Entrepreneurs need energy, focus, good memory, and as close to 24 working hours in a day as they can muster. Young, hardworking business owners are the face of the new economy. The demands on health, mental strain, and long hours sitting down can take a toll greater than the mind or body can withstand unaided. Free coffee is available as a “perk” at startups so frequently it’s become a cliche. The three or four latte a day habit just to fight off sleep deprivation is something everyone is familiar with.
Founders are increasingly turning to stronger drugs; Adderall, Modafinil, and Ritalin are taken off label and the empty prescription bottles are starting to line the dressers of overachievers like so many war trophies. Inc. Magazine, Wired, The New York Times, and most business news outlets have started to take notice. Late last year an intern at BoA died of overworking fueled by 5-hour Energy.
All of the drugs I’ve mentioned so far have a commonality. They’re all stimulants. Stimulants work by increasing the amount of dopamine and norepinephrine released in the brain. These are the neurotransmitters that regulate drive, reward, and motivation. Unfortunately these neurohormones are available only in limited quantities, and the brain needs time to recover between doses. As science has advanced, and our understandings of neurochemistry and how the brain work have increased, better drugs have been invented. These drugs are called nootropics if they meet a number of requirements, but basically the qualification is that these drugs need to have low side effects, improve cognition, and be able to be taken on a repeatable basis.
With that introduction completed, let me begin the five tips to wire your brain for optimal performance:
Stop the stimulant use. Drop caffeine, Adderall, and anything else you’re taking that gives you a short term boost without long-term sustainability (unless it’s actually prescribed by your doctor for ADHD). These can be useful for the occasional all-nighter but you’re going to be operating with less dopamine than normal for several days after until your body catches back up.
Make sure you’re taking a multivitamin. B-Vitamins are essential for cognition. If you’re not getting a lot of them in your diet, make sure to supplement them or you’ll lack motivation and your brain will run slower. Likewise, if you’re not getting enough Vitamin D (and chances are, if you’re at a computer all day, you’re not) this will interfere with your happiness, drive, and motivation. It’s easy to want to skip to the advanced stuff, but you can’t build a skyscraper without a good foundation.
Increase your intake of fish. Grab some sushi once a week. Omega-3 fatty acids and Medium-Chain-Triglicerides help your brain work better. Add in some coconut oil to your diet. Your brain is made in a large part out of fatty acids and oils, and adding these to your diet helps your brain maintain mass, myleinate neurons, and keep its structural integrity.
If you have anxiety issues, look into anxiolytic nootropics. One such anxiolytic nootropic is L-Theanine, which is available at most health stores or online. L-Theanine is found in green tea and helps to calm without losing any focus or drive. Likewise, Phenibut is a Russian anxiolytic given to cosmonauts when they need to deal with high stress situations without drowsiness. It’s generally available online from supplement stores. Anxiolytics can help you to avoid losing your temper or crumpling under stress.
Look into memory enhancing nootropics. Piracetam, Aniracetam, and Oxiracetam can help with word recall, formation of long and short-term memory, and focus. These drugs can help you remember the names of the people you just met at the networking event that you would’ve forgotten without a memory trick. New experimental drugs like PRL-8-53 showed up to 250% improvement in otherwise healthy volunteers over a one-week period.
Everyone reacts differently to different chemicals and drugs. Each individual person has a unique chemistry and what works for one person won’t work for everyone. Keep learning and experimenting, and get the advice of your physician and trusted advisors with everything you take. Hopefully this article has given you a good overview and served as a good starting place.