In this article, I’ll be looking at a molecule called NAD+ and how we can raise the level of it in our bodies inexpensively or for free.
NAD (or NAD+) stands for nicotinamide adenine dinucleotide. It has many important functions in the body.
- It helps convert the energy in food molecules into a “universal energy currency” that can be utilized by our cells.
- It helps repair damaged DNA.
- It protects cells from stress.
- According to David Sinclair, NAD+ supports our sirtuin genes, which have been identified as longevity genes, designed specifically to combat aging and help us live longer. (Sirtuin genes are described as “NAD+-dependent.” They can’t do much without an ample supply of NAD+.
- We would not be alive at all without NAD.
- When we’re young, we have lots of it. As we age, NAD+ levels decrease in the body. Higher levels of are associated with better health. So supplements and treatments claiming to increase NAD+ levels are growing in popularity.
Supplements Cost $$s
Some supplements, such as NMN, are coming down in price. NMN used to be over $5 a gram, even when bought in bulk; the one I’m currently taking, DoNotAge’s bulk powdered NMN, is less than $1 a gram when purchased using their discount code. But for those who are on a tight budget, even $1 day or thereabouts can add up. So in this article I’ll be focusing on ways to raise your NAD levels at no cost.
Do We Really Need Supplements?
I take supplements, including NAD+ boosters such as NMN and NR. They’re a convenient way of restoring our NAD levels to approximate those found in young adults, and the evidence suggests they are effective. (See article.)
To me they’re worth it; they take the guesswork out of raising NAD levels. So they can be a good choice, in my opinion, to make sure we have a healthy baseline level. But I also try to raise my body’s NAD+ levels by subjecting it to enough stress to transmit the message that it’s in a survival situation — while being careful not to do actual damage I’m talking here about physical stress, not emotional, in carefully limited amounts.
We Can Raise NAD levels for free by:
The focus of this article is on ways to raise your NAD+ without spending money. But as I mentioned above, I also take supplements. I decided a couple of years ago that it made sense to me to both try to raise it by heat, cold, fasting and exercise, and to take supplements to provide the precursors needed to help the body create it as needed.
- Doing HIIT exercise (high intensity interval training.) (The trick is to exercise vigorously enough to create a temporary oxygen deficit.) In plain English: There can be benefits to getting out of breath once in a while. See study.
- One example would be running as hard and fast as you can — then walking — then running as hard and fast as you can again — then walking.
- The shifts between walking and running, between pushing ourselves to the limit and giving ourselves 15 or 20 seconds to recover, are what make out body think we may be running from a predator, and kick it into survival mode.
- Doing resistance training has also been shown to raise NMN. In one study, a group of men in their sixties were able to raise their NAD to match those of young athletes after several weeks of weightlifting.
- If there’s a medical reason that you should not be exercising, or should not be exerting yourself on this level, don’t do it. But if there’s not, doing HIIT exercise at least three days a week is a quick and easy way to start skyrocketing your NAD levels.
- For those who are unable to do HIIT, walking 10,000-15,000 steps a day also shows evidence of raising NAD.
- Doing Intermittent fasting, also known as time restricted eating. (leaving a space of at least 12 hours, preferably 16 hours, between your last meal at night and first meal the next day) If you do intermittent fasting, it’s recommended that you avoid eating in the last 3 or 4 hours before you go to bed, so that you’ll go to bed a little hungry. The absence of food in your digestive tract is what triggers your body to produce more NAD+) See article.
- Doing a four or five day water fast — or a fasting mimicking diet like the one developed by Dr. Valter Longo. Fasts and fasting mimicking diet make our NAD levels skyrocket, and they also promote a deep cleaning a cellular level called autophagy, and an even deeper cleaning called apoptosis, in which half-dead cells called senescent cells are cleaned out of the body. See article.
- As a bonus, if you do a five day fast or fasting mimicking diet, then start eating nutritious foods again, your body will replace the senescent cells it cannibalized, with thousands of new stem cells. See article.
- Cold exposure. Take a cold shower, or fill the tub with cold water then throw in some ice, climb in, and spend a few minutes shivering. See study.
- Heat exposure (saunas) See study.
- Alternating very hot and very cold stretches, in the same shower. I start most days with a contrast shower. I turn the water as hot as I can take it for about four minutes; then ice cold for a minute; then hot again, for another four; then cold for the final four minutes.
Sirtuins Matter Too
Current evidence supports the idea that sirtuin activation matters too. This means that while raising NAD has some benefits, it won’t do us a lot of good unless we activate our sirtuins. For that, it seems useful to take sirtuin gene activators such as resveratrol, fucoidan or cyanidin. See study.
I take Gaia Herbs Black Elderberry Extract along with DoNotAge’s SIRT6 Activator and resveratrol along with my NAD Boosters for that reason. See study.
Is there proof that eating foods rich fucoidan or taking elderberry elderberry syrups raises SIRT6 levels significantly in humans? Studies are ongoing, but are leaning in that direction. See article. To my mind, it makes sense to eat highly nutritious foods and take supplements which “might” activate SIRT6. But I certainly understand those who decide to focus on supplements instead. You’ll have to decide for itself which course of action it makes sense to you.
For Those Buying Supplements
One inexpensive supplement which raises NAD by providing its precursor components is niacin. It raises NAD levels while reducing total cholesterol, LDL and triglycerides, and increasing HDL (“good”) cholesterol. But it does have one problematic side effect from an anti-aging point of view, which is that it also raises blood glucose. When I take it, I usually add some berberine to counteract the blood sugar effect. Also, time release and extended release niacin, if taken in a large dose, is implicated as a possible cause of liver damage.
Two other supplements that raise NAD through precursors are NMN and NR. Both show evidence of being effective, but they cost more than niacin. If you decide to buy NMN, I would recommend buying powdered NMN for the best value; powders are always much cheaper per gram than capsules. You can also extend the shelf life of NMN (if you choose to use it) by refrigerating it and keeping the containers tightly sealed to keep moisture out.
I buy about a third of my supplements, including the NAD boosters, from a company called DoNotAge. I like the quality of their products. They’re not cheap but they do have a discount code which makes them more affordable, particularly if you buy them in bulk. (I buy NMN, resveratrol, SIRT 6 Activator, Ca-AKG and a number of other products from them.) (Their SIRT6 Activator is particularly interesting to me. I’m told that human studies are taking place now to clarify the results in humans, and will be published soon. I’ll share the results here when they are.)
Other reputable brands for buying NMN are Pro Health and Alive by Science. (I don’t currently use either of them but have in the past and their quality was also good.)
For other types of supplements, I usually choose Jarrow, Gaia Herbs, Life Extension. or BioGaia. (Jarrow is an excellent source of CoQ10; Gaia Herbs is my source for Black Elderberry Syrup. I buy N. Acetyl Cysteine and glycine from Life Extension.)
I’m not meaning to suggest that these are the only reputable companies, just that they’re ones I don’t have any hesitancy in mentioning here.
Price Per Gram
Whichever company you buy from (if you decide to buy supplements), I would always recommend calculating the price per gram to get the best value. And make sure they’re selling the real thing. Some of the sellers on Amazon claiming to sell NMN were recently shown to be selling fraudulent products. One contained zero grams of NMN.
(If you’d like to learn more about the NAD boosters I take (or about NAD boosters in general), see this page.)
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