Episode #460: Louisa Nicola – How To Perform At Your Best Physically & Mentally
Guest: Louisa Nicola is a neurophysiologist and human performance coach. She founded Neuro Athletics, a multi-enterprise consulting firm, to provide scientific strategies to help athletes and investors achieve peak performance. Louisa was a world championship triathlete and raced both nationally and internationally for Australia and competed at London, Beijing and Auckland. After retiring in 2012 Louisa followed her dreams and went to Sydney Medical school and graduated with a particular interest in neurophysiology.
Date Recorded: 12/14/2022 | Run-Time: 1:13:37
Summary: In today’s episode, Louisa is helping all of us become better investors by giving a masterclass on peak performance. She walks through the three pillars she focuses on: sleep, exercise and nutrition. She gives some tips and tricks to improve in each category and how all three improve cognitive performance.
Louisa also touches on some of her favorite supplements, common tests she recommends to her clients, and why alcohol is probably hurting you more than you realize.
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Links from the Episode:
- 0:39 – Sponsor: AcreTrader
- 1:54 – Intro
- 2:40 – Welcome to our guest, Louisa Nicola
- 4:04 – Louisa’s background as a triathlete
- 5:54 – How an athletic injury made her pivot to a career in science and medicine
- 9:36 – Applying sports psychology and physiology to investors
- 20:57 – A noteworthy difference between athletes and investors
- 23:31 – Three core pillars for coaching athletes and investors: sleep. nutrition, and exercise
- 26:49 – Sponsor: The Idea Farm
- 27:32 – Louisa’s best practices for getting high quality sleep
- 39:17 – The role of alcohol consumption on brain health
- 42:54 – A variety of factors that affect sleep quality and wakefulness
- 47:27 – Louisa’s best practices for exercise and how it helps your brain function
- 54:36 – Nutrition basics for brain performance
- 1:01:10 – How Louisa works with clients
- 1:04:37 – Common misconceptions and questions she gets asked
- 1:06:13 – A pro tip for alcohol risk mitigation
- 1:06:35 – Samuel Adams founder story
- 1:07:18 – What she’s most excited about for 2023
- 1:08:16 – Learn more about Louisa; Twitter; website
- 1:08:57 – Some final supplement recommendations
- 1:10:02 – Intermittent fasting versus feeding windows
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Meb: What is up, everybody. We’ve got an awesome show for you today. Our guest is Louisa Nicola, a neurophysiologist and human-performance coach and the founder of Neuro Athletics, which provides scientific strategies to help athletes and investors achieve peak performance. In today’s episode, Louisa is helping us all become better investors by giving a master class on peak performance. She walks through the three pillars she focuses on: sleep, exercise, and nutrition. She gives some real-world tips and tricks to improve in each category and how all three improve cognitive performance. Louisa also touches on some of her favorite supplements, common tests she recommends to her clients, and why alcohol is probably hurting you more than you realize. Please, enjoy this episode with Neuro Athletics’ Louisa Nicola. Louisa, welcome to the show.
Louisa: Meb, I’m so happy to be here. So excited to speak with you finally.
Meb: Tell us where you are, because it’s somewhere a little different than normal, I guess.
Louisa: So, I live in Manhattan, in New York, but right now I’m down under in Sydney, Australia, visiting the parents, the family for Christmas.
Meb: Amazing accent replication for somebody who lives in New York. You’re an Aussie native?
Louisa: I’m an Aussie native. I moved to New York in 2017.
Meb: Love it down there, I’ve spent a fair amount of time thinking about launching funds there, mainly as an excuse to come to Australia. It’s like a California cousin it feels like in many ways. Love some of the towns. A little sharky for me, a lot of critters I think I would struggle with, spiders maybe perhaps. But awesome spot. You there for the holidays, what’s the plan? Do you do a fair amount of travel in your normal day-to-day?
Louisa: Unfortunately, I go against everything I believe in and I’m travelling far too often now just because of my job. I work with elite athletes and also investors and portfolio managers, so, I am in New York, then I’m in LA, then, you know, I mean, Dubai, it’s just…now I’m in Australia. And I really need to settle myself down because this jet lag is really eating away at me.
Meb: Well, can you get to the point now where you can just kind of narrow it down to places you want to go, I feel like? That’s the fun part about it. So, I can fall into one of those categories, and most of our listeners probably fall into the one, not the other, so, investors, not necessarily elite athletes, but maybe athletes in general, but you got started…if we wind back your career, you were a triathlete. I have one triathlon to my name and it was the Malibu Triathlon. Which is a lot of fun, it’s kind of a scene if you’re in LA, I highly recommend doing it. But I made a very fatal mistake which was I tend to be a little last minute on some things in my personal life and I didn’t have a road bike, so, I did it on a mountain bike. So, I finished the swim, like, near the front of the pack and, man, I said, “This is going to be amazing,” and then I spent the next hour, or whatever it was, just watching people just blow by me on the bike.
Now, one upside to this was they had a separate mountain-bike division for the idiots like myself. And so, I finished, like, third. So, when my friends would ask me, “So, how’d you do?” I said, “I finished third in my division.” “No way, it’s incredible.” Now, I think there was only five mountain bikers in the division, because it was on road, it was not off-trail. So, it’s my claim to fame, my only triathlon I finished third. So you’re a little more competitive than that, right?
Louisa: Just a bit. I had a road bike, I didn’t have a triathlon bike, I don’t like them. I had a road bike but, no, yeah, I was doing around 20 to 25 triathlons a year.
Meb: What’s the difference for the people who don’t know, a road bike, triathlon bike? Triathlon bike…
Louisa: It’s all about the handlebars. So, there’s a time trial bike where, depending on the position that you’re in, you’re in this aerodynamic position. If anybody’s watching on YouTube, I don’t know, if you post this on YouTube, you’re really huddled down like this, so, you get more of a streamlined zip through the air. Whereas if you’re on a road bike, it’s more generally used for people who are doing, you know, 30-mile, 40-mile rides at a time. So, you’re in a better position.
Meb: And so, like a lot of people you had sort of a path in life that, you know, unexpectedly started to take a left turn. I say this because we spend most time talking about what you’re doing now but for some people, their origin story informs kind of their path. So, I would love to hear a little bit about what got you to here today.
Louisa: Yeah, I know, and it really does define where I’m at today. So, I was a competitive triathlete. I did go to the World Championship series, I qualified twice. So, it was my entire life, and I thought that that was going to be my life. I thought, “You know what, I’m just going to be a world champion triathlete and maybe I’ll be a triathlon coach later on in my life.” However, unfortunately, I was hit by a car. Which, on the plus side, they say that you’re not a true triathlete till you get hit by a car.
Meb: Yeah. It doesn’t happen all too infrequently. Like, my nightmare about road bikes is that situation. Was it during the race or training or what?
Louisa: So, it was two weeks before Beijing. So, I was out with two of my teammates and we were time trialing each other. So, every one mile, let’s just say, we’d go to the back and there was just three of us. And no, we were travelling… I’m going to talk in the metric system because that’s what I know. We were travelling at around 40 kilometers per hour and this 83-year-old man who had been driving for like 6 hours without a break, he mustn’t have seen us and he just crashed right into the back of my wheel and it hit me up against a guard rail.
So, I was taken out, I wasn’t able to compete. So, that was a huge turning point in my life. And I had already done my undergraduate degree, which was in teaching and exercise physiology. And so, that’s when I had to question everything. I wasn’t able to train. And then, even when I did get back on the bike, I did and I re-qualified for the World Championship series the following year. Things were just not the same. My leg was never the same. My ribs were broken, so, they were never the same. So, I had to really reconsider what I was doing in my life.
Meb: All right. So, you started studying up, walk us forward, let’s hear.
Louisa: So, I then went and studied science and medicine, and I realized the importance of the brain. Did you know, Meb, that the brain is actually the control center of everything that we do? You know, when I was a triathlete, we used to think it was all about the body. You’ve got to train, you’ve got to just keep training harder to get better. We weren’t taught things such as sleep. We weren’t taught things such as proper nutrition. And we didn’t really know anything about the brain. And this is back in like 2012, that’s when I had my last race. So, I’m talking 2010-2011. We didn’t really know too much about the brain. And then, when I started studying it and realizing, “Holy crap, the brain is this powerful little machine that sits in our head that can really control the rest of our bodies,” so, I decided to really study it and understand more about it. And I wanted to work with elite athletes. So, once I graduated from the University of Sydney, I was like, “You know what, let’s just start working with athletes.”
And I started working in Australia. I started working with elite soccer players. We’ve got rugby league here, I was working with rugby league players. And it just wasn’t enough for me, I wanted to be around the world’s best athletes. So, in 2016, I flew to Malibu, actually Red Bull was having a conference and they invited me there. And it was a three-day event with all of their number-one athletes. So, I flew there and I thought, “Oh my god, this is what true high performance is. This is where the athletes, the real athletes are.” So, I made the move and I thought, 2017 onwards, I thought I’m just going to work with the world’s best athletes and teach them and coach them about best practices when it comes to, you know, how can they better their game-day performance by working on their brain.
Meb: Yeah. So, the cool part is a lot of what you talk about, and you’ve got a podcast, I’ve heard you on some friends as well, even got some direct recommendation from some podcast alums, so, “You got to talk to this person, Meb, she really knows what she’s talking about.” And the funny thing, you know, I have a son, he’s five, and I look back…and this isn’t judging my parents, so, Mum, if you’re listening, this isn’t about you. But I look back at, for example, what our generation ate as kids. I mean, Frosted Flakes was considered a totally reasonable breakfast. We did a investing article about this that looked back at, say, in the U.S., we had the food pyramid, right, where, 50 years ago, it’s not only totally rearranged of what was considered to be standard good advice for what you should be eating, it’s almost, like, totally inverted. Right? In just a few decades, I feel like this world has changed quite a bit, and even in the decade plus you’ve been kind of at it. So, let’s begin kind of as we think about an athlete or just an investor starting to come in, and say, “Look, I want to be the best version of myself,” where do you begin with these people? And where, as you onboard someone who’s already at a high level, what’s a traditional sort of onboarding experience pathway that you talk to them about?
Louisa: Well, I just told you how I actually started working with investors…because a lot of people say to me, you know, “How did you go into the finance space when you’re working with athletes?” And it was because there was one portfolio manager in the audience, when I spoke to around 500 athletes, and he came up to me at the end and said, “Do you work with,” you know, “the finance world?” like, “could you work with me?” And pretty much my answer back then was, “Well, you know, if you’ve got a brain then I can.” And that’s pretty much how it started.
And I call everybody “athletes.” I think that we all have a nervous system, we all have a brain, and that means that we have the power to optimize it and upgrade it. And, therefore, you can become better. It doesn’t mean that you’re going to become the best in the world or you could be but it just means that, if you can become 1% better than what you are today, then that might mean the difference between $100,000 or $10 million. So, when it comes to anybody, I treat everybody the same, whether you’re an MBA player who I work with right now or whether you are an investor.
And the first thing that we need to understand, we need to really start from scratch…so, really, if you understand a pyramid, you mentioned the food pyramid, we have a pyramid as well at Neuro Athletics and we start from the ground up. The only way to do that is to have a look within. So, we do a complete DNA test. So, we will assess your DNA to really find out what’s happening there. There are over 25,000 genes in the human genome, we want to understand what’s going on there. The second thing we do is we do a complete blood panel. So, I want to understand what you’re depleted in, what’s not working well, what you need to be supplementing with. Thirdly, we do an EEG scan. Do you know what an EEG is?
Meb: I do, but tell our listeners.
Louisa: So, an EEG is an electroencephalogram. So, I’m a neurophysiologist, that’s, you know, my primary modality of use. So, it’s one of those caps that you put on your head and it assesses all your brain waves. And you generally use this in a hospital setting when you’re looking at epilepsy or someone who’s had a seizure. So, we’ll look at that. But the wonderful thing that we can get from this is we can figure out how well your brain is functioning. So, you may think, “Oh, you know, I’m feeling good, I’m feeling at my highest,” but I can assess your brain and think, “well, not really. You’ve got dysfunctions in the frontal lobe, you’ve got dysfunctions in the parietal lobe.” So, we do a complete EEG test. And then from there we start to optimize. So, we really understand where you’re at and then we move up from there.
Meb: Where are we in sort of this journey of analytics and biomarkers? Because I’m someone…I mean, look, I’ve got an Oura Ring, I have a lot of the tracking and follow a fair amount of the literature. I was, once upon a time, a biotech guy, and I graduated college in 2000. So, right when the genome was getting sequenced and everyone was ready for this to be a total revolution in how we treat healthcare…and it has been but, you know, as with everything, it takes time. Where do you think we kind of sit on the spectrum of knowledge of how useful these various DNA blood-based panels are? Is it something that’s increased a ton in the past decade, is it, like, sort of useful, or is it all, like, very actually pinpoint precise accurate on some of the benefits now?
Louisa: Well, I think, when it comes to genome testing, you can get your genome tested but then it’s about the algorithm that really generates the report. And there are many different glitches in those, I believe. You know, you can go and get a 23andMe test or you can go to another company. You know, we outsource ours, obviously, and we get a wonderful report. And so, what you can find from this report is you can just find out insights about yourself. For example, I don’t know if you’ve just seen the Chris Hemsworth documentary…
Meb: It’s in the queue.
Louisa: It’s in the queue. So, you’ll see on there that he got his genome tested, and they found that he has the genes responsible for Alzheimer’s disease, which is the APOE 4. Now, with every gene…this is just a bit of an anatomy course. For every gene, there are two alleles, you get one from mum and one from dad. And these two make up one gene. And he has not 1 allele but he has 2, which gives him a 15-fold higher risk of developing Alzheimer’s disease.
So, I think that that is super important to know. You know, for women, for example, there are genes responsible for breast cancer, and for men as well. But it’s really nice to know. It’s not the be-all and end-all, however, it’s really nice to know that, when you are at that level, maybe if you’re in your 40s or 50s, you may want to know how to slow the progression and onset of some of these detrimental diseases, right, you know, I would want to know and a lot of my athletes want to know. But then let’s talk about what this means for a 25-year-old.
Meb: And by the way, not to interrupt you, but, like, there was such two great examples because they’re, like, the opposite ends of the spectrum on the, like, the BRCA genes with the breast cancer, which was one of the first, I feel like, genetic markers that really pointed people towards a very kind of definitive future probability, right, but one you could act on. Alzheimer’s, you know, I think is, and it’s getting clearer, but, like, is one of the harder ones because there’s not as much standard of care of treatment at this point, like, so, a lot of people…I talk to friends, they’re like, “I don’t want to know.” I’m like, “Well, everyone in my family loses their marbles when they hit their 90s anyway.” So, like, I don’t know which one you describe it as but I’m sure it’s going to be one of them. But they’re kind of like two categories in my mind, and I could be wrong, [inaudible 00:16:39] data and literature where there’s, like, very definitive precise pathways and outcomes, you can do something about it and others where it’s, like, not as much, and…do you want to know?
Louisa: Yeah. So many people actually say that to me, like, “Why would you even want to know?” And that’s great, you can operate however you want. For me, if I knew now, you know, I’m in my early 30s, if I knew, “Oh, Louisa, you’re going to have a 15% risk of developing Alzheimer’s disease, you’ve got two alleles,” I would start right now in terms of getting onto those lifestyle interventions to really slow the progression of me getting that disease. Even if it’s, at the end of the day, you may well and truly get it. However, your genes are not your destiny. So, there are people in different countries who have got these two alleles but they never develop Alzheimer’s disease. And that’s just because where they live and what they eat and how they exercise. So, it’s like a seesaw, you’re in the middle and you’re just always trying to balance what you’re doing. So, I always think that there’s power in knowing.
Meb: I’m the same way. My favorite description, when it came to genetics, I remember hearing was like, “Your genes sort of determine what musical instrument you are, right, if you’re a tuba or clarinet, it doesn’t determine necessarily what song you’re going to play but it’s, like, you have the potential range of notes.” You’re a seven footer, you’re not a seven footer. You’re predisposed to being a good athlete. But, in many of these cases, I’m like you, like, I would much prefer as much analytics as you can give me. All right. So, I interrupted you, sorry, keep going.
Louisa: No, that’s completely true. And then let’s see it from a 25-year-old’s perspective. Like, our brain starts to atrophy at the age of 30, no matter who you are. So, at around 25-26, our brain is fully developed. Then, at the age of 30, we start to lose brain cells, it’s just a natural ageing process, it’s called “the brain ageing process.” And it just starts to atrophy. So, we already know that we need to start implementing these strategies as soon as possible. And for athletes, don’t even get me started on the NFL, I don’t work with NFL players right now…and I don’t think I ever will again because I just see the trauma that they are undergoing and I really feel like it’s against everything I believe in to coach them because I’m like, “The only way to really coach you is by you quitting the sport.” And they don’t like to hear that. So, I don’t work with them.
Meb: I mean, I look back as, like, a kid who played a lot of contact sports. I was talking to a buddy the other day, I said, you know, “How many concussions do you think you had that you can identify?” For me, we also grew up skiing pre-helmet, right, and the number of times my head smashed like a hard ice pack, I back then didn’t think it was called a concussion, I said like, “Got my belt wrong,” and just sat there seeing stars for 20 minutes. But there are a lot of sports like that. I mean, like, is rugby in the same category? Not as bad as football but it’s got to be up there, right?
Louisa: It’s definitely up there. You know, any type of collision sport, if you’re running into another person or running into a wall, even head-butting in soccer can cause little micro damages, depending on how hard you get hit, falling to the ground…you know, your brain is not meant to be thrown around inside your skull, it’s just not. It’s soft, it’s fatty, and it just wants to just sit there and do its job, it’s not meant to be thrashing into things. Even in a car accident, let’s just say, even if you don’t smash your head, you’re still getting this velocity of going forwards and backwards. And that’s what’s causing the concussion. It’s not so much just getting smashed to the head, like, it’s just even going forwards and backwards is really, you know, detrimental to the brain. So, I try and stay away from those sports.
Meb: Yeah, you got to wonder…I mean, there’s, obviously, like, a lot of mental health issues with current and former NFL players’ suicide, looking at how much of that has a legit origin and some of the trauma they’ve been exposed to, you know, for many of them 20 years. Right?
Louisa: Twenty years. And I see it, I see it. So, I’m out of that sport. So, I’m more so now just in the nice sports, which is the NBA players, soccer players. I really love ball sports, so, tennis players as well. And then, obviously, the finance space, we work with a lot of hedge fund and portfolio managers.
Meb: You know, obviously, there’s a very distinct difference between the two. Athletes operate at a very high level physically. A lot of investors, if you look at the general physical profile, for many, it may not be your picture of physical optimal specimen. But how much of kind of what you coach and talk about is, like, the Venn diagram overlap with the two? Is it like, “No, athletes I got to treat totally differently than investors,” or you’re like, “no, 80% is sort of similar regardless…”
Louisa: It’s similar. However, the thing that’s different is the timing. So, first and foremost, a lot of my athletes are not drinking the same amount as what some of my investors are drinking, and I really hate that. For some reason, at around 4:00, 4:30, they just feel as though that they can just start drinking as much as possible, when we really understand the detriments from a decision-making perspective, a cognitive-function perspective, but also a brain-structure perspective of alcohol intake. It doesn’t matter whether it’s one drink a day or whether it’s 14, even small amounts can have a detrimental effect. So, that’s the difference there.
Meb: At my first job, my PM would often crack a Budweiser at the market close every day. Like, he wasn’t I don’t think drinking a lot of them but it was kind of like a ritual almost. Like, market close, time for Budweiser. And I feel like, on the athlete side, it’s certainly more appreciated. I feel like that subset of knowledge has been much more quickly adopted in the athlete community over the past 10-20 years. And you look back, obviously, to the old pictures of athletes smoking on the sidelines or Michael Jordan going out all night and drinking before playoff game or something, but I feel like that is certainly not the base case today. But I agree, like, on the culture, particularly of Wall Street, I mean, if you’re in your town, in New York or Boston, it’s not so much here in LA because you can’t walk anywhere, but the day is over, every other bar is packed. Happy hour, dinners. You know, every night, particularly for the younger cohort. But it is very much a part of the cultural norm there.
Okay. So, more alcohol use, which, obviously, has a negative impact. Why don’t we get into some of the generalities of the two? So, you onboard people, and so ignoring some of the, like, very specific things that may pop out of the DNA test, the blood work, generally speaking, let’s say someone comes in, what are sort of some of the main outputs and levers for people that want to be their best that you kind of talk about with most of these investors and athletes?
Louisa: So, there are three core pillars that we operate from, and anybody listening to this can really optimize and upgrade their performance if they implement these three things. And this is all we really talk about at Neuro Athletics, it is sleep, nutrition, and exercise. These three things, which were gifted to us by mother nature, are really undermined and underrated. So, let’s go into these three things. And this is, honestly, when you look at Alzheimer’s-disease patients, even if they are in the late stages of Alzheimer’s disease, nothing is better, not even a pharmacological-grade agent is better than exercise. So, these three things, we look at them and think, “Well, yeah. I mean, whatever, I’ve been sleeping, eating, and exercising since I was born.” It’s like, “Well, but are you doing it right?”
Meb: The statement you made on the exercise, and then I’ll let you go, but I was just reflecting, I live very close to the ocean, and I would say, it’s not 100% but maybe it’s like 95% of the time I go surf, ecstatic to have done it. Like, I’m happy, I feel better the rest of the day, it’s just shining. It doesn’t have to be surf but surf is my example because it’s so close and easy. But the Meb that is waiting to go surf, considering to go surf, who’s having his coffee, looking at the ocean, checking emails, there’s a huge disconnect between the two. Where, like, I know I’m going to feel better, I know I’m going to have a blast and it’s going to improve my mood, my well-being, everything, but I’m like, you know, “The water, it just looks cold today.” Like, “It’s too small. It’s too big. I just got to do these emails.” There’s a weird disconnect. I don’t know if you can solve it for me but it seems like that should be a very simple equation that should lead to an obvious answer at every juncture, but it doesn’t.
Louisa: Let me ask you something, does this happen later on, like, in life? Like, let’s go 20 years ago, were you more inclined to just jump in the water without having to decide?
Meb: This is me specifically, I’m very active but I’m very impressionable. So, if someone is like, “Hey, Meb, let’s go play pickleball today,” “hey, man, let’s go golf,” “let’s go play volleyball,” I’m definitely in. Particularly in mornings for me, I’m less self-motivated because, you know, also being a founder and CEO of a company, like, there are other pulls. So, if I have friends that are particularly in town that surf that drag me out at 7 a.m., I have, like, a 100% hit rate. Just the self-motivation of going alone is a little lower.
Louisa: Yeah. And we find that. And that’s just all got to do with, you know, you making a decision based on prior experiences. And I just find that, as people get older…so, I’ve got some guys who have been with me for many years, and I’ve got one investor who came to me in 2019 and he’s still with me. Now his motivation has increased dramatically just because we’re now speaking at least, you know, once every two weeks. But when it comes to exercising in the morning and going out into the surf, I think you’re onto something there, it’s probably the best time for you to be activating your circadian rhythm and getting in the exercise. So, you’re definitely onto something there.
Meb: After the drubbing in Chinese stocks, are they finally cheap? What about the U.S. stock market? Cheap, fair, expensive? We’re almost at the end of the quarter, so, you know what that means. Time for subscribers of The Idea Farm to receive updated global stock market country valuations. Not only do we send out a comprehensive list, we even provide a few great resources for global stock market valuations for you to look at yourself. Visit theideafarm.com today to subscribe for free. Any links to third-party websites are offered only for use at your own discretion. The Idea Farm, LP, and its affiliates are separate and unaffiliated from any third parties listed herein and is not responsible for their product, services, policies, or the content of their website. So, I interrupted you. I think the lead-in, you were going to talk about sleep, is that right?
Louisa: Yeah. So, let’s talk about sleep. So, and let’s go back and forth with this, because you probably answered this, how many hours of sleep do you think generally most people in your field is getting, averaging?
Meb: The default answer I think of it being 8, but in my field, all these megalomaniac, very anxious, type-A, hard-working, overworked…probably 6.
Louisa: Yeah, and 6 is what I was going to say, and that is so scary, 6 hours of sleep for anybody. And it’s not even the timing of sleep, you’ve got to look at, when we’re talking about sleep performance, we’ve got to look at quantity and quality. Now, sleep we know now is not just a function of our daily lives, it is a part of the day where our brain and body repairs itself. And if we’re not getting adequate hours of sleep, we’re not going to be performing nearly at our pick, not even at, you know, what we maybe 80% or 60%, you’re really going to be giving yourself a disadvantage if you’re not getting those hours of sleep.
And I’ll tell you why. Let’s first talk about quantity, 6 hours of sleep versus 8 hours. Is there really a big difference? Well, there is. We now have evidence in clinical human studies to show that 6 hours of sleep per night can disrupt your genome by 3%. So, you can get a 3% change in your genetics by sleeping 6 hours per night. That’s a pretty big number, right?
Meb: Yeah. You know, but it’s funny to think about because…and, obviously, societal beliefs change slowly, sometimes faster, but for the majority of our lives there’s two ingrained beliefs, and COVID has helped with this, but one, to work harder. Right? Particularly my industry, you know, very competitive, banking, finance, investing. The two-year, you know, program right out of college. I remember all my friends, Morgan and Goldman, working all night. I mean, 100-hour weeks, right? And it was a badge of honor to not sleep. You know, a ton of coffee, amphetamines, whatever it is, like, that was seen as, like, an ideal to ascribe to. I feel like that’s slowly changing, like, it’s starting to become a little more accepted, what you’re talking about, but it’s not there yet.
Louisa: Slowly. It’s not there yet. And this is why I do a lot of what I call public education to really pinpoint the detriments of not getting good sleep. So, let’s talk about the two stages of sleep that are really important. We’ve got four stages of sleep and they’re characterized by you falling asleep, that are Stage 1. Stage 2 is light sleep. Stage 3 is deep sleep. And this happens within, you know, 2 hours of falling asleep. And then Stage 4 is REM sleep. So, let’s concentrate on deep sleep and REM sleep because they’re the two of the most important stages.
During deep sleep, your brain and body repairs itself. And it does this by, first and foremost, during this stage of sleep, you get a lot of hormones that are secreted. For you, you’re a man, you get most of your testosterone secreted during that time. I’m a woman, I get a lot of my estrogen secreted during that time. You also get growth hormone. So, growth hormone is responsible for protein synthesis, muscle repair, just repair of bodily tissues. So, if we are not optimizing for deep sleep, we’re not going to be getting the amount of testosterone that we need…well, men are not going to be getting the amount of testosterone that they need. And testosterone is an extremely important hormone, you guys definitely need this, especially in your world. You know, I’m seeing now so many men who are coming to me with…I always say “man boobs.” You’re seeing these men who are just, you know, gaining fat in different areas, and it’s because of the disruption in these hormones. Maybe they’ve got more estrogen that’s getting released and not enough testosterone.
But then you’ve also got growth hormone. You know, maybe they’re trying to go to the gym but they’re not getting any gains, and it’s because it’s just your hormones are just all out of whack. So, we can really correct this, first and foremost, by proper sleep hygiene. But another thing that’s important during deep sleep is we go through this self-cleaning process. Our lymphatic system, which is like the lymphatic system in your body but is a lymphatic system, so, it happens in the brain, and it’s like a sewage system, it gets activated during deep sleep. And what happens is the cells of your brain, they shrink, and the cerebral spinal fluid, which is just the fluid in your brain and spinal cord, it gets washed out, it goes through and it clears all of the debris, all of the toxins that are built up during the day, it washes them out.
So, if we’re not getting into deep sleep and if we’re not getting into deep sleep for at least 2 or 3 hours a night, you can imagine waking up feeling lethargic, kind of brain fog. A lot of my guys are like, “Louisa, why do I have brain fog every day?” it’s like, “well, you spend 40 minutes in deep sleep, that’s not enough to activate the system, this lymphatic system.” And not just that, we know now that one of the biggest hallmarks of Alzheimer’s disease is a toxic protein called beta amyloid. And this accumulates and builds up in the brains of Alzheimer’s-disease patients. That is one of the proteins that is washed out during deep sleep.
So, imagine. You’re probably a fan of compound interest, I know I am and I know a lot of your listeners probably are too, one night of sleep deprivation, which is characterized by 6 hours of sleep per night, just say 1 night of sleep of 6 hours, it might not do anything, but imagine doing 6 hours of sleep every single night for 5 years, 6 years, 10 years. It compounds and accumulates. And then you wake up in your your mid-40s or early 50s and you’re like, “I can’t remember a god damn thing. I’m fat, I don’t like myself, and I’m losing concentration. I’m not making decisions like I was in my early 30s. And, oh shit, I’ve got an increased risk of stroke, Alzheimer’s disease, neurodegeneration. Like, where did this all come from?” It came from 20 years ago. So, that’s what I’m trying to get about, sleep is not just something that we do, it is an important process that we should all really fall in love with if we want to improve our performance even by 1%.
Meb: So, well, two of the best practices, I think some are obvious, some are not necessarily as intuitive, but for the people listening who say, “Okay, I’ve got a flexible schedule,” meaning, “I don’t have to wake up at 2:00 a.m.,” “I want to get the best out of my sleep. What do you got for me? What should I be doing?”
Louisa: Okay. First thing you do when you wake up, assess your sleep out of 10. Did you sleep well? Did you have frequent wake-ups? What went wrong? Because if you do that, then you can start to understand your sleep patterns.
Second thing is you want to be getting to sleep at a decent time. Now, lights out at Neuro Athletics is 10 p.m. I know that’s really hard to achieve in your field, and also I’ve got a lot of people who have got kids and I know that that’s hard to do, but sleeping at a decent hour, which is before midnight, is really going to help you. The second thing is you have to find out whether you’re having trouble falling asleep or staying asleep. And if you’re having trouble falling asleep, it’s generally because you’ve got a racing mind and you’re stressed. So, you might want to adapt some strategies to help lower the stress threshold so you can have a peaceful mind. And a supplement that works really well for that is called GABA, gamma-aminobutyric acid, and I actually use that almost every night.
Meb: So, the consistent early bedtime. You know, I mentioned I have an Oura Ring, which helps track…the sort of wearables and trackables. And I wish I had been doing this for the past two years, in retrospect, but the self-grading before I see the score, like, how accurate for, like, a lot of the wearables do you think…do you think they’re pretty good, on average, on tracking the sleep stages and sleep score or do you think it’s not that accurate yet?
Louisa: So, I think we’re 70% accuracy. I wear an Oura Ring, and I actually have access to the back end of Oura which gives me the ability to put all of these Oura rings on my athletes and I can track everything that they can but even more. So, for example, with the Oura Ring, so, if you’re wearing one, if you gave me access to your data, I can have a look minute by minute what is happening during your sleep. So, I can really pinpoint, “Oh my gosh, this is where you’re going wrong in your sleep.” So, I think the Oura Ring is much more accurate than the Whoop. I mean, that’s just, you know, my opinion just from the studies that have been done, but yeah, we’re around 75% accurate. You’re never going to get anything that’s going to replace a sleep study, which is when you go in…and I don’t know if you’ve seen it but this ring is trying to replace something that you have electrodes all over your body, so, you’re not really going to be able to achieve that. But 75% accuracy is pretty good.
Meb: And I feel like, in general mind, it’s pretty on-point. And, in general, I sleep just fine. And I used to be a total night owl. Now that I have a kid, that’s skewed earlier probably for good benefit. But the single best night of sleep I’ve had this year was camping outside and sleeping on the ground, which, you know, I never have predicted that it was going to be so good but it’s probably because I went to bed early. It was cold and it was dark, I imagine those three combinations probably contributed to it being a good setup for that. But [inaudible 00:37:10]…
Louisa: Yeah. No, I mean, dropping your core body temperature by at least 2 degrees is phenomenal because, in order to fall asleep and stay asleep, our core body temperature needs to drop 2 degrees. So, that’s the first thing. The second thing is being in absolute darkness helps with the secretion of the sleepiness hormone, which is melatonin, so, you’ve got that as well. And then I guess the other thing would be the fact that there was no distractions. You know, nowadays we’ve got TVs, we’ve got laptops, we’ve got our phone that keeps us up at night. So, that’s probably another thing. So, that’s the first thing, you need to understand, like, you know, falling asleep and staying asleep.
And then, so, if you can get to bed at a consistent sleep time every night you can work on, you know, blacking out. You know, I use blackout curtains, a lot of people, you know, are not using that. You can use a sleep mask to sleep in a completely pitch-black room. You can try, try your hardest to sleep 8 hours. Like, so, if you’re going to sleep 8 hours, you generally want to be in bed for 9 hours because maybe an hour of that is you not being in complete sleep.
Meb: Yeah, that’s actually an important point, one of the things I learned that I didn’t know. In my head I’m like, “All right, go to bed at 10:00, wake up at 6:00, 8 hours. Boom.” But then you look at sort of a lot of the metrics that come out a lot of these wearables and they’re like, “No, you were in bed for 8 hours but you only slept for 6,” or whatever it may be, and I said, “oh, that’s interesting because I was not ever computing that side of it, I was computing the total time in my head, which is not at all the same thing.”
Louisa: Yeah, absolutely.
Meb: All right, we talked about consistent time, darkness. Darkness is funny because, before I had thought about it, you don’t notice how many little lights you have in your room. And I went around, you know, and put a little black electrical tape over everything, and now I notice it always I. go to a, you know, hotel room or whatever and it drives me crazy, you just notice how much light pollution there is all over the place. Your fan, your clock, your device, whatever it is. And now, if I go stay in a hotel and have blackout curtains and, like, don’t set an alarm, I could easily post, like, a 12-hour sleep. It’s like being in paradise.
One that’s obvious I think now, probably was always obvious but is becoming more in the vernacular, is the role of both food but also, of course, booze. Talk to us a little bit about alcohol, which you mentioned, you know, in the lead-in how much more prevalent that is on the investor and finance cohort than necessarily the athletes. How big of a deal is that and how can we think about making that be less of a negative impact?
Louisa: First of all, there is no benefit whatsoever to having alcohol. I think the only positive of it, you know, if I can glean on anything, would be the fact that it, you know, lowers our inhibitions and maybe settles us down, that’s all it is. It doesn’t help you fall asleep. So, it actually blocks you from REM sleep. So, if you’re thinking that, “Sleep is helping me,” if you think that alcohol is helping you sleep, it’s actually not what it’s doing, it’s sedating you. And that’s what it is, it’s a sedative. It’s a sedative, so, it’s knocking you out. It’s not putting you into sleep, it’s just knocking you out. So, that’s the first thing, so, it really disrupts sleep patterns.
The second thing is it really has detrimental effects on the brain. Now, I actually just posted about this in a reel on Instagram, and I pulled up a wonderful study that was done in March this year and it was produced or published in the journal “Nature.” And what they did was they took over 35,000 healthy adults in the UK and what they found was those who were drinking moderate amounts of alcohol, which is characterized by 1 or 2 drinks per night or at least 7 drinks per week, what they found was that they had thinning of the gray matter cortex. These are the outer layers of their brain. So, people who are drinking are getting thinning of the gray matter and they’re also getting changes in different areas of the brain. We saw frontal-lobe damage, there was damage in the parietal lobes. And this is just due to an average and moderate amount of alcohol. So, you’re actually killing off neurons, you’re killing the cell bodies of your brain cells, the cell bodies are the gray matter, when you drink.
So, what does that mean? Well, this means that we’re going to have a diminished ability to think properly, to make sound decisions. You know, if your whole job is reliant on you making decisions, then I’ve got to tell you, stay away from alcohol. It’s just not doing you any benefits. And I always get asked, “Okay, just how much can I drink?” If you had to, it would probably be one drink a week. If you had to.
Meb: That is going to be a probably outlier cohort that’s going to listen to that advice. But, in general, you would say “less is better.”
Louisa: Dramatically less is better.
Meb: And if you’re going to, is it better, like, I assume, earlier in the day or is it, like, late night? Does it even matter at that point?
Louisa: Well, no. If you’re going to, then yes, earlier in the day is better because it gives you time for it to just get out of your system and maybe help you fall asleep. So, I’m not promoting day drinking but around 12 p.m. will probably be the best time. But then there’s also other things that you can take to offset the detriments of alcohol, things such as an acetylcysteine has been shown to help clear out the ethanol. So, there are ways to combat it, yes. How many people are really going to do that? I’m not sure, it takes a lot of, you know, willpower. So, my general bet is just to stay away from it. And I understand that people can’t do that.
Meb: There is an app that I think is probably worthy listeners if you are someone who enjoys the occasional or regular drink. I want to say it’s “Sunny Side,” I can’t remember. We’ll put it in the show note links. But basically it’s like a way to track, you just log how many drinks you had or when. But I think it would probably be an interesting experiment for most, and probably not that surprising with the results, to line those up with the sleep metrics, you know, and say, “Okay, well, on the nights that I did have that four glasses of wine, how did I sleep versus the nights that I didn’t?” I need to work on that and try it myself but I think it’s going to be an obvious answer for most. Are there any other sort of things we should be talking about, either best practices or things that we should be avoiding that we haven’t mentioned so far?
Louisa: Light exposure should really be minimized. So, we know that. But then there’s also this other thing is, when you first wake up, it’s really important that you get access to natural sunlight. So, part of the protocols that we set in place is, as soon as you wake up, depending on what time you wake up, but if you’re waking up generally with the sun, we advise you to go out and get at least 10 minutes of sunlight. You can go for a walk. But this is going to activate your circadian rhythm, which is going to help you fall asleep throughout the night. So, getting that is really healthy for brain and body.
And then other practice is don’t eat too close to bedtime, maybe an 1.5 to 2 hours away from bedtime. I don’t like to go any more than that because most people get hungry. So, there’s a balance effect there. And then you can start incorporating supplements, if you need to. Supplements such as GABA, which I mentioned earlier, and you can get this from any health food shop. And I like apigenin and I also have glycine every night. So, that helps me relax and fall asleep as well.
Meb: For the people who are listening who are the 4-hour crew and they’re like, “You know what, I just can’t,” for whatever reason. Is nap a substitute, afternoon nap? Is that sort of a band-aid or is it not that useful?
Louisa: It’s a band-aid but it also takes away from your sleep pressure. So, obviously, during the day, you build up sleep pressure which makes you sleepy at night. So, if you have a nap, it’s going to take away from that. But if you are getting 4 hours of sleep per night, then I would say, “Wherever you can, just try and sleep.” That’s really considered as the same as shift workers or polyphasic sleeping, you’re just getting little amounts of sleep, so, you’re really not going to be getting into deep sleep and REM sleep for long enough to get the restoration that you need. And I’d be quite scared. I’m sorry to scare you, folks.
Meb: All right, so, while we are on sleep, anything else we talked about…you know, I love a good cold frigid room, we haven’t really touched on that much, is that considered to be a base case scenario at this point or…
Louisa: Yeah. So, the thing about temperature is our core body temperature, in order to fall asleep and stay asleep, our core body temperature needs to drop two degrees. Now, what happens is we are sleeping a bit hotter, and this may be due to just your natural sleeping…you know, I’ve slept next to a hot sleeper and I know that some people can be just hot. So, you can cool down the ambient temperature of the room with an air conditioner. I sleep on a temperature-controlled mattress. My entire apartment in New York City is set up like a lab, it’s a bit crazy, but I sleep on a temperature-controlled mattress. Which can actually be split in half, so, I can sleep at a certain temperature and, if you’re sleeping with somebody else, they can sleep at a certain temperature.
What happens is throughout the night it detects, “Oh, Louisa, you’re in deep sleep, so, we’re going to drop the core body temperature down a bit. You’re in REM sleep, we’re going to drop it down a bit more.” And then, in order to wake us up, the reason why we wake up during the day is because our core body temperature has risen. And that’s just normal and we need it to rise in order to get us up out of bed in order to wake us up. So, my mattress actually…if you set it to wake me up at 6 a.m., at around 5:45 it starts to heat up. So, I sleep on that. But for the other people who are like, “I don’t have one of those,” you can just try and sleep with your feet outside of the sheets, that’s a really good one, and your hands outside of the sheets. Or just put the thermostat down two degrees. That’s it from sleep. And if I had to leave anybody with anything, it is sleep is the most underrated high-performance tool that we have. If you are looking at becoming a better leader, a better wife, a better husband, a better father, and, essentially, a better investor, you should look, first and foremost, at, you know, getting more sleep and getting better sleep.
Meb: All right. So, get to bed, listeners. What else? As we kind of talk about these elite performers that you kind of see is that the big muscle movements…I mean, sleep, we could probably spend a few podcasts on the topic alone, but what else you talk to people about the most?
Louisa: The second pillar is exercise. So, when we look at exercise, we’ve got both aerobic, which is like your long runs, your long cardio outputs, then we’ve got resistance training. And I think we’re on to something with the resistance training, Meb, and I think that that’s something that we need to be speaking about. We all know that we can go out and do aerobic training, even walking is really great. And when we first started to do the first studies on the effects of exercise on brain health, we were looking at endurance sports or were looking at rats, getting them on a wheel and getting them to run for, you know, 3 or 4 hours a week. So, we knew that, “Hey, aerobic exercise is good for the brain.” And what it does is it enables the expression of growth factors, BDNF is one of them. So, when we do aerobic physical activity around 150 minutes to 200 minutes per week, we get a lot of this growth factor. And so, we knew that. And there’s BDNF, brain-derived neurotropic factor, helps with the creation of new neurons in the hippocampus.
We knew that, so, we were like, “This is great,” but now…and this is something that I study as well and publish about, and this is the effects of resistance training on the brain. And my god, I think that everybody should be doing some form of resistance training. And this is like doing actual weights at least three times a week. It changes the function of your brain and it changes the structure of your brain, literally. So, 80% of your gray matter can be modified by physical activity.
Meb: I feel like, of the things we’ve talked about thus far, probably the most well-established for a really long time, as far as, you know, exercise being great for you…what’s the resistance at this part? Or what is the part that most people really struggle with? Is it the sort of, quote, “I don’t have time” aspect? People know that it’s good for them, they always feel better afterwards. Like, what is the main issue when you talk to a lot of the…I mean, we can exclude the athletes, of course, but, on the investor side, for example, like, why wouldn’t they be doing this for the most part?
Louisa: Time. So, first of all, “Louisa, how am I going to do that? I have to rush to the office and be there by 8 a.m. I’ve also got a wife and three kids, and my wife has to do x, y, z. I have to get the kids ready for school.” So, that’s the first thing. The second thing is, at 4 p.m., they are so mentally drained that they could not think of anything worse than going to the gym, they would rather drink. So, that’s another battle that I have with my investors.
Thirdly is, this is something that’s not spoken about, they just don’t know what to do. Like, sometimes, you know, some of my investors are that bougie, I had to use that word, that they hire me to go to the gym with them. And that’s not something I do, I’m like, “Can you just go and get a personal trainer?” They’re like, “No, no. I need you.” And I’m like, “Okay, this is a great experiment because I can actually go and see what the hell they’re doing.” And some guys and women…I want to caveat this by saying that 100% of my clients in the investing space are men.
Meb: Well, I mean, look, 95% of the listeners of this pod, it’s very depressing, this podcast are men, 90% of my Twitter followers, 3% of the VC dollars go to women. Like, it’s the percent breakdown. So, not surprising, it’s sad, but…
Louisa: I didn’t want the fellas to think that I was picking on them but that’s my athletes, so, that’s my clients. So yeah, these guys are just like not doing what they need to be doing to get the effects. So, first of all, let’s just take the biggest things that are going to push you towards getting these brain effects, and they are your compound movements. Learn how to squat. Just learn it. Because if you learn it, you’re going to be happier because you’re going to be like, “Well, you’re going to tell your brain, ‘I know how to do this and I’m doing it well and it’s having an effect,'” and that’s going to push you and motivate you to go to the gym a bit more. So, that’s the first thing.
And then the second thing is, if you’re doing the exercises correctly, and that’s in terms of weight, movement, you’re going to have a lower probability of getting injured and you’re going to have a higher probability of changing the way that your body looks. And if you change the way that your body looks, you’re going to feel more inclined to keep going back to the gym. These guys are saying to me, “Louisa, I went to the gym, I’m just getting no benefit from it.” It’s like, “Well, you did it for two weeks and you were pushing these tiny little prissy weights that not even my mother, you know, is lifting.” So, fellas, let’s talk about this. You’ve got to be pushing heavy. So, if you’re not pushing heavy and you’re not fatiguing, you’re not getting the benefits. And if you’re not doing it three or four times a week, you’re not going to get the changes that you need. So, there is a time component, Meb, but there’s also an education component.
Meb: I heard a great Muhammad Ali quote the other day, I don’t know who said it, but it was, basically, he said he didn’t count the reps until they started to hurt. So, everything that became before that he, like, didn’t count, he started counting when he got to there. I mean, exercise is such an obvious one. I think for so many it’s about prioritizing it, it’s about routine, you know, scheduling for this cohort. Particularly, you know, the masters of the universe, these guys, these billionaires that kind of has the world at their beck and call. I mean, I think for many it’s, like, you need to consciously make a time for it, right, or put it in your schedule, and that way you can’t get out of it. I love the old, you know, concepts of, like, “Look, you got to pay for it.” Which is why for many a personal trainer works is because they’re paying for it if they show up or not. And for a lot of the value-minded folks that’s a painful reminder that they’re wasting money.
All right. So, anything left on the exercise…I mean, the exercise one seems to me like the most, like, universal…like, there’s not even anything to argue about on that one.
Louisa: I just want to point out that the benefits that you get from resistance training is, when you perform a muscle contraction and you’re doing it with resistance, so, let’s just say a bicep curl, you are releasing hormones and muscle-based proteins. And when they’re released from the skeletal muscle, they go into the bloodstream, they go up to your brain, and they have an effect on cognitive performance. Cognitive performance is information processing speed, reaction time, decision making. They enhance those functions, and you can’t get those through anywhere else.
Irisin is one of the biggest ones spoken about, it gets released in tenfold when you do resistance training. You can’t get this release in any other way. So, I just want to leave people with that if they’re thinking, “Well, I’ve got no time.” Do what you can.
Meb: Which is also funny. Like, I mean, I played sports my whole life and I don’t think I actually learned a proper squat technique until I was like in my 30s, you know, done some Cross Fit where I was like, “Wait a minute, that’s how you’re supposed to squat?” My gym teacher back in North Carolina, I don’t think he knew what he was doing. Anyway. Okay, so, sleep, we did exercise. What was number three?
Meb: And so, this is one that I think, for me, if I had to just on the outside looking in, there’s been the most argument, disagreement…I mean, if you just look at the best sellers probably by year in the food space, I mean, there’s I don’t know how many thousands of diets and what used to be healthy, you know, from my childhood. I remember I had a post…god, was it on Twitter, where I was talking about the three biggest lies of, like, my childhood, like, accepted beliefs. One was, you know, the war on drugs, two was the food pyramid. Basically, like sugar is good, fat’s bad. Three I think is, like, if you were going to have sex, it’s going to…oh, AIDS. Like, everything’s wrong about it. Anyway. But nutrition has been one that’s probably seen the most revolution in actual, like, science-based insight. But even then I feel like you hear so many commentators that give obviously advice that is directly contradictory, whatever. What’s the status of the science and what should we be doing?
Louisa: Well, let’s start with what you shouldn’t be doing. And that’s the obvious, I don’t go into too much detail, I just talk about just, yes, we know that sugar is not good, we know that that’s bad for the brain. I don’t subscribe to any type of diet, I eat everything, I do eat a lot of organ meals, I do eat a lot of red meat. So, that’s something that I love too. And I eat a lot of fruits and vegetables, etc. One thing that I do speak about is what the brain’s made of. Now, the brain is made around 60% of fat. Now, one of the best things you can be feeding your brain is omega-3 fatty acids, and this comes from fatty fish. Nowhere, nothing can replace that. And I truly mean that. So, if you’re looking at getting just a little bit of an edge when it comes to nutrition, try adding in omega-3 fatty acids. If you can’t get it from fatty fish, because it’d be really hard to actually get that from fatty fish, and we’re looking at 4 grams per day, look at supplementation. I supplement with 4 grams a day of EPA and DHA. It helps with all cause mortality, it helps with cell membrane fluidity, and it helps feed your brain what it needs. And it also helps lower inflammation. We know that inflammation is detrimental to decision making. So, supplementing with omega-3 fatty acids, which is EPA/DHA, is going to help your brain immensely.
Meb: The funny thing you mentioned about the sugar, like, I casually now just kind of glance at labels, and to me it’s still shocking, like, how much sugar gets added to things that I would never ever expect it to be…
Louisa: Oh, yeah.
Meb: You know, like, I look at the label and I’m like, “Wait, why does my milk have so much sugar in it?” like, why are you putting a bunch of sugar in the milk? Come on, like, [inaudible 00:57:22] even needs it.
Louisa: Do you want to know something scary…
Meb: I do.
Louisa: …and really interesting? The FDA has a law that states that you can skew the results of food labels by 20%. So, that means, if you take a can of Coke and you have a look and it says it’s got a 176 calories, because I really believe that’s what it has, just off the top of my head, and just, say, it has 20 grams of sugar, that is not true. They skew the results and they’re not breaking any labeling laws because the FDA says that you don’t have to put the right amount of sugar in. So, just add 20% to that 20 grams of sugar and add 20% to that 176 calories, and that’s what you’re really consuming. Nobody knows that. They look at a can of Coke and they’re like, “Oh, okay, 20 grams of sugar,” but they’re really having a lot more than that. So, I think that that is wild, right?
Meb: Yeah, it’s enlightening and depressing at the same time. And so, kind of the basics of food advice that seems very obvious, less processed, less junk, less fried foods, you know, more whole sort of stuff. Like, that doesn’t seem that complicated. And probably eating less, for most of us, I imagine.
Louisa: Getting protein, an adequate amount of protein, which is around 1.8 grams per kilogram of body mass. And also if I had to pick two supplements for you guys to be taking, it would be omega-3 fatty acids and creatine. Creatine is extremely important.
Meb: Creatine was one that probably many men, and particularly men who were athletes, at some point, had some experience with as a pure muscle building supplement in their younger years perhaps. But are you saying this is something they should consider on an ongoing basis even in their older years?
Louisa: Oh, 100%, 5 grams a day. You know, you can load this by doing a two-week load. But I generally would say that it’s one of the safest supplements out there, one of the most widely researched, and one that, you know, everyone should be taking.
Meb: And this is women too?
Louisa: Women too, yeah. I take it, yeah.
Meb: Okay. All right, so, we got a pretty good overview so far. We have the three mains: sleep, exercise, nutrition. Which none of that should sound too crazy, I think, to most. How often are you, like, getting an athlete or a high-performing investor and you’re like, “Huh, you know, you’re good.” Like, “This looks like you’re doing everything you should be doing.” You know, because for when you get those type of people, what tends to be the things that are missing or that they can…you know, they’re like, “Look, I know I’m probably good. I eat well, exercise, I get good sleep, but I really am crazy obsessed. I want to be, like, you know, best of my ability, top 1%.” For those, like, is it a different onboarding prescription or is it just kind of more the same of what we talked about?
Louisa: No, it’s definitely a little bit different. So, for example, if an MBA player…and this happens often. I’m now working with major-league baseballers, some of them who have just signed a 300-million-dollar deal, and they’re already at the top of their game, they’re like, “But I just want to get better.” And then I really fine tune it. And this comes down to information-processing speed, so, can we get that faster? Can we decrease reaction time and can we increase your visual acuity? And you think for, like, these ball players, if I can increase their visual acuity by, you know, 1% that means they’re going to see the ball faster and quicker, so, they’re going to be able to react to it faster. So, that’s the fine tuning, really looking at the visual cortex and how can we manipulate that but also looking at different brain regions and how can we upgrade those. But, unfortunately, for my investors, I’ve never seen somebody that came in and said to them, “Oh, you’re incredible, I don’t need to work with you.”
Meb: So, for the people listening who aren’t going to sign that 300-million-dollar contract or may be, you know, managing 20 billion, do you have any offerings tailored to them? Is it, “Hey, listen to my podcast, read my writings. You can get, you know, part of the freebies.”? But, like, what is sort of the funnel for clients? You have a consulting practice, do you do any online coaching as well? What’s the funnel?
Louisa: So, we do have a part where you can work with me online. Hopefully, if you’re in New York City, I can see you in person. One of the biggest things that we do is we actually form partnerships with companies that have got even 20%, if they’ve got 20% portfolio managers, 20% investors, we can do something with them as well. So, I never say, “This is our one-stop shop,” or, “this is the one size fits all,” we cater everything. But what I’m thinking that’s becoming more popular now is a lot of companies are like, “Hey, Louisa, we’re reaching the end of financial year but we want to do a lot of learning for our company. Can you come in and give a talk?” or can you come in and do maybe a three or four-week seminar with them. So, we do that as well.
Meb: Yeah, it’s smart. I mean, it’s an obvious…as someone, you know, thinking of the CEO, like, what you want to maximize productivity, health, well-being, focus, drive, all that…why would you not, right? Like, all the other things we think about as perks. “Hey, we’re going to put in a Ping-Pong table,” or, you know, whatever it may be. It seems like getting all these in line is obvious, right?
Louisa: Well, can I ask you a question?
Louisa: If I said to you, giving your current position right now, exactly the same, if I said to you, “We can work on these 3 pillars and you can be operating at least 10% better than what you are now?” what does that mean for your portfolio, financially speaking? You don’t have to give numbers, evidently, you can just tell me… Yeah.
Meb: I’m complicated, Louisa, because I’m a quant. So, the beauty of being a quant…
Louisa: Oh, the amount of quants I…
Meb: The beauty of being a quant is I don’t know that my output, if I was 50% better, is going to impact anything we do currently. However, my output on research, writing, all the other things I want to be doing, thinking of new crazy ideas, launching new funds, there’s no question. And there’s no question that so many of the stuff that you’ve talked about…and the most obvious one for me, glaring. I have a pretty good diet, I exercise decently. If I could go teleport back to the 20-year-old Meb or the 30-year-old Meb and say, “Look, man. Beer is delicious. Wine, hey, great. Go have some cocktails with friends but let’s create a mindfulness around it,” right, where I say, “okay, let’s center it around, you know, dinners with family, holidays, certain events, and make it less of a part of your cultural day-to-day,” you know, “less part of your identity with your entire life.” There’s no question you wake up hungover, like, that’s an obvious after effect of a poison that, in many ways, still can be wonderful but has its downsides. So, yes, I would sign up for that. And so, next time you’re in LA, let’s talk. I certainly could use the help. But I would take it, right. It’s an obvious, for the listeners, expected value equation. Right? SBF who’s I just got announced today, he was taking like, god, like, Adderall every 2 hours or something, I imagine that could help the crew at FTX. So, yes, I hear you.
We’ve hit a lot of wide-ranging things, let’s go a little off script for a little bit. What are some of the, like, whether it’s urban myths, misconceptions you talk to people about that come up a lot or just conversations you’re like, “Oh, you know, this question again?” or, “wow,” like, “I hear this a lot, let me address this.”? Are there any that, like, particularly come up all the time that you think are, you know, particularly opinionated on?
Louisa: Yeah, well, it is…look, alcohol, like, I put out an Instagram story saying, “Hit me up, you know, through a DM with your number-one question related to brain health.” And I would say I got 900 messages and a third of them were around alcohol. So, I think people are just looking for ways to say that alcohol is good for you. That’s the first thing.
The second thing is I don’t think that we’re talking enough about hydration. I think that that’s another myth. You know, a lot of guys are like, “Yeah, you know, I drink a bit of water but I’m fine.” It’s like, “Well, your brain actually is made of water as well. It is 60% fat, the other 40% is water. If you are not hydrating, your brain’s just not going to be functioning optimally.” So, we need to talk about hydration, both through electrolytes and water. And then, yeah, it’s just you can’t get past those three pillars.
And then I think we’re not just recognizing that there’s just a natural decline in performance as we get older. We all know that we performed better in our late 20s than what we do now, you know, in our late 40s. So, we have to look at ways to address that, to optimize it, and slow the progression of these brain-related disorders.
Meb: You mentioned a supplement that people could take with alcohol or after the fact, what’s it called?
Louisa: NAC, so, N-acetyl cysteine. It’s also called NAC. I can see that people are just going to go out and purchase these.
Meb: I remember…you know, I mean, look, the market for hangover cures is probably billion dollars and nutraceuticals, whatever they may be, but I remember this reminds me that the Sam Adams’ founder, the beer company, I remember reading interview once with him. And it was the strangest thing because, like, the journalist is sitting there, they’re having beers, and, like, he opened a package of yeast and ate a package of yeast while they’re talking. He’s like, “What are you doing?” he’s like, you know, “this actually, like, dulls the effects of all the beers.” I’m like, “I have never heard that ever in my entire life and here we have this founder just casually just, you know, ripping into a packet of yeast. I’ll add it to the show note, listeners, but…Jim Koch I think is his name, I can’t remember, but one of the strangest recommendations for that. Never heard it before or since, but…
Louisa: No, me neither. And I don’t think it tastes very nice, yeah…
Meb: What are you excited about going forward? We’re winding down the year, end of 2022, you look out to the horizon, you got a lot going on, Louisa, what’s on your mind? What are you excited about? What are you worried about? What are you thinking about? What do you got on the to-do list for yourself next year?
Louisa: Very exciting. So, in all of January, I’m going on a podcast tour. Actually on the West Coast, so, I’m going to LA, Sacramento, San Diego, Vegas. So, I’m going to be on many podcasts just to spread the word of Neuro Athletics and that a high-performing brain is something that we can all achieve. I’m excited about that. I do have a goal to have every person on Wall Street…and by “Wall Street” I mean, you know, any investor working in the financial-services space in the U.S., to know my name. So, I don’t know how we’re going to achieve that, Meb. I don’t know, I’ve got to get in contact with “Forbes” or something and just get that out there. So, that’s going to be the goal for next year.
Meb: And then for those who are interested what you’re up to, if they do want to hear more, they want to sign up, I told them, “Louisa signs you up as a client, say Meb sent you, you’ll get 5% off, 10% off?”
Louisa: Yeah, why don’t we do 10%?
Meb: Tell her Meb sent you. But for those who are interested, who want to chat more with you, where do they go? What’s the best spot?
Louisa: So, my website is neuroathletics.com.au. So, you can put your details in there. But if you just go on to Twitter, I’m Louisa Nicola, I do a lot of education on there, both on Instagram, but, if you go on Twitter, I have a link in my bio that’ll take you to my podcast, newsletter, and everything else that you need to know.
Meb: Yeah, I just bought some supplements through one of your recommendations. So…
Louisa: Good. Momentous?
Meb: Use the code “neuro” so you save me some money.
Meb: Report back how it goes. Any other things you want to leave the listeners with? And it could be resources on books, it could be things…you mentioned the Hemsworth documentary, I’m definitely going to check that out. Anything else you’re consuming or recommend, as the holidays approach?
Louisa: Actually, it’s another supplement…it’s not much a supplement but something that I’m finding that is working really well for my investors is exogenous ketones, just reminded me. And this is something that’s going to help with fuelling your brain so it can endure longer periods of time. So, if anyone has heard about ketones, I think that’s a really great thing to get onto. The one I have is linked in my bio as well, it’s Ketone-IQ And I’ve been having that, so, that’s something I’m consuming.
Meb: The only things that I know about ketones it’s usually surrounded by two topics, one that they taste terrible, and two that it’s usually around the topic of fasting. We didn’t mention fasting at all today. Does that come up in the conversations and something you experiment with or, you know, curious about?
Louisa: Yeah, I do feeding windows. So, instead of saying to someone, “Okay, you need to fast until 2 p.m.,” it’s just get all of your nutrition, your macros in a small amount of time and try and leave yourself room to be hungry and to not eat. Because, when you’re doing that, you’re repairing your cells. So, ketones are fantastic for that. For me, they curb my appetite and they also feel like I’ve had something to eat. So, they’re like fuelling my brain as well so I don’t feel that starvation and hunger.
Meb: Cool. Well, I’ll try it out. Louisa, it was a blessing to have you today. Thanks so much for joining us.
Louisa: Thank you so much, Meb, it was amazing talking to you.
Meb: Podcast listeners, we’ll post show notes to today’s conversation at mebfaber.com/podcast. If you love the show, if you hate it, shoot us feedback at themebfabershow.com, we love to read the reviews. Please, review us on iTunes. And subscribe the show anywhere good podcasts are found. Thanks for listening, friends, and good investing.