Dr. Peter Attia vs. Tim Ferriss (#352)

“Unhappiness is at the root of more pain, I would suspect, than any ailment that falls in the ‘physical’ body. And to think that we have compounds that could play such an important role that are really facing challenges in getting approved, I just find that really frustrating.” — Dr. Peter Attia

This is a special episode and features one of my dear friends.

A number of guests have started incredible podcasts after being on this show as their first-ever podcast interview, including legendary Navy SEAL commander Jocko Willink.

What people don’t know is that Jocko was introduced to me by a fella named Peter Attia.

Dr. Peter Attia (TW: @PeterAttiaMD, IG: @peterattiamd, peterattiamd.com) is a former ultra-endurance athlete (e.g., swimming races of 25 miles), a compulsive self-experimenter, and one of the most fascinating human beings I know. He is one of my go-to doctors for anything performance or longevity-related. He is also easily the best quarterback and sherpa for the US medical system I’ve ever met.

But here is his official bio to do him justice:

Peter is the founder of Attia Medical, PC, a medical practice with offices in San Diego and New York City, focusing on the applied science of longevity.

Peter trained for five years at the Johns Hopkins Hospital in general surgery, where he was the recipient of several prestigious awards, including resident of the year, and the author of a comprehensive review of general surgery. He also spent two years at NIH as a surgical oncology fellow at the National Cancer Institute where his research focused on immune-based therapies for melanoma. He has since been mentored by some of the most experienced and innovative lipidologists, endocrinologists, gynecologists, sleep physiologists, and longevity scientists in the United States and Canada.

Peter earned his M.D. from Stanford University and holds a B.Sc. in mechanical engineering and applied mathematics.

In our conversation in this episode, Peter actually interviews me, though he shares a lot of his own experiences. It is audio from Peter’s incredible podcast, The Peter Attia Drive, which can be found on Apple Podcasts, Spotify, or anywhere podcasts are found. It is one of the few podcasts I listen to regularly.

Many friends I’ve shared this particular episode with have now listened to it multiple times. It takes us both a few minutes to warm up, but then it goes really deep. These are many of things people like Peter and I aren’t supposed to talk about publicly.

Please enjoy!

Listen to the episode on Apple Podcasts, Spotify, Stitcher, Overcast, or on your favorite podcast platform. 

Want to hear me interviewing Peter? — Listen to our conversation here. In that interview, we discuss optimizing blood testing, drinking “jet fuel,” training for ultra-endurance sports, consuming synthetic ketones, using metabolic chambers, extending longevity by avoiding certain types of exercise, and much more (stream below or right-click here to download):

#50: Dr. Peter Attia on Life-Extension, Drinking Jet Fuel, Ultra-Endurance, Human Foie Gras, and More


This podcast is brought to you by Peloton, which has become a staple of my daily routine. I picked up this bike after seeing the success of my friend Kevin Rose, and I’ve been enjoying it more than I ever imagined. Peloton is an indoor cycling bike that brings live studio classes right to your home. No worrying about fitting classes into your busy schedule or making it to a studio with a crazy commute.

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This episode is also brought to you by Walter Isaacson’s #1 New York Times bestseller Leonardo da Vinci, which chronicles the life and times of the Renaissance genius while showing us how we can harness da Vinci’s boundless curiosity and creativity. Not long ago, I also interviewed Walter about his writing and Leonardo, as I’ve known Walter for some time, and the book is spectacular. I think it’s his best biography yet, and that’s saying a lot considering how famous his bios of Benjamin Franklin, Einstein, and Steve Jobs are.

Based on thousands of pages from Leonardo da Vinci’s astonishing notebooks and new discoveries about his life and work, Walter Isaacson “reveals an intimate Leonardo” in a narrative that connects his art to his science. He shows how Leonardo’s genius was based on skills we can improve in ourselves, such as passionate curiosity, careful observation, and an imagination so playful that it flirted with fantasy. Leonardo da Vinci by Walter Isaacson, published by Simon and Schuster, is available now wherever books are sold. You can also read an excerpt on davincibio.com

QUESTION(S) OF THE DAY: What was your favorite quote or lesson from this episode? Please let me know in the comments.

Scroll below for links and show notes…


  • Connect with Peter Attia:

Website | The Peter Attia Drive | Twitter | Instagram

  • Previous Appearances by Peter Attia on This Show:


  • What it’s like living in Austin. [11:54]
  • The differences between lifespan and health-span. [18:17]
  • During childhood and adolescence, I believed I was “not designed to be happy.” [20:00]
  • My TED Talk and close call with suicide. [22:00]
  • Why I want to focus on discussing different facets of mental health on a first-hand basis. [25:20]
  • What’s the type of thinking that triggers my downward spirals? [27:36]
  • Why I changed my focus from investing in startups to investing in mental health. [28:02]
  • How self-talk can be your best friend or worst enemy. [29:19]
  • Why I think everyone, including Type A personalities, should try meditation. [32:44]
  • Why men, in general, are bad at dealing with depression. [40:10]
  • Peter’s (newly) most-gifted book, which is related to men and depression, and his previous #1 book. [41:36]
  • The benefits and drawbacks of self-talk. [44:28]
  • “The need to treat ourselves as well as we treat others. It’s women’s version of the Golden Rule.” — Gloria Steinem [45:53]
  • How a couple of my podcasts made Peter aware of the effectiveness of plants to treat patients. [46:43]
  • Peter’s first experience with psilocybin. [49:16]
  • What started my interest in psychedelics? [49:31]
  • My transformative experience with ayahuasca. [53:34]
  • How my experience and research led me to focus on furthering the science of psychedelics and mental health. [1:01:24]
  • How do we explain the ineffability of psychedelic experiences? [1:04:53]
  • What is ego dissolution, and how do we explain it? [1:06:10]
  • What are some of the meditation modalities and meditation apps out there? Why can meditation be so hard to do, but worthwhile to stick with? [1:18:19]
  • “The consistent program that you follow is better than the perfect program that you quit.” [1:31:16]
  • Why have I made a big commitment (more than $1 million) to funding scientific research, and to psilocybin and MDMA research in particular? [1:35:22]
  • The story of Katharine McCormick and the birth control pill, and what a small number of committed people can do to change the course of history. [1:36:35]
  • Why the FDA granted MDMA-assisted psychotherapy breakthrough therapy designation (which could expedite approval) for the treatment of PTSD, and how a Phase 3 clinical trial is in motion. [1:41:43]
  • Ibogaine and the treatment of opiate addiction. [1:51:16]
  • What is the Default Mode Network (DMN), how does it relate to mental health, and how do psychedelic compounds affect the DMN? [1:51:46]

Homological scaffolds of brain functional networks

Image credit: Homological Scaffolds of Brain Functional Networks (Petri et al., 2014)

Here’s Michael Pollan explaining the DMN, and the side-by-side images in figure above, in How To Change Your Mind “In a 2014 paper published in the Journal of the Royal Society Interface, the Imperial College team demonstrated how the usual lines of communications within the brain are radically reorganized when the default mode network goes off-line and the tide of entropy is allowed to rise. Using a scanning technique called magnetoencephalography, which maps electrical activity in the brain, the authors produced a map of the brain’s internal communications during normal waking consciousness and after an injection of psilocybin (shown [above]). In its normal state, shown on the left, the brain’s various networks (here depicted lining the circle, each represented by a different color) talk mostly to themselves, with a relatively few heavily trafficked pathways among them.

“But when the brain operates under the influence of psilocybin, as shown on the right, thousands of new connections form, linking far-flung brain regions that during normal waking consciousness don’t exchange much information. In effect, traffic is rerouted from a relatively small number of interstate highways onto myriad smaller roads linking a great many more destinations. The brain appears to become less specialized and more globally interconnected, with considerably more intercourse, or “cross talk,” among its various neighborhoods.”

  • How MDMA, in the right setting, may help us “clean up a very messy experience that did a lot of damage; to help people to heal themselves in nonverbal ways. This is really key. It’s very hard for people to talk their way out of something that they didn’t talk their way into.” [1:55:29]
  • Why has ibogaine gained the least traction in the US for treatment of opiate addiction? [2:01:55]
  • My first-hand experience with opiate addiction and overdoses. [2:07:26]
  • Unhappiness may be the single most important problem plaguing our civilization, and there are compounds that may be part of the solution. Is progress being made in terms of pushing through research and application? [2:13:40]
  • What does it take to reschedule a drug? [2:16:50]
  • The non-addictive potential of psychedelics. Food vs. cocaine vs. psilocybin. [2:17:43]
  • Our most recommended and gifted books, and how Solve for Happy by Mo Gawdat has jumped into Peter’s #2 spot. [2:23:12]
  • Was there anything not in Pollan’s book that I would have added? [2:24:27]
  • How Peter is very proud to be one of the “Biggest Tools” and where people can find Egg Boxing. [2:30:01]
  • From all the habits and tools that I have learned, what are the three to five things I return to most reliably? [2:31:58]
  • What advice would I give to my 20- or 30-year-old self? [2:34:28]