Protein is ADHD Brain Fuel

by | Jun 16, 2022 | ADHD Symptom Control | 0 comments

protein and ADHD

Are you eating enough protein every day? If you aren’t, you could be sabotaging your Adult Attention Deficit treatments. Eating the best ADHD diet is crucial to managing ADHD and keeping your brain switch on.

As I tell my ADHD Coaching clients, your ADHD brain is like a high-performance car. To run at its best it needs high-quality fuel with regular refueling stops and oil changes. Your ability to control your ADHD symptoms will greatly increase when you feed your brain good material when it needs it.

And one of the most important forms of fuel for your brain is protein. 

Protein Doesn’t Just Build Muscles

Protein is a basic building block of the human body. It helps create amino acids that are essential for your brain and body to work well. Especially if you have ADHD!

See most people think protein is only for building muscles. That if you’re not a bodybuilder or athlete, you don’t need to consume much. But did you catch that it’s important for amino acids?

What else is made up of amino acids? Neurotransmitters! Remember those pesky chemicals in your brain that carry messages from one cell to another? The big one we’ve been focusing on in connection with ADHD is Dopamine. (Check back here for a quick refresher.)

So protein supplies the amino acids for your body to create neurotransmitters which are used to turn on your brain switch and allow those executive functions to function. Following that trail, if you have ADHD, you must be fueling up with protein throughout the day.

Another way to look at it – while your brain isn’t a muscle, it does work harder than anything else in your body. Your biceps and quadriceps may do the actual heavy lifting, but your brain problem solves, organizes, remembers, and plans. No wonder we often tap out mentally before we do physically!

So your goal is to give your brain a constant supply of protein. Frequent refueling stops. The best ADHD diet will support your brain, keep your brain switch on and make it easier for you to focus and get things done.

How to Incorporate Protein in Every Meal

I hope you had some protein earlier today because we are going to do some math. Not my favorite. But I’m snacking on some walnuts right now so I’m ready to go!

According to the Dietary Reference Intake report for macronutrients, a sedentary adult should consume 0.36 grams of protein per pound of body weight. That means that the average sedentary man should eat about 56 grams of protein per day, and the average sedentary woman should eat about 46 grams. Since you’re incorporating exercise into your daily life to alleviate your ADHD symptoms, you’ll need more protein. Sedentary is something those of us with ADHD should never be!

Does 56+/46+ grams feel like a lot? Sometimes to me, too. But if you break it down over meals and snacks, it’s easy. 

Breakfast: 2 scrambled eggs (12 grams)

Snack: 6 oz Greek Yogurt (18 grams)

Lunch: Vegetable soup with kidney beans (8 grams)

Snack: Peanut butter and celery (7 grams)

Dinner: 3 oz Chicken breast (28 grams)

Add all that up and it’s more than recommended (total is 73), but you see how easy it is to reach the threshold to keep your brain energized. 

The key is spreading it out over the day.

Some great sources of protein: meat, eggs, cheese, yogurt, cottage cheese, nuts, soy, hummus, and legumes; some proteins are high in fat so keep your portions small. Nuts (almonds, walnuts, cashews, etc.), cheese and beef jerky are all easy protein-rich snacks. Protein drinks or supplements and imitation meats do, too. (Read the labels and watch the salt and sugar contents.)

Another Great Gift from Protein

If protein is one of the best things you can consume for your brain, then sugar is the absolute WORST! It encourages brain chaos and turns your brain off leaving you more distracted, restless, and impulsive. 

But (slight whine here…) sugar can be so tasty. And it’s hidden in many foods that you’d never expect – ‘healthy’ cereal, pasta sauces, yogurt, dried fruit. You can’t completely escape it but there IS a way to combat it and reduce the sugar effect a bit.

I bet you can guess.

It’s protein. Eating protein before you ingest sugar can help offset the negative impact so you can keep your brain switched on, and stay organized, focused, and motivated. 

The bottom line? 

It’s up to you to give your brain the fuel it needs to operate at peak performance. There’s a direct link between your ADHD symptoms and your diet. Eating an ADHD-friendly diet that includes protein regularly throughout the day is essential to living more easily with ADHD. 

Keep learning about ADHD and Diet:


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