Nootropics, brain performance, psychedelics, microdosing, fasting, travel hacks and more
Guest: Mansal Denton
Mansal Denton is an entrepreneur and self explorer currently developing Nootropedia, which offers unbiased and accessible information to improve mental performance. He enjoys active hobbies, including hiking and jiu-jitsu, as well as quiet contemplation and meditation.
Who is Mansal Denton
“Mansal Denton is the co-founder of Nootropedia, an unbiased and accessible platform to learn about Nootropics and smart drugs.” — Mike Bledsoe
- Mike went on one of Mansal’s conferences — Brain Optimization Summit.
- Mansal is working on a Nootropics documentary.
Mansal’s background and focus
Mansal is the co-founder of Nootropedia and personalized medicine enthusiast. Mansal’s focus is to optimize people’s mental performance through media-based education. He helps people understand certain nootropics and other cognitive enhancers and how it impacts them, but more importantly how to approach the concept as a whole. Because supplements affect people differently, what works for you might not work for me, and vice versa.
Nootropedia is focused on nootropics, but also has other content to optimize brain performance. You can browse content based on focus, anxiety, relaxation, hormone support, medicinal mushrooms and more ?
Psychedelics — microdosing and hefty dosing
Nootropedia has content of the full spectrum of psychedelics, from microdosing to hefty doses (typically used in lab experiments). Microdosing is a hot topic right now, which doesn’t have much anecdotal research. Today’s microdose is much smaller than what used in research decades ago by James Fadiman, author of The Psychedelic Explorer’s Guide ?
Today’s microdose is 1/10th-1/20th of a regular dose. Most people take a microdose as a mood booster or for creativity, which they don’t (or barely) notice any side effects. Mansal agreed with Mike’s assumption:
“From my understanding, microdosing is supposed to be sub-perceptual– meaning you can take it and two hours later you might not notice.” — Mike Bledsoe
What are Nootropics?
Nootropics a.k.a cognitive enhancers a.k.a smart drugs is relatively a new term, which means in greek to “towards the mind”. Mansal said he used the term “incorrectly” as he’s not very strict to the standard definition, which has rigorous criteria. Most people call something a nootropic if it has to do with synthetic compounds that improve mental performance without experiencing significant side effects. No significant side effects is the most important part to call something a nootropic. For example, adderall and modafinil are not nootropics by the standard definition.
Mansal never tried adderall or any amphetamine based drug. One of the biggest problems with this type of stimulant is that it’s an exogenous override of your existing neurochemistry. It essentially dumps tons of dopamine instead of what a real nootropic should do, which is regulate your body’s natural creation of dopamine in a more sustainable way.
Adderall comes with withdrawal effects for both short and long-term use. Brain scans show extensive use of amphetamine (such as adderall) makes attention span worse overtime. It alters the brain. Mike knows people who have been on adderall for years, who have a really hard time getting off it. Keep in mind adderall can help improve attention span to people that have attention deficit problems, but can reduce mental performance for those who don’t have those issues.
How do you test your brain performance?
You can assess your cognition now with Cambridge Brain Sciences and Dual N-Back. You should also look at your bio performance — Mansal tests his HRV (heart rate variability) every morning. For example if Mansal used modafinil, he sees the impact on stress levels the next morning.
“You can’t override rest with substances for very long.” — Mike Bledsoe
- Mansal recommends for people using nootropics to do rigorous cycling and try different mechanisms.
- He recommends to focus on one substance or mechanism at a time, so you don’t override effects and get mixed results.
- You can track and measure effects of nootropics with plenty of free tools. For example, MercuryApp — a subjective tool that will ping you to test routinely how you feel/how is your mood.
- HRV monitors are mostly used by endurance athletes, but they are great for everyone as they measure what’s going on in the nervous system.
Stress and Flow State
When you are too stressed, your cognition goes to shit — your creativity and working memory go out the window. If you’re stressed, you’re not gonna have alpha brain waves, which are associated with flow states. Steven Kotler (author of Stealing Fire) is reverse engineering neurochemistry that comes with flow states.
“Setting up optimal scenario for flow is a little bit of a challenge, but not a challenge so big that it’s overwhelming. It has to be something slightly out of your normal reach. If you are encountering a lot of stress before trying to get into a flow state, the level of challenge you’re able to take on is much lower than what you normally be able to take on.” — Mike Bledsoe
If someone wanted to experiment with Nootropics, what should their first step be?
- Mansal is a proponent of trying to improve lifestyle factors first before trying drugs. Specifically prioritizing healthy nutrition and sleep, or even having a gratitude journal or some other type of mindfulness practice (I personally love The Five-Minute Journal by Intelligent Change).
- Mansal is also a fan of homeostasis products like fish oil (especially if you don’t eat much fish), which is not something you feel necessarily.
Lifestyle changes BEFORE trying Nootropics
Before you are getting into nootropics, try improving your lifestyle:
- Get the right number of hours of sleep (varies between people).
- Remove technology use before bed (Mansal keeps his phone on airplane mode at night).
- Go to bed around the same time every night.
- Measure your sleep — if you want to geek out you can go to a sleep lab or use something like S+ by ResMed — a device that measures your breathing to understand the type of sleep you’re having (REM, light, deep, etc.). S+ is not a wearable; instead you place it on your nightstand, and it syncs up with your phone via bluetooth to give you data.
- Keep in mind, more physical or emotional stress experienced requires more sleep for appropriate recovery.
Mansal isn’t super sensitive to gluten, but eating too much or a certain type of gluten make him feel bad, like joint aching. Gluten in Europe and the US are totally different. Mansal starts with the ancestral template and works back to figure out what works best for him. Food is fuel for your brain, which is only 3% of your body mass, but takes 20% of energy expenditure.
Many people want to meditate, but can’t form the habit. Mike was aware of meditation since age 15 and tried meditation throughout his life, but it didn’t stick for years. That’s until Mike had an experience with psilocybin mushrooms that “showed him” where he might be trying to go with meditation, which was a breakthrough for him and skyrocketed his motivation to meditate. Since then, he’s been meditating regularly. Keep in mind,/ meditation doesn’t have to be seated, walking meditation could be your thing.
How food affects your brain
- Avoid foods that don’t sit well in your body! It’s not a good sign if after you eat, you experience stomach cramps, joint pain (especially more than one joint), head fogginess, bloating or even farting ?
- Your brain doesn’t have any nerves. When you have a headache, it’s blood vessels to your brain or something else outside your brain. So if you have inflammation in your joints, then you have a problem in your brain you can’t feel!
- Sardines are great for you because they’re super healthy for brain function, much cheaper than other fish, and easy to travel with. Everybody (including me) raves about sardines from Wild Planet.
“When you have high quality food for a while, you can’t go back.“ — Mike Bledsoe
- Mansal is a big proponent of fasting to improve brain function. Fasting is associated with upregulated BDNF (brain-derived neurotrophic factor), which is a fertilizer for the brain. It’s useful for learning, memory formation and higher thinking.
- Mansal feels more on point when he’s fasting, which makes sense evolutionary wise — we used to be focused on hunting, and staying vigilant in order to survive.
- Mansal does intermittent fasting most of the time, where he allocates a mere 6 hour eating window (fasting for 18 hours!). Regularly he fasts even longer for 22–24 hours.
- Robb Wolf (author of Wired to Eat) fasts on days he travels, which solves so many problems.Air travel is very taxing on the body, and avoiding bad airport or plane food is very beneficial, because it could add more stress on your body.
Travel hacks: strategies to cope with jet lag
- Dr. Kirk Parsley has great tips on how to cope with jet lag as best as possible, such as blue-blocking sunglasses.
- When your circadian rhythm gets messed up in air travel, there’s a lot of toxins released in your gut.
- To negate toxins, Mansal uses activated charcoal and typical immune booster like such as cordyceps, reishi mushrooms and high dose vitamin C. Mansal doesn’t have a favorite brand for activated charcoal, he think it’s a commodity (I ordered this one by VIVADORIA).
- Mansal thinks it’s a mistake to get melatonin for sleep aid (worst case scenario), unless it’s absolutely necessary. Lemon balm and valerian root are better options.
Exercise and brain function
We all know that exercise is important for brain function. But you don’t necessarily have to go hard, even just going on walks makes a difference. Stanford study finds walking improves creativity by 60%! Other movement practices like yoga also influence brain performance.
Neurofeedback is exercise and therapy for your brain. It’s based on programmed games that reward certain brain patterns. Mansal played games at Peak Brain Institute — Dr. Andrew Hill’s lab. At Peak Brain you can get training for your brain with personal trainers to get your brain waves in shape.
The combination of caffeine and L-Theanine. L-Theanine negates many side effects that come with caffeine and helps improve focus and concentration. People that feel the jitters or have a higher blood pressure from caffeine can benefit from L-theanine greatly. Numerous studies show caffeine:L-Theanine ratio should be 1:2.
Piracetam and Phenylpiracetam
Nootropics of racetam type, which are synthetic compounds that improve cognition. You may not feel piracetam, but Mike felt good on it, and Mansal had significantly improved verbal fluency.
Well researched alzheimer’s and dementia drug used in soviet union for a few decades. considered to be 1000 times stronger than piracetam potency wise. legal gray area. a memory enhancer, interacts with colin function. helps mansal with focus and concentration, which there is not research about.
“A drug is anything that’s interacting with your neurochemistry to some degree.” — Mansal Denton
We’re all an outlier on some things at some point
A lot of the stuff that has been researched may not apply to you. Most past research was mostly driven to fix diseases and other issues, not to optimize existing good conditions up to great. We all have a slightly different composition from one another, and everybody is an outlier on some physical or mental categories. It’s best to try things for yourself rather than count or wait for research to come out.
“1% edge over a whole year is 1% times 365, it fucking adds up.” — Mike Bledsoe
Mike likes to experiment with substances or mechanisms that don’t necessarily have much past research. He likes to run his experiments without too many inputs or expectations, that way he gets the most unbiased results that apply specifically to himself.
“Some of the stuff I’ve been doing in the past 20 years… If I waited until now, we’d probably lose 5 olympic games.” — Charles Poliquin
Supplements for general longevity and functioning of mitochondria
Why improve your mitochondria? Because it’s an energy factory of cells. Improving the mitochondria and your cell has cascading effects, like the ability to rid toxic waste and create energy for mental performance. Scientist found neurogenesis goes on throughout your entire life, not just when you’re young. Supplemented Mansal recommends:
- CoQ10 and PQQ — molecules that are effective for mitochondrial support, helping with anti-aging and cells longevity. Mansal recommends taking them together or just CoQ10 if you’re choosing one.
- Lion’s Mane mushrooms — enhance nerve growth factors (NGF) and are mood boosters. Mike takes them almost everyday.
- Quercetin — antioxidant and anti-inflammatory bioflavonoids found in apples and other fruit.
- Creatine — increases cellular ATP both in muscles and the brain. Also in Mike’s smoothie every morning.
- Hesperidin Methyl Chalcone — bioflavonoids found in citrus fruits like oranges and grapefruit. Helps maintain new brain cells growth.
There is a chance none of the nootropics mentioned in the podcast would fit you, which is why taking responsibility to learn about your own composition is the most important thing. Don’t wait until you’re sick for your doctor to tell you what to do, be proactive about your health and brain function. Live it up! ✌️