On Supplementation

We *shouldn’t* need to supplement.  We should eat healthy, whole foods from clean sources in just the right amounts for our particular genetics in order to give us the fuel we need to perform to our goals. But we don’t.  Life is hectic, the world is crazy, our environment (personal and planetary) is a mess, and the list could go on. So if you want to perform to your optimal capacity, you supplement.  This is how you get the vitamins, minerals, and whatever other stuff your environment doesn’t supply.  Got a nutrient deficiency?  There’s a solution for that.  Wanna be bigger, stronger, or faster? We can do that, too.  Mental alertness not what it used to be?  Here ya go.  It’s awesome and i love living in the 21st century.

That being said, it also poses risks.  Overdoing just about anything can be bad for you in some way.  Side affects can range from a diarrhea to cancer, just like with anything you consume or somehow ingest into your body.  Caffeine can work wonders.  Excessive caffeine in the form of non-stop energy drinks filled with all kinds of other nasty stuff (or even just pure caffeine anhydrous) can kill you.  If it doesn’t kill you, overuse will at least mess up your adrenals.  Also, your body often produces many of the substances that we can supplement.  If you constantly feed your body massive amounts of x, it may just stop producing x on its own.  Melatonin is amazing for sleep enhancement.  Use large doses every night and you may not be able to get to sleep without it. Moderation in everything.

For the most part, i err on the side of caution and recommend whole foods first.  For example, although it’s great stuff, you shouldn’t need to supplement with conjugated lineolic acid (CLA).  If you eat and drink dairy products from grass-fed cows (or goats, camels, etc.) you probably won’t need CLA and you’ll be getting it in the right ratio(s).  Spend an extra few bucks on your milk and cheese.  It might cost a little more than just buying a bottle of cheap CLA (which i probably wouldn’t recommend anyway) but who knows what other good stuff you’re getting from dairy that grazes the way it was intended. I also try to point out the potential negatives of the supplements i do recommend, especially when there is scientific support for the downside(s).

But i am not a doctor and i don’t play one on the internet! I’ve done a lot of experimenting over the past few years, and in my opinion, my life is better because of it. I supplement the great majority of the time and although i cycle off pretty much everything for periods, i’m usually supplementing something.  Before you do anything, you should consult your physician. Even after getting the go-ahead from her/him you need to carefully consider where your personal beliefs are leading you.

Top 3s

Overall

  1. Walk at least 20 minutes (consecutively)
  2. Eat healthy, whole foods, especially vegetables
  3. Get quality sleep

Phyiscal performance enhancements

  1. Interval-based cardio training
  2. Some type of goal-oriented strength training
  3. Movement practice, i.e. mobility training, yoga

Supplements

  1. Caffeine – coffee/green tea
  2. Greens
  3. MCT oil
  4. Bulletproof coffee – yes, #4 in a top 3, since it’s a combination of 1, 3, & Kerrygold.

Brain/body supplements

  1. Caffeine – coffee/green tea
  2. C8 MCT oil
  3. Acetyl-L-Carnitine

Brain supplements

  1. Alpha Brain
  2. Lumonol
  3. Four Sigmatic Think Coffee (lion’s mane)

Body supplements

  1. Grass-fed whey protein (goat preferred)
  2. BCAAs
  3. Green tea

Vitamins/minerals

  1. B-complex
  2. Vitamin D
  3. Magnesium

Greens supplements

  1. CapraGreens
  2. Organifi Greens
  3. Athletic Greens

Herbs

  1. Eleuthero root, Siberian ginseng, Ciwujia
  2. Ashwagandha
  3. Or just get a bunch of everything in TianChi

Spices

  1. Turmeric/curry
  2. Cinnamon
  3. Pepper – anything in the capsicum family – the hotter the better but even black pepper can help with nutrient absorption

Performance enhancing vegetarian foods

  1. Beets, epecially cold-pressed beet juice – organic
  2. Broccoli, especially broccoli sprouts – organic
  3. Eggs, especially local – organic, free-range

Soul performance

  1. Meditate
  2. Sing/play music
  3. Practice gratitude

Mind performance

  1. Journaling
  2. Mindfulness walks
  3. Dual n back training

 

CapraGreens

I’ve downed a lot of greens concoctions.  They’ve been one of my staples since starting to think seriously about health and nutrition.  Maybe it’s because they are such a critical piece of what’s lacking in the standard American diet.  Maybe it’s because so many people i follow and respect have endorsed them or encouraged using.  Or maybe it’s because one of the first greens blends i ever tried produced such profound results.

After trying a few different brands available on the shelf locally, I tried CapraGreens after hearing about them from Ben Greenfield [link].   They were so effective it instantly set a high standard for all future performance enhancing foods and supplements.  Although initial taste impressions were poor, the results were undeniable to myself and pretty much anyone else i could guinea pig into trying it.  You almost instantly just felt better after drinking them.

Was it the sulphurophane in the broccoli (a commonly overlooked ingredient in many blends)? Was it the Mt Capra goat milk minerals?  Whatever it was almost everyone agreed- rough taste, feels great!  New customers/converts were created and it certainly wasn’t because i possess any overwhelming skills of persuasiveness.  To be fair about the taste, i doubt there is any greens blend that someone would drink just because of the flavor.  Maybe if there are a bunch of other ingredients thrown in to cover up the greens but that’s not really a greens supplement any longer.  Even the most palatable greens like Organifi and Athletic Greens are pretty meh tasting and come at a price premium.

But back to the experience.  After drinking CapraGreens, you simply feel better… cleaner, clearer-headed.  Aside from the previously mentioned ingredients, the other stuff includes pretty standard, identifiable veggies, both chlorella and spirulina algae, and a healthy dose of healthy spices including cinnamon and turmeric, which helps with the taste and aroma rather than using stevia or fruity natural flavors.  The lack of sugar(s) allows you to get a decent amount of whole food vitamins and minerals with less chance of knocking you out of fat-burning mode if that’s where you’re trying to stay.

Mind Body Soul Hack Bio

I’ve always been moderately active- participated in a sport or three in school and rec leagues.  Ultimately, decided skateboarding and biking were more fun and less forced.  Eventually, started hitting the gym every once in a while to put a little muscle on my light frame.  But there was not a lot of structure.  I paid a little attention to nutrition and ate a gel or two on a trail ride or downed a protein shake of some sort around workout time.  Most of my decision-making was based on economics because most of the products seemed to work about the same- minimally well.  It really didn’t appear to make too much difference- calories were calories and as long as you got enough macro-nutrients (carbs, protein, fat, although i did make some effort to avoid fat at that time) all-around, you simply had to push harder and keep going, just make sure to keep feeding.

When i started inching into the mid-30s, things began to go downhill.  They’d probably been going downhill for awhile but i wasn’t too obsessed with measuring results (yet) and hadn’t really noticed. Now I was slower… a lot slower.  What used to take a couple weeks to get whipped into shape was now taking months.  And injuries… what in the world was up with injuries?  Previously it took a couple weeks to heal from anything and now recovery took over a month or longer for silly stuff.  Some issues wouldn’t go away.  This was not going to work for me.  Something was wrong and i was not going to succumb to the “we’re just getting old” narrative.

So began what has now been approximately a decade long journey deep into performance hacks, weird foods, supplements, mental tricks, fitness equipment, and more. Research and experimentation fuel me.  I have a natural tendency to seek out the latest and greatest but a desire for results that keeps me somewhat balanced in reality rather than just the latest woo woo fad.  But woo woo fads (as well as forgotten classics) that work, based on personal experience, science, and other anecdotal evidence are golden.  But aren’t there a ton of biohackers out there already doing the same thing?

Here’s the deal- i’m still like you.  I have a day job and an hour commute… each way…  when traffic is good.  My wife and i are outnumbered by our three kids.  We are active in our community.  We value balance.  I have to figure out how to conduct these (sometimes ridiculous) experiments and get results on a normal person’s schedule.  Don’t get me wrong, Tim Ferriss, Ben Greenfield, and Dave Asprey are great and consuming their content (that commute is good for something) has given me immeasurable information and help.  But no average Joe is going to spend the amount of time and money on this stuff that they do.  I make it work on a budget and do what i can to sneak in what usually amounts to 20 minutes of actual workout time on an average day.

Admittedly, i am still an oddball with a penchance for the exotic.  But Peter keeps me honest and helps me see what has a better chance of succeeding for larger amounts of people- link to Peter’s bio.

[Still too wordy? Cut out as much fluff as possible while still remaining conversational. Combine paragraphs 3 and 4?]

Podcasts in the Golden Age of Podcasting

Ok, so a significant percentage of the population and i are addicted to podcasts. It truly is the golden age of podcasting.  So much good content that it’s impossible to keep up. Sometimes i go to work just so i can listen to podcasts while i commute.  Don’t tell my wife.  Anyway, here are some of my favorites in no particular order:

Philosophize This – Stephen West – A mostly chronological history of philosophers and their ideas broken down in easily digestible chunks (most episodes are less than a half hour) with plenty of examples and pop culture references to keep things easily understandable and light.  Kind of like having your best friend talk to you about philosophy and doing it better than all your profs combined.

The Tim Ferriss Show – Deconstructing the habits of high performers.  TONS of quality guests, many of which you’ve never heard of, but should have.  From academics to finance to physical performance to arts to food to pretty much anything, it’s covered.  There definitely is an emphasis on tech and 21st century-friendly topics and entrepreneurs.  Almost every episode has multiple take-aways and brilliant, unique quotes.

Hardcore History – Dan Carlin – Dan reads all the best historians and then puts together an episode that is usually 3 hours-ish long and worth every bit of your time.  They don’t come out super often so it’s not hard to keep up.  My favorite part is how much time he spends on historiography, or how history is done/made/revisioned/remembered.  Really digs deep to find the diamonds in the rough that help to explain the hows and whys of what went down.  Highly recommended by pretty much everyone.

The Naked Bible Podcast – Dr. Michael S. Heiser – A true scholar who knows not only the biblical text but the ancient context and other literature that was relevant at the same time(s).  Brings out issues your pastor never mentions (and probably is ignorant of) and breaks down classic stories in enlightening new ways you’ve never heard.  Refuses to avoid touchy subjects or uncomfortable truths, whether they are culturally offensive or (supposedly) heretical.

Waking Up – Sam Harris – My favorite “New” atheist, mainly because of this podcast.  Thoughtful and open-minded monologues and interviews/discussions about everything from war to neuroscience to morality and, of course, religion.  I disagree with about half of what he says but i genuinely enjoy his calm and sensitive, yet still militant, approach.

Ben Greenfield Fitness Podcast – Just about as nerdy as you can get about physical (and mental) performance, nutrition, and supplementation.  Half the shows are weekly-ish news and updates from the research world and marketplace (usually with a co-host) and the other half are interviews.  Not everything discussed will be relevant to you so the 1.5x speed button comes in handy and works good with Ben’s voice/delivery.  He knows all the latest research but isn’t afraid of the woo-woo subjects on the cutting edge either.  This is my number 1 resource for setting new personal records.

The Joe Rogan Experience – Hey, let’s have somebody over to the studio and talk for a few hours about whatever we want!  And you can’t stop listening.  Pretty hilarious if you can put up with a fair amount of cursing but covers some heady, thought-provoking ground at the same time.  Definitely the podcast i catch myself laughing out loud to the most.  Half the guests are either fighters or comedians, the other half is totally random but mostly high-performing “celebrities” (i use that word very loosely) that are usually near the weirder end of the spectrum (i mean that in the best way).

Jocko Podcast – Jocko Willink – I’m pretty much a pacifist so i listen to Jocko for balance.  He is a decorated Iraqi war hero that is THE stereotypical Navy SEAL times ten- yes, that awesome .  Heavy on leadership topics from a no-nonsense perspective.  Most examples are from the military but translate well to the business world and life in general.  Super motivating.  You will have no excuses after listening to this but you won’t need any because you’re going to get out there and get after it!  Talks about the realities of war in a way that no one else can.  Frank/brash yet thoughtful.

Tired of typing for now but here are some others on my list-

Reasonable Faith – William Lane Craig – philosophy and religion

TED Talks – there are a few different versions of these, more on that later

Packet Pushers Datanauts – Could be the enterprise IT podcast you’ve been looking for

OPTIMIZE with Brian Johnson – snippets of wisdom, often via short book reviews

Spartan Up! – Joe DeSena – Another podcast interviewing successful people from all walks of life

Pretty much all the NPR shows that are now podcasts are good.

 

 

Fat Adaptation Made Easier

Over the past few years I’ve been experimenting with fat adaptation and ketosis (when your body burns ketones for fuel instead of glucose) for performance and efficiency.  Having tried both higher protein and higher carb approaches with mixed results, why not try higher fat?  This is definitely a hot topic but it’s pretty hard to implement in its more popular/tested forms- just try getting over 70% of your calories from fat and you’ll see that it’s not easy… bordering on ridiculous.  Your friends and family will certainly notice and you’ll become the object of more than one raised eyebrow.  After seemingly endless trials to find the easiest way to implement this type of high fat regimen and actually get results, here’s what currently seems to be most feasible.

First, just start eating more healthy fats.  Get a tub of extra virgin coconut oil and a jug of extra virgin olive oil- Costco seems to have the best quality for the best price.  Stock up on nuts.  Grass-fed/pastured butter (Kerrygold is probably the most common) and cheeses (it’s harder to find grassfed cheese than you might expect but your local health food store should have some) need to fill the dairy box in the fridge. And some pastured whole milk and whole fat cottage cheese- Kalona Supernatural is good stuff.  And avocadoes!  Get your body used to processing fat and finding the easiest (and tastiest) ways to work more into your diet. Look at the fat grams on everything you buy.  Remember that fat grams have more calories than carbs so your portions should get a little smaller but you should feel more full at the same time.  There are tons of resources about healthy fats online.  Google away.

Start intermittent fasting (with some fats allowed).  A comprehensive guide is here: https://www.onnit.com/academy/the-beginners-guide-to-intermittent-fasting/ The easiest way to do this is to stop eating early- finish supper and be done, that includes alcohol so have your wine (if you must) with dinner and call it good- nothing but water and get to bed on time.  This way your body rolls into more of a fat-burning mode while you sleep.  And you’ll need that sleep to prepare you for success the next day.  When you get up,  drink your morning coffee or green tea (decaf coffee/teas are fine but having caffeine will help with energy levels since you aren’t fueling with your normal breakfast) without sugar, creamer, etc. However, you can have fat!  Add some butter and/or MCT oil to your drink and blend it up or stir it really fast with a wire whip (check out Bulletproof coffee or the titanium tea head nod/knock-off).  This will allow your body to stay in more of a fat-burning mode (and you may be into ketosis by now).  Start with only a 1/2 tbsp and work your way up.  Never go more than one tbsp of butter and one tbsp of MCT oil.

About MCT oil… yes, it’s oily.  And there are a few different kinds.  MCT (medium chain triglyceride) oil contains up to three MCTs- lauric, capric, and caprylic acids.  I don’t recommend using oils that include the lauric acid.  You’ll get enough of that when cooking with coconut oil.  You can also cook with MCT oil if you don’t like the coconut flavor that’s imparted to the dish you’re serving, but it is more expensive.  The two MCT oils that I use the most are Bulletproof XCT oil and NOW Foods MCT oil.  I also frequently use Bulletproof Brain Octane, which only contains the caprylic acid (C8).  MCT oil is processed directly by the liver and gives almost instantly available (within 15 minutes) energy to your body and brain but the C8 is especially efficient and powerful, so C8-only products carry that much more of a premium.  But your liver can only handle so much oil.  A tbsp per hour is usually the max, and that’s only if you’re being active.  Start small and know your limits.  When your liver is processing all the oil it can, it’ll just send the excess on down the pipes… and how!  Overdosing can result in a long morning or afternoon of bathroom trips or worse yet, the dreaded disaster pants.  Increment your doses slowly!  This is a journey, not a sprint, and you are training your body to operate in a new way.  It will take time.  Don’t rush the process.

Anyway, you’ve stopped eating early, slept well (or as well as possible), and had some (caffeine and) fat.  That fat will help your body get into ketosis (fasting mode) without many of the usual side effects of the transition.  You may still get a stomach growl or feel it “shrinking” but compared to just not eating and waiting for it to happen, these symptoms are minimal and often non-existent.  You might actually feel the shift in your body in a curious, more alert and self-aware way, rather than an uncomfortable way. Start to feel too hungry and think you can’t take it?  Try another cup of coffee or tea with some more fat!  At this point it’s not a weight-loss strategy (if you’re even going for that at all), you’re just training your body to live on fat.  Eventually, it will learn to start using your own fat stores when you aren’t providing the butter, oil, etc.  See how long you can go into your day before eating.  The idea behind intermittent fasting is to get almost all of your (non-fat) calories in an 8-hour (or less) window.  Again, plenty of info on this on the ol’ interwebs, so research away.

On to exercise.  In the beginning, continue to fuel up “normally” first, then exercise.  Have your typical pre-workout and post-workout consumables.  Don’t change too much initially.  If you normally exercise in the morning, start experimenting with intermittent fasting on your off day(s).  If you do lunch workouts, like myself, at least have some greens first.  Then start reducing your pre-workout on your easier days.  Or at least reduce the carbohydrate portion of your pre-workout.  Aminos are fine.  A good pre-workout replacement is just an essential amino acid blend or BCAA supplement.  But don’t get the ones that have extra junk in them!  You just want quality aminos.  Try 5 grams pre-workout and 5 grams post-workout.  Aminos will be worthy of a separate post. I like Ajipure aminos.  They even have a drink mix that has only 2g carbs if you have to have a flavored drink but you can get them in pill form from Swanson for a decent price.  Another option is to try Master Amino Pattern (or PerfectAmino) for a highly bio-available essential amino blend, but you will pay more for that.  If you’re an afternoon/evening training type, please eat a good-sized healthy meal first!  I like to break my (intermittent) fast with a great big, colorful salad chock full of healthy stuff with olive oil(-based) dressing around 1pm if I’m not going to the gym until later.

Once you get to the point where you are fasting until your workout you can absolutely fuel with only MCT oil and/or BCAAs and eventually get to where you can perform at essentially the same level as your previous carb-fueled workouts without any fuel whatsoever.  But this takes time!  Slowly decrease fuel and increase exercise intensity.  Intervals with high resistance are the hardest.  Intense weight training sessions are a close second.  Even doing your first few lifts in ketosis and then adding fuel can be beneficial and train your body to burn fats and get more ripped.  Still have a protein shake at the ready, especially as you begin experimenting.

Protein- the blessing and the curse of high fat diets.  Blessing because you can have protein, especially post-workout, and keep your body in more of a fat burning mode.  Curse because it is very hard to tell when you are having too much protein and actually training your body to fuel on muscle rather than fat, which might be worse than just fueling with carbs if maintaining/building muscle is your primary goal.  Throwing some MCT oil (they have MCT powder now, too, among other super interesting powders I have yet to experiment with) in your protein blender bottle can keep this from happening but remember to shake it frequently so you don’t slurp an oil slick off the top!  And the key is to keep the carbs low (1-5g) in that protein shake.

By the end of the day you still need to be consuming about the same number of calories as before.  Again, fewer grams, but your primary focus at first should be eating more fats, not less calories.  If weight loss is your goal, calories eventually come into play, but not at first.  One thing at a time.  And make sure that the calories you do consume are healthy, nutrient dense foods.  Check out Ben Greenfield’s Superhuman Food Pyramid or the Bulletproof Diet Roadmap but recognize that those are the gold standard and pretty hard to follow perfectly- just do your best.  Start with quality whole foods and supplement as needed.  Eat lots of greens.  Broccoli is not bad carbs!  In fact, carbs aren’t bad, you just need to watch them and keep them in as short a window as possible.  Shoot for around 100 grams of carbs per day (or less) unless you are doing longer, more intense workouts- most people will need more carbs to refuel then.  If you need more carbs in your window, eat healthy carbs in your window!  If you want to demonize something, demonize processed foods.  White flour is probably not your friend.  But the diet that works best is the diet that works for you.  Sure, some people can live on an almost no carb diet and if you can do that, awesome… I haven’t figured it out yet.  I try to eat healthy- healthy fats, healthy proteins (did we mention grassfed beef, eggs, and fish, especially wild caught sardines/anchovies?), and healthy carbs.  Experiment and figure out what works best for your lifestyle.

Give it time.  The first time I tried to get fat-adapted I did not practice intermittent fasting.  I just ate a LOT of healthy fats.  Turns out the few carbs in my eggs for breakfast were keeping me from going into ketosis.  There are a number of ways to test your ketones if you want to be sure you’re “getting there”- blood, breath… and keto sticks are the simplest/cheapest initially but they aren’t the most accurate way to test and, well, you have to pee on them.  Once I figured out what worked for me I was able to fuel with less  and increase my output, whether at work, home, or in the gym.  I can now go to the gym at noon having had only water since the night before and set a new personal best on my workout of the day.  It all depends on what I want to accomplish that day and what I think my body will respond or recover best using.  But that’s me.  Now it’s your turn.  Go have fun with FAT!!!