What a Severe Concussion Taught me About my Relationship with Nootropics, Exercise, Food, and More

Me 

A little bit of background and context on myself might be helpful to frame before delving into the specificities of this post (I will try to be brief and vague for privacy reasons). I attended a "prestigious" university where I studied biochemistry. Understanding how life forms work from this intricate level of molecules has always been a fascination of mine. However, as a naïve obedient sheep disillusioned by the allure of making a quick fortune, I left science behind for a career in finance. After a miserable two years as an investment banker, I now work at a large private equity fund. The insidious, manic world of finance contributed to a garden variety of self-destructive behaviors: cocaine, binge drinking, poor nutrition, clubs, mindless sex, etc.. you get the idea. In short, having made it through university as a relatively healthy guy, I threw myself into a spiral of self-destruction (from a mental and physical health standpoint).

The Concussion 

In July, I received a severe concussion (or post-traumatic brain injury) which I was told by multiple health professionals would significantly impair my cognitive and physical ability potentially for years (and potentially for life). Further to the morose outlook, my neurologist told me that the date of my injury very well could have been my last; what better than a cheeky flirtation with death to set the tone for a better life. I will be vague about the specificities of the injury and tortuous minutiae of symptoms that I dealt with shortly after (and for the months following the concussion), but I hope to intricately discuss the behavioral changes / habits (meditation, mitigating dopaminergic stimulus, etc.) and various therapies (supplements, nootropics, psychedelics, etc.) that got me to where I am today in hopes that someone in a similar predicament might benefit; I also believe that a great majority of the dramatic changes I have made to my health are widely applicable to people dealing with a wide range of maladies (depression, anxiety, depression, lethargy, etc.) as well as otherwise "healthy" people.

My Plan I listened to the general advice of my physicians (avoid drinking, don't exert yourself physically, avoid screens, etc.), but was ultimately told that there wasn't much I could do to accelerate my path to recovery; it would be a waiting game. My MRI results showed various contusions and minor hemorrhaging which frightened me beyond belief, but thinking that my path to good health was out of control was unacceptable; my natural response as a stubborn know it all. I approached recovery as a challenge of discipline and thoughtful experimentation. For a little context, I will outline below the various pieces of literature and studies that gave me the ammunition to fight my way back to optimal health:

Guiding Literature:

Lifespan - David Sinclair (medical longevity research / "biohacking" / biochemistry)

Breath - James Nestor (the art of breathing)

Why Zebra's Don't Get Ulcers - Rovert Sapolsky (biochemistry / psychology)

Behave - Rovert Sapolsky (biochemistry / psychology)

Atomic Habits - James Clear (something anyone with ADHD should read)

Finding North - Georges Michelson Foy (best book I have read in a very long time; its plot is complex and, trying not to be too reductive, his book discusses how technology has departed humans from our most basic faculties, particularly navigation, which has literally changed the chemistry of our brain)

Consider The Lobster - David Foster Wallace (a great piece of literature by the best writer of the modern age that taught me a valuable lesson of seeing the world skeptically, but forgivingly)

Why Zebra's Don't Get Ulcers - Robert Sapolsky (awesome overview of the biology, endocrinology, and psychiatry of anxiety)

Studies (only adding one as there were too many on supplements and nootropics to add, but primarily used PubMed to research the supplements and nootropics that I list):

Psychedelics as therapy for concussions: https://clinicaltrials.gov/ct2/show/NCT03806985

Without getting into too much detail on the purpose of each supplement, these were the supplements I ultimately incorporated into my recovery (and now daily life):

  • Vitamin D
  • Zing
  • Turmeric
  • CoQ10
  • Chelated magnesium
  • DHA Omega 3
  • NAD+
  • Acetyl Choline

These are the nootropics (with a brief description for when / why where relevant):

  • L-Theanine (every night for stress)
  • Honokiol (a couple of times of the week for stress)
  • L-Tyrosine (everyday happiness; dopaminergic)
  • Lion's Mane (promotes neurogenesis and general neurological health purposes)
  • Uridine Monophosphate (dopaminergic, so for 'happiness)
  • Cognizin (happiness, again dopaminergic)
  • Psilocybin (besides the neuroplasticity a psychedelic experience can occasion, I had one trip on an eight of psilocybin mushrooms that have left me feeling very at peace with who I am and has had a long-lasting effect which has been tremendously helpful to my recovery and broader wellbeing)

Behavioral changes:

  • I have not consumed any alcohol since my injury (VERY important for post-concussion syndrome patients for obvious reasons)
  • Sleeping 8 hours per night; same time to bed and same time waking up (use a Whoop to track my sleep)
  • Breathing exercises (Whim Hoff has been a great tool for getting better control over my sympathetic nervous system)
  • Exercise 5 times per week and do something active the other two days (I can go into a more detailed post on my exercise routine, but a lot of HIIT, calisthenics, plyometrics, and daily 15-minute yoga)
  • Meditate 20 minutes per day (two 10 minute meditations)
  • Deleted all forms of social media and limit my phone usage to the necessities (am now reading everything paperback)
  • Spend a couple of hours a day or so committed to two online classes: neurochemistry and evolutionary psychology
  • Cut caffeine out of my life outside an occasional green tea
  • Quit vaping and any nicotine use
  • Write to-do lists every day and have tried to incorporate deliberate scheduling into every facet of my life
  • Express daily gratitude for my family, girlfriend, and friends

Nutrition

  • Intermittent fast (~5-hour window) with a 48 hour fast every couple of weeks; cheat occasionally; what is life without a little guilty pleasure
  • Follow a plant-based diet and occasionally eat fatty fish
  • Limit refined grains (and generally limit carbs outside of carbs from berries, vegetables, and non-wheat / grain sources)
  • Almost everything I eat is a whole food and very rarely eat refined sugar / anything that you find wrapped and sealed in plastic at the grocery store

Other:

  • STAY HYDRATED (I try to drink two gallons of water per day
  • Stretch a lot and use a Hypervolt and foam roller daily
  • Try and read two books per week (not really a new hobby, but was certainly difficult in the months following the injury)

Many of these were incorporated into my routine well into my recovery, while others I started the right way. Determining and/or ranking which were most critical to my recovery would be difficult (controlling variables and all that science stuff), but I strongly believe these habits and changes got me to where I am today, which is:

Where I am Today: In college, I was very, very fit, but plagued by anxiety, lack of sleep, depression, etc.. the list goes on. I have some objective metrics which demonstrate that I am, once again, extremely fit (very strong Vo2 max, low BP and resting HR, etc.). However, more importantly, I am holistically healthy. The concussion gave me frequent panic attacks, insomnia, etc. While anxiety is something I still deal with, I have never been calmer, happier, and have reconstructed the relationship between my mind and body into one that is complementary and homeostatic. Two days ago, I met with my neurologist to review my most recent MRI results: no sign of contusions or hemorrhages (the damaged tissue has completely healed). He was shocked; I was not. I feel and look healthier than I have ever been. I will be returning to work in full capacity next week and am excited to see how that translates into my responsibilities at my job, but I am more than willing to answer any questions on the supplements and behaviors I have adopted as part of this grueling recovery, habits, and behaviors which I am hopeful to continue practicing for the long haul. I can go into as much detail as possible on any of these topics as desired - AMA!

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Comments (100)

Mar 12, 2021 - 8:19pm

Nice job - you've covered all the bases. You write well. It sounds like neuroplasticity is the real winner here, fed by your healthy habits. 

"If you always put limits on everything you do, physical or anything else, it will spread into your work and into your life. There are no limits. There are only plateaus, and you must not stay there, you must go beyond them." - Bruce Lee

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Mar 12, 2021 - 9:28pm

Appreciate it man. Avoiding neurotoxicity and promoting plasticity is the goal. On that topic, who knew a concussion would occasion my decision to declare in infinite divorce from ADHD medication. Amazing what the brain is capable of when you approach its health holistically. For all the incredible things I believe my generation is capable of doing. its amazing how many people have such strong a strong proclivity to medicate with quick fixes. Hopefully there are healthier means of promoting achievement on the horizon. Until then, I'll be doing my (borderline psychopathic) thangs lol

"Rage, rage against the dying of the light."
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Mar 15, 2021 - 1:16pm

I have been considering getting medicated for ADHD because I've always struggled with staying focused and quieting my mind but from what you seem to be saying, I should reconsider the mediation and cutting out screen time. Thank you, hope I can see improvement like you did

Mar 12, 2021 - 9:35pm

This is something I have considered for a long time, as my passion has always resided in the sciences (I find myself distracted by PubMed articles at work which should probably be enough of a cue to make the switch). For the things that I think would interest me, a masters or PhD would most likely be a necessity; obviously there are costs and risk associated with making that decision. For now, I am going to treat my job as a valuable crucible of discipline. On top of that, I have enormous respect for the people I work for (and with); I would do my best not to leave abruptly in a way which would damage relationships with good, intellectual folks.

TLDR - maybe, but who fuckin' knows

"Rage, rage against the dying of the light."
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Mar 13, 2021 - 9:55am

Have you considered biotech ER? I have been interviewing for roles and don't have a PhD or MD. Shoot me a PM if you'd like to discuss how I've gotten them without.

Huge congrats on your recovery. Imo, a healthy diet and physical routine can vastly improve our quality of life. Keep it up!!

Go all the way

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Mar 12, 2021 - 9:29pm

Lolol appreciate it mang. Wild comment, but I like where your heads at hahaha

"Rage, rage against the dying of the light."
Mar 12, 2021 - 10:01pm

Can you elaborate on the nootropics for stress purposes? Perhaps if they have any detrimental side effects, if you have to cycle them, where you might buy them, anything you think folks should know? It's something I've been curious about for some time. Also, In whatever fashion you like, could you quantify their impact (Ie. 25% less stressed?).

Thanks for the write up, glad to hear you've been empowered and taken it into your own hands!

Just had my trade dispute rejected by Schwab for a loss of 35k. This single issue alone should be a gigantic red flag to anyone who trades on their platform.

If they have a system error, and you do not video record your trading (they actually said this), they will not honour their fuck up. Switching everything away from them. Fuck this company.

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Mar 12, 2021 - 10:56pm

Sure thing - my first and most important piece of advice would be to do extensive research on the nootropics you find interesting, particularly those that antagonize / protagonize chemicals in your brain (kratom, phenibut, and adrafinil being three very influential and popular nootropics that come to mind). Once you have an idea of the potential upsides and downsides (and bias your research on the downsides; everyone suffers confirmation bias and inherently avoids contrary literature), think about them in the framework of other things (prescriptions, supplements, etc.) that you already take. As one example, if phenibut sounds cool, but you already take a benzo diazepam (regularly or irregularly) then you probably should avoid it, as research has shown that phenibut is gaba-ergic, as are benzo's. Additionally, don't just stack up all at once - incorporate them individually and really reflect on whether or not you believe it has benefited you and, more importantly, adversely affected you (getting something like a Whoop and keeping track of your heart rate, HRV (great back of the envolope metric for your autonomic nervous system functionality, and sleep) is also a great idea.

Quantifying their impact in isolation is difficult since I've tried different SNRI's, SSRI's, etc. in the meantime, but I have been careful and have limited my "stack" to the lower risk, higher (potential) reward compounds.

As for a supplier, Nootropics Depot is the source I trust the most.

One last think - there is not a lot of medical literature on a lot of the compounds, i.e. controlled, peer reviewed, double blind studies undertaken by accredited , but some of them do have great medical literature which you can find on PubMed. I'm a bit neurotic, so I need some degree of confidence from clinical studies if I am incorporating one of the stronger ones (Uridine Monophosphate as one example).

Oh - one last point. They can be very costly so you want to make sure you understand how their efficacy depends on other exogeneous factors (are they only bioavailable if you've eaten something fatty, calcium, iron, etc.). Usually browsing around Reddit and doing some Google searching is an easy enough way to make sure you're not just popping expensive compounds that will ultimately give you very expensive urine lol

"Rage, rage against the dying of the light."
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Mar 12, 2021 - 10:59pm

OH - important little sidebar. A lot of people stuff supplements down their throat to compensate for bad habits: coke abuse, alcohol abuse, amphetamine reliance, etc. Obviously not saying this is why you posed that question, but that is a dangerous way to promote bad, dangerous cycles.

"Rage, rage against the dying of the light."
Most Helpful
Mar 12, 2021 - 11:10pm

Okay one last thing which I think is crucial for setting the broader tone of this post. There is no nootropic that exists which will make a hard, busy life "easy". A lot of YouTube videos out there promoting Modafinil and some of the more serious "nootropics" as a means of turning you into a super human that can calmly cruise through a high achieving life. This narrative is misguided and dangerous. Achieving great things is, and always will be, fucking hard, but achieving through grit and pioneering adversity on the back of your own brain and body's chemistry is the greatest reward. However, for some people, this is impossible for a mural of reasons too complex to outline in this comment (everyone has their own thresholds predetermined by adolescent experience, physiology, their genetics, external stressors, etc.). Again, not directed at you, but high achievement while maintaining optimal health isn't possible for a lot of people (probably a great majority); coming to peace with this fact and accepting a more relaxed lifestyle will be the best solution for this population of folks. This little tidbit comes from me knowing that a great population of folks in our industry are fueled artificially (amphetamines and other stimulants); I wish the best for them, but I can guarantee that habit never ends well.

"Rage, rage against the dying of the light."
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Mar 13, 2021 - 11:09am

Can you share your experience with SSRI's? They've become a bit more popularized (I've heard nothing but positive reviews) but I'm hesitant to experiment due to the detrimental long term effects it has on brain chemistry over years of consumption. 

I recently came across Examine.com, while listening to Andrew Huberman's lectures on stress, which is an aggregator that pulls from PubMed and generates summaries for various consumables. Might be helpful for a research-oriented person like yourself.

I also recently came across a caffeine substitute that you might find interesting. It's a mushroom tea from Four Sigmatic (both the Lion's Bane and the Cordyceps work very effectively). I don't believe I will drink coffee again as I get all the benefits (mental alertness) and none of the drawbacks (jittery, anxiety, crash, irritable, tolerance build-up). Been trying it for two weeks so far and can't believe I didn't find it earlier.

I appreciate your PSA in that any consumable is not a wonder drug. Luckily, I have no illusions of this so you have nothing to worry about here. I've accepted a short-term trade on my health but the worst habit I have is eating a pizza once or twice a week while I binge watch Mr. Robot (holy fuck what an amazing show). 

Just had my trade dispute rejected by Schwab for a loss of 35k. This single issue alone should be a gigantic red flag to anyone who trades on their platform.

If they have a system error, and you do not video record your trading (they actually said this), they will not honour their fuck up. Switching everything away from them. Fuck this company.

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Mar 12, 2021 - 11:17pm

OH - it probably isn't too difficult for a sadistic little POS to use my profile and the details in this post to figure out who I am. If you do it for your own curiosity, that's all chill, but please don't advertise your findings. That wouldn't be nice and the world is a better place when people demonstrate a little altruism. Muito obrigado :)

"Rage, rage against the dying of the light."
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Mar 13, 2021 - 11:28am

Portuguese actually! 1st generation so no cool accent..

"Rage, rage against the dying of the light."
Mar 13, 2021 - 1:50am

Great write up and recovery friend. I listened and read articles published by Sinclair and the studies of NAD+.

You hit all the right marks, and did you mean to say Zinc and not Zing?

Sleep and stress reduction are the biggest factors that works for and against people. Have you considered eventually going into research?

Mar 13, 2021 - 11:27am

Oops yes I meant Zinc! I have definitely considered going into research - I'll definitely PM you. 

"Rage, rage against the dying of the light."
Mar 13, 2021 - 8:43am

Lovely story and quite inspiring because as much as I try, I always struggle with the discipline to keep up with everything, notably my readings. Nonetheless, how did you get the concussion?

Never discuss with idiots, first they drag you at their level, then they beat you with experience.

Mar 13, 2021 - 11:25am

Okay to finally answer the how question hahaha.. I was actually jumped while playing basketball at the cage. Got punched, knocked out cold, and then kicked in the head. Had a seizure lasting about 5 minutes and was hospitalized for quite some time. Thank god, I don't have PTSD and played some hoops at the cage the other day. If anyone wants to expose my identity, I play every Sunday now.

"Rage, rage against the dying of the light."
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Mar 13, 2021 - 12:28pm

Wtf. Did you do anything to provoke that?

Never discuss with idiots, first they drag you at their level, then they beat you with experience.

Mar 14, 2021 - 9:31am

I use an Oura ring! They're incredible devices 

"Rage, rage against the dying of the light."
  • Associate 3 in PE - LBOs
Mar 13, 2021 - 10:50am

Dumb question - can you elaborate on why you take the nootropics for general happiness? Interested in if you came across any writings to support that it helps with recovery / overall function? Any impact on your ability to take unbiased views at work (skew positive)? Really interesting post. Thanks.

Mar 13, 2021 - 11:22am

A close family member of mine is an integrative medicine physician and kind of got me started from an early age taking an interest in less traditional supplements / compounds for my broader health. As a biochemistry geek, once I got my concussion, reading about and researching homeopathic supplements and compounds become an (almost obsessive) coping mechanism with the boredom of sitting alone in my apartment chained to my bed. 

Lifespan is a great book that covers some of the topics. How to Change Your Mind by Michael Pollan is a really interesting view into the psychedelics area of depression / anxiety therapy. A Primate's Memoir also has some interesting chapters on certain naturally occurring, highly bioavailable compounds that are popular within the nootropics community (I kinda hate the word / community itself, as I do think there's a lot of misguided advice out there, but anyways..).

"Rage, rage against the dying of the light."
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Mar 13, 2021 - 10:56am

There are a lot of medical things doctors don't know. Anyone who is personal friends with a doctor (I am!) knows they are just people, with the lion's share of their medical knowledge coming from medical school, which is static knowledge. They are very busy people, and like any busy person, it's not easy for them to acquire "new" knowledge about what is and isn't necessarily possible. They can easily fall prey to tunnel vision. They're just people. So I'm not surprised you were able to heal and for it to be a shock to the doctor--he/she was probably used to giving people unpleasant news that they accept at face value.  

Array

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Mar 13, 2021 - 11:17am

Haha funny enough my roommate is a doc (an ENT) and we have had this exact same discussion many times before. No integrative medicine coursework in medical school - the only doctors with intricate knowledge of nontraditional therapies have learned everything on their own accord. Thank you man!

"Rage, rage against the dying of the light."
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Mar 13, 2021 - 11:12am

Nice work. I suspect that the effects of the sleep, diet, and exercise far outweigh everything else, though- with the exception of alcohol in your case. It can be hard to find solid empirical evidence for the efficacy of a lot of these supplements. And you've made so many changes that it's impossible to isolate the impact of any one of them.

Mar 13, 2021 - 11:15am

Completely agree with this (as well as breathing exercises and meditation) - appreciate it bro

"Rage, rage against the dying of the light."
  • Prospect in IB - Gen
Mar 13, 2021 - 12:43pm

You talk about using nootropics for happiness and stress. Did you ever try a traditional antidepressant/antianxiety medication, and what factors went into your decision?

Mar 13, 2021 - 2:46pm

Yeah! I have tried many - tricyclic, SNRI, SSRI, etc... and currently take a low dose SNRI which has helped me tremendously; I have suffered from acute anxiety and panic attacks my whole life - thankfully Western medicine has plenty of high efficacy solutions for that.

"Rage, rage against the dying of the light."
  • Prospect in IB - Gen
Mar 13, 2021 - 2:54pm

Cool, I'm currently on one of those so was curious.

Do you have any advice for a young person who wants a demanding career but has had mental health issues in the past?

Current college student. Been a high achiever my entire life (douchey but true lol), like to think I'm decently sharp but it's mostly just working hard. My mental health issues have affected my academic work in the past but I have it under better control now. 

I want to pursue a demanding career, but I'm scared shitless I won't be able to handle it or will burn out in a really bad way a few years in. I'm prepared to work hard and expect that things will suck at times, but I don't want to hate my existence.

Would love any advice you have for me. Congrats on your recovery by the way, inspirational stuff

Edit: would love to hear like broad work life balance stuff, specific tips, and just anything from your own experience dealing with some of this stuff

Mar 13, 2021 - 2:49pm

At first, I thought my intelligence quotient was wiped out form under me honestly. However, if anything I feel more intelligent today than I did before in certain domains - learning how to approach complexity with patience has been a valuable lesson. I'll have to continue observing my thoughts and assess my other domains of intelligence, but broadly speaking I don't think that I suffered any long lasting adverse affects. That being said, a lot of people do, but young, healthy people can make remarkable recoveries - the brain has an impeccable ability to heal in really interesting ways.

"Rage, rage against the dying of the light."
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  • Associate 2 in PE - LBOs
Mar 13, 2021 - 7:16pm

So you were near dead and told not to use screens anymore, with a miraculous recovery through a very strict and clean lifestyle, and now you go back to grinding 18 hours a day in front of screens? In an environment where you've previously picked up loads of damaging habits? I'd go back and do some more introspection - you got a last chance and a fall back would be devastating for your long-term happiness and general ability to live life

Either way good luck

Mar 13, 2021 - 8:41pm

This is something I have been thinking a lot about. Can you PM me? I think you're asking the right question and frankly it isn't a question I have found a great answer to (from myself or from friends).

"Rage, rage against the dying of the light."
Mar 13, 2021 - 9:36pm

I was thinking of making a post of that specifically, just hoping not to come off as some megalomaniacs, but I definitely have a "unique" approach to the gym. Have incorporated a lot of stuff I've read in kinesiology studies that I think have dramatically improved my fitness. I'm gonna try and throw that up tomorrow.

"Rage, rage against the dying of the light."
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  • Associate 1 in IB - Restr
Mar 13, 2021 - 9:16pm

Good stuff, man.  Have had more concussions than I care to count, myself.  But I signed up to play sports in which getting hit in the head is an integral part of the game, so no complaints.  Would rather deal w/ whatever side-effects I have than see what my brain looks like, though. 

Mar 13, 2021 - 11:12pm

Never would have thought basketball could land me so many... ugh. Will never regret basketball and the concussions it came with, though. Taught me a lot of discipline and humility.

"Rage, rage against the dying of the light."
Mar 14, 2021 - 12:30am

My first concussion (mild) was when I was 12 most likely (also during basketball); my most recent was last summer and I was 25 (now 26). As a quick sidebar, the prefrontal cortex of our brain (region that dictates complex behaviors) doesn't stop developing until your in your late 20's to early 30's - just a kinda fun fact that gives me hope, i.e. young people are very capable of quickly recovering from brain injuries for this reason - my most concerning contusions were in this regions (naturally, as it's the outermost region).

"Rage, rage against the dying of the light."
  • 2
  • Associate 1 in PE - LBOs
Mar 14, 2021 - 2:57pm

Great post and relatable starting point as I also have gone the banking >> large cap PE path over the same timeframe (currently 26 now too) and definitely developed unhealthy habits along the way to cope. Thankfully no medical scare to force them to be addressed, but the start of quarantine exacerbated them before I started focusing on health towards the end of last summer (lost 15 lbs since then). Also tried psychedelics for the first time during this period and really see a bright future for them in medical use once legalized / de stigmatized.

Given it sounds like you've gone pretty deep on the nootropics / supplements research, what are your thoughts on 5-HTP and Ashwaganda supplements?

Mar 14, 2021 - 3:10pm

Awesome man! Very cool! Just one question. From your list, were there certain items that seemed to make a much bigger difference than others?

It seems that you're doing so much different stuff that it can be hard nail down what had the biggest impact. Would be interesting to know for those of us trying to make just a few smaller lifestyle changes.

Mar 14, 2021 - 4:06pm

Elite_Bulge

Me 

A little bit of background and context on myself might be helpful to frame before delving into the specificities of this post (I will try to be brief and vague for privacy reasons). I attended a "prestigious" university where I studied biochemistry. Understanding how life forms work from this intricate level of molecules has always been a fascination of mine. However, as a naïve obedient sheep disillusioned by the allure of making a quick fortune, I left science behind for a career in finance. After a miserable two years as an investment banker, I now work at a large private equity fund. The insidious, manic world of finance contributed to a garden variety of self-destructive behaviors: cocaine, binge drinking, poor nutrition, clubs, mindless sex, etc.. you get the idea. In short, having made it through university as a relatively healthy guy, I threw myself into a spiral of self-destruction (from a mental and physical health standpoint).

The Concussion 

In July, I received a severe concussion (or post-traumatic brain injury) which I was told by multiple health professionals would significantly impair my cognitive and physical ability potentially for years (and potentially for life). Further to the morose outlook, my neurologist told me that the date of my injury very well could have been my last; what better than a cheeky flirtation with death to set the tone for a better life. I will be vague about the specificities of the injury and tortuous minutiae of symptoms that I dealt with shortly after (and for the months following the concussion), but I hope to intricately discuss the behavioral changes / habits (meditation, mitigating dopaminergic stimulus, etc.) and various therapies (supplements, nootropics, psychedelics, etc.) that got me to where I am today in hopes that someone in a similar predicament might benefit; I also believe that a great majority of the dramatic changes I have made to my health are widely applicable to people dealing with a wide range of maladies (depression, anxiety, depression, lethargy, etc.) as well as otherwise "healthy" people.

My Plan I listened to the general advice of my physicians (avoid drinking, don't exert yourself physically, avoid screens, etc.), but was ultimately told that there wasn't much I could do to accelerate my path to recovery; it would be a waiting game. My MRI results showed various contusions and minor hemorrhaging which frightened me beyond belief, but thinking that my path to good health was out of control was unacceptable; my natural response as a stubborn know it all. I approached recovery as a challenge of discipline and thoughtful experimentation. For a little context, I will outline below the various pieces of literature and studies that gave me the ammunition to fight my way back to optimal health:

Guiding Literature:

Lifespan - David Sinclair (medical longevity research / "biohacking" / biochemistry)

Breath - James Nestor (the art of breathing)

Why Zebra's Don't Get Ulcers - Rovert Sapolsky (biochemistry / psychology)

Behave - Rovert Sapolsky (biochemistry / psychology)

Atomic Habits - James Clear (something anyone with ADHD should read)

Finding North - Georges Michelson Foy (best book I have read in a very long time; its plot is complex and, trying not to be too reductive, his book discusses how technology has departed humans from our most basic faculties, particularly navigation, which has literally changed the chemistry of our brain)

Consider The Lobster - David Foster Wallace (a great piece of literature by the best writer of the modern age that taught me a valuable lesson of seeing the world skeptically, but forgivingly)

Why Zebra's Don't Get Ulcers - Robert Sapolsky (awesome overview of the biology, endocrinology, and psychiatry of anxiety)

Studies (only adding one as there were too many on supplements and nootropics to add, but primarily used PubMed to research the supplements and nootropics that I list):

Psychedelics as therapy for concussions: https://clinicaltrials.gov/ct2/show/NCT03806985

Without getting into too much detail on the purpose of each supplement, these were the supplements I ultimately incorporated into my recovery (and now daily life):

  • Vitamin D
  • Zing
  • Turmeric
  • CoQ10
  • Chelated magnesium
  • DHA Omega 3
  • NAD+
  • Acetyl Choline

These are the nootropics (with a brief description for when / why where relevant):

  • L-Theanine (every night for stress)
  • Honokiol (a couple of times of the week for stress)
  • L-Tyrosine (everyday happiness; dopaminergic)
  • Lion's Mane (promotes neurogenesis and general neurological health purposes)
  • Uridine Monophosphate (dopaminergic, so for 'happiness)
  • Cognizin (happiness, again dopaminergic)
  • Psilocybin (besides the neuroplasticity a psychedelic experience can occasion, I had one trip on an eight of psilocybin mushrooms that have left me feeling very at peace with who I am and has had a long-lasting effect which has been tremendously helpful to my recovery and broader wellbeing)

Behavioral changes:

  • I have not consumed any alcohol since my injury (VERY important for post-concussion syndrome patients for obvious reasons)
  • Sleeping 8 hours per night; same time to bed and same time waking up (use a Whoop to track my sleep)
  • Breathing exercises (Whim Hoff has been a great tool for getting better control over my sympathetic nervous system)
  • Exercise 5 times per week and do something active the other two days (I can go into a more detailed post on my exercise routine, but a lot of HIIT, calisthenics, plyometrics, and daily 15-minute yoga)
  • Meditate 20 minutes per day (two 10 minute meditations)
  • Deleted all forms of social media and limit my phone usage to the necessities (am now reading everything paperback)
  • Spend a couple of hours a day or so committed to two online classes: neurochemistry and evolutionary psychology
  • Cut caffeine out of my life outside an occasional green tea
  • Quit vaping and any nicotine use
  • Write to-do lists every day and have tried to incorporate deliberate scheduling into every facet of my life
  • Express daily gratitude for my family, girlfriend, and friends

Nutrition

  • Intermittent fast (~5-hour window) with a 48 hour fast every couple of weeks; cheat occasionally; what is life without a little guilty pleasure
  • Follow a plant-based diet and occasionally eat fatty fish
  • Limit refined grains (and generally limit carbs outside of carbs from berries, vegetables, and non-wheat / grain sources)
  • Almost everything I eat is a whole food and very rarely eat refined sugar / anything that you find wrapped and sealed in plastic at the grocery store

Other:

  • STAY HYDRATED (I try to drink two gallons of water per day
  • Stretch a lot and use a Hypervolt and foam roller daily
  • Try and read two books per week (not really a new hobby, but was certainly difficult in the months following the injury)

Many of these were incorporated into my routine well into my recovery, while others I started the right way. Determining and/or ranking which were most critical to my recovery would be difficult (controlling variables and all that science stuff), but I strongly believe these habits and changes got me to where I am today, which is:

Where I am Today: In college, I was very, very fit, but plagued by anxiety, lack of sleep, depression, etc.. the list goes on. I have some objective metrics which demonstrate that I am, once again, extremely fit (very strong Vo2 max, low BP and resting HR, etc.). However, more importantly, I am holistically healthy. The concussion gave me frequent panic attacks, insomnia, etc. While anxiety is something I still deal with, I have never been calmer, happier, and have reconstructed the relationship between my mind and body into one that is complementary and homeostatic. Two days ago, I met with my neurologist to review my most recent MRI results: no sign of contusions or hemorrhages (the damaged tissue has completely healed). He was shocked; I was not. I feel and look healthier than I have ever been. I will be returning to work in full capacity next week and am excited to see how that translates into my responsibilities at my job, but I am more than willing to answer any questions on the supplements and behaviors I have adopted as part of this grueling recovery, habits, and behaviors which I am hopeful to continue practicing for the long haul. I can go into as much detail as possible on any of these topics as desired - AMA!

How much do you pay for supplements per month - like $300?

"If you always put limits on everything you do, physical or anything else, it will spread into your work and into your life. There are no limits. There are only plateaus, and you must not stay there, you must go beyond them." - Bruce Lee

  • 5
Mar 15, 2021 - 9:08am

About the cost difference between Equinox and NYSC lol

"Rage, rage against the dying of the light."
  • 1
Mar 15, 2021 - 9:40am

Elite_Bulge

About the cost difference between Equinox and NYSC lol

Oh ok - lol nice - you inspired me to try some of these. I ordered a few off of Amazon.

"If you always put limits on everything you do, physical or anything else, it will spread into your work and into your life. There are no limits. There are only plateaus, and you must not stay there, you must go beyond them." - Bruce Lee

Mar 14, 2021 - 10:05pm

Agree with a good # of supplements, but Vit D is prob the best supplement most people should be taking 

the reason its so popular because its so hard to get it from food sources....like ridiculously hard even if u tried so the only other source is the sun 

and since most of our society stays indoors for the majority of the day that makes it hard to acquire it....DEFINITELY got worse during the pandemic but I think its universal that everyone should take Vit D

Mar 14, 2021 - 11:51pm

Magnesium? B12 for vegans? Acetyl choline for vegans? Rapamycin for epigenetic health? Yes there is a lot of bull shit out there that mostly makes for expensive urine, but there are many compounds and minerals which have medical literature supporting their efficacy. 

"Rage, rage against the dying of the light."
Mar 15, 2021 - 5:43am

Yes but there is simply no reason to get it from food sources. As long as you don't hide in a basement or have any health issues that stop your body from producing vitamin d it's just not necessary to take it and might even be harmful. I mean just have a look how much of it you take with most supplements

Mar 14, 2021 - 11:48pm

Is this a troll? Vitamin D? You should supplement some books into your health regiment. Maybe start with Interviews with Hideous Men by David Foster Wallace. 

To answer why supplements, because I've had blood work done and have introduced supplements which have aided critical bio markers for my health. You seem pretty sure of your skepticism though which is okay - just not how I approach my life.

"Rage, rage against the dying of the light."
  • 1
Mar 15, 2021 - 9:40am

Trikolon

Easiest example, why the hell would you need Vitamin D?

Most people should take 5,000 - 10,000 IU of Vitamin D daily

"If you always put limits on everything you do, physical or anything else, it will spread into your work and into your life. There are no limits. There are only plateaus, and you must not stay there, you must go beyond them." - Bruce Lee

Mar 15, 2021 - 1:00pm

your current behavioral routine sounds like me aside from alcohol and caffeine (I don't take any supps, so I'm out on that). I'm curious about those two. why the need to eliminate instead of lower the quantity/frequency? I'm curious if abstinence was self-imposed or actually recommended by your doc or by PubMed. 

also curious on your social life. it's easy for me to sleep a lot, stay off socials and be a luddite. I'm married and live in the south. you're a 26 year old in shape Iberian private equity analyst, how in the fuck do you maintain a healthy social/love life?

what type of meditation do you do? or, do you just sit quietly focusing on breath for 10min 2x/day?

on the behavior changes, was there an immediate difference maker or something that seemed to have more impact than others? 

thanks man, glad you're on the path to recovery, amazing story

Mar 16, 2021 - 8:11pm

I'm planning to do a post particularly about abstinence from alcohol and these topics - hopefully sometime this week. Journaling all of this stuff has been fun and great for some introspection, so this is actually pretty high on my to do list (and hopefully helps at least one other person!).

"Rage, rage against the dying of the light."
  • 2
Mar 30, 2021 - 5:45pm

Not OP but have also been taking some relatively lengthy breaks for alcohol - did a dry January and then can go a week or two before I have a drink or two. It's pretty crazy but I think it was negatively effecting me and I didn't really know it. Like OP, I also have a whoop and can see how it negatively effects my sleep. I can guarantee that if I have a drink or two (or more) that I will be hurting my sleep, recovery, and general energy levels for the next day. It helps that in COVID times there isn't the same pressure to booze all the time but even when we return to "normal" I will be actively trying to keep my alcohol consumption down.

edit: grammar

Mar 15, 2021 - 4:52pm

This was a really awesome write up, thanks for sharing. TBIs are no joke, congrats on making such a strong recovery.

Array

Mar 16, 2021 - 8:10pm

Appreciate it man - been a hell of a journey since, but grateful for every step of the way. 

"Rage, rage against the dying of the light."
  • 1
Mar 16, 2021 - 8:09pm

I actually have just started to do a little digging on these herbal remedies and have heard some pretty great things, particularly about Ashwaghanda (but you have to be careful which part of the plant your extract is coming from, since they apparently have dramatically different levels of alkaloids and such). I can do a follow up post once I have done a little more digging into this topic, but I haven't seen much in terms of devastating down sides. They seem like a pretty low risk solution for anxiety that have worked well for a lot of people. 

"Rage, rage against the dying of the light."
  • 2
Mar 16, 2021 - 10:36pm

I wouldn't put chemicals in your body based off one persons experience. A lot of these are pretty safe but people digest certain substances differently. I highly recommend /r/nootropics before diving into anything. It's more random people on the internet, but at least it gives you a chance to find the people who messed up. It's also wise to source your materials from reputable suppliers.

Go, Go, Excel

Apr 1, 2021 - 12:09am

I'd take a blood test before asking for advice from former / current drug addicts on Reddit, personally. Most of these chemicals have little downside potential though.

"Rage, rage against the dying of the light."
Apr 1, 2021 - 12:11am

I'll source them nice and neatly next time to avoid the readers having to perform the grueling task of Googling whatever they take. Maybe mediation would be better for them than citations, but happy to provide NCBI and Pub Med studies if you so desire fam

"Rage, rage against the dying of the light."
Apr 1, 2021 - 1:42am

you never know dude. If you're looking to control the effects of stress through attenuating the effects of cortisol, check out phosphatidlyserine.

Go, Go, Excel

  • Prospect in IB - Gen
Mar 17, 2021 - 1:25am

Not OP, have no expertise, and not a doctor or scientist, but you've got to think sleep, exercise, nutrition, other behavioral changes outweigh the nootropics

Mar 17, 2021 - 6:29pm

Agreed - Nootropics are more of a "10% happier" kind of thing - can help a little, but there are no quick fixes

"Rage, rage against the dying of the light."
Mar 17, 2021 - 10:40pm

Idk why I didn't think of that myself, but that's a good point. I'll throw it up there. Thanks Andy!

"Rage, rage against the dying of the light."
Mar 29, 2021 - 4:47pm

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"Rage, rage against the dying of the light."
Mar 30, 2021 - 4:53pm

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"Rage, rage against the dying of the light."
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