We’re celebrating our upcoming Unbeatable Mind Retreat this week by bringing back Mark Divine’s conversations with some of this year’s retreat speakers! Each day we’ll highlight an episode featuring one of the amazing experts you’ll get to learn from at the Unbeatable Mind Retreat happening December 2-4, 2016 in Carlsbad, CA. Tune into these fun and informative discussions that will leave you with tips on how to conquer your physical, mental, emotional, intuitive and Kokoro (heart) mountains! Get inspired and join Mark, Robb, Jesse, Ben, Dan, Bob and other innovators at this year’s Unbeatable Mind Retreat. Learn more and register at: http://retreat.unbeatablemind.com/
“I’m one of those guys where if I leap outta bed in the morning and just get to email and Facebook and Twitter versus just laying there and being still for five minutes kinda like sets the standard of stress for the rest of the day.”–Ben Greenfield
Ben Greenfield is a well-known athlete and biohacker, as well as being an old friend of Commander Mark Divine. They discuss Ben’s background, his approach to training, and his latest finds in the realm of biohacking. Ben will be one of the speakers at the Unbeatable Mind Retreat, December 2-4, and he shares some of his insights with us. What will you be able to take from Ben’s knowledge about fitness and technology?
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Transcript & Shownotes
Hey folks, this is Mark Divine with the Unbeatable Mind podcast. Welcome back. Thanks so much for joining us this week and we really appreciate it. If you haven’t rated our podcast go to iTunes and give us a five star rating. That’d pretty awesome. And get on our email list at unbeatablemind.com/podcast.
Kay, my guest for this week is my good friend Ben Greenfield. If you don’t know Ben, he’s been on this show before. Ben’s an awesome guy. He’s an all round New Age, entrepreneur, athlete, warrior, leader, all-around cool dude.
Ben: Wait a minute, doesn’t New Age mean I wear toga?
Mark: Yeah, well maybe New Age didn’t belong in there.
Ben: And a tie-dyed headband?
Mark: My mind was desperately searching for a better word.
Ben: I think I get what you’re going after with New Age.
Mark: “Renaissance” was the word I was actually looking for. You’re a renaissance man.
Ben: Yeah, maybe something like that. I can’t quite… What’s that quote? About a man needs to be able to con a ship, change a diaper, pitch manure etc. etc. I can do maybe about 10% of that the things on that list, so I’ll take New Age.
Mark: That’s awesome. But you are a best-selling author, you’re an endurance coach to be lead athletes can’t, you’re an optional race champion I think? You’ve won a couple of those suckers? Think you have.
Ben: Yeah, I’ve won some obstacle races. Won some triathlons when the right people don’t show up.
Mark: Yeah, so we’re going to learn what’s interesting to Ben. What’s going on in your world today. So I wanna talk to you about training, and I know that you train a lot of folks for Kokoro camp, so I know people listening to this are going to be interested to hear about that, and also recovery. And some of your latest interesting finds in the world of biohacking. How’s that sound?
Ben: Nice. That sounds amazing.
Mark: Yeah. So tell us a little bit about yourself. I know you lived in Washington. I visited your property– you have a really cool little place there. But who’s Ben Greenfield?What drives you? What’s your ethos?
Ben: Yeah, that was fun when you came up to visit. We took a nice little 19 mile walk, if I recollect. With backpacks and boots and a long string of weary people behind us.
Mark: You’ve gotta tell the story about lunchtime. That was epic.
Ben: Yeah, yeah. At the 20X. Yeah, let’s get to that, but to answer your other question yeah I grew up in Idaho. I was homeschooled, K-12. Myself and my four siblings. And was just a consummate’s nerd. I played violin for thirteen years. And I was president of the chess club. And I was one of the earlier adopters of online World of Warcraft. And had read J.R.R. Tolkien’s “Lord of the Rings” like seven times by the time I was a teenager.
And I was definitely not really into the whole physical culture scene until l was about thirteen. And that was when I discovered the sport of tennis. And my dad took me to the sporting-goods score and bought me like a good pair of 10 pound dumbbells, which I had no clue how to use. I remember, I was trying to figure out how to work my biceps. And I remember the first move I ever did with the dumbbells was I laid down on the bed on my belly and used, like, the edge of the bed in almost like a concentration curl type of bench, or like a preacher curl type of bench and I would just lay there doing preacher curls.
And I would have, like, the health and the bodybuilding magazines stacked up to the side and then I perused through those and learned new moves. And I remember my second device that I got was I actually purchased one of those meat made-for-TV ab devices where you pull… It was like a spring-loaded device that you put up against her stomach and then you hold onto… You pulled against her stomach when you engage in an isometric contraction which retrospectively is a seasoned idea. And I would just hit that multiple times per day until my apps are sore and then eventually added a barbell, and a little TV where I could stick in mock Rocky movies. And I got to the point where I kind of started to geek out. I started to become one of those bro-science guys and I wound up studying exercise science at the University level. And advanced and human nutrition and pharmaceuticals.
Mark: Advanced human nutrition? Isn’t there just nutrition? Or is it nutrition for advanced humans?
Ben: Well, yeah, exactly. Nutrition for advanced humans… For cyborgs. No actually I did a self-directed Master’s degree. Which meant that they let me study… I had to propose it to the head of my department, but they let me put together a whole list of nutrition, biochemistry, microbiology and pharmaceutical courses, because I really wanted to understand more about the interplay between the human body and supplements and food and performance and so it turned out to be perfect little geeky Master’s degree for me because my interest at the time was bodybuilding and shortly after thereafter Iron Man triathlon, to sports where fuel and supplementation become pretty paramount to success. And I’ve never really looked back since. I’ve spent the last couple of decades just immersed in how to get the most out of the body and the brain.
Bodybuilding and triathlon
Mark: You don’t usually hear bodybuilding and triathlons in the same sentence. Were you doing them simultaneously?
Ben: Yeah, yeah. Actually the very first… I weigh about 175 pounds now. You’ve seen me. I was 215 in college at 3% body fat. And got bit by the triathlon bug and I wound up signing for a sprint triathlon. So I was already riding my mountain bike to college a couple miles back and forth each day and that was my quote unquote cardio for bird bodybuilding. I was messing around with the water polo team a little bit, playing some water polo.
And then I hadn’t really run much at all because running is so catabolic it flies in the face of putting on muscle for bodybuilding. So that was kind of the one missing variable. But I had figured I had enough in the bank to do the race. And all I remember from that first triathlon that I did was my tits hurt so bad from bouncing up and down as my chest was huge and I wished, like, halfway through this thing that I had a sports bra.
But after just getting trashed at that first one… For me losing is usually fuel on the fire to do better at something. I got crushed on the first one despite thinking I was fit and looked really good in spandex and wound up getting bit by the triathlon bug and going on and doing Iron Man races and beyond for like a decade. And kind of catalyzed all that muscle I worked so hard to build in college and speak of the devil I’m actually a point in my life now where I’m beginning to pack on muscle so I am starting to do a lot more heavy weight training, I’m going after kettle bell cert. I’m starting to take my colostrum and my fish-oil and my beta alanine and all these muscle building supplements now and kinda wanting to pack on the best bit of muscle. And you know what they say, when you turn forty pretty much what you have at forty is a lot of what you’ve got stuck with for the rest of your life from a muscle standpoint, so it’s good to not go into your later years in life too skinny.
Mark: I like that. You know what they say. Who is they by the way?
Ben: That would be exercise science researchers in the field of sarcopenia. Or muscle loss as you age that occurs naturally.
Mark: I love it. And you know what, I love talking to you, Ben, ’cause I learn a whole slew of new words I’ve never heard before.
Ben: Hmm. Yeah, some words I make up. Like sarcopenia. I just… I like to fool you, to add words your vernacular that require you to say the word “-pena.”
Mark: Now I know why you’re such a geek. I didn’t realize you had a Master’s degree in advanced nutrition. Now it’s starting to make a little bit more sense. What is the… Let’s kinda shift here to like the soft underbelly of Ben Greenfield. You know, I get all the science stuff and your passion for training and nutrition. But what’s the hardest thing you’ve ever done in your life? And it doesn’t have to be physical either.
Ben: Right, well one very hard thing was the birth of my children. My wife and I actually went through a course where the husband is supposed to be the birth partner, in terms of both breathing as well as acting as almost like a spotter. For the wife. I forget the name… It starts with an L, it’s some strange almost like a French sounding name. But you learn all these… It’s almost like you’re the male midwife. So we went through like this four month course and did like a natural homebirth with doulas and midwives and then me acting as… The same way someone would spot a bunch pressor or spot somebody squatting at the gym, your spotting your wife as she’s giving birth. And it was like my wife’s got, you’ve seen her, tiny, narrow hips. She’s one of those women who probably would’ve died in the Wild, Wild West giving birth. And she was having twins, so it was a high-risk birth as it was. And we spent ten hours in labor for with her sharp elbows and sharp knees digging into my thighs and my torso as she labored and as I was working both physically and was very concerned mentally for the life of the two children that were inside of her. That was a very harrowing evening. It was physically difficult, but mentally pretty difficult to and of course the finish line of that particular endeavor was the greatest finish line of my life. Getting to see River and Taryn, my twin boys who are now eight years old, come to life and to be birthed. But that was a long and difficult and somewhat scary evening. That one comes to mind as something hard that kind of falls outside the boundaries of Kokoro, and the Spartan agoge and these long, long races. And crucible’s that I do physically.
Mark: An emotional mountain crucible right there.
Mark: An unusual experience. Wow. And they’re beautiful kids. I remember meeting them, really neat kids. That’s cool.
Ben: Yeah, yeah. Another tough one was recently. And this obviously isn’t the toughest, but it certainly comes to mind, because again falls outside the realm of what we all usually talk about and that was I was so proud of myself. I shot my first big bull elk, way up in the mountains in Colorado. This was pretty recently. And elk will go a long time after they’re shot. And he took off with a long shot I probably got him in one long, not two. And blood trailed him for… I shot him about 7:45 in the evening and blood trailed till about 4 AM in the morning the next day. Went to bed till six, Dot backup and tracked him until 2 PM. Lost the trail out in the Prairie. And it was one of those deals where I was literally crawling on my hands and knees for mile after mile after mile. My nose to the ground. Just looking at tiny specks of blood and trying to find the little tracks that marked that specific elk. And I was heartbroken at the end of that thing because I never recovered the elk and he wound up being fuel for the walls and bears I suppose. That was a heartbreaking and also a very long, patient endeavor of night blood tracking. But yeah, I would say between having twins and murdering an elk that got away, those are a couple things that come to mind.
Mark: Okay. Two things that I’ve never experienced and I don’t think I ever will. Fascinating though.
So let’s talk about’s your training. So now you’re training for an obstacle race and you’ve gone back and forth. You’ve trained for Kokoro which is probably not that different from training for an obstacle race but what are… Would you train for right now and what does your training plan look like?
Ben: Well, five days ago I just finished a 32-mile obstacle race at Lake Tahoe. The Spartan world championships which is an Ultra Beast so it was 32 miles. It was extremely cold. There was a blizzard that blew in on race day. And I’m still recovering from that, so I’ve probably got a little bit of rhabdomyolysis and excessive muscle damage going on from that so my workouts this week have been all things that I do for recovery.
So for me, swimming is a big one. I do a lot of infrared sauna because it’s great at healing of muscle tissue and heating, and bringing blood flow to the tissue. I have one of these things that simulates running without the impact. It’s like an elliptical trainer on wheels that you can take out and like a bicycle, you can ride it but it trains your running muscles instead of your cycling muscles. And I do quite a bit of cross training on that, so I’ve been doing that this week and then a lot of…
Again when I’m recovering I do light resistance band type work. I even do a little bit of electrostimulation work. I actually hook electrode pads up to different muscles and you can with some of these units you can simulate a 600-pound squat. I’m not doing that this week. I’m more just using it for like passive muscle recovery. For me a lot of kinda easy work this week and as far as training goes, I’m really, to be honest with you, at this point that you’ve caught me and I’m kind of in the off-season. I’ve been training my breath holds for some big spearfishing trips I’m going on in Hawaii and Costa Rica. And so just doing a little bit of swimming, a little bit of kicking, getting ready to dive. You know you go but down to about 50 to 80 feet. Typically that’s on a two to three minute breath hold. And go after some big fish in the water. And then obstacle racing really won’t start up until next year and then I’ll be a mix of short course, Spartan racing, where they have like sprint courses that are a little more conducive to my goals I was going over earlier. Kinda get outta skinny endurance man mode and getting a little more into sprint, explosiveness, and strength.
And then also “Train to Hunt.” It’s a fantastic competition that involves a meat pack, which is like rocking with 100 to 150 pounds, as fast as you can on these like to do for mile poor courses. Optional course racing with a bow where you’re doing your bear crawls and yocentertre that carries, and your box jumps and everything but then stopping to shoot at targets in between its station. And then they also, as part of that…
Mark: Is that a sport, or is that just something you’re doing?
Ben: Yeah, it’s a new sport. It’s called “Train to Hunt.” It’s only been around for three years. It’s getting extremely popular, this whole field of, like, hunting fitness. Then they have also a 3-D shoot. No rangefinder. Just you gotta be able to judge your distances, you’ll kinda be walking through the woods with four other guys… Almost like golfing in a way, and you come up on this target and it’ll give you instructions like “draw kneeling stand, walk 5 yards forward, take your shot.” And so they take your total cumulative points from the meat pack, from the 3-D shoot and from the obstacle course shoot. And then that’s year time so it’s like a weekend of competition. So it’s almost like the CrossFit games for bow hunting.
Mark: So the meat pack is… You’re just rucking with an actual slab of beef? What?
Ben: Well, it’s to simulate getting your animal, your elk, your moose out of the mountains. But you’re moving pretty quickly because it’s a race. And you are required to have your bow. You can have it strapped across your back. You’re required to have everything you’d normally be hunting with, right? Your bow. Your arrows. Your quiver. All that stuff. It can be strapped to you’re back, you can be holding at. And then the sand bags to simulate the meat just because I suppose it would become an expensive/stinky event if they used real meat.
Mark: Just trying to imagine that. So you’re laying your sandbags over your shoulder like you would an elk or something like that?
Ben: No, you pack them. So I’ve gotta 7000+ cubic inch pack. I use these packs made by Kifaru. Just huge rucking packs that you can put a lot into. And I’ve got little techniques that I use and you’ve probably come across this rucking with the SEALs. You know if you put like towels or I use actual big industrial bubblewrap and I put that at the bottom of my pack, so that I can move 150 or 100 pounds up to the midsection. So it’s more on the thoracic spine. Because what happens is, when all that weighs down on your lumbar spine, your hip flexors lock up, and you lose your range of motion in the legs, so I get the weight sitting up really high and then I tighten the hell out of it. I tighten all the straps down and just lock it down is much as possible so it doesn’t bounce. And then normally a good rucking pack, they’ve typically got an inset frame and at the top of the frame has your load lifting straps. And the load lifting sure straps are supposed to when you’re rucking, they’re supposed to bounce around a little bit. Take some stress off the back, so they’re supposed to be like a 45° angle to the back. But I adjust my pack so that I literally pull the load lifting straps and the entire top of that frame as close as I can up into my straps. So it almost like cuts off air to a certain extent. It’s impossible to ruck for a day like that, but for like… For rucking over say like 3 miles we are just gonna be hauling ass for 45 minutes to an hour just in the pain cave, I’ll do that. And what it does is it keeps the weight from bouncing around. Keeps it super tight your spine. And I found that between that and shifting the load up to the midsection of the pack, you can boogie with a very heavy weight.
Mark: That’s fascinating. So you’re going a short distance. Three or 4 miles.
Ben: Yeah. So it’s just short and as hard as you can go.
Mark: That’s wild. That sounds fun actually. But let’s back up. You just did a 32 mile race, the Spartan Ultra Beast. How did you train for that? What did your training look like? Help the listeners understand how you prepared for that race.
Spartan Ultra Beast
Ben: Yeah. Well, the traditional way to prepare for that would be lots of running. You know, lots of running and lots of grip strength work. I tell people if they want to succeed at obstacle course racing, make sure that you are a good efficient, economical runner and that you just have massive amounts of grip strength. If you’re gonna focus on two things, those you two biggest things. Meaning you accumulate a lot of time just with the dead hangs, and monkey bars, and pull-ups. And I even have like one of those “Captains of Crush” hand grippers in my car and in the bag I will have on airplanes and stuff where I’m just constantly working grip.
And then the running component is usually a combination of good running form and frequent running. But for me, leading up to this event I was a) very pressed for time. Meaning I’ve been doing a lot of speaking. Lots of traveling. And b) I have been really infatuated with this newer concept of training according to your genetic profile meaning that you can use companies like “23andMe” or “DNAfit,” and you can actually test your… What’s called your power versus your endurance response capacity. Meaning do you respond well to powerful, explosive, heavy weight training, clean and jerk, squats, tire flips, keg carries, stuff like that versus like, a higher rap lower weight, body buildingesque type of routines. Along with aerobic work, so do you respond well to like an endurance or do you respond better to power?
And from a scientific standpoint what that means more specifically is what builds your mitochondrial density and your muscle fibers capacity, your muscles ability take on load better power or endurance, based on your specific fiber type and your specific genetics. It turns out I am way on the high and of the spectrum for being us power responder. Which makes sense, because I used to be a tennis player and a bodybuilder and I grew up–when I did get in sports, doing these like heavier, more powerful, explosive activities. So I trained for this race using three times a week, heavy full body weight training, primarily kettle bells, barbells, sandbags, kegs tires, sledge hammers, just like a mix of strong man and traditional power and weight training. Nothing longer than about 45 to 60 minutes for a single workout, but balls the wall hard for those power and explosive work outs. And then short but frequent runs, meaning like 10 x 30 second on the treadmill at a 10% speed… or a 10 mph speed, and a 10% incline. Hopping off the treadmill after every thirty-second repeats to recover and then getting back on. Just super short, explosive runs. And power-lifting. So that was how I trained for this, and people ask well how do you… As the race took me like seven hours and forty-seven minutes. How do you actually prepare the route body to be ready for the pounding and the core strength necessary to be on your feet for that long? Well the answer is that’s where I hack my lifestyle. So you and I are talking right now and I’m sending. On my next call I’ll probably be walking on this treadmill workstation is beside me. And throughout the day I’ll just stop and just throw down thirty burpees. And I’ll do that here and there throughout the day. By the end of the day I might’ve accumulated two hundred, three hundred burpees. So I do all these little things throughout the day to wear like the whole day is almost like a very low level exercise session with some brief spurts of high intensity thrown in. I tell you what once you a little bit of power-lifting and some short frequent runs onto that, I felt strong the entire day. I felt great. I was still a little bit sore afterwards bytes that was how I trained for that particular event was basically power-lifting and some short sprinting and then just time on the feet while working.
Mark: I love that. You probably scale your rafters on the way to dinner don’t you?
Ben: Scale my rafters on the way to dinner. Yeah, I actually… Well you’ve been inside of my house. It’s a bunch of old barn wood, and planks hanging from the ceiling. So yeah, our house is kind of like a rock climbing facility.
Mark: Yeah, well your whole property is and you’ve got that pull up bar that was pretty cool, so you can do a lot of… I kind of have a similar approach. Your whole day is a training playground, you know? I call them small spot drills, so anytime you have an opportunity to do some push-ups or do some breathing, or do some awareness training, there’s tons of opportunities throughout the day. And I always hear people complaining about not having the time to train, and I’m like, “you know what, you just need to change your orientation and think that anytime you have a… You get up from the desk, or any time you walk in between one room and another you have an opportunity to do some work.”
Been: yeah. I mean I have like little rules that I live by life by. Do you ever go to these conferences where there is like a conference and is at a hotel and you’re just in talks and stuff all day long. And this happens a lot in people who speak or people who go to conferences. But my rule when I go to conferences where I know there’s not a great time to work out. It’s just not gonna happen. You’ve got your morning breakfast where your networking, and then lunch winds up being two hours long as you’re sitting out there with people, and then dinner and then after dinner there’s some kind of after venue. You know you’re not gonna get your formal workout in. There’s no way you can slip away to the hotel gym for an hour or whatever. So on those days, my go to is I do a five minute ice cold shower at the beginning of the day, I do a five minute icy cold shower at the end of the day, so you get the blood flow and the nitric oxide release and all the cardiovascular and also the nervous system benefits of cold water therapy. And then my only rule is that’s for every hour that I’m at that conference I have to do thirty burpees. So whether it’s like slipping away to the bathroom or it’s like slipping away outside whatever. So every single hour I do thirty burpees, five minute cold shower at the beginning, five minute cold shower at the end, and yeah like you say, if you work these rules into your life where you just like, “okay this is how the day’s gonna go. I don’t care if I own exercise, but this is where I’m gonna grease a groove, this is where I’m gonna do these mini sessions.” That stuff adds up.
Mark: Most people would call three hundred burpees exercise but, for you, it’s just a drill.
Been: Well, thirty burpees. 2-2 1/2 minutes you can usually slip away and find that time. Just tell people you have an overactive bladder.
Mark: Yeah exactly. Another one that’s great is just if you don’t wanna do burpees use in the bathroom–which is kinda gross actually–just doing fifty squats in the stall is another good one.
Ben: Yeah, exactly. The squats in the stalls works well to. The burpees in the bathroom I mean, for me that’s usually when it’s the bathroom that’s the one the you can actually lock the door on, so you’re not the stall. It’s like a one-person bathroom. And then you always wash your hands very well afterwards.
Mark: Let’s talk about some other hacks, especially as it pertains to, like, recovery. You and I had an aborted podcast a while back, and we were getting into some really interesting things when my WiFi I went down. Let’s rehash that. What were some of the things that you do, or that you like to recommend to help people with recovery? You mentioned the infrared sauna. Let’s start with that one.
Ben: Oh yeah. Well I mean, even backing up and I’ll remember to get to the infrared. It’s important that you quantify a recovery. And that’s huge for me. Not just saying, “I’m recovered.” But actually paying attention to what our modern era of self quantification can tell us about recovery. Because musculoskeletal recovery does not occur at the same pace as the neuromuscular recovery. What I mean by that is if you are no longer sore from the workout it does not mean that you are covered. All it means is that skeletal muscle fiber repair has taken place. So I can do let’s say a WOD, I could do Murph, on a Monday, and feel good on a Wednesday in terms of my lats and quads no longer being sore.
But my nervous system, specifically my sympathetic fight and flight nervous system, might still be beat up from a workout like that. So you can measure this. And this is what I do every morning, is I use this concept called heart rate variability or HRV. And most people have kinda heard of this by now. A lot of people just don’t really use it effectively or practically. But I’ll roll over in bed and just put on the heart rate monitor. And I’m not like constantly walking around all day with electrodes attached my had and monitors attached to my body, but for five minutes each morning I check into my nervous system. And in so I’ll put this heart rate monitor on. I use an app called, “Nature Beat.” And I open up the app and it tells me my heart rate, but that it also shows me my sympathetic nervous system score, and my para sympathetic nervous system score. And almost like my… What is referred to as your HRV or your overall nervous system score. And I know if that’s above ninety I really truly am recovered and I’m ready go smash it. And if it’s below ninety and I ignore that, and I pushed through, and I work out hard even though my nervous system is still beat up, I inevitably within a few days, get some kind of like sniffles, or injury, or soft tissue nagging ache and pain, or something that showing me that my neuromuscular system wasn’t fully recovered. And so it’s almost a way to adjust your training on the fly.
And sure there are those days where you wanna push yourself even if you’re beat up. And that’s this concept of not over training but over-reaching. There is this idea in exercise science where the way you get to failure is you over-reach and then you do what’s called “super-compensation,” where you give yourself a lot of recovery. But you know, you do that a few times a year as you getting ready for a big event, but ultimately you don’t want to beat yourself up when you’re already beat up from the nervous system standpoint. So that’s one really important thing with recovery is you quantify.
Mark: You do that in the morning? The heart rate monitor?
Ben: Yeah. And that’s the time that you want to do it as you need consistency to get a reliable and valid measurement. So lying in bed, in the morning for five minutes. And it works out well because I’m one of those guys where if I leap a bed in the morning and just get to email and Facebook and Twitter, versus just laying there and being still for five minutes kinda like sets the standard of stress for the rest of the day. So I like to lay there and do some gratitude journaling, and some deep breathing, and let the heart rate monitor do its measurements. And then, start the day slow. So that’s one thing, is I’m sure to quantify a recovery.
And then, infrared sauna that’s a perfect example of something that’s different than a dry sauna or a wet sauna in that’s the infrared rays actually penetrate tissue 5 to 7 inches and they warmed joints, they cause a release of growth hormone. Cause an increase in what’s called “heat shock protein” which can not only increase resilience to the sensor nervous system stress when you’re out, let’s say you’re on a hard run, it actually… it makes your central governor, the part of your brain that causes your body to shut down when the going gets hard. It causes out to stay active for a longer period of time. This increased production of heat shock protein. So it’s almost a way to train yourself to be resilient to higher amounts of discomfort when say you’re not in the sauna but you’re out running or swimming or something like that.
There’s also some cool detox… Detoxification is kind of like a woo-woo term that gets thrown around too much in the wellness industry but you actually do see a loss of things like heavy metals and toxins when you use a sauna. And what I did I actually ordered one to my house, from a company called “Clearlight,” and it’s called the sanctuary because it’s big enough to do, like, yoga, I’ve a couple of 40 pound dumbbells in there, a weight plate and I’ll go in there and exercise for about twenty or thirty minutes almost every morning that I’m at home. And then I finish up with the cold water swim out in the tab back behind my house, so I get this one to combo of hot and cold which is really good for recovery, for waking up the body for improving lymph flow, blood flow, detoxification, growth hormone, heat shock proteins. There’s all sorts of cool things that happen with that combination of heat and cold, and specifically if the heat is infrared it’s quite efficacious.
Different kinds of infrared
Mark: Tell me the difference between near-infrared and far infrared and do we want both or one of the other?
Ben: Yeah, ideally you would want both. The near-infrared in terms of the way that it heats the tissue actually has a little bit more of a detoxification fact than that the far-infrared. And there are… There’s one company that makes… Forget the name of it. I’ve got one back by my infrared sauna. But it’s like this lightbulb that you can hang from the ceiling that’s a near-infrared lightbulb. And I’ll put that’s in the far-infrared sauna sometimes, but I don’t like it too much as my head hits it when I’m in there exercising and moving around. But if I were just laying down, you can do both near- and far-infrared if you want the full spectrum of infrared light.
Lights big so there are other forms of light that you want to get too. Like a good combination of UVA and UVB, which is not rocket science. You can get that from going out in the sun preferably between 10 AM and 2 PM during the day. There’s also wavelengths of light that are really unique. What’s called 600 to 800 nm of a wavelength of light, specifically red light, and they make actual devices now that produce this and I’ll give you two examples of how this would used. There’s one device called the vie light. V-I-E light. It was developed for people with Alzheimer’s to lower the amount of inflammation in the buildup of things like amyloid plaques and disruption of mitochondrial activity in neural tissue that happens during Alzheimer’s. But also if just anybody uses it, can increase blood flow to the brain. It can… The way I describe is it’s almost like a cup of coffee for your brain. But it is literally… It’s about an 800 nm wavelength, like a light almost like a little probe. And you put it in your nostril, and you just shine it in your nostril for like 20 or 25 minutes while you’re replying to emails and stuff in the morning it just kind six in their. And it exposes your neural tissue to this 600 to 800 nm wavelengths of light that improves the health of your brain and increases blood flow to the brain. That’s one way that you can use light as almost like a very targeted biohack that’s a little bit different than infrared.
And then there’s another one, and I just recently shot a video. I’ll probably be uploading it to the YouTube today. For you guys out there, they’ve shown that a wavelength of about 600 to 700 nm of the same type of thing of a red light. If you shine it on your testicles it can actually triple testicular… Triple testosterone production and vastly increase your sperm count and so there’s another one that I have that’s called the Joovv. J-O-O-V-V. and this is a light. It’s hanging behind me on the door of my office. And I’m not trying to crass here, but at some point during the day for the past couple weeks what I’ve been doing is I’ll just walk over there. You know my office is at home, and I’ll just pull my pants down and sit there working on my phone for five minutes, just five minutes. While this light is shining on my gonads to increase in testicular function. So yeah there’s all sorts of ways that you can use light. So yeah, it’s really interesting.
Mark: All right, now that one just blew my mind. You don’t often blow my mind but you just did.
Ben: It’s not that hard to do I mean, because I’d probably be touring around my phone anyways so I’ll just go and I’ll stand over this red light. I don’t necessarily expect everybody to be doing that. And you do need to be careful that you use a white right wavelength so you don’t write fry your boys, but yeah it’s certainly something for guys who want to increase testosterone. It’s a lot different than doping.
Mark: (laughing) You should be own reality show you know? I think I’ll submit a reality show just to follow you around all day with all the crazy things you do.
Ben: Yeah there are some reality shows that are… Like I got a call from the discovery network the other day because I’ve been starting to do more reality shows. I was on the Spartan TV Challenge show and then I recently did Stone Cold Steve Austin’s Broken Skull Challenge course on country music television. And then I got a call from the Discovery network and they wanted me to be on a reality TV show, and I haven’t heard back from them yet, but they basically said they put you in a dark cave for three days with all the other competitors and see who’s able to survive.
Mark: That came across my desk to. Someone asked me if I was interested and I said “I really don’t feel like hanging out with a bunch of guys in complete darkness for three days.” That doesn’t sound like much fun to me.
Ben: Well, I think they were offering like like seven hundred bucks or something like that. I’m like, “well you know if this was a like a ten thousand dollar prize on the line, I might go survive in a cave for three days.” But I might need a little bit of a financial incentive.
Mark: That’s awesome. So sauna… Icy cold–now most people don’t have the ability to put a cold bath in so can a cold shower…? I mean obviously a cold shower is good for you, but is there a certain temperature we’re looking for in the cold bath?
Ben: Yeah, sure. Ray Cronise, he’s a a former NASA a materials engineer who now does a lot of new research on cold thermogenesis and cold therapy, specifically’s for fat loss. What he’s found his lab is it’s about 55° is kind of like the cut off. Meaning once you get a lot warmer than fifty-five, you don’t get many of the same benefits as if you go fifty-five or lower. So if you can somehow get to at least fifty-five… I mean obviously if it’s cold and you have that sharp intake of breath we call the “mammalian dive reflex.” That indicates that your vagus nerve is being triggered. It’s being slightly stressed by the cold and you’re going to get a response if that’s happening, if you get that sharp intake of breath when you get into the shower. But ideally it’s supposed to be 55° or colder and one thing I always like to point out when we get into the a discussion like this is that’s you need to remember that your skin is a mouth. Anything from chlorine to fluoride to the birth-control pills that are in our municipal water supplies, all of that gets absorbed through your skin. So if you’re starting up a habit of a five minute shower at the beginning and end of the day, which for some people is longer than the shower they’d normally do, I recommend getting either like a there’s a bunch of companies that make showerhead filters like KDP is one, and it’ll just filter out the stuff that’s coming out of your shower so you’re not bathing yourself in toxins when you shower. Or you can get a whole house water filter, like a reverse osmosis filter, but yeah 55° or cooler and then preferably filtered.
Mark: What is the most interesting new hack–sounds like it’s these lights–but is there anything else that you…
Ben: I’ve always got all sorts of interesting things. Yeah, so I went down to the Peak Brain Institute in Los Angeles about a month and a half ago and went through about a week of intensive brain training where you have electrodes attached to your scalp and then those electrodes are attached to a computer that monitors alpha, beta, theta, delta waves. And then there are reward cues on the screen so for example you’ll fly a spaceship, and that spaceship will slow down or disappear or the smoke will stop coming out of the back of the spaceship when you stray into excessive beta brainwave production. Or when you fall out of consistent alpha brainwave production. You can actually program the software to reward you for whatever frequencies that you want to be rewarded for. So what I did is I went down there and I did what’s called a QEEG brain map. So they identified barriers of my brain that’s had things like too much distractibility, not enough focus, a need for almost like a form of meditation or increased alpha brainwave production. And then they trained me how to use this software in this kit. And so now it’s actually sitting sitting on the desk in front of me, they sent me home with a whole bunch of electrodes and wires and this laptop. And what I do, every other day now if for thirty minutes, and I’ll be doing this for the next three months to train myself how to focus for longer period of time, produce more alpha brain waves, and have a decreased distractibility and better sleep. I simply fly this spaceship with my brain while I have these electrodes attached my head and and it’s just basic… What’s called EEG neural feedback but it’s a more advanced form of it to where you’re actually your training your brain in the same way that’s a monk might train via meditation but it’s more like using technology to do so. And I don’t eschew traditional forms of meditation, like I’ve taken a transcendental meditation course. I very much like yoga. I’m a fan of all the mental visualization that I’ve learned from you, for example, at SEALfit academy. Everything from the holotropic breath work, to the warrior yoga, but I think it’s intriguing now that I’m able to use EEG and neural feedback and a computer to actually quantify this and to target the brain in almost like a laser-like fashion, where you can say that part of the brain is producing too much beta. We’re gonna shut it down. We are going to shift it into alpha, and all I have to do is keep the spaceship flying and it trains my brain how to do that.
Mark: That sounds cool. I want to do that, so I’ll follow up with you and figure out how you got to do that, so…
Ben: Yeah, it actually was really straightforward. I flew down there I got myself a little hotel near their place. I’d walk in each morning and they’d put me through a few sessions. I mean it wasn’t cheap, it was like–they cut me a deal because I’m a influencer and an author and you know whatever–but you know it cost me, it was right around four thousand dollars and I think if you’re just walking off the street it be closer to about 6K, I believe call. But in my opinion to have like those three months of your life where you’re just train yourself, you don’t ever have to do it again to just like be a Zen Master and use technology to accelerate the process, I think it’s intriguing.
Mark: Yeah it is. Have you used the use yet? ‘Cause I’ve tried that and it sounds a lot like the Muse. Except the Muse is fairly simple.
Ben: This is… There’s nothing like this in terms of the actual electrodes attached to specific areas of your brain. And the two-way feedback between your brain and the device, and the device your brain accepts there is like this twenty-five thousand dollars, that some professional sports teams are using that is similar I think there is a company… I want to say it’s Senselabs, that’s working with some teams? Yeah, Senselabs. They’re another innovator in brain training and they have a device that is slightly more expensive but that a lot of professional sports teams are using for a better focus and deeper sleep. It’s probably the closest thing to this I would say if you are going to choose anything from… There’s a company called Halo neuroscience that has one that’s a magnetic stimulation. There is the Muse which is a little bit more, it’s kind of almost like a cheapo version of some of this stuff. And then Senselabs and this other one that I’ve been going to, The Peak Brain Institute are other examples. And the reason I like the Peak Brain Institute is I’m able to talk to them every day. So they’ll look at my trainings and they’ll tell me, “Hey. you need to upregulate your alpha, or you need to train beta waves today.” Or, “Hey, you’ve got a race tomorrow, and we want you to sleep well. So run this 30 minute session that’s going to shift you way out of your high-beta waves before you go to bed at night.” So it’s kind of cool, you can tweak your training off of today’s or the next days goals.
Mark: yeah, that sounds fascinating. Cool. Well we’ve been cranking along now for about 45 minutes. I think I probably should let you go. I know you’re getting ready to go to Hawaii tomorrow for some wedding and some spear fishing. So how can folks… what’s the best website or how can folks learn about you and what you’re up to now?
Ben: Probably just… I know how hard it is to remember URLs when you’re listening to podcasts, so I would say just Google Ben Greenfield. And pretty much… I’m hopefully the first guy to come up. If not, my apologies to any other Ben Greenfields out there for the onslaught of Mark’s extremist listeners arriving on your website and pinging you with questions about shining laser lights on your balls. But just Google Ben Greenfield and it should come up.
Mark: Awesome, Ben. Well thank you so much again for your time. You’re really generous. You rock. Look forward to seeing you again soon. I’ll see you at our Unbeatable Mind retreat?
Ben: I wouldn’t miss it. I’ll be there.
Mark: Awesome. Look forward to it.
All right, buddy. Thanks again and everybody out there until next time, stay focused, train hard, train your brain. And maybe get one of those lights and see if it works.
Ben: Thanks Mark.
Mark: All right, Ben. You take care. Hooyah!
Ben: All right. Later man. Hooyah!
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[…] nootropics. I’ve discussed nootropics on the Unbeatable Mind Podcast with awesome folks like Ben Greenfield and Mike Bledsoe. But most of the questions I get stem from an interview I did with Daniel […]
[…] is nootropics. I’ve discussed nootropics on the Unbeatable Mind Podcast with awesome folks like Ben Greenfield and Mike Bledsoe. But most of the questions I get stem from an interview I did with Daniel […]