- It is generally believed that our brains need sugar to operate at peak efficiency.
- This argument has been one of the strongest indictments of low carb diets such as the Atkins Diet.
- It may also be totally false.
In fact, according to a study published in the FASEB Journal, your brain, just like your muscles, works harder when fueled by lactate instead of glucose.
In this study, researchers subjected their volunteers to strenuous exercise while looking at the blood running to and from their brains.
Specifically, they were trying to see what happened to the large amounts of lactate that are produced in the body as a by-product of exercise. Analyzing the blood entering and exiting the brain, the researchers found that “the brain was not storing the lactate which had come from the muscles during exercise, but rather using it as fuel”.
- In fact, the brain helped to clear lactate from the body, shifting the supply of glucose towards the hard working muscles.
- In addition, the data also showed that brain activity increased significantly during the study.
- The brain was thriving on the diet of lactate.
From an evolutionary perspective, this isn’t surprising. If our prehistoric ancestors had not been able to think and react while evading four legged predators, they might literally have lost their heads.
Being able to use lactate as “brain food” allowed our ancestors to survive and evolve.