According to the Census Bureau, almost one-third of adults reported symptoms of anxiety or depression in 2023. When they broke the statistics down by age group, they found that:
- 50% of 18-24 year olds
- 38% of 25-49 year olds
- 29.3% of 50-64 year olds
- 20% of those 65+ had symptoms of depression or anxiety in 2023.1Forbes Health – “Anxiety Statistics” (2023) Link to source.
Mental health issues are slightly more prevalent in women than in men.2Statista – “Anxiety symptoms among adults by gender U.S. 2023” (2023) Link to source. The 35-44 year old age group had the highest increase in mental illness between 2019-2023, increasing from 31% to 45%.3American Psychological Association (APA) – “Stress in America™ 2023: A nation grappling with psychological impacts” (2023) Link to source. Generalized Anxiety Disorder is the most common of all mental health issues, affecting about 6.8 million people.4Anxiety & Depression Association of America. (n.d.). Facts & Statistics. ADAA. Retrieved November 6, 2023, from https://adaa.org/understanding-anxiety/facts-statistics
The good news is, if you’re dealing with subpar mental health, you’re not alone. There are a lot of people looking for ways to improve their mental wellness, and finding few answers. In many cases, the solution lies inside us, just as it does with our ability to manage weight and improve longevity.
- Shifting the Paradigm in Fitness
- Part I: The Science Behind Anxiety
- Part II: The Exercise Program
- Part III: Nutrition for a Calmer Mind
- Part IV: Supplements That Support Mental Well-being
- Part V: Embracing Your Journey to Unshakable Well-Being
Shifting the Paradigm in Fitness
For most of my career, I’ve focused on solutions to improve people’s physical health and fitness. Often, but not always, clients would indirectly improve their mental well-being after making changes to improve their physical health. Often, but not always.
As concerns about mental health have increased in recent years, it’s made me reconsider how I approach a client’s overall health and fitness program. After all, clients who feel mentally better are more likely to stay active, eat better, and follow through with their workout program. But that’s just considering my clients.
What about those who struggle enough with their mental health that they can’t get themselves to commit to a program? How could I help them? Thinking through all this led me to a question I’ve used over and over the past 15 years. It’s a question that comes from the book, The One Thing.
In this case, “What is the one thing I can do (to help clients improve their mental wellness), such that by doing it, everything else will be easier or unnecessary?”
When I looked at the question this way, the answer came through loud and clear: Help them, lead them, guide them to improve gut health, which is the number one controllable factor affecting mental health.
The gut commands an entire fleet of signaling substances, nerve-insulation materials, and ways of connecting. There is only one other organ in the body that can compete with the gut for diversity—the brain.Giulia Enders, Gut: The Inside Story of Our Body’s Most Underrated Organ
Clearly, improving one’s gut health leads to a significant impact on overall health and fitness. But the solution goes beyond eating yogurt or taking a random probiotic supplement, which led me to develop Unshakable.
I took the most current research, not generic nutrition and lifestyle guidelines, and created a fitness program designed to optimize mental well-being while also enhancing fitness and supporting longevity. Though there are similarities with my other programs, like Vigorous, Resilient, and Fit@Home, Unshakable’s primary goal is mental well-being, with secondary benefits being health and fitness, as opposed to the reverse.
While you can accomplish a lot by taking the information in this guide and applying it yourself, many people prefer following a complete, done-for-you program. If that sounds good to you, join the waiting list for the release of my latest VIGOR Training signature program, Unshakable.
Through strategic exercise, including strength training and high-intensity workouts, you will ignite your physical and mental strength. You will transform not only your body but also your mind, fostering a new-found fortitude against stress. When it comes to nutrition, we’ll focus more on what to eat as opposed to what to avoid, but there are, without question, dietary triggers worth eliminating.
Finally, we’ll delve into which supplements I feel can have the most significant impact on mental wellness.
This isn’t about short-term remedies, even though you should feel a difference in weeks, if not days. It’s about a lifelong commitment to becoming Unshakable.
Note: If you’re a personal trainer or nutrition coach, I hope this serves as a helpful guide for you and your clients as you look to optimize their mental wellness along with their physical fitness.
Overview of the “Unshakable” Program
Here’s how the “Unshakable” program stands out:
- Science-Backed Strategies: Each aspect of the program is rooted in the latest research, drawing from peer-reviewed studies that underscore the efficacy of diet and exercise in anxiety management. You’ll discover why certain foods and workout routines can turn the tide against the stress response.
- The Gut-Brain-Muscle Axis: Delving into the biological crosstalk between the gut, brain, and muscles opens up new avenues for anxiety relief. By understanding and nurturing this connection, “Unshakable” goes beyond symptoms, targeting the very foundations of mental wellness.
- Customizable Exercise Plans: Recognizing individuality in fitness, “Unshakable” provides ongoing exercise programming that includes high-intensity interval training (HIIT), strength training, and restorative walking—each selected for their specific benefits in combating anxiety and bolstering mental health.
- Nutritional Guidance for Mental Clarity: Processed foods and nutrient deficiencies can exacerbate anxiety. This program champions a diet rich in protein, balanced in fats, and mindful of carbohydrates.
- Supplemental Support with Amare: In a special focus on Amare products, we explore how targeted supplements, especially the Foundational Pack and Happy Juice, integrate seamlessly with the “Unshakable” ethos, providing essential support for the gut-brain axis.
From unraveling the underpinnings of anxiety to laying out a comprehensive fitness and nutrition strategy, “Unshakable” is your blueprint for a calmer, more resilient body and mind.
Also, please understand that while you can do much with diet, exercise, and supplements to support a healthy and resilient body and mind, there are also times when medication becomes necessary. You can be both a natural health advocate, and embrace the use of conventional medicine when it’s necessary.
Part I: The Science Behind Anxiety
Anxiety disorders are among the most common mental health conditions worldwide.5Baxter, A.J., Scott, K.M., Vos, T., & Whiteford, H.A. (2013). Global prevalence of anxiety disorders: a systematic review and meta-regression. Psychological Medicine, 43(5), 897–910. Characterized by excessive worry, fear, and a range of physical symptoms, anxiety can be a complex interplay of genetic, environmental, and psychological factors.
The Muscle-Gut-Brain Connection
An emerging area of scientific interest is the muscle-gut-brain connection, which suggests that muscle health and activity directly impact gut health, which in turn affects brain function and overall mental health. Muscles release various substances during exercise that can act as neurotransmitters, influence neuroplasticity, and modulate the immune system, all of which are implicated in anxiety.6Pedersen, B. K. (2019). Physical activity and muscle-brain crosstalk. Nature Reviews Endocrinology, 15(7), 383-392.
Exercise-induced muscle contraction produces myokines, which have been shown to possess anti-inflammatory effects and promote the growth of new neural cells, offering a protective benefit against stress-related disorders.7Secher, N. H., & Pedersen, B. K. (2015). Muscle-derived cytokines in health and disease. Critical Reviews™ in Immunology, 35(3), 203-213. In tandem, muscle activity influences the composition of the gut microbiota, which is known to communicate with the central nervous system, often referred to as the gut-brain axis, affecting mood and cognitive functions.8Clark, A., & Mach, N. (2016). Exercise-induced stress behavior, gut-microbiota-brain axis and diet: a systematic review for athletes. Journal of the International Society of Sports Nutrition, 13, 43.
This dynamic interplay suggests that building or maintaining muscle mass through regular physical activity not only supports gut health but can also lead to enhanced brain function, presenting a promising avenue for managing anxiety through lifestyle interventions.9Mika, A., Van Treuren, W., González, A., Herrera, J. J., Knight, R., & Fleshner, M. (2015). Exercise is more effective at altering gut microbial composition and producing stable changes in lean mass in juvenile versus adult male F344 rats. PLOS ONE, 10(5), e0125889.
The Role of Exercise in Managing Anxiety
Physical activity, particularly aerobic exercise, has been shown to stimulate neurogenesis in the hippocampus, the brain region implicated in mood regulation.10Stranahan, A.M., & Lee, K. (2013). Running induces widespread structural alterations in the hippocampus and entorhinal cortex. Hippocampus, 23(11), 1084–1092. Furthermore, exercise induces neuroplastic changes that bolster resilience against stress, acting as a protective buffer against the development of anxiety.11Tyagi, E., & Agrawal, R. (2017). Neurogenesis: A Link Between Stress, Anxiety, and Exercise. Biomedical and Pharmacology Journal, 10(1), 17–26. The positive effects of exercise on mental health are clear, with regular engagement linked to reduced symptoms of anxiety and improved quality of life.12Mikkelsen, K., Stojanovska, L., Polenakovic, M., Bosevski, M., & Apostolopoulos, V. (2017). Exercise and mental health. Maturitas, 106, 48–56.
Part II: The Exercise Program
Engaging in physical activity is a powerful antidote to anxiety, going beyond the well-known cardiovascular benefits. Regular exercise has profound effects on mental well-being, influencing brain chemistry, systemic inflammation, and stress resilience. Here’s a closer look at why movement is a critical component in the battle against anxiety.
Neurochemical Balance: Physical activity promotes the release of endorphins, the body’s natural mood lifters, creating a sense of well-being and euphoria commonly known as the “runner’s high.” This exercise-induced boost plays a role in reducing the perception of pain and can evoke a positive feeling in the body, akin to that of morphine.13Boecker, H., et al. (2008). The runner’s high: Opioidergic mechanisms in the human brain. Cerebral Cortex, 18(11), 2523–2531.
Stress Response Regulation: Exercise also regulates the body’s stress response. It has been shown to reduce levels of the body’s stress hormones, such as adrenaline and cortisol, over time. This modulation helps mitigate the effects of anxiety by promoting a state of balance within the nervous system.14Zschucke, E., et al. (2015). Exercise and physical activity in mental disorders: Clinical and experimental evidence. Journal of Preventive Medicine and Public Health, 48(1), 12–21.
Enhanced Neuroplasticity: Regular physical activity stimulates neuroplasticity, the brain’s ability to adapt and reorganize itself by forming new neural connections throughout life. Exercise enhances the growth of new brain cells—a process known as neurogenesis—particularly in the hippocampus, an area critical for memory and learning, which is also sensitive to the effects of stress and anxiety.15Sleiman, S. F., et al. (2016). Exercise promotes the expression of brain derived neurotrophic factor (BDNF) through the action of the ketone body β-hydroxybutyrate. eLife, 5, e15092.
Inflammation Reduction: Chronic inflammation has been linked to an array of mental health issues, including anxiety. Exercise contributes to an anti-inflammatory response within the body. Regular physical activity leads to the production of anti-inflammatory cytokines, which play a significant role in the immune system, reducing inflammation and contributing to a healthier mood balance.16Gleeson, M., et al. (2011). The anti-inflammatory effects of exercise: Mechanisms and implications for the prevention and treatment of disease. Nature Reviews Immunology, 11(9), 607–615.
Social Interaction and Self-Efficacy: Participating in group exercise or sports also facilitates social interaction, which can alleviate feelings of loneliness and isolation. Furthermore, setting and achieving fitness goals can build self-efficacy, enhance self-esteem and provide a sense of control and accomplishment, which are often eroded by anxiety.17Herring, M. P., et al. (2010). The effect of exercise training on anxiety symptoms among patients: A systematic review. Archives of Internal Medicine, 170(4), 321–331.
The role of exercise in mental health is multi-faceted, delivering benefits that extend far beyond physical health. It’s a potent, natural, and underutilized therapeutic tool for managing anxiety and enhancing mental wellness.
Types of Exercise to Combat Anxiety
Choosing the right type of exercise is essential for managing anxiety. While any physical activity is better than none, certain forms of exercise may offer superior benefits for mental health. We’ll explore three key categories: High-Intensity Interval Training (HIIT), Strength Training, and Aerobic Exercise, with a focus on maintaining the right balance for anxiety management.
High-Intensity Interval Training (HIIT): HIIT involves short bursts of intense exercise alternated with low-intensity recovery periods. It’s a time-efficient way to exercise and has been shown to significantly reduce anxiety sensitivity, which is a predictor of the development of panic attacks and anxiety disorders.18Smith, A. E., et al. (2020). High-Intensity Interval Training for improving health-related fitness in adolescents: A systematic review and meta-analysis. British Journal of Sports Medicine, 54(19), 1253–1261. HIIT boosts endorphin levels and increases the availability of neurotransmitters such as serotonin and dopamine, which can improve mood and anxiety.19Kessler, H. S., et al. (2012). The potential for high-intensity interval training to reduce cardiometabolic disease risk. Sports Medicine, 42(6), 489–509.
Strength Training: Strength training is another potent modality for anxiety reduction. It helps to alleviate symptoms by increasing self-efficacy and reducing inflammation. Regular resistance training has been associated with reductions in anxiety symptoms across all populations, and the benefits are comparable to those of aerobic exercise.20Gordon, B. R., et al. (2017). The effects of resistance exercise training on anxiety: A meta-analysis and meta-regression analysis of randomized controlled trials. Sports Medicine, 47(12), 2521–2532. In fact, resistance training has been shown in research to be as effective as medication for issues like General Anxiety Disorder (GAD). Moreover, by enhancing muscle mass, strength training may bolster the muscle-gut-brain axis, promoting an overall sense of well-being.
Aerobic Exercise: Moderate aerobic exercise, such as brisk walking, jogging, cycling, or swimming, can be extremely beneficial. These activities have been shown to decrease overall levels of tension, elevate and stabilize mood, improve sleep, and improve self-esteem. However, it is important to strike a balance; endurance activities and prolonged sports can increase cortisol levels if overdone, potentially exacerbating anxiety in some individuals.21Raglin, J. S., & Morgan, W. P. (1987). Influence of exercise and quiet rest on state anxiety and blood pressure. Medicine & Science in Sports & Exercise, 19(5), 456–463. Therefore, it is recommended that aerobic exercise be performed in moderation, integrating it with HIIT and strength training for a well-rounded fitness regimen.
The 12-Week Exercise Plan
In this guide, I’ll show you an example plan. Those who join VIGOR Training will receive ongoing programming that may look like below at times, or could be quite different, depending on the season we’re in.
This 12-week plan is designed to gradually increase in intensity and complexity, allowing your body to adapt and your anxiety levels to decrease as your strength and fitness improve. The program encompasses a blend of HIIT, strength training, and moderate aerobic activities to create a balanced approach. The intention is to stimulate the muscle-gut-brain axis positively, encouraging mental resilience alongside physical vigor.
This is an example of how you could structure a sound strength and conditioning program to improve health, fitness, and mental wellness, including the ability to reduce anxiety.
If you’d prefer to follow a completely “done-for-you” strength and conditioning program, join us at VIGOR Training.
Overview of the 12 Weeks
- Weeks 1-4: Foundation Phase – The focus here is on establishing routine and form. Exercise sessions are more frequent but less intense to build habituation to regular physical activity.
- Weeks 5-8: Build Phase – Intensity begins to increase. Strength training becomes more challenging, and HIIT sessions are slightly longer.
- Weeks 9-12: Peak Phase – The program peaks in intensity. Exercise sessions are demanding, pushing your limits and maximizing improvements in both physical and mental health.
Weeks 1-4: Foundation Phase
|Monday||Strength Training (Full Body)||One compound exercise targeting each movement (lower body press, lower body pull, upper body press, upper body pull, core): 3 sets of 12-15 reps per exercise|
|Tuesday||Aerobic Exercise||30 minutes of brisk walking or cycling|
|Wednesday||Strength Training (Full Body)||One compound exercise targeting each movement (lower body press, lower body pull, upper body press, upper body pull, core): 3 sets of 12-15 reps per exercise|
|Thursday||Rest or Gentle Yoga/Mind-Body||Optional gentle yoga or stretching session|
|Friday||HIIT||5 rounds: 30s work/90s rest|
|Saturday||Strength Training (Full Body)||One compound exercise targeting each movement (lower body press, lower body pull, upper body press, upper body pull, core): 3 sets of 12-15 reps per exercise|
Weeks 5-8: Build Phase
|Monday||Strength Training (Upper/Lower Split)||Two compound exercises per body part: Quads & glutes (squats, lunges), hamstrings (leg curls, deadlifts), calves: 3 sets of 8-10 reps per exercise|
|Tuesday||Aerobic Exercise||35 minutes of steady-state activity (jogging, swimming)|
|Wednesday||Strength Training (Upper/Lower Split)||Two compound exercises per body part: Back (rows, pulldowns), chest & shoulders (dumbbell press, overhead press), core (crunches, rotations) 3 sets of 8-10 reps per exercise|
|Thursday||Rest or Gentle Yoga/Mind-Body||Optional mind-body session to enhance mental recovery|
|Friday||HIIT||8 rounds: 30s work/60s rest|
|Saturday||Strength Training (Full Body)||One compound exercise targeting each movement (lower body press, lower body pull, upper body press, upper body pull, core): 3 sets of 8-10 reps per exercise|
Weeks 9-12: Peak Phase
|Monday||Strength Training (Push/Pull/Legs)||2 exercises each for lower and upper body pushing movements (squat, lunges, chest press, overhead press): 4 sets of 6-8 reps per exercise|
|Tuesday||Aerobic Exercise||40 minutes of moderate intensity (cycling, swimming)|
|Wednesday||Strength Training (Push/Pull/Legs)||2 exercises each for lower and upper body pulling movements (deadlift, leg curls, rows, pulldowns/pull-ups): 4 sets of 6-8 reps per exercise|
|Thursday||HIIT||10 rounds: 20s work/40s rest|
|Friday||Strength Training (Push/Pull/Legs)||2 exercises each for lower and upper body pushing movements (squat, lunges, chest press, overhead press): 4 sets of 6-8 reps per exercise|
|Saturday||Strength Training (Push/Pull/Legs)||2 exercises each for lower and upper body pulling movements (deadlift, leg curls, rows, pulldowns/pull-ups): 4 sets of 6-8 reps per exercise|
Safety and Guidelines:
- Progression: Gradually increase weight and intensity to avoid injury.
- Form First: Prioritize proper form over lifting heavier weights.
- Rest: Ensure adequate rest between sets and exercises to maintain performance.
- Hydration: Stay well-hydrated, especially on HIIT and aerobic days.
- Nutrition: Fuel your workouts with a diet rich in protein, complex carbs, and healthy fats.
- Recovery: Take the rest day seriously to allow your body and mind to recover.
The plan is structured yet flexible, empowering you to make adjustments based on how you feel each week. Adapt as necessary but strive to stay consistent with the routine to achieve the best results for both physical and mental health.
Part III: Nutrition for a Calmer Mind
The axiom “You are what you eat” takes on added depth when considering the gut-brain axis — the bidirectional communication pathway between the gastrointestinal tract and the nervous system. This connection suggests that our diet can profoundly influence our mood and mental health.
Gut Microbiome and Mental Health: Emerging research indicates that a healthy gut microbiome is vital for mental well-being. Gut bacteria produce various neurochemicals that the brain uses for the regulation of physiological and mental processes, including mood. Serotonin, a neurotransmitter associated with feelings of happiness and well-being, is predominantly produced in the gut.22Yano, J. M., et al. (2015). Indigenous bacteria from the gut microbiota regulate host serotonin biosynthesis. Cell, 161(2), 264-276. Thus, dietary choices that favor a diverse and robust gut microbiome may contribute positively to mood regulation.
Impact of Diet on Neurotransmitters: Diet directly influences the production of neurotransmitters. For example, the amino acid tryptophan, found in high-protein foods, is a precursor to serotonin. Omega-3 fatty acids, abundant in fatty fish, have been shown to benefit brain function and may lower the risk of mood disorders.23Logan, A. C., & Jacka, F. N. (2014). Nutritional psychiatry research: an emerging discipline and its intersection with global urbanization, environmental challenges and the evolutionary mismatch. Journal of Physiological Anthropology, 33, 22.
Inflammation and Anxiety: Chronic inflammation is another dietary concern with mental health implications. Diets high in sugar, trans fats, and processed foods can contribute to systemic inflammation, which has been linked to the development of depression and anxiety.24Kiecolt-Glaser, J. K., et al. (2015). Stress, inflammation, and yoga practice. Psychosomatic Medicine, 77(2), 113-121.
Gluten and Mental Health: Contrary to conventional dietary guidelines that praise whole grains, some research suggests gluten can negatively affect gut health and, by extension, mental health. Gluten may increase intestinal permeability and inflammation, potentially exacerbating anxiety symptoms in sensitive individuals.25Peters, S. L., et al. (2014). Randomised clinical trial: gluten may cause depression in subjects with non-coeliac gluten sensitivity – an exploratory clinical study. Alimentary Pharmacology & Therapeutics, 39(10), 1104-1112.
Higher Protein Intakes for Mental Health: A higher protein intake supports neurotransmitter function and muscle synthesis, both vital for maintaining metabolism and mental health. Ample protein provides the amino acids necessary for the synthesis of neurotransmitters like dopamine and serotonin, which influence mood and cognition.26Fernstrom, J. D., & Wurtman, R. J. (1971). Brain serotonin content: increase following ingestion of carbohydrate diet. Science, 174(4013), 1023-1025.
Balancing Blood Sugar: Stabilizing blood sugar through diet is also critical. Frequent spikes and drops in blood sugar can trigger mood swings and exacerbate anxiety symptoms. A diet emphasizing low-glycemic foods and sufficient fiber promotes a slow, steady release of sugar into the bloodstream, which can support a more even-tempered disposition.27Brand-Miller, J., et al. (2003). Glycemic index and obesity. The American Journal of Clinical Nutrition, 76(1), 281S-285S.
In summary, a mindful approach to eating — one that supports gut health, reduces inflammation, and maintains steady blood sugar levels — is crucial for mental as well as physical health.
Essential Nutrients for Managing Anxiety
Nutrition has a profound impact on mental health, with several key nutrients playing a critical role in managing anxiety. The complexity of anxiety disorders calls for a multifaceted nutritional approach, targeting various biological pathways. Nutrients can affect neurotransmitter synthesis, inflammatory responses, and even the integrity of the blood-brain barrier. Below, we’ll explore the nutrients that are pivotal in the context of anxiety and mental well-being.
Magnesium: The Calming Mineral: Magnesium is often referred to as the ‘calming mineral.’ It plays a crucial role in nerve function and mood regulation. Magnesium deficiency has been linked to heightened stress responses and may contribute to anxiety-related behaviors.28Boyle, N. B., Lawton, C., & Dye, L. (2017). The Effects of Magnesium Supplementation on Subjective Anxiety and Stress—A Systematic Review. Nutrients, 9(5), 429. It’s involved in over 300 biochemical reactions in the body, including the synthesis of neurotransmitters like serotonin, which directly impact mood.29Sartori, S. B., Whittle, N., Hetzenauer, A., & Singewald, N. (2012). Magnesium deficiency induces anxiety and HPA axis dysregulation: Modulation by therapeutic drug treatment. Neuropharmacology, 62(1), 304-312.
Omega-3 Fatty Acids: Brain Building Blocks: The omega-3 fatty acids, particularly EPA and DHA, are essential for brain health. They are integral components of cell membranes in the brain and are involved in anti-inflammatory pathways. Research has shown that supplementation with omega-3s can decrease anxiety symptoms.30Grosso, G., Pajak, A., Marventano, S., Castellano, S., Galvano, F., Bucolo, C., Drago, F., & Caraci, F. (2014). Role of omega-3 fatty acids in the treatment of depressive disorders: a comprehensive meta-analysis of randomized clinical trials. PLOS ONE, 9(5), e96905. Omega-3s may also support the repair and regeneration of neurons, which can be affected by chronic stress.31Su, K. P. (2009). Biological mechanism of antidepressant effect of omega-3 fatty acids: how does fish oil act as a ‘mind-body interface’? Neurosignals, 17(2), 144-152.
B Vitamins: The Nerve Protectors: The B vitamins, including B6, B12, and folate, are crucial for the proper functioning of the nervous system. They play a key role in the creation and regulation of neurotransmitters, such as dopamine and serotonin. B vitamin supplementation has been shown to reduce stress and improve mood in individuals with high stress levels.32Stough, C., Scholey, A., Lloyd, J., Spong, J., Myers, S., & Downey, L. A. (2011). The effect of 90 day administration of a high dose vitamin B-complex on work stress. Human Psychopharmacology: Clinical and Experimental, 26(7), 470-476.
Vitamin D: The Sunshine Vitamin: Vitamin D receptors are widely distributed in the brain, and their activation affects neurotransmitter synthesis and nerve growth. Studies indicate that low levels of vitamin D are associated with a higher risk of anxiety disorders.33Armstrong, D. J., Meenagh, G. K., Bickle, I., Lee, A. S. H., Curran, E. S., & Finch, M. B. (2007). Vitamin D deficiency is associated with anxiety and depression in fibromyalgia. Clinical Rheumatology, 26(4), 551-554.
Amino Acids: The Building Blocks of Proteins: Amino acids like tryptophan are precursors to neurotransmitters such as serotonin. Adequate protein intake ensures a sufficient supply of these amino acids, which is necessary for the maintenance of good mental health. There’s evidence to suggest that an imbalance in tryptophan levels can influence mood and anxiety states.34Strasser, B., Sperner-Unterweger, B., Fuchs, D., & Gostner, J. M. (2016). Mechanisms of Inflammation-Induced Mood Changes in Humans: A Review of Antidepressive Strategies for the Treatment of Inflammatory Depression. Pharmacology, 98(3-4), 114-126.
Antioxidants: The Cell Protectors: Antioxidants like vitamins A, C, and E, as well as certain plant compounds like flavonoids, can help protect the brain from oxidative stress. This kind of stress is known to be a factor in the development of anxiety disorders. A diet rich in antioxidants can help mitigate these effects and support overall brain health.35Savage, K., Firth, J., Stough, C., & Sarris, J. (2017). GABA-modulating phytomedicines for anxiety: A systematic review of preclinical and clinical evidence. Phytotherapy Research, 31(1), 3-18.
Probiotics: Gut Health Equals Mental Health: Emerging research suggests that the gut microbiome plays a role in regulating brain function and may impact the development of anxiety. Probiotics can influence the gut-brain axis and have been shown to have an anti-anxiety effect.36Foster, J. A., & McVey Neufeld, K. A. (2013). Gut-brain axis: how the microbiome influences anxiety and depression. Trends in Neurosciences, 36(5), 305-312.
Zinc: The Brain’s Metabolic Support: Zinc is a trace element essential for brain function and the modulation of the body’s response to stress. Zinc deficiency has been correlated with increased anxiety and depression-like behaviors.37Takeda, A. (2012). Zinc homeostasis and functions of zinc in the brain. BioMed Research International, 2011.
Incorporating Nutrient-Rich Foods
To harness these nutrients’ anti-anxiety benefits, it’s essential to consume a diet rich in whole foods. Leafy greens, nuts, seeds, fatty fish, lean meats, legumes, and a variety of fruits and vegetables can provide these nutrients. Moreover, a balanced diet ensures that these nutrients are in optimal ratios, working synergistically to support mental health.
By ensuring the intake of these essential nutrients, either through diet or supplements, we can support our body’s natural ability to manage anxiety. The next step is to structure these nutrients into a coherent dietary pattern that not only supports mental health but also complements the fitness and lifestyle changes proposed in the “Unshakable” program.
The Anti-Anxiety Diet
The Anti-Anxiety Diet is a holistic approach to eating that emphasizes foods that support mental health and reduces those that may exacerbate anxiety. This diet aims to provide the body with a steady supply of mood-stabilizing nutrients while minimizing the consumption of substances that can trigger inflammation or stress responses. The core principles of this diet include whole foods, rich in nutrients, high in fiber, and abundant in antioxidants.
Also, keep in mind that these dietary recommendations are different from those who need to optimize body composition or want to maximize muscle gains. Once you’ve achieved an optimal level of mental wellness, you could slowly transition to a diet that incorporates higher-protein intakes, intermittent fasting, and other longevity and weight management habits.
Key Components of the Anti-Anxiety Diet
- Whole Foods: Focus on fruits, vegetables, nuts, seeds, legumes, and lean proteins. These foods are nutrient-dense and provide a vast array of vitamins, minerals, and antioxidants that support brain health.38Jacka, F. N., et al. (2017). “A randomised controlled trial of dietary improvement for adults with major depression (the ‘SMILES’ trial).” BMC Medicine, 15(1), 23.
- Healthy Fats: Incorporate sources of omega-3 fatty acids, such as fatty fish (like salmon and sardines), flaxseeds, chia seeds, and walnuts. These fats are essential for brain function and may help reduce inflammation.
- Adequate Protein: Ensure sufficient intake of protein from various sources, including poultry, fish, eggs, and plant-based proteins like beans and lentils. Protein provides amino acids necessary for neurotransmitter synthesis.
- Fiber-Rich Foods: High-fiber foods like vegetables, fruits, and legumes can support digestive health, which is crucial for maintaining a healthy gut-brain axis.
- Fermented Foods: Foods such as yogurt, kefir, sauerkraut, and kimchi contain probiotics that can modulate the gut microbiota, potentially influencing mood and anxiety levels.
- Hydration: Adequate fluid intake is vital for all bodily functions, including brain health. Water is the best choice, and herbal teas can also be beneficial.
- Herbs and Spices: Many herbs, like ashwagandha, lavender, and chamomile, have been traditionally used for their calming effects. Spices such as turmeric contain anti-inflammatory compounds that may benefit mental health.
Foods to Minimize or Avoid
- Refined Sugars: High intake of sugar can lead to fluctuations in blood glucose levels, which can trigger mood swings and increase anxiety.39Rucklidge, J. J., et al. (2017). “The role of nutrition in mental health: Depression.” In Clinical Natural Medicine Handbook (pp. 316-334). Refined sugars also increase the growth of bad bacteria in the gut, which can reduce neurotransmitter production.
- Caffeine: Overconsumption of caffeine can lead to increased anxiety, restlessness, and disrupt sleep patterns.40Selhub, E. (2015). “Nutritional psychiatry: Your brain on food.” Harvard Health Blog. Retrieved from https://www.health.harvard.edu/blog/nutritional-psychiatry-your-brain-on-food-201511168626
- Alcohol: While it may seem to offer temporary relief, alcohol can alter neurotransmitter levels and exacerbate anxiety over time.
- Processed Foods: These often contain additives, preservatives, and other ingredients that can negatively affect gut health and mood.
- Gluten and Other Potential Irritants: For individuals sensitive to gluten, avoiding it can help maintain gut integrity and reduce inflammation, potentially benefiting mental health.
Sample Anti-Anxiety Diet Plan
A sample day on the Anti-Anxiety Diet might include:
- Breakfast: Oatmeal with flaxseeds, blueberries, and a scoop of protein powder.
- Snack: A handful of almonds and a piece of fruit.
- Lunch: Grilled chicken salad with mixed greens, avocado, chickpeas, and an olive oil-based dressing.
- Snack: Greek yogurt with pumpkin seeds and a drizzle of honey.
- Dinner: Baked salmon, quinoa, and steamed broccoli.
- Dessert: A small square of dark chocolate (at least 70% cocoa).
Customizing the Anti-Anxiety Diet
This diet should be customized to individual needs and preferences. It’s essential to consider personal dietary restrictions, potential food intolerances, and unique nutritional requirements. Working with a nutritionist or dietitian can help tailor the diet to support anxiety management effectively.
The Anti-Anxiety Diet is not a one-size-fits-all solution but a template that can be personalized. It’s designed to stabilize blood sugar levels, reduce inflammation, and provide a rich spectrum of nutrients for optimal brain function, all of which can contribute to reduced anxiety and improved mental well-being.
Sample Meal Plans
Crafting meal plans that promote mental wellness through the gut-brain-muscle axis involves incorporating foods rich in nutrients that are known to reduce anxiety while also supporting overall health. Here are sample meal plans that align with the Anti-Anxiety Diet:
- Breakfast: Scrambled eggs with spinach, tomatoes, and mushrooms, served with a side of avocado.
- Snack: Greek yogurt with a handful of almonds and blueberries.
- Lunch: Grilled chicken salad with mixed greens, cherry tomatoes, cucumbers, olives, feta cheese, and olive oil dressing.
- Snack: Sliced bell peppers with hummus.
- Dinner: Baked salmon with asparagus and quinoa. A side of sauerkraut for probiotic support.
- Dessert: A small piece of dark chocolate (at least 70% cocoa).
- Breakfast: Protein smoothie with spinach, protein powder, flaxseeds, and unsweetened almond milk.
- Snack: Apple slices with almond butter.
- Lunch: Turkey and avocado wrap in a gluten-free tortilla with a side of mixed greens.
- Snack: A small portion of mixed nuts.
- Dinner: Beef stir-fry with a variety of vegetables such as broccoli, bell peppers, and snow peas, served over cauliflower rice.
- Dessert: A bowl of mixed berries.
- Breakfast: Oatmeal with protein powder stirred in, topped with chia seeds and sliced strawberries.
- Snack: Cottage cheese with pineapple chunks.
- Lunch: Tuna salad with leafy greens, cherry tomatoes, and a vinaigrette dressing.
- Snack: Carrot sticks with guacamole.
- Dinner: Lemon-herb roasted chicken with a side of roasted Brussels sprouts and sweet potato.
- Dessert: A peach.
- Breakfast: A two-egg omelette with diced ham, spinach, and mushrooms, topped with avocado slices.
- Snack: A banana with a handful of walnuts.
- Lunch: Quinoa and chickpea bowl with a medley of roasted vegetables and tahini dressing.
- Snack: Celery sticks with cream cheese.
- Dinner: Grilled shrimp over mixed greens with avocado, mango, and a squeeze of lime.
- Dessert: Baked apple with cinnamon.
- Breakfast: Greek yogurt parfait with granola, pumpkin seeds, and fresh berries.
- Snack: A hard-boiled egg with a sprinkle of paprika.
- Lunch: Chicken Caesar salad with a yogurt-based Caesar dressing and gluten-free croutons.
- Snack: A handful of dried figs and a cheese stick.
- Dinner: Pork tenderloin with roasted mixed vegetables and a side of fermented kimchi.
- Dessert: A couple of squares of dark chocolate.
- Breakfast: Smoothie with kale, banana, peanut butter, and unsweetened almond milk.
- Snack: A small portion of trail mix with seeds and dried fruits.
- Lunch: Lentil soup with a side salad.
- Snack: A piece of cheese with gluten-free crackers.
- Dinner: Baked cod with a herb crust, steamed broccoli, and a side of mixed bean salad.
- Dessert: A few slices of cantaloupe.
- Breakfast: Chia seed pudding made with coconut milk and topped with nuts and kiwi slices.
- Snack: An orange and a handful of pistachios.
- Lunch: Grilled vegetable and hummus sandwich on gluten-free bread.
- Snack: A small bowl of olives and cherry tomatoes.
- Dinner: Turkey meatballs with zucchini noodles and homemade tomato sauce.
- Dessert: Coconut milk ice cream.
These meal plans are designed to provide a balanced intake of macronutrients while also focusing on foods that can potentially improve gut health and reduce anxiety. They’re rich in fiber, good fats, quality proteins, and probiotics, all of which play a role in mental wellness.
Remember, these are sample meal plans and can be adjusted according to individual dietary requirements, preferences, and nutritional goals. Always consider working with a healthcare provider or a dietitian when making significant changes to your diet, especially if you have health conditions or specific dietary needs.
Part IV: Supplements That Support Mental Well-being
Proper supplementation can have a significant impact on restoring gut health. However, just because a product contains probiotics, or is labeled as “supports gut health,” it doesn’t mean it’ll be effective. Unfortunately, supplement and food companies can make very strong claims with very weak products.
That’s why we were so excited when we found Amare. Their entire company exists to support people’s mental wellness and they cut no corners in creating products that do just that.
For transparency, we are distributors and earn a commission if you decide to order one of the products recommended below, or any other Amare products we recommend with our links. I hope you’ll strongly consider trying them and supporting us. And if you’re curious about how you could become a distributor, too, I’d love to talk to you.
Beyond the focus on mental wellness, I was drawn to Amare for a few other reasons, which all stem back to my experience in the nutritional products industry.
- Formulations involve a combination of leveraging traditional medicine with modern innovation, including significant use of branded, research-proven, standardized ingredients in formulas.
- Transparency in sourcing and ingredients, as well as analytical verification that ensures what’s on the label is in the bottle.
- Significant education and support for helping customers reboot and rebuild a healthy microbiome, ultimately leading to improved mental wellness.
For simplicity, I’ll highlight two products that best fit with the goal of enhancing the gut microbiome to improve mental wellness while also supporting your physical fitness goals.
Happy Juice: A Taste of Optimism
When it comes to fortifying mental wellness, the Happy Juice pack from Amare offers a comprehensive approach to mood support, aiming to optimize the gut-brain axis—the very core of our emotional well-being.
What is Happy Juice?
Happy Juice is Amare’s inventive concoction, blending three trusted mental wellness products into a single, mood-boosting beverage. It’s specifically designed to enhance your mood, motivation, and overall mental performance, making it an ideal addition to the Unshakable program.
Why Choose Happy Juice?
- Mood and Motivation: By supporting neurotransmitter balance, Happy Juice can help lift your spirits and enhance your drive.
- Gut Health: It emphasizes the health of your second brain — the gut — which plays a pivotal role in mental well-being.
- Mental Clarity: The carefully selected ingredients work in harmony to clear the mental fog, sharpen focus, and energize your thoughts for a highly productive day.
The Components of Happy Juice
The pack includes:
- MentaBiotics: With its potent combination of probiotics, prebiotics, and phytonutrients, it supports a healthy gut microbiome, linked to a happy mood and mental resilience.*
- Energy+: Whether in Pomegranate Lime or Dragon Fruit flavor, this component delivers an all-natural energy boost, derived from Guayusa and Rooibos, to improve both brain and physical performance.*
- Amare EDGE: Available in delicious Watermelon or Grape, EDGE provides a natural nootropic boost to support motivation, fueling your body and mind.*
How Does Happy Juice Work?
- Synergistic Action: Each component of Happy Juice targets a different aspect of mental wellness, from gut health to neurotransmitter optimization, culminating in a comprehensive mood support system.
- Convenience: This mood-supporting drink mix is easy to integrate into your daily routine, aligning with the nutritional strategies of the ‘Unshakable’ program.
- Clinically Validated Ingredients: The ingredients are not only sustainably sourced but also backed by clinical research, ensuring their efficacy in neurotransmitter optimization, including serotonin, dopamine, and GABA.
Amare FundaMentals Pack: The Cornerstone of Mental Wellness Nutrition
The Amare FundaMentals Pack represents a pioneering approach to mental wellness, targeting the intricate connection between the gut and the brain. With rave reviews and an award-winning formulation, this pack promises to be an essential component of any regimen focused on psychological vigor and clarity.
What is the Amare FundaMentals Pack?
Amare’s FundaMentals Pack is the world’s first comprehensive gut-brain axis nutrition system. It’s designed to synergistically support the primary physiological drivers of mental wellness. This pack includes MentaBiotics, MentaFocus, and MentaSync, providing a foundation for enhanced cognitive function and emotional well-being.
Key Benefits of the Amare FundaMentals Pack
- Gut Health: By promoting a balanced and healthy gut microbiome, the FundaMentals Pack sets the stage for improved overall well-being.*
- Cognitive Boost: The inclusion of MentaFocus is designed to enhance cognitive clarity, allowing for sharper mental acuity throughout your day.*
- Gut-Brain Connection: The components work in concert to ensure that your gut and brain are communicating effectively, a critical factor for mental balance.*
- Mood and Tension Relief: Clinically proven ingredients within the pack have been shown to uplift mood and alleviate tension, contributing to a calmer and more centered disposition.*
- Vitality and Vigor: Users report a noticeable improvement in psychological vigor, including increased physical energy, mental sharpness, and emotional health.*
Incorporating Amare into the ‘Unshakable’ Program
Unshakable encourages a holistic lifestyle modification to combat anxiety and boost mental wellness. By adding Amare to your daily regimen, you are taking an extra step towards achieving a calmer mind and a happier life. It’s easy to use, scientifically-supported, and incredibly effective.
Part V: Embracing Your Journey to Unshakable Well-Being
Throughout the ‘Unshakable’ program, we’ve delved into the intricate tapestry of mental wellness, exploring the profound connection between our dietary choices, lifestyle habits, and nutritional supplementation. We’ve unearthed the pillars of psychological resilience — diet, exercise, and the gut-brain axis — and equipped you with practical, actionable strategies to reinforce each one.
From the Anti-Anxiety Diet that provides the nutritional cornerstone of mental wellness, to the targeted exercise routines designed to boost mood and cognitive function, every element of the ‘Unshakable’ program is purposefully crafted to synergize and enhance your mental fortitude.
Your Next Steps
As you stand at the threshold of this transformative journey, consider the following steps as your roadmap:
- Assessment: Revisit your initial wellness goals and align them with the insights gained from this program.
- Integration: Begin incorporating the dietary recommendations, fitness routines, and the Amare supplements into your daily regimen.
- Monitoring: Keep a journal or log to monitor your progress, emotional states, and any significant changes in your well-being.
- Community Engagement: Connect with others on a similar path through forums or local groups for shared experiences and support.
- Consultation: Seek professional advice when needed to tailor the ‘Unshakable’ program to your unique physiological needs.
Encouragement and Final Thoughts
Embarking on the ‘Unshakable’ program is more than adopting new habits; it’s a commitment to a lifestyle that honors the intrinsic connection between mind and body. As you progress, remember that every small step is a leap towards a more resilient, vibrant you.
The journey towards mental wellness is ongoing and ever-evolving. There will be challenges, but within you lies the fortitude to overcome them. Stay the course, trust in the process, and let the principles of ‘Unshakable’ guide you to a place of balance and peace.