Book review: Head Strong by Dave Asprey
My 38th read of 2017 was Head Strong: The Bulletproof Plan to Activate Untapped Brain Energy to Work Smarter and Think Faster-in Just Two Weeks, by Dave Asprey.
Dave is well known as the founder of Bulletproof Coffee, which involves blending coffee with butter and coconut oil, before drinking it for breakfast. In Head Strong, he delves into the science of mitochondrial health and improving our energy levels, concentration and brain power.
This is a great read with some very practical application for improving your health. I’m yet to try bulletproof coffee, but might give it a whirl based on what I’ve read in this book.
Here are some of the passages I highlighted on my Kindle:
It wasn’t until later in the twentieth century that scientists discovered what’s called neuroplasticity — the brain’s ability to grow new cells and forge new neural connections throughout your life. Before then, researchers believed that your brain remained static until it degenerated in old age.
The first symptom that your mitochondria are overtaxed is fatigue. Fatigue is an absolute performance killer. It causes cravings, moodiness, brain fog, forgetfulness, and lack of focus.
The problem is not only that lions don’t pose much of a threat anymore but also that our bodies can’t distinguish between real and perceived threats — they react the same way to any stimulus, from a lion to a bump in the night to an e-mail alert possibly delivering some bad news.
When you have enough brain energy, you’ll be able to make better decisions for longer, and you’ll be a lot less emotionally reactive when you don’t want to be.
Both short- and long-term memory loss stem from the same causes: not getting the right nutrition, chronic low-grade bacterial or fungal problems, inadequate neurotransmitters (the chemical messengers in your body), and, of course, impaired mitochondrial function.
If you spend a lot of time in a noisy environment or one with bad lighting, your brain has to use a lot more energy to filter out all of the distractions.
The most predictable cause of mitochondrial function decline is aging. From age thirty to age seventy, the average mitochondrion decreases in efficiency by about 50 percent.
Because your mitochondria make ATP more efficiently from fat than they do from sugar, fatty acids are an important source of fuel.
A study in the European Journal of Internal Medicine showed that a diet deficient in dietary fats and cholesterol and high in carbohydrates could contribute to the development of Alzheimer’s disease.
Two foods that slow the rate of neurogenesis are sugars and oxidized (damaged) fats.
By offering exposure to the right kinds of light, feeding the good bacteria in your gut, balancing your hormones, and of course improving your mitochondrial function and efficiency, the Head Strong program will help you dial down the inflammation that is quietly raging throughout your entire body — and especially in your brain.
The food you put into your body has a greater impact on your brain’s performance than any other single factor within your control.
In one study, people who drank a blueberry extract high in polyphenols for six weeks saw a dramatic improvement in their gut bacteria.
Dark chocolate (at least 85% dark) is full of polyphenols and contains a mild amount of caffeine, which also enhances performance.
Too little dopamine is associated with everything from Parkinson’s disease to social anxiety, and having sufficient levels of dopamine has a positive impact on your decision making and performance.
By making your neurons less likely to fire, GABA quiets, or calms, the entire nervous system. Without GABA, your neurons can fire too often and too easily. GABA regulates this activity, and you need enough of it to stay calm in stressful situations.
About 25 percent of us are genetically sensitive to mold and get very sick when exposed. The rest of us have symptoms that are subtle and might be written off as just a bad day. • Mold toxins, heavy metals, and some pharmaceutical drugs are directly toxic to your mitochondria. • Your body stores toxins in fat, so anything you do to break up the fat in your body will help you detox.
Blue is a modern invention, and it is the hardest color for your brain to interpret.
If you sit in an office with junk light all day long, I highly encourage you to invest in some simple LED red lights to place in your environment, switch to halogen lights if possible, and get some quality outdoor light exposure throughout the day.
When you soak yourself in cold water or use ice packs to lower your body temperature, your body is forced to create heat. This is called thermogenesis, a process that burns fat and stimulates the release of proteins that burn glycogen (the main storage form of glucose) from your muscles. When your muscles are depleted of glycogen, your body receives a signal to increase production of testosterone and growth hormone.
Exercise not only helps you become fitter, it also encourages the survival of your fittest mitochondria. That’s because exercise lowers the mTOR protein, which helps your body weed out the weak, dysfunctional, or mutated cells, and either kills them off or makes them stronger.
In one study, a group of healthy adults who took forty-minute walks three times a week for a year experienced a measurable increase in the size of their hippocampus.25 Since this is the part of the brain where neurogenesis occurs, we can assume that walking increased the participants’ rates of neurogenesis.
Jump on a trampoline or do jumping jacks to shake the water in your cells and make them more EZ. • Get some extra sleep tonight to give your brain a chance to form pathways between neurons and solidify new memories. Later on, you’ll learn how to get better-quality sleep. • Try breathing in for five seconds, holding for five seconds, breathing out for five seconds, and holding the out breath for five seconds. Do it five times in a row.
Electrical filters plug into your outlets and reduce the chaotic reverberations in your household wiring, so you are exposed to fewer highly varying EMF fields.
To get the benefits, you can walk outside barefoot for a few minutes every day, or you can get a conductive mat for your desk and conductive sheets for your bed.
Whenever I was in a noisy environment, I got really tired and was less able to focus. I went through a special ear training called auditory integration training (AIT) to fix that.
The Tomatis Method uses specifically designed sound tracks that are like weight lifting for your ears — and your brain. They go very quickly from high to low frequencies, forcing your ears to listen and your brain to work hard to process a great deal of information efficiently.
Next up I’m reading Hiding in the Bathroom by Morra Aarons-Mele.