Max Lugavere - Protecting Your Brain For Life | 180 Nutrition

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Max Lugavere – Protecting Your Brain For Life

Max Lugavere 180 Nutrition Podcast

Watch the full interview below or listen to the full episode on your iPhone HERE.

Stu:  This week we welcome Max Lugavere to the show. Max is a filmmaker, TV personality, health and science journalist and brain food expert. He is also the director of the upcoming film Bread Head, the first-ever documentary about dementia prevention through diet and lifestyle and author of the soon-to-be released, Genius Foods: Become Smarter, Happier, and More Productive While Protecting Your Brain For Life.

Max has contributed to Medscape, Vice, Fast Company, and the Daily Beast and has been featured on NBC Nightly News, the Dr. Oz Show, and in The Wall Street Journal. He is a sought-after speaker, invited to lecture at esteemed academic institutions such as the New York Academy of Sciences and Weill Cornell Medicine, and we are truly honoured to have him on the show.

Audio Version

downloaditunesListen to Stitcher Questions we ask in this episode:

  • Can Alzheimer’s be prevented, or even reversed?
  • What ‘everyday foods’ contribute to cognitive decline?
  • Are ancient or pseudo grains a healthier option?
  • How can we best exercise for brain health?

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Full Transcript

Stu

Hey, this is Stu from 180 Nutrition and welcome to another episode of The Health Sessions. It’s here that we connect with the world’s best experts in health, wellness and human performance, in an attempt to cut through the confusion around what it takes to achieve a long lasting health. Before we get into the show today, you might not know that we make products too. That’s right. We’re into whole food nutrition and have a range of superfoods and natural supplements to helps support your day. If you’re curious, just jump over to 180nutrition.com.au and take a look. Okay, back to the show. This week, I am super excited to welcome, Max Lugavere to the show. Max is a filmmaker, TV personality, health and science journalist and brain food expert. It’s that brain food that really got me excited to be able to talk to Max today. It’s Max’s passion and obsession to discover how we can safeguard ourselves against dementia, Alzheimer’s and the growing number of neurodegenerative diseases that are prevalent today. This was a personal topic for me as well because my parents had suffered, are suffering the very things that we get deep down and discover today as well with Max. In this episode, we talk about his discoveries during the making of the movie, “Bread Head,” and we also chat about his new book, “Genius Foods,” that help us gain back our mental clarity amongst many other things. So, without further ado, let’s get into the show. Hey guys, this is Stu from 180 Nutrition and I am delighted this morning to welcome Max Lugavere to the show. Good morning Max.

Max

Good morning Stu. How are you?

Stu

Yeah, very well. Thank you. We’re super excited again today to have you on the show because you’re a true pioneer in your specified topic, which for me, is neurodegenerative disease, Alzheimer’s, optimizing the brain specifically as part of the pillars of health. It’s a topic personally as well that is really close to home because we’ve got family issues as well in that area, which I’ll talk to you a little bit later on the show. But first up, before we really get into the good stuff, I just wondered if you could tell our audience who might not have been exposed to your work, a little bit about yourself please.

Max

Absolutely. Again, my name is Max Lugavere. I’m 35 years old. I split my time between New York City and Los Angeles. My background is in media. I’m not a medical doctor. I was a health and science journalist for many years. That sort of began with a five-year tenure working for a TV network in the United States, that was founded by former US Vice President, Al Gore. I worked with him and his team for five years, cutting my teeth with the best of the best in Hollywood, learning how to tell a story, learning how to communicate fairly hot button topics with responsibility and grace. I left current TV to try to figure out where I was going to go with my career. I was in my mid-20s and it was around that time that my, back home in New York City, that my mother started to display strange symptoms of what would ultimately be determined to be a neurodegenerative disease. Basically, for me, I’m my mother’s oldest son. My family’s very tight-knit. I became, basically, obsessed with learning everything I could about what was robbing my Mom of her brain function such a young age. She was 58 when she first began showing symptoms. In tandem with that, with trying to do everything I could for my mother, my mission became bifurcated, essentially, because on the one hand, I was trying to learn why this happened to her, but on the other hand, it became very much about myself and how I can protect myself from ever having to experience cognitive decline and also to protect those that I care about, which is in a way, a sort of selfish thing. The people that I love, I want them to continue to be around me, in good health. I started learning about all of the mechanisms and associations that play when it comes to preserving and ultimately enhancing the way that our brains work. I just decided at a certain point that I couldn’t stay quiet.

Stu

Yeah.

Max

I realized that while I’m not a medical doctor, my goal, actually, not to treat people one on one, which I wouldn’t be able to do anyway, I really decided to use the skills that I had honed in Hollywood, to help spread this message. I’ve, so far, been pretty pleased with the results. You, me, all of us in the health community, we still have a lot of work to do, obviously.

Stu

Fantastic. No, that is, yeah, a true pioneer. I’ve said before the show that this hits home for me as well because I lost my mother last year to Lewy bodies disease, which again, is right up there in the neurological disorders amongst Alzheimer’s and others. My father is suffering early onset dementia and these guys are young. They’re under 70. I can see around me as well, that we’ve got friends and associates who are not as sharp as they used to be, who are forgetting things, losing their vocabulary and there needs to be a reason, I think, for me, to be able to understand why is this happening. Because my grandparents were sharp as tacks and lived into their 90s and super coherent all the way to the end. I was intrigued then by where you took your journey and I’m going to focus on Bread Head, so the movie that you decided to direct and launch. If you could just tell us a little bit about that because I thought that was fascinating.

Max

Yeah. Well, actually, you and I are very similar in the sense that my grandmother too, was 96 and sharp as a tack until the end. I had an intuitive sense that something shifted between my grandmother’s generation and my mother’s, that led to my Mom’s cognitive demise. I started to look at diet and lifestyle. One of my projects … So, I’ve got two big, big projects that I’m trying to put out into the world and one of them is a book, actually, that’s coming out soon, called, “Genius Foods,” that I just wrote. Got a copy of it here. We can talk about that.

 

Stu

Yeah. Oh look, we will. We’ve got a copy in the mail as we speak.

Max

Wonderful. Yeah.

Stu

We’re excited to receive that one.

Max

So, Bread Head was really my first project and Bread Head was all about dementia prevention. In Bread Head, we did a Kickstarter campaign. We raised money from 2,000 people all around the world to get this project off the ground, which really would allow me the opportunity to go to some of our most well-respected academic institutions to interview the researchers that are really pulling this topic into the fold. It’s only very recently that dementia and prevention could be said within the same sentence without tomatoes being thrown out you by the mainstream medical establishment. Today, we have a pretty strong body of evidence to say that dementia, Alzheimer’s disease, might not be preventable for every single person. But we do have pretty clear evidence that for a very significant proportion of people, that it is a, perhaps a disease that is preventable based on modifiable risk factors, based on steps that we can take to increase, what’s called our cognitive reserve to bolster our cognitive resilience against dementia. But there’s a lot of really good research out there. We document all of it in Bread Head. So Bread Head is focused very specifically on that topic, preventing dementia, which I think is very important, very under recognized and also very under recognized as a topic relevant to young people. When you watch Bread Head, it’s not this stodgy … It’s really meant to capture the attention of our generation.

Stu

Yeah, totally. In your opinion, how much importance do we put on diet in terms of cognitive decline? I say that in relation to a more wholistic approach because sleep, movement, exercise, mindset and nutrition is it … Are your findings largely nutrition based in terms of perhaps the devil where cognition is concerned?

Max

To be honest, I happen to be and I’ve always been a nutrition nerd, so I love nutrition. I’m kind of obsessive with it. But I really, in terms of just what I obsess over and what I write about in Genius Foods and even what we cover in Bread Head, I really try to cull information from everywhere. I mean, if it’s relevant to brain health, I’m interested in it. It’s really become a lens through which, topics that I had never been really interested in suddenly have become fascinating to me through the lens of brain health and nutrition policy and things like that.

Stu

Right.

Max

Yeah, exercise, diet and diet timing when it comes to when we’re eating the foods that we’re eating. Even something like … Yeah.

Stu

What do you do differently now as opposed to before you took this journey and all of your findings and discoveries through your work with Bread Head?

Max

My background, growing up, I was very interested in body composition and just fitness. I wasn’t an athlete but I was very interested in how the foods that we eat and the supplements that we take can manifest as a stronger and leaner body. Growing up, I was actually obsessed with superheroes. I noticed you have a Batman comic book in the background.

Stu

Yeah. It’s an early one. It’s an early one. Number-

Max

Yeah, I can tell. I can tell.

Stu

172, yeah. It’s one of my prized pieces on the shelf that the kids can’t reach.

Max

I love it. Yeah, so I mean growing up, I was really into comic books and I was really into superheroes. I had this hunch, I don’t know if it was conscious or not but that supplements in a way, when I first discovered them, they seemed to me to be sort of like the magical potions that could help you transcend your own natural biological limitations, which is essentially to become a superhero. I was really always interested in fitness and whatever, but since I began the journey to really unravel what it takes to help the brain thrive, a lot of those early principles that I held, have become challenged. For example, I sort of, since the age of 14, believed that we have to eat constantly throughout the day. Six small meals a day is something that I remember hearing many, many, many times, to stoke the metabolic [crosstalk 00:12:17]. Right?

Stu

Yeah.

Max

But new research shows that, that is actually a fallacy. That they’ve done metabolic chamber studies where they put people in a room that basically measures calorie intake, oxygen usage and they’ve been able to determine that whether you eat six small meals a day or three, your metabolism is essentially the same. But then, there’s all these other hormonal effects that are [inaudible 00:12:44] that come into play when you actually eat fewer meals. So for example, if you were to only eat one meal a day for example, you would maximize growth hormone, which helps preserve lean mass in a fasted state. I learned essentially that our bodies are complex. Nutrition is complex. And from an evolutionary lens, it all makes sense in the end. So you eat breakfast-

 

Stu

Yeah, I just think-

Max

Yeah, sorry.

Stu

Just thinking it’s interesting because I’m listening to what you’re saying and almost going back to our grandparents, the conversation we had about the grandparents being super sharp. I don’t think they were in a position to eat six meals a day because money was sparse, they went through war and food was rationed and again, they ate simple foods as well. I wonder whether they were actually adhering to a lot of those principles without ever being aware of it. Now, we’re-

Max

Yeah.

Stu

We’re just gorged on the abundance of food and we are changing, I guess, our core programming for want of a better phrase.

Max

Absolutely. I mean, my grandmother and likely your grandmother, I mean they were born … My grandma, I believe was born in the 20s. I mean, this was before the advent of cereal and the notion that breakfast is the most important meal of the day. They also didn’t have the over abundance of highly processed grain and seed oils, which now saturate our food supply. Take oils like Canola oil, corn oil and soybean oil, these oils are predominantly polyunsaturated fats, which are very delicate and prone to oxidation. These types of fats now make up 10% of our calories, up from virtually 0% at the turn of the century. That is having an effect biologically and it’s becoming clear that it’s not a good one. These oils are highly damaging to our health. They have a very high probability of containing trans fats, which we know are very damaging. There’s been a massive shift in terms of the food supply of our grandparents and our parents. It’s been highly industrialized. We’ve basically extrapolated from the earliest inklings of nutritional science. And, usually, from an epidemiological level, dietary policy and dietary recommendations, that continue to be premature. Our earliest dietary recommendations were based on population level evidence, which makes the error of ascribing causality to correlation. This is what our most trusted institutions do and continue to do.

Stu

Yeah.

Max

It’s a systemic problem and I’m just trying to facilitate health literacy for people. Not because I’m pretending to be a doctor or even a medical expert. I’m just in it for the protection of my brain and the brains of people that I care about.

Stu

Got it. If you could give three key strategies then to our audience, to everybody, so from all of the information that you’ve gleaned on your journey through Bread Head, what would that be in terms of what could I do today to put myself on a different path to better health, to optimize my brain and have a stab at longevity?

Max

Great question. Bread Head really follows a personal story and it doesn’t get super prescriptive because it’s a movie. It’s a documentary. It’s meant to be emotional although, there is a fair amount of science in it. But, “Genius Foods,” my new book is really my prescriptive guide to [crosstalk 00:17:02].

Stu

Right.

Max

What you should eat, how you should live. They’re very complimentary projects. But essentially, in Genius Foods, we look through the lens of evolution. We look at the conditions and the diet that our ancestors might’ve consumed during the time in which our brains evolved. Obviously, there are certain foods that have become fundamentally changed since our evolution but it’s about emulating that diet and lifestyle in the modern world with a specific focus on brain and brain function. Giving your brain the energy that you essentially deserve, as air to the universe, as most advanced super computer, the human brain. In Genius Foods, I highlight 10 foods that have a robust body of evidence to say that these foods will enhance your brain function. Whether it’s the nutrients in those foods or the foods themselves, these are the foods that are the most nutrient dense. You’re going to get the most bang for your buck and I recommend buying them on loop. There’s research that shows that in the modern supermarket, dietary diversity is actually a terrible thing. Dietary diversity as a hunter-gatherer, probably a great thing because we have 50,000 edible plants all around the world. But in the modern supermarket, dietary diversity adds up to the fact that 60% of the calories that we’re consuming today come from ultra processed foods. I’m like, “Look, screw everything in moderation. Take these ten foods and the categories that they represent and buy them on loop.” The healthiest people, this is research done out of University of Texas, tend to buy the same foods with regularity.

Stu

Yes.

Max

Whereas people that-

Stu

I think that’s true as well because you’re programming habitually. You’re on default. You know what you’re going to eat. In some respect, that’s why Steve Jobs always wore the same colored turtleneck and why Jony Ive from Apple always wear the same colored T-shirt, because you don’t have to make any other assumptions every morning. What am I going to wear? What am I going to eat? Just bang, default. I know what’s good for me.

Max

Yeah.

Stu

I’ll continue to eat that.

Max

Exactly.

Stu

Were you surprised by the power of any particular foods while researching for the book?

 

Max

Definitely, dark leafy greens I would say. There’s a strong inverse relationship between their consumption and risk for dementia. But it makes sense that they would be very beneficial because, first of all, they’ve go very few calories and tons of nutrients. So in terms of nutrient density, you don’t get much better than dark leafy greens. But Rush University research found that consumption of a large salad with dark leafy greens every single day is related to brains that look 11 year younger on scans.

Stu

Wow. I don’t know whether you’ve spoken to Dr. Terry Wahls from The Wahls Protocol and what she did to combat MS and it was essentially a rainbow salad, bucket of multiple times a day. She found that the nutrients involved in that were unbelievable in terms of the therapeutic value.

Max

Yeah, and you know, I’m a big fan of Dr. Terry Wahls. She was probably one of my earliest exposures to the notion that the brain has dietary needs that are not being addressed by the standard American diet.

Stu

Yup. Absolutely. I think that grains, they get a rap. Whether that’s right, whether that’s wrong. I mean, it’s a huge subject of conjecture. I think a lot of us are emotionally connected to grains in some way, shape or form.

Max

Mm-hmm (affirmative).

Stu

What are your thoughts on pseudo-grains? And I’m talking about things like buckwheat, quinoa, ancient grains perhaps, like Ezekiel bread. All of the other options that are touted as healthy on the healthy [crosstalk 00:21:25].

Max

Yeah. I definitely don’t ascribe to the zealotry surrounding the anti-grain movement but I do acknowledge the fact that today, 60% of people are either diabetic or pre-diabetic. Or I’m sorry, 50% are the latest statistics. People in the United States are either diabetic or pre-diabetic. That’s a pattern mirroring the world at large, as well as our Western dietary patterns slowly bleeds around the globe. In that context of what is essentially carbohydrate intolerance, do I think that these foods are healthy for half of the population that are probably going to be listening to this podcast? No. I think there are better options to fill up the limited real estate on your plates and in your stomachs. Going back to dark leafy greens, avocados and things like that. If you are metabolically healthy and if you are working out, then yes, I think that, perhaps, having some of those grains occasionally, can serve some kind of effect. A limited benefit but I think that in the post workout window, they can be useful in terms of replenishing muscle glycogen, which you don’t need to do all the time. But I think in terms of maintaining your ability to perform high intensity work in the gym, it could be potentially useful. I’d probably rather go for a sweet potato than quinoa.

Stu

Yes. Yeah.

Max

But-

Stu

And your thoughts on gluten? It’s that G word again.

Max

Yeah. I think that gluten is problematic for a pretty significant amount of people, particularly in the context of the standard American diet.

Stu

Yes.

Max

Actually, I do think that gluten, if I had to place money on it, I would suspect that gluten was involved in my Mom’s condition. It’s something that I avoid. I’m on a gluten-free diet. I don’t have overt symptoms when consume it. Not that I can remember anyway.

Stu

Yeah.

Max

I haven’t had gluten in a very long time. In a perfect world, if you’re non-celiac, you should have resilience of the gut, which would allow you to consume it in small amounts and perhaps, be okay. But I think today, the fact that we’ve essentially, we’re consuming a diet that damages our gut mucosa, it’s deficient in microbiota-accessible carbohydrates, prebiotic fiber, that our microbes love to consume. As well as the fact that our diets, our food supplies with them saturated with gluten, we’re eating wheat snacks constantly, every meal involves some kind of wheat or wheat containing product. I think we’re over consuming this rather tricky protein from a digestive standpoint. No human can properly digest it. The implications of that are up for debate but it’s a protein that seems to get a welcoming from your immune system, more similar to a bacterial invader-

Stu

Yes.

Max

In your average dietary protein. Just to sort of punctuate that, gluten is not found in any essential food group. Gluten is found in foods that are energy rich and nutrient poor. I think it’s one of those things that really doesn’t have a place in the optimized human diet.

Stu

I tend to agree. We had a chat as well, a while back with Dr. David Perlmutter. He wrote a book called, “Grain Brain,” and was looking at the changes that have occurred in modern day agriculture, especially where wheat is concerned in a hybridization, I guess, which is a process where you change the crop to be able to suit the environment and produce more yield, making it more susceptible to droughts, to floods, to insects. What that essentially did in his words were, “Create a new form of wheat that the body just did not know what to do with and caused all manner of metabolic issues,” because it was, as you said, it’s almost an invader.

Max

Yeah.

Stu

Yeah.

Max

Well, it’s one of these proteins that, there’s this phenomena called molecular mimicry. Plants want to survive too. The markings on gliadin, the gliadin peptide, seemed to look a lot like the markings on certain enzymes in our body that are concentrated in the brain and the thyroid. Celiac disease seems to be this sort of mediator for a wide range of seemingly disconnected autoimmune conditions.

Stu

Right.

Max

The earliest medical condition that my Mom developed was hyperthyroidism.

Stu

Right.

Max

My mom never had any overt gastrointestinal distress from eating bread. My Mom was raised in New York. She grew up on bagels.

Stu

Yeah.

 

Max

I mean, today, when I even mention the word celiac to her, she’s like, “How could I have celiac?” But it’s a theory that I have that this was involved in the condition that she developed. Perhaps indirectly or directly, but. Yeah, so I think it’s worth hedging your bets or at least minimizing your consumption of it. Yeah.

Stu

For sure. I think so.

Max

And is gluten the modern tobacco as some people have claimed?

Stu

Yeah.

Max

I don’t know. But I just think it’s one of these things that we can … Take lectins for example. Glutens are a form lectin. Lectins are another class or they’re a class of plant proteins that include gluten. I think that you’re gaining a lot more by eating a bell pepper and a tomato than you are causing any risk of harm to your body. Whereas, I don’t think that eating bread really is worth the risk that you’re also going to take by consuming gluten because bread is just starch, essentially.

Stu

Yeah.

Max

So, it’s all about weighing the cost versus the benefits.

Stu

I think so. I’m always intrigued to look at the nutrition on any given food. How can I super charge each and every meal? How can I get the most nutrition and nutrients out of everything that I put into my mouth because, like you, I want to optimize my health. I want to live as long as I can. I’ve had issues with parents and realized that I share similar genes to them and maybe that’s my fate too but I want to do as much as I can based upon new discoveries, new science, new thinking. To be able to give myself the best chance. Just back on Genius Foods, what can we expect? So it lands on my desk. Am I to expect a meal plan? Do you talk about exercise and sleep? Is it just food focused? What’s inside?

Max

Well, first of all, I think that your … What I’m so excited about, I’m really excited to hear the feedback from the people that read it because, unlike most health books, I think it’s actually going to be fun to read.

Stu

Right.

Max

Because before I began writing it, I was really interested in evolution. I was probably inspired in many way by a book that I read recently called, “Sapiens,” which a lot of people sort of gravitated to. It’s a very well-written book. I really labored. First of all, I wrote it myself with the help of my friend, Paul Grewal, who’s a medical doctor. I really wanted the book to be entertaining, to ignite light bulbs in people’s heads, to really give them a new way about thinking about these topics. It’s not just a rehashing of the same old information. So when I talk about the value of Omega-3s for example, I wanted to know exactly why Omega-3s are beneficial to the brain.

Stu

Right.

Max

basically went deep into the literature to really come up with analogies and examples to really make this stuff click for people.

Stu

Right.

Max

Because you could be told a million times that Omega-3s are good for you, the same way that so many people know, all people know at this point, that smoking is bad for you. Does that change behavior? No.

Stu

No.

Max

Not everybody.

Stu

No.

Max

So in Genius Foods, I describe things in a way that I don’t think they’ve ever been described in previous books. It’s got a sense of humor. The book is littered with pop culture references that people are going to appreciate because I wrote it.

Stu

Yeah.

Max

I think just from a purely entertainment standpoint, which I think is important, when it comes to impacting people and to creating something of value for people. I think Genius Foods is really going to be a unique offering in this space. In terms of the science and the research, we highlight the foods, as well as the categories that they represent. How best to buy them, how best to integrate them into your diet. We have an example weekly meal plan, as well as a robust shopping list and various other tips that you can use to put the dietary principles that we’re prescribing in Genius Foods into play in your own life.

Stu

Okay.

Max

Every chapter is punctuated with field notes, basically summarizing what you’ve learned in the chapter.

Stu

Yes. Max: And throughout every chapter, we have frequently asked questions. First of all, the frequently asked questions, we also have side bars that really break up the text in an interesting way so that there’s multiple stopping points. So you could read a little bit, stop, come back to it, read a little bit, stop, come back to it. You could read the whole book through. You can use it as a reference. And it’s packed with scientific references. There’s over, I think, 400 scientific references in the book.

Stu

Right.

Max

It’s a very robust tome and you can almost tell, some of your listeners I’m sure are not getting the video, but it’s a thick book.

Stu

Yeah. It’s a piece of work all right. How was your health when you were writing that book because I hear so many people that say, “My word, it knocked me sideways?”

Max

Yeah. It’s funny you ask. The book launch period in particular has been rough. I don’t have time to go to the gym.

Stu

Yeah.

Max

When I’m going to get to work out? No, it’s been yeah, it’s not easy but whatever it is.

Stu

That’s right. The fruits of labor. Look, it will be worth it. I can’t wait for our copy to arrive.

Max

Cool.

Stu

In the book, do you talk about supplementing as well or is that taboo?

Max

We do talk about certain supplements in the reference section of the book. There are a handful that I think are definitely worthwhile. But by and large, we recommend taking a whole foods approach.

Stu

Yes.

Max

The mistake that I try not to make in the book is the mistake that so many nutrition scientists make and that is nutritionism, which has been a term coined by Michael Pollan. This reductionist obsession with the nutrients contained within food that ignore the fact that we’ve co-evolved not with individual nutrients but with food-

Stu

Yes.

Max

Which contain nutrients that we recognize, nutrients that we have yet to identify.

Stu

Yeah.

 

Max

We really try to drive home the point that at the end of the day, going for whole foods is probably the best thing that you can do and then if there are certain nutrients based on if you have certain dietary restrictions or … It’s not a vegan diet but I’m sure that there will be vegans that pick it up. I try to touch on ways that vegans could augment their diets for optimal brain function because a vegan diet, I think, from the standpoint of the brain, doesn’t make a lot of sense. I don’t think it’s the end of the world necessarily if you adhere to the principles in the book.

Stu

No. I think so. Veganism is always a very contentious topic as well because I think that following a Vegan diet for a set period of time could be very cleansing if you’re transitioning from the standard American, Australian diet. You’re subject to a whole world of nutritious foods. But over time, if you’re not very smart with supplementation and thinking about perhaps the nutrients that are lacking in your diet any given time, that are subject or are found in meat and fish, you will probably suffer in some way, shape or form in terms of health. It certainly pays to track your markers if you’re following that diet as well, through blood and everything else just to make sure that you’re on track because we’re all so radically different.

Max

Mm-hmm (affirmative).

Stu

I guess a little bit backtracking to Bread Head and also touching on Genius Foods as well, I’m very interested in your specific strategies that you follow. Maybe they’re routines that you do every day, they’re non-negotiables that you make sure that you just happen day in, day out to be the best version of yourself. What do you do every day without fail?

Max

Great question. First of all, I try to optimize my sleep. I try to wake up in the morning and not immediately reach for my smartphone.

Stu

Yes.

Max

That, I think, is very important in terms of the way that the rest of my day unfolds.

Stu

Yeah.

Max

So when I don’t have to wake up with an alarm, I use my smartphone as an alarm. But generally, I try to sleep with my smartphone in another room.

Stu

Yes. Right. Good.

Max

I try to make sure that my room is very dark and cool. Then I wake up, I get out of bed, I open up the blinds. When I have the ability to go outside and look at the sky and really take in the bright light of the day.

Stu

Yeah.

Max

I do that. Maybe if it’s a little cold outside. I’ll go outside in my underwear just to get that cool air to jolt me into wakefulness. I’ll drink some water if I’m doing a particularly low carb phase of my diet. I will throw a little bit of salt in that water, particularly in a mineral rich, non-processed salt.

Stu

Yup.

Max

This is really important because when we drop insulin, our kidneys excrete sodium. That’s a really important electrolyte. I found actually that by doing that, I have more energy in the morning. I feel a lot more-

Stu

Okay.

Max

That’s one of, I think, the more impactful tips that I can offer people.

Stu

People will be going, “Right, well I want to do that.” We’re talking sea salt, Himalayan pink salt, how much salt would you put in there? You’re talking a teaspoon?

Max

Yeah, about an eight to a fourth of a teaspoon.

Stu

Okay.

Max

So a little bit.

Stu

Yeah.

Max

A little bit.

Stu

Right. Not enough to make you gag?

Max

No, no, no. I mean it should taste kind of like flat pellegrino.

Stu

Right.

Max

Or like one of these mineral and rich sparkling waters.

Stu

Right.

Max

Yeah, I think that’s been super useful. And then usually I’ll wait about a half a hour to 45 minutes after I wake up to drink some coffee. I usually have some black coffee.

Stu

Yup.

Max

Oh, no. I was going to say, a lot of people wake up dehydrated to begin with. We tend not to drink a lot of water before we go to sleep so that we don’t pee and we perspire when we sleep.

Stu

Yeah.

Max

Just in general, it’s a good way to sort of rehydrate yourself. Hydration is very important when it comes to proper cognitive function. It’s an underrated or underappreciated way in which you could boost your cognition. In the book, I talk a little bit about how acute physiologic stress can actually be very beneficial but water dehydration is one of those stresses that’s actually quite dangerous.

Stu

Right.

Max

Being dehydrated, not a good thing. I drink a little bit of coffee. Then and hour, two, three after I wake up, I’ll generally have my first meal of the day. Usually one of two.

Stu

Yeah.

Max

That typically includes a huge salad. I really try to hit a salad bar that I like and just load up with spinach, kale, arugula, beets, things like that. I really want to get all those micronutrients in that are really packed tight in foods like dark leafy greens as we mentioned.

Stu

Yes.

Max

Lots of extra virgin olive oil is the primary oil that I use.

Stu

And protein of choice for that?

Max

Generally, I’ll throw in chicken or maybe an egg but usually it’s chicken. It’s just easier to get higher quality chicken, I think, than it is grass-fed beef on the run. But that’s changing too.

Stu

Yeah.

Max

Then, I try not to snack so much throughout the day but when I was writing the back and I was working out of home, I was snacking constantly throughout the day. I was eating whenever I could. I try to make my snacking optimal so it’s usually, nuts, dark chocolate. I’m a big fan of pastured pork rinds.

Stu

Okay.

Max

Rendered in their fat with nutritional yeast on them. It’s a very delicious snack.

Stu

Yeah, it sounds delicious.

Max

Yeah, pretty good, pretty good. You just want to make sure that you’re getting high quality pork skins. Sardines, canned oysters, I’ve become really interested in.

Stu

Yeah.

Max

Top source of zinc.

Stu

Yes.

Max

Drinking water, staying hydrated. Then I would say the last meal of the day, I tend to go big on grass-fed beef. I’ll usually do a grass-fed beef burger patty or wild salmon, lots of roasted vegetables. Again, using extra virgin olive oil liberally, like a sauce. That’s it. Over the course of the day, I might get a workout in. My workouts vary. Sometimes I do yoga. Sometimes I go and I do really high intensity stuff and really into the battle ropes.

 

Stu

Yeah.

Max

A lot of fun with those. But I also happen to personally really enjoy weightlifting, which I think … I have a bias towards weightlifting but upper body and lower body strength is related pretty strongly to brain health and brain function. Male, female, young, old, I think everybody should be lifting weights or at least doing body weight [crosstalk 00:41:49] lift.

Stu

Yeah. I tend to agree. So beneficial for so many different areas as well that we might not be as familiar with. I think it puts you in that mental state when you’re lifting very heavy weights. You really can’t think about very much else apart from lifting the heavy weight.

Max

Yeah.

Stu

You’re in the zone, and of course, bone density and muscle mass and all of the above, cardiovascular health. What are your thoughts endurance exercise because that is-

Max

I’m not a fan.

Stu

Yeah, we’re being told, “Well, if you’re overweight, well, just hit the bootcamp. Run, run, run. Keep running. Pull down your calories.” I’m just intrigued as to what that does to the hormonal system with stress hormones and all of the above. But-

Max

Well, again, when looking at these things through the lens of evolution, it becomes pretty easy to assess. It doesn’t make any sense from an evolutionary standpoint, that we would run at moderate intensity for 45 minutes. I mean, think about optimal foraging theory. We want to conserve energy, right? We weren’t always able to summon our meals with our smartphones.

Stu

Yes.

Max

We would conserve energy. We would just move more throughout the day.

Stu

Yeah.

Max

We would work field, we would tend to our families, we would build huts or whatever it is that our ancestors would do. But we wouldn’t run for 45 minutes straight.

Stu

No.

Max

We would do really high intensity exercise, we would probably try to climb a tree or chase a lion or run away from-

Stu

Yeah.

Max

Actually, run away from the lion. We probably wouldn’t chase a lion. We would chase zebras and things like that. Yeah, so I mean, that’s why I think exercise should be kept low and slow or hard and fast. There’s no middle ground. Research on endurance athletes shows that it’s problematic. Maybe not in endurance athletes but for your average person, it’s really hard on the joints, it’s hard on the lower back and also, these endurance athletes, they’re cortisol becomes chronically elevated and they develop undue intestinal permeability.

Stu

Yes.

Max

Due to the stress and the cortisol. I mean, that’s just not a good situation to be in.

Stu

And our grandparents didn’t do it right?

Max

That’s right.

Stu

They lived in their 90s. My Nan wouldn’t have known what exercise was. She didn’t jog. She didn’t have to do any of these things but she was active. I guess, mindful of moving every day and getting her chores done she certainly didn’t put on her running shoes and run nonstop for hours. Yeah-

Max

Right.

Stu

It’s, yeah, unusual.

Max

I mean, you look at the worlds blue zones, which are … These are observations that you can make on populations that seem to have successful agers in them and none of them have fancy gym memberships.

Stu

No, absolutely not. We actually spoke to Dan Buettner a couple of weeks ago.

Max

Oh, cool.

Stu

Yeah, it was amazing. It was all about community, lifestyle, movement, destressed, wholesome food, the preparation of the food. It was very more low key and slow than our hectic lives today. But yeah, I’m in complete agreement. Max, we’re getting close to time. We’ve got a few wrap up questions as well that we just want to shoot through, before I leave you to the rest of your day. The first one, a little bit of a curve ball. If you could distill all of your specialist knowledge, so everything that you’ve learned on your journey about brain health and optimizing yourself, just into a take home piece of advice, just like a single … “I’m going to lift like Max. How do I upgrade myself quick? I’ve got to get out.” What might you say to me?

Max

I would say, “Go to Amazon and pre-order my book, Genius Foods.”

Stu

How did I know you were going to say that?

Max

Oh, man. Because it’s really all there. I left nothing on the table. I guess, I would say, look, eat whole foods, avoid process foods and exercise as much as you can. Do what you love to do and don’t stress too much.

Stu

Yeah. Fantastic. So, Genius Foods, where can we go to get it? Where can I send my audience to find out more?

Max

I’m grateful for that. Yeah, it’s available everywhere books are sold. If you’re in Australia, I’m aware of at least one website, Book Depository, that has free international shipping.

Stu

Great.

Max

Yeah, Amazon, Barnes & Noble. It’s available everywhere books are sold.

Stu

Okay, fantastic.

Max

And you could go to geniusfoodsbook.com also, where, depending on when this goes up, we have some really cool early bird specials for bonus content, stuff like that.

Stu

Right. Fantastic. Well, we’ll share these links in the show notes. What next, Max? What’s next for you?

Max

That’s an interesting question. I definitely want to do a lot more speaking, which is something that I’m really passionate about. I love talking to people one on one. I like speaking to audiences. I really just want to be able to create more media, more content. I’d love to increase my productionability. I’m thinking about maybe doing a video podcast as well.

Stu

Okay.

Max

But, yeah. I had a wonderful time writing Genius Foods and so I hope to maybe expand that catalog a little bit. Maybe, we’ll see. And I really do want to get Bread Head out there for people to see because I’ve been working on Bread Head for four years and it’s not out yet. We’re trying to figure out the best means of distribution.

Stu

Yes, okay.

Max

Right now, we’re looking at a few different options but nothing sort of settled at the moment.

Stu

Okay.

Max

We’ll have that out at some point this year.

Stu

Fantastic. I look forward to it. How can we get more of Max Lugavere? Where do we go?

Max

Instagram and maxlugavere.com. I’m on Facebook, I’m on Twitter, Instagram, I’ve been most active lately. But yeah, I’m on all social media forms.

Stu

Brilliant. We will share that across all of our platforms. Max, thank you so much for your time today. Really appreciate it. You’re doing amazing stuff and can’t wait to read that book.

Max

Thank you so much. I can’t wait to hear what you think.

Stu

Okay, I’ll let you know. Thanks again Max. Bye-bye.

Max

Thanks.

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