Is your brain feeling sluggish? Do you know you could achieve more if only your brain were on your side?
Imagine a life where you:
- Effortlessly retain information
- Consistently make smart decisions
- Effortlessly tap into limitless abundance
- Experience a flow state of logic and creativity
- Meet challenges with confidence
- Gain mental acuity
- Deeply focus & concentrate
- Live productively and efficient
- Continuously uplevel your professional or academic edge
All while maintaining a calm and resilient state of mind.
This remarkable organ governs every aspect of your life, from your personal identity and beliefs to your thoughts, feelings, and actions.
All of this isn’t just a dream—it’s within your reach.
Anyone can dramatically improve their intelligence and overall brainpower.
By adopting the right tactics, tools, and knowledge, you can rewire your brain for peak health and performance. In this blog post, we’ll explore powerful tips to biohack your brainpower.
I’ll guide you through the proven strategies that’ll transform your mind and help you create your unique extraordinary life.
Upgrading Your Mind Changes Your Life
Your brain conducts and guides every aspect of your life. It takes objective sensory inputs and interprets your experiences of the world to form your subjective experience.The mind is the central governor that determines the quality of your life, and it’s highly adaptable Click To Tweet
Your mind is the source of your:
In that order. Starting from your identity, down to the actions you take on a daily basis.
A healthy brain is a superpower. Helping you focus, remember, and make smart choices. Fueling problem-solving and creativity.
With a healthy brain, you conquer challenges.
A balanced brain keeps you calm and resilient against stress.
Beyond the personal level, only the optimized brain exhibits understanding, empathy, and deep communication skills. The prerequisites for meaningful human connection.
Caring for your brain benefits your body. A strong brain leads to an energized, healthy body.
Contrary to what you learned in biology class, you’re not stuck with your brain as is. No matter how “damaged”, anyone can upgrade their mind.
The right tactics, tools, and knowledge will help you unlock its full potential. A potential that you may not even know exists.
When you do, you’ll create an incredible life. With the resources available today, peak brain health has never been more attainable.
Top Tips & Strategies to Unlock Your Best Brain
Have you noticed that some people stay sharp through old age?
Some centenarians, for example, still solve difficult puzzles and even learn new skills. The mental faculties of some others, however, begin noticeably declining in their early 40’s.
While your personal genetics do play a role, epigenetics (or lifestyle) usually determine far more.
Your mind is incredibly malleable—constantly adapting to the environment and demands imposed upon it.
Below, I’ve listed some fundamental axioms of optimal, long-term mental health. After that, we cover some of the more advanced protocols and tools to sustain apex cognitive “neurofitness”, regardless of your age.
How much sleep do you get consistently? How about the quality of your sleep? The brain must move through different wavelengths and patterns throughout the night to naturally rid itself of toxins, to repair, rebuild, and grow. [R].
Plus, your brain uses this time to consolidate memories, internalize learnings, and cement skill development.
Research suggests that regularly getting 7-9 hours of sleep per night dramatically helps prevent dementia and neurodegeneration [R]. Making it one of our top tools.
Countless factors determine your sleep needs. From genetics to activity level, health status, age, and more. You can easily determine your need by going camping without electronics. Notice what time you naturally sleep and wake.
For more on this topic, check out my post on the Outliyr Sleep Optimization Protocol & Tips.
The famous Dr. Peter Attia regards movement as our single best anti-aging lever.
In other words, if you improve nothing but your fitness, you’ll see changes across all health domains.
Movement offers a diverse range of benefits for both the body and mind. It increases blood flow, tissue oxygenation, lowers blood pressure, and improves cholesterol levels.
Movement also protects against cognitive decline [R].
Plus, many others. Sweating helps release toxins through your skin. Exercise increases neuromuscular control and coordination. It’s one of the most potent ways to increase the growth of new nerve cells (via BDNF) and connections (synaptogenesis) between brain cells.
You build resilience against stress. And also improve general cardiovascular health by temporarily increasing heart rate which teaches the body to re-regulate it post-workout. If exercise is too much, at least begin “super walking”.
I’ve written countless articles on the Best Movements, Exercises, and Fitness Gear. Choose any and get started.
The brain may only weigh 2% of total body weight, but it consumes ~20% of the total energy we consume.
Your brain will take what it can get. But just like a race car, getting the highest performance requires certain fuels. These include calories, along with a wide range of macronutrients, micronutrients, vitamins, minerals, and trace minerals.
Ultra-processed foods ubiquitous in the Standard American Diet (SAD) block the absorption of key nutrients while also increasing inflammation throughout the body [R]. Over time, this leads to cognitive impairment.
Instead, consume more organic fruits and vegetables, clean animal products, and high-quality meat (organic, grass-finished, pasture-raised).
Focus on adding rather than subtracting.
Top brain foods to eat regularly:
- SMASH Fish (salmon, mackerel, anchovies, sardines, and herring) are replete with omega-3 fatty acids, which the body uses to build brain cell membranes, improve cognition, and reduce systemic inflammation
- Berries, and especially blueberries help protect your brain against oxidative stress, improve memory, and improve synaptogenesis
- Green Vegetables, and especially green, leafy vegetables the slower your brain function declines [R]
- Fermented Foods reinforce a healthy gut microbiome which helps prevent cognitive decline [R]
- Dark Chocolate above 75% cacao is rich in blood flow and cognition-boosting flavonoids
Top foods to avoid for a healthy brain:
- Refined Seed Oils spoil easily and become oxidized (toxic) by the time they reach you (plus, the manufacturing process introduces tons of nasty chemicals)
- Sugar accelerates cognitive and cardiovascular decline [R]
- GMO/“Bioengineered” Foods contain extreme levels of pesticides, herbicides, insecticides and decimate the gut microbiome
As a bonus, you can use C8 MCT oil to help naturally increase levels of ketones (”rocket fuel for the brain”). I like to use this instead of creamer in my Outliyr Genius Coffee Recipe.
99 out of 100 molecules in the body are water. Yet most of us live in a chronically dehydrated state. Just 1-2% dehydration results in a significant, clinically-measurable drop in cognition [R].
When we’re dehydrated, a number of other consequences occur. Since there’s less volume of water, the concentration of things within the blood impacts us more. Toxins, for example. Blood sugar also spikes higher when dehydrated.
Just drinking more water is certainly better than nothing. But it won’t hydrate you. For that, you need electrolytes or structured water. For electrolytes, you can just add a small pinch of high-quality unrefined salt to your water.
Or, you can follow this DIY Hydration Drink Recipe. If that’s too complicated, you can also use a delicious electrolyte supplement that also works great.
You can also consume structured water. This water is more bioavailable and hydrates better. It’s the water found within fruits and veggies. Or you can use a water structuring device. Or you can bathe in mineral-rich spa water.
When it comes to brain health, most experts focus on the classic pillars of health and wellness.
Yet we all know those people that stay up late partying, drinking, and smoking through their later years while seemingly doing great.
They have a secret. These folks often have a purpose, a “north star”, or a deeper reason that causes them to wake up every day with energy and excitement. A deep intrinsic motivation comes from doing the inner work to discover their interests, and consistently moving towards them.
Hobbies and activities that keep them emotionally and mentally engaged. These can be as grand as solving world hunger, or as simple as “loving and being loved”. It can and usually does change over time too.
Stress has become almost a dirty word. Everyone’s heard it dramatically impacts health, but if you’re like me, you might think you’ve already mastered stress management.
I meditate, use relaxing botanicals/herbals, have a deliberate breathwork practice, and do a lot of the best stress biohacks. Yet when I measured certain health & performance biomarkers that reflect stress status (like my continuous glucose or HRV), I discovered just how much it still impacts me.
There’s a strong association between worry and stress and diminished cognitive performance. Excess stress can even damage neurons [R].
Some anti-stress protocols I like include:
- Apollo haptic technology
- Mind Movies
- “Working in” active recovery movements
We have tons of stress-controlling tools at our disposal, and we can begin by cultivating awareness of our internal state.
Social interaction helps ward off depression and stress, which can contribute to memory loss. Look for opportunities to connect with loved ones, friends, and others, especially if you live alone. Research links solitary confinement to brain atrophy, so remaining socially active may have the opposite effect and strengthen the health of your brain.
Throughout history, humans have co-existed in groups. Even the most introverted among us require the presence of others.
That’s why solitary confinement is among the worst punishments for prisoners. It also atrophies their brains.
Researchers also have discovered that perceived social connection with healthspan better than any other factor. Including diet, exercise, nutrition, etc. Rather than quantity, studies suggest that your own perception of your social life matters most.
Plus, social interaction blunts stress and mood conditions like depression. Hugs and human touch therapy offer profound health benefits that rival powerful drugs.
So, participate in social groups or volunteer. Or create and nurture connections with others however you please. Not only does your happiness become more likely, but you also improve biological health markers like blood pressure, life expectancy, and risk of cognitive decline.
The average human today gets exposed to a staggering number of chemicals every single day. Depending on your lifestyle, that number is often in the triple digits.
These chemicals rush through safety testing, and often only get pulled from the market years (even decades) after research highlights their dangers.
You may not know this. Behind closed doors, manufacturers of these chemicals often pay up billions in settlements for the devastating effects of their products.
Exposure to certain individual toxic chemicals is often associated with cancer, dementia, cardiovascular disease, and a litany of other consequences.
Worst of all, most get investigated in a sterile lab environment. Never studied in the real world where they sometimes spontaneously combine with other chemicals to create entirely different molecules and never-seen-before health effects.
The savvy consumer carefully chooses what they allow into their living environment, using services like the free Think Dirty app to screen products for potential toxicity. For those worried about cognitive decline post-exposure, I recommend undergoing a comprehensive, scientific detox.
Light is one of the unsung players of optimal brain health. Each spectrum has countless biological effects.
Sunlight has a mixture of every light spectrum, and the exact breakdown varies depending on the time of day.
Blue light stimulates the brain, while red light relaxes and rejuvenates. UV also stimulates and causes the body to “activate” vitamin D. On the other end of the spectrum, infrared light penetrates into the body and has its own slew of benefits.
Certain neurotech wearables even emit light to put the brain into particular states.
Whether you prioritize getting ample natural sunlight or use a high-tech light stimulator, both can reliably improve your mood and cognitive function.
Just like we can go to the gym or on a run to improve our bodies, so too can we train our minds. Contrary to physical fitness, few people know about the power of cognitive training.
Why train our brains?
Our brain mostly forms within the first seven years of life. Even in the most perfect upbringings. Parents cannot read minds. They do their best, but the brain “remembers” and adapts to each upset. At the same time, other facets of life mold our mental state into undesirable states.
Social media, unprocessed stressors, TV programming, etc. Each of these hijacks our normal brain’s electric and chemical functions.
Brain training puts us back in control. Certain exercises, apps, or devices are specifically designed to improve cognitive function and memory.
We have all kinds of simple brain training options:
- Jigsaw puzzles
- Learning languages
- Playing games
- Trying new activities
The more different types of activities, the greater the effectiveness of your brain training. My favorite and the most powerful by far, however, is a special technology called neurofeedback.
Neurofeedback is a specialized form of brain training that improves your brain waves.
It works by using a sensor to measure brain activity in real time and then gives you visual/audio cues. These cues reward your brain for reaching and sustaining optimal states. These sessions help your brain re-learn how to thrive.
Acting just like the gym but for your mental health and function.
Although it sounds farfetched, all kinds of people experience dramatic results. From professional athletes to elite business people, to special forces military personnel, to everyday folks just looking to overcome mental health issues and re-take control of their lives.
This might just be the most powerful brain-enhancing strategy available. It takes multiple sessions, but when you stop practicing it, the benefits last. For a very long time.
I’ve written several articles about it, including the Science, Benefits, & Ultimate Guide to Neurofeedback, and this article will help you choose the Best Neurofeedback Brain Training System for your unique lifestyle.
Did you know that our minds are exquisitely sensitive to sound?
Though neurofeedback is my favorite technological mind upgrade, it doesn’t work instantly. The benefits take some time to accrue. And it requires dedicated training sessions.
Neuroacoustics is strategically using specific audio tracks to entrain brainwaves into desirable states. It doesn’t teach the brain how to do it on its own, rather it does the work for you. You can multitask while using these neuro acoustics.
For example, I use a particular track to deepen my meditation and introspective practices. I use another to sharpen my focus. Yet another track rapidly prepares my mind and body to sleep.
The core technologies underlying Neuroacoustics include:
- Binaural beats
- Isochronic tones
- White/pink/brown noise
- Proprietary algorithms
Each of them has its pros and cons. Binaural beats, for example, are free but lack strength and only work a few times before the brain adapts to them. Isochronic tones, on the other hand, sound terrible but work.
I like and use these two:
- Brainfm (review) — budget-friendly and best for most people
- NuCalm (review) — strongest and professional-grade
And there are lots of others…
Neurostimulation is the process of applying external forces (light, magnetism, sound) to impact the brain state.
Each of these can actively alter our brainwaves to accomplish specific goals.
Technically, neuroacoustics falls under the category of neurostimulation. But it’s not the only option. So in this section, we’ll focus on the others. Unlike neuroacoustics, these all require particular hardware.
Some brain stimulation techniques include:
- Neurophotobiomodulation harnesses the power of specific wavelengths of light to target and stimulate specific regions of the brain, promoting neuroplasticity and improving cognitive functions
- Transcranial magnetic stimulation (TMS) uses magnetic fields to stimulate specific areas of the brain and potentially enhance cognitive abilities
- Transcranial direct current stimulation (tDCS) uses low-level electrical currents to stimulate specific areas of the brain and potentially enhance cognitive performance
- Transcranial alternating current stimulation (tACS) delivers electrical currents with alternating frequencies to the brain in a way that closely mimics the brain’s natural oscillations and neural activity for cognitive enhancement and neurological disorders
- Transcranial random noise stimulation (tRNS) involves applying random electrical currents to the brain (no specific frequency or pattern), which enhances cortical excitability and promotes neuroplasticity in the targeted brain regions
My favorite of those is light. It’s the least invasive, safest, and easiest to use.
But there’s research around each of them. Each of these is an exciting frontier of health and medicine.
For millennia, humans coexisted with Earth’s natural rhythms. This included the seasons and drastic temperature fluctuations.
Of course, the particular conditions varied by location. But nevertheless, we experienced some form of this “hormetic stress”.
Although our modern environment insulates us from natural environmental rhythms, they still benefit humans. Regular exposure to semi-extreme heat and cold still improves the health of the body and mind.
The two best ways to gain these benefits include sauna and cold therapy. Both promote better blood circulation. The heat from saunas and the cold exposure from cold thermogenesis help dilate blood vessels and increase blood flow to the brain, delivering more oxygen and nutrients.
They also stimulate the release of endorphins and other feel-good hormones, which can enhance mood and reduce stress.
Both increase production of brain-derived neurotrophic factor (BDNF), a protein that supports the growth and maintenance of neurons. Higher BDNF levels help cognitive function and protection against neurodegenerative diseases.
Each of these therapies also increases heat shock proteins (especially sauna) and cold shock proteins (especially from cold). These help proteins maintain their structure and function in the brain. Increasing resilience and slowing neurodegeneration.
These are just a few of the countless benefits and reasons to incorporate temperature exposure therapy into your routine.
You can get the benefits of cold thermogenesis by walking around in < 60-degree weather for hours. Or within less than two minutes in a cold plunge.
On the heat side, a 18-minutes in a traditional sauna (less comfortable) or 20-25 in an infrared sauna. From my research, infrared saunas also provide all kinds of other benefits that traditional saunas do not. You can check out this Guide to the Best Home Infrared Saunas here.
Certain dietary ingredients have profound impacts on the brain.
This class of compounds is called “nootropics” and they’re a subset of dietary supplements that adhere to very specific criteria. These include:
- Enhances cognitive function
- Non-toxic and safe
- Boosts resilience against stress
- Increases brain blood flow and nutrient delivery
With the right products, you’ll actually feel a difference. Subjectively and then also objectively measurable.
I use nootropics to improve my:
- Creativity & logic
And a whole lot more.
Nootropics consist of plant-based botanicals, Medicinal Adaptogenic Mushrooms, food-derived substances, and manmade ingredients.
A few popular examples include ginseng, rhodiola, ashwagandha, and the most universal of all nootropics, caffeine, and nicotine (when used responsibly).
There are all kinds of products, and only a few of them actually work. You can check out these posts about Bioharmonizing the Mind With Nootropics to find the right one for you.
Within 90 seconds, our breathing impacts our physiology. Potentially for the better when deliberately controlled, or for the worse if we let it go on autopilot.
In fact, most of the ancient medical systems espoused the importance of correct, deliberate breathwork.
Some forms of breathing rev up the nervous system, stimulate us, and increase the flow of energy.
Others relax us, clear our minds, and settle us down into profoundly relaxed states.
Some of my favorite forms of breathwork include:
- Box breathing
- Alternate nostril breathing
- Wim Hof Method
- Brian Mackenzie Breathing Technique for Athletes
You can find thousands of tutorials online to put you into specific states.
Deliberate breathwork is an awesome way to re-regulate the autonomic nervous system and make our mental activity coherent.
Most humans today are constantly eating or digesting food. Often with just a few hours between digestion and the next meal.
From an evolutionary biology perspective, this rarely occurred. Humans ate fewer meals and between a shorter window of time.
Newer science shows that practicing occasional periods of extended fasting, or regularly eating with a shorter window of time (intermittent fasting) has incredible therapeutic benefits. Regarding brain health, fasting:
- Enhances brain plasticity: stimulates the production of brain-derived neurotrophic factor (BDNF), a protein that supports the growth and differentiation of new neurons, leading to improved brain plasticity and cognitive function
- Increases autophagy: a process called autophagy initiates, which helps remove damaged cells and cellular components. This cellular cleansing protects brain cells and improves overall brain health
- Improves mitochondrial function: enhances mitochondrial function, the energy-producing “powerhouses of cells”. Optimal mitochondrial function is key to maintaining brain health and slowing age-related cognitive decline
- Reduces inflammation: chronic inflammation is associated with various neurodegenerative conditions, and by reducing inflammation, fasting can help offset cognitive decline
- Boosts neuroprotection: activates various cellular pathways that enhance the brain’s resistance to damage
Most health influencers have a secret. Fasting acts as a potent therapeutic, but it’s also a stressor. If you haven’t mastered your stress resilience, fasting may detract from your brain and overall health.
A practice once considered taboo, mindfulness is among the oldest “brain hacks”.
Among the hundreds (or thousands) of world-class guests on Tim Ferriss’s podcast, they shared several common practices and routines. Including meditation, one of the most popular activities under the bucket of mindfulness.
Like neurofeedback, meditation re-wires the brain to run more efficiently. It grows regions of the brain responsible for decision-making and effective mental function (hippocampus, prefrontal cortex, insula). While simultaneously shrinking areas that make us react to stimuli in undesirable ways (amygdala).
Regular meditation builds resilience against stress and improves focus.
It’s also among the best-researched brain optimization practices. Including slowing the speed of biological aging.
Mindfulness practices are like a “Swiss Army Knife” of brain health.
Transforming your body also transforms your brain.
As body weight (fat mass increases), so does the risk of cognitive decline.
Three biomarkers that strongly predict brain health include:
- Blood sugar
- Blood pressure
- Body fat
Suboptimal blood sugar and/or blood pressure impair healthy blood flow and nutrient delivery through the brain. Increased body fat also increases systemic inflammation, and disrupts cognitive abilities.
Insulin resistance often coincides with high blood sugar and body fat, and impaired insulin signaling in the brain harms cognitive function and memory.
Finally, all three of those biomarkers negatively impact hormone levels.
At the very least, work to naturally improve these three metrics for a simple cognitive health and performance boost.
I hesitated to include this one because it almost seems self-evident, but many of the most common vices severely disrupt neurological health.
When stress or negative feelings arise, we often turn elsewhere for comfort. A few of the main ones that negatively impact mental health:
- Social media
Each time we indulge, we re-wire our brain — for the worse. In many cases, these vices are scientifically tweaked to elicit the strongest effects on our reward neurochemistry. Making everyday life without them duller.
First, pause for a minute to determine what the vice provides you. What are you feeling? Bringing conscious awareness to it can sometimes lessen the craving.
Whenever possible, look for better alternatives. For example, I use these Healthy, Potent Alcohol Alternatives to Enjoy a Nice Buzz Without the Hangover or Damage. When my girlfriend wanted to stop smoking, I compiled this list of Healthier Cigarette/Vape Alternatives.
For over a decade, I played collision sports. Mainly American Football, but I later added collegiate Rugby. Brain injuries surrounded me.
And you might not know this…
Normal folks sustain head injuries just as often as athletes in team sports commonly deemed risky.
A trip and fall while walking down the street. Falling off a bike. Slipping on ice or an uneven trail.
Despite what the coaches said, if not properly cared for, head injuries can persist for life. Since injuries derail mental health more than anything else, I focus on injury prevention.
Around the world, a previously banned class of psychoactive substances is gradually gaining medical acceptance.
These are the classic psychedelics such as LSD, magic mushrooms (psilocybin), MDMA, etc. While they should only be used where legal and under medical supervision, seemingly every new study validates their efficacy in putting the brain into a more changeable state.
They also appear to modulate the activity of a brain region called the corpus callosum. Integrating the two hemispheres of the brain to degrees usually lost during development. Resulting in breakthrough ideas and insights.
Some folks, including high-profile business executives, swear by using sub-perception micro-doses of these substances for general brain health and cognition.
How to Improve Your Brain Health & Function As You Age
The health and function of our mind dictate our quality of life.
Many so-called “experts” are wrong. You’re not stuck with your brain’s current state. You can fix a bad memory, slower thinking, low motivation, or lackluster verbal fluency.
I hope this comprehensive list gave you some ideas of great ways to improve the health and function of your brain.
There are a lot, so begin working on them slowly over time.
Once you accomplish these, you can check out this free Outliyr mini-course on mastering control of your brain health & performance.
Am I missing anything? Let me know your favorite brain biohacks in the comments below!