Kwik Brain 090: Sleep, Eat, Move & Think Better with Dr. Greg Wells Part 1

Greg Wells
"Sleep is essential because that’s where you consolidate short-term memory to long-term memory."

Greg Wells

Dr. Greg Wells is a scientist, broadcaster, author, coach and athlete who has dedicated his career to understanding human performance and how the human body responds to extreme conditions.

Dr. Wells is an Associate Professor at the University of Toronto where he studies elite sports performance. He also serves as a Senior Scientist in translational medicine at The Hospital for Sick Children where he leads the Exercise Medicine Research Program. There, he and his team explore how to use exercise to prevent, diagnose and treat chronic illnesses in children. Previously, he served as the Director of Sports Science at the Canadian Sports Institute and taught elite sports coaches at the National Coaching Institute.

Throughout his career, Dr. Wells has coached, trained and inspired dozens of elite athletes to win medals at World Championships, the Commonwealth Games and the Olympics. He has studied athletic performance in some of the most severe conditions on the planet, like the Andes Mountains and the Sahara Desert.

Connect with Greg: Website | Twitter | Instagram | The Ripple Effect

This week’s podcast is all about living better — and we welcome special guest Greg Wells!

The Kwik Brain community has long been interested in working smarter, not harder, and in learning about sustainable ways to improve our brain functionality through holistic health. A respected scientist, coach, and author of The Ripple Effect, a popular book on living and thinking better, today’s guest Greg Wells has years of health and performance research experience to give you the best advice on improving your health and performance.

Excellence is no accident. By making tiny changes and creating healthy environments for ourselves that make it easier for us to be consistently healthy, we can transform our lives. In today’s world, many of us are chronically overworked and overtired, which is negatively impacting our bodies and brains and of course affecting our mental performance. But we can change this — our health is under our control. Today’s conversation is about considering the question: how do we create a ripple effect to learn better and live better?

In today’s conversation, we talk about why Dr. Wells began researching the ‘ripple effect’, and how tiny changes can make your life exponentially better. We’ll give you Greg’s top sleep and diet tips to ensure you’re optimizing your health on a daily basis, and give you some ideas for creating a healthy home environment that will make it easier for you to make better decisions about your health. We’ll tell you why you should defend your last hour before sleep, invest in holistic health approaches, and how you can make having a heap of energy and creativity a daily experience.

Show Notes

THE RIPPLE EFFECT

  • Greg’s journey with the ‘ripple effect’ started when he became ill: got a cold that landed him in a cardiac ward, where there was little opportunity to sleep and poor nutrition
  • Started researching the links between sleep, nutrition and different aspects of health (mental and physical e.g. cancer, depression, heart disease)
  • Using food as a treatment for physical and mental disorders e.g. emerging field of nutritional psychiatry, using meditation to inflammation
  • Health is not just one thing: it’s a holistic approach
  • People might think “once I’m successful I’ll start living a great life” but it’s the other way around: success comes from a great lifestyle
  • Example: if you sleep better, you’ll be able to eat better as sleep regulates leptin and ghrelin (hormones controlling appetite and how full you feel), you’ll have been able to make a better decision, have more energy, be able to exercise, and in turn sleep better
  • The ripple effect is about momentum, having micro wins: from these small changes everything gets exponentially better in your life, enables you to do things you never thought possible
  • Sleep is when you learn: your brain encodes information from the day in the first 4.5 hours of sleep
  • When you eat healthy foods (organic, minimal sugars, no processed foods) your brain releases the neurotransmitters to improve concentration and focus
  • Exercise (especially walking) activates creativity, assists you to improve problem-solving abilities, focus, and concentration
  • One single bout of exercise improves mental function for 15 hours

WHERE TO START

  • Four components: eat, sleep, move, think
  • Sleep is the foundation for everything

SLEEP

  • Defend your last hour before sleep: an hour to relax, get away from devices, meditate
  • A hot bath and cold shower: using epsom salts, 10 minutes in the bath, the decrease in body temperature triggers a release of melatonin (controls sleep-wake cycles)
  • We absorb and release a huge amount of chemical and toxins through our skin
  • Meditation: Greg uses the Headspace app, helps to transition into different brain waves: beta down to alpha waves, then into delta waves for sleep
  • Read: Greg reads fiction, doesn’t read anything that’s a learning opportunity
  • Environment—sleep cave with blackout blinds, as any light filtering inactivates the photoreceptors on the body and stops the production of melatonin
  • Set a bedtime alarm, not just a morning alarm, so your body knows when to fall asleep consistently
  • Maintain your regular sleep schedule on weekends too
  • People who say they are too busy to meditate are the people who need to meditate most
  • Avoid screens for an hour before sleep: unless you’re a night owl you’re unlikely to be doing productive work anyway
  • Analogy: athletes used to be focused on doing the most work and whoever didn’t get injured won, but today’s athletes are focused on rest and recovery and as a result are having multiple standout performances throughout their careers, living completely different lives
  • We can adopt this in our everyday lives: if we want to win a marathon we have to work smart not hard

FOOD

  • “Nutrition is the foundation for human health and performance”
  • Food can be used to treat chronic illnesses, mental illnesses—but the system is set up to feed us awful food so companies can make money
  • Eat real food you recognize as food: avoid anything processed, anything ‘from a box’
  • Invest in making food yourself if possible: Greg uses food prep nights to make mealtimes quick and easy (chopping vegetables, cooking protein, store it all in Tupperware)
  • When you’re tired you don’t make good decisions—if it’s in your house someone will eventually eat it, so make your house a food sanctuary (idea from John Berardi at Precision Nutrition)
  • Excellence is not an accident, it’s an outcome of the environment, practice and consistency—control your environment and excellence is inevitable!
  • Being overly obsessed with diet can undermine any benefit from the food—by causing stress and releasing cortisol and adrenaline
  • If you have a time of day you struggle with, take a look at what you ate a few hours before and consider changing it: biohack your way into feeling good!

ENERGY

  • We should have great energy all the time—humans are supposed to have energy, clarity, the ability to think and be creative: this is a normal state for humans!
  • Pay attention to yourself, as we can get tremendous insights from how we feel, and use this to guide your decisions and your journey to a healthier version of you
  • You can get control of your health, your energy, and create an incredible life for yourself — it’s under your control
  • Remember: we are our own experts—we are the only ones who truly know ourselves!
  • We can get control of our health and maintain it for decades because this holistic approach is sustainable!

GREG’S BOOKS

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Please note, this episode is educational only and is not intended to diagnose or treat medical conditions. Please consult your healthcare provider if you have any questions or concerns.

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