Update 1/28/23. NAD, an obscure molecule which, in the past, only science nerds have heard of, has quickly become the most popular anti-aging substance around. Various studies have noted raising the NAD levels in your cells -using a niacin-derived compound called nicotinamide riboside (NR) might help reduce the risk of disease. You've probably heard of NAD booster supplements such as Elysium Basis (by Elysium) and Niagen (by Chromaxex). Both of these contain the NR substance. But, these supplements are expensive. What if you want to boost your NAD levels, and not pay a lot? Can you? Yes you can! Here are 10 ways to raise the NAD levels in your cells which do not cost an arm and a leg.
Other NAD Reviews
Next, let's talk about NAD and NR (nicotinamide riboside) because this is important to know about. After that, we'll cover how to raise your cellular NAD levels.
NR and NMN Videos
Results of clinical trials on nicotinamide riboside and nicotinamide mononucleotide
- Nicotinamide riboside human proof part 1
- Nicotinamide ribosid human proof part 2
- NMN: where is the proof?
What Is NAD?
The science is complicated so let's just cut to the chase. NAD stands for Nicotinamide Adenine Dinucleotide. You pronounce it this way: say “Nick-oh-tin-ah-mide Ad-a-neen Di-new-cleo-tide”
All of your cells contain NAD. What does it do? It helps you make energy.
There is a LOT of NAD is found in our mitochondria – those cellular powerhouses you probably learned about in HS biology.
We make less NAD as we get older. This leads to less healthy mitochondria, aging, and disease. It turns out NAD helps turn on anti-aging enzymes called sirtuins. This is where it gets its anti-aging reputation.
What Does This Mean?
The idea goes like this: more NAD = more sirtuin enzymes = more energy, more mitochondria, less disease, and slower aging.
So how do you get more NAD? Well, for some people, it takes a supplement. The most popular supplements are called:
- Niagen (see review)
- Elysium Basis (see review)
Both of these supplements contain a substance called nicotinamide riboside (NR). What's that?
I'm glad ya asked…
Here's a video if you just want to watch on my Youtube channel.
What Is Nicotinamide Riboside – And Do You Need It?
Nicotinamide riboside (NR) is a substance that comes from niacin (vitamin B3). NR supplements raise NAD levels in your cells.
In case you wondered, you pronounce the word this way: “Nick-oh-tin-ah-mide Rye-bow-side.”
Undoubted, you have read other websites which tell about how NR can:
- improve the health of your mitochondria
- slow aging
- help you sleep better
- reduce the risk of a bunch of diseases
Some people say they can feel the results in 30 days (see review).
Those other websites are NOT telling you the proof for NR is preliminary. It's mostly based on rat, mouse and test tube research. As for humans, I can say taking NR supplements will raise NR levels in your cells.
There is no human proof -yet- showing NR supplements :
- boost energy levels
- reverse the aging process
- lengthen the healthspan
- help your gym workouts
- reduce your risk of any disease
There may come a time when this changes, but for now, I remain skeptical.
These supplements can be expensive. I can't justify the price of these supplements until I see better proof. But this doesn't mean you can't raise your levels – and save money doing it.
Here are 11 low-cost and effective ways of raising your NAD levels.
1 Drink Milk
Did you know nicotinamide riboside (NR) – the key ingredient in NAD supplements -was first discovered in milk. Yes! Regular cows milk has this stuff. Granted, there is a lot less NR in cows milk compared to NAD booster supplements, but it is there. It's likely that some NR is found in yogurt and other dairy products derived from milk.
Even better, research shows regular milk (non-organic) has more NR than organic milk does. Yes, even lactose-free milk has some NR. There is no NR in almond milk, coconut milk, soy milk or other non-cow dairy products.
Nicotinamide riboside is also found in beer. Like milk, there is probably not a lot of NR in beer. Let me be clear, I include this in the spirit of honesty, but I don't suggest you rationalize drinking to get NR. It's highly likely any benefits provided by NR would be nullified by the toxic effects of alcohol.
So I suggest you don't use this tactic. Fortunately, there are many healthier ways to raise the NAD levels in your cells.
3 Take Niacin
NAD supplements like Niagen and Elysium Basis often grab all the attention, but what most don't know is that regular niacin supplements (Vitamin B3) also boost NAD levels. They also activate the sirtuin enzymes too.
Niacin supplements have been shown to reduce oxidative stress (free radical damage) in both mice and isolated cells.
Even though I am saying niacin, I'm really referring to niacinamide. Both niacin and niacinamide are called “niacin” but niacinamide is less risky. Too much niacin can harm your liver for example.
Niacinamide is less likely to cause liver problems and skin flushing, especially if you don't take too much.
You may wonder how niacinamide stacks up against NAD booster supplements like Niagen? Good question. I can't say because nobody appears to have done this kind of research. My guess is niacinamide and NR supplements would raise NAD levels similar to each other.
To know for sure, we'd need research.
4 Eat Niacin-Rich Foods
If you don't want to take a supplement, just eat niacin-rich foods. What foods have niacin? Foods with some of the highest levels include:
- Tuna: 25 mg (per 4 oz)
- Chicken: 15 mg (per 4 oz)
- Turkey: 13 mg (per 4 oz)
- Salmon: 9 mg (per 4 oz)
Lesser amounts can also be found in:
And other foods too, such as fortified cereals.
The trick is to eat foods like these each day. This supplies your body with NAD-boosting niacin on a regular basis. Sure you get less niacin than if you took a supplement, but eating the foods often costs less and they give you more than just niacin. You get a full spectrum of nutrients.
5 Take B Vitamins
Niacin is not the only B vitamin involved with NAD formation. For example:
- vitamin B1 (thiamine)
- B2 (riboflavin)
- B6 (Pyridoxine )
all help us recycle NAD. I bring this up because I believe there is too much emphasis being on niacin/NR alone. Biology is more complicated than any single nutrient. The B vitamins all work in synergy with each other to accomplish healthy things. These vitamins also help tryptophan make NAD too (see below).
You can take a B complex supplement or eat foods that contain B vitamins. What foods are they? Basically, fruits, veggies, seeds, beans, meats and poultry.
For example, these foods contain B vitamins:
|Sweet potatoes||Nuts||pumpkin seeds|
6 Take A Walk/Lift Some Weights
The mitochondria in your muscle cells are where most of the NAD is found. This tells us, it's important for muscle health. Animal studies tell us regular physical exercise can boost NAD levels. How? It looks like exercise promotes the increase of the enzyme, which makes NAD – NAMPT.
As we get older, the NAMPT enzyme decreases. Research involving different animals has demonstrated that physical activity can increase NAMPT. This, in turn, increases cellular NAD levels.
At least one human study has shown exercise (leg extension exercise) increased NAMPT by 16%. Both aerobic and resistance training are effective at boosting NAD levels.
Exercise is well known to stimulate mitochondria creation. Since most NAD is found in our mitochondria, it makes sense exercise would boost levels of this substance too.
7 Eat Some Tryptophan
Tryptophan is an essential amino acid. While it's mostly known for helping us make the sleep-inducing compound serotonin, tryptophan metabolism also helps us make NAD via the kynurenine pathway.
So you can augment your production by taking a tryptophan supplement or eating foods containing this amino acid.
Tryptophan-containing foods include:
|Pumpkin seeds||Cottage cheese||Chocolate|
8 Take Some Vitamin D
Every cell of your body has receptors for vitamin D. This is proof of its importance in maintaining health. Preliminary evidence has noted vitamin D raises NAD levels in fat cells. You make vitamin D when your exposure to sunlight. You can also take vitamin D supplements too.
As a rule, get your levels checked before taking vitamin D supplements. This is to see if you are low.
9 Get Some Resveratrol
Resveratrol supplements can raise NAD levels in mitochondria. Since resveratrol is found in blueberries, grapes, and wine. This means these too can also raise your levels.
Some supplements contain a molecule called pterostilbene (tero-still-bean), a nutrient found in blueberries and grapes. Pterostilbene is said to be more potent /bio-available than resveratrol. Pterostilbene is pretty new and we need more research to know if it's better than resveratrol at raising NAD levels.
Pterostilbene may have side effects too.
My advice: add some grapes to your smoothies and get your resveratrol that way.
10 Reduce Calories
Intermittent fasting is one of the most popular weight loss programs today. While there are many methods to do this, the easy way is to just stop eating after 7 pm. This way, most of your “fasting” is done while you are asleep. Studies of isolated cells tell us reducing calories can increase NAD levels.
What about people?
When researchers looked at pregnant women who fasted during Ramadan, they noted the enzyme which makes NAD (NAMPT, also called visfatin) increased. While fasting remains popular, don't overdo it. Human studies are still ongoing. I would not suggest fasting for more than 12 hours.
11 Take Leucine Supplements
Leucine is one of the branch chain amino acids (BCAA). We've known for a long time leucine plays a role in muscle growth. Early research involving lab animals tells us leucine can also activate sirtuin enzymes and boost NAD production too.
Tip: If you use protein powders, the odds are it already contains leucine.
Side Effects Of NR Supplements
In my opinion, nicotinamide riboside supplements have not yet been tested enough in people to know what side effects they might have. While it's basically a just vitamin-derived compound, that doesn't necessarily mean long-term use is safe.
While NR supplements have been granted GRAS status (generally recognized as safe), by the FDA. because most of the research involves mice, I'd like to see more people research. I say this not to be controversial but because I just don't know.
On the plus side, nobody reports anything bad when they take NR supplements. I also didn't notice any side effects when I tried Niagen for 30 days.
I really liked this Youtube Video by Lifespan and Longevity. She goes into science and brings up some good points worth listening to:
So, Do You NAD Supplements?
While NAD is a critical molecule, I believe the life extension and healthspan science of raising levels by taking expensive supplements is in its infancy. But, in case I'm wrong, you have it within your power right now to raise your NAD levels for less money using some of the biohacks I showed above.
If you want a supplement, this is the top-selling product
Daniel Richardson says
Professor David Sinclair of Harvard fasts every day, he only eats in a two-hour window, takes NMN and resveratrol daily with a tiny amount of microbio yoghurt, he is 50 but his biological age is I believe 36 (ish). He and his team are now well into human trials and the results have been positive thus far but I did enjoy and totally respect your viewpoints as a professional, thanks for the advice on more cost-effective products and indeed your own experience at taking NM.
Joe Cannon says
Thanks so much, Daniel. I’m looking forward to reading the results Dr Sinclairs human clinical trials on NMN.
Great stuff! But why wouldn’t you fast more than 12 hours? Every scientist I come across who focuses on Iongevity recommends fasting for longer periods (such as Rhonda Patrick, Peter Attia, Valter Longo, Sachin Panda).
It activates autophagy, AMPK, PGC-1 alpha. Take a look at this concise video for example (I think you will have to type your e-mail to see the full video) : peterattiamd.com/fasting-protocol-video
Joe Cannon says
Hi Riddo, Ive looked at the research on fasting. I can tell you that while it has advantages anything can be taken too far. For example, in this study, rats seemed to show greater amounts of insulin resistance https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/27835792 (in other words, fasting seemed to increase the risk of metabolic syndrome and thus, type II diabetes).
The “fasting protocols” you see on the web or in books have likely have not gone through rigorous clinical testing. Right now there is no good proof one protocol is better than another. Also, most fasting research still involves rats and mice. Its possible humans may respond differently. At the end of the day, I think we need more researcher and that’s why I advise moderation when it comes to fasting.
Be careful giving your email to view any online content. What will the company do with your email once they have it?
That’s interesting. Because I am under the impression that there have been many studies on humans and rats that show positive results of fasting (in insulin sensitivity and other factors). That’s the first study I see that has potential negatives. For example here (https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/29754952) the participants eat in a 6 hour window and are compared to those who eat in a 12 hour window (control group). The 6 hour group improved insulin sensitivity, β cell responsiveness, blood pressure, oxidative stress, and appetite. And they showed it isn’t soley due to weight loss.
Also if you go to the references here (https://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/S1550413118302535#bib39) you’ll see many other related studies that show improved cardiovascular health due to fasting in humans and in mice.
Joe Cannon says
Riddo, there are indeed studies showing the positive effects of fasting. I think one of the big questions is how long of a fast is best? That’s why i think taking a concertive approach is best. Ive heard of some peope fasting 36 hours which is too much in my view.
One of the reasons people fast is to slow aging. There are studies in anmals showing slower aging and less disease when animals eat about 30% fewer calories than normal. Its tempting to think the same would happen to use too. Since we live so long already, it would take a decades-long investigation to prove.
’36 hours’ fasting too much??? Autophagy doesn’t start till the 4th day or later.
16:8 is definitely beneficial, and water fasting for 4 days and more is also very good and in fact, even better.
Fasting is NOT for everybody, especially those who are sick or weak; know your own body and always get qualified medical advice FIRST. Nevertheless, some doctors – or should that be MOST? – are just about totally ignorant of it, which means, of course, that you would have to find one who at least knows about it. Try not to choose one who knows less than you. (Do your own research too).
I did a 31 days water fast, but I don’t recommend anybody else do that because I don’t know their state of health etc, and because you enter a danger zone at the end of it where you might have gone too long; this does not include about 5 days afterwards where calorific intake is also below normal until your body readjusts to digesting food again.
Joe Cannon says
Ralph thanks for sharing your insights. I dont think Ive heard autophagy starts kicking in 4 days after a fast. Is there any human research on this? Id love to take a look at it.
I was bad. Why? I read your research on NMN and after that I looked up NAD and bought it (a less expensive one) from Amazon BEFORE reading your study of “How to Increase NAD Levels Naturally”. How stupid I can be at times, maybe because my NAD levels are low. These are great pieces of information.
I’ll take my NAD supplements since I paid for them, but then I’ll follow your advice. Thank you again for your practical, researched-based advice.
You are also correct in saying supplements that allegedly increase NADs are EXTREMELY EXPENSIVE!
Joe Cannon says
Roseann, don’t worry about it. I really do hope it helps you! People have told me some interesting things about how Niagen helped them feel better in about a month. I wish it did when I tried it.
Here my other reviews on this NAD supplements:
Why Im skeptical about Niagan
My 30 day Niagen experiment
Elysium Basis Review
Jami Chace says
Hi! I have been reading your site…. I mainly came as I was looking up info on a product a friend sells. LifeVantage. Was wondering if your familiar with the Landmark Study on the long term use of nutritional supplements, http://www.landmarkstudy.com, and the many peer reviewed studies Shaklee Corp seems to have (137 i think?) And being a science guy, i thought you might find this interesting.
In that study, Shaklee partnered with Dr. Gladys Block and her team at U.C. Berkeley. The study took three years, cost more than a million dollars, and was published in a peer reviewed journal.
Recently Shaklee has partnered with Dr. Elizabeth Blackburn of the University of California, San Francisco — a 2009 Nobel Prize winner in physiology or medicine who discovered how chromosomes are protected by telomeres and the enzyme telomerase.
And I see you mention Resveratrol in your article above and was wondering if your familiar with the Landmark Study II with Vivix? You can look more about Dr. Blackburn’s telomere research at
Landmark Study II on DNA and longevity will include 107 Shaklee participants who have been taking Shaklee (Vitalizer, Vivix and Shaklee 180) for approximately five years — as well as a group of non supplement users.
It appears that preliminary results of the study are very impressive. Would love to know your thought’s on this product Vivix, and its resveratrol properties … Thx!
Hi Jami, I’ve heard of Shaklee (theyv’e been around a long time) but not their Vivix product. I looked up the Landmark study. It looks like it showed those who took supplements had better measures overall disease markers than non supplement takers. Shaklee calls it the landmark study (they own the website too). The study title is Usage patterns, health, and nutritional status of long-term multiple dietary supplement users: a cross-sectional study.
Heres a link https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/17958896
I noticed Shaklee supported the study, which is fine. their people also played a role in data interpenetration (I’d rather they didn’t do that). I’ll look forward to Landmark Study II to see what they find as it relates to telomeres and other things.
Do you take Vivix? Do you notice a difference? I’ve added Vivix to my list of things to circle back and take a look at. 🙂
Jami Josephson Chace says
Oh Yay! I am so happy you wrote me back Joe. Yes… I have been taking Vivix everyday for 2 years now. What I have found interesting is the brown spots on my hands have disappeared. And at 51, I don’t have any aliments like my parents did. And the testimonials I’ve heard and read are crazy… especially when it came to tumors. I look forward to your info on what you find.
You might be able to gain access to more info by going here. (I’m not a doc, so can’t get all the info)
Thanks Again, Jami
Thanks Jami, I’m glad Shaklee has been working well for you. That’s interesting about the brown spots disappearing too. Thanks for the link. I will add it to my files 🙂
Of course, I write everybody back 🙂