that produce normal appetites and moods are too depleted to their jobs. We can’t go around eating the American diet and remain unscathed,” Ross says.
In your quest to become super fit (and super sexy), do your best to cut out junk food, cookies, chips, crackers and as many sugars as you can. Make sure that you include a good multivitamin with adequate amounts of B vitamins. Vitamin D, Folic acid, zinc, chromium, selenium and fish oils (omega-3 fatty acids) to provide a solid foundation for your mood health, as several studies indicate that these nutrients have a directly beneficial effect on depression.
Change your diet, change your brain. We are supposed to have energy, focus, and ambition in all endeavors.