What’s the best way to eat for optimal health—and brain health in particular—and longevity?
That’s a question Max Lugavere is working to answer.
When Max’s mother’s mental health began to decline, he became obsessed with how it could have been prevented. And that culminated in his first book, Genius Foods, which was a New York Times best-seller all about using diet and nutrition to help prevent dementia.
Unfortunately, Max’s mother developed pancreatic cancer, which she died from shortly after. Max’s determination didn’t wane, though, and he’s since gone on to write his newest book, Genius Life, which expands on the premise of his first book to go beyond food and build a healthy lifestyle.
In this episode, Max and I talk about . . .
- Why many people don’t need to eat so many carbs
- Misconceptions about olive oil for cooking
- The effect of late-night eating on hunger hormones
- Blue light blocking and magnesium for better sleep
- And more . . .
12:49 – What are some of the big takeaways that you discussed in your book?
34:21 – Why is eating at night not healthy?
51:57 – How much time outside should you spend to increase better sleep?
53:45 – Can you simulate natural light with artificial light?
1:00:01 – What are some toxic chemicals that we are constantly exposed to and how can we avoid them?
Mentioned on The Show:
What did you think of this episode? Have anything else to share? Let me know in the comments below!
Mike: Hello and welcome back. Hopefully. Hopefully you’re a regular around here. And if you’re not, hopefully you’re gonna become a regular. I’m Mike Matthews. This is Muscle For Life. And in this episode we’re gonna be talking about the best way to eat for optimal health and optimal brain health in particular, as well as longevity and vitality, because those are the topics that Max Luga Varis work focuses on.
And if that name sounds familiar, max is a New York Times bestselling author of a book that you’ve probably heard of called Genius Foods. And that was a project that Max embarked upon after his mom’s mental health began to. Decline. He became obsessed with how it could be improved and how it could be prevented in other people.
And that culminated in the book Genius Foods, which was all about using diet and nutrition to help prevent dementia in particular. Now, unfortunately, Max’s mother’s situation got even worse. She developed pancreatic cancer, which she died from shortly after, and that was devastating to Max, of course. But it also lit a fire under him to expand on the premise of his first book and to go beyond food and look at what it takes to really build a healthy lifestyle that is healthy for not just your brain, but your entire body.
And that’s what we talk about in this episode. So Max and I chat about why many people don’t need to eat so many carbs, and that’s certainly true of. The average person who is sedentary, who is not only not in the gym exercising regularly, they’re not even moving much at all, and that’s actually a bigger problem than the carbs.
But again, this is something we talk about in the interview. We also talk about misconceptions about olive oil for cooking. We talk about the effect of late night eating on hunger hormones. We talk about blue light blocking and magnesium for getting better sleep and more so if you want to live a longer, healthier life while doing your best to avoid disease and dysfunction, and to optimize your brain, in particular, this episode’s for you.
Now, before we get to the show, if you like what I’m doing here on the podcast and elsewhere, and if you wanna help me help, More people get into the best shape of their lives, please consider picking up one of my best selling health and fitness books. I have Bigger, leaner, stronger for Men, thinner, leaner, stronger for Women.
I have a flexible dieting cookbook called The Shredded Chef, as well as a 100% practical hands-on blueprint for personal transformation called The Little Black Book of Workout Motivation. These books have sold well over a million copies and have helped thousands of people build their best body ever, and you can find them on all major online retailers like Amazon, audible, iTunes, Cobo, and Google Play, as well as in select Barnes and Noble stores.
So again, that’s bigger, leaner, stronger for men, thinner, leaner, stronger for women, the shredded chef, and. The little Black Book of Workout Motivation. Oh, and I should also mention that you can get any of my audio books for free when you sign up for an Audible account, which is the perfect way to make those little pockets of downtime like commuting, meal prepping, dog walking, and cleaning, a bit more interesting, entertaining, and productive.
And if you want to take audible up on that offer and get one of my audio books for free, just go to legion athletics.com/audible and it’ll forward you over, and then you can sign up for your account. Hey Max, thanks for taking the time to do this.
Max: Mike, thanks so much for having me.
Mike: You’re one of the few people who actually followed through on a, Hey, let me put you in touch with somebody who would be a great guest for your show.
So kudos to you.
Max: Yeah, well I appreciate it man. We connected through our mutual friends, David Nurse and the guys over at Mind Pump, and those are just like some of the most solid people I know in the health and wellness and fitness world. So, you know, you already had strong social proof and uh, you seemed like a nice guy.
So what can I say?
Mike: See, I fake it. Well, you know. Yeah, no, just, just on that point. It’s just funny for anybody listening that it’s funny how hard it is to, to even to get guests or to even get on other shows. Like there have been so many times where, and I, and I’ll share details not to brag, but so a person knows like, I’m not trying to waste your time.
Like a good episode can get 30 or 40,000 plays. That’s a fair amount of people, and I’m just surprised at how that doesn’t work well at all with many people. And it’s baffling to me. I’ll be like, If somebody were to reach out to me and say, Hey, do you want to come on my like pretty popular podcast and talk about stuff that you like to talk about?
I’d be like, yes, sure. A thousand percent. I don’t know. Free promotion. I don’t know, I, it’s strange, but that’s not what we’re here to talk about. We’re here to talk about you and your next book, which is called The Genius Life. And depending on when this episode comes out, it’s either gonna be in its final week of pre-order, or it’s gonna be just available.
This is your second book, right?
Max: Second book. Second book, yeah.
Mike: First book was Genius Foods, right? Indeed. And that book did quite well. And here you are now with your next one, which is exciting. And why this? Why did you wanna write? I mean, it seems like a logical progression, you know, taking the genius brand, so to speak, and finding a new and bigger concept for it.
That’s how it looks from a marketing perspective. But that obviously wasn’t the only consideration of why you wanted to write this book.
Max: Yeah. Well, For anybody that’s not familiar with my story, I have a background in journalism, so I didn’t go the academic medical route, but for six years out of college I was working for a news and information network that co-founded by former U S V P Al Gore, and I got to investigate topics that ranged from sort of light and fluffy to pretty heady and serious.
After doing that and getting to work with some of the best of the best journalists in the field, you know, people who have sort of honed the skills and talents of reporters that are no doubt household names. I left that and I was trying to figure out where I was gonna go with my career and at that point in my personal life, my mom became sick and I started spending more and more time with her in New York City, which is where I’m from.
I went around the country with her. To try to understand what was going on. And, you know, what we were able to subjectively observe was that my mom had a change to her gait and there was a, a distinct change to her cognitive abilities. Suddenly it had seemed as if, you know, her brain power had just downshifted, you know, almost as if she had had a brain transplant with somebody who was 30 years her senior.
It was unsettling to me and everybody else in my family ’cause I had no prior family history of any kind of neurodegenerative condition. And so we ended up visiting clinics in New York City again, which is where I’m from, to ultimately to Johns Hopkins in Baltimore. And because we couldn’t get answers in any of those cities, we ended up going to the Cleveland Clinic, which is where, you know, the Cleveland Clinic is known for taking on complex medical cases and it was there for the first time.
That my mom was diagnosed with a neurodegenerative condition, and at that point I basically became obsessed with trying to understand why this would’ve happened to my mom at such a young age. You know, my mom was in her late fifties, about 58 at the time, which is not old. You know, it’s, she had all the pigment in her hair.
She was a young and vibrant woman. I began to investigate as an independent, you know, journalist through the medical literature, what’s called the primary literature. You know, studies that are, and trials that are published in our most respected peer reviewed journals. But then ultimately I found a way to exploit my media credentials that I had had, which I found to be a very powerful advantage.
And I was able to go around the world and interview researchers that are, you know, ushering in this notion of dementia prevention. And I became, initially I was very focused on diet. ’cause I’ve always had an interest more than an interest, a passion for nutrition and health. And in fact, the first two years of my college, I was pre-med because I thought that I was gonna go into that as a profession.
So when my mom got sick, you know, I, I started really looking at the foods and the, and the food environment and what it could be, what it was about my mom’s dietary pattern over the years that might have predisposed her to developing. This strange and niche form of dementia. And so I wrote Genius Foods, which is my first book, which is really sort of a nutritional care manual to the human brain based on everything that we currently know about dementia prevention and this burgeoning field that’s being referred to as nutritional psychiatry.
And actually, genius Foods isn’t the only thing I’ve published. I’ve been able to publish. I’ve been privileged to be able to collaborate with one of the leading researchers in the field of dementia prevention on a chapter in a clinician’s textbook, which is a peer reviewed, obviously piece of literature.
And so I’ve been able to do, I think things that I’ve been, that have been very sort of humbling, but that have also been really crucial in terms of helping get this message out to a broader audience. The topic of dementia prevention, the notion that we have some sort of agency over our cognitive destiny, and that the choices that we make with every meal might weigh in on the health of our brains, ultimately brain health and the health of our body.
Our bodies don’t, you know, don’t stop at nutrition. As you know, the genius life really is about going beyond food, although there is a strong nutritional sort of backbone to it. But in it, I talk about all the other aspects of modern life that have just mutated and, and become dysfunctional from the standpoint of the biological needs of the human animal.
And I got the, the opportunity to write the book. Just after the Genius Foods came out. So, you know, genius Foods, obviously I’m very grateful that it’s been successful. It’s, you know, been published around the world. But shortly after I was able to get the opportunity to write a second follow-up book, my mother was actually diagnosed with pancreatic cancer, and this was in Labor Day, just after Labor Day of 2018 last year.
Or I guess, you know, when this podcast goes up, it might, you know, be a year and a half prior. But from the point at which she was diagnosed, the disease just ravaged her and it took three months and she was gone. And so it’s, I mean, it’s hard for me to talk about, but. I just became, you know, even more dedicated to understanding why the modern world has become so toxic and why, you know, what could have led to, to my mom have, you know, being struck down at such a young age and have gotten so sick, you know, what kinds of exposures could be potentially indicted in the heartbreaking health that my mom experienced.
And, you know, part of it has to do with the fact that it, I feel in, in many ways, like my mom was robbed from me and, and the rest of my family. But in other ways, I wanna prevent it from happening to myself and others that I care about. So the genius life is really just a continuation on my research. And it’s all, you know, based on peer reviewed evidence and conversations and interviews that I’ve conducted with researchers, a lot of them I do on my own podcast, which is also called The Genius Life.
And so, yeah, it’s a never ending journey and this is sort of my latest. Work and I, I hope it resonates. What can I say? Yeah. Wow.
Mike: I can’t even imagine what that must have been like to go through, but I can say that I admire, you’re turning it into something positive instead of just allowing it to ruin your life, even if it’s just for a period of time.
Max: Yeah. I mean, everybody, you know, I’m not alone in this. Everybody has dealt with issues related to illness and you know, if there’s one thing that’s among the most powerful motivators that we know of, it’s when a loved one gets sick. I mean, it motivates you or when you get sick. Many people who are now in the fitness industry, I think are in it because at one point, perhaps they were unhealthy or they were overweight.
I’ve been very blessed to have not really had any major medical problems, and I’ve never been overweight other than a little bit of like baby fat that I carried with me through adolescence, but, I’ve really always believed in the power of nutrition and lifestyle and exercise to make a person feel better from the standpoint of mental health and to, you know, improve body composition and all that.
But when my mom became sick, it really, I. So it was sort of like a record stopping, you know, that sound effect that they use in movies sometimes. Yeah. And just, yeah. Yeah. And just everything kind of zeroing in on health and longevity and what we can do to procure better health for ourselves and for our loved ones.
Mike: And what were some of the big takeaways that you discussed in the book? ’cause as far as nutrition goes, I mean, I’ll just quickly share what I generally promote and I’ll be curious how that matches up with, ’cause the lens that you’re viewing it through in Genius Foods is a bit more specific and a bit different than what I’m talking about.
I’m talking about just general health and not specifically just brain health. Now of course, brain health comes along with general health, but if you get most of your calories from mostly. Unprocessed foods. If you eat plenty of fruits and mostly vegetables, but plenty of of plant foods and healthy fats and throw in some lean protein as well.
If you’re going to eat an omnivorous diet, if you’re gonna go 100% plant-based, you can make it work. It’s a bit trickier because of protein needs and nutritional needs, but you can make it work. You might have to supplement a little bit and you know, pretty simple. Kind of speaking of of moms, kind of like how our moms always wanted us to eat and always told us to eat.
And if you want to get very specific and include certain quote unquote super foods, I don’t really like that term, but let’s just say highly nutritious foods or foods that contain unique properties or unique molecules that you’re not gonna get elsewhere, you can do that. Like eat a clove of raw garlic every day if you can do it ’cause it has Allison, you’re not gonna get that anywhere else.
So eat some cruciferous vegetables every day. And it might be good for helping maintain hormonal health and you know, some stuff like that. Eat some mushrooms every day. You don’t necessarily have to micromanage it that much if we’re talking about just maintaining general health. So as far as nutrition goes, that’s, that’s what a lot of people listening to this are gonna be thinking with.
And you know, quickly, I’d just be curious to hear how that lines up with what is in your existing book in Genius Foods and then where does it go from there? In Genius Life, what else did you find are, ’cause yes, if you don’t eat well, your body is not going to do well. If you’re young, you can get away with it for a while ’cause you’re essentially invincible.
But eventually it catches up with you. And many people listening know that. They also know that exercise is important. But you talk about some things that aren’t. Generally discussed, or at least it’s not just the super obvious stuff in genius life.
Max: Yeah, so I mean, I think like I’ve coined the term genius foods to describe foods that I think are among the most nutrient dense foods in the supermarket.
And that do provide value in terms of whether it’s protective molecules or building block molecules to the brain specifically because, you know, you might consider the body having evolved to chart the brain around, right? Like the brain is really the organ that it’s the battery of of our lives, essentially.
And without the brain, if the brain goes, we’ve got nothing. So, And on the flip side of that coin, you know, it’s convenient that what’s good for the brain is good for the rest of the body. And what’s good for the body is good for the brain. So there’s this bidirectional communication that happens between the brain and the body.
They’re completely connected and, and eating for the brain, I. Think is going to benefit the body and eating in a way that fosters the optimal body composition for you and the optimal metabolic health for you, whatever it’s gonna make you healthier in your body, is gonna benefit your brain. So I talk about, you know, eating primarily whole foods, like you mentioned, I think for most people have a bias towards low carb, you know, foods that are gonna.
Minimize glycemic variability throughout the day with the caveat that I don’t believe in a one size fits all dietary pattern. If you are engaging with resistance training, high intensity interval training, for example, you definitely have a, not only a higher tolerance for dietary carbohydrates, but a necessity for it.
Even so that I think is, you know, un debatable, like, you know, you need carbs to supply energy for explosive lifts and things like that. The problem is that most people are so sedentary, Mike. I mean, you look at statistically around the country, two thirds of people are either overweight or obese. Half of the population is either diabetic or pre-diabetic, and most people who are diabetic actually don’t even know that they’re diabetics.
Mike: I completely agree. Most people would benefit greatly from just eliminating all forms of. You could say processed carbs and they’re gonna get carbs. If they eat fruit and vegetables, obviously it’s not, but their carbohydrate intake might go from like 300 grams a day to 80 or 90 or something. That would be very healthy and it’d be very beneficial.
But to that point of, okay, if you take that person though, and they do that and they go, oh, I, I feel better. Maybe I should do something else for my body. Maybe I should start exercising. They start doing that and then particularly if they start training their muscles, then yes, not only now is their body.
Now I, I wouldn’t recommend that they go back to eating. What, what, what do people even eat these days? I don’t even, my diet has been so the same so long, but, uh, go back to eating like, I don’t know, lucky charms and like Pop-Tarts and shit for their carbs, but now they have a use for more carbohydrate and their body can tolerate it much better.
Of course, their insulin sensitivities gonna be much better. So now maybe they’re gonna be adding some whole grains into their diet, or they’re gonna be adding, I mean, I would say not that the average person would want to avoid legumes, but maybe they’re gonna be eating more of them. Or maybe even there is some process like, oh, they’re gonna have some pita bread with their lunch, with their salad.
Okay, fine. Whatever. But yeah, certainly for the average sedentary person, their diet is all out of whack and. That’s a different discussion, but look at what was promoted though by the government and just mainstream media and just health quote unquote experts for so long, which it was eat a shitload of carbs, a shitload of grains, and you know, some vegetables, maybe whatever, and very little protein.
That’s what people did and you know, it, it didn’t do them very well.
Max: No load up on grains, avoid, you know, cut the fat, avoid saturated fat in particular. And what that did was that allowed food manufacturers basically to exploit those guidelines, which were based on not very solid science at the time that they were, you know, released into the world.
When you said earlier, you know, that we should be eating like our moms. Taught us well, I mean, my mom taught me some very good things about nutrition, but she also taught me some very bad things about nutrition. You know, she was always very afraid of developing heart disease. The irony that, you know, she developed the other two of humanity’s most feared conditions, and her heart was fine the entire time, but, She was raised at a time, you know, when the prevailing messaging surrounding heart disease prevention was to avoid fat and dietary cholesterol.
And so growing up, when looking back and thinking back over the dietary pattern of my mom throughout the years, I never saw her eat eggs. She never ate eggs, but she never ate red meat. She was a, a strict meat avoider. The only time she ever ate any kind of animal protein was explicitly for that, for the protein.
And it was usually lean chicken breast, you know, without the skin and fish. My mom was not a big believer in organic ever. She never purchased organic anything. We were not privy at the time to grass fed this or grain fed that. You know, the fish that we bought was, you know, surely farmed and always in my kitchen to avoid the saturated fat in butter.
We had those pale yellow tubs of margarine. And we always had the jug of corn oil sitting out by the stove in the plastic tub, you know, getting warmed over and over and over again by the stove, which it sat next to in that plastic no less, you know, so you have the unhealthy corn oil, which we know is predominantly, you know, highly damaged, prone polyunsaturated Omega six dominant fat, which no human being really should be consuming.
It’s not only there sitting, you know, by the, in the warm environment of the stove, which catalyzes, you know, this oxidative process. It creates all these dangerous compounds like aldehydes, but it’s sitting in plastic no less, which leaches endocrine disrupting compounds into the oil. And so that’s like, you know, on the surface, our dietary pattern during that period would’ve been like the gold star patient of a nutritionist.
You know, of a dietician of the nineties and eighties or seventies, right? But we now know in retrospect that that’s like, those were some of the worst offenses that you could be doing to your body, you know, eating those kinds of things. You know, the margarines, which, you know, were probably filled with partially hydrogenated oils, the, you know, the grain and seed oils that my mom’s diet was built on.
We know that now dietary cholesterol has very little impact on blood cholesterol, you know, except for a few minority people, people that are hyper absorbers, for example, which make up a small minority of the population. I can’t help but think that, that that dietary pattern had some impact on my mom’s health, and it in many ways, it informed.
The research that I did and continue to do, and, you know, we could talk about red meat for a little bit. I don’t want to go, you know, too far into it because I know that it’s, it’s kind of, uh, controversial. But I’m a big advocate of consuming properly raised grass fed red meat. My mom never ate any of it, for example.
And I think that it’s one of the most nutrient dense foods that we have in terms of the bioavailability of nutrients. The fact that it’s, you know, a highly protein dense food and the like, you know, in terms of brain health researchers speculate that it was access to not just meat, but cooked meat that catalyzed the growth of our brains.
So if you think from an evolutionary standpoint, not to romanticize sort of like the ancestral diet too much, but. We ate for a certain way for millions of years. That led to the evolution of the modern human brain. We’ve been, you know, anatomically modern human beings for the past 200,000 years, and then about 10,000 years ago, we turned our backs on that diet and our diets went from being.
Built on whatever land animals or you know, sea animals, we could catch plants that we could forge. There are 50,000 edible plant species around the world to just a handful of animals and crops that we could domesticate. And that paved the way for the fact that today most of the calories that people are consuming come from just three plants.
Wheat, corn, and rice.
Mike: Yeah. Yeah. I mean, a lot to unpack there. I mean, quickly. Good point with, with how your mom, I mean, it’s just what she knew, right? And so maybe I should rethink my little quip. So I’d say then maybe how some of our moms, a lot of moms wanted at least to eat our vegetables. And most people don’t even do that.
So we could start there, but you know, something to consider. With that point of like, well, this is what nutritionists would’ve once recommended and this would’ve really been the weight of the evidence, so to speak at the at the time and how that changes. I think we should also though be careful to not to think that we have it all figured out now either though, because yeah, now the pendulum has swung hard in the other direction and the carbohydrate is the boogeyman now, and dietary fat is the darling, and there are many people with credentials and people who sound smart who would say that you should just have a fat orgy every day.
You should eat all the fat you want. You should eat all the saturated fat you want. You should eat all the butter you want. You should eat all the red meat you want. That’s silly as well. That’s not what the weight of the evidence would suggest at all. But also when you look at, really, when you look at how much dietary fat, Does our body need and in what types To be healthy and functional and let’s say even to thrive, not just to survive.
It’s not that much like, you know, if you get, let’s say 30 ish percent of your daily calories from fat and you get some monounsaturated fat in there and some polyunsaturated fat and some saturated fat, like maybe you eat some avocado and you eat some nuts and you have maybe some meat as well, although you’re gonna get some saturated from the avocado and nuts and some olive oil.
Right? Just a simple, it’s very easy to do, like eating a salad. It could, could actually do all of those things for you. Then you’re gonna be good. You don’t need to be getting 50, 60% of your calories every day from fat. And if you’re gonna do that, you should watch out with your saturated fat. Because we do know that there are a lot of people out there who L D L, like.
It, it is gonna be an issue. Their l d L levels are gonna rise if they’re eating, let’s say they start getting 20 or 30% of their daily calories from saturated fat. I, I just don’t see how that’s good advice and how that is just based on, not just my understanding, but having spoken to a lot of smart people, scientists who, this is what they live, this is their world where they’re just like, that’s just irresponsible.
So I, I do agree that I think on the whole, we’re learning more and more and things are improving, but we have similar problems today as, as your mom had in her day.
Max: Yeah. Just to go into that a little bit, I don’t. Recommend very high fat diet. You know, I think that now that dietary fat has been exonerated, the pendulum has swung in the other direction where now you know, because people love black or white thinking when it comes to nutrition, that it, we should just be having a fat free for all.
And you’re absolutely right and that some people respond differently to saturated fats and might have an exaggerated, for example, L D L response. And I don’t think that having, you know, an exaggerated L D L response is necessarily a good thing. Right. And of course, you don’t want to look only at L D L when assessing heart disease risk.
I think L D L should be looked at in the context of like your overall health, you know, inflammatory markers, insulin resistance and things like that. But yeah, so I mean, I think that’s one of the things that sets me apart in this space. Like, you know, my book, certainly I talk about the potential applications for keto.
You can’t not talk about keto if you’re talking about brain health because it’s very, it is interesting and they are studying the ketogenic diet for its. Potential application in, in treating conditions like mild cognitive impairment or Alzheimer’s disease. And certainly it’s been used for over a century now to treat certain types of epilepsy.
So I mean, it is certainly relevant to the brain, but there are different ways of even executing a ketogenic diet. In the classic medical literature, what you have is a ketogenic diet that is based on heavy cream and hard cheeses and meat and oils and things like that. But you could easily reach ketosis by eating a diet that’s predominantly fibrous vegetables and lean protein.
So there are different ways to execute it. The recommendation that I make in the book is, you know, not to go crazy with the added oils, which are not. Particularly nutrient dense, but if you are gonna use an oil, extra virgin olive oil really should be that. It’s the oil that I think is probably gonna do the most good for the most people.
And you know, we have good amount of research to back that up from animal studies, to in vitro studies, to in vivo human clinical trials using extra virgin olive oil. It seems to be the most sort of benevolent oil that we have. Yep. Good for cooking too. Yeah. It’s a myth that you can’t cook with, with extra virgin olive oil.
And when it comes to carbs, I’m pretty, I think moderate there as well. As I mentioned, you know, I don’t think, I think that if you have visceral fat, if you’re insulin resistant, if you’re overweight, if. Which by the way, many people are, then I think you probably should go on a grain-free diet and focus more on fibers, vegetables, dark leafy greens, protein and things like that.
On the one hand, you know it’s gonna be the most satiating. It’s not gonna mess with your blood sugar if you’re insulin resistant, which, you know, insulin resistance is essentially glucose intolerance. So you really, you know, if you’re in that state, you really have no business consuming those kinds of foods.
And also regaining metabolic flexibility, which is basically the pipeline that allows your body to burn fat. But if you’re not somebody who has that type of health situation, then you know, do I think grains are toxic or, or necessary to be avoided? I mean, you know, I’ll eat. White rice every now and then I’ll, I definitely eat it on my sushi.
Mike: I like oatmeal, like personally and just as a food.
Max: Yeah, I mean, oatmeal is great. Speaking in terms of nutrient density, I don’t think that grains are very nutrient dense. I think they’re actually very energy dense,
Mike: which of course, I mean that is the point, right? Carbohydrates are primarily energetic and you can get some fiber too if you pick the right ones.
You can get some, ideally some soluble fiber as well. Although I guess if you’re eating enough vegetables, you probably don’t have to worry about that, but
Max: yeah, exactly. I mean, if you’re like working out religiously like I do and like I’m sure you do and you’re, and many of your listeners do, then yeah, carbs are essential to refill that muscle glycogen so that you can gain strength.
I mean, I had a, my own N of one experience recently. I went through about a month and a half, two month period of just like, you know, just bulking, like eating whatever I can get my hands on all super healthy, quote unquote clean foods, you know, not foods that were. Process. Still avoiding the unhealthy oils and things like that, but just eating a lot, like really pushing my caloric intake up.
And I was eating a lot of carbs. I would like be polishing off a bag of popcorn at night pretty much. And I was eating white rice and things like that just because I wanted to see how much stronger I could get by doing that. So I was like in a hyper caloric state. I was eating lots of carbs, not tracking anything, but just eating a lot more than my baseline.
I was getting really strong really fast. And then after about two months in, I caught back on the carbs and I started eating less, like going back to my baseline, just levels of appetite, like not pushing it. And I noticed that I was just like running out of steam in the gym. So it was a very sort of quick AB test for me to really experience the value of carbs when trying to build strength.
When you’re trained athlete, you know, not that I’m, I don’t really like to use the term athlete to describe myself ’cause I’m the least athletic person there is. But I do love to lift so.
Mike: We can pretend like weightlifting sport, we can pretend like we’re athletes ’cause we pick things up and put them down.
Max: Totally. I’m happy to do it. But yeah, so I mean, I’m not dogmatic. That’s basically the point is that I think that there’s no such thing as a one size fits all diet. You know, everybody has different health comes from a different place of health, different fitness levels, different genders, different ages, different activity levels, and so,
Mike: And also I’d say what they enjoy too.
I, I mean I talk about that fairly often and why it’s important to do a workout program that you like, even if it’s maybe not scientifically optimal, even if you know, like this is deficient in some way. But I just like it more than the most optimized approach and the same thing with. Diet where there are definitely boundaries and there are rules of thumb that you should be following, but this maybe is, well I could say it could be with food choices.
Like so you don’t have to eat certain foods just ’cause so-and-so says this is a super food you have to be eating. No, it’s not. That’s not true. There are some things though, like leafy greens, it’d be very smart for you to get in a couple servings per day. Even if you have to do what the kids call the cow method where it’s just grab spinach and shove it into your mouth and chew it and drink water and and move on with your life.
Never heard of that even. Yeah. Yeah. There’s somebody that, he had come on my podcast some time ago and he’s like a guy from Twitch and he had a lot of health problems and he came across my stuff and then now he doesn’t have health problems and he has like this following on Twitch and he does not like leafy greens at all.
So he doesn’t care to try to turn them into a salad or make them palatable at all. He just eats them dry and he says, he calls it cow method. And I thought it’s pretty funny. It’s stuck in my head because it actually is kind of effective. I mean, all you need right is a couple handfuls. Just do it. Just slam it in your mouth.
Chew the shit, drink the water. And you’re done. You just got in your leafy greens. But, so there are some things that are smart, but let’s say like intermittent fasting for example. A lot of people ask me, should I do intermittent fasting? And my answer is, if you like it and if you don’t like it, don’t do it.
’cause you’re not really missing out on anything. And so again, that’s a point of where other people would say, oh, this is the next thing. You should be doing this if you really want to be healthy. And then people try it, they hate it, and then they give up on it. And, and maybe from there that leads into feeling guilty and then totally, you know, throws them.
Off track and into unhealthy habits. And so as far as diet goes, I also talk about that, that make sure that you’ve worked out when you’re eating and what you’re eating and, and how large your meals are and when those meals are like, just make sure that it’s something you actually enjoy. You should be looking forward to the meals that you eat, you should be looking forward to your diet should not be a source of distress.
Max: Yeah, I couldn’t agree more.
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Max: In terms of the intermittent fasting thing, I agree that it’s not a magic solution to anything, but I do think that the research on circadian biology, and this is where, you know, I start to talk about this in the genius life, I do think it’s compelling enough to warrant not eating too late at night.
Mike: Let’s talk about that. That’s something that I guess I always have tended to do. Like I just never really liked eating at night, but I’m curious as to what you found on that point specifically.
Max: Yeah, I mean, look, let’s be honest. You know something, you know a food has a hundred calories at 7:00 PM is it gonna have more calories somehow at 8:00 PM or 9:00 PM?
No. Overall, obviously energy balance is when it comes to your weight. I think obviously rain supreme, but eating too late at night can mess with the hormones that regulate energy, expenditure and hunger levels. So circadian disruption can negatively affect hormones like leptin groin, which can affect the calories outside of the calories in calories out equation.
Right over time, does one meal, you know, late at night necessarily, is that gonna have any detrimental effect on your health or on your weight? No, not at all.
Mike: Just to jump in there, quite a few people listening, probably just so you can think with this, you might wanna comment on it. Probably have, and I’ve written about this, and this is something I have done for a while, they’ll have probably a serving of like slower burning protein later at night.
Maybe it’s right before bed or an hour or so before bed. So that’s gonna be probably 20 or 25 grams of protein from maybe some high protein yogurt or maybe some Cain protein. And the idea there is there, there’ve been three or four studies now done and, and this makes sense, mechanistically, it’s not surprising this is what was found, but that by having a serving of.
Protein before you go to bed, you gain more muscle over time. This was once thought that it was like, oh, sleeping is catabolic. Your body breaks down. You know you’re breaking down muscle when you sleep. Well, we know that’s not true, but what we do know is, let’s say you stop eating protein at 6:00 PM and it takes your body, I don’t know, three or four, maybe five hours to finish processing that food.
Your muscle building machinery, so to speak, shuts down at that point because it doesn’t have the raw materials, it has no amino acids left to process, so it just kind of sits there waiting for its next feeding. And by having some protein before you go to bed, you give it some raw materials to work with.
So it goes, oh, okay, let’s kick into gear for another three or four hours. I mean, depending on what you’re having, it might be a little bit longer. And so that’s the idea behind it. And that’s something that I’ve recommended as, it’s not vital, but if you don’t mind it, do it kind of thing.
Max: Yeah, I mean I would agree with that and I think it’s, it all comes down to, again, like everybody being different and it depends on your goals.
If your goal is to maximize hypertrophy, then yeah, it probably makes sense to, you know, spread out your protein evenly throughout the day and to get some before bed, you know, to maximize muscle protein synthesis. But when it comes to just overall health, you know, I think probably not eating carbs or starchy foods to be more specific just before bed, I think that’s probably not a good idea because to be clear, I think it’s probably not a good idea to eat starchy foods before bed because you’re less insulin sensitive at night anyway.
They call that afternoon diabetes. As the day wanes, your insulin sensitivity sort of declines. They’ve found that a single late night mixed meal, 11:00 PM compared to 6:00 PM actually can make you worse at handling glucose the next day. So it makes you more insulin resistant the next day, similar to being undersleep.
So it’s all about figuring out what your goals are and setting healthy patterns, and again, sticking to what’s like gonna be the most sustainable for you in accordance with your goals. But you know, there are other aspects of late eating, late at night that I think are worth taking into account. So, for example, you know, we know that.
We have our largest pulse of growth hormone occurs soon after we fall asleep. And insulin, which is the hormone that is primarily expressed when we consume carbohydrates, is in opposition to growth hormone. And so, you know, we can affect that. We also have an enzyme in the brain called insulin degrading enzyme, which I go into detail in Genius foods actually, which is involved in deconstructing the proteins that can clump together and form the plaques associated with conditions like Alzheimer’s disease and insulin degrading enzyme.
It’s there to degrade insulin as the name implies, but it also does double duty and works on this amyloid beta protein. But it preferentially will work to degrade insulin when it’s around and we know that the brain is cleaning itself when we sleep. Thanks to the glymphatic system, this is a, a fairly recent discovery, but we know that the brain during sleep.
These ducts in the brain swell to make room for cerebral spinal fluid, which every 20 minutes swooshes throughout the brain cleansing itself of proteins like amyloid and tau, which are associated with neurodegeneration. So insulin, you know, might actually be in opposition to the brain, sort of custodial processes.
I think more research needs to be done on foods and how they relate to the functioning of the glymphatic system. So I’m not gonna say that I have all the answers, but I think it makes sense from a circadian standpoint that. Digestion, metabolism and things like that would not be as optimal late at night as they would be during the day because during the day, our bodies are prioritizing daylight associated activity.
Our metabolism is tuned in a way to support that. We also have, in terms of digestion, peristalsis flows, which is a sign that, you know, we’re not digesting things as well late at night. I have a hypothesis that eating late at night can allow food actually to spend more time in the small intestine than it should.
And from the standpoint of the microbiome, the vast majority of bacteria that reside within us hang out in the large intestine. Um, we have a small amount of bacteria in the small intestine, but that’s really the site of nutrient absorption for us. And so it’s a little volatile. It’s also kind of acidic, so food bacteria don’t really like to hang out that far north in the digestive tract.
But allowing food to ferment there when peristalsis has slowed overnight, I think can potentially be. Not the best thing could predispose one to small intestinal bacterial overgrowth and things like that. So, and then, you know, when it comes to human trials, they’ve done a number of studies where they found that early time restricted feeding has had a number of benefits on people.
More research needs to be done, certainly. But eating earlier dinners seems to. Lead to better blood pressure, better metabolic health. And these are all things that occur independent of weight loss. So even though time restricted feeding is a great way to control calories, there seems to be a number of benefits that occur independent of, you know, any potential weight that’s lost.
Mike: Interesting. Yeah, that’s something that I haven’t looked much into, so unfortunately I can’t comment much on probably because I’ve never been one to eat large meals late at night and I’ve never recommended it. It would seem almost commonsensical to do the opposite. You know, I personally, how I like to eat is I like to eat lighter in the day and I get a fair amount of calories throughout the day, but I do like to eat lighter in the day as far as my individual meals go, and then have a larger dinner maybe around uh, seven or so.
But even that is, it’s really, it’s not that big of a dinner. It’s probably, I don’t know, eight, 900 calories. And that’s just how I’ve always liked to eat and probably just ’cause I’m working in the day and it requires. You know that I focus and concentrate. I’m either writing or recording or doing something that I, I want to be like maximally there for.
If I eat, for example, 150 grams of carbs in one sitting, then you just notice that, or even just a, it doesn’t have to be a carb heavy meal, just a high volume of food. I, I just, it just, I feel like it slows me down a little bit. But all of what you were saying makes sense. Again, just from how have our bodies been wired from an evolutionary perspective and what is the body trying to do when sleeping and take carbs, for example, as they are primarily energetic.
We don’t need a bunch of carbs to sleep. We’re gonna need a bunch of carbs if we want to go be active and do something. So, uh, I would also note that still even following the general guidelines that you’re sharing in terms of meal timing is not intermittent fasting per se. It’s just. Finishing your food at a normal time and not eating much after that.
It probably doesn’t have to be nothing after that. So, you know, when I think of intermittent fasting, I think of something a bit more structured, even if it’s skipping breakfast, right? That’s the lean gains really. It’s just skipping breakfast. That’s how you get to the, what is it? It’s 16 hours fasting, and then eight hours is your eating window.
So really for most people, that means that they just skip breakfast and they, and they eat lunch, and then they stop eating at the time what, whatever the cutoff is for most people, whatever, 8:00 PM or so, right? Yeah.
Max: You know, I eat a big dinner like I eat until I’m fully satiated and I go to sleep at around midnight every night.
So, you know, I’ll eat my dinner at about 9:00 PM or probably earlier. Actually. I try to eat my dinner at seven lately. After dinner. I mean, I, I try not to snack very much or if I do snack, I try to really cut it off by 9:00 PM so that I’m getting a good three hours before, before I go to sleep where I’m just not eating anything.
And I do find that I tend to sleep great that way. Now, carbs, do you know, for somebody who’s on a very low carbohydrate diet, I mean, it is a common complaint that people who are initiating a ketogenic diet tend to experience insomnia. And part of that has to do with the fact that, you know, a ketogenic diet is essentially a fasting mimetic.
It mimics fasting. So you’re basically. It’s a diet that allows you to eat food, but many of the sort of pathways that sort of light up are conserved through fasting. And so that’s a stress on the body. So corti, you can experience an elevation of evening cortisol, which you don’t want, you know, and cortisol is an energizing hormone.
It’s sort of like the body’s caffeine, endogenous caffeine in a way. And so that can keep people awake. People find that when they add a little more carbs, they actually sleep better carbohydrates. You know, part of how that works is carbs boost the ability of, uh, the amino acid tryptophan to enter the brain.
And tryptophan is not only the precursor molecule to serotonin, uh, which makes you feel good, right? But it’s also. It plays a role in melatonin synthesis
Mike: and, and insulin also counteracts cortisol. So yeah, you know, you’ve probably come across, uh, research on having a carbohydrate rich meal before bed. I can see there was a paper I had looked at, I just don’t remember the exact protocol.
It might’ve been an hour or so before bed. Did improve sleep quality in people who are having trouble sleeping.
Max: Yeah. I mean, I think it depends on why you’re having trouble sleeping.
Mike: Sure, sure. Not I, I’m just saying, I’m sure you came across, that’s why I didn’t even mention it ’cause it’s really not that interesting.
Max: But yeah, I mean, sleep is crucial. I think there’s probably a lot of reasons why somebody would be having poor sleep today. I mean, I, I’m lucky in that I sleep well, but I, you know, recognize that we’re just inundated with. Distraction and blue light, which is something that I talk also a lot about. In the book, blue Light sends the signal to your brain that it’s daytime, and so your brain doesn’t wanna wind down when it’s daytime.
It wants to jumpstart the processes that are gonna support daylight associated activity. So I think that’s, you know, one of the reasons why people could be sleeping poorly. I think just overall, you know, eating a pro-inflammatory diet can affect sleep negatively. Many people are magnesium don’t consume adequate magnesium.
Magnesium deficiency actually can manifest as insomnia. It’s one of the reasons why I think a handful of studies limited research, but there’s a suggestion in the literature that magnesium supplementation can help with sleep. I think part of the reason has to do with, we just don’t consume enough foods that are rich in magnesium.
Mike: There are a few studies that have shown that it was, I wanna say, Around 300 milligrams probably, I think it was before sleep, especially with, I believe it was with sleep quality and Wakings in particular, which is something that I’ve actually had issues with in the past. And now fortunately don’t, I’m not, I’m a lighter sleeper than I was 10 years ago.
And I think that’s just a natural consequence of getting older. But, uh, still today I have three to 500 milligrams of magnesium before about 30 minutes before I go to bed because, um, it was one of the things I had added into my regimen. It’s hard to say exactly what ultimately resolved the sleep issues I was having.
’cause they’re also, it can be psychological in nature. It’s hard to exactly know. But there, like you mentioned, there is some research showing that if you have some magnesium. Before you go to bed, it can help you relax. It can help you sleep better, and it’s hard to get enough through diet alone, even if you are conscientious about what you eat.
Max: it’s super difficult. Yeah, I mean part of that has to do with the fact that our soils are becoming depleted. But you’re a hundred percent right. So I mean, I supplement with magnesium glycinate. I take about 300 milligrams. You get the bulk powder? I don’t get the powder, no. Oh, okay. I do the pills and I wash it down.
Lately I’ve been kind of obsessed with glycine, uh, so
Mike: I get bulk powders. I have bulk glycine, I have bulk magnesium glycinate, and I have bulk lemon balm. And I make, ironically, I have a sleep supplement that has exactly those ingredients. But I’m using the bulk powders because I don’t like the taste of that supplement.
We need to fix the taste, and I’m just, some people like it. I personally do not, and that’s funny that I say that, but that’s the truth. So I basically recreated the, the supplement has one other ingredient called Rudi Carpine, but I’m just taking the main ingredients that are improving sleep, or actually it doesn’t have magnesium that’s in our multivitamin.
So I’m adding the magnesium, but it has glycine and it has lemon balm, and I just mix it up in water and drink it down.
Max: That sounds great. Yeah, I’m a big fan of glycine. You mentioned not sleeping like you used to. I think, you know, part of that has to do with the fact that we’re spending more and more time indoors.
And I think when it comes to good sleep later on in the, like at night, I think we set ourselves up for good sleep, actually beginning the morning of, and part of that I think, I think one of the most important things to do is to make sure that you’re getting good, adequate, bright light in through your eyes in the daytime.
And that’s something that I think few of us are able to do today. Part of that has to do with the fact that now 92% of the time that we spent our waking hours are spent indoors. But you know, we have light sensing proteins in the eye that are involved in setting our bodies circadian clock that this sort of entrainment is what sort of guides our body’s many functions over the following 24 hours.
And, That light’s sensing protein. It’s called melanopsin. It speaks to a little chocolate chip sized region of the brain called the schematic nucleus, which is in a very primitive area of the brain called the hypothalamus. And you know this protein in the eye, it’s very interesting because it’s not involved in vision.
It’s there purely to set your body’s circadian clock, which of course involves, you know, wakefulness and alertness, but it also primes you for sleep later on in the day. And the problem is our eyes are less sensitive to light as we get older. They just, there’s sort of a yellowing that occurs, and by the age of 45, a person has roughly half the circadian anchoring light.
Sensitivity is the 10 year old self. So I think it becomes a lot of, you know, older people, they complain about not getting the sleep that they used to get. Right. I think that’s a, a problem that might be able to be solved with just making more of an effort to get out and, you know, spend more time outdoors where you get that beautiful.
Ambient light of the day and it doesn’t really take that much light. It takes about a half an hour.
Mike: Yeah. That’s what people are gonna, they’re wondering right now. And just to that point, I actually, I mean it’s, we’re coming into winter now, obviously, and I, I live in Virginia, so there’s not much in the way of good sunlight and it’s getting pretty cold, but when it’s warmer, I would make a point of going out 15 minutes every day in the sun.
I go and take my shirt off and go stand in the parking lot near my building and people wonder, what the hell is this guy doing? But there I am and I supplement with vitamin D. So I guess that doesn’t really matter, but I always would try to make a point of getting outside. That’s interesting. I didn’t know about that with the, the special proteins in the eye.
I just knew that, I guess that makes sense. I mean, I knew the body had a way of, and it would be through the eyes of knowing like, oh, sunlight, it’s daytime.
Max: Yeah. I mean the eyes are the window to the brain, essentially. Not just the soul, but light is the major time setter that the body uses to know what time of day it is.
Uh, you can, you know, Argue that food is a time setter. It is. Exercise is also a time setter, but by and large, light is powerfully important. And so it’s crucial that you spend the morning getting that light and it, all it takes is about a thousand luxe, which just to put that into perspective, you know, that’s like, you know, outside on an overcast day, you’re getting at least a thousand locks of light.
So it doesn’t have to be like bright sun, a super bright day, like with no clouds in the sky, you’re gonna get about a hundred thousand locks of light. So it doesn’t take that much light. But the, I guess, you know, one of the major problems I mentioned earlier, the fact that now we’re just inundated with bright light is that you can easily walk into a drugstore or supermarket and the lights overhead can easily reach a thousand luxe.
Which is that sort of like sweet spot, at which point your brain, that super charismatic nucleus gets entrained. And so that’s a problem. If you’re doing a late night snack run to the, to the drugstore or the supermarket, literally the light inside the store can be light enough to set off those proteins in the eye, which then tells your body that it’s in your brain that it’s.
Daytime when it could be, you know, nine o’clock at night.
Mike: And ideally, how much time would you spend outside and I’m assuming this would be in the morning, and then from there It is similar to research on showing that exercising first thing in the morning like you’re talking about, like that has been associated with better sleep.
Again, probably because it’s just in line with how that’s naturally programmed to operate.
Max: Yeah, I think a general guideline is a half an hour
Mike: and for people who can’t do that, because there are a lot of people listening, they’re like, as much as I would like to be able to just go walk around for a half an hour, it’s just not gonna happen.
Yeah. I mean, if
Max: you’re by an open window or if you’re driving in your car, I mean there’s a good chance that you’re gonna be exposed to that degree of light. And actually there’s an app that you can get on your phone. I believe it’s called Lux. I recently upgraded my iPhone, so I don’t have it on my phone at the moment, but there is an app that you can use that gives you a general sense of the light intensity measured in lux of your ambient environment.
Mike: There are probably quite a few for photography, I’m assuming. Right? They, they got me. Yeah.
Max: I don’t know how accurate they are because I know that. It’s like, I don’t know how accurate they are on the iPhone, but I think it can be accurate. Just a general relative sense of light intensity. You know, you can run the app in your apartment with all your lights on.
You’ll notice that the light intensity is actually pretty low. Living room light is about 200 lux, so all your lights could be on your only getting about 200 lux, which is not really enough to, you know, to entrain. Your circadian rhythm, so it’s fine. But if you take that app to a supermarket, or if you take it to your gym, for example, or if you put it by your open window, you’ll get a sense relative to like your living room as to how bright the light coming in is.
And yeah, so I think it’s useful, I think for people just to get a sense. So yeah, a thousand locks, whether it’s like doing work by your window, standing out on your terrace, driving to work, you know, and I don’t know, opening your sunroof or, I don’t even know if you need to do that necessarily, but
Mike: can you simulate the natural light with artificial, like, you know, I’ve seen products that that’s what they claim to do.
At least they say, Hey, the pitch is basically everything that you kind of just talked about and saying, you know, yeah, but who has the time to go outside for 30, 45 minutes here? Just pop this light in front of you instead.
Max: Yeah, I mean, I think light therapy definitely has application for this, but I mean, I, I think if you have a dog and you refuse to walk your dog, Ever.
It’s animal abuse, right? And so for some reason we keep ourselves in confinement that I think is really unkind to ourselves, and I think we should owe it to ourselves to make the effort to get outside or to at least stand by a window and meditate for a few minutes every morning. I think it’s just a, it’s a crucial part of the equation.
We’re designed to move. And, you know, when you think about the human eyeball, How elegant and incredible it is to be able to, you know, instantaneously zoom in on things that are super far away and look at things that are up close. We spend so much of our time in this sort of myopic world where we’re looking at screens and, and things that are just inches from our face.
I had, uh, a brilliant neuroscientist, Andrew Huberman on my podcast recently, and he was talking about the fact, you know, his lab, some of the things that they’re finding is that when using a narrow field of vision, when looking at things that are like really close to you, you’re basically kind of stimulating, whether you’re aware of it or not, your sympathetic nervous system, which is responsible for that sort of fight or flight feeling, but panoramic vision, which is something that the eye doesn’t do during a stress response, for example, because you’re focused on, you know, a potential predator coming after you if you’re able to just consciously sort of, Zoom out and switch, you know, your vision to a panoramic view, you can actually calm yourself down in a major way and activate more of that parasympathetic side of the autonomic nervous system.
And so, you know, so many of us are struggling with issues related to mental health, depression, anxiety, things like that, stress, you know, chronic stresses through the roof. I think you owe it to yourself to, you know, to get out there every day and allow some of that ambient light in through your eyes. You know, you mentioned supplementing with vitamin D.
Vitamin D is a huge part of, I think, the equation living a better life. But you know, even vitamin D, that’s not the only benefit that we get from exposing our skin to the sun. You know, it’s thought that the sun’s U V A rays, which are the non-vitamin DD producing rays omitted by the sun, are responsible for boosting nitric oxide under the skin, which is important for cardiovascular health.
So there are all these benefits to being outside. And exposed to nature, and yeah. So I would implore each of you, you know, anybody listening to try to find the time in, in your day just to, maybe it’s not every day, but to get outside and to, you know, breathe in fresh air. Take a few deep breaths, allow your eyes to soften out to panoramic gaze and get in that bright.
Beautiful blue light,
Mike: and that’s really the underlying theme of your new book, right, is we’ve just become disconnected, or at least it’s one of the primary themes in the book, right? We’ve just become so disconnected from nature and so that applies to us partially in how our bodies were naturally designed to operate and then out in the world and how we’re supposed to interface with the world.
Because as you said, we spend whatever it was, 92%, the vast majority of us spend the vast majority of our time doing stuff like this, just sitting at a desk, looking at a screen and speaking into a microphone or typing on a keyboard or whatever, and we’re gonna do that. We’re not gonna completely stop, and we can’t completely go back, obviously, to how things were, but we don’t need to.
It’s just a point of what are kind of the key levers that we can pull and the big buttons we can push to mitigate some of these pretty negative side effects of living Very unnaturally, right?
Max: Yeah, absolutely. I mean, they’ve found that just a 20 minute, um, nature experience can reduce levels of cortisol,
Mike: and you’ve probably seen this, but they’ve even found that simply looking at pictures of nature has a similar effect.
Like it’s, yes, it’s best to get out there, but if you just simply looked at pictures of nature, it can actually have a slight beneficial effect on your physiology.
Max: Yeah. I grew up in New York City, which is the least natural environment to, you know, to grow up in and spend your time in. And now I live in Los Angeles, which is, I think, somewhat better in terms of its proximity to nature.
But yeah, the modern world has changed in so many ways, and many of those ways are for the better. Los Angeles
Mike: though. Yeah. Pollution outta control. Something you talk about in the book, right?
Max: I talk about, you know, air pollution and what air pollution does to the brain and cardiovascular system and ways to protect yourself.
Uh, the pollution in LA is actually not as bad as I think it’s been historically, but I’ve spent a good amount of time, especially over the past year, traveling. I was in Hong Kong and I gotta tell you, the air I felt like I was choking. Just walking around there and more recently been to South America and I love South America.
Certain parts of Columbia that I was in, just really bad air pollution, you know? So I think we’re pretty lucky in the US ’cause we have strong regulation parts of the world like China, you know, they’re really working on that because the regulation hasn’t been as good. But just to give you a sense, you know, with stronger regulation in China, they suspect that it could actually, it could be a boost to the.
Cognitive ability of the entire population to the degree of having one extra year of schooling under their belts, which is fascinating. Air pollution is it’s a problem. You know, we breathe in these particles, find particulate matter, for example, and some of these particles like magnetite have been shown to be able to penetrate the blood-brain barrier and accumulate in regions of the brain responsible for memory.
Strong air pollution affects your cardiovascular system. It can affect, you know, aspects of your heart health, like heart rate variability. It’s a big problem. Not to sound bleak or anything, but, but I think rather than drive yourself crazy, I think it’s important to arm yourself with knowledge so that you can act appropriately so that you can, you know, so that you’ll be more inclined to eat a nutrient-dense diet, which protects you from a lot of this stuff actually.
So just eating a healthy nutrient-dense diet and
Mike: exercising regularly, probably the two best things you can do, right?
Max: Exercising regularly. Yes. Sweating. I mean, your skin is a major site of detoxification. You release through your sweat all kinds of potentially toxic compounds ranging from heavy metals like mercury to b p a and phthalates and parabens and things like that, which are, have the potential to disrupt your hormones in a powerful way.
Mike: Yeah, that’s something you mentioned earlier is toxic chemicals that we are exposed to. Do you wanna talk about that Briefly and just because it’s something that I have mentioned a number of times. I had, I forget his name. He is a PhD on, he wrote a book about estrogen mimicking chemicals and just all the different ways that we’re exposed to them.
And the book was a, a very in-depth review of really the literature and just showing that. The total load of exposure is definitely a cause for concern. So what some people will do is they’ll look at one individual type of chemical and maybe even just one sector of exposure and be like, well, that’s not a big deal.
Look, it’s such a small amount, it’s so below the safe levels, who caress? Yeah. But the problem is we’re exposed to many different types of chemicals in many different ways, and when you zoom out and look at the total exposure, it can be quite a bit higher than what is recognized as safe. Right?
Max: Yeah, absolutely.
So I mean, in my book, I provide basically a crash course on endocrine disruption and why we need to be weary of these chemicals. And it’s not a comprehensive guide to all of the 1400 suspected endocrine disruptors in the environment, but it’s a guide to the most common of them and the problem. With these chemicals is that, without sounding like I’m, uh, phobic, generally with toxins, the dose makes the poison.
So everything can be toxic with, uh, at a high enough dose water, you know, which we require for life. You know, you drink enough water too fast, it could kill you. But the problem with endocrine disrupting compounds, the reason why they’re suspected to be so treacherous is that they don’t follow that typical linear dose response that other toxins basically are beholden to.
So basically that dose makes the poison might not apply to compounds like B P A. Or phthalates, which are common in, you know, everything from baby bottles to disposable water bottles to, you know, our carpets and our furniture and our clothing and fragrances that we douse on ourselves and in our environments, these compounds, one of the reasons why they, they’re suspected to be dangerous is because they can have a dose response that’s more of like a U-shaped curve.
And they call this non monotonicity, this sort of low dose response. They might be toxic at a high enough dose, but then they might go quiet at a more moderate dose, but then they might actually start to tinker with your hormones at a dose that’s very low in a way that’s very difficult to measure. And this sort of low dose response has been one of the, you know, problems with, it’s one of the reasons why studying these chemicals out in the wild is so difficult.
But what they’re able to do is they’re able to sometimes block receptors from receiving your own endogenous. Hormones, sex hormones being the most common, like estrogen, for example. Um, but they’re also able to mimic hormones in your body. And this is dangerous because hormones are basically the, the marionette strings that guide nearly every aspect of your life from how you feel moment to moment to your predisposition to disease and weight gain and also development.
So I mean, the environmental working group has identified about 286 industrial chemicals, including some of these chemicals that we’re talking about, endocrine disruptors. In utero. And at that point, you know, I mean if you’re an adult exposed to endocrine disrupting chemicals, that’s one thing. But if you’re developing hormones, again, guide development, this can have lifelong effects.
You know, I think that’s probably one of the reasons why people are so sick today. And the fact that we’re seeing certain cancers at incidents that are just unprecedented in history. Take breast cancer for example. So breast cancer is a cancer that is influenced by hormones. Not all cancers are necessarily, but breast cancer is one of them.
And you know, in the 1960s, a woman’s lifetime risk of developing breast cancer was about one in 20. Today it’s between, it’s one in six or one in eight. I don’t remember the exact number, but it’s a major. Increased risk
Mike: and that can’t just be explained right by better diagnosis or better record keeping.
Max: I mean, we’ve certainly gotten better at diagnostics. You are, you’re correct about that,
Mike: because that’s the standard go-to whenever there’s any sort of statistic like that mentioned. In some cases there’s validity to it and you know, and this is an area that I myself haven’t looked much into, but from what I have read that it wouldn’t explain.
The increase entirely similar to the whole autism debate where yes, there’s certainly, that’s certainly a factor, but apparently it doesn’t fully explain the increase.
Max: Yeah, I don’t think so. I think that environment plays a huge role. The fact that so many of us are overweight now, being overweight is a driver of about 40% of modern cancers.
So I think that there’s a huge environmental component to it. We have yet to discover all of the answers, you know, what causes cancer for each person, and I’m not gonna claim to to know, but I do think that it’s scary the degree to which we are exposed to these kinds of chemicals and we haven’t been given informed consent.
And yet, somehow we’ve all opted in a great film for anybody who, and you know, with the caveat that of course it’s a film, so it’s a narrative. It’s meant to stir emotion. But I saw a movie recently with Mark Ruffalo called Dark Waters, which is all about DuPont and how DuPont was putting some of these chemicals into.
Into water in, uh, in a small town. I forget what state it was, but it’s basically like,
Mike: was it because it would’ve just been very expensive to dispose of them correctly? So they’re just like, yeah, whatever. Dump it in the,
Max: it just wasn’t, it was a chemical that wasn’t being regulated. It wasn’t being regulated, and they had done internal studies to the chemical is P F O A P F O A is involved in the creation of Teflon, which is a coating used to create non-stick pans.
So you definitely want to avoid Teflon. Teflon, just use cast iron. I think cast iron is the best to use. It’s probably the safest. You do accumulate iron from a cast iron pan, which, you know, if you’re at risk for hereditary hemochromatosis or if you’re a male or post-menopausal woman, I think you want to be concerned about like excessive iron consumption in your diet.
But yeah, generally cast iron is, I would say the best. It’s like the safest bet that and stainless steel, maybe certain types of ceramic if they’re nickel free. But anyway, this movie basically is all about the fact that. You know, so many of these chemicals are just assumed to be innocent until proven guilty.
And the stance that I take is that they should be guilty until proven innocent. You know, sometimes, depending on what the industrial use is for a given compound, they might not be tested. You know, like a compound like B p A, it’s not meant to be ingested, so it’s not tested the way a drug. Would be tested, for example,
Mike: especially when you consider the potential harm can be so high.
So there should be a lot of additional scrutiny given to, and I had somebody on the podcast recently to talk about G M O foods and it was a good discussion and that was just kind of one of the points was. With some things we know it’s not an issue. Golden rice. Cool. That was great. Other things though, like the killer corn.
Yeah, that’s probably an issue you’re talking about in utero, like finding that pregnant women who are eating this stuff, they would then find the pesticide that is now genetically woven into this corn in their babies. Yeah, that’s not good. Like, whoa, whoa, we need to slow down. You know, it’s a similar argument that’s made for climate change.
If you really get into the details and if you really look at both sides of it and you go, okay, we know what the traditional narrative is and what is the counter narrative, and so there’s some interesting back and forth where there are prominent. Climate scientists who have acknowledged that the chances of global catastrophe, global meltdown occurring are not as the media is necessarily leading you to believe, or Greta or whatever is random.
People are leading you to believe. But even if the likelihood is is low, the potential harm is we’re all gone. So we should take this very seriously. Now that’s a whole different discussion, and I don’t even necessarily entirely like that line of thinking is a little bit interesting to me, but it just, this is a similar situation where, and I, and I think it’s a lot clearer in terms of the science, that these chemicals are certainly harmful.
They could be way more harmful than we know. So why have we embraced them? Like why have we been so nonchalant and so cavalier about just flooding our environment with them? Right.
Max: I just think, yeah, I mean, I think money has something to do with it. And I’m glad you brought up G M O, because I’m not, actually, I’m not afraid of G M O, the reason why I choose to eat most of the produce that I buy.
And, you know, mind you, not all of it, like I don’t buy organic avocados because you don’t need to, because you have a skin on the avocado. But if I’m buying dark leafy greens, cruciferous vegetables and things like that, I buy organic because they have, not only is the organic system better for the environment, but they have less pesticide residue in the produce
Mike: and generally more nutrition.
Right. I mean that’s kind of what we’re reading it for.
Max: Yeah. They might not have more necessarily vitamins and minerals, which I think sometimes some of these studies focus on, but they do have more antioxidant value because of the polyphenols they contain. For example, organic extra virgin olive oil has about 30% more of the valuable phenolic compounds that make extra virgin olive oil.
So healthy than non-organic, extra virgin olive oil. I don’t think that we should romanticize organic either, because organic is not necessarily a perfect system, but I think it’s the best system that we have and if you can afford it, I think, you know, you’re voting for a system that is better for the environment, better for you and your family.
And not everything needs to be organic. Right. But yeah, I think it’s about just arming yourself with knowledge and not being a black or white thinker. Not being dogmatic about it, but just, you know, making choices that make sense.
Mike: I agree. And looking at what the, you’d say big corporations via advertising and just via mainstream media in general.
Just ’cause of how effective it is for spreading ideas and persuading people, whatever they’re wanting you to do. Consider doing the opposite. Whatever they say you should eat, whatever they’re promoting on tv, the commercials, you should consider eating literally the exact opposite of what they’re running commercials on.
I joke about that as being like a, a useful heuristic for living, but I actually do think it is whatever most people are doing, thinking you should first consider the opposite and think about and think, should I do that actually? Should I believe literally the exact opposite of what these people believe?
I’m gonna go look over there and see if that’s more fruitful.
Max: Yeah, I mean, that’s good advice in a way because people are not well, Like you don’t want to be the average, especially in the United States, you know, averages is not well, you know, eating a more nutrient dense diet or spending more time in nature.
I think the way to, you know, what you can take from this episode of your show, you know, pick the one thing and start with that. I mean, I, I think it could be overwhelming. We’ve covered so many topics just already over the course of, you know, the last hour and we’re barely scratching the surface. But it’s about progress, not perfection.
You know, there’s always gonna be things that you can improve, but take that the place that’s like gonna be the most easy sustainable and begin there and really like own it. You know, whether that means, I. Revamping your diet to include more, you know, foods with higher nutrient density, or spending more time.
You know that half an hour, the ambient light of the sun every morning, or that 20 minutes in nature, that’s gonna reduce your, you know, the levels of your stress hormone getting better sleep, not eating that 11 o’clock meal, or, or raiding the fridge late at night as frequently as maybe you wouldn’t have in the past.
These are all gonna have, I think, incremental improvements on your health and health is all you got, you know. Not to sound cliche, but health is wealth.
Mike: I totally agree. And hey, thanks for taking the time for doing this. I, I really appreciate. This was a great discussion and let’s just wrap up quickly with where people can find you and your work.
And then of course the new book is The Genius Life. And depending on when this podcast goes live, it’s either gonna be in its last week of pre-order for people listening or it’s gonna be available, but you’ll be able to find, if it’s in pre-order, you’ll be able to find it everywhere you find books online.
Um, and if it’s out, it’ll, I assume it’ll also be in bookstores.
Max: Yeah. As you mentioned, the Genius Life is available anywhere books are sold. But you can find me on Instagram. I’m at max luga vere, that’s L U G A v e R e. And I have a podcast too, if you like, listening to podcasts. It’s also called The Genius Life.
But yeah, pick up the genius life of the book. I’m super excited about it. And thank you, Mike, for having me on. This was a real treat. Absolutely.
Mike: I enjoyed it. All right. Well, that’s it for today’s episode. I hope you found it interesting and helpful. And if you did, and you don’t mind doing me a favor, could you please leave a quick review for the podcast on iTunes or wherever you are listening from?
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And last, if you didn’t like something about the show, then definitely shoot me an email at [email protected] and share your thoughts. Let me know how you think I could do this better. I read every email myself and I’m always looking for constructive feedback. Alright, thanks again for listening to this episode and I hope to hear from you soon.