Preventing Age-Related Diseases with Max Lugavere [Episode #487]
This week’s topic is: Preventing Age-Related Diseases with Max Lugavere
I am so excited to have my very special guest, Max Lugavere, who is a best-selling author, a filmmaker and a health and science journalist. Listen in as Max shares what inspired him to write Genius Foods, how we should be supplementing and ways to create healthy habits to start living a longer and fuller life.
What inspired Max to write his Genius Foods book…
We discuss our mothers deaths and the research that inspired Max’s work…
Environmental toxins and disease…
Sunlight and how much should be absorbed…
When to supplement with D3…
Tips for relaxation and peace of mind…
Morning rituals and creating healthy habits…
Max’s journey towards confidence and where it came from…
Tips to calm your mind in preparation for sleep…
If you should supplement with melatonin…
About Max Lugavere
Max Lugavere is a filmmaker, health and science journalist and the author of the New York Times best-selling book “Genius Foods: Become Smarter, Happier, and More Productive While Protecting Your Brain for Life,” which is now published in 8 languages around the globe. He is also the host of the #1 iTunes health podcast The Genius Life. Lugavere appears regularly on the Dr. Oz Show, the Rachael Ray Show, and The Doctors. He has contributed to Medscape, Vice, Fast Company, CNN, and the Daily Beast, has been featured on NBC Nightly News, The Today Show, and in The Wall Street Journal.
He is a sought-after speaker and has given talks at South by Southwest, TEDx, the New York Academy of Sciences, the Biohacker Summit in Stockholm, Sweden, and many others. Max is excited to release his sophomore book, “The Genius Life: Heal Your Mind, Strengthen Your Body, and Become Extraordinary,” a lifestyle guide to living happily and healthily with proven, research-based lifestyle tactics.
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Kimberly: 00:04 Hey Beauties, welcome back to our Monday interview podcast. I am super excited for our guest today. His name is Max Lugavere and he is a best-selling author, a filmmaker, a health and science journalist, and he has a new exciting book out called The Genius Life. I cannot wait to pick his brain. We are looking at each other on Skype right now but before we do I’m going to give a quick shout out to our fan of the week.
Fan Of The Week
Her name is kaitie17. She writes, “Love listening to this podcast. First of all it’s all about your overall health including your mental health which is super helpful and gives me a reminder that your health is full circle. I encourage you guys to listen with an open mind. I have learned so much.”
Share The Podcast& Write A Reviewon Itunes
Kimberly: 00:49 kaitie17, thank you so much for being our fan of the week for being in our community. I appreciate you writing us a review, sending you a huge virtual hug wherever you are and lots of love. Beauties, for your chance to also be shouted out as the fan of the week, please just take a moment or two out of your day and leave us a review on Itunes which is free and easy. It can be one sentence but it’s a great energetic way to support the show and while you’re at it please be sure to subscribe. That way you don’t miss any of our Monday interview podcasts and our Thursday Q&A podcasts which are questions that come right from our community. All right. All that being said, Max, me and you buddy.
Interview with Max Lugavere
Max : 01:31 What’s going on?
Kimberly: 01:32 So I have to say the last time I saw you, I was like, “Where did we first meet?” I have to tell this story, it was in the Rose Bowl. Do you remember this?
Max : 01:41 Yes.
Kimberly: 01:44 We were both doing this panel for Livestrong I believe, right? It was a big health day that they had in the Rose Bowl and Max and I were on a panel, I think there was like five people and that was when we met and I was like the plant-based person on the panel and Max, as a researcher, you were talking about some of these trends which are out there like the carnivore diet and different things. We ended up running into each other at some subsequent parties but it was a funny setting to first meet at.
Max : 02:20 It was awesome, man. That was my first time really getting to know you and what you’re all about and it was all love and I was also really impressed at the amount of the fans that you had in the audience and how dedicated they were. I was like, “Oh my god. I want what she’s having.” Whatever it is, give me all the Brussels sprouts and whatever it is that that’s fueling you.
Kimberly: 02:46 The broccoli sprouts.
Max : 02:47 The broccoli sprouts, you know.
Kimberly: 02:49 Max, I know it was a few years ago and I think it was … Your first book had come out which is Genius Foods right after that or right around then?
Max : 02:59 Yeah, I think it was soon … Yeah, I could be mistaken but I think it was soon after that. I don’t think that my book had come out at that point, but yeah. Then Genius Foods came out in 2018 which is my first ever book.
Kimberly: 03:09 Okay, yes. Congratulations.
Max : 03:12 Thank you.
What inspired Max to write Genius Foods
Kimberly: 03:13 I’ll quickly buy this one which is more holistic, it’s more expansive, it talks more about a lifestyle and were you inspired to write this one because you thought like there wasn’t enough room in your first one or were you just like it’s not just about food, which is what I feel like telling people all the time. That’s one part but it’s not everything.
Max : 03:32 Yeah, exactly. When I wrote Genius Foods which is again the first book I really wanted to create like a body of work that was a nutritional care manual for the human brain. After I had sort of gotten that off of my chest and wrote what I think is like the ultimate book in that category, of course I’m a little biased, but I realized as you just mentioned that there’s a lot more to feeling good, to living a long time and to living healthfully without disability, without disease, without depression, that goes above and beyond nutrition. Nutrition is one part of it but you could be eating everything in accordance with the principles that you preach or that I preach but if you’re not also looking into how you’re living your life, you’re going to run into some problems so that’s really why I was motivated to write The Genius Life which to me it’s a more concise guide to sort of the 360 degree approach to how you might live to primarily avert age-related diseases like Alzheimer’s disease, dementia, heart disease, cancer, even autoimmunity, which is not necessarily age-related but yeah. That’s really what is sort of under the microscope in The Genius Life.
We discuss our mothers deaths and the research that inspired Max’s work
Kimberly: 04:49 So Max, if we get personal for a moment, I believe when we first met, again the year, it could have been 2017 or something like that. My mom had just passed away, it was very sudden. It was when my first son had just turned one and it was within six weeks and I know that your mom was sick at that time as well and helped inspire a lot of your work because … You work in film, you work in research and you started really honing in on neurocognitive disorders because of her.
Max : 05:22 Yeah, absolutely. I think it’s important when hearing [inaudible 00:05:26] people come from, whether it’s from the health and fitness world to your favorite musician. I think people really want to know the why behind the what and my why has been and is always going to be my mom and the fact that my mom was diagnosed with dementia at a very young age, she was 58 when she was first prescribed drugs for both Parkinson’s disease and Alzheimer’s disease. I knew nothing of those two conditions at the time. I was sort of a generalist journalist if you will. I wrote about and I talked on television about topics that were relevant to the lives of young people, but certainly Alzheimer’s disease, dementia. These are not conditions that are relevant to young people. I mean young people, if anything, we think we’re immortal until we get that first diagnosis but one of the most shocking findings that I uncovered in my research was that dementia often begins in the brain decades before the first symptom of memory loss.
Max : 06:22 This to me was not an old person’s condition but in fact something that millennials need to be talking about when you consider the fact that not only are millennials now approaching the age of 40 technically. I mean people born in the 80s and 90s, millennials are getting up there but we’re the first generation that may live to have an average lifespan of 90 and beyond. Right now if you make it to the age of 85 you have a one in two chance of being diagnosed with Alzheimer’s disease which is a coin toss.
Kimberly: 06:48 What?
Max : 06:48 Yeah, it’s shocking. It’s shocking, so I knew that I had to basically stand up and fill this knowledge gap that exists in all of us for ways in which we can live to better procure brain health for ourselves, for our loved ones and one of the things that really motivated me to write the book was that I found that the same things that we can do that are going to batten down the hatches and help reduce our risk for these kinds of conditions actually also make our brains work better in the here and now, and who doesn’t want that at the end of the day? Less depression, less anxiety, greater focus, greater attention, greater mental energy. These are all the attributes that lie in wait if you just make a few simple tweaks to your diet and lifestyle.
Max : 07:35 My mom, she unfortunately about a year and a half ago she passed away. She actually passed away in the middle of my writing The Genius Life.
Kimberly: 07:43 I’m sorry to hear that.
Max : 07:44 Thank you, yeah. It was heartbreaking and actually my mom passed away from not dementia but she was diagnosed with pancreatic cancer.
Kimberly: 07:55 On top of all of that?
Max : 07:57 On top of all of that. The worst. The fact that my mom was robbed from me and my family really has kind of made it my life’s mission to try to understand why this happened to her, what could be done to prevent it from happening to myself and others that I care about and I don’t have all the answers, I don’t have a formal academic training, I’m not a medical doctor, but I am ultimately just a concerned citizen. Whether you want to use the term citizen journalist, citizen scientist. Ultimately I am one person of millions of people who has had a sick loved one and came to the realization that when a loved one gets sick, nothing else in the world matters.
Environmental toxins and disease
Kimberly: 08:36 Yes. Yes. I can’t think of a better way to honor her than bringing this research, this information out to so many like you said. So many people are affected by these conditions and are so confused and don’t know what to do and especially at this stage, all of our parents are getting older and we’re all wanting to make sure that our relatives are as healthy as possible and ourselves. Going back to that for a moment Max and I know you don’t know all the answers but there’s such a rise in … I have a family member who had Parkinson’s as well and we hear a lot about dementia and a lot about Alzheimer’s, and there’s a section in The Genius Life that’s all about environmental toxins. How big of a role do you think that plays? There’s a lot of different theories out there but obviously now the world that we live in is so contaminated, there’s so many chemicals, there’s so many cleaning products and household products. In your opinion, is that a large role in these diseases because if so that would be something that people could take into their own hands and could work to prevent in their lives.
Max : 09:44 Yeah, it’s such a good question. I think when it comes to Alzheimer’s disease and dementia, the two major environmental … Well one of the primary environmental risk factors is simply not getting enough Vitamin D which of course relates to our environment because we create Vitamin D in our skin when we are exposed to the sun but I think the environmental exposures that you are referring to specifically include compounds like BPA and phthalates and compounds like that. Heavy metals which I talk about –
Kimberly: 10:13 Mercury, yes.
Max : 10:14 Mercury, all that stuff. It’s sort of like … It’s a very tangled web and how any of these compounds relate back to Alzheimer’s disease is unclear. It’s an unsettled science and I would say there is some evidence that aluminum has a relationship to Alzheimer’s disease but it’s far from conclusive at this point yet the recommendation that I make in my book is to really avoid unnecessary added exposures to this heavy metal which serves no purpose in the body. It’s a –
Kimberly: 10:43 It can only do harm.
Max : 10:47 Yeah. I mean, and the body has a very limited capacity to excrete accumulated aluminum and a little bit here and there, aluminum is very commonly found around the earth, it is a natural … There’s nothing unnatural about aluminum but the fact that now we put it under our armpits every single morning, we consume it in very high amounts when we take certain antacid drugs, it’s now been able to bioaccumulate in certain animal products, in certain plant products. We’re overexposed and then you add that to the total body burden of all the other industrial chemicals that we’re exposed to and it’s a big problem. It takes a bit of speculation to understand how this might relate to brain disease and things like that but my opinion is that yes, it would definitely serve our health to reduce our exposure to all these different chemicals.
Max : 11:39 I mean, there are certain pesticides, certain synthetic pesticides for example, act as endocrine disruptors and can suppress thyroid function which can affect brain development in children and in infants and in neonates. How that relates to neurodegenerative disorders, unclear but the stance that I take, it’s a stance that I define as being … It’s a sort of guilty until proven innocent principle where in the justice system, you obviously, every human being is innocent until proven guilty and that’s really … That’s I think the most morally just way of approaching that, but when it comes to these newfangled medicines and certain supplements and chemicals, industrial chemicals to which human beings are routinely exposed, I think that we need to take the approach that they should be considered guilty until proven innocent because we have so many instances throughout history where a new product or a new compound has just been foisted onto the public, only later to be realized as having countless unintended consequences.
Kimberly: 12:50 Max, I would say that for diets as well. I love in the book this balanced approach you take to … There was a question in the book, “Hey Max, should I be in ketosis all the time?” Keto has obviously become very popular and there is evidence and emerging research about especially keto with women and women’s hormones and reproductive years, there can be some potential issues for being on it longterm. I like that you take a balanced approach. When I first met you and you were talking about the trend of the carnivore diet, I was like, “No no no. That’s so extreme.” Then I got to know you and I realized you really are investigating all these things. That was nice to hear about keto.
Max : 13:38 Yeah. My disclosure of the diet that I … There’s actually this push in research that nutrition researchers disclose their own personal diets. It wouldn’t seem like such a big deal, nutritional science and in science across the board, you have to make disclosures in every research paper, like who you’re being funded by. Why is it that it would be important some have postulated to disclose our diets because we tend to identify so closely with our diets and that can color the way that we kind of perform our research. I’ll disclose, I eat plants and animals. I eat both but you’re 100% right in that I talk about the ketogenic diet because I think that it’s interesting in certain contexts, but it’s not a diet that I make the recommendation that everybody has to be on that diet and you’re absolutely right that women with extended fasting, with really rigid keto diets can see hormonal disturbances and things like that. You really have to … I love your message of empowerment, you got to do your own research and you got to find what works for you because there is no such thing as a one size fits all diet.
Sunlight and how much should be absorbed
Kimberly: 14:44 That’s right, that’s right. Not to take us off the topic, you were talking about Vitamin D and thankfully we’re coming into summer, Max. In your opinion, because … You hear conflicting things now and I had another doctor say that he didn’t think we were able to absorb as much Vitamin D through our skin anymore but that was always the way that I had relied on getting my Vitamin D and I use a hat and I use non-chemical sunscreen on my face, but I’m okay. I’m pretty dark-skinned, I’m half Filipino, but depending on your skin type, exposing your body to light. What’s your take on sunlight?
Max : 15:18 I think sunlight is super important and you’re right in that certain people have varying … People have varying capacities to synthesize Vitamin D when their skin is exposed to the sun. If you have a darker complexion, you’ve got to a beautiful complexion, you’ve got more melanin than I do and melanin is nature’s sunscreen. If you have a darker skin complexion you’re going to want to spend more time in the sun to synthesize the same amount of Vitamin D. If you’re older, you’re going to require more time in the sun to synthesize the same amount of Vitamin D. If you’re overweight, fat tissue, adipose tissue can sequester Vitamin D because it’s a fat-soluble vitamin. Depending on where you are in the world, so people in northern latitudes, they’re exposed to … There’s further UVB rays that reach the surface of the earth. If you live in a heavily polluted area, it’s going to lead to less UVB rays reaching your skin so these are all the sort of individual things that matter but at the end of the day, yes. Vitamin D is crucially important and many of us do not have adequate levels of Vitamin D and it’s important for healthy immune function, it’s important for healthy brain function. It helps the brain clear itself of proteins that are associated with Alzheimer’s disease like amyloid, plaque and so it’s involved in healthy mood.
Max : 16:44 So Vitamin D, there was a really large study involving about 4,000 adults that found that people who had the lowest levels of Vitamin D were at 75% higher risk of developing depression over four years. It’s a really, really important steroid hormone vitamin that regulates 5% of the genome. It’s important question to ask. Like would you board an airplane if 5% of the airplane’s engine was malfunctioning? No, you probably wouldn’t. 5%, that’s significant. If you’re running around with low Vitamin D levels, you’re basically running around with a malfunctioning … With 5% of your engine malfunctioning.
When to supplement with D3
Kimberly: 17:24 So Max, even though we live in California and there is sunlight, do you also supplement with D3 as insurance?
Max : 17:32 Yeah, I supplement with D3 on days that I’m not getting adequate sun exposure. Also in the winter, I’ll supplement with a little bit of Vitamin D.
Kimberly: 17:40 [inaudible 00:17:40] store it for a while?
Max : 17:43 Yeah, you can actually. You do store Vitamin D in your fat tissue. You also get it from certain foods. There’s Vitamin D obviously in certain foods, certain mushrooms. There’s a handful of mushrooms that synthesize Vitamin D. But yeah, generally speaking, there are certain polymorphisms too that are going to lead people to create less Vitamin D even with the same degree of sun exposure so you really have to look at how much time you’re spending in the sun and then go get a simple blood test. It’s very easy to get and you want to generally make sure that your Vitamin D levels, your blood levels are in the range of 40 to 60 nanograms per milliliter. There’s a very large meta-analysis that found that within that range, people were at the lowest risk for all cause mortality, which is basically early death by any cause. So yeah.
Max : 18:32 The other thing, another surprising fact that I learned that most people don’t realize is that the enzymes that convert the form of Vitamin D that your skin makes into its active hormone form that activates receptors in cells in organs throughout your body, those enzymes require magnesium and half of us don’t consume adequate magnesium. If you’re spending all day in the sun burning, trying to get like your adequate Vitamin D but you’re not intaking adequate magnesium, you’re basically reducing the incidence of skin damage and you’re not getting any of the good stuff because you’re not getting adequate magnesium. Magnesium and Vitamin D go hand in hand. You definitely want to make sure that you’re eating high magnesium foods, dark leafy greens, almonds, dark chocolate.
Max : 19:24 Yeah, there you go. Loaded with magnesium. I also supplement with magnesium. It’s one of the few supplements that I have on regular rotation. I mean … Did I say Vitamin D or magnesium? Magnesium is what I … Yeah, I’ve been using that.
Kimberly: 19:35 Magnesium. You’ll rotate too. That’s great to hear Max because sometimes … I know some of these [inaudible 00:19:41] people will take 200 supplements a day.
Max : 19:46 I don’t do that, no. I’m pretty deliberate with my supplementation regimen and I don’t take Vitamin D every day. I live in Southern California, right now I’m really tan actually.
Kimberly: 19:59 Yeah, you actually do look really tan.
Max : 20:02 Yeah, I’m super tan these days.
Kimberly: 20:04 Not interested in social distancing? Have you been out on the beach?
Max : 20:08 I haven’t been out at the beach. No, I’ve been just walking around my neighborhood, doing work around the house. I have a nice roof where I get to go and lay out, very lucky. Yeah, I take … I have a good fish oil that I take every day, magnesium I take every day, I take astaxanthin which is like a carotenoid. I take a B-complex but other than that I’m pretty deliberate with my supplementation.
Kimberly: 20:38 I like that. You’re discerning. Well let’s go back to the book for a moment Max. I love this idea that you’ve really expanded the philosophy in The Genius Life and listening to you and you have so many stats and you have so many studies and there’s this analytical part of you, but I want to learn about the part that … Here in our community we talk about our cornerstones are food, body, emotion and well-being and spiritual growth and that’s come out of my own journey, hyper-fixating on food and then not really having an adequate way to dissipate stress, not being in touch with my spirituality, so when I started meditating, when I started journaling, all these things were really healing for me. I know you’ve been through a lot, so much the last few years losing your mom, again, which I’m really sorry about.
Tips for relaxation and peace of mind
Kimberly: 21:25 So there’s this chapter in the book about peace of mind and I’d to love to hear about … Again, there’s this part of you that’s so analytical and research based, but how does Max, the real Max, how do you relax? How do you keep from stress building up in your life? Especially in this crazy time right now. How do you nurture your mental health and some guys are funny talking about emotions but we talk about it a lot here in my community, the feeling side of you and you know my husband too, Max. We did a podcast over the weekend and we were talking about men and emotions and how some men take more time to evolve and open up, but I’d love to hear about this part of your life.
Max : 22:12 Oh man, yes. That’s a good question. I don’t know, Kimberly. I think I’m pretty in touch with my emotions. I think that as much as I can be analytical and talk about science and health and all this stuff, I very much consider myself an artist as well and I think … Like I think all my work, like this book, it comes out of an artistic yearning to take and to channel the pain of what I experienced with my mom into something meaningful and I think that that is what art is. I think that’s what artists do and so yeah, when I’m stressed out, there are a few things I do. One, I love to play music and I love to sing.
Kimberly: 22:53 What do you play?
Max : 22:53 I sing and I play guitar.
Kimberly: 22:55 Oh wow.
Max : 22:56 Yeah, and singing is one of the things, both singing and guitar playing is one of those things … First of all there’s no better feeling than starting something and really sucking at something and then seeing yourself get better.
Kimberly: 23:10 Of course. Do you do online lessons?
Max : 23:13 I don’t do online lessons but I go to Spotify regularly and if you search vocal scales or vocal warmups, anybody can do this. I highly recommend people add a few of these to your Spotify playlist. Whenever I’m in the car, sitting in traffic, it always … I make it productive, if I’m not listening to music or podcasts, I’ll put on these vocal scales and I’ll do scales in my car.
Kimberly: 23:33 Wonderful.
Max : 23:35 I was a terrible singer when I first started, but I’ve gotten better and better and better over time and same with guitar playing and to me just vocalizing. First of all singing activates the vagus nerve and stokes your parasympathetic autonomous nervous system which calms you down. Just singing to me, and everybody can sing. If you’re listening to this, I’m by no means an amazing … I’m not like … Who would you consider like a great singer these days? Like I’m not Ed Sheeran or anything but I can sing.
Kimberly: 24:06 No Adele.
Max : 24:06 Not yet, not like the male Adele. Sam Smith. I don’t know, they’re all so great. Yeah, I would … If I could sing like anybody I feel like I would love to sing like … My favorite band is the band Muse. I just love Matt Bellamy, I think he’s so great. But yeah, like anybody can sing. Singing is a mechanical byproduct of breathing in a certain way and connecting your voice to your diaphragm and anybody can do it. Whether or not anybody’s going to pay you to listen to you sing, that’s another story, but I think everybody should sing. Everybody should understand how to use their vocal apparatus in a way that is healthy and that allows you to vocalize and to sing and even to hum. It’s so good for you.
Max : 24:51 Learning guitar is great. I’ve been playing guitar since my early twenties and I’m always improving at that. I love to exercise. Exercise for me is a major means of diffusing stress.
Max : 25:09 Well these days, I love going to the gym. I love … At risk of –
Kimberly: 25:13 [inaudible 00:25:13] right now?
Max : 25:14 I know, i know. At risk of sounding like a meathead and I’m not a meathead but I love to lift weights. I love to go and have a weight workout which these days I’ve been doing lots of body weight stuff [inaudible 00:25:27] a little bit frustrated that I can’t get to the gym. I think everybody does but I’ve been going on walks. I’ve actually also been … Here’s another thing, like I suck at running. I hate running, but I’ve been forcing myself to get out and run and the first time I did it I barely ran a mile and I was like, “This is horrible. I hate it.” Every second of the way, I was hating life. Then I did it … Not the following day but a day after that and I realized that I was able to go for longer and it didn’t suck as bad. Then I did it, I waited another day and I did it again and I ran two miles and I’m very much like a ten minute mile … I’m learning all this terminology, I don’t even know …
Max : 26:08 Yeah, but now I’m like … I feel like I can go two miles easily or even two and a half miles and I’m getting faster. I downloaded the Nike running app and this is again something that I’m terrible at. Like if you saw me running, this is not something that I feel like my body is designed to do but I’m really enjoying it. I’m enjoying the process of getting better and I think that that’s something that I’ve always found in my life to be a great place of refuge is the process in starting something as a beginner and then slowly progressing and getting better and better and better and better. Music to me is the ultimate illustration of that because again I started not being able to sing or play music and at this point I have played in front of people, I have recorded stuff and yeah. So there’s a lot there.
Morning rituals and creating healthy habits
Kimberly: 27:02 Do you love systemizing things? Are you like a habit person? You said you downloaded an app. Do you have a lot of ritual to your morning routine, to your daily routines? Sounds like you might.
Max : 27:15 Yeah. I mean I wake up, I wake up, I go make coffee, I’ll go and … My cat, I have a cat. She’s very loving in the morning. She’s totally like a morning cat.
Kimberly: 27:28 Is she in the bed with you?
Max : 27:31 Yeah. My brother is sleeping over at my house right now and we fight over … We place bets over who the cat’s going to spend the night with. She definitely, she loves the boys. She’s like … One night she’ll spend in my room, the next night she’ll spend in my brother’s.
Kimberly: 27:47 She likes to sleep around.
Max : 27:49 She sleeps around, yeah. The mornings are the best. So I’ll go downstairs, I’ll make a coffee, I’ll go to my dining room table where she’s there hanging out and she’s just like so snuggly in the morning. That’s part of my routine, it’s very calming, very soothing. I’ll check my email, I’ll start looking at … I look at news and I go on Twitter which for all the positives and negatives associated with Twitter it’s a great place for me to get information and look up studies and research and things like that. Usually I spend a lot of time with exposure to natural morning light which we know is very important to anchoring your body’s circadian rhythm.
Kimberly: 28:33 Yes. Good for sleep.
Max : 28:35 And for sleep, and for sleep. Having good sleep begins the morning before you get in bed.
Kimberly: 28:40 Isn’t that amazing?
Max : 28:42 Yeah.
Kimberly: 28:42 Max, even if you’re near a window or do you think you need to be in the sun in the morning before noon to get that benefit?
Max : 28:53 That’s a really good question. When it comes to Vitamin D, you need to be in the sun, so glass filters out the UVB rays which are the Vitamin D producing rays that you need. Actually UVA rays pass through and those are like … UVA rays are also thought to be beneficial, they boost nitric oxide and can reduce blood pressure, but for Vitamin D you need to actually be in the sun. When it comes to anchoring your body’s circadian rhythm, it’s fine to be behind a window because really what you want is the light intensity. That’s fine. I’m working, checking my emails usually from … In my kitchen or my dining room where I have windows that allow light to come from. Then I’ll do some stretching. I like to work out in the morning. I like to work out fasted actually. I think there are probably some metabolic benefits. The research is now sort of showing a benefit to fasted exercise. Not necessarily in terms of weight loss but in terms of just overall metabolic vigor to working out while fasted, and I’ll drink a coffee before doing that.
Max : 30:00 I also feel most energetic when it’s the morning and I haven’t really eaten anything because I think a lot of the time when you eat, you kind of can feel that post-meal lethargy or you feel like you’re digesting and maybe even a little bloated. I don’t know, I just feel very limber and like I have a good baseline to work from when I’m fasted in the mornings. That’s when I tend to get my workout in.
Kimberly: 30:26 What time are we talking here? 7, 8, 9?
Max : 30:30 Like 8, 8, 9. 8, 9 o’clock. I wake up around 7 to 8.
Kimberly: 30:36 It’s a consistent time for you usually? You try and stick to a consistent bedtime and morning wake-up time?
Max : 30:44 Yeah, and when gyms were open I would go to the gym and I would have an hour workout.
Kimberly: 30:51 Those days.
Max : 30:51 Yeah. Now it’s a little bit more challenging but actually one great tip I think that your listeners might benefit from … I think it’s important to not put the pressure on yourself to have that hour long workout that you might have used to have had in the gym and instead to break it up. Like for me, sometimes it’s easier to do a half an hour workout in the morning because I’m just not as motivated and that’s okay, that’s fine. It’s a lot different … First of all, motivation is a fair weather friend. If you’re relying on motivation to have your workouts and to stay fit, that’s a bad idea because motivation is fleeting. Instead, I think it’s going to require discipline but inevitably working out in your house is just not as sexy as working out in a gym. To be able to break it up and to have a 20 minute workout three times a day as opposed to that one hour long workout, that’s just as beneficial. Sometimes I’ll do that. It really all just depends on how I’m feeling and what have you.
Max’s journey towards confidence and where it came from
Kimberly: 31:55 Max, this is just something that came to my mind listening to you talk about music and singing and putting your art, channeling your passion, all this that you’ve gone through with your mom, with your family into a book. We get a lot of questions about confidence and it just seems like you’re a really confident person, you’re putting things out there whether you don’t think you’re the best singer or you’re really just … There’s a freeness to your energy that I think is really beautiful to witness for everyone to listen to. I know there’s a lot of factors here, especially … Again, not to generalize but with women and men but we talk a lot here about connecting with your true [inaudible 00:32:40], your true beauty inside, but we live in a very image-driven world of course. There’s a lot of pressure how we look externally. Can you tell me a little bit about your confidence journey and just being able to put your work out there to really share your ideas? There’s so much of you in this book, in your last book. You’re sharing yourself. Where does that come from? Is that something you had to work on? Do you feel like you were a confident teenager?
Max : 33:08 I was not a confident teenager, no. If you grow up in the nineties and you had the show Beavis & Butt-Head on MTV, as a teenager I looked a lot like Butt-Head. I had my hair slicked back, I had braces. This is like a serious nose. I don’t know if you’ve seen my nose but it’s not a –
Kimberly: 33:31 It’s a great nose.
Max : 33:32 Thank you. So yeah, so I kind of looked a little bit like Butt … I was not a super confident guy and I was really into computers and programming and … But yeah, I think that I’ve grown confident over time by really just kind of putting in the work and doing my homework when it comes to the kinds of things that I talk about. I don’t talk about what I don’t know about. That’s why people that follow me know I’m never quick to jump on bandwagons or anything like that. Yeah. I think it’s just … Having confidence is really about believing in yourself and your vision and knowing what your strengths are, knowing what your weaknesses are, being honest about both of those two factors and not deluding yourself. Because you’re the easier person to lie to ultimately and that’s how I am every day.
Max : 34:28 I also, I can be my own worst critic. So if it sounds like I’m confident, I’m also very … I can be very harsh with myself as well, and I think that’s part of it too is knowing … Being able to take an inventory of your strengths, your weaknesses, and slowly improving and knowing that this isn’t really about perfection but about progress and just doing the best you can ultimately. Like whether or not I have a great appearance on a podcast or TV show, I think that what fuels me is knowing that I did the best that I could. If I was out late partying and drinking alcohol for example and I didn’t give my body the nourishment that I know that it requires, and then I went and I just completely dropped the ball on a TV appearance or on a podcast, then that would be [inaudible 00:35:32] that that was not me doing my best. Because I know what my body and my brain require to show up and to perform their best, then whatever I do, if luck has it that I’m just not … My thoughts are not flowing as well as I know that they normally do, then whatever. Like I did the best that I could … I fertilized the ground as best as I was able to but mother nature had different plans. I think that’s all part of it.
Kimberly: 36:00 I like that. It’s very healthy.
Max : 36:02 Yeah. You got to be kind to yourself, got to go easy on yourself but you also I think have to be like a realist. There is still aspects in my life that I’m not super confident about. I would say generally when it comes to my work I’m very confident. Like I know what I’m talking about when it comes to nutrition, I know what I’m talking about when it comes to exercise for example, maybe even music, but yeah, there are other areas where I keep my mouth shut. If we’re at a dinner table and the topic of politics comes up or sports, I don’t know anything about sports.
Kimberly: 36:38 You stay in your lane [inaudible 00:36:40]
Max : 36:40 I stay in my lane, yeah.
Tips to calm your mind in preparation for sleep
Kimberly: 36:40 What about … There is a chapter about sleep and sleep has been such a huge thing for me, Max, being [inaudible 00:36:49] pregnant, having a lot of body pain, a lot of heartburn, so sleep is like … You know when something gets taken away from you, you value it 10 times more. Sleep is of great interest to me. Have you ever suffered from insomnia? There’s very practical recommendations in your book about cutting down on blue light and things but a lot of people that have insomnia, I feel like their mind is still going, especially with what’s going on right now in the world. Do you have suggestions for that or how have you dealt with starting to calm down your mind? Especially with running through the day, what you have to do tomorrow.
Max : 37:25 Yeah. I think a really useful way to think about sleep … What occurs over the course of the day is something builds up in your brain called sleep pressure. This is a term that is used regularly in the medical literature and you can find ways of increasing sleep pressure or decreasing sleep pressure. Sleep pressure, what that essentially is is the pressure on your brain to get to sleep so that by the time your head hits the pillow at night, all that sleep pressure basically comes to roost and it knocks you out. If you are not very active over the course of the day, if you’re not exercising, if you’re sitting in one place for the entirety of the day, you’re not really building up a lot of sleep pressure. If you’re consuming a lot of caffeine, one of the neurotransmitters involved in this phenomenon is adenosine. Adenosine basically helps you … It makes you sleepy, but caffeine blocks adenosine. Caffeine, what that basically does is it just flat out negates sleep pressure. If you’re consuming caffeine too late in the day, or too much of it generally speaking, you’re basically reducing this pressure that your brain feels to sleep. Sleep pressure I think is a –
Kimberly: 38:43 I’m sorry Max, when do you recommend stopping caffeine?
Max : 38:47 I generally won’t … I mean I’ve changed over the past year, my relationship with caffeine, I’ve talked about it on social media. I used to drink a very, very, very strong coffee early in the morning and then I would have that afternoon coffee. I think that I started to require that afternoon coffee because I drank such a strong morning coffee and the thing about caffeine is that it doesn’t create –
Kimberly: 39:09 Like a triple espresso? What are we talk –
Max : 39:11 Pretty much. I use a French press and I would put five scoops of very strong –
Kimberly: 39:16 Oh my goodness.
Max : 39:16 Heaping scoops of very strong coffee in the French press. The thing about caffeine and coffee in general is that it doesn’t create energy from thin air. It borrows energy from later. The stronger your morning coffee, the more inclined you’re going to be to need caffeine to get over that mid afternoon slump. What I did was I did a caffeine purge where I took a month off of coffee and instead of regular coffee I was drinking decaf here and there, which I know has a tiny amount of caffeine but just way less caffeine –
Kimberly: 39:50 When compared to your five scoop –
Max : 39:51 Yeah, and for people that are thinking that this seems completely not reasonable, after about four to five days of getting off caffeine, you don’t need it anymore. It’s a very quick, you get over the withdrawal very quickly. I did about a month reset where I was doing no caffeine, no coffee, and I felt amazing, but I was like, “I love the ritual and I love the taste of coffee,” and I didn’t want to be dogmatic about never having coffee again so I wanted to reintegrate it and what I did was I brought it back into my life but at a much lower dose, at the minimal effective dose in the morning. Now I’ll have a French press with only three scoops, so it’s a lot less coffee and caffeine in the morning and I consume it before 10:00 a.m. No caffeine after 10:00 a.m. and now I don’t even need that mid afternoon additional cup of coffee.
Kimberly: 40:43 That’s great.
Max : 40:43 Yeah. So like I’ve completely reframed my relationship with coffee. I’ll have a decaf in the afternoon if I want.
Kimberly: 40:48 You love that taste.
Max : 40:51 Yeah, I love the taste, but yeah. Caffeine basically it resets your circadian rhythm. It acts on the brain similarly as bright light. So if you’re drinking caffeine in the middle of the afternoon it’s basically like that morning light to your brain, so it’s going to wake you up and it reduces very effectively that pressure to get to sleep. That’s why when your head hits the pillow, you feel like your brain is still racing. Because that pressure hasn’t overcome your thoughts the way that it’s supposed to.
Kimberly: 41:21 Mm-hmm (affirmative). Mm-hmm (affirmative). That’s good to know. I think a lot of people do rely still on that morning hit, but if you reset and start to sleep better, you shift your diet and you get more natural energy without having to use all that external –
Max : 41:38 Yeah, 100%. Just doing things over the course of the day that are going to tire you out. I mean exercise is medicine. If we could bottle exercise and put it in a pill form, it would be a blockbuster drug. Doing what you can to increase the sleep pressure, getting that morning light, super important to anchor your body’s circadian rhythm which also is going to influence when you start to get tired later on in the evening and then making sure that your bedroom is dark and cool, that you’re getting adequate nutrition so eating more dietary fiber, more omega-3 fats can all benefit sleep. Magnesium, they have done clinical trials where they’ve shown that 400 to 500 milligrams of magnesium can help improve sleep quality and efficacy. Or efficiency, sleep efficiency. I also sometimes will use a supplement called glycine which is a very easy to find supplement, there’s a million varieties of it but they’ve shown that glycine can help improve sleep quality as well before bed so there’s a number of things that you can do. If you are suffering from insomnia, just know that it’s not a hopeless cause. There’s a bunch of things that you can try.
Kimberly: 42:53 I love that. I love how you have a whole chapter on that in this book. So Max, when I’m writing a book, I feel like I learn as I go too and I find things when I research, I think, “Oh my gosh, I’m so excited to share this.” Can you share something from a book that maybe you learned while you were writing it or maybe a part that you’re really excited for people to know, new learning for you or just a topic that you want to point out about the book? Because there’s a lot of information here.
Max : 43:20 Yeah, oh my god.
Kimberly: 43:25 Just pick one. I know there’s probably a bunch of them for you.
Max : 43:27 There’s so much … Well I mean on the topic of sleep, one thing that I thought was just so fascinating was … A lot of people are familiar with melatonin, it’s a sleep hormone, it makes us sleepy, but melatonin is actually one of the most powerful antioxidants and detoxifying compounds, chemo protective compounds, cancer preventative compounds that our own bodies make, but exposure to bright light at night can actually greatly reduce the amount of melatonin that our brains produce. This is one mechanism by which bright light is thought to actually be a carcinogen late at night.
Kimberly: 44:06 Even just like bright overhead light, any sort of … Not just from a device but actual ceiling light?
Max : 44:12 Yeah, exactly. In the literature there have been very large observational studies that have shown that people who worked night shifts regularly are at increased risk for certain cancers. This is just an observation, correlation isn’t causation, but bright light at night, it’s well-documented, it has the ability to suppress the release of melatonin from the pineal gland and melatonin, it’s an important compound. As I mentioned it’s an antioxidant. It is a gatekeeper of the process known as autophagy which is sort of like biology’s KonMari method like –
Max : 44:59 Yeah, when Marie Kondo gets in there and tidies up. That’s basically what autophagy does for your cells.
Kimberly: 45:04 I love that analogy.
Max : 45:04 Yeah, and melatonin is one of these things that actually encourages autophagy. It also encourages the proliferation of brown fat which is metabolically active, it burns calories, burns sugar and fat and so it’s this really amazing hormone that our own brains produce for free and when you’re routinely exposed to light at night, you actually pump the brakes on melatonin release and so that’s just one mechanism by which bright light can actually serve as a toxin. We usually think of toxins as being these compounds that we ingest or that we’re exposed to, but bright light at night can be just as toxic. Not if we’re exposed to bright light once in a while but if we’re routinely exposed to it. I think that that’s a big problem, so being mindful of your surroundings, of your light exposure and bright light in the daytime is a great thing. There’s nothing inherently bad about light. It’s a context specific statement that I’m making.
Max : 46:12 If you have super bright lights in your house, if you’re always watching, binge watching TV shows into the wee hours –
Kimberly: 46:20 Oh no. But you could wear your blue light blocking glasses.
Kimberly: 46:27 Me too. I wear them at night for sure.
Max : 46:29 Same.
Supplementing with melatonin
Kimberly: 46:29 What do you think about supplementing with melatonin, Max? You know the saying what you take you don’t make? Do you believe we should never take melatonin?
Max : 46:40 I think that melatonin can be useful. I would say that if you’re an adult, it can be useful for jet lag, it can be useful taking it at night to act as an oxidant for all these things. I did interview a neuroscientist who talked about one of the roles that melatonin plays for younger folks is that it controls … It sort of regulates the onset of puberty.
Kimberly: 47:04 Oh interesting.
Max : 47:05 For a child you want to be very careful about taking melatonin. You don’t want to do that. I haven’t personally looked into that research, so I’m just sort of like parroting what I’ve heard just in my conversations with experts in that regard but yeah, as an adult I think it could be useful but generally … I don’t have a melatonin supplement in my house because I’m just always very conscious of getting that good light in the morning and abstaining from bright light in the latter half of the day.
Kimberly: 47:40 I love that, and it’s certainly a much more holistic approach where we’re not going to overdose on something, just incorporating it into our lifestyle.
Max : 47:48 Yeah. For sure.
Kimberly: 47:48 Well Max, thank you so much. I could ask you questions all day. I could pick your brain all day. Thank you for writing this fantastic book and thank you for sharing your time with us.
Max : 47:59 Oh man. Kimberly, well thank you for having me. I look forward to having you on my podcast soon and I’m so excited for your new baby.
Kimberly: 48:05 I know, you’re one of my last podcasts, Max. We’ll be talking on the other side of this. I’ll be … When I’m sitting here, just resting which I’ll be doing in the next few weeks, I’m going to finish up your book which I have been loving. Again, Beauties, we’re going to link to it directly in the show notes or you can look it up right now, the name is The Genius Life: Heal Your Mind, Strengthen Your Body and Become Extraordinary by Max Lugavere. I was saying [Lugavare 00:48:33] but I’m thinking of my own little intonation with it but Max Lugavere, dear friend of mine, I am so grateful for you Max. Thank you. I can feel your heart and the authenticity behind which you wrote this book so again thank you for sharing all your wisdom.
Max : 48:50 My pleasure. Thank you Kimberly.
Kimberly: 48:52 Beauties, thank you so much for tuning in. Be sure to check out the show notes over on our site which is mysolluna.com. We will be back here Thursday for our next Q&A podcast. Till then take care [inaudible 00:49:05] you guys so much love.