Nootropics, Ambition and Stress with Joe Cohen
Joe Cohen, the bio-hacking authority behind self-hacked.com is our guest on Episode 008 of the Optimal Performance Podcast.
Tune in to learn how stress impacts your body, the right supplements to use for better performance, and how to optimize your "Big 5" to hack your way to a smarter, healthier, more fulfilling life.
On this episode of the Optimal Performance Podcast, he'll walk us through the process he uses to hack his way to optimal mental and physical performance - from magnets and LED lights to nootropics, supplements, and a Zen-like philosophy.
Get ready to learn some cool tricks that you can implement TODAY to jump start your journey to #liveoptimal.
What You'll Hear From Joe Cohen:
- Fact Of the Day: Sprints & High Intensity Exercise make you SMARTER!
- What is SELF HACKED? "Nobody know what the hell they're talking about - I'm doing this myself!"
- Joe's Big 5 Framework
- You're either ambitious or you're NOT - no supplement will do the work for you!
- Using Tao Te Ching, Samuri's & Zen philosophy to increase performance
- The problem of too much glutamate (even if you don't eat MSG!)
- CILTEP to help reset your circadian rhythm and when to take it for the best results
- Why Joe LOVES magnesium and where YOU can get MagTech.
- Why Joe says NOT SO FAST on the racetam family of nootropics...and how he unfairly became the "Enemy Of The State" in the bio-hacking world! (For the record, he's NOT against the racetams.)
- SSRI's, sexual dysfunction, and Joe's favorite supplements for performance. (HINT: Make the body work right and you'll function optimally!)
- The 2 best wavelengths for infrared light so you can speed recovery, energize mitochondria, and kick more butt!
- PEMF, magnetism and gut health to fix digestion, increase wakefulness, increase testosterone, speed wound healing and supercharge your performance.
- BDNF - what is Brain Derived Neurotrophic Factor and how it impacts sleep, intelligence and performance (like driving!).
- Where to get more of Joe Cohen
- Joe's Top 3 ways to #liveoptimal
Links & Resources
Vitamin C with Zinc - A Powerful Antioxidant Combination
Joe's website selfhacked.com
CILTEP - Natural Nootropic with Artichoke Extract and Forskolin.
Prebiotic+ - Resistant Starch Complex.
Krill Oil - Antarctic Krill Oil with Astaxanthin.
MagTech - Magnesium with L-Threonate.
Amazon -LED Lights
Get YOUR DNA sequencing at 23andme.com
Nootropics, Ambition and Stress, with Joe Cohen
Ryan: You're listening to the Optimal Performance podcast sponsored by Natural Stacks. If you're into biohacking, performance and getting more out of your life, this is the show for you! If you want more on building optimal performance, check out www.optimalperformance.com
Alright, happy Thursday all you optimal performers! We have a special announcement for you guys today, as you probably know vitamin C is a highly effective nutrient that plays a critical role in a multitude of processes in the body. In fact it's what's known as an essential vitamin because it must be obtained from our diet. Unlike most mammals and other animals, humans do not have the ability to generate vitamin C on our own so we have to get it from our diet. However it can be difficult to get enough high quality vitamin C in our modern diet. Some fruits and vegetables are good sources but farming, storage, cooking methods and even soil quality can seriously deplete the vitamin C content in the foods that we're eating.
Our body needs vitamin C for forming the proteins that your skin, connective tissue and blood vessels are made with. We need vitamin C to help with healing internal and external injuries, developing scar tissue around the wounded areas and of course, we need vitamin C to fortify our immune system; to maintain the health and function of our cartilage, our bones and our teeth and for cellular protection, repair and regeneration. And that's why we're excited to announce the release of a new Natural Stacks vitamin C combined with chelated zinc glycinate. These two powerful antioxidants play such a critical role in your body's ongoing performance that we couldn't hold off any longer.
Alright, so we're going to give you the link to buy this. Get ready, this one's kind of a doozy. You can get it at www.naturalstacks.com/products/vitamin-c-with-zinc, it's $17.99 for a bottle and the link will also be on www.optimalperformance.com along with all the other links and show notes from today's episode.
Welcome to another episode of the Optimal Performance podcast. I'm your host Ryan Munsey and I'm pumped to introduce you to today's guest, Mr Joseph Cohen. Joe, say hello! Thanks for hanging out with us.
Joe: Hello everybody
Ryan: So, guys, Joe is the man behind the now growing and famous biohacking website, www.selfhacked.com. We are in for a treat today with some real indepth knowledge and some secrets from behind the scenes I guess, is one way of putting it. But before we dive in with Joe, today we're going to announce the winner of our Natural Stacks giveaway! Congratulations to Greg Stamper. Greg, you are our lucky winner. You are going to get a one year supply of Natural Stacks goodies; that is our way of saying thank you for giving us a 5* review and showing your love on iTunes. So guys, just because the contest is over doesn't mean we don't love those reviews, so keep em coming! If you're enjoying the podcast let us know, and let other potential listeners know what a resource we have here for people interested in living optimally.
And as always, show notes can be found at www.optimalperformance.com for this particular episode: www.optimalperformance.com/joe-cohen. So before we really get into it, our Fact of the Day is that sprinting can make you smarter. A recent study in Germany found that even small bouts of high intensity exercise, using sprinting specifically, helped increase production of BDNF: brain-derived neurotrophic factor. And, like I said, even two 3 minute sprints separated by 2 minutes of rest; so 3 minutes of sprint, 2 minutes of rest, 3 minutes of sprinting, actually increased the production of BDNF compared to non-sprinters. It helped the sprinters learn vocabulary words at a rate of 20% faster than the non sprinters, so not only are we getting smarter or have the ability to learn faster when we sprint, but BDNF, that brain-derived neurotrophic factor, is helping to- and we will talk about a lot of this later on with Joe- it improves the function of your neurons, it encourages new neurons to grow, protects them from damage and cell death, it binds to the receptors in the synapses between your neurons, it increases the voltage in your brain, improves signalling strength and it has been called by Harvard psychiatrist, John Ratey, author of 'Spark: the Revolutionary New Science of Exercise and the Brain', as miracle grow for the brain. So, optimal performers! You wanna get leaner, you wanna get stronger, you wanna look better, you wanna feel better, you wanna get smarter? Do your sprints!
Okay, Joe. Let's dig in, man
Joe: Definitely! Let's go
Ryan: Tell us, www.selfhacked.com, how did you.. What made you wanna start this? How did it get started? Just tell us all about it
Joe: Sure. So basically, I'm someone who historically had to deal with like certain issues that the conventional medical establishment can't explain like you know, chronic fatigue and things like that. Brain fog, anxiety disorders.. And so the conventional medical establishment, they've got SSRIs or you know, go to a psychiatrist if you're fatigued, or get more sleep. And yeah that stuff, sleep is extremely important, but um, that wasn't the whole of my issue and there was other things going on so then you start looking at alternative establishments and that's kind of, that has it's own whole host of things I don't like about it. I don't like the fact that I think you know, the alternative establishment is also very dogmatic, they're not scientific enough, they try to make it.. Depends who, because it's a huge field obviously, anybody who doesn't identify as conventional is going to be alternative.
But I realised when I just looked at the alternative information, the blogs and things like that, I found that there was the same information being recycled everywhere. You know, leaky gut, chronic lime, candida, same shit and it didn't really explain anything, it wasn't really specific. Adrenal fatigue, I mean these things don't.. They weren't scientific, I knew they weren't scientific but I didn't have better explanations and I didn't know what was going on, so you know, at some point I just said okay that's it. I realize nobody knows what they're talking about really, I'm going to dive into the science myself and try to figure out new things.
At that point I maxed out on all the information that you could know, okay yeah, maybe your diet is what's good, if you have these issues, okay fine. But I felt like I needed to go many steps deeper and really understand what was going on myself because I just think the field is littered with dogma and you know, hyperfocus. Some people are hyperfocused on heavy metals or mold or this, that and the other, and I needed to see it for myself. So I basically went on a long journey where I was just reading the direct science instead of reading other bloggers, and through that way I have a very unique views about health and things like that and I discovered a lot of things along the way and I'm hopefully going to continue to discover a lot of things.
Ryan: Absolutely. Now, I think you kind of touched on something that's a bit of a double edged sword or a catch 22, in this whole quantified self or self-hacking niche or whatever you wanna call it. There are so many different opinions and views out there and it kinda stems.. It can be confusing for somebody looking for information but at the same time the number of views stems from the fact.. It's always an individual experiment, you have to find what works for you, and there's really nothing wrong with- as you said, as long as it can be backed up by science, and you know, you have a basis for what you're doing and what you're saying, but within that science there can be any number of possible solutions. Can you tell us a little bit about specifically what issues you tried to solve and how you were able to improve your performance?
Joe: Definitely. So as far as you know, once I was digging into the science the reason.. So that's why I started the site, to create unique information but I asked myself, 'what do I want this site to be about?' And I don't think, you know, I think everyone is unique, everybody has different solutions, different problems and different problems may require different solutions. And that's why I was seeing a whole bunch of contradictory information, these people did amazing with the very high saturated fat, the ketogenic diet, this that and the other, while these other people did horrible. And so I'm trying to figure out why are some people doing.. Instead of this is right and this is wrong, why are some people doing better with this versus that and so you need to understand the basic science and the mechanisms. So, for example, what issues did I try to fix? I tried to fix chronic fatigue, and I tried to understand what chronic fatigue is all about, and not only chronic fatigue, but anxiety and a whole host of other conditions, what are the underlying physiologies?
And when you look at a lot of these thing it turns out that they have a lot of the same underlying physiologies, basically the same, but there's a small difference in let's say.. Chronic inflammation would cause a lot of issues but there's differences in your immune system and other factors like maybe where your immune system will attack, so some people will have inflammation and they'll have thyroid antibodies, other people will have inflammation and they will have.. It's a slightly different kind of inflammation, because the immune system is so complex. So usually the immune system will be off in some ways and that will cause chronic problems. We can categorize that as inflammation so I have 5; big 5 framework of what different people's health issues are coming from. And that really includes the gamut.. All the chronic diseases we have here today. It includes chronic fatigue, brain fog, pretty much any condition. It's just whether you get one condition or another will depend on a few genes and your age, because as you get older things start breaking down, and let's say the genetics of your immune system and the environment you grew up in.
There's a whole bunch of factors that could change slightly what's going on. So, yeah. My big 5 things are: chronic inflammation, oxidative stress, CRH or the stress response, and there's a whole bunch of factors within the stress response. There's a few types of stress responses actually and there's different factors there that basically, you know, they cause a whole host of health issues, and you know, whether you'll have one thing or another. So you were speaking about BDNF, one of the things that stress will do is decrease BDNF, they found that in humans and animals and things like that. So chronic stress is a real problem. That's number 1 and I find that the whole host of issues that people are dealing with, whether it's the people who just have chronic inflammation, they have pains or whatever it is, it's.. number one, yeah, so it's the stress response. For example, the stress response can increase rheumatoid arthritis, they found the first hormone in the stress pathway, CRH, in the synovial fluid of people with rheumatoid arthritis.
And if you just look at the whole stress response, how it imbalances the immune system, again then that's like number 1, one of the pillars that I have for the issues people are dealing with. And that also throws off your circadian rhythm, so if you have a chronic stress response then your brain is throwing off your circadian rhythm in a few ways. But basically, your brain is programmed more to, you're more 'on', and so people have sleep issues via two ways. Number 1 is they can't shut their brain off, in some that is kind of hardwired after years of stress, and another thing is it throws off your circadian rhythm. So if your brain's not turning off and your circadian rhythm is bad then you're going to have sleep problems and then you have sleep problems and that's associated with every other problem.
Ryan: Yeah, and let me jump in and just ask you for a quick solution there. So let's just say- maybe we're not talking all the way down the line to arthritis, but you know this is the Optimal Performance podcast and a lot of our listeners are hard chargers and people who are trying to fit as much in and get as much done on any given day as possible, so that's going to lead to a lot of stress, a lot of adrenalin, maybe elevated cortisol, things that as you just mentioned, will.. I know personally, running a business, there are times when I have a hard time shutting off and sleeping at night. So if somebody is in that situation, what are a few things that they could do to help get better sleep and help lower that stress, based on what you found?
Joe: I see what you're saying. Yeah, so, I was definitely of that phenotype that you're talking about, like I was extremely ambitious, wanted to get as many things done as possible, and I think the first thing is to realize that you don't need stress to get things done. We think we do, but you don't. So it does.. The reason we think we do is because it does help you get things done in the short run, but in the long run there's a cost and that cost.. So you're going to be stressed; and if you're stressed you can get things done in the short run if it doesn't require too much higher level thinking, but you know, you'll get it done and that's great, but then you're burnt out for either the next day or that night and you're just like unmotivated to do anything. It kinda burns you out. So that's in the short run. In the long run it burns you out in different ways. It changes the GABA receptors, the CRH neurons, it does like a whole bunch of effects, like that's why if you're stressed for one day that's not an issue but if it's chronically over a longer period then it is.
Ryan: So, what do I suggest people do about it? Number one is changing your biology. I think some people have excess glutamate, for a whole bunch of reasons, this is a laundry list. And so you have excess glutamate your brain is going to be more on, more active. In the short run it could be good, but in the long run it's not and in the short run you wanna make sure it's kinda balanced because if it's too much then you're like too stimulated and you can't focus. So number one is I think people have to realize that you're not becoming more successful with your stress.
Joe: Number two, people have to realize, you're going to be ambitious whether you try to be ambitious or not. You have to accept basically, who you are and what you're going to accomplish in life. Like we kind of.. I know, so normally when I hear people talking about like how to get to optimal, I have a very different idea of that. Like you'll hear other people say like 'oh you wanna be optimal? You can do anything. So just, whatever you put your mind to, you can conquer the world. You're the best, you're amazing, you're this, you're that.' I found that that wasn't good for me. I find just like accepting your fate in life, accepting your abilities, your natural talents and things like that. Accept the way you are and you don't accomplish any less, in fact I have accomplished more like that. Just accepting, because if you truly accept what your abilities are or something like that then it doesn't require a stress response. Like the stress response is you're trying to get to some other place or you're trying to do something.
So yeah, if you wanna accomplish something- a business, whatever it is- I feel like if you're a confident person and you're naturally hard working, you're not going to change that by your stress response, because it could help you in the short run but it's going to kill you in the long run. So, even for productivity's sake, I think this stress response is not something that's good for me. And then also making sure your biology's good, because you have to fix that. And then, there's other ways after that yeah.
Ryan: I just wanna highlight the clarification that you have in there, where it's not that we're just laying down and were not just settling and accepting our lot in life. You did specify that's for somebody who is a hard working, aspirational, motivated person, so you know, it's just you can accept that in time you'll do the work and things will happen, you don't actually have to stress about it. But you are still doing the work and moving forward.
Joe: Oh yeah, exactly
Ryan: So I just don't want anybody to miss that part of it
Joe: Yeah, you are doing the work but let me give you an example, right. So me I felt like oh, I was thinking, you're thinking about the future, you're thinking about what you're going to accomplish, that actually wastes time. That's not how you're going to get things done. That only increases stress, thinking about the future. Trying to do something, trying to push yourself in a way.. This is counterintuitive, but trying to push yourself more than you naturally can is a problem. That doesn't mean you shouldn't push yourself, that's the problem, people can really get jammed up there.
Joe: I'm not saying not to push your limits; I'm always pushing my limits, but it's done in a natural way. So for example, if I told you don't do anything for the day, at a certain point you're going to get tired of doing nothing and be like 'oh, I've gotta do something', so what I say is harness that energy from not wanting to be bored, rather than trying too hard to do something. Whereas you'll try.. Everybody wants to be something, everybody wants to you know, expand their horizons, so you know, you'll do it naturally. You don't have to force yourself.
Ryan: Yeah. To me, that's a very eastern philosophy as opposed to the typical western philosophy. I am a huge fan. One of my favorite books is probably one of the only books that I've read or listened to 3 or 4 times, is uh, Dao de Jing. I don't know if you're familiar with that or not, but it's very much doing by not doing. It's that same kind of philosophy.
Joe: Yeah, exactly. And this philosophy by the way, a lot of it comes from zen. The Japanese at the time, you know, I was reading, it was a very high pressured environment- I think it was like the Samurais- and they had to perform. So they developed the zen philosophy in order to help with that performance. How? Because it actually increases it, when you're just focused on what you're doing instead of trying to create some grand thing. You will create it, if that's what you're going to do in life.
Ryan: Yeah, and to relate this back to performance, I mean, nothing great is a flash in the pan. Greatness is all about consistency and longevity and as you're saying, we wanna be able to do this for the long haul so we're looking for a sustainable way of performing. You know, maybe we're not performing at 100% but if we can perform at 90% every single day for the rest of our lives, instead of you know, 100%, 0%, 50%, 100%, 0%.. We're looking for that balance of consistent high performance.
Joe: That's part of it, but I also think that like if you actually wanna do great work, great work isn't done when you're under stress. Everybody's naturally.. like I'm for getting into a flow state, and for a flow state you need kind of some stimulation, but it's stimulation, not stress. So, you know, you get in the zone. That's what I'm for. When you get in the zone you're extremely productive.
Ryan: You have to have that time and space to operate in, to get into the flow state.
Joe: Exactly, and if you're stressed, if you're like 'oh, I've gotta do this now and I really...' You can't really get into the flow state as much, and it's a bit of a different state when you're too stressed. And that's why I'm saying, I don't think it's actually operating at 90%, I think I'm actually operating on a higher level, especially if you wanna do great work. You know, if you have a design, a creative challenge, 'do this in 2 hours!', you know, it's not going to work. Sometimes the best ideas come when you're not thinking about it. So I don't see it as operating at 90%, I actually see it as operating at 110%. And you know, you don't need that stress response to do great work.
Ryan: Okay, that's awesome. Now let's go back. You mentioned fixing biology and that a lot of people have too much glutamate. How does that happen and how can people lower glutamate in their body and in their system?
Joe: So you have to attack the underlying cause. So one of the biggest causes of glutamate, people don't realise it, you could think: 'oh glutamate! It's from MSG or something', monosodium glutamate, or glutamate you know either from food or eating too much glutamate food. But actually, glutamate is mainly coming from you know, so the stress response. If you have the stress response you're going to overactivate glutamate. And so again, it kind of, you do feel more awake, more stimulated, but that's going to come crashing down.
So the other one, the other big one is let's say oxidative stress or inflammation. So, people, we see oxidative stress at elevated levels and a lot of these anxiety conditions, that's why a lot of people I deal with, a lot of people I consult with and coach, they have chronic health issues. Some people with chronic fatigue system are known to have high levels of anxiety, and the underlying cause is not like.. If you go to a doctor and say you have anxiety and you're fatigued then it's your anxiety. But the underlying cause of both of them is oxidative stress. If you have too many free radicals; it's not necessarily even the number, it's how your body controls them. So there's this balance of free radicals and the internal ability of your body to control them in different ways. Some of them, sometimes it's through polyphenols or supplements or things like that.
But your mitochondria has its own antioxidant defense systems and different things like that, so if you have too much oxidative stress then you're going to have too much glutamate. If you have chronic inflammation you're going to have too much glutamate. And then there's a whole bunch of causes of these things, I mean, so even if you're just like overweight which is an issue with a lot of people, it tends to correlate with interleukin 6, and interleukin 6 is going to get secreted from fat cells. And what does interleukin 6 do? It decreases BDNF, so it's like inflammation and basically that's going to activate your stress response even if you're not psychologically stressed. So then this is going to increase glutamate like that. So the point is, there's so many factors that increase glutamate, but the biggest ones are you know, from chronic inflammation, oxidative stress.. And how are you getting these things also, so for example, any time you disrupt your circadian rhythm or you're not sleeping enough, that causes excess glutamate. So people know, if you don't have a good night's rest, are you as tranquil as you were when you had a great night's rest? No, I mean you're more on the edge if somebody says something to you. It depends how little sleep, if you get 2 hours of sleep, then you're not going to be a happy camper, I know I'm not.
Ryan: Right, right, and you know, as you talk through a lot of these different scenarios, our body has these feedback loops and cycles and a lot of these things are vicious cycles that almost perpetuate and build and you know, perpetuate themselves. And the same thing, you know, the way they work in in a negative sense, they can also work, if you get things going positively. So it's almost like the laws of physics, where you know if it gets in motion it's hard to slow it down and hard to reverse that.
Joe: 100%. Each one of the 5 major causes that I have, the stress response, circadian rhythm, oxidative stress, inflammation, each one of these things, they independently cause the other ones. If you've got one it's going to cause the other 4, if you've got you know.. So, usually you have all of them together in some ways because they all interact and so I call it like a vortex, like once you get in you're just like spinning around. But then you have to introduce a whole bunch of measures to get out, and then again, you're in a safer zone and you're not in.. It's a downhill slope from there.
Ryan: I know this is going to be a really almost impossible question to ask so I'll try to phrase it in a way that you know, gives you an easy way to answer it. But you mentioned supplements, in a way to kind of help combat some of these things, polyphenols, different supplements, so from a diet or supplement standpoint, do you have any go-tos or must includes for somebody trying to combat or you know, either prevent that cycle, keep the good one in motion or to get out of the negative side of that?
Joe: Right, so the way I go about this is, I, number one is.. So even though there's 5 main causes and they're all feeding into the other ones, for each person there's usually one that's most salient, most important for that person. And so I have to look at which one of these main things is the person's main issue and uh, once you find that, you definitely you know, start honing in on which supplements are the best. So if somebody has circadian rhythm issues, taking forskolin in the morning right when you wake up, so if you take CILTEP or something like that then it will help reset your circadian rhythm because the cyclic AMP is one of the main ways the circadian rhythm is reset, so its also important when you take it. You wanna take it right in the morning, you know, when you wanna reset your circadian rhythm. So that's if somebody has a circadian rhythm issue. You know, if somebody also has very low hormones, CILTEP and forskolin generally increase all the main hormones. So that's something that can give people a boost. Because a lot of these hormones combat oxidative stress and inflammation, so even though I don't consider hormones one of the big ones, if you normalize your hormones that's shown to help you a lot.
So the point is, as far as supplements go, there are some main ones that I definitely focus on, and just one of the generic ones for example, would be magnesium. So since we're talking about anxiety, things like that, magnesium is a natural NMDA antagonist, which means it blocks the over excitation of neurons from glutamate. So the neurons aren't as excited when you do have that glutamate. So I view magnesium, taken in therapeutic dosages, as a kinda drug, rather than are you deficient in it or not. It's one of the.. If stress is your main thing, if you wanna focus more on magnesium to kinda shut your brain down, and other things as well. Things like the adaptogens, they lower the stress response. Like rhodiola, schisandra, eleuthero, and there's certain kinds you want to take of those. But those, if you have an immune system problem, they could boost your immune system in some ways, but overall, I wouldn't call them the strongest anti-inflammatories, so if you had an inflammation problem I'd focus more on something like Longvida curcumin, you know, something that gets into the brain.
These supplements are generally good for most people because we are too activated in this society so the adaptogens are usually good and they usually decrease inflammation in some ways, and so our circadian rhythm is normally broken to one degree or another, so forskolin could be a good thing if you have the dosing right and you take it in the morning, right when you wake up. And yeah, magnesium is basically the fix that will help with a lot of these issues. Energy production, a lot of these issues. And you wanna make sure that you have adequate zinc, that actually can increase GABA, acetylcholine, so that's a good one. But there's a whole host of supplements, I think another good one that's good in general is Hi-Maize, for resistance starch. Resistance starch increases butyrate which causes the expression of genes, it's basically good for, you know, a whole host of issues and it also helps calm you down.
Ryan: Just for our listeners, we have not coached you at all or I didn't coach you at all on any of those answers or what to say. Love the fact that you're a big fan of CILTEP, the magnesium being a big favorite of yours is awesome. Natural Stacks has an incredible MagTech product and also you just, at the very end there you mentioned resistance starch. Have you tried the PreBiotic+ from Natural Stacks?
Joe: I have not, no. I would, I mean...
Ryan: We'll have to remedy that!
Joe: Yeah, yeah, okay
Ryan: We can get you some but it's.. Yeah, for all the reasons you just mentioned. Like you said resistance starch is gonna increase butyrate production, help relaxation, you know, recommended best practices are gonna be take it in the evening, 30-60 minutes before you go to bed. Magnesium is also best taken at night; zinc in the morning. Well, I was not expecting to get into CILTEP that early on and that fast, but it may come up in the next portion of what we're going to talk about. So, you know, you recently had a blogpost talking about not using piracetam or anything in the racetam family. I think, in our world of hacking and nootropics and smart drugs, whatever you wanna call it. Um, you know, we can separate it out into nutraceuticals, things like CILTEP or things that are more supplement form vs kinda things that would be considered as pharmaceuticals, whether it's provigil or racetams. So let's talk a little bit about how that can contribute to brain fog, which is one of the issues that you mentioned earlier, but any other reasons that people may wanna think twice about the racetam family.
Joe: Okay, yeah, so my post against the racetams has kinda made me the enemy of the state in the nootropic community. One guy on Reddit was like.. Somebody posted a different post of mine and one guy's like 'that guy, he did a smear campaign against piracetam! How could you even think about posting a different post?!' It's like what? What does that have to do with what I just wrote? Um, but anyway, yeah. So I'm kind of like the enemy of the state in the nootropic community. But as far as.. I think I'm misunderstood also, I'm not really against the racetams, per se. I just think that I personally didn't have good effects from it and there's.. When I didn't have, I was encountering other people that didn't have and so I decided to put together all these case reports, because I just felt there was.. People were treating it like vitamin C or something, like it's not possible this could cause any negative effects whatsoever, and it's like this is the safest thing you can ever try and people don't understand that if something lacks toxicity doesn't mean that it's safe. It could mess up your brain, but it won't be toxic to your liver.
Joe: So people like to say that it's non-toxic. It isn't toxic in that sense, you know, but it does play around with the brain and anytime, whenever you play around with the brain.. If it's doing something positive in the brain, you should be really careful and so I'm not against piracetam, if somebody uses it.. There are people who use it and say 'this changed my life', so if that happened then great.
Ryan: Yeah, and then the thing I took.. And it's in the first paragraph. Like even the quote that you begin the post with, it's all about how it affects you, how it works for you. And we already touched on that once in this talk, it's don't use something or do something just because so and so or everybody's doing it. It's you know, test it on yourself, assess, see how it works.
Joe: If it doesn't work then don't say like, oh, there must be.. I must have had a bad batch. No, if it's not working.. I never say that with anything. If it's not working it means, you know, the racetams on the market, I don't know if they're all good but I've tried a few companies and that's not the issue. The quality control is not the issue, it's just that some people respond differently.
Ryan: Yeah, and the most common negative effect is brain fog
Joe: The one that I've seen, I have you know.. Again. I've spoken to Steve Fowkes, he's the author of the Smart Drugs book, and he's like the world expert on piracetam. He takes like 10g a day. I mean like he's been researching his stuff for many years, he knows his stuff. And I had an interview with him and I asked him.. I actually didn't include it in the interview because I was speaking to him about it beforehand, and I asked him: 'why do you think I had a negative effect from it? Do you think, you know, I should take it?' and he's like: 'no, I see it all the time. Everything's individualized and if you had a negative effect from it, you know, it's not good for you', he's like, 'I can't explain why but there's a lot we don't know about it'. So I think that's what we have to keep in mind, we say 'oh, this is the safest thing out there'. but there's really a lot we don't know about it.
Ryan: Yeah and I think that's the important note to make there. Even the world's expert on this is saying 'look, there's a lot we don't know about it', and I think that's where, if we break down nootroics into either nutraceuticals or pharmaceuticals then I think the things that are more in that grey area, like provigil or the racetams, we don't have all the answers, we don't necessarily know why it doesn't work for some people. So..
Joe: Yeah and we don't know completely how it does it. Like even the most famous drugs, we still.. You know, SSRI's, they're still not sure how each of them work. I mean there's a lot of research showing it does this, that and the other. But even the most popular and well researched pharmaceuticals we still don't know a lot about. We don't know what it's going to do to you in 50 years, and yeah, we just don't know. And so with the SSRIs, a lot of people started getting, you know, sexual dysfunction, and like uh, we didn't really figure that out completely. And even now, people will say 'no, there's no evidence for that!', there is, I mean..
Ryan: And if you're using SSRIs to treat depression then it's hard to be less depressed if you have now become sexually dysfunctional!
Ryan: So, on that note let's talk a little bit about what some of your favorite nootropics may be.
Joe: I'm not that big into like classical nootropics, so obviously not the racetams. Let's see, I'm more into.. I think if you make the body work right then your system is going to function optimally. And there's certain key things that we're not doing, so again, I'm not sure, I just feel like the people who are functioning right, they don't really need to turn to the, you know, the racetams and stuff like that. I'm very into the science, but I'm also into like.. Okay, if we've been using something for thousands of years like viscolin, and it's more natural.. I'm a little more comfortable with that. Now, I don't mind taking drugs, like you know, I'm not one of those people. I just.. Like what kinda nootropics are you talking about?
Ryan: Okay, let me see if I can kinda.. I'll throw back at you what I'm hearing you say and you tell me if this is correct. So, based on what you said earlier, where you know, we talked about people forcing the issue and pushing themselves into stress to try to get more done then maybe that's the same approach as somebody who wakes up every morning and says, you know, 'I've gotta pop 10 different nootropics or smart drugs so that I can be that and try to be the Tasmanian devil'
Joe: Exactly! Yeah, that's what I'm saying. You know, amphetamines help people in the short run too, they just don't in the long run. I'm not saying it's the same about the racetams, I think the people that they are truly helping.. so racetams are known to increase oxygenation of the brain and if you've got sleep apnea it's for sure a good thing to take. So, but if you really don't have any.. If you really don't see anybody taking care of themselves the way they're supposed to. Um, but I think if you are then you don't need these nootropics. I think, you know, curcumin has things that we've evolved with it for thousands and thousands of years.. So I think things like that are fine if you're healthy to take, but the racetams, I mean, it's just like I wouldn't recommend anybody take.. You know, some people take memantine, or something like that. If you're taking the magnesium then that's nature's natural NMDA antagonist. So I feel like I'm not that big into nootropics per se.
Ryan: You're kind of like a.. A minimal, effective dose, you know, take the minimum number of things that you need to do to get to baseline at perform at your natural, the way that you're supposed to.. Kind of thing.
Joe: Yeah, yeah, exactly. So I'm not in favor of taking the racetams or other things like NSI 189, or you know.. But if you ask me individual ones? I don't know what you'd consider a nootropic.
Ryan: Well alright, let's kinda shift the question in a different way. Do you have morning routines? Or..
Joe: So I do take a good amount of the supplements.
Ryan: Okay. So what do you do? What works for you?
Joe: So again, I get the most bang for my buck. Not from supplements, but you know, since they're easy to take and they're cheap, I do get good effects. I get good effects from different devices, such as infrared. And infrared is not something that's just increasing your performance, per se, it's kind of.. I've spoken to Dr. Michael Hamblin, the expert in infrared and laser therapy, and it's something that works on all the main problems. So it decreases oxidative stress and inflammation; and we naturally get infrared from the sun and from fire, so through history we've been exposed to infrared, and that's what I'm saying..
Ryan: We're drawn to it. We're drawn to both of those things, you know.
Joe: Exactly. So infrared is something that I'm big into again
Ryan: That also increases mitochondrial energy and function
Joe: Exactly, yeah, exactly
Ryan: So how exactly are you using it?
Joe: I use it all over. On my head, on my thymus gland, on my thyroid..
Ryan: Do you have like, lights or a machine or what do you have?
Joe: I have various devices, so there's 850 nanometers and 660 nanometers as like the main spectrums.They have different effects so I make sure to get both of them. The 850 goes deeper into the tissue, and so I like to do that and really, one of the.. You know, I've heard about it before but somebody who really spearheaded this approach in using it in the brain was a fellow on LongeCity, so Lostfalcol, and he was big into.. He has a whole group of people using it on the brain and there's not a lot of information so, I'm happy he did that. But I also spoke to again, the top Harvard researcher in this field and he says that he uses it on his brain too! So, yeah, I use that.
Ryan: So what's the device? Where can our listeners pick one up?
Joe: There's a bunch of devices that you can get. I have a few of them. Again, so you can buy like expensive ones that are like $500 that have been marketed but I don't think you need that. I think you just need some cheap LEDs that give off infrared. So I have one that you can put up your nose.. I have links on my website, but pretty much if you go on Amazon and type in CCTV then that's like the cheap one that people are using, and it does work. And then I have one that's called the Light Relief one; I like that because you can kinda shape it to your head and shape it to different spots so it's got a better form factor. And then I have a grow light which has like 96 LEDs on it, and that gives off 660 nanometers. So yeah, I mean there's a bunch of things, bunch of links, but you don't need to get any brand name or anything like that, if you get cheap ones they're just as good.
Ryan: Yeah, we'll grab some of those links and put them on the show notes so that listeners can pick those up if they want to.
Joe: Great. So, let's see what else. There's infrared.. I have a device called the ISIS, again I use it all over. It's like a PEMF device; pulsed electromagnetic frequency device. And magnetism has also a bunch of beneficial effects and we kinda evolved with magnetism as well but this has.. You know, does it help every issue out there? Not necessarily, but I use it on my gut to stimulate the parasympathetic nervous system, it stimulates digestion, makes me feel more awake, I use it on my thyroids.. The infrared, by the way, you could also use on your testes to increase testosterone. So I spoke to Dr Hamblin about that. I was like: 'am I going to decrease my fertility here?' And he said: 'no, you're actually going to increase it.' Basically, any place you wanna put the ISIS; it's mainly used for wound healing and stuff like that, like bones. And that's one significant cause of people who are having chronic problems. They'll have an injury somewhere, and then you're going to have chronic inflammation, so you have to fix that injury. I use it on my brain as well to increase wakefulness. So the devices I'm a big fan of, and I do like to use a sauna, I do cold showers..
Ryan: You know, saunas, infrared or regular?
Joe: Regular is good but I happen to use an infrared.
Joe: So I really do focus on lifestyle, but if you know, you wanted to talk about supplements, there's a couple of good ones that are good for people like PQQ is generally a good one.
Ryan: How do you get your PQQ?
Joe: Which company?
Ryan: Yeah, like which supplement are you using?
Joe: Oh, it doesn't make a difference.
Ryan: It doesn't, okay?
Joe: I mean yeah, you get it from a reliable company and all.. Yeah. You know, I've found that the main reliable companies are good. It's not.. Some supplements, it makes a difference but PQQ is not one of those.
Ryan: Okay, okay. Well let's shift gears a little bit and let's revisit the BDNF that we were talking about a little bit earlier. So again, for people listening, if you're not familiar with it, Brain Derived Neurotrophic Factor. Tell us a little bit about how you got interested in this and where all that stems from for you?
Joe: Okay, so I'm not.. I mean BDNF is critical and I guess I did more research into it when I found that I had a BDNF gene and 23 amoeba produce lower levels.. I'm like 'what is this'?' I've done research on it over a long time because it's known to have a bunch of beneficial effects, but I got more into it once I did the 23andMe and I found.. So I wanted to make sure that I'm producing BDNF well and..
Ryan: So again, just for our listeners, 23andMe if you're not familiar with that, you can actually find out your genotype. And all of the information that you need to know about your self so that you can know how you work, how you tick, and supplement for you.
Joe: Exactly, exactly. And I'm doing quite a bit of research on the snips of 23andMe that nobody seems to be doing. They'll focus on like MTHFR or something, but I'm focusing on a lot of other snips. And I'm actually working to make a program so it's kind of like that genetic genie program but a much better one. So I'm looking to do something like that and um, yeah. I also, sometimes I help people interpret it, but I do think that the main thing that people need to focus on is.. I think the lifestyle and things like that really, that's how you optimize your genes. Even though I think it's good, it's always good to know more information about you, so it can do that. So I do like that as well.
Ryan: So I always.. You know, when I read things and look at things, especially the more scientific it is, the more I try and figure out how to relate it to, you know, the average person who doesn't wanna read boring scientific literature. And to me, with BDNF, if it's miracle grow for the brain, if it's helping you form those new neuroconnections, especially throughout life, in other words, you're learning new things, you can tackle new obstacles, and expand your horizons and broaden who you are. To me that sounds at lot like somebody like Tim Ferris, who's always doing new things and conquering new things, and I think that's the phenotype as you mentioned earlier, of a lot of our listeners who you know, they wanna do everything, whether it's climb Mount Everest or BASE jump or white water raft or you know, whatever. So, tell us a little bit about what you found, how it affects, you know, intelligence, sleep, weight loss, performance?
Joe: Okay, yeah, sure. So BDNF actually will help increase weight loss, so that's good for that. You wanna make sure your BDNF is good if you're trying to lose weight. It's good for a variety of cognitive functions, we know that, they've done studies that like, you know, like pilots.. The people who are higher BDNF producers genetically, they kind of remembered their training better. You're better at driving, so people who are lower BDNF producers are worse drivers! And I guess I could confirm that one!
Ryan: Are you a bad driver?
Joe: Yeah, I think so!
Ryan: But it's okay, you live in New York city, you don't have to drive!
Joe: Exactly, right. So I don't really drive much now, but yeah, so.. And also like, it can help you know directions better and in some ways be more spatially aware. What else does it do? I mean, one surprising thing that I found researching that I didn't know before was that it's important for slow wave sleep and also your circadian rhythm. So it helps set your circadian rhythm, that's number one, and it improves your sleep as well! So the slow wave sleep.. The people who were higher producers had more slow wave sleep than people who were lower producers. And it changes your EEGs, you know the mental, the EEG numbers for different waves. And so overall, you wanna be a higher BDNF producer, and then it decreases your risk for like depression, a bunch of diseases like Alzheimer's and yeah, so it also makes you more social.
Ryan: So you mentioned that your genes have you as kind of genetically predisposed to being a low producer. We mentioned as our Fact for the Day that high intensity exercise; sprinting, and of course with that would be high intensity resistance training, can actually help increase it. And it's funny that you mentioned some of the things that you mentioned with cognitive performance, because you know, they found in that same study, 20% greater vocabulary retention with new words. So, aside from exercise, what have you found to help increase BDNF?
Joe: So, I mean, living a healthy lifestyle is basically critical. People who, number one, are more social, things like that, more stimulated, you're going to have higher BDNF, so the rats who are more stimulated by a variety of things, they had higher BDNF, so if you're not using your brain in the day, that's number one.
Ryan: So get off the couch, stop watching TV all the time!
Joe: Exactly! So being active in your mind and body is critical for increasing BDNF, and then, making sure your sleep is good, that you're not stressed out, that you're getting sun, and cold and heat increase, in some animal studies, caloric restriction, and intermittent fasting, cognitive stimulation like I've discussed, and those are the main things, and then there's some food like blueberries and honey and prebiotics, and fish oil, so eating adequate fish, a ketogenic diet can help with BDNF, and a high sugar and high saturated fat diet in animal studies, I mean when it's a high sugar and a high saturated fat- I'm not talking about a ketogenic diet or something, that can help. Cocoa, so I like to eat chocolate. And yeah, those are like the main foods and lifestyles. So if you really keep to that stuff, you don't necessarily need supplements but I happen to take some. Like curcumin will help with that, um, and PEMF increases BDNF, so I'm really doing a lot of things that increase BDNF.
Ryan: Yeah, okay. Alright, so one more really big question and again, this one may be one that's tough to answer, but you know, anything you can do to give us insight into this will be greatly appreciated and I'm sure people are curious to know. Where do you think this self-hacking, biohacking movement is going in the next 3-5 years?
Joe: I think it's only going to get bigger. I think people, I think society keeps on get sicker and pretty much all the diseases are going up and people are getting sicker earlier. People who are not into health, they're usually not.. You know, people have a lot of problems, and I ask around, I do a lot of research.. You just look at the numbers. Okay, so depression, 1 out of 5 people will have major depression, or they have, you go through the gamut of diseases and people are coming down with everything. And I just feel like it's only going to grow as the newer generation gets older and their body breaks down more. So every generation, it's getting worse. Because the things our parents did are affecting us as well. And I think the best way really to feel optimal is to start doing things that will make us perform optimally and I think you know, the only way really.. I think self-hacking is a really good way to know if something's working for you. So it's about knowing the basics, starting off with the basics, and then tweaking it based on your life, what suits you and so I think it's only going to grow. That's my opinion.
Ryan: Okay, I would agree with that. I think that's a really cool answer, and you know, I'm lucky enough to have a great mentor who has taught me and some other guys that you know, every strength usually comes from something that was once a deficit. And in my great fortune of being able to interview people like yourself and many others, almost everyone got into whatever their area of expertise is, because it was a deficit for them at some point. And I think the more people do that, the more it's going to push that whole movement forward, and as you said, the more people get sick, the more people we're going to have figuring things out and sharing that information.
Joe: Yeah, and as society also changes to more of a performance based society, meaning to some degree capitalism is performance based, but I think like, we used to be more.. And the unions used to be much bigger and so you don't really need to perform well if you're in a union!
Ryan: Right, yeah, you're protected. You're now in a situation where you've gotta add value.
Joe: Yeah, exactly. If you've got like a government job, most government jobs, you know, there's a bunch of jobs that are more protected; if you have certain degrees, you're kinda protected, and you don't need to perform but as society goes on it seems like the unions are going down.. I'm not against unions or anything, I'm not anti-union or anything like that, I'm just saying like, we're moving into more of a performance based society even though it's not close to that right now, you know. But you need to perform in order to really make money in a decent way. I mean, if you're going to be screwing people over all day maybe you'll make some money but if you wanna make money morally, if you wanna help people and produce products, good products, you need to function well.
Ryan: Right, yeah.
Joe: And so I think, as we move towards that economy, and you know, just in time, and our health gets worse and our environment gets worse, we just have to.. People are just going to be flooding into this area and that's why we see it so big in Silicon Valley, because they don't have unions there. They've gotta perform. We see the software programmers, they're not protected by degrees or anything. It's, can you do this or not? And if you can't, if you're not good at this, we don't want you.
Ryan: See ya! Yeah, right.
Joe: And that's where I think it's just going to go.
Ryan: Alright, well we've gone way over, um, I appreciate your time, Joe. Before we let you go, 2 more things. 1: where can people find more of you?
Joe: So they can go to my blog, www.selfhacked.com, and you know, I write a lot about cutting edge stuff that's not spoken about in other places, you know, none of it's recycled, it's all original, straight from the scientific arena. Or I'll say you know, this is one of my theories. But yeah, so a lot of cutting edge content.
Ryan: And I'll back up the original thing, I mean, in this episode we've hit unions, testes, lasers, magnets.. No, I'm sorry, go ahead!
Joe: Yeah, exactly! So yeah, I think people who are interested in really learning more and learning it on a deeper level, I think they would like my blog.
Ryan: Awesome, awesome. Now the last question, the one that every guest answers. Your top 3 tips to live optimal.
Joe: I would say, take care of your circadian rhythm, so that's a mouthful! But it's not the way people think. It's restricting light at night, it's blue light or even completely getting rid of it, that's what I do. And you know, not eating past a certain time, so I consider that all part of a circadian rhythm, I think..
Ryan: What's your cut off time for stopping eating?
Joe: So, uh, let's say 7 O'clock or 7.30. It depends on the season. But let's say now it would be 7.30.
Ryan: Okay. And then as far as blocking blue light, I know computer screens, phones, TV screens are one of the biggest sources of that. I have a blue light blocker on all of my screens. Where do you..? Do you have..
Joe: Yeah, f.lux is the program I use for my screen, and then I have lightbulbs that I use at night, and I wear my glasses as well. So I'm not getting it from.. Cause you know if you wear amber or red glasses it's going to block out the blue light but you may still get it from on top or on the corner, so you don't wanna be in like a heavily lit environment with those glasses on. So I combine it. I try to block it out in my environment, I put on black tape, things like that. And then I also wear those glasses.
Ryan: Okay, so circadian rhythm was one.
Joe: Reducing stress is another one. And I actually think one of the.. And I would say, sun. Getting sun actually. So I think sleep is one of the most important things but I think if you're taking care of your circadian rhythm then the sleep should be fine and if you don't have any underlying health issues then your sleep is going to be fine. So circadian rhythm, stress reduction and sun would probably be my top 3.
Ryan: Awesome, those are great answers. Joe, this has been an awesome podcast, I can't thank you enough for your time. Thanks for sharing all of your opinions, your insight, everything. So to all of our listeners definitely go check out Joe if you're interested in more, and as he said, in depth knowledge. Also, we talked a lot about some Natural Stacks products today. The Krill Oil, PreBiotic+, CILTEP, MagTech. Make sure you go to www.naturalstacks.com and pick those up! Until next time.
Joe: Have a great day!
Ryan: And also remember Optimal Performance podcast loves your 5* ratings, so head on over to iTunes and show us some 5* love. See you next Thursday.
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