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Hormone Optimization and Becoming An Alpha with John Romaniello


Author of New York Times best-seller Man 2.0: Engineering the Alpha, John Romaniello joins us on Episode 002 of the Optimal Performance Podcast. Better known in the fitness world as Roman, we cover hormone optimization, eating to maximize body composition and performance, and of course, how to become the Alpha.






What You'll Hear from John Romaniello:
  • WIN FREE Natural Stacks swag! Leave us a review HERE for a chance to win a YEAR'S supply of CILTEP, Smart Caffeine & Dopamine Brain Food.
  • Fact Of the Day: Vitamin D deficiency - who it affects and how you can avoid it
  • Why tracking your hormone levels could save your life or your relationship
  • Sleep = the #1 performance enhancer
  • Scientific Studies VS. Anecdotal Evidence
  • Intermittent fasting, cheat days, and "being fat"...
  • Drinking bourbon and acting like Hemingway... the new bio-hacking?
  • CILTEP vs. Alpha Brain
  • Roman's 3 tips to live your ALPHA LIFE!



Links & Resources:

Natural Stacks Vitamin D

Roman Fitness Systems Website

Man 2.0: Engineering The Alpha


Dopamine Brain Food 

Hormone Optimization and Becoming an Alpha, with John Romaniello

Ryan: You're listening to the Optimal Performance podcast sponsored by Natural Stacks. This is the show everybody who's into performance and bio hacking should listen to. If you want to know more about performing optimally check out

Alright, happy Thursday all you optimal performers and welcome to another episode of the optimal performance podcast. I'm your host Ryan Muncey and I've got my guest and cohost with me today, John Romaniello, better known as Roman. Say hi Roman!

Roman: Helllo Roman!

Ryan: So Roman, thanks a lot for hanging out with us today. I’m gonna go ahead and let our listeners know how awesome you are. So Roman is a New York Times bestseller for a book that he cowrote with Adam Bornstein, ‘Man 2.0: Engineering the Alpha’. These guys actually had Arnold himself, Arnold Schwarzenegger wrote the foreword for this one. Roman is also a a former model, he’s a writer, entrepreneur, an angel investor. You have one of the coolest bios on Wikipedia ever! Did you write that yourself?

Roman:I didn't, no. Wikipedia sure actually frowns upon you writing your bios too so I certainly didn't do that!

Ryan: So today we're going to get into, we're going to leverage your knowledge. We want to talk about optimizing hormones, eating to optimize performance and of course body composition, some brain hacking stuff and becoming the Alpha. But before we do that, we gotta do a little housekeeping and make sure all our listeners know that on this episode and every other podcast you can find the show notes on That's the blog version of this, along with the video version so you get to see Roman’s face, and then we want to announce a really cool giveaway that we're gonna do for our listeners . We want you guys to go on iTunes and give us a review. Let us know your thoughts on the show and then we're gonna pick one lucky winner and give away some really cool natural stacks gear. So a lot of stuff we talk about on the show we will send to one lucky winner and you get to test it out for yourself.

So, with that, we’re going to move on to the fun factor the day. We're gonna talk about vitamin D deficiency. Vitamin D deficiency affects over one billion people and that means over one-third of the population, so one in three people. That’s the old thing in college where you look to your right and then look to your left so somebody that you see has vitamin D deficiency. Now that's a conservative estimate, because the recommended daily allowance is not as high as what we would want for optimal levels, so if you're not even at the RDA then you're certainly not at optimal. So, that's a good opportunity for you to head on over to and pick up some vitamin D from Natural Stacks . One of the cool things about vitamin D from Natural Stacks is that, as a fat-soluble vitamin it has to be paired with a fat so that it is better absorbed and we use coconut oil, not some sub-standard fat that you don't want. So we talk and hear a lot about extra virgin coconut oil and trying to get more of that in your diet so that's one of the reasons Natural Stacks is one of the coolest supplement companies on the planet. So with that, bringing it back to you, Roman, a guy who is in Southern California soaking up plenty of sunshine and doesn't need to take any by Vitamin D, do you?

Roman: I don't typically supplement with vitamin D and now that I'm in California but when I lived in New York it was essential, but I you know, to be honest, vitamin D is one of those why not supplements, so it's like something everyone should take. Even a high-quality vitamin D supplement like Natural Stacks, relative the other crap that you might be buying, its so cheap, so it’s just like why would you not do that. One thing about vitamin D in particular that people should be aware of is the link between vitamin D deficiency and compromised testosterone production and that's something that that I take pretty seriously because testosterone is a huge feature in everything that I do. Vitamin D does a lot for you and it’s great if you can get outside and hang out and tan on the beach for an hour then great it's free, but if not you know the Natural Stacks stuff is high-quality, you know it's already in coconut oil which is great because its about macros and it's a fact for a number of reasons which we can touch on later.

Ryan: Well, it's almost like you read my mind because of our very first question that i wanna talk to you about, you are huge on optimizing hormones. This seems to be something that’s very near and dear to your heart. I think it’s really cool because a lot of strength coaches and personal trainers out there it's almost like they miss this boat it's a very important aspect in health and wellness. Tell us why that's so important to you.

Roman: Well to me personally it's something, well, from a professional standpoint it is it's something that I deal with with my clients, right, it’s something that can be the difference between high performance and no performance but um the reason I went down that particular rabbit hole is that when I was about maybe 25, so it was about 8 years ago now that I’m 33, and I went through a period of very low testosterone, very low relative to where I was supposed to be. I didn't realize that at first, I had gotten my testosterone levels checked when I was 22l and had very very high testosterone levels as you tend to have at that age. I was like 890 or in that area and then when I was 25, a couple of years later, high-stress and all sorts of messed up things going on and I was in this relationship with this super hot Polish chick who had a name like a James Bond villain which I will not repeat as I respect her privacy, but um, we're dating for a year and a half and then all the sudden we just stop having sex completely. And after some reflection I realize that I was the reason for that. I was not interested in sex at all, and anyone who follows me or reads my blog knows that that is atypical for me. I am a man who has dedicated his life to the improvement and acquisition of sex. So I spoke to a few people to try to figure out what was up, my libido was severely compromised and this led me to look into testosterone. So i got my t levels checked and at that point I believe I was in the high 300’s, mid 300's’, and here's the problem with this, I had gone from 890 well we’ll say nine hundred, to 350 let's say, so that's a decrease of more than 50 percent.

Ryan: That’s tremendous.

Roman: In 3 years, and I was still considered normal, because the range for normalcy; what's normal with testosterone, varies from lab to lab and typically speaking it's from about two hundred and fifty nanograms per deciliter to as high as 1109ng/dL, which means that if you're 260, you’re normal, but if you're 1090 you’re also normal and that range is just so unbelievably tremendous that it cannot help but create difficulties, and what happened with me was that I was still in the normal range, not even in the low of the normal range at 350 or so and unfortunately it was just more than a fifty percent decrease in whatever normal in what I had been accustomed to in my adult life and so I began to look into how to increase testosterone naturally.

At that point I was very young and looking into your pharmaceutical help and hormone replacement therapy, but not only did it not make sense, it was also not medically feasible because again I was in the normal range, so I'd have had to look into some elicit options, that not being overly desirable both legally and physiologically, it made more sense to start looking into ways to increase these naturallly. So that that was about eight years ago and I began to start messing with a lot of things, like I got my insulin under control by severely lowering carbs, I got a lot more sleep so I was back in growth hormone that way, decreased cortisol and a lot of stress and these things began to affect my testosterone. My libido returned in about six weeks and about six months later I got my testosterone levels checked again and I had gone from 350 to about split, which is called 750, it was like high 700’s, so you know it doubled.

Ryan: Yeah that's a big jump

Roman: You know it's it pretty significant, yeah, and that was how it all started for me. And this is one of the reasons that I'm so passionate about it, because you know, I gave a very abridged version of that story but the truth is that compromised testosterone in that respect, and thats just one of a whole myriad of hormones, that’s just one. Compromised testosterone like ruined my life you know, like that relationship I was in with that hot Polish chick, gone, You know, my general sense of wellbeing, gone. My social life, gone. You know just like everything. And once I fixed it, everything came back. My life improved by leaps and bounds. And that is something that I just take very seriously.

Ryan: I'm sure some of this is in the book, ‘Man 2.0: Engineering the Alpha’, so we don’t want to give the farm away but what kinda tips can you share with us? What were some of the things? I mean doubling your testosterone naturally in that short period time is is no small feat so what are some things that you did? What are some things that people can put into their daily life in terms of a routine or habit now.

Roman: Sure, well I think the big thing to realize that when we talk about that number doubling, is that it didn't double from baseline. It was severely compromised by a number of things that I was doing, so if you are doing these things then step one is to just stop doing them.

Ryan: Yeah, and most of our listeners are probably, you know, they live the lifestyle that you and I live and I mean they're probably doing a lot of the things that we did, or you did that led to that.

Roman:  Yeah, so some things that I was doing at the time I was I was burning the candle at both ends . I was a very successful trainer in New York City area and I was getting up at 4:30 to train clients at 6, and I would work all day and then you know, sometimes I wouldn't go to bed until like midnight, 2am and you know you just can't do that. The interesting thing about sleep is just how fundamentally important it is for all of these various hormones. You know it's been shown that sleeping six hours per night or less for just two weeks can decrease testosterone levels by about 15 percent. Right, so let's just examine what that means. After age thirty testosterone levels in general begin to drop by about 1% per year from baseline. Ok, so that means that by sleeping six hours a night or less for just two weeks, you’re actually aging yourself with regard to testosterone by

fifteen years.. I was probably sleeping for 4 hours a night and I was probably doing it for a year and a half, so prioritizing sleep was a big one for me.

Ryan: Bro, I am there

Roman: There are all sorts of interesting things that like tank your testosterone. Interesting studies show that when you get married testosterone levels go down because this is just the natural reaction to the removal of the testosterone driven need to seek a mate. When you have kids, same thing happens and the need to procreate becomes less of an evolutionary drive, and your body reacts to that. So obviously, I'm not telling you to you know, break up with your girlfriend or not have kids or not to have a date, but these are things that are in there. What you should do is get more sleep. At the time I had been eating very high protein, very low carb and moderate fat, so actually I was eating high carb and moderate fat because I was like sort of trying to bulk.

Ryan: So more of the typical bodybuilder type diet

Roman: Right right, so I lowered carbs considerably because of the relationship between testosterone and insulin. Insulin can sort of act as an antagonist to testosterone, not really in production but in more of effect, but it can also have some pretty deleterious effects with regard to your sex life. Prolonged insulin resistance or chronic insulin resistance can lead to erectile dysfunction. Now that was not an issue of mine but it's a scary thing, like if you eat too many donuts. Today is actually National Donut day when we're recording this, and if you know, you eat too many donuts and after a while you get insulin insensitivity and resistance and your dick stops working and that's pretty terrifying.

Ryan: Yes, very!

Roman: So I lowered carbs dramatically and increased fat, particularly saturated fat, coming from animal sources so I went from eating mostly chicken and rice to eating mostly steak and veggies and that was huge. That and getting more sleep was perfect.

Ryan: So you know, it’s really interesting that we're going down this road because in our previous episode, the one that's gonna be right before you; the one with Sean Tyson, a friend of yours and a guy that we both know, he brought to our attention and we discussed with him the diet that you moved away from, the typical bodybuilder diet where it's mostly protein, carbohydrates in a little bit of fat and more of a moderate approach. Like the way you used to do. And he found that that provided the best results based on scientific studies for the bodybuilding goals, if you will. And that was what we kind of got into, where if you are somebody who's been following a paleo type diet or a bulletproof type diet, you know, one of the ones like you mentioned where it's more wild game, grass-fed meats, veggies, you know, and typically lower carb, for all the reasons that you just mentioned. But the one that Sean presented in his research was almost the opposite of what most people are are talking about now. So you know, you are somebody who has recently blogged about the difference between scientific studies and anecdotal evidence, so how would you reconcile the difference there in those two?

Roman: Well I think it's also dependent on goals, right, and lifestyle. I would say that most people, most people that take bodybuilding seriously and are eating chicken and broccoli, you know, moderate carbohydrate, low fat. Everybody that I've ever known takes bodybuilding seriously enough to make it a priority. And when I was a bodybuilder and I was eating that way and I needed a priority, I had tons of success and no health issues. Where I started to get fucked was when I stoped making bodybuilding the priority and made my business the priority and nothing else changed.

Ryan: Right

Roman: So I think for, you know physique enhancement, one thing works really well, particularly if you're prioritizing physique in the way that you train and the lifestyle that lends itself to that but when you're trying to be a high-performing human who is trying to build an empire and make lots of skills, you know, I was also skipping workouts, you know I didn't change my diet but I was like well I have to take all these clients because I have to make money and I have to write all these articles, and your fitness is the thing that goes by the wayside. So I don't think there needs to be a reconciliation between these two disparite ideas what I think is that like anything else there are things which have a higher level of applicability to a certain paradigm and things that have a higher level of

applicability to other paradigms so I think that like the Tim Barrett’s of the world and the Tucker Max’s of the world, who have these high stress jobs, who are not doing marathon training sessions for two hours, you know guys like me, I mean now I have a more relaxed lifestyle and I can train

for two hours a day which I love, but at the time if I got in 45 minutes it was, you know, I didn't need 300 grams of carbs to recover from a 45-minute workout, particularly because I'm a little bit carb sensitive.

So I just really don't see the need to pit things against one another, everything works, everything is merit under the right circumstances but where we get into trouble is when fitness professionals and unfortunately we have a tendency to do This, they start arguing about the two percent of shit that they disagree on instead of understanding that like the 98% of stuff that is the same fundamentally, and is, you know, where the happiness is. I mean that's the big thing and so for me I don't take a hard-line against anything. I think that there are certain lifestyles and training methodologies for which the bodybuilding style diet is supremely effective, exponentially more effective, like if you’re trying to get huge. If you're like a skinny guy and you wanna gain mass and you’re eating like paleo and it's just like oh well you’re not counting macros, You’re not getting enough carbs, it’s not going to work. Which is why did you know these people who are just trying to get huge and shredded and they sleep ten hours a night and they’re posting pictures of their ice cream sundaes and they're doing IIIFYM, it works super well for them. Everything works, if you do it right and apply it under the right set of circumstances, it’s just that simple.

Ryan: Yeah, yeah. Know your goals, know your needs, why are you doing it and make sure that you know what you're doing is justified by what you're trying to accomplish.

Roman: Right

Ryan: Yeah, well, I guess keep kinda going down the road if you will, with you know, eating to optimise both body composition and performance now that you are in the position that you're in because again a lot of our listeners are not just bodybuilders, they are not just business people they are people who just want the best of both worlds.

Roman: Sure. So I think that for people who just want to be supremely effective human beings, and are just you know like what I was trying to do I was 20, I just want to be a shredded meat popsicle walking down the beach, and whatever, but then when I was 25, I wanted to build an empire. So now, I would like to say that I'm walking down the middle of that road, and you know, for me and people like me, I think that a natural diet, a mostly Paleo style diet, which is high in carbohydrates is probably the way to go. So you know, rather than eating 300 grams of protein per day I i think that a more moderate approach like 200, which is still quite high by most standards, is more effective for me because I'm no longer trying to build muscle. I have a good physique, I'm walking around 200 pounds lean, eating 400 grams of protein is no longer necessary at that point.

Ryan: That's what I was going to ask you about, your current body weight. So its relative to listeners that’s about one gram per pound of body weight on average.

Roman: Yeah, on average. Like ,if we're really getting exacting then I like to have about 1.25 grams of protein per pound of lean body mass and if you're trying to gain mass then I’ll scale up a little bit. Yeah, but in most cases, unless you’re terribly lean or terribly fat then it’s gonna be a gram per pound of body weight. So I think that most people probably just need to follow a very very basic carb recycling approach for high human performance. Right, if you are training then have more carbs that day and if you're not raining have fewer carbs and more fats that day. And it can really be that simple. On days that I don't train, and this is what I recommend for my clients- particularly

the high-performance guys- very high fat and very very low carbs on days that they're not training and then on days that they train we drop the fat considerably, the carbs go up, protein stays the same and calories stay the same, most of the time.

Unless there's some sort of goal in mind if they're trying to get get lean, we’ll dial the calories back on non training days and if they’re trying to gain mass we’ll dial them up on training days but you know its it's not overly complicated because most people who were in that position, again the Tim Barrett’s, the Tucker Max's.. If I was trying to get down to like 5% body fat againthen I would take a very different approach but 10- 11- 12%, I can be pretty moderate and not drive myself crazy, eat a lot of healthy fats, a lot of grass-fed meat and you know get carbs from good sources and I’ll be fine. You know, if I want to count macros I can be a little dirtier in my choices and as long as I'm hitting those macros, but, yeah I mean it's not crazy as far as the you know the clean eating vs IIFYM type thing, I'm sure we're not trying to court that debate but for me personally I think that you can be lean and shredded eating donuts and ice cream or whatever else as long as it it does fit your macros, but I think that it it is probably a stretch to say that that will not have a some sort of other short term or long term ramifications either hormonally or digestively. For me it’s always digestively. I mean, like okay I can get shredded if I hit my macros and eat donuts and ice cream but I’m going to be in the bathroom an hour a day and I don’t have time for that.

And I think a lot of other people are like that. I know someone you know she's a big IIFYM person, she's got all these you know, clients, she’s worked really well but you know, she's constantly complaining to me about her skin problems and you know she’s on accutane and all these other things, and that's a terrible thing to go through and I'm not belittling that experience, that has to be truly difficult but its interesting to me that there are a lot of people in that community to experience things like that, she's not the only one I know, and no one stops and thinks like ‘maybe if I just didn't put all this shit in my body that wouldn't happen’. You know, because anecdotally you hear, less so now but when paleo first started to gain traction, all of the anecdotal things you heard were about people: ‘I have more energy‘, ‘my skin looks amazing’, like ‘the bags under my eyes went away’,

Ryan: Yeah, and maybe it’s not so much because of what you're are eating but more about what you have stopped eating and stopped putting in your body, and you know, at 20, if you stop putting toxins in your body then your body doesn’t have to you know, expell them out somewhere.

Roman: Right and again, I'm a cheat day guy, I have no fucking problem with ice cream, I have no problem with donuts, I have no problem with in-n-out burger. Eat whatever you want, I just think that it's probably a little ignorant to assume that you can subsist entirely on that and you're gonna feel the same. You might look the same, or just as good or better, but you're not gonna feel the same, and not gonna perform as well as you would on a diet where you were not eating those things. I just  hink that's that's probably the case, so can I prove it? No, do I have a study, no, if you’re one of those PubMed trolls who's gonna email me to back it up with a study then I don't have one, don't waste my time, you know you won’t be answered, I'm just saying I have a brain and I use it and i've seen the results.

Ryan: Yeah. Ryan: Yeah, so I wanna know what Roman's brain can concoct for a cheat day. Right, but before we do that we're going to pause real quick. Hang on for a second. Okay, so I wanna know, what is a cheat day for you? Tell us how you structure them, tell us what you do. At one point you fasted the day after, do you still do that?

Roman: Oh, so I'm not doing a lot of cheat days anymore. So for me a cheat day is part of a dietary strategy that is intended to accelerate fat loss. And the way that that looks from my clients that are doing is that on the days.. They'll generally eat pretty low calories for a week or two, and then they'll have this cheat day. And the reason for that is that when you are eating low calories, leptin levels drop. Leptin is a master hormone, it is produced in the fat cells and it is responsible in part for the production of the thyroid hormones, T3 and T4. So it is a regulatory hormone and it affects the rate of metabolism by virtue of production of those hormones.

Leptin production is influenced by 2 things. First, the amount of fat that you have. Because it is produced in the fat cells, so the more fat you have, the higher your leptin levels are and the higher T3 and T4 will be, which is why it's super easy to lose fat when you have a ton of fat. And it's why fat people can lose the first 50lb quicker than the last lot. The leaner you get, the lower your baseline leptin levels are. And then the other thing that affects leptin is energy intake. So the lower your energy intake is the more leptin levels will be compromised, like when you're on a diet. So I take advantage of this. My clients tend to eat pretty low calories for a week or two, leptin levels drop, they lose as much weight as they can via that energy mainpulation, and then we pop it back up, with a cheat day. And leptin levels get upregulated and then we do it again.

So the cheat day has psychological benefits as well.

Roman: Sure. I mean it's very easy to stay incredibly fit on a diet if you're like okay, well I only have to make it til Sunday and then I'm gonna go watch the game and eat wings and burgers and just like crush it. And I think that there's merit there. I think that that is pretty effective. Having said that, I really think a cheat day is really only beneficial in the presence of that compromised and very restricted caloric intake.And so it's really only effective when I'm a diet and people are like Hey, I'm on this maskating program, can I still do a cheat day? And it's like, nope. That's just being fat.


Roman: Um, so, as to the structure, the way that I always did it was that I would have my cheat day on a Sunday and then Monday I would fast completely- this is called the feast-fast method. Um, it does accelerate fat loss a little bit but the reason for the genesis of the idea was ultimately two offset digestive aftermath. I have a big appetite, I eat a lot on a cheat day, and then the next day would be horrendous. And I thought it was probably better to put no food in my body the next day and let it all clear out and then I'll just deal with being hungry. So that really began to work itself into everything that I was doing and became really effective. So that's the feast-fast.


Roman: I am no longer doing a lot of cheat days because I am no longer trying to lose fat. So for me, a cheat meal once per week is fine and usually then it's like a social event, so if I'm going out or if it's date night or if I'm going to go to the movies then it's like well I'm here, I'm going to eat these Milk Duds! And it'll just sort of be like that's fine, but most of the time I eat pretty clean. But when I was doing cheat days at first, for fat loss, my days would get pretty epic.

And you know in New York City where I was living at the time it would start with you know a big brunch, with pancakes and what not. Well, usually I would go to the gym first in the morning and have my post workout shake and then go right to brunch and have eggs- a lot of protein, and pancakes, and you know, usually cheat days were always on Sundays and so from there I'd make my way over to the bar where the Jets game was on, and you know, when you're a Jets fan you have to constantly console yourself with either food or alcohol, there's no inbetween, there's just you feeling sorry for yourself and hating the Jets for making you like the Jets! And so we'd go to the bar and we'd crush wings all day and you know nachos and whatever. And then usually dinner, I'd walk back down the street and there's a great restaurant in NYC on the corner of 45th Street and 9th Avenue and Hell's Kitchen, called Southern Hospitality. Co-owned by Justin Timberlake, interestingly. Gary Vaynerchuk did the wine list. Very nice place. But it's a BBQ joint, and we would go in and we would get fried chicken and waffles! So Cheat Day would be, you know, not a lot of clean food. It would be like 'what are the things that I've been craving all week and how do I get them all?!' So you can see how that would lead to some tummy trouble the next day.

Ryan: Yes, yes. So, intermittent fasting. Is that something that you do/don't do still?

Roman: Yeah, yeah. I'm a big proponent of intermittent fasting, I like all of the methods.

Ryan: How do you set yours up?

Roman: Most days I'm just doing a pretty standard 16-8 protocol. So 16-8. Aka the Leangains Method, popularized by Martin Berkhan; a Swedish nutritionist over at, so the way that works is: my first meal is at like 2 or 3pm, after I train, and then I have an 8 hour eating window, where I try to hit my macros, and then my last meal is at night and theoretically it should be before I go to bed and it's at 10 or 11 and then I stay up writing and watching cartoons or whatever. And then I sleep pretty late. I get about 8 or 9 hours every night, I mean around 8 or 9 hours. A lot of the time it's like 2 shifts of 5 hours.

Ryan: Okay, so, you know you mentioned training before you eat. Do you take any supplements at all before you train, any pre-workouts, anything like that?

Roman: Not a big pre-workout guy, personally. I don't know, I think a lot of people just take them for the energy or the pump, which is great, I mean if something gives you a good pump and you like that then awesome. But the supplements that I take on a regular basis will vary based on goal.. hang out let me see if I have anything I can show  you. So, this is Invigorate Now, yeah I'm not sure if we can do product placement, but a buddy of mine who owns this company sent me some stuff. It's good, it's not a pre-workout but it's just like a general energy/fatloss thing. And as you can see I'm wearing an Onnit sweatshirt, I work with those guys, and you know, full disclosure, they send me free stuff, I take their products. I'm a big fan of their Hemp shake, which is usually my post-workout shake, and they have a pre-workout that is called T+, and it's good, but I just don't remember to take it. So most of the stuff I take is more like lifestyle at this point. You know when I was younger it used to be fatburners, but now I take like Vitamin D, karela, I take fish oil, MCT oil, ummm what else am I taking?

Ryan: Branched chains, creatine?

Roman: I do creatine, I don't tend to do branched chains amino acids anymore because I just eat so much godamn protein, but creatine. Creatine is one of those 'why not' supplements. When you can get like 6 months worth of creatine for like $30, why would you not just put it in everything? And you know, sprinkle it in your ice cream if you have to! Um, what else. I take cumin or tumeric, you know, anti inflammatory stuff, you know, just health. I'm not exciting anymore, I used to have a whole supplement regiment and I took different ones at different times, and you know, this one helps me metabolize protein and whatever. But now it's just like..

Ryan: Yeah, and that's very much the Natural Stacks audience. You know, they're not the bodybuilders, they're not the 'hey I want the super rhino, anno, pump, you know, all that stuff'. All the Natural Stacks products are five ingredients or less, no proprietary labels, everything is open source so they have a protein or a creatine or a branched chain that will work well for people who want to lift, want to recover, but don't necessarily want to look like a competitive bodybuilder.

Okay, so you mentioned that sometimes you're staying up late at night writing. Do you find yourself most creative and most ready to write, later in the day?

Roman: Yeah, I'm a true nightowl. My lifestyle is very different to how it used to be but my magic time historically has always been like, as early as 10pm, usually around midnight, to about 4am, is really when I'm on the best. I have changed things a bit now and I can get into a groove in the middle of the day and I'm okay in the morning. So, for me, really the best time is like 1am to 4am. And you know, when I was writing my book, if I'm up late then that's just- I don't apologise for that, that's just like when it is. So if I have to stay up til 5 and pass out at 6 then I'm happy to do it because that's what helps me create.

Ryan: So, do you do anything to help get into that zone? Take anything, drink anything? Or is it just kind of...

Roman: Yeah, sure. I will literally put anything in my body that helps me produce. I am a very, very healthy guy, but if I need... If someone told me that taking black tar heroin would help me write another bestseller then I would do it.

Ryan: So then in that sense you're the ultimate biohacker, in that sense.

Roman: Yeah, no, 100%. You know Charles Bukowski said: 'find what you love and let it kill you', and I believe that that's true. You know, what I love, what I truly enjoy more than anything else is writing. And you know, I was diagnosed with ADHD when I was 18 years old, and I've had an on and off prescription, first Ritalin and then Adderall, so I have Adderall normally. I don't use it for that purpose, but then when I need to write I will take Adderall as a performance enhancing drug, and maybe I'll take it for a week straight and then I'll take 3 weeks off or whatever. And I have recently started playing around with Provigil or Modafinil, and it's okay. You don't need to sleep as much on it, you get no crash, it's not a big like up and down type drug, it's just a little bit of smooth energy. A lot of Alphabrain, and as far as drinking; uh yeah man, fucking bourbon. Just straight up whiskey in the dome. I'm very Hemmingway about the whole thing. I'm absolutely fine with the fact that one day, you know, at the absolute moment that I finish my great novel, someone may find me dead on the floor. And I'm okay with that. Everything else I do in terms of keeping myself healthy is to allow me to get there, you know.

Ryan: So.. I wanna know, what's your favourite bourbon?

Roman: My favourite bourbon? Um, I have had the pleasure of trying Pappy Van Winkle, which is like the Rolex of bourbons, you know. It's very good. But in terms of like a regular, just midrange drinking bourbon, I like Bulleit very much, Four Roses is fantastic. Jefferson's Ocean is very good, it's actually aged on  a boat. Hudson is a fantastic little distillery which I like a lot, Hudsons is very good. And any time you wanna just go slumming it and drink something cheap then I think Maker's is a solid choice. Like  I wouldn't put Maker's in a cocktail but if someone wants to take shots then I think that Maker's is fine. Um, I don't know. But you guys can actually see, you can see on the show back here, that we have Bulleit, we have Barberhouse, that was recently a gift, and we also have an 18 year Macallan for our guests who are interested in scotch.

Ryan: Okay, so well we had to take that little detour because we may have some boùrbon aficionados who listen, but let's go back. So, you uh mentioned the prescription for Adderall. How do you notice or can you make any kinda comparisons you know taking Adderall to write vs some kind of nootropic, you know whether it's Provigil or... You know, by the way, we're going to send you some Dopamine Brain Food, and some CILTEP that you can play with.

Roman: Cool, um, is it oral or do you want me to snort it or do I put it in my rectum? Just tell me how to take it, I'll do it, whatever.

Ryan: Oral

Roman: Haha. So yeah, I definitely notice a different effect with each of these things. So, with Modafinil I'll notice a sort of slow climb and then sort of level for a long time, so you get a full day out of 200mg of Modafinil. Um, not as awesome for writing as I hoped it would be. Pretty good for administrative tasks like makes me a good CEO, definitely does. I can take it, I can come in, we have meetings and I'm like well here are some good ideas and let's start to execute, um, really good for that. I do not feel that it has made me a creative per.. It doesn't made me creative.

Ryan: Yeah, to me, a lot of these you need to look at the mechanism of action and try to match that to your tasks or your goal for the day. And the last I spoke with people who were in the know, the mechanism of action of Provigil or Modafinil was not exactly known, but to me it's on that dopamine pathway where you're like, hey I wanna get this done, I wanna do this and I wanna do this. So if you need to be bouncing around and doing a lot of things like you said, the CEO day, then it's good for that.

Roman: Um, Adderall, super great for writing. As long as you have a great editor. I have found myself sometimes off on these tangents when I'm writing because you just like, take an idea on Adderall and you run with it. And then all of a sudden you've got these 2000 words that are nothing to do with what you were talking about. And, but it's great, it's usually very good, and you're like, I'm really just... it's something that's been marinading in the back of your head. And there's something about Adderall that pulls stuff you've been thinking about to the forefront and allows you to focus on it for a while. So it's good for that, and if you have some help to help you stay on task or something to help you stay on a very specific task then Adderall can be great. So, other stuff like Alpha Brain.

Alpha Brain is like a good midroad between them. I think that the standard recommended dose for Alpha Brain is 2 capsules. So, Alpha Brain, for anyone who doesn't know, is a product produced by Onnit, and I love it. I was buying it before they started giving it to me for free, it's got Alpha GBC and AC11, yeah. So 2 capsules, I typically go a little bit higher- I start with 4 and then I take 2 every 6 hours to maintain. So I wind up taking like 8 per day. I also have a very high tolerance because I fuck around with brain drugs, but that I feel like is not really great for coming up with new ideas but it's good for execution and staying on tasks. It's another good CEO type thing, not a great creative thing.

What I will say is that no brain drug I have ever tried has ever made me more creative, has ever given me new ideas, none of them. And as a matter of fact, they keep me so focused that I feel like I don't get any new ideas while I'm on them which is why I take them so sparingly. So  I know I've been a bit flippant about the use of brain drugs, but just to be clear and so you guys know that you're dealing with a professional here and not somebody who's just like a rampant idiot; although I have been called worse. At the absolute most I would wind up taking these types of things twice a month on average, and then if I'm on the middle of a big project then probably, maybe twice a week during that time. So like when I was running my launch I was on Provigil probably three days out of 15. And Adderall maybe 2 or 3 days out of 15, and Alpha Brain all of the rest. And now that has ended and I'm going clean for the next 2 months because there will be no need. But when I'm not taking them, I'm more creative. I come up with new ideas more often and that I think has more value than anything else. But the greatest idea without execution is worthless. So obviously I was a productive writer and entrepreneur for years before I ever got my hands on any of these things, but I will say that they help me.

Ryan: Well, I hate that we weren't able to get you CILTEP or the Dopamine Brain Food before we recorded this, but I would really love to hear your comparison of CILTEP to these other ones. But you know from my experience, CILTEP is definitely one that helps you stay focused on whatever that task is that you're doing. But the cool thing about CILTEP is that it is designed to not only be a focusing agent, but a long term brain health agent. It's something that can be taken on a daily basis and for a lot of people that have ADD it has been taken and they're actually able to replace their prescription medication with it now. I mean, I'm not a doctor so I can't say to do that but anecdotal evidence. So CILTEP it's unlike any other nootropic, it's a simple all natural formula, and it works by increasing the number of messenger systems inside of your brain cells. So it enables neurons to quickly communicate with each other and you can retain information. It's going to make you feel more engaged and efficient at whatever task you might be doing. It enhances your mental capacity, you don't have to rely on external.. You're not actually altering neurotransmitter levels, and I think that's actually really important for longterm brain help. And it acts inside of the cell to naturally strengthen connections between the neurons promoting and improving learning, memory, cognitive function and like I said, it has an open source formula, so you know exactly what you're taking, you know the exact amounts of all the ingredients; there's only 5 ingredients. The formula was actually community developed over several years with thousands of different computer coders experimenting and posting their results in actual forums on the internet before it was ever released as a finished product.

Roman: Wow

Ryan: Yeah, so like I said, that's what- we'll send you some!

Roman: That'll be great, yeah. I'm excited! I'm looking forward to it

Ryan: But it helps to potentiate long term coding and recollection, you know making memories and things like that. So it can help make you smarter the more you take it

Roman: That's very interesting for me, I'm a big fan of becoming smarter. Although I will say that memory has never been my issue. I have a very interesting relationship with memory, I have a near eidetic memory for anything that I read; I can recall most conversations with startling accuracy and the only thing that I cannot remember is my schedule. Like, literally, I had to be reminded 3 times today about this podcast.

Ryan: Really?

Roman: No, I cannot, I just can't get my schedule together. No idea.

Ryan: So Jeffrey's the man.

Roman: Yeah, Jeff is like, he's the guy. But unfortunately, well fortunately, Jeff is so good that I just promoted him so now he has to find a new person for Jeff's old job of making sure I don't break anything. But, yeah. It's very interesting. I can recall, you know, entire passages from books I read when I was 8 years old, I have an unbelievable affinity for near perfect recall of historical stuff and I am probably better at movie quotes that anyone you've ever met in your life. I'm so good at it that any time anyone misquotes a movie it's like nails on a chalkboard to me

Ryan: Okay

Roman: But, again, no idea where I'm supposed to be at any given time, at all. And also, ever since I started using GPS to get around I am horrible with directions. I used to be awesome, I have a great sense of direction in the wilderness, I was boy scout and all that stuff, but like driving on the streets of LA, nothing. I got nothing.

Ryan: You know, I think it's cool that you are hyper aware of how your brain works; what your strengths, your weaknesses are. Because as an Optimal Performer, no matter what you're trying to do you need to know your strengths and weaknesses; so you can play to those strengths, and you know, as you've done, with whether it's with a secretary or a scheduler or whatever you wanna call them, you've put things in place that shore up your weaknesses.

Roman: Yes, I think that probably the biggest.. I don't know if this'll be super relevant to people listening to this podcast, but maybe if there's some business people or fitness professionals. I think that the single biggest thing that people can try to do is overcome their weaknesses. Don't spend too much time doing shit you're not good at. Because you're probably not ever going to be good at it. Obviously self improvement and self validation are super important, but like by the time you're 30 years old, you pretty much know if you're just not good at that. So don't do it. It sounds so simple. Don't do your accounting, just pay someone to do that for you. I mean, I'm obviously not.. I've interviewed a lot of people for a lot of jobs and it's amazing to me that 100% of applications I've read that the term 'detail oriented' has popped up. Who are all these detail oriented people?! I've literally never said that about myself; I am not detail oriented, I am the opposite of detail oriented. I am big picture, I am a visionary. I will come up with great ideas and I will help get them started, and then in 2 weeks I'm going to get bored and I'm going to pass it off to someone else or it will never get finished. You know, I'm just like, I don't have the attention span. I'm not a detail person.

Ryan: I totally relate to that because that's definitely how my brain works too. So, okay. Well let's count that as your first tip; don't try to overcome your weaknesses.

Roman: Sure, definitely

Ryan: So now, we close every podcast here with 3 tips. That'll be your first one, so give us 2 more tips that can help our listeners to perform at their highest level. 

Roman: Um, well obviously get enough sleep.. But I think, this is another higher lifestyle one, I really think just say no to the things you don't like. Just, don't do it. It's going to suck out your time and your energy and in the end you're probably not going to be that much better for it. You know I have this tip that I give people, you should find something that you hate and do it every single day for 30 days, and then if you still hate it, never do it again. Because in my experience I have found that a lot of time people think they hate something but what they actually hate is the fact that they're bad at it. And once you get over that 'suck threshold' and you know, have a baseline level of mediocrity, then you no longer have the emotional attachment to that, the 'I hate it'. Because you suck at it. You can then make an objective decision about whether or not you actually just like don't like it.

And so I think that trying to figure that stuff out and embracing the stuff you suck at for very short sprinty periods of time is important. And then if you don't like it or you're not good at it or it's not for you, then just never ever ever do it again. Because it's going to make you so miserable. Saying no is the most liberating thing you can do. It increases productivity, it increases happiness, it makes your relationships better and you're going to enjoy it. You know, everyone's afraid to say no because nobody wants to be a dick, but when you start saying no and you get good at it, you're going to love it. People are going to be like 'hey do you wanna go see a play tonight?', and you'll be like 'nope, I don't like Broadway. I'm not doing that. Instead I'm going to go home and rewatch season 1 of Game of Thrones because I'm confused as hell about all the things that are going on in season 5', or whatever. So that's another tip, say no to things you don't like, like really be aggressively protective of your time.

And, here's another one. This, I don't know, I'm just sort of like on a self development kick so I'm giving you things that are probably not really cogent in like a fitness way, but what I think is this. This is the last tip, and it's do the right thing. Every decision that comes across your desk, every single choice you make, is an opportunity to show your qualities. It's an opportunity to be the kind of person that you wanna be. And I think that most people really get caught up in the minutia of decision making, when in actuality most big decisions are very simple. If you do not know what to do then just step back, and do the right thing. Do the one that most people who were not involved in this situation would say 'that's the right thing'. Or, if most people you know are assholes, be the one that they say 'you didn't have to do that but it's amazing that you did.' Like always be the bigger.. Go out of your way to do the right thing, to be a good man, to be a good woman, to be a good person.

And I think that if you do that then you create a life of hardship for yourself, but it's hardship that comes at the cost of consistently feeling good about yourself. I think that that is worth a lot. If feeling like you've done the right thing, never having to live a life of regret or feeling like you did something shitty, you know, if that comes with the cost of like life being harder then I think that's okay. I think the fact of the matter is.. You'll learn this if you haven't, if we have young people listening to this podcast then understand this now. There's a couple of quotes that you've probably heard: 'the road to hell is paved with good intention', 'no good deed goes unpunished', those are two that you'll be familiar with. One that you might not be familiar with is this, and it's a remarkable, a startling percentage of problems in your life, will arise as a direct result of trying to do the right thing. Just do it anyway. Always do the right thing. Just try to do the right thing, and you'll never be unhappy. Because even when you're miserable, at least you'll know you did the right thing.

Ryan: I think that's great advice. I think that's great to close on. Roman, thank you so much for your time. Before we let you go, we just want to make sure our listeners know where they can find more of you. So if they want to join the Roman Empire, then where do they go?

Roman: Um, yeah. So I happen to be all over the internet. The easiest way is at, that is the main hub for me and all the fitness related content, but if you're interested in some shenanigans then I'm all over social media. I am at, instagram @johnromaniello, Twitter, @JohnRomaniello, or just you know, gooogle John Romaniello. Don't go to the image, don't do an image search, I promise you'll see my nipples. But, instead go to the articles and you'll find some good stuff. Thank you, Ryan, so much for having me. Thank you everyone at Natural Stacks, this was great. I appreciate you letting me come on and drop my own brand of idiocy, so thanks very much.

Ryan: We thoroughly enjoyed it, thank you for spending some time with us. You've been listening to Optimal Performance podcast, remember you can find show notes  for every episode along with video versions at And remember that Optimal Performance podcast loves your 5* ratings, so head on over to iTunes, show us some 5* love and not only will we read those reviews on the show, but you will be entered into a raffle to win some free Natural Stacks goodies. See you next Thursday.


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