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3-time All Natural USA National Bodybuilding Champion and Director of Education at BiOptimizers Wade Lightheart, presents: The connection between exercise and brain performance. 

Read the other posts in Wade's series on Gut Health and Optimal Brain Performance.

Let's talk about building muscle. This is an area that I've excelled in. My background as a bodybuilder and as a personal trainer, as an exercise physiologist was all geared around this literally the first 20 years of my journey in healthy optimisation. 


I had no business being in bodybuilding, but I was able to overcome my genetic limitations through great training, hard science, and a deep passion for this industry. And that led me to where we are today into biological optimisation. 

Weight training and muscle growth help the brain. I know we all heard about the plate heads, well it's actually the inverse part. Studies show that weight training changes the cellular environment inside the brain, improving the ability to think. 

According to a notable new study on resistance training, you don't have to be a bodybuilder, but the training needs to be challenging in order to stimulate the brain and the nervous system. Maybe that's how Arnold Schwarzenegger did so well in all these things in his life and was able to go in all these different areas.

Bobby Fischer

Robert James Fischer was an American chess grandmaster and the eleventh World Chess Champion. A chess prodigy, at age 13 he won a game which was dubbed "The Game of the Century".

Now most of the top brain people are into strength training. And of course, I always think of Bobby Fischer. When he was training for the chess world championships, he took up weight training to increase endurance. 

Josh Waitzkin, the great educator and teacher, wrote a book called The Art of Learning. He talks about resistance training and brain function, and neurocognitive function. It's really something that's very powerful as we get older as well. So it's never too late to start training. In fact it's if you haven't started, it is time to probably start now. 

Mens sana in corpore sano
A healthy a healthy mind in a healthy body

When it comes to building muscles, a lot of people like the data. So Harvard actually recruited 68 women and 32 men ages around 55 to 86, and all of whom had mild cognitive impairment. One group did weight training twice a week for about six months. And what was interesting, they only stayed in about 80% training range. That means they were lifting basically 80% of what they could. The group that did weight training scored significantly higher at the end of the study than at the beginning and retained those cognitive gains for 12 months. So that's right:

muscles will put not just meat on your bones, but it'll put some meat on to your thinking. 

How to Maximize the Benefits of Weight Training

The brain benefits of weight training are maximised when your body can turn protein into essential amino acids. Now protein needs to be converted into the essential amino acids to be fully utilised by the brain. 

Here's an interesting thing: If you get into these studies, you want to have a super high protein absorption with no waste. So in order to optimise your athletic performance, your brain recovery and whole health, make sure that you're able to digest, absorb, and utilize the protein you're consuming and converting it into the essential amino acids.

All disease begins in the gut - Hippocrates

The number one way to do that is with proteolytic enzymes and probiotics, and probably a little bit of HCL, especially as we get older, to make sure that we properly break down our proteins and they don't become toxic sewage that leaks into our bloodstream. 

Another reason that I got started in this whole thing is because when i got into the nutritional science:

I started to discover the effect of proteolytic enzymes and how it impacted my recovery, my ability to train, build muscle and go through intensive workouts that allowed me to compete at World Championships and Mr. Universe. 

There are some studies that actually supported this. In fact, when they took people that ate 50 grams of protein with no enzymes, there was a 30% increase in aminos, that was whey protein, particularly. What's interesting, when they added 2.5 grams of enzymes, proteolytic enzymes .. Guess what? They got 110% of the higher amount of aminos after four hours. And when they took 5 grams, they got 127% improvement. 

Well, when I started doing this, there wasn't any research around it, but I started utilising it and could feel the physiological benefits. I was literally biohacking before I even knew what it was. And bodybuilders, a lot of us, I think, we were kind of some of the OG biohackers anyways, because we were looking to go beyond our genetics and our limitations physically in order to achieve those results. Bottom line is these enzymes are very powerful and you get a high quality proteolytic. 

Why It’s Important to Know Your Genotype

You are also going to need to be able to digest the right fats. My business partner, Matt Gallant, has been a ketogenic guy for over 23 years, started with anabolic diet, doctor Pasquale and stuff like that. And one of the things that he was able to discover is that multiple studies have revealed that certain genetic variations have clean cause weight gain and a higher percentage of body fat when consuming fat compared to others. 

You need to know your genotype because some people will not be able to absorb or digest fats very well. However, we always believe in metabolic flexibility. So you can look at this same thing with proteins, you can look at this with carbs, with fats. For example, people with the ADRB2, if they have that particular genotype, they can't handle saturated fat that well, not as well as those with the GG variant of the LPLG. So it's going to vary from person to person where you are and your history was, but you can get around this.

You have to be able to discern information from “Hey, just eat good fats”. While a lot of this is true on the surface, when you get down to really optimising your diet, your lifestyle, and really taking yourself to the next level, you need to get to the deeper aspects and find out what's right for you.

We have genetic and epigenetic testers, as well as PhDs that we work with in order to help us optimise formulations and optimise things for a broader base approval. And that's where the future of all this is going and understanding yourself. So the bottom line is we recommend you get a genetic test, consult with a practitioner and find somebody who has the ability to interpret the data and extrapolate this over a high-performance diet. 

You're going to find that there are right fats for your brain and your genetics to maximise brain performance. I had trouble with fats. But I got some genetic testing and started to pick the right fats for me, so I can really get what I call the Keto Brain: The Optimised and fat adapted brain energy that so many of us are attracted to in the Bulletproof community. 

The Role of Lipase in Fat Digestion

Lastly, you have got to have an abundance of lipase. That's a nutrient that many people are lacking, which could be to chemical exposure, it could be to poor diets in the past, it could be an excessive amount of trans fatty acids when we were young.

Your ability to convert fat that you consume into fat that you can use for your brain is directly dependent on the amount of lipase your body has or can produce or has access to. 

The bottom line is for most of us, we just don't have enough. So what you want to do is you want to be able to leverage enzymes, digestive enzymes that allow you to digest fats, and that's going to be lipases.

In the next post, i'll talk about another thing you can do to optimise your brain: Boosting Digestion.

Guest Author
Guest Author

This article was contributed by a guest author with expert knowledge in their field.



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