Own the Day, Own Your Life: Optimized Practices for Waking, Working, Learning, Eating, Training, Playing, Sleeping, and Sex
Aubrey Marcus

Ended: April 25, 2018

To live one day well is the same as to live ten thousand days well. To master twenty-four hours is to master your life.
How you wake up sets the tone for your day. Do you slide out of bed and slink through your social media, or do you have purpose in your actions? You want to take control of your day from the word go. So hydrate immediately (not with coffee!), then seek light and get moving to reset your internal clock. That’s three simple things to do within twenty minutes of waking—and your day will be primed for perfection.
There are studies on both men and women showing that even mild dehydration resulting from fluid loss equaling roughly 1 percent of your body weight can cause headaches, moodiness, irritability, anxiety, and fatigue. Decreases in mental performance and short-term memory loss can start at as little as a 2 percent loss in water. You ever find yourself being 1 or 2 percent lighter in the morning than before bed?
Morning Mineral Cocktail 12 ounces filtered water 3 grams sea salt 1/4 lemon, squeezed
Hydrate. There are no secret, scary, crazy steps to combining these ingredients into the morning mineral cocktail, but there are a couple things you want to be mindful of during preparation and consumption. First, the water should be room temperature. When you’re looking to maximize mineral absorption and aid digestion, room temperature is always best for any beverage. And second, the salt needs to dissolve or stay off the bottom of the glass when you drink it. Salt is the essential component for mineralization, but since it is denser than water, it sinks to the bottom before it dissolves if you let it come to rest after mixing. Then you end up with a salty sludge at the bottom of your glass that, unless you have a tongue like beef cattle, you’re gonna find hard to get out of there.
Circadian rhythm influences many biological functions. To optimize circadian rhythm for performance, you need to add light and movement to the first twenty minutes upon waking up. Most of us are chronically dehydrated, particularly in the morning. To start your hydration off right, drink the morning mineral cocktail to ensure you are getting adequate water and electrolytes. We are highly sensitive to momentum. By starting your morning off with intention, you set your day off on an important positive trajectory.
What turn off the inflammation when it is no longer needed, preventing it from becoming chronic, are stress hormones like norepinephrine and adrenaline. It just so happens that the Wim Hof method is especially adept at releasing a shitload of those hormones. Cold shock has been shown to reliably release up to 300 percent more norepinephrine, and the deprivation of oxygen from breath holds reliably produces more adrenaline and norepinephrine.
When it comes to heat, sitting in a sauna, steam room, sauna suit, or traditional sweat lodge and sweating buckets may not seem like the greatest way to spend the morning, but it might actually save your life. In addition to reducing all-cause mortality, hyperthermic conditioning, as it is called, helps blood flow to skeletal muscle and surrounding tissue, supporting circulation and muscle growth. It can help train your cardiovascular system and lower your resting heart rate; it can even assist with detoxification, since sweat transports minerals, both good and bad, out of the body.
The Power Shower Turn the shower to hot and wash. Do Wim Hof breathing (thirty to fifty breaths, or until you feel tingling and/or mild light-headedness). Turn the shower as cold as it can get. Continue Wim Hof breaths until breathing calms. Hold at the bottom of breath until the gasp reflex kicks
Chronic stress is literally killing us, and the traditional medical model offers us very little help to deal with it. Counterintuitively, one of the best ways to deal with chronic stress is to seek certain forms of acute stress. Through a process called hormesis, acute stress will help you adapt and become stronger.
Cold exposure is one of the best sources of acute stress, and can be accessed in showers, cold tubs, and cryotherapy. The cold also offers the opportunity to practice an essential life skill—what I call “mental override”—the ability to make yourself do something you don’t want to do.
The breath, when used in accordance with the Wim Hof method or other forms of intentional deep breathing, is an invaluable tool to modulate and adapt to acute stressors like cold shock, while also helping to melt away chronic stress on its own.
One man, Ancel Keys, vehemently believed that dietary fat caused heart disease, a theory that would eventually be known as the diet-heart hypothesis. The other, a scientist named John Yudkin, quietly understood that it was really sugar—pure, white, and deadly—that led to inflammation and obesity. The world chose Mr. Keys’s diet-heart hypothesis, and now the bloated consequences of that decision have created a public health holocaust: when we decided that dietary fat (and its associated cholesterol) was bad for your health, we started removing fat from our foods and replacing it with sugar and vegetable oils to make up for the flavor we’d lost in the removal process. That two-pronged dietary decision began the pincer movement that landed us in the clutches of the obesity, diabetes, and cardiovascular epidemics we face today.
And yet many of the doctors who are prescribing you medication to lower your cholesterol don’t know this. A report by Credit Suisse in 2014 showed that 54 percent of doctors still believed that dietary cholesterol (like what is found in egg yolks) significantly correlated to elevated levels of bad cholesterol. It is a dangerous association that is just not true, a fact that was implicitly recognized as such less than two years later, when the newly released Dietary Guidelines for Americans did not specify an upper daily limit for dietary cholesterol, reversing a long-standing position. The body is smart; when you eat more cholesterol than your cells need, the body adjusts accordingly.
Pro Tip: Coconut Yogurt for Millionaires My favorite place to find new foods is a grocery chain called Erewhon, in So-Cal. One day while snack-hunting I saw a yogurt with a really shoddy label that looked like it was printed on a laser-jet printer from 1992. Super Coconut Probiotic Yogurt, it was called, and it boasted “240 billion organisms.” That caught my attention, but what also caught my attention was the price tag: $30 for the jar! Even for Erewhon, which regularly charges eighteen dollars for a smoothie, that was excessive. Out of sheer curiosity, I pulled the trigger anyway. Despite having extremely low sugar content, it tasted as if ice cream and coconuts had sex. After the first bite, I knew I had a dangerous new habit. And after a week of eating the stuff, I can honestly say I noticed a difference in my gut health. There are a few coconut yogurt brands, including the one from New Earth Superfoods, which I mentioned above, but the coconut cream under the Coconut Cult brand name will ship nationwide in cold packs, so you can yogurt like a baller.
too. I like to eat half an avocado with lime, sea salt, and cayenne when I want a lush, nutrient-dense snack or a quick breakfast and I don’t have time to sit down to a proper meal.
The abundance of sugar in our diet is arguably the worst thing ever to happen to human health. Being aware of the many forms of sugar and minimizing sugar ingestion is key to managing the blood sugar swings that will throw off your day.
Dietary fat and cholesterol have been unfairly villainized. To restore metabolic health and optimize weight management, adding dietary fat back into the diet, starting with breakfast, is essential.
Breakfast is not the most important meal of the day. If you don’t have good fats and protein available to you, rather than eat a bunch of sugary or starchy foods, you can skip breakfast and reap the benefits of intermittent fasting for weight loss and longevity.
Additionally, studies show that almost half the people living in the United States are magnesium-deficient.
What happens when an entire species that was accustomed to living outdoors and hunting and gathering suddenly decides that indoor living is the way to go? We all become deficient in vitamin D. That’s right: over a billion people are deficient in vitamin D.
As I see it, you have two supplement choices: you can take multivitamins, which traditionally are notoriously hard to absorb, or you can reach for a multinutrient “green food” mix, which will cover a lot of your nutrient bases.
I remember the first time I tried a higher dose of krill oil, somewhere in the 5-gram range. I took it at night, and it felt like the oil’s essential omega-3 fatty acids (EPA and DHA), along with its intrinsic antioxidant astaxanthin and its brain-healthy nutrient phosphatidylcholine, were running through my bloodstream like a fire hose, just blasting out all the inflammation in my body.
I started researching probiotics to support my gut, and I came across S. boulardii. I brought some with me on my next trip to Peru—and it was miraculous. I had no issues while I was down there, and no issues upon return. The studies back it up: whether it’s Crohn’s disease, or irritable bowel, S. boulardii is the shit for problems with your shit.
B vitamins are involved in everything, from the conversion of nutrients into neurotransmitters like serotonin to proper mitochondrial function. You can feel it when you take a good B vitamin: there aren’t any questions. You will have more energy, more resilience, more bounce in your step. Think of it like this: “I’ve got your back, B.”
They are referring to a standard IV solution bag that contains many of the vitamins and minerals you need. The advantage of the IV is that it bypasses the gut, ensuring that the vitamins are delivered into the blood. A lot of places have popped up extending this service, not just to the sick but to the healthy (or the hungover). One of the best is a program developed by functional medicine wizard Dr. Craig Koniver called Fast Vitamin IV. It offers not only the usual suspects, but a whole host of amino acids to further assist with recovery.
We’ve done a lot of the work for you, though, with formulas that pack all the key vitamins and minerals, along with greens and krill oil, plus a host of herbal nutrients in convenient day and night packs. We also offer a complete care kit for your gut that includes probiotics you can take with any meal. All the packs are sleek, easy to travel with, and absolutely comprehensive.
The key things to consider supplementing are greens, probiotics, B vitamins, krill oil, vitamin D, and additional minerals.
Study after study reveals that mindfulness practices have tangible real-world results. One study of over 17,000 medical records shows that those engaging in mindfulness practices are 43 percent less likely to need any form of hospital care than those who do not.
if you are looking for maximum benefits, the king of all the teas is unequivocally matcha. A tea that has an entire Zen ceremony dedicated to it in Japan. With 66 milligrams of caffeine per 8 ounces of prepared tea, matcha has more caffeine than black tea but less than a cup of coffee, making it the Mama Bear of afternoon pick-me-ups.
Deep Dive: How Fat Slows Caffeine Why fat with caffeine? Fat is one of the slowest foods to digest (metabolize) in the human system. When you mix caffeine with fat, the body can only effectively metabolize the caffeine as fast as it can metabolize fat. To break down fats, the stomach has to wait for a secretion of bile from the gallbladder. There is a natural rate-limiting factor on this mechanism of action, which forces a slower drip of caffeine into the system. As the caffeine-spurred hormone levels rise slowly, they fall slowly, spreading out the arc and diminishing the spiking and crashing sensation that can come from naked caffeine.
The main plant nootropic we are going to focus on is something called Huperzia serrata, or club moss. H. serrata grows wild in Asia and has likely been used in local medicine for thousands of years. It has a very specific and well-defined mechanism of action, has an excellent safety profile, is not a classic stimulant, and targets one neurotransmitter in particular: acetylcholine.
It was this experience with the plant that eventually led me to place Huperzia serrata at the heart of supplementing high brain function.
In the United States, workers only take an average of 57 percent of their paid vacation days. That’s crazy. You’ve got 90,000 hours to knock out, take the chance to chill on the beach when someone gives it to you.
I’m fortunate that I have created a situation where I have purpose in what I do for a living—but that wasn’t the case when my old employer came calling the second time. Except I had a plan. I just needed to buy enough time and gather enough resources to start Onnit. I didn’t care if I was appreciated at my new-old job, I didn’t need a pat on the back. I just needed to do good work and get paid. In service of my mission, I was able to smile through the suck, and learn from the dysfunctional management so I didn’t make the same mistakes once I got my own thing off the ground. In short, I intentionally went into a toxic work environment day after day in order to emerge with the resources necessary to build my dream. The plan succeeded.
Ralph Waldo Emerson once said, “The purpose of life is not to be happy. It is to be useful, to be honorable, to be compassionate, to have it make some difference that you have lived and lived well.” Emerson is right, though I think the piece of that equation he failed to mention is that if you do all those things—be useful, honorable, compassionate—happiness tends to be the result.
Own Your Space My office is my sanctuary. I have a Zen fountain.
In Japan, according to the author of a book titled The Healthy Workplace, a large fragrance and flavor company investigated how smells affect the accuracy of typists. Their research found that “54% made fewer errors when they could smell lemon, 33% fewer with jasmine and 20% fewer with lavender.” Lemon-jasmine-lavender tea for the win!
There is nothing dorkier than wearing your five-finger Vibram shoes to the office, or out to dinner. I love my Vibrams. Each toe can move independently, my foot can spread out, and I get to build strength from the ground up. I work out in them 90 percent of the time, and feel like Arnold training barefoot at Muscle Beach. But I still can’t bring myself to wear them outside the gym, where I spend the other fifteen of my waking hours. So the answer is to purchase some wide-toe-box shoes. Companies like Altra and Kuru have sprung up who make some great training, casual, and running shoes with a wide toe box so you can move your feet a little more like nature intended. To help correct years of unintentional foot binding, you can also check out toe spreaders like those made by Yoga Toes or Correct Toes. They feel a bit like getting braces on your toes, but after a while you’ll start to reap the benefits.
Still, the human tendency is to put off the hardest thing to the last minute. Procrastination may create urgency, but at what cost? The stress of the large task will occupy valuable brain capacity as it builds momentum until finally you can’t take it anymore. It will force you to overlook and ignore and lose on the little things that could have been small victories. It will turn your task from art to math, as you count the minutes remaining and divide by the amount of work you have left. So why do we always procrastinate, then? We’re missing the skill you learned in the shower thanks to Bode Miller: mental override. The ability to make yourself do the thing you know you should, even when you don’t want to.
Put it up next to the piece of paper with your mission written on it, so in the morning and after lunch, when you are reviewing your emails, you feel empowered to ignore most of them, answer only those that are most important or urgent to you, and to respond with a (more polite) no to those making demands on your time and energy that do not service your mission. No, I’m not interested. No, I can’t attend. No, I’m not available. No, I won’t do that. The more you say no via email, the more effective you will be. I want you to have that sign so you’re able to say no to other things too: no to self-doubt, no to fear, no to procrastination. . . . but most of all, say no to distraction.
More important than enjoying every minute of the work you do is knowing why you are doing it. This is your mission, and being certain of that mission will allow you to flourish even in challenging situations.
Working effectively means accomplishing your best work with the minimum amount of resistance. To do this, you need to minimize distraction, learn to say no, and develop a process of prioritizing what you need to tackle first.
In a study including both young and elderly subjects, a meal consisting of beef that yielded 30 grams of protein elicited significant increases in muscle protein synthesis after an overnight fasting period. Interestingly, a meal yielding 90 grams of protein did not elicit any greater responses in muscle protein synthesis. What makes those numbers so significant is when you put them in the context of a Western diet and standard American portions. Thirty grams of protein is only 4–5 ounces of beef, or about the size of the palm of your hand. An 8-ounce steak is 50 grams of protein by itself, and that’s usually the smallest option on most restaurant menus. So if you are totally looking for gains, bro, try hitting that 30-gram mark, because more is likely just going to be unnecessary extra work for your organs, and your wallet.
IDEAL SOURCES: Grass-fed beef, wild-caught salmon, pasture-raised eggs, sprouted pumpkin seeds, hemp seeds
Soluble fibers mix with water and form a gel-like substance. If you’ve ever had chia seed pudding, or a chia slurry, you have a good sense of what this looks like. It almost has the consistency of Jell-O. Soluble fiber, like its unjustly maligned friend Dietary Fat, offers a variety of metabolic benefits when this process happens in the body, including slowing down the uptake of nutrients just long enough to help level out blood sugar spikes. You’ll learn more about how to use soluble fiber to hack your cheat meal in chapter 12.   IDEAL SOURCES: Chia, flax, asparagus, guar gum
Insoluble fiber plays an important role in making sure your digestive tract has enough substance to push through the system efficiently and completely. Some of the most common sources of insoluble fiber are plants without much nutrient density but whose cell walls are made of cellulose. Like our friend psyllium, they act as a bulking agent, which helps speed the complete passage of food and waste through your gut. Basically, they become the plunger at the bottom of the push-pop that makes it easy to shove all the shit out. All right, who’s hungry?   IDEAL SOURCES: Avocado, sprouted barley, mixed greens, popcorn, psyllium
Fermentable fiber/resistant starch is often called a “prebiotic” because your friendly neighborhood gut bacteria are able to digest (ferment) it to use as food. Whereas probiotics actually contain more friendly bacteria to help populate your gut colony, prebiotics provide the food they need to thrive. The most common fermentable fibers include beans, the “magical fruit,” and as with all forms of fermentation, produce everyone’s favorite bodily byproduct: gas. Not all fermentable fibers are created equal, of course. Some will be more efficient and tolerable for your body than others, and you’ll just have to experiment to find out. Though I suspect you, or whoever you might share a bed with, already know. Personally, my favorite prebiotic fermentable fiber is dandelion greens. My body tolerates them very well. My least favorite are Brussels sprouts, which turn my digestive tract into a fart factory.   IDEAL SOURCES: Garbanzo beans (hummus), dandelion greens, chicory root, onions
Chewed-up food—or chyme—will digest at the rate of the slowest-absorbing nutrients within it. Fat and fiber take longer for the body to process than sugar or starch, and are therefore two of the best nutrients for slowing down digestion. The best way to eat carbs, then, is to eat things that already have the fiber in them—things like yams, sweet potatoes, quinoa, sprouted or fermented grains, and some fruits.
Pro Tip: Fry with Avocado Oil Avocado oil has the highest smoke point of all cooking oils. With a nice mild flavor, it’s great for any kind of sauté or stir-fry. And with a smoke point upward of 500 degrees Fahrenheit, you’ll be hard-pressed to scorch it
Brain waves are a physiological reaction to our environments. They can help us optimize mental functioning for our current situations. There are five common brain-wave states—gamma, beta, alpha, theta, and delta—and each one is put to its highest and best use in different situations. If you are navigating daily decisions, slipping into beta frequency is the most useful. If you need to surf a big wave or write your novel, alpha frequency is helpful. And if you are trying to rest, theta frequency is most powerful. Unfortunately, it can be a slow and frustrating process trying to rely on our environment alone to get us naturally into any one of these brain-wave states, so sometimes we have to be more purposeful about it. We have to target a specific brain-wave frequency. That’s where brain-wave entrainment comes in. Entrainment can help round the corners so you can reach your intent faster and more effectively.
track that pumps one frequency or tone in one ear and a different frequency or tone in the other ear. The difference in the frequency between the left and right ear determines which of the five brain-wave states you entrain. You can find binaural beats tracks for sale online or on YouTube, but to get you started I have hosted two of mine for free at aubreymarcus.com/beats.
Sleeping is not for lazy people, it is for productive people. The discipline comes not in what time you wake up, it’s what time you go to bed. You should sleep in if you can. You should nap if you can. In fact you should plan for both of those things!
Binaural beats are a great way to get the benefits of napping without having to fully fall asleep. By entraining your brain waves to more restorative patterns, you activate that restorative parasympathetic response you are looking for.
If you’re an athlete of any kind, kettlebell training better simulates the constantly shifting center of gravity you encounter on the field, mat, or court than most conventional lifting does. Other objects, whether a ball, obstacle, or opposing player, rarely stand still during competition. Using kettlebells teaches your body to stabilize itself and produce force despite the chaos of movement. It works the back side of your body you don’t see in the mirror and the deep inner core where the courage lives along your spine.
The research shows that when music is playing at home, people become physically closer. People are literally 12 percent closer when music is playing than when it’s not. They actually measured this! When the music’s going, people are a third more likely to cook together and almost 90 percent more likely to invite people over. They are more likely to laugh together, and here’s the kicker: they are more likely to say the words “I love you.”
Dr. Robert Sapolsky, for example, has shared findings that dogs and humans have coevolved to mutually produce the connection hormone oxytocin. Pet ownership has also been shown to reduce blood pressure and resting heart rate, and pets have helped kids with no brothers or sisters develop greater empathy, higher self-esteem, and increased participation in social and physical activities. Pets are the exercise of the animal kingdom—a miracle drug with ears.
Goat milk exhibits similar if not even greater benefits than raw milk. The reason for this is that goat milk is a lot more like the milk that came out of our own momma’s mammaries. The biological resemblance to human breast milk goes all the way down to the DNA structure itself. These similarities apply to protein structure (beta casein versus alpha casein), prebiotic content (oligosaccharides), and fat structure (small/medium-chain fatty acids versus long-chain fatty acids). So what does all this mean? A study in France demonstrated that 93 percent of infants showed less allergic reaction to goat milk than cow milk.
Sprouted or sourdough bread is the yeasty nectar of the gods. We have known this intuitively since ancient times. The Romans knew that there were two things they needed to provide to keep the populace happy: bread and circus. While I might caution against chariot races with no helmets or seat belts, I’m not about to tell you in this book that you shouldn’t eat bread. I love bread. There is nothing better than a good lump of sourdough or some sprouted bread slathered with butter. Many of the best athletes and performers feel the same way. And like me, they know that all bread is not created equal, which we learned in chapter 8 when we discussed how sprouting and fermenting alleviates some of the common antinutrients found in bread. But not all times during the day are right for bread. The best timing for bread is dinner, after your glycogen stores have been depleted by exercise, and you’re about to head into the winter of your day . . . sleep. So if bread and butter is your thing, do it the right way, with grass-fed butter on sprouted or sourdough. Go for it!
Popcorn is one of those foods that, if you’re like me, you had no idea how the hell it even works. Popcorn is a type of corn kernel with a small amount of water in the center. When heated, the water expands into gas and the kernel explodes. Yay! Even though it’s fluffy and white, there are actually quite a few important minerals in popcorn, including much-needed magnesium along with iron and zinc. To do it right, pop it yourself and add your own grass-fed butter and sea salt.
But the big reason to eat popcorn and dispense with the fiction that it’s a secret indulgence to be enjoyed in the dark of a movie theater is the whopping 15 grams of insoluble fiber that come with it, which is extremely high.
One of the most common digestive mistakes people make is consuming cold beverages while they eat. Any beverage dilutes the HCL in your stomach, making the overall acid concentration acting on your food weaker, while the cold slows down your digestion like a snake in a snowstorm. Leave the cold drinks for well before and well after your meals.
“A person’s life span is directly related to the exhaustion of their enzyme potential,” says digestive enzyme specialist Jon Barron. “And the use of food enzymes decreases that rate of exhaustion, and thus results in a longer, healthier, and more vital life.” The best way to ensure good digestive enzyme activity is by adding digestive enzymes, or adding foods that contain natural enzymes like papaya or pineapple.
Ginger has the ability to speed up the time it takes your stomach to pass food to your digestive tract by up to 50 percent.
Here are some foods with high dietary nitrate levels that are easily converted into the biological signal of nitric oxide: beets, pumpkin seeds, Swiss chard, arugula, watermelon, red wine, dark chocolate.
Pro Tip: Glutathione Push Come Monday morning, a line down the hall at the office leads into a pop-up clinic in our gym that offers glutathione straight into the veins. Glutathione is known as the master antioxidant in the body, and it dismantles all forms of toxicity, including our nemesis acetaldehyde. Glutathione is not only the preferred defense against acetaldehyde but, as an added benefit, will support the rest of your body in dealing with oxidative stress. The problem is that the stomach neuters glutathione like a brothelkeeper from antiquity, so the only way to get it into your body effectively is to absorb a liposomal form through the tissue, or inject it into the veins. The latter is undoubtedly the most effective. IV vitamin therapy clinics are gaining in popularity all over the United States. A Google search of your local area with those terms should find you some results.
ADD GREEN PLANTS Air quality matters! You can add high-tech filters to your HVAC system, you can bring in a humidifier or dehumidifier (provided it doesn’t make too much noise and you tape over the power light), but nothing is quite like the fresh, oxygenating power of plants. They’re a simple, cheap, effective way to get better sleep. The sleep messiah himself, Shawn Stevenson, likes English ivy, NASA’s top recommended air-filtering plant, and the perennial snake plant, which is nocturnal and releases oxygen during the night rather than the day.
We have made a mistake by thinking of sleep only in terms of hours per night. Instead, think about sleep as cycles per week. Understand that any form of polyphasic sleep, which includes napping, is a natural antidote to the anxiety of getting nighttime sleep, and a supplement to your daily recovery. To play out any great act, you have to set the stage. When it comes to sleep, this means eliminating the blue lights, keeping distractions to a minimum, making your room cool and dark like you’re a cave bear, and adding some plants to push some oxygen into your life. How you sleep will determine how you sleep. Generally aim for sleeping on your side, in a secure position. If you are waking up in the night, try to manage your bedtime hydration, including minerals and electrolytes.