How to Optimize your Brain Health with Louisa Nicola


Today, in the Scheer Madness Podcast, we have Louisa Nicola joining us on the show. Louisa is a Neurophysiologist and Billionaire coach who founded Neuro Athletics to provide scientific strategies to help athletes and investors achieve peak performance. She was a world championship triathlete and raced both nationally and internationally for Australia and competed at London, Beijing and Auckland. We get to listen to how having enough sleep and good nutrition are brain boosters, the benefits of regular water intake and staying hydrated, and how we can take care of our brain health.


What We Discuss:

  • 00:00 Intro
  • 02:04 What is Neuro Athletics?
  • 04:26 Scanning the brains of athletes
  • 06:17 Sleep and nutrition on healing
  • 08:53 The benefits of keto diet
  • 16:44 Always hydrate with water
  • 21:51 Theories around brain aging process
  • 26:28 The four stages of sleep
  • 31:47 Why brain function favors resistance training
  • 34:14 Connection between skeletal muscle mass and brain health
  • 41:07 Medications that affect deep sleep process
  • 44:27 Sunlight, sleep, hydration, good nutrition

Connect with Louisa Nicola:

Episode Resources:


Episode Transcript:

Rachel Scheer: What are some other specific brain nutrients that people really need to focus on getting more of, into their diet? 

Louisa Nicola: Most of the nation is deficient in this. I’m gonna spell it out for you. Okay. W a T e R water water 

Rachel Scheer: insanity is doing the same thing over and over. And expecting different results, but if you are ready to level up your life and get results that truly matter in your health business mindset and relat.

Then this is the podcast for you. Welcome to shared madness, where we have unscripted real conversations with the world’s top athletes, entrepreneurs, and coaches discover real world and tactical advice from the best in the business. Let’s go. You guys ever wondered what it would be like to have a. Peak mental performance in everything that you do just like in the movie limitless.

Well, maybe we can’t pop a pill just like they did in that movie, which by the way, I love that movie. But today we are going to be talking. All about mental performance. I have neuropsychologist Louisa Nicola here coming on the show and she actually founded something called neuro athletics, which provides scientific strategies to help athletes, investors, entrepreneurs achieve.

Peak performance. So today you’re going to hear all about her strategies, the things that disrupt our brain health, things that can help optimize our brain health and things you can literally do right now at home. She is the head performance advisor and CEO of our company, and she’s on a mission to optimize mental performance and help educate, train, and unlock human performance through science and data with a commit.

To your potential. You guys, this is gonna be a good one. Luisa, thank you so much for coming on the show today, Rachel. 

Louisa Nicola: I’m so excited to be here. Thanks for having me. 

Rachel Scheer: So let’s just dive right into it. Because as I was reading a little bit about your bio and your background, I seriously hadn’t heard of neuro athletics ever before.

So what exactly is that? 

Louisa Nicola: Well, uh, I that’s my company. Um, and basically, so I, I started as a triathlete. I was a, an Australian Olympic triathlete, and then I went on to study medicine and neurology. And when I was going out and working with professional sports teams and looking at the brain of some of these athletes, my whole ethos was about how can I make.

These brains more athletics. And it was pretty much the intersection where I was living and where I was preaching and consulting was pretty much at the, at the intersection of neuroscience and athletic performance. Mm. So, uh, that’s was the birth of neuro athletics. So, um, that’s my brand and that’s my company.

Rachel Scheer: So you got brought down this path, working with, you said like professional athletes in particular. Yeah. 

Louisa Nicola: Yeah, that’s correct. So I was first working in neurology and I was doing a lot of brain scans. So we do a lot of brain scans. And during this time I was looking at a lot of Alzheimer’s disease patients.

And when we look at, uh, people with Alzheimer’s disease or any form of dementia, and we do a brain scan on them, we find. Different areas of dysfunction. And after doing over a thousand of them, I thought, imagine if we started putting these EEGs electroencephalograms, which is the brain scan I was talking about.

Imagine if we put these on athletes, NFL athletes, for example. And so that’s how I really started. I started brain scanning, NFL athletes, and I was looking for traumatic brain injury. Um, I was looking for early signs of chronic traumatic encephalopathy, and I branched out into the NBA into professional tennis and into professional soccer.


Rachel Scheer: familiar with Dr. Amman. I’m not sure if you know him with all of like the brain scans that he does specifically looking at like blood flow to different areas in the brain. So you were looking at brain scans specifically for looking at any kind of traumatic brain injuries, especially with athletes who are, like you said, football players just hitting their head all of the time.

What were some of like the biggest findings that you ended up just coming to realize by scanning the brains of these like incredible. 

Louisa Nicola: Yeah. So I was looking also at cognitive performance. So the word cognition really arises from things such as our thinking, our, uh, our reaction time, our memory, our information processing speed, and this particular EEG scan was able to pick up on these.

And I was able to find different areas of the brain. That were not working well. So for example, I would be able to measure reaction time and that’s pretty much the, the time that it takes for your body to react to a certain stimulus. And so then I was looking at visual acuity, for example, and I was figuring out, well, if.

An NFL player. For example, if he got hit in a particular area of his brain, let’s look at that. Let’s focus in on that. We’ve got four lobes of the brain and they’re all responsible for different things. And I would see whether are they having any difficulties in this area of life, since this is the part of the brain that is responsible for thinking or for language.

So I would look at that and then we would put them through a rehabilitation program. To optimize their brain. So then they can perform better on the field. 

Rachel Scheer: Okay. So noticing some of these brain scans, like where there were potential injuries, hot was really showing up in their normal day to day life, whether it was like reaction time, you know, speech memory, and then you worked on getting them.

More, uh, mentally fit and helping with that healing process. Ultimately, I think that’s really, really incredible. Yeah. And especially being a functional medicine practitioner myself, you know, always looking at that root cause. Um, what were some of the different modalities that really helped a lot of these people?

When it, you found some of these injuries in the brain, looking at these brain scan. In order to help them heal and get healthy again. 

Louisa Nicola: So, you know, there’s so many different depending on the pathology of the injury. Okay. Um, one of the biggest things, but biggest moving points is sleep and nutrition, especially when it comes to healing the brain from a traumatic injury.

So we know that when it comes to healing the brain within a first 24 hour period of being concussed, for example, we know that. Two things come to mind. Sleep is extremely important and often dysregulated, but also what you eat. So a high fat diet, potentially a ketogenic diet is gonna be the best for getting in the, the right nutrients into the brain to feed it.

So then they can. Not reverse the injury, but better help, uh, overcome the injury within a short period of time. So when we were looking at these players, it’s not so much, okay, you just got hit in the last 24 hours. It could be, they got hit in the head, um, and didn’t heal two, three years ago. So then it comes, you know, how, how can we heal the brain?

So we do a lot of, uh, we do a lot of maintenance with Nutri. So putting in nutritional protocols, supplementation where needed, we also do a lot of blood work, so we’ll take an athlete’s blood, uh, figure out we’ll get over a hundred different biomarkers. We’ll also do their DNA to see what they’re predisposed to.

If they’ve got any, uh, genetic mutations and then we’ll optimize diet through. But sleep. I’ve got it. You know, and we’re probably gonna go into that later. Sleep is very much a, a healing therapy, if you will. Yeah. For the brain and, and sadly not a lot of us are doing, doing it well, Definitely 

Rachel Scheer: not. Um, I’ve actually dealt with my fair share of like sleep issues, insomnia, just kind of in the culture of go, go, go.

Um, all of us like working harder later, striving as well, too, Le leading to burnout and oftentimes sleep. Issues. So I really do wanna dive into the sleep, but I, I am of course fascinated about the nutrition side of everything, you know, being a dietician myself. And I think it’s really interesting that you mentioned the power of ketogenic diet.

So taking carbs, not completely out, but really. Putting ’em at a really low level where the brain isn’t utilizing sugar as its primary source of fuel, but you’re really utilizing fats. How does that end up helping with the healing process? What’s exactly like the mechanism of action of, of what is 

Louisa Nicola: happening there.

Well, you said something really key. You said, you know, eliminating, well, not so much eliminating, but really downplaying the amount of carbs. But recently I, uh, I had an interview with, he was the owner of hate, uh, health via modern nutrition, H V man, and their research lead. And what I found was that it’s not so much you, if you’re trying to get in a ketogenic.

Okay. Or a state of ketosis, I should say. Um, it doesn’t mean that you have to spend three days eliminating carbs. You could do this via getting exogenous keytones and that’s what I do now because the brains, uh, the brain likes to utilize keytones as it’s. Preferred energy source and we can live off these.

For example, if you’re, if you’re running a marathon or if you’re gonna be in a cave without food, you can literally live on these keto. You wanna go brain down if you’ve got keytones in your system. And the, the biggest thing that I was finding was it’s very hard to get into a. Key in a state of ketosis because you have to do so much, you have to eat of that.

You have to eliminate the carbs. I didn’t realize that you could be taking exogenous keytones in the form of keto esters. You could ingest them and then you’d just, I immediately have keytones available for your brain. So. That’s what we do now. We, we have this bottle of, um, what is it called? It’s a keto IQ.

So it’s a bottle of keto esters. And if you sip these throughout the day, or if I give these to my athletes, it’s pretty much acting like rocket fuel for the brain and your brain loves this. So your brain really loves to feed off these key turn esters. Now the brain’s made of well three things, but predominantly two big things, and that is fat and water.

And so if we are feeding at what it’s already made out of, then that’s fantastic, but there’s another form of fat that I I’ll introduce right now. And you’ve, I’m sure you and your listeners have heard of a omega three fatty acids. Mm-hmm so when we think of a omega three fatty acids, it’s pretty much made of three parts.

ALA EPA and DHA. And when you look at the brain, brain is predominantly made of that DHA. And so getting fat via these keto or via, uh, uh, these keto esters, which is not primarily fat, but feeding it fat, but also feeding your brain, the EPA and DHA really high doses of it can do wonders for your brain. And in fact, We have a, a general rule at neural athletics.

It’s two grams of EPA and two grams of DHA per day. ALA is the, uh, is the, is the non fatty fish form. So a lot of vegans will get their, um, a omega three from things such as flax seeds and cheer seeds, and that’s ALA, so then converted into EPA, but with so two grams of each per day, As a maintenance.

However, if you are an NFL athlete or if you’ve had a traumatic brain injury, we actually up that dose to as much as maybe even four grams per day, as more of a protective mechanism for when they get hit in the head. 

Rachel Scheer: Yeah. And running a lot of these tests on a lot of my own clients at Rachel sheer nutrition, I was always blown away by most like the majority of people.

Are deficient in EPA and DHA. And we get so many people who are suffering from things like anxiety and depression. And we don’t really think about neuronutrition very much. It’s not really talked about. It’s all about fat loss building muscle, which is totally fine. But, uh, a lot of what she’s really speaking to is these omega3 fatty acid.

Are one of the few nutrients that can really actually cross that blood brain barrier and play a massive role and correct me if I’m I’m wrong, but play a massive role in memory. Play a huge role in even the size of our hippocampus as well, too specifically with DHA and then also decreasing inflammation and keeping that very, very low specifically with EPA and the majority of the population on the other side is also pretty high.

In Adon acid in other types of inflammatory fats. So it kind of skews it a little bit. So high levels of these, um, pro-inflammatory fats like Adon acid deficiencies in EPA, DHA, or ALA, this can lead to actually a lot of mental health issues. Um, for a lot of people from what I’ve seen, um, literally leading to inflammation in the brain, but from what you’re saying, it also can decrease a lot of the healing for the brain and maybe even contribute to premature aging and other kind of neurodegenerative decline as well.

Louisa Nicola: Yeah, that’s a really good point that you’ve, uh, that you’ve brought up. There was a wonderful study done. Um, and I’m probably going to put this up on my Instagram, uh, very soon because what they found was that people who are low in a omega three, which. Was tested by, um, omega-3 index. What they found was they are comparable to smokers.

Mm. And that’s scary because you think smoking is, you know, completely terrible. And we all know about the detrimental effects of smoking cigarettes, but why are we not talking about the detrimental effects of EPA and DHA having a lack thereof? So you also mentioned the blood brain barrier, and I think, um, Is worth mentioning.

So it’s, you know, when we think of the blood brain barrier, we think of this, basically this barrier around our brain, that acts as a, a bouncer to the club. I usually say that, but I, I, I forget that not everybody has been to med school and we should really define it. It’s pretty much just a barrier of cells.

You know, these endothelial cells, which if you think of it, they, they come together like this and over time through. Wear and tear through stresses, such as psychological stress, mental stress, emotional stress, um, poor diets. What happens is these this barrier or these endothelial cells become leaky, if you will.

And then what happens is they kind of wear away and spread apart. And what happens then Rachel, you see this gap and this gap then allows other molecules to enter the brain freely. And we don’t want that because when things like this, you know, these, these barriers are meant to be here to protect the. To basically say, no, you’re not good for us.

You can’t come in. And when we have this leaky kind of, um, uh, blood brain barrier, just like we have leaky gut, what happens? Well, it then becomes a highway to allow other molecules that are not good for us to come in, which then in turn aids in the process of, uh, you know, brain aging, neurodegenerative diseases Alzheimer’s and the dementia.

Rachel Scheer: Yeah. And, um, I’ve, I’m very familiar with the science of intestinal permeability leaky gut. I had actually a physician come on my podcast a while back, and he talked a lot about how a leaky gut can lead to a breach in that bud Ray barrier, literally leading to a leaky brain with what it is that you’re talking about.

Um, so I think it is so fascinating, just like the connection between the gut and the brain, when we’re taking care of our gut, we’re gonna be taking care of our brain. Even like vice versa with everything. Um, I’ve heard you mention omega-3 fatty acids, you know, being just like an incredible nutrient for the brain.

Not only just with like, memory, um, but also like healing and upping that for people who are specifically dealing with. Traumatic brain injuries or potentially, maybe even, even other kind of neuro related issues. What are some other specific brain nutrients that people really need to focus on getting more of into their diet?


Louisa Nicola: tell you one that you’ve probably never heard of and it’s, uh, it’s completely, you know, left wing. People might be like Louis or where do I get this from? Because I think that most of the nation is deficient. I’m gonna spell it out for you. Okay. W a T E R wider water. I say it like that because Rachel, I think, uh, we’ve got an epidemic of people not hydrating enough and our brain literally needs water.

We are, if we are at least 2%. Dehydrated, our cognitive performances go down 33%. So you can think of going in to a meeting. Okay. And you need to come up as your best self and you don’t really feel thirsty. So you’re not having water because maybe it’s just not, you know, you just don’t feel like that can mean the difference.

Getting a deal and not getting a deal. So we need to be hydrating with water. That’s the first thing, the second thing is we need to be hydrating with electrolytes. You would know this, our brain has a, we have these nerve cells. They’re called neurons. We’ve got them all throughout. That’s a, it’s basically a, a brain cell and we’ve got anywhere from 80 to a hundred billion of them.

And the way they communicate with each. Is, they communicate via an, an electrical signal and we call that a synapse. And in order for that to happen, we have this pump, this sodium potassium pump that occurs. So our brain, literally our cognitive performances rely upon electrolytes, but sadly, we’re not getting them because we’ve got this, you know, we’ve got this thing that happens in society where we, where we think that.

The only reason why we should be having electrolytes is if we’re sweating, but that’s not true. Okay. We need electrolytes. We need things such as magnesium, potassium, sodium people are so afraid of salt. So we need these things for our brain to function optimally. So they are the true new tropics. You don’t need to go out and buy new tropics.

They are the true new tropics. And then another form of nutrition for the brain is sunlight. So sunlight or even vitamin D I put up, uh, yesterday that we have a, a vitamin D deficiency epidemic, vitamin D is, is just so incredibly important for the brain. Not many of us know that we have vitamin D receptors on our brain stem and these are responsible for so many things, even reproduction.

And it turns out that. Women, there was a, a study done. I linked it again yesterday. That’s why it’s fresh in my brain. It was a systematic review, consisted of an RCT randomized control trial of 666 women. And then also another 7,000 women. What they found was that women who have a vitamin D status below 50 nano animals per liter were more prone to miscarriages and infertility.

Than those who have a vitamin D status of over 70. So vitamin D incredibly important for the brain. Wow. 

Rachel Scheer: So Omega’s water electrolytes. I haven’t heard that before though. Um, to be completely honest about electrolytes, because we do tend to think about electrolytes only if you’re sweating a ton. If you’re outside, you know, in the heat or you are an athlete, like you need to replace some of those electrolytes, but you’re saying that.

Most people really need to be supplementing with electrolytes every single day. 

Louisa Nicola: Yeah, absolutely. I do think that, um, first and foremost, I do think everybody should be exercising every day, correct? Correct. Um, but even if you are sitting at your desk and you are thinking your, your, your brain is, is basically doing a workout just by you being at a desk, I work with a lot of hedge fund and portfolio manager and my God they’re burning through energy and they’re not even moving.

So. Very very importantly, you should be having at least, uh, you know, I’ve got electrolytes in this drink right now. Mm-hmm 

Rachel Scheer: so getting that movement and getting some of those electrolytes staying hydrated, because I think that’s such an easy one to even overlook as well. You know, we tend to look at all of the other, you know, Nutrients that maybe are a little bit more, uh, fun to talk about.

Um, or even add in as a supplementation, but we don’t think about water. And I think that’s crazy that you said 33%, right. Decline. Yeah. When we are even just a little bit dehydrated and I know for myself, I’ve definitely realized I’ve been dehydrated many, many times just by like being really, really thirsty.

And that’s usually one of the first indicators of dehydration right. Of just like. Being thirsty and feeling a lot of that. Um, so there’s a lot of these good things that we can do to focus on boosting our mental health, our brain health. What would you say are some of the biggest things that disrupt the brain and cause decline or premature aging for the brain?

Louisa Nicola: We’ve got theories around the brain aging process and there’s many of them. And, um, the ones that stand out to me is we have, um, first one is we just through the natural aging process, we get a, we, we build up. Something called white matter lesions. Okay. And that’s just because we’re getting older. Now we have in our brain, our brain has got gray matter.

Okay. It’s the cortex. And then we’ve got white matter. That’s on the inside and that’s where all of our myelinated neurons live now. This is where we, where as we get older, these things get little lesions. Okay. So that’s the first, that’s the first sign of the brain agent process. The second one is we get a dysregulation of dopamine receptors in the frontal part of the brain.

And dopamine mean is that molecule that tells us to keep going. It’s that motivation molecule, if you will. So as we age, we have a dysregulation in this. Then the third one that stands out to me is that we just have a, a decline in, and we have atrophy of our brain just due to getting older. Okay. So how can we go in and what are some of the defense mechanisms that we can put up or shield our brain from getting attacked by these brain aging processes?

Well, sleep, if. You can accelerate these lesions okay. In the white matter, or you can accelerate brain atrophy or brain dysregulation by lack of sleep. If you’re sleeping. Six hours or less per night, you’re really doing yourself a disservice. And in fact, it’s been proven in, in clinical trials like human clinical trials that sleeping under six hours can lead to colorectal cancer.

It can lead to a 3% epigenetic change. That is a, a 3% change in your human genome from sleeping less than six hours a night. And it can lead to, uh, Alzheimer’s disease. Sleeping is the number one lack of exercise, specifically resistance training SP uh, women, especially. Um, we love to just get on that treadmill.

I do. I’m an endurance athlete by heart. I love to go out and run. Sadly. Um, exercise is fantastic for the brain. We’re not talking enough about resistance training. So resistance training or lack thereof is something else that can lead to the brain aging process. And then thirdly, what are you putting into your body?

No, I hate to say it because I’m a, uh, I’m a wine. I’m a, a red wine enthusiast. Maybe one, I would have probably about two or three glasses a week if that maximum, but I like red wine. Um, unfortunately alcohol or ethanol, the active ingredient. Alcohol is not good for our brain. Um, and then nutrition.

Sometimes we are not focused on what is good for our brain. We’re trying, we’re focused more so on what to. We know to eliminate sugar, refined sugar is not good for your brain. Um, and there’s other things in not for your brain. We focus so much on that instead of focusing on what is good for it. Like the, the, a omega three fatty acids, like the, um, plant polyphenols.

Um, and I’m a look. And when it comes to diet, I’m, uh, I don’t prescribe to any strict protocol. I, I eat meat, I eat dairy. I drink a lot of water. I eat chocolate 

Rachel Scheer: chocolate. Chocolate’s a great polyphenol. Actually, they had that in diet chocolate, dark chocolate in particular, not, not the milk chocolate kind of stuff.

So focusing on sleep first and foremost, and, um, I think. So many of us are, are lacking in that category. I can definitely attest to it. And it’s like try to be creative, try to be productive, try to be any of those things that we want to, to operate on a high level when we are neglecting our sleep. And I think sometimes the thought process is.

Especially coming from like the world of being a, a high performer, being an entrepreneur of, you know, just minimize sleep, wake up early. But as soon as I actually started to make my sleep part of my business plan, I actually started to. Be that much more creative, get more done, feel less triggered throughout the day.

Feel less of that. Just like stress that, that burnout, um, less headaches even as well too. So I think it’s incredibly important to talk about, you know, just sleep and that’s where a lot of like the healing actually really does take place for the brain even as well, too. 

Louisa Nicola: Correct. So we have four stages of sleep.

Some people call it five, which is the awake stage. I call it four. And, um, the first three stages. So we’ve got N one, which is when we’re in light sleep. N two does the next stage, N three is our deepest stage of sleep. And if you look at this on an AEG and you’re in a sleep lab where you’ll see these big waves, okay.

These are called slow. Okay, so it’s called S Ws, slow wave, sleep, deep sleep. During this process, this is where we get the, we, we get many things that happen, but one of them is the secretion of these hormones. And for men, it would be predominantly testosterone. And we also get human growth hormone. This is why babies, you know, that’s why they say never, never wake a, never wake a baby because that’s when they’re getting, you know, during the sleep that’s when they’re getting a lot of their human growth hormone helps them grow.

So we get this okay. Human growth, hormone responsible for protein synthesis and in. You can look at a man. Okay. You can look at a man in their fifties, six, still, even below that. If they’ve got man boobs, generally a sign that they’re secreting too much estrogen and not enough testosterone, meaning you can ask them.

I ask all of my, I call them athletes by my portfolio manager. If I look at them, maybe without a shirt, um, I’ll say you don’t sleep well, do you? So, um, you know, deep sleep is, is incredibly important. And then we move on to REM sleep. That’s where a lot of things such as memory formation happens, and we need these stages of sleep.

They help our brain heal from trauma. They help us the next day with our thinking our cognitive abilities. But you did mention something earlier and something else that happens during, uh, slow wave sleep. As we have this activation of the glymphatic system, it’s basically a surge system for the brain.

And what happens is out. There’s another brain cell called the glial cell. Named after the Greek word for glue, what happens is they’re they’re like this and then they shrink. And when they shrink, it allows room for the cerebral spinal flow to go through and clean out all of those toxins. So you wake up and you feel good and you don’t have brain fog and you can think better and you can act better.

You have more emotional control. So. So huge in getting into deep sleep and getting into REM sleep so we can have a better performing brain the next day. Sadly, what we see, uh, without activation of this glymphatic system, we can build up, you know, over time you can build up little tiny lesions. Okay. When you look at our brain under the microscope, you look at the brain of a, of an Alzheimer’s disease patients, uh, Alzheimer’s disease patient.

What they, what you see is you have a build up of these proteins called TA proteins. Okay. Phosphorolated TA proteins in the form of plaques and tangles, and they get kind of like clumped together and that then stops them from going into. You know, sleep. So a lot of Alzheimer’s disease patients can’t get into deep sleep.

And then it’s funny because if you, if you don’t get enough deep sleep and REM sleep, then it could lead to these dementia. So it’s like this bidirectional loop and, um, it’s scary. So yeah, sleep so many things happen during sleep. It’s a beautiful process. 

Rachel Scheer: It is. And do you believe that some people can get by on left sleep?

Because I’ve heard that so many times from clients they’re like, I only need five hours of sleep every single night. I only need, you know, X amount. Like they say, they feel physically fine. Do you think that is a true statement that some people can get by, maybe get by maybe that. A better word they can get by, but they’re not gonna be, you know, in their highest performance when it comes to their brain health, their mental health, their creativity, um, just like their overall energy and wellbeing that they feel throughout 

Louisa Nicola: the day.

No. Um, there is a select few people in the world. I think it’s like maybe 1% or 2%. I got the figures of the population that, um, I born with this genetic makeup that allows them to have six hours of sleep a night, which is the same as any normal person getting out eight hours. But no, I think if you’re, you’re doing yourself a disservice, if you’re sleeping, In every way, shape or form.

So no. 

Rachel Scheer: So 1% of the population guys though, so that means 99% of you eat at least above six hours of sleep, ideally seven to eight hours every single night. To really optimize your mental health and overall wellbeing. You mentioned also to lack of resistance training in particular, not mm-hmm, cardio not getting on the treadmill every single day.

I know for myself, like I feel good after I do some cardio, I get outside, I get some sunlight, get some vitamin D get some blood flow going to my brain. But you said specifically, Weight training. How come weight training in relative to cardio being better for mental health? 

Louisa Nicola: Well, I wouldn’t say mental health.

Okay. Okay. I like to separate brain health. I’m talking about the hardware of the brain, um, rather than the, the, the mental aspects. So when it comes to brain function specifically, I do believe it favors resistance training because when we do, when it comes to brain health and cardio respiratory training, what we see is that we have this massive release.

When you go in and do a long run, for example, AUR endurance event, we see that you get a release of BDNF brain derived neurotropic factor, which is a growth factor for the brain. That’s great. But when we resistance stream, we get, uh, an array of different hormones that are secreted things such as CFEs and B IGF one.

We get, um, the release of Mykines they’re muscle based proteins that can then act on endocrine and metabolic pathways, which can have an effect on cognitive performances. One particular hormone is RIS. Harrison is this beautiful hormone that was only founded in 2012 of what was named after the Greek God, Iris, who is a messenger to the gods.

And that’s what it does. It acts as a messenger. And in fact, it can cross the blood brain barrier, even if it’s not leaky, it can cross it and act on these, uh, on these cognitive processes. And we just don’t see these being secreted from, uh, aerobic exercise. We also get BDNF as well, just not large amounts of it.

So these things are so incredibly important for the brain, the blood brain barrier, and can really starve off things such as the dementias, Neurogen diseases, um, and even other forms of, of diseases, Ms. Et cetera. We’re now I think the, the, the literature is still young, but it’s there. 

Rachel Scheer: Hmm. Have you seen any connection between.

Skeletal muscle mass and overall brain health as well too, because part of my, my brain starts to think about how, you know, our, our brain is also a muscle, um, as well, too, in a lot of different ways and how a lot of. Whether it’s bodybuilders or athletes who focus on resistance training, they have a little bit more of an abundance of skeletal muscle mass.

They’re typically eating a higher protein diet as well too. Have you seen any kind of connection between skeletal muscle mass in particular and brain health? 

Louisa Nicola: Yeah. I, um, you know, when it comes to skeletal muscle, we see that there is higher skeletal mass. I’ve started saying skeletal, by the way, cuz in Australia we say skeletal skeletal.

Yes. Skeletal. We say estrogen and I’ve started just on this for your audience. I’m I’m now saying it in the American way, but we know that skeletal muscle mass can, um, have an effect or a correlation to all cause mortality. So the more muscle mass you have. Uh, basically, you know, the longer and better you will live and what my belief.

You know, there’s probably many different reasons for this and the science, but there’s one that I will pull out. And it is because of a, you become more insulin resistant when you, when you have more, um, more muscle, because it becomes like a, a dumping ground for glucose. So if, you know, if you looked at someone who has, you know, four, 4% body, uh, skeletal muscle, as opposed to someone who has.

40%. The one who has 40% will probably dump glucose better and they won’t get those massive glucose spikes, postprandial glucose spikes, as opposed to the one who’s got four, 4%, because they’ve got a better storage ground. That’s one. And the second one is it holds a lot of mitochondria and mitochondria live.

Obviously we have them in ourselves. We have them in our brain cells. That’s what give us energy. And I think if we. Keep that going become more energy efficient, grow mitochondria via mitochondria or biogenesis. Then we are gonna be better off from a neurological perspective, from a longevity perspective, um, from a health perspective.

And there is just so much health in muscle. And I, in fact, I try every day to work on building muscle mass and I’ve even been doing it the wrong way. You know, I haven’t been focusing on the correct sets and reps and, um, I need to change that up now. 

Rachel Scheer: Yeah. I truly believe like focusing on skeletal muscle mass really is one of the best ways that we can prevent against premature aging.

We tend to think of skeletal muscle mass. For locomotion looking good, naked, right. Helping with like athletic performance. But it it’s incredible. The studies that they’ve done on skeletal muscle mass with what you’re mentioning with overall brain health, um, glucose disposal, helping with that insulin sensitivity.

And you talked about at the beginning, how, you know, the brain, when it runs on keytones in particular, um, it ends up being very, very healing for the brain, even in so many different ways. And. Uh, people who are following the standard American diet are eating a lot of sugar, processed carbohydrates, all of these things that can really, really negatively impact our brain, the blood flow, just our brain’s ability to heal overall.

So it’s really interesting how. Working on really a lot of the basics, um, of just like overall wellbeing and health, getting resistance training, building skeletal, muscle mass, um, getting in enough water, staying hydrated, getting some electrolytes, getting enough sleep. Every single night or, or as much as possible.

And then, um, giving our body brain boosting nutrients, omega threes, EPA DHA, ALA, vitamin D getting outside, getting sunlight, all of these things like our body wants to thrive. It, it really, really does. And I think when we can give our body. What it needs. Like we have an incredible ability to heal overall, but it does come down to removing the things that are causing disruption.

And I know we do focus a lot on like cut all of these foods out, but there’s so many things that we really do need to focus on adding in. And that is really just lifestyle. You know, we’re always looking for like this quick fix, what is this neutropic that I could take to boost my mental health? What. A medication I can take.

I know so many people who are addicted now to things like Adderall, other types of medications, just to like have that level of concentration that they want. And I’m a big believer that there’s nothing wrong with the pill, but we really do need to be more pro root cause what is really going on? What is causing these issues in the first place?

What is causing maybe some of the. The mental health issues that we’re dealing with. Some of the, the decline, the memory issues, the, the TBI, all of these things, we can still take a functional root cause approach. And I think with what you’re doing, you really are taking more of that functional root cause approach to really helping people heal, helping people heal the brain.

And with Western medicine, I had my fair share, you know, going that route. And I was. Put on an antidepressant. And I was put on all of these different things. Actually, I was put on an antidepressant at the age of 14 even. Well, my brain was like still developing. I was just like a moody teenager, just like all of us are going through puberty, acne, all of these things.

And, um, I was actually on it. For over 10 years on an SSRI. And when I got into functional medicine as an adult, I was really able to give my body what it needed to heal, work on things like my gut health focus on sleep, focus on, you know, just really. Paying attention to the foods that I was putting my body.

I was into resistance trading, body, building all of that in combination. And it allowed me to get off of a medication that I honestly felt like I was gonna be dependent on for most of my life. Cuz there was this massive fear that I had of, I got on this while I was so young. I got on this when I was 14 years old.

Well, my brain was still developing and I had tried even in college to get off of it and I felt awful. Um, I had all of those brain ZPS and symptoms of when you’re coming off of something that is causing, um, serotonin to be maintained in the brain. So I think even for people to heal or hear how they can really be an advocate for healing their brain and it.

Always necessarily meaning like you need to go this fancy route, go to all of these different physicians and there’s nothing wrong with that, but we can really start with the basics. We can start with getting more sleep, getting more sunlight, um, getting the right nutrition, eating foods that love our body back.

Instead of focusing on, you know, eating quick convenient foods, processed foods. Staying hydrated. And I think it’s amazing when we, we start to do that, literally the effect that we will see just in our, our clarity, our productivity, um, our body, our energy throughout the entire day. Um, but I am curious of your thoughts when it does come to medications like that, like SSRIs and how that really affects the brain in the 

Louisa Nicola: long.

Yeah. When you were just talking, I was thinking about two things, a, the disruption in the gut microbiome due to SSRIs and B. When we look at things like if we do a sleep analysis, uh, and we figure out, well, what’s kicking you out of REM sleep, what’s kicking you out of deep sleep. One of the biggest indicators of that other than sunlight and alcohol is neuropsychiatric, uh, medications such as SSRIs.

They actually don’t allow you to dip into these, um, these wonderful sleep processes. So long term, you know, There’s some amazing research. Now that’s being done to replace SSRIs with things such as heat shock proteins. So, um, in the form of getting into a sauna four or five days a week, getting really, really hot and what it’s shown, um, and this I’ve done a podcast with Dr.

Charles raison is a neurologist and he’s a psychiatrist I believe. And he’s doing a lot of work in this area to see how can we. Eliminate SSRIs. Um, And he’s basically what he’s found is that his cohort of he got, um, depressed individuals who were on Prozac and he put them in, you know, he put them in a, a heat chamber for like five days a week, I think.

And what he found was that they were able to have the same effects from the sauna as what a Prozac gave them. So I think that’s, um, that’s really something to be explored as well. And then I’m really fond of which I can’t delve into deeply because I don’t know too much about it, but I’m really fond of, um, you.

Things such as lions, Maine, and, you know, mushrooms and, and things like this, you know, psychedelics a psychedelic space. How can this have an effect on psychiatric, um, impediments? So I’m excited to see the research behind, behind 

Rachel Scheer: that. I love that you mentioned the sauna portion because I got a sauna in my house about a month ago.

So every single morning, an infrared sauna, not an infrared sauna, we are gonna put the infrared part in it, but we have a dry or, um, wet sauna. And, uh, I actually do all of my reading in journaling, so I could double the brain boosting benefits in the morning. Wow. Just kind of combining everything in there.

I feel like I’m able actually to have a greater level of focus when I read and I journal. Sitting in the sauna. So that’s just a part of my morning routine that I do every single day. And I can truly say, like, I’ve felt incredible doing that in the morning time, just giving my brain new information to learn, which I think is also super, super crucial as well, too for just overall brain health.

And then also sitting in the sauna every single day. Um, you actually answered what was gonna be one of my next questions though, which was talking about some, you. Tips to achieve peak mental performance. And I think that is where you can add in some of those cool things. Like you’ve mentioned like lions main mushrooms, what are some of those things for the listeners who maybe they’re they’re listening and they’re like, I have no idea what lions main are, mushrooms, what are these things?

And what do they really actually like do for the brain? But I will say, I think still. We have to focus on the basics first, because if you’re not getting sleep, you’re not getting sunlight. You’re eating processed food diet, and you’re dehydrated. If you add in a lot of these things, it’s, it’s gonna not help.

Probably correct. 

Louisa Nicola: Well, yeah. I, I always say work on mother nature’s sunlight. Sleep hydration and good nutrition. We’re always searching for the best new Tropic and people wanna go out and drink this formula and eat this, but they haven’t got the, they haven’t like looked on the ground level. You know, only you look at a pyramid.

Okay. You look at this pyramid. Everyone wants to start at like the top, the, the top part of the pyramid, instead of starting at the bottom, you really have to start at the bottom. It takes a long time. It’s not like, oh yeah, I slept well last night. So I’m just gonna go now and I can ha no, you probably won’t need to have new tropics in your life unless you are a LeBron James.

Really, unless you are wanting to go and maybe work, you know, you know, some, uh, surgeons who are doing 16 hour surgeries, it’s like, well, maybe, you know, they definitely need to, but if you just see everyday person just work on the basics that have been given to you in this. And then one other form that I speak about actual neuro athletics is derived from this type of exercise called neuromotor training, which is literally getting hand eye coordination, coupled with thinking and reaction time training.

If you can be doing this, you’re gonna be exercising different areas of the brain. You’re gonna be able to be firing better and, and. You know, all those areas of the brain that we spoke about, all those, uh, you know, frontal load parital low box Al lobe, all these different lobes. And we’re actually coming out with, um, at neuro athletics, we’re actually coming out with a number of, um, these, these exercises, neuro athletics exercises that people can do in their own home with just two tennis poles.

Rachel Scheer: Hmm. So a lot of specific brain related exercises that people can do in their home. Yeah. 

Louisa Nicola: That’s exactly right. That’s pretty from the, from the, from the five year old to the 95 year old and beyond. That’s 

Rachel Scheer: amazing. That’s amazing. Yeah. Where can people learn a little bit more about what you do with, um, focusing on mental performance, peak athletic performance?

Louisa Nicola: You can go to my Instagram and I say that because I have a link on there for everything it’s Louisa Nicola. Underscore because somebody has that name. Um, and if you go to my bio, there is a, there’s a link that takes you to everything. We’ve got a podcast, we’ve got a weekly newsletter, which we distribute with so much information on it.

Rachel Scheer: That’s incredible. You guys, please go check out, uh, Luisa and learn more about what she’s doing with neural athletics. Um, it’s something that is very brand new to me specifically with learning more about how, you know, the athletics and brain health can really, really be combined here. But I think the work that you’re doing Luisa is really incredible, especially at a time where I think.

Mental health. And I know that’s still different than brain health, but you know, mental health issues really is at an all time high. And I think starting with addressing the brain, working on healing, the brain can help exponentially with our mental health can help overall with our quality of life. And that’s really what we’re all trying to do here is we’re trying to create the life that we want to wake up excited every single day to feel good, to feel good in our relationships, to get sleep, to feel excited about that work, the work that we’re getting to do, but it really does come down to everything that she’s.

Talked about here today, taking care of us, doing, doing the basics, getting the sunlight, staying hydrated, getting sleep, you know, removing the things that are causing disruption in our body. But then once we do those things, there are some pretty fun and cool things we can really, really do to optimize, you know, our brain health, um, take more of our preventative or root cause based approach.

And especially if you are somebody who knows somebody who suffer. From a TBI, other type of brain related issues, you know, definitely encourage them to listen to this podcast. Um, send them over to Louisa’s, uh, Instagram page on her website, all about neuro athletics, because this is really, really a life changing topic.

I know for. So many different people. So I appreciate you coming on my show here today. Louisa, it’s been incredible. I could pick your brain. Uh, speaking about brains for so much longer, so thank you for much, so much for coming on. Today’s 

Louisa Nicola: show Rachel. You’re amazing. I love what you’re putting out there and thank you for having me.

Rachel Scheer: All right. You guys, this has been sheer madness.

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