Kwik Brain 091: Sleep, Eat, Move & Think Better with Dr. Greg Wells Part 2

Greg Wells
"We can literally rewire the way our brains work at any time in our lives."

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 back special guest Greg Wells! If you haven’t already listened to the first part of my conversation with Greg, you can check it out here.

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 the benefits of fasting, and how the foods you eat can affect your sleep. We’ll talk about how exercise can boost your mental performance, and give you some easy ideas to get more exercise into your day. We’ll tell you how to improve your relationship with technology, give you some questions that will help you on your way to achieving the success and outcomes you want from your life, and tell you how you can rewire your brain in only a few minutes a day.

Show Notes

FASTING

  • Expert mentioned: John Berardi at Precision Nutrition
  • Intermittent fasting: started after researching people fasting for Ramadan, reduced inflammation persisted for weeks after Ramadan ended
  • Different pattern: eating within an 8-hour window and fasting for 16 hours (usually we eat while awake — so we eat for 16 hours and fast for 8 hours)
  • Scientific evidence suggest intermittent fasting improves neurogenesis, autophagy, and blood sugar regulation
  • An easy strategy to fast: skip dinner, skip eating while on the plane

SLEEP FOODS

  • Good to understand how different types of foods can impact on your sleep and adjust your diet accordingly
  • Eating carbohydrates in the evening can help with sleep, help you to relax: keep in mind this can be problematic for body composition, if you’re struggling with sleep it can be a short-term solution
  • Protein before bed can improve growth hormone release and  muscle recovery
  • High fat and high spice food will typically disrupt sleep

EXERCISE

  • People make the mistake of thinking mind and body are separate, but everything is connected to the brain (every brain center, immune system, breathing, and circulatory systems, muscle movements)
  • Remember: if you move your brain functions better
  • Nature journal: the brain of a zebrafish lights up as soon as it starts swimming, and this relationship is true for every species on the planet including us
  • Shutting kids brains off in school by telling them to sit down and be still all day to learn
  • Remember: as your body moves your brain grooves, sitting is the new smoking
  • Morning workouts are great for stimulating the growth of new neurons (great for people working in cognitive jobs)
  • Noon workouts can be helpful for people who experience slumps at that time
  • A 20-minute walk is enough—it doesn’t have to be a hard exercise to bring the brain to life, even 2 minutes can help!
  • 15 minutes of walking a day is enough to reduce your risk of breast and colon cancer by up to 40%

USING EXERCISE TO BOOST MENTAL PERFORMANCE

  • Walking improves creativity, walking in nature improves problem-solving
  • Walter Isaacson’s biography of Steve Jobs: he never sat down in meetings, needed to move to think clearly
  • For brain performance, you can sprinkle little bits of exercise in: take walks rather than strict workouts
  • Walking meetings: you’ll come up with much better ideas than if you sit down at a conference table together
  • Jim uses walking to get his phone calls done, blocks out a certain amount of time to walk and get things done
  • To operate in a reflective, contemplative state (alpha waves), or to complete deep tasks requiring deep focus, you need to be still and calm
  • For beta wave activity like thinking, hustling, and operating, movement helps—for this, you can use standing desks, move as you’re trying to create and generate new ideas

ENVIRONMENT

  • Craft an environment for yourself where success and excellence and inevitable
  • Thomas Edison & Menlo Park: find out more here
  • Create a home design that boosts your performance but also brings you joy
  • Greg has created an environment for his kids that gives them things to do aside from watching TV
  • Creating a positive environment means you won’t have to rely as much on your willpower to get the results you want
  • Ask yourself: what is the outcome I want?
  • Then work backward from this, and ask yourself: What does my daily life have to look like, what does my development have to look like, to achieve this outcome? What skills and capacities do I need to develop?
  • Don’t let other people or the way the world as it is currently designed to dictate your outcomes or influence your potential
  • Rather than waking up hoping you’ll be focused and creative, design it that way!
  • Remember: hope without habits is lost, when you wake up set your intention

MINDSET

  • Your efforts will come to life if you have the foundation of healthy eating, sleeping, and exercise
  • Meditation: training the ability to focus and control your attention is one of the most important skills we need to have in this world of distraction and tech
  • When interacting with social media, remember ‘intention not compulsion’
  • Remember: technology is a tool, don’t let it use you and turn you into a consumer or product rather than a creator, use it to reach your potential
  • Most people are training their distraction muscles, meditation is an alternative to this
  • Task-switching is exhausting physically: each time you switch task you’re shifting blood flow and fuel, activating different parts of the brain, opt for a single task
  • Dr. Brynn Winegard: whatever you are doing during the day is rewiring and changing your brain, regardless of what you are doing: this is true whether you’re focusing, practicing, studying or binge-watching Netflix, so the more good habits you can create, the better
  • We can literally rewire the way our brains work at any time in our lives regardless of our pasts
  • Ask yourself: what would your life look like in a year if you spent 20 minutes every day reading a biography of one of the masters rather than spending 20 minutes mindlessly scrolling? You wouldn’t recognize yourself
  • Remember: consistency compounds, knowledge is only power when we apply it
  • Leonardo was also in architecture, physics, anatomy, polymath: Mona Lisa was in his room unfinished
  • Remember: never give up, never stop improving, make life your masterpiece

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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Episode 5: My 10 Favorite Brain Foods

Episode 45: Improve Your Memory With A Good Night’s Sleep with Dr. Michael Breus

Episode 62: What To Eat For Your Brain with Dr. Mark Hyman