Running a business requires mental energy and stamina. Long multi-tasking days and critical decision-making skills are integral to maintaining your success. In order to meet these demands, you need to protect and preserve the integrity of your brain.

The brain needs proper nourishment and care to allow for greater cognition. Although just three pounds, it uses up an enormous amount of fuel, so replenishing with the right foods is key. As importantly, you want to consider lifestyle factors that can keep you feeling sharp and focused.

Although brain cells inevitably decline and die with age, there is much you can do to slow the process. These nine habits are key ways to keep yourself on your game in the years to come.

1. Hydration

Made up by about 75% water, proper hydration is vital for healthy brain function. Dehydration can lead to lethargy, difficulties concentrating, and ultimately cognitive decline. Beverages such as coffee or alcohol can further exacerbate the problem.

Tip: Drink two glasses of water upon arising to flush out your system. Additionally, keep a bottle of water on your desk and drink throughout the day. This is particularly important if you exercise, drink a lot of coffee or alcohol.

2. Banish Sugar

It is well documented that eating sugar can lead to mood swings, irritability and sluggishness. Sugar creates a foggy mindset, making it hard to focus thereby contributing to poor decision-making. By reducing or eliminating sugar you are actively helping to improve your memory.

Tip: Start by eliminating sugar from your office environment and keep fruit on hand to help with cravings. If your sugar cravings are intense, then opt for sweeter fruit options like bananas, mango, pineapple or clementines.

3. Eliminate Junk Food

Chips and snacks that come in bags tend to be high in salt and sugars that can disrupt healthy brain function. Too much salt cannot only lead to dehydration but salt cravings can also be a sign of a stressed out body.

Tip: If you tend to crave salt throughout the day, keep healthy savory snacks available such as olives, celery sticks with organic peanut butter or hummus and carrot sticks as nice alternatives.

4. Include Essential Fats in the Diet Like Omega-3s

It's estimated that 8% of the brains weight is comprised of Omega-3 essential fats. Consuming high quantities has been linked to increased tissue development in the part of the brain associated with happiness! Contained in fish, flax and walnuts, Omega-3's can also help to mitigate stress.

Tip: Snack on walnuts throughout the day, use flax oil in your salads and have a serving of salmon three times a week for optimal results.

5. Antioxidant-Rich Foods

Workday stress can increase free-radical damage that can have a negative impact on your immune system and brain chemistry. Including lots of vegetables and fruit in your diet is an excellent way to get key nutrients that will minimize this effect. Vegetables such as broccoli, kale, cauliflower, asparagus, carrots and beets, along with fruits such as berries, avocado and tomatoes, deliver maximum nutrition that will help reduce the effects of stress and help you make important decisions quickly.

Tip: Have a large salad at lunch and pack it with as many vegetables as you can. Include vegetables from every color in the rainbow. The more color, the more nutrition. Balance it out with some protein like salmon and a handful of walnuts for the Omega-3 benefits.

6. Modify Caffeine Intake

Too much caffeine will deplete serotonin levels, exacerbating the stress response. A stressed out brain will have a difficult time making rational, informed decisions. While a little caffeine can help boost brain function, particularly in an aging brain, too much can be counterproductive to your goals and needs.

Tip: If you tend to drink coffee throughout the day, try cutting yourself off at 11am. Substitute green tea as an alternative later in the day. Not only does it have less caffeine, but it has antioxidant potential as well.

7. Minimize Alcohol Consumption

Alcohol is dehydrating and it depletes the brain of key brain nutrients such as B6, B12, Thiamine, and folic acid. It can also deplete magnesium, which is essential for stress management and balanced energy levels.

Tip: Keep alcohol consumption down and if you do imbibe, consider taking a B-Complex vitamin and some Magnesium before bed to replenish what may have been lost. Additionally, drink plenty of water along with alcohol to prevent dehydration. (Discuss any new supplementation with your qualified health care provider).

8. Exercise

In addition to the stress-relieving benefits of exercise, it is a key way to help the left and right side of your brain communicate efficiently. This leads to a more creative mindset and greater problem solving. Whether it's weight training, yoga or even just walking, the more you move your body, the healthier your brain will be. In addition, repeated studies show that regular exercise is the best way to manage long-term depression, even better than antidepressant medications.

Tip: If you find it challenging to get started on a formal workout routine, consider getting a FitBit or Jawbone and track your steps. This has motivated many of my clients to move more. Shoot for 10 thousand steps a day.

9. Stress management

Chronic stress has been shown to deplete brain cells, impairing memory. It also weakens immune function. It's vitally important that you engage in regular stress management habits to offset its effects. Whether it's meditation, exercise, or breathing techniques, find something that works for you and engage it regularly.

Tip: If you struggle with time off to decompress, consider a ten-minute walk in the afternoon, especially on sunny days. Ten minutes might be all you need to come back to the office feeling refreshed.

Published on: Apr 8, 2015