Brain Health Essential To Athletic Success

Yogi Berra used to say (probably) that “ninety percent of the game is half mental.” Or something like that. With athletes and teams placing a greater emphasis on brain health than ever, we thought we’d take a look at what the experts at Neuropeak Pro had to say about advances in the area. Managing Director  Tim Bergsma shared some thoughts on the subject in a recent discussion with SportsMD.

Tim Bergsma

SportsMD: What are some techniques that athletes can use to improve brain health?

Tim Bergsma: Brain health is impacted by a myriad of factors including sleep, nutrition, and the way we train the brain. Just like we hit the gym to work out major muscle groups, the best way to ensure your brain is operating at its highest level is to train it directly.

SMD: How might those techniques differ in elite athletes as opposed to “weekend warriors?”

TB: The techniques are similar, but the intensity can vary based on the desired outcome. Someone who wants to simply focus a little bit better or be slightly more calm under pressure may not put the amount of time into it as our NFL Quarterbacks who make training and strengthening their brain as much part of their routine as studying the playbook.

SMD: How incremental is the progress? Will athletes who focus on brain health see huge gains right away?

TB: Many people who train with us see a big boost right away. Within the first few weeks, they report higher energy levels, deeper sleep, and steadier focus. The stronger our brains get, the more we fine tune it. It’s easy to take your mile time from 14 to 13, it’s very difficult to take it from 5 to 4. Same is true of the brain – we can quickly address the excess noise and stress getting in the way of performance for most individuals.

Unsplash/Alvaro Reyes

SMD: How important is “exercising” the brain and what are some mental exercises that are most effective for athletes?

TB: Mental exercises are great, we would argue that brain training is better. Think of the mind like software and the brain like hardware. If I have the latest and greatest software, but I’m running it on a computer from the 1990’s – I will not get very far. The same is true with mental exercises – they are as valuable as the hardware they’re running on. If our brain is physiologically stressed, mental exercises are going to be limited. Getting the brain to its optimal state of functioning unleashes the potential of the mind/mental exercises.

SMD: What value, if any, have you found supplements in improving brain function and health, as relates to athletic performance?”

TB: Supplements are popular as everyone is looking for the ‘silver bullet’ for performance. While they can help, the body was designed to receive its nutrients from the foods we eat. If someone is doing everything right, eating all the right foods according to their exercise schedule and genetic disposition yet still has a nutritional deficiency – then it would be worth considering supplements. The question we always ask is “Why isn’t the body performing the way it was designed to perform?”

Cover Image: Pixabay/VSRao

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Jerry Milani

Jerry Milani is a freelance writer and public relations executive living in Bloomfield, N.J. He has worked in P.R. for more than 25 years in college and conference sports media relations, two agencies and for the International Fight League, a team-based mixed martial arts league, and now is the PR manager for Wizard World, which runs pop culture and celebrity conventions across North America. Milani is also the play-by-play announcer for Caldwell University football and basketball broadcasts. He is a proud graduate of Fordham University and when not attending a Yankees, Rams or Cougars game can be reached at jerry (at) jerrymilani (dot) com.