There is so much focus in sport on strength, performance, and stamina; we worry about physical injury and limitations. But that’s only one part of achieving our potential and preventing injury. We forget about what’s going on From The Shoulders UpTM. Actually, many of us are guilty of neglecting it, and so is the sports industry. We introduced groin protectors before helmets in cricket; we use faster footballs that impact with greater force; it’s never been top of the agenda. And yet, the brain is our most important performance organ in sport: nothing else works without it. We don’t think enough about the importance of complete brain hydration, and how it affects cognitive function whilst also providing cushioning to the brain and body.
The best way to protect the brain is to keep it hydrated. A dehydrated brain struggles to think quickly, recognize and react to risk, but most importantly it leaves athletes with less cerebrospinal fluid (CSF) around the brain. CSF is the watery fluid that irrigates and surrounds the brain and spinal cord; it acts as a fluid buffer for the protection of the nervous tissues whilst also being secondary to the skull for protection of the brain.
Furthermore, when your brain is not supported, and you have high physical demands on your body, this can negatively impact your performance and recovery which increases your likelihood of developing overtraining syndrome. Overtraining syndrome is a form of burnout that strikes athletes in various types of endurance sports and is characterized by inexplicable performance drop, extreme mental and physical exhaustion, and cognitive decline in the absence of apparent injury.
We don’t think enough about what essential nutrients are needed for focus, concentration, and long-term brain health. And yet, it has an enormous impact on our health and performance both now, and in the future. Too often, it takes something to happen to make us stop and pay attention.