Maximizing Cognitive Capacity

Many psychologists and educators believe that IQ is a fixed measure that limits an individual’s top end cognitive output. As a behaviorist I find this to be untrue, as the more relations an individual creates with the environment, the higher intellectual output tends to be (but that is a discussion for another time). Regardless of where your current cognitive capacity lies, maximizing the ability to express this capacity can be done using a few empirically supported suggestions.

1)       GET ENOUGH SLEEP

Recent neurological research is showing that sleep is VERY important to our cognitive function. Failing to get enough sleep at night is devastating to the brain’s ability to recover and then perform the following day. When the brain is short on this recovery, it is unable to repair the hormonal damage from the previous day. When trying to determine how much sleep you need, the current research points to the 7 hour mark as the minimum for “enough” for adults. Personally, I shoot for 8 and if I hit that I am feeling really good. Dip below 7; however, and my mind and body are running on fumes. Sleep has been a huge area of interest of mine (especially with the recent arrival our our baby boy Cal) and will be the primary focus of an upcoming post. The purpose of this post is stress the fact that SLEEP MATTERS!

2)       SET UP ROUTINES

Decision fatigue is a psychological process that refers to the deteriorating quality of decisions made by an individual after a long string of decision making (Baumeister, 2003). Our days are filled with hundreds, if not thousands of micro decisions:

What clothes to wear in the morning? What to make for breakfast and how should I make it? Should I exercise? What kind of exercise should I do?

Every time a person makes a decision, a little bit of mental energy is used. There are unavoidable decisions that we are required to make every day that are part of the human experience; however, there are most likely dozens if not hundreds of these daily decisions that could be automated. The three most potent automations I have made in my life are: multiple day meal prep, writing to do lists to guide my productivity, and hiring a coach to guide my exercise and nutrition. By automating the processes surrounding these high impact areas of my life, I ensure that I stay on tack with my personal and business goals, while allowing myself the much needed capacity to take on those spontaneous decisions that life loves to throw our way.  

3)       DO CROSSFIT

Recent clinical trials have linked CrossFit training to a significant increase in brain-derived neurotrophic factor (BDNF) after three months of CrossFit training (Murawska-Cialowicz E, et at., 2015). Why does that matter? When we are talking about the brain, BDNF is a MAJOR player in cognitive performance. BDNF is protein that is released during skeletal muscles during intense exercise and plays a significant role in neurogenesis (protecting and creating new neurons which allows the brain and the body to communicate more effectively and efficiently). This process has been directly linked to increases in learning, memory and higher level thinking. Significant depletions in BDNF have been directly linked to cognitive diseases and disorders (e.g., depressions, schizophrenia, and Alzheimer’s). A decrease in BDNF is also a key marker of aging and obesity. Now does your exercise have to be CrossFit to release BDNF? No, any form of high intensity exercise can serve a similar function; however, bringing back the previous point of decision fatigue, CrossFit sets you up for success in ways that no other current form of exercise can. The classes run at the same times every day allowing you to add it to your routine. The warm-up, technique drills, workout and cool down are all designed for you saving you from any decision making surrounding your exercise. At Packerland CrossFit, your class will be led by an experienced Coach who knows you and will deliver that necessary intensity in a progress fashion to ensure that you stay safe and healthy so you are able to come back again tomorrow.

In full disclosure there are days when I don’t get enough sleep, fly by the seat of my pants, and miss my workout; however, the beautiful part about life is, tomorrow is a new day. I released this post on a Sunday to hopefully give you all a bit of motivation to start this next week off right. Prep a few lunches for the upcoming week, get to bed on time tonight, and hit a workout in the morning before you head to work (if you are currently without a gym membership do 20 burpees the first thing after you wake up). If you can only implement one technique, that’s okay because action is all that matters!

Love you all,

Coach Ty