Please enjoy this transcript of my interview with Dr. Andrew Huberman, (@hubermanlab), a neuroscientist and tenured professor in the Department of Neurobiology at Stanford University’s School of Medicine, who has made numerous important contributions to the fields of brain development, brain function, and neural plasticity. Work from the Huberman Laboratory at Stanford Medicine has been consistently published in top journals including Nature, Science, and Cell.
Andrew is the host of the podcast Huberman Lab, which is often ranked as one of the top five podcasts in the world by both Apple and Spotify. The show aims to help viewers and listeners improve their health with science and science-based tools. New episodes air every Monday on YouTube and all podcast platforms.
Transcripts may contain a few typos. With many episodes lasting 2+ hours, it can be difficult to catch minor errors. Enjoy!
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Tim Ferriss: Hello, boys and girls, ladies and germs. This is Tim Ferriss for a rare in-person podcast. I know that’s become the norm on YouTube and elsewhere, but this is a rare occasion and I am thrilled to have Andrew Huberman here with me. So great to have you here in person, Andrew. So Andrew Huberman, who is this Andrew Huberman? Dr. Huberman, PhD, on Twitter @HubermanLab, is a neuroscientist and tenured professor in the Department of Neurobiology at Stanford University’s School of Medicine. He has made numerous important contributions to the fields of brain development, brain function, and neuroplasticity.
Work from the Huberman Laboratory at Stanford Medicine has been consistently published in top journals including nature, science and cell. For those who don’t know, that’s like having a sweep at the Oscars. But back to the bio, Andrew’s the host of the podcast Huberman Lab, which is often ranked as one of the top five podcasts in the world by both Apple and Spotify. The show aims to help viewers and listeners improve their health with science and science-based tools. New episodes air every Monday on YouTube and all podcast platforms. You can find all things Andrew at hubermanlab.com, on YouTube that is Huberman Lab, Instagram, HubermanLab, and also on Twitter as mentioned @HubermanLab. Andrew, nice to see you.
Andrew Huberman: Great to see you. So happy to be here. I want to say I grew up listening to your podcast, although I think I was in my 30s when I started listening. And so for me, I’m really tickled to be here because so much of how I ran my laboratory when I first became a professor was based on principles from The 4-Hour Workweek. Now mind you, my work weeks were like 100-hour work weeks. I actually lived in my laboratory with my dog — my students and postdocs can attest to that — but I incorporated a ton of the principles. I was following The 4-Hour Body slow carb diet. I was training. I had my cheat days and on and on and on. So for me, this is kind of being transported forward and back in time.
Tim Ferriss: Oh, man.
Andrew Huberman: Yeah. Well, I can’t say enough positive things about you and your podcast and what you’ve done, and as you know, this is not just because I’m sitting here in front of you because I text you all the time. In fact, I will say this, I have a notebook that dates back over a decade where at the time I was pretty lonely. It was just me and my dog. Eventually, a great girlfriend at the time came along. But I was running my lab and there’s a lot of social buffers between professors and students, understandably and necessarily. And so I was pretty lonely, and I thought, who are my friends going to be? I was in a new town, I didn’t know many people, and I have this list, and I read the list the other day, I’ll send you a photo, and the list was of about five or six people that I really admired and whose principles and work I was trying to incorporate into basically every aspect of my life.
At the top of the list is a guy named Tim Armstrong, lead singer for Rancid, who I’ve recently become friends with. And so totally, that’s another amazing story. Joe Strummer, who unfortunately I never met, the great Joe Strummer, which explains my attire. He always wore a buttoned-down black shirt in his adulthood, so I decided to do that. At some point and much more related to your name, because The 4-Hour Workweek and your podcast which eventually came along, Rick Rubin, who I’ve had the great blessing of having on my podcast and learning from, and then Oliver Sacks, who unfortunately passed away before I ever had the chance to meet him. But anyway, I had to tell you that you were already my friend before you knew who I was. And I did that because I would look at that list and think, okay, who do I want to try and embody in terms of ways about going through life and trying to do things right in my professional and personal life? So that was my shortlist, and I’m very proud of that shortlist. I still have it.
I sent Tim the list the other day and he was like, “No way, man. This is pretty wild.” And I’m like, “You think it’s wild for you, just imagine how wild this is for me.” So anyway, to set the context.
Tim Ferriss: Yeah, well, I appreciate that, man, and I’ve been incredibly impressed, not just with your research and academic bonafides and what you’ve accomplished there, which is a lot in and of itself. And of course we’ve spoken before, but the incredible focus and force with which you have just blown the barn doors off with the podcast, which is really a service to people. So I am happy to have you here, thrilled to be spending time in person after COVID and recording remotely. So we have a ton to dive into, and hopefully I will not be the hero with clay feet. As they say, it’s all downhill from here as far as what I can do in this conversation. But I thought we could begin with perhaps revisiting in some respects, our last conversation, not to rehash it, but to simply ask the question. Since we last spoke, which was a while ago, I guess it was about maybe two years ago, what have you changed your mind on and what have you doubled down on if you have answers to both of those?
Andrew Huberman: Yeah, I’ll start with what I’ve doubled down on. I’ve doubled down on the idea, which perhaps I stated last time we spoke, and perhaps not. But I certainly believe that our state of mind and body at any point in time is strongly dictated by our state of mind and body in the hours and days prior to that. And on the one hand, people are going to hear that and say, “Well duh, if you’re sleep-deprived, you’re going to feel like garbage. And if you’re well-rested, you’ll feel great.” That’s kind of the top contour of it. But when one looks at the neuroscience, for instance, of sleep, you start to realize that the amount of rapid eye movement sleep that you’re going to get in any 90-minute bout of sleep, because your sleep is broken up into these 90-minute segments, more or less, is strongly dictated by the ratio of slow wave sleep, AKA deep sleep and rapid eye movement sleep that you had in the previous 90-minute bout.
And then when you start to look at the research in terms of waking states, you start to find that your ability to be focused, say, for a bout of work in the morning or the afternoon, or a creative brainstorm session, or I don’t know, to maybe drill into some personal issue that you’re dealing with during therapy or just on a walk or while journaling is not a square wave function. None of us should sit down and expect ourselves to just drop into that state. Much of our ability to move into that state effectively, whatever effective means, whatever the target or goal of that bout as I’m calling it, is going to be dictated by what happened in the previous moments and hours. And so when I zoom out from that, what I’ve doubled down on in this is this idea that there are just a core set of foundational things that we have to re-up every 24 hours.
I think thanks to the incredibly hard work of Dr. Matt Walker at Berkeley, The Sleep Diplomat on Twitter, it’s such a great name because it’s so appropriate. A decade ago or so, it was like, “I’ll sleep when I’m dead.” That was the dominant mentality out there. And yeah, sleep’s great, but getting stuff done is more important. Matt has really impressed on everybody that our mental health, our physical health, and our ability to perform is so strongly dependent on our ability to get quality sleep — maybe not every night of our life; we have to be realistic — but that sleep is vital. So a hat tip is insufficient. So sleep is critical, but sleep is just one of about, I would say five things that really set the buoyancy or the foundation upon which our nervous system is able to accomplish these transitions that I’m talking about at all.
And those five things are sleep — in the absence of quality sleep over two or three days, you’re just going to fall to pieces. In the presence of quality-sufficient sleep over two or three days, you’re going to function at an amazing level. There’s a gain of function and a loss of function there. It’s not just if you sleep poorly, you function less well. You sleep better, you function much better. So sleep, I would say, is at the top of the list.
Nutrients, and there you can think macronutrients and so your carnivores are only eating meat and your vegans are only eating plants and your omnivores, which is I think probably 90 percent of the world, is eating a combination of those. But quality nutrients, I think that when I look at all of the nutrition, literature, and arguments out there, it seems that everyone can agree on one thing, which is that probably 80 percent or more of our nutrition should come from unprocessed or minimally processed sources.
Minimally processed would require some cooking, but it survive on the shelf as opposed to packaged foods or highly palatable foods. So you’ve got sleep nutrients. But then we should also put in micronutrients, and this is where maybe we’ll get into a discussion about supplementation. I think that there’s supplementation or supplements is a bit of a misnomer because it implies vitamin supplements and people say, “Well, can’t you get all that from food or that whey protein, isn’t that just food? Wouldn’t you be better off with a chicken breast?” Okay, well then when you talk about convenience and the absorption, okay, but then there’s this huge category of things ranging from the kind of esoterically named things like Ashwagandha and Shilajit and tongkat ali and Fadogia agrestis —
Tim Ferriss: I’m in! I’ll buy all of them!
Andrew Huberman: Exactly. All the herbal stuff, right?
Tim Ferriss: Yeah.
Andrew Huberman: You’re not going to get that from food.
Tim Ferriss: Yeah, totally.
Andrew Huberman: So should we call them supplements at all? And so let’s just say the third thing is, or the second thing is nutrients, and that includes macronutrients, and that includes micronutrients as well. So those two things. Then the third would be movement. And this has also been an enormous transition in the last, I think just five years, which is not just for people interested in body building or power lifting or for competitive athletes, but now it seems everybody, including the elderly, understand that you need a combination of cardiovascular exercise and you need resistance training, whether or not it’s with body weight or weights or machines, etc, that you need both. Not a week goes by without seeing an article in one of the major publications out there, standard media, let’s call it traditional media, we’ll be nice to them, traditional media that highlights some study showing that resistance training in elderly people can offset Alzheimer’s or that as our friend Peter Attia has pointed out so many times that many of the end-of-life-creating injuries are due to older people stepping down, the eccentric movements.
So you need movement, that’s the third category. Fourth, I will argue, and I like to think that maybe I’ve helped this movement, if you want to call it that, is light. In particular, sunlight in the early part and throughout the middle of the day, and trying to minimize the amount of artificial light that you’re exposed to in the evening and late night hours most of the time, because you have to live life, just fundamental. And then I think the last category that’s important is social connection, AKA relationships, let’s just call it relationships, because that can include relationship to self. So those things set up the core foundation. And I think one way to think about them is just as a list. Another is to think about them in terms of a schedule basis. And that’s how I’ve really doubled down is I realize that every 24 hours I need to invest something into each one of those things.
So I think that 10 years ago, or five years ago, or even two years ago, I used to think, okay, what’s the workout split? Or how am I going to eat for the next couple of months? What am I trying to optimize for? Is it muscle? Is it fat loss? Is it just maintaining? Is it energy? Is it focus? That’s all fine and good. But sleep, nutrients, exercise, light, relationships, those really establish the foundation of what I consider to be all of the elements that create our ability to move as seamlessly as possible between the states that we happen to be in and the states we desire to be in. And when I zoom out and I think about what are the major struggles that I, and it seems everyone deals with, it’s like how to get more focused. So we can talk about what do you take, what’s the supplement?
But you have to say, “Well, how are you sleeping? Have you done any exercise?” You really always find yourself, or I find myself taking 10 steps back and then moving through the sequence of five things before you can even begin to talk about whether or not taking three or 600 milligrams of Alpha GPC and how often to do that and does it work, and yes, it works, etc. But those things really set the foundation. And so I like to think of those five things every single day. You have to re-up on sleep every 24 hours or try to, you have to re-up on movement every 24 hours. You can go a day or so immobile, but you better move the next day. And ideally, you’re moving seven days a week. Doesn’t necessarily mean trained to failure and running a marathon seven days a week.
You can Goggins your life or you can not Goggins your life. For those of you who don’t know, I’m referring to David Goggins there, by the way, who seems to never stop moving. Although I just learned meditates two hours every night, every night. And I’m inclined to believe when he says that, that he indeed does that. You need nutrients, even if they come from stored sources, even if you’re going to fast. You’re going to fast for a day or two, okay fine, I’ve done that. I know you’ve done that. I would put hydration under nutrients too. So you can drive nutrients from stored fat, protein, etc, glycogen. The relationship it’s light is you’re going to need that every 24 hours. You’re going to need sunlight, even if through cloud cover, and you’re going to want to avoid bright artificial lights at night, not every night, but most nights of your life.
And then that relationship’s one is the one that maybe we can go into in a little bit more depth at some point, but it requires focus, it requires attention, every 24 hours. Now, that doesn’t necessarily mean you have to see friends, talk to friends, text friends every 24 hours. Some people are far more introverted than others, but then you’re working on your relationship to yourself in that solo time, and hopefully when you’re spending time with others as well, that has some internal repercussions. So if I’ve doubled down on anything, it’s the understanding that there is no so-called optimization. There is no real interest, at least from me, in trying to layer in other things unless I’m paying attention to each and every one of those things every 24 hours. You have to re-up on each and every one of those five things every 24 hours.
And if you don’t, you can get by for a day or two, but pretty soon you’re going to hit that wall where you won’t be able to do any of the things that most people are actually seeking to do. And the last thing I’ll say about that is I think people hear a list of those five things and they think, “Gosh, okay, well that must be nice for you, Andrew and Tim. You wake up, you look at sunlight, you guys don’t have kids, you don’t have to worry about kids running around. You can exercise.” There are ways of layering in the protocols that re-up as I’m referring to, these five things every 24 hours that also include other people in your life, kids, pets, etc. Exercise certainly can include that as well. But I would argue that there is no showing up properly for yourself and for the other people in your life unless these things are being handled.
And it’s not about becoming soft and cushy, it’s actually about becoming quite resilient and effective. And I think this for me it seems so simple, but as our friend Paul Conti said to me recently, he said, “After all the analysis and pouring through things and the complicated notions of the subconscious…” he’s a psychiatrist, after all, “…in the end, really great mental health is about simple practices, like first principles of self-care.” So to which I raised my hand and said, “Well, what is a first principle of self-care? I’m a biologist, after all.” And he said, “Aha. It’s basically the things that we were just talking about.” There’s those five things. And so I’m doubling down, I’m tripling down on those as essential to the point where nothing else really happens for very long unless those five things are tended to.
Tim Ferriss: Question. Of those five, let’s just say, if you had to pick one that you were — neglecting may be a strong word, but underweighting, that you are now weighting differently, what would it be and what have you done? What have you added or changed or subtracted?
Andrew Huberman: I’ll have to pick two. Let’s do —
Tim Ferriss: Both, then.
Andrew Huberman: Yeah. The two are movement, really changed the way that I train and exercise to some extent. And actually my whole philosophy on what’s possible in terms of training and how to incorporate it into a week in a way that really works to build strength and endurance and feel really good in one’s body all the time. And then the other one is relationships, which probably reflects place in life where I’m 47 now. I’ve chosen to delay having a family, but that’s a primary focus. But also having done a lot of personal work toward my mid-40s, I thought I was “there.” And then realizing that —
Tim Ferriss: It’s a trap door.
Andrew Huberman: It’s a trap door. And then realizing that, I guess here again, I’ll use a language that Paul uses, which is that there were some unresolved core conflicts. And this idea of core conflicts is really, I think, the most appropriate way to put the important psychological stuff that people need to work through. Everyone has them, many people have trauma, not everyone has trauma, but as defined as an event that fundamentally changes the way that you nervous system works, such that you function less well in some or many domains of life. Again, I’ve robbed that definition from Paul Conti. I’m far less eloquent than he is in delivering it, but I think realizing that there’s still some core conflicts that I needed to resolve. And I’m going whole hog on that, and it’s been interesting to say the least.
Tim Ferriss: So let’s start with perhaps the easier one. Movement. What have you implemented? What have you embraced or cut back on in the movement category? And I’m very interested in this personally because I have really taken this as one of a few of those five to focus on myself in the last, I would say year. Because I’ve done a lot of training, let’s just say in the last 10 years, but I’ve not done a lot of competition and I miss developing athleticism. And if I take as an assumption that we have largely evolved to move through space to actually move and navigate, ski touring is just one example. So putting on skins, these are actually, they used to be actual animal skins, now they’re synthetic, but you put on skins on the bottom of skis and you effectively NordicTrack your way up the mountain with switchbacks, and then you take them off, you do a transition, you ski down, you rinse and repeat.
But the experience of being, if you choose your environments in a location where you get lots of sunlight in the morning and early afternoon, symmetrical exercise, movement where you’re not too heavily weighting one side or the other, there are benefits to asymmetrical types of exercise. But I have found this to just be absolutely, I don’t think it’s an overstatement to say revolutionary for my physical and mental well-being. And you also get, in this particular case for me, a degree of hip extension that I really just do not get in my day-to-day existence otherwise. So I’m putting that out there just as an example and an explanation for why I want to dig a little bit deeper on the movement side. So what have you ended up implementing?
Andrew Huberman: Well, first of all, let me just say that your statement about movement being so fundamental to who we are as a species, the Nobel Prize-winning — physiologist is really what he was — Sherrington said that, “The final common path of the entire nervous system is movement.” Which I sometimes think about because we often think that our emotions somehow impact the world, but they really don’t, except insofar as we say things or do things. The other way to put this is the evolutionary biologist will say, “There is no fossil record for the brain.” If you look at brains, it’s only what people actually did with the internal architecture of their brain. It all boils down to movement or vision, I would say, because I’m a vision scientist. But when you look cubic millimeter by cubic millimeter through the brain, if you take the circuits devoted to movement and the circuits devoted to vision, you’ve got about 75 percent of the human brain. So that’s a lot. The rest is important too, of course.
Movement wise. Okay, so we did a guest series. This was a six-episode guest series with Dr. Andy Galpin, who’s a professor of kinesiology, Cal State Fullerton, and his laboratory works on, does everything from muscle biopsy all the way up to working with competitive athletes. So they’ll do deadlifts or boxing or whatever it is, or students running on treadmills, huge range of subjects, and then they’ll stab out some muscle — the little cork of muscle. And you’ve had this done right? This was in The 4-Hour Body.
Tim Ferriss: Yeah, I did a muscle biopsy and videotaped the entire process in the Sports Science Institute of South Africa. “Tim tartar” is what I called it when it came out. So good. Turns out my muscle enzymes are, if it’s possible to be below some type of graph representing Homer Simpson, like citrate synthase and these various elements, it would be very helpful for endurance which I seem to lack.
Andrew Huberman: Bur you’re built for explosiveness.
Tim Ferriss: I’m built for a very short-duration explosiveness, which is ironic when you consider that I’m embracing ski touring because I am — I’m not like Kílian Jornet or any of these folks who would be very well-built for such a thing.
Andrew Huberman: Well, we make a good team because I’ve never had a muscle biopsy. But I assure you that when I start running distance, I can progress very fast. I’m not particularly strong, I’m not particularly weak, but I’m just not particularly strong and very little explosiveness, very little hops, which is why skateboarding wasn’t the right sport for me. Despite my deep desire, it just didn’t happen. But in terms of what I learned from Andy, a couple of key principles fell out of the, and keep in mind, these are peer-reviewed studies from his laboratory and many other laboratories of which he’s an expert. And I went deep into this literature with him for that series. Concurrent training, meaning getting better at distance and getting stronger is absolutely possible. I did not think that was possible. I’m a big fan of the late Charles Poliquin and others who said, “You want to build muscle, build muscle. You want to be a runner, be a runner.” And I think at the extremes, that’s true. But the data really pointed to the fact that you can train for many things concurrently.
I took a step back from everything I learned from Andy over the last few years in that series and resculpted my training program so that on any one given day, I’m training for something very specific with the understanding that one can make progress in a lot of different domains of fitness. In fact, the way that Andy puts it, I think, is better than fitness. He says techniques and methods are many, but they’re only a few set of core adaptations that your body can make. So you’re really just trying to create adaptations. Whether or not you do it with a kettlebell or a bar or a dumbbell or a hammer strength machine doesn’t really matter. You’re trying to create certain adaptations by using certain loads, moving things at different speeds. But that is also true of endurance and running.
So what I figured out was that there’s an optimal training schedule for me that allows me to target one specific thing each day.
Tim Ferriss: What are some of those specific things?
Andrew Huberman: Yeah, endurance, strength, hypertrophy, VO2 max, heat and cold tolerance. I can talk about why that is. And also, I should mention each one of those days, and I can spell this out very, very simply for you, each one of those days is also designed to indirectly support one of the other adaptations I’m trying to accomplish. So let me explain in short form, and if you want more detail, I can give you more detail.
My training week starts on Sunday because Sunday sits leftmost on the calendar. Sunday, I make it a focused effort to move as much as possible, ideally outdoors.
I’m thinking endurance. I essentially want to be like a mule. I’m just thinking “Be like a mule.” I actually have this shirt —
Tim Ferriss: That’s going to be in the headline of this episode.
Andrew Huberman: Yeah, yeah, exactly. I actually have this shirt that I sometimes like to wear on those days. It’s not a black buttoned-down shirt, but it has a picture of a sloth and it’s crossing its three sloth fingers like Wolverine, and that’s like what I’m trying to embody. I’m trying to embody the sloth. So what I’ll do on that day is, because sometimes it’s a social day with other people in my life, if I’m on my own, I’ll throw on an eight or 10-pound weight vest. They have these thinner ones now that aren’t these mirror vests that where you don’t look like you’re in law enforcement or you’re trying to pretend you’re in the seal teams, which I’m not, never was. But they have these thinner ones that sit a bit more flush. I forget the brand name now, but I don’t have any relationship to them. I’ll get it for you, but I really like this one.
And I’ll head out for probably a 75-minute to a 90-minute slow jog with some hills. And I’ll try and nasal breathe the whole time. I’ll often listen to a podcast or a book. Sometimes I’ll just let my mind drift. That’s if I’m on my own. If I’m with other people, what I will do is I’ll fill up a backpack with a bunch of heavy stuff, usually some water in there too, and drink it as I go. And I’ll do three or four or five hours of just hiking and just trying to be outside as much as possible. The specific goal of that day is endurance. Just keep going. And what I notice is because of the other things I do in the previous days, the 10 or 20 minutes, which come at the start, really suck.
I either want to go faster, like these little aches and things. But what’s amazing is somewhere in that 25, 30-minute period, you start to feel really good. You actually start to adapt to it right then. You kind of go, “Okay, this is about the heart rate I’ll use. This is about the breathing rate. So this is zone —
Tim Ferriss: What is happening at that point physiologically or neurologically or both?
Andrew Huberman: I’m glad you mentioned neurologically. I think physiologically, they’re the standard things that happen during exercise. You’re getting warmer, so joints are more fluid. If your cardiovascular system is able to fuel the relevant muscles, but you’re not over, not shuttling too much fuel to specific muscle groups, etc. Because of course, I could be stressed when I start that. I could be relaxed, I could be tired, depending on how well slept the night before. But neurologically, what happens is really important, and we know this from data, what you’re starting to do is you’re starting to incorporate what are called central pattern generators. Central pattern generators are what allow you to engage in a repeated movement without voluntary attention to it. Very different than say, squatting or front squatting or doing curls or something where you’re trying to focus on each rep, fundamentally different.
Tim Ferriss: So it’s like the autopilot button appears on your steering wheel after 30 minutes..
Andrew Huberman: That’s right. And at that point your mind can really attend to other things. And of course, as your body warms up, you’re also able to achieve much more output. So you actually are getting better and more efficient as you progress. Now that that’s weird. Most exercise doesn’t work out.
Tim Ferriss: It is weird. But as an intrepid, pseudo-endurance athlete who’s at least really embraced this ski touring, I’ve done a lot of it in the last six weeks, the first 30 to 45 minutes are generally terrible for everybody. And then you click into a rhythm and you feel like you’ve accessed an extra set of batteries.
Andrew Huberman: Yeah. It’s neural, and I think Andy would agree, it’s neural. You’re engaging the proper amount of what are called upper motor — you have upper motor neurons and lower motor neurons. Lower motor neurons reside in the ventral spinal cord. They’re the ones that degenerate in ALS. They’re the ones that, fortunately most people don’t degenerate and cause contractions of the muscle fibers. They are directed by upper motor neurons, which are the ones in your brain that allow you to generate voluntary movement. However, the upper motor neurons and the lower motor neurons are happy to engage in a central pattern generator type circuit if you carry out something repetitively for long enough.
So as you are able to take your mind off of the voluntary parts of the movement, it just becomes easier. And what you end up finding is that your system becomes very, very good at doing, forget small steps or jogging, I’m not going excruciatingly slow, but for some people it seem really slow. But that run or that long-weighted hike accomplishes the endurance piece. It checks off the box of the zone two cardio requirement. Not all of it for the week, but a lot of it.
Tim Ferriss: And for the lay folks out there, zone two would be, you could have a conversation, but you really don’t want to.
Andrew Huberman: That’s right.
Tim Ferriss: As Peter might describe. Peter Attia.
Andrew Huberman: Yeah. And Peter’s big on doing long Sunday rucks. He throws on a rucksack because he’s tougher than me.
Tim Ferriss: Well, you’re doing the same thing. You’re just filling it full of water and other heavy —
Andrew Huberman: I have a feeling his rucksack is heavier than mine. Peter is, I’ve trained with Peter. Peter likes to push himself. These Sunday long, slow jogs or hikes are really for my mind as much as they are for my body. And I’m convinced that they also carry over to my ability to endure boring stuff during the week. But also it just my ability to work longer for longer bouts. So that’s Sunday, also gets me outside a lot. And oftentimes on Monday, because of the constraints of the work week, I’m not going to be able to be outside as much as I would like. So you get a lot of sun and movement on Sunday. You feel pretty terrific on Monday. And let’s just earmark what we, or go back to that earmark earlier, which is that the state that we’re in on Monday has a lot to do with what we did on Sunday.
So I’m trying to optimize for Monday in some ways too, but it’s really about endurance. Then Monday is, the goal for me is to train my legs, just get a leg workout on Monday. First of all, I just like the way that sounds to myself, like legwork workout on Monday, but it also sets up the work week really nicely. Here’s why. I’m going to train my legs the way that’s always worked best for me for training, which is a warmup, and then two to three, maybe four hard sets, kind of Mike Mentzer or Dorian Yates. It’s not with four straps and all of that. But what we’re talking about is warming up and then doing hard sets that are heavier or more repetitions than the last time.
Tim Ferriss: And just so I’m clear, are we talking about multiple sets of the same exercise, single sets of four different exercises? What are we talking about?
Andrew Huberman: Yeah, we’re talking about two to four sets, but usually two to three of two exercises per muscle group. And I’ll explain what that is in a moment. I should mention that the reason we’re training legs is that everyone should train legs. So your large muscle groups, I’m trying to maintain some lower body strength or build lower body strength and explosiveness.
The data that I see on longevity and just simply ability to perform different sports and to just feel strong throughout the body is strongly rooted in the legs. So don’t skip leg day.
Tim Ferriss: Legs and hips, folks.
Andrew Huberman: Yeah, exactly.
Tim Ferriss: Feed the wolves.
Andrew Huberman: It’s kind of funny how glutes have become the new biceps. This is what I heard, glutes are the new biceps. Growing up, this was not the case. It was like, the ’90s,. everyone was like these waify — I went to a school of waify hacky sacker dudes with the flowy hair.
I wasn’t one of those. All the girls liked those guys, a bunch of skateboarders, the skinny skateboarders, and it was the kind of waif era. I don’t know what it is now, it doesn’t matter, but train your legs, folks. Having strong legs is great and —
Tim Ferriss: Or learn to hacky sack.
Andrew Huberman: Exactly. Hacky sack. I’m sure that’s a great skill for the mind for other reasons. So the ’90s are coming back popular in a popular —
Tim Ferriss: That’s huge.
Andrew Huberman: Style.
Tim Ferriss: Yeah. You see the youngsters with the Nirvana shirts.
Andrew Huberman: That’s amazing.
Tim Ferriss: It’s all coming around.
Andrew Huberman: Amazing.
Tim Ferriss: What was old is once new again.
Andrew Huberman: Exactly. Those were good years. So good years, bad clothes. So Monday is really about getting that leg work workout in to make my whole body strong.
Tim Ferriss: And what exercises do you perform?
Andrew Huberman: It’s walk in. Oftentimes I’ll do calf work because, unlike you, I need work there.
Tim Ferriss: Oh, I need calf work. That was the weak link in the chain for all of the winter sports I’ve been doing for the last six weeks.
Andrew Huberman: I definitely do a lot of calf work. So I’ll just walk through it, I am really big on tib raises. I warm up with tib raises. Training the front —
Tim Ferriss: Tib raises meaning the tibialis anterior?
Andrew Huberman: Yeah.
Tim Ferriss: Like dorsiflexion, raising your toes towards your knee?
Andrew Huberman: Yeah, so this is a huge addition. My program, I’m a huge fan of Ben Patrick, Knees Over Toes Guy, as he calls himself on Instagram. I started doing tib work about two years ago, seriously doing tib work. So tibialis raises, you can do this also leaning against a wall at an angle with your back against the wall and your feet out in front of you with your heels on the ground and touching your toes to the ground, and then lifting them up for repetitions of 25 to 30. Or if you can have a tib raise machine, as they’re called, that’s great. I warm up with tib work. Why? Training my tibs, as they’re called, definitely makes the calf work more effective, never could grow calves or getting my calves strong, gotten them substantially bigger and stronger by training tibs, but more importantly perhaps helps posture, got rid of my right side sciatica.
I always had this right side leaning in pain, and I’m going to get teased for saying this, for me, anyway, I can run like a beast now. No knee pain, no back pain, no shoulder pain. I can just run and run and run. So training your tibs turns out to be key and it turns out it has everything to do with the, we’ll avoid jargon here, bringing your toe closer to the kneecap as you generate your stride, not having the floppy feet. So if you lay down every night and your toes are just flopping towards the end of the bed, your tibs are weak. A lot of people with knee issues have weak tibs.
Tim Ferriss: Well, hold on. So if you’re in the bed, you’ve got your sheets and blankets on top, and your feet are flopping forward, are you sleeping like a G.I. Joe figure with your toes pulled up to your knees, or what’s happening?
Andrew Huberman: No, I just mean that if your toes are in a state of flaccid relaxation, if your feet are flaccid, not good.
Tim Ferriss: flaccid toes, folks, red light.
Andrew Huberman: A lot of people who run are smacking their feet against the ground. Ben cued people to this, tib work is great for the calves, it’s great for the knee, it’s great for the hip, that’s all very clear. And I think just a lot of people have overtrained their calves and not balanced it out with tib work, it would be doing a lot of bicep working and not a lot of tricep work, or a lot of quad work and not a lot of hamstring work. You have to work both sides of the limb. And I think our friend Kelly Starrett would agree. Tib work has changed everything for me. Posturally, I have no pain any longer.
Tim Ferriss: I just want to lodge a formal complaint against Kelly Starrett, people should look him up, because he is a large man.
Andrew Huberman: Very.
Tim Ferriss: He’s Quadzilla. He’s 230, maybe, former high-level competitive kayaker. I think he celebrated his 40th birthday by doing a standing back flip, running an ultra, and something else, and he’s a really good skier. And I just want to say it really upsets me.
That he has no discernible physical weaknesses. It’s very irritating.
Andrew Huberman: And a nice guy.
Tim Ferriss: Yeah, and a nice guy.
Andrew Huberman: And a nice guy. He’s very, very strong. 600-pound deadlift.
Tim Ferriss: Yeah, he’s a strong unit.
Andrew Huberman: He’s a beast.
Tim Ferriss: So tib work.
Andrew Huberman: Tib work. So I start with tib raises, so it’s going to be a couple warmups, maybe a 12-rep warmup, an eight-rep warmup, and then I’ll do three sets per tib of anywhere from six to 10 reps. Andy Galpin told me, and the literature supports — people like Brad Schoenfeld and others have shown that for hypertrophy, for muscle growth, six to 30 reps, anywhere in there can get you hypertrophy if you go to failure and if you go hard. I personally like to keep my work resistance workouts an hour or less. I like to train in the more or less the five to 10 repetition range for strength and for hypertrophy. And I’m going for a mix of both. So I train tibs, then I do calf sled or standing calf raises, same thing, two to four sets, five to eight, maybe 10 repetitions.
Tim Ferriss: Are these sets to failure?
Andrew Huberman: These are sets to failure. And long ago I had gift of learning from the great Mike Mentzer and these are sets to failure. I can’t budge another micro inch, but I’m not quaking and I’m not breaking form. I’m trying to keep everything nice and taught and rigid because I can’t afford an injury at this point. Not because I’m a competitive athlete —
Tim Ferriss: No flaccid feet.
Andrew Huberman: No flaccid feet, yeah. I’m telling you the tib work is a game changer, and Knees Over Toes Guy, Ben Patrick, is the one who’s been teaching people that, yes, everyone can dunk, most everyone can dunk. He does dunks into back bends and all this stuff. And it largely hinges on tib work and quality posterior chain work, things like Nordic curls. So I’m training calves, that takes about 10, 15 minutes total. I try and move relatively quickly through that. It’s only two to three minutes rest, maybe four if I’m going for a heavy set. Then I’m weaker in the hamstrings than I am in my quads so I do two warmups and then two to four working sets of lying leg curls, pretty standard stuff, and then I go to —
Tim Ferriss: Lying leg curls meaning on a machine?
Andrew Huberman: Yeah, on a machine.
Tim Ferriss: Not reverse hamstring?
Andrew Huberman: I have a Nautilus machine or something. Not seated, doesn’t work for me, just lying leg curls, and not the hoist machines that move with you to make it easier. No. And maybe the occasional forced rep if somebody’s there to help me. Then I go do two to four sets, but typically three, of glute-hammer raises, which is an incredible exercise. The equipment isn’t in every gym, but I’m doing about three or four sets of glute-ham raises going slow. And this is basically if you were going to do a deadlift, everyone knows what a deadlift is, but now take the ground and rotate it 90 degrees and make it the wall. That’s what a glute-ham raise really is. It allows you to do a deadlift, but then at the top do a leg curl. So if you think about it that way, you just tilted the ground, you just rotated it counterclockwise 90 degrees.
Tim Ferriss: We’ll get a link to a YouTube, folks.
Andrew Huberman: Yeah, exactly. Glute-ham raise is a great lower back, so entire posterior chain. So then I’m done with calves and hamstrings, and then I’ll do two or three sets of leg extensions, so maybe a warmup and then two or three sets of working leg extensions, which for whatever reasons are incredibly painful, I hate them, but they work to isolate the quads, and then two or three sets of working hack squats after a warmup hack. Hack squats, heavy, heavy, heavy, heavy. And then I’m done. I’m out. Monday’s done. Now this is, again, going back to the overall theme, the idea is to —
Tim Ferriss: Why hack squats specifically versus other forms of squats?
Andrew Huberman: Back squats, for me, I always got a internal hip pain, I had every squat coach in the world tell me how to do it better, even tell me I was doing it, and then I end up with the same thing, and I don’t really care if I can squat X amount of weight. I’m doing it for strength.
Tim Ferriss: You’re not doing it for a power lifting competition?
Andrew Huberman: No, doing it for strength and aesthetics. Aesthetics just because it’s some balance. I’m not trying to get huge legs, but I’m 6.1, 220. I sit more or less right there all the time. My body fat goes up and down, might gain five pounds or lose five pounds, but I’m hovering around there. I don’t have any interest in being much larger or much smaller. I want to keep my strength, maybe build some as I get older. And so hack squats allow me to put a lot of weight on there and keep my nice right angle between the hip and my back.
Tim Ferriss: Can you describe for folks, just in case they’re going to go searching for this, what is the visual of a hack squat?
Andrew Huberman: Hack squat, you’re sitting back, you’re back is against a sled, you’re holding the handles up near your ears, and then you’re squatting down, your feet are on a 45-degree or, ideally if you can find it, a 30-degree platform below you. So it’s not a leg press, it’s a hack squat. Now for people that don’t have access to these, and unfortunately a lot of gyms don’t have them anymore or just don’t keep them around for whatever reason, weighted sissy squats, as they’re sometimes called, can work where you’re holding onto a plate and you’re squatting down while holding onto a pole.
Tim Ferriss: It’s deceptively hard to do if you do it under control and with good technique.
Andrew Huberman: And if you’re doing your tib work, you don’t have to —
Tim Ferriss: Great way to stretch your quads in ski boots too, if you’re going up in —
Andrew Huberman: Recently our podcast team took a little ski trip, I was snowboarding, and it’s been a long time since I’ve been on a snowboard, but you start to feel how many of these movements translate, as you’ve pointed out. And I should say that the sissy squats, a lot of people think you can’t bring your knee out over your toe. And this is what Ben Patrick has really been trying to impress on people, look at skateboarders land, their knees go out over their toes, a foot beyond their toes. Look at parkour, gymnasts —
Tim Ferriss: Olympic weight weightlifters.
Andrew Huberman: This whole knee can’t pass the toe thing is just silly. So you can feel very comfortable and very strong at the bottom of one of these sissy squats or hack squats that way. And so the whole purpose of that Monday workout, it’s the opposite of what I’m doing on Sunday, it’s get stronger, maintain some size, but really get stronger in the legs.
Tim Ferriss: And just for people listening who are like, “For fuck’s sake, it’s going to take us six hours to get to Saturday,” part of the reason that I want to dig into this day specifically is because it’s so neglected. People do not tend to exercise with a focus on their legs, but the direct and collateral benefits are so numerous that I want to just drill into this.
Andrew Huberman: When you look at the literature on cognitive improvements from resistance training, it’s not from bicep curls, it’s not from bench presses. I suppose it could be from things like dips, which are like a upper body squat of sorts, especially if they’re weighted or with rings or something, but training the legs is key. And so, as I said before, there are two goals. One is to get the legs stronger, the other is that I’m trying to create a systemic anabolic effect on the body.
Tim Ferriss: Yeah, I was just about to say, if you want to lose body fat also, the systemic endocrine/anabolic effect from doing this lower body exercise is significant.
Andrew Huberman: It’s real work. And resting long between the sets, especially the hamstring and quad work, four or five minutes, so you start to feel lazy, but you’re going all out, you’re breathing really hard after the set, sometimes you feel like you’re going to pass out. I haven’t puked from a leg workout yet, which people tell me means I haven’t really trained hard, but I just say that I just don’t have a weak stomach like the rest of them.
Tim Ferriss: Look, as Kelly Starrett would say, “20-rep squats work just great and you’ll puke into a bucket, but you’re not going to be able to do much else for the next week if you do them really intensely.” It’s going to hurt you every time you sit on a toilet seat, so you’re not going to be doing a whole lot of basketball very well.
Andrew Huberman: I want strong legs, I want a strong body, I want a body that can accomplish endurance, and I want the cognitive effects. So you get that systemic anabolic effect. There’s another practical reason for doing this on Monday, which is sometimes I might not train again until Thursday. And if you’ve trained your legs properly, you can know that you initiated a number of good processes in your brain and body.
Tim Ferriss: Made a down payment for the week.
Andrew Huberman: You made a bit of a down payment. Also, if you think about the neural circuits involved in generating the kinds of movements I just described for the Monday workout, they’re fundamentally different than the kinds of movements and neural circuits required for generating movements. So the Sunday long workout, they’re both legs, you’re running on your legs or walking your legs, of course, but very, very different. Different muscle fiber types, different motor neurons involved.
Tim Ferriss: Different range of motion too.
Andrew Huberman: Different range of motion and different mindset required. And keep in mind the entire leg workout takes 10 minutes of warm up and about 55.0 minutes of training.
Tuesday is very different. Oh, and by the way, Monday is a very heavy workday for me. Typically, we launch podcasts, I do all my own social media, so I post the assets, I really like doing that, respond to comments, dealing with grants, dealing with papers. So Monday is heavy work day, so getting the leg workout done early on Monday is really key for me. These days, I don’t ever really do resistance training past 11:00 a.m. and ideally earlier in the day. And we won’t go into whether or not it’s fasted or fed or other because I’ve covered that. I have a toolkit where I list out some of that and how different processes layer together, and I can link to that.
Tim Ferriss: I would also say, not to interject, but I will, if people are like, “But wait, I can’t start until I know if it’s fasted, or non-fasted, or if I should be swinging the dead cat over my head on Tuesday or Wednesday night.” It’s just get started. You’ve got plenty to get started.
Andrew Huberman: Yeah, I do it fasted, but I drink caffeine first, and water. And listen, I usually eat a bit more on the weekend. This is great. Sunday night you’re putting in your fuel sources for your Monday workout. There are all sorts of ways this layers together.
Tim Ferriss: Cookies.
Andrew Huberman: I’m not a cookie guy.
Tim Ferriss: I’m just kidding.
Andrew Huberman: For me it’s like pizza is the — I do love pizza. No cheat days anymore for me however, I haven’t done one in a while. I’m actually thinking of going back on The 4-Hour Body, just try it and do it. It’s got to still work.
Tim Ferriss: I said cookies, I’ll make a very embarrassing admission, which is I am going to be going back onto strict slow carb, and so I had these incredible cookies last night. We’re not going to spend a lot of time on this because we do need to get to Tuesday, but it was my last hurrah before locking down the fort. So yes, I’m getting back on —
Andrew Huberman: Let me know, I’ll start with you. Lots of stories about cheat days. My ex-girlfriend, we used to do the cheat days together, and at one point, I’ll blame myself, we were in couple’s therapy and they were asking, “So describe a week for yourself.” And she’s like, “Well, then on Sunday we’re eating eight croissants.” And this therapist was looking at us, laughing so hard, trying not to laugh like, “What in the world is this?” But we had a good time with it. She was one of these mutants that could just eat anything, drink anything, and feel fine the next day, and never put on pounds.
Tim Ferriss: I know the type.
Andrew Huberman: So the Tuesday is very different. Tuesday, I don’t want to call it a recovery day, but Tuesday I’m doing something really different.
First of all, my legs need recovery, so what I’ll do is substantial amounts of deliberate heat exposure and deliberate cold exposure. Yes, I do cold showers in the morning first thing nowadays. Yes, it is a bad idea to do cold water immersion after hypertrophy training. So just for the record, you don’t want to get into an ice bath in the six hours after a hypertrophy training because it can blunt the hypertrophy. It blocks the inflammation, which is exactly what you want to trigger the adaptation of hypertrophy. But Tuesday is really about getting the maximum effect of heat exposure and cold exposure. I’ve done multiple episodes on each one of those, I learned about deliberate cold exposure from you, so thank you, Tim. I do a protocol which is pretty intense, designed to amplify growth hormone, stimulate a bunch of positive, mood-promoting hormones that last not just days but weeks, say the literature, and just get better at it.
So I’ll do 20 minutes of sauna, hot sauna.
Tim Ferriss: What does hot mean?
Andrew Huberman: I’m up to 260 now. But I worked up to that. You can check out the Banya, I’ll give a plug to these folks, they’re Spa 88 on Wall Street in New York. They are amazing. They are incredible. They have a hot Russian sauna.
Tim Ferriss: They have very hot sauna.
Andrew Huberman: And Archimedes Banya in San Francisco is great. A couple of notes about that one, it’s clothing optional. I wear my swim trunks.
Tim Ferriss: Boo! How are you going to show off those glutes you’re working so hard on?
Andrew Huberman: But it is, so just know what you’re getting into, it’s co-ed and clothing optional. And it is in Hunters Point, Bayview, which is a rough neighborhood.
Tim Ferriss: Yeah, I wouldn’t go for a jog.
Andrew Huberman: Yeah, don’t leave anything in your car, but don’t do that anywhere in San Francisco now. So 20 minutes in the sauna, very hot, three to five minutes in the cold plunge up to the neck, back into the sauna for 20 minutes, back into the cold plunge for three to five minutes, back into the sauna for 20 minutes, back into the coal plunge for three to five minutes. It’s work, but it’s amazing in the sense that you recover very well from the leg day, you generate all the hormone neurotransmitter type of adaptations that one wants, and you get very, very good at tolerating heat and cold. And I should mention, during these times, if there isn’t someone else there, I’m listening to books, I’m thinking, I’m putting this work and time to use, so there’s multiple things going on there.
Then Wednesday, I do one of two things. I’m either going to do a shorter duration than Sunday cardiovascular training workout, so I’m thinking about five minutes of warmup and then about 25 to 30 minutes of usually running for me, where I’m just trying to get out and cover as much distance as I can at a fast clip but steady, so I’m not sprint, stop, sprint, stop. That’s typically what I’ll do on Wednesday. Although, if my legs are still a little bit sore, and here the body builders are just going to go, “Ugh,” they’re going to scoff, I train what I call torso.
What do I do? I try to get pushing through the chest and shoulders, I’m trying to pull for the back. I already got my lower back with the glute-ham raises, so what I tend to do is overhead shoulder presses after a warmup, two to three sets, working sets, or maybe four. I like ring dips and dips these days, those are hard for me, but I do two or three work sets of those, so chest, shoulders.
And I’m going to upset some people here, but I don’t tend to train back every week, I do it every other week because just I have some genetic abnormality where those grow really easily and I can throw proportions off really quickly. But I might do three or four sets of max rep chins slow, with slow, eccentric movements, the lowering as well.
Tim Ferriss: Now, slow eccentric, four seconds, 10 seconds, what are we talking about?
Andrew Huberman: Yeah, usually about four or five seconds, and then slowly pulling up, contracting whatever muscle group. So all of the movements are done trying to move as much weight as possible as quickly as possible on the concentric phase, and then lowering it anywhere from two to four seconds, loading it like a spring and then trying to explode. I want strength and I want explosiveness, and some hypertrophy sneaks in because I’m working in that five to eight rep range. So that’s what I call torso because it’s chest, shoulders, back, every other week I’ll throw in those chins.
And I think everyone has a muscle group like this where if they train it just grows like a weed, but I want to keep proportions right, strength proportions as well. And I do train my neck that day as well. I know you wrestled.
I can tell very easily looking at somebody whether or not they need neck work or not, if your neck comes down where your jaw is, you don’t need to do a lot of neck work, you don’t look like a head placed on top of a little neck. Laird Hamilton’s neck is out to the lobes of his ears, genuinely. Danny Way, great skateboarder too, he trains his neck quite a lot. He broke his neck surfing years ago. So having a strong neck, why is that so important? Well, it’s important because you want a strong spine and it’s the upper portion of your spine.
The other thing that I notice that it does is it completely changes my psychology to train my neck. I just naturally stand more upright, I find it easier to look people in the eye, it’s not hard for me to look people directly in the eye when I speak to them, but I find my posture and presence is just better in a chair or standing when I train my neck. And I think it’s because my head, let’s just use the word again, it’s not flaccid, falling of the chin towards the chest, that word just freaks everybody out. You want flaccid feet, you don’t want a flaccid neck, so neck work is very important.
Tim Ferriss: How do you work your neck? I’ve been thinking about it for decades, I bought a four-way neck machine, and it’s actually, I got it on —
Andrew Huberman: Wait, you got the full four-way neck machine?
Tim Ferriss: I was going to get a Hammer or one of these great, giant contraptions. And look, do your homework folks, because you can hurt yourself on these things if you get too aggressive too quickly. I bought a four-way neck machine on Amazon for 350 bucks. I was like, “You know what? Let me try this before spending five grand.” Works great. Nothing fancy, but it works.
Andrew Huberman: You have great proportions. Why do I say this? It’s not just about aesthetics, it’s about, in general, balanced proportions are synonymous with balanced strength, which is synonymous with not getting injured. One of the things that looks ridiculous and frankly is ridiculous, you see these guys with big delts, wide shoulders, long clavicles, and their head is placed on this little neck —
Tim Ferriss: It’s just a popsicle on a stick.
Andrew Huberman: And they look especially ridiculous, there’s no other word for it, in street clothes, it looks mutant, and not in the good sense. So strong neck is great. Strong neck has helped me also avoid injuries in a number of sports. It’s life insurance if you do any kind of martial art, or you drive a car. I’ve been rear-ended in a car and felt fine, a little bit of neck soreness, but train the upper spine and lower spine. So I do some neck work at the end. And the way I do it is take a plate, wrap it in a towel so you don’t end up with an imprint of the weight number on your forehead, and I usually lie on my side and I’ll do somewhere in the 10- to 15-repetition range. I’ll usually do one light warmup and then three work sets.
Tim Ferriss: How do you hold it on your head?
Andrew Huberman: You just hold it with your hand on your side. It also works your oblique somewhat.
Tim Ferriss: So you’re on a bench or on the ground?
Andrew Huberman: On a bench. You have to be careful, especially getting into and out of the movement, that’s how you often get injured. And then I’ll lie on my stomach, and this is probably the most important one, and I’ll put the plate behind my head, again, wrapped in a towel, and do head raises. You’re trying to get your head sitting on top of your shoulders as it’s supposed to, because everyone now is bent over in this C-shape. And no one’s nerdy enough, except my good friend Brian Mackenzie, who cares enough about his posture — shout out to Brian. He does amazing work in breath work and human performance. When he texts, he uses his phone up near his eyes.
Tim Ferriss: I’ve seen that.
Andrew Huberman: It’s so good. He’s like, duh, duh, duh. No one else does that, Brian. So the neck work comes at the end, but is absolutely critical. And whenever I don’t do it for a week or two out of laziness or just some other reason, I start getting postural things you start noticing elsewhere in your body.
Tim Ferriss: I find, I don’t think it’s placebo because it’s not something that I expect, or maybe it is now, but not initially, fewer headaches, just better circulation and better mobility also. Especially if you’re spending a lot of time in front of a computer. My rotation, even though I’m not actively training with resistance, the rotational aspect, left, right, turning your head, the mobility of the neck in all dimensions and the movement of the head seems to improve as well for me. And for folks, just one option I want to throw out there, if you train with someone or can train with someone, manual resistance —
Andrew Huberman: With a towel, some will say.
Tim Ferriss: With a towel or just pressure on the head, and doing it really slowly, super slow style, 10 seconds, 10 seconds is very effective also.
Andrew Huberman: I can’t overstate the importance of neck training. Now for women who often don’t want the aesthetic of a larger neck, just use, I would say, lighter weights or hand-based resistance. You still want that strength and balance. Some women might want a big neck, but, in general, the two things that can — and you put some of this in The 4-Hour Body.
Tim Ferriss: Throw a wig on Laird Hamilton, that’s my type. I’m just putting it out there, ladies.
Andrew Huberman: In terms of aesthetics, the two things that I think can really throw off the most commonly desired female aesthetic by women from what they tell me, because I’ve trained with a number of women, is excessive trap work, upper trap work cause rounded shoulders and then larger neck. Some people might want that, but in general that tends to be avoided. For guys, I think that neck work, it’s so essential, and for women it’s essential for a strength and protection of the joints reason. I will also say this, and anyone who wants to challenge me on this will do it accordingly, it actually increases your confidence. And the reason is when you’re upright, you embody a different stance. I’m a big believer that the physical stances we embody have everything to do with the psychological stances we embody and vice versa.
So it’s not just about standing up straight, being able to stand up straight, look people in the eye, it’s something that is assisted by actually having a head that isn’t flopping forward all the time. So this is a real thing from a number of standpoints. So if, for whatever reason, I do the cardio workout that I mentioned, the 25 or 30 minutes of running, that’s what I do, but some people might do it on the AssaultBike or something like that, or cycling, or rower, on the Wednesday.
Then I’ll do that weight workout I just described, torso, on Thursday, or I’ll swap them. So there’s some flexibility built into the week, travel, et cetera.
By the way, the cardiovascular workouts can be done in the morning or the evening, but I always prefer to do them in the morning and just get it done with.
Then Friday is a really important day because Friday is the day that I do a short workout, usually only about three minutes of warmup and about 12 minutes of training, and the goal is to get my heart rate as high as I possibly can, I learned this from Andy Galpin. Just increasing VO2 max, getting those really fastuous muscle fibers. My favorite way to do this is I’ll get on the AssaultBike, so the ones with the handles with the fan, which is not designed to keep you cool, it’s designed to create resistance, folks, and do 20 second on sprint, 10 second rest, 20 second on, 10 second rest.
Tim Ferriss: Tabata style.
Andrew Huberman: Tabata type thing for six to eight rounds. And then what I like to do is take a band and tie it to something like a chin-up bar or something, and I’ll squat down and jump, and I’ll do it as high jumping as I possibly can, but I actually control the eccentric. I’m holding the band as I come down. And so I learned from Peter Attia, I’ve learned from Andy Galpin that our ability to jump and land is strongly correlated with physical longevity. Or you could do broad jump. So you could do a bunch of broad jumps, you could do some hit workout, and then I’m just showered and out the door to go do my work or to work. So it’s a really short workout.
And then Saturday is the fun one because I still enjoy this, I’ll go into the gym in the morning, usually it’s mid-morning, and I’ll do small muscle groups, biceps, triceps, rear delts.
I’ll do another tip and calf workout, a little bit lighter than the one on leg day because leg day is coming in two days, and the next day I’m doing that long hike. So that day is really to round out the smaller muscle groups that need work. And I have a short torso, long arms, and so torso muscles grow very easily for me, get stronger easily, long arms, but they require a little bit more work, so I like to do a dedicated day for that. Same way, warmup plus two to four work sets of two to three exercises. I always include dips at some point during the week, bench dips, tricep extensions with cables, basic stuff, preacher curls, incline curls, so very basic stuff.
But I just want to backtrack one step because I failed to say that Friday the idea is to get that VO2 max up.
But guess what? It’s also designed to indirectly hit the legs. We hit legs on Monday, and they’ve recovered. We now know that protein synthesis maximizes after these training workouts at about 48 hours and then starts to taper off. Now, you read that, you hear that a lot, especially on social media, and people think you have to hit a muscle group every 48 hours. But no, you hold onto the protein synthesis, you generate it for another couple of days, so that Friday sprint on the bike workout or sprint on a field workout and jumping is indirectly targeting the quads and calves and hamstrings. And so you’re keeping them online for hypertrophy. So when you hear all this, you might think, gosh, that’s a lot of working out, but what we’re really talking about is a long hike with friends or family on Sunday or by oneself, 90 minutes to three hours.
You’re talking about an hour workout on Monday morning, you’re talking about sitting in the sauna and cold on Tuesday, you’re talking about running for 20 or 30 minutes on Wednesday, you’re talking about doing some dips and overhead presses, maybe some chins and a little bit of neck work on Thursday, you’re talking about doing a 12-minute workout on Friday, and you’re talking about going to the gym for an hour, hour and 15 minutes, more casual — I don’t want to call it what it is, but you could call it a vanity workout. I called it that to Joe Rogan and he was like, “That’s ridiculous, bicep is key muscle group.” And I was like, “Give me an example.” And he’s like, “Well, when you’re grappling and you’re about to choke somebody out.” And I was like, “Okay, well, that’s you.” But he’s absolutely right.
Actually, I chipped my tooth really hard once, I was trying to fix something with a wrench, and you’re pulling with your bicep and your arm towards you and it broke loose and chipped my tooth. Keep your head out of the way.
Tim Ferriss: Good thing you train your neck.
Andrew Huberman: Yeah, this is mostly a falsey, this one front tooth. Exactly. Good thing. I could have knocked myself out. But there’s a lot of things that a bicep is good for, forearm strength is good for, so Joe’s absolutely right. But I think that when you look at all of that, it’s not that much time in the gym, you can do all of that at home. There are ways to do the leg workout even at home or in natural terrain for the hikes and things.
And so that’s the schedule. And again, if you think about that schedule, each day you’re accomplishing something, endurance, leg strength, cold and heat adaptation, and all the neural stuff that goes with that, torso, to keep the torso strong. But here again, and we can say the torso work is indirectly hitting biceps and triceps. Then being able to run a couple miles is a good skill. And what you find is that if you trained your legs properly and you give them enough rest, and the cold and heat really helped too, you are so strong on that 20- or 30-minute run, your tibs are strong, no floppy feet, no back pain, you’re running with vigor and you go, “Wow, this is great.” And so what I’ve noticed in the last 24 months or so is that I continued to get stronger and better in each of these areas, and supposedly that’s not supposed to happen. I’m 47.
Attia the other day said, “You and I were both far more physically robust when we were in our teens.” I was like, “Speak for yourself. I was getting injured all the time. My body hurt. I was unhappy.” Then again, I was skateboarding then, so I was slamming a lot. But I find that this routine has really helped me because I think it takes into account the slower recovery, that is just me. My nervous system doesn’t recover that quickly. And it also embraces the fact that our nervous system and musculoskeletal system can train for different adaptations simultaneously across the week. Now the one cap on everything that’s vital, and again here a hat tip to Charles Poliquin, is if you start training for longer than 60 minutes with resistance training, cortisol levels go up, you start feeling lousy, you’re not sleeping well, or you find you can’t sleep enough and you don’t recover. So keeping the workouts relatively short has really helped.
And then the final thing is that I’m a scientist slash, I guess now, podcaster and I’m not interested in being a competitive athlete, so I don’t want to spend all my time training. I really want to be able to get the most out of my training routine to feel much better than I would otherwise when I’m doing cognitive work. And I’m a big believer that this workout schedule captures most, if not all of the neural circuits, that are wanted or one would want to activate. Perhaps the one thing missing from it is there isn’t anything in there that’s really about dynamic movement in multiple planes, I’m not doing jiu-jitsu, I sometimes play badminton or something, badminton is fun. I’ll do an hour of play type stuff, non-competitive, low stake stuff, big fan of the book Play It Away. I think I learned about that book from your podcast.
Tim Ferriss: Yeah.
Andrew Huberman: Charlie —
Tim Ferriss: Charlie Hoehn.
Andrew Huberman: Having an hour a week where you’re not trying to get fitter, you’re not trying to burn calories or accomplish any adaptation, you’re just trying to play and enjoy your ability to engage in low stakes, maybe competitive, but generally low stakes type movement where you’re very focused, which is how I define play. That’s also great, but that’s not really exercise. That’s play.
Tim Ferriss: There’s a difference between, sometimes, recreation and exercise if we’re talking about provoking adaptations. So I just want to underscore a few things. One is you talked about nervous system or central nervous system, CNS recovery, which is I just want to make note of that because I think a lot of folks think in terms of muscular recovery but not nervous system recovery. And depending on what you’re doing, certainly that’s very important. Question on a few things that I just took notes on. So Ben Patrick, Knees Over Toes, I might need to connect with him at some point.
Andrew Huberman: Oh, yeah, he’s terrific.
Tim Ferriss: I have questions about tib work, but before I get to that, maybe you can answer the question that I have. You mentioned Nordic curls in passing. What the hell are Nordic curls?
Andrew Huberman: Yeah. Nordics are a great semi-substitute for the glute-ham raise. The glute-ham raise allows you to fix your feet and then put your head down towards the floor and go up into a back raise and then into what’s effectively a hamstring curl. It hits the whole posterior chain and the lower back. And Nordic curls are when you either brace your heels underneath a heavy piece of equipment, or you use a lifting belt and strap yourself to a bench or someone strong enough or heavy enough holds your ankles down. And you’re lowering down and you’re touching your hands to the floor and coming back up. Or you can do the Ben Patrick, Ben Bruno. Ben Bruno’s another excellent Instagram trainer and professional trainer. He trains Justin Timberlake and a bunch of other kind of famous — not kind of famous people. Justin Timberlake’s not kind of famous. He’s famous.
And he can do the cookie challenge, which is to put a cookie in your mouth and dip it in milk without putting your hands to the floor.
Tim Ferriss: That’s incredibly hard.
Andrew Huberman: It’s interesting. Ben is deceptively strong because he’s not that large, but he’s very, very strong. BenBrunoTraining is his handle.
Tim Ferriss: Cue break dancers. You want to see some strong people who are deceptive. B-Boys, B-Girls.
Andrew Huberman: So Nordic curls are great. There are now machines that — or an apparatus you can buy where you can fix your heels under something, do Nordic curls. Even a portable one for when you travel that goes under the door. Ben Patrick, AKA Knees Over Toes Guy, he has a system called ATG training. I confess, I didn’t subscribe to ATG because I’ve got what I need now. But a bunch of those portable equipment type things are available through him. And I think he’s really changed the way that I think about how the whole body moves and works. He insists that he can get me dunking a basketball, which, who knows? Maybe that should be the challenge before our next conversation.
Tim Ferriss: So Nordic curls, unbeknownst to me, because there’s some other term for this particular exercise, but I have a piece of Sorinex equipment that actually sits my garage and is for this exact exercise.
Andrew Huberman: I think if I had to pick just three — I will never just pick three. But if I had to pick three exercises to do and I could only do those, it would be glute-ham raise/Nordic curl, something for the posterior chain, it would be ring dips because then I could throw in some leg raises too, or something like that. I could make it a multi-compound movement and I would sprint. If that’s the only thing I could do, that’s what I would do. Put me in a small prison cell, knock on wood, let’s hope that doesn’t happen. That’s what I ask for.
Tim Ferriss: Scientist/podcaster/inmate.
Andrew Huberman: Hopefully not. Listen, we talked last time, I’ve been behind locked doors before. It’s not an experience I want to recreate.
Tim Ferriss: Not fun.
Andrew Huberman: Not fun.
Tim Ferriss: Not an indoorist.
Andrew Huberman: No.
Tim Ferriss: So on the tib work side, this may be a question for Ben or someone more qualified, but one of the challenges that I’ve had for decades: shin splints. And my dorsiflexion is actually seemingly, from a strength perspective, pretty decent. Ankle mobility, also pretty decent. Although the left ankle’s been broken so many times that it’s a little crunchy. But I have done training with this fellow named Jerzy Gregorek, who holds multiple world records in Olympic weightlifting, or he held.
Andrew Huberman: Also deceptively strong.
Tim Ferriss: Incredibly strong.
Andrew Huberman: Yeah. I met him and his wife.
Tim Ferriss: She also has world records in Olympic weightlifting. And just to give you an idea, folks, he’s got to be in his, I want to say, he’s probably 67, 68 now, and he can do a full barbell snatch, ass-to-heels while on top of an INDO BOARD, which are those balance boards on top of a cylinder.
Andrew Huberman: Sounds very dangerous.
Tim Ferriss: And I don’t recommend trying to replicate that. But he’s quite a physical specimen. So the point of all of that is that my ankle mobility’s pretty good. My dorsiflexion strength seems pretty good, but I always feel like the front of my shins are about to explode. Someone could just pop them like a balloon with a pin. And I’ve not figured out a way to address this.
Andrew Huberman: Yeah. I vote tib work. I used to have terrible shin splints.
Tim Ferriss: Okay.
Andrew Huberman: Yeah. Terrible shin splints, and also pain in my shins just from skateboarding, taking so many shiners as they’re called, from doing a little bit of Thai boxing when I was in high school and college and thinking I was being smart by conditioning my shins with coke bottles like I heard they did it over in Thailand. Just made a mess of my shins. The tib raises have changed everything. Also, I used to think I had flat feet, “I have flat feet. That’s the source of my problem.” And I’d do all this toe strengthening, foot strengthening stuff. All these people in the yoga community in San Francisco were like, “Oh, I’m going to train your feet.” Turned out, I don’t have flat feet. It turns out that my tibs were weak and so the foot wasn’t resting in the right position.
So for me, it’s been a game changer. Also, you don’t need any specialized equipment. There is that movement of resting your shoulders against a wall. So you’re in a plank, you make your body rigid, your heels are on the ground about a foot out in front of you, and then you’re touching your toes down to the floor and then back up. And you’re just doing that while you’re on the phone. You do 25 or 30 repetitions of that, your tibs will be screaming.
Tim Ferriss: So it’s as if you’re basically a statue. You can’t articulate any of your joints minus your ankles. And you’re just standing, what, like a foot and a half, two feet away and then kind of —
Andrew Huberman: Shoulders against the wall.
Tim Ferriss: Getting your shoulders to the wall, but you’re leaning like a book against a bookend. And then moving your toes.
Andrew Huberman: Yup.
Tim Ferriss: All right. I’m in. Count me in. I am also, in the, apparently, I think this is possible, the lying to myself about the flat feet part.
Andrew Huberman: Yeah. I was convinced I have flat feet. You want to hear something really wild that has nothing to do with fitness, but has everything to do with metabolism and the obesity crisis?
Tim Ferriss: Wild metabolism and obesity crisis, tell me.
Andrew Huberman: And tibs. There’s a very important paper published from the University of Houston this last year where they had people sitting for a couple of hours and every two or three seconds they would keep their toe on the ground and they would do what was effectively a seated calf raise. Think about the jumpy kid in class or when you’ve had too much coffee. They’re doing it slowly and they’re measuring the contraction of the soleus, the longer, flatter muscle of the calf underneath the gastro.
Turns out that muscle is very unique. It does not use the same fuel sources as other muscles in the same way. It’s not so much a glycogen-dependent muscle. It is designed, of course, to carry you very long distances over — it’s an endurance muscle. They had people do this while seated for a couple hours a day, and they looked at glucose uptake and they looked at overall insulin management, and there was a significant and meaningful improvement in insulin sensitivity. Now, this is not about caloric burn. This is about essentially doing exercise while seated. Now I put out some stuff about this on social media and people understandably laugh, like, “Oh, that’s ridiculous.” First of all, they call it a soleus pushup in the study. You’re like, “That’s a seated calf raise.” But most people don’t know what a seated calf raise is. So gym rats, you’re only laughing to yourselves. I throw myself in that. I mean, it’s true.
Tim Ferriss: Most of the internet.
Andrew Huberman: Yeah, exactly. Exactly. But what’s very interesting is this is something that a lot of people can do who are trying to improve their metabolic status. Of course, they should also exercise, but as the paper describes, it’s no surprise why this works. Were we quote/unquote “designed” to walk around more or move more during the day? I don’t know. I wasn’t consulted at the design phase, but we were definitely moving around a lot more than we probably are now.
But it’s very interesting that — this muscle’s small. It’s only one percent of the body’s total musculature, can account for well over 15 percent — well, over, it depends on the person, but at least 15 percent of your total energy expenditure during the day.
Tim Ferriss: That’s insane.
Andrew Huberman: So if you’re on a plane like this and you’re bouncing your knee or doing this thing, it’s actually a meaningful — it’s not a replacement for exercise, but in terms of its metabolic impact, is meaningful. I find that really interesting and perhaps of all the things that we’ll discuss today, if you’re unwilling to try that, then your bar for entry is just way too high.
Tim Ferriss: So have a few extra cups of coffee, folks. Bounce those knees.
Andrew Huberman: Exactly. And don’t get on kids about bouncing their knees in class, teachers. I was one such a kid.
Tim Ferriss: All right, so we’ve covered a bunch of exercise and a number of things as fundamental pillars that you’ve doubled down on. Anything that you’ve changed your mind on?
Andrew Huberman: Well, one of them was the fact that I always believed that I had flat feet. I also believed that we couldn’t obtain multiple exercise adaptations at once. I’m convinced we can because I track my numbers. I’m not super neurotic, but I keep a handwritten training journal. Or at the end of the day, I generally can remember what I did in the gym and didn’t do, or on a run. And I’m improving over time. So that’s great. I thought I would have had hit my peak ability and it was all downhill from here, but I feel much better.
Tim Ferriss: How do you track, if you track the Tabata, for instance? Are you looking at wattage? Are you looking at anything? Or is it more subjective?
Andrew Huberman: I tend to add another round or two. I just do a little bit more work or go a little bit harder. I tend like to do things pretty subjectively when it comes to exercise. My calendar will say, for instance, for legs, it’ll say tib, calf, ham, quad. And I’ll put anywhere from level one to level 10. Level 10 would be the workout with forced reps and drop sets, just all out. I rarely, if ever, do those. But typically I’m trying to make that workout at least a level 7.5 to nine. And generally, the shorter workouts are the harder ones.
Occasionally, just because of schedules or I’m not feeling great, I’ll do that Wednesday run and it’ll end up being a 15-minute jog or something, and I’ll just say, “Level five. Lame,” or something like that, like I didn’t — or something like that. And then push a little bit harder the next day.
So I’m kind of my own coach. I’m sort of observing myself rather than getting really deep into the metrics. But I’m always trying to put a little bit more weight on the bar, go a little bit slower with the repetition, or add a set or a rep or two, or all three.
Tim Ferriss: So let’s hone in on sleep, my perennial favorite and the bane of my well-being, depending on the quality. But last we spoke, I remember you spoke about, I think it was magnesium threonate, apigenin, and there may have been one or two or two other —
Andrew Huberman: Theanine.
Tim Ferriss: — Lucky Charms in there.
Andrew Huberman: Theanine.
Tim Ferriss: Right, theanine.
Andrew Huberman: Yep.
Tim Ferriss: Are those still the holy trinity for your sleep, or do you have other things that you’ve added, things you’ve subtracted? What is your current cocktail? With the understanding that as much as people want to fix everything with silver bullets, light exposure in the morning, exercise, all of these are contributors to good quality sleep.
Andrew Huberman: I still use the same sleep stack. So it’s magnesium threonate, spelled T-H-R-E-O-N-A-T-E, theanine, and apigenin. And I’ve added every once in a while, I’ll take 900 milligrams of myo-inositol. Myo-inositol has a rich literature associated —
Tim Ferriss: Interesting name. Myo as in muscle? Why myo? M-Y-O.
Andrew Huberman: That’s a good question. Yeah, it must be.
Tim Ferriss: It must be.
Andrew Huberman: So it’s amino acid, but it can be a neurotransmitter mimetic, extensive literature on inositol for improving insulin sensitivity. There’s also something called D-chiro inositol, which is important for female fertility. We can talk about that. But what I’ve added in the 900 milligrams of myo-inositol for is I do sometimes, like many people, wake up at three in the morning to use the restroom. And although there’s a simple solution to that that I just recently learned that really works, and I’ll share it in a moment —
Tim Ferriss: Catheter.
Andrew Huberman: — it helps me fall back asleep after that. And I am tracking my sleep. Because I sleep on an Eight Sleep. And that has good sleep tracking ability. What Attia has taught me, that a lot of the wristbands and rings for tracking sleep, while they can be quite good and are quite good, WHOOPs and Ouras being the two most popular ones, they can get movement wrong because of movement of limbs. Whereas the Eight Sleep seems to really capture slow wave sleep, rapid eye movement, sleep ratios really well.
Tim Ferriss: Yeah, I use both Eight Sleep and Oura at the moment.
Andrew Huberman: Great. Yeah. So the myo-inositol, it has helped quite a bit with that going back to sleep thing, one way to not wake up to urinate so much in the middle of the night I learned from a colleague is it turns out that it’s not just how much fluid you drink, which dictates whether or not you need to urinate because that’s sort of a duh. It’s also how quickly you ingest that fluid if you gulp fluid down because of the way fluid is absorbed, it actually, in the kidney, and the way filtration occurs in the kidney, the way it signals to the bladder is that it makes you have to go to the bathroom fairly urgently. So if you have your final beverage of the day, sip it, don’t gulp it.
For morning hydration, the opposite is true. You actually want to gulp down quite a lot of liquid in the morning. You can absorb quite a lot of liquid in the morning. I’m reading this really nerdy review in Nature, it has these wonderful review series on circadian rhythms and the kidney. Your kidney is not the same organ first thing in the morning as it is at night. So this is what circadian biologists have been shouting for a long time, every organ is this way. But you want to hydrate pretty heavily first thing in the morning, and then over the day you can titrate off that liquid.
Tim Ferriss: So I’m going to ask you to pick some favorite children here. So you’ve got the magnesium threonate, L-theanine, apigenin, which am I understanding correctly, that is effectively chamomile tea on steroids?
Andrew Huberman: Mm-hmm. High concentration chamomile extract.
Tim Ferriss: All right, got it. And then the myo-inositol —
Andrew Huberman: Myo-inositol.
Tim Ferriss: All right.
Andrew Huberman: 900 milligrams, which it’s a big pill, but turns out to be pretty low dose for insulin sensitivity, and for depression, they give people up to five grams of myo-inositol a day. But it’s a mild sedative. So I don’t know how people get away with that. I’ll take the four of those. I will occasionally be so fired —
Tim Ferriss: Pop five Trazodone before my workout, yeah.
Andrew Huberman: Occasionally, I’m so tired that I’ll wake up with the pills in my hand or on the nightstand. So I don’t think I’m dependent on them in any way.
Tim Ferriss: The question is: if you could only choose two of those?
Andrew Huberman: Oh, easy. Mag threonate and apigenin.
Tim Ferriss: Okay. Yeah. Got it.
Andrew Huberman: Theanine is not going to be good for people that have very robust dreams or nightmares because it will increase how vivid your dreams are. So night walkers, night terrors, that kind of thing. For those of you that have sleepwalking, night walkers —
Tim Ferriss: Skinwalkers, beware.
Andrew Huberman: Sorry. And I didn’t mean to interrupt you. This is something I’m working, my colleague at Stanford, Carol Dweck, told me that it’s a sign of enthusiasm for the conversation.
Tim Ferriss: Oh, yeah, no.
Andrew Huberman: So I apologize.
Tim Ferriss: Oh, are you kidding? I’m not going to throw stones in my glass house here. I interrupt constantly. But you were talking about the kidneys, you were saying not the same organ in the morning as it is at night. This is what circadian biologists have been screaming from the rooftops, and now that’s coming home to roost. And these papers that you’re reading, or maybe it’s a meta-analysis, I don’t know. And you were saying sipping water at night or just slower intake. Gulping in the morning, and I threw your train of thought off the rails.
Andrew Huberman: All good. I mean, basically you want to look at the first half of your day very differently than the second half of your day. Morning part of your day, you want sunlight or bright artificial light. Why? It increases cortisol 50 percent above baseline. You want cortisol high early in the day and you want it low, low later in the day. Not because it disrupts sleep, but because late-shifted cortisol is associated with depression. Screws up your immune system to have it late-shifted. Beautiful work from Bob Sapolsky and David Spiegel at Stanford School of Medicine have shown that.
So hydration, caffeine, sunlight, movement, bright light if you can’t get sunlight early in the day. You really want what are called the catecholamines, which are dopamine, epinephrine, norepinephrine. And you want cortisol, which is a glucocorticoid, elevated in the early part of the day, and that’s what’s going to give you energy, focus, alertness, all that great stuff throughout the day. And then you want to taper that stuff off as the day goes on.
Now the recent data have shown that if you want to improve your rapid eye movement sleep — why would you want to do that? Well, rapid eye movement sleep is when you get the unpacking of emotions from previous-day memories. This is your —
Tim Ferriss: Yeah, read or listen to our mutual friend Matt Walker.
Andrew Huberman: Right. How do you get more rapid eye movement sleep? High-intensity interval training early part of the day or cycling appears to greatly improve different stages of sleep as well, compared to running. Although running will do it as well.
Tim Ferriss: Why is that?
Andrew Huberman: I don’t know. I think it has to do with the central pattern generator thing. That high-intensity interval training, when you’re peddling on the bike or you’re sprinting, so it’s repetitive, but it’s not repetitive for long enough that you’re engaging certain brain circuits. And it’s going to deplete different neurotransmitter systems. It’s going to engage the endorphin system rather than —
Tim Ferriss: I wonder if it’s also a study bias in the sense that it’s so much easier to get your slaves, AKA, like, undergrads or grad students or whoever recruited in a university setting to sit on a bike. So if you have a hundred studies with bikes and you have five studies with running that maybe it’s a selection bias in some respect because there’s just such a higher volume of studies.
Andrew Huberman: I don’t know. I don’t know. I love bicycling when I can be upright. Think your Dutch bicycle, moving through a city, seeing things, optic flow, which we know shuts down the amygdala to some extent, suppresses activity in the amygdala. It’s beautiful. You see things, you see people. How anyone in the world could want to be hunched over in a partial seat position and pedaling as one is on a road bike. I have zero minus one interest in doing that. Sounds horrible. And then I heard it gives you all these prostate issues and it can give erectile dysfunction from the pain. They now put grooves in the seats because — I just think, why would anyone be a cyclist? This is terrible.
Tim Ferriss: Turns out having a pool cue shoved into your perennium for hours at a time isn’t good for you.
Andrew Huberman: No, hunched over, like a seat. And I realize that I have many friends who are triathletes and cyclists, so I realize there’s really an allure there. Moving fast through space feels really good, but also the danger of cars — so riding a bicycle recreationally to me makes sense, as does walking or running or skateboarding or whatever. But to me, cycling hunched over like that just seems like a dreadful form of exercise. But that’s just me.
Tim Ferriss: So let’s go from the dreadful to the sublime perhaps. We mentioned a couple of supplements, and I don’t want to fixate on that, but I follow my own curiosity here. And there’s a list here. So on the omegas, because we discussed omega-3 fatty acids, EPA/DHA, and I increased my intake. I’m so curious to know. Because I do observe, seemingly, a very consistent improvement in mood and sleep. However, I’ve tried multiple brands and I’ve tried to do the homework and look at the various certificates of analysis to make sure that I’m not eating rancid garbage. I end up getting mild nausea after a week of, I suppose, higher intake. Maybe if I’m taking, I might be getting the amount off, but maybe two grams total, something like that.
Andrew Huberman: In liquid or capsule form?
Tim Ferriss: In capsule form.
Andrew Huberman: With food or without food?
Tim Ferriss: That’s a great question. I probably wasn’t even paying attention, although I tend to take fat with food. So probably with food. Or maybe just before food. I’d be curious to know anyone on the internet, if you’re listening to this, if you’ve experienced anything similar. Because I see the benefits and then let’s just call it five to seven days in, I’d just get this low-grade nausea, almost like a motion sickness. And then I stop for a washout period and then I’m fine. And I’m like, “God.”
Andrew Huberman: So you know it’s the fish oil.
Tim Ferriss: A bummer. Yeah.
Andrew Huberman: There’s obviously some great high quality fish oils out there. For liquid, the Carlson’s brands, the ones that are lemon-flavored to make them less fishy, it’s going to be the most cost-effective way to get fish oil. It has to be refrigerated after opening, but that’s definitely the most cost-effective way. And here we do have a supplement affiliate for the podcast, and it’s not them, but that’s just the truth.
Tim Ferriss: What is your dosage target for omega-3s or EPA specifically?
Andrew Huberman: Minimum one gram per day of EPA.
Tim Ferriss: Okay.
Andrew Huberman: Minimum, sometimes more.
Tim Ferriss: Do you take it in one dose or split doses?
Andrew Huberman: It ends up being three capsules with my big meal of the day, which tends to be a midday meal. And then I do take a tablespoon of the Carlson’s oil and people gasp when I say this, but I actually like it on my oatmeal with salt.
Tim Ferriss: Oh.
Andrew Huberman: It tastes good.
Tim Ferriss: When I’ve spent time —
Andrew Huberman: If you stir it in —
Tim Ferriss: — in Iceland and Scandinavia —
Andrew Huberman: It’s delicious.
Tim Ferriss: — I’ve had these little shots of cod liver oil and so on. I can do that. But on top of the oatmeal?
Andrew Huberman: No, I’m telling you. It’s really good. And I hate sardines. I despise sardines. I despise anything smoked flavored. I’m really boring. And I absolutely loathe anchovies, like fishy oil smell. I don’t even really like eating fish.
Tim Ferriss: Yeah, I can’t eat anchovies. Still like sardines.
Andrew Huberman: I like sushi. I like sushi. That’s about it. But even there, I’m boring.
Tim Ferriss: You spoiled brat.
Andrew Huberman: I don’t even uni. I’m a good person to go to sushi with because you get all the eel, all the uni. I just want the yellowtail and the —
Tim Ferriss: Least offensive.
Andrew Huberman: Maguro. Yeah.
Tim Ferriss: Least offensive fish available.
Andrew Huberman: I’m boring. At least I’m not ordering chicken teriyaki.
Tim Ferriss: All right. And just so people are hearing it from you and not from me, not to say it’s even the same thing. What are the primary benefits that you observe or that are supported by literature? Either or, with the intake of say, one gram minimum of EPA per day?
Andrew Huberman: Mood. Antidepressant effects. Absolutely clear. And there are so many clinical trials supporting that, people can get away with taking lower doses of antidepressants or even coming off antidepressants. Of course, always check with your psychiatrist before you do that by increasing their omega-3 intake above one gram per day, even as high three grams per day.
Tim Ferriss: Okay. So question for you. I remember last time we spoke, we chatted a bit about the ability for the gut. Let’s just say, some people refer to it as the second brain, to sense the intake of sugar, fat, and a handful of other things. What is the mechanism of action by which the EPA is affecting mood? Is that known or is —
Andrew Huberman: I think so. It’s probably two-pronged. One, the EPA is a fundamental structural lipid for neuronal membranes and for the neurons in particular, that release neuromodulators such as serotonin and dopamine. That’s one. The other is that these neuropod cells in the gut, as they’re called, since, as you pointed out, sugar, essential fatty acids, and essential amino acids signal via the vagus to the dopamine centers of the brain. So your gut is subconsciously signaling to your brain what kinds of nutrients are coming into your system. And when you have a lot of flavorful food and/or high caloric food, but it’s not high in nutrients, it sets that system totally out of whack because there’s an increase in dopamine for sure, from the taste of the food that’s not matched by that subconscious parallel signal.
And by the way, this is not woo-woo biology. This is coming from the laboratories of Diego Bohorquez at Duke University School of Medicine. Charles Zucker, who’s a Howard Hughes medical investigator at Columbia University, has done this for sugar sensing. And a number of other laboratories have shown that this pathway from the subconscious signaling from the vagus to the dopamine centers of the brain are driving an appetite for certain kinds of foods.
However, when these neurons, these neuropod cells in the gut are “satisfied,” they’re seeing the nutrients they want to see, they signal to the brain dopamine release within the brain, but they also are signaling satiety. And that’s really what you want. So in many ways, we are a essential amino acid, essential fatty acid foraging machine. It just also so happens that at least in the short term sugar will trigger the same pathway. This is also why people who increase their intake of omega-3s, get above that one gram per day of EPAs, or who take small amounts of L-glutamine, reduce their sugar cravings. You’re activating the same neurons. You’re giving the alternative stimulus.
Tim Ferriss: So the L-glutamine is vis-a-vis the neuropods.
Andrew Huberman: Likely. That hasn’t been directly established, but it’s long been known that increasing intake of certain essential amino acids can reduce craving for sweets. And whenever people say, “How do I kill my sweet craving?” Well, it’s not a conventional approach, but you get a quality branch chain amino acid or essential amino acid powder, which sometimes have some non-caloric sweetener or something and fruity taste and mix it in there. People will find, oh, yeah, I don’t actually crave chocolate the same way. In my opinion, a little bit of dark chocolate is wonderful every once in a while. So I don’t want to give the impression that you’re never supposed to have sugar. But there are people who very much feel a slave to their sugar cravings. So giving these neurons the alternative stimulus really helps and you’re getting effectively the same dopamine release. This makes sense evolutionarily, why we would crave essential fatty acids and essential amino acids.
Tim Ferriss: Yeah, totally.
Andrew Huberman: This is also why, the non-meat eaters won’t relate, but a really great steak is very satisfying despite the fact that it has no glucose, essentially. There are people who feel quite good, whether or not they’re healthy or not, we could talk about, but who feel quite good just eating steak. Now, I’m not one of those people. But if you had to pick a food that would keep you feeling good and would repair the tissues of your body and would give you enough fats to keep going and protein synthesis, et cetera, if you had to feed your children, you would give them a steak. You would not give them a sweet potato.
And if you look at the amount of food that one eats when given as much meat as they want, fatty meat in particular, not gross fatty meat, but high-quality fatty meat versus carbohydrates, you’re quite satisfied after a certain amount of protein intake.
So I’m not pushing people towards a carnivore diet. I don’t follow a carnivore diet. But I do think that our nervous system, from the gut to the brain, is a sensing and foraging system that subconsciously and lets our brain know, “Aha, I’ve got enough of what I need and now I can stop eating if I want to.”
Tim Ferriss: So we’re going to leapfrog from delicious fish. I think the move for me might be to go to just pure liquid refrigerated. Try that. I mean, who the hell knows. The fish oil. Just to try something, even if the expiration date looks fine. Maybe I just got a couple of bad batches. Who knows?
Andrew Huberman: Or maybe it’s the capsules themselves. There’s so many things going into these capsule formulas and then there’s shelf life and all of that.
But gut health overall, it’s hard for most people to do what they need to for their gut. In addition to all the things to avoid, too frequent use of antibiotics and things of that source, it’s pretty clear that one serving of fermented foods a day is not going to be enough. That you need three or four servings of low-sugar fermented food. So nattō for people that can stomach it, sauerkraut, kimchi. A good Bulgarian yogurt. I like these really sour Bulgarian yogurts. They’re so good.
Tim Ferriss: Bulgarian yogurt?
Andrew Huberman: Oh, there’s this amazing Bulgarian yogurt. You have to try this stuff. It is so good. Except they don’t have — the full-fat one in particular —
Tim Ferriss: What makes the Bulgarian yogurt so magical?
Andrew Huberman: I wish I could remember the name of this brand.
Tim Ferriss: We’ll put it in the show notes.
Andrew Huberman: It’s so good. But I don’t want people to — they run out. Because they only put two or three of these in every Whole Foods. And I’m buying those two or three, of the full-fat ones. But it’s hard for most people to get that much low-sugar fermented food per day. And so most people just don’t do it. And then high-dose probiotics are very expensive, need to be refrigerated. So that’s why I think the AG1 checks off a number of boxes there. But if people can ingest low-sugar fermented foods, that’s going to serve them really, really well. So, say, the data from Justin Sonnenburg’s lab. And Chris Gardner’s lab.
Tim Ferriss: Enjoy your kilo a day of nattō. Tell me how that goes.
Andrew Huberman: That stuff is so slimy.
Tim Ferriss: It’s so wicked. There are two things that — yeah, I’ve lived in Japan and was there as an exchange student and so on, there are two, well, let’s see, three food items that Japanese people find hilarious to watch foreigners try to eat. Nattō is definitely number one. It’s just like spiderweb, cobweb, stink. It’s so gnarly. I can eat it, but it’s not my favorite, even to this day. Umeboshi and other types of pickled super, super salty plums and so on, that’s another one. And then I would say uni also. Especially before it was really making the rounds in the US. The first time a foreigner would go over —
Andrew Huberman: — can’t do it.
Tim Ferriss: Just get the seagull poo on top of the sushi rice. It’s so hardcore. Uni is what I’m talking about. Just consistency wise, it’s very, very similar.
Andrew Huberman: It just feels like it’s a tongue.
Tim Ferriss: Yeah. It’s not my favorite.
Andrew Huberman: But people love it.
Tim Ferriss: Some people do.
Andrew Huberman: People are told that it’s an aphrodisiac and so they put it —
Tim Ferriss: That’s the best way to sell anything.
Andrew Huberman: That’s right, the best way of selling. That’s right.
Tim Ferriss: I wanted to ask you, because I have a couple of notes here, tongkat ali, Fadogia agrestis, if I’m pronouncing that correctly. But the one I want to ask you about first is actually, if I’m getting the pronunciation correctly, Rhodiola rosea.
Andrew Huberman: Yeah, Rhodiola rosea.
Tim Ferriss: All right.
Andrew Huberman: Impressive supplement.
Tim Ferriss: Please tell me more about this, because I have heard in my conversations with athletes over the years, of people using this for various endurance purposes, altitude acclimation.
Andrew Huberman: So Rhodiola rosea is a really interesting compound because it falls into this category of what people call adaptogens. But normally when you hear adaptogens, first of all, that’s a very vague term. Doesn’t actually mean anything specific. It means an ability to adapt generally, or specifically. No one’s really pinpointed what that means. But typically the adaptogens are going to reduce cortisol. So, for instance, Ashwagandha is a very potent suppressor of cortisol. There’s some evidence it can indirectly increase testosterone, but probably through suppression of cortisol, since those are in the same synthesis pathway. Ashwagandha is an adaptogen. Ashwagandha, because it lowers cortisol, should probably be taken late day, not early day, because you want cortisol high. Ashwagandha as a cortisol-suppressing adaptogen, probably also should not be taken in high amounts, not low amounts, but in high amounts, meaning four to 600 milligrams prior to exercise.
The whole goal of exercise is to trigger the adaptation through a spike in cortisol. Or one of the goals. Rhodiola rosea is a very interesting compound because it’s an adaptogen in that it greatly reduces perceived effort and allows for greater power output and endurance output, as you pointed out a moment ago, but it does not do that by suppressing cortisol. So, 200 milligrams of Rhodiola rosea prior to, say, a resistance-training workout, or even on one of your ski tours, you will notice you have more vigor, you can just go longer, and your perceived effort is much lower. It’s kind of striking.
Tim Ferriss: What is it doing?
Andrew Huberman: Now, this is interesting. It’s kind of striking how after the workout you don’t feel as depleted. That perhaps is the reason I started, perhaps the main reason I started taking it is I found I could train harder, but then I suffered quite a lot from a post-exercise dip in energy. Especially if I ate a big meal. I no longer experience that if I take Rhodiola rosea 30 to 60 minutes before workout.
The effects of it last about four hours. So what’s happening during that workout, it’s clearly having an effect on the central nervous system by reducing the total amount of adrenaline that’s released, or the efficacy of adrenaline epinephrine during high intensity effort or long duration effort. So, what this effectively means is, in principle, one is able to generate the same amount of effort without the same amount of energy depleting neurochemicals. I mean, epinephrine, norepinephrine help you generate energy, but there’s always a trough afterwards. Always. And so if you can generate the same amount of physical output in the absence of X amount of adrenaline or norepinephrine, then you’re essentially better off. It also seems to catalyze recovery better. I would not take it more often than just before training, however, because there are a few studies showing that the effects of it can kind of taper off if you’re taking it all day every day.
Tim Ferriss: Now, would that be true for, say, Ashwagandha? Let’s just say someone’s taking it before sleep. Would they want to cycle off of that? How would you think about cycling if recommended?
Andrew Huberman: Yeah. Low dose of Ashwagandha, 25, 50 milligrams a day, taking continuously, no problem. I actually think AG one has low dose of Ashwagandha in it. But when people are taking Ashwagandha to offset high stress of mental or physical stuff, or both for a period in life, I’d say after about two weeks, you want at least two weeks off. You really don’t want to suppress cortisol chronically unless there’s some clinical reason for that.
Rhodiola rosea is probably the best addition to my kind of physical performance stack that I’ve added in a long time, and it’s really striking. I mean, I think so much so that people could try it. And it really does seem to work the first time in every time, for me. If it doesn’t work for you the first time, all other things being equal, you got a decent night’s sleep, you’re doing everything in the same way you normally would and you take Rhodiola rosea and you don’t really notice much of an effect, you might try and increase the dose slightly and give it another go.
Tim Ferriss: And what was the dosage range?
Andrew Huberman: 200 milligrams is what I’ll take. And I found that to be really striking. Now, I’m not going to take that before a long Sunday jog or a hike. I might, but chances are I’m not going to do it before the leg workout. I’m going to do it before a hit workout. Again, of course, I’m mainly doing it to make sure that I can train really hard and then go do other things really hard, too. Again, as not a competitive athlete, I loathe the experience of training really hard and then feeling like I gave everything to that training session and therefore I don’t have much energy or focus to give to the other things in life. And I think most people are like that.
Tim Ferriss: Are you still taking the tongkat ali and the Fadogia agrestis? And for those who are not familiar, because I think we may have made mention of this in our last conversation, but just in brief, what do these two things do?
Andrew Huberman: Yeah. Tongkat ali is an Indonesian ginseng. There’s a Malaysian version too, but you want the Indonesian one if you want to pursue these effects, which are, it’s known to decrease sex hormone-binding globulin, which frees testosterone, which is important in both men and women. It turns out in women there’s more testosterone circulating in a healthy woman, post-puberty woman, then there is estrogen. Peter Attia taught me this. If you normalize for nanograms per deciliter, women have more testosterone than estrogen, healthy women do. So, testosterone is associated with libido, ability, and desire to generate effort, mood, et cetera, in men and women. Probably the best way to describe testosterone’s effects are it makes effort feel good. Tongkat ali frees up more testosterone, mild libido enhancer for some, more extreme for others, increases energy, will increase feelings of well-being. And typically the dosages are 400 milligrams a day in single dose or divided doses, with or without food taken early in the day, before noon or 2:00 p.m. because it can increase energy.You don’t want to disrupt your sleep.
There are a number of good sources of it. We can provide links to a couple of those sources. And Fadogia agrestis is a Nigerian shrub. It’s taken from a Nigerian shrub and it stimulates the release of luteinizing hormone, which is going to come out of the pituitary. And in women, will stimulate anything that comes from downstream of luteinizing hormone in the ovary. So typically estrogen, maybe even testosterone to some extent. And in men, it will increase testosterone output from the testes by way of increasing luteinizing hormone, maybe subtle increase in estrogen as well.
This is important. Men hear that something increases estrogen and they go, “Ooh, I don’t want that.” Well, keep in mind that if you flatline your estrogen, so if men are taking anastrozole or crushing their estrogen, their libido is going to be zero. Their cognitive ability will be diminished. Estrogen is important in both men and women.
Tim Ferriss: It’s also cardioprotective.
Andrew Huberman: Cardioprotective, the endothelial cells. We think of our blood vessels and our arteries in capillaries as tubes, but they’re really tubes, imagine Silly Putty kind of rolled out, Play-Doh made into little flat sheets and then rolled up to comprise those tubes. So it’s many, many endothelial cells that make up those tubes. And the flexibility of those tubes is very important. Obviously, you don’t want them rigid, you need them to expand and contract as needed. And estrogen’s important for some of that signaling, leading to that malleability of the endothelial cells.
Fadogia agrestis is typically taken in dosages of 300 to 600 milligrams per day, with or without food. Doesn’t seem to matter if it’s early day, late day. There’s some evidence in rats it can be toxic to the testicular tissue. But that’s in very, very high concentrations. It’s interesting, the number of studies on humans for both tongkat ali and Fadogia agrestis have greatly expanded since our last conversation. And especially for tongkat ali, there’s quite good support. Safety margins are good within the dosage ranges that we’ve talked about. I’ve heard of people taking up to a gram a day of tongkat ali. That just makes me cringe. I think taking herbal compounds in very high concentrations is going to be risky no matter what, because these things can trigger immune responses. 400 milligrams of tongkat ali, 300 to 600 milligrams of Fadogia taken daily should be fine. I don’t cycle them and never have. Some people cycle the Fadogia because they’re afraid —
Tim Ferriss: Why not?
Andrew Huberman: Why don’t I cycle them? Because they just keep working.
Tim Ferriss: I mean, Louie Simmons could have said that about anabolics, too.
Andrew Huberman: Yeah. A couple of reasons. I do blood work twice a year. Liver enzymes are included there. We can talk about fertility perhaps if you want, today. The last year, because of my age and the fact that I don’t have children yet, but I’m cognizant of the fact that I do want them at some point, I got really down the rabbit hole, interesting figure of speech, for sperm analysis, including everything from DNA fragmentation to how to increase sperm numbers and motility and quality, and egg quality. I got really —
Tim Ferriss: So you’re a gambling man. If you’re making your swimmers world class, but you don’t want kids —
Andrew Huberman: Well, right. It’s all about readiness, I suppose. So, what is it in the SEAL teams, they say, “You fall not to the level of your hope, but to your level of your preparation.”
Tim Ferriss: “You do not rise to the level of your goals, but fall the level of your preparation.” That’s actually a quote from Archilochus, who is a Greek poet and, I believe, philosopher also. But yes, also widely used in the special forces system.
Andrew Huberman: Yeah. So, I’ve been monitoring sperm parameters, freezing sperm, because I might want to do IVF someday with somebody, this kind of thing, or conceive naturally. And because we’re talking about — and I’ve talked a lot about tools, supplements, et cetera as it relates to vitality and fertility, I think there is a way to optimize for both of those things. And so I don’t cycle them because I haven’t felt a need to or seen a need to. Some people choose to just take a week off from Fadogia every once in a while or go five days on, two days off. People should do what makes them comfortable. You’ll notice, males will notice an effective Fadogia, it actually will increase testicular size somewhat and density, and that’s just because of the increase of the LH luteinizing hormone is going to stimulate —
Tim Ferriss: — it’s just going to be like avocado pits hanging between the legs.
Andrew Huberman: It’s going to depend on where you start, but it will do a number of things related to increasing luteinizing hormone similar, although not to the same extent, as something like taking hCG, human chorionic gonadotropin.
Tim Ferriss: Well, that I was going to ask, if you were to inject yourself with hCG, you would probably cycle at some point or maybe not. I don’t know. You tell me.
Andrew Huberman: Yeah, I’ve done experiments with hCG. I think you have too.
Tim Ferriss: I have too.
Andrew Huberman: Yeah. I mean, it definitely will increase sperm volume.
Tim Ferriss: Significantly,
Andrew Huberman: Yeah, significantly. hCG is essentially luteinizing hormone. There’s actually a movement within the testosterone augmentation world now to — we don’t want to go too far down this path, but so-called TRT replacement therapy, a lot of people are interested in what I call TAT, which is augmentation therapy. I think it’s a safe —
Tim Ferriss: That’s a rebrand, like we were talking before.
Andrew Huberman: Nomenclature.
Tim Ferriss: Like Patagonia and Toothfish goes to Chilean sea bass and taking ‘roids goes to testosterone augmentation therapy.
Andrew Huberman: Yeah. I mean, I think every male should be aware that taking exogenous testosterone like testosterone cypionate or otherwise is going to suppress your endogenous testosterone. However, there are people that want to do that. I think one of the goals for most people is to neither be out of range — there are a lot of people who don’t want to be bodybuilders and take so-called steroids, but obviously even estrogen’s a steroid.
Tim Ferriss: Yeah, sure.
Andrew Huberman: And cortisol is a corticosteroids. But to be high end of normal range, right? High end of normal. So if the range is 300 nanograms deciliter all the way up to 1,200 or 900 in some countries, it depends. Being somewhere between 600 and 900 I think is going to be preferable for most people. And tongkat ali and Fadogia agrestis, I think, represent a good place to start if you don’t want to pursue these other more aggressive methods.
Tim Ferriss: Well, tongkat ali is particularly interesting to me because I almost always have very high range total testosterone, but my free testosterone is low and my sex hormone binding globulin is high.
Andrew Huberman: Which is itself is not necessarily a bad thing. The 900 milligrams myo-inositol can also increase free testosterone indirectly through mechanisms that aren’t entirely clear. There are also some other ways if people want to tickle these pathways. Shilajit, right? Fulvic acid, which is Shilajit, is a mineral pitch. It’s used in Ayurvedic medicine.
Tim Ferriss: I thought that was a 1980s lead vocalist.
Andrew Huberman: It stimulates the release of FSH, a follicle-stimulating hormone. So you have LH and FSH coming out of the pituitary and LH will stimulate testosterone production via the leydig cells of the testes. The FSH is going to stimulate spermatogenesis by increasing what’s called androgen binding protein, which is the protein that the testosterone binds to, which then is going to give rise to more sperm at risk of —
I never want to do kind of a podcast plug on another podcast, especially not yours, but I did a four-and-a-half-hour episode on male and female fertility that goes through essentially the ovulatory cycle and the spermatogenesis cycle, and then all the dos and do-nots for both men and women who wish to conceive either now or in the future, or who do not wish to conceive children, but want to use fertility as a proxy for vitality. Which is something, by the way, I have to say, I have to credit you for. Years ago, you said basically if you optimize for fertility, you’re optimizing for vitality. Again, I want to just thank you because that’s an extremely efficient, but also extremely sage way to think about optimizing for vitality. So, it’s not just about wanting to have kids, it’s about maintaining all your biological systems that they’re tuning.
Tim Ferriss: Super helpful proxy. Super helpful. In this case, what do you mean by vitality?
Andrew Huberman: Waking up feeling well enough to want to begin your day with enough energy to complete your day and to be able to move back and forth along the continuum of driven and relaxed. I mean, if you think about that kind of eliminating relationships to others as a component for the moment, of course it is a component, setting that aside rather, what I just described, to me, is the definition of mental health: the ability to lean into effort, but also to relax and restore your system and to feel good about what you’re doing and being able to move from driven to reflective and these kinds of things. So many people we know, I don’t want to give a geographical, they all left the Bay Area anyway. I just said it was the Bay Area, successful but miserable. We knew a lot of those. Or people that can’t seem to get enough energy to focus and get down a path of a pursuit. So you want both.
That’s vitality to me. And this is getting kind of Eastern philosophy, which is more your domain than mine. I’m always eager to learn here. But when you think about chi, or kind of dopamine, or life energy, I mean the desire to create things in the world, including offspring, but just to birth ideas, birth businesses, birth relationships, birth podcasts, whatever it is, is essentially from the same place of having some idea in mind and trying to construct that overcoming fear, your notions of fear setting become really relevant here, et cetera. And so vitality has a lot to do with the ability to generate effort with feeling like at least, if not a fast upward spiral, at least a slow upward spiral. And certainly not a slow downward spiral or fast downward spiral.
Tim Ferriss: I’ll take any of the upward spirals.
Andrew Huberman: I’m around a lot of graduate students and postdocs, and you see how an early success, like publishing a paper early on in one’s career, creates an upward spiral around the whole concept of effort thereafter. You see this in dating and relationships. You see how an early failure can set people along a downward spiral. And so I think having drive comes from the catecholomines. It’s dopamine, epinephrine, norepinephrine. And sure you need the serotonergic systems and the endogenous opioid systems that smooth things out, but in the absence of that get up and go, we wouldn’t be here. I wasn’t consulted with the design phase, but you can be pretty sure that this is what allows any animal or human to move toward a milestone.
Tim Ferriss: I’m going to ask you yet again, a lazy but perhaps productive question that will satisfy my own curiosity. Omegas, tongkat ali, Fadogia agrestis, and Rhodiola rosea, you get to pick two. Which would you pick?
Andrew Huberman: Tongkat ali and Rhodiola rosea.
Tim Ferriss: Okay.
Andrew Huberman: Yeah, especially since —
Tim Ferriss: That was surprising. I thought the EPA would be a shoe-in.
Andrew Huberman: Oh, I’m sorry. EPA was included there?
Tim Ferriss: Yes.
Andrew Huberman: Sorry, sorry.
Tim Ferriss: Omegas, tongkat ali, Fadogia agrestis, Rhodiola rosea.
Andrew Huberman: I apologize. So, then it would be omegas and tongkat ali.
Tim Ferriss: Okay.
Andrew Huberman: Yeah, if I think about fundamental, kind of baseline supplementation, things that are hard to get from food, but that represent key micronutrients that really move multiple needles in the right direction, it’s going to be getting above that one gram per day threshold of EPAs. So, omegas. It’s also going to be anything that moves the hormone system toward the green zone, which is going to be tongkat ali. Now, of course, doing all the other things right, trying to get sleep, exercise — sleep, movement, nutrients, sunlight, all that. In fact, there’s a really wonderful study out of Israel that showed that if people got 20 minutes, three times a week, of sun exposure to their skin, their face, and they removed their shirts, or if it was women, there wore tank tops, and shorts for both men and women three times a week, significant increases in free testosterone. And this was afternoon sun. It wasn’t morning sun.
Increases in free testosterone and estrogen and significant increases in libido. Also, if you chart out the amount of free testosterone across the months, even in places that aren’t really far north, you’re going to see significant variations in free testosterone in men and women, toward the summer — spring, and summer months. So, we are somewhat seasonal, and some people robustly seasonal depending on your ancestry, so that sunlight thing is real and the mechanism just so that people aren’t like, “Oh, get sunlight. He’s just saying sunlight again,” is that the keratinocytes, which are a component of the skin, signal through this, for you nerds like me, the P53 pathway and impinge on the pituitary to signal luteinizing hormone and follicle-stimulating hormone release. It’s so interesting because what we think of as the skin, which is protecting our organs and a place to put tattoos, and earrings, and jewelry and stuff, is actually an endocrine organ. The skin is a hormone-producing organ, hence the vitamin D thing and everything else.
Tim Ferriss: A lot of fat cells too, which a lot of people don’t think about.
Andrew Huberman: Definitely the omegas and tongkat ali. Rhodiola rosea is great to enhance workouts. Fadogia is definitely a boost on the hormone system for sure. I have a friend who [was] single. Now, he’s in a great relationship. We can’t say it was because the Fadogia, but he was taking Fadogia and he was like, “I’ve got to stop taking this stuff.” Because obviously he was flying solo at that point. He was like, “This is just really, it’s really intrusive.”
Tim Ferriss: Intrusive because he was just humping the walls or what?
Andrew Huberman: I don’t know. I don’t know if we want to go here. There’s this whole online —
Tim Ferriss: Too many shiny objects, too much libido?
Andrew Huberman: Well, there’s this whole online community now about semen retention and things like that. He’s not part of that community. But there’s this idea that — well, we’re adults here. I mean, there’s this idea that —
Tim Ferriss: Speak for yourself.
Andrew Huberman: If you look in the journals of sexual health — and I’m really interested in sexual health and urological health. There’s a ton of interesting stuff on pelvic floor. This stuff just isn’t often discussed. What you find is that masturbation for women turns out to, their self-reported notions of well-being, of mood, of immune system function, of knowing their bodies and what gives them pleasure, et cetera, all increase. If you look at the data in men in terms of masturbation, and here we’re talking about masturbation to the point of ejaculation in men, they report lower mood, less willingness to pursue relationships.
They’re home watching porn. We have to be very careful with statements like masturbation is bad or something like that, because that’s not true. It’s going to be gender — well, we should stay out of that discussion. Biological sex-dependent because that’s clearer ground. We’ll just leave it at that. And then there is this whole notion that a whole generation of young males are becoming porn-addicted and masturbation-addicted, but can’t look someone in the eye or ask them out on a date, or learn how to navigate healthy, consensual sex. They’re not doing neck work, so they can’t look anyone in the eye. I’m just kidding.
Tim Ferriss: They’ve got flaccid feet and they don’t do neck work.
Andrew Huberman: And here, I’m not trying to create notions of hyper males. We’re really just talking about a radical shift in the way that sexual health has evolved over the last 10 years because of the accessibility — in hardcore pornography, its relation to the dopamine system. Here, I’m not trying to be evangelical or anything like that. I’m just saying these are serious neurotransmitter/hormone systems, and a whole generation of males is making themselves sated enough to not actually pursue a number of what used to be considered milestones toward the transition between young adulthood and true adulthood. Birth rates are low, dating is low, people are having less sex. A few people are having a lot more sex, so this is great for the people out there who are comfortable in social interactions. Anyway, we don’t want to go down that path too far. But these are deeply wired systems.
Tim Ferriss: Yeah. To they who have much, much will be given.
Andrew Huberman: Yeah. So, for those of you willing to date and find relationships, what hopefully leads to healthy relationships, Fadogia.
Tim Ferriss: Thank you, Fadogia. So, before we move on, I do want to ask you about, because we were chatting a little bit before we started recording, psychedelics and your current and developing thoughts on that, or any commentary you’d like to add. But before we get to that, since you were talking about fertility, understanding people can go to the Dances with Wolves episode where you cover all things comprehensively, but we’re talking about a number of tools in the form of these supplements, for lack of better way to phrase it, goosing the system.
These are ways to augment certain endocrine functions or the sort of composition, let’s say, of free versus bounded testosterone, et cetera. Where did you end up after doing your research on environmental endocrine disruptors or things that we should be subtracting rather than adding? Because it’s hard, for me, as someone who is, say, certainly a non-specialist in reproductive health, to find the time or even maybe just the dedication to sort this signal from the noise with all that, because there’s a lot of hysterics too. There’s a lot of nonsense out there. Where did you land with what is important, if anything, to be mindful of or subtract?
Andrew Huberman: So, for cutting through that — I love the the Dances with Wolves reference. It is a long movie.
Tim Ferriss: People should — well, hey, I love Dances with Wolves, so I’m not knocking it for the length. I think people should listen to this podcast, but specifically just to hone in on this piece.
Andrew Huberman: No, it was designed for individuals or couples who are thinking about these issues. And also in particular for women who are interested in banking eggs. Most women don’t know the cutoff after which you can’t freeze eggs, you can only freeze embryos. So, in California, if you’re 42 years old or younger, you can freeze eggs. You might meet someone later and decide you want to conceive children or use a donor. After 42, I think it’s 42 and a half, you can only create embryos and freeze those. The eggs are, on average, are just too aged out.
Males, if you want to be a sperm donor, ideally you’re going to do that before 45 or you might want to do IVF someday. Now, there is a significant increase in the incidence of autism with each half decade for the father. So, as you go from 30 to 35 to 40, the sperm age matters, but the increase is still incredibly small overall. So it’s not something you can really point to and say, “Oh, it’s the sperm.” Or “It’s the egg,” for that matter. Okay.
Now, dos and don’ts. We can now easily look back to the beginning of our discussion, it’s very clear that quality sleep on a regular basis, sunlight, keeping stress in check, healthy relationships, all of that is going to support sperm health and egg health. No question about that.
It’s also clear that getting sufficient Omega-3 fatty acids is going to support sperm health and egg health. I’ll just point out that if there were one supplement that really seems to move the needle in terms of egg quality, which is a morphological but also a meaningful physiological metric for sperm quality, which is going to be shape, motility. You don’t want dead sperm. There are always going to be some in a sample because of the age of the sperm, et cetera, and the way the spermatogenesis cycle go. But you want forwardly motile sperm. The other ones are called twitchers, so they just twitch in place. They can actually take twitchers and force them into the egg during IVF, something called ICSI. But in general, the greater number of forward motile sperm, I’m swimming them toward you.
Tim Ferriss: Yeah.
Andrew Huberman: I’m actually swimming them at an angle away from Tim. But they are —
Tim Ferriss: So forward on our first in-person podcast date.
Andrew Huberman: Exactly. Can be greatly increased by supplementation with L-carnitine. So egg health and sperm health greatly enhanced by L-carnitine. Pretty remarkable results there. Injectable L-carnitine of about one mil, one mig per day. Now that has to be prescribed by a doctor.
Tim Ferriss: And that’s IM? That’s intramuscular. Yeah.
Andrew Huberman: Yeah. Oral capsules are available over the counter. Then you have to get up to four or five grams per day.
Tim Ferriss: Oh, wow. I was going to ask. Yeah.
Andrew Huberman: And that can increase TMAO and some other markers that aren’t great for cardiovascular health because of the way it’s processed by the gut. But you can offset that by taking 600 milligrams of garlic, because of the allicin in garlic.
Okay. Smoking cigarettes, vaping cigarettes —
Tim Ferriss: Really good for sperm.
Andrew Huberman: Terrible for sperm, terrible for eggs. Smoking cannabis, vaping cannabis, also terrible, eggs and sperm. People don’t like to hear that. 15 percent of women, I can’t believe this statistic, but I’ve seen it over and over, had to check my eyes, but 15 percent ingest cannabis at some point during pregnancy, 15 percent. Probably not a good idea. Now, a lot of people say, “Oh, I smoke weed every day and got my wife pregnant.” You never know how healthy your children would’ve been. You just never know. I’m not saying your children are unhealthy, but you never know.
Tim Ferriss: There’re also going to be, there will always be edge cases where, “I smoke crack every week and never slept for 14 days straight. My kids are great.” And you’re like, “Okay. Just because you happen to be the one mutant…”
Andrew Huberman: Right, yeah. If you want to optimize for sperm health.
Tim Ferriss: If you could thread that needle.
Andrew Huberman: Exactly.
Tim Ferriss: Doesn’t mean you’re a good model.
Andrew Huberman: Exactly. So L-carnitine can really help. Avoid smoking anything. The issue of tinctures and edibles is a different subject altogether. I think the big wow for me was something, again, I’m just going to tip my hat to you, which is that in 2015, I taught a class at, I was then a professor at UC San Diego, on neural circuits and health and disease, and I decided to do a lecture on whether or not cellphones inhibit sperm health and, or testosterone level. The data were very mixed, frankly. There were essentially two good studies in rats, each of them taking a standard smartphone, putting it under a rat’s cage, and then looking at some metrics related to testicular health, sperm health, et cetera. One showed increases in the testosterone. The other showed decreases. So it was a disappointing situation. So I would present both.
Now, there is an extensive meta-analysis. I can send you this for the show notes if you like, an extensive meta-analysis of dozens of studies.
Tim Ferriss: I’ll add it to the next reprint of The 4-Hour Body.
Andrew Huberman: And it very convincingly shows that keeping the cellphone in one’s pocket, so this isn’t putting it to your head, this isn’t putting it on the desk in front of you, but keeping it on and in one’s pocket, and it does not matter if it’s on wifi or you’re using cellular. Decreases sperm quality, which means forward motility, number of healthy sperm per ejaculate, et cetera. Even ejaculate volume to some extent, N lowers testosterone overall, which is perhaps not surprising, giving the known heat effects of the phone. So even though it doesn’t feel hot to the touch, there are heat effects. Sperm don’t like heat.
In fact, the most promising male contraceptive that’s out there that’s not a condom, it’s like a cuff that goes around the vas deferens, which is the portal from the testes to the urethra that allows the ejaculate to leave the body, that heats that. I mean, a sauna, it’s not a great form of contraception because it’s not sureproof, but it will reduce your total number of motile sperm by 75 percent or so. When I go in the sauna, because I do hope to —
Tim Ferriss: 75 percent is a lot.
Andrew Huberman: — I do hope to conceive children in some way, so I wear shorts into the sauna and I actually put a cold pack at my groin while I’m in there. When the sauna’s really hot, it’s also, it makes it a little less unpleasant. It’s a little painful, but you definitely don’t want to do that on bare skin.
But I’m chuckling too, but heat is part of the problem with the cellphone, but it turns out, yes. And here people are going to think I’m a crazy person, but they might think that already, the EMFs, that business is real. Now is it so real that it’s giving us gliomas? Unclear. I’m not going to go there. The data aren’t in, but it is very clear that the radiation from phones, the EMFs and the heat are combining to reduce sperm quality, motility and overall testosterone.
So it’s a simple thing. Turn off your phone completely, or even better, just don’t put it in your front pocket. If you have to put it in a pocket, put it in your back pocket. Even better would be to put it in a shoulder pocket or a backpack. And I’m a weirdo perhaps, but I don’t like keeping the phone to my head too long. But that’s also because I don’t like holding the phone to my head too long. We don’t know very much about the effects of EMFs and heat effects on the different tissues of the body, but we now know a lot about the effects of heat and EMFs on sperm quality, and it’s not a good picture for the sperm.
Tim Ferriss: Where does airplane mode fit into this equation, if at all? In terms of between on and off. I mean, does it prevent or mitigate some of the effects?
Andrew Huberman: It seems to, it seems to. Here’s what’s really scary about this meta-analysis. Their conclusion is that the total amount of time spent with the phone in the pocket is not a strong determinant. That it’s not all or none, but that the threshold beyond which you start seeing these damaging effects is pretty low. So again, here we’re talking about a don’t, not a do. And so it’s pretty straightforward. Don’t keep the phone in your front pocket if you’re concerned with sperm health and testosterone production. Now, why is sperm health and testosterone production so correlated? And you say, well, duh, it’s because testosterone and sperm. But if you’re not interested in conceiving children, you might not think this is an issue. But remember that the two types of cells, those Leydig cells and the Sertoli cells of the testes combine testosterone in the androgen-binding protein to give rise to sperm.
So anytime you’re seeing a reduction in sperm, you are definitely seeing that as a reflection of reduction in androgen-binding protein, which means whatever testosterone you have around is also not having the effect on that local organ that it should. In other words, the testes and the ovaries are very interesting organs because they secrete hormones into the body to go have effects, but they also have effects on themselves and it’s self-amplifying. And so this just seems like such a straightforward one to me. And you said this back in, when was The 4-Hour Body published?
Tim Ferriss: Came out in 2010.
Andrew Huberman: Yeah. And I remember you and Poliquin and a few other people saying, “Don’t keep the phone in your pocket.” And I remember lecturing to about 400 students about this, and I would say about half, just by my read, about half of the guys in the class took the phone out of their pocket when they heard this. I think young people who aren’t thinking about having children at all right now are absolutely the ones that should be most concerned. Now, it is true, as they told us in high school, it just takes one sperm, “But it just takes one sperm!” But in order to get that one sperm to the egg in vivo, not IVF, but it’s called natural conception, there’s a lot of territory that needs to be covered. There’s a lot of chemical environments that need to be dealt with. You want the healthiest sperm.
Tim Ferriss: So I would say also having gone through this process with an ex to create embryos, even though you can say it only takes one sperm in IVF as well, you want to stack the odds in your favor, which means you need good morphology, good motility, and you need a good count of non-crippled sperm.
Andrew Huberman: Yeah. I mean, sperm analysis, it can be a humbling thing because no matter what, no one’s getting 100 percent motile, forwardly motile. You learn a lot about everyone, males and females learn a lot about their biology, what they’re doing well, what they’re doing less well when going down that pathway of IVF, I think. I think for women, one of the big surprises is that it doesn’t take much ingestion of alcohol to diminish egg quality, beyond two or three drinks per week — per week — you really start to see reductions in egg quality that are probably indirect, through effects on diminished sleep and changes in stress hormones.
And so again, some people will be more resilient to this than others. People always like to make jokes about how alcohol facilitates the conception process, et cetera. I think that in general, if women are having very regular cycles, whether or not they’re 28 days long or 35 days long, is less important perhaps than they be fairly regular. Women in general tend to know more about their bodies because they cycle than men.
But if I could go back in time to my 30s, I sure would’ve banked sperm then. And I feel good about where I’ve got my parameters, but it’s really interesting as you learn this, you just realize that freezing sperm, freezing eggs is a great idea, and freezing embryos makes sense if you have the appropriate pairing or situation, and that life gets so much easier for those wishing to conceive when you have healthy embryos frozen in the bank. And anyway, for those challenged in that area, it also becomes this incredibly expensive, emotionally and financially expensive battle.
Tim Ferriss: Yeah. I will say much to my surprise that within the last year, I suppose, prior to the breakup, of course, but going through the IVF or at least embryo-creation process, my sperm quality, because I have banked, starting probably — unfortunately, not as reliably as I would’ve liked, but probably starting around 2010 or 2012.
Andrew Huberman: Oh, okay, quite a while ago.
Tim Ferriss: Banking sperm. Sadly, there was actually a technical issue at this particular location in San Francisco because they were bought by some larger conglomerate, and I think a lot of the samples were lost. But the point I was going to make is that after trying to do a deep dive, taking copious amounts of L-carnitine, adding in a few other things like maca and a handful of other basics, my sperm quality is actually better, seemingly better now than it was 10 years ago, which is shocking.
Andrew Huberman: Yeah. I mean, again, if one is doing the right things, I do think that we can perform physically, probably in the domain of sexual health too. I think that’s a misconception that men peak in their 80s — 18. 80s! Excuse me.
Tim Ferriss: I was like, “Sweet! Thank God!”
Andrew Huberman: At 18. I’ve looked at testosterone levels as a function of age in that there’s a wonderful book on this, on behavioral endocrinology, and there are some and in their 70s who maintain testosterone levels similar to men in their 20s and 30s. Highly individual, depends a ton on how much people are moving, how much sunlight they’re getting, how little alcohol and nicotine, smoking nicotine, not nicotine the substance, but they’re bringing into their system, exposure to environmental toxins, these kinds of things.
And we always think of BPAs and receipts. They are a problem. Handling receipts, not good, printed receipts, but —
Tim Ferriss: Wait a second, hold on.
Andrew Huberman: But that’s the major source of BPAs.
Tim Ferriss: No shit.
Andrew Huberman: Oh, yeah. Printed receipts.
Tim Ferriss: I had no idea. So BPAs, I always think, all right, cans, bottles, this, that, and the other thing. Receipts?
Andrew Huberman: Receipts.
Tim Ferriss: Why the hell are there so many BPAs in receipts?
Andrew Huberman: Yeah. Shanna Swan, who’s done a lot of the critical work on phthalates and their influence on urogenital distance, which is a marker of prenatal androgen and gets smaller, that the genitals and the anus are closer together in females than in males of all species, including humans. Phthalate exposure. BPAs in particular is progressively decreasing urogenital distance in males, penis size. In a somewhat contradictory way there’s a study that just came out in of Stanford from Michael Eisenberg’s lab, he’s a urologist, an endocrinologist, showed that actually a flaccid, here it is again, flaccid, oh, no, erect penis lengths have gone up 26 percent in the last 30 years. But testosterone and sperm counts are going down.
Tim Ferriss: I don’t know.
Andrew Huberman: There’s a really interesting study of tens of thousands of men. I haven’t read the method section —
Tim Ferriss: How do they explain that? Because it makes, though, superficial sense to me, because if your swimmers and your testosterone are just taking a nose dive, you need to get closer to the goal.
Andrew Huberman: Yeah. Closer to the cervix, cervical opening. Those data are a little hard to explain, but they’re very robust data. That study was just published and yeah, he’d be an interesting — I don’t know him.
Tim Ferriss: So the balls are getting closer to the ass, but the schlongs are getting longer. This is what happens apparently. Not to get too technical.
Andrew Huberman: No. Well, I think people will understand that urogenital distance is not a great term for most people to digest or think about. But we think about BPAs. So receipts, probably more than plastics and things of that sort. But also if you look at the most that people get the greatest exposure to these phthalates and that are impairing their endocrine system the most in males and females, it’s going to be in rural areas because of pesticides, airborne pesticides. So we think, oh, people living in cities, bus exhaust, drinking sugar-free Red Bull from the bodegas in New York City. No, you’re talking about rural areas of the country and airborne pesticides.
Tim Ferriss: Airborne.
Andrew Huberman: Yeah, airborne pesticides.
Tim Ferriss: So I thought, I immediately went to groundwater.
Andrew Huberman: Dust cropping and this kind of thing.
Tim Ferriss: Wow.
Andrew Huberman: Yeah. I was over in Copenhagen to give a talk last year.
Tim Ferriss: I would have totally whiffed that. I would not have gone — I would’ve gone urban. I would’ve thought contaminants.
Andrew Huberman: Me too. And Shanna Swan, who’s, I can’t remember if she’s at Mount Sinai or one of the other, she’s definitely at one of the big medical schools in New York City, so forgive me, Shanna, but she’s been the one really focusing on this when no one else really thought much of it and was thinking, oh, that’s crazy conspiracy stuff. And no, there’s real data funded by the NIH. So I think that avoiding plastics and things like that, sure. But I think handling of receipts, especially because they’re serious endocrine disruptors and avoiding pesticides.
And then alcohol, again, not trying to rain on anybody’s party here, but past two drinks a week is when you start seeing some negative health effects in males and females. I did a long episode on this. By the way, I drink the occasional drink every once in a while. I like white tequilas, things of that number.
Tim Ferriss: Number-two most-shared podcast in the world in 2022.
Andrew Huberman: I did not expect that at all.
Tim Ferriss: “What Alcohol Does to Your Body, Brain, and Health.”
Andrew Huberman: Yeah. I did not expect it to have that kind of traction. There’s no agenda there. I think a lot of people think that I’m in AA or something. I have deep respect for that community. But no, I’ve never had a problem with alcohol or drugs. It’s never been my thing. So there was no agenda whatsoever. I think that alcohol’s a toxin, you’re essentially making a toxin for your cells, that’s part the way it creates its effects. Look, it can be enjoyed. I also think that if people are going to drink more than two drinks per week, they want to pay more attention to the other things that we talked about at the beginning. Nutrients, sunlight, exercise, sleep, et cetera. So I’m not trying to say what people should or shouldn’t do. They should just know what they’re doing.
Tim Ferriss: Yeah. And talking about how the preceding 24 hours leads to the current 24 hours, which leads to the next 24 hours. A friend of mine, I won’t give him credit because he probably doesn’t want it, but he was quoting someone else, so it doesn’t really matter. But he said, “Alcohol is borrowing happiness from tomorrow.” And I was like, yeah, that’s a good way to put it.
Andrew Huberman: Yeah. And I’ve never tried cocaine, but from what I hear, cocaine is borrowing happiness from 10 minutes from now. I spoke to a guy recently who is a former cocaine addict, and I said, what does it feel like? And he said, “Let me just explain it this way.” By the way, this is not a direct quote. I’m quoting somebody else. He said that the first time he did cocaine, his experience was one of, “Wow, that was terrible. And when can I get more?”
Tim Ferriss: Oh, God.
Andrew Huberman: So that the gestalt of the experience was a peak and then a trough that we know exists. The dopamine system drops below baseline. I’m too afraid to try cocaine. And especially nowadays with the fentanyl it’s laced in. So many street drugs.
Tim Ferriss: I know two people, they were at a bachelor party in Mexico. Otherwise, very responsible folks, but they decide to do what a lot of people do at such parties and decided to do cocaine. They each did one line, not a copious amount. These were not cocaine users. Both of them immediately collapsed on the floor. One died and one ended up in a coma for a period of time.
Andrew Huberman: Fentanyl.
Tim Ferriss: Fentanyl. My best friend growing up, also was given, unbeknownst to him, fentanyl. Died. Fell asleep, didn’t wake up. So be very careful out there, folks. Fentanyl is no joke. And there are other things as well, but many, many, many drugs are cut with fentanyl, including those that, at face value, you would think make no sense.
Andrew Huberman: Like Ambien.
Tim Ferriss: Yeah, yeah.
Andrew Huberman: Or cocaine. I mean, why they would cut fentanyl, which is essentially a sedative, into a stimulant like cocaine makes no sense to me.
Tim Ferriss: And yet, that’s what’s happening. So be careful out there, folks. So to move from cocaine to maybe a lesser villain, I want to revisit cannabis for just a second. So cannabis in, I’m curious to know, because I have experienced incredible — well, let’s say, there may be trade-offs, but benefits with respect to onset insomnia from low-dose edible, I could say cannabis, but in this case, we’re talking about in legal settings where state governments allow this, say 2.5 milligrams of THC. With CBD, it just takes too high — I mean, I would have to consume just a mountain of it for it to subjectively help with that. What are the trade-offs, if any, with dosages in that range? If you’re aware?
Andrew Huberman: Yeah. Depends on who you are. So I did an episode on cannabis, I also had our mutual friend Nolan Williams, who’s one of these freaks of nature. He’s a triple board-certified psychiatrist, neurologist, neurologist at Stanford, doing a lot on —
Tim Ferriss: Underachiever.
Andrew Huberman: Yeah, a real underachiever. Doing a lot on combination of psychedelics with transcranial magnetic stimulation. Talked about cannabis and I did a solo episode on cannabis, which means basically all I did was think about, read about, and talk to people about cannabis for months on end. Here’s the story with cannabis. As you pointed out, it’s going to be the ratio of THC to CBD that’s important. And for the real aficionados out there, and boy, are they out there, because they let me know.
Tim Ferriss: Oh, they are.
Andrew Huberman: There’s also the terpenes. They’re going to be the lemon-like terpenes and the other kinds of terpenes and chemicals in these things that are also going to matter. And then also it’s going to be smoking, vaping, edible, or tincture.
So here’s the deal. Smoking or vaping anything is bad. Nicotine or cannabis, or worse for you than edible or tincture. Let’s just move that off to the side. High-THC-concentration cannabis, of which now there is almost pure THC cannabis available, is dangerous for the following reason. And there, I just pissed off some people. But first of all, it does have therapeutic applications for glaucoma, pain management, maybe even some mental health effects, ability to help certain people focus at low dose. But for, in particular, young males in their teens, early teens and 20s, who take high-THC-containing cannabis, there is a much greater, 4X increase in probability of psychotic episodes later, that don’t ever reverse.
In fact, when I spoke to the leading researcher on this up in Canada, she told me that the probability that a lot of what we see as street homelessness now, what people appear to be schizophrenic, was likely triggered by high-dose cannabis use. Now, I’m not trying to return us to the 1960s and talk about devil’s weed and this kind of thing. It is clear that cannabis has therapeutic benefits, but very high-potent CTHC cannabis can be a problem. At the dosage you described, 2.5 milligrams, very unlikely to be a problem.
Tim Ferriss: Psychologically speaking.
Andrew Huberman: Psychologically speaking.
Tim Ferriss: And I mean, I could be on 2.5, I’m not, but I could be on 2.5 right now and it would not be discernible.
Andrew Huberman: Sub-perceptible dose. It’s like a microdose.
Tim Ferriss: I would feel it, but it would not be externally obvious.
Andrew Huberman: Now, the pure CBD cannabis is interesting too. So-called Charlotte’s Web, I think is what it’s called, mainly available in Colorado, I’m told, is a powerful anti-epileptic. In fact, parents of epileptic kids move to Colorado just so they can get Charlotte’s Web CBD cannabis. In my mind, that should be available legally everywhere, given that it has essentially no psychoactive effects. There are a few perhaps, so it’s really that the percentage of THC relative to CBD that’s important. The age of the user, whether or not there’s a predisposition of psychosis. We might as well be talking about psychedelics.
Tim Ferriss: We might as well be talking about psychedelics, and I want to just pause for a second to say a few things. Number one, I don’t categorize MDMA as a psychedelic. We may get to that, but just for a number of semantic and phenomenological, I’ll get fancy, reasons, I don’t classify that as a psychedelic. And I would actually categorize high THC content cannabis as a strong potential psychedelic. And it has become, I would just say the standard, the baseline of strength has become such a multiple of what anyone might have been used to in, say, the ’90s. It is almost beyond belief.
And I do know of one direct example. This is the brother of an acquaintance who had exactly the experience you’re describing, which is chronic, short-term, but chronic use of very high THC concentration cannabis, and I should say in fairness, that classical psychedelics can also expedite the onset of schizophrenic symptoms in those who would genetically be predisposed. So it’s not limited to THC, but it is, I think, under-respected and overused with the assumption that it’s just cannabis. And I think that’s a mistake. They can be so powerfully psychoactive.
Andrew Huberman: Yeah. It’s interesting how the proponents of cannabis, which there are a lot of smart people in cannabis medicine, including a lot of MDs, always say it’s not as bad as alcohol. Which to me is just a ridiculous argument. I mean, to say that something is not as bad as alcohol implies that you have to choose one or the other. I think that cannabis has been very beneficial for a number of adults who are through the so-called critical period of brain plasticity. So older than 25, they need some way to quote, unquote, take the edge off in the evening. They’ll do an edible on the weekend, this kind of thing. That is not what we’re talking about in terms of psychosis. We’re talking about kids, 12, 13, 14, taking a bong rip or smoking a joint or vaping a super high-potency, THC-containing cannabis and just being high out of their gourd and feeling like it was a really good time, doing that two or three times.
And I’ve seen this over and over again. Their parents reach out to me often, in fact, for whatever reason. And then you hear about this person being 17, 18, there’s a failure to launch component. They’re demotivated, they’re claiming ADHD. They’re basically a stoner who relies on cannabis to relieve anxiety and hasn’t done much else in the last five years, or certainly has not managed to keep up with the mean.
And here I’m sympathetic. By the way, you’re listening to somebody who barely finished high school. We covered that in the last podcast, so for other reasons. But I think I do worry a lot about these super high-potency compounds. I worry about super high-potency anything. I mean, I worry about, in the realm of hormone augmentation, we’re talking Fadogia, tongkat ali, not Dianabol. In the realm of augmenting mood and focus, we’re comparing very high-potency THC-containing cannabis taken in a youth, to 300 milligrams of alpha GPC. This is night and day, right. It’s chemical augmentation of a completely different beast. So I think that it’s clear that no cannabis is going to be better for most people than any cannabis. Is occasionally used for an adult going to be a problem? Probably not. Probably not.
Tim Ferriss: I will also say, add to that a few things. Number one, I am deeply interested in the therapeutic applications of cannabis and all of its constituent parts. I think it is a very undervalued plant from that perspective. And I think it is severely underestimated in terms of potency. Just the standard available, particularly in places where you can get the baker’s dozen of any number of strains, Colorado, et cetera. To believe that you are using something of almost no risk as compared to psychedelics, if it contains a lot of THC, is a mistake.
So I would just say, consider it on par with some of these very strong psychedelics. And just be informed and be cautious about your use. I do think that there are probably some really significant applications to sleep disorders. And I will add, just for people listening, I have also tried CBN specifically, which has been recommended to me for sleep and have not found it as effective. It probably depends on the specific variety of sleep disorder, but for onset insomnia that is a product predominantly not of spike glucose, well, I guess cortisol and or than glucose levels, but rather rumination, THC seems to be, that seems to be one of the magic keys in very low doses.
But let’s segue from that to psychedelics. So how has your thinking, any observations, commentary, beliefs around psychedelics changed over the last few years?
Andrew Huberman: My beliefs and stance, and also what I’m willing to say, has completely changed in the last 24 months. This last week, Stanford Magazine, which is a magazine of the Stanford Alumni Association, goes out to many more people than just who attended Stanford, put out an issue of this, it’s a very nice bound magazine of the kind that you would see at the dentist’s office. On the cover and inside, there’s a feature article about psychedelics. I could not believe it at first, but it is essentially a guide to psychedelics. It’s not telling you how to do them, but it explains what is ketamine.
Now here, they’re broadly defining psychedelics. So the classic psychedelics like psilocybin, mescaline, and LSD are included there. Chemical structures, how they’re used, the history, clinical trials happening now, known benefits, considerations, and risks. For all of those drugs, plus ketamine, plus MDMA. I was just shocked, positively shocked because three years ago, five years ago, certainly 10 years ago, a conversation like this would’ve been the conversation that would’ve ended my career, at least as a university professor. My understanding is that thanks to the incredible work of the group with MAPS and a number of specific laboratories, Matthew Johnson’s laboratory, Robin Carhart-Harris’ laboratory, Roland Griffiths’ laboratory, and thanks to the philanthropy organized by you and others, and also thanks to the public education efforts of people like Michael Pollan, we are moving very quickly towards legalization of MDMA as administered by either psychiatrists and or licensed clinical psychologist in the US.
Psilocybin is probably a longer road, but I’m told that we’ll get there, quote, unquote. Why am I framing it this way? Well, I definitely have a — I’ll just be very direct. In high school, I took LSD recreationally several times. Had not good experiences. The experiences were far too long. 11, 15 hours. I might have spent my senior prom in an elevator.
Tim Ferriss: May or may not, cannot confirm or deny.
Andrew Huberman: No, my junior prom. My senior prom was a different story that I definitely, and I’m not recommending people do this. I actually strongly regret doing that at a time when my brain was plastic. I did not know what I was doing. I didn’t know the sourcing. It was a terrible idea. Terrible idea.
Tim Ferriss: Even riskier now.
Andrew Huberman: Yeah. And keep in mind, folks, I was not a star student, far from it. It took a lot of years to get my act together. Talked about this before on Tim’s podcast, Rich Roll’s podcast, and others. So you know, that certainly did not help and I don’t recommend it. I tried psilocybin recreationally a few times, didn’t get much out of it. As an adult, not shy about the fact that I did two and now three of the MAPS-appropriate, physician-guided sessions for trauma using MDMA. I’ve found it immensely beneficial. I’m happy to talk about how each one of those sessions was different. Again, this is with a physician as part of a study.
So what I know now is completely different than what I knew two years ago, which is not just based on the legality, but in discussions with Nolan Williams, this incredibly impressive colleague of mine and friend of yours and colleague of yours, really, that the safety profiles on things like MDMA are actually quite high.
I was taught that MDMA was neurotoxic. Why was I taught that?
Well, there’s a paper published in Science magazine looking at toxicity of MDMA, observing neurotoxic effects. Turns out, what were they looking at? Methamphetamine.
Tim Ferriss: Oops, retraction.
Andrew Huberman: Yeah, retraction. Except that never made the major headlines.
Tim Ferriss: That never makes it.
Andrew Huberman: Okay, so then you look at the data on psilocybin. Here, I’m just going to hit the high points. Because it is not my work, it’s the work of Matthew Johnson and of Robin Carhart-Harris at UCSF.
Intractable depression. People who are suicidally depressed, nothing else works. Talk therapy doesn’t work, antidepressants don’t work. TMS doesn’t work. Do two high-dose, so it’s 25 milligrams of psilocybin that has to be translated for grams of mushrooms. But —
Tim Ferriss: It’s roughly like the 25 to 30 milligrams of psilocybin, synthetic psilocybin B equivalent. Let’s just say, a Terence McKenna heroic dose of five grams. I mean, you’re getting enough for escape velocity.
Andrew Huberman: Okay. In upwards of 60 percent, maybe 70 percent of these patients that take that are getting substantial and ongoing relief. That’s an amazing result.
So much so that the big pharma has moved in, and is trying to create non-psychedelic psychedelics to extract the benefits of these drugs that don’t induce hallucinations. Instead of raising interesting questions about whether or not the experience under psychedelics is really the trigger for the antidepressant effect, whether or not it’s the insight or not, that’s a whole ball of wax. And really, I’m not qualified to parse that. That’s really the domain of Robin and the psychonauts, and that’s an interesting set of issues.
So my stance nowadays is, there is a compound out there that seems to have very high safety profiles. Very, very high, certainly for psilocybin. That, under the appropriate guidance and supervision during and after in this so-called integration phase, one or two dosages of this stuff, yes, takes people through a phase of anxiety, then a phase of deep introspection.
This is also, I learned, essential. There are two components that I learned that are essential, that were surprising to me. One, you have to be in the eye mask. Observing things in your external environment the whole time seems to bypass some of the introspective/antidepressant effects later. That’s interesting to me. It’s not just about what you see, what you hear out there. It’s really about going inward, this kind of trust, let go.
Tim Ferriss: Yeah. It’s also important to standardize for trials. Right? You can’t have people looking at all sorts of different stuff. Somebody’s watching Finding Nemo, another one’s watching Jaws.
Andrew Huberman: Right, exactly. And then the other thing was, I learned from Robin recently, is that music seems to be a key component. Now, they’ve never teased out music/no music. But having music that starts as he described it in the distance, drums and pacing or something approaching music, then instrumentals, which raise people’s emotional state while they’re in the eye mask, and then some transition period out, seems to be a critical component of all this, and guiding some of the kind of funneling towards deep emotional introspection.
I find this incredibly interesting. And again, I would’ve not felt safe talking about this, keep in mind, a year ago, two years ago. Keep in mind that in the late ’60s, early ’70s, there were professors at Harvard and Stanford mainly that were fired, or at least asked to leave, for having discussions like this. And now Stanford Magazine itself is printing this.
And this is also, I’ll use this as an opportunity to say this. Because it’s really about the listeners. Our Huberman Lab podcast is free on all the channels. But we do have a premium channel. I’m not trying to solicit it here, but the premium channel is designed to, we do AMAs and things of that sort, transcripts are available to those folks, to raise revenue for research dollars for exciting work. And we have a donor that’s been very generous to do a match for that money.
And we’re giving money only to studies working on humans, not animal studies. And two of the major areas that we’re supporting are the sorts of work that Nolan’s lab is doing, and Nolan in particular, to combine transcranial magnetic stimulation with psychedelics and these sorts of things.
Tim Ferriss: Oh, that’s great. I didn’t know that about the premium option.
Andrew Huberman: Yeah, that’s really what the premium channel is designed for.
Tim Ferriss: Yeah, that’s great.
Andrew Huberman: And this is, again, I’m going to say this again. People are going to think that I’m just here kissing up to Tim, but I’m doing that over text all the time anyway. Because this is yet an another example where you got into science philanthropy early, you reached out to your connects, you were very vocal about what you felt was powerful and had worked for you and what you’d been observing.
And I am absolutely clear, I’ve said this on Twitter, I’ll say it again. When we look back in five years, 10 years, a hundred years, there’s going to be a small subset of individuals for whom the transition of psychedelics from these niche communities, hippie communities, carpet flyers, everything from devil’s weed craziness to truly effective compounds for treating psychiatric illness, you’re going to be on that list. Roland’s going to be on that list. Matthew’s going to be on that list. Pollan’s going to be on that list. Robin’s going to be on that list. And Nolan, I think, is going to be on that list.
There’s going to be a small subset of people that we’re going to go, listen, research takes money, it takes focus, it takes a bravery, and it also takes the willingness to take something that has been looked at as just drugs, and turn it into something that’s therapeutically meaningful.
So yeah, we’re just, all I’m trying to do is raise some dollars through the premium channel. That’s what we’ve been doing to pump into research studies. So I mean, you can tell I’m super excited by all this. What I see happening now is that soon, MDMA for trauma is going to be available to the countless numbers of people out there that have trauma.
And I don’t mean just take MDMA and have a great time. I mean, people developing empathy for themselves. I mean, people really working through the barbed wire stuff of their past, much of which they had no control over, that sets this transgenerational thing that’s been going on for so long.
I mean, really, you’ve used the language to bend the arc of history. These compounds are going to bend the arc of history in the right direction. And if people out there are listening and saying, “Okay, well this is recreational stuff and it’s very precarious.” I do not know a single major, let’s just call them what they are, CEO or company founder, we’re talking about people at kind of billionaire-level that are hyper creative, hyper creative, and hyperfunctional in their life. We’re not telling you about mystic creatives. We’re talking about people who, I don’t want to name names, but every single one of them already knows this is true. Because they’ve all done this stuff already.
And I was kind of late to the train. Because I had such a terrible experience in my high school years, and saw so many friends, dead, suicide, drug addicts in jail, wrecked their lives. I had so many challenges taking myself from essentially a loser with nowhere to go to a trajectory within academia and taking good care of my body that I was like, no drugs, no drugs. I don’t even put psychedelics in the category of drugs. And here I’m lumping MDMA in there, provided it’s done with a licensed physician or clinician who can guide this stuff. It’s been immensely beneficial for me.
Tim Ferriss: What were your different sessions to the extent that you’re willing to share?
Andrew Huberman: The first one I can just summarize by saying was extremely somatic. Waves of — a lot of shaking. At the beginning of the session, I walked in feeling like I could think and feel things from the neck up. I could feel things from the waist down, but that my body wasn’t integrated as a system. I left that session feeling completely comfortable in my body as a whole system, and far more in tune with my emotions. Far more comfortable being, having emotions.
Far less afraid of what emotions might do to me, whether or not they were evoked from inside or from outside. I felt, as a consequence, I felt much braver in the world. And I felt a kind of a healthy adaptive level of fearlessness, because I felt like nothing can hijack my internal emotions. And even if they do, I’ll be okay.
And that was a significant thing. The second session, very different. I expected everything as I did in the first, never works that way. Was one of deep, deep, deep acceptance around resents that I had for people that I felt had neglected me. Or just did not do what they needed to do.
Or that I felt a lot of, and you might be able to sense a little bit of emotion here. It’s hard because I can still sense the ways in which thoughts about that are painful, but mostly because it seems so senseless to me now. And yet I have truly zero resent. I look for it often, to just check myself to it. No resent, complete forgiveness, which has given me tremendous relief.
And then the third session was interesting. Third session was a higher dose. I had never taken the booster, the MAPS booster. Took the booster, and I lay completely still for about eight hours. And it was very introspective. And I think I left that session, and I still maintained from all — everything I’ve described by the way, I feel I’ve maintained years later now.
The third session, which was more recent, I felt I finally understood and kind of sealed up what I can only describe as boundaries. That other people can have emotions and experiences that are truly separate from me. I tend to be pretty affiliative. I think that came out of an early, especially with friends and in relationships, it came out of an early need to feel some sense of family where I didn’t feel that as much as I would’ve liked from my biological family.
And there have been times when I’ve been unable to really keep in touch with how my life is distinct from, and my emotions are distinct from other peoples’.A little bit too much of empathic blurring sometimes. And I felt like that was just sealed right up.
And mind you, each time I went into these sessions, I was afraid of all the standard things. Losing my mind, having a heart attack. Now granted, if you have heart issues, tell your physician you don’t want to do MDMA. It is an amphetamine in there.
But I was afraid of all the standard stuff. Each time I felt like the window on introspection and plasticity lasted much longer, weeks longer. And each time I just felt like I got better and better at self-care. Which, in my mind, was always a very selfish thing. I always thought self-care is selfish. Even working out, I used to hide working out when I’d go to conferences. Because I thought no academic goes to the gym and lifts weights. And I really liked doing that, but I realized how much stronger I was mentally when I was taking care of my physical body. But I think that things have changed now.
So the third session was very meaningful for me, because I felt like it kind of sealed something up. Where I go, okay, I’m good. Things can happen around me, and I’m not going to get pulled into it in a way that compromises my well-being.
Of course, I still have a lot in there, and work to do. And Robin Carhart-Harris said to me recently, he said, “Well, psilocybin is really the honest psychedelic. Because you don’t have the empathogen that’s woven into the MDMA, so you’re really going to see whatever darkness still exists within you.” And I thought, oh, goodness. But now I am —
Tim Ferriss: Spoken as a true psilocybin researcher.
Andrew Huberman: I know. So you hear about people, is it calling to you? I’m afraid to do psilocybin for that reason. I definitely worked hard to suppress some of the dark clouds in my head. But the fact that I’m still a bit afraid of them is probably the reason why I should do it.
Tim Ferriss: Well, it also, I think means you’re coming to it from an intellectually honest place. If someone has absolutely no concerns or misgivings about extremely powerful psychedelics, I mean, you are playing with psychological nuclear power.
Andrew Huberman: Yeah, revealing the unconscious. I mean, I didn’t even know what psychedelic meant, but I mean Robin taught me, it means revealing the unconscious mind.
Tim Ferriss: Yeah, mind manifesting.
Andrew Huberman: And I still do extensive amounts of psychotherapy and psychoanalysis. I look at that as just like going to the gym. I’m fortunate that my insurance can help pay for that and I’m able to pay for it, so I understand not everybody can.
But I still feel that if we don’t actually take the time to figure out what’s going on in our head, how can we really trust that we’re on the best path?
Tim Ferriss: Yeah. Or just representing reality to our benefit, in a sense. Right? Because we’re perceiving but also constructing reality.
And sometimes if you think your glasses are scratched, or smeared, or foggy or whatever, you need to take them off and look at them. There are very few ways to do that with your own psyche. There are very few tools that allow you to do that.
And I would recommend for folks if they are interested in, and thank you for being so forthcoming with describing your experiences, getting a good overview of how MDMA specifically can help with say, complex PTSD. And why it has become such a focal point for many, many researchers and practitioners.
I do recommend the Netflix, How to Change Your Mind miniseries that Pollan was involved with based on the book of the same name. And specifically, the MDMA episode I thought was spectacularly well-done.
Andrew Huberman: I need to see that, still.
Tim Ferriss: It’s very well done, and includes a lot of case studies in interviews with research subjects. And there’s also a documentary that I helped bring to, well, outside of Israel called Trip of Compassion. This was probably four or five years ago, which contains session footage as well.
Production value is going to be a bit lower than Netflix, so you might want to try that first. But there are a number of forthcoming books coming that’ll be focused on these topics. A lot of good stuff happening.
Andrew Huberman: It’s exciting.
Tim Ferriss: In terms of investigation, there are risks. There are very non-trivial risks. And that is part of the reason why the fundamental research is important, which is why people like, I have to mention Roland because he was my gateway into so much of this. Roland Griffiths, and Robin, and Nolan and others are doing very, very important work.
Because there’s the commercialization, there’s the development of derivatives and perhaps non-psychedelic options. And I think that they hold promise in certain conditions like cluster headaches, for instance.
However, I do firmly fall into the camp that believes there are these mechanistic, receptor-level effects. And many other physiological, measurable effects that exert or impart some of the benefits that we document in trials. But I am firmly in the camp that the content matters, deeply.
Andrew Huberman: Robin and I and Nolan and I also discussed things like iboga, ibogaine, 22-hour long psychedelic journey, no hallucinations with the eyes open, close the eyes, see — drop into very vivid imagery of previous experiences. That doesn’t interest me so much, it seems a little bit much. It’s going to be hard also to do clinical studies on that.
As Robin pointed out, one of the reasons why most of the trials are being done with psilocybin or MDMA is because the sessions are four to six hours. With some aftercare LSD, double or triple that.
And of course, we should point out that street MDMA could very well be, and is often laced with fentanyl. So the sourcing here must be through MAPS. I think they’re the only ones that actually have the clean sourcing of MDMA. I know people out there will be like, “I know a clean source.” But nowadays I think people need to be exceedingly cautious about fentanyl because it’s deadly.
Tim Ferriss: Yeah, there’s a great — I just want to butt in for a second. There is an organization called DanceSafe, which I encourage people to check out, which provides kits. Because I know that you know can tell kids, “Abstain, no sex, no sex, just no sex until you’re married.” They’re going to have sex anyway.
So I recognize people who are listening are probably going to use drugs from unclear sourcing, or it will be a game of telephone. It’ll be from five different, 10 different, 12 different, a hundred different hands to theirs. DanceSafe has kits. I’m not recommending that you use drugs in that fashion, but people are going to do it anyway. There are kits you can purchase which will help you to detect some of these contaminants. So at the very least do that type of due diligence.
Andrew Huberman: Yeah, yeah. So you asked how do I feel about these compounds done in the clinical setting and how has my stance changed? Complete 180. Complete 180.
I’m super curious. I’m super excited. And least of all for me, I’m excited about what, my experience, it was very positive all around. But I’m most excited for the millions and millions, maybe even billions of people out there. Billions of people certainly have trauma, but the millions of people who are impaired, in terms of daily mood and basic functioning because of depression, anxiety.
I mean, there are psilocybin trials for fibromyalgia, for anorexia nervosa, the most deadly psychiatric illness is anorexia. Of course, people with bipolar or schizophrenia, these are not good candidates because of the propensity for exacerbating psychosis or for manic episodes.
But I think we are heading into really interesting times. And a year or two ago, I would’ve thought, ah, this isn’t going to make it through the chute. Something’s going to happen and the whole thing’s going to fall apart. I think it was the event that we were both at, the Veterans Solutions event on Coronado Island. It’s an incredible group that you’re associated with, and we have common friends from the special operations community who are doing these iboga DMT combined sessions out of country, and then working with Nolan Williams to look at how the brain changes.
And we saw Governor Rick Perry there, a pretty right-wing guy.
Tim Ferriss: Yeah, he interviewed Rick and Rick. About as far apart, politically, as you can be.
Andrew Huberman: And then Rick Doblin, who stood up there and said in front of a room full of special operators that he’d been a conscientious objector during the Vietnam War. And I thought, wow, if he doesn’t get killed in this room, he’s going to survive forever.
In other words, polar extremes politically. Standing there talking about psychedelics and their value for treatment of intractable depression, trauma, offsetting the certain amount of suicide risk in many individuals. Talking about, I think I heard Rick Perry say the words “heart medicine.” I almost fell out of my chair.
I mean, this is super exciting. And it’s super exciting because, the only way to describe it is the way that Paul Conti sometimes describes things. There’s certain things for which there’s a lot of work, a lot of potential hazards, but that done properly — and he wasn’t referring to psychedelics when he said this, but this particular, but there’s so much goodness that could come out of this. The amount of goodness that could come out of everyone having access to great medical care, therapy, and potentially psychedelic therapies. I mean, just imagine the magnitude of the world change.
That’s the kind of stuff that gets chills running up my spine. And you just think, well, gosh, but the scale of that problem is just too big, legally, financially. But enough has happened now that at least some of that, in terms of psychedelics, could very well happen.
And again, to clarify, Paul Conti wasn’t talking about psychedelics. He just has this, occasionally he’ll say something — we’re doing a series with him on mental health. And occasionally he’ll say something like, “Certain things are just goodness.”
And I love the sound of that because it sounds, there’s something so wholesome about it, but so real. I mean, waking up and feeling good enough to pursue the basic events of the day, with some hardship of course from time to time, good enough to set a goal, and fail, and then try again.
Good enough to have a rough run through a relationship, or a hard family life, or lose all your money and go bankrupt and come back. That’s the stuff of real life. And I think that there’s so many so-called deaths of despair, and then there are 10 times more sort of lives of despair out there. And I think there’s seriously the opportunity for real healing, for lack of a better word.
Tim Ferriss: High leverage, very high leverage. I’m excited to see where it goes. And I would tell people also, don’t be shy about following the money. In the sense that, there will be every possible attempt to contort and change psychedelic therapies to fit into existing healthcare.
And I do think there’s upside to that. Not everyone is going to be able to afford whatever the costs may be to receive bespoke medical care with a session that lasts 18 hours. Or whatever it is, 12 hours, let’s just say in the case of the sort of upper range for some people with LSD.
However, if you see a company that’s saying 5-MeO-DMT is the ticket because it’s the businessman’s psychedelic therapy because it lasts 15 minutes, take a sniff test or two first.
And also just because it’s 15 minutes Earth-time doesn’t mean your experience 15 minutes. So just be cautious with that. The removal of psychedelic effects also makes it much more adaptable, and plug-and-play with current healthcare practitioners and things can be turned into maintenance doses.
Andrew Huberman: Or for kids.
Tim Ferriss: Or for kids, right.
So you say, if you take generic ketamine, and I’m not going to name too many names, but some of the sort of slight molecular changes that have been made to create, say, maintenance doses with nasal sprays.
I do think that, at least for me, and I may be old-fashioned, but I do think that these compounds, in relatively few sessions, have the potential to induce plasticity, provide experiences that have — I’m not going to say, well, in some cases curative capability or potential, but extremely high durability. We’re talking about the order of years.
So I think people should be skeptical of companies that aim to create maintenance drugs from these. Although that could be applicable to certain populations that, say, may fit into exclusionary criteria because they can’t take higher doses for risk of say, psychosis. But they might be able to take very, very low doses along the lines of, say, a microdose. Which wouldn’t impart the perhaps content experiences, but could have some effects on say, serotonin type 2A receptors, but intracellularly, which I was just reading about.
I would recommend if people want to keep up to speed with these things, The Microdose from UC Berkeley is fantastic. That’s sort of a news bulletin summary on a weekly basis.
If you want a good overview, I think How to Change Your Mind is a great place to start. If you want to know how some psychotherapists have worked with these things, I think an oldie but a goodie, The Healing Journey by Claudio Naranjo, I think is excellent. Even if you just buy it for the introduction, I think MAPS sells that. So a lot of good resources out there.
Andrew, we’ve covered a lot of ground.
Andrew Huberman: We have.
Tim Ferriss: And it’s so nice to spend time together. We’re going to grab some dinner. Is there anything that you would like to add, point people to, any closing comments you’d like to make before we wrap up?
Andrew Huberman: No. At one point we had thought we might cover how to optimize a podcast, and there I’m just going to point people to the great series that you did, I think it was one or two episodes.
Tim Ferriss: I did an episode with Chris Hutchins because he wanted to ask me a million questions about podcasting, and I said, “You know what? I get asked this all the time. Let’s just record a podcast and then I can point people to the podcast.”
Andrew Huberman: Perfect. Well, my whole team listened to it. My whole team listened to it, and talked about it, and used it as kind of a checklist for whether or not we were doing things right. That was about a year ago, and things are going well. So I’ll just point people to that episode. Hopefully you can link to that episode because it’s really great. We thought, yes, yes. And oops, we better be doing that.
No, I really just want to extend my gratitude for the work you’ve done in the past. I know I’ve mentioned it over and over. And I’m sure some listeners are probably like, here he goes again, thanking Tim. But I would not be podcasting were it not for you, and Lex Friedman, who gave me the final nudge.
And also, I’ve just gleaned so much valuable knowledge from your books, and your podcasts, and learned so much from you. So again, for me, it’s like pure delight to be sitting here having this conversation. I feel very honored and I’m really grateful to you and your team. And I hope you’ll come on the Huberman Lab podcast before long.
Tim Ferriss: Oh, I will. Absolutely.
Andrew Huberman: I can’t wait.
Tim Ferriss: Need to make a trip to SoCal. Thanks for saying all that, it really means a lot. And it has been a fucking blast to watch you just storm the front, man. It’s really been fun to see the podcast do as well as it has done to see that.
Then also lead into other types of snowball effects like providing funding, as I just learned for studies, vis-a-vis the premium option. And keep it up, man. I am certainly learning a lot and taking notes myself. You can see the notes in front of me. It may not be visible on video, but I’ve been taking notes through the whole conversation, as I always do when I listen to you, listen to you talk. Whether it’s on your podcast or in person.
So people can find you, hubermanlab.com. We will link to YouTube, Instagram, Twitter, but it is Huberman Lab on all of these platforms. And I encourage people to subscribe. Check it out.
And thank you, Andrew. And to everybody listening, we will have links to all sorts of things, including that light vest that we’ll figure out in the show notes at tim.blog/podcast. You can just search Andrew or Huberman, H-U-B-E-R-M-A-N, and all things will pop up.
So until next time, just be a bit kinder than as necessary to other people and yourself. And pay attention to those fundamentals, those pillars. All good things come from paying attention to those checklists. And as always, thanks for tuning in.
The Tim Ferriss Show is one of the most popular podcasts in the world with more than 900 million downloads. It has been selected for "Best of Apple Podcasts" three times, it is often the #1 interview podcast across all of Apple Podcasts, and it's been ranked #1 out of 400,000+ podcasts on many occasions. To listen to any of the past episodes for free, check out this page.