Brain-Boosting Foods and Supplements, Keto, and Exercise for Stress Relief | Max Lugavere -The Genius Life

Check out The Genius Life Episode Page & Show Notes

Key Takeaways

  • The ketogenic diet may be useful for improving cognition in patients with Alzheimer’s disease or any sort of cogitative impairment
  • “I think being chronically out of ketosis makes just as little sense as being chronically in ketosis”
    • Instead – aim to enter a state of ketosis intermittently by eating a diet low in carbs and exercising frequently 
  • 90% of Americans are deficient in at least one essential nutrient
  • Eat more carotenoids, examples:
    • Lutein and zeaxanthin (found in kale and avocados)
    • Astaxanthin (found in wild salmon)
  • Eat more choline (found in egg yolks)
    • Only 10% of adults get adequate choline in their diets
  • “For most people, even an incremental improvement in their diets, like eating a little less ultra-processed food, will result in a huge improvement, not only in the way they feel but also in their cognitive performance”
  • There are MANY benefits to incorporating some form of resistance training into your routine
  • With one night of poor sleep, you become metabolically obese the next day (in terms of how insulin resistant you are)
  • “You don’t get a more nutrient-dense food than grass-fed beef or wild salmon”
  • One of the best things you can do for yourself is to eat a large salad daily
  • Every now and them, take a week off and just drink decaf coffee

Products Mentioned

  • What does Max supplement with?
  • Lion’s mane extract has been found to improve cognition and boost nerve growth factor
  • If someone you’re close to has Alzheimer’s disease, their cognitive impairment may slightly improve by having them supplement with MCT oil (it provides the brain with ketones)

Books Mentioned

  • Max read The Ketogenic Diet by Lyle McDonald in high school which led him to start experimenting with the diet

Intro

Max’s Career 360

  • “Growing up in high school, I was an introverted and computer-obsessed nerd”
    • “I gravitated to science and nutrition because I saw exercise and fitness as a way of transcending my not so super impressive self”
    • In the latter part of high school, Max began working out and taking a few supplements (high senior thesis was actually written on creatine)
  • Max then went on to the University of Miami to major in biology
    • But after taking a film course, he was seduced and decided to switch his major to film (with a double major in psychology)
  • After graduating, Max got a job hosting and producing content for a TV network Al Gore had co-founded out in LA
    • Max called it his “dream job” – he mainly covered and produced stories on the topics of science. tech, and health
      • “One of the real things I learned was how to communicate delicate topics”
  • But then… Max’s mom was diagnosed with dementia at the young age of 58
    • This came out of the blue – there was no family history of any sort of neurodegenerative disease
    • “After the trauma subsided, I rolled up my sleeves and started to consider myself an independent investigator into why this would have happened to my mom and ultimately what I could do to protect it from happening to myself”
      • “That journey is something that continues to this day and it’s something that will continue for the rest of my life, but at a certain point I realized I had amassed enough information where I could put together a care manual for the human brain. This led to the writing of Genius Foods.”
    • As background – Alzheimer’s disease is the most common form of dementia
      • Dementia is more of a category 

The Benefits of a Ketogenic Diet

  • For more on the science behind the ketogenic diet, check out these Podcast Notes
  • Doctors have been utilizing the diet for decades now to treat treatment-resistant epilepsy
  • Ketones (made from either stored or dietary fat) can fuel your brain (and body) in the absence of carbohydrates
  • A brain with Alzheimer’s disease struggles to create energy from glucose 
    • But it’s ability to create energy from ketones is unaffected – for this reason, the ketogenic diet is being researched as a method to “keep the lights on” in a brain with cognitive impairment
      • (A recent study found the ketogenic diet improved cognition by ~15% in patients with mild cognitive impairment)
  • The one type of cancer that seems to respond the best to eating a ketogenic diet is glioblastoma (brain cancer) (in terms of reduction in size/pause in growth)

Chase Nutrients, Not Ketones

  • “The more I learn, the less focused I become on chasing ketones as an end point. The diet I recommend in Genius Foods… to me it’s a diet that’s going to allow for ketosis on an intermittent basis and maybe even a seasonal basis.”
    • Instead – chase nutrients
      • Most of the foods that knock you out of ketosis are starchy grains (very energy dense yet very nutrient poor)
    • “I think being chronically out of ketosis makes just as little sense as being chronically in ketosis”
    • The average American consumes between 200-300 carbs/day
      • A diet low in carbs combined with frequent exercise will get you into ketosis intermittently
  • 90% of Americans are deficient in at least one essential nutrient
  • Our produce is less nutrient-dense than it’s ever been in history
  • “The most nutrient-dense foods in the supermarket tend to be lower on the carbohydrate spectrum”

What is brain hacking?

  • It’s more about hacking your environment, not the brain (AKA make the environment one in which the brain is designed to thrive)
    • “Our environments have become mutated and I think in many ways it’s causing our brains to suffer
      • 1/7 people between the ages of 18-34 struggle with memory problems
      • 1/6 adults is on some type of psychiatric drug
      • If you make it to the age of 85, you have a 50% chance of being diagnosed with Alzheimer’s disease
      • 2/3 adults are overweight or obese
      • 1/2 adults are diabetic or pre-diabetic
  • “We’re under a constant state of assault… Your brain is like this unwitting combatant being attacked form all angles.”
  • Brain hacking =
    • Giving the brain the essential nutrients it needs so it’s able to defend itself against the many insults waged against it in the modern world
    • Optimizing sleep
    • Being active in a world that compels us to be more sedentary 

A Recent Obsessions of Max’s – Allostatic Load

  • The premise:
    • Our body works hard maintain a state of balance – the series of steps our body takes to regain that sense of balance is called “allostasis”
    • We each have a limited allostatic load
      • Think of it like a cup – when you’re functioning in a balanced/relaxed state and allowing yourself to adequately recover, the cup is empty so you can then throw in things like intense exercise or fasting (mild, yet beneficial stressors)
      • “But the problem is many of us are functioning from a state of allostatic overload. We’re chronically stressed out.”

Practical Nutrition Advice

  • Eat more carotenoids – examples:
    • Lutein and zeaxanthin (found in kale and avocados)
      • A recent study found lutein may play a significant role in warding off cognitive decline
      • Max recalls a study which concluded that by supplementing with both of these compounds, a young/healthy population could achieve a 20% improvement in their visual processing speed
    • Astaxanthin (found in wild salmon)
    • One of the biggest benefits of carotenoids – cell membrane protection
      • Why is this important? – If a cell doesn’t have access to the outside signals it’s meant to receive or the fuel needed to create ATP, you’ll be at a loss
  • Choline is a molecule than facilitates neurotransmitter production (it also serves as the backbone to acetylcholine, an important neurotransmitter involved in learning and memory)
    • Only 10% of adults get adequate choline in their diets
    • Choline is found in egg yolks (egg yolks also have high amounts of lutein)
  • In general – Aim to get most of your nutrients from food rather than supplements

What does Max supplement with?

  • *No specific brands mentioned*
  • B complex vitamin
  • Vitamin D (intermittently)
  • Fish oil (intermittently)
  • Magnesium glycinate 
    • “It’s mind blowing the degree to which magnesium is utilized in the body” (it’s most commonly used for energy creation and DNA repair)
  • Max adds – “There is no one-size-fits-all supplementation regimen”
  • General advice – stick with the brand names
    • “You don’t want a supermarket brand”

What about nootropics?

  • “For most people, even an incremental improvement in their diets, like eating a little less ultra-processed food, will result in a huge improvement, not only in the way they feel but also in their cognitive performance”
  • Get the basics right first:
    • Get to the gym
    • Cut out processed foods (as best you can)
    • Eat right
      • “Food has a really powerful ability to boost cognitive function”

Exercise

  • “Very recently, exercise was made a treatment guideline for patients with mild cognitive impairment by the American Academy of Neurology”
    • It potentially staves off further cognitive decline
  • Max preferred exercise? – Lifting weights
    • “Nowadays I do it mostly for the mental health benefits”
      • Resistance training has been proven to have a significant effect on reducing symptoms of depression and anxiety
    • In a way, lifting weights turns your muscles into a sponge, allowing them to better suck glucose out of the blood
  • “If you go to the gym and make fitness a priority, you can be so much more in this life”
  • Aerobic exercises has been proven to boost brain-derived neurotrophic factor (BDNF) the most

Max’s Top 4 Pieces of Advice to Boost Healthspan

  • Get adequate sleep
    • With one night of poor sleep, you become metabolically obese the next day (in terms of how insulin resistant you are)
    • During deep sleep, your brain cleans out a variety of proteins/plaques that can build up and lead to Alzheimer’s disease
      • With one night of poor sleep, levels of amyloid (as measured in cerebral spinal fluid) increase by 30% and levels of tau protein increase by 50% (these are the two hallmark proteins linked to Alzheimer’s disease)
  • Exercise
    • Hit the gym, move, do whatever you can
  • Focus on stress mitigation 
    • Meditate if you’re able to
  • Lock in your nutrition
    • There are many important pieces, but one HUGE thing to remember is to focus on protein
      • “Protein gets a bad rap. There are really no consistent human studies which show us any benefit to a low-protein diet unless you have existing kidney disease.”
      • Protein is the most satiating of the macronutrients
        • “Whether you’re trying to bulk up or lose weight, protein is a very powerful tool”
      • Grass-fed beef provides a large amount of bioavailable micronutrients
        • “You don’t get a more nutrient-dense food than grass-fed beef or wild salmon”
      • And of course, protein is important for muscle synthesis – this is critically important as you age
    • Eat more dark/leafy greens
      • One of the best things you can do for yourself is to eat a large salad daily

Audience Questions

On Prolonged and Intermittent Fasting

  • Max has never done a prolonged fat
  • You really want to avoid eating within the window of 2-3 hours before bed

What does Max think of veganism?

  • “I’m not a fan”
  • ‘There’s a very vocal minority of vegans who conflate their ethics-driven agenda with health science and that’s where I get pissed off”
    • “There’s no good evidence to show veganism is good for the brain”
      • All the best evidence we have for optimal brain health includes a diet with fish

How to Kill the 2 PM Lull

  • Paradoxically, limit your coffee consumption – perhaps your adenosine receptors are out of whack
    • Every now and them, take a week off and just drink decaf

What’s the best thing you can do to help someone who has Alzheimer’s disease?

  • It depends on the stage
  • In general – make sure they’re exercising/staying active
  • Secondly, consider having them supplement with MCT oil (it provides the brain with ketones)

What does Max thing about utilizing ancient Chinese medicine?

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