How to Fix Your Back

Over 65 million Americans suffer from back pain. Not surprising given our sedentary culture and how much of the body the back covers. Back pain can occur in the cervical spine (the neck area), the thoracic spine (mid-back) and the lumbar spine (lower back).

I, myself, have dealt with pain in all three areas, with lingering pain tending to occur in the thoracic and lumbar regions. My back started to degrade over my two years of investment banking – sitting 18 hours a day will do that to you. Lifting / cardio-ing / training martial arts at least five days a week for the last 10 years couldn’t have helped either.

I, like many other Americans, didn’t know how to best address this issue. I went to chiropractors (who probably made matters worse), acupuncturists (which did nothing) and massage therapists (many don’t know what they are doing). After finally putting the time into researching and testing alternatives, I have found these five methods that have worked for me:

Lacrosse Ball / Foam Roller

For immediate relief, nothing beats the lacrosse ball for myofascial release. It is something you can use on-demand – anywhere and anytime. It works better than massage, because you know your body best and you know where to focus on. From my experience, 8 out of 10 times when I tell my masseuse about a specific issue, she spends minimal time on it or totally ignores it. On the other hand, you know yourself best and know where your knots are.

If you want to maximize pressure, roll your back or neck with the ball using the floor as your base. This way you are able to use the full force of gravity. The issue, however, is that you lose control as the ball may not always move the way you want it to move.

Personally, I prefer to use a wall. I am able to generate enough pressure against the wall, rolling the ball back and forth on my knots until they release. I am also able to maintain a high degree of control with the ball, whether I am working on my neck or my back.

I also have a foam roller that I use from time to time. Although it is effective for the back, I feel the lacrosse ball works better because I am able to generate more concentrated pressure with it.

This video is a good demonstration of how to use the lacrosse ball effectively.

Stretching / Yoga

Stretching and yoga have been great for me for dealing with back pain. One of the key reasons for lower back pain is tight hips. After every workout involving my lower body, I make sure to do the requisite lower body stretches afterward with a special focus on the hips. The difference in my back is noticeable, especially on the days I don’t do this.

There are a lot of great yoga stretches that provide relief for the back. As a former Bikram yoga practitioner, I am especially a fan of the rabbit pose, the half tortoise pose, the cobra pose and the wind removing pose, which you can all see in this chart from


As an aside, with yoga, be careful with some poses (ex. fixed firm pose is probably not too good for your knees).

Cracking Your back

It’s tough to crack your thoracic spine or cervical spine yourself and I wouldn’t recommend doing so because doing so without a professional can be dangerous. I also question the efficacy of adjustments in those two regions.

For the lumbar spine, however, just sit in a chair, turn around, grab the opposite end of the chair and torque your back until you hear pops or just before you feel pain. Don’t be scared of the pops as these are a result of gas being released from the joints of the spine.


As I mentioned in my second post, I use my standing desk to get relief when I feel my back getting tight. One of the primary reasons sitting is responsible for back pain is because most people sit with bad posture. Even if you know what good sitting posture is, it is tough to maintain it for extended periods of time. I’ve noticed that it is harder for one to have as bad a posture generally when standing. Another reason for lumbar pain is because hips can get tight with hours of sitting – standing can help to loosen the hips up a bit.

Keep in mind that standing for extended periods of time can lead to back pain so I don’t recommend you stand all day either. It is best to rotate standing and sitting in a way that feels best for your back.


A mainstay of chiropractors’ and physical therapists’ offices, the TENS unit is the reason I kept on going back to the chiropractor’s office.

The TENS unit works by sending an electric current from the main device to electrodes that you place over the injured area. The theory behind the TENS unit is that it stimulates the nerves in a way that they block pain signals and release endorphins. With the TENS unit, you can generally play with the frequency, intensity and pulse width of the current to reach the right feel for your body.

Here is one you can buy for use at home:

Lifetime Warranty FDA cleared OTC HealthmateForever YK15AB TENS unit with 4 outputs, apply 8 pads at the same time, 15 modes Handheld Electrotherapy device | Electronic Pulse Massager for Electrotherapy Pain Management — Pain Relief Therapy : Chosen by Sufferers of Tennis Elbow, Carpal Tunnel Syndrome, Arthritis, Bursitis, Tendonitis, Plantar Fasciitis, Sciatica, Back Pain, Fibromyalgia, Shin Splints, Neuropathy and other Inflammation Ailments Patent No. USD723178S

Whatever you end up doing, I’d love to get your take on what works for you!

Disclosure: Bargaineering may be compensated in exchange for featured placement of certain sponsored products and services, or your clicking on links posted on this website.


Post Workout Protein

Let’s get straight to the point. The question people always ask me is, “Should I get Muscle Milk to drink after my workout?”


Muscle Milk is absolutely delicious and I used to drink it for breakfast every morning despite it possibly having too many heavy metals (ex arsenic, cadmium and lead). If you are comfortable with this possible danger, it is a solid snack before bed or breakfast substitute in the morning due to its high casein and milk protein composition. However, this is a discussion for another post.

So let’s get back to the question at hand. If you are going to go the protein powder route, what should you have post workout?

I recommend whey protein isolate. You’ve heard of whey protein before but why is it so popular? It is because there is no other mainstream powder that absorbs as fast as whey post workout. Furthermore, whey has all the essential branched chain amino acids (BCAAs) and is especially high in the BCAA leucine (1 20 g scoop of whey will contain 3 g of leucine). BCAAs, and leucine in particular, stimulate protein synthesis on a higher scale than normal protein can post-workout.

Why whey protein isolate specifically? Per the NIH, approximately 65% of the human population loses some ability to process lactose post-infancy. Lactose intolerance especially affects those of East Asian, West African, Arab, Jewish, Greek and Italian descent. As whey protein is dairy based, it is logical to assume it will include lactose.

This is kinda true.

There are two mainstream types of whey protein: isolates and concentrates. Whey protein isolate is more expensive than whey protein concentrate, but it consists of ~90% protein vs. the ~80% protein found in concentrate. This is because whey protein isolate goes through an extra processing step that strips out a further level of fat and carbohydrates from the mix to maximize the protein composition of what’s left. In addition to fats and carbs, this processing step also strips out lactose to the point that isolate will contain less than 1% lactose. Furthermore, it is a good thing that isolate is almost completely stripped of fats because no one should be consuming fats in their post workout shakes. Fats are known to slow down the body’s absorption of protein. Thus, even if one handles lactose well, whey isolate is still the better pick. Isolate does have less nutritional value than concentrate but that’s okay because the goal here is to maximize protein absorption.

I highly recommend you consume carbs with your post workout shake to enjoy faster recovery. I particularly emphasize high glycemic index (GI) carbs such as sucrose (table sugar) and dextrose (a favorite of bodybuilders). Carbs help to transport protein to your beat up muscles to help them recover faster. The higher the GI, the faster the protein will get to the muscles. Keep in mind fruits are usually low GI so not all are a fit for this case; dates and watermelons are two higher GI exceptions, however.

Because I am aiming to gain strength right now, I personally shoot for a 2:1 carb to protein ratio post workout (~60 g carbs and ~30 g protein). Some high level athletes such as weightlifters will go as high as a 4:1 ratio. If you want to minimize the level of body fat you gain, shoot for a 1:1 ratio.

When you buy your whey isolate, make sure you get the stuff that is coming from quality (grass fed) cows, is cold pressed, is free of toxic metals and is free of GMOs and artificial sweeteners. Long-term, these factors will make a difference for you both in terms of gains (ex. better amino acid profiles & keeps whey non-acidic) and overall health (ex. high exposure to heavy metals long-term is not good for you).

I just bought a packet of Opportuniteas Grass-Fed Whey Protein Isolate from Amazon as it fits the full bill of what I’m looking for to a tee. I’ve had great results with it in the past and highly recommend it to anyone.

Grass Fed Whey Protein Powder Concentrate | Natural and Unflavored | Non GMO and Gluten Free | 1 lb (454 grams)

Disclosure: Bargaineering may be compensated in exchange for featured placement of certain sponsored products and services, or your clicking on links posted on this website.

Acai (aka Açaí aka “ah-sah-EE”)

There are two types of people in this world: people who love acai and people who haven’t tried acai. If you don’t like acai, you need to reevaluate your life!

Acai is my favorite fruit. Hailing from the Amazon, where it grows on palm trees, acai is a unique combination of delicious and nutritious. It tastes like a hybrid between blueberries and cacao – in its unsweetened form, it is subtly sweet and a tad bitter. When it is mixed with sweeteners such as honey, maple syrup and stevia, the flavor really comes out and the 10,000 taste buds that lie on your tongue can’t get enough.

You have all heard by now that acai is absolutely packed with antioxidants, which are known for fighting aging. This is not an urban myth – acai has 10x the antioxidants of grapes and double that of blueberries. Furthermore, when compared to other fruit, acai in its pure form is mostly composed of healthy fats such as omegas and has a negligible amount of net carbohydrates (carbohydrates – fiber, the true way to calculate the number of carbs you are consuming). In addition to this, acai has been linked to helping digestion, aiding in weight loss and promoting better skin, which may be why you find it as an ingredient in many creams and lotions.

Acai is rarely served in its raw berry form. This is because, in addition to going bad quickly, the seed makes up the majority of the berry so it is tough to eat. Thus, it is often sold as a juice, a freeze dried powder or as a frozen puree (what I buy!) that can be blended to make a smoothie or acai na tigela (“acai bowl” in English). The acai bowl, as it is served in Brazil, has a base of acai puree or powder, a juice or a milk and a sweetener such as guarana syrup or honey. This base is then topped with bananas, granola and / or other fruits.

acai na tigela1.jpg

The World Famous Rio Acai Bowl

Although this traditional Brazilian recipe is packed with nutrition, it is also packed with A LOT of sugar. I’ll admit the standard Brazilian acai bowl is absurdly delicious, but I don’t eat it unless I’m on vacation in Brazil. Rather, I’ve developed my own practical Acai smoothie / bowl recipes for everyday use.

The recipe I follow depends on whether I am preparing acai for myself post-workout or under normal conditions.

If I make an acai smoothie for myself post-workout, I mix a high amount of protein with a reasonable amount of carbs (namely sugar) to replenish the glycogen burned in my workout and to repair my muscles. The ingredients I throw in the blender (I use a Vitamix) in this scenario are:

  • 1 Sambazon Original Blend acai puree packet
  • 1 banana
  • 2 scoops of whey protein (or however much to get 25 g of whey)
  • 1 tbsp of non-fat Greek yogurt
  • 1 tsp of coconut oil
  • 1 tbsp of flaxseed
  • 1 tbsp of maple syrup (or honey)
  • ¾ cup of cold water
  • 2-3 ice cubes

This adds up to roughly 450 calories with roughly 35g of protein and 55 g of net carbohydrates – at least for me, this macronutrient profile + the minerals and antioxidants (too many to list!) + the good fats (such as omega-3’s and MCTs) make this smoothie a potent and delicious breakfast that refuels me after my morning cardio and holds me over until lunch.

On mornings which I haven’t trained, I prepare the following acai bowl:

  • 2 Sambazon Unsweetened Blend acai puree packets
  • 1 banana
  • 2 scoops of whey protein (or however much to get 25 g of whey)
  • 1 tbsp of non-fat Greek yogurt
  • 1 tbsp of flaxseed
  • 1 tsp of coconut oil
  • 1 packet of stevia
  • < 1 cup of water (the less, the thicker the texture will be)
  • 2-3 ice cubes

This recipe is about 450 calories as well but low on carbs – the banana is your only true source of carbs – and high on protein and good fats. Every now and then, I may top my bowl with a little bit of granola but I don’t see the need to add extra bananas or fruit. I love this recipe, not because it is my own (!), but because it tastes great and keeps me full for hours.

A quick note is that if you are not a fan of protein powders, you could substitute another form of protein such as a larger dose of Greek yogurt or nuts and seeds – almonds, hemp seeds and chia seeds are solid options. You could also choose not to include more protein-driven food sources.

Like most food preparation projects, the hard part is getting a hold of the ingredients, in this case acai. There are a few brands that sell the puree packs, such as Sambazon, Nativo and Amafruits. Sambazon is the most mainstream of these brands and can be found at Whole Foods and Wegmans. All three sell online as well, using dry ice to keep the puree packs frozen when they ship to you. You can find Sambazon and Amafruits packs on Amazon:

Amafruits Acai Traditional Mix with Guarana Smoothie Packs

Pure Acai Berry Puree Smoothie Packs

Sambazon does also sell a freeze dried powder, which you can buy on Amazon as well (I’ve never tried the powder but it does have a 4 star rating).

Sambazon Organic Freeze-Dried Acai Powder, 3.17 Ounce

Zola is a popular acai juice brand, which can be found on Amazon as well.

Zola Acai Juice Original, 12 Ounce (Pack of 12)

If you guys are already making yourselves acai shakes and/or acai bowls, I would love to hear your recipes!


Disclosure: Bargaineering may be compensated in exchange for featured placement of certain sponsored products and services, or your clicking on links posted on this website.

5 Ways to Achieve Better Sleep

I’ve had sleep issues as far back as I can remember. Even in elementary school, I was never one of those kids who could fall asleep at 9, sleep 10 hours and wake up refreshed at 7 the next morning, eagerly awaiting the school bus. Today, on many days, especially Sundays when my sleep cycle gets out of whack, I am unable to sleep until past midnight unless I take one or more of the supplements that I will discuss later. On these restless nights, it takes until 1, 2 or even 3 in the morning until the alpha and theta waves of Stage 1 sleep kick in. So yes, I’ve always envied you people who can just shut your eyes and be asleep minutes later!

For many of us, it sucks to face the world running on less than 6 hours of sleep, especially if our bodies are not attuned to abbreviated sleep. In my case, when I sleep less than 6 hours, I tend to have a shot memory, I am unable to concentrate and I feel very drowsy at certain parts of the day. These symptoms obviously correlate negatively with productivity in the workplace.  As mentioned in prior posts, I avoid coffee, but I tend to reach for caffeinated teas when my 4 substitutes for caffeine don’t work.

These caffeinated teas get me through the day, but I’m back at square one, struggling to sleep that night due to my caffeine sensitivity. End result: a vicious cycle in which I sleep minimally and caffeinate again the following day.

As I’ve gotten older, I’ve learned techniques to address my sleep issues. It helps to avoid TV / computer screens and to dim the lights in the evening, but the only surefire way I know of getting to sleep quickly is through supplements.

So what legal supplements do I advocate taking?

1) Melatonin is, in my opinion, the king of sleep supplements and my go-to helper. Although not a sleep hormone, per se, melatonin is a hormone naturally produced by the body that signals it is nighttime and gives the body context for sleep. Present in trace amounts during the day, melatonin is produced by the pineal gland in the evening to prepare you for sleep1. Humans, especially those in the first world, don’t produce melatonin as early in the evening as their historic counterparts due to the stimuli today involving light and other related factors.

Thus, in these modern times, your pineal gland may delay the production of melatonin. That is why supplemental melatonin is so useful – once you take it, it will tell your body that it is time to go to sleep. In most normal cases—i.e. you are not stressed out or depressed—you should fall asleep within 30 to 90 minutes of taking it. At least I do! In addition to being natural, melatonin is NOT addictive and has been linked to fighting cancer2.

What are the risks of using melatonin? From a usage standpoint, if I take a huge dose (such as > 5 mg) in one sitting, I tend to wake up after 3 to 4 hours of sleep and am unable to go back to sleep without a subsequent dose. What’s the solution to this problem? Don’t take > 5 mg of melatonin in one setting! Take 5 mg or less (for me, 2-3 mg is optimal). If, for some reason, I wake up in the middle of the night and struggle to fall asleep again (a rare occurrence), I take a very small dose (1-2 mg) and am usually asleep again within a half hour. I’ve noticed that on the days following nights like this, I am surprisingly productive and alert anyway despite the disturbance to my sleep the prior night. So, don’t panic!

Clinically, melatonin can cause next day grogginess, nausea and irritability, but you typically experience such symptoms if you screw up dosage as per the example in the previous paragraph. Furthermore, although melatonin has been shown not to be addictive, use common sense— don’t take it every day and don’t use it for months on end. Also, this one should be obvious but don’t take it during the day unless you want to be a mess for your 3 PM meeting. Although melatonin has been clinically proven not to be addictive, in my opinion, melatonin users should cycle melatonin (i.e use it for X number of days, avoid it for a while and use it again if needed) to be on the safe side.

I prefer time release capsules of melatonin as they are built to release melatonin into the body at various intervals through the night to keep you asleep. I’ve had particular success with the brand below (link on Amazon provided):

NATROL Melatonin 5mg Time Release 100 CAPS

2) ZMA is a popular supplement generally used by athletes to promote better quality sleep (and thus quicker recovery from the grind of training). ZMA is composed of zinc, magnesium aspartate and vitamin B6. For sleep purposes, zinc aids in the metabolism of melatonin. For men, zinc is crucial for maintaining testosterone levels and, for women, it aids in the synthesis and secretion of sex hormones3. Magnesium is something that most Americans sadly don’t consume enough of – not only does magnesium promote muscle relaxation (and thus sleep) but it also aids in optimizing brain function4. Vitamin B6 has many benefits but its role here is to enhance the effects of zinc and magnesium so that all three ingredients can play their roles in an optimized manner.

Many times, I take ZMA alone, but, on Sundays, I take it with melatonin so that I achieve not only a quicker onset of sleep but also quality sleep to get a strong start to the week. It is important to take ZMA on an empty stomach 30-60 minutes before bed in order to best absorb the zinc and magnesium to produce the desired effects. Absolutely avoid calcium consumption around the time you take ZMA as calcium blocks ZMA absorption.

What are the downsides of ZMA? Be ready for some intense dreams! This is not surprising given the amount of time you will spend in REM sleep with ZMA. Make sure to take the right dosage – from a typical bottle, men should take 3 capsules, which should equate to roughly 30 mg of zinc and 450 mg of magnesium. Going under may not lead to the desired benefits. Going over may cause adverse effects on the immune system, metabolism and muscle growth. Due to the greater testosterone production resulting from ZMA use, women should be careful and stick with 2/3 the standard dose if they do decide to take it.

Although most brands of ZMA are similar, I’ve added a link to the brand I normally buy here:

Optimum Nutrition ZMA, 180 Capsules

3) Diphenhydramine HCl is another means to achieve sleep quickly. Popular brands based on diphenhydramine HCl include Zzzquil, my go-to, and Benadryl. Diphenhydramine HCl is an antihistamine. Antihistamines block histamines, which are neurotransmitters that keep you awake.

On a given night, if my goal were to guarantee a full night of sleep, I would pick Zzzquil over melatonin. When I take Zzzquil, I am KNOCKED OUT for at least 7 hours, but the downside is that I sometimes wake up mildly groggy. Take diphenylhydramine HCl at least 30 minutes before bed (I personally aim for 60 minutes).

Zzzquil is a drug that should not be taken regularly. Diphenylamine HCl can build tolerance and lose effectiveness after three days of continued use5. Additional side effects to be aware of include dry mouth, dizziness and headache, although I recall experiencing only the dry mouth.

You can find it in most pharmacies, but, if you’re feeling lazy and have Prime, you can find it on Amazon.

ZzzQuil Nighttime Sleep Aid Liquicaps 48 Count

4) Chamomile tea is another popular sleep supplement that has been used for hundreds of years to aid with sleep. In addition to sleep issues, chamomile tea has also associated with treating stomach issues, muscle spasms and inflammation.

When I’ve taken chamomile tea on a standalone basis, I have felt calmer, but sleep efficacy depends on the brand. I’ve found Tulsi Sleep tea to be one of these effective brands (I’ve attached the link below for your reference):

Organic India Tulsi Wellness Sleep Tea, 18 Count (Pack of 6)

I generally use chamomile tea and melatonin together as chamomile tea taken on a standalone basis doesn’t always guarantee achieving sleep quickly. If you are going to stack the supplements together, from personal experience, I recommend taking chamomile tea T-1 to T-1.5 hours from bed to get the body relaxed and then the melatonin T-30 minutes out so that it kicks in faster.

Chamomile doesn’t have many side effects but you should avoid it if you happen to have daisy allergies.

5) Beyond the supplements I list above, there are others. Some folks I know swear by red wine and, although it can help bring about sleep, be prepared for poor quality sleep as it can disrupt the sleep cycle. A glass of warm milk before bed can be helpful as it contains tryptophan, the same amino acid found in turkey that sends us into drowsy states on Thanksgiving. However, I’ve personally never had much luck with warm milk. Valerian root, which is derived from a flower plant, is another popular sleep supplement that is worth mentioning. I tried it years ago and, from what I recall, it wasn’t as effective as melatonin and Zzzquil were so I stopped using it.

Whether you decide on melatonin, ZMA, Zzzquil, chamomile tea and / or any of the others, use your best judgment when you take it. If you feel serious side effects from using these supplements, which should not happen unless you are reckless with dosage or have a pre-existing condition, talk to a doctor, scale back on dosage or stop taking the supplement. For the 99% of you that will use these supplements correctly, here is to a better night’s sleep!

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Disclosure: Bargaineering may be compensated in exchange for featured placement of certain sponsored products and services, or your clicking on links posted on this website.

My Airbnb Horror Story

These past couple weeks have been so draining physically, mentally and emotionally for me. My situation has nothing to do with my friends and family, my job, my hobbies or any of the other usual suspects.


This particular instance of pain was brought about my decision to use Airbnb to find a short-term sublet in lieu of a year-long lease. As most of my friends know, I was most recently a Hell’s Kitchen resident for two years. Dealing with the constant noise and foot traffic was a hassle, but I loved the neighborhood. Amazing restaurants of every cuisine, the central location, the transportation infrastructure to get anywhere in the city quickly, and the convenience of having everything I needed a few blocks away from me (including my jiu jitsu school, which was located in my apartment building). However, as all good things often come to an end, so did this one – my lease ended January 2016.

I did not want to commit to another 12 month lease for many reasons: as many of you know, getting out of one will cost you a lot of $$$. Finding a short-term sublet as a bridge to a longer term solution was simply the right move.

I visited Craigslist and sites such as, but I encountered shady brokers asking for exorbitant fees on top of the advertised rental rates. Shortly thereafter, I came across Airbnb’s sublet program. This option made sense on the surface – I could find a place, place a request for it and get it confirmed in a matter of hours. Simple, right? Airbnb does charge a guest service fee of 6% to 12% and a host service fee of 3%, most of which smart hosts pass on to the guests. However, ~15% seemed like a much better deal than the 50%+ broker fees I was running into.

As I was scanning Airbnb for listings in Midtown, I came across a 1 bedroom apartment in a doorman building with a gym for $3,300 for 37 days! I know this seems like a lot for my non-NYC friends, but trust me: this is a solid price!

A couple things caught my eye, however. The host had only a few identity verifications in his profile and no ratings. “Ok, he must be a new host. If he lives in such a nice building, he probably isn’t a scumbag,” I thought.

So, I went ahead and booked!

And now starts the sad saga.

After the host (let’s call him Harry) accepted the reservation, he notified me that there would be an additional $250 application fee that did not appear in the listing. He was not willing to cover this. Strike one.

After pondering on whether to pay this fee for a couple days, I accepted his offer. In my note to him, I asked him to confirm the reservation. He confirmed and sent me the application. I filled it out and returned it to him the next day and asked him for next steps.

I waited a day, then another day, then another…ultimately, I waited 5 days.

Harry finally responded 3 days out from when the reservation was supposed to start (this was January 26th with the reservation scheduled to start on January 29th). He claimed he had no access to Internet during this time. Ok, whatever. We submitted the application 3 days out to building management, despite the application form requiring potential tenants to submit at least 5 business days out.

Whether I was approved or not by management, I picked up the keys from Harry on January 29th. When I picked up the keys, I noticed the bathroom was dirty and the bedroom was dusty. As I left, I asked him to clean the place, which he promised to do.

I returned to my still-dirty new home on January 30th with most of my belongings and slept there for the first time that night. Throughout the night, for some reason, the toilet would not stop flushing.

I awoke the next morning to see a garbage can full of toilet water. Fuming, I realized that Harry had already known the toilet had issues, hence why he placed the garbage can at the site of the leak. Later on that morning, as I was brushing my teeth, I noticed the bathroom sink was clogged. As I left the apartment, I told the doorman to send someone up to fix the bathroom and the sink. Strike two.

Later that afternoon, I texted Harry to send a professional cleaner to clean up this dingy apartment. He texted me back refusing to do so and asked me for a security deposit, because the building had charged him to repair the toilet and bathroom sink. Out of left field, he also asked me to compensate him for the electricity bill at the apartment! Furthermore, he refused to acknowledge the poor condition of his apartment, claiming some BS that the apartment was rented on an “as is” basis so, per his argument, it was okay for all these issues to exist. Strike three.

Furious, I refused to pay these extra fees and confirmed with Airbnb customer support that I was not obligated to pay Harry anything more than what I’d already paid him. I told him to discuss his perspective with Airbnb, which he refused to do. He tried to play hardball with me with his fee proposal, claiming that he would kick me out of the apartment if I didn’t pay him this security deposit. As this situation dragged on, I also noticed the dishwasher was not turning on and the kitchen sink was clogged. As you’d expect by now, he refused to fix either appliance. Throughout the process, I called Airbnb customer support at least twice a day, outlining my complaints and all they really did was to tell me to file a claim with their resolutions department. Strike four.

On February 3rd, I filed a claim with Airbnb’s resolutions department, asking for a full refund. The policy of the resolutions department is not to get involved until 72 hours after a case is opened. Expecting to win this case and move out sometime during the weekend, I started to look for new places to move into. As it turned out, there was a company within the building that leased short-term rentals. I asked my girlfriend to speak with them and look at available apartments on February 5th.

She explained my situation to the agent. The agent quickly informed her that it was a violation of building policy for Harry to rent his apartment out on Airbnb. Soooo, it was illegal for me to be in the building in the first place! Strike five.

I immediately called Airbnb and explained my situation. My agent instantly cancelled the rest of the reservation. I left work at 1 PM that Friday to book a new place and to pack my things. Weary of Airbnb, I went to instead and found a nice apartment west of Manhattan. I booked it in a matter of minutes. Was it expensive? Yes. However, after the hell I’d been through during that week, I was absolutely willing to pay their rate.

Packing and moving for a second straight week was obviously very taxing physically and mentally. Despite moving to Harry’s apartment the weekend before, I still had to pack five 20” x 20” x 20” boxes (three of which I shipped back to my parents’ home in Virginia) and four suitcases worth of clothes. Absolutely worn down, I ordered two UberXLs and shipped out to greener pastures, which is where I sit now on a comfortable couch typing this piece.

So what are the takeaways from this story?

1) We’ve all heard some of the Airbnb horror stories online and, while my story is not as bad as some out there, there is a lot left to be desired with Airbnb in times of customer service.

For starters, Airbnb agents have an infuriating habit of passing the buck on to someone else (in this case, the resolutions department). The agent from the building also noted that the building had cracked down on and evicted Airbnb users in the past – Airbnb should’ve made a note of this in the system and never allowed the host to post this listing in the first place. They also refused to cover a hotel for me on the night of February 5th, because the cancellation didn’t happen in the evening. On February 8th, after I moved out, they informed me that, despite all the issues he caused, Harry would still able to review me on Airbnb – this is quite stupid as this will possibly impair my ability to rent on Airbnb in the future.

I also just got this note back from Airbnb regarding any potential refund from this host.

airbnb image v1

Great! So a $150 coupon toward a service I may not be able to use if Harry gives me a 1 star rating!

However, I have to give Airbnb credit for cancelling the reservation immediately once I informed them about my impending eviction and for providing me with a $150 credit to move my stuff to the new apartment (so, fortunately, the two UberXLs were covered). The hold time on the support line is short and some of the agents follow up via email after the call.

2) Never book on Airbnb with a host who has no ratings under his name. The price may seem great, but the risk is not worth it. Instead, book with hosts with 4 or 5 star ratings and/or those who have the Airbnb “Superhost” certification. Sure, you may have to pay a few extra bucks, but peace of mind is totally worth it.

3) Pay close attention from the onset for warning signs. I should’ve passed on the reservation when Harry refused to cover the application fee. It was something that was not displayed in the listing. At best, Harry did not know how Airbnb worked. At worst, Harry is a deceitful chump. The latter is probably true here, given everything that happened.

4) Regarding Shyp, I would grade them out as a C for their service. For those of you who don’t know what Shyp is, it is a service that will pick up, package and send your items for $5 + the lowest rate offered by UPS, USPS and FedEx. Sounds awesome in theory right?

Well, the service is a bit wonky. The credit card verification technology in the app will reject perfectly good credit cards, I repeatedly received incorrect estimates on courier arrival time, courier orders appeared and mysteriously disappeared minutes after they were placed in the app, and nowhere in the app is it clear that they don’t pick up packages over 50 pounds.

They did ultimately get the job done and I was able to check on the status of my packages. Odds are they will fix the kinks over time. After all, the company is less than three years old!

5) I’m a huge Tim Ferriss fan and his signature book The Four Hour Workweek is a must-read for anyone focused on self-improvement. I recommend buying it right now if you haven’t read it already!

The 4-Hour Workweek: Escape 9-5, Live Anywhere, and Join the New Rich

The Buy It There (BIT) method when moving around is one of the concepts he advocates. He preaches rather than traveling around like a pack mule, throw away unnecessary items and set aside a fund to buy items when they are actually needed.

I probably would earn a D if I were being graded on how well I followed this method. Because of my Indian heritage, a part of me dies every time throw something away. I ultimately took 10+ boxes/suitcases with me when I moved out, but I did force myself to use the BIT method enough to use Shyp to send a few boxes home to Virginia. Doing so saved me from having to order a third UberXL, which would have been a nightmare because I had only one friend helping me.

Did you enjoy this post? Email me at to get notified ASAP when I publish the next blog post! How have your experiences with Airbnb or rentals in general been like? Comment below 🙂

4 Caffeine Alternatives to Amplify Your Day

In my last post, I wrote about my tale of picking up and subsequently dumping the coffee habit. A reasonable follow-up question would be what I substitute for caffeine to optimize my energy throughout the day.

Here are a few of my natural caffeine alternatives:

1) Take a cold shower – This is something I started to do regularly last year when I was feeling exceedingly sore after jiu jitsu training sessions. Yes, stepping into a stream of ice cold water will feel like hell for the first minute but your body will adjust quicker than you’d think. When I started taking these cold showers, I noticed not only reduced soreness but also greater alertness and mental sharpness that would last several hours. When I dug into why I felt so good, I discovered that the deep breathing and increased heart rate that came from the shock of cold water also boosted oxygen and blood circulation, respectively. Oxygen and blood are two of the key ingredients that get your brain going!

For reference, although the experts say 8-10 minutes in cold water is optimal for complete recovery, I’ve found even 2-3 minutes will make a difference. Side benefits: cold showers have also been shown to boost testosterone (what guy doesn’t want to maximize his T levels?) and fat metabolism (which 99% of the Western world is after)1.

2) Get a standup desk – We have all heard that sitting is the new smoking. Long-term, sitting for extended periods leads to a bad back, heart problems and all types of musculoskeletal issues. Short-term, sitting can lead to a foggy brain as sitting for hours has been shown to lead to a slowdown in brain function2. At the New York headquarters of MediaMath where I work, all employees have standup desks. So when it is 3 PM and I hit a mental rut, working on my feet for 20 minutes will usually get me back to working a productive level. If you don’t have a standup desk, considering taking a short walk, especially outside in the cold, to get blood, oxygen and the right neurotransmitters flowing into your brain again.

3) Take a nap – Yes, I do realize that most of the working world is not able to do this after lunch on weekdays and, no, I do not advocate passing out on a toilet (unless you are a sleep-deprived IBanker). However, if you are considering a scoop of Jack3d or a cup of coffee at 5 PM before your evening workout, I strongly suggest taking a 20 minute nap as soon as you get home from work. Why 20 minutes and not an hour or two? Although hitting REM cycles in your core nightly sleep are essential for making new connections in the brain (and thus facilitating learning), waking up in the middle of a REM cycle will leave you back at square one, feeling groggy. Even if you don’t hit a REM cycle, sleeping over 30 minutes may still leave you out of it when you wake up3. The 20 minute power nap is ideal for alertness and motor skills and will thus better prepare you for getting out of your mental and/or physical funk and tackling whatever is ahead of you. One of napping’s several advantages over coffee is that it is more likely to keep your memory intact as caffeine has been shown to decrease memory performance.

4) Eat a lot of veggies – I eat salads almost every day during the workweek, not only because it helps keep unneeded pounds off, but also because I feel an energy boost after binging on veggies. I don’t intend to be Captain Obvious here but the key is to eat the right veggies (i.e. iceberg lettuce probably won’t do much for you). Kale and beets are two examples of vegetables that will make a difference for optimizing your performance. Talking about kale, all around Renaissance man Joe Rogan eloquently stated, “You’ll feel fantastic, have a big boost of energy and later on your poop will fly out of your body as if it was late to catch a plane.”


Beets by Dre…sorry

Beets, especially the roots, are well-known natural performance enhancers used by athletes to promote greater blood flow, thus fueling the body and brain. Also, make sure to eat your veggies with fats! Fats are not only essential for brain function but also vital for allowing the nutrients from veggies to absorb into your body. I use either coconut oil (high in medium chain triglycerides or MCTs, which have been linked to elevated fat burning) or avocados (which are packed with nutrients).

Now that you are fueled by this new knowledge, tomorrow, I implore you to duck that morning cup of coffee or caffeinated drink of choice and try at least one of these four techniques. If you want to report on your results or learn more, email me.

Much thanks to Krutika Gupta, Ankur Sisodia, Dan “The Man” Suzuki and Marcos Rivas for aiding me in publishing this piece!

1)      Scientific Evidence-Based Effects of Hydrotherapy on Various Systems of the Body

2)      The Health Hazards of Sitting

3)      The Secret (and Surprising) Power of Naps

Me vs. Coffee

Last month, in the pop culture world, there was a lot of brouhaha about Tom Brady’s diet. He doesn’t eat sugar, he doesn’t eat certain veggies and fruits, yadda yadda yadda…one nugget that stuck out for a lot of people, however, is that he not only doesn’t consume caffeine, but also that he has never had coffee!

Shocking? I would say so, especially for a professional athlete. However, professional athletes are not the only folks in the world looking to boost performance. In fact, approximately 180 million Americans drink coffee in order to achieve some goal, whether it be to sit in front of a computer for 8+ hours, drive to and from the office or something entirely different*.

In 2014, I became one of the 180 million. Despite toughing my way through two years of investment banking without coffee or really any caffeine in the years prior, I ultimately gave in as I realized the energy of my early 20s had not carried over to my mid-20s.

For a while, the coffee-consuming me was flying high — I felt sharper than ever, my mood improved and I was able to hit my evening workouts without feeling the mental toll of the day. Sure, I’d have to double or even triple the trips to the restroom, live with a dry mouth, nose and eyes, and deal with occasional insomnia. I’d also constantly feel a bit of paranoia, sometimes checking my email or texts every minute even when I internally knew it was highly unlikely there’d be anything new or important in my inbox. However, the positives still outweighed the negatives.

It was in the fall of 2014 that I started to feel the true pain of coffee. I started dealing with aching joints everywhere, from my Achilles to my knees to my elbows and fingers. My initial thoughts were “Man, I’m just getting old” and “Maybe, I just have to cut down on working out!”

I started going to physical therapy twice a week but none of my joints were really getting any better. I distinctly remember that I was at a point that I felt lost as to how to solve these issues without giving up the things I enjoyed such as jiu jitsu, yoga, running and lifting weights.

At the same time, I was getting to the point that I needed two cups of coffee a day to function — the potential of caffeine addiction scared me. My mom and countless others I know need their morning cup of coffee or they deal with painful headaches. I wanted to make sure I was never part of this group! That was when I told myself it was time to take a break from coffee. In January 2015, I made it through two agonizing weeks of low energy and a constant mental fog but I made it through alive. I also realized that when I was running, doing yoga or rolling on the mats in jiu jitsu class, the pain in my Achilles and knees was gone! My elbows, which have been hyperextended in the past, were not randomly throbbing with pain anymore either.

Hmmm? Was coffee the culprit for my problems? It was still winter so the cold probably wasn’t the source of my problems. Besides stripping out coffee, I had not made any significant changes to my diet. The amount of sleep I was getting was virtually the same. I was also doing the same workouts I was doing before.

As I researched on the Internet, I came across articles and blog posts like thisand this. I just couldn’t find a scientific study firmly stating that coffee causes joint pain. However, whatever I was doing was clearly working. As the months went by, I’d drink caffeinated green tea here and there, but those old pains didn’t return when I’d do so. However, on the rare occasions I did succumb to my office’s K-Cup maker, the pains of the past would return!

Since early 2015, I have drank coffee in rare instances and I’ve enjoyed some success avoiding joint pain while drinking cold brew. However, for me, a day fueled by cold brew always requires melatonin at night. I’ve also tried to cut caffeine altogether and avoid it most days of the week. Yes, it does suck to not feel like Superman in the mornings anymore. However, I am happy to be able to do the physical activities that I enjoy doing. I’m also happy not having drink quarts of water anymore to deal with the dehydration from caffeine and not have to go to the restroom every 45 minutes. So, in the end, on the coffee situation, the costs ultimately outweighed the benefits.

I’m wondering if any of you guys have dealt with the same issues or if you are an “ex-coffee drinker” like me, what you’ve done to kick the habit.

Watch out for a sister post to this in the coming days!


You can also see this post here.