8 Lessons For Increasing Longevity From A Biohacking PhD Nutritionist.
Today’s article is a guest post from one of my personal friends (pictured above together), a leading authority on age reversal and healthy aging, and a physician who is always fascinating and enchanting me with his latest “biohack.” His name is Oz Garcia, PhD. Based out of New York City and often called the “nutritionist to the stars,” Oz is the go-to nutrition and anti-aging expert for celebrities and Fortune 100 CEOs. His unique and customized approach to diet and longevity, coupled with more than 30-years of experience have made Oz one of the most recognizable names in the industry.
He has lectured all over the world, is a pioneer in the study of nutrition and anti-aging, and believes in not just living longer but in living better by keeping our bodies and brains in the best possible shape at any age.
Oz is the bestselling author of four books: The Food Cure for Kids, The Balance, Look and Feel Fabulous Forever, and Redesigning 50: The No-Plastic-Surgery Guide to 21st-Century Age Defiance. He has been voted best nutritionist by New York Magazine and is frequently called upon by some of the most respected names in medicine and news media for his up-to-the-minute views on nutrition and its role in aging and longevity.
Lately, Oz has been filling me in on his own daily routine he uses to become what he calls “an optimized human.” I’ve been so darn impressed with his random texts to me and our conversations when I’m in New York City or meet up with him at a conference that I offered him the opportunity to fill my readers in on the details of his personal daily routine and some of his insider tips and his hacks…and he graciously agreed.
Enjoy this glimpse inside the mind of a very unique, passionate, and knowledgeable doc!
My Path To Becoming An Optimized Human
My performance training and supplementation advice for middle age and beyond is far different from what I would recommend to someone in their 20s, 30s, or 40s. When I began my life transformation, (which eventually turned into my career and the subject I’m most passionate about), there were several paths that I followed. I was a kid of the 1960s, and my partying was certainly consistent with the times.
To find my way back, I followed the origins of what is called the “Human Potential Movement“, spearheaded by George Leonard. This movement took as its premise the belief that through the development of “human potential,” humans can experience an exceptional quality of life filled with happiness, creativity, and fulfillment.
This led me to many retreats and workshops, and the one that I found resonated the most with me at the time was something called EST training (presently known as The Landmark Forum). I never meditated before this. I actually found running to be my path toward meditation and flotation tanks to be very useful at that time as well. But this was the beginning of my path to mindfulness, and I now also use neurofeedback, which Ben refers to as “meditation on steroids,” to attain deeper states of meditation.
Years of experimentation (my own version of so-called “biohacking”) took me from my former lifestyle into the one that I currently embody. Below are the early beginnings that started as a sequence of paths, all eight of which I detail below!
Path #1: Nutrition
My initial path was dietary/nutritional and evolved from a typical Western diet known as the Western Pattern Diet, a fancy name for the Standard American Diet, which is of course the modern dietary pattern that is generally characterized by high intakes of red meat, processed meat, pre-packaged foods, butter, fried foods, high-fat dairy products, eggs, refined grains, potatoes, corn (and High-fructose corn syrup), and high-sugar drinks. I eventually transitioned from this particular diet to an upgraded way of eating known as the Macrobiotic Diet. A Macrobiotic Diet is mostly vegetarian with the exception of fish and is based around whole grains and a variety of vegetables. Then I graduated on to a fully vegetarian diet and later to a vegan diet in my seminal years.
My present-day diet has now evolved into a hybrid of paleo, vegetarian, and intermittent fasting, which matches ancestral dietary practices and can currently be approximately mimicked by the Mediterranean diet.
Here is an example of a typical day’s diet, along with how I use intermittent fasting. (Regular fasting protocols are an important and oft-neglected component of the Mediterranean diet.) To keep it simple with intermittent fasting, I will literally skip two-thirds of dinners each week with my last meal being at 1 pm or no later than 3 pm. This fasting break will give me 15-16 hours with my next meal being breakfast the following morning. If you want to learn more about intermittent fasting, I recommend the book “The Scientific Approach to Intermittent Fasting” by Mike Vanderschelden. I also recommend checking out some of Ben’s articles and podcasts on the subject, including:
Basically, I am always following a hybrid of paleo, keto, or vegetarian-style eating. A typical day of eating for me looks like this:
Path #2: Stress Management
I like to incorporate various practices of stress management, from very rudimentary to more complex.
The following are the more rudimentary…
Massage: This is something I do on a weekly basis (typically deep tissue – and no less than 90 minutes). Massages I benefit the most from are those in which I’m being stretched by the practitioner. I know weekly massages may not be realistic for everybody, so I’d recommend watching this video as an alternative to weekly massages: “8 Weapons To Give Yourself A Full Body Massage (Without A Massage Therapist).” They may also use different kinds of electrical stimulating devices if I’m dealing with an injury and need to strengthen different areas of my body. Check out Ben’s recent podcast, “The Most Powerful Electrical Muscle Stimulation Device Known To Humankind (& Exactly How To Use It)” for more on EMS.
Extreme heat: I take extremely hot baths with full immersion, at approximately 120 degrees Fahrenheit (no less than 2x a week). These baths also induce restful sleep. I am diligent about my saunas at the NYC Russian bathhouse a minimum of 3 times per week, (either infrared or traditional). Each session is one hour, and I break at the 15-20 minute point and then go back in hoping to tolerate the remainder of my time. I go to The Russian bathhouse at least twice a month where I can do a lengthy sauna at 220 degrees Fahrenheit, then I’ll break into the extreme cold plunge which is set slightly above freezing (very Wim Hof). I’ll stay in the extreme cold plunge for 3 ½ minutes and then break for approximately 10 minutes and repeat this process 2 more times. Ben also has plenty of resources on heat therapy that you can check out here:
…and now some of the more complex stress management strategies:
Flotation tanks: I hit a float tank once to twice per month time permitting. Float tanks are filled with Epsom salt and water that’s almost the same temperature as the human body, and allow no light or sound to enter, thereby enabling you to float on the water’s surface, inducing a deep state of relaxation. Float tanks may lower cortisol levels, activate the parasympathetic nervous system, and even help with things like hormone balance or immunity as well as the normalization of digestive functions. Learn how Ben “biohacks” his float tank experiences in this podcast.
Ice Baths: I like to do these twice a week at home where I may put 30-40lbs of ice from the local drugstore in my tub. Immersion time is approximately 4-12 minutes. I will alternate this with cryotherapy. Depending on my mood, cryotherapy is something I may do weekly or several times per week. Frankly, I find ice baths more effective than cryo for sports injuries or running and yoga. You can learn how to make your own cold tub setup at home in Ben’s article, “The Ultimate Guide To DIY Cold Thermogenesis: The Cold Tub Secrets Of Some Of The Top Biohackers On The Planet & How To Make Your Own Cold Tub Setup.” Also, for more on cold thermogenesis, I’d recommend the following articles/podcasts of Ben’s:
Acupuncture: Every couple of months I may do acupuncture, following a rotation schedule going around the block with all of this to hit every metric that allows me to recover quickly and reduce my potential for injury. Acupuncture is relatively painless and simply involves stimulating certain points on the body using a variety of techniques – with the most common being penetrating the skin with super-fine needles (which are then manipulated manually or by electrical stimulation). As one of the oldest healing practices in the world, acupuncture has been proven to help in recovery from muscular fatigue, recovery from overtraining and adrenal fatigue, management of muscle pain, and many of the common issues faced by physically active or overtrained people. For more on acupuncture, listen to Ben’s interview with the physician he personally uses for acupuncture in Spokane: “Exactly What To Expect If You Try Acupuncture.“
If you want to get professionally stretched, there are destinations I will go to from time to time outside of what I receive during one of my massages. “Stretch’d” in New York City is a popular studio to get up to an hour and a half stretching session. But don’t think it’s all relaxation and it’s actually quite intense.
Path #3: Exercise
Exercise is something I’ve never been lazy about my entire life. I began by doing small jogs and runs in Central Park when nobody else was running.
This was an era when it was not recognized as a legitimate form of exercise by most people and led up to my first New York City Marathon in 1980. I was also studying martial arts at the time.
Currently, I’ve incorporated into my routines, Bikram Yoga (one hour to an hour and a half 3-4 days per week). Yoga is much more than stretching and relaxation, trust me, it’s an intense workout that can literally get you ripped. My best choices here are a combination of both aerobic and anaerobic exercises. My running is primarily HIIT, where I’ll do 30 minutes on an elliptical or if it’s nice I’ll hit the park. I like to train by running fast, hard, slow, fast, hard, slow – and that’s how I do my HIIT. Weekends I may do a longer run for the pleasure up to an hour. I’m currently averaging a 10-minute mile.
I also use ARX equipment. It gives me all the muscle building requirements form doing a lengthy exercise routine at the gym with no potential for injury at all. In 10 minutes I can get a great comprehensive workout and in a 20-minute ARX round, I can get the equivalent of a one-hour workout. For more on ARX, listen to Ben’s podcast: “Why Strong People Are Harder To Kill (And How To Get Strong).”
In order to strengthen and improve my musculoskeletal capacity, I also use OsteoStrong technology. I find their workouts remarkable for anyone as they get older to maintain youthful bone density and bone health as well as reduce the risk of injuries and improve posture. I’ll do what is referred to as osteogenic loading (a key to reversing osteoporosis and bone fractures). For more on OsteoStrong, which was invented by the same guy who makes the X3Bar Ben uses, and to find a location near you, listen to “The Best 10 Minute A Day Workout – How To Massively Increase Bone Density And Muscle In Just 10 Minutes (& Biohack Extreme Fitness Levels).”
Whether I’m working out or not, I always use my Halo Sport, which is a CES (cranial electrical stimulator) headset. For me personally, as a mature athlete, I find that the Halo sport makes me operate as though I’ve wiped 20 years off my body after I use it. You can learn more about Halo Sport and pick one up here (use code: GREENFIELD to save $20).
Path #4: Fasting
I also do quarterly water or juice fasts inspired by The Fasting Mimicking Diet, which is based on the work of Valter Longo from The Longevity Institute.
As you probably know, fasting is something that has been practiced regularly throughout our evolutionary history. Our ancestors didn’t have grocery stores and refrigerators, sometimes going weeks without food. As a result, we’re hardwired to be able to survive and even thrive with some regular periods of fasting.
Benefits of fasting for me include:
Ben’s company, Kion has created the ultimate guide to fasting. It’s called “Fasting Decoded,” and it contains everything you need to know about fasting. You can get it for free by clicking here.
Path #5: Hormesis
Hormesis is a healthy stress response within our body that produces a cleansing process. To activate this state, I’ll use saunas, fasting, and extreme hot/cold.
These methods especially help to unburden a body from neurotoxins, which can affect nervous system and cognitive functions quite significantly.
Additionally, what I’m looking to do is protect my DNA by bringing together a lot of the principles discussed above. Among the things that protect my DNA, increasing the length of my telomeres is one I focus on.
The methods brought about by hormesis induce both apoptosis (the death of cells which occurs as a normal and controlled part of an organism’s growth or development) and autophagy (also referred to as “self-eating”). This is the body’s natural way of cell destruction and cleanup from toxins.
Path #6: Neurofeedback and Meditation
Meditation has come to play a much more central role in my self-care routine as I get older. Consequentially, I have incorporated secular meditative practices into my daily routines. There are several apps and equipment I enjoy a great deal that get me into meditative states quicker.
The benefits of meditation are very well understood. I use meditation to reduce stress in my body, relieve anxiety, improve my mood, focus better, and become more self-aware. Among the many measured benefits of meditation, regular practice reduces the fight or flight center of the brain known as the amygdala. This is critical in dealing with today’s levels of stress, demands, and responsibilities.
There are different tools to help achieve deeper states of meditation. Some of them are known as neurofeedback tools. Without getting deeply involved, these devices range from the more advanced such as the NuCalm (use code: BEN500 to save $500), which Ben now uses regularly, and Vielight to the very inexpensive such as the Muse device. You can listen to Ben’s podcast with the co-inventor of Vielight, Dr. Lew Lim here.
There are also several meditation apps that I enjoy. Among them are Sam Harris’s Waking Up, which gives me 10 very thoughtful moments every morning on contemplation.
And if you really want to geek out on neurofeedback and meditation, here are some podcasts and articles by Ben that’ll keep your brain busy (or in a deep state of meditation) for hours:
In my opinion, the best neurofeedback course now available is 40 years of Zen by Dave Asprey. I did it myself and if you want to go to the wall with neurofeedback technology this is the cutting edge. I’ll likely do this every 18 months. It’s designed to mimic, after a week of participation, what it takes a Zen monk 40 years to do. I’ve learned that beginning my day with just 5 minutes of journaling and also ending with 5 minutes of journaling in the evening fits extremely well into my contemplative practices. I find my recovery from exercise is significantly improved through my meditation.
Path #7 Sleep Hygiene
I can’t say enough in terms of sleep hygiene. How many hours of sleep, the quality of sleep, and the sleep environment you are in all play a role in your overall health.
I recommend self-trackers such as the Oura Ring (use code: GREENFIELDOURA to save $50) or even a device as simple as your smartphone along with a sleep tracking app like Sleep Cycle to quantify the quality and depth of your sleep.
Once you receive this data, you can measure and correct based on collected information to improve your performance. Needless to say, the length and quality of sleep will make a measurable impact on every metric you are looking to improve. You may be able to get away with a lesser amount of sleep in the short term, although it’s not something easy to hack over the course of your life.
Some of my tips for optimal sleep are:
Below is exactly what I do for supplementation in a few specific categories that I find very important.
I use a mashup of nitric oxide inducers. To name a few that I supplement with: arginine, citrulline (for this, check out the supplement “Oxcia,” and use code: BENA to save 25%.), beta alanine, and agmatine. Beet-based powders also increase nitric oxide. Among the ones I like primarily are NutriBeet, Super Beets, ArgiFlow, and Vasophil.
GPLC (Glycine Propionyl L-Carnitine) is a nitric oxide maximizer and powerful antioxidant that improves exercise and recovery. It also reduces lactic acid with greater efficiency and has also given me greater aerobic and anaerobic power. I feel my best by following a mostly ketogenic style of eating and use MCT oil powder (save 20% when you use this link) to keep my ketone levels up high.
You get the idea: I’m a huge fan of nitric oxide inducers.
Muscle Conservation and Recovery:
Ribogen French Oak Wood extract, I take 600 mg a day to support energy and physical performance. It’s been shown to be associated with a decreased damage to proteins and lipids, a stimulation of antioxidant enzymes, and a moderate increase of total antioxidant capacity of plasma in humans.
Laxogenin, a naturally occurring plant-based compound is very beneficial in that it improves body composition muscle strength, muscle endurance; muscle recovery and decreases body fat.
Phosphatidic Acid, I use 500mg prior to my workout. On days I don’t work out I’ll use 100-200 gram. This also works great for muscle conservation and recovery.
BCAAs (Branched- Chain Amino Acids) help to stimulate muscle growth. I usually take my BCAA after workouts because it increases muscle mass and decreases muscle soreness. When I use BCAA I recover quicker and reduce the likelihood of being injured. Using BCAA before exercising may also speed up recovery time. Note: Ben highly recommends EAAs (essential amino acids) as a preferred and healthier alternative to BCAAs – learn more about EAAs and how they differ from BCAAs here: The Misunderstood, Misused Darlings Of The Supplement Industry (& How *Not* To Waste Your Money Or Damage Your Health With Them).
BPC-157 (use code: BEN for 15% off of the oral stuff he takes called “Dr. Seeds“) is a body protection compound that is useful for recovery from muscle injuries along TB-500 also for rapid recovery from sports injuries. Ben just released a big podcast on these two peptides, which you can listen to here. He also has two articles, one on BPC-157 and another on TB-500 that are definitely worth checking out as well.
Probiotics affect the gut-brain axis and offer a variety of benefits that improve immunity, so I take those too.
DNA Protection/ Anti Aging:
I use NMN (nicotinamide mononucleotide) because it’s highly neuroprotective. NMD is another path supplement to improve the production of NAD. NAD (nicotinamide adenine dinucleotide) helps to turn off genes that accelerate aging and increases mitochondrial function -both of which are compromised as a physical end result of aging.
For a deeper dive, listen to some of Ben’s podcasts on NAD:
Tudca is terrific for reducing inflammation, protects organs such as the liver, the brain, the heart and may reverse atherosclerosis as well as a multitude of other benefits.
Epitalon is a peptide that is useful for anti-aging and the lengthening of telomeres. Ben also discusses that in his recent peptides podcast.
FruitFlow is a tomato extract that helps circulation and does it by primarily improving the heart.
Berberine is useful to control blood pressure although it’s also good for lowering blood sugar among its ability to lower inflammation.
My own formula, BP Cardio, consists of two biologically active tripeptides – valyl-prolyl-proline (VPP) and isoleucyl-prolyl-proline (IPP). BP cardio is produced from fermented milk tripeptides. Studies in multiple published, placebo-controlled clinical trials have shown that VPP + IPP featured in Cardio BP help to maintain blood pressure levels (both systolic and diastolic) already within a healthy range and promote healthy arteries.
I use fisetin which is a plant polyphenol found in many plants and fruits. It is a powerful antioxidant that protects cells from stress-related damage while also having anti-inflammatory properties. Fisetin also improves mitochondrial function and cellular energy.
I like to use NADH, (also known as Co-E1) prior to a workout. This derivative of niacin and contains no caffeine, although, it helps concentration, memory, athletic endurance, and chronic fatigue.
There are multiple paths to achieving a good active sexual life that also crossover into muscle mass and muscle maintenance benefits, while also decreasing sarcopenia, which is natural muscle loss with age. Here the obvious is exercise as an entry point.
That being said, one of the main supplements I use is Shilajit, a substance coming from rocks in the Himalayans. Shilajit is an adaptogenic herb that increases testosterone and also improves recovery from workouts.
Fenugreek, a plant supplement that is drive enhancing and can be protective for prostate health, is another good option.
Nitric oxide boosters such as tribulus, also work well. Another plant-sourced compound, Tribulus does have some controversy around it, none the less when I use it regularly I find that it has an effect on testosterone levels, evident from my blood work.
Pumpkin seed extract is useful in that it contains high amounts of zinc, which is essential for male health.
And last but not least, maca is a terrific adaptogen and something I use an aphrodisiac or drive enhancer.
I use epicatechin to control myostatin production (a protein produced in higher amounts in aging and reduces the body’s ability to build muscle).
Omega-3 fatty acids are critical for a multitude of functions. There are many brands of fish based Omega-3 supplements I take regularly for their effects on circulatory health, heart health, and cholesterol. Omega-3 supplements are anti-inflammatory and can reduce cytokine levels in addition to promoting gut health.
Some concluding thoughts I’d like to include are all about lifestyle. Why is it that there are some parts of the world – particularly the Mediterranean and the Orient – where the local denizens live measurably longer lives than anyone else?
In 2005, author/explorer/researcher Dan Buettner advanced the concept of “Blue Zones” (so named for the blue pen he used to circle target regions) and suggested that cultural, environmental, dietary, and spiritual practices are contributing factors to extraordinary longevity. Ben has done a nice job summarizing some of the main points of this book in his article, “12 Basic, Natural & Easy Habits To Enhance Longevity.” Do these elements hold the secret to the fountain of youth? Buettner’s demographic findings based on the following common denominators make a strong argument to that effect:
So how many practices on that list do you follow? Do you take care of your physical body and spirit or live a stressed existence without enough time in the day, surrounded by the wrong people with not enough emphasis on your own well being? The more stressed and unfulfilled we feel, the more it shows in our appearance. Without slowing down, there isn’t time to cook healthy, exercise, and do prayer or meditation. Ben covers many of these strategies in detail in his two-part podcast series on basic and advanced tactics to increase longevity.
It also gets back to whether, ultimately, you look at your age as a number (over which you have no control) or as an attitude (which you most certainly can change any hour of the day or day of the week). I’ve known people who are “old” in their 20s. On the flip side, I’ve been inspired by – and privileged to know – men and women in their 80s who can literally run circles around people who aren’t even half their age.
And, yes, while it’s easy to be nostalgic and to even long for the past, you still have the rest of life’s journey ahead of you. You’re only as old as you think, but wanting to feel young enough to create new and exciting experiences is a dynamic that can occur at any age…and does.
Do you have questions, thoughts or feedback for me? Leave your comments below and one of us will reply!
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This content was originally published here.