5 Practical Habits To Build A Better Brain & Boost Cognitive Performance

Biohacker Dave Asprey is one of the leading experts on brain health.

As the author of Head Strong and founder of Bulletproof, Dave has spent years researching and experimenting with tools, habits, and protocols to unlock the full potential of the human brain and body.

In this article, we’ll look at five practical habits Dave Asprey recommends to build a better brain and boost your cognitive performance.

Brain Habit 1: Manage Stress

In this fast-paced world, people are more stressed than ever before. A 2018 study in the UK found that 74% of people felt so stressed they were overwhelmed or unable to cope.

When we’re stressed, it depletes our mental energy reserves. “Your brain uses more energy when you’re stressed, which means you have less energy available to power your cognitive abilities,” writes Dave Asprey.

Prolonged exposure to stress can lead to chronic inflammation, which has been associated with cognitive decline and various neurodegenerative diseases.

In short, chronic stress wreaks havoc on the brain. This is why managing stress is one of the most important things you can do for optimal brain performance and overall health.

To counter the negative effects of stress, practice some of these stress-reducing habits:

  • Sleep 7–8 hours per night
  • ​Practice meditation or mindfulness
  • ​Exercise at least 3x per week
  • ​Write in a journal
  • ​Take long nature walks
  • ​Reduce information intake (social media, news, politics, etc.)
  • ​Take regular time off

Brain Habit 2: Prioritize Your Sleep

As Dave Asprey writes in Head Strong, “One of the most important things you can do to improve your cognitive function and overall health is to sleep better and get more of it.”

Sleep is “recovery mode” for the brain, which makes it vital for better learning, memory, and cognitive function.

During sleep, our brains actively work on repairing neural connections and flushing out toxins from our system.

“Your brain actually has its own waste disposal system, called the glymphatic system, which works to flush out toxins and cellular debris while you sleep,” writes Asprey.

This critical process helps to protect our brains from potential harm and ensures that we can function at our best when we are awake.

To improve the quality of your sleep, follow these tips:

  • ​Maintain a consistent sleep schedule by going to bed and waking up at the same time every day
  • ​Keep your bedroom cool, dark, and quiet to create an optimal sleeping environment
  • ​Avoid exposure to blue light before bedtime, as blue light disrupts your circadian rhythm and blocks melatonin production (an essential sleep hormone)
  • ​Don’t consume caffeine after 3 pm in the afternoon, and avoid excessive sugar consumption in the evening hours

All in all, getting enough sleep is one of the most effective things you can do to reset your brain and body for optimal health and peak performance.

Brain Habit 3: Eat Brain-Boosting Foods

Another key to unlocking our brain’s full potential lies in the foods we consume.

Foods rich in high-quality fats are actually one of the best brain boosters.

Although many people fear eating fat, studies show it’s an essential nutrient that provides our brains with the fuel it needs to function optimally.

“Fat is an essential nutrient for your brain. Eating the right kinds of fat can help you have more energy and think more clearly,” writes Asprey.

The best sources of high-quality fats are:

  • ​Avocados
  • ​Coconut oil
  • ​Fish (wild-caught)
  • ​Nuts
  • ​Eggs
  • ​Grass-fed butter

Another key nutrient to improve our brain health and optimize cognitive performance are antioxidants.

Antioxidants help reduce inflammation in the body and brain, and chronic inflammation can lead to cognitive decline and neurodegenerative diseases.

Foods rich in antioxidants are:

  • ​Berries
  • ​Spinach
  • ​Brocolli
  • ​Leafy greens
  • ​Walnuts
  • ​Turmeric
  • ​Dark chocolate

All in all, make sure to eat a high-quality diet rich in brain-boosting nutrients such as healthy fats and antioxidants.

Brain Habit 4: Exercise Often

The importance of exercise for optimal brain function and cognitive performance can’t be overstated. Studies show regular exercise enhances cognitive abilities, memory, and overall brain health.

One of the key reasons working out is so beneficial for brain health is that it increases the production of Brain-Derived Neurotrophic Factor (BDNF).

BDNF is a protein that promotes the growth, maintenance, and survival of neurons in the brain, which are crucial for learning, memory, and overall mental performance.

As Dave Asprey writes in Head Strong, “Exercise is one of the most effective ways to increase BDNF production in your brain.”

Furthermore, exercise plays a vital role in improving mitochondrial function. Mitochondria are the powerhouses of our cells, responsible for generating the energy our bodies need to function optimally.

Exercise does not only increase the number of mitochondria, but it also enhances their efficiency, leading to better energy production and improved cognitive abilities.

“Your mitochondria are the key to your brain’s performance, and exercise is one of the best ways to supercharge them,” writes Asprey.

Last of all, regular exercise helps to reduce inflammation and oxidative stress, which are major contributors to the decline in brain health.

When working out, the body releases natural antioxidants and anti-inflammatory compounds, which protect the brain from the damaging effects of inflammation.

All in all, if you want to boost brain performance, regular exercise is one of the most effective things you can do.

Your brain will thank you for it.

Brain Habit 5: Practice Intermittent Fasting

Intermittent fasting (IF) is another powerful brain-boosting habit. When intermittent fasting, you abstain from food and caloric drinks for a specific timeframe — usually 16 hours.

(During this fast, you can still drink water and other no-calorie beverages, like plain coffee or tea.)

One of the most powerful benefits of intermittent fasting is that it stimulates a process called ‘autophagy.’

Autophagy is crucial for maintaining optimal brain function, as it clears out damaged cells and debris, allowing new, healthy cells to grow.

This process prevents the accumulation of damaged cells, which could lead to neurodegenerative diseases (such as Alzheimer’s and Parkinson’s disease).

Aside from promoting autophagy, intermittent fasting has other brain-boosting benefits:

  • ​It increases the production of Brain-Derived Neurotrophic Factor (similar to exercise)
  • ​It helps regulate blood sugar levels, providing more stable energy for our brains
  • ​It helps to reduce inflammation, which protects our brains from cognitive decline

Intermittent fasting is most commonly practiced in a 16:8 ratio. This method involves a 16-hour fast followed by an 8-hour eating window.

Most people (myself included) tend to fast between 8 pm and noon, which includes 7–8 hours of sleep, making the fasting period easier to complete.

All in all, intermittent fasting is a powerful brain-boosting habit.

As Dave Asprey wrote in Head Strong, “Intermittent fasting is one of the most powerful tools you have for upgrading your brain and your body. It’s free, it’s simple, and it works.”

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Hi, I'm Jari Roomer

Founder Personal Growth Lab

At PGL, we share science-based tools and routines to optimize your health, cognitive performance, and productivity.

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