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In this podcast, you’re going to learn about supplements that can help you focus better.

The ability to control your attention and focus for extended periods of time is one of the most important metaskills. That is, it’s a skill that makes other skills better.

Mastering your attention and eliminating distractions can make a big difference in your life.

You can train your ability to focus with meditation or use techniques like Pomodoro to accomplish more deep work. You can also address your environment, tipping the scales in your favor to accomplish goals faster and easier.

Your internal environment plays a role too. You can also get enough sleep, exercise regularly, and eat well, which will all help boost your brain power.

The last part of the equation is supplementation. Are there any supplements scientifically-validated to improve your ability to focus? Find out in this episode. 

Timestamps:

7:00 – What do you mean by focus? 

10:43 – What supplements enhance focus? 

Mentioned on the Show:

Books by Mike Matthews

Pulse Pre-Workout

What did you think of this episode? Have anything else to share? Let me know in the comments below!

Transcript:

Hey, Mike Machus here, as my daughter likes to say, and this is Muscle for Life. Welcome to a new episode. Thank you for joining me today to learn about focus supplements that can help us focus better. And this topic has always been particularly interesting to me because, I think the ability to control our attention, the ability to focus intently for long periods of time, or at least extended periods of time, is one of those higher order meta skills that just makes so many other skills better.

The ability to communicate well is another example of a meta skill, I think maybe at the top of the list actually, because the better you can. Your thoughts and your ideas, and that means making them clear and understandable and persuasive. The better you are going to do in all of your relationships, your friendships, your romantic relationships, your familial relationships, the better you’re gonna do in your work.

Assuming it involves interacting with people, and it probably does, uh, the better you’re gonna do. Of course, in your social life, any groups you are involved in or any networking of any kind that you engage in, right, is gonna just go better. You’re gonna get better results when you can communicate well and so on.

And in the case of being able to focus and specifically really as we’re talking about, again, Controlling our attention to be able to decide to focus on something and then be able to focus on that and only that for extended periods of time, ideally without any distractions whatsoever. Now, that is a bit too much.

That would be perfection, right? And perfection is really never attainable, at least not for long periods. And fortunately, we don’t need to be perfect. Our focus. But if we can be pretty good, if we can be mostly good most of the time, controlling our attention, putting it on something, keeping it there work, for example, for 20 to 30 minutes at a time, and maybe be able even to work that up to 45 or 60 minutes at a time before we even have to take a break or before we feel the need.

Distract ourselves, then that too can make a big difference in many areas of our lives. Obviously, it makes a big difference in our work, if our work has any sort of quote unquote deep work component to it and almost all of the most valuable work in today’s economy. Involves some component of what Cal Newport calls deep work, the work that does require a lot of your attention, a lot of focus, and that is only gonna become more and more the case as we move forward.

And I would recommend Cal Newport’s book Deep Work, if that sounds interesting to you. It’s a book that I’ve recommended many times and I think is very valuable, especially for information workers, and that’s many of us. And so anyway, Being able to focus is a big thing, and you can train that ability with meditation, at least what many people call meditation these days.

It, it’s not in the sense of what Buddhist monks do, but it really is just usually 10 to 15 minutes of controlled breathing and controlling your attention and not letting your mind run around like, Crazy meth squirrel. You can also use something like the Pomodoro technique, which is, I believe it’s 20 minute blocks, is where you start.

So 20 minutes of deep focus and then you take a break. And then the idea is to extend those periods of deep focus, I believe out to about 45 minutes. And so that’s another way you can practice controlling your attention. You can also address your environment. You should get rid of anything that is distracting.

Your phone should not have any notifications going off. You shouldn’t have a TV going on in the background. For me, lyrical music is usually distracting unless. It’s a song, or unless it’s songs that I’ve heard so many times that I don’t hear the lyrics anymore. But if I really want to focus, I’m best served by, I use Brain fm, or I’ll just put on either classical music.

Beethoven works particularly well for me for some reason, or. Movie or video game soundtracks, which sometimes are just classical music, but sometimes it’s not. Again, it’s not lyrical though is the key, and I’ve found that the more familiar I am with the music, the better. It helps me focus. If I’m listening to new stuff, even if it’s not lyrical, it tends to distract me.

And then as far as environment goes, we have our internal environment we can address as well. We can make sure we are getting enough sleep, we can make sure that we are exercising regularly. We can make sure that we are eating a lot of nutritious foods and we can take supplements. Now, as always, supplements are the least important component of everything that I’ve just shared with you.

But if you are doing all of those things and or maybe not all of them, but you’re doing most of them, at least the most important ones, you’re doing mostly right most of the time. And if you have the budget and the inclination, you can add supplements into the mix and hone your focus a little bit more.

And so that is going to be the topic of today’s podcast. I’m gonna talk about a few supplements that are safe and well tolerated and well researched that can help you improve your focus. Also, if you like what I’m doing here on the podcast and elsewhere, definitely check out my health and fitness books, including the number one best selling weightlifting books for men and women in the world.

Bigger, leaner, stronger, and thinner. Leaner, stronger, as well as the leading flexible dieting cookbook, the Shredded Chef. Now, these books have sold well over 1 million copies and have helped thousands of people build their. Body ever, and you can find them on all major online retailers like Audible, Amazon, iTunes, Cobo, and Google Play, as well as in select Barnes and Noble stores.

And I should also mention that you can get any of the audio books 100% free. When you sign up for an Audible account, and this is a great way to make those pockets of downtime, like commuting, meal prepping, and cleaning more interesting, entertaining, and productive. And so if you want to take Audible up on this offer, and if you want to get one of my audiobooks for free, just go to www.buy Legion, that’s b u y legion.com/audible and sign up for your account.

So again, if you appreciate my work and if you wanna see more of it, and if you wanna. Time proven and evidence-based strategies for losing fat, building muscle, and getting healthy, and strategies that work for anyone and everyone, regardless of age or circumstances, please do consider picking up one of my best selling books, bigger, lean or Stronger for Men, thinner, lean or Stronger for Women, and the Shredded Chef for my favorite fitness friendly recipe.

All right. Let’s start with a quick discussion of what I mean by focus. What am I talking about? If I’m saying you can focus? Well, what I’m referring to is the ability to perceive something and then keep your attention on it without distraction. And we exist and we have senses, and so we can interact with things with our senses, and some of that information is vital.

Like if our three-year-old daughter like mine. Was climbing on luggage and tried to jump to other luggage and then fell and broke her elbow. Hmm. And then started crying, which happened. Fortunately, she’s okay. She had to get pins in her elbow, but, uh, everything’s in the right position and she will be fine.

So that’s important. You wanna be able to hear that. And then other information is not so important, like when my eight year old son is crying because he sucks at a video. , which, all right, he didn’t literally cry, whining, whining because he sucks at a video game. Now, the difference between good and bad focus is if you can focus well, you can focus on a single thing for relatively long periods of time before your mind starts to wander.

And if you have bad focus, then you can’t do that. You. Try to focus on something and within a few minutes, for example, your mind is wandering and all kinds of things are popping up, interesting, shiny little objects. Another element of focus is switching. So if you can focus, well, you can focus intently on one thing and then switch.

Your attention to something else if you need to, and focus intently on that and not have half of your attention, so to speak. Still stuck on the previous thing. A personal example here would be working on something like recording this podcast, which I am focusing intently on, and then getting a phone call.

Let’s say it’s a work call that I have to take. And then being able to switch my attention fully to that phone call and not feel like my mind is still processing the podcast work or still stuck on the podcast work to be able to be fully in the moment on the phone call, fully present as some people like to say.

Now, the final dimension of focus that I want. Thinking with for this episode is the quantitative dimension of the previous one. So in the previous one we were talking about the quality of the switch. Now I’m talking about this third piece is the quantity. So how many switches can you make before you hit a wall, before you reach your ceiling, so to speak?

And we all have a ceiling, but some of us have a higher or. Ceiling. Uh, some people can make quite a few switches over, let’s say, uh, I mean it could be any period of time, but let’s say it’s over the course of several hours. Some people can make a lot of switches and still be able to concentrate, uh, intently on one thing, whereas other people can’t.

If they were to switch their attention, let’s just say it’s 10 times in a couple of hours, or if they were to try to do that, maybe by the fifth time they start to struggle. Focus on one thing. And so when we do things to improve our focus, those are the primary aspects that we are looking to improve, right?

We are looking to focus intently on something for a long period of time. We are looking to be able to then switch from that to something else without much of a cost, so to speak, without much, uh, attentional residue. on the thing we’re switching from, and we ideally could make a lot of switches throughout the day without paying a big price in terms of our ability to continue focusing on one thing for a long period of time.

Okay, so let’s talk about a few of my favorite supplements for enhancing focus. Uh, the. Two would be tyrosine and l dopa. And the reason why I’m talking about them as a pair is simply because their effects are related. They are precursors to dopamine nor epinephrine and epinephrine. And those are of course related to focusing attention and L tyrosine, you could think of it as the gentler option and el dopa as the more aggressive option for forcing effects.

And accordingly, negative side effects are more common with L Dopa than tyrosine. I would say tyrosine, it would be very uncommon. It is generally very well tolerated, and so let’s talk about them. Let’s talk about L Tyrosine first, which is an immuno acid that is often promoted to enhance fat loss and workout performance, but which does not appear to do so.

The research suggests that it does not have these effects. Now, as far as focus goes though, Al Tyrosine does not. Increase focus outright, but it does provide your body with a buffer or a reservoir of L tyrosine that it can use to create the neurotransmitters that I mentioned earlier. Dopamine or epinephrine.

Epinephrine when they are running low. And that’s what inevitably happens as you engage in cognitively demanding tasks, as you concentrate intensely on something and as you mentally process information and ideas, creative tasks can be very draining in this regard. And L tyrosine, when it’s supplemented at two grams per day can help delay the decline, so to speak.

You. Start to lose your focus later than you would otherwise. Or the positive side to that coin is you will be able to maintain higher levels of focus for longer. And research shows that it shines, particularly with task switching. So that’s referred to as cognitive flexibility, and that helps your brain stop doing task A so you can switch fully to task.

So that is tyrosine. Pretty straightforward. Uh, let’s talk about L dopa, which is also known as Levodopa. And this is the molecule that L tyrosine turns into. So it’s the intermediate before it turns into dopamine directly. And the major difference here between L Tyrosine and L DOPA is the conversion of L tyrosine into L DOPA is limited.

The process by which the body converts L tyrosine to L DOPA uses a specific enzyme. It has a feedback loop in it that influences the rate at which L tyrosine gets turned into L DOPA based on how much L DOPA is available. So if you have high levels, Then conversion rates go down. If you have low levels, conversion rates go up.

Now L DOPA itself, which then is turned into dopamine, is not so tightly controlled, so theoretically, then L DOPA should be able to more significantly influence dopamine levels because you’re getting around that rate. limiting step as it’s referred to now. How has that theory panned out? Well, studies have shown that 300 milligrams of L DOPA supplementation has failed to improve attention and failed to influence sensory gating it’s referred to, and that’s the ability of the brain to filter out useless information and just.

Stay focused on the good stuff or the important stuff. That said, though, there is positive research as well. One study showed that El Dopa improved semantic processing, which is the ability to connect the context of words to other words. And although that wasn’t directly related to attention, that is a positive benefit that may be meaningful to some of you.

Like that’s something that I would like, of course, especially when I’m recording a podcast or writing for. . And so then of the two, I think Al Tyrosine is a no-brainer. If you want some help sustaining your focus for longer periods of time and some help switching between tasks and two grams a day, again is the dose, and you can take that in one serving, and then L DOPA is more questionable in terms of its effects.

But if you are going to do semantic related work, if you’re going to create any sort of content, for example, or maybe you’re going to make a presentation at work or have a difficult conversation with somebody, I don’t know, 300 milligrams may be able to help. The next supplement is no surprise, but it has to be on the list and, and keep in mind also, there aren’t that many supplements with good evidence of acutely enhancing focus, which is why I don’t have a list of 10 for you.

And I am going to talk about caffeine next, which you probably use every day. You don’t need to hear that. It helps, but it does. And caffeine is pretty simple. It blocks adenosine receptors and. Adenosine causes sedation. So when you block those receptors, you feel more awake. And of course, caffeine also has a stimulatory effect, but that wears off after a couple of weeks or so of regular use, and then you’re just left with the adenosine blocking effects.

Now, one cool aspect of caffeine though is even when you become tolerant to it again, you lose the stimulatory effects and you lose. The dopamine enhancing effects of caffeine once you become tolerant to it. Research shows that there still are benefits to attention associated with that morning fix of caffeine.

So it seems like the benefits of attention could be partially explained by the dopamine effects of caffeine. Just as a stimulant, they seem to be mostly explained by the adenosine mechanisms because those stimulant qualities, they go away in a couple of weeks of regular use. Where you become tolerant to it.

And so what that means then is daily consumption of caffeine is totally fine for attention and you would not need to cycle on and off it for that purpose. Whereas if you wanted to maximally impact your workouts with caffeine, for example, you would want to try to maintain sensitivity. To it. Ideally you would use a large amount, just probably once or twice, maybe three days a week, but probably once or twice a week, and you’d have no caffeine whatsoever on those other days.

And then every so often, uh, maybe month or so, Probably would be a good idea to take one week off altogether, and if that sounds terrible to you, if that sounds like a really shitty bargain. Yeah, I understand. I feel the same way. I don’t care if doing that would help me squat or pull maybe 10 more pounds than I am right now because I want my morning espresso and decaf espresso is just not the.

And it still has caffeine. I don’t remember how much per shot. It’s not zero milligrams though. And so if you were to have enough decaf espresso, for example, every day you are now not enjoying your coffee as much as you normally would, and you may not be resetting your sensitivity to caffeine.

If you like what I’m doing here on the podcast and elsewhere, definitely check out my health and fitness books, including the number one best selling weightlifting books for men and women in the world. Bigger, leaner, stronger, and thinner. Leaner, stronger, as well as the leading flexible dieting cookbook, the shredded.

All right. Now let’s talk about the next supplement, which is c d p Choline, otherwise known as Citocoline. And this one combines two compounds. You have choline, which produces acetylcholine, a neurotransmitter in the brain, and then you have cytidine, which turns into uridine. It’s a substance that’s involved in the production of rna, of ribonucleic acid, a genetic material.

And research shows that uridine supports and enhances the growth and the function of neurons of nerve cells. And so that’s what CTIC choline is. And if you’re familiar with Neurotropics, you are probably used to seeing either. Cy Coline or CDP choline, depending on how they listed on the label or Alpha gc.

And Alpha GC has similar effects in the brain, but Alpha GC is more expensive, so it is often left out of Neutropics. And you could say that Cy Coline has more human research, especially pertaining to focus. And I would say that you’re right, but ideally you would have both in a neutropic if you only could pick one.

I understand picking Cline, but if you. More room in your budget for your formulation than you should put both in there. And many supplement companies don’t have much room though in their budgets for formulations. Many supplement companies don’t like to spend very much on their products. They like to spend a lot on their marketing, and they like to have big gross margins that make for big bottom lines that allow them to buy big, shiny trinkets.

And that, by the way, is really the core of what makes Legion better. Legion is my sports nutrition company. If you’re not familiar with it, that is what makes Legion better than I would say all of its competitors, but I’m biased, of course. We just spend a lot more on every single product category than basically all of our competitors.

I know of a. Products where some competitors spend close to what we spend, maybe 80% of what we spend. But unfortunately, in those cases, like more and more companies are spending more on pre-workouts now than ever before because pre-workouts are very popular and there are certain ingredients that people now want to see.

People want to see citraline, they want to see beta alanine. They want to see higher doses of. Ingredients and that is expensive, for example. And there are some pre-workouts out there that cost about as much as Pulse costs me to produce. But they took kitchen sink approach where they threw all kinds of things into their product and underdosed key ingredients, not pixie dusted, but just didn’t put enough put below.

Bottom of the range of clinically effective. Again, not five milligrams, but maybe 500 milligrams instead of the ideal dose of let’s say two or three grams. And that is one way of going about creating a product. But I personally would rather have fewer ingredients that are dosed. Properly than a bunch of stuff that’s kind of underdosed.

And so the cumulative effect may just be worse than half of the ingredients and proper dosing. But anyway, I digress. Let’s get back to cyto colline. So what does it do? Well, research shows that it seems to influence acetylcholine signaling. So the signaling of a key neurotransmitter in the. That has been shown to improve cognitive processing, speed, memory, and something that is referred to as executive function, which are mental processes that relate to planning and focusing our attention and remembering instructions.

So working memory is the technical term, and also being able to juggle multiple tasks successfully. So there are some cognitive switching benefits in there as. Now that said, a lot of the research has been with middle-aged people and elderly people, so it is not clear how it will work in younger, healthier people.

But if you are middle-aged or elderly, or if you are suffering from some sort of cognitive impairment, like if you have just subpar cognitive processing or memory or executive function, then Cline can help. Or if you tend to be easily distracted by irrelevant stuff, Cline can. And it may be able to help.

Otherwise, it’s just not exactly clear with the research that we have, but it’s well tolerated. It is not particularly expensive. You don’t need to take that much. 250 to 500 milligrams a day is all that’s needed in one study, actually, that range of dosing outperformed one gram. And if you are wondering about Alpha gpc, if you wanted to pair them, you would take the same amount of.

GPC 250 to 500 milligrams per day is sufficient for cognitive benefits. And if you want to make it easy to take those, you could check out my neutropic. Just go over to legion athletics.com and search for Ascend or go to the store and look for Ascend. That’s the name of the product, and it has Cline and Alpha GPC dosed properly as well as a.

Other ingredients that work synergistically with the choline related effects of those ingredients. And you can go learn more about that [email protected] Now, one last supplement that deserves an honorable mention here is the amino acid L-theanine, which doesn’t seem to impact focus by itself, or at least the effects are not significant enough to warrant taking it.

But if you combine it with caffeine, research shows that it can increase focus even more than. With caffeine and help you sustain your focus for a longer period of time. And it’s interesting because mechanistically, they cause the opposite effects to occur in the body as far as emotional arousal goes.

You have caffeine, which increases emotional arousal, obviously increases attention and that can help you pay better attention to things. But it. Helps you pay better attention to everything. And so people who are just newly caffeinated, recently caffeinated in particular, often find themselves more distractable.

They find it harder to pay attention to just one thing. And if you combine altheine with the caffeine though, it helps curtail some of that excessive arousal, but it does not decrease the focus enhancing effects of caffeine. So you get the good with less. The bad, and that’s one of the main reasons my pre-workout, which is called Pulse, which you can also [email protected]

Why it contains Athenian, at least the caffeinated version of Pulse does. The STEM free version does not. It helps this Athenian in the caffeinated version. It helps mellow out some of the harsher side effects of caffeine. And some people are not sensitive to caffeine. Some people have a lot. And they have no negative side effects that they are aware of, and there are a lot of examples of that in the caffeine literature.

There are examples of people who regularly take in a gram to a gram and a half of caffeine every day consistently and have no negative. Side effects. Doctors look at everything that they can look at or researchers look at everything they can look at and just say, yeah, it looks like you can do that. It looks like there’s just no downside.

Whereas if I were to start doing that today and then do it every day, I would basically just be in a constant state of panic inducing anxiety, and I would not sleep, and then I would die of sleep deprivation. I would lose my mind, and then I. . And so anyway, coming back to Altheine, there is no good evidence that by itself it can enhance focus, but by itself it can enhance feelings of relaxation and calmness.

Like I take two grams or so of Altheine every night at about 9:00 PM with about three to 500 milligrams of magnesium, and a couple of grams of glycine has a little pre bed cocktail, but by itself, altheine is probably not going to. With focus, you need to pair it with caffeine and it has not been tested with other stimulants, so we don’t know if it’ll have the same effects with something like Yohimbe for example.

But we do know that Altheine and caffeine works well and it also can produce feelings of euphoria. It, it can really boost your mood and some people seem to experience that more than. Some people like me, experienced it quite markedly in the beginning. Like when I first tried, I tried Pulse for the first time, actually when I launched Legion in 2014 or when we were going through the formulation process to launch, uh, Legion, and that was the first time that I had.

Used theanine with caffeine and I was really surprised at how good it made me feel. And that’s one of the reasons why Pulse is so popular. I mean, it has a cult following. I’ve sold probably close to a million bottles now since 2014. Is a lot of people have been using caffeine for a while. But they have not been using it with Altheine.

Anyway, if you want to experience it for yourself, you can get some pulse and do it that way, or you can keep getting your caffeine however you are currently getting it, and take Altheine in an equivalent dose of the caffeine. So if you are getting, let’s say, 250 milligrams or three or 400 milligrams of caffeine and you want about the same in Altheine, you do not want the couple of grams that I take.

For example, because that is specifically for sedation . So anyway, there we go. A few supplements that you can try for enhancing your focus. And if I haven’t mentioned anything on this podcast, it is not because it is useless per se. Like for example, uh, legions Ascend does have a couple of other ingredients.

It does have bacopa and it does have uridine, but I would say that those are supplemental in the supple. That the foundation is the Coaling supplements, the city coaling and the Alpha gc. And so again, if I left something off the list of this podcast, it is not because it is useless necessarily, although many ingredients in many neutropics are basically useless.

But, uh, it’s just because it probably doesn’t have as much evidence for benefiting focus as the handful of things that we discussed. All right. Well, that’s it for this episode. I hope you enjoyed it and found it interesting and helpful. And if you did, and you don’t mind doing me a favor, please do leave a quick review on iTunes or.

Wherever you’re listening to me from in whichever app you’re listening to me in, because that not only convinces people that they should check out the show, it also increases search visibility and thus it helps more people find their way to me and learn how to. Get fitter, leaner, stronger, healthier, and happier as well.

And of course, if you want to be notified when the next episode goes live, then simply subscribe to the podcast and you won’t miss out on any new stuff. And if you didn’t like something about the show, please do shoot me an email at mike muscle for life.com. Just muscle o r life.com and share your thoughts on how I can do this.

I read everything myself and I’m always looking for constructive feedback. Even if it is criticism, I’m open to it. And of course you can email me if you have positive feedback as well, or if you have questions really relating to anything that you think I could help you with, definitely send me an email.

That is the best way to get ahold of me, Mike, at muscle life.com. And that’s it. Thanks again for listening to this episode, and I hope to hear from you.

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