PILLAR #2 - NUTRITION
I know what you're thinking, how does food relate to productivity?
It impacts us quite a lot actually...
Remember, the objective of this course is to help us build a body and mind capable of powerful productivity.
We're not just going to dive into what checklist or task planner you should use as being productive is a lot more then that. (Though we will get to those later in the course).
In the last section, we discovered how sleep impacts almost everything we do. Nutrition and how we choose to power our bodies has a very similar impact.
Think of your body like a machine with inputs and outputs.
Everything you input (food, sleep, habits) will impact your output (energy, productivity, results etc.)
When everything "under the hood" is firing on all cylinders your ability to produce results and get things done will be taken to all new levels.
What happens if we neglect this?
Your mind can be all fired up with an idea, saying "alright let's go"! Then when you go to step on the gas to take action, you may find you don't get as far or as fast as you wanted.
If your body breaks down, there is no store or showroom you can go to select a new one. Treat your body like a brand new Ferrari and it will take you to new levels.
Almost every entrepreneur and high performer I've met is pretty obsessed with how they take care of their bodies. Really it's a sign in a lot of ways of how much you respect yourself, so give your body what it deserves.
The goal here again is to try and do this 80 to 90% of the time. You can then use the remaining 10% to treat yourself to whatever you want. I'm currently obsessed with these Espresso infused chocolate chip cookies I found here in San Francisco.
YOUR SECOND BRAIN
What if I told you... your body actually has a second brain?
No this isn't the matrix, it's actually true.
This second brain lives in your gut and is made up of trillions of bacteria, both good and bad. It's directly connected to our first brain in what scientists dub the "microbiome-gut-brain axis feedback loop".
These little bacteria will actually send signals to our brain telling it to do certain things based on what type of mood they are in.
Here's what they can control...
What's impacted by our gut-brain connection:
- Food cravings
- Our "sweet tooth" and desire for sugar
- Happy Hormones
- Moods and depression
- Your energy levels
- Production of neurotransmitters and the dreaded "brain fog"
- Your brains ability to process information, problem solve and connect neural pathways
Even though it seems odd, given the list above it makes sense why we need to pay attention to our gut if we want to become as productive as possible.
Sam Parr, Co-founder of The Hustle, a media startup based here in San Francisco made this connection when I interviewed him about productivity.
90% of serotonin, the happiness hormone is produced in the gut. Which means if these trillions of little bacteria in your stomach aren't happy, you probably won't be either.
Depression, a disorder that is usually related when people think about mental health has a lot to do with the state of these bacteria in your stomach.
Why does this happen?
Certain foods trigger far more inflammation in your gut which weakens these bacteria and and negatively impacts your hormones as well. Aka - more bad hormones get produced and less good ones.
"Plenty of studies have begun to look at how our diet may be responsible for increased gut permeability as well as loss of bacterial diversity. And connections are finally being made between diet and risk for depression." David Perlmutter.
Let's make these guys happy so you can be happy and productive as well.
We will dive into specific tactics on this shortly. First there is another important connection I want you to learn about.
FOOD AND MITOCHONDRIA
I'm sure you've heard about Mitochondria before. We know they are in us but probably don't really know what they do. Until a couple of years back I really had no idea either.
Turns out these little guys running around inside of our cells are absolutely mission critical to everything we do.
Mitochondria are literally like little factories in our body that convert the food we eat and oxygen we breathe into packages of energy for our body to use in the form of ATP.
This energy is represented as ATP (adenosine triphosphate).
If you're big into the fitness world, you will probably recognize ATP as the energy source used when you exert force to lift weights, go for a run etc. However, ATP is the fuel source for literally everything in your body, including your metabolism, digestion and most importantly... your brain!
That means it has a direct impact on your ability to focus, problem solve, be productive etc as each organ needs a certain amount of ATP in order to fully function.
Where nutrition comes into play, is in how well this "mitochondria factory" functions. This factory really only has 3 inputs to make ATP, food, water and oxygen.
What it does is basically breakdown and search for / extract the nutrients in food in order to convert into energy. Much like a combustion engine in a car, there is some waste produced in this process in the form of free radicals and inflammation.
The more nutrients a food has, the less taxing this process is and the less waste produced.
When we consume food with essentially no nutrients though, this little factory has to work way harder to find any nutrients and produces way more waste in the process which starts to break everything down.
As your mitochondria breakdown, they struggle to produce as much ATP which impacts your own energy, focus and ability to get things done.
That's not even the worst part as broken down mitochondria are actually some of the precursors to many degenerative diseases like Alhzimers, cancer etc.
So much like our gut bacteria, it's important to keep these little guys happy.
There is so much more to learn about this, but for the sake of time I don't want to get into all of it in this course. If you're like me though and love to get into all the details, I recommend these four books.
TACTICS TO CHARGE YOUR BODIES CELLS
HOW TO FEED YOUR GUT BACTERIA & MITOCHONDRIA
Luckily for us, the nutrition changes to fuel both our healthy gut bacteria and mitochondria are effectively one in the same.
To make this incredibly easy, I will lay this out as essentially things to add to your diet and things to remove.
Add some of these to every meal - Brain Maker Foods:
(Taken from David Perlmutters Brain Maker book listed above)
- Vegetables: leafy greens and lettuces, collards, spinach, broccoli, kale, chard, cabbage, onions, mushrooms, cauliflower, Brussel sprouts, artichoke, alfalfa sprouts, green beans, celery, bok choy, radishes, watercress, turnip, asparagus, garlic, leek, fennel, shallots, scallions, ginger, jicama, parsley, water chestnuts.
- Low-sugar fruit: avocado, bell peppers, cucumber, tomato, zucchini, squash, pumpkin, eggplant, lemons, limes, berries.
- Fermented foods: yogurt, pickled fruits and vegetables, kefir, sauerkraut, kimchi, fermented meat, fish and eggs, tempeh, kombucha, fermented teas
- Healthy fat: extra-virgin olive oil, coconut oil, avocados, grass-fed butter, grass-fed ghee, olives, nuts, seeds (flaxseed, sunflower, pumpkin, chia, sesame), nut butters (almond butter, peanut butter)
- Coffee, tea, wine, chocolate: If you didn't like the ones above you will like these. They all contain powerful polyphenols to your diet to help protect your cells and positively influence gut bacteria.
The list above really shouldn't come as that big of a surprise if you've followed any healthy eating habits. The biggest one to emphasize is fermented foods. Your gut bacteria loves these and thrives on them. This was one I previously didn't understand but now I regularly add sauerkraut, kombucha, tempeh or some time of fermented food to my diet every single day.
Same with fiber - you can't have a healthy gut without lots of fiber. That's where the vegetables all come in. The healthy fat is mission critical for the functioning of your cells and mitochondria. Without it they will suffer, which means you will suffer.
Reduce these - Mitochondria and gut bacteria killers:
- Sugar: fruit juices, candy, cookies, flour, baked goods
- Fructose: Specifically from fruits here, especially high glycemic ones (bananas, mangos, melons etc) along with fruit juices.
- Processed Foods: Basically anything that comes in a box from a grocery store or in the frozen section
- Excess Carbs: Things made with lots of flour, like bread, muffins, baked goods and pasta tend to be the worse (though most delicious). Try to stick with legumes (beans, lentils etc) or rice.
- Alcohol: Something I abused too much in my younger days but it is effectively poison for your body. Small amounts, like a glass of wine are ok.
I specifically said reduce and not remove because I know nobody will remove all of them. Not even me. I still have the occasional dinner out with pizza, pasta and tiramisu (my favorites as an Italian) but these all basically become treats, not the norm.
Though it's difficult to follow this, a really cool thing happens when you do.
You start to feel really "in the zone" with your energy and productivity. You will feel leaner and faster and things just start to click more. You become way more in tune with your body so if you have a few cheat meals and your energy dips, you know what to do to get it back.
HOW TO TIME & OPTIMIZE NUTRIENTS FOR ENERGY
Wouldn't it be great if we could optimize our food intake during the day to keep us energetic for our most productive hours?
As a bonus, wouldn't it be great if doing this helped us stay lean and burn fat as well?
Here's an easy tactic to do that. It generally involves switching up what most people consider breakfast though.
The general idea is to push your carb intake to later on the day and eat a breakfast consisting of veggies, proteins and fats.
Why do this?
When we sleep at night, our body is fasting and our hormones have switched to fat burning mode. When we eat, certain foods will trigger the release of certain hormones in our body.
Carbohydrates activate certain hormones that will take us out of this fat burning mode, along with make us feel more tired. Specifically, they trigger serotonin, the feel-good / happy relaxed hormone which is a precursor to melatonin, the hormone that gets you ready to go to sleep.
Now this is great for the evening, but not so much in the morning.
Two Hormones we WANT to activate in the morning:
- Dopamine – A neurotransmitter / hormone that plays a major role in energy, interest, and motivation.
- Acetylcholine – A major neurotransmitter in the nervous system utilized for memory, concentration, and focus.
We can keep these hormones activated more by pushing our carbs out until later in the day.
Two Hormones we DON'T WANT to activate in the morning:
- Insulin – The storage / transport hormone that moves glucose from the bloodstream into fat and muscle cells. Eating carb heavy meals call it into action. How much it is called varies on the type of carbs.
- Serotonin – The hormone associated with the chill out, “take it easy”, happy relaxing feeling. This is a GREAT hormone, but not ideal for when we want to hit our most productive hours of the day.
Pushing carbs out will slow down the release of these two hormones.
Ideally, aim to have your biggest carbohydrate meal at dinner time. This has two effects, 1.) It will release the right hormones to help you get ready for bed and 2.) It will keep your body in fat burning mode for longer during the day.
I use this trick every single day, and it's great for keeping your energy levels high when you want them to be along with keeping your waist line nice and lean. If you need help with recipes, post in the comments below and I will happily provide some.
Intermittent fasting basically takes the same concepts as above and pushes it to the next level.
Instead of just delaying carbs, we delay the intake of any food altogether.
The idea is to keep those positive hormones running for awhile, which gives your body a break on digestion and a host of other positive benefits.
There is a lot of research on fasting, showing the positive impacts it has on your mitochondria along with your insulin resistance (which simply means how well you tolerate carbs). It's definitely worth considering and something I recently have started practicing.
The standard method to do it, is you would take the 24 hours in a day, fast for 16 hours and then have an eating window of 8 hours. For example, you would say fast from 8PM to 12PM the next day, and have an eating window between 12PM to 8PM.
I personally do a slightly modified version of this that I still find effective. I do a 14 hour fast and a 10 hour eating window. (Eating from 9am to 7PM).
It's a bit intimidating at first, but it's actually incredibly easy once you get the hang of it. Also, having a strict eating window accomplishes two great things.
- Quite simply, you limit the amount of time each day in which you're allowed to eat, great for fending off temptations for food.
- You allocate more time to use on other things instead of on eating. Those first few hours in the morning for me before I eat are some of the most productive ones I have.
Intermittent fasting is definitely a useful tool we can use to keep us more energetic, productive and leaner.
YOUR ACTION STEPS
- Your nutrients fuel your bodies cells which fuel you. Remember the importance of your gut bacteria and ATP.
- Are you getting enough of the brain boosting foods? Find out where you can add these into your meals. Contact me if you want ideas.
- Pay attention to the timing of when you eat certain things to maximize your energy levels. Push your carbs out to later in the day and try intermittent fasting.
Leave comments below on any questions, topics or discussions you may have about this module. Or if there is anything you would like to see added. I will respond to everyone :)