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Ben Greenfield on biohacking, nutrition, fitness and health

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Mark Divine

Mark Divine


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Author of the popular “Beyond Training” book, Ben Greenfield’s balanced approach to fitness, nutrition and health comes from his extensive experience in the fitness and wellness industry as one of the country’s leading personal trainers and wellness consultants. In 2008, Ben was nominated by the NSCA as America’s top personal trainer, and in 2013, Ben was voted as one of the top 100 most influential individuals in health and fitness.

Read more: http://www.bengreenfieldfitness.com/ben-greenfield/#ixzz2yOQiWu31


0:05 Mark Divine

Hey folks! Good morning. Mark Divine coming at you with Unbeatable Mind. This is our subject matter, Expert Call, and I am stoked to have Ben Greenfield on the line with us this month. Ben and I have actually talked a little bit recently because he added me on his podcast and tell you what, Ben is a treasure trove of information on a whole host to things that are valuable and interesting to us. I will give a short bio and then I will introduce Ben in person. Ben is -- actually he just came out with a book called Beyond Training, so I just ordered and Michael did as well. It is basically his past 8 years of research on how to train the body for endurance, train the body and mind for endurance. So that is -- I am excited to read that because it is very near and dear to what we needed to do as athletes in fields that are on your minds. So, he has got essentially a very highly regarded podcast and blog at bengreenfieldfitness.com. He has been a frequent contributor to many, many magazines and publications on fitness and endurance including Triathlete, Out There, Monthly, WebMD and whole lots of others, FitPro, I could not even read them all, Women's Running, Inside Triathlon. He has got a Bachelor's and a Master's Degree from the University of Idaho in Sports Science and Exercise Physiology. He was interestingly enough but I want to hear more about this Ben, he was named as America's top personal trainer in 2010 by NFCA. How did that happen? That is very cool, I want to learn about that. So anyway, he has got a tremendous background and he has got a lot of insights. So, Ben, welcome to our subject matter, Expert Call, thanks for joining us.

1:59 Ben Greenfield

Many thanks for having me around, Mark.

2:02 Mark Divine

Yeah. No, it is really cool. I am excited. We are going to have fun. Now, you just came back from the Paleo Ethics Conference down in Texas?

2:11 Ben Greenfield

Yup, I did. I was actually just telling you guys. I think I have had more beef jerky and the other thing that we all know our ancestors had a lot of caveman cookies for the past week than I already had my life so uhm, yeah I was just -

2:27 Mark Divine

Right. Yeah, you wonder how many caveman cookies they had back then. By the way, was anyone dressed up like a caveman?

2:35 Ben Greenfield

Nobody was dressed up like a caveman, no. Well, there were a few people that I think may have been but not on purpose.

2:44 Mark Divine

(laughs) Exactly. Oh that is awesome.

2:46 Ben Greenfield

You get some paleo hippies out there too.

2:50 Mark Divine

So, the awesome, you know, the interesting people that you saw there, what were some of the kind of, really, what opened your eyes? You know, from some of the other presentors, you know, what were some of the new interesting things that you could share with us?

3:07 Ben Greenfield

Well, I am going to be hypertransparent with you. I did not attend a single lecture. Usually when I go to these things, I spend a lot of time talking to people and playing with people. Meaning like, went out and did a lot of like chi gong in the park and some of the, what are called primal play sessions where we run around and you bunny hops up and down stairs and sprint across the park and do crocodile crawls and a lot of, lot of late night kind of networking sessions and parties and stuff like that.

3:42 Mark Divine


3:44 Ben Greenfield

Aside from the actual panels that I was on, I did not attend any lectures because the way I do these things is, I will go to them, I know I will get access to the lectures later on and you know, I will put them on an mp3 player and listen to them while I am on a hike. So, I am not a very good sit-in-the-classroom student kind of guy.

4:03 Mark Divine

I understand.

4:05 Ben Greenfield

But basically, the panels that I took part in, one was on stress hacking. We talked a lot about identifying stress, managing stress and minimizing stress. Work out stretching panel in which we talked about pre and post work on nutrition and then a ketogenic panel, we talked about ketosis, who it is good for, who it is not, how to get into a ketogenic state without doing harm to your body.

4:33 Mark Divine


4:33 Ben Greenfield

How to maximize the benefits of ketosis. And then I personally taught a seminar on achieving performance but through a more ancestral method. Kind of incorporating a lot of hunter-gatherer concepts, incorporating a lot of kind of cutting edge technologies and kind of biohacks as well. So kind of marrying them, the new school with the old school kind of stuff.

4:58 Mark Divine


4:59 Ben Greenfield

Those are some of the highlights.

5:00 Mark Divine

That is really awesome. Fascinating. But let us dig in to that last topic a little bit. I mean, how do you marry some of the modern with some of the ancient techniques? I mean, what do you do in your own personal training that you could share with us that kind of follow that theme?

5:18 Ben Greenfield

Sure. Well. Let us take for example something that a lot of people do not experience these days and that is the hormetic effect of fluctuations in temperature and in the environment, in our modern era of air conditioning and heating.

5:38 Mark Divine


5:38 Ben Greenfield

You know, indoor heating and kind of being comfortable in that single temperature all day long. You know, we do not necessarily operate our laptop computers at tents and outdoor shelters all day long in those cases, so you kind of have to tweak your environment to expose yourself to those stressors. So for example, I use one thing which is a vest, it is called the cool fat burner vest. So it is literally a vest you can use while you are at work, you know, emailing, typing on your computer or whatever, but it packs cold on the specific areas of your body so that you are activating brown adipose tissue, getting that up regulation of lipase, your body's fat burning enzyme, shutting down--

6:24 Mark Divine


6:24 Ben Greenfield

- inflammatory cytokines and getting some of the benefits of cold exposure. You know, there is also vasodilatory benefits in and an increase in endothelial nitric oxide synthase as well when you get exposed to cold. You know, I also do other little things throughout the day, I never take a warm shower, it is always just an icy cold shower and that is usually one to three times a day. I use that cool fat burner vest, I stand all day at work which is another kind of little mild stressor that I place onto my body that also allows me to train less and when I stand all day at work, I actually wear compression pants, I am wearing them right now. And those also has sleeves in them in which you can pack ice if you want to kind of keep your lower body cold or get some of the benefits of cold thermogenesis for the legs. Then on the flipside, you know.

7:18 Mark Divine

Hey by the way, by the way, Ben?

7:20 Ben Greenfield

What's that?

7:22 Mark Divine

I just stood up and put my weight vest on and I am going out to get an ice pack because you are making me feel like a pussy right now.

7:28 Ben Greenfield

Awesome. Awesome.

7:29 Mark Divine

So good, carry on. That is awesome. Okay.

7:34 Ben Greenfield

You know what, let us just wind up to each other throughout this podcast, I am going to put a barbell on my back for the remainder of our, just putting here. So, the other, on the flipside, you know, there is actually really, I was pleased to see it because I talked about this in my book, but this article was really excellent over at Tim Ferriss' website. He just had a biochemist write an article about the benefits of heat exposure and heat exposure is another really, really good hormetic stressor. You know, we have a lot of people kind of getting into like the use of infrared saunas and infrared waves for growth hormone release and therapy and there is even this concept of what is called, it is basically a hypertemperature exposure for cancer treatment. But there is also just the same hormetic benefit from a cardiovascular standpoint, from shutting down of information standpoint, from a nitric oxide production standpoint, from heat exposure. And heat exposure is a little bit more difficult to get when you are necessarily like at work just because of sweat you know, computers and writing and stuff like that but one of the things that I do is I subscribe to a lot of magazines, like I get vast company magazine and guitar magazine and ESPN and twice a week, I simply go to the sauna and I will sit in there for 40 to 60 minutes, you know, until my heart is pounding out of my chest and I am really, really uncomfortable but I will just sit in there and read my magazines and that is another kind of hormetic stressor that I work in.

9:16 Mark Divine


9:16 Ben Greenfield

And it is something simple like that like making sure that several times per week, you are getting some extremes of cold and some extremes of heat. That can be something that you can usually work in and for me it is all about productivity. So I get this cold exposure when I am at my standing work station, I get the heat exposure when I am learning and that is just one example of one the things that you can do to kind of get yourself into a little bit more of -- let us put it this way, to almost get yourself into shape without necessarily doing like a workout or a standard exercise session.

9:53 Mark Divine

So I am sure there are some listeners who may not be as much of hacker as you are, are asking what is the benefit of that by the way? I mean, what would, how would you know, getting an extreme, couple of extremes of heat and cold every week benefit them as athletes? I mean I still have-

10:13 Ben Greenfield


10:14 Mark Divine

It is still not a 100% clear in my mind, you know, what we are doing that for.

10:16 Ben Greenfield

Yeah. You know. So shutting down information. So heat and cold can do that. Okay? So you get a down regulation of inflammatory cytokines so you are going to recover faster. Number 2, you get an up regulation of endothelial nitric oxide synthase so it is like Viagra for your appendages and anything else that expose to those extremes of hot and cold should gain better blood flow.

10:43 Mark Divine


10:44 Ben Greenfield

Specifically with the cold like I mentioned, you get activation of brown adipose tissue which is the specific type of tissue on your body that takes calories and rather than using calories to generate ATP, they basically use calories to generate heat. So you are burning. You are taking fat from your waist line essentially and mobilizing it to create heat. So it is a really good way to retain your power to weight ratio or decrease body fat stores. There is also, and this certainly should not be ignored, there is a mental benefit too. There is a mental benefit to being uncomfortable every once in a while, to preferably being uncomfortable at some point everyday. I mean, that is kind of my rule as I do something that is kind of uncomfortable everyday. I do something that scares me every week and I think that is important to kind of keep yourself on the edge from an athletic standpoint when you do those types of things.

11:44 Mark Divine

Yeah. That is definitely very near and dear to our field of philosophy that we talked about on Tuesday, I completely agree with that. Is there anything that you know, that like Ferriss know that you will not try? Because you know, Ferriss is a big experimental hacker and it sounds like you guys have a lot in common. Is there anything you got that you would not even consider?

12:06 Ben Greenfield

You know, it has been a while since I have read his book. And a lot of what he has written on his website recently has been guest posts from other people, but let us take smart drugs for example.

12:21 Mark Divine


12:22 Ben Greenfield

And I think that you know, like Tim Ferriss himself will acknowledge this that there is no such thing as a biological free pass. In many cases, even though these things may give you short-term benefit, you need to be careful with them in the long-term because of the potential for -- you not being able to get the same type of say, nerve cell firing as you would without a Smart Drug as you would with a smart drug. So I am very careful with things like Smart Drugs. I could tell you right off the bat, I have never used Modafinil, I do not plan on using it. I have some friends who use it and it gives them a huge boost for about 12 to 24 hours and they crash hard.

13:05 Mark Divine


13:06 Ben Greenfield

I have used, for example, I have used a combination of Aniracetam, Piracetam and Alpha-GPC, and that is like a choline derivative, similar as you would get from like fish or eggs or walnuts.

13:20 Mark Divine


13:21 Ben Greenfield

That has a little bit more of an anti-inflammatory effect on the brain. It is something that is a little bit more natural. It is something that is over-the-counter, it is not a pharmaceutical, you can get those types of calories from a website like you know, Peak Nootropics, for example. But even though, that is something that I will use like once a month. Say I am at a conference, I am running off two hours of sleep and I got to go get up on stage and you know, really give a talk that digs deep into my brain. That situation when I pull off something like that, but it is very few and far between. So I am pretty careful with those type of Smart Drugs and I am bigger fan of just having a cup of coffee, doing a little bit of creatine which is a very, very natural neurotropic that your body makes anyways and it is good for your strength and power sets to do. A lot of people do not realize that creatine is a mental enhancing supplement as well.

14:20 Mark Divine


14:21 Ben Greenfield

But I will go with something like that rather than some of these slightly more potent stacks unless it is really few and far between.

14:33 Mark Divine

So, let us back up and try to talk about your kind of life in terms of how you got into training for endurance and triathlons. I believe that you were a body builder, a kind of in your first incarnation, am I right? Your first athletic kind of yourself.

14:53 Ben Greenfield

Yeah, I was actually kind of (crosstalk)

14:58 Mark Divine

Tell us a little a bit about how you got into body building and what was that like and then why you shifted to be an endurance athlete.

15:07 Ben Greenfield

Yeah. Sure. I was a tennis player in college.

15:11 Mark Divine

Oh you were? Okay.

15:13 Ben Greenfield

I burnt out on tennis by my second year and I have been playing tennis since I was 13 years old. I was really serious about it for a while and I just burnt out on it. I started getting my butt kicked on the college level, I began to not enjoy it anymore, it is a dread going to practice. And so, I began experimenting with other sports. I joined the men's volleyball team and played middle for them and we went and competed at nationals. I played water polo, played a whole set for the water polo team and taught myself how to swim in the process. I did soccer, basketball, just kind of experimented with a ton of sports but got in the way with things as well, which I had already kind of been into for keeping in shape for things like tennis. But I got into a little bit more seriously and kind of on a dare from one of my personal training buddies at the gym, signed up for a body building show and spent about nine months prepping for that, I gained a lot of muscle. And then kind of kept body building for a couple of years. So I, right now, I weigh about 175, I got up to 210 pounds at a 30% body fat and was just a beast. But I, you know, no sex drive, no libido, because my body fat was so low, horrible diet, you know very high protein, very low carbohydrate, very low fat diet which was not all that hot for everything from my kidneys to any of the bathrooms that I decommissioned in the process. You know, just basically, not a healthy sport at all. You go to these body building expos and people look good from far away and you look at them close up and they are red faced from all the full body inflammation and the net acidosis, they had acne, you know, they stink. You know, it is just not a good sport. So.

17:16 Mark Divine

Man, you just made them a pretty nasty picture of the sport.

17:20 Ben Greenfield

Yeah. Yeah. Not healthy. So then I shifted from body building - at the time that I was doing that, I began going out with the girl who is my wife now, Jessa, and she ran for University Idaho, she was a cross country runner.

17:34 Mark Divine


17:34 Ben Greenfield

And, I went out on a few runs with her. She dragged me to a triathlon that her and her brother-in-law were doing and I kind of watched them compete. And I thought it looked kind of fun. So I signed up for a sprint triathlon and I remember doing it, you know, I was coming out of body building and oh, it hurts like my chests were bouncing up and down because I had so much muscle on my chest and my back locked up and it was just you know, it was horrible. You know, it is hard to carry muscle, it is hard to cool a muscle and it was not a super pleasant experience but I finished and I really, really liked it. So I began doing more triathlons, they were really good outlet for me to apply what I was learning, kind of in the trenches about physiology and nutrition because that is what I was studying at college.

18:23 Mark Divine


18:24 Ben Greenfield

And you know, wound up getting in the bug, signed up for an Iron Man, you know, I have done 10 Iron Man triathlons now and just really got into endurance hard core as you know, it is kind of like the perfect geek sport for people who really geek out on fitness and nutrition because it is a pretty serious sport. Basically, I am blanking on the word - it is a sport of attrition.

18:53 Mark Divine


18:54 Ben Greenfield

And what that means is that if you do not play your cards right, if you do not plan right, if you do not plan your food, your pacing, your nutrition, your hydration, everything, you are screwed, you are not going to finish.

19:04 Mark Divine


19:05 Ben Greenfield

It is very different. It is something like a cross fit session where you can eat through because you just got to make you know, 20, 30, 40 minutes, if you're out there 10 hours, there is a lot of prep work you got to do along the way.

19:15 Mark Divine


19:16 Ben Greenfield

And that is just really feel to the geek side of me, having to make that plan and execute on a race day and make sure all the pieces go to place.

19:25 Mark Divine

Yeah. That is cool. So you still do weight training though as well, right? So give us a sense of your training plan. Let us say, in the run up to an Iron Man.

19:37 Ben Greenfield

Sure. Well, you know, I talked about this in my book, but there is kind of three different ways to skin the endorsed cat. There is a process called mitochondrial biogenesis where you are increasing mitochondrial density, mostly in slow twitch muscle and what that allows you to do is oxidize more fatty acids, more carbohydrates, more amino acids in general, just through the Krebs cycle and produce ATP for long periods of time with resistance to fatigue.

20:09 Mark Divine


20:09 Ben Greenfield

One way to achieve that is via high intensity interval and weight training pathway that is kind of called the AMPK pathway. And then the other way would be the aerobic pathway with high amounts of aerobic training and very, very low levels of intense training. Now, if you have a lot of time on your hands, going with the aerobic training is actually what ends up being successful for most of the best Pro endorsed athletes that are out there, the 80/20 approach and they have studied this. For the fast athletes out there, we generally see about 80% of intensity done at an aerobic pace. Generally paced that amounts to about 40% to 60% of VO2 max or maximum oxygen utilization.

20:54 Mark Divine


20:55 Ben Greenfield

And then the additional 20% spent at very, very high intensities that exceeds lactic acid threshold. And pretty much almost zero training in no man's land at that tempo kind of you know, it's kind of sort of hurting but not hurting very much pace. So it is an 80/20 approach. Now if you have 20, 30, 40 hours a week to train, that works very well but the reason that it does not work for someone who maybe has less time to train is because you got to put a lot of time in the bank when you are doing low intensity aerobic exercise to get that mitochondrial biogenesis.

21:36 Mark Divine


21:37 Ben Greenfield

Now, again, if you are a professional athlete and you have the time to do that, that works pretty well. The other option that is, it carries a little bit higher risk of injury if you do not recover properly and also requires a little bit more attention paid to form and to programming is the high intensity interval training approach where combine weight training and intense intervals at lower volumes and most of the work that you do is high intensity interval training with very little aerobic work, very little volume but you are still tapping into the same pathway, just be at different pathway.

22:18 Mark Divine

Is that the cross-fit endurance approach?

22:18 Ben Greenfield

It is a very, over training with that method as well. What is that?

22:23 Mark Divine

Is that the cross fit endurance approach?

22:24 Ben Greenfield

You know, it would be very similar to a cross-fit endurance approach. Exactly. So, the only issue with the cross-fit endurance approach being that sometimes I find that combining the, let us say for example, for triathletes, combining the swimming, the cycling and running at the same time or within the same workout as a weight training workout, often sacrifices biomechanics of the swimming, the cycling and the running and tends to increase risk of injury. So, I am not a big fan of doing barbell complexes and combining those with a say, like a swim in the same workout. But if you are splitting up the workouts and you are kind of isolating your weight training with attention paid to form, and then you are doing a lot of high intensity interval training for your swimming and cycling and running, and even using the weight room is more of a method to get strong than a MetCon session and your are using more of the swimming and cycling and running for the MetCon work, it is a little bit different than a cross-fit endurance approach.

22:33 Mark Divine


22:34 Ben Greenfield

But that approach works well also. So this is kind of the long answer to your question about weight training. I do weight training and I only train when I am training for Iron Man about 8 to 10 hours a week. And one of the reasons for that is because I will do weight training under high loads, increased lactic acid tolerance via those methods, tapped in to increased motor units recruitment via those methods and basically do less volume. So obviously high risk of injury, more need for skill based training but it ultimately results in the ability to train less. So.

24:14 Mark Divine

Right. That makes sense. Yeah. That is kind of the approach that I take for my endurance work as well. I mean, I do not you know, I do not have the patience for the volume of longing for distance training any longer.

24:29 Ben Greenfield

Yeah. Yeah. And you know, what I tell people if you have the time, do it, go for it.

24:36 Mark Divine


24:37 Ben Greenfield

But it is not, you know, the interval training is the way to go. So I mean generally, the way that my day looks is, so I will spend a lot of time on my feet standing, walking, I do a lot of greasing the groove so I've got like a pull up bar installed in the door of my office, you know, I lift heavy stuff every now and again, I stop at multiple intervals throughout the day and do jumping jacks and burpees and things of that nature. So by the time I have gone into the end of my work day, I do not work out in the morning, I work out at the end of the day just because frankly that is when your body temperature peaks, that is when your reaction time peaks, that is when your central nervous system activity peaks, that is when your protein synthesis peaks post workout so it is actually favorable. You are able to tweak your day to work out between about 4 and 6 p.m. It also works really, really well for kind of this carb backloading approach. Meaning that if your dinners are more carbohydrate intensive then the best time of day for you to be working out is prior to dinner anyways. And just because my wife is a great cook, my dinners are usually the most carbohydrate intensive meal of the day. But you know, I am working all these things in throughout the day and then my workout is just the icing on the cake in the afternoon.

25:48 Mark Divine


25:49 Ben Greenfield

You now, it is typically either a weight training session or a high intensity interval session or if it is a recovery day, usually it is something like that sauna session I talked about or like a hypoxic swim or something that still presents me with a hormetic stressor, but that does not suppress the joints or the nervous system quite as much. So even a recovery day for me is still a training day, but I will pull out things like hypoxia, cold thermogenesis, heat exposure, things like that, so that I am still getting some kind of a training effect on a recovery day but it is not quite as big of a hit on the nervous system.

26:29 Mark Divine

Right. Very interesting. What about breathing, do you do any specific training for breathing?

26:38 Ben Greenfield

Yeah, I do. So, I will not deny the benefits of meditation whether it is mindfulness-based meditation or you know, like a 20-minute progressive neuromuscular relaxation or body scan or something like that throughout the day. But I do not do a lot of that in the past two years specifically since I began kind of making a couple of my exercise sessions during the week into meditative sessions.

27:06 Mark Divine


27:07 Ben Greenfield

So, how you do it is that there bearer receptors in your chest that can result in a release of cortisol if they are depressurized. So shallow chest breathing can result in a cortisol release whereas nasal breathing allow the air to travel through the turbines in your nasal cavities, warms the air, humidifies the air, oxygenates the air and not only allows you to more easily pass oxygen in, once it gets in to the alveoli in your lungs, but it also does not put pressure on those bearer receptors in your chest. So if you could teach yourself how to do deep nasal diaphragmatic breathing while you are training, and this lands itself well especially to cycling, to running and to some of the lower intensity weight training sessions like super slow training.

27:56 Mark Divine


27:57 Ben Greenfield

If you can do that, you can turn exercise into kind of a meditative activity and that is one thing I will use in any of my sessions that are below that lactic acid threshold is that deep nasal breathing approach. And when I first started dong that, I was actually so crappy at deep nasal breathing, I would use one of those power strips on my nose, actually kind of teach myself how to open up when you use the nose more. The other thing that I combine that with is the process called rhythmic breathing. So rhythmic breathing is based on this concept of breathing of less CO2. A lot of times when you tend to see people who are stressed out, it is not necessarily because they are not getting enough oxygen, and these would be the people who kind of like-

28:43 Mark Divine

Right. Because they are just not releasing the CO2 properly.

28:46 Ben Greenfield

Right. They are not releasing the CO2, Exactly.

28:49 Mark Divine


28:49 Ben Greenfield

So, what I will do is I will basically use this rhythmic breathing pattern where I am exhaling less than I am inhaling during the activity. So there is a really good book called Running on Air that teaches you how to do this when you are running, you can learn it within a couple of days if you got access to a track for example or you can kind of focus just on the breathing and the rhythm rather than on trails and stop signs and stop lights and stuffs like that. For example, one pattern that I will use that I will combine with that deep nasal breathing is I will go out to a nice trail out the forest that is, kind of nice out in nature, I will do the deep nasal breathing but as I am running, it is one breath in for three foot strikes and one breath out for two foot strikes.

29:41 Mark Divine


29:41 Ben Greenfield

So, it is the 3/2 breathing pattern. And the advantage of that aside from the better regulation of carbon dioxide is the fact that when you exhale on a foot strike, that shoves your diaphragm up against your liver. So people get side issues, people who kind of have issues with discomfort in the upper chest when they are running. If you are exhaling less when you strike your foot, you are putting that much less pressure between the liver and the diaphragm so you get that benefit as well. But basically, as far as breathing goes, that combination of a rhythmic breathing pattern combined with deep nasal breathing is something that I will use when I am running, when I am cycling or when I am doing a slower less intense weight raining session.

30:29 Mark Divine


30:29 Ben Greenfield

And you know, I totally will not deny it. There are times when you are sucking air, when you are breathing through your mouth, when you are up above lactic threshold, when you're doing a barbell complex and it is just like, get as much air in as you can, screw that whole nasal thing. But for the lower intensity sessions, I turn them into meditative sessions and it works really well.

30:49 Mark Divine

There is quite a mistake on that. I wrote a little bit about that in my last book in which __30:54__and something that we are really working on here and feel that is to integrate mindful movement and deep breathing into our training sessions and to turn them into a cross training session where you are training the mind in a meditative state through the breath and the awareness but you are doing it and making the hypertraining session even more powerful because of your-

31:17 Ben Greenfield


31:18 Mark Divine

Because of the benefits that you just described. You know I think that this whole point of breathing is incredibly valuable and it is not simple to learn because we are doing lifetimes of patterns, right? You know, I have got a, sitting on my desk here, I have got a power lung. Have you ever used a power lung or an altitude breathing apparatus to kind of fast track, developing the musculature to do that deep diaphragmatic breathing?

31:46 Ben Greenfield

Sure. Anytime I go to L.A. I have always got a power lung in my bag because I know I am going to be stuck in traffic for at least three hours so. I have this...

31:55 Mark Divine

Yeah. A power lung is, you know, you can just, kind of like, wait, some of the things you have been talking about is the fact, you can train while you are sitting there watching the news, if you are silly enough to turn the news on when you get home at night.

32:06 Ben Greenfield

Exactly. I have actually got it-

32:08 Mark Divine

Or you are reading a book or something and it is up there. I mean, you know, I started using this, I am like holy shit. You know, I have got this on the simplest setting and I could barely get air through it. But aaa....

32:17 Ben Greenfield

Yeah. I have got a sprint triathlon coming up here on Saturday, it is called the Grizzly on Montana. So today is kind of an easier day for me. Tonight, I will probably watch a movie or a TV show and I will have my power lung and what I will do is 10 sets or 10 repetitions of 3 seconds in, 3 seconds out with the power lung and generally go through that throughout you know, like an 1-1/2-hour, 2-hour long movie. But the other thing that I will do when I am in traffic is for each mile marker, I have to do that set. So if it's a thousand-mile marker, it is one set of 10 seconds in 10 seconds out. You know, a few other things that I like for swimming, I am a big fan of a FINIS front-mounted snorkel and you can get what is called a cardio cap with that which is an airflow resistor and you can do your swim sessions basically restricting airflow, that is really, really useful. I like to use that for open water swimming where you just want to be, looking at the fish, looking at the rocks, kind of seeing what there is to see in the river or the lake or the ocean but also getting a little bit of that mild hypoxia that you can get with swimming. The other thing that I use of course is the elevation training mask. I am a big fan of that. It is great for like body weight sets that you want to make more difficult.

33:42 Mark Divine


33:43 Ben Greenfield

It is also good for, like, for example, this is something I do when I want to spend time with my kids but I also want to workout, that's a tantrum that a lot of parents face. So I will put on my weight vest and grab my elevation training mask and take them on a hike so I am huffing and puffing, you know, and __34:01__ running up ahead of me and...

34:03 Mark Divine

_34:05_ look with that get up.

34:07 Ben Greenfield

Yeah. It is like, who is the guy about to kidnap those kids with that creepy mask on. It is less scary than my creepy clown outfit though. I will do that. and then the other thing, and this is a little bit more expensive but I have a Hypoxico air generator in my garage and I use this when I was training for Iron Man Canada last year at the Whistler, and you can hop on a stationary bike or a treadmill and this is simply a generator that you can place next to either of those and it will, it is the only really true form of hypoxia if anything we have just discussed because it literally reduces the partial pressure of oxygen in the air that you are breathing and it can simulate up to almost 20,000 feet and put a mask over your face and you breathe. While you are doing it, it comes with a pulse oximeter so you can track your actual blood oxygen concentration, it is kind of fun to watch that drop as you get into your workout.

35:08 Mark Divine


35:09 Ben Greenfield

It comes with a canopy that you can even place over your bed that will allow you to sleep at altitude and even though I have the canopy, I have never used it because I would not get laid if I did.

35:22 Mark Divine


35:23 Ben Greenfield

My wife is not a fan of strange contraptions hanging over our bed so I set it out at the garage but it's got strange, so...

35:32 Mark Divine

Just go to the garage. That is hilarious.

35:36 Ben Greenfield

Yeah. If folks are getting ready for like some kind of an invented altitude, Hypoxico rents these things and it is just basically air generators that you can, whatever, take a treadmill, slap it out in your garage, put it at an incline, put on a weighted vest, slap that mask over your face and just rock for a couple of hours and bring that thing up to whatever altitude you want to be at.

35:59 Mark Divine

Fascinating. Wow. Are you clearly very much into the quantified self-movement I imagined? Like you track and measure yourself as you are trying all these crazy things?

36:15 Ben Greenfield

I kind of sort do. I am not a big fan of electromagnetic field exposure or Bluetooth signals.

36:24 Mark Divine


36:24 Ben Greenfield

Because I think that those are stressful to cellular membranes and also stressful to neuronal tissues especially when they are up near the head.

36:35 Mark Divine


36:35 Ben Greenfield

So I do not use a lot of these sleep tracking devices, I do not use a lot of the devices that attaches to your head. But as far as I go with electronic self quantification is every morning when I wake up, I do a heart rate variability measurement, and it is only for 5 minutes. So I will track the strength of my sympathetic and parasympathetic nervous system and all that requires me to do is put on a Bluetooth enabled heart rate monitor, you know, the chest strap, and that sends the signal to my phone. So I turn my phone on and I use an app called the SweetBeat app for this. And the SweetBeat app will track, it will track your heart rate variability, which is basically going to see how well your vagus nerve is feeding communication into the electrical nodes in your heart so it will track the feedback from both your sympathetic and parasympathetic nervous system branches and give you a pretty good idea of which one of those branches is beat up, if they are both okay, if it is the day you need to go easy, if it is the day you need to go hard, if it is the day maybe you need to do some journaling or some deep breathing before you get out of bed just because you woke up stressed out. But that is a really, really good form of self-quant. Yeah, it is a Bluetooth signal and it has got a cellphone and all that jazz, but I will do that when I get out of bed, but when I go work out, I go electronics-free. You know what, I race for team Timex and so I have got the garage full of all these devices I can take out with me, to quantify my training and frankly, I am a big fan of training unplugged just because I do not like having my cellphone on me and having all these EMS signals and being distracted by all these self-quant equipment when I am training.

38:30 Mark Divine


38:31 Ben Greenfield

So from an electronic standpoint, mostly, all I do is that heart rate variability measurement in the morning. And if I am getting ready for a big event like an Iron Man or something like that, I also have just a simple pulse oximeter on my bedside and I will use that to make sure that my blood oxygen concentration is above 97%. If I start to see it drop below that, that is generally a pretty good indicator that I am lowering my hemoglobin concentration, iron, ferritin, things like that through training and I need it to either bounce back or go have a big steak. The other form of self-quantification that I do is twice a year, I will do a comprehensive gut panel with parasitology and especially for folks who travel a lot, I think that is an important one, to see if you got things like H. pylori, Blastocystis, bacterial overgrowth, Candida, things like that going on in the gut, just because the gut is where you are going to produce many of your neurotransmitters that have everything to do with sleep, to mood, to libido, and the gut is where your immune system lies. It is very, very important to keep track of the health of your gut and the more that you travel, the more weird places that you go, the more important it is to see if any creepy critters have found their way in to your GI tract. So I do a gut panel and that I just self order that to my house. You do depending on the panel you get, anywhere from 1 to 3 collections over the course of a few days and you toss your poop into the refrigerator and once you got all your bottle filled up, you mail that off via the FedEx prepaid label and within a few days, you get a PDF back that gives you a pretty good idea of the biome in your gut. So, I do that twice a year and that is really, really helpful. I usually discover things going on that need addressing and I always feel better when I address them. And then the other thing that I do is four times a year, I do a full blood panel. So testosterone, cortisol, CRP, red blood cells, white blood cells, lipid panel, pretty much everything that would indicate where my body sat and what I need to do to address certain parameters. In this day and age, that is not expensive to do.

40:55 Mark Divine


40:55 Ben Greenfield

You could do four a year for right around 1200 bucks, if you went through like a wholesale testing place like DirectLabs for example, WellnessFX is another one that I use. And that is really useful just for targeted nutrient therapy, you know, whatever. My thyroid is kind of decreasing. You know, my T3, my T4, my TSH, I need to up regulate my intake of organ meats you know, for example. Or my testosterone is falling, I need to pay better attention to recovery or manage stress a little bit better so that I am not turning so much of my steroid precursors in the cortisol formation. Or you know, I have been beating myself up with running too much and my iron storage protein and ferritin has dropped off, so I need to back off running and maybe do a month of ferritin pyrophosphate supplementation. So you keep track of these little things and for me, that is just better living through science. It is not like our ancestors necessarily had access to that kind of blood testing or targeted supplementation or anything like that but I think that as long as what you are putting in your body is natural to targeting issues that, you know, it is just smart living to do something like that if you really want to take care of your body and you want to be around to see, you know, your great grandkids hit a home run, I think that that definitely increases your chances of being there.

42:27 Mark Divine

Yeah. No doubt. Fascinating. So we do not have a whole lot more time but I wanted to ask you about, let us just project ourselves 10 years into the future and you are quite aware of what is happening with the acceleration of technology and biogenetics and nanotechnology and artificial intelligence and all this stuff. What do you see the state of training in 10 years? What is on the horizon in your world, in your view?

43:04 Ben Greenfield

When it comes to, I mean, obviously, you know, embeddable self-quant chips are going to be, I would say one to two years out in terms of it being very, very easy to do something like that. I mean you can use a single drop of blood in with mass spectrometry get over 40 different lab parameters that I just described and rather than driving to the lab like I have to do four times a year. You can get that stuff with a single drop of blood from your fingertips. So from a self-quantification standpoint, we are going to see the ability to be able to track a lot of the blood parameters that I just described 24/7.

43:45 Mark Divine


43:45 Ben Greenfield

From a fitness standpoint, I unfortunately think that as people get busier and busier and get pulled in more direction and get more obsessed with online social networks and you know, living these fake online lives and just you know, feeling this pressure to constantly be productive, constantly busy, I unfortunately think we are going to see more and more of this, squeezed in as much into a shorter period of time as possible exercise routine workout like the 4-minute exercise routine and we have got the, like the -- what is it called, the Oculus Rift, I think it is called, the virtual trainer where you can get and do a really quick workout in the comfort of your home, and probably be hooked up to a lot of EMS while you are doing it.

44:36 Mark Divine


44:37 Ben Greenfield

You got the New York Times', a 7-minute workout routine and, you know, this obsession with Tabata sets and 4-minute intervals and short things. You know, I think that all of that is great to a certain extent and I will not deny the benefit of, if you are at a conference, throw in a couple of Tabata sets, to stay fit, it is fine. But, I think that we run the risk of potentially losing the ability to just step out into nature and go for a bike ride or go for a nice hike or grab a stand-up paddle board and head out to the river for a little while. Unfortunately, I think we are probably going to see less of that in much of the population and this rift will develop between the people who are just out there, kind of tapping into their ancestral roots and the people who are using extreme electronics and technology and, I will not throw any names out there, I guess. But you know, there are people who are using electrical muscle stimulation and just like, high intensity EMS for 5 minutes a day to grab as many motor neuron units as possible and really, you know, like shock the body into submission and using only that to stay fit. And yeah, you can stay fit doing that stuff but I think that there is probably a biological cost and I just think you need to be really careful with that so.

46:00 Mark Divine

Right. I agree.

46:01 Ben Greenfield

So, I kind of regret towards people trying to squeeze a lot into a shorter period of time as possible and I just, I do not think that is as healthy as going outside.

46:16 Mark Divine

Yeah. Going outside and playing. Like that primal fitness alligator crawl man, it will kick your ass. And it is fun.

46:22 Ben Greenfield

Exactly. Primal fitness, you know, animal play. We have got guys like Darryl Edwards, Frank Forencich, Mark Sisson, Erwan Le Corre, all these guys who are preaching this method of just like getting outside and playing and using your body as a weapon, whatever you want to call it. But you know, the older I get, the more I am getting into that approach. I think it is why I am making a shift from Iron Man triathlon, kind of a technology pristine spandex-clad sport I am getting more into like the dirty, muddy kind of obstacle racing, Spartan racing.

46:58 Mark Divine

Cape Coral camp?

46:59 Ben Greenfield

My gym. Yeah. Yeah, my gym right now is a wall, two cinder blocks attached to chains, four tires, a hay bale attached to a tree for spear throw, traverse rope climb, 30-foot rope from a tree, two heavy buckets full of gravel and then a trail. And those are just planted at different areas around my property and that is my gym, you know, that is where I go beat myself up. And I am a much, much bigger fan of that now than hopping on my comfy trainer for two hours and watching a movie or whatever.

47:38 Mark Divine

Yeah. Well, that is music to my ears. Because I completely concur with that philosophy. We use the gym as an artifice to train for life and so I hardly encourage everyone to take Ben's advice and to get outside and play and then some of these, the hacks that you are talking about, Ben, are fantastic. We can get inundated with all the latest stuff and so like, you were to recommend just three things, I'm sure everyone asks you this, what were the top three that the listeners could say, okay I can do that, I can those three. I am not going hook myself up to some electrocardiogram everyday but maybe I will those three. What would they be?

48:19 Ben Greenfield

Yeah. For bio hacks, I would say number one would be infrared light. There is a really cool study showing that infrared light exposure for 20 to 30 minutes in the evening before you go to bed at night can enhance athletic performance, it can enhance sleep. It is very similar to our ancestors sitting around the fire at night.

48:39 Mark Divine


48:42 Ben Greenfield

It is very therapeutic to the body, it is very warming. I am a nerd so I actually have a mat underneath my bed where I sleep that actually emits infrared waves. It's a biomat and it's expensive. But you can also, eight bucks off at Amazon, just grab yourself a 500-watt infrared lamp and you can plug that in and when you are maybe reading a nice book in bed at night before you go to sleep, you know, not your Kindle, not your iPhone, not your laptop but just you know, a book, those are made out of paper by the way.

49:16 Mark Divine

Yeah, I notice that.

49:18 Ben Greenfield

Put on an infrared light and just shine that thing, it's nice and warming, it feels really good. You do not have to shine it right at your face, you can shine it at the wall, beside your head. And that is number one, it is infrared light. Super easy little bio hack you can use.

49:30 Mark Divine


49:31 Ben Greenfield

Uhm, let me see, what else. Number two, I would say would be, think about the electromagnetic field exposure that you are at if you are at home or if you are at work and how you can mitigate that. And one of the top tips that I will give to you is to turn off your WiFi router whenever you are not using it. So if I am in my office, I will hard wire into that router and you can easily go into the admin settings on your router, in most cases, you simply open your browser and go to or you just look on the back of your wireless router to see whatever is written on there and you turn off the radio signal. So you just plug yourself right in, you turn off the radio signal because that thing emits a ton of signal and then when we go to bed at night, we just unplug it completely. So that is number two and the WiFi router is one of the biggest EMS generator in your home and that is super-duper easy to turn off. And then the last thing, let me think. Because I mentioned heart rate variability is one thing that is important to measure. When we talked about some of these hypoxic methods, we talked about cold thermogenesis. Let me think. Let me think of one of the things that I could throw out there for folks. Let us see. I would say, since I consider supplementation, to be a form of bio hacking.

51:09 Mark Divine


51:11 Ben Greenfield

I don't use, people think I pop like 30 pills a day, I don't. They are just, I use pills when I am in need of targeted supplementation for specific things. But one thing that I found to be very, very useful if you are low on sleep, if you're beat up, if you are travelling because it is a really, really potent anti-inflammatory, you can find it at any health food store, pretty easy to get your hands on and that is percumin. So what you do, you wake up and on an empty stomach in the morning, you take about 1 to 2 grams of percumin and that will shut down brain inflammation, it will assist with a lot of the oxidation that occurs when you are travelling, jet lags, solar radiation, x-ray radiation, all that stuff. Percumin is a rally potent anti-inflammatory. That is another one. Now, be forewarned that there are some studies that show that they can affect muscle protein synthesis so I would not take it right before you go to like a morning weight training workout. But if it's just kind of a day, you are getting up, you are going to work, your brain is beat up, you low on sleep whatever, I like percumin as a bio hack or something like that, about 1 g to 2 grams. So that is another one. That is pretty easy, easy to get your hands on, cheap supplement, something that you buy-

52:29 Mark Divine

Is that the, is it the same as turmeric? Are they related?

52:36 Ben Greenfield

Yeah. Except percumin is the concentrated isolate of turmeric. I use turmeric as a spice but you would have to use a heck of a lot of turmeric to get what you get from about a gram of a percumin capsule.

52:46 Mark Divine

Okay. Interesting. Yeah. Because I agree, I have been taking turmeric but I did not know what percumin was, now I do. So thanks.

52:52 Ben Greenfield

Yeah. You can have the similar painkilling effect as ibuprofen as well, so it is nice for that.

53:00 Mark Divine

Interesting. Well that has been fantastic information, Ben. This has been a lot of fun. I wish we had more time, but I know your time is valuable, too. We certainly appreciate it, everyone who is listening to this would then be on mind now and in the future is going to get a ton of information. How could people, you know, besides your book, which is available now on Amazon.com, why don't you tell us a little bit about the book and then how people can reach out to you or learn more about you?

53:35 Ben Greenfield

Sure. I will keep this quick for folks. The book is at beyondtrainingbook.com. There is a bunch of kind of free hidden chapters and stuff over there if you want to check it out, try before you buy. But it's split up into fitness, nutrition, lifestyle, recovery and brain. And it's kind of a cookbook for enhancing as many different parameters as possible. From strength, to power, to speed, to balance, to mobility, performance, fat loss, digestion, hormone optimization, sleep, you name it. Every tip and trick I know is in that book. So that is at beyondtrainingbook.com and then I blog and I have a podcast and I put out nerdy videos and all sorts of fun stuff over at bengreenfieldfitness.com. Huge range of topics, lots of article I wrote over there was on, a bunch of things that you can do to enhance sexual performance. You know, I just did a podcast on what kind of beer is healthy. So we kind of go all over the place on that show but bengreenfieldsfitness.com is my blog.

54:46 Mark Divine

Awesome. Alright. Well, Ben thanks again and you have yourself a great afternoon. I look forward to meeting you in person some day soon and I know I will because you are coming to the Cape Coral camp this summer, right, in June?

55:03 Ben Greenfield

That is right, I will be there.

55:04 Mark Divine

Alright. Oh yeah, Michael just sent me a text but let us, we will follow up with a lot of stuff. I mean, there is definitely a ton of things that we can talk about and play it on and I am looking forward to more connections with you, buddy.

55:21 Ben Greenfield

Alright, cool. Thanks for having me on Mark.

55:24 Mark Divine

Yeah. Great pleasure. Alright folks, this is Mark Divine and thanking again Mr Ben Greenfield for joining us and you all have a great month. Train hard, stay focused, have fun and check in with us if you need any help or support.