Welcome everyone to another exciting episode of Get Yourself Optimized, I’m your host, Stephan Spencer. Today, I’m here with Shaahin Cheyenne. Am I pronouncing that correctly?
So he’s the CEO and chairman of Accelerated Intelligence, that’s a brain nutrition startup. He’s also the inventor of Herbal Ecstasy, which was a smart drug from a while back. He started experimenting with making smart drugs in his teens, I believe.
That’s right, I started when I was about 15-16 years old.
That’s pretty amazing. So you’re also an award-winning filmmaker. You had a production company that produced a documentary about the Aztecs. You’re just an all-around interesting guy. A brain hacker, a biohacker, serial entrepreneur, you’ve done multiple startups. You’ve also done some high-level consulting to the pharmaceutical industry on smart drugs as well.
So you’ve been in this field for a long time, experimenting with different supplements and herbs, and so forth. And as you said, you started herbal ecstasy at 15 years old. How did that occur? How did you essentially become a brain hacker when you were a teenager?
I started when I was 15-16 years old. And I started this company called Herbal Ecstasy, and we developed what was one of the first real mainstream smartpelt. Herbal Ecstasy grew in popularity so much that by the time I was 16, the company was earning around $360 million in revenue. We were probably the largest supplement company at the time. The products got out, they went all over the world, we were in the club scene, we were in the party scene, we were in the rave scene, but we were also in places like GNC, 7/11, Urban Outfitters. We really managed to penetrate the market with what was a really potent geotropic at the time.
So you had this $350 million business as a teenager. Were you running this? Had you hired a CEO?
This is before Al Gore invented the internet, so we had no website or anything like that. I had close to 200 employees. We had offices in several countries. I moved on from it. I exited it in the late 90s, partially speaking, always kept a foot in it, but mostly moved on to other things. I subsequently mentioned the vaporizer. I think a lot of listeners might be familiar with. I started a vaporizer company called Vapir that went public recently. They just had an IPO, I haven’t really been watching their stock, but I think they are the first vaporizer company, not an e-cig company, to go public. I’m about to oversee that. Subsequent to that I just moved along to oversee around 200 products and do consulting for some companies that if they wanted to move their products, inhalation driven products, I’ve just been keeping up with that.
That’s an amazing story. So define for our listeners a smart drug. It is not a drug in the recreational drug sort of sense, and it is not a prescription either. It is an enhancement tool. Maybe if you could just define for our listeners. If you could tell us what this means: smart drug.
A smart drug is the intersection of pharmaceuticals and natural supplements.
In our field, we call them nutraceuticals and it is sort of the intersection of pharmaceuticals and natural supplements. All those smart drugs can refer to a large category that we call nootropics, that protect the brain, improve neuro-generation, help improve memory, focus, concentration, and alertness. That’s what our area of focus is. We are calling them smart pills or smart drugs, I don’t like to use the term drugs. That’s the area we are talking about.
So the uninitiated may remember the movie “limitless” as really the only exposure to nootropics. What is the reality vs. the fiction of the “limitless” sort of drug?
So there is nothing that I have seen, and I’ve been around for a while and researched both pharmaceutical drugs, neutraceutical drugs, natural herbs, things that you inhale, things that are injectable, snort, things that you do all types of different ways, liquids, solids, etc. There really is no “philosopher’s stone” when it comes to nootropics. There is nothing you can take that will give you immediate superhuman powers without any recourse. There are things that can do what the limitless pill does better than the limitless pill. If you remember in the movie, the limitless pill came with all kinds of side effects.
In some ways, the reality with harsher pharma drugs, drugs all have serious side effects. What we look at is if there is something that can help me improve my brain and my body, what are the benefits, and what are the risks, and do the benefits outweigh the risks. That is what we look at. With pharma drugs across the board, even though they do end up working for some people to some extent, people do end up paying the price if not now somewhere down the line. With supplements, nutraceuticals, and products that are more natural and not synthesized in a lab like pharma drugs, we can avert a lot of those heavy side effects, liver damage, all those things that come with pharma drugs, and still retain a pretty good ability to incrementally increase our cognition, memory, focus, concentration, alertness, and overall well-being.
What are your thoughts around Brain Octane, coconut oils, and things that BulletProof provides in pill form? You offer from your company Excelerol. I just got back from a trip so I haven’t started it, but thank you for hooking me up with a 3 month supply. I’m going to give it a go. I hear good things, so I’m excited to give it a go. How does something like a fish oil supplement or a coconut oil supplement compare and contrast, or how do these dovetail into one another? Do you want to do both? Do you want to do a sort of BulletProof coffee in the morning, do you want to not worry about that and just do Excelerol in a pill form?
These are great questions. I can address the BulletProof coffee question. For those listeners who don’t know what it is, it is usually a mixture of coffee and highly concentrated fatty oils, usually derived from coconut, or from butter, milkfat, animal fat. The fat helps prolong the effects of the caffeine. There are a lot of these type of coffee drinks out there, a lot of people are swearing by it, but as a testament to caffeine as a stimulant, which is probably one of the most popular nootropics out there that most people take is caffeine. The thing we are learning about caffeine now is that the body does build a tolerance to it. For most people, I believe, it is more important when you take your caffeine and what you take it with than if you are using fats to carry it through the body and prolong the effects of it. All the research we’ve done in nootropics brings us to one thing, and that thing is cortisol.
Cortisol is a degenerative hormone, it is a stress hormone that the body releases, it really is a fantastic thing when we are in a fight or flight situation. When we are running from a lion or a bear or your favorite animal and you have to get out of there, cortisol kicks itself up in the body and moves to the areas it needs to move to, and you are running like a bat out of hell. And that’s great. The problem is in our modern-day lives, we are constantly at stress. Cortisol is actually a neurodegenerative hormone. What that means is that it actually degrades your brain function. And rapidly. Having caffeine in moments when you have high cortisol release in the body not only builds up immunity but increases those neurodegenerative effects of cortisol on the body. So, what we recommend is the times that you take your caffeine are essential. Most people take it in the morning, which is a really tough habit to break but has been shown that cortisol is actually highest in the morning. And that is one of the main reasons that people build up tolerance.
There is nothing you can take that will give you immediate superhuman powers without any recourse.
Most people who drink multiple cups of coffee during the day starting out really early in the morning will notice that their effects from the coffee actually don’t last very long, they are just doing it to maintain a level. Now, this is one of the main reasons, bringing in your second question, contains caffeine. I imagine people can go to your site and they can get a link to it, spelled Excelerol, Excelerol is a combination of different types of caffeine, but it is also combined with an ingredient called L-theanine. L-theanine is found in green tea, and it is the ingredient that creates a sense of well-being. Now, the interesting thing about L-theanine, it actually lowers cortisol levels, or it is known to alter cortisol levels. Combining that with your caffeine and taking it at the right time and in mixture with the other ingredients that are in Excelerol, actually produce quite a different array of effects that are shown in the short term, medium-term, and long term from solely caffeine intake or using fat intake to prolong the effects.
You mentioned L-theanine, are there other ingredients that are either protective of your brain or performance-enhancing?
So, as amino acids go, yes. There are a lot of amino acids and I actually think that amino acids are some of the most promising things out there. Certain ingredients, particularly in the amino acids family have shown a lot of promise, and we feature a lot of those things in Excelerol. There are so many really great amino acids. This is one of the areas that I tell people often. It’s true, my company makes brain pills, what I think is the best brain pill out there. There is so much stuff out there, people end up taking, we have a mutual friend who ends up taking 30-40 pills a day. We saw him up on stage talking about it.
And it is overall very confusing to people. What they’ll do is they’ll go out and do research on one thing and they’ll buy it and then they’ll be like “Oh my gosh, look at research on this other thing”. And next thing they know, they’ve got 20 supplements and they have no idea how they fit and piece together. And maybe not receiving all the benefits they could with a single supplement. This is how Excelerol is so powerful, we feel. All the research is done by medical doctors, we’ve got close to around 100 doctors around the world that have looked into the product and researched it, and it is a very simple thing to do. You take 1 pill 3 times per day and you are done.
I think Excelerol is a one-stop shop for nootropics.
Right, but that doesn’t mean you shouldn’t also take coconut oil or brain octane or something like that because you’re not getting all the oils from the pill, and oils from fish oil, coconut oil is also a brain protectant, correct?
That’s a really great question – what else do you need? For nootropics, I think Excelerol is a one-stop-shop for nootropics. All you need as far as nootropics go. if you have another specific health condition, you might be taking supplements for that, but for a normal person, and a person in generally good health, wondering what else they need to take, I know getting a whole food diet, and getting most of your nutrients from whole foods, as clean as possible, lean meat, lean protein, low on the refined carbs, cutting out the trans fats, the animal products, you can get most of the nutrients you need.
Now, if you are a vegetarian or vegan, which I was for many years, and I think is an alarming fad that is happening right now, you do need to take other things to supplement. With that said, there are 2 things, and you hit one of them right on the nose and that is fish oil. Somewhat difficult to get, unless you eat a lot of a certain kind of food. You can get a good amount from eating fresh salmon or fresh lake fish. But that is a very easy pill to get, you can order something from a big brand, something reliable and trustable, and use it. The second thing I recommend is probiotics, a good probiotic that can help the gut microbiome, we are learning more and more now that this is directly related to brain function. You can also get this from whole foods. Yogurt, kefir, fermented vegetables, fermented coconut water. There is no specific need to take a pill for that.The thing that I recommend is probiotic. A good probiotic that can help the gut microbiome, and this is directly related to brain function. Click To Tweet
I personally haven’t been taking probiotics but I have been thinking maybe I should start. I don’t usually eat yogurt. I’m probably low on probiotics. Speaking of your gut biome, I think it is a good idea to get your gut biome tested to see what the health is of that gut bacteria. There are services like UBiome, I just signed up with them. Any other services or resources that you would recommend to check on your health, your various kinds of quantified self sort of movement?
A great company that is launching shortly is VitaGene. VitaGene basically just does that. They check your DNA and make supplement suggestions based on your DNA. This is a company that is going to be launching I think fairly soon. Their website is MyVitaGene.com. That would be one that I would recommend. I do know that they have a very high-profile advisory board, a lot of very high-profile science that went into this, so that is an awesome company if you want to do genetic testing.
I did genetic testing a while back when 23andme was still allowed by the FDA to give health reporting. So what would be the actions you might test? Well, what if your family has a genetic history of Alzheimer’s disease, for example. Or what if some rare form of cancer. Maybe there it is kind of obvious there are genes associated with a certain disease, but in general, what do you do with this big long report run by this genetics test? Do you get it read by a doctor or geneticist? Do you do it yourself? Do you go online and run it some sort of tool?
These guys, the VitaGene guys, I’ve had long talks with them, I am actually on their advisory board. VitaGene actually has doctors on staff that will look at your results that I think are done by a bunch of genetics companies. You send in your swab, and they get the results back, they analyze it, and you get a session with a doctor where the doctor tells you what you should do based on your genetics. That’s the whole thing they are doing which I thought was pretty cool. The bigger answer is that I’m not qualified to go into all of this, but there is a lot of genetic science coming out that talks about editing DNA and a new upcoming technology that scientists are over the moon about is this thing called CRISPR. Have you heard about this?
I have. I don’t know a lot about it. I actually have a degree, a master’s in biochemistry. I was studying for my Ph.D. before I started getting into internet marketing and then I dropped out. I don’t really keep up, it’s been a while. But I have heard of it.
It’s basically, from a highly uneducated layman explaining a very highly specific scientific method, it involves editing DNA to the point where we can target genes that cause autism, genes that cause prostate cancer. We can alter all of these things. And the exciting thing about it is, all of this is not 5 years away, this is 2 years away. In 2 years, we are going to fully harness this ability and it is very very promising. This kind of science seems to be really growing and expanding exponentially. Anyone with a serious health condition, if you could just hold on for 2 years, there is a pretty good chance that they are going to be able to handle most things. If you can hang on for 5 years, you’re in pretty good shape. If you can hang on for 10 years, I couldn’t imagine anything they wouldn’t be able to address.
Yeah. So you mentioned autism, and here’s a thing that seems to be becoming an epidemic. It is really taking over our country, as is Alzheimer’s. These two diseases seem to be running rampant through our population. Are there some environmental factors, do you think here, that are triggering this, or is it more of a perfect storm of genetics plus environment? What do you think is happening here? And what is someone to do who is somehow touched by either of these 2 diseases? Perhaps for a listener, they may have a mom or a dad who is starting to get Alzheimer’s. What would you recommend?
Interestingly enough that is a really a tough one. I think we talked about autism and then we moved onto Alzheimer’s, You know, completely separate things but both have to do with brain neurology. What we are learning more and more these days is that the brain is plastic. And what I mean by that is, a fantastic book by Martin Dodge titled “The Brain that Changes Itself“. He is a fantastic neuroscientist that wrote this game-changing book that talks about how in we used to think the brain was developed o be this rigid thing. However, you could lose 50% of your brain and still be a functioning human. The reason for this is that the brain is an adaptive organ. It can actually adapt. A lot of this has to do with the book. And in my book, “The Brain that Changes Everything“, I also go into that, you can get a free copy of that on Amazon, or it might be like a dollar. And you can read up on that. But what we are learning also is that there are certain nutrients that the deficiency of hasn’t been proven to the causes of the diseases. But the addition to these seems to help prevent these conditions.
Caffeine, in particular, seems to be very promising for Parkinson’s and early onset Alzheimers. Again, one thing I talk about is the source of the caffeine. Not all caffeine is created equal, and not taking it at the right time and not taking the right kind, could lead to no benefits. The caffeine from tea, because it is mixed with things like L-theanine, tends to be much higher quality and have far more beneficial effects in the human body for people with those type of conditions. People who have brain conditions swear by it. And we have a lot of people who have things like ADD, ADHD, and they have seen really great results. Being a supplement, the United States, we are not allowed to make any claims about our products. We can’t say that it cures or diagnoses any disease. So we don’t say that. We pretty much let people try the product themselves and come to their own conclusion about what it does for them.
At the end of the day, I also bring it back to science. There is a lot of woo-woo out there, a lot of bad science. We don’t really just want the money and are willing to sell you anything. But if you look at a product and think it might be interesting, the only way you are going to find out if it is going to work for you is if you try it. And if you do your research, research the ingredients. But if you research it, you feel good about the company, you start taking it, and see some results, I can’t say that anybody can argue with that.
Right. A little while ago you were saying that to not overdo it in terms of caffeine because if you take it regularly at the wrong time and you don’t take a break, you lose the benefits. So you cycle your caffeine, or if you use Excelerol, how do you cycle that? What do you recommend for a cycling regimen?
Right, so caffeine is one of those things that works better when it is cycled. Take it for 2 weeks, 3 weeks, when you first start taking it, start with a month on, and cycle when you are taking it just to see which time works best for you. Then take a week off. Then start again. Then, break it up. A couple of days off, couple of days on. Couple of days off, couple of days on. And you can just play with that. There’s no hard and fast system to what works best, what works on who. Even if I were to give you exactly when to take it and in what cycle, it would be different for everybody. We can leave it at, people can just try what they can and see what works for them.
Let’s talk for a moment about adrenal fatigue. Because this is a huge problem for a number of people, there’s getting too much stress, they are stimulating their body with too many bad stimulants and just not taking good care of their bodies, and their adrenals are taking a huge hit. How big of an issue is this? How does one address it, ameliorate it, and in general avoid it?
Caffeine is one of those things that works better when it is cycled.
Adrenal fatigue, again, cycling is a huge part of that. Again, what you’re doing is cycling your nootropics and cycling your caffeine and that helps a lot. Then there are two other factors that I tell everybody about, and generally, people don’t want to hear about his. They go “yeah yeah yeah yeah” but it’s so important. There is a fantastic book written a while ago called “Spark”, and it studies the effects of exercise on the brain. One of the discoveries they made, in just one small group, women over the age of 30, exercise alone is more effective – and this is a shocking scientific study – controlled, double-blind, placebo tested study – exercise is far more effective than pharmaceutically approved drugs for women for depression. Now, if all women across the board exercise instead of taking the pharmaceutical drug. And there’s a protocol to how much you exercise, you have to get your heart rate up actually break a sweat and it either has to be done for longer stretches of exercise or short bursts of time. You could actually do without pharmaceutical drugs for that particular condition.
Now, one thing I tell people is exercise and two is diet. Diet is essential. Eating plenty of whole foods. Reducing your carb intake, which has the capacity to increase cortisol levels. Reducing your intake of refined sugars and processed foods. Eliminating or reducing nitrates in your diet. These are all things you can do. Increasing the amount of fermented foods in your diet. increasing your amount of superfoods like eggs, which are amazing superfood. If you do these every day, you’re getting your Omega – 3’s you’re getting your protein, there are so many nutrients you are getting from that. And you know, just good clean eating and aggressive exercise daily. And cycling and taking, and by cycling, I don’t mean bicycling although that is a good fitness regimen as well. Cycling your nootropics and timing out your nootropics. I think that has the greatest potential of reducing the type of degradation caused by adrenal fatigue or neural degeneration. That’s really what we do at Accelerated Intelligence.
We realize in the last 36 minutes we’ve been talking, both of us have lost a large number of brain cells. And the interesting thing is, we are continuing to lose them as we speak. So, the process really takes this into account of how do we stop that? How do we stop that degradation? Two: How do we improve our brain as it exists. So, one is how do we stop the neural degradation and two how do we actually improve and increase and stimulate our brain to be optimized in the best way possible without doing damage to our body and brain and taking all kinds of weird stuff so we’ll grow horns and have 12 kinds of cancer.
How do you get into a flow state? And what do you do to get into that flow state other than you’re taking your Excelerol, you’re exercising, you’re doing these things we’ve been talking about. But many folks don’t understand the power of flow and what that exactly means because a person in a flow state can accomplish a week’s worth of work in a day if they stay in that flow state the entire day. So, what is the secret behind flow and getting into it and staying there?
That’s a really good question. I guess the best way I can answer that personally for me, I realized a while ago that we all have the same amount of hours in a day. No matter who you are, that is constant. Bill Gates, or anybody out there, has the same amount of hours as you. The optimized hours I think is what differs. I also realize that during the workday, even though I have those 8 hours, 10 hours, whatever amount I’m working, only a small amount of those are usable in what you call the flow state, where I am at my best and able to produce the best work. The hours that I am not at my best, I focus on actually doing physical tasks. Running my errands, if there is anything that requires my physical presence there, that is when I am doing it. And when I am at my best, which is usually after a light meditation or a light nap, it is never after a meal. And what I do is, I optimize those. Usually around 45 minutes before I take an Excelerol capsule, I usually do that about an hour after my lunch. I take a 10-15 minute nap. And then when I awake from the nap and the Excelerol is kicking in, I am usually at my best. I can have a little matcha tea and power through it and I can do more in the next 2 hours or even in the next 60 minutes what most people can do in 8 hours of mixed efficiency.
So matcha, I don’t think I’ve had matcha before. For those of you who haven’t heard it before, why include that?
Oh, you’re going to love it. So matcha is actually an amazing alternative to coffee. If anyone is looking to get into the BulletProof thing, you can make bulletproof matcha without the adrenal fatigue or jitteriness that can come with coffee. Matcha is a type of green tea that comes from China then moved onto Japan. Full disclosure, my company, we are the largest producer of matcha tea in the country, so I say this partially out of self-interest, but other part just out of sheer passion and how much I love matcha. Matcha is a shade-grown, enhanced, process, powdered green tea. The difference between matcha and normal green tea and why matcha can be 10x more effective is that with matcha you are actually drinking the powder. And in the powder lies 10x or more of the nutrients than the tea.
Normally when you use tea, you steep the leaves and throw it out. Matcha is like a high-efficiency version of that. Matcha is one of the highest non-processed substances for L-theanine and a whole bunch of other nutrients. I’ve got a book out on that called “Matcha Green Tea Superfood” which is also available if you just look me up on Amazon you’ll find it, also on Smashwords. It’s amazing, it is really affordable, you can purchase it online. And you can have it a ton of ways, you can have it hot, you can have it cold, you can cook or bake with it, and it is really one of these things, that once you incorporate it into your life, you will feel benefits, for sure.
So, let’s wrap this up for everybody. What would be the 1, 2, or 3 most important takeaways or next actions users can take to improve their brain performance. I know it is kind of a summary type of question, but if you could just make a very simple little checklist that “These are the 3 things you must do to improve your brain”.
Sure, that makes sense. I actually think it is really simple. What I would like to say is “everybody go order Excelerol, it is a one-step process” but unfortunately that is not the case. So it is a 3-step process. 1 you really have to look at your supplements regime. I recommend just a 1-pill solution for you, whether it be Excelerol or be it another product you are fond of, go with that. I recommend liquid capsules because they are a great delivery method. In a way superior to powders. I recommend possibly taking fish oil and probiotic. That is really all you need. As far as supplements go. By the way, if any of your listeners are interested in trying Excelerol and they mention the Optimized Geek podcast, we’ll go ahead and offer a month free. And there is absolutely no obligation to continue. You can cancel at any time. I thought I would put that out there for you.
Exercise is far more effective than pharmaceutically approved drugs for women for depression.
The second area would be exercise. If you can afford it, get a trainer. A personal trainer is worth every cent of what you pay them. Seriously. Outside of that, if not, do get on some kind of exercise regime that you can do daily, every single day. And you’ll see great results from that. The third step is going to be getting on a diet. If you have a trainer, you can talk to them if they are knowledgeable about paleo ways of life, if they understand the sort of nutrients that will effect the brain, they should be able to pull together a fairly good program for you. If they don’t, you are going to want to do nutrition and diet books. There are a lot of really great books out there that address a lot of that stuff. Norman Dodge’s book “The Brain that Changes Itself”, he talks about that, there are a lot of tips in my book, “The Brain that Changes Everything”, there’s a recent book out by another doctor called Brain Maker, the guy that wrote Grain Brain and that also has some pretty good tips. I think that would be it. Get your Excelerol, nutrition, diet, and exercise.
Great, that is a very generous offer to our listeners. If any of you are interested in participating, that website is Excelerol.com, just mention the Get Yourself Optimized and you’ll be able to get the first month. With that, I thank Shaahin for taking this time to talk to our listeners and part your wisdom. For those of you listening, take some action for your brain, because it is the only brain you are going to get. And, the time to start is not when you are starting to see some symptoms of poor cognition, it is something you want to be on from day one. Again, thanks Shaahin, thank you listeners, and we will catch you on the next episode.
Checklist of Actionable Takeaways
Start taking a one-stop nootropic such as Excelerol.
Start an exercise regimen or get a personal trainer.
Start eating whole foods.
Time your caffeine consumption to avoid hormone degeneration during peak Cortisol hours.
Get your gut biome tested to see the health of your gut bacteria and where you can improve.
Cycle your caffeine to reduce immunity and to reap benefits-two weeks on, two weeks off, etc.
Try some Matcha tea!
Reduce or eliminate all nitrates from your diet.
Incorporate probiotics in your diet – pill or natural form – to balance your gut micro-biome.
Find your flow state – usually after a light nap or meditation, never after a meal – to get your best work done.
About Shaahin Cheyene
Shaahin Cheyene is an Iran-born American businessman, writer, and filmmaker. He wrote and directed the award-winning 2008 documentary film Serpent and the Sun: Tales of an Aztec Apprentice. He is currently the founder and current CEO of the companies Accelerated Intelligence, a maker of nutritional supplements, and Victory Films, a documentary film production company. He was the founder of the now-defunct company Global World Media, a maker of legal intoxicants. Cheyene developed several alternative medicine products, including “Herbal Ecstacy,” an ephedra-based alternative to the drug MDMA, commonly known as “ecstasy.”
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