Eating the right types of food, maintaining physical activity, and getting enough sleep are all well-known ways of optimizing your physical and cognitive performance. While the “best fit” for each individual varies and can change over time, there are some general rules specific to human genetics.
Even when implementing good habits, the timing can make a huge difference in their efficacy. In fact, understanding the body clock and human traits can help you optimize even further.
It’s All About the Timing
Timing your entire day around cognitive and physical performance is not always realistic or ideal. Often the stresses or responsibilities of daily life can make it difficult to follow these practices. However, understanding and being mindful of these benefits can have a positive influence on your biohacking efforts when it is possible to implement.
I’ve talked about intermittent fasting before in a full-length guide, but the most important aspect to understand is efficiency of calories and your body’s allocation of these resources. One can eat the same number of calories in the day, but if consumed within a smaller window it improves fat gain, anti-aging and general decline. Your body enters a “fasted state” after around 8 hours where it converts to fat-burning mode.
After a rigorous workout (whether sprints, resistance training etc.) your body is far more efficient when storing glucose. If you consume 200 grams of carbohydrates in a day, you can get a better use of these carbohydrates if ingested immediately after your workout.
The non-insulin translocation of tGLUT allows your skeletal muscle to accept sugar / glucose into the muscles before insulin is present. This physiological mutation allows humans to deplete glycogen while exercising and then replenish efficiently afterwards. The carbohydrates do not spillover into fat as easily after a workout and yet, you are eating the same quantity.
Your hormonal and neurotransmitter response to showers can be used to great efficacy. Have you ever jumped into a cold shower in the morning to wake up? The reason cold showers help is because they increase adrenalin and testosterone production. Time these before you need to be focused and alert, and it will prove effective. Before a gym workout can also enhance performance.
Hot showers can be useful as well; dopamine triggers creative centers in your brain, which is great for any activity that requires creativity (i.e: pretty much everything). A properly timed shower (whether hot or cold) can make all the difference.
Among the most important habits for optimal cognitive capabilities is sleep. Without adequate hours of sleep and quality of sleep, it is difficult to function as efficiently as you would like. Recent studies have shown that getting the same number of hours of sleep, but maintaining the same routine every day can provide better quality. For example, a person getting 6 hours of sleep that goes to sleep at 11pm and wakes up at 5am every night will typically have better quality rest than someone who sleeps 6 hours a day at various hours. Of course, it is difficult to maintain the same exact sleep schedule, but if you maintain a rhythm as often as you can, your body will thank you for it.
There are many different theories behind exercise timing, but depending on your goals there are a few options. Some people (myself included) prefer to exercise in a fasted state. The best way to do that is in the morning after sleeping for over 8 hours. This allows the glycogen and fat to deplete faster while exercising. However, as Kiefer suggests in “Carb Backloading”, there are daily hormone cycles that can make evening exercise more efficient.
Surprise, surprise! At least for men, testosterone levels depend partially on ejaculation timing. Men see peak serum testosterone levels approximately 7 days after ejaculation. One can time this with exercise if the desire to optimize is that strong. My rule and experience is to cut out porn altogether, do not be part of the demise of guys, and once a week maximum. The caveat is sex at any time, though…
Using caffeine as a natural stimulant is effective, but selective timing can make it moreso. Rather than using it for studying or office work, consume it as a pre-workout drink. The caffeine will promote adrenalin production to help lift heavier and promote glucose uptake when you are finished.
If you prefer to utilize caffeine for alertness, focus, and improved cognitive abilities, time the caffeine with fewer doses throughout the week. This will enable you to get more from the caffeine when you do take it.
It may be better to practice meditation (or any kind of moving mindfulness) in the morning rather than at night. Everyone is different, but I find that meditating at night is more difficult than the morning. When done upon waking, meditation can help to set the tone for the day and improve willpower.
One of my all time favorite things to do is read. Scheduling my daily reading time right before bed can offer a few advantages. By using the last minutes before bed to read pages from a book, I avoid much of the blue light that prevents melatonin production. When watching video or viewing a computer screen before bed, you will have reduced melatonin production and sleep is harder to achieve immediately. If you are looking at pages in a book with a dim light, you will find it much easier to fall asleep quickly.
Timing Your Life
Performing the right habits in your daily life will give you the majority of the benefits, but timing can be used for an extra edge. In such a competitive world, timing some aspects of your life to optimize cognitive and physical performance isn’t such a bad idea. There is no need to obsess about whether you are following all of these timing rules, but recognize where they may be an “easy win” and take it when you can.