Month: November 2019

14 Biohacking Secrets I Discovered In The Brand New Biohacker’s Handbook.

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biohackers handbook
 

Last year, in the post, “11 Indispensable Lessons I Learned From The Biohacker’s Handbook Of Exercise,” I introduced you to my biohacking friends from Finland – a pioneer of holistic medicine in Finland, human technology and self-quantification specialist, Teemu Arina, superfood hunter and nutritionist, Jaakko Halmetoja, as well as Dr. Olli Sovijärvi, MD.

At that time, the exercise chapter was the only chapter of their epic book on biohacking that had actually been translated into English.

But I’m happy to announce that their entire, 544-page “Biohacker’s Handbook” has now been released in the English language and boy-oh-boy – it’s an absolutely stellar read jam-packed with tips, tricks, and hacks I’ve never before seen. It’s the ultimate addition to any health, fitness, and nutrition enthusiast’s coffee table or bookshelf.

In this article, I’m going to share with you 14 biohacking secrets I gleaned from the brand new beautiful hardcover book, which they describe as the “definitive guide to upgrading yourself and unleashing your inner potential.” If you like what you see, you can click here to get the new book, and use code: BEN for a 10% discount.


#1: Power Up Your Marinades

Throughout history, food has been marinated in herbs, fats, citrus fruit, vinegar, and alcoholic beverages such as wine and beer to preserve the food and improve its flavor. Studies have also found that marinades affect the amount of harmful compounds forming in cooked food.

Reduce harmful compounds by marinating:

  • The amount of heterocyclic amines (HCAs) is reduced by up to 90% when the meat is marinated for 4 hours or more in alcoholic beverages and strong spices such as garlicgingerthymerosemary, and chili or when food is marinated for 6 hours or more in beer.
  • Cherries, blueberries, blackcurrants, plums, and kiwifruit used in marinades effectively reduce the amount of HCAs.
  • Adding vitamin E to the marinade reduces the amount of HCAs.
  • Adding vitamin C reduces the amount of glycotoxins.
  • Adding turmeric diminishes the effect of glycotoxins.
  • Frying in extra virgin olive oil produces the least HCAs compared to other oils such as rapeseed oil.
  • The amount of AGEs can be reduced by using sour ingredients such as lemon juice and vinegar in the marinade.
  • The amount of potentially carcinogenic substances can be reduced by adding glucose during browning.
  • The amount of acrylamide in potatoes can be reduced by blanching them before frying.
  • Adding amino acids such as glycine and glutamine to the dough before baking reduces the amount of acrylamide by up to 90%.

#2: Prepare Your Eggs With Wisdom

Eggs should be prepared in a way that maintains the flavor and nutrient density as much as possible:

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  • The main egg white protein consisting of albumin contains enzyme inhibitors when raw. Because of this, the egg white should be cooked.
  • Avoid eating just the egg white.
  • Conalbumin interferes with iron absorption, avidin hinders the absorption of the Vitamin B complex.
  • The yolk should be eaten raw or slightly cooked. Frying or boiling oxidizes fats, denatures proteins and destroys one half of the precious xanthophylls of the egg.
  • In terms of flavor and consistency, even a small difference in the cooking water temperature changes the egg structure.
  • Keep eggs in room temperature and use within 7 – 10 days.
  • Refrigerated eggs will keep for approx. 30 – 45 days.
  • Do not eat eggs that are old, have a broken shell, or a watery egg white.

The book also contains several fantastic tips for choosing the right type of eggs.


#3: Try Berry Powders

Berries contain important building blocks for eyes. Mix berry powders of different colors in equal measure, for example:

Mix one tablespoon of the powder in your breakfast each morning. For comparison, 1 teaspoon of high-quality berry powder is equivalent to a half cup of berries.


#4: The Best Biohacked Ice Cream Recipe Ever

This heavenly ice cream combines the nutrient-rich properties of egg yolks, the benefits of fats, green tea polyphenolstrace elements and vitamins BC and E. Instead of causing sluggishness, the ice cream increases mental agility and improves cognitive performance due to the combined effects of fats, xylitol and caffeine, and theanine from the green tea. If MacGyver were to start his day with ice cream, this would be it.

Ingredients:

Directions:

  1. Melt butter and virgin coconut oil in a water bath.
  2. Mix all ingredients in a blender and pour into a dish.
  3. Freeze overnight in a freezer or prepare in an ice cream maker.
  4. Garnish with bee pollencoconut shavings or sea buckthorn berries.

If you dig this recipe, you also need to try the coffee recipe you’ll find in the book.


#5: The Ultimate Hangover Cure

Ingredients:

Blend the ingredients in a blender.


#6: Get The Most Out Of Isometric Training

Basic Principles of Isometric Training

  • Use maximal muscle contractions.
  • The set length is 1-10 seconds (increases maximal strength).
  • The set length is 45-60 seconds (increases muscle mass).
  • Use three different joint angles per exercise.
  • Rest between sets using a ratio of 1:10 (for example, 3 seconds of exercise, 30 seconds of rest).
  • Isometric exercises may be performed alongside dynamic exercises (the recommendation is to perform explosive exercises followed by isometric exercises).
  • Isometric exercises may be performed at the beginning or end of the training session. This way they activate the neuromuscular system in preparation for strength and speed exercises.

Sample exercise – maximal strength:

  • Deadlift (+ 125% 1RM): 6 sets x 6-second maximal lift.
  • The bar must be heavy enough to not move at all.
  • Use maximal muscle tension throughout the body.

Sample exercise – muscle and strength endurance:

  • Superset for biceps (3-4 sets).
  • Bicep curl with a bar x 8 repetitions (30-second recovery).
  • Isometric bicep tension at a 125-degree joint angle x 45 seconds.

The book also gets into a form of isometric training called “Eccentric Quasi-Isometric Training (EQI),” which I found quite intriguing.


#7: Try The “Gibala Method” As A Hyper-Effective Form Of Cardio

The Gibala method is based on a 2010 study conducted on students, published by Martin Gibala, a doctor of Physiology. The goal of the study was to determine the effect of high intensity (100% VO2max) interval training on general performance using a method that is safer and of slightly lower intensity than the Tabata method.

The study continued for two weeks during which six stationary bike workouts were completed. Each workout included a 3-minute warm-up phase followed by the interval phase: 60 seconds of action followed by 75 seconds of rest, repeated 8-12 times. There was no control group involved in the study. Gibala found out that this method achieved the same oxygen uptake benefits at 5 hours of constant pace endurance training per week. The method also significantly increases the force generation capability of muscle cells and improved sugar metabolism.


#8: Increase Your Brain Plasticity With A Few Proven Methods & Nutrients

Methods and nutrients that contribute to long-term potentiation (LTP) and brain plasticity:

  • Caffeine ( transcranial direct-current stimulation)
  • rTMS (repetitive transcranial magnetic stimulation)
  • Nicotine
  • Meditation
  • Racetams such as Piracetam (note from Ben – I primarily use Qualia for this, as it’s close to racetams but more natural and even more powerful). You can use code: GREENFIELD2018 to save some money on 
  • Magnesium (especially Magnesium Threonate)
  • Forskolin

#9: Use Cinnamon As A Memory Aid

According to a recent study (2016) conducted on mice, consuming cinnamon may improve memory function and brain plasticity in individuals with learning difficulties. Other studies conducted on rodents indicate that cinnamon slows down the deterioration of cognitive skills and improves the functional abilities of individuals suffering from Parkinson’s disease. It is possible that the future will see similar effects detected in humans.

Be cautious with cinnamon. It does have some toxicity, and the book has several little-known tips about which cinnamon to use and why.


#10: Drink The Brain-Boosting Chocolate Chai Chaga Boom

Ingredients:

Directions:

  1. Pour a liter (4 cups) of spring water in a saucepan. Add 1 tbsp chaga powder and 1 tsp golden root. Brew for 30-60 minutes until the liquid is dark in color. Add water if needed during the process to account for evaporation.
  2. Strain the warm liquid into a blender and add the remaining ingredients. Blend for 30 seconds and enjoy.

The beverage gives you energy, warms the body and offers a stimulating effect in a pleasant and consistent manner while providing a large number of nutrients. This elixir has the properties that support the immune system and the function of the cardiovascular system.


#11: Use The “Eisenhower Matrix” To Get More Done, Faster

The Eisenhower Matrix, also referred to as Urgent-Important Matrix, help you decide on and prioritize tasks by urgency and importance, sorting out less urgent and important tasks which you should either delegate or not do at all.


#12: Speed-Read With Ultra Precision

When you start reading, do the following:

  • Set the correct reading position by sitting at a table and placing the book at a 45-degree angle.
  • Review the table of contents.
  • Quickly preview and leaf through the book.
  • Images, tables graphics, and special sections.
  • Read efficiently, avoiding unnecessary eye movements (focus your eyes at the middle of the line).
  • Using a pen or the reader’s highlighting functionality, underline or highlight important content so that you can easily review it.
  • Take a photo of the underlined sections or cut them on a computer and paste them into a new notes document.
  • Review the underlined sections several times and reduce the reading speed for each iteration.
  • In terms of learning, writing notes manually is more effective than typing them on a computer.

Keep the following goals in mind:

  • Why am I reading this?
    – Never read anything without a clearly defined goal.
    – Most people read everything at the same speed because they lack a clear reason for reading.
  • What do I want to take away from this?
    – A fast reader adjusts his/her reading speed according to the goal and the text at hand.
    – Setting a goal only takes a second but it may save hours of your time.

After reading and studying:

  • Visualize what you just learned and connect it to the larger visual whole. You may utilize for example the Memory Palace technique in which you split your body or house into ten points. Visualize connecting the things you have learned to various points in a specific order.
  • To help remember the numbers, create an item for each number in your mind. Learn the numbers by recalling the items in a specific order.
  • Take a nap. It increases the likelihood of remembering.
  • Review your notes every few weeks. Repetition increases the volume of gray matter in the brain which is associated with information processing.
  • Try to teach what you learned to someone else. If you cannot find a suitable subject, write an article or make a video of the subject matter. 50% of the time should be spent consuming (e.g. reading) and the other 50% producing (e.g. writing).

#13: Minimize Your Radiation Exposure When Flying

  • Animal tests indicate that taking a large dose of antioxidants (such as glutathioneastaxanthinseleniumVitamin E, coenzyme Q10NACVitamin C, and Alpha Lipoic Acid before flying reduces the oxidative stress caused by radiation.
  • Animal tests indicate that taking a large dose of Omega-3 fatty acids (particularly DHA) before flying prevents inflammation caused by UVB radiation and reduces oxidative stress in the brain.
  • Animal tests indicate that taking fairly large doses of chlorella (500 mg/kg) and/or spirulina (60 mg/kg) before flying may provide protection from gamma radiation.
  • The regular consumption of potassium iodide, including before flying, protects the thyroid from radioactive iodide.
  • Speed up the exit of radioactive toxins from the intestine using activated charcoal and zeolite.
  • Avoid flying between 8 AM and 5 PM. the best time to fly is at night as radiation exposure is significantly lower when the sun is not visible.
  • Ask for a pat-down instead of a radioactive body scan (particularly in the United States).

#14: Try A Blood Sugar Balancing Cocktail

To be consumed approximately 30 minutes before a high-carbohydrate meal:

Read the book to get a bonus: the delicious blood-sugar balancing smoothie!


Summary

So that’s it. But I’ve only really scratched the surface of the host of valuable information within the pages of this book.

Weaving in practical knowledge gleaned from the biohacking trenches and combining modern technology with ancestral wisdom of foods, herbs, spices, fitness enhancement and more, the book is an absolutely epic read and a must-have for any true biohacker’s library. Whether you’re a beginner, intermediate or advanced, this massive book contains everything you need to optimize your life, and in this article, I’ve only scratched the surface of the knowledge and wisdom you’ll find inside the Biohacker’s Handbook.

This book really does take the latest research into holistic health and turns it into practical and applicable information in a visual and readable format. With more than 1500 references and hundreds of images, Biohacker’s Handbook is “the missing manual of the human body” and an essential addition to the library, work desk, kitchen, gym, suitcase, or bedroom of anyone with a genuine interest in optimal human performance, health, and well-being.

Since the book is self-published, it’s not available on Amazon, but you can click here to get it now, fresh-off-the-presses and use code: BEN to save 10% (there is also an electronic version). Enjoy!

P.S. These same guys also put on some of the best biohacking conferences on the face of the planet, and I’m a frequent speaker at these events, which span the globe from Helsinki to London to Stockholm to Toronto and beyond. You can get access to all six of their Biohacker Summits and 58+ hours of high-quality video content here. This is a fantastic accompaniment to the book.

 

 

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Middle age comes to us all. Heh, perhaps it already came to you. It’s certainly knocking on my doorstep.

And the fact is, if you’re anywhere between twenty five and thirty years old (yep, physical degeneration, loss of hormones and degradation of connective tissue can begin as early as that!), then you’re probably experiencing some slightly distressing effects of aging: you have more digestive problems, your skin starts to fold into wrinkles, you find yourself losing energy, strength, and endurance, sun damage accumulates, urinary problems arise, and a disturbing host of malfunctions amass as your physiological machinery wears out and starts grinding itself into the ground.

Unfortunately, these things are pretty much taken for granted today. Muscle soreness, creaky joints, restricted movement and more are accepted as normal and status quo, especially once you’re “over the hill” of forty. And when that hill is mounted, the snowball of chronic disease and hearing loss can start to pick up speed. Heck, I’d be a rich man if I had a nickel for every time a sixty year old hunched over with back pain, knees buckling with arthritis and adipose tissue spilling over their waistline, says to me, “Just you wait!”

After all – everyone gets lots of wrinkles and creaky joints as they age, right? So why should you expect any different?

Maybe you’re already aware of this and you’ve already looked into a few common anti-aging strategies. Perhaps a miracle anti-aging cream? A colonic cleanse? Fancy spa treatments? Overpriced superfood cocktails?

Or perhaps you’ve turned to slightly more fringe methods and attempted to take a peek into the oft-confusing world of “biohacking” your anti-aging and longevity efforts. Let’s be honest, there are a growing variety of basic to super advanced biohacks that “all the kids” are using these days – the mile-long list of which is enough to send your head into a fiery, careening tailspin, your time into a confusing pursuit of researching what might actually work, and your wallet into a state of significant emptiness.

Fact is, whether you’ve been trying to reverse the effects of aging, if your skin is sagging and your mind feels foggy and tired, if you want to get that ol’ spring in your step that once was there, if injury is just a misstep away and if you want to enjoy the outdoors with your children and grandchildren for decades to come…

 
 

…some strategies – even so-called, new-fangled “biohacks” – actually can indeed put the brakes on aging.

You just have to know where to start.

So in this article, you’re going to learn how your body ages, the physical processes that aging affects the most, how certain body systems like the immune system should function (and how they relate to aging), and finally, (perhaps most importantly) what you can actually do to promote your health and your longevity using simple, easy-to-understand biohacks that get you the best results with the minimal effective dose and effort.

The biohacks introduced in this article have been carefully selected for you to use for each decade past thirty years old, presented in a style that makes it simple and easy for you to understand and to make things as least confusing as possible when it comes maximizing your lifespan by using modern science.

But before diving into the basic best biohacks that get you the most bang for your buck, let’s begin by investigating whether you actually can defy aging, and a few key variables that actually affect aging, shall we?


Can You Defy Aging?

The truth is, your body is built to last. It’s a master of survival. But it doesn’t just survive. It wants to thrive.

A lot of people chalk up bad health and aging to genetics. And on one level, that’s true. But not in the way you’d think. Your genetics have developed to express themselves a particular way, under a particular set of circumstances.

And the modern, sedentary, junk-food-stuffed lifestyle isn’t the proper environment for them to show their true colors. If you don’t set the right lifestyle for yourself, you’ll get what modern society has come to expect – aging, and all the discomfort that comes with it.

64-year old hunk Mark Sisson puts it very well:

“Most of life is really much simpler than modern medicine and science would like to have you believe. You can have a tremendous impact on how your genes express themselves, simply by providing your cells the right environments. All you need is a basic understanding of how your body works and a simple philosophical roadmap you can use to find answers to just about any questions of health and fitness – whether it involves personal choices or lifestyle adjustments or whether medical intervention might be appropriate. With this simple strategy, you will forever be able to examine or evaluate any food choice, any form of exercise or any other behavior in the context of how it impacts your genes!”

Mark is one of the fittest old guys out there, with six-pack abs that would put an Abercrombie & Fitch model to shame. And, by blending ancestral living similar to his lifestyle with modern science (similar to the biohacks you’ll discover in this article), you too can enjoy functional strength and fitness, with far lower risk of injury – even when you’re forty, sixty, and eighty years old. The certified longest-lived person in recent years, Jeanne Calment, born in Arles, France in 1875, was still riding a bicycle until she was one hundred! She passed in 1997, at the death-defying age of 122.

There are plenty more examples of very long-living, happy, well functioning “old people”. For example, in this recent longevity podcast (in the news flashes section) I geeked out for about twenty minutes on several such examples.

So, how do you get there?

Well, admittedly, part of defying aging is likely due to genetics. Madame Jeanne Calment’s parents lived well into their late 80’s and early 90’s. Like Calment, you ladies out there have a better chance of reaching quite a respectable age than your male counterparts (the list of the oldest people in the world has more women on it than men). But no matter your gender, there are things you can actively do, habits you can develop, lifestyle changes you can make, and yes, even biohacks, that will all contribute to a longer, healthier, happier life.

But before diving into the practical things you can do to add years to your life, there are a few basic concepts you should familiarize yourself with so that you can understand how a human body actually ages.


How You Age

Biologically speaking, aging is an accumulation of damage, breakages in the molecular machinery of cells, a buildup of metabolic waste products that your body cannot break down, and the failure of biological systems that are increasingly unable to cope with the stress of daily life. Simply put, your body can no longer defend itself, repair itself, and purge itself. The three primary ways in which your body does those things are through the immune system, diet, and sleep.

So before moving on, here’s a brief explanation of why they’re so important to your longevity.

Inflammation and Your Immune System

Your immune system is vast and complex and involves a number of systems, including the vascular/arterial systems, the lymphatic system, the endocrine system and more. And a huge player in any immune response, whether to an infection, strain or fractures, is inflammation.

Inflammation, on its own, is not a disease. It’s part of a natural, healthy immune response that’s stimulated by things like environmental toxins, bad foods, and stress. Inflammatory problems arise when something in your lifestyle is out of balance. A poor diet and unhealthy habits can lead to overproduction of inflammatory chemicals, which, more often than not, run rampant once released. The normal Western diet doesn’t provide nearly enough anti-inflammatory nutrients.

Scientifically speaking, inflammation is the process by which the body’s white blood cells, and their products, protect you from invading organisms. When a strain of bacteria gets inside you, it might be attacked by what are called complement proteins. These basically puncture the membrane of the bacteria to destroy them by a process known as osmotic lysis. The bacteria can also be killed off through phagocytosis, where phagocytic immune cells engulf and destroy them. Or the infection can be fought (if the immune cells themselves become infected) through a cell-mediated response that reveals the hidden bacterium to the rest of the immune system.

This is a vital part of the acute inflammatory response. But when it occurs apart from a normal immune response, inflammation is connected to all kinds of problems. This is called chronic inflammation, a long-term condition that can last up to several years or more. Your body isn’t designed to deal with this type of generic immunological activity, and eventually, the excess white blood cells and their by-products can damage your organs. Chronic inflammatory systemic diseases (CIDs) occur when the stimulating trigger of inflammation isn’t removed, which leads to maladaptive responses that include rheumatoid arthritis, systemic lupus erythematosus, and multiple sclerosis, all of which increase mortality and reduce your well-being.

In light of this, your personal strategy to increase your years and improve their quality has to include some methods of minimizing the causes of inflammation and over-stimulated immune activity.

Diet & Fat Loss On Aging

You might be surprised to find out that there’s a deep-running connection between your immune system and your digestive system. Dr. Jordan Rubin describes the general brain-gut connection quite well in his book Patient, Heal Thyself. Early on in human embryogenesis (fetal development), some tissue called the “neural crest” appears and divides. One part becomes the central nervous system, and the other becomes the enteric nervous system. Later on, the two systems link up through a neural cable called the “vagus nerve”, which meanders from the brainstem through the organs in the neck and thorax, finally ending in the abdomen. This explains why you get butterflies in your stomach before going on stage, why you get stomach cramps before a hard workout or race, and why antidepressants can cause nausea and stomach upset can depress you.

But stomach problems don’t just lead to mood changes and depression.

Turns out, three-quarters of your immune system resides in your digestive tract. And that entire immune system is protected from its external environment (your food) by a thin, fragile lining that’s only one cell thick. If that lining is damaged and the barrier that it creates is penetrated, crazy things happen. You become allergic to foods you could normally handle without a problem, you get sick much more easily, and your whole immune system becomes overactive, which can result in chronic inflammation (hey, starting to come full circle).

And the things that punch holes in your digestive tract are things that you put there yourself – food. The number one offender is a chemical found on major edible plants like wheat, soy, and corn, anything that’s been grown commercially and sprayed down. It’s called glyphosate and it’s used to kill weeds and insects. Once it winds up in your digestive tract, nothing’s gonna stop it from doing what it does best: killing living tissue. And not only will it destroy your gastrointestinal (GI) lining, it’ll also disrupt the microbiome of healthy bacteria living inside of you.

You also have to be aware of your diet’s effect (or absence of) on oxidation in your body. Oxidation is a part of a normal metabolism, but just like other aspects of life, it involves tradeoffs. Your body produces energy, but at the same time it produces oxidants, or “free radicals”. Free radicals are essentially any molecular species capable of existing on their own, which contain an unpaired electron in atomic orbit. Many of these molecules are unstable and highly reactive. Some free radicals are actually produced by normal metabolic processes, but many are externally sourced by cigarette smoking, air pollutants and industrial chemicals, and these, along with naturally occurring free radicals, are active agents in many conditions, including atherosclerosis, inflammatory conditions, certain cancers, and the overall process of aging. If this oxidative stress is left unchecked, it can result in cardiovascular diseases and DNA damage faster than you can check into a nursing home.

This means that you’ll have to be more mindful the next time you go to the store. Even when buying “market fresh” fruits and veggies, or meat from animals that have been fed on any of these things, think about where exactly they came from. You don’t want to put the plant version of a napalm bomb in your stomach. You’re also going to need to include certain things into your diet as antioxidants to directly counteract the aging effects of normal metabolic activity. Here, you’re going to discover some of the types of food you should be eating, as well as dietary supplements that will help mitigate the harmful effects of your environment and your own natural bodily processes.

Sleep & Aging

You probably already know that getting enough sleep is important. What you might not know is that getting a certain amount of sleep is not the only thing that will affect your health. It’s the age-old principle that quality is just as important as quantity. One of the most cutting-edge experts on sleep, Nick Littlehales, delves into what really stimulates great sleep and what deprives you of it, and coaches some of the world’s most elite athletes, including Cristiano Ronaldo. He helps reevaluate the mattress you sleep on, eliminate airborne particulates, and more. And here, you’re going to discover similar issues that will have massive implications for your zzz’s.

Sleep is critical for the proper physiological function of every system in your body. When you sleep, your body repairs and revitalizes itself. None of this is new. But if you’re like many people, you also most likely underestimate the power of sleep as compared to a healthy diet and regular exercise. A man named William Dement, who headed up the team in the 50’s that basically “discovered” REM sleep, thinks that high-quality sleep is as powerful an indicator of longevity as genetics.

In the mammalian brain, you find what’s called the suprachiasmatic nucleus, which is thought to be the “circadian clock” that regulates normal circadian rhythms. Circadian rhythms, in a nutshell, are the human reaction to the night-and-day cycle. While they’re always generated by the body, their precise periods and phase relationships are set by external, environmental factors (e.g., the sun). The environmental factors do their work largely by means of photoreceptors and visual pathways. Light from both the sun and artificial sources directly stimulates the retinohypothalamic tract which triggers a circadian response that changes little throughout the day, and in our modern world undergoes delayed onset during the evening and is activated during late night/dark hours. The obvious way this type of stimulation begins is through those big ol’ honkin’ photoreceptors in your face – your eyes. But there are also photoreceptors literally all over your body in your skin. There are even photoreceptors in your ears. Even trace amounts of light that creep in through your window can have a huge impact on your sleep quality, all while you’re slumbering away.

As you can see from the examples above, your body is designed to act in a particular way under certain circumstances at specific times.

Your immune system is a huge machine, tightly packed with gears and cranks and nuts and bolts, that, when stimulated, starts to shore up your initial lines of defense with an army of cytokines and macrophages and inflammatory chemicals. But when you subject yourself to external stressors like a poor diet, you can throw off the delicate balance of hormones, inflammation and anti-inflammatory compounds, and your physical structure. That’s because your digestive system itself is a delicate flower, finely tuned to a point, and when something is amiss, your immune system is gonna feel it, since most of it is in your GI tract. And then when your hormones and inflammatory functions and stomach are on the fritz, the quality of your sleep will plummet. These three systems, responsible for defending, repairing, and purging your body, are tightly interwoven, so that even if just one is out of sync, they all suffer. As damage accumulates, you won’t be able to cope with the labors of daily life nearly as effectively as you could.

Taking charge of your longevity and health has to start with some tactics for regulating those systems and improving their function. And that’s the real reason you’re here right now. So armed with all this knowledge, it’s finally time to peel back the layers of the realm of biohacking, and present the barebones, do-or-die hacks to improve your longevity and well-being.


The Best Biohacks For 30-40 Year Olds

At this point in your life, aging problems may just be starting to manifest themselves. Or, if you’re lucky and took good care of yourself in your teens and 20’s, maybe they’re still a couple years down the road. Inevitably, though, there comes a time in a middle-aged person’s life when the body starts to turn on itself. And this decade in particular is an interesting one.

Your body is just entering early stages of aging, but in all likelihood, you’re still mobile and capable of moving in a way that 50-, 60-, and 70-year olds can’t. You might be experiencing some slight joint discomfort, maybe a tight muscle here and there, but overall you’re in decent shape. Your body’s digestive and nutritive processes, like protein production and synthesis, are also still in overall good shape. They haven’t yet been exposed to a lifetime of digestive stress, and your need for dietary supplementation isn’t as great as that of a 67-year old’s. You also don’t have the sleep-issues that many older folk do, like restless leg syndrome, and the greatest threats to your nightly rest most likely come from overexposure to light as you sit up late watching Netflix or scrolling through Facebook or Instagram on your smartphone.

So between the 30- and 40-year mile-markers, if you want to prevent more alarming aging down the road, your magical bag of biohacks needs to contain a variety of tricks for dealing with issues you’re already experiencing, as well as preemptive strategies to maintain pristine health in the decades to come. These biohacks need to focus on lots of good, healthy movement, nutrient-dense, strategic eating (we’ll discuss a few different strategies for hacking your diet), and eliminating the sleep-inhibiting effects of blue light. Right now, it’s all about naturally maximizing your body’s potential for well-being.

So here’s how to do it!

Inversion: Inversion is a simple yet incredibly effective anti-inflammatory technique. If you just finished a hard workout, or if you’ve been on your feet for hours on end, then you know how it feels when your feet and legs get heavy and sore. This is due to the waste products that have built up over the course of the day. They’re not being cleared out as effectively as they could be due to a simple yet powerful reason: gravity.

Gravity is forcing your heart and lymphatic system to work harder to clear everything out, so to speed up recovery, you need to make gravity work for you. Inversion helps to drain the blood, metabolites, and inflammatory by-products out of your legs. It also redirects blood to the head, reactivates the “rest and digest” parasympathetic nervous system, and stimulates lymphatic circulation. You can achieve this effect simply by laying on your back with your feet propped up against the wall. But you can also get more efficient with tools and techniques designed just for this type of therapy.

ELDOA routines are unique exercises that, among other things, help to stimulate greater blood flow (to help get waste out of your system) and reduce inflammation, particularly in the joints. An inversion table is also a valuable asset in anyone’s office, home gym or garage. It’s basically like a seesaw for racers, exercise enthusiasts, and stay-at-home parents who spend the day on their feet. You strap your feet in at one end, lay back, and it’ll flip you upside down. This will also help with lower back and hip alignment. Or, if you have a pull-up bar hanging around somewhere and don’t want a large inversion table taking up space, you can get inversion gravity boots. These take up almost no space, strap easily around your ankles, and have secure hooks that latch onto any solid, straight bar for total inversion and inflammation reduction. However you do it, just invert yourself.

Cyclic Eating and Fat Burning: If you’re familiar at all with fringe diet hacks, you’ve probably overheard someone mention the hot-topic words “intermittent fasting” and “cyclic ketosis”. Intermittent fasting hearkens back to the daily situation that ancestral man found himself in: food was not readily available. These hunter-gatherers couldn’t just wake up and pour themselves a bowl of Primal-O’s (with 7 essential vitamins & minerals!) and some raw goat’s milk. They had to physically work every day to find their food. And when food was scarce, they’d have to live off of their fat stores. So their stomachs inevitably got frequent breaks.

Today, though, that doesn’t happen often. But our digestive systems still function pretty much the same way they did thousands of years ago, which means that no matter how healthy or nutrient dense the food, excessive and constant calorie consumption is stressful to the body because it taps into precious energy stores to break down, digest, absorb and assimilate a never-ending onslaught of food. Just like with muscular training, you have to give your body a break to recover. In fact, caloric restriction can reduce the morbidity of a number of longevity-threatening diseases, including autoimmune diseases, atherosclerosis, cardiomyopathies, cancer, diabetes, renal diseases, neurodegenerative diseases, and respiratory diseases.

There are a couple different ways that you can fast in order to give your body a break from digesting food. The first is known as twenty-four hour intermittent fasting. For every twenty-four hour cycle, you’d have a twelve to sixteen hour fasted period, resulting in eight to twelve hours of eating. For example, you can eat dinner around 8 pm, then eat nothing until breakfast or an early lunch sometime between 8 am and noon the next day.

Then, every once in awhile (once every one to two months minimum), pick a day when you’re going to completely clean out your body and allow for enhanced cellular autophagy (basically a physiological “cleaning-house”) by engaging in a longer fast. By refraining from food for extended periods of time (twenty four hours or more), you’ll give your body a fighting chance to turn its attention to other matters, like cellular repair and restoration.

Ladies, though, be careful with daily intermittent fasting. Many women find that fasting causes sleeplessness, anxiety, and irregular periods, among a myriad of other hormonal dysregulation symptoms. That may sound slightly sexist and unfair, but it’s just the way it is. You will have much better results (without throwing a monkey wrench into your hormonal machinery) with occasional twenty four hour fasts than with alternate day or daily sixteen hour fasting.

Now, on to ketosis. The average American diet consists of high amounts of protein and carbohydrates (particularly if you’re an athlete). Both cause you to develop insulin and leptin resistance, which will cause your body to produce even more insulin. High blood insulin levels can lead to things like obesity, sleep problems, and hypertension, and it can contribute to inflammation. To avoid these problems, you have to make a fuel switch from sugar to fat.

When your body uses fat for fuel, it enters a state of high-efficiency fat-burning and it doesn’t release nearly as many reactive oxygen species and free radicals and that will reduce any chronic inflammation and cellular-level damage you might be experiencing. The standard ketogenic diet focuses on high consumption of healthy fats (70% of your diet, comprised of fat sources like MCT oil or coconut oil), moderate protein intake (25%), and very low carbohydrate consumption (5%). Give it a try and see how you feel!

Early Morning Light: Believe it or not, getting a good night’s sleep begins in the morning. To stimulate normal circadian phase cycles, you have to be exposed to some kind of natural sunlight, or its equivalent, first thing in the morning. Blue light, which is naturally produced by the sun, has a particular wavelength and has the highest energy of all visible light. It’s largely responsible for regulating your circadian rhythms via the direct retinohypothalamic tract pathway through your eyes.  A simple 10 to 20 minute walk outside in the morning will help you reset your biological clock and put you on a healthy circadian rhythm.

If you can’t access the sun, you can bring the sun to you! You can replace some of the lightbulbs in your house or apartment with specially designed bulbs that bombard you with blue light. But the fun doesn’t stop there. You can also get what are called Retimer glasses, which emit a bright, greenish-blue light into your eyes. These are particularly useful because, while the sun will stimulate waking activity, you can’t control when the sun comes up. If you’re waking up at some ungodly hour of the morning, or have trouble waking up at a reasonable time, the Retimer glasses actually let you completely reset your sleep cycles. If you wake up at 4 a.m. but don’t want to, you can keep yourself in low-level light until, say, 6 a.m., and then put on the Retimer glasses. After a couple weeks of this therapy, you’ll start to wake up naturally at 6am. You can also affect your circadian cycles through the photoreceptors in your ears. The HumanCharger is a set of earbuds that, in a way similar to the Retimer glasses, blast your photoreceptors in your ears with blue light, which will not only help regulate your sleep cycles but also stimulate greater activation of the visual and sensory-motor areas of the brain.

Total Darkness: Since blue light (which is generated by the sun and pretty much all electronic device screens and LED light sources) cranks your brain into gear and stimulates waking activity, you’ll need to reduce your exposure to it later in the day, and preferably, completely eliminate it when you go to bed. An easy way to do this is to download phone and computer applications that dim the screens by filtering the blue light out.

A great app is IrisTech software, downloadable on your computer. It was developed by a computer programmer who spent up to 10 hours a day staring at a screen. He knew that blue light had a high “color temperature” that could both cause major eye pain and strain and reduce the quality of sleep. IrisTech is specifically designed to eliminate that effect, so that throughout the day as you work and play on your laptop, you don’t throw off your circadian cycles. You can check out this podcast for a lot more information on things like IrisTech and unhealthy light.

Another easy option is to get yourself a pair of blue light-blocking glasses. These glasses are specially tinted to let other light wavelengths in while keeping blue light out. When it comes to eliminating blue light exposure while you’re actually sleeping, the Sleep Master Sleep Mask is an all-in-one, total light elimination and sound-reduction mask to help induce amazingly deep and refreshing sleep. It’s for everyone who wants to nap better, sleep better while traveling, and for those whose partners insist on watching TV or reading late into the night.

But since your photoreceptors aren’t limited to your eyes, if you want to eliminate all sleep-damaging light sources at night, you have to completely clear your room of LEDs, normal light bulbs, and light exposure from outside your bedroom. If you have any kind of artificial light coming in through the window (most of you probably do), you should install 100%, total blackout curtains. Even trace amounts of external light from a street lamp or storefront across the street can affect your circadian rhythms. If you have a Wifi router or electronic clock or computer with flickering lights anywhere in your room, you also need to cover all of the bright flashing lights with black LED blocking tape. It comes in all shapes and sizes to accommodate the wide range of sleep-disrupting devices that may be scattered across your bedroom.

G-Forces: Good lymphatic circulation is crucial to maintaining a healthy immune system. The lymphatic system removes and destroys waste, debris, dead blood cells, pathogens, and cancer cells, it absorbs fats and fat-soluble vitamins from the digestive system, and removes excess fluid from the cells. When lymph flow improves, more toxins are cleared out of the system, and the immune-boosting vitamins, minerals and essential oils you use will get where they need to go. But, while lymph flows through capillaries in a way similar to blood, the lymphatic system doesn’t have any kind of pump like the heart to force it around your body. It relies entirely on movement – resistance training, running, yoga, pilates, really any kind of muscular and joint movement. Even self-performed massages, known as simplified lymphatic drainage, promote better lymph flow.

But if you want your lymphatic system to work with more efficiency, you can stimulate it by generating G-forces. The term “G-force” refers to, in some cases, the force of gravity on any given planet (like Earth), and in other cases, the force of acceleration in any situation. Subjecting your body to low level G-forces causes greater lymphatic movement.

A trick I learned from a Navy SEAL commander that uses altered G forces to stimulate lymph flow is to bounce up and down on your feet without leaving the ground. You can also use a small, personal trampoline that can fit in your bedroom or garage – just make sure the ceiling is high enough. Vibration therapy also improves lymph flow. The full-body Bulletproof Vibe Platform, as well as localized devices like the MyoBuddy Massager Pro are both great options. However you crank those G-forces up, it’ll provide better lymphatic circulation than just lifting weights or practicing yoga alone.


The Best Biohacks For 40-50 Year Olds

Now you’ve entered what people typically think of when someone mentions “middle-age”. If you’re like most people, you’ve made your way through a couple largely sedentary decades, your muscles are weakening, arthritis might be creeping in, and your nightly trips to the bathroom are becoming all too common for your liking.

Unless you know what you’re doing, it’ll get worse and worse for another fifteen to twenty years, and then it’ll be even more difficult to reverse the effects of aging. So if you want to be the one that makes everyone say, “Charlene, you don’t look a day over 30!”, you need to start tending to every part of your body, from the skin on the outside to the white calcium foundations of your bones. 

At fifty, immune function is starting to decline, so you have to go beyond just stimulating more lymphatic flow. Your bones and muscles are starting to degenerate faster and lifting a chair across the room is a little more difficult than you remember.  And sleep starts to slip further and further from your drooping eyelids. You need more than just weird movements like inversion or more exposure to light to solve your problems. And that leads us to…

Vibration Therapy: Yep, more vibration therapy. Vibration devices are good for more than just lymphatic circulation. As you age, bone density decreases and fractures or complete breakages become much more common. This is known as osteoporosis. Full disclosure, osteoporosis can occur at pretty much any age. But as you get older, as bone density decreases and your strength and balance diminish as well, it becomes one of the key factors in age-related bone fractures. In particular, postmenopausal women are at higher risk for osteoporosis. Which means, as menopause sets in during your late 40’s and early 50’s, you should be doing as much as you can to promote strong bones. And vibration therapy is the perfect tool to do that.

Vibration devices generate G forces (for the Bulletproof platform, a rate of 2.7-3.3 G, or 26.46-32.34 meters per second squared) that force you to lightly contract your muscles in order to maintain balance and stability, and this contraction reinforces the intimate relationship between your muscles and bones. Muscle strength and stability are known predictors of bone density because like muscular strength, bone rigidity is directly proportional to the habitual mechanical loads placed on the bones. A bone that is subjected to habitual mechanical loads (such as through exercise) becomes well adapted to that load (i.e., increases density) so it can withstand the force without breaking.

One study conducted on postmenopausal women found that a 24-week WBV (whole-body-vibration) program improved both muscle strength and hip bone density, the second of which was not observed in the women who participated in normal resistance training. Investing in a vibration platform, although somewhat pricey, would be worthwhile so that you can stay active during and after these early middle years without a high risk of personal injury.

Collagen Smoothie: Collagen can significantly reduce the effects of aging. Your skin is your largest organ, serving many functions. One of those functions, specifically in the inner layer known as the dermis, is the production of elastin and collagen by fibroblasts. Collagen is the major fibrous protein found in the extracellular matrix of your body, as well as in connective tissue. When connected, collagen molecules pack together to form various types of structures like fibrils and two-dimensional reticulums, and they all serve a large, single purpose – to withstand stretching, hold your tissue together, and spring it back to its original shape.

But over time, the quality and quantity of collagen that the dermis produces can be seriously affected both by diet and exposure to the sun until it becomes disorganized and abnormal in nature. When you observe the skin in that state, it’s loose and dry, resulting in one of the markers of old age – wrinkles. By supplementing your diet with collagen, you can minimize the degeneration of your dermal and epidermal tissue. Collagen is also a crucial aspect of bone structure, so by adding extra, high-quality collagen to a smoothie or taking a collagen supplement like NatureFlex as you age, you’ll solidify your entire physiological infrastructure from the inside out. It’s as easy as throwing in a scoop or two of powdered collagen into a smoothie.

Supplement Your Sleep: There’s a host of culprits that will disrupt healthy sleep, but some of the most notorious ones involve a reduction in the natural secretion of the hormone melatonin. Melatonin is produced primarily at night by the tiny pineal gland, an endocrine gland located smack-dab in the middle of your brain. It’s normal function is to induce sleep. Over time, the production of melatonin degenerates. There are a number of environmental factors that impact how melatonin behaves and circulates, namely the light-dark cycle, but you can also influence its function through your diet. Its synthesis depends on the availability of its precursor, tryptophan (TRP), an essential amino acid (essential amino acids can’t be produced naturally by the body). When intake of TRP is low, melatonin production is inhibited. Luckily, TRP is readily available in foods like turkey, eggs, nuts, and different types of cheese.

But there are other nutrients that you’ve most likely never heard of that also have a massive impact on the quality of your sleep. A supplement called Sleep Remedy contains small amounts of the nutrients involved in producing melatonin, like L-Tryptophan but also 5-Hydroxytryptophan. It also contains something called phGABA, which is a key player in the initiation of REM (rapid-eye movement) sleep, the phase in your sleep when your brain becomes more active and intense dreams occur. Sleep Remedy was created by sleep physician and former Navy SEAL, Dr. Kirk Parsley, who wanted to design a supplement that let’s hard-charging or stressed-out folks settle down for the night, but it’s just as effective for anyone who’s dealing with the detrimental effects of aging on sleep.

Thick as Thieves: A 15th century tale of four thieves is notable today because, as they roamed the countryside robbing people and tombs as professional thieves do, they never got sick. Turns out, they made a habit of applying specific herbs and spices to their bodies that did two things: stabilized and supported their bodies’ natural immunological responses and eliminated dangerous bacterial bioaerosols. These included cinnamon, cloves, rosemary, eucalyptus, and more.

You can get different essential oil blends called “thieves” essential oil, made by a few different companies, and while the oil blends can differ a little, there are a few oils that are staples. One study observed the effect of a blend of cinnamon, clove, eucalyptus, lemon and rosemary on three bacteria species, Micrococcus luteus (can cause skin infections in people with compromised immune systems), Pseudomonas aeruginosa (can cause pneumonia), and Staphylococcus aureus (associated with a number of skin infections and life-threatening diseases and septic conditions). After 10 minutes of exposure to the diffused blend, these three bacteria (respectively) underwent reductions of 82%, 96%, and 44%. The oils also naturally increase the activity of your white blood cells and increase the strength of your lymphatic system. Cinnamon, for example, contains a number of chemicals, like trans-cinnamaldehyde, caryophyllene oxide, and cinnamyl acetate that make it a potent anti-inflammatory. And all these oils blend together to give you a major immunity boost.

Body Protecting Compound (BPC): Your body has a remarkable ability to protect itself. From the considerable powers of the immune system to the massive outer cellular coat we call skin, when you treat your body correctly, it uses the resources you put in it extremely efficiently. And one of (if not the most) impressive lines of defense is produced in trace amounts in your gastric juices to help protect and heal your gut. It’s known as body protecting compound (BPC).

Normally, it’s restricted to use in your GI tract. But you can also get it in a hyper-concentrated version known as BPC-157. When it’s injected into your body, it initiates an extremely potent level of biological healing activity that includes: tendon and ligament healing, tendon-to-bone healing so effective that it may supplant present reconstructive surgical methods, counteraction of the damaging effects of NSAIDs like ibuprofen or Advil, minimization of damage from inflammatory bowel disease, elimination of periodontitis, muscle healing, and bone healing. It may even help in the prevention of life-threatening conditions like pulmonary hypertension syndrome. This is biohacking at its finest and you can learn everything you need to know about using BPC-157 in this article I wrote. If you’re injured, deal with chronic inflammation, or suffer from gut damage, you should give BPC-157 a serious position in your supplement cabinet.


The Best Biohacks For 50-60 Year Olds

Half a century. That is impressive, especially by ancestral standards. Thousands of years ago, you would have been one of the most respected, experienced members of your community, because your age spoke on your behalf, saying, “I’m smart enough, fast enough, and strong enough to have made it this far still kicking.”  And back then, if you had made it this far, you were likely still in phenomenal health, capable of keeping up with your younger peers as they went through the day’s activities.

What our ancestors would NOT be impressed with is the range of biological degenerative effects that half a century inflicts on most first-world people today. But, as evidenced by the way people lived thousands of years ago, 50 years per se isn’t really the problem. Genetically, not much has changed. The difference today, as you’ve read over and over again, is the environment we set up for ourselves.

As genetic and molecular damage accumulates, it seeps deeper and deeper into your body, which means that at this stage of life your go-to biohacks need to affect change at the genetic and molecular levels. You need to start influencing the way your mitochondria behave, the way your sleep interacts with the earth, and the way your neurons are designed to work. There’s thousands of years of genetic heritage at your back, and with decades of biological damage in your system, you’re gonna need all the help you can get to capitalize on your genes’ natural expression. Here, you’re about to discover a few of the more fringe biohacking strategies that hearken back down the ages to put you in the best health possible at this milestone age.

Infrared Immunity: One of the hottest topics in the biohacking world is infrared/far infrared light therapy. Infrared light is a particular wavelength range of light, specifically, any light with a wavelength between 0.7 micron (1 micron = 1/1,000,000 meters) to about 0.1 mm. The light that we “see” reflected off of objects onto our eyes is shorter than 0.7. Anything longer than that becomes invisible to our eyes. But you can still experience it, and you have, anytime you feel heat coming from the sun or a campfire (examples of thermal infrared light).

Infrared light can be used in a number of ways to stimulate lots of cellular level activity in your body. In fact, your body naturally produces its own infrared light as a critical element of mitochondrial activity (remember, the mitochondria are the powerhouses of the cell). It’s so critical, that if you weren’t exposed to it either by your body or by the sun, you’d die. But you can expose yourself to greater amounts of external infrared light, which penetrates up to an inch and a half into your body, to benefit from this therapy.

Evidence has been mounting that infrared light therapy can, via photostimulation and photobiomodulation, benefit neural stimulation and regeneration, wound healing, and cancer treatment. And at specific wavelengths like 0.85 micron, infrared light can even reduce inflammation by regulating the activity of T-cell cytokines, molecules secreted by a number of different cells that tell your body to direct energy and reinforcements to areas that may be inflamed. I immerse my body in red infrared light while working in my office with the Joovv Light that hangs on my office door. If you want to completely immerse yourself in infrared light for complete and total absorption, you can install an infrared sauna like the Clearlight Infrared Sauna in your home gym, garage, workshed, or pretty much anywhere. And while you do have to be careful when using infrared light (near, mid-range, or far), the benefits they lend when used properly are enormous.

Vitamin E Supplementation: As you’ve already learned, over time your body loses its ability to keep your skin and connective tissue both tight and flexible. One of the big reasons why is long-term exposure to the sun. But another, which by now you’re very familiar with, is oxidative stress. When the activity of free radicals in the dermis, the part of the skin right underneath the very outer layer, is not regulated properly (which occurs more and more as you age), they begin to damage dermal fibroblasts. Remember that fibroblasts are responsible for producing the molecules that both tighten your body tissues as well as allow them to stretch without breaking. And, as already mentioned, collagen makes a great supplement to help counteract your degenerating fibroblasts.

But as you age, your amino acid and protein synthesis declines, so you need to take even greater steps. Vitamin E is a natural antioxidant that counteracts the effects of oxidative free radicals, and can actually reduce their impact on the skin by enhancing both skin moisture and elasticity. Vitamin E works in part by protecting cell membranes (like fibroblasts) from lipid peroxidation, giving them time to recover and carry out their appropriate functions. Vitamin E is a potent antioxidant that will help counteract aging.

You do have to be wary, however, whenever you supplement your diet with high levels of vitamin EResearch indicates that an overdose of vitamin E can could lead to hemorrhagic stroke, as well as damage the fetus when taken during early pregnancy. It can also cause nausea, diarrhea, stomach cramps, fatigue, weakness, headache, blurred vision, rashes, and bruising and bleeding. You should ALWAYS talk to a doctor about the proper dose for you personally. In addition, since vitamin E is a fat-soluble vitamin, it should always be taken with food, specifically with some kind of good fat, like coconut, avocado, or olive oil, fatty meat/fish, butter/ghee, just some healthy fat source so that your body can properly absorb and utilize it in the places that need it most. But, despite the effects that overdosing can cause, that shouldn’t stop you from using it appropriately to maintain a youthful appearance and skin conditioning. It’s all about the right nutritional balance!

Electromagnetic Sleep: Sleep disorders are more common in older adults, due to lifelong exposure to stimulants like caffeine and nicotine, disease-caused pain such as arthritis, brain/neural conditions, physical inactivity, chronic disease, and certain medications, supplements and herbs. If you’re experiencing problems sleeping or falling asleep, it’s crucial to take steps to reduce/eliminate them.

The EarthPulse PEMF Sleep Machine is designed to release a pulsed electromagnetic field of 10 Hz to restore your sleep cycles from jet lag, sleep deprivation, exposure to electrical pollution and other stressors, as well as stimulate cellular regeneration. PEMF (pulsed electromagnetic field) exposure sets off a few different physiological reactions by mimicking the electromagnetic field created by the earth itself (hence the name of the device). The human neurological system is known to be paced by what are called Schumann waves created by the earth, and our mitochondria are tuned by the earth’s core resonation, which is right around 9.6 Hz. So, when ancestral man went to bed every night (in direct contact with the ground, of course), he was exposed to this resonation. And again, being genetically downstream of our ancestors, our bodies have developed to behave much in the same way.

Most metal frame beds or box spring mattresses magnify the earth’s electromagnetic field to a damaging frequency that can extend far above where you lie. So by exposing yourself to the electromagnetic field given off by the EarthPulse, you’re placing yourself in pretty much the same sleeping situation as your ancestors (you should also look into getting a mattress with no metal in it, like the Essentia Mattress, which eliminates harmful EMF exposure). Put the EarthPulse right next to you in bed and enjoy a restorative, regenerating night of zzz’s.

Flex Your Neurons: 53-year old Laird Hamilton, one of the most successful big wave surfers alive, puts many of the 20-something year-olds he competes with to shame. His secret? Constantly learning new stuff. His garage is a personal testament to this philosophy, full of new toys he’s invented to surf in different ways, along with skis, snowboards, jetskis, balance devices and more. This whole approach to youthfulness and vitality is predicated on the way your neurons and brain work. Here, it’s all about developing neural plasticity.

The brain has the capacity to adapt to a wide range of environmental changes. This helped our ancestors to survive and spread across the planet. You can simulate that type of neural training by learning new physical skills and forcing your brain and muscles to keep up by maintaining and building new neurons. But you can get a lot more scientific with your brain training. There are lots of programs available for initiating the development of cognitive function. For example, Lumosity focuses on five aspects of cognition: memory, attention, problem solving, processing speed and thought flexibility. They collaborate with researchers and scientists from over forty different universities to bring you some of the most cutting-edge training available for keeping your neurons pliable and strong. Staying young as you get older depends on a healthy nervous system, and it with apps like Lumosity, it only ten to fifteen minutes a day to keep your mind sharp and your body youthful. If you really want to take things to the next level, try neurofeedback.

Electrostimulation: This is another method to keep your muscles and neurons firing into your fifth decade and beyond. Electrical muscle stimulation (EMS) really lets you capitalize on muscle training without worrying about straining or injuring yourself while you’re the gym or running in the park. And its benefits extend way beyond regular training supplementation.

Muscular atrophy as a result of chronic obstructive pulmonary disease, chronic heart failure, sepsis and multiple organ failure can be minimized and/or eliminated by the use of EMS as an alternative to traditional exercise. To understand how EMS works, you have to understand how your muscles contract and relax. Skeletal muscles have multiple layers of structure, which at the very bottom of the pyramid are founded on thick filaments of myosin and thin filaments of actin. The process of contraction begins with the myosin heads being bound to the actin filaments. ATP present among the muscle cells causes the myosin heads to release and bind further along the actin, by about 5 nm. Now, the myosin is in the “cocked” position. The myosin heads then rebind at a new position along the actin, causing the “power stroke” phase where the myosin returns to its initial conformation, sliding the actin filament along. And this all happens in a split second.

Now, EMS has what’s called proprioceptive benefits, which means the electrical currents “grab” the muscle fibers ( the myosin and actin) and cause light stretching and contraction, to stimulate blood flow and recovery from ICU-level conditions, as well as speed up recovery from a hard workout. There are a number of available products, like the MarcPro or the Compex Sport Elite. Whichever you use, this should be one of your go-to hacks to maintain muscle mass and strength as you get older, without risk of traumatic injury.


The Best Biohacks For 60+ Year Olds

You’re well over the hill now, at least according to current standards. Hormonal function has declined, your protein synthesis is at an all-time low, and a good night of sleep may be no more than a distant memory. Systemic, cellular-level degeneration dictates what you can and cannot do. Getting out of bed, out of your chair, and off of the toilet becomes difficult, painful even. Your failing muscles may limit you to your home, the grocery store, and the local early bird special.

If your lifestyle for the last six decades (or more) has mostly been physically inactive and fueled by beer, junk food, and dangerous, chemical-laden veggies, your body has fallen into disuse and disrepair. Here, before it becomes too late, it’s time to knock the dust off your limbs, replenish the delicate community of organisms in your gut that you’ve destroyed over the years, and restore your nervous system, which at this point is likely in a bad, bad way. This is your final stand against creaking joints and saggy skin, as you turn and defiantly climb your way back to lasting good health and decades more of happiness.

The Gastrointestinal Microbiome: Your gut is alive and crawling with critters – five hundred species and three pounds of bacteria in your digestive tract form a giant ecosystem, a microbiome, that helps digest food, regulate hormones, excrete toxins, and produce vitamins and other healing compounds that keep your gut and body healthy. As you age, it’s especially important to take care of your gut and its microbiome of bacteria.  There are lots of things that can disrupt it.

One of the biggest, baddest guys around is a chemical called triclosan. You don’t have to go far to find it – it’s found in common household items like toothpaste, soap, detergent, even toys, and it’s a known antimicrobial that will destroy the friendly bacteria in your gut.. When the concentration of healthy bacteria changes, it can lead to things like high blood pressure and atherosclerosis (hardening/narrowing of arteries), which itself can lead to life-threatening cardiovascular complications like strokes.

So to maintain robust good health into your sixties, seventies and eighties, you have to maintain healthy levels of stomach critters. Kombucha, a fermented probiotic tea, is a great, easy way to do that. Research has shown that kombucha can improve resistance against cancer, prevent cardiovascular diseases, and reduce inflammatory problems, all of which are failures or malfunctions of the immune system. You can get it at any pretty much any health food store in all sorts of delicious flavors. Yogurt, milk kefir, fermented vegetables like sauerkraut, and probiotic supplements will also promote a healthy gut microbiome.

Morning Protein Shake: As you age, your protein synthesis isn’t going to be as efficient as it once was. Specifically, skeletal muscle in older humans becomes resistant to the anabolic (constructive) action of insulin as it applies to the construction of more complex proteins from simpler proteins. This results in a process known as sarcopenia, the loss of muscle mass and tissue. And one of the most important things you can do to combat this is to take supplementary protein, with amino acids, especially leucine. Leucine helps reverse the effects of aging on protein synthesisLeucine also helps to regulate blood-sugar levels, growth hormone production, and wound healing, and also prevents the breakdown of muscle proteins after trauma or severe stress.

As one of the nine essential amino acids, the body can’t produce leucine on its own, so you should start off each day with a good protein shake that has a high content of leucine. But leucine isn’t the only important essential amino acid; after all, that’s why they’re called essential. They all serve different functions, which you can check out  here. A great source of the essential amino acids, as well as the branched chain amino acids, is NatureAminos Essential Amino Acids. And you can take your protein supplementation even further with digestive enzymes. You might have heard of digestive enzymes, but never really gotten into using them. Well, you should. You can crank out your muscular recovery to new heights by blending your protein shake with digestive enzymes like Masszymes, which will then literally pre-digest the proteins and amino acids before you’ve even gotten them into your system. By doing so, you’ll enhance protein synthesis and amino acid availability, and fully enjoy the benefits of your strength training.

The BioMat: Sleep in elderly adults is often restless. You may get less sleep, have trouble falling asleep, wake up frequently or wake up still tired. Part of the reason for this can be raised cortisol levels due to stressful conditions. Cortisol is a hormone that your body releases in response stress to help metabolize sugar and activate the “fight-or-flight” response. Stress can come from work, home, friends, the environment, anywhere. So, if you want to reduce cortisol levels, which inhibit good sleep, you need to reduce your stress levels.

The BioMat infrared sleep mat combines three technologies to help you get the best night’s sleep possible: far infrared rays, negative ion effects, and the conductive properties of amethyst channels. Far infrared heat in particular helps to stimulate blood flow and movement of fluids. If you’ve ever been by the beach, near a waterfall or been out right after a big storm, you probably felt this general “clean” feeling, which is the result of the negatively charged ions that are naturally produced in those situations. Negative ions clear the air of pollutants like spores, bacteria, cigarette smoke, dust and other particles (these are all positively charged particles), which can put your body under serious stress. By combining these with the amethyst channels, the Biomat delivers soothing, deep-penetrating heat therapy, reduces stress and initiates the regeneration of damaged cells in your body, all of which will help you fall asleep faster and wake up feeling like a million bucks.

Low-Impact Sprinting: This advice comes directly from the man, Mark Sisson. He bases this philosophy on the way primal man would have moved through the world. First, instead of performing long, slow, “chronic cardio” workouts, he does short, fast all-out sprint workouts (ultimate frisbee, treadmill high intensity interval training, hard, uphill cycling, etc.), and recommends doing these once every seven to ten days. Second, he does brief, intense sessions of full body, heavy weightlifting one to three times per week, for just seven to thirty minutes. And finally, he moves frequently at a slow pace, using things like treadmill workstations to get low-level physical activity all day long, avoiding long unbroken periods of sedentary time.

Now, the low-level movement aspect of this is fairly simple to implement. But, if you try a sprinting exercise at this age, most likely it will not end well because of the joint impact that most sprint workouts cause. There are even ways around this problem, though. For a low-impact workout, you can use things like the ElliptiGO Outdoor Elliptical Trainer. The ElliptiGO combines an elliptical with a bike so you can get the benefits of running and sprinting without all the stress on your ankles, knees, and hips. Since it was originally designed for cross-training and injured runners, it makes the perfect biohacking tool for any older adult who wishes they could move more, without hurting themselves, but isn’t sure how to go about doing that.

Stay Supple: It doesn’t matter how efficiently you train or how often. If you don’t keep yourself limber and supple, what good are your muscles gonna do? Olga Kotelko was one of the most prolific athletes over the age of 90, holding more than 30 world records in track and field events. She was so good that they sometimes had to place her in the mens’ events! Her go-to advice for longevity? Stay supple. She didn’t beat up her body every day without going out of her way to recover. She woke up every night, grabbed an old, empty wine bottle beside her bed, and gave herself a full-body, foam-roller style massage to break up the fascia (a web of connective tissue that can clump up due to exercise), and soothe her muscles and joints.

But there are much cooler toys than just an old wine bottle that you can use. The MyoBuddy, which was introduced earlier, makes a great addition to your collection of recovery tools. You can also get the RumbleRoller foam roller, the only foam roller that’s specifically optimized for total self-myofascial release to stimulate full muscular recovery and enhance lymphatic and blood circulation. In an age when muscle soreness, cranky joints and poor movement are common and accepted in old age, these should be some of the first things you reach for as you biohack your way to mobility and strength.


Summary

What are your greatest joys in life? Traveling? Going on a hike with loved ones? Enjoying a rich, delicious cabernet in the evening followed by a stroll in the cool air?

You could (and should!) be doing these and more for the rest of your life.

There’s simply no reason to accept the dogma that old age means less active, less healthy, and less vibrant. It’s said that the glory of old age is gray hair. And that’s true. But that doesn’t mean you can’t feel like you’re twenty years younger at the same time. Your well-being, the state of your immune system, your diet, and your sleep patterns don’t have to be subject to the routines of the modern world. You can take control of your health and shift your body into a state of longevity that reaches to your core.

In summary, here are all of the biohacks you’ve learned about listed for quick reference for each age-group:

30-40 years old:

  • G-forces for lymphatic circulation and immune function

40-50 years old:

  • BPC-157 for Wolverine-level recovery and repair

50-60 years old:

  • Infrared light exposure for the regulation of the immune system and inflammation
  • Vitamin E supplementation for antioxidant effects in your skin

60+

  • Kombucha for a healthy gastrointestinal microbiome
  • BioMat for stress relief and better sleep

Hopefully, this introduction to biohacking has been useful. At this point, you should have gained new insights into how your body functions, and how to tap into the true power of your genes that are just itching for the chance to express themselves the way they’re designed to. By no means was this an exhaustive list of the biohacks that prevent and reverse aging. There’s plenty more you can do to supplement these basic hacks. But the first step is always the most important and you don’t want to start your biohacking journey by shoving probes in your nose or strange devices and liquids up your butt.

So this week, your task is straightforward – give your genes that chance, and try using one of these sleep hacks you’ve just discovered. Work it into your daily habits. Whether you’re putting on a sleep mask, taking a sleep supplement or using a heat mat or chilling pad, just find a way to sleep better. As your sleep cycles reset, you’ll feel younger, fresher, more alert, and more efficient. You don’t need a science degree to combat aging, you don’t have to be an athlete to be in good shape forever, you don’t have to be twenty to feel twenty. Just start with the biohacks listed here and someday, you’ll be passing on your secrets to a long, happy life to your great-great-grandchildren.

Do you have questions, thoughts or feedback for me about any of these biohacks? Leave your comments below and I will reply!

 

What is Deliberate Practice?

Let’s define deliberate practice.

Deliberate practice refers to a special type of practice that is purposeful and systematic. While regular practice might include mindless repetitions, deliberate practice requires focused attention and is conducted with the specific goal of improving performance.

Read The Beginner’s Guide to Deliberate Practice to learn exactly how you can start practicing deliberately. You’ll also find seven in-depth examples of how to practice deliberately.

Can You Achieve Anything With Enough Practice?

Deliberate practice does not mean that you can fashion yourself into anything with enough work and effort, though. While human beings do possess a remarkable ability to develop their skills, there are limits to how far any individual can go. Your genes set a boundary around what is possible.

However, while genetics influence performance, they do not determine performance. Do not confuse destiny with opportunity. Genes provide opportunity. They do not determine our destiny. It’s similar to a game of cards. You have a better opportunity if you are dealt a better hand, but you also need to play the hand well to win.

Regardless of where we choose to apply ourselves, deliberate practice can help us maximize our potential—no matter what cards we were dealt. It turns potential into reality.

Read The Myth and Magic of Deliberate Practice for more on genetics, practice, and how to maximize your genetic potential in life.

Examples of Deliberate Practice

  • Joe DiMaggio was one of the greatest hitters in baseball history. I recently heard a little-known story about how DiMaggio developed his exceptional ability. Read more…
  • In some circles, golfer Ben Hogan is credited with “inventing practice.” Hogan methodically broke the game of golf down into chunks and figured out how he could master each section. Today, experts have a new term for his rigorous style of improvement. Read more…
  • How long does it take to become elite at your craft? And what do the people who master their goals do differently than the rest of us? Check out these lessons on success from Mozart, Picasso, and Kobe Bryant. Read more…

Best Deliberate Practice Books

Want more great books? Browse my full list of the best self-help books.

All Deliberate Practice Articles

Looking for more articles explaining how to apply these principles in practical ways? This is a complete list of articles I have written on deliberate practice. Enjoy!

 
 
Yumel Hernandez
Yumel Hernandez, Head of Partnerships @ Woveon || Formerly @ ERA
 

 
  1. Security
  • Insurance
  • House – A place to feel safe every night
  • Smoke/ CO Alarm
  • College (Many see it as security to in order to do well in life)
  • This is why people will only hire people they absolutely trust to take care of their children

2. Beauty

It drives our sexual desires. It fulfills everyone’s little ego and vanity. We are judged on it everyday. Wether we are trying to sell something or negotiating a contract. The way you look has a lasting impact. Do you look well put together? Does it look like you work out and take care of yourself? Is your skin clear? Hows your hair?

  • MakeUp
  • Haircuts
  • Gym (could be for health but a lot go mostly to look good and it has the effect of also improving your health so its double the good)
  • Nail Salons
  • Acne Treatment
  • Razors
  • Lipticks

3. Health

  • Recession Proof. If a person has a critical condition family memebers and themselves will try to everything possible to find the funds in order to go a procedure, buy medicine etc. After all life is beautiful.
  • Medications
  • Surgery
  • Root Canals
  • Medical Procedures

4. Transportation

  • Anything that will get me from point A to point B the fastest while being affordable. This includes:
  • Trains
  • Cars
  • Airplanes
  • Scooters
  • Bikes
  • There is a lot of money being poured into the last two ^. Even Uber and Lyft are acquiring this type of companies and jumping into it.
  • Check this video on what could be the future of transportation which I thought was interesting:
5. Baby Products

  • Adults will literary pay very high prices for products for their newborn. Parents deeply care about their children specially in the very early ages where they are fragile and adorable.

6. Experiences/Fun (Treating yourself)

  • Movie Theaters
  • Night Clubs
  • Vacation
  • Massages
  • Amusement Parks
  • Concerts

7. Food

  • Survival/Health
  • A way to catch up with friends & family (talk when out eating/do business)

8. Sustainability (Millennials are big on this)

  • Is it cruelty-free?
  • Does it hurt our beautiful planet?
  • Organic botanical ingredients
  • Many don’t buy a product but a lifestyle
 
 
 
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John Fawkes

Feb 20 · 22 min read

Photo by FotoEmotions via Pixabay.

When they work, nootropics can make you more productive, happier, more alert, and can help you build better habits. When they don’t work, they can keep you up all night, make you tired, give you a headache, or even cause a potentially dangerous overdose.

I’ve experimented with nootropics for years, but I don’t consider myself an expert on them. That’s why I brought in two people who are experts.

Mike (he prefers to go by his first name only) is the owner, editor and primary writer at Nootropics Zone, a popular nootropics blog. He is also the author of Nootropics: Unlocking your true potential with smart drugs.

Marius van Voorden is the owner of Nootropics.com, an online nootropics store which also publishes in-depth articles and guides on specific nootropics. He is the creator of Noocaf, a nootropic-infused coffee whose effectiveness I can personally vouch for.

Notice that both of them work in the nootropics industry. Marius sells nootropics under the Nootropics.com brand. Mike doesn’t sell his own branded nootropics, but he sells a book on nootropics and acts as an affiliate for nootropics companies.

That said, I have found them to be knowledgeable, honest and credible; their advice aligns with what I’ve learned in my own reading and research. They are candid about the dangers and limits of nootropics. Perhaps more importantly, they both stress the use of nootropics as an addition to, not as a replacement for, living a healthy lifestyle.

What follows is a transcript of the interviews I did with each of them, annotated with my own comments to add clarity or context. I’ve provided a wrap-up at the end to summarize major points and provide direction for you to get started with nootropics yourself.

The InterviewA Summary of Specific Nootropics Mentioned, with RecommendationsCaffeine + TheanineMelatoninPiracetamPhenylpiracetamCholineAshwaghandaModafinil and AdrafinilLSD MicrodosingNicotineHow to Get Started With Nootropics

The Interview

Mike: I’ve always had trouble focusing. When I was an undergraduate almost twenty years ago, I first started experimenting with nootropics. I didn’t know they were called nootropics at the time, but I started researching and trying different substances. Within a semester, my grades improved significantly. Since then, I’ve been researching, trying, and writing about nootropics.

Marius: I got into it as an aspect of transhumanism, which for me means the idea that humans, as we currently are, are not the best we could be. That naturally leads me to be interested in ways of being better, of improving ourselves. The range of tools for that is pretty broad — from therapy and coaching to meditation, and having a life schedule and to-do strategies, exercise, and proper sleep — for me, nootropics are another tool in the toolbox of things to try out and use.

Mike: The most important things you can do for productivity are to eat properly, get plenty of exercise, and get plenty of high-quality sleep. Most people don’t want to hear this, but it’s the truth. Nootropics come second. That being said, nootropics can be incredibly useful for boosting productivity. As long as you’re eating well, exercising, and getting plenty of sleep, nootropics can significantly improve your mood, reduce anxiety, and boost productivity. But if you’re not taking care of these three basic things, nootropics aren’t going to work nearly as well as they could.

Marius: It varies a lot per person and per life situation. Productivity can get blocked because of various things, and it varies just as much if nootropics help with that. Ideally, we’d have perfect information about how we work and why we work, and a perfect life schedule with a good balance of motivation and discipline rooted in long term goals. From there, it would be easier to see how and where nootropics could improve things. Realistically we’re just trying to make our life work the best as we can, and figure out for which bits nootropics can help on an experimental basis.

Marius: Most consistently, I use Melatonin. It lets me get a full night’s sleep in 7 hours instead of 8, waking up naturally without an alarm. I quite like that. Take note of the dosage considerations, though.

I use Tianeptine occasionally for a better mood, Phenylpiracetam because (for me) it reduces the activation energy to get started on things, and Adrafinil in addition to my morning caffeine if I need a lot of attention/alertness that day.

Author’s Note: The melatonin dosing is super important, and adrafinil and caffeine need to be used with restraint to avoid causing insomnia later that night. I explain this in more detail in my guide to overcoming insomnia.

Mike: I’ve tried them all. Okay, maybe not all. But I have tried dozens of different nootropics over the years. The ones that I keep coming back to, the ones that I use somewhat regularly, are some of the most common nootropics. Modafinil, caffeine and L-theanine, and ashwagandha are three that I use the most. The first two are for focus, and ashwagandha is to reduce stress and anxiety.

Author’s Note: Mike is referring to caffeine and L-theanine in combination as a single “nootropic,” as they’re commonly taken together. More detail on that in the final section.

Marius: I quite like Melatonin as a way of improving sleep, making your daytime more useful. It’s not always regarded as a nootropic, but I think a lot of the less-than-positive experiences can be ascribed to having a dosage that’s too high.

Mike: I don’t know if I’d call it underrated, but: caffeine and L-theanine. Since caffeine is so common, I think a lot of people overlook it as a nootropic. This simple nootropic stack, when dosed properly, can significantly boost productivity. The L-theanine cancels out the negative effects of caffeine (jitters, anxiety, crash a few hours later), leaving the user with a calm sense of focus.

Mike: Most of the nootropic blends out there that contain a bunch of different substances. You’re better off buying individual nootropics and combining them yourself. Not only will it be cheaper, but you won’t be taking extra stuff that you don’t need.

Marius: I always have major question marks with blended products, especially proprietary blends. I understand the appeal of a blend aimed at a specific effect, but in my experience the same nootropic affects different people differently, so you can’t make a general “perfect blend” anyway. And then as a consumer, you get a blend with lots of different things in it — it may have some positive and negative results, and you don’t know what caused what and how much of it caused it.

Mostly in life, I look for “gears-level understanding,” or understanding of the mechanisms that make something work. With regards to nootropics, that means trying out individual nootropics that aren’t blended, so that I can find out what effects a specific nootropic has. You see that idea reflected in our products, too — everything we sell at the moment is an individual nootropic.

Author’s note: I’m really impressed with both of their answers here.While I’m not always against blended supplements, more often than not they’re just a way for companies to pad the perceived value of an item by adding in a bunch of extra ingredients that either don’t do anything or are included in insignificantly small doses. This is particularly true when products include a “proprietary blend,” the label for which doesn’t have to state how much of each ingredient is included.

Anyone who’s big into nootropics and dietary supplements is aware of this issue, but it’s truly rare to see someone who sells nootropics for a living being this honest about it.

Mike: The ones that say “proprietary blend” on them. What this means is that, while they have to list the individual ingredients, they don’t have to list the dosages. You always want to know not only what you’re putting into your body, but how much.

Marius: Not a specific supplement, but in general I’m wary of some things being sold in bulk powder amounts. Not everyone has a microgram scale, and even then, some products can be quite risky if you misread the display. I’ve personally seen people misplace a comma on things that you really shouldn’t take 10 times more of it than they’d planned. This too shows up in our products: we sell capsules with predefined dosages for convenience, but also for safety considerations.

For the record, some things with big risks if you mis-measure are:

  • Caffeine (It has a really low lethal dose, riskier than most nootropics. Be very careful with caffeine powder.)
  • Tianeptine Sodium (The more common but less safe and less convenient variant of Tianeptine Sulfate. High amounts can lead to euphoria, which can be risky and even addicting.)
  • Any choline source (It can trigger depressive episodes in people prone to that. High amounts might trigger worse episodes, I reckon.)

I’m not a medical professional though, so this isn’t medical advice, just my best understanding of the general state of knowledge. Obviously, it’s best not to mis-measure anything in the first place.

Author’s notes: I’m not familiar with Tianeptine so I’ll defer to Marius on this one. Regarding caffeine — the lethal dose is around 5–15 grams, caffeine pills are normally around 200 mg, and most caffeinated beverages are 50–150 mg, with a few energy drinks going as high as 300 mg. So, I agree with him on not using powdered caffeine — and caffeine pills are very cheap anyway — but caffeine is very unlikely to cause a dangerous acute overdose in any other form. I would keep the dosage below 200 mg out of concern for sleep and addiction though.

Because bulk powders are the cheapest form in which to buy any dietary supplement, I do recommend them for safer supplements. Before buying a bulk powder, do your research and find out a) how easily you can overdose on a supplement (is it 5x the normal dose? 20x? 100x?) b) how dangerous is an overdose (can it kill you or will it just make you throw up?) and c) how easily the supplement can actually be consumed as a powder — does it taste okay? Does it dissolve in water? In general, I consume ketones and amino acids in powder form, but most other things in pill form.

Mike: The first thing I would recommend is that you’re eating well, sleeping well, and exercising. The first supplement I’d recommend for boosting productivity would be Modafinil. Many people find it to be effective and it’s generally pretty safe. Either that or caffeine and L-theanine.

Marius: Adrafinil is the most well-known one. It’s fairly noticeable for most people, which makes it easy to tell what it’s doing and if it’s doing anything.

Author’s notesI definitely agree with Mike—handle the fundamentals first before getting into nootropics. Regarding Adrafinil: it’s less well-known than Modafinil, but it’s also sold online, while Modafinil requires a prescription. Since Adrafinil converts to Modafinil in the body, it’s the more accessible alternative.

Marius: Any kind of nootropic, really. I’d love it if the idea of nootropics became more normalized. Currently, you only take things if you have some kind of issue. Taking something is supposed to bring you back to your baseline, but if you’re already at your baseline, then according to society, any further improvement has to come out of thin air, or through pure body and mind. But who’s to say what my baseline is, anyway? And what my best sustainable state is? And why would I not use all the tools I can find to get there?

Mike: LSD and psilocybin (the active ingredient in psychedelic mushrooms) microdosing. Unfortunately, due to the ridiculous drug laws in the U.S., it’s incredibly difficult to do scientific research on these substances. There are a lot of anecdotal reports that indicate microdosing can be incredibly effective at increasing productivity.

Author’s note: I agree with both of them. Currently, there is some promising research being done on psychedelics.

Marius: It’s hard for beginners to get into nootropics because it varies so much from person to person. You have to experiment with a few different things to see what it does for you, and what works for you. That’s not really a mistake on their side, but it’s definitely a problem. We’re thinking of creating a beginner’s pack, which has a bit of everything, to help with that.

Mike: Trying one or two things and giving up when they don’t do what you hoped they would. Everyone’s brains are wired differently. Not all nootropics work the same for all people. I, for example, don’t get much out of most racetams (piracetam, oxiracetam, aniracetam, etc.). However, tons of people find that they increase focus and motivation, improve mood, and reduce anxiety. Don’t get discouraged if the first thing you try doesn’t work. Keep learning about different nootropics and try something else.

Author’s note: Since neither of them said it—my answer would be trying too many new things at once, and consequently not being able to tell which one has which effect.

Mike: Some nootropics are known to negatively affect sleep. Modafinil, for example, can cause insomnia when dosed too late in the day. If you need to pull an all-nighter, though, Modafinil will absolutely help you get through the night.

Getting enough high-quality sleep should come before any nootropic. Most people find that, as long as they don’t take certain substances too late in the day, nootropics don’t negatively affect their sleep. If something you’re taking is affecting your sleep in a bad way, over time, it’ll catch up to you. Some nootropics might make you feel more alert and productive in the short term but, if you’re not sleeping well every night, your productivity is going to suffer in the long term.

Marius: It varies per nootropic. Adrafinil will keep you awake if you take it too late: it gets converted to Modafinil in the body, and Modafinil is also used as an anti-narcolepsy medicine. That’s gonna keep you awake. On the other hand, I call any supplement a nootropic that improves some aspect of yourself that you want to improve, so Melatonin is a nootropic as well. That one improves sleep.

Tolerance varies per nootropic too. We try to be very clear on that on our product pages; how often can you take it, can you expect tolerance, etc.

I’m definitely not in favor of things that have short term benefits at the cost of long term pain, and we don’t sell anything with serious trade offs like that. The overarching aim is to improve your life in the general sense, not in the short term. That being said, some people do say that they feel more tired the day after they use Adrafinil, but if you see that coming ahead of time you can factor that into your plans. Adrafinil can then still be a nice option to intensify one day, and then rest the next day. You’d have to try it out to see if that applies to you as well.


A Summary of Specific Nootropics Mentioned, with Recommendations

There are literally hundreds of nootropics out there—more than I could hope to cover in one article. Here’s some info on the few that Marius and Mike mentioned in their interviews.

The combination of caffeine and L-Theanine (often simply referred to as theanine) is one of the most popular nootropics- as well as one of the safest and most well-studied. It is widely recommended (and I concur) as the first nootropic that most people should try.

You know what caffeine is. L-Theanine is an amino acid analog of L-glutamine and L-glutamate, and is mainly known as one of the constituents of green tea. It contributes to the savory flavor of green tea (caffeine alone is very bitter) and exerts a calming effect on the brain. This calming effect mitigates the mental side effects of caffeine, such as anxiety and jitteriness, and is the reason why the effects of green tea are commonly felt as milder or more mellow than the effects of a normal caffeine buzz.

This combination is typically taken in a 1:2 ratio of caffeine to theanine, with the most common dosage being 100 mg of caffeine and 200 mg of theanine. Note that this is much more theanine than you’d get from simply drinking tea, as tea typically has 2–10 times as much caffeine as theanine. Theanine must be consumed as a supplement, though you can certainly get your caffeine from tea if you want. (Green tea typically contains between 30 and 50 mg per 8-ounce serving.)

Since caffeine tolerance can start building up with as little as 100 mg a day of intake, I would treat this dosage as a maximum, not a minimum. I suggest starting at half of that: 50 mg caffeine and 100 mg theanine, early in the morning.

Marius van Voorden: Good combination. Everyone is familiar with caffeine, and L-Theanine just improves the experience. Nice and understandable for people new to nootropics, too.

Melatonin is the primary hormone responsible for sleep onset. It is produced naturally by the brain in response to fatigue and low environmental light (particularly blue light) level. It’s also available as a pill — over the counter in the U.S. and some other countries, or by prescription in other countries, including most of the E.U.

As a supplement, melatonin is typically taken 30–60 minutes before bedtime to induce sleep. Melatonin supplements are usually dosed at 3, 5, 10, or occasionally 1 mg, but these dosages are likely excessive. As little as .1 mg can induce drowsiness, .3 mg can induce sleep, and .5 mg can effectively shift your circadian rhythm. Some people, like Marius, report that melatonin also helps them to get more refreshing sleep in less time — whether this is due to sleeping more deeply or simply getting to sleep faster is unclear.

Melatonin is very safe, with side effects no worse than placebo. This holds true even at higher dosages; while there’s little reason to use a high dose, there also seems to be little risk in doing so. Some individuals do report needing a higher dose for it to be effective, but this seems to be rare based on the research.

The optimal way to use melatonin seems to be to take between .3 and 1 mg, 30–60 minutes before you want to go to sleep.

Marius: It lets me get a full night’s sleep in 7 hours instead of 8, waking up naturally without an alarm. I quite like that.

Piracetam is the granddaddy of all nootropics, and probably the only one that can compete with the caffeine + theanine combo for sheer popularity. It belongs to a class of related nootropics called racetams, and despite having been around since the 1950’s, it is still poorly understood.

Studies on Piracetam have found mixed results. The most-supported use is in the prevention of cognitive decline—so much so that studies of other anti-dementia drugs will sometimes compare the effectiveness of the studied drug to that of piracetam.

Other than that, there are some studies which find that Piracetam improves memory. The effects are long-term rather than acute; it takes at least 2 weeks of continuous daily usage to experience benefits, and most users take piracetam for at least a few months at a time.

Anecdotally, many users report improvements in mood, cognition and the ability to focus, but these are not supported by research at this time. Many other users report no effect at all. Response to Piracetam seems to be highly individual.

Piracetam is typically dosed between 1200 and 4800 mg/day, split into two or three (ideally three) doses. Based on the research, 400 mg three times a day is a good starting point. After the first two weeks, this dosage can be gradually increased to 800 mg three times a day — the highest dosage to have strong support in the research.

Marius: Useful, depending on the person. The various racetams affect different people differently, which makes it hard to make general statements. Some experimentation required to see if it works for you.

Mike: It didn’t do much for me. I don’t seem to respond to many of the racetams.

Another member of the racetam group, Phenylpiracetam hasn’t been studied as much as Piracetam. It seems to have similar effects as Piracetam, but the required dosage is several times lower.

Like Piracetam, Phenylpiracetam seems to aid in preventing or slowing cognitive decline, particularly in stroke survivors. It has also been shown to reduce depression and anxiety…again, in stroke patients. Unfortunately, the research on it has mostly been confined to stroke patients.

That said, widespread anecdotal reports suggest that it has similar effects to Piracetam, but with more of a stimulant effect. At least one study has found that rats move around more, and faster, after taking Phenylpiracetam. This has lead to it becoming modestly popular for athletic enhancement, and being banned as a doping agent in many athletic organizations.

The typical dosage is 100–200 mg, taken 2–3 times a day, for a total daily dosage of 200–600 mg.

Marius: For me, it reduces the activation energy to get started on things.

Choline is not a drug, per se, but a naturally occurring essential nutrient. It is water-soluble, vitamin-like, and occurs naturally in many food sources — most notably in egg yolks.

Its use as a nootropic stems from the fact that Choline is the primary building block of Acetylcholine, the primary neurotransmitter responsible for learning. In addition, since a Choline deficiency can cause fat accumulation in the liver, Choline is sometimes used to help treat fatty liver.

Choline is one of the more popular nootropic supplements. It’s safe, affordable, and usually used in stacks with other supplements that act on the cholinergic system — as Choline can, at least in theory, potentiate anything else that promotes the production of Acetylcholine.

Research is sparse on Choline — the one study I could find found no effect from it. That said, the study had a small sample size and short duration, and its design bears little resemblance to how choline is used in practice.

If you want to try a Choline supplement, they come in several forms. CDP-choline and alpha-GPC are the two forms thought to be most active in the brain. Daily dosages range from 200 mg once a day, up to 1500 mg divided into several daily doses. I’d recommend staying near the lower end of that range, personally.

As always, start low and gradually raise it over the course of several weeks, and be especially conservative if stacking it with other nootropics. To avoid overdosing, take Choline in pill form, not powder form — see Marius’s comment below.

Marius (repeated from the interview above)If you mis-measure [… ] any Choline source […] can trigger depressive episodes in people prone to that. High amounts might trigger worse episodes, I reckon.

Ashwaghanda is an herb known in ayurvedic (Indian) medicine for its ability to reduce anxiety and allegedly help the body adapt to stressors.

It is well-established as an anxiolytic—multiple studies have found that Ashwaghanda is effective at reducing stress and anxiety. It has also been shown to reduce cortisol (the stress hormone) and c-reactive protein (a measure of inflammation).

The typical dosage is 300–500 mg per day, either divided or taken with breakfast. Lower doses, around 100 mg per day, may be preferable if combining it with other anti-anxiety agents. There’s a lack of data on how Ashwaghanda interacts with other anti-anxiety agents, so don’t combine it with prescription anti-anxiety drugs (at least without talking to your doctor first).

Mike: Ashwagandha (is one of the) three (nootropics) that I use the most…to reduce stress and anxiety.

Over the past few years, Modafinil has become one of the most popular well-known nootropics. It has been the subject of many mainstream media articles- and arguably a bit of a fad.

So what is Modafinil? It’s a prescription drug for keeping narcoleptics awake, and it’s very effective at what it does. It’s prescription-only in the U.S. and Canada. Adrafinil, on the other hand, is available over the internet, and it’s a prodrug of Modafinil — that is, it converts to Modafinil in the body.

There can be no doubt at this point that Modafinil reduces fatigue and enhances wakefulness. It has also been shown in several studies that Modafinil improves cognition, working memory, motivation, and subjective well-being in healthy subjects. That said, studies find more pronounced benefits in sleep-deprived subjects or those with sleep disorders. In healthy, well-rested subjects, the benefits are still there, but fairly minor.

While it is often compared to amphetamines, the effects are markedly different. Modafinil only slightly increases blood pressure and reaction time; overall, its effects seem to be less physical and more purely mental compared to most stimulants.

Modafinil is typically dosed at 100–200 mg per day. It has a very long half-life — around 15 hours — so it should only be taken first thing in the morning, before breakfast, unless you want to stay up very, very late that night.

Adrafinil converts to Modafinil at somewhere between a 3:2 and 3:1 basis. That is, 300 mg of Adrafinil converts to somewhere between 100 and 200 mg of Modafinil, so the starting dosage should be around 200 mg. Since Adrafinil itself has a half-life of one hour, the effects last even a little bit longer than Modafinil. Again, only take it first thing in the morning.

Mike: The first supplement I’d recommend for boosting productivity would be Modafinil. Many people find it to be effective and it’s generally pretty safe. Either that or caffeine and L-theanine. Modafinil…can cause insomnia when dosed too late in the day. If you need to pull an all-nighter, though, Modafinil will absolutely help you get through the night.

Marius: Useful for most people. The effect is similar to caffeine, but without the jitteriness/anxiety that can come with it. Adrafinil gets converted to Modrafinil in the body. Adrafinil will keep you awake if you take it too late: it gets converted to Modafinil in the body, and Modafinil is also used as an anti-narcolepsy medicine. That’s gonna keep you awake.

Some people do say that they feel more tired the day after they use Adrafinil, but if you see that coming ahead of time you can factor that into your plans. Adrafinil can then still be a nice option to intensify one day, and then rest the next day. You’d have to try it out to see if that applies to you as well.

Author’s thoughtsI like both of these but I use them very sparingly and at low dosages- like 50–100 mg, not 100–200, because of the long half-life. You can take a little caffeine with it in the morning, then have a tiny bit more caffeine around noon, to benefit from the synergistic effect. Since caffeine has a shorter half-life than Modafinil, that doesn’t keep me from sleeping the way a higher dose of Modafinil would. Regardless, I’d limit this one to 1–2 days a week, only on days when you want to work really late.

LSD microdosing is currently growing in popularity as a way to improve productivity, mood, creativity, and overall well-being. Due to its legal status, research on LSD microdosing has been nonexistent until recently. While studies are now starting to be performed, the results aren’t out yet. That said, many individuals have found LSD microdosing to be highly effective, even life-changing.

So what is microdosing? A typical dose of LSD is around 100 micrograms — most blotters are dosed at that level, and that’s the typical “party dose” that will make you hallucinate a bit, but not completely lose your mind and forget where you are. People who want to “trip out” might take several times that much.

A microdose, by contrast, is around 10–20 micrograms. This dose doesn’t cause hallucinations, and in fact, the effects tend to be very subtle. Mostly, it just makes you have a really good day. People who microdose typically take this dosage in the morning once every 3–4 days, and usually find that it doesn’t cause a tolerance at this level.

For more information, read this complete guide to microdosing by Janet L. Chang. One thing I will add that she doesn’t mention: there is a legal alternative to LSD, called 1-propionyl-LSD. Google ‘1P-LSD’; it’s sold legally as a designer drug on a few websites, at least for the time being.

Mike: [I’d like to see more research on] LSD and psilocin microdosing. Unfortunately, due to the ridiculous drug laws in the U.S., it’s incredibly difficult to do scientific research on these substances. There are a lot of anecdotal reports that indicate microdosing can be incredibly effective at increasing productivity.

Marius: Haven’t tried this either. It seems interesting, but I’m a little worried about research that claims LSD permanently increases how open-minded you are.

Yes, nicotine, the main ingredient in cigarettes. Surprisingly, nicotine in isolation seems to be far safer and less addictive than tobacco products, and is fairly popular as a nootropic. Part of this may be because cigarettes have other chemicals besides nicotine, but the rate of delivery is important too. Nicotine patches seem to be less addictive than other forms of nicotine, such as gums and inhalers — researchers attribute this to the slower rate of nicotine delivery in patches, which avoids any euphoria-inducing peaks.

Studies on nicotine’s mental effects in non-smokers are few and far between right now. One study found improvements in cognition and memory, another found that nicotine combined with caffeine synergistically increased energy levels and calorie expenditure, and a third found that nicotine may mildly improve focus.

Effects on anxiety are mixed — nicotine may increase or decrease anxiety.

Anecdotally, nicotine is usually used for focus, and to suppress hunger while working. For non-smokers, the dosage is usually 1 mg or less of nicotine gum, or 1–4 mg of a nicotine patch. Nicotine patches are the preferred method due to their sustained release. Since patches are dosed at 7, 14 or 21 mg in the U.S., users typically cut them up to reduce the dosage.

Marius: It’s interesting for habit formation. I reckon it can be tricky to use for people who want to see effects the first time you use something; that’s not really what nicotine is for.

Mike: I can definitely say that it increases focus.

Author’s notes: I’ve found low doses to be good for mood and focus, but they mainly enhance productivity for non-creative work. For creative work like writing, this stuff sometimes gives me writer’s block or otherwise makes me get stuck and unproductive.

For habit formation, you would use nicotine while engaging in the habit you’re trying to build, linking the buzz from the nicotine to the act of engaging in the habit, a form of operant conditioning. Like Marius says, you’d have to do this repeatedly — say 10–30 times in total, and at least a few times a week — to really build a new habit.


How to Get Started With Nootropics

There’s a lot to take in here. You’ll probably want to bookmark this article and refer back to it later.

If you’re totally new to using nootropics, I’d start with caffeine + theanine for productivity, at 50–100 mg of caffeine and twice as much theanine, first thing in the morning.

For anxiety, I’d start with Ashwagandha, at 300 mg, with breakfast.

For sleep, I’d start with 0.5 mg of melatonin, one hour before bed, every night. That said, melatonin is just one of many ways to improve your sleep — if that’s something you’re interested in, read my guide to overcoming insomnia and optimizing your sleep.

Most of all, remember that nootropics, like all dietary supplements, are just that—a supplement to, and not a replacement for, a healthy diet and lifestyle. Food, sleep, exercise, an active social life, and a fulfilling life overall are the foundations of mental health — nootropics just improve on that.

Better Humans

Better Humans is a collection of the world’s most trustworthy writing on human potential and self improvement by coaches, academics, and aggressive self-experimenters. Articles are based on deep personal experience, science, and research. No fluff, book reports, or listicles.

 

 
 

Thanks to Terrie Schweitzer. 

 
 

 
 
 
 
 

John Fawkes

WRITTEN BY

Los Angeles-based personal trainer, online fitness & nutrition coach, and health & fitness writer. I also sing a pretty sick cover of The Poison Heart.

 
Better Humans

Better Humans

Better Humans is a collection of the world’s most trustworthy writing on human potential and self improvement by coaches, academics, and aggressive self-experimenters. Articles are based on deep personal experience, science, and research. No fluff, book reports, or listicles.

 

What does it take to be an optimal human being?

 

Throughout history there has been much speculation. For Aristotle, the highest human good was eudaimonia. For Carl Rogers, it was the “fully functioning person“. For Abraham Maslow, it was “self-actualization“. For Erik Erickson, it was wisdom and integrity. For Erich Fromm, it was about having a “being” orientation (in which you value personal growth and love) instead of  a “doing” orientation ( in which you value material possessions and status).

But are these theories right? Over the past 30 years or so, a number of contemporary psychologists (including myself) have experimentally tested various aspects of these theories, and we are starting to get a clearer picture of those who seem to be well-integrated, thriving human beings.*

In his scholarly book “Optimal Human Being“, psychologist Ken Sheldon does a nice job summarizing and integrating a large number of these studies. Grounded in the latest science at different levels of analysis (evolutionary, personality, goals/motives, self and identity construction, social relations, and cultural membership), Sheldon offers some suggestions on how to achieve integration and harmony across the various aspects of your lives in order to achieve optimal human functioning.**

I will summarize some of his science-informed prescriptions here, in the hopes that it helps you in your own journey toward greater health, growth, and happiness.

1. Strive to balance your basic needs

It turns out that Abraham Maslow was pretty spot on with his proposed list of basic needs (although he did miss a few). A large number of studies have confirmed that humans across cultures have a need for autonomy, competence, relatedness, security, and self-esteem (see here and here).

Those with high autonomy feel as though they are authors of their own lives, and feel able to freely express their values and develop their identity, talents and interests. Those high in competence and self-esteem feel as though they are making good progress toward their goals, and are receiving positive regard from others. Those high in relatedness and security feel socially connected to others and feel as though they are part of a safe community.

The key prescription here is to strive to balance these basic needs. Without balance, it will be difficult to achieve optimal functioning. For instance, think of the workaholic who is high in autonomy, security, competence, and self-esteem, but has very little social connection with others. Despite high achievement, this person will most likely be prone to feelings of alienation, sadness, and loneliness. As Sheldon notes, “obtaining much need satisfaction may be a shorthand route to optimal human being.”

2. Set and make efficient progress toward self-concordant goals

On the path toward optimal functioning, you will want to set and pursue goals as effectively as possible. It’s important that you feel as though your self is constantly in steady forward motion.

But here’s the thing: this alone will not suffice. Mindlessly setting and efficiently achieving goals will not, by itself, make you happy, healthy, or fulfilled (see here). It’s important that the goals that you set have high “self-concordance“. People with high self-concordant goals have identified goals that are consistent with their identity, basic needs, personality, and talents.

In one study, pursuing goals for self-concordant reasons (because one enjoys and fully identifies with the goals) predicted greater need satisfaction and well-being than pursuing goals for non-concordant reasons (because of environmental pressures and/or internal compulsions). Therefore, for optimal functioning, behavior must be both effective and consistent with inherent basic needs and growth tendencies.

You can imagine a situation in which a highly smart and capable person is forced to go into a field (e.g., medicine) by his parents, but he doesn’t get a sense of autonomy because of the long work hours, and misses his friends. So this isn’t the optimal condition for him in his life. Or consider the person who has the clear talent for something as a child (e.g., playing violin), but never really enjoys what she is doing and never really views it as part of her identity. This, too, will not lead to optimal health, growth, and happiness.

Which is why it’s very important to…

3. Choose your goals and social roles wisely

What kind of goals are more likely to lead to optimal functioning? The research suggests that Fromm was right. Setting extrinsic goals (such as money, beauty and status) tend to make you less happy, whereas attaining intrinsic goals (such as intimacy, community, and personal growth) tend to lead to enhanced well-being (see here). It’s also important to choose social roles that best fit your unique personality (see here).

Often we have multiple goals, however. Which is why we should…

4. Strive toward personality integration

Many of the great humanistic psychologists, such as Rogers and Maslow (but also William James and Carl Jung), frequently talked about the importance of achieving personality integration. The latest psychology of goals confirms these seminal thinkers were right.

In one study, Sheldon and Tim Kasser measured personality integration by seeing how much people’s goals were congruent with each other and with basic needs, and how much the goals were chosen freely and were expressive of intrinsic values such as as growth, intimacy, and community. They found that the extent to which people’s goals were integrated, the more they felt as though their strivings originated from their own interests and choices, and the more they felt engaged in meaningful activities such as helping others or pondering the future. Integrated people also reported higher levels of self-esteem, openness to new experiences, vitality, satisfaction with life, self-actualization, positive moods, and fewer negative moods. Integrated people also felt more positive about their different life roles and felt all of these roles were in harmony with one another.

Clearly, having an integrated personality brings with it a whole nexus of positive, adaptive outcomes. However, sometimes you (or others) might keep getting in the way of adaptive integration. Which is why you often will want to…

5. Work toward modifying problematic aspects of yourself or your world.

There’s a lot of advice out there to just “be yourself”, or be “true to yourself”. But this advice is really quite misguided. Not all of our potentialities will help us make progress toward our self-concordant goals. Some aspects of our personality, like anxiety or disagreeableness, can downright get in the way of making progress toward becoming an optimal human. So the advice here is to not mindlessly accommodate your entire nature, but work on bringing out the character strengths and virtues that will best help you achieve your self-concordant goals. This may require learning self-regulation strategies (see herehere, and here) and learning more about your character strengths (you can find out your top character strengths here).

To be clear: Even though your personality is influenced by your genes, this does not mean that personality change isn’t possible. In this review, the researchers make a good case that substantial changes in personality and happiness are indeed possible through changes in activities and behaviors. Such changes that can cause substantial changes in personality and happiness include setting and pursuing self-concordant goals, adopting positive strategies for coping with stress, adopting positive mindsets and attitudes, and adopting behaviors specifically known to increase happiness.

Sometimes you don’t just want to work on modifying your personality, however. Sometimes you also want to modify your culture. As Sheldon notes, “be prepared to go against the cultural grain when necessary.” Sometimes being an iconoclast may be beneficial to optimal functioning. Some of the most important revolutionaries derived great meaning and enjoyment by rebelling against the status quo of their culture (see hereherehere, and here).

Ultimately though, you need to own yourself and your decisions. Why is why it’s important to…

6. Take responsibility for your goals and choices.

A common theme of the great existential philosophers, such as Jean-Paul Sartre, is that we must take responsibility for our choices. Similarly, Sheldon argues that optimal humans take an “intentional attitude” toward life, by consciously aligning their sense of self with their life choices. Sheldon argues for the importance of taking ownership of your self-concordant goals, as only you can truly alter yourself and your life, and follow-through on your initiatives with good faith.

After making a decision about which goal you wish to adopt, embrace the goal with all of your being, and consciously align your identity with the goal (it’s the difference between “I like writing science fiction” and “I am a science fiction writer”).

However, this doesn’t mean you must be rigid in maintaining your self-concordant goals at all costs. Sometimes we take ownership over goals that end up working against our ever evolving identity, personality, talents, and basic needs. Which leads us to #7…

7. Listen to your “organismic valuing process” and be prepared to change your goals if it seems necessary.

Central to Carl Rogers’ notion of the fully functioning person was getting in touch with your “organismic valuing process” (OVP). According to Rogers, the path toward becoming a fully functioning person requires developing increasing trust in your own ability to know what is important to you, and what is essential for you to live a more fulfilling life. Rogers believed that the OVP evolved to help us evaluate our experiences and actions and to determine whether they are leading us toward self-actualization. As Sheldon notes, all of us have experienced that “nagging sense that something isn’t right”. Optimal humans listen to that nagging.

Research suggests that Rogers was right. Sheldon and colleagues assessed changes in people’s goals and values over time. They found that people tend to move toward intrinsic goals (e.g., emotional intimacy, personal growth, societal contribution) and/or away from extrinsic goals (e.g., material possessions, physical attractiveness, social popularity) over an extended period of time. They also found that decisions regarding extrinsic goals took longer, suggesting that the OVP causes people to pay particular attention when growth-relevant decisions have to be made. The researchers conclude: “People really do have some idea about what kind of goals are most likely to be beneficial for their subjective well-being, presumably because they possess an OVP.”

Bottom line: trust yourself to abandon a goal if it is no longer appropriate for your growth. Constantly consult your OVP when making choices about which goals to adopt. You, and you alone, have the power to revise your goals as a result of new information. When the self-concordant goals you’ve adopted become inappropriate to your evolving self, personality, or basic needs, make a change.

It should be noted that Rogers believed that the OVP doesn’t only motivate self-enhancement but can also motivate more prosocial motivations, given supportive conditions. In support of this idea, research has indeed found that a strong intrinsic goal pursuit is associated with prosocial behavors such as helping others in our everyday lives.

Which leads us to the last suggestion for becoming an optimal human…

8. Transcend your self

In Man’s Search for Meaning, Viktor Frankl notes that

“Being human always points, and is directed, to something or someone, other than oneself–be it a meaning to fulfill or another human being to encounter. The more one forgets himself–by giving himself to a cause to serve or another person to love–the more human he is and the more he actualizes himself. What is called self-actualization is not an attainable aim at all, for the simple reason that the more one would strive for it, the more he would miss it. In other words, self-actualization is possible only as a side-effect of self-transcendence.”

Likewise, during the very end of his life, Maslow proposed a new need right above self-actualization: self-transcendence. He realized that many of his self-actualizers weren’t self-transcenders, and even some of his self-transcenders weren’t even self-actualizers. (Unfortunately, most introductorily psychology textbooks don’t mention Maslow’s updated theory).

Sheldon suggests that becoming an optimal human can be facilitated by striving toward higher-level goals that allow you to serve something beyond yourself. In addition to personality integration, try integrating yourself into the larger social systems in which you are embedded. Don’t just search for things that are useful to you, but be useful to others (see here)..

What do you get when these are all aligned? 

This is by no means an exhaustive list of suggestions for how to be an optimal human being, but it’s a good start. In sum:

  1. Try to balance your basic needs for autonomy, competence, relatedness, security, and self-esteem.
  2. Choose a goal that is in line with these needs, as well as your deepest self and talents, and that helps the larger community or world.
  3. Learn self-regulatory strategies and cultivate your character strengths to make efficient progress toward your goals.
  4. Constantly listen to your organismic valuing process, and modify your goals and personality as necessary.

Work toward all of this, and you will be well on your way to becoming the person you are capable of becoming.

© 2016 Scott Barry Kaufman, All Rights Reserved

Image credit: iStock

Just to name a few, all of these researchers have significantly advanced our knowledge of the optimal person: Edward Deci, Richard Ryan, Ken Sheldon, Martin Seligman, Charles Carver, Michael Scheier, Carol Ryff, Edward Diener, Heidi Wayment, Angela Duckworth, Adam Grant, Robert Emmons, Dacher Keltner, and Todd Kashdan.

** To be clear, by “optimal”, psychologists are not making a value judgment, or saying you should definitely live your life a certain way. It’s up to you how you wish to live your life. Instead, what they are saying is that those who seem to have optimal health, growth, and happiness do tend to have certain characteristics, and therefore we have a lot we can learn from such individuals. 


version of this post originally appeared on Scott Barry Kaufman’s website

 

MORE SCOTT BARRY

 

 

improve self-efficacy

Self-efficacy is the belief we have in our abilities and competencies. Albert Bandura (1977), a pioneer humanist and father of the concept of self-efficacy, defined it as “people’s beliefs about their capabilities to produce designated levels of performance that exercise their influence over events that affect their lives” (Bandura, 1994).

Self-efficacy determines how we think and feel about ourselves. For example, imagine someone who aspires to become a doctor but is not sure about his medical and academic potentials. He puts in all the effort and does his very best, but at the end of the day, he is unhappy as he lacks confidence in himself. What this person requires is self-efficacy – a strong sense of trust in himself.

Self-efficacy in all forms influence our thoughts, emotions, actions, and motivation. It operates mainly through the cognitive and affective channels and plays a crucial role in shaping our perception of life experiences. Bandura believed that we build a self-system based on our social skills, cognitive skills, observational learnings, and social backgrounds. This self-system is the backbone of our personality and self-efficacy is one of the essential components of it. (Bandura,1977)

Contemporary mental health interventions largely rely on promoting wellbeing by improving self-efficacy. Since self-efficacy affects almost every aspect of our well-being, psychologists argue that it is vital to help clients realize their self-worth and power through the challenges and topsy turvy of life.

This article is an exploration of the practical know-how of building, maintaining, and improving self-efficacy to aim for a better living. Through scientifically backed evidence and proven tips and tricks, this piece will open to you a whole new zone of improved self-confidence and guide you to achieving your desired state of well-being.

 

How Self-Efficacy Develops

Let’s get started with the concept of self-efficacy with this short video:

 

The nascent stage of self-efficacy lies in the early childhood experiences of the first few weeks of our postnatal life. Factors like breastfeeding, contact comfort, and a conducive physical environment account for the individual development of the child and directly contribute to building the way he thinks about himself. (Dixon, 2001)

As we start growing and having diverse life experiences, our sense of self continues to strengthen itself. Positive feelings like autonomy, love, and support from family, education, and encouragement act as catalysts to self-efficacy. A person with high self-efficacy is more likely to feel confident, perceive failures as opportunities to try again, and a great team performer. Self-efficacy keeps growing throughout life as we acquire new skills, have new experiences, take risks, and keep putting efforts to succeed.

Bandura recognized four salient sources of self-efficacy and asserted that it is by the interplay of these factors that we grow significant belief or disbelief in ourselves.

1. Mastery Experiences

Success directly impacts the way we think about ourselves. Succeeding in a task boosts confidence and increases the likelihood of achieving similar tasks again. We gain a sense of ‘mastery’ over it. Failure, on the other hand, does just the opposite. It breaks our confidence and leaves us in self-doubt.

Building efficacy through self-mastery requires resilience to manage expectations about success and accept failure positively. People who succeed after overcoming the obstacles and recuperating from the breakdown have a strong sense of self-belief efficacy.

2. Vicarious Experiences

The second source of efficacy roots from seeing others around us, especially people who we can relate to. Watching similar people succeed or hearing their success stories motivate us to believe that if they could, we can too.

3. Modeling Experiences

Role models have a vital role to play in building self-efficacy. Those are the people we follow, admire, and want to replicate. Their actions, principles, and achievements indirectly teach and persuade us to repeat the same. We are more willing to put in efforts and work in the direction that they show us. The only challenge of this source is that if the role models are wrong in their ways, it is likely that their failures destroy our self-efficacy or we too get tempted to go astray.

4. Emotional and Physical Experiences

Our present mental and physical states influence self-efficacy to a great extent. For example, a depressed person, or a person who is fighting with a rough disease, is less likely to feel very confident and optimistic about themselves. Negative experiences and stress make us vulnerable whereas positive experiences and happiness make us feel good about ourselves. Bandura (1977) said that the cues that we receive from our mind and body at any given moment and the way we perceive these cues shape our sense of self.

Internal and External Sources of Self-Efficacy

 

What is Low Self-Efficacy?

Self-efficacy is when we have a high degree of belief in our abilities to do certain things. A creative person who aspires to become successful must trust his art before he steps out to reach his goals. Self-efficacy is not being too rude or overly critical about ourselves, but rather an objective way of understanding and acknowledging what we are truly capable of. People with low self-efficacy have weak aspirations that often results in disappointments and lack of self-fulfillment (Margolis and McCabe, 2006).

People with low self-efficacy commonly share the following features:

  • They avoid accepting challenges as they fear failure.
  • They firmly believe that they are not capable of performing complicated tasks.
  • They focus on failures and adversities as personal shortcomings.
  • They are less confident about themselves.
  • They lack a sense of commitment to their works.
  • They have a hard time recovering from setbacks and underachievements.
  • They quickly lose interest in activities and works they were a part of.
  • They expect results without putting in efforts.
  • They are highly susceptible to depression and anxiety about facing failures.
  • They focus more on their weaknesses and less on their strengths.

 

Self-Efficacy And The Environment

Bandura suggested that the interplay of environmental factors with people having low or high self-efficacy predicts four variables (Bandura, 1997):

  1. Success – Person with high self-efficacy in a positive environment is likely to become successful and have a strong sense of self-motivation.
  2. Depression – A person with low self-efficacy who stays in a negative environment is likely to face failures and fall into a depressed state of mind.
  3. Apathy – Individuals with low self-efficacy who stay in a positive environment feel demotivated and helpless when their efforts fail or remain unappreciated.
  4. Effort maximization – People with high self-efficacy in an unrewarding environment are more likely to intensify their efforts to get the desirable changes in life.

 

Environment versus self-efficacy

 

4 Examples of Low Self-Efficacy

1. Low self-efficacy and child-rearing

A practical study on maternal self-efficacy and its influence on the incidence of learned helplessness (which is the opposite of self-efficacy) revealed that new mothers who had a high illusion of control over responding to the crying of audiotaped baby voices were more susceptible to helplessness. They were less attentive and showed symptoms of negative defense against mothers who had low illusionary control.

The study indicated that a high illusion of power is a dominant indication of low self-efficacy and is not proper behavior to be shown to kids.

2. Low self-efficacy and depression

study published in the Annals of Behavioral Medicine, 1997 explored the ways self-efficacy and learned helplessness impacted individuals with brain and spinal cord injuries. On examining a large sample of multiple sclerosis patients, researchers found that low self-efficacy was a powerful indicator of depression and helplessness among patients with nervous system dysfunctions.

Furthermore, the study also indicated that cognitive distortions in people with low self-efficacy indirectly contributed to their depressive symptoms and led to impaired perceptions of the self and the surroundings.

3. Low self-efficacy and pain management

Halsted Holman and Kate Lorig had developed a pain management intervention program for helping patients with arthritis and related conditions. Their research revealed that patients who had a low score on overall self-efficacy showed fewer improvements during the program. On the other hand, highly self-confident people showed significant pain reduction by the end of the program. Besides, they were always proactive and ready to take actions that could relieve them.

4. Low self-efficacy and career development

A research publication on women’s career development argued that the reason why many professionals fail to sustain motivation at work is the lack of self-efficacy. Despite the challenges of sex differences and job distributions, the investigators believed that strong expectations of personal efficacy play a key role in career achievements and accomplishments for most women.

The research was fundamentally based on Bandura’s principles and discussed the necessity of promoting self-efficacy programs at the workplace to boost professional success.

 

4 Ways to Increase Self-Efficacy

Self-efficacy enhances self-control. It impacts all the functional aspects of human functioning – from personal relationships to professional commitments, and social interactions, and relates to a low risk of mortality (Taylor, 2012). Together with resilience, self-efficacy helps in achieving goals and acquiring a sense of accomplishment in life, and here are some ways that can help in enhancing efficacy:

1. Stay in the stretch zone

Goal-setting is crucial to building self-efficacy. Studies have shown that out of the three personal zones of achievement (the comfort zone, the stretch zone, and the panic zone), highly productive people lie at the stretch zone where they can make the most of their abilities.

In the stretch zone, we are more willing to take reasonable chances and are resilient to failures and setbacks. Unlike in the panic zone or the comfort zone where we are unwilling to take chances or extend our efforts, the stretch zone allows us to have an insightful perception about us and increases the likelihood of achieving self-contentment.

We can try entering the stretch zone by:

  • Setting goals.
  • Doing things that we like to do.
  • Trying new things and facing challenges.
  • Accepting failures and criticisms positively.
  • Approaching the goals slowly and not over-stressing about results.

 

2. Set simple goals

Low self-efficacy makes us either doubt our abilities or perceive the tasks to be more difficult than they are.

As a result, we don’t make enough effort, blame ourselves for our under achievements, and destroy the trust in ourselves. A good idea to build and sustain self-efficacy is to set goals reasonably and approach them one by one. We can break the goals into smaller subgoals and work on achieving them one at a time.

By doing this, we can rejoice our small successes, and our goals become more manageable and accessible.

3. Look at the bigger picture

One of the most significant qualities of people with high self-efficacy is the power to look beyond short-term losses and not letting them break their self-trust. We have higher goals to achieve, and sticking to this perspective helps in maintaining a high self-efficacy. Self-efficacy allows us to sort our priorities, make better plans, and focus on them more efficiently.

4. Reframe obstacles

A practical psychological tool to increase self-efficacy is identifying obstacles, thought blocks, and reframing or replacing them with positive interventions. Reconstructing the way we look at failures and feel about them help a lot in changing the way we think of ourselves.

For example, a person with high self-efficacy is not likely to perceive losses as personal shortcomings. He would instead try to cope with it and find ways to handle it positively. Building self-efficacy allows us to understand that challenges and failures are inevitable; by continuing to believe in ourselves and our abilities, we can surely attain fulfillment.

 

How To Best Promote Self-Efficacy In The Classroom

Significant studies have shown a positive learning environment can play a crucial role in building self-efficacy among students of all ages. Research on teaching methods and self-efficacy found that when teachers followed a more interactive and collaborative learning approach, students had a higher self-efficacy score than when they learned in strict or closed classroom situations.

Although the study was conducted on a group of students pursuing a particular subject, the results were validated and held consistent when re-examined later on different age groups (Fencl and Scheel, 2005).

Undoubtedly, classroom training is one of the crucial and most important media for promoting and building self-efficacy.

A student with strong efficacy will:

  • Feel confident about his/her learning abilities and will do good in assessments.
  • Be interested in taking part in classroom activities and being proactive all the time.
  • Use the information efficiently to benefit his academic career.
  • Be motivated to apply and adapt to new lessons.
  • Show strong intrinsic motivation to learn from mistakes and overcome hurdles.
  • Inspire others with his/her way of life and achievements.

 

Bandura said that co-operative and holistic learning structures help students to work in association with each other and feel good about themselves. In such conditions, they are likely to feel rewarded and will do better in academic assessments than in isolation. Conducive learning environment allows children to face and enjoy the challenges – they perceive difficult tasks as something to cater to, rather than to shun away from. And as a result, they become more persistent, resilient, and self-assured.

Here are some ways that can help in promoting self-efficacy in the classroom:

1. Effective Communication

Effective communication includes teaching the students how to identify their goals, acknowledge their abilities, and training them to focus only on their strengths. Teaching self-efficacy is more comfortable when students are self-aware and know their intentions.

Simple ways of practicing effective communication in the classroom environment may include praise when a student puts in real efforts. He may or may not succeed, but the encouragement will prevent him from doubting himself. By using affirmations like “You can do it,” “You are smart enough,” and “I trust you,” we can help the kids to believe in their potencies.

2. Honest Feedback

Appreciations must be honest. If teachers go on praising students in the absence of any hard work or achievement, it will end up making the child delusional about himself. Teachers and classroom facilitators must be watchful of when to praise and when to point the mistakes, and at the same time, ensure that no sincere effort goes unappreciated.

Praising a child for his achievements, no matter how small they may be, goes a long way in boosting their self-confidence, and especially when it comes from a teacher or guide. It helps them to try harder the next time and learn from his mistakes.

3. Healthy Environment

A great way to endorse self-efficacy in the classroom is by creating a stress-free conducive learning atmosphere. An interactive lesson, a high-energy and non-judgmental assessment, or an engaging group activity can help in making the learning environment more comfortable.

As a result, students will feel less burdened and can communicate without any barriers. Many pedagogical studies have emphasized that group activities on nature make the students better team performers and foster a sense of self in them.

4. Positive Strategies

Positive pedagogical strategies for building self-efficacy in the classroom involve strategies that imbibe strength and self-belief in students (Schunk and Pajares, 2002). Such methods may include –

  • Setting short-term goals and helping students to achieve them one by one
  • Allowing them to talk about their problems and how they plan to deal with them
  • Not comparing a student with other students and letting them follow their own pace
  • Setting goals according to individual abilities

 

5. Modeling

Teacher and guides have a strong influence on students. They become role models, and kids draw inspiration from them. To instill self-efficacy in children, it is thus vital that the teachers and facilitators are efficient too. A student who grows up learning from someone who is under-confident or less supportive will likely be showing similar traits himself. And a child who learns from a confident and positive person will start building a firm trust in himself and reflect the positive energy that he receives in the classroom.

 

How to Improve and Build Self-Efficacy in Students

1. Choose task difficulty wisely

If tasks are too difficult or too dull, students may lose interest or avoid it for fear of failure. Moderately difficult tasks that are interesting and engaging are the ones that build self-confidence and increase attention in children (Margolis and McCabe, 2006).

2. Use peer role models

Sometimes, it is easier for children to relate to people of their age or at least close. Watching a friend work hard and come up for solving problems may encourage a child to try that himself. But at the same time, teachers must remember not to make the comparisons so stark that it hurt the children or make them feel small.

3. Allow freedom

Self-efficacy starts with autonomy. Children who are allowed to decide for themselves and choose their ways are more self-reliant and independent. It is always a good idea to let them choose their tasks so that they get to do what they want to and not lose interest in it.

4. Active feedback from students

Feedbacks are powerful classroom tools for building efficacy. Strategies may include asking students to write their comments and feedbacks at the end of each learning session or keeping the last few minutes of the class for letting them ask questions and discuss their opinions. Vocalizing own thoughts let the students judge themselves and also helps the teachers to understand what areas to address.

5. Active feedback from teachers

Feedbacks must be mutual and benefit both the teacher and the students in understanding themselves. It is an excellent idea to frequently give honest feedback to students about their performance and future possibilities. Teachers and educational guides must remember that the purpose of feedback is to enhance self-awareness, and not to discourage the kids, so choosing the words wisely is a priority, whether giving positive or negative feedback.

6. Promote efficacy in teachers

Enhancing self-efficacy in teachers increases the probability of making the students more self-reliant. Teachers who are highly productive about themselves and their teaching skills have a better impact on students and can influence them easily. They can bounce back from their stress and have firm control of their teaching style, all of which contribute to making the students highly self-liable (Hoy and Bandura, 2003).

7. Problem-solving opportunities

Daily problem-solving opportunities make the students face problems without fear and increase their chance of winning. It prepares them to meet challenging tasks and proceed from less severe to more difficult tasks. Besides, problem-solving also keeps their mind engaged and improves their decision-making abilities. Teachers can ask them to explain why they reached a particular solution for a specific problem and let them verbalize their thoughts.

8. Multiple learning media

Using a variety of learning sources can help students to sustain their interest in the task and engage more in it. For example, instead of the traditional chalk-talk or lecture methods, teachers can use more visual images, slide shows, online activities and resources to impart knowledge to the kids. Such environments, also known as ‘skilled navigation settings’ (Mahar, 2016), make the class more exciting and invite creativity in the whole learning procedure.

Needless to mention, they significantly aid in increasing self-efficacy and flexibility among students and teachers (American Society Of Horticultural Science, 2011).

 

Increasing The Self-Efficacy Of Students With Learning Disabilities

Students with diagnosed learning disabilities often show lower self-efficacy than other children of their age (Klassen, 2002; Hen and Goroshit, 2012). Self-efficacy directly contributes to academic achievements and success, which is why it is a prime concern for most LD education providers to help the students with dyslexia, dyscalculia, or other learning disorders, to be able to trust themselves (Irizarry, 2002; Prat-Sala & Redford, 2010; Margolis and McCabe, 2006).

Low self-efficacy and confidence are related to anxiety, stress, and depression among young students with LD (Pajares, 2006). It is vital to instill a sense of efficacy in disabled students as they can find the strength to face challenges and bounce back from disappointments or failures (Prat-Sala and Redford, 2010, p. 285).

Children with any form of learning disability are susceptible to getting depressed after academic underachievements or seeing them progressing much slower than their friends. They are in constant need of upliftment and reassurance that they have the abilities to achieve what they want to (Klassen, 2002).

Introducing efficacy building tasks and group activities in the classroom can go a long way in bringing the children back from the helplessness and take ownership of their abilities and disabilities (Bandura, 1997; Firth, Frydenberg, and Greaves, 2008). Self-efficacy plays a significant role in helping the kids to make academic choices, develop their skills, and take up new challenges to upgrade their knowledge.

Peer Mentor Program

One of the most popular and practical approaches to incorporating self-efficacy in LD students is the Peer Mentor Program.

research paper published by Christa Steiner, University of Southern California emphasized how the peer mentor program can be implemented in classrooms to benefit the learning disabled kids.

The program involves matching students based on their gender, cultural groups, and type of disability, and assigning them to peer mentors with similar backgrounds. The mentors would share with them personal experiences of successes, motivational stories, and guide them in their daily assignments.

The purpose of this is to evoke vicarious experiences so that the disabled kids can relate to someone alike and work on building themselves (Dembo and Seli, 2008; Margolis and McCabe, 2006).

During the peer mentorship program, the kids are encouraged to interact more, talk about their problems, and share their feelings. And since the peer mentor is a role model who is almost the same age and looks the same, there is no reason for the LD children to not believe or form associations with them.

Some strategies of the peer mentorship programs include:

  • Effective communication is a vital part of any peer mentorship. Mentors share stories of their achievements and failures to motivate the disabled students and encourage them to share their feelings too.
  • Appreciation and constructive feedback when the participants do something useful. Mentors explain with reason when they commit a mistake and help them not to repeat the same error (Bandura and Locke, 2003).
  • Mentors give positive reinforcements upon task completion to keep the students motivated and willing to repeat the same behavior.
  • There are regular self-assessments to monitor progress. It helps students to set self-raised goals and aim for greater self-satisfaction on watching their progress scores.

 

A Look at Building Self-Efficacy in Adults

Self-efficacy has a vast contribution to human well-being and functioning. As Bandura put it, “If self-efficacy is lacking, people tend to behave ineffectually, even though they know what to do.

As an inseparable aspect of personal functioning, self-efficacy impacts our cognitive processes, forms the basis of human motivation, enhances our organizational skills, and alters our emotional experiences (Caprara and Cervone, 2003).

The foundation of achievement and success is efficacy. It lets us believe that it is our actions that produce the outcomes we desire – so unless we choose to do something positive, or try to attempt something new, there is no chance of us succeeding or accomplishing a task. It shows us why we should approach a job with positivity and keep the self-doubts aside.

Positive scientists over the years have argued that our success and failures depend more on how we perceive the task to be, rather than how the work indeed is. The subjective reality matters the most, which is why it is so important to have an optimistic view of anything that we do.

Self-efficacy is more specific and circumscribed than self-confidence or self-esteem. It is an indicator of the level of trust and confidence we show in our actions. As such, developing self-efficacy is more accessible than working on other personality traits, and some measures include:

  1. Assessments of the individual’s capacity to achieve a specific positive outcome on a particular task.
  2. Assessments of the ability of an individual to engage and participate in positive actions that might lead to the desired outcomes.

 

Developing self-efficacy is the combination of the three sources – self-mastery, role modeling, and verbal persuasion. Most interventions that target to improve self-efficacy in the adult population are based on these sources.

1. Self-mastery

As discussed earlier, self-mastery involves structuring practices that result in success and avoid the chances of failure. For example, when a pilot obtains training before his first flight, he gets all-around exercise for long hours where he polishes his skills, practice the desired actions, and prepares himself for any unexpected situations on air. This practice makes him more confident about his abilities and reduces his chances of failing in the real task.

2. Role modeling

Most organizational setups follow this approach to foster self-efficacy among clients and personnel. In role modeling sessions, participants observe the actions of others and gain an objective understanding of favorable performances. It gives them an idea of why they should replicate the same and how they would benefit from building trust in themselves. Observing role models boost motivation and give us the power to accept and accomplish challenging tasks.

3. Verbal persuasions

Verbal persuasions include encouragement and praise words from others. For example, positive feedback from a customer can immediately motivate a new seller and give him the zeal to keep working hard. Verbal persuasions can also be self-directed. For example, keeping aside a few minutes each day to praise yourself and repeat affirmations like – “I am trying hard”, “I can overcome this”, “I am doing good,” “I look good”, etc., can immensely help in creating a strong sense of self. Irrespective of our talents, success, and failures, we can get the power to accept ourselves and keep seeking for better results.

 

4 Activities to Help Improve Self-Efficacy

1. Three Things Exercise

The Three Things Exercise is a self-help measure that allows us to keep track of our daily activities and how they make us feel. It is also a great way to prioritize our tasks without much effort.

The practice is simple as explained below:

List three things that you did in the past week and that went well?

    1. ____________________________________________________
    2. ____________________________________________________
    3. ____________________________________________________
How did they make you feel?

    1. ____________________________________________________
    2. ____________________________________________________
    3. ____________________________________________________
What are the three things/achievements that you wish to accomplish in the next few weeks/months?

    1. ____________________________________________________
    2. ____________________________________________________
    3. ____________________________________________________
How would you feel after you have accomplished them all?

    1. ____________________________________________________
    2. ____________________________________________________
    3. ____________________________________________________

 

2. Positive Self-Talk

Self-efficacy and self-awareness are often mentioned in the same lines. Efficacy starts when we start questioning ourselves and listening to our answers. A highly efficient person is well aware of what he feels and why he feels so.

He is ready to compliment himself, criticize himself, and ask questions to the self. For example, if something makes us happy, why does it make us so? Why do we feel scared to try new activities? Is it the fear of failing or past trauma that stops us from attempting new tasks?

We must keep questioning ourselves to gain a deeper insight into the mind and build a powerful sense of self.

Positive self-talk practice:

Set aside a couple of minutes every day to face yourself and talk to yourself. Stand in front of the mirror and tell yourself whatever you want to. You can shower compliments, motivate yourself to keep trying hard or ask yourself what is making you happy or sad.

Remember to answer to yourself and observe what your inner voice says. A good option would be to journal your self-talks and come back to them later to see how positive or negative they are.

3. Looking back at achievements

Focusing on failures and under achievements is easy. But a person with high self-efficacy would tend to focus more on what he has gained rather than what he lost. Recalling achievements and past successes reignite the self-confidence and make us feel that if we could do it then, we can do it now.

A good way of practicing this is by making a list of all our past accomplishments and successes, and coming back to them every time our self-trust stumbles. No matter how small the achievements are, keeping a note would prevent us from losing perspective or demeaning ourselves.

4. Self-awareness

To develop efficacy, we have to become the person who knows us. Gretchen Rubin had said, “self-awareness is a key to self-mastery,” and self-mastery is the direct path to self-efficacy. Practicing self-awareness can be, and there are multiple ways to do it.

  • We can keep a thought journal to record our thoughts and feelings at all times.
  • We can read the physical cues; for example, a ‘butterfly’ feeling in the stomach generally indicates nervousness or clenching jaws are an indicator of anger. Watching these small physical symptoms can help us understand our feelings that very moment.
  • We can also catch thoughts randomly and try to gauge what we are pondering on right now, and why.

 

5 Worksheets Designed to Build Self-Efficacy

1. The Self-Efficacy For Exercise (SEE) Scale

The SEE Scale is a simple self-report measure that indicates the self-efficacy of the participants. The test consists of nine statements that reflect your mental well-being, and the responses are categorized on a 10-point scale. Higher scores in the test imply a higher self-efficacy, and the proof is applicable for a wide range of the population.

2. Self-Efficacy Worksheet by McAuley

This exercise was first published in the Journal of Behavioral Medicine in 1993 and has been in use since then. The test items explore daily practices (such as exercising), and the participants respond to them by how confident they feel about practicing them.

3. Self-Efficacy Scale by Neupert, Lachman, & Whitbourne

This scale is an adaptation of Albert Bandura’s Self-Efficacy Model and contains questions about daily exercising. The answers are recorded on a Likert Scale ranging from 1 (Very sure) to 4 (Not at all sure), and a higher score indicates greater self-efficacy in the participant.

4. The Who I Am Assessment

The Who I Am is a very interestingly designed test that aims to increase efficacy by making the respondent more aware of himself. The test contains simple questions regarding who we are, what we like to do, places we have been, things we are good at, etc., and by the end of the test, the respondents feel more self-aware and regardful of ourselves.

5. Self-Efficacy Worksheet by Alexandra Franzen

An enjoyable and colorful exercise, the I Am Worksheet is an excellent self-assessment for improving self-efficacy. It is widely used in professional setups as well as individual therapy settings and gives the respondent a clear picture of why he should not stop believing in himself.

 

How to Improve Self-Efficacy in the Workplace

Most organizations today focus on recruiting people after screening how productive they are. Since a high-level of self-efficacy predicts high productivity, better workplace interactions, and a high output level, it is only reasonable for organizations to favor and promote self-efficacy among the workers, and here are some ways to do so. (Kanter, 2006)

1. Training and development

To increase employee self-efficacy, organizations can conduct specialized training programs and orientations that promote self-efficacy.

These programs are usually focused on workplace demands and provides an opportunity for employees to come together and build a strong self-perception.

2. Systematic self-management

Team leaders and supervisors can help employees in increasing their self-efficacy by setting reasonable goals, allowing them to express their opinions, active feedback mechanisms, prioritizing targets, and helping them with time-management and organizational skills.

3. Ensuring appropriate job demands

A great way to enhance employee efficacy is by maintaining clear standards of the job requirements and choosing candidates who are the best fit for it. Personality screening and other objective measures can help the workers understand if their skills are a good fit for the job and decide accordingly. This prevents the likelihood of failure or underachievement and makes the worker more confident about his skills.

4. Environment

Fostering a work environment that is conducive for all employees and supervisors is a primary requisite for sustaining efficacy. A highly rewarding work environment is where people support each other, work as a team, focus on building skills, and accept criticisms positively. Such a condition is a sure shot indicator of high employee efficacy and better performance culture.

 

Take Home Message

As the famous saying goes, “They are able who think they are able.

Self-efficacy allows us to progress every day, despite the inevitable inequities life puts in front of us (Bandura). Having a strong belief in oneself helps us in all walks of life, and at all ages.

Our trust in our potencies and capabilities help us sustain motivation and be more resilient to stress and adversities. With efficacy, we can accept ourselves as who we are, develop a conviction in our beliefs, and gain the strength to follow them.

Testosterone reboot: How to boost men’s hormones in midlife

Testosterone reboot: How to boost men's hormones in midlife

Personal trainer Matt Roberts had to come up with a new fitness plan when he realised his metabolism had changed in his 40s, writes Marjorie Brennan

Testosterone reboot: How to boost men's hormones in midlife

PERSONAL trainer Matt Roberts is on the top of his game, counting a long list of celebrities and well-known names, including fashion designer Tom Ford and former British prime minister David Cameron among his clients. But even he wasn’t immune to the effects of middle age, noticing that when he hit his 40s, his demanding exercise routine wasn’t having the same effect as it used to.

“It’s not that there was a great deal going wrong, but you do slow down a bit and you definitely start to have more aching joints and stiffness in the wrong places,” says the London-based, 45-year-old. “The training I did in my teens and 20s, which was super high-intensity, doing that in my 40s, there was a fear of slower recovery, more tenderness, so to stop that from happening was the key driver in trying to ensure I could stay in performance terms as well at 45 as I was at 25.”

In his pursuit of a fitness regimen for his clients, Roberts discovered more about the impact of decreasing levels of testosterone and human growth hormone (HGH) on men’s health in general.

He formulated an eight-week hormone-boosting health and fitness programme which he has now shared in a book,

Younger, Fitter, Stronger.

One Danish study cited by Roberts found that men born in the 1960s — those in their 50s now — had experienced a double-digit drop in hormone levels compared with those born in the 1920s. Many experts believe stress, poor diet, and low levels of physical activity are contributing to this decline, which can also result in fatigue, poor sleep, low sex drive, penis shrinkage, and even genital numbness. While we are all familiar with the grumpy old men stereotype, it turns out that low mood can also be a result of plummeting testosterone.

Roberts refers to studies that show older men with depression tend to have testosterone levels nearly 20% lower than normal. He says while the hormonal changes that hit women in middle-age have been well-chronicled, we tend to hear less about the effects similar changes can have on men’s overall health and wellbeing.

“Guys don’t talk about that stuff in the same way, though there’s a natural link between low testosterone and male health. It’s been bypassed totally — there’s no natural menopause moment for a guy, there isn’t a point as in a woman’s life when periods stop — a guy doesn’t get that, all they have is gradual dilapidation and slowdown. The effects and symptoms of that are quite dramatic, but they’re not spoken about and they should be because from the age of about 35 testosterone production is slowing down and that affects key things which are important to a guy — but we don’t speak about that because it’s too embarrassing.”

There has been a notable increase in the number of middle-aged men taking to the roads on foot or on bikes to improve their fitness levels but Roberts says that men need more than cardio exercise for all-round good health.

“It’s good exercise, it’s something positive, and that’s great for your heart and lungs, they’re getting fitter and stronger. But if your aim is to maintain good hormone health, strength, good posture, energy levels, then you need high-intensity exercise, like lifting heavy weights, moving heavy objects, going to a level of overload that’s significant for short periods, and then appropriate rest before doing it again.

“Cycling and long-distance running are quite draining and there’s evidence to show that testosterone levels can dip rather than grow from them.”

While Roberts writes that global sales of testosterone replacement products now exceed €1.5bn, he believes drugs and chemical intervention are not the answer for the vast majority of men and that HGH and male hormones can be rebooted through diet and exercise.

While the book provides a comprehensive guide to the best hormone-boosting foods to eat (see panel), Roberts also recommends intermittent fasting.

“It’s phenomenally important to do this from time to time — how frequently differs from person to person. It’s not that difficult, it’s a 16:8 approach, 16 hours eating nothing then you break the fast and have eight hours of relatively controlled eating. Research shows the human growth hormone is significantly higher if you train post-fast than if you do high-intensity on its own, so there’s a big response in cellular growth, muscle growth, strength growth, to get the body re-energised.”

Testosterone reboot: How to boost men's hormones in midlife

Robert says that his targeted training and diet programme has resulted in dramatic results among some of his clients, with many looking and feeling ten years younger.

“We’ve done testosterone testing on people throughout the process and seen in all cases gains in testosterone, and gains in wellbeing and energy, with more focused thinking and improved sleep patterns — all these things effectively mirror a decrease in your personal age.”

He says men who are concerned about testosterone levels should go to their GP to get tested.

There is no hesitation in Roberts’ response when I suggest that he has particularly high levels of energy. “God, yeah, absolutely,” he replies. He also displays the ‘tough love’ approach that has made him so successful when I ask him about men who might lack motivation and struggle to follow his programme.

“This is interesting because it requires an attitude shift, which isn’t always palatable. The problem is when you work hard, and have commitments, time is limited, but I make time to exercise because if I don’t then I won’t be as productive in all those other things. Also, the problem is we are mentally tired, but we need to physically do something to give ourselves a mental break.

“You’re not looking for hours and hours, it’s just a few hours per week. If you sit someone down and ask them how many hours of

Game of Thrones

they watch in a week, there’s some time right there. So your choice is to sit down and watch a box set or to get off your arse and do something, because ultimately it is worthwhile. That’s a difficult choice to make because we value our social and personal time highly. We have to keep on remembering the bad outcome from not doing anything good for yourself.

“We age more quickly, we get fatter — if you’re happy with that scenario that’s great, keep going as you are. If you’re not happy with that scenario, then you have a choice to make.”

Testosterone reboot: How to boost men's hormones in midlife

Matt Roberts’ Younger, Fitter, Stronger: The Revolutionary 8-week Fitness Plan for Men, €23.79, is published by Bloomsbury

Everyday stretches

– Matt Roberts

MOBILITY and flexibility are hugely important, but often overlooked, aspects of fitness. They matter because they enable us to move more freely and to avoid the postural problems that inhibit our fitness progress. As we get older, our flexibility declines by quite a rapid rate, but we can stem that deterioration with regular stretching. I’m not saying that you need to do all of these stretches every day. But by incorporating them into your routine — make them a habit when you are sitting in front of the TV, for example — you will reap the benefits.

Cobra to Child Pose

Lie face down on the floor with your hands underneath your shoulders, fingers pointing forwards. Lift your chest away from the floor by pressing your palms into the ground, keeping your elbows close to your body. Your elbows should be positioned directly under your shoulders. Hold this stretch for 4-5 seconds.

Testosterone reboot: How to boost men's hormones in midlife

To transition to Child’s Pose, lift your hips off the ground, keeping your knees and forearms on the floor, and sit back until your bottom rests on your heels. Let your forehead come close to the floor. Hold this position for 4-5 seconds.

Testosterone reboot: How to boost men's hormones in midlife

Side-lying Windmill

Lie on your left side with your knees bent and stacked on top of each other. Keep your left shoulder and hip rooted to the ground. Bring both of your arms straight out to your left side. Your arms should stack on top of each other.

Testosterone reboot: How to boost men's hormones in midlife

Rotate the right arm up and over your head while trying to touch your fingers to the ground. Allow your eyes to follow your arm for as long as possible. Rotate fully around to the starting position. Pause briefly and start again.

Testosterone reboot: How to boost men's hormones in midlife

90/90 Hip Stretch

Sitting on the floor, place your right leg out front. Bend your knee at 90 degrees so your outer thigh and outer lower leg are resting on the floor. Your thigh should be perpendicular to your body. Place your other leg out to the side with the inner thigh touching the floor and the knee bent at 90 degrees. Place your hands on the floor on each side of the front leg.

Testosterone reboot: How to boost men's hormones in midlife

Slowly lower your chest towards your knee, keeping your shoulders squared to the floor. Don’t drop to the elbow unless both can be on the floor equally. With this stretch even just sitting in the initial position and moving around a little will really help mobilise your hips.

Testosterone reboot: How to boost men's hormones in midlife

Couch Stretch

With your back to a bench or couch, kneel in front of it. Place your left foot up onto the edge or top of the couch behind you. The left knee should be close to the bottom of the bench or couch. Then place your right foot forward so your knee is bent at 90 degrees and gradually raise your body, by first moving your hands on to your front thigh and then lifting the chest up tall.

While doing this also try to push the hip of the bent back knee forward to increase the stretch in the top of the thigh and hip.

Testosterone reboot: How to boost men's hormones in midlife

You will find the stretch varies day-to-day depending on what you have been doing. On days where you have sat for long periods, it will feel harder, showing how tight your body is. Relax into this stretch and really try to develop it. It can be particularly helpful for back problems, so practise regularly.

Downward Dog

Start on your hands and knees, making sure your hands are directly underneath your shoulders, with fingers pointing forwards, and your knees directly underneath your hips. As you exhale, lift and straighten your knees, without locking them.Bring your body into the shape of an ‘A’, lifting through your pelvis.

Testosterone reboot: How to boost men's hormones in midlife

As you lengthen your spine, lift your sit bones up toward the ceiling, pressing down through your heels and palms of your hands. your head, but do not let it dangle.

Focus between your legs or towards your navel and hold the position for as long as is comfortable.

Testosterone reboot: How to boost men's hormones in midlife

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John Fawkes

Jun 12 · 14 min read

Photo by lukaszdylka via Pixabay.

Testosterone needs no introduction, but I’ll give it one anyway. This nifty little hormone makes your muscles grow, your bones strong, and your naughty bits work.

That much you probably knew. Less well-known is that testosterone is also essential for proper mental function and mood regulation — so much so that men with low testosterone usually suffer from clinical or pre-clinical depression. And testosterone deficiency is on the rise — 10–40% of men around the world suffer from it, and that number is increasing.

This goes for women, too, by the way — testosterone deficiency is common in women (primarily those over 40), although it’s hard to put a number on just how prevalent it is. What is known is that for many women, it’s a bad enough problem that raising testosterone levels can significantly improve libido, musculoskeletal health, and even cognitive ability. Yes, women need testosterone too, just as men need estrogen.

Testosterone levels not only go down with age, but average testosterone levels have steadily declined for the past several decades, for reasons that are only partly understood.

Having low testosterone is…not fun, to say the least. A lot of guys get so fed up with it they end up going on testosterone replacement therapy. And while that certainly works, it has its side effects, including baldness, infertility, elevated cholesterol, and other cardiovascular risk factors, and possibly, ironically enough, sexual problems.

So how can you tell if you have low testosterone? It takes a combination of blood tests and looking at your symptoms.

Symptoms of low testosterone can include reduced sex drive and low fertility in both men and women. Hair loss (in men), fatigue or sluggishness, and sleep disturbances are other possible symptoms, as are other signs of hormone imbalance—like irregular menstrual cycles in women or hot flashes (yes, in men, too).

If you have symptoms of low testosterone, ask your doctor for a complete male or female (according to your sex, obviously) hormone panel. Get a thyroid hormone panel, and test for anemia as well as common nutrient deficiencies like zinc and B vitamins, as some of those can produce similar symptoms to low testosterone.

Regardless of what your test results say, remember that it’s not a problem unless you have symptoms that significantly worsen your quality of life. Some people honestly feel their best at relatively low testosterone levels, and your goal should be to make yourself feel good and improve health markers like inflammation and body fat percentage, not to get your testosterone levels as high as humanly possible.

Needless to say, taking drugs should be a last resort. Fortunately, there’s a lot you can do to increase your body’s natural production of testosterone, while also making yourself healthier overall.


Priority #1: Maintain a Healthy Body Weight

As you’ll see throughout this article, there are a lot of things that impact your hormonal system, and thus there are many things you can do to raise your testosterone. However, none of them are as important as simply not being overweight.

Body fat levels have a strong and consistent negative correlation with serum testosterone. In weight loss studies where testosterone was measured, there is a nearly linear association between the amount of weight loss and the increase in testosterone experienced by subjects. People with more testosterone also, unsurprisingly, have more muscle mass.

Part of the reason for this is that fatty tissue produces aromatase, an enzyme which converts androgens — including testosterone — into estrogens. Estrogen, in turn, reduces testosterone production via negative feedback in the hypothalamus, so excess body fat tends to cause both high estrogen and low testosterone. The testosterone/estrogen ratio is a prime indicator of sexual health; its decline in obese men is perhaps the most significant mechanism underlying the link between obesity and poor sexual health in men.

Your number one priority should thus be maintaining a low body fat percentage. At the very least, your body mass index should be kept below 25 — click here for a BMI calculator. For most people, BMI is a perfectly decent proxy for body fat levels.

If you are very muscular, however, your BMI might go into the overweight range, despite a low body fat percentage. In that case, you should actually calculate your body fat percentage using either a body circumference formula (measure your waist and hips with a measuring tape) or use a high-tech method like DEXA — dual emission x-ray absorptiometry.

Even if you’re not overweight, your testosterone levels will continue to increase, and your estrogen levels decrease as you lose fat within the normal range. So there is a benefit to being very lean vs. merely not being overweight; however, the returns do start to diminish. Note that while it is possible to be too lean, this only happens at very low body fat percentages, like those achieved by bodybuilders preparing for a competition. As a rough guideline, you should aim for having a flat belly—but sixpack abs are not necessary.

As a final note, losing body fat will go hand in hand with several of the other things I’m going to talk about in this article. Excess body fat is a main cause of sleep disorders, for instance, and you’ll tend to lose fat if you exercise and eat well. There is also a two-way relationship between body fat and testosterone, so anything you do to raise your testosterone levels will also help you lose fat.


Nutrition for a High-Testosterone Diet

Several aspects of your diet will influence your testosterone levels, including calorie balance, macronutrient ratios, and micronutrient—vitamin and mineral—content.

Although losing weight is a great way to raise your testosterone levels, being in a sustained caloric deficit actually lowers testosterone levels in menCaloric restriction also raises cortisol, a stress hormone which derives from the same precursor hormone as testosterone.

If you’re overweight, some amount of caloric restriction will be necessary to lose fat. However, this adaptive decrease in testosterone levels means there may be a delay between when you start losing weight and when you start to see your testosterone levels go up. It also implies that once you reach your target weight, you should ease off the caloric restriction and let yourself eat as much as you want, so long as you don’t regain the fat you lost.

When possible, it’s best to lose weight by adding physical activity rather than restricting caloric intake. Increasing physical activity does more to raise testosterone — in addition to building muscle, stamina, and all the other benefits of exercise.

Now for macronutrients—fat, carbohydrates, and protein. What does the research say about those?

Studies consistently find that diets higher in fat support higher levels of anabolic hormones—including not just testosterone, but also estrogen and growth hormone. Based on the research, in order to maximize testosterone levels you should be getting at least 40% of your calories from fat (and maybe even more).

The study also found that saturated and monounsaturated fat, specifically, were positively correlated with testosterone levels, while polyunsaturated fat was not. In other words, meat, nuts, avocados, and olive oil are helpful, while corn, safflower, soybean and flax oils should be avoided.

If fat is good, you might expect carbohydrates to be bad, but that’s not quite what studies show. No direct correlation seems to exist between testosterone levels and carbohydrate intake.

Surprisingly, that study also found that protein intake was negatively correlated with serum testosterone concentrations. Indeed, other studies have found that replacing carbohydrate intake with protein lowers testosterone production. The attitude towards protein in many fitness circles can be summed up as “the more the better,” so it’s interesting to see that you actually can have too much of a good thing. In most cases, protein intake should be between .6 and 1 gram of protein per pound of body weight per day. More is hardly ever necessary for any health or fitness purpose.

Micronutrients — vitamins and minerals — are also critical for maintaining high testosterone levels.

Vitamin D—arguably a prohormone rather than a vitamin — is needed by the body for many different hormonal, structural, and neurological functions. Vitamin D supplementation at 3000 iu per day has been shown to raise testosterone levels in men who are deficient in vitamin D.

Another study found that vitamin D supplementation did not significantly raise testosterone in men who were not deficient—however, the dosage was also a little bit lower, and the study duration much shorter than in the first study. The second study nonetheless found an improvement in insulin sensitivity, which would be expected to cause fat loss over the long term.

Vitamin D is mainly produced by the body in response to sunlight, but it’s difficult to get enough sun to truly optimize your vitamin D levels — particularly without raising your risk of skin cancer. Based on these studies, supplementing 2000–3000 iu of vitamin D per day is probably a good idea.

Zinc is perhaps even more important than vitamin D for maximizing testosterone production. In one study, healthy young men saw a nearly 75% reduction in testosterone levels after 20 weeks of zinc restriction. Older men who were only mildly deficient in zinc were able to double their serum testosterone levels by supplementing 40 mg of zinc gluconate per day for six months.

Zinc may also reduce the production of aromatase, thus improving the testosterone/estrogen ratio. This has so far only been proven in rats, however.

The best dietary sources of zinc are animal products like meat, dairy, and eggs, followed by nuts, seeds, and legumes. Because zinc deficiency impairs your sense of taste, you can test for it using a simple over-the-counter zinc assay consisting of zinc sulfate heptahydrate. People with adequate zinc status will find this stuff tastes like hydrogen peroxide, while the zinc-deficient will perceive little or no taste. If you are zinc deficient, 10–25 mg a day should be plenty — the 40 mg used in that one study is excessive for anyone consuming a decently healthy diet.

Magnesium is another mineral that is necessary for both optimal sleep and the production of testosterone. It is primarily found in leafy greens like spinach and chard, but very few people eat enough magnesium—and people who exercise more need more magnesium.

Supplementation of magnesium has been shown to increase testosterone levels, with people who exercise deriving more benefit from magnesium supplementation than people who don’t exercise. In addition to raising total testosterone levels, magnesium may also make the testosterone in your body more bioactive.

Because it has a relaxing effect, magnesium is best supplemented in the evening. A word of warning: most magnesium supplements use magnesium oxide, which is poorly absorbed and acts primarily as a laxative. Magnesium should be taken in a different form, like magnesium gluconate, citrate or threonate. Powdered fizzy drinks like Natural Calm are absorbed quickly and efficiently and are the most effective at aiding sleep.

B vitamins may also be important for maintaining testosterone levels, although the data is a bit more spotty here. Vitamin B12 deficiency has been implicated in testicular pain as well as impaired sperm production. Additionally, vitamin B6 seems to be needed not necessarily for maintenance of blood hormone levels, but for the health of testosterone and estrogen receptors.

The best B vitamin sources are animal products, legumes and leafy greens. Based on the research, a daily b vitamin supplement is likely to be helpful, although it probably won’t have a big impact on hormonal functioning.


Sleep and Testosterone

After diet, sleep is the next biggest factor that affects your body’s testosterone production.

Common wisdom holds that people should sleep eight hours a night. In this case, the common wisdom is more or less correct — for the general population, sleeping seven to nine hours a night is associated with good health, including lower body weight and adiposity. Sleeping less than seven or more than nine hours a night are both associated with worse health outcomes.

However, that’s for the general population, and there is substantial evidence that the more you exercise, the more sleep your body needs to recover. If you exercise far more than average, you may benefit from sleeping a little bit more. In at least one study, college athletes showed across the board improvements in performance when they slept at least ten hours a night.

The benefits of extra sleep can go even further. Lebron James famously sleeps twelve hours a day. For people who exercise a lot but aren’t athletes, a good guideline would be to add an hour to the average sleep requirement—so eight to ten hours a night.

That’s great for overall fitness, but what about testosterone? Unsurprisingly, lack of adequate sleep also lowers testosterone levels. One week of sleeping only 5 hours a night lowers testosterone by around 15% as compared to sleeping 8 hours a night.

Quality of sleep matters at least as much as total duration. The amount of time spent in slow wave, or “deep” sleep, is strongly positively associated with testosterone levels, independent of total sleep duration. Interestingly, this study found no correlation between testosterone and total sleep duration. Because sleep duration wasn’t experimentally controlled, it’s likely that people who didn’t sleep well simply tried to make up for it by spending more time in bed. The results of the study suggest that this doesn’t really work; you can’t make up for poor sleep quality with more sleep quantity.

That study also makes the point that many of the sleep issues that cause low testosterone are, themselves, caused by being overweight. In particular, excess body fat can cause obstructive sleep apnea, which causes reduced blood oxygen concentrations during sleep as well as frequent nighttime awakenings. These problems are reversible by losing weight.

Sleep is probably the second-most important factor that goes into testosterone production, after diet. I’d also argue that it’s the single most important factor for overall subjective well-being. If you’re not sleeping like a baby every single night, it’s worth making the effort to sleep better.


How to Exercise for High Testosterone

Exercise is important for maximizing testosterone, especially if you need to lose weight. Not only can physical exercise help you lose weight, but it also raises testosterone production in and of itself.

Not all forms of exercise are equal here. Cardio and aerobic exercise programs show an inconsistent or unclear impact on testosterone levels, although they’re almost always great for overall health. Higher-intensity forms of cardio, like interval sprints, may have a greater impact on testosterone compared to low-intensity steady-state cardio.

Resistance training, i.e. weightlifting, has consistently been shown to cause an acute post-workout spike in testosterone in men; in women, most but not all studies find this spike to occur. Compared to men, women are less dependent on testosterone overall for growing muscle, and more dependent on growth hormone.

Age also makes a difference here, as older people show a blunted hormonal response to exercise.

Fewer studies have looked at the long-term effects of resistance exercise on testosterone, but those that have usually find improvements. In one study, obese men experienced an increase in testosterone after twelve weeks of resistance training.

Other studies have looked at what happens to your testosterone levels after you stop training. Recreationally trained older women who stopped training for 12 weeks showed a major decrease in testosterone levels. On the other hand, male power-athletes improved their testosterone by taking two weeks off, so people who exercise a lot may actually benefit from taking the occasional short break.

Overall, exercise, even weightlifting, doesn’t seem to impact testosterone levels nearly as much as diet and sleep. In fact, exercise seems to work in part by up-regulating the testosterone receptors in your muscles, rather than raising testosterone concentrations.

That said, exercise is critical for health and longevity. As a rough guideline, you should lift weights for 30–60 minutes 3–4 times a week, and do 20–40 minutes of cardio 2–4 times a week to optimize both health and testosterone levels.


Health Habits That Affect Testosterone

The effects of alcohol on testosterone levels are somewhat counterintuitive. While you would probably expect alcohol to lower testosterone production, consuming a low dose of alcohol actually acutely increases testosterone in men.

Consuming larger doses, or drinking alcohol for the long term, has about the effect you’d expect. One night of binge drinking can reduce a man’s testosterone levels by up to 40%, although the damage only lasts a day or two.

Chronic alcohol consumption is much worse; it can cause testicular atrophy, which may become irreversible at some point.

Surprisingly, the hormonal effects of alcohol seem more positive in women— for them, it raises both testosterone and estrogen. However, this is due to liver damage disrupting hormonal homeostasis—that’s not healthy for women.

Here’s an even bigger surprise: tobacco use doesn’t harm testosterone levels, and may even slightly improve them. This seems to be because nicotine blocks aromatase, inhibiting the conversion of testosterone to estrogen, as well as the appetite-suppressing effects of nicotine, which can aid weight loss.

Of course, any benefits will be negated in the long run by the deleterious health effects of smoking, particularly once it stops you from exercising effectively. However, the research does suggest that using nicotine patches, at least, may be helpful for men who have high estrogen and low testosterone.

Caffeine seems to have some sort of effect on testosterone and reproductive function, but the exact effect seems to be minor and not entirely clear. Consuming pre-workout caffeine magnifies the acute testosterone spike caused by exercise. However, it increases cortisol even more, so the hormonal effects may be a net negative.

In the long term, caffeine consumption is not correlated with testosterone levels. However, a large volume of research suggests that chronic caffeine intake is associated with impaired reproductive function. This seems to be related to DNA damage to sperm cells, so it’s not clear that this affects testosterone per se, but it’s of interest if you want to have children.

Of course, caffeine can indirectly lower your testosterone by preventing you from getting to sleep, or by impairing sleep quality even when you do get to sleep. If you drink more than one cup of coffee in the morning, it’s worth quitting caffeine for a while to reset your tolerance.

One final lifestyle factor to consider is stress, and for most people reading this I suspect it will be a more important consideration than alcohol, tobacco or even caffeine.

Chronic stress lowers your testosterone levels, primarily by raising cortisol. Since cortisol is made from pregnenolone, the same precursor hormone as testosterone, an elevation in cortisol will necessarily reduce testosterone via competition for raw materials. Chronic stress also impairs recovery from exercise, which further implies a reduction in testosterone.

Life stress also decreases libido, in conjunction with increasing cortisol but independently of its effects on testosterone. Interestingly, the association between stress and libido is different for men and women. Women lose sexual desire when stressed out, while men lose the desire to masturbate, but not the desire to have sex with a partner.

While not all studies show that stress significantly decreases testosterone, stress does seem to consistently reduce libido and sexual function in both men and women, albeit possibly via different hormonal pathways. In men, stress is associated with erectile dysfunction, and stress management training improves erectile function.

And of course, stress can make it hard to sleep, which—say it with me—reduces your testosterone and is harmful to your health. It is therefore imperative—both for testosterone but more so for overall health—that you do everything you can to reduce the amount of chronic (not necessarily short-term) stress you experience.


Start Raising Your Testosterone

Do another quick scan of this article and make an honest assessment of how well you’re doing in each of these areas — diet, exercise, sleep, drug/alcohol usage, and stress. Pick the one or two areas in which you’re doing worst to focus on for now.

If it’s diet, start logging everything you eat and drink using a diet app like MyFitnessPal. Go on a relatively high-fat diet, like the paleo or ketogenic diets.

If it’s exercise: start using a standing desk and lifting weights three times a week, plus a few minutes of cardio after each weightlifting session.

If it’s alcohol or excessive caffeine use: stop, plain and simple.

If it’s sleep, you’ll need to figure out why you aren’t sleeping well. If you know you have a medical issue like sleep apnea, get it treated. Otherwise, you’ll need to systematically identify and treat the causes of your insomnia.

If stress is the issue, you’ll need to take a multi-pronged approach to treating it: by meditating, cutting out major sources of life stress, and possibly also cutting back on caffeine and sleeping better. You may also need to learn to schedule your day better to give yourself more time to relax.

Whatever the issue is, you may want someone to help you with it. You can get this by working with a personal trainer or nutritionist, hiring a coach, or even participating in health and fitness groups on sites like Facebook or Reddit.

Low testosterone is becoming an epidemic, and unfortunately, the modern environment—the junk food, the busy schedule, the late nights—often conspires to kill our testosterone levels. But with an active effort and a systematic approach, you can raise your body’s natural testosterone production, leading to better libido, better body composition, and improved overall health and quality of life.

Better Humans

 

 
 
 
 
 

 
 
 
 
 

John Fawkes

WRITTEN BY

Los Angeles-based personal trainer, online fitness & nutrition coach, and health & fitness writer. I also sing a pretty sick cover of The Poison Heart.

 
Better Humans

Better Humans

Better Humans is a collection of the world’s most trustworthy writing on human potential and self improvement by coaches, academics, and aggressive self-experimenters. Articles are based on deep personal experience, science, and research. No fluff, book reports, or listicles.

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Testosterone is the main male sex hormone, but females also have small amounts of it.

It is a steroid hormone, produced in men’s testicles and women’s ovaries (1Trusted Source).

The adrenal glands also produce small amounts.

During puberty in boys, testosterone is one of the main drivers of physical changes like increased muscle, deeper voice and hair growth.

However, having optimal levels is also important throughout adulthood and even during old age.

In adults, healthy levels are important for general health, disease risk, body composition, sexual function and just about everything else (1Trusted Source, 2Trusted Source, 3Trusted Source, 4Trusted Source, 5Trusted Source, 6Trusted Source, 7Trusted Source).

Additionally, increasing your testosterone levels can cause rapid gains in muscle mass and vitality in only a matter of weeks (8Trusted Source, 9Trusted Source, 10Trusted Source).

Interestingly, it also plays an important role in female health and sexual well-being (11Trusted Source, 12Trusted Source, 13Trusted Source).

The research is pretty conclusive: both genders should ensure they have healthy levels of testosterone, especially as they age (13Trusted Source, 14Trusted Source).

Here are 8 evidence-based ways to increase testosterone levels naturally.

1. Exercise and Lift Weights
Exercise is one of the most effective ways to prevent many lifestyle-related diseases. Interestingly, it can also boost your testosterone.

A large review study found that people who exercised regularly had higher testosterone levels. In the elderly, exercise increases testosterone levels, fitness and reaction time (15Trusted Source, 16Trusted Source).

New research in obese men suggests that increased physical activity was even more beneficial than a weight loss diet for increasing testosterone levels (17Trusted Source).

Resistance training, such as weight lifting, is the best type of exercise to boost testosterone in both the short- and long-term (18Trusted Source, 19Trusted Source).

High-intensity interval training (HIIT) can also be very effective, although all types of exercise should work to some extent (18Trusted Source, 19Trusted Source, 20Trusted Source, 21Trusted Source, 22Trusted Source).

Taking caffeine and creatine monohydrate as supplements may further boost your levels when combined with a training program (23Trusted Source, 24Trusted Source).

BOTTOM LINE:
All forms of exercise may increase your testosterone levels. Weight lifting and high-intensity interval training are the most effective.
2. Eat Protein, Fat and Carbs
What you eat has a major impact on testosterone as well as other hormone levels (25Trusted Source).

Therefore, you must pay attention to your long-term calorie intake and diet strategy.

Constant dieting or overeating may disrupt your testosterone levels (26Trusted Source, 27Trusted Source, 28Trusted Source, 29Trusted Source, 30Trusted Source).

Eating enough protein can help maintain healthy levels and aid in fat loss, which is also associated with your testosterone (28Trusted Source, 31Trusted Source, 32Trusted Source).

Carb intake also plays a role, with research showing carbs can help optimize testosterone levels during resistance training (22Trusted Source, 33Trusted Source).

However, research demonstrates that sufficient healthy fats are also beneficial for testosterone and health (25Trusted Source, 34Trusted Source, 35Trusted Source, 36Trusted Source, 37Trusted Source).

A diet based mainly on whole foods is best, with a healthy balance of fat, protein and carbs. This can optimize both hormone levels and long-term health.

BOTTOM LINE:
Don’t overeat and don’t restrict calories too much for too long. Try to eat balanced amounts of carbs, fat and protein.

3. Minimize Stress and Cortisol Levels
Research is always highlighting the dangers of long-term stress, which can elevate levels of the hormone cortisol (38Trusted Source, 39Trusted Source, 40Trusted Source).

Unnatural elevations in cortisol can quickly reduce testosterone. These hormones work in a seesaw-like manner: as one goes up, the other comes down (40Trusted Source, 41Trusted Source, 42Trusted Source).

Stress and high cortisol can also increase food intake, weight gain and the storage of harmful body fat around your organs. In turn, these changes may negatively impact your testosterone levels (43Trusted Source, 44Trusted Source, 45Trusted Source).

For both optimal health and hormone levels, you should try to reduce repetitive stressful situations in your life.

Focus on a diet based on whole foods, regular exercise, good sleep, laughter and a balanced lifestyle, all of which can reduce stress and improve your health and testosterone levels (46Trusted Source, 47Trusted Source, 48Trusted Source, 49Trusted Source, 50Trusted Source).

BOTTOM LINE:
High levels of stress are bad for your long-term health and can reduce your testosterone levels.
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4. Get Some Sun or Take a Vitamin D Supplement
Vitamin D is quickly becoming one of the world’s most popular vitamins.

Research has shown that it has various health benefits, and may also work as a natural testosterone booster (51Trusted Source, 52Trusted Source, 53Trusted Source, 54Trusted Source, 55Trusted Source).

Despite its importance, nearly half of the US population is deficient in vitamin D, and an even higher percentage has sub-optimal levels (56Trusted Source, 57Trusted Source).

A 12-month study found that supplementing with around 3,000 IU of vitamin D3 per day increased testosterone levels by around 25% (54Trusted Source).

In the elderly, vitamin D and calcium also optimized testosterone levels, which led to a reduced risk of falling (58Trusted Source).

To boost testosterone and reap the other benefits of vitamin D, try to get regular exposure to sunlight or take around 3,000 IU of a vitamin D3 supplement daily.

If you’d like to try supplements, Amazon has a good selection available.

More information on vitamin D here: Vitamin D 101 — A Detailed Beginner’s Guide.

BOTTOM LINE:
Vitamin D3 supplements may boost testosterone levels, especially in the elderly and people who have low blood levels of vitamin D.
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5. Take Vitamin and Mineral Supplements
Although the benefits of multivitamins are hotly debated, specific vitamins and minerals may be beneficial (59Trusted Source).

In one study, zinc and vitamin B supplements increased sperm quality by 74%. Zinc also boosts testosterone in athletes and those who are deficient in zinc (60Trusted Source, 61Trusted Source, 62Trusted Source).

Other studies also suggest vitamins A, C and E can play a role in your sex hormone and testosterone levels, although more research is needed (25Trusted Source, 63Trusted Source, 64Trusted Source, 65Trusted Source).

Out of all the vitamins and minerals available, the research on testosterone shows vitamin D and zinc supplements may be best (54Trusted Source, 66Trusted Source, 67Trusted Source).

BOTTOM LINE:
Vitamin D and zinc have the strongest evidence as testosterone boosters. Other micronutrients may also have benefits, but require further research.

6. Get Plenty of Restful, High-Quality Sleep
Getting good sleep is just as important for your health as diet and exercise (68Trusted Source, 69Trusted Source, 70Trusted Source, 71Trusted Source, 72Trusted Source, 73Trusted Source).

It may also have major effects on your testosterone levels.

The ideal amount of sleep varies from person to person, but one study found that sleeping only 5 hours per night was linked to a 15% reduction in testosterone levels (73Trusted Source).

One long-term study observed that those who slept only four hours per night had borderline deficient levels (46Trusted Source).

Other long-term studies support this. One study calculated that for every additional hour of sleep you get, testosterone levels rise 15% higher, on average (74Trusted Source, 75Trusted Source).

Although some people seem to do fine with less sleep, research suggests around 7–10 hours of sleep per night is best for long-term health and your testosterone.

BOTTOM LINE:
Make sure you get plenty of high-quality sleep to maintain healthy testosterone levels and optimize your long-term health.
7. Take Some of These Natural Testosterone Boosters
Only a few natural testosterone boosters are supported by scientific studies.

The herb with the most research behind it is called ashwagandha.

One study tested the effects of this herb on infertile men and found a 17% increase in testosterone levels and a 167% increase in sperm count (76Trusted Source).

In healthy men, ashwagandha increased levels by 15%. Another study found it lowered cortisol by around 25%, which may also aid testosterone (77Trusted Source, 78Trusted Source).

Ginger extract may also boost your levels. It is a delicious herb that also provides various other health benefits (79Trusted Source, 80Trusted Source, 81Trusted Source, 82Trusted Source, 83Trusted Source).

Most of the research on ginger has been done in animals. However, one study in infertile humans found that ginger can boost testosterone levels by 17% and increase levels of other key sex hormones (80Trusted Source, 84).

Other popular herbs that are supported by some studies in both animals and humans include horny goat weed, Mucuna pruriens, shilajit and tongkat ali.

Yet it’s important to note that most of the positive research has been conducted in mice or infertile humans with low testosterone levels.

If you have healthy testosterone function and normal levels, it is unclear whether you will benefit much from these supplements.

BOTTOM LINE:
Several herbal supplements are a natural way to boost testosterone for those with infertility or low levels.
8. Follow a Healthy Lifestyle and Avoid Estrogen-like Compounds
There are several other factors that may affect your hormone levels.

A healthy sex life plays an important role in regulating your sex hormone and testosterone levels (85Trusted Source, 86Trusted Source).

High exposure to estrogen-like chemicals may also affect your levels, so try to minimize daily exposure to BPA, parabens and other chemicals found in some types of plastic (86Trusted Source, 87Trusted Source, 88Trusted Source, 89Trusted Source).

It’s probably no surprise that excess alcohol or drug use, whether it’s medical or recreational, can also decrease testosterone levels (90Trusted Source, 91Trusted Source, 92Trusted Source, 93Trusted Source, 94Trusted Source, 95Trusted Source).

In contrast, laughter, happiness and success may help boost your health and testosterone levels — so make sure they’re a part of your daily life (96Trusted Source, 97Trusted Source, 98Trusted Source, 99Trusted Source).

BOTTOM LINE:
Reducing exposure to estrogen-like chemicals, alcohol and drugs can positively affect your testosterone levels and health.
Why Do Testosterone Levels Matter?
From the age of 25–30, a man’s testosterone levels naturally start to decline.

This is a problem because strong research shows a link between low testosterone and obesity, increased disease risk and premature death.

Healthy testosterone levels are also important for women, along with other key hormones such as estrogen and progesterone.

Therefore, everyone should take the necessary lifestyle steps to optimize testosterone levels. You will improve your health and body at the same time.

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