Brain Health and Weight Loss: FEEL FABULOUS IN 2019 PART 8

Brain Health and Weight Loss

Welcome back to The Science of Fat Loss Hints, Tricks, and Tips: Part 8 to learn how brain health helps to facilitate fat loss, increases energy and helps to sculpt your body for both men and women.

Most people don’t realize that brain and weight loss are tied together.  Being a holistic personal trainer and nutrition coach in Los Angeles for the past 17 years has given me some interesting and key insights into healthy eating, exercise and holistic lifestyle changes. We will start by discussing how brain health and weight loss are interrelated and focus on the science and then discuss what you can do to enhance and improve brain health and lose weight.

Please note, it is beneficial and important to get the correct advice on your exercise routine, overall nutrition program, daily calorie intake and developing healthy habits. If you need help, call us to get started today at (310) 720-8125.


Topics and Highlights:

  • Overview of Neurotransmitters
  • Brain Health, Energy Levels and Motivation
  • Meditation and Optimism
  • Brain Health Supplements 
  • Lifestyle Tips for Brain Health



Brain system, Brain health, brain health supplements | Shawn Phillips Personal Trainer, Nutritionist Los AngelesMuch has been covered in previous blogs on weight loss and changing your lifestyle.  Lifestyle factors such as sleep, diet, stress and movement all play a huge role in brain health.  In talking about brain health, we must begin with neurotransmitter health.  Neurotransmitters play a dominant role in health, wellness and body sculpting. Having the correct balance of these chemical powerhouses is essential for achieving long term success. Neurotransmitters affect sleep, motivation, your libido and yes, even your weight.

There are two major categories of neurotransmitters, excitatory and inhibitory.  Let’s start off with discussing Excitatory Neurotransmitter health and balance.


Excitatory Neurotransmitters

The excitatory neurotransmitters are associated with focus, drive, energy, strength, appetite control, happiness, and mood. Have you ever drank too much coffee and got a considerable energy buzz? This effect can occur because coffee stimulates and increases excitatory neurotransmitters.



Dopamine Neurotransmitter – The Pleasure Hormone 

  • Dopamine is derived from the amino acid tyrosine and is released when engaging in gratifying activities such as exercise, food consumption, various drugs, and sex.
  • The main function is for pleasure and reward, mood, attention and motor skills.
  • Symptoms of low dopamine levels are fatigue and lack of energy
  • Causing cravings for pleasure seeking foods such as sugar and energy drinks
  • Normal levels of dopamine can suppress appetite and aid in weight loss.


Keys to positively influence Dopamine levels:

  1. Limiting sugar and caffeine intake – eventually you can burn out by over taxing this system.
  2. Eat foods high in tyrosine such as bananas, almonds, pumpkin seeds, eggs, and fish.
  3. Avoid stress and relax with meditation, a hot bath or a massage.
  4. Avoid too much exposure to pornography and computer or internet gaming as it has been linked to lower dopamine sensitivity.



Acetylcholine Neurotransmitter – The Memory Hormoneexcitatory neurotransmitters, Brain health, brain health supplements | Shawn Phillips Personal Trainer, Nutritionist Los Angeles

  • The main function is for seeking awareness.
  • Symptoms of low acetylcholine levels include struggling to remember things, having a hard time focusing and having a “senior moment.”
  • Causing cravings for foods high in fat such as pizza, greasy fast foods, and fried foods which are due to fat being the primary source of choline which is the building block of this hormone. When you eat foods high in fat, it gives you an instant acetylcholine boost.
  • Healthy levels of acetylcholine will help you to feel more focused.


Keys to positively influence acetylcholine levels:

  1. Eat foods high in choline such as eggs, avocado, olive oil, nuts, and seeds.
  2. Supplement with L-carnitine, an amino acid that enhances the use of fatty acid and is believed to possibly contribute to the production of acetylcholine in the brain.
  3. Include foods high in DMAE such as sardines, and salmon. DMAE is an anti-inflammatory and antioxidant that may slow down the choline breakdown in tissues.

Epinephrine Neurotransmitter – The Adrenaline Hormone

  • The main function is to increase cardiac output in response to “flight or fight” stress or fear, also known as an “adrenaline rush.”

Norepinephrine Neurotransmitter – The Noradrenaline Hormone

  • Norepinephrine, Brain health, brain health supplements | Shawn Phillips Personal Trainer, Nutritionist Los AngelesThe main function is similar to epinephrine; however, norepinephrine causes blood vessels to narrow which increases blood pressure.
    • Increases blood sugar levels
    • Increases heart rate
    • Decreases appetite
        • Symptoms of having too much epinephrine and norepinephrine
            • High blood pressure
            • Heart palpitations
            • Excessive sweating
        • Causes of having too much epinephrine and norepinephrine
        • Symptoms of having too little epinephrine and norepinephrine
            • Low Blood Sugar
            • Depression
            • Insomnia
        • Causes of having too little epinephrine and norepinephrine
            • Chronic stress
            • Poor nutrition
            • Some medications

Both epinephrine and norepinephrine are catecholamines that stimulate the central nervous system (CNS) raising your metabolic rate. They also initiate fat burning in both fatty tissue and active muscles. They both are released in response to short maximum intensity workouts and can aid in weight loss.

According to Professor Steve Boutcher, head of the Health and Exercise Science program in the School of Medical Sciences at the University of New South Wales, “Intermittent sprinting produces high levels of chemical compounds called catecholamines, which allow more fat to be burned from under the skin and within the exercising muscles. The resulting increase in fat oxidation drives the greater weight loss.”  For more on “Intermittent Sprinting” or interval training, click here: Part 2 – Strength Training and Weight Loss



Inhibitory Neurotransmitters

inhibitory neurotransmitters, Brain health, brain health supplements | Shawn Phillips Personal Trainer, Nutritionist Los AngelesThe inhibitory neurotransmitters are associated with relaxation, appetite control, and calmness.  If you’ve ever experienced depression or anxiety chances are that you had low GABA and serotonin levels.


GABA Neurotransmitter – The Calming Hormone


The main function is to create a sense of calm and is the “zen” of the brain.


  • Healthy levels of GABA
  • Low levels of GABA
      • Easily stressed
      • Overwhelmed
      • Overstimulated
  • To lose weight being calm and having the appropriate amount of GABA is vital. With a GABA deficiency, people tend to eat too much and too fast to counteract stress and anxiety.

Keys to positively influence GABA levels

  1. Eat GABA producing foods such as raw leafy vegetables, cabbage, and animal-protein foods.
  2. Eat fermented foods such as sauerkraut and Kimchi.
  3. Supplement but not with GABA instead use the amino acid taurine which activates GABA receptors in the brain which encourage the formation of GABA. Other GABA inducing supplements include:
      • Magnesium
      • Inositol
      • Theanine
  4. Exercise regularly especially yoga as it has been shown to increase GABA levels.

 Serotonin – The Happiness Hormone

  • The main function is to provide a sense of well-being and happiness.
      • Healthy levels of serotonin
          • Wake up feeling like you are ready to take on the world
      • Low levels of serotonin
          • Depression
          • Insomnia
          • Low self-esteem
      • To lose weight serotonin levels should be at a healthy level as serotonin is a natural appetite suppressant, and lower levels are directly related to weight gain. Low levels also cause carbohydrate cravings because tryptophan, the building block of serotonin can only get into the brain after sweet or starchy foods are eaten.


Keys to positively influence serotonin levels

  1. Eat foods rich in carbohydrates after you have eaten enough protein – This is important because to synthesize serotonin you must have enough tryptophan in the blood, hence the protein, and to transport tryptophan into the brain you need to stimulate insulin by eating carbohydrates. Complex carbohydrates will break down slower in the body so the serotonin elevation isn’t as dramatic as it would be with simple carbohydrates, but the elevation is more consistent and longer lasting.
  2. Supplement with tryptophan and B-vitaminsVitamins for brain health, especially vitamins B1, B3, B6 and B9 as they help convert tryptophan into serotonin.
  3. Get plenty of sunlight – Vitamin D is imperative in the synthesis of serotonin and studies have shown that serotonin synthesis increases based on the number of sunlight hours.
  4. Get enough sleep – Lack of sleep interrupts optimal neurotransmission of serotonin.
  5. Exercise regularly – Exercise increases the availability of tryptophan which is then converted into serotonin.


Meditation is One of the Keys to a Healthy Brain

Meditation brain, Brain health, brain health supplements | Shawn Phillips Personal Trainer, Nutritionist Los AngelesMeditation is a great way to re-balance the brain.  Given life’s immense stressors and the fact that most Americans overuse technology and are addicted to their phones, the brain is completely overwhelmed and can become “burnt out”.  Meditation is a great way to recharge the brain.


If you would like to learn more about meditation, check out the following links:

Headspace app

The Monroe Institute

About 10 years ago I attended the Monroe Institute and did a week long meditation training workshop.  They have really interesting technology called Hemi-Sync that helps to balance out brain wave activity (see graph).  Whatever technique you learn or try, I would highly encourage you to incorporate meditation into your daily practice.  It can have profound effects on your brain, your stress levels and overall happiness.




Positive Thinking and Brain Health

While the title sounds somewhat cliche, there is a connection between optimism and neurotransmitter balance and health. Stinking thinking is really problematic when it comes to good health.  Consistently worrying or being paranoid can be an issue that prevents you from being happy.  It is one thing to plan ahead and prepare, it is another thing to consistently obsess about something that is already planned for and is taken care of.  Constantly thinking about the future or the past is a mind trap which will negatively affect brain chemistry.  Some thinking about the future or the past is ok, but at some point it is best to be in the now and the present.

Every thought releases some type of chemical. When positive thoughts are generated, when you’re feeling happy, or optimistic, cortisol decreases and the brain produces serotonin, creating a feeling of well-being. When serotonin levels are normal, one feels happy, calmer, less anxious, more focused and more emotionally stable (Scaccia, 2017). (Meteor)

The opposite is also true.  Negative thoughts can short circuit the brain making it difficult to speak and respond.

In an article in Meteor by Lou Whitaker, Ed. D., Neuro-Education Consultant, he points out the connection and differences between positive and negative thoughts.  As our discussion continued with the students, we talked about what happens when they’re anxious, under stress or angry. The brain actually draws precious metabolic energy away from the prefrontal cortex. With these negative thoughts, the brain can’t perform at high or even normal capacity. When stressed or scared, it’s difficult to take in and process new material, yet alone think creatively. “Stress can alter plasticity in the nervous system, particularly in the limbic system”(Sapolsky, 2003).  He summarized:

Negative Thoughts

  • Slow down brain coordination
  • Make it difficult to process thoughts … or find solutions
  • Hinders creative ability
  • Decreases activity in the cerebellum
  • Impacts the left temporal lobe (fear factor), affecting mood, memory and impulse control

Positive Thoughts

  • Synapses (areas connecting neurons) increase dynamically
  • Increases mental productivity by improving cognition
  • Intensifies ability to pay attention, to focus
  • Improves ability to think and analyze incoming data
  • Improves ability to solve problems quicker and enhance creativity

In Dr. Medina’s book called Brain Rules for Aging Well, he discusses how optimism increases the production of dopamine.  “Optimism not only reduces stress, but it also promotes the production of the neurotransmitter dopamine. Dopamine packs a serious wallop,” Medina says.  Dopamine is similar to your ignition in your car, “Insert the key into the lock, and the car springs to life.” Dopamine begins to fade as we age—beginning in our thirties. But we don’t want dopamine to decline. Dopamine makes us happy, increases motivation, and is even responsible for giving entrepreneurs the courage to take risks. Dopamine is a big deal.”



Optimism and Realism

My feeling on optimism is that a person can be realistic and optimistic at the same time.  For example, if you are in a relationship with an abusive and toxic person, realism is more important than optimism.  Because optimism and denial don’t have to go hand-in-hand, but optimism and realism are much more practical and useful.  So for this example, it would not be useful to stay in a relationship that is toxic; it would be realistic and practical to identify the unhealthy aspects of this relationship and move on or work on the relationship to make it better.

Thoughts are powerful!  The way I describe thoughts to my clients are as follows:  Thoughts and the brain are similar to coding and a computer.  Coding tells the computer what to do; thoughts tell the brain what to feel.  This “feeling” is associated with a nuero-chemical profile specifically the ones we discussed previously: dopamine, gaba, adrenaline, nor-adrenaline, seratonin, and acetylcholine.  What does that mean?  Well, is your dopamine low or high? And, what about your other nuerotransmitters that we discussed above.  All thoughts and feeling drive nuero-chemistry.  So whether you are a worrier, or paranoid, or negative, or positive, or optimistic, or creative, they all have specific nuero-chemical profiles.  It is important to be self-aware of all thoughts, negative or positive.  And, if certain thoughts and beliefs, do not serve you well, then pivot to healthier thoughts.  The mere attempt of doing this create something like “muscle memory”, where it becomes easier and easier to be positive and optimistic.

Optimism is most useful and healthy when looking at your life and having hope of a better outcome, while at the same time taking practical and realistic steps to improve your life so that your life is working for you.



Neurotransmitter Imbalance

neurotransmitter imbalance, Brain health, brain health supplements | Shawn Phillips Personal Trainer, Nutritionist Los AngelesIn Julia Ross’s book “The Mood Cure,” she discusses what it is like to have a false mood. She elaborates on how a person can have things going well in life, but yet still feel uneasy, depressed or anxious which occurs because of a neurotransmitter imbalance. This imbalance can be caused by many things: junk food diet, lack of exercise, lack of sunlight, stress and a lack of protein.

Our program will address all of the things you need to do to optimize your neurotransmitter levels and create a well-functioning brain.  Contact me today, and together we can make 2019 your year to be fit and fabulous inside and out!

To learn more about nutrition, you can get a jump start and sign up for our free grocery list.





Weight Loss is the #1 Health Goal in America.  And, there is a strong correlation between belly fat or a large belly and degenerative disease.  Whether you want to look great naked or simply just want to live longer, getting leaner and healthier has to be one of your priorities in life.  If you interested in learning more about getting lean and healthy, please check out my 10 part series on the science of weight loss.

Part 1 – Metabolism and Weight Loss

Part 2 – Strength Training and Weight Loss

Part 3 – Gut Health and Weight Loss

Part 4 – Stress and Weight Loss

Part 5 – Insulin and Weight Loss

Part 6 – Testosterone and Weight Loss

Part 7 – Sleep and Weight Loss

Part 8 – Brain Health and Weight Loss

Part 9 – Sunlight and Weight Loss

Part 10 – Detox and Weight Loss


Biography: as a Certified Personal Trainer Los Angeles, Shawn Phillips is a well-known Health Practitioner and Fat Loss Expert specializing in body sculpting, nutrition, lab testing, and exercise coaching. For a FREE consultation call him at (310) 720-8125.


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