Tip: This post is a bit dense. If you just want to know what I’m eating on a day to day basis, skip to the bottom. I’d suggest reading the whole thing for context though 🙂
If there’s any saying that I try to live by, it would be always learning. This is something that I’ve tried to mold my life around.
I remember where I was the first time I had this realization and put it to use in a major way. I was sitting at my clinic between patient visits, pondering a crossroads of stepping away from my practice and focusing on more impactful businesses, or staying and growing what I had built. It was a terrifying career and identity switch away from something I invested years of my life and hundreds of thousands of dollars in and swapping it with something that was completely unknown.
I knew I needed to figure this out, so I canceled a few days of patient care, drove up to Marin, took a notebook and filled it up with answers to different questions addressing my indecision. What is the worst case scenario if everything failed? How would I get back to where I was at? What are the things I would need to do to succeed if I made this switch? Is what I’m doing day to day creating the impact I want to see in people’s health?
After facing down all of the thoughts that were boiling in my brain, I (easily) came to the decision to leave my clinic and work on harder problems with more impactful solutions. The decision was the best one I’ve made in my adult life and never would have happened without this hard self-reflection.
The most important habit I’ve developed is doing this exercise of questioning everything I am doing at least once a month, sometimes more.
This reflection isn’t always easy. Some people would feel uncomfortable with the realization they have been doing something wrong, but I just look at it as another chance to learn.
I’ve been on a little bit of a journey the last few months, trying to nail down a vision for my companies and the impact I can make not in the next five, but the next ten years. Before I do that, I have to ask myself how I can improve my own actions to optimize the output of helping others improve their actions.
As always, this starts with nutrition.
The reason I focus so heavily on nutrition is simple. In my opinion, food is the largest contributor to how someone’s reality is formed. Reality is the current perceived state of existence. Reality is life and every positive and negative experience of your existence. And your current perceptions of your existence are formed by your brain, and your brain only. Food is what makes up every bit of matter and energy in every part of every cell you have, so why the hell would you not start there if you’re trying to improve your life?
All of this thinking has led me to approach my nutrition through an approach that Elon Musk and others call “first principles thinking.” This type of thinking is essentially breaking down a problem into fundamental constituent components to be able to solve it in the most rational way possible and looks like this:
Problem: What are the most appropriate nutrition choices to create the best reality for myself, so I can have the highest output helping others create their own best reality?
To answer this question, you have to think what systems in your body actually create your reality from a fundamental level, and then how those systems are best supported. Again, food is the raw material which your body operates from. Without getting too far down the rabbit hole, this has led me to the following prioritization:
1. Eat for brain health.
2. Eat for gut health.
3. Eat for cellular health.
With those three systems in place, it’s time to figure out what exactly to eat to support these systems, and just as importantly, what to avoid to remove negative insult on these systems. So let’s break down why I chose each system, what I want to make sure to include, and what I want to make sure to avoid to best support those systems.
1. Eat for brain health
There’s a reason why my brain comes as the number one priority to decide what I want to eat when optimizing for reality. Your brain receives signals from your body, the environment, and various stimuli to create your experience. Your brain is the processor for all inputs and if you don’t take care of your brain cells, neurons, neurotransmitters and hormones your brain secretes, it doesn’t matter what signals it receives, you’re going to have a bad time.
There are two things I take into consideration when looking at the composition of the brain: the cellular structure itself and the hormones, neurotransmitters, signaling molecules that regulate the communication of brain cells. I’ll skip the boring details of each, but point out the common thread.
So what exactly does this look like? In each of these sections, I think the easiest way to start is what you should not eat, then move to what you should eat.
What you should avoid if you are eating for brain health:
Sugar (and Carbohydrates) – I can already tell that this will be a common thread in this article, but eating sugar is one of the worst things you can do if you want a positive day to day existence.
Easily digestible carbohydrates, and especially sugars you can consume in high amounts, can flood your system with amounts of glucose that are unable to be properly processed by the human body. This leads to inflammation in the brain resultant from excessive glucose (sugar). There’s a reason why Alzheimer’s is now being classified as Type III diabetes. Not good.
Not to mention, the brain preferentially runs on ketone bodies, even in the presence of carbohydrates. Ketone bodies are a much “cleaner” fuel source for the brain and are the breakdown of fats. The less carbs you eat, the more ketone bodies your brain uses. It’s that simple.
If you do eat carbohydrates, there are also probably many plant compounds that help process the food you’re eating. If the carbohydrate you are eating didn’t come from a plant, I would highly avoid eating it for many reasons, but ultimately because it will make you stupid.
I would also argue that to really optimize for brain health, even sugars that are in some plants be limited. This means less sweet fruit and more starchy vegetables. So then the argument would be, if the carbohydrate didn’t come from the ground and grew on trees, probably avoid it if you are optimizing for brain health.
REMOVE: any processed sugar, any carbohydrate that isn’t a plant, and probably most carbohydrates
Inflammatory Fats – We’ll soon get to what fats you should be eating, but I think it is almost as important to know which types of fats to avoid. Any fats that are highly oxidized, or are “unstable”, should be avoided at all costs.
If your cells are made of fat and the things they secrete and use to talk to each other also need fat, and you want them to be the best, then give them the best raw materials. If you want them to be damaged and inflamed, give them those types of fats.
This is one of the main reasons I think IIFYM people are insanely misguided. Food quality always matters. This is like saying the type of building materials don’t matter when you’re trying to build a skyscraper. Doesn’t work that way. Vegetable oils can lead to massive inflammation throughout your entire body. Skip.
REMOVE: almost all vegetable oils (exception of olive and a few others), anything that is fried, anything that is processed, anything that is not a “real” fat food
What you should eat for brain health.
This isn’t going to be a Buzzfeed bullshit article about all of the top 15 superfoods found in berries that will cure dementia. This is about what real foods I’m going to eat. The vast majority of the cells, hormones, and neurotransmitters are made from fat. And yes, your brain is made of fat. If you want to make something, you have to have the precursors of what that thing is made of.
But your brain isn’t made of just any fat, it has a high ratio of saturated fat. This means you must eat a pretty high-fat diet, with saturated fats. I’m not going to dive into the conversation of saturated fats right now, but no, they are not going to kill you. They are really healthy for you, especially if you want a functioning brain.
If you want a brain that works, you should eat saturated fats. You should also eat a lot of really stable animal fats from the best sources possible.
Wild Fish –
Wild fish contain a massive amount of the type of fats you need for your brain to work well. Check out my guide on sourcing fish if you need more information.
Pastured or Wild Animals –
Pastured and/or wild animals also have a ton of really great fats, as well as micronutrients that you need for cellular processes. Check out my guide on sourcing poultry and guide on sourcing beef if you need more information.
Organ meats –
Organ meats are the foods with the highest micronutrient density per gram. Micronutrients are the things that your cells need to do the things they should be doing. This means you should eat more of them.
Stable, high-quality fats –
To get the bulk of the rest of the fats, you’re going to need to add a bunch of healthy sources. Because I like to eat real food, these are things like ghee, avocados, coconut oil and other coconut products, olive oil, avocado oil, and nuts. I do some full-fat dairy, but not that often as it’s relatively harder to source and is pretty expensive when compared to other fats. Oh, I have a guide for sourcing dairy too.
Supplements for brain health
I additionally add a few extra things to make sure that I get enough of certain nutrients that are important for the brain. For me this looks like the following:
Krill oil – I supplement with krill over “fish” oil for a few different reasons. First, with krill having the largest biomass of any seafood in the world, this is a much more sustainable source of marine fats than standard fish oil. Second, the nutrient density and spread is much more favorable than fish oil. Krill are much lower on the food chain and don’t grow that large, meaning the level of heavy metal accumulation in their tissues are non-existent. Krill oil also contains naturally occurring compounds like carotenoids and astaxanthin, which are not only amazing for your body, but prevents the fats in the actual oil supplement from degrading. The fatty acids in krill oil are also attached to phospholipids, rather than triglycerides. This is how your body uses them, so it’s easier to absorb and incorporate into your tissues.
Fermented cod liver oil – Krill oil is a great source of DHA and EPA, but I round it out with fermented cod liver oil just to make sure I get it from more than one source. Fermentation and cold processing are important facts here, meaning you’ll not only get the fat that is undamaged, but also all of the fat-soluble nutrients like vitamin A and D in high amounts.
Alpha-GPC – Choline is a compound that helps your brain cells communicate better. Alpha-GPC is a form of choline that is very easily absorbed by your body. Genetic testing has revealed I produce and metabolism choline less than my fellow human, so I personally supplement to make sure I get enough. Nutritional sources include beef and chicken liver, and egg yolks.
2. Eat for gut health
This is a pretty easy number two, and almost a contender for pole position, but why? Because your gut is super important, that’s why. Your gut has two primary roles, to break down food, and to absorb food. If you can’t do either of those things, not much of what you eat matters in the first place.
Not to mention, your gut houses the most amount of neurons outside of your brain and secretes a ridiculous amount of neurotransmitters (signals to your brain that control how you perceive your environment). This means your gut health creates a large part of your subjective reality as well.
Just like with the brain, there are two main components when I look at gut health as a whole. The first would be distribution and balance of gut microbiota, or where and what type of gut bugs you have. These bugs can regulate hormones and neurotransmitters, start the digestion of your food, influence your immune system and much more. If you want to be a complete human, you need to have the right troops in the right spot at the right time.
The second major gut health focus would be the integrity of the gut lining itself. The lining of your intestines have cells that decide what goes into your bloodstream. After you eat something, nothing gets truly “inside” your body and into your bloodstream without crossing your gut lining. Think of the cells lining your intestines like a bouncer at a club on ladies night, keeping all of the creepy men out. This is normally a very tightly regulated process, however, when the lining of the gut gets damaged, way more things can get into the bloodstream. This will wreak havoc on your body, cause autoimmunity, inflammation and other unwanted side effects.
What you should avoid if you want good gut health
Sugar – Sugar is a huge one to avoid here. The more easily digestible sugars and carbs that you consume, the more bacteria climb further up your digestive system to eat all of this sugar and populate where they shouldn’t be. This screws up your digestion, leads to heartburn/GERD, and many other problems. Keep simple sugars down and you restrict easy food to bad gut bugs.
Inflammatory Fats – If you have any gut lining issues and you eat bad fats, they can ride through to create massive inflammation in your body as a lipopolysaccharide. Not good.
Grains (especially with gluten) – Most grains are technically seeds that we grind up and eat. These seeds have defense mechanisms in them so when animals eat them (unground) they end up passing through their digestive system so they get planted and sprout into another plant. These defense mechanisms can damage our gut lining. Not good.
Also, grains are primarily carbohydrates, which I mentioned above I want to limit to improve brain health.
Soaking and sprouting grains do a lot to reduce their negative effect on the body, but removing them all together works well, too. There’s nothing essential you can’t get in a grain from a much more nutrient dense, less offensive food.
What you should eat for gut health
Fiber and whole food carbohydrates – I’m going to keep my carbohydrate load fairly low because of wanting to run primarily on ketones, but that doesn’t mean you can’t get any fiber in your diet. Fiber will help provide food for the gut bacteria that you do have. There are some camps out there that say your microbiome will shift when you take out fiber completely, but I do feel better when I eat more of it. This comes through mostly dark leafy greens, cabbage, and some occasional sweet potato or squash.
Fermented foods – It just so happens I already love fermented foods, so this won’t be a tough incorporation. Fermented foods incorporate new and different species of bacteria in your gut that will help regulate the health of your gut. Sauerkraut, kimchi, some full-fat yogurt, and maybe a little kombucha might be nice if I’m feeling extra silly.
Supplements for gut health
Bone broth – This isn’t necessarily a “supplement” but it is one thing that I buy and consume from a package and isn’t a main component of a meal, so I count it as a supplement. Bone broth contains tons of nutrients and proteins that are great for the gut lining. I use Kettle and Fire exclusively, which is because they have the best shelf stable broth that I’ve had and this means I don’t have to buy tons of bones, roast them, and then have my house smell like boiled bones for four weeks.
Collagen – Collagen is another supplement that I don’t think enough people get in their lives. Most people are good on lean proteins but are severely lacking in collagen, which repairs soft tissues and connective tissue in the body. This is a lot of what the gut lining is made of. Eat more collagen if you want a healthy gut. I do 2-3 scoops per day of either product I developed: Perfect Keto Collagen if standalone or Equip Foods Clean Collagen if blended into something else.
3. Eat for cellular health
Now that we’ve prioritized feeding our gut and our brain, it is time to take care of the rest of our cells. What I mean by this is everything else besides your brain and your digestive system. This would be known as your body. Your body is essentially a vessel that carries around the machinery (your brain) that creates your reality. The cells that make up your body need some loving too.
When I look at cellular health, as with gut and brain health, I approach it from a multidirectional way. You need to look at the cellular makeup of a cell and make sure the cell wall is as intact as possible (mostly fats, some proteins). You also need to look at how cells communicate and function and what you need for those processes (hint: that’s what micronutrients and things like vitamins and minerals are for).
What you should avoid for the best cellular health
I’m going to be sounding like a broken record here, but similar rules apply for cellular health.
Sugar and Inflammatory Fats – Hopefully I do sound like a broken record at this point because this fact is so important. STOP EATING SUGAR AND INFLAMMATORY FATS. They will literally create a terrible existence for yourself and the people around you. They damage every important system in your body and will make you stupid, inflamed and feel physically awful.
Processed Foods – Eating things that are devoid of nutrition and are generally not real food compounds but a cellular processing burden on your body. There are no biological free rides when it comes to nutrition. Your body has to process everything and get rid of it if it doesn’t belong. You’re taking away from what your body should actually be doing when you add in a bunch of fake foods, so don’t.
What you should eat for cellular health
Micronutrient dense food – There is much more your body needs than just macronutrients. IIFYM folks probably couldn’t stand reading until now, so no worries that I’ll upset anyone here. Micronutrients do matter, and I believe much more than macronutrient balance (as long as you’re getting enough high-quality fat for your brain as per brain health). The most nutrient-dense foods you can consume as a human are organ meats.
High-quality fats – We will get here a little more with the supplement section, but your cell walls are all made of fats. If you don’t have high-quality fats, don’t expect to have high-quality cells, it is that simple. Same rules from the sections above apply.
A balance of protein – The vast majority of people eat only lean muscle meats from animals. This would be a good idea if you were only made up of lean tissue, like muscles, but this is not the case. You have all of the tissue that connects your joints and muscles to those joints, as well as your skin, vascular system, and many other important tissues that are made of proteins that you aren’t going to be getting eating chicken breast. This means cooking with the whole animal, eating things made of joints and skin (please, please, please make sure these are of high quality, though) and consuming a lot more collagen and gelatin.
Supplements For Better Cellular Health
I think I do a pretty damn good job at getting plant diversity as well as a balance of proteins, but to make sure I cover all of my bases, I use the following supplements. And yes, the greens are products that I’ve created, because nothing existed to the standards I wanted.
Micronutrient greens powder – Because I either want to limit carbohydrates or I’m at a point where I just don’t have time or access to a diversity of plants, I usually take one of the two different micronutrient products (here and here) that I developed. This ensures that I have all of the vitamins and minerals that are needed for cellular function.
Borage oil and flax oil – These fats, along with others, make up the phospholipid bilayer that creates the lining of your cells. These are gamma linoleic acids, or GLAs. These can be classified as “deadly” omega-6 fats as they can oxidize to arachidonic acid, but don’t worry, this won’t happen when administered with an omega-3, like the krill oil I was mentioning earlier. Borage, flax, krill, and cod liver oil (along with healthy fats from avocado and olive oil) are all combined here to make sure the outside of all cells have a high integrity.
These are the things that I’m trying to avoid, as always: sugars, inflammatory oils, grains, most carbohydrates.
And these are the things I am trying to eat: High-quality animal fats and proteins, wild fish, high-quality plant fats, and as many micronutrients as possible.
What that means for me is essentially not a huge change, but more intentional on what I am prioritizing right now, which is my subjective reality and experience as a human being. I ask myself before I eat something “will this improve my brain, gut, or cellular health?” and if that answer is no, then I don’t eat it. If it is yes and I’m hungry, then I eat it. Good brains, good gut, and good cells mean great reality.
And these are the things I am supplementing with:
- Krill, borage, flax and fermented cod liver oil
- Bone Broth
- Micronutrient greens powder
- Grass-fed collagen
This doesn’t mean these will be the ONLY supplements I will be taking, just the ones I will be prioritizing. For example, I use MCT oil powder, exogenous ketones, and beef protein powder pretty regularly, among other products.
I will also do a fair bit of intermittent fasting. I generally just feel way better when I skip breakfast, and typically am not hungry in the morning anyway. This saves me time from not having to cook or clean and increases my mental capacity. I stay leaner this way and have more energy. Sometimes I will add in a fat shake in the morning if I know I won’t be able to eat whenever I’m hungry, or if I do wake up hungry.
This is a good point to note that I am not keeping any timing or macro specifications in the back of my head. I am trying to eat more intuitively, which means carbs when I want carbs and food when I’m hungry.
Putting it all together, and a typical day has been and will look like this for the foreseeable future:
Breakfast: One cold brew and one espresso.
Lunch: One enormous salad with a variety of local seasonal plants, Kasandrino’s olivecado oil, avocado, macadamia nuts, herbs, and salmon or lamb.
Snacks: US Wellness Meats liverwurst and sauerkraut.
Dinner: Roasted vegetables in ghee and ribeye.
I also drink really high-quality mezcal from time to time or wine from Dry Farm Wines. No, drinking isn’t great for any of these things, but I don’t go hog wild and this generally comes in a social setting and decreases stress, which does positively impact brain and gut health. So there.
You’ll also note I’m not simplifying this and saying that I’m doing just a “ketogenic” or “paleo” diet. This requires little thinking and critical evaluation and sets in place an identity to feel guilty about. Most of my meals will be what I call “quality keto” meals, which is a whole food-centric ketogenic diet. But there will be sometimes I want to eat some carbs, so I’ll eat some carbs from sweet potato, berries, squash, etc. Most of the times I will be in a state of ketosis for my number one reason of food priority (brain health), and I will always be eating real food for reasons one, two, and three. I’m eating like a human. Enough.
That’s how I’m thinking about food choices for now. Not getting too crazy about it, but there are a lot of deep reasons why I choose what I am choosing. Any questions about more specifically what I am eating on a day to day basis? Any feedback on what you’re doing that is different or how I could improve? Let me know in the comments below!
More importantly, ask yourself what the most important things are to you and how you can use your nutrition to help meat (see what I did there) those goals.