Today I got to Interview Aubrey Marcus from Onnit. I hope you enjoy it!
This podcast was edited and remastered professionally using Fiverr as well as fully transcribed using Fiverr.
Ari: Hello? Aubrey? Aubrey: This is Aubrey. Ari: Hi, it’s Ari Meisel. Aubrey: How are you? Ari: Good, thank you. How are you and thank you for taking the time to talk to me. Aubrey: You're welcome. I'm doing quite well, thank you. Ari: So, to tell you real quick… my website is called lessdoing.com and it’s essentially a productivity system that I created as a result of having Crohn’s disease, which I was diagnosed with 7 years ago. And I really, really have severe Crohn’s disease; it nearly killed me but I got over it with a long process of self-tracking, self-experimentation. As a way of dealing with the stress aspect, I created a productivity system that I now share with people and I bring wellness into that in a big way as far as stress levels and sleeping and nutrition in terms of human optimization. I'm also a regular taker of Alpha Green and I'm just a big fan of this Onnit. Aubrey: Right on man. I appreciate that. Ari: Yeah, so I've heard you on Ben Greenfield’s podcast after he had interviewed me and I just thought your story was really cool. So, anyway. We’re just going to have a conversation; we’re going to talk about you, we’re going to talk about Onnit. The only question which I ask in the end, which may sort of want to think about the answers to is I always end by asking people if they can give me their top three personal tips for how they stay the most productive and the most effective. Aubrey: Okay, top three personal tips for being most productive, alright. Ari: It could be something, you know, a software, it could be nutrition, it could be meditation, whatever. It could be ideological. It could be whatever you want. So are you ready? Aubrey: I'm ready. Ari: Okay, cool.
Ari: Welcome to the Less Doing podcast. Today my guest is Aubrey Marcus from Onnit which is a company I've talked about before. They're the makers of Alpha Brain and some other really cool supplements. But besides Onnit, Aubrey is – what’d you say – a pretty awesome guy. He is an optimizer of people. He’s had some amazing experiences in life – everything from [2:29] sessions to MMA fighting and really, how do I show thanks being here Aubrey. Aubrey: Ah, it’s my pleasure; glad to be on here. Ari: So, first off, how did you get to here? Tell me what happened after. I know you started as sort of an athlete in basketball when you were in high school but where does it go from there? Aubrey: Yeah, well really in college, I was just really taking classes that I like, expanding my mind, thinking about things. I really didn’t know exactly where I was going to go. I just had faith that if I continued to exercise and stretch the capacity of my mind and my own ability to discipline and improve myself, that eventually I would figure something out. I didn’t really figure anything out until after college. So I said, well, I'm good at improving things, I'm good at problem solving, and I'm good at puzzle solving so I decided to start my own marketing firm. With that, I was able to get exposure to a bunch of different industries, public and private companies, really learn how they work, and kind of find the inner workings of e-commerce and business in general and that’s embanking all of these tools that I would later have to utilize in starting my own brand. While I thought probably right from the start that I would have been ready to run a company like Onnit; a lot of lessons I needed to learn and improve and get better on. Finally, 2010, I really did feel ready and had a pretty good idea, it wasn’t the ultimate idea, to start making some supplements. I just went out and rose a little bit of money and created my first two supplements – which bombed, which failed. They were hangover remedy supplements and it was just kind of the wrong idea and then I completed shifted course, learned some lessons from that and accepted that my first go wasn’t quite right, and then focused on a cognitive enhancer. I partnered up with Joe Rogan and really got with scientists and doctors and athletes and did a lot of testing and created what I believe to be the best cognitive enhancer in existence. That was really the foundation and starting of Onnit and then from there just applying the same methodology of talking to the athletes, talking to the doctors, doing the research, doing the testing, and picking categories that can help people improve and optimize their life from other supplements to function of food. Even, really kind of innovative but old school fitness training equipment with all the same principle. How can you get the maximum result from the minimum and simplest – I should say - efforts possible. Ari: That I would say went really well. One of your supplements that you offer is called Shroom Tech. Now before we get into too much about what Shroom Tech is, you do have some experience, right? Personally with the natural psilocybin compound? Aubrey: Psilocybin? Yeah. I see you bridging the gap between my personal and professional life and I try to keep those realms pretty distinct. Although, obviously when you're talking about expanding the mind – which is something that I've always looked to do and stretching the capacity of your consciousness, I found responsible, psychedelic medicines in proper settings to be a real advantageous tool. Now, psilocybin was a tool that I used with some Shamans out in the desert in Mexico when I first started getting going and then my later years I switched to ayahuasca which I've done with some Shaman’s down in the rainforest in Peru. That seems to be a better tool for me to do on an annual or biannual basis to reconnect with the different patterns of thinking and really expand the mind. The true test for it has nothing to do with that, it is focused on the traditional mushroom that grows naturally from the pa and the high altitudes regions of China and have made up adaptations because of the high altitude that it fosters in to allowing greater oxygenmunization for anybody who ingest it and it’s called the cordyceps sinensis mushroom. So that’s what we based our prework out formula on; something that was not stimulant based but instead would feed your muscles with more oxygen which is something that every athlete, endurance or otherwise can use. Ari: Oh, absolutely. You call it Shroom tech. I had an idea….. Aubrey: Go ahead and put it out there. I set myself up for that one. [Laughs] Ari: I love what you said because I'm a big – not fan – but I'm a big proponer of sort of being aware of the cognitive bias that comes from sort of getting too set in your ways. The whole very popular idea of the head down. I feel like people get stuck in this mode and they can’t see outside of themselves and that’s where our really creative ideas come from. I think it’s a very important connection to make. That’s really great mushroom now I want to talk about Alpha Brain for a minute before I get into a couple of other things. As a productivity person and as a biohacker, everyone a lot of times they end up talking about neutropics. Some neutropics are kind of scary that one of the more popular ones that I'm sure you know is providual and herbanacinal . Those are real drugs whereas everything in Alpha Brain is not only really natural but there's some really good studies, really well documented studies associated with the compounds in it. I just personally want to say that my first experience with Alpha Brain which was possibly and probably a little psychosomatic but I was working on one of my online courses and I had finished about 25% of it over the course of three weeks. I took two Alpha Brain that day and I finished the course that night. I felt a sense of clarity probably because of the fact that I have two 4 month old and a 21 month old in my house but it’s something amazing about being able to unlock that power. Let’s talk about how Alpha Brain kind of came out because there are so many compounds in it that have so many great properties. Aubrey: What I wanted to do was focus on your neurotransmitters. Your neurotransmitters are the basic foundation for cognitive function. The neurotransmitter that I was targeting primarily was the acetylcholine system. Acetylcholine is responsible for mental speed, focus, clarity, sharpness. That neurotransmitter we targeted with two different compounds particularly Alpha GPC, glycerylphosphorylcholine, which is the raw source of acetylcholine and then Huperzia serrata which is acetylcholinesterase inhibitor and that actually prevents the breakdown of acetylcholine once it gets produced in the brain. You're creating a surplus of acetylcholine which really allows the brain to operate on a much focused level. Now, we didn’t stop there, of course. We created a lot of neuro specific antioxidants and other compounds like vicopa and our proprietary AC11 which comes from cat's claw. Added in some vasodilators, cerebral vasodilators like [10:37] to really kind of open up and send blood flow to the brain because more blood is more nutrients equals highest cognitive function. Then also because when you get a surplus of acetylcholine you may feel yourself being a little antsy. We put in some GABA, some amino acids that are related to the GABA mechanism like elcini which kind of tempers the action of the acetylcholine as far as the anti kind of grow side that it could potentially get and so it mitigates that but still allows all of the positive side to the benefits along with ostraub which is another anti stress herb, traditional use. Then of course focused on adding L-tyrosine which is the precursor for the dopamine system as well to make sure you're getting more balanced neurotransmitter mix and one of the reasons why we call Alpha Brain a complete balanced neutropic. Ari: So, there's two I want to talk about specifically. It is really interesting how you sort of figured out this really interesting or really well-balanced mix. The cat’s claw; I'm excited about the cat’s claw because cat’s claw was one of the supplements that I discovered through my Crohn’s journey that was really helpful to me not only as an anti-inflammatory but a smooth muscle relaxer, which is probably why it’s helpful for Crohn’s. How does the cat’s claw really play into brain function? Is it because we have inflammatory properties or what else? Aubrey: Partly, partly. The studies done on, well, first of all, it’s not just cat’s claw. Its cat’s claw then it’s gone through a proprietary process by a publicly traded company called Oxygenic that only produces this one compound called AC11 and they have tons of studies on it. Actually, studies show that it has been shown to repair DNA at a cellular level, it’s that strong. So, it takes cat’s claw and it isolates some of the natural compounds in it and magnifies those. It creates basically a super powered cat’s claw. What’s that going to do is just going to help the other ingredients work better. It does do some things to the inflammatory system but it also clears up a lot of these free radicals and the cellular damage that’s happening to those neurons and other cells and that’s what we’re hypothesizing it’s doing. Obviously knowing and kind of being able to prove that it repairs DNA on a cellular level, we also feel that it’s improving things on a neuronal level and possibly even having some effects on the synaptic prosticity and some of the other positive benefits of the brain but we’d have to really get in there and take a look at it. But the results are, when you add it to the formula you get a whole different animal than if you don’t have it and that’s something that we can feel and test within different batches of the formula. So, it’s a great product and I'm really happy that I made that alliance with Oxygenic to get access to that product. Ari: When I saw that in there I was like, oh, I've taken this before but this seems like a better version. It’s pretty cool so I was excited to see that and then the vicopa is something also interesting. So, vicopa being an ayurvedic herb, right off, I think it’s really interesting to see any company in the US that is [14:20] or method using ayurvedic herb which is great but…… Aubrey: Hello? Hello? I'm not sure if you can hear me but your audio cut out. Hello? Ari: Hey. I'm sorry; I don’t know what happened there. Where did you lose me? Aubrey: Ayurvedic herb. Ari: Okay, alright. So, I’ll back up then. It’s also nice to see that you're using vicopa which is obviously an ayurvedic herb so right off it’s cool to see an ayurvedic herb that’s part of it. Bacopa is often referred to as the queen herb of ayurvedic. What I've seen in the research, which there's been a lot on how it can increase your memory and everything but it seems that it takes about a month for that full affect to be realized so is this sort of a modified version of Bacopa also? Aubrey: No, we definitely standardize it to make sure that you're getting enough bactericides and some of the useful parts in there so every batch is going to be the same but it’s not anything that’s particularly innovated as the cat’s claw product is. But there's certain elements of the Alpha Brain and they're going to work immediately and certain elements as you suggested are really going to improve over time. I think Bacopa is one of the ones that’s going to give you more and more benefits the longer you take the Alpha Brain whereas some of the affects as in the cholinergic affects and days of dilation affects, the more blood flow. Those will take place pretty much within the first dose that you take. We just started working doing some brain scans analysis of people before and after taking the Alpha Brain and we’re starting to notice some significant changes in the brain even after the first dose. So, we are excited to kind of expand our research into that and really be able to present those findings when we’re able to. Ari: Well, that actually leads me into my next question which is how are you primarily doing the testing? Are you having people take tests? Obviously you're using brain scans, is that the primary mechanism? Aubrey: Well, we have a clinical trial that’s ongoing. We have a dataset that’s kind of from the pilot to this clinical trial that should be presented in a conference in February but as far as when we first started it was just get all your friends and tell your friends to their friends and get as much feedback as you can on sample batches. Now, we have obviously a lot more data coming back from our thousands and thousands of customers that have created subtle modifications in the formula based on the larger dataset. Then, of course, the final step is the clinical trial to really validate and also explore perhaps what we could be doing better. Ari: Cool. As far as the supplements, I know you have food and everything, do you take everything? Aubrey: I wouldn’t have made it if I didn’t want it; that’s kind of one of the criteria for what I do. Now, do I take every single thing every single day? No, of course not. I do, in the course of week, I'm pretty sure I hit every single thing. These are all things that I love and all things that help me in my life so I wouldn’t carry it and I wouldn’t put it through Onnit if I wasn’t a huge fan of what they're able to do and how they're able to help you lead an optimized life. Ari: I like that. The last supplement that I want to talk about, actually, is your testosterone supporter basically. I know that you read that all the time but I've seen where a lot of people that there seems to be this dip in testosterone that’s happening earlier and earlier to people. There's all sorts of magical ways to boost testosterone and a lot of them are legitimate and a lot of them are not legitimate. So, what makes your tea different? Aubrey: Well, you know one of the things that we really wanted to focus on was we don’t any of our products to have any negative repercussions down the road. So, if you add… Ari: That’s nice. Aubrey: Yeah, exactly and not a lot of companies care about that. They want to just give you an immediate effect. Ari: Absolutely. Aubrey: So if you're adding something like DHEA or some exogenous source of testosterone or androgenic compound basically what's going to happen is your own body’s engine produces testosterone naturally is going to start to shut down as soon as it sees testosterone coming in from other sources and it may not start up again once it shuts down. People who have taken a lot of steroids and testosterone, that’s why they have to stay on testosterone replacement therapy on a permanent basis because their body would have a very difficult time recovering production. We wanted to focus on androgynous production and to do that we wanted to make sure that we just provided the body with the raw, natural ingredients that could help their engine – the testosterone engine – run more efficiently. So we just focused on that and then also some compounds, natural compounds that minimize excess estrogen because the same engine that makes testosterone will also make estrogen. So to be effective in balancing the two you have to mitigate some of the excess estrogen it produces as well. We feel like we got a kind of ideal combination that’s able to both of those things. Then we threw in a few extra things to help with some athletic performance as well because doing squats is going to help you produce testosterone too. Ari: Yeah, absolutely. I always tell people eat good fat, sleep well, and lift heavy stuff. Aubrey: That’s the foundation. Ari: That’s the magic formula. So, now, on the food side – this is going to get more personal to you. I think this is kind of cool. I looked at your food stuff and I see good fats, I see bulletproof stuff, I see paleo stuff, I see chocolate. There's basically…I'm looking at my diet when I do the pull down menu of food. This looks like it’s come from several different sources, is this sort of molded on your personal feelings toward food or how’s that come about? Aubrey: Well, it’s interesting that you say that because it touches on a deeper, philosophical point. Ari: Absolutely. Aubrey: I was a philosophy major in school. You get all of these different schools of philosophy and they spend so much time defending their position that they're unwilling to acknowledge the kernel is good that comes from pretty much every school of thought. I think diet is another one of those arenas where everybody spends so much time defending their diet plan that they don’t just open up to possibility to say, okay, this is a good idea from you and this is a good idea from you and this is a good idea from you but let’s not get crazy; you don’t need to take it to the extreme. Let’s just make the best of everything. That’s what I tried to do – make the best of the bulletproof kind of concept, the best of Mike Dolce’s earth grown nutrient concepts, some of Tim Ferriss’s concept from 4-hour body. Put them all together and come up with a basic middle ground system that touches on the mutual points of agreements of all of these things. That is basically don’t put GMO crap in your body, try to eat as much raw food as possible, make sure you get enough fat. If it didn’t come from the earth at some point, it’s probably not a food so don’t eat it. That’s just basically the philosophy of our foods and we try to make stuff taste good, too. That’s something I really try. Ari: That’s always nice. Aubrey: Yeah can do that and have something taste pretty sketch but our stuff is delicious. Food is one of the main pleasures in life; food and sex is just some of the magic of living in this dimensional realm that we’re in so you might as well enjoy it. Ari: I love that. You're obviously, clearly performing at a high level. There's a couple pictures online of you especially [8:52 2/3], you're clearly pretty ripped. So, what's your diet like? Is it what we just talked about or generally how do you eat? Aubrey: As much as possible. I end up entertaining a lot of people so going out to eat is difficult to kind of keep these principles in mind. So when I'm eating at home I do my best to stick to these principles, I’ll always stick to earth grown nutrient principles and I stay away from the crack like soda and really processed junk and things like that. All my grocery shopping I do at the natural grocery stores and things like that. When I choose restaurants I try to choose cleaner restaurants. I’ll go into a steakhouse and ask if they have any of the grass-fed beef but I'm not crazy about it. I think some people get really, really stressed. If it works for them, great. I know that … like I've had dinner with Dave Asprey before and eh sticks to the code and that dude does not bend but I'm a bending dude. Sometimes I’ll bend so much that you won’t even recognize me. As far as the diet point of view I’ll just say screw it; today I'm going wild. Have drinks and food and just enjoy myself and make sure I get, again, back on the other side to bring things back into balance. That’s just… Ari: It’s funny… I'm sorry, go ahead. Aubrey: No, that’s it. Ari: It’s funny you say that because I'm sort of the same way. Having been through an experience where I was in chronic pain and food was the enemy for me, now I try to go the extreme opposite. I eat very healthy and I’d say my wife and I eat probably 90% of our meals at home but I'm also not opposed to bending those rules quite a bit. I was interviewing Jimmy Moore the other day, Living La Vida Low Carb guy; you've probably heard of him, right? Aubrey: No, I haven’t but that’s hilarious though. Ari: Okay, well first of all I think it’s the greatest website. He’s really cool; he lost 180 pounds on a ketogenic diet and now he’s a cholesterol expert, he’s awesome. But, we were on the interview and I said to him I am not low carb. Like, I would be really lying if I said I'm low carb because I really love to have sandwiches sometimes and I really love to have a bowl of pasta but the cool thing was that I actually had the numbers to back it up. Apparently, your triglycerides are an indicator of your carb tolerance and anything below 100 is considered really good. We’re on the interview and I had my numbers out and my triglyceride number is 54. So, I was like, I guess I can bend the rules quite a bit as far as carbs go. Aubrey: Right, right. I imagine them kind of similar. My body responds as long as it’s the right kind of carbs not just a bunch of sugar then my body responds pretty well. I could eat quite a bit of whole grain rice or quinoa, brown rice, pasta or something like that, my body feels pretty good. So I don’t really stress too much about that I just try to make sure the nutrient quality is strong in what I'm eating. Ari: I think that’s a really good way of looking; stressing about food is probably the worst thing that you can do. Now as far as fitness goes, you have some really cool stuff on your site for fitness. You got [12:28 2/3], you got some really primal stuff. Things where you're really moving in a sort of natural way. They're unbalanced and uncoordinated in some ways. You’ve done MMA, you’ve been around the world, like, how do you work out? Aubrey: Man, I play with all the toys that we have here. That’s what's been really fun for me. I did more traditional kind of exercise for athletes back in the day which was basic plyometric mixed with weightlifting then actually just playing this board and doing running and suicides and things like that so that now really working with a lot of these young MMA athletes in particular were bringing in a lot of these highly functional components that are a lot of fun. The steel mace; the ropes. I still do some traditional weightlifting just for I think the mass building potential that it has; it’s something that it still really valuable. But if I just do that I feel impossibly slow and my joints start to hurt so I just blend that in with a lot of the other stuff that’s more free range of motion. I feel stronger and better than I ever have, truly. I was talking to the top UFC fighter Cub Swanson who was out here. Basically, he does a ton of stuff involving balance and explosion. The balance stuff he does is really incredible. He basically explains that you're never in a situation where …you're not in a perfect world especially in fighting. You're going to be off balance. You're going to be more on one leg than on the other. You're going to get moved around. So, getting strength as well as stability and range of motion is crucial. I've really kind of adapted my training to that methodology and honestly feel better and look better.