Last week I watched an episode of Jeopardy and winced as a contestant blew a chance to secure his lead on a $2000 Double Jeopardy answer. Oh, he knew the right question, but couldn’t push the button fast enough. Too bad because during that one-tenth of a second pause, another contestant beat him to the punch and used the additional $2000 to ultimately win the match.

Is there anything that you can do to amp up your reaction speed? Yes, recent research supports the following 4 exercise and nutritional strategies to improve your executive decision making capability, reaction speed and memory:

1. Stay hydrated

According to a study published the November-December 2013 American College of Sports Medicine’s Health & Fitness Journal, being only 2% down on water consumption causes a decrease in cognitive performance.

The solution is to drink 8 ounces of water when you wake up, as you have not drunk anything for 6 to 8 hours while exhaling water vapor with your carbon dioxide. In addition consuming about 64 ounces per day of water or water-based liquids will keep you hydrated and help keep neural connections running at top speed.

2. Eat a breakfast that contains protein

Research published in the October 2013 edition of the IDEA Fitness Journal support findings that we need to eat protein to keep our brains healthy as well as keep us feeling full.  Also, a large-scale study published in the British Journal of Nutrition (2013; 109 [11], 2015-23) indicates that peanut butter contains the right balance of fiber, good oils and protein so that fluctuations in blood sugar are held in check.

3. Bathe your brain in oxygen

Sure Sudoku and chess are fun. Learning a foreign language or calculus can be stimulating. But their impacts on staving off memory loss and age related dementia have not been proven.

Bathing your brain in oxygenated blood has been proven to work. The oxygen molecules that scoop up free radicals in your heart and blood vessels are even more important to keep your brain from getting gummed up. The fix is to boost your cardiovascular training to between 150 and 300 minutes per week.

4. Strengthen your telomeres

What? Each strand of DNA has a protective end cap, like the plastic tip on most shoelaces. These biological end caps offer protection from metabolic processes and environmental assaults. The longer and stronger your telomeres are, the younger your DNA is.

What to do? Strength training has been shown to make your telomeres more robust. Unlike the proven connection between cardio and brain health, there is very high statistical correlation with strength training and brain health, but a cause-and-effect has not been proven…yet. But it doesn’t matter, pump iron anyway. Having a body that looks like a million bucks is nice. Keeping your brain young…priceless.

I can say without question that you can make it to Final Jeopardy if you implement these four strategies. “Alex, I’ll take fitness for $2000, please.”

What are you doing to prepare your brain for the Tournament of Champions?