In today’s episode, we get together with best-selling author, online entrepreneur, and podcaster Siim Land. Siim is an expert in topics ranging from health and fitness to productivity and mindset. His ideas involve human life enhancement through body-mind empowerment and he has written a range of books on the topic like Metabolic Autophagy and The Immunity Fix which he wrote with co-author Dr. James DiNicolantonio. We kick things off by hearing from Siim about his experiences growing up on a small island in the Baltic Sea and how living in such a rural and natural environment shaped him. Siim shares how serving in the military at an early age taught him independence and cultivated his willpower and mental discipline. Next, we dive into the topic of autophagy, a process of intracellular recycling that has a host of benefits, including increased longevity. Siim explains why it makes evolutionary sense to have developed this process and how modern life undermines our body’s ability to access a state of autophagy. Siim explains how intermittent fasting and exercise are excellent methods for accessing this state and how he implements them in his daily life. We delve into the importance of exercise for optimal health, why resistance training is particularly beneficial and how to find a balance between exertion and achieving autophagy. The benefits of exercise extend to productivity. The flow state is known as the sweet spot where you are so immersed in something that you lose track of time. Siim shares how he has formed habits to help him enter a state of flow and how exercise can assist in that process. We loved having Siim on the show, join us today for stimulating conversation on autophagy, strength, flow state, and productivity!
Reduce, Rebuild, Recycle
By: Ariel Kamen, BSN
Densely packed with brain power from the Baltic Sea, Episode 15 unravels the perspective and experience of Siim Land on autophagy, strength, flow state, and productivity. Dr. Land has reached a level of personal development where he is open and able to share his knowledge of being the best at all times. To achieve high levels of experience and self mastery, the mind and body seek empowerment from the permission to be great. To avoid wasting time and potential, a certain level of health and focus is required.
Dr. Land’s childhood in the countryside allowed him to access a glorious perspective on life, flooding with imagination and fun, where he achieved great things with invigorating music. These experiences served as Siim’s intrinsic motivation to understand how the body works within the universe. His military training cultivated willpower and discipline within him because he had to make his bed every morning and line up at a specific time. His constant movement towards becoming independent afforded him co-authorship with Dr. James Dinic “the salt guy,” on The Immunity Fix. A noteworthy concept of their fix involves metabolic autophagy – an internal garbage company that collects, disposes, and converts waste back into energy for the body to use.
Metabolic Autophagy occurs as a process through the mitochondria “the powerhouse of the cell” to synthesize ATP, the body’s energy currency for all things metabolism and muscle contraction (Bonora et. al. 2012). Without ATP, the body is broke (monetarily speaking), thus it cannot afford to access the exclusive sections of higher energy and functioning. To restore the cash-flow, metabolic strategies can activate the process of autophagy for health and longevity benefits. Exercise, cold and heat exposure, fasting caloric and carbohydrate restriction can be wired into an energy account. Most metabolic benefits stem from the elimination of waste and plaque in the brain. As the brain is cleaned, it becomes easier to see, formulate ideas, curate memories, and initiate action.
The biggest selling point of autophagy are the antiaging effects. Manipulations in the body that increase life span often stimulate autophagy. (Rubinsztein et. al, 2011). Haters will say it’s fake, but the truth is autophagy is not a constant state. If autophagy were activated at all times, the body would not achieve the blissful balance between maintaining muscle growth and breaking down waste. As Siim puts it, “you are able to activate autophagy if you can pull different levers in the body.” The ebbs and flows of growth, storage, and dumping occur depending on the time of year when light, access to food, and exercise intensity are ever-changing.
Typically during warmer months, the day is longer, the sun is warmer, and the food is abundant. Conversely during colder months, the day is shorter, sun is cooler, and the food is sparse. Where there is food, there is growth. When there is famine, there should not be as much growth. Clean your brain so you can see – all the possibilities. Our modern world actually endorses always eating and limitless access to food which has resulted in tragic spikes of people with heart and metabolic disease. To find the right balance of maintenance and recycling within a highly variable and unpredictable nature, it is necessary to have working knowledge of anabolic and catabolic metabolism.
Muscle growth and autophagy occur through anabolism and catabolism, respectfully. Dr. Land says, “the easiest way to signal both is with time restricted eating.” Limiting windows of the day for eating instructs the body to make stronger muscles but also provides time to fast and recycle waste. The average person eats for 15 hours out of the day; the only time they are not eating is when they are sleeping (Gill & Panda, 2015). Constantly eating means the body is receiving constant instruction to grow. This manifests itself as obesity and metabolic dysfunction if done without any regard for autophagy.
Comparisons between USA & EU
In the United states, the average size for women’s clothing is 16 (Christel, & Dunn, 2017). Compared to European countries, people in the United States are both larger in size, eat later into the night (after 6pm), and have access to more snacks. Other differences between the USA and EU are laws surrounding pesticides and herbicides. For example, glyphosate is a weed killer used in agriculture that is banned in the EU. The FDA approves 0.1 to 400 parts per million (ppm) of glyphosate within corn, soybean, oil seeds, grains, and some fruits and vegetables. Biochemical studies on inorganic herbicides link it to the development of cancer through destruction of mTOR activity (Kulakovskaya et. al, 2018). Finding a balance between growth and recycling will allow the body to strengthen itself while simultaneously ridding itself of toxic substances that enter on a daily basis.
For this balance to exist, a combination of resistance and cardiovascular training is required. Burning calories through cardiovascular exercise and synthesizing lean muscle tissue through resistance training provides the body with a full spectrum of energy mobilization to optimize the body. Resistance training signals to the body that it needs to build muscle through the mTORc1 pathway in a nutrient dense state, while cardiovascular training signals the body that it needs to recycle waste for energy through the mTORc1 pathway in a nutrient depleted state.
As a result of resistance training, Type 2 muscle fibers pack themselves densly together and burn more calories at rest. Dr. Land’s protocol for MPS is “push, legs, pull.” He alternates between upper and lower body training, incorporating deadlifts, bench presses, and pullups). Recently Siim has experimented with a low repetition-heavier weight scheme 3-5x per week. Exercise is best for brain health and immunity because better heart health allows for more efficient oxygenation and energy mobilization.
Another avenue to manipulate anabolism and catabolism is the usage of heat and cold exposure, respectively. Saunas align best with strength training as heat causes swelling. Exposure to heat also increases human growth hormone (hGH) which enhances anabolic signaling (Alouani, 1992). Heat shock proteins are a response to heat that has antiviral and autophagy benefits. Of course, heat exposure poses harmful risk if used excessively. The idea of heat exposure is to put the body in a hyperthermic state (above 38 C/ 100.4 F) for 15-20 minutes for anabolism to take effect.
Cold exposure is best in the morning as it lowers inflammation as seen in arthritis and chronic back pain. Lower body temperature allows the body to endure cardiovascular training for longer as the body overheats slower with the use of cold exposure. With any long periods of endurance training, hydration is a key component to optimal performance. Although training in dehydrated states promotes oxygen carrying capacity of hemoglobin, it should never be done alone and requires close supervision. Hematocrit is an under utilized metric that delineates the proportion of RBCs able to transport oxygen, viscosity of blood flow, and endurance of the individual (Brown et. al, 2020). Understanding oxygen carrying capacity and how to elevate it is one of the ways researchers are formulating further understandings of survival and longevity.
Living a long, bio-optimized life promotes a state of consciousness where one becomes fully immersed within an activity that they lose sense of time. This flow state, as it is called, tunnels us through this wormhole where whatever we are thinking about is what we are doing. Dr. Land explains that flow state is best achieved by carefully articulating our activities of choice. He explains how necessary it is to find our sweet spot between difficulty and ease where we don’t topple over into a state of frustration or boredom. Finding the correct amount of challenge allows us to completely invest ourselves in the present moment.
One of the biggest obstacles towards flow state is getting distracted before any momentum forms. Ways to eliminate distraction include turning off notifications and setting our mentality away from tom foolery and towards flow state. As bio-optimization occurs, it is likely that the length of our day will elongate as well. Dr. Land recommends using power naps around 2-3pm for up to 30 minutse to help restore cognition and focus.
At the end of the day, the optimal way to enhance cognition and focus is to get adequate sleep. Knowing that sleep cycles occur in 90 minute multiples can guide our alarm setting strategy to ensure we go through enough sleep cycles to consolidate memory and reap the benefits of autophagy through deep sleep (Patel, Reddy & Araujo, 2022). Achieving flow state is a lifelong journey that is constantly evolving depending on current location and destination.
To live bio-optimally, finding meaning within our realms of existence is the single most essential motivator. Without meaning, there is no answer to our individual why? Why are we pursuing a bio-optimized life? Why do we care about flow state? Why are we doing what we are doing? To authentically answer these questions, self-exploration of our psychology is paramount. We know that psychology overrides physiology, so if we feel burnt out, likely our body will play along. Research by (Kubzansky et. al, 2018) shows how positive well-being determines disease process. Dr. Siim Land expresses his earnest ardent meaning coming from a place where he not only wants to maximize his own potential, but also provide for his family to curate a space where his generational offspring can have an easier time maximizing their potential.
Siim affirms, “meaning comes from a place of self awareness for the world.” Carefully defining our role in our world happens through constant evaluation of what we are doing, what our biometric trends are, and how our current future behaviors will transform us into high performers. With all of this in mind, Siim shares how he uses his free time, what he incorporates into his morning routine, and the importance of formulating these habits for ourselves. Quality of life stems from quality choices, as it is equally important to get into flow states and take time for breaks. The reality is, we cannot be hyper focused all the time. Taking breaks allows the brain to calm down and begin to divert our learnings into long term memory.
Dr. Land specifically uses his first part of the day for productivity, and depending on the assignment, uses strategic procrastination to produce quality completed work by its due date. Another tool Dr. Land shares are taking mini-breaks in the form of walks or stretching. It is crucial that we are careful that our behaviors don’t become chores. Remember, psychology overrides physiology. Disciple and focus aren’t always necessary but are tools to put you into a state of productivity and high performance. He simply states “the skill set is focus but the tool is caffeine.” Having a toolbox of skills that aid performance is fundamental for high performance.
Above all, Dr. Land explains the role that meditation plays into his routine. Not only was transcendental meditation the thesis for his PhD, but is a practice he uses to endogenously dive into flow state. Meditation is defined as a form of cognitive training that aims to improve attentional and emotional self-regulation (Álvarez-Pérez et. al, 2022). He specifically addresses mantra-based meditation, where one repeats an affirmation in their head for long enough where the mantra goes away but the frequency and vibration of the mantra oscillate throughout the body. The over benefits of meditation are stress reduction and focus. Teachers can be used to provide techniques, but are not required for efficacy. Meditation is best practiced in a ritualistic nature, that is, at similar times each day and maintaining consistency. When meditation takes effect, there is less chatter and more observation, where the body is relaxed in a blissful, bio-brilliant state.
On Episode 15, Dr. Land teaches how to KnowYourPhysio using nutritional manipulation of mTORc1. He guides us in finding a balance between reducing waste, rebuilding muscle, and recycling our cells to achieve health optimization and promote longevity.
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