#496: Dr. Andrew Huberman – The Science Of Peak Performance | Modern Wisdom

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Key Takeaways

  • Ways to safely add friction to your life & raise stress threshold to enhance your ability to stay calm under pressure: cold shower, ice bath, cyclic hyperventilation – stress grows you
  • Grief is a motivated state of being highly alert but very sad, where we try to bridge the space and time of a loved one but it’s impossible since that person is gone – the brain has to confront the reality that someone is gone
  • The ability to feel the feelings helps you move through a breakup: women reportedly experience higher levels of emotional pain during a breakup but recover more fully over time; men rarely fully recover
  • If we expose regularly expose ourselves to things that trigger high levels of dopamine release, we will actually lower our baseline levels of dopamine over time
  • To maintain high levels of motivation, try intermittent rewards: celebrate successes every other time, every tenth time, etc. to blunt dopamine response, prevent crashes, and keep you on the path to bigger goals
  • Lessons from Lex Fridman: There are a lot of energy pits but success is really about not allowing energy to dissipate into negative trails (e.g., fighting people online, cynics, etc.)
  • Evolutionarily, mating is a test as to whether two people can coordinate autonomic nervous systems
  • Actual + perceived = reality: any event causes a real physiological response, but that response is entangled with our expectation of what the response should be
  • Tap into whatever eating system works for you – but one thing is true, consistency helps anchor your sleep schedule
  • Light, exercise, and temperature (hot and cold) are potent stimuli for creating hormonal and neuromodulator effects – it works the first time and every time


Dr. Andrew Huberman, Ph.D. (@hubermanlab) is a Professor of Neurobiology and Ophthalmology at Stanford University School of Medicine. His lab focuses on neural regeneration, neuroplasticity, and brain states such as stress, focus, fear, and optimal performance. He is also the host of his own podcast, the Huberman Lab with new episodes every Monday.

In this episode of Modern Wisdom, host Chris Williamson and Andrew Huberman break down the essential connection between the mind and body. They break down the dopamine system and why detoxing it is important, how to build a solid morning routine, maintain testosterone levels, and much more.

Host: Chris Williamson (@ChrisWillx)

Use The Body To Control The Mind

  • Of course, when we’re relaxed and happy we feel more control over our decisions
  • Autonomic nervous system: a system that governs “fight or flight” and “rest and digest” systems of the body
  • Autonomic see-saw: tipping points when we’re either close to sleep or super alert
  • At the point of the autonomic see-saw, it’s hard to get ourselves out of stress states by just trying to talk ourselves out of it or will ourselves
  • If you’re stressed or upset (heart rate quickens, fuel shuffles to big muscles, pupils enlarge), it’s hard to take the focus off whatever it is eliciting that response
  • In stressed states, we feel like it’ll last forever – this is not true of happy states
  • When we control the autonomic nervous system, reason comes back on board
  • How to relax the mind and bring down autonomic arousal: meditation, exercise, social connection, breathwork
  • Daily short bouts of controlled intense stress through breathing can mitigate stress, try: (1) 5 minutes of physiologic sigh (double inhale through the nose followed by long exhale through mouth); (2) 5 minutes of cyclic hyperventilation (deep inhale through nose immediately following by deep exhale through mouth x 25-30 then fully exhaling until lungs are empty and repeating)


  • Universal fear: increased carbon dioxide, reduced oxygen – we don’t have neurons that sense breathing oxygen but we do have neurons that sense carbon dioxide, and this shifts in levels illicit panic
  • As you get more advanced in something that used to be frightening, a new risk surfaces – reflexes are desensitized so the basics can get overlooked (e.g., skydiver not pulling shoot early enough)
  • Fear response to videos: humans are extremely visual (more than 40% of the brain is dedicated to vision) – when we watch people do thrilling/scary things, we have a small brain response that we might suffer the fate of what will happen if that person fails (e.g., we feel like we might fall watching a slack line walker)
  • Amygdala is an area of the brain that integrates information
  • Amygdala is part of the “threat reflex” in the brain, responsible for threat response
  • The threat reflex can be activated at any time, and quite easily depending on two factors: (1) prior memories; (2) immediate experiences
  • Ketamine-assisted psychotherapy is approved for clinical use in the U.S.
  • Ketamine allows the patient to recount trauma while feeling none of the emotional experiences, remapping new feelings onto old feelings
    • Weaves in all three components of overcoming fear: (1) diminish the intensity of experience; (2) extinction of trauma or fear; (3) relearning new experiences
  • All successful treatments of trauma involve leaning into that fear and trauma
  • Lessons from David Goggins: add friction into your life and lean in – this helps you tolerate high amounts of adrenaline while keeping a cool head

The Neuroscience Of Overcoming Heartbreak

  • We tend to transplant or superimpose our insecure attachment style to others – even if we have secure attachments in other relationships (i.e., insecure attachment to significant other but plenty of healthy friendships)
  • Three components of grief are mapped in conscious and subconscious: (1) space – where is the person I love; (2) time – when will I see the person I love; (3) closeness – attachment to a loved one
  • The grief process is about restructuring the map of space, time, and closeness – you have to untether closeness from space and time because the attachment is there but you will not see them again
  • When a breakup occurs, the person is no longer available in time and space but you have to think the person is gone to overcome it – this is why you shouldn’t reach out or follow someone on social media when going through a breakup
  • The brain has to confront the reality that the person is just not there anymore – you have to feel the feelings
  • Grief is an autonomic state – at its core, it’s a state of being very alert but very sad
  • Human beings resonate with extreme states – think about the music we listen to, the movies we watch


  • Dopamine is the molecule of motivation, drive, and reward – it’s about novelty, surprise, and the sense that you’re on an exciting path
  • Dopamine is the molecule from which adrenaline is manufactured
  • Dopamine impacts the way you perceive time: good days feel like they fly by but so much happened in 24 hours; bad days feel forever long even if it’s a blip on the radar
  • Dopamine and human bonds: if you experience adventures or go places with someone you love, you feel closer to them
  • Serotonin makes us feel satisfied, sated, and content with what we have
  • Dopamine & cell phones: when you first pick up your phone it’s exciting; then the novelty fades and it quickly turns into something that almost resembles obsessive-compulsive

Dopamine & Reward-Prediction Error

  • Dopamine – the molecule of motivation – is the currency by which we assess value & progress toward goals
  • Possibility is deeply woven into the dopamine system
  • In the neurological system, the surprise, novelty, motivation, and reward release dopamine
  • Reward-prediction error = actual amount of dopamine released in response to something – the amount expected
  • If you tell a child they “might” have ice cream later, you’re effectively telling the dopamine they will have ice cream – if it doesn’t happen, there’s a big dopamine crash
  • Understanding the reward-prediction error allows us to make better decisions about how far out in the future to place milestones and assess progress
  • Pick an interval at which you will assess progress & give yourself a reward
  • Leverage dopamine release on a schedule of rewards that you can do consistently
  • Dopamine interacts with the visual system bidirectionally: using our visual system in a particular way recruits chemicals (like dopamine) to put us in a state of readiness and pursuit – and vice versa
  • Better to say nothing than let someone down (in the context of relationships)
  • If everyone is rewarded to the same level (every participant gets a trophy), the nervous system crashes – high levels of dopamine with no effort will deter motivation; the value of the prize is diminished and the value of effort to achieve that thing diminishes

Pleasure-Pain Balance & Utility Of Dopamine Detox

  • If we expose regularly expose ourselves to things that trigger high levels of dopamine release, we will actually lower our baseline levels of dopamine over time
  • There are two sides to pleasure: (1) seeking out high, euphoria – and (2) seeking experiences that dull or avoid pain
  • Oftentimes initial entry point into drug use is a desire to escape pain, not seek pleasure
  • Pleasure and pain are co-located in the brain and work like a balance, tipping inversely
  • The brain works hard to keep pleasure and pain in constant balance and neutrality
  • Problem with pornography: it’s an extremely potent stimulus – the brain is learning pleasure from watching other people have sex; this pleasure won’t necessarily carryover when you are having sex
  • Connect with your environment, not try to escape it
  • To reset the dopamine system and break an addictive pattern: 30 days of zero interaction with drug, person, alcohol, gambling, etc.
    • Days 1-10 will be very uncomfortable – you will feel worse before you feel better
    • By week 2 the sun will come out
    • By weeks 3 and 4 you will feel better than before you started your addiction
  • The silver lining in dopamine detox – the more time away from something, the more exciting it’ll be
  • Dopamine makes us focus on things outside of us that we have to chase; serotonin makes us content with the here and now
  • To maintain high levels of motivation, try intermittent reward: celebrate successes every other time, every tenth time, etc. to blunt dopamine response, prevent crash, and keep you on the path to bigger goals

The Power Of Mindset

  • Negative beliefs can cause negative consequences in the same way positive beliefs can produce positive results
  • Any event causes a real physiological response, but that response is entangled with our expectation of what the response should be – actual + perceived = reality
  • In a study on aging, people who negative association with the word “aging” died earlier than those who had a positive association
  • If you approach a diet with a mindset of restraint, it could be a counteractive benefit or objective effects of the diet – the brain is telling you to eat more food because you are telling yourself you’re being restricted
  • There’s bad messaging that stress is debilitating, bad, and should be avoided but in reality – stress puts us in a forward motion and propels us toward action
  • Useful experiment: ask yourself, “What is the effect of my mindset about the experience X?” – ask yourself about the school, work, exercise, nutrition, etc.  
  • Challenge grows you: despite its connotation, stress is not all bad – you grow from challenge
  • Recommended book: The Expectation Effect by David Robson

Lessons From Lex Fridman

  • “Approach life with love in your heart.” – Lex Fridman
  • There are so many energy pits but success is really about not allowing energy to dissipate into negative trails (e.g., fighting people online, cynics, etc.)
  • Anger is energetically demanding – you will crash if you lead with anger
  • Chris Williamson on Lex Fridman: “It takes an unbelievably singular person to work as hard as he does. Whatever people know about him is only a small sliver of just how obsessive and committed he is.”
  • How to be a good friend: consider whether your friend wants to hear how well they’re doing or they want to be pushed more

Huberman Routines

  • “The single best thing you can do for your sleep, energy, mood, wakefulness is to get natural light in your eyes early in the day” – Dr. Andrew Huberman
  • Don’t wear sunglasses when viewing the sun
  • Viewing direct morning sunlight within 30-60 minutes of waking will help you fall asleep and stay asleep at night, and optimize cortisol & adenosine levels
  • Three critical tips for viewing bright light early in the day: (1) viewing in the first 30-60 minutes of waking has a powerful impact on the ability to fall asleep and stay asleep at night; (2) if it’s dark because of cloudiness or time of day you wake up, flip on artificial lights in your house (but go outside as soon as the sun it out); (3) get outside on cloudy days – you need even more light than a clear day
  • Huberman tip: try to do something challenging in the first 60-90 minutes of waking
  • Huberman workout routine: push day, rest, pull day, cardio, legs, cardio, one day off – cardio, jogging or skipping rope on rest days; sauna and ice bath on rest days
    • Training time: 10 minutes of warmup then 40-50 minutes of work
  • Lunch is the biggest meal of the day  
  • Find an eating schedule that works with the things you need to do in life and gives you energy at the right times – but stay consistent with feeding times as much as possible
  • Worst possible things which will set your day up for failure: linger in bed, passively scroll on social media in bed, keeping room dark when you’re trying to wake up, drinking coffee too early

Deliberate Heat & Cold

  • Sauna exposure increased growth hormone 16-fold – important caveat, effect on growth hormone went down with increased sauna use because the body becomes heat adapted
  • If growth hormone increase is your main goal for sauna use, limit to 1x/week or 1x/10 days – and enter fasted or without food in the 2-3 hours prior for maximum benefits
  • General guidelines to start heat stimulus: temperature must be between 176F-212F for 5-20 minutes, 2-7 times per week – later in the day is better to activate cooling mechanisms and assist with sleep
  • Make sure you’re replacing the water you lose in the sauna – drink at least 16 ounces of water for every 10 minutes of sauna use
  • Cold exposure (11 minutes per week, up to the neck) has been shown to increase brown fat which increases metabolism and the ability to feel comfortable in cold temperatures
  • Local heat exposure (not to the point of burning) converts white fat to beige fat which leads to systemic increases in thermogenesis, metabolism, and fat loss – children have a lot of brown and beige fat
  • Beige fat is a more metabolically active version of white fat
  • If cycling between heat and cold, end with cold
  • Note – sauna will kill sperm! Be mindful if trying to conceive


  • There’s been a steady decline in sperm count from 1930 till now
  • In areas with high pesticide use, sperm count among men is significantly lower
  • Offspring of mothers who ingest phthalates in utero have decreased in distance from the anus to scrotum – contributing to lower sperm count
  • The most enriched form of BPAs is printed receipts
  • Sperm and testosterone counts are lower in rural areas because of pesticides like phthalates
  • Glyphosate, widely used in the U.S. are banned in 32 countries because of its damaging effects on health
  • Be vigilant about what you put in your body
  • Estrogen can help maintain and increase libido
  • If you adjust the units, a healthy woman has more testosterone than estrogen
  • Testosterone improves glycemic control & insulin signaling; if estrogen is too low (even if testosterone is high) fat and adipose tissue may gather
  • Men should have about 2% free testosterone – a more desirable target versus total testosterone
  • Genetics plays a huge role in testosterone levels
  • Generally, men need less than 100mg per week of testosterone (bodybuilders take crazy amounts – 500mg-1000mg)
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