Two Ways Your Brain Breaks And Exactly What You Can Do About It: Part 1

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Articles, Brain

Welcome to Chapter 22 of Beyond Training: Mastering Endurance, Health & Life, in which you're going continue to discover the two ways your brain breaks, and exactly what you can do about it.

Have you ever woken up and stumbled out of bed to your computer, or perhaps even simply pulled your laptop or smartphone out from besides the bed, and launched straight into work, even though you know deep down inside would healthier to take a moment just to relax?

Have you ever opened the refrigerator, seen a dizzying of fresh vegetables and healthy proteins that might require some preparation and effort to make, and proceeded to instead simply take the easy route and perhaps grab a dark chocolate bar with a jar of nut butter?

Have you ever been in the middle of a race, such as a triathlon or marathon, and realized you have absolutely no clue how much you've eaten, how much you'd hydrated, or even what mile or kilometer marker you're at?

Have you ever been in the middle of workout, like a long run, and suddenly stopped to begin walking because your brain simply seemed to shut down?

Blame your busy life, blame your muscles or blame your gut, but the stark truth is that each of the scenarios you've just read are perfect examples of what can happen when your mind is not properly tuned and your brain is broken.

So in this final section of the book, you're going to discover the two ways your brain breaks and exactly what you can do about, then you're going to get an amazing array of tools, tricks and tips to tune your mind, hack your brain, boost your IQ, enhance your focus and instantly get into the coveted, effortless zone of peak performance.


The Central Governor Model of Fatigue

When it comes to achieving peak physical performance or pushing yourself to the extreme limits of endurance exhaustion, what do you think is the most important part of your physiology?

Your muscles?

Your heart?

Your lungs?

The surprising answer is “none of the above”.

The ultimate arbiter of fatigue is actually situated right between your ears. That's right: it's your brain.

The concept of the brain being the central cause of fatigue is a theory I first encountered when I interviewed Dr. Timothy Noakes in the podcast episode, “How You Can Use The “Central Governor” To Tap Into Your Muscle’s Hidden Potential.” In this episode, Dr. Noakes explains how being tired can all be in your mind, and that you can actually trick your body into exercising for a longer period of time, going harder, or lifting heavier, if you “distract” it with techniques like counting to 20, 50 or 100 over and over again, focusing on a small intermediate goal like the next telephone pole, street sign or repetition, listening to driving music, engaging in repetitive self-talk, or even using mental visualization exercises before your big workout or event.

What Dr. Noakes calls the “Central Governor” model of fatigue is based on the fact that if your brain or your heart run out of oxygen or experience sustained periods of hypoxia (low oxygen), then you can die or undergo permanent damage to these organs. So your brain (the central governor) is wired to limit how hard, how heavy or how long you can go by reducing your nervous system's recruitment of muscle fibers. And this reduced recruitment causes the sensation of fatigue. Your brain simply says “stop” and your body obeys.

It's possible that the fatigue goes beyond simply oxygen, and may also be based on the amount of ketones (fatty acids) or trace amounts of glucose available to your vital organs – so you can think of the central governor model as a kind of survival mechanism in which your brain makes a conscious effort to limit energy expenditure in order to save fuel for other precious organs such as your heart, your lungs and your brain.

The diagram below shows the vicious cycle that can ensue when your brain begins to shut down circulation to your heart and your muscles.

central governor fatigue


Decision-Making Fatigue

Interestingly, the fatigue brought on by your central governor can be compounded if you are distracted by other details, such as problem solving, complexity of an exercise or movement, or stressful thoughts about work, family or life.

Dr. Samuele Marcore, a UK sports scientist, believes that because of this, fatigue can be a perception of your mind just as much as a physiological state. He bases this on the fact that the anterior cingulate cortex in your brain is the area responsible for control of your heart rate and breathing, but also the area responsible for making complex decisions, paying attention to detail, and doing things like figuring out if you are supposed to be using your right leg or left leg, interpreting a financial spreadsheet, or not getting distracted by commotion going on around you. In other words, the more you're requiring your brain to do at any given time, the faster it's probably going to fatigue – regardless of how fit your muscles, lungs or heart are.


Dr. Marcore argues that this kind of physical fatigue is simply a matter conflict resolution – a struggle between the part of your brain that wants you to quit and the part that wants you to keep going – and that the more “decision-making” fatigue you're subjected to during exercise, the faster you're going to physically fail.

This belief that fatigue is more a state of mind than an actual physiological state makes perfect sense when you watch runners who seem to be on the brink of complete physical break-down suddenly shift gears into into an all-out sprint for the last 200-to-300 yards of a 5K race – when they looked like they could not run another step just a few moments before.


Shocking The Brain Into Submission

A brand new study on cyclists adds even more credence to the idea that your brain is ultimately responsible for fatigue. In this study, Brazilian sports scientists used a non-invasive form of brain stimulation called transcranial direct-current stimulation (tDCS) to apply a tiny electrical current to the cortex in the brain (6). Remember, this cortex is the primary culprit when it comes to exercise fatigue (5). The idea was that this stimulation would briefly interrupt the way neurons in the cortex communicate with each other, and distract the brain from shutting down the body. Of course, there was also a control group of cyclists that also had the electrodes attached, but didn't get any stimulation. 

So what were the results of this brain tweaking? After 20 minutes of real or fake brain stimulation, the cyclists completed an all-out ride to exhaustion. And sure enough – the cyclists who underwent the electrical stimulation had significantly lower heart rates, lower perceived exertion and a 4% higher power output (that may sound small, but is actually huge for a cyclist).

The researchers noted that this increased performance may go above and beyond mere “distraction” of the brain, but may actually be caused by a mingling of pleasure and pain centers in the brain. This is because the right side of the cortex is strongly linked to feelings of pain and physical exertion, while the left side of the cortex is linked to pleasant feelings and emotions that occur when you one see someone smile, or hear your favorite song, or cuddle up with loved one.


What Is The Zone?

Interestingly, this feeling of pleasure or happiness in the presence of physical exertion is very similar to what is often described being “in The Zone”. 

In psychology, being in The Zone”is a mental state of operation in which a person performing an activity is fully immersed in a feeling of energized focus, full involvement, and enjoyment in the entire process (7).  When an athlete reaches the zone during physical performance, they often achieve their personal bests, while describing their performance as “effortless”. And the zone is not just an “airy-fairy” state – in sports performance laboratories, the 8-12 Hz alpha brain waves that you learned about in Chapter 10  have been shown to be correlated with these zone-like states of relaxed alertness.

Ultimately, the final take-away message from Dr. Noakes, Dr. Marcora, and those crazy Brazilian cyclist-electrocuting scientists is this: if your brain is healthy enough to optimally process information and communicate with your body, and trained enough to resist getting distracted, then you are not only going to perform better, but you are also going to equip your brain to achieve that level of effortless performance called The Zone.

brain_wavesSo let's say you want to override your central governor, distract your brain, and enter the coveted Zone so that you can push your body and mind beyond what you've ever imagined you're capable of achieving? And let's say you want to do it without wearing a giant cap full of electrodes and undergoing mild shock therapy treatment?

The fact is that in the same way that you must fix your gut prior to giving it the thousands of calories necessary for fueling huge amounts of physical activity, you must also fix your brain prior to asking it to allow your body to perform amazing feats of physical performance. So let's dig into the two ways your brain breaks, and exactly what you can do about it.


The Two Ways Your Brain Breaks

As you now know, it's very obvious that your brain is the primary determinant of where your true performance capabilities lie – not to mention that a well-functioning, optimally tuned brain is also pretty darn important when it comes to your quality of life, your work productivity, your communication skills, your problem solving abilities and much more.

But unfortunately, most of us walk around with broken, inflamed, poorly functioning and poorly trained brains. This is usually due a combination of two factors:

1. Neurotransmitter Problems

2. HPA Axis Dysfunction

If both these issues are addressed, then your brain tissue, nerve cells and neurons will be healthy enough to optimally process information and seamlessly communicate with your body during a workout or a race, healthy enough for you to train your brain to resist getting distracted by morning work or tempting foods, and healthy enough for your mind to allow you to experience huge mental and physical performance breakthroughs.

So let's learn how to fix both these issues, shall we?


How Nerves Communicate

Before understanding neurotransmitter problems, you need to understand how your nerves actually communicate with one another. Obviously this chapter is not meant to be a comprehensive primer on the nervous system, but it's important that you know why neurotransmitters are so dang important.

Like the wires in your home electrical system, nerve cells make connections with one another in tiny circuits called neural pathways. But unlike the wires in your home, these nerve cells do not touch, but instead come very close together at a synapse (pictured below). At the synapse, the two nerve cells are separated by a small gap, which is called a synaptic cleft. The sending neuron is called the presynaptic cell (in this case, an axon), while the receiving neuron is called the postsynaptic cell (in this case, a dendrite).


In a one-way direction across the synapse from the presynaptic cell to postsynaptic cell, your body sends chemical messages using neurotransmitters, which you first learned about in Chapter 4, when discovering how to enhance your power and speed. This is called synaptic transmission.

Let's look at an example of synaptic transmission that uses a neurotransmitter which you may have heard of before: serotonin.

In this case, the pre-synaptic cell would make serotonin from an amino acid called tryptophan and then packages the serotonin into vesicles located in end terminals. When a signal called an action potential arrives from your brain, that signal passes down presynaptic cell into the end terminals (3).

At this point, when the signal arrives, the serotonin is released and passes across the synaptic cleft, where it binds with special proteins called receptors on the outside of the postsynaptic cell. If enough serotonin binds to receptors, a threshold level is reached, and the action potential will be propagated in that cell and move on to the next cell. In the case of something like your muscles moving, the action potential would eventually reach skeletal muscle fibers and cause a contraction.

So that the nerve doesn't remain in a constantly “turned on” state, the remaining serotonin molecules in the synaptic cleft then get destroyed by special enzymes in the cleft called monoamine oxidase (MAO) and catechol-o-methyl transferase (COMT). Some serotonin also gets taken back up by specific transporters on the presynaptic cell (this is called “reuptake”). All of this enables the nerve signal to be turned “off” and readies the synapse to receive another action potential.


Of course, in addition to serotonin, there are many other types of neurotransmitters, including acetylcholine, norepinephrine, dopamine and gamma-amino butyric acid (GABA). But let's say you have a neurotransmitter deficit of serotonin, which would compromise synaptic transmission of any nerve signals in your body that are dependent on serotonin. Similar to a deficit of neurotransmitters such as norepinephrine, epinephrine, and dopamine, this type of serotonin deficit can quickly create:

-Appetite Cravings
-Brain Fog
-Low IQ
-Panic Attacks
-Eating disorders
-Ease of distraction or ADD

Millions of people walk around every day with some kind of neurotransmitter deficiency or suboptimal nerve cell communication. You've probably experienced at least one of these issues before, right? The good news is that you don't have to check yourself into a mental institution. Here are 8 ways that you can fix these kind of neurotransmitter problems yourself.


8 Ways To Fix Neurotransmitter Problems


1. Taper Off or Avoid Anti-Depressants

Prozac, Sarafem, Paxil, Zoloft, Celexa, Lexapro, Effexor, Cymbalta, Pristiq…the list of popular anti-depressant drugs goes on and on – with hundreds of millions of prescriptions handed out and billions of dollars in sales.

I wouldn't even include this issue in the book unless I had personally done consults with many very active individuals who are either on anti-depressants, depressed, or showing signs of depression. Perhaps it's the nature of the beast – us physically active people tend to rely on exercise for a high, and when that's missing or we're not fulfilled by it anymore, we can tend to get down. And at that point, anti-depressants may seem like an attractive solution.

Now I'm not a doctor and I'm not recommending that if you're on an anti-depressant you quit cold turkey, but if you want to gradually taper yourself off these medications, you should certainly pay attention to the other 7 ways you can address neurotransmitter issues

Here's why anti-depressants are such a problem: they work in one of two ways – either by increasing the brain levels of serotonin or they block re-uptake of serotonin. That is why most of them are called “SSRI's”, or Selective Serotonin Reuptake Inhibitors.

These SSRI's cause a short term “flooding” of the brain with serotonin, as well as a very fast degrading or breaking down of serotonin as it is left to hang around in the synaptic cleft.

As a result, not only are more and more levels of serotonin eventually required as serotonin receptors become desensitized to the constant flux of neurotransmitters, but there are also lower levels of naturally available serotonin as your biology begins to rely on external sources of the serotonin (1). When you do actually release your own serotonin, it winds up getting broken down far more quickly than normal, due to the fact that the enzymes in the synaptic clef have been “trained” to rapidly break down serotonin. 

So you not only need constantly increasing dosages of anti-depressants, but you also end up depleting 40-60% of the serotonin receptors in your brain! In addition, the serotonin receptors in your liver, kidneys and colon can become damaged by anti-depressant use, which affects your delicate gut-brain balance and your regulation of appetite. It's a vicious cycle!

There's a great deal of evidence out there that anti-depressants don't really work well anyways. Meta-analyses of studies on anti-depressants have revealed that SSRI's have no clinically meaningful advantage over a placebo, and claims that anti-depressants are more effective in more severe conditions of depression have little evidence to support them. The few studies that have shown anti-depressants to have a small degree of superiority over placebo were poorly designed studies.

Ultimately, anti-depressants have not been convincingly shown to affect the long-term outcome of depression or suicide rates, and chronic exposure to SSRI antidepressants can actually make you feel apathetic or less engaged in your life.


2. Moderate Stimulants

Low dose caffeine can improve mental performance and protect against Alzheimer's, so you don't need to avoid it entirely (unless you are in a state of adrenal fatigue, which I discuss in Chapter 8) . But acting in a similar manner to anti-depressants, high doses of caffeine, ephedrine, ephedra, guarana, Ritalin, and any other central nervous system stimulant can flood the brain with neurotransmitters, creating neurotransmitter resistance or long term receptor damage (8).

There's a reason that I personally drink no more than 8-10 ounces of black coffee each day, and switch to decaf for at least 1 week every couple month. People who use frequently use coffee, tea, soda or energy drinks actually change their brain’s chemistry and physical characteristics over time. Because it is both water and fat soluble, caffeine can easily cross your blood-brain barrier, and as you dump more and more caffeine into your body, your brain cells actually grow more receptors for a neurotransmitter called adenosine (and you can see plenty more interesting coffee side effects in the article “The 15 Terrible Coffee Side Effects You Need to Know About“).

Adenosine causes feelings of tiredness, but as you can see below, the structure of caffeine closely resembles adenosine – so caffeine can easily fit into your brain cells’ receptors for adenosine. With it's receptors constantly plugged up by caffeine, adenosine can no longer bind to those receptors and cause the feeling of tiredness (9). Unfortunately, your body's response is to create more and more adenosine receptors – so you eventually need more and more caffeine to block the feeling of tiredness – and over time, you build up tolerance.

The good news is that to kick a caffeine habit and “reset” your adenosine receptors, you only need to get through about 7-12 days of caffeine avoidance, which is why I recommend taking week long breaks from coffee and other similar stimulants every couple months.

caffeine adenosine


3. Avoid Toxin Exposure

Whether it's mycotoxins from moldy coffee, the fragrance of your cologne or perfume wafting into your nasal chambers, or the air freshener hanging your car, toxins affect product of neurotransmitters and sensitivity to neurotransmitters, causing brain damage, brain fog, and fuzzy thinking.

It's probably not necessary for me to kick this horse to death much more than I did in Chapter 8 – “How To Protect Your Body From The 10 Hidden Killers In Your Home.“. Follow the rules there. To refresh your mind, a few of the biggies are:

-Use organic fruits and vegetables when possible (or wash them in a water and vinegar solution)

-Use natural cleaning chemicals (lemon juice, vinegar, baking soda etc.)

-Use natural personal care products (avoid parabens, dyes, fragrances, etc.)

-Use home air and water filters.

-Use holistic dentistry.

Once you begin to make these changes, you'll find it very interesting that when you do encounter an attack against your neurotransmitters, such as walking through the fragrances section of a store in the mall, you'll be extremely sensitive and notice it almost immediately. It's important to your body in these situations. If it looks, tastes or smells synthetic, avoid it.


clubphoto4. Avoid Sensory Overload

21st century sensory overload in the form of sounds, rapid visual and auditory effects from television, movies, computer games, electronic monitors flickering faster than the eye can detect, radio and EMF waves, fluorescent lighting, a hurried lifestyle, and excessive work all require your brain to constantly modulate these high levels of sensory bombardment that it would never have encountered in a more ancestral setting.

Your brain must calm itself down from all this stimuli using it's own precious supply of calming, inhibitory neurotransmitters such as serotonin and GABA. This overstimulation has a significant impact on neurotransmitters and neurotransmitter receptors. So consider the following:

Do you listen to loud music while you're exercising?

Do you have a steady diet of fast-moving, exciting or violent movies or video games, especially before bed?

Do you play lots of computer games, often for long periods of time, such as several hours?

Do you spend much of your day staring at a computer monitor?

Do you constantly have music such as the radio or streaming music stations playing in the background?

Does your home or workplace constantly have artificial, fluorescent lighting turned on?

If so, then go back and read the section in Chapter 8 on mitigating the effect of much of this EMF. Do not be afraid of silence, quiet and rest. Do not be afraid to unplug.

Take time to breathe.


gutbrain5. Fix Your Gut

As you learned in Chapter 15, your second brain is in your gut.

The enteric nervous system in your gut uses more than 30 neurotransmitters, just like the brain, and in fact 95 percent of the body's serotonin is in the gut. This makes sense when you consider that in the nine meters  from your esophagus to your anus, there are about 100 million neurons, more than in either your spinal cord or your entire peripheral nervous system!

This also explains why irritable bowel syndrome, something that afflicts nearly every active individual now and then, arises in part from too much serotonin in your gut – a neurotransmitter imbalance (as you can probably imagine, this is why anti-depressants can cause serious gut issues).

Not only does your gut lining produce neurotransmitters, but the billions of bacteria living in your gut also churn out neurotransmitters. So if your gut lining is damaged or your gut flora is out of balance, then you are at serious risk for neurotransmitters deficiencies and imbalances.

The best step you can take to fix these gut-brain issues have already been spelled out in Chapter 15 – listen to your body, test, and fix the issues. Everything you need to do it is in that chapter.


6. Replace Building Blocks

Neurotransmitters are primarily comprised of amino acids, vitamin B, and minerals. A deficiency of any of these three crucial compounds can leave you with inadequate neurotransmitter building blocks.

As you learned in Chapter 5, some of the best high quality amino acid sources include grass-fed beef, wild salmon, eggs from pastured chickens, raw organic dairy, almond and almond butter, quinoa, and spirulina or chlorella sources. I've found that many people who struggle with sleep issues or motivation issues that are tied to neurotransmitter issues also benefit from the use of essential amino acids. When I'm about to head into a workout that I know threatens to beat up my brain with intense levels of focus or competition, I usually take 5-10 grams of Kion Aminos, which is an optimally-balanced blend of all 8 essential amino acids.

In order for the nervous system to synthesize and circulate the neurotransmitters formed by amino acid precursors, you need to have adequate intake of B complex vitamins, and Vitamins B6, B12, and folate are especially important in nerve metabolism. Excellent food sources of vitamin B6 include bell

peppers, turnip greens, and spinach; excellent sources of folate include spinach, parsley, broccoli, beets, turnip and mustard greens, asparagus, romaine lettuce, calf’s liver, and lentils, and excellent sources of B12 include calf’s liver and snapper. For Vitamin B supplementation, I recommend either a liposomal Vitamin B12 spray, or an antioxidant/Vitamin B powdered blend.

You'll get very good doses of minerals from a well balanced diet that includes a broad spectrum of the real foods and nutrient dense sources listed in Chapter 11. But if you're frequently sweatiing or under high amounts of exercise or lifestyle stress (remember that adrenal stress depletes minerals), then you should also include a mineral rich source of protein such as a goat-based protein powder (goat protein is higher in minerals), and a daily dose of either a trace liquid mineral supplement and liberal use of a high quality salt, such as Himalayan sea salt.


7. Neurotransmitter Repletion

Often, simply eating adequate protein or using essential amino acids supplements is not enough. This can be the scenario in cases of depression, insomnia or severe lack of motivation. In these cases, neurotransmitter repletion via amino acid therapy is something that can be effective, but should ideally be done under medical supervision, because unless you use the proper ratios, you can actually worsen neurotransmitter imbalances and make issues worse – even if you might feel better temporarily.

One example of neurotransmitter repletion with an amino acid blend that can be helpful for insomnia, depression or lack of motivation is taking 3000mg Tyrosine and 300mg 5-HTP, split into three daily doses. There are several supplements that actually include Tyrosine and 5-HTP in the exact ratios you need them, including Travacor by Nutriscience (my preferred blend), Neuro-5HTP by Biotics and CraveArrest by Designs For Health.

Another example of neurotransmitter repletion would be using a supplement called NeuroReplete to balance catecholamines and increase serotonin then combining it with CysReplete to increase catecholamine synthesis and D-5 Mucuna to increase dopamine synthesis. This gets a little more advanced than the options above, so keep reading for the warning and disclaimer.

You shouldn't just jump into this repletion without knowing what you are doing. For example, taking only 5-HTP or improperly balanced 5-HTP can deplete dopamine. Taking only L-dopa or improperly balanced L-dopa depletes serotonin, sulfur-based amino acids, L-tryptophan, and tyrosine. Administration of high amounts of sulfur-based amino acids can deplete serotonin and dopamine.

Dr. Daniel Kalish is a real expert when it comes to neurotransmitter repletion therapy, and I'd highly recommend you visit the Kalish Institute website, read the Kalish Method book or speak with a licensed Kalish practitioner prior to experimenting too much with this stuff.  Another very good resource to learn more about neurotransmitter repletion is

You can actually test your neurotransmitter levels if you want to see what you might be deficient in. The test I recommend is available from DirectLabs and is the NeuroAdrenal Expanded test. It will screen for the salivary hormones DHEA and Cortisol, along with urinary neurotransmitters Epinephrine, Norepinephrine, Dopamine, DOPAC, Serotonin, 5HIAA, Glycine, Taurine, GABA, Glutamate, PEA, and Histamine.

Finally, if you are interested in how to combine a highly accurate, gold-standard form of urinary neurotransmitter testing with neurotransmitter repletion, I'd recommend you check out,

Myelin Sheath


8. Lube The Nerves With Fats

In Chapter 4, you learned that one of the ways to enhance the speed with which your brain communicates with your body and muscles is to care for the health of your nerves. Your nerves are wrapped in sheaths called myelin sheaths, and a diet for a healthy nervous system should be comprised of specific nutrients that support the formation of these myelin sheaths, and also the health of the nervous system as a whole.

After all, it doesn't matter how many neruotransmitters you make if the action potentials they are propagating can't be adequately transmitted because you have broken down, degraded myelin sheaths.

For this reason, I not only recommend following the fat percentage intake recommendations from Chapter 13, but I also recommend including a high intake of omega-3 fatty acids, especially docosahexaenoic acid (DHA). DHA is particularly important in building the myelin sheath structure and preventing degrading and breakdown of nerve cells.

Flax seeds, walnuts, kale collard greens, and winter squash are excellent sources of omega-3 fatty acids, but the amount of DHA actually absorbed from seeds, nuts and plants can be relatively low. Better sources of more readily available omega-3 fatty acids and DHA include salmon, sardines, cloves, grass-fed beef, halibut, shrimp, cod, tuna and (especially for vegans or vegetarians), algae-based DHA supplements such as EnergyBits or marine phytoplankton.  Other foods that support neuronal membranes and myelin sheath health due to their high content of oleic acids include olive oil, almonds, pecans, macadamias, & avocados.



So there you have it: avoid anti-depressants, modulate stimulants, avoid toxins, avoid sensory overload, fix your gut, replace building blocks, eat healthy fats, and, if necessary, replete with neurotrasmitter therapy. You now know how to enable your nerve cells to be highly tuned communicators, ready to listen and respond appropriately to the commands from your brain. Not surprisingly, many of the strategies above are similar to the type of strategies you learned in Chapter 4, and can be used not just to increase focus, decrease distractions, or feel better, but also to enhance highly nervous system dependent systems in your body such as power and speed.

In the next chapter, you're going to learn how to fix the second way that your brain breaks – HPA axis dysfunction. But in the meantime, leave your questions, comments and feedback about motivation, the central governor, fatigue and neurotransmitters below, and I promise to reply!



Part 1 – Introduction

-Preface: Are Endurance Sports Unhealthy?

-Chapter 1: How I Went From Overtraining And Eating Bags Of 39 Cent Hamburgers To Detoxing My Body And Doing Sub-10 Hour Ironman Triathlons With Less Than 10 Hours Of Training Per Week.

-Chapter 2: A Tale Of Two Triathletes – Can Endurance Exercise Make You Age Faster?

Part 2 – Training

-Chapter 3: Everything You Need To Know About How Heart Rate Zones Work

Chapter 3The Two Best Ways To Build Endurance As Fast As Possible (Without Destroying Your Body) – Part 1

Chapter 3: The Two Best Ways To Build Endurance As Fast As Possible (Without Destroying Your Body) – Part 2

Chapter 4: Underground Training Tactics For Enhancing Endurance – Part 1

Chapter 4: Underground Training Tactics For Enhancing Endurance – Part 2

Chapter 5: The 5 Essential Elements of An Endurance Training Program That Most Athletes Neglect – Part 1: Strength

Chapter 5: The 5 Essential Elements of An Endurance Training Program That Most Athletes Neglect – Part 2: Power & Speed

Chapter 5: The 5 Essential Elements of An Endurance Training Program That Most Athletes Neglect – Part 3: Mobility 

Chapter 5The 5 Essential Elements of An Endurance Training Program That Most Athletes Neglect – Part 4: Balance 

Part 3 – Recovery

Chapter 6How The Under-Recovery Monster Is Completely Eating Up Your Precious Training Time

Chapter 7:  25 Ways To Know With Laser-Like Accuracy If Your Body Is Truly Recovered And Ready To Train

Chapter 826 Top Ways To Recover From Workouts and Injuries with Lightning Speed

-Chapter 9: The 7 Best Stress-Fighting Weapons That Will Make Your Mind-Body Connection 100% Bulletproof

-Chapter 10: The Last Resource You’ll Ever Need To Get Better Sleep, Eliminate Insomnia, Conquer Jet Lag and Master The Nap: Part 1

-Chapter 10: The Last Resource You’ll Ever Need To Get Better Sleep, Eliminate Insomnia, Conquer Jet Lag and Master The Nap: Part 2

Part 4 – Nutrition

-Chapter 11: 40 Easy Meals For Busy Athletes: How To Fuel Your Body With The Thousands Of Calories Necessary For Endurance and Extreme Exercise, Without Completely Destroying Your Metabolism. 

-Chapter 12: What A Half-Naked Ironman Kickboxing Superhero Can Teach You About How Many Calories, Carbs, Proteins And Fats You Should Be Eating

-Chapter 13: How Much Carbohydrate, Protein and Fat You Need To Stay Lean, Stay Sexy and Perform Like A Beast.

-Chapter 14: The Zen Of Customizing Your Diet To Your Unique Body And Goals

-Chapter 15: 9 Bad Things That Happen When Your Digestion Goes Wrong, How To Hit The Reboot Button On Your Gut & The Best Way To Detox Your Body.

-Chapter 16: The Real Truth About What To Eat Before, During And After Your Workouts & Races.

-Chapter 17: The 21 Best Kitchen Tools, Grocery Shopping Guides, Cookbooks, Websites and Local Resources To Fuel Your Active Lifestyle.

Part 5 – Lifestyle

-Chapter 18: How To Protect Your Body From The 10 Hidden Killers In Your Home.

-Chapter 19: The Zen Of Getting Uber-Fit Without Neglecting Your Friends, Your Family and Your Career. 

-Chapter 20: How To Quit Mowing Your Lawn & 10 More Top Time-Saving & Productivity Tips.

Part 5 – The Brain

-Chapter 21: Two Ways Your Brain Breaks And Exactly What You Can Do About It – Part 1



1. Benmansour S, Cecchi M, Morilak DA, Gerhardt GA, Javors MA, Gould GG, Frazer A (1999). “Effects of chronic antidepressant treatments on serotonin transporter function, density, and mRNA level”. J. Neurosci. 19 (23): 10494–501.

2. Breggin, P. (2011, November 16). New research: Antidepressants can cause long-term depression . Retrieved from

3. Frazer, A.; and Hensler, J. G. (1999). “Understanding the neuroanatomical organization of serotonergic cells in the brain provides insight into the functions of this neurotransmitter”.Basic Neurochemistry. (Sixth ed.).

4. Kresser, C. (2008, April 27). Placebos as effective as antidepressants. Retrieved from

5. Medieros, L. (2012). Neurobiological effects of transcranial direct current stimulation: a review. Front Psychiatry., December 28(3), 110.

6. Montenegro, R. (2010). Transcranial direct current stimulation influences the cardiac autonomic nervous system. Neuroscience Letters.

7. Noakes, T MD, Lore of Running, (Champaign, Illinois: Leisure Press, 1991), p. 701.

8. Olekalns, N. (1996). Rational addiction to caffeine. Journal of Political Economy, 104(5), 1100.

9. Ribeiro, J. (2010). Caffeine and adenosine. Journal of Alzheimer’s Disease, 20, S3-S15.

10. Saladin, Kenneth S. Anatomy and Physiology: The Unity of Form and Function. McGraw Hill. 2009

11. The Bulletproof Executive. (2012, July 3). Why bad coffee makes you weak. Retrieved from

12. University of Kent Academia. (2013). Samuele Marcora. Retrieved from

Ask Ben a Podcast Question

57 thoughts on “Two Ways Your Brain Breaks And Exactly What You Can Do About It: Part 1

  1. Hi Guys!
    I had a person trying to kill me and I have lots of urine toxic metals and I also have Asthma and Herpes!

    I have found massive units on the neck and brain and my words are very damaged! I need to get the brain fixed fast so my words would get fixed :-)

    Just email be also if you can fix this fast I would be with you! Also if you hand me your email I would hand you the tests!

    Thanks! I need the words fixed fast!

  2. Thomas Chronister says:

    Ben, have you heard of Chiari Malformation? My mother has this terrible disease and has had two brain surgeries on it now. Do you have any scholarly advice on the disease? Even doctors who are experts on the subject have little advice they can give her.

  3. Bronko says:

    Am I mistaken or does Travacor not have Tyrosine in it?

  4. Greg Liban says:

    Wow. So much junk science here I don’t know where to start.

  5. SJ says:

    I have a question: My thyroid numbers and other bloodwork numbers are all normal, except for Reverse T3, which is high. I learned that it’s called “Thyroid Resistance.” I would like to lose some weight, but I don’t know whether a diet like Keto would be good for me due to that RT3 number. I already eat organic and Paleo. I also don’t know if there are any appropriate supplements for this. What do you think? Thanks.

    1. Ben Greenfield says:

      You can do keto, but need to include plenty of nutrient dense plants, along with, preferably, some kind of cyclic carbohydrate refeeds worked in on more active days.

  6. Leah says:

    Hi Ben,

    I thank you for all of this very beneficial information. I’ve been searching for a while now online on neurotransmitters. I’ve recently was prescribed antidepressants (zoloft) for the first time for anxiety. A week into taking them I stared experiencing most of the side effects particularly headaches. I stopped the medicine shorty after that but the head pains/zaps/headaches (hard to describe) continue. It’s been three months, I’ve had tests done to see if it can be anything else, and nothing. I’m beginning to think that the zoloft threw everything off as I’ve never had headache problems before taking it.

  7. Keenan says:

    Hey Ben, I’ve got an interesting one for you.

    Used the sauna immediately post-workout, and gave myself a panic attack. This is the second time this has happened. First time, I had re-occurring instances of very strange, trippy symptoms. At the time I was using a noopept supplement which I cut and that seemed to help. Only had a handful of “episodes,” and best way to describe would be everything got too intense and I felt dizzy, and too “here.”

    This second time around, I used the sauna, felt a little odd and apprehensive, went home, and then started feeling nauseous, everything got really intense, and I thought something was wrong with my heart. Couldn’t get my heart beat out of my head. It’s been followed by several weeks of anxiety, occasional heart flutters, and one or two “panic” attacks. I’ve seen the doc once. Basic bloodwork was fine, he said probably anxiety, cut the stimulants and see where it goes.

    I’m seeing a cardiologist tomorrow to rule out heart stuff. But, I think, somehow, my training and ludicrous use of the sauna depleted my seratonin. Pretty much daily I get feelings of edgyness, angst, or doom. It’s either “am I going crazy” or “is my heart ok?” And it feels very separate from me. What I mean by that is that I personally am ok with all of it, I just find myself unable to get these thoughts out of my head. I have come to the conclusion this is the unlucky fate of one who has fatigued his adrenals and thinks very deeply about things. After the cardiologist, if my heart is fine, I am considering the 5-htp l tyrosine route.

    Have you known anyone to induce panic attacks from adrenal fatigue? i want to compete at the crossfit games in a few years so I’ve been training multiple hours a day, and after reading your book, it sounded a lot like what I’ve been experiencing. i think i’m only in an early stage, just with panic attacks. Which suck, by the way. (in case you were wondering, lol)

    1. I am not a doctor and this is not to be taken, interpreted or construed as medical advice. Please talk with a licensed medical professional about this. These are just my own personal thoughts and not a prescription or a diagnosis or any form of health care whatsoever. But i would look INTO MINERALS. i use a liquid shot each day of this: and then put sea salt like this every day on a ton of my food:

    2. Cheryl says:

      Fid you ever get to the bottom of this?

  8. Ashley Smith says:

    I know for a fact my serotonin receptors are downregulated due to long term use of Paxil. In order for them to upregulate, do I have to wean off the meds completely? My functional medicine doctor says they can upregulate even if I stay on a low dose. Is this correct?

    1. Your doc is one the right track. But for details, I'd be happy to help you via a personal one-on-one consult. Just go to and then choose a 20 or 60 minute consult, whichever you'd prefer. I can schedule ASAP after you get that. I am not a doctor and this is not to be taken, interpreted or construed as medical advice. Please talk with a licensed medical professional about this. These are just my own personal thoughts and not a prescription or a diagnosis or any form of health care whatsoever.

  9. Jordan says:

    Hi Ben,

    I am looking for your advice on something that’s happened to me recently.

    I took a overdose of a drug called MDMA which stimulates the serotonin in the brain to produce in large quantities. I was admitted in to the hospital because my kidneys we’re failing.

    Ever since then, I’ve noticed a significant decline in cognitive abilities, in particular, it’s much more challenging for me to articulate words, to concentrate on what people are saying, to understand and process information and some pressure sensations in my head that we’ré not there before the accident happened, as well as increased feelings of anxiety and depression.

    In your opinion, it is possible to repair any damage done to the serotonin receptors, and if so, what should I do to help myself get back on track?

    I’m already on a ketogenic diet, I run outside every morning for 40 minutes, I regularly practice yoga and meditation, and I’m making sure I eat enough Omega-3 Fatty Acids and other essential vitamins and minerals.

    Do you know of anything else I could be doing to speed up my recovery process? I’m prepared to do anything I need to to get better.

    Is it actually possible for the nerve cells to completely heal themselves, given the right conditions / nutrients?

    Any of your positive thoughts are very much appreciated.

    Thank you,


    1. Hey Jordan, this is definitely something I can help with but I am not a doctor and nothing I say should be taken as medical advice. I suggest you book a consult at and choose 20 or 60 minutes and we’ll get you scheduled to go into detail there. Thanks!

      1. LD says:

        I have had the same issues. Would love to know how to fix this!

    2. LD says:

      Jordan, have you figured out a way to fix this? I’m having the same concern.

  10. Atul Jadhav says:

    I have taken Antidepressants for 5 yrs for my Anxiety disorder & depression.

    As a result it affected my Sexual functioning. I have lost my Sexual desire completely.

    While doing sex i am not able to feel pleassure. I have developed Dopamine defficiency.

    To regain my sexual desire i have tried different medications but it result into side effects.

    I have taken Bupropion XL 150 mg to increase sexual desire ,after taking this medication my heart beats is increased & i am not able to breath (Shortness of breath).

    I have tried Buspirone , Pramipexole , Nano leo to increase Dopamine in brain But nobody helped.

    Can you please Tell me how to increase sexual desire (loss of drive).

    1. I would check this out:… and see if there are natural ways to combat your anxiety and depress because those antidepressants sound like the root cause!

  11. Ashley says:


    This article is really informative. You obviously know what your talking about. I’ve been on antidepressants particularly fluoxetine (Prozac) and the side effects can make you feel worse in some cases, insomnia, drive issues, emotional numbness, aggression and who knows what. Try telling this to most psychiatrists.

    I recently started probiotic supplements and I’ve developed joint pains, which on Googling I found was an issue with some people. I think some probiotic manufacturers put to many strains of bacteria without enough knowledge especially Streptococcus Thermophilus whose relative is dangerous causing Strep cough and fever. Also Clostridia strains. What’s a good strain and brand?

    Also I’m thinking of L-tryptophan instead of 5-HTP for insomnia and mood. What do you think?

    Vitamin C (2 x 500 mg) is also good for mood but should be taken early in the day.

    1. A 1-2 combo of something like TianChi and Caprobiotics Advanced would work well.

  12. Lynda says:

    Hi Ben, in January my brain just shutdown due to ongoing stress and a health scare (that didn’t exist) which I over catastrophized leaving me with acute anxiety!…I’m starting to heal as its now mild to moderate but I hate this “detached, unreal” feeling!…I eat flaxseeds, blueberries, walnuts, Brazil nuts every day alongside salmon, eggs, spinach etc I also walk approx 5 mile a day and don’t drink alcohol or caffeine!…I don’t take anti depressants or herbal supplements although I have 5-htp which I took 1 day and felt numb?….I have therapy from a mental health professional who is fantastic and rationalises my bad days, but wondered if you could give more advice further for a quicker recovery?!…I’m trying to “grow” the hipocampus through all of these things could you advise further, I’m coming onto my 3rd month and it’s rather exhausting at times even though I know I’m getting better all the time and I’m reassured the first 3-4 months are the hardest x

    1. Yes, I’d be happy to help you via a personal one-on-one consult. Just go to and then choose a 20 or 60 minute consult, whichever you’d prefer. I can schedule ASAP after you get that.

  13. VonnegutJunky says:

    Very informative!!!

    I was on an ssri for 8 years and did a slow taper per my gp- I realized too late that the taper was not slow enouh, and had to reinstate the medication; the reinstatment has not proved to help and some days I feel much worse – any idea why this would happen?

    I am now slowly tapering off of this medication- do you have suggestions for supplements to help reduce the withdrawal symptoms?

    1. If it were me, I'd give CBD a go. Check this out:

  14. Anon says:

    I’m suffering from post-viral fatigue going on three months now following shingles and glandular fever. I’m a 19 year old female, is there any remedies you can recommend for my most prominent symptom – extreme brain problems – feeling foggy, spaced out detached and unable to concentrate because i’m so spaced out.

    The doctors have not been particularly helpful and I’m getting absolutely desperate living like a zombie.

    Many thanks.

    1. We just talked about this on the podcast with Dr. Isaac Jones! Take a listen here:…

  15. Deborah says:


    Stumbled across your article.

    I have had some complex post hernia surgical nerve pinched complications

    For 5 years. I also had to heal myself from tic bite in the middle.

    It has depleated my transmitters to the point where

    I hv kind of a bipolar depletion. they think. I don’t take drugs but it has cost over half a million dollars with laser treatments. Imaging. Nutrients. Etc.

    It pulled out the pelvic muscles and now there are some herniations in the discs. In neck and l45

    The only two things that have worked are the laser and the IMEDIS device which is bioressonance and from Russia.

    I really need some help.

    Am a designer. But have not been able to work rr now. Want to get back to giving back.. enthusiast and over 55. AlwYs healthy choices 5 smoothes a day. Great nutrients.

    Need replenishing. a loan from some great. soul to purchase a laser and IMEDIS ..a good medical attorney who will help.. And. Some support..

    Such a journey. Will do neurotests again.

    Also helpful. Dr Eric braverman. The edge effect. On same subject.

    And amen institute for brain scan if


    Blessings health and happy training to you All.

  16. Michelletwo says:

    Hi Ben,
    Great information! I have been trying to get to the bottom of my motivational issues and I noticed LTryosine helps me a little but I want to get specific. I tried clicking on the link to get the neuroadrenal expanded test and I didn't see it there. Can you help me?

    1. For sure! They changed the link, here is the new one – NeuroScience:…

  17. Mis911 says:

    Hi Ben
    Newcomer here. Just stumbled onto this chapter & it's exactly what I'm looking for in regards to shedding old hard wired habits & addictions that have damaged my neurotransmitters. I intend on reading all previous & future chapters.

    You stated the following:
    "There’s a reason that I personally drink no more than 8-10 ounces of black coffee each day, and switch to decaf for at least 1 week every couple month. People who use frequently use coffee, tea, soda or energy drinks actually change their brain’s chemistry and physical characteristics over time. "
    I'll get to my question…just wanto fill you in on a few things so please bare with me, this has been life long journey of misuse & a constant losing battle.

    Ive been on Duromine 30mg to control my appetite & metabolism for the better part of 2decades, from the age of 16…I am now 34
    Obviously I have bad eating habits & this was to keep it under wraps because my dress size is or was more important to me than my health
    I have barely cycled off this substance.
    As the years progressed I began hating how I feel when I take duromine. My only addiction to it was & I guess in many ways still is its appetite suppressing capabilities & metabolism acceleration.
    I intend on taking whatever steps you've mentioned regarding the Kalish method, neurotransmitter repletion & whatever else you might recommend.

    So here is my question:
    Can the negative changes that have effected not only my brain chemistry but physical characteristics (major hairloss being the most problematic among others) return back to their original genetic programming or what they would have been prior to this bad choice I've made?
    Awaiting your response with sincere anticipation

    1. The answer is: it depends. Neuronal degradation, neurofibrillary tangles and glycation in neural tissue can all be somewhat reversible but I have no clue EXACTLY what change in brain chemistry and physical structure have taken place so it’s very tough to say. My recommendation is that you look into any of the SPECTA scans or other brain imaging options on this page and make sure to look at part 2 of this article –…

  18. drtim2428 says:

    Hey Sarah, MTHFR does affect neurotransmitters, especially serotonin and dopamine. L-theanine is a GABA agonist. You may have elevated GABA already and too much could create a paradoxical reaction. I suggest doing a neurotransmitter test either through Pharmasan Labs or Sabre Sciences. Lack of energy can be due to hormonal imbalances, digestive issues, toxicity, low thyroid or adrenal function as well. You may need to provide your brain with the appropriate precursors to optimize neurotransmitters. But first, find out which ones are low or high. I hope this helps! -Dr. Tim

  19. Sarah says:

    Hey Ben, I am 25 and I have been trying to turn my life around for the past year. I have been going to a wellness clinic and found that I have a MTHFR gene mutation. Does this affect neurotransmitters? This clinic also gave me L theanin which to my suprise causes jittery anxiety attacks which isnt normal. I did some research and found things that suggested this is due to dopamine supersensitity? I further researched that to find that amphetamine abuse causes that. I was an addict for 3 years. I have been clean for 2years but I still feel lack of motivation and energy. Is this permanent damage to my brain??

  20. Christina says:

    Hi Ben have been suffering from insomina for many years and can never wind down would my next best step be getting tested to see what I’m maybe lacking ?

    1. Check out this page and part 2… it should give you some great ideas!

  21. Snoozy says:

    Hi Ben

    I’ve been suffering with postnatal depression for nearly 5 years…and everyday is a challenge. I am on high dose of sertraline…and as you said it has given me bad IBS and severe lack of motivation-which in turn makes me depressed further. I’ve tried adding flax seeds and

    sunflower seeds to my diet. In general I find the fatigue more depressing than anything else because my life is revolved around when I can nap and sleep

    1. There are a lot solid suggestions on this page, give some of them a try. Also take a look at this page –… it may help as well.

  22. Matt says:


    Thanks so much for this post.

    My naturopath has recently put me on supplements to help with neurotransmitter repletion.

    I have noticed that some symptoms have gotten better (anxiety, panic attacks) but new symptoms seem to appear out of the blue. (Trouble sleeping, mild depression)

    My question is, is this a normal symptom of replenishing your neurotransmitters? As their levels rise, is it normal to experience these new symptoms?

    Thanks so much.

    1. This is common. Fixing one imbalance can create another and this is WHY I highlight the importance of TESTING in the article above. You may need to find someone who is, for example, a certified Kalish practitioner or is otherwise well versed in testing as repletion occurs. Otherwise it can be very tricky.

  23. pallgrant says:

    Generally, I am against supplements, only several brands can be really trusted. Most supplement are made in China, btw

  24. BJJMonsters says:

    Hey Ben, I am very grateful to you for the content you are writing.

    I learnt a lot how the brain works and how to fix it so it work even better from this post.

    Also my favorite chapter is №15 – about digestion and nutrition.

    Already pre-ordered "Beyond training " on amazon.


  25. Jason says:

    Great post Ben. Loving all of the information on the brain/nervous system lately. The fitness world puts so much focus on developing muscle without realizing that everything is controlled by the brain. Keep up the great work.

  26. Dawn says:

    Hey Ben, I recently took that 23andme test and was wondering what would be your thoughts on supplements to take/avoid for someone with a homozygous gene mutation for both MAO-A & COMT?

    1. Monoamine oxidase A is an enzyme that degrades amine neurotransmitters, such as dopamine, norepinephrine, and serotonin and COMT is similarly involved with dopamine. I'd go read up on the part about neurotransmitter testing and keep a finger on the pulse of your neurotransmitters, so to speak. I'd also take good "care" of your brain using everything you learn in this chapter and next couple chapters…

    2. this would be a good question for the podcast. Can you call it in?

  27. Greg says:

    Another well written and concise chapter. Thanks Mr G

  28. ken_s1964 says:

    Just a quick edit. Your brain wave illustration has theta and delta backwards. Delta is slower than theta. : )

  29. Michael Davis says:

    Ben, any thoughts on supplementing with Inositol? Seems like it might be quite beneficial for a few of the items above. Thanks!

    1. Yes, it is an important precursor for phospholipids but not sure I've seen actual evidence for it's nervous system enhancement…have you?

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