In this episode, I speak with Dr. David Friedman — a Doctor of Naturopathy, Clinical Nutritionist, and a Chiropractic Neurologist. We will talk about the 6 top energy destroyers and how to fix them
Table of Contents
In this podcast, Dr. Friedman and I discuss:
- The #1 complaint in Dr. Friedman’s patients
- The one food group you should avoid at any cost (and healthy natural alternatives)
- The 6 best foods you can eat for health
- The toxin that promotes fat gain (you are likely exposed to it every day)
- The rule of thumb to prioritize which products you should buy organic
- The one thing that makes up for 80% of doctors’ visits
- Is coffee good for you? The pros and cons of coffee?
- How your routines can drain your health
Listen or download on iTunes
Listen outside iTunes
Ari: Hey there. This is Ari. Welcome back to the Superhuman Energy Summit. I am now here with one of my good friends, one of my favorite people on the planet, and one of my favorite health experts, Dr. David Friedman, who is an international award-winning number one bestselling author of Food Sanity: How to Eat in a World of Fads and Fiction.
By the way, actually, the award-winning part. I’d love to start this interview by having you, after I finish reading your bio, tell that little story of what you did at the awards ceremony. It’s one of the best things I’ve ever heard. So he’s a doctor of naturopathy, clinical nutritionist, chiropractic neurologist, boardcertified alternative medical practitioner, and is certified in integrative medicine. He’s a former teacher of neurology and author of the college textbook Understanding the Nervous System. As Lifetime television’s morning show health expert and syndicated radio host, he’s shared his cutting-edge health features to millions of people every week.
Dr. Friedman is a contributing writer for a plethora of leading news, health, and fitness magazines, including US News & World Report, Newsweek, Better Nutrition, Reader’s Digest, and Woman’s World. By the way, side note, you should be a writer for USA Today. A little inside joke. And he’s been featured on ABC, NBC, Fox, Discovery, Health, and FitTV. His list of clients has included many top celebrities like John Travolta, Jenny McCarthy, Jamie Lee Curtis, Val Kilmer, and Paul Newman. Many will fly across the country to see him because they trust no one else.
Dr. Friedman hosts the syndicated program To Your Good Health Radio, which has changed the face of talk radio by incorporating entertainment, shock value, and solutions to everyday health and wellness issues. And in this talk, he’s going to be talking about key energy destroyers and some specific superfoods to supercharge your energy levels. So I’m super excited to get into this, but Dr. Friedman, maybe you can comment on the two little inside things there. Maybe we’ll skip the USA Today thing because that’s maybe too long a story, but I would love if you could tell the little award ceremony piece about when you got the award for your book.
Dr. Friedman: Oh, yeah. So what happened was is it was that Author Academy Awards and I won first place in the Health Category, and it was thousands that submitted. And while everyone was going up there thanking those who believed in them, and they thank their agents, and they thank their mom and their dad, I went up, and I said, I want to thank those people who didn’t believe in me because it was their rejection that fueled my redirection and included the 45 agents and 50 publishers that said my book wasn’t worth publishing.
And so, I pulled out this paper, and the whole audience mouth drops. And I actually read some of the names and read people who told me my book suck — from Simon & Schuster, from Hatchet Books, and so on and so on. And this book’s not worth the paper it should be written on. And my book went on to become the number one national bestseller in seven categories and won seven first-place awards, including the Author Academy Awards. And I held up my award, and I said in the words of Julia Roberts from pretty woman, big mistake.
Ari: It was epic. I was literally rolling on the floor laughing when I saw that, and few videos that I watch online get me to the point of laughing out loud. So it was really well done.
Dr. Friedman: Yeah, it really just goes to show you to stick with what you believe. I don’t care who says, no. You say yes. If you believe in something, just stick to your guns and dreams come true. I don’t care who says they won’t.
Ari: Absolutely. And it’s one of my personal favorite nutrition books of all time. And I’ve been reading nutrition books for, geez, I think 22, 23 years now.
Dr. Friedman: That’s awesome. I appreciate.
Ari: That’s a feat too. I think that’s the most prestigious award that you’ve ever received — the Ari Award. You’ve made my top three of nutrition books of all time.
Dr. Friedman: And what’s funny is when you interviewed me, you’re the kind ask questions, and then you just sit back, and you watch. So I’m answering, answering, and it’s like you don’t let people know which way you sway, and each time you go, hey, that’s what I think. Hey, we’re on the same page. So pretty much majority of the time we’re on the same page.
Ari: Yeah, for sure. And I like to play devil’s advocate. I think it makes interviews more engaging and more fun for the listener.
Dr. Friedman: I think that’s important. Yeah, I do the same. Yeah, I agree.
How foods drain your energy
Ari: Yeah. But let’s get into it. So life’s energy destroyers. What do you got for us?
Dr. Friedman: Well, first of all, I want to mention that it’s great to be part of the summit, sharing the secrets of unleashing everybody’s inner Energizer Bunny. And that’s what we really want. We want to be the Energizer Bunny, keep going and going. And I will tell you, in my practice, the number one complaint I hear from patients is a lack of energy. Hands down, number one complaint.
And this can range from low performance and focus at work to feeling tired, lack of motivation, even depression, and many people turn to these energy drinks, coffee, and these sugar-loaded candy bars to get them that needed boost. And I’ll tell you, they all do increase your energy, but what happens after a couple of hours, you end up crashing. Not to mention drinking these caffeine and energy drinks can lead to hormonal imbalances, which sets off a cascade of other health concerns.
So today I’m going to be sharing the most common reasons why so many people are lacking energy, and I’m going to share some proactive steps to achieving sustained healthy energy, and being the author of a book called Food Sanity, I guess I’ll start with the number one cause of a lack of energy is our diet. And I can tell you, eating the wrong foods is a major cause of fatigue. And it’s just like if we put the wrong type of fuel and oil into our vehicle, what’s going to happen? It’s not going to run at an optimal level. Same thing goes with how we fuel our bodies. And when we eat the wrong type of food, our body can’t achieve its peak performance. So some people reach for these foods like pizza. They give them that surge of energy, but an hour later, they feel lethargic. They feel drained.
And so, I live by the mantra: if it’s white, keep it out of sight. Stay away from white, processed foods. Doing so, just that alone, is going to keep your blood sugar balance. It is going to increase your energy. It’s going to help you sleep better and lose some of those unwanted pounds. And the bad foods, the white foods are those that have been processed. They’ve been refined. This includes milk, sugar, flour, salt, and corn, or anything made out of these and consuming these white foods what they do is they zap your energy. Natural, unprocessed white foods are not off-limits. So those are okay. And that includes things like cauliflower, garlic, mushrooms, onions, bananas, white fish, and white poultry meat. Those are okay. And people when they hear me say this list, they go, Friedman, what’s left to eat? I can’t have sugar. I can’t have salt. I can’t have flour. There’s nothing left to eat.
Actually, you can still have salt, sugar, and flour, just not the white processed, refined versions. So, for example, if you have a sweet tooth, skip the processed white sugar. Instead, go with natural sugar alternatives like Stevia or monk fruit. Skip the caramel, go with date paste. It’s just as sweet. And it has the same consistency as caramel. It gets you quite your sweet tooth. These natural sweet alternatives they don’t spike your blood sugar. They don’t pack on the pounds. They don’t give you that crash. If you want salt, that’s fine. Salt isn’t bad. I hate when people say, oh, salt’s bad. Doctor says get off salt they go. Salt can’t be bad. 70% of our body’s saltwater. Can’t be bad for us. Without salt, newsflash, we would die.
We needed it. We would be dead. Just avoid the white processed table salt because that is void of over 80 naturally occurring minerals. That’s the salt you don’t want. Consuming white processed salt causes you to crave more carbs and sugar. And that’s why movie theaters, they salt their popcorn. They know you’re coming back for another soda and some Skittles. That’s why they put salt in it. Same with fast-food restaurants. They use a lot of salt because it makes people come back for another order of fries and a Coke. However, if you go with natural salt alternative like Redmond ancient sea salt and Hawaiian black volcanic salt, you’re going to get 80 minerals in there. And here’s what it does. It satisfies the cells, causes you to crave less food, and you won’t lose your energy level. The same goes for white processed flour.
It’s also void of anything nourishing for the body and, therefore, makes you crave more food. So if you want to eat pasta or bread, that’s okay. You don’t have to lay off of those things. Just use 100% whole grains, Kee Wah, buckwheat, almond flour. There is a lot of options. So if you give your body proper fuel, just like your automobile, it’s going to perform better. So that’s the food. You want to stay now, hydrated. A lack of water can lead to a physical and mental exhaustion. And the rule of thumb that I use is drink half your body weight in ounces throughout the day. So if you weigh 150 pounds, drink 75 ounces of water. And another tip, don’t overeat. Eat until you’re satisfied, not full. When you digest food, your body’s parasympathetic nervous system kicks in. It’s designed to produce the rest and digest response. This is the opposite of the sympathetic nervous system that gives us that burst of energy, that fight or flight response. That’s the sympathetic nervous system.
So the reason you get tired when you have a belly full of food is because your body is in parasympathetic mode, focusing on one thing — digestion. So eat until you’re satisfied. Don’t overstuff yourself. And you know what? You’re going to see your energy levels improve. Now, there are several foods that I could recommend that help sustain energy. And I’m going to share six of my favorites with you now. Number one on my list is fish. It’s a great source of protein and fatty acids, along with the B vitamins. And what that does is it increases our energy. Omega 3 fatty acids in fish reduce internal inflammation, which can be a major cause of fatigue. And so many people avoid fish. I hear it all the time. Patients are afraid of it because of the big mercury fear. Well, in my book, I devoted an entire chapter on this topic, but in a nutshell, we can go into it here.
But in a nutshell, if fish has more selenium than mercury, it cancels out the negative effects of mercury. Selenium actually protects the cells of the body from mercury. So here’s a chart from my book showing the 18 most commonly eaten fish. All of them have more selenium than mercury except for one — the mako shark. Okay. So play it safe. If you see mako shark on the menu at the restaurant, don’t eat it, but the other wild-caught fish, they’re healthy. They’re going to help increase your energy levels. Next on my list are the sweet potatoes. Let me tell you something. These are one of my top go-to’s. It offers a nutritious source of energy for those that wanting that extra boost, and the body digests fiber in sweet potatoes and complex carb at a slow pace, which provides you with that steady supply of energy. You’re not going to get that spike and dally.
Sweet potatoes are also a great source of manganese, which helps in the breakdown of nutrients to produce energy. I believe food is medicine. And the number one prescription that I give to all my patients that come in suffering from aches and pains, muscle spasms, or cramps is sweet potatoes. They’re phenomenal for getting rid of inflammation and spasms. They’re also really a great source of energy for athletes. Oatmeal is another favorite of mine. It’s actually a great source that you want to reach to if you want sustained energy. It contains beta-glucan, which is a soluble fiber that forms a thick gel, which delays stomach emptying and the absorption of glucose into the blood. And oats offer a great source of B vitamins and iron and manganese, which can help aid in sustained energy. And don’t go with these instant oats that you see in the packets because here’s what happens.
They’re over-processed just like we talked about the white foods. You don’t want over-processed foods, and you don’t want over-processed oats. These things are pre-cooked. They’re dried in the role. They’re toasted. Instead, you want to go with steel-cut oats. You might see it saying Irish oatmeal. That’s also good. They’re the closest to the original grain form, and they’re the healthiest option. And by the way, oats do not contain gluten. Next on my energy-boosting foods is the egg. Yes, the incredible edible egg. It is packed with protein, which can give you a steady and sustained source of energy, and eggs are a great source of B vitamins, which give us an excellent resource for energy and focus. And yes, I’m making a pun there — excellent. In addition, you can get with — eggs give you a great amino acid called leucine, which aids in helping the breakdown of fat to produce energy. So go with eggs in the morning for breakfast.
Next up are apples. They’re known for keeping the doctor away, but they’re also a great energy booster to keep the yawning away. They’re chock full of healthy carbs and fiber. And the fiber is called pectin, which actually provides a slow, sustained energy release. That’s why I love them, but don’t peel the apple because the pectin’s in the peels. So you want to actually eat the whole thing. And they’re high in antioxidants, which means they help zap energydestroying free radicals.
And one quick tip that I’ll share for those of you on a diet that have reached a plateau. I’m sure that’s a lot of you out there, whether you’re doing the Weight Watchers, the Jenny Craig, the Nutrisystem, or the latest fad diet, try eating apples for one full day and step on the scale the next morning and see what happens. You’re going to find you’ve dropped anywhere from two to five pounds in one day. Yeah, go ahead.
Ari: Only apples, right?
Dr. Friedman: Just do an apple. Do half an apple a day, yeah. And if you can, do one meal and the rest apples, but you want to bombard with apples and what it does is it can reboot any weight loss program. And I had my assistant said, oh, I’m doing this Whole30. She’s on the Whole30 thing. I’ve plateaued. And she was frustrated. I said, eat apples one day. She came in. She says, oh my God, I’ve lost six pounds. It’s amazing. And that’s above. It’s anywhere from two to five. She lost six pounds in one day. So yeah, apples are really great.
Ari: Does this also apply if you eat apples slathered in peanut butter, which is one of my favorites?
Dr. Friedman: Yeah, I like almond butter, which is good and natural feeling. It’s a really good combination, and that’s something that you could do like toward late in the evening if you need a snack. That you can do. You can do slice with a little bit of almond, but I’d like that with almond butter.
Ari: I’m with you. I agree almond butter is healthier. I’m just addicted to peanut butter.
Dr. Friedman: Yeah, almond butter, cashew butter is good as well. Yeah, but those are really good. And so, that’s awesome. Next one on my list is walnuts. And let me tell you, these are a great source. I love these. I eat these like I do popcorn. This is like my snack. They contain antioxidants more than any other nut. And they offer omega 3 fatty acids, which actually help increase energy levels and may even help prevent heart disease. And walnuts are also healthy for the brain.
In fact, Ari, walnuts look like a brain, and I teach neuro-anatomy. What I did when I was in college and one day instead of the brain, I put a picture of the walnut on the screen, and I taught the students the lobes of the brain using a walnut. Nobody noticed. I’m pointing this is the cerebellum. And they’re all taking it. And at the end, I did the big reveal. And I said, by the way, that’s a walnut, but she’ll never forget this day when I proved to you that walnuts are good for the brain.
Ari: That’s awesome.
Dr. Friedman: And they offer B complex, which is a bunch of the vitamins. So it’s really good energy source. And if you’re tired, I’m telling you to does a low fist full of walnuts. They are really good. And then, all right, now those are my favorite energy-producing foods.
How imbalanced hormones affect your health and energy
Now, I want to go to another topic that destroys energy and its exposure to chemicals. Most people in their twenties and thirties don’t suffer from a lack of energy. But once we get into our forties and fifties, our zig has a hard time zagging. And a lot of this is really just due to the hormone imbalance that takes place. And for men, it’s that low testosterone. Females, you got that low estrogen, and most people in their twenties aren’t affected because their hormone levels they’re thriving.
You’re energized. I mean, I remember when I was 26, I — And once I hit 40, I start seeing that slagging. What happens is hormones drastically decline. And this leaves us more susceptible to something called endocrine-disrupting chemicals. And these are found in synthetic estrogen producing chemicals, which can take over as our hormones naturally decline. These chemicals are found in things like plastic water bottles, pots, pans, in the microwave popcorn bags, and even cosmetics can contain endocrine disruptors. So when men are exposed to these chemicals, they can lower their testosterone and create man boobs. And Ari, if you noticed, if you look at photographs from the 1960s of men over 40 at the beach, you don’t see many with large overhanging breasts. Have you noticed that?
Dr. Friedman: Today, what happens? You go to the beach. It’s hard not to find men in their forties that don’t have what’s called man boobs, and the majority of men are over 40 and 50. And what this is it’s a benign swelling of breast tissue typically caused by an imbalance in hormones. We have that now, and studies suggest endocrine-disrupting chemicals are leading cause of obesity and many other diseases. And they can wreak havoc on your energy level. And scientists have found these chemicals can actually promote growth of fat cells. They actually increase fat cells. Who wants that? We got enough for our own. We don’t want something that’s going to make more cells. This has been proven in science, and research shows these chemicals even make our offspring more prone to obesity.
In addition, endocrine-disrupting chemical exposure has been linked to chronic fatigue syndrome. This stuff is not good. So think about this. When the body develops more fat, the more sluggish it becomes. And the reason for this is our organs; especially our heart has to work harder to move us. So think of a motorcycle battery being put inside of a semi-truck engine. Do you think that truck would have a hard time going to speed limit? Of course, it would. When our heart is designed to fuel, let’s say 170-pound adult has to energize a 250-pound person, the same thing happens — our body struggles. We get tired, and we lose our steam.
In my book, Food Sanity, I cover several of these endocrine-disrupting chemicals, and I’ll share three of the most common with you now. First, one is called bisphenol A, BPA. It’s a synthetic estrogen primarily used to harden plastics. It’s been linked to causing weight gain and insulin resistance. And this chemical is found in plastic food and beverage containers and also in canned foods. But it’s found somewhere most people don’t realize. It’s in these thermal imaging paper items like ATM receipts, credit card receipts, and airline tickets.
So if you put these receipts in your wallet and it makes contact with your money, this causes BPA contamination on your currency. So now, when you pick that money up, you’re getting it on your hand, getting it in your system. When the cashier hands you a receipt, have him put it in the bag. If you do touch it, wash your hands. You don’t want this stuff on your hands. It creates that growth. And these receipts, they contain something called free BPA. And people think, oh, BPA in the plastics that’s an issue, but you’ve got to heat that. That’s not getting on your skin by touching plastic. The free BPA is. So when you touch these receipts, it’s getting in your system.
Ari: Yeah, I was going to say it’s kind of shocking. And most people wouldn’t intuit this, but I’ve seen the research showing that more of the BPA actually enters your bloodstream by touching receipts entering through your skin than it does by actually ingesting BPA by drinking stuff or eating stuff from plastic containers.
Dr. Friedman: And that’s sad because people are shopping healthy; they’re shopping for organic, non-GMO, gluten-free, and their cashier hands the receipt, and they touch it, put it in their pocket or their wallet. And what’s happening is they’re eating things to keep them thin. They can’t figure out why they can’t lose weight. It could be this BPA. They’re touching it. And it’s also in plastics, and one little tidbit I share, and it’s a little phrase that I coined, we see the BPAs on these plastic, even the water bottles, but if you look at the recycle emblem found on plastic food containers and the water bottles, if you see the number seven or three in that little recycle bin, avoid it. It contains BPA. So the saying I coined is this: seven or three, not for me.
Stay away. If you see a one, two, or five, don’t be so concerned. So seven or three, not for me. And I’ll share another one. It’s called phthalates. This is another energy zapper known as also plasticizers. And these are a group of chemicals used to make plastics more flexible and harder to break. Phthalates are found in dairy products due to the plastic tubing used to milk cows. So they actually show up in milk, and you’ll also find them in tap water. They show up in shampoo, hairspray, deodorant, nail polish, and even shower curtains. That’s right. Your shower curtain could be the reason you can’t lose weight, and you feel so sluggish. Solution, buy phthalate-free shower curtains available at Amazon, Bed Bath & Beyond have them. Phthalates can also show up in cosmetics. So, ladies, your cosmetics could be making you tired. They could be adding fat cells. Who knew? You exercise; you eat right; you put makeup on that’s defeating the whole purpose of you exercising and eating healthy.
This is the kind of stuff that people don’t know about that irks me, these hidden chemicals. So, ladies, you want to look for cert clean emblem on your makeup. And that means it’s certified clean, or you can go to Environmental Working Group. That’s ewg.org, and they have analyzed over 16,000 skincare and makeup products. And they have a database of which ones are safe. So check that out. That’s a really good resource. And next on the list of chemicals that you want to avoid are herbicides and pesticides. And thanks to these pesky bugs that enjoy eating crops, many farmers use pesticides to repel the insects, and weeds are another constant struggle. So it’s herbicides to the rescue. And while adding these may solve their dilemma, it exposes consumers to some potentially toxic chemicals. Herbicides can disrupt cellular mitochondrial function. And they’ve been linked to causing insulin resistance, and pesticides are also linked to obesity, diabetes, and other morbidities. And according to the CDC, the average American has 29 different pesticides in their body. And 90% of these pesticides are endocrine disruptors, which can wreak havoc on your energy level. Who knew? It’s all coming back to why we’re feeling so sluggish. And you can minimize your exposure to these herbicides and pesticides by buying a local organic produce whenever possible. And at the grocery store, look for USDA certified organic on the label. And that really ensures your product doesn’t contain these pesticides or herbicides. And you don’t have to buy — people always ask me, do I got to buy everything organic? It’s a little costly. So I have another little rule of thumb that I coined. It’s actually the rule of thumb now. If you can take your thumbnail and puncture the skin of the fruit or veggie, more than likely, pesticides also can penetrate its skin.
So for items like celery, grapes, and strawberries, and apples, buy organic for thick skin items like pineapples, Kiwi, coconut, bananas, not so important to buy organic. Of course, it’s good to buy everything organic, but if you’re trying to cut corners, thumbnail test. If you can stick your thumb in there, buy organic because you probably got pesticide residue.
How stress affects energy levels
And the next energy zapper I’m going to discuss is stress. 80% of all physician office visits are for stress-related ailments. Stress is actually considered a leading contributing factor to chronic fatigue, depression, suicide, strokes, obesity, heart attacks, and even cancer. And when it comes to combating stress, there’s one mantra I live by, and it has helped me over the years. Here it is. If you can’t change it, don’t stress about it — period. Just that rule alone, that one rule is going to eliminate 80% of your stress. So think about that.
Whether it’s a traffic jam, flight delay, car breaking down, or a coworker’s bad attitude, you can’t change these things. Why stress about them? Instead, try focusing on the things you can change because that’s the stress that you have control over, and you can work to eliminate that in your life. And during my travels, I got to tell you this. I witness so many people on occasions shouting at the airport attendant because the flight’s been canceled and delayed. I remember last time I was at the airport, there was this man screaming at the top of his lungs, that plane better get me home damn it today, or head are going to roll. And his face is getting red, and he’s kicking and screaming. And I’m sitting there and looking at him, and I’m thinking, the plane is not going anywhere — what a waste.
He stressed out. He screwed up his hormones. He might even be taking time off his life because of that. The key is if you encounter a flight delay or cancellation, here’s something to ponder. There’s two reasons why that flight isn’t leaving as scheduled. One, something is mechanically wrong with the airplane. If that’s the case, aren’t you safer inside the airport terminal? Who wants to be on that airplane? Try passing the time by reading a good book. Of course, I recommend Food Sanity, or you can use that time to call a friend or listen to some music. Number two reason is the plane was canceled because of bad weather. Well, weather can have a major effect on an airline’s ability to land, travel, or safely take off. Why get upset? Would you rather have that pilot putting you and the other passengers at risk because you got to get to work tomorrow? You better get that plane up there.
The same thing like I’ve seen, Ari, where these people are stuck in traffic. I mean, they’re hitting their steering wheel. They’re stressing out. They’re screaming. I saw one woman screaming at the traffic. Use that time to listen to a podcast and call a friend or family member. The traffic is not going anywhere because you’re screaming. You’re not making those cars move with your bad attitude. You can’t change it. Don’t go getting upset with it. You can’t make those other cars go any quicker. So why jeopardize your health and zap your energy for the rest of the day by letting it bother you. If you can’t control it, don’t stress about it — one sentence. I promise you. You’re going to have more energy. You’re going to have less stress, less things to worry about. Another thing that I recommend is, especially now, turn off the news.
I am a triple-A type Energizer Bunny. I’m as hyper at the beginning of the day as I am at the end of the day. I’m an A-type, but one day, a few weeks ago, I started noticing I had no energy. I wasn’t myself. People were noticing it. I wasn’t coming in the door with the energy and happiness, and excitement. I realized it was because I was listening to the news and talk radio on the way to and from work, and all that doom and gloom stuff that I was hearing was draining my energy and my zest for life. And when I realized that, I said let me try to put some music on. So I put some music on. My mood immediately shifted. I was singing. I was in a great mood, and here’s the kicker. My energy level came back tenfold.
I was myself again by turning on the stupid doom and gloom news. Life goes on. We don’t have to be every second knowing what he said, and she’s doing, and who’s firing who, and it doesn’t matter. Life goes on. And a few months ago, I did a segment on my show called The Healing Power of Music. And the science is amazing, showing the effects of music and what it does to our mental health and our energy. It’s astounding. There really is science behind good music. And so, turn off the news, turn off the talk radio, try listening to some uplifting music. It really makes a difference. And Ari, I have friends that are professional bodybuilders, and they tell me they play music while working out because it increases their energy and their performance. Without the song, they don’t get that same rep.
Ari: And there’s science on that, too. They’ve even looked at the specific types of music that lead to the best increases in performance.
Dr. Friedman: Yeah, I’m the same way. When I’m working out, there’s one song — some people have — It’s called “Let The Bodies Hit The Floor”. I might go right up. You know what I’m talking about?
Ari: Yeah. That’s like heavy metal.
Dr. Friedman: That gets me going, and sometimes its dance. It really depends. But yeah, I need something to get that. And also, if stress is getting to you, the things that people can do, they can turn to yoga, meditation, acupuncture, chiropractic, go for a walk. People don’t walk enough. They’re so glued in front of these electronics. They don’t go out and get to walk with nature, get in touch with nature. Stressing about something does not empty tomorrow of its troubles. It empties today of its strength. We really need to focus on getting that out of our life.
The lack of sunshine affects your energy
And the next big energy drain I’m going to talk about is Ari’s favorite topic, sunshine. Yeah, lack of sunshine is a zapper. It zaps your energy. It zaps mine. And we’ve talked about this before. Society has been brainwashed into believing the sun is this evil cancer-causing entity that must be avoided at all costs. And we have sun protecting lotion and makeup, and there are even clothes that have SPF to protect us from the sun, and Ari, I saw a nail polish with sun protection. Heaven forbid, we get a little sunshine through our cuticles and fingernails. Oh, no, we don’t want to get skin cancer. We’ve got to protect — The truth is, as you know, sunshine produces vitamin D, which helps combat cancer. Not getting enough sunshine has been also linked to increasing colorectal and breast cancer by not getting enough vitamin D.
So only overexposure to sunshine, which leads to sunburn, carries the risks. And a lack of vitamin D is a major cause of depression and lack of energy. And more than 90% of the vitamin D in the human body is produced by sunlight. So you want to get out there and get that. And research shows our blood levels of vitamin D are only minimally affected by the food we eat. So you really got to rely on sunshine. If you’re feeling depressed and have a lack of energy, you might have a vitamin D deficiency. It’s common. D for depression, right? And the good news, right, Ari, a little goes a long way. People don’t need to be out there for hours. Just 15, 20 minutes of sunshine per day is going to give you enough energy-producing vitamin D for 24 hours. And what a coincidence. On average, a person’s skin won’t start to burn until 15 to 20 minutes of exposure. Imagine that. And for dark-complected people like you are, maybe an hour or two before you start to burn if you even do burn.
Ari: I was just sunbathing in my backyard for two-and-a-half hours prior to — listening to podcasts. And I’m not even close to burning.
Dr. Friedman: You’re one of those lucky they don’t burn.
Ari: But interestingly, this relates back to your area of expertise — to
nutrition. And I don’t know how much you’ve dug into the science on this, but I just wrote a chapter of my upcoming book on the subject of how many different types of phytochemicals act as internal sunscreens and profoundly increase our UV resistance in our skin. So part of the — I mean, there’s some complexities here. One is skin type, right? Somebody from Ireland who’s a redhead or just very fair skin type, the genetic limits of their potential to tolerate sun exposure is much lower than somebody with dark skin from Africa or somebody who is of Mediterranean ancestry with olive skin like me or somebody from the South Pacific and so on.
But I think a huge aspect of why so many Westerners burn so easily in the sun is poor diet. Is they’re not getting enough of the different phytochemicals from fruits and vegetables that dramatically increase their UV resistance? Just to name one example, there’s studies, for example, just on tomato paste. Like just eating tomatoes, that one food and showing within the span of six weeks of eating a hundred grams of tomato paste, you can get like an 80% increase in UV resistance.
Dr. Friedman: What did you find out about seasonal fruits? Like I’ve read, the peaches and nectarines actually offer protection, and those are in the summer. It’s like nature’s kind of helping us out with certain types of seasonal to help protect us from the sun. It’s really neat. There was one guy I interviewed. He talked about seasonal — eat for the season, and he talked about how fruits from the winter are designed to keep us warmer. And the summer fruits help to protect us from sunburn. It is kind of neat how you got the seasons really know the answer.
Dr. Friedman: And I know with vitamin D there are some foods. You have mushrooms, salmon, tuna, eggs are really good. Most grocery stores offer — I don’t know if you eat seaweed salad, Ari, but man, I love seaweed salad. Most grocery stores now have that. Oh, yeah. The sushi place just right there, they got seaweed salad.
Ari: The last time I looked into it many years ago, but I found that most of the pre-prepared seaweed salads had like sugary dressings on them.
Dr. Friedman: Yeah. It depends where you get them. You got to find out somebody that’s separated — A lot of times they’ll allow third party, so you get somebody who’s really in there that’s a chef rather than throwing it in there. So where I’m at, there’s actually a guy in there that sublets his little department there. So it’s kind of great. Yeah, it’s really cool. So it depends, but you can order seaweed. You can go to different Japanese restaurants, but yeah, I love seaweed salad. It’s great.
How caffeine can wreck your energy
And let’s talk about the next energy destroyer that you and I have agreement on is the coffee. And you’re probably wondering out there why coffee is on my list of things causing a lack of energy when it’s, let’s face it, most people go-to beverage to increase their energy.
What’s this doing on my list? In moderation, the answer is caffeine and coffee can improve alertness and energy for some people. However, there are others, including me, that if you do coffee causes jitters and increased heart rate and high blood pressure, anxiety, and insomnia. In addition, after caffeine wears off, it creates a crash, leaving you feeling fatigued. And the caffeine in coffee is a central nervous system stimulant, which has physiological effect similar to drugs, such as cocaine. They’ve actually done studies on this, and caffeine can be very addictive. It’s like a drug. It creates an addiction.
And if you deprive your body of that Java fix, it can lead to withdrawal symptoms like headaches and nausea and dizziness. And after reviewing all the scientific research coupled with my own clinical experience, I’ve discovered Java isn’t for everyone. There’s no right answer. It’s not like it’s bad or it’s good. People react differently to coffee because some of us are born without the ability to metabolize it. And these are the folks that drink coffee, and they get an upset stomach, or they feel jittery, or heart palpitations, or maybe they get bloated or irritable. These folks should avoid coffee. Why drink something that causes those symptoms? Who wants that?
Ari: There’s something I want to add to this one.
Dr. Friedman: Go ahead because you’re the coffee guy. I’m the anti-coffee guy.
Ari: I agree with everything you said. Obvious, it’s just an interesting topic because there’s simultaneously all this research linking it with lower risk of many different diseases. And so, there’s this very complex mix of, as you said, some people metabolize it differently. Some people just get anxiety and jitters. I’m one of those people. You’re one of those people. I can tolerate small amounts, and then simultaneously, there’s this research linking it with prevention of many diseases. And there’s also this difference between shortterm and long-term effects.
So even for the people that love it and that do great on it, there’s still a big difference between short term effects and long-term in the sense that you get a genuine boost of energy and mood and cognitive performance and physical performance for the few hours after you take it, but it lasts only for about a couple of weeks. And then your brain actually senses that it’s being overstimulated and it makes neurotransmitter adaptations that actually lower your baseline levels of mood and energy so that you become — And this is what creates the dependency. So you become dependent on caffeine in order to function normally. So this is the insidious thing for people who love it and feel great on it is they don’t realize that they’re actually depending on the substance in order to function at what used to be their normal level of function.
Dr. Friedman: That’s true. And we hear a lot about gut issues — people having so much problem with gut, irritable bowel syndrome, and ulcerative colitis, Crohn’s. People that have those issues should not drink coffee. It should be off their list because drinking coffee causes what’s called peristalsis, which is the involuntary muscle constriction of the colon. So having a spastic colon is not a good idea if you suffer from gut issues, right? And so, that’s something they should stay away from and including me. And that’s one of the reasons I do.
And there’s some people like you said, they can drink coffee, and they feel energized, more productive. Problem is, as you mentioned, over time, they build up that tolerance. And that means people tend to crash quicker maybe after one cup. And what do they have to do? They got to increase now to two, three, and four or more cups to achieve that same energy level as that one cup used to bring them. Isn’t that kind of like a drug? Remember, one little snort of cocaine used to be good. Now, I need two.
It is technically a drug. And chronic coffee drinkers get this dependence for it to function. And it’s almost like a mental thing. They got to have it. And so, my view is this, while the occasional cup of coffee is fine, maybe three to five cups a week, there are much healthier alternatives out there that’s going to increase your energy levels that everybody could have. And I’m going to share a couple of my favorites now. One is lion’s mane mushroom, and it gets its name because it resembles a lion’s mane. And it offers potent brain-boosting properties that have been shown to improve cognitive abilities. In fact, lion’s mane is often called the smart mushroom because it has potent jitter-free natural brain-enhancing properties. And research shows lion’s mane can combat chronic depression and anxiety in as little as four weeks. They got studies on this.
And eating these mushrooms can help with low energy levels because they increase the NGF activity, and NGF stands for nerve growth factor. And this is a small protein-like molecule that’s part of a class of brain-boosting compounds called neurotrophins. And these mushrooms aren’t easy to find at the grocery store, but you know what? You can take a supplement. You can actually make lion’s mane coffee, which I actually drink. I love it. It’s great. And that’s a good option. The other one is Matcha tea. It’s next on my list. It’s a great option. And it’s a type of green tea created by taking the tea leaves and grinding them into a kind of a bright green powder and the powder’s then whisked with hot water. And this is different than regular green tea.
People want to know what’s the difference. Isn’t it the green tea? No, that’s where the leaves are infused with water and then removed. So this process gives you a much higher concentration source of antioxidants known as EGCJ. And in addition to increasing energy, Matcha tea can help aid in weight loss because it boosts metabolism during exercise, and Matcha contains catechins, a group of antioxidants that are more powerful than vitamin C and E in stopping oxidative damage to the cells.
And one eight-ounce glass of Matcha tea contains 72 milligrams of caffeine.
And that may seem like a lot considering coffee has 91 milligrams of caffeine. Not much lower, but here’s the difference. The caffeine in Matcha takes longer to enter the system than coffee does. And this offers more sustained energy without that sudden crash halfway through the day. In addition, Matcha contains L-theanine, which is a potent antioxidant, which helps to lower heart rate and increase focus and relaxations, which is the complete opposite effect that coffee has. So it’s kind of neat. It’s kind of giving you that yin and yang, the combination of caffeine and L-theanine and Matcha helps create healthy, sustained energy, nice relaxing focus.
Ari: Yeah. And to this point, I will add that caffeine gives me — coffee gives me jitters. I’ve taken caffeine pills by themselves that also gives me jitters, but Matcha does not.
Dr. Friedman: Me too. I’m the same way.
Ari: And I take Matcha regularly.
Dr. Friedman: I’m the same way. And you know what? What I like about it always is when the energy wears off, which it will, it slowly ramps down instead of crashing like coffee. I mean, you do coffee, and it’s like, you just, yuck. You just feel like this. So that’s what I like — that slow ramping down. So it’s a really good alternative.
The critical role of sleep
And the next energy destroyer on my list is not getting enough sleep. A lack of deep restorative sleep causes fatigue, and it can have a negative impact on your overall health and well-being. And the reason for this is when we’re sleep-deprived, it creates the perfect storm of hormonal imbalance. And this affects our energy, our appetite, our metabolism, and two of the big culprits are ghrelin and leptin. And ghrelin is a hormone that tells the body to eat. I call it ghrelin the felon because it makes you go in the kitchen. You want to eat like you’re out on parole.
And then leptin tells you when you’re full. So when you’re sleep-deprived, you have more ghrelin, the felon telling you to eat, than you do leptin telling you, hey, you better stop. You’ve had enough. And guess what? It’s not broccoli and carrots that you crave. It’s fattening and energy destroying carbs like pizza, chips, and bread. And another hormone that rises when you’re sleepdeprived is cortisol. Your body releases this hormone in response to stress, and it can lead to fat accumulation in the abdomen. And cortisol also increases our blood sugar levels. So we need to sleep more.
How much should we sleep? There’s some discrepancy there, but from my studies, I’ve found the average adult needs at least about seven hours of deep restorative sleep, six-and-a-half, seven, and a study published in the American Journal of Human Biology showed that sleeping less than six hours increases a person’s body mass index, which leads to weight gain.
So if you’re not snoozing, you’re not losing weight. That could be a problem why your diet’s not working. If you’re not snoozing, then you’re not going to be losing. Also, research published in the journal of the American Medical Association found that sleep lowers testosterone levels in healthy young men. That depletes your energy. So sleeping allows our brain and body to rejuvenate it’s vital. And not allowing the body ample time to shut down would be kind of like leaving your car on all night in the garage. I mean, what’s going to happen? You’re going to go out there the next morning. The engine is going to have less fuel in the gas tank the next morning because you left it on all night. Same thing happens when you don’t allow your body to shut down at night. It, too, is going to have less gas to fuel the body the next day.
So if you’re not snoozing, you’re not going to have that energy level. So I coined the term, how can you have a good day if you don’t have a good night? I love that. It’s just so powerful. And here are a few tips on how to get some deep restorative sleep. Keep it dark and cool. Number one, rule, any light in the bedroom confuses your circadian center of the brain into believing its daytime, and that results in less melatonin release. The brain produces melatonin to help control sleep-wake cycles. Items producing any light can affect your sleep. And that includes like nightlights and TV, the stereo alarm, our cellphone charger, even a little dot. And we talked the last time I was on your show about blue light. Be super careful about blue light. And it’s funny because my stereo light is blue. My cellphone charger is blue. My alarm is blue. I put a piece of duct tape over them all because the blue light affects you worse.
So consider using maybe dark out curtains or eye shades if you need to. Just keep it dark. Also, temperature affects your sleep. How comfortable your sleep is pretty much determined how you sleep. If, for example, the body is cooler or if it’s too hot, it’s not going to sleep. So the rule is between 65 and 72 degrees. That’s the ideal weight for proper sleep. If it’s above or below that temperature, the body’s going to have a hard time getting that good quality REM sleep. And that’s the deep phase when you drain. So keep it quiet, make sure your bedroom’s free of noise. That’s another one, distractions. If your bed partner snores or you snore, try using a cervical pillow.
Because a lot of people snore, and it wakes themselves up or wakes up your spouse. And what you do is with a little cervical pillow is it opens the airway. It’s like when you give someone CPR, you tilt the head back, putting a curve in there, and that actually gets you some snoring. And if you’re a light sleeper, you can actually use these little foam earplugs. I do that when I’m out of town, especially, Ari, I’m always being put in a hotel by the ice maker and by the elevator, and I’m a light sleeper, and it’s ding, ding, ding. I’m always up, and people get nice. So I use those little earphones. It works. So try that.
All right, let’s talk about how we wake up. People use an alarm clock. And research published in PLOS One Medical journal shows the sound our morning alarm makes; it actually sets the tone for our energy, mental awareness, and mood. If you have an alarm that goes, beep, beep, beep to wake you up, it can make you feel groggy, tired, more clumsy, and less productive. People that wake up with loud morning alarms are more likely to cause major car accidents. They’ve done studies on that, and the study goes on to say people that use a more melodic alarm to wake them up are happier, more productive, and alert.
But think about it. It doesn’t take rocket science to figure that out. The word alarm, does anything positive come to mind? I mean, when someone is alarmed, it’s a bad feeling. It’s associating with warning alerts for burglary, fire, or bad weather alarm. Why would you want to wake up alarmed from a sound sleep? It raises your heart rate, blood pressure, stress hormones.
Instead, use a more gentle approach to start your day like waking up to soft music or sounds of nature.
I have a chime. I always say its chime to wake up. It’s a nice chime. And another option — I don’t know if you use this, Ari, but it’s a light therapy wake up clock. And the whole theory is based on our ancestors before the invention of the alarm clock; that’s how they woke up. Melatonin production is stimulated by darkness, and it’s inhibited by light and light tells the brain it’s time to wake up. And what’s so cool is these light therapies wake up clocks gradually for smooth transition into your day, kind of like a sunrise. So the key here, stop being alarmed out of a deep sleep, and your energy levels will rise. It’s amazing.
Ari: Yeah, 100%. If I can add two things on that, one on the blue light in the room. Just a quick, funny story. There’s a device someone asked me about recently that’s like a device that’s supposed to help you get to sleep. And it’s a selectronic thing that emits a light that projects this light on your ceiling that you’re supposed to look at when you’re in bed, going to sleep, and it creates these patterns and sort of — it’s supposed to lure you to sleep.
And interestingly, maybe the patterns do have some effect that creates that sleepiness effect, but they chose blue light as the color. And I’m like, why would you choose blue? You could choose red. You could choose orange. You could choose yellow. You could’ve chosen so many colors that are not known to suppress melatonin. You chose the one color that is the worst possible color for disrupting circadian rhythm and sleep.
Dr. Friedman: It’s funny. And like I said, I had a little piece of paper by the cable box, which is blue, and I couldn’t sleep one night. And I looked up, and that little piece had fell, and that tiny, itty-bitty blue dot light was exposed. I’m like, could that little thing keep me up? That reached all the way. And it did. I went and put the little piece of paper over, and I fell right back asleep. So there’s something to it. Definitely the blue light, the blue is up, that’s it. And I guess maybe that’s why they have blue lights on the cops. It’s to keep us up when it’s behind, woo, woo, woo. They got the blue lights.
How lacking routine can kill your energy levels
Dr. Friedman: So I saved the biggest energy destroyer for last, Ari. And this is the biggest one, routine. We are creatures of habit. And the problem is most cities have between 50 to 1000 different restaurants, depending on where you live. Yet, people eat at the same place, and they order the same food and the same drink. And they drive to work the same way every day. It’s monotonous.
They watch the same shows on TV. This routine creates a lack of new input to the brain, which results in low energy.
So if you want to break out of your routine and get off your hamster wheel, do things new, unusual, or different, whether that’s hanging out with a new friend, new people, listening to different music, or just going to a new restaurant. And have you noticed, Ari, as we age, life seems to go by quicker? Have you noticed that? Like, remember when we were kids, summer lasted forever, right? And now what happens? We blink, and summer’s over. It’s the same three months. Why did it seem to last forever when we’re children, and now it just flies by?
And the reason for this, there’s science behind it, as children, the brain creates thousands of neuronal synapses per minute. We experience new smells, new sights, sounds, thoughts, events, and experiences. But as we get older, we get stuck in a routine. And the number of synapses drops to only a few hundred per minute. When we turn 60, most of us have less than 100 synapses per minute. And the reason is as we age, we don’t open our minds up to new things. And I interviewed actor William Shatner on my radio show, and he’s almost 90 years old. He has more energy than most people do half his age. He still acts. He writes books. He records. He does speaking engagements. He goes horseback riding. He was on the phone and his cellphone during the interview on his way to go horseback riding at almost 90.
So I asked him. I said, what’s your secret to having so much energy and love for life? And he told me this. The key to energy is to say yes to opportunities that come your way. Stop using the excuses. Oh, I’ll start it on January 1st. Or I’ll wait till the kids go off to college. Or after I get my next promotion, I can afford it, blah, blah, blah, blah, blah. Start saying yes to life. And I’ll tell you. When my book Food Sanity came out, I was bombarded with opportunities, speaking engagements, writing, TV, and radio interviews. And you know what I did? I said yes to every opportunity to share my message, including Ari’s Energy Blueprint Podcast. But I said yes. I actually had three things going that morning. I made it work. You make it work.
I didn’t allow excuses to get in the way. When you really want something, you’re going to find the energy to make it happen. And the year my book was published, it ended up being the longest year of my life because I opened up so many doors to new opportunities. And so, in closing, I want to make a challenge to everybody listening. Do one new thing every day. It doesn’t have to be expensive. It doesn’t have to be time-consuming. Drive down a different road to work one day. If you take a shower each day, take a bath one day. If you sleep on the right side of the bed, sleep on the left side for one night. Go to a different restaurant. And if you happen to find yourself at the same restaurant, eat something you’ve never tried. I promise you; you’re going to wake up with more energy because you’re going to have something different to look forward to.
And new doors are going to open that you never thought possible. I’m going to share one example to drive this message because I saved the best for last. This is the key to energy. I have a patient who’s a realtor. He told me he was feeling lethargic, depressed, and business was lousy. Had nothing to look forward to. Life was in stagnancy. I challenged him to do one new thing a day. And I told him his energy level would go up, and I said; watch what it does to your business. And he says, oh, what do I have to lose? He took me up on that challenge, and he drove to work a different way that he’s never driven. And he noticed a coffee shop he’d never seen before. And he stopped to get his morning coffee. And in front of him was a lady who noticed he was wearing a realtor name tag.
And she told him she was about to list her house and was looking for a realtor. He ended up listing a $1.2 Million house from this lady all because he stepped outside his daily routine. This guy came in to see me in his next visit with energy like I’ve never seen. His whole face was just filled with life. When you give your brain new neuronal input and have something to look forward to, your energy levels will explode. And there you have it how to remove the common things that are draining your energy levels and ways to achieve sustained energy and focus like the Energizer Bunny.
Ari: Beautiful. I love it, my friend. Thank you so much for sharing your wisdom with our audience here. And this was just power-packed. Packed with so much good stuff from superfoods to obesogens and toxins in the environment to routine to sleep. So much good stuff here. Thank you so much. For everybody listening, I highly recommend you go grab the book Food Sanity on Amazon. I truly mean it when I say it’s one of my favorite nutrition books of all time. And Dr. Friedman, where can people reach out to you or follow your work or get in touch with you if they want to work with you?
Dr. Friedman: Yeah. Go to DrDavidfriedman.com, and you can find all my podcasts, videos, audios, and all my social media and the social media handles at Dr. David Friedman, except Instagram. It’s at DrDFriedman.
Ari: Beautiful. Thanks so much, my friend. It was good connecting, as always.
Dr. Friedman: Thanks, Ari.
How foods drain your energy (07:46)
How imbalanced hormones affect your health and energy (19:48)
How stress affects energy levels (28:27)
The lack of sunshine affects your energy (34:13)
How caffeine can wreck your energy (39:09)
The critical role of sleep (46:35)
How lacking routine can kill your energy levels (54:13)