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Fitness, Biohacking, Smart Drug & Supplement Secrets Of One Of The Fastest Growing Sports On The Face Of The Planet.

zack burks

Imagine a stadium full of screaming fans.

Zoom in on the contestants. They’re sweating from the intensity of the competition. What could it be? Boxing? MMA? Basketball? Tennis? American ninja warrior?

Nope.

It’s electronic sports, also known as eSports, and the “athletes” are headset-wearing, energy-drink-guzzling, smart-drug-popping gamers.

And this sport is booming. 

Top eSports tournaments now draw audiences that rival the biggest traditional sporting events, and live streams online routinely attract more than 100,000 viewers. Companies like Coke, Nissan and   Red Bull sponsor tournaments, and last year alone, over 205 million people watched or played eSports.

As a matter of fact, today’s eSports tournaments rival practically any big sporting event. The League of Legends Championship sold out Staples Center in 2013, then sold out the 40,000-seat World Cup Stadium in Seoul a year later while drawing an online audience of 27 million — more than the TV viewership for the final round of the Masters. Videos of these online gaming sports has more YouTube followers than news, movies and education combined.

There’s money in this too. Check out the graphic below from ESPN:

But eSports isn’t just online fun and money. There are some serious health risks involved with this sport. There’s drugs. There’s drug testing.  There is the potential physiological effects of having your senses constantly bombarded by blue light, blue tooth and Wi-Fi.

So, in today’s podcast, were going to take a deep dive into the crazy world of eSports. My guest today is Zach Burks, founder of a nootropic and smart drug company called NuSups. Zach started his career serving the USA in the Army, then moved to business with the knowledge he gained, and now specializes in enhancing mental and physical performance in gamers.

In today’s episode, you’re going to discover:

-How the exploding world of eSports works behind the scenes…

-The physical fitness demands of playing eSports…

-The health and sleep implications of the constant exposure to Wi-Fi, bluelight, Bluetooth and the other electronic assailants eSports athletes face…

-The “under-the-radar” kind of smart drugs or supplements these athletes are using…

-The difference between supplements used as stimulants and supplements used for calming effects…

-How drug testing in eSports works…

-The best smart drug and nootropic stacks being used in gaming…

-And much more!

Resources from this episode:

Zach’s website NuSups (use discount code is “brainyben1” for 10% and free shipping on any order)

The movie “Gamer”

-Ben’s liver cleansing stack: MPX100 + glutathione + n-acetylcysteine + chlorella + Alphabrain

Blue light blocking glasses

-Notes from Zach’s recommended stacks (all available from NuSups – use discount code is “brainyben1” for 10% and free shipping on any order)

 

Every stack needs 1 Choline Source, and 1 Synaptic Booster, at minimum! (real hardcore stackers like to include fish oils, and other vitamins as a requirement, but this isn’t necessary for a basic stack). Listed below are some common nootropics/smart drugs and their category + effect.

Synaptic Boosters:

Piracetam –

Increased Memory
Improved Learning
Greater Focus
Heightened Sensory Function
Reduced Anxiety/Depression
Improved Vasodilation
Reduced Brain Trauma

Aniracetam –

Improved Memory
Increased Learning Ability
Improved Cognitive Processing
Heightened Reflexes
Heightened Perception
Reduced Anxiety
Reduced Depression

Oxiracetam –

Increase in Memory
Enhanced Learning Ability
Better Sensory Perception
Advance Technical Thinking
Improved Focus

Noopept –

Powerful Racetam
Boosts Acetylcholine production
The best Nootropic for creating and recalling memories, and learning.
Increases Neuron Growth
Neuroprotective – helps restore damaged parts of the brain

Phenlypiracetam –

Helps consolidate memory
Facilitates learning processes
Enhances Alertness & Focus
Improves Physical Performance
Improves Mood

Pramairacetam –

Overall Improved Cognition
Higher Sensory Perception
Improved Working/Long-Term Memory
Increased Learning
Enhanced Focus
Advanced Logical/Technical Thinking
Unlocked Areas of Thought

Adrafinil –

Improved short term memory
Improved attention and concentration
Enhanced clarity of thought
Normalization of sleep patterns
Less mental fatigue
Higher quality of self-awareness
Raised levels of optimism and enthusiasm for day to day life
Freedom from depression

Alpha GPC –

Increased learning
Improved memory
Heightened sensory perception
Increased focus
Improved motor skills

Pyritinol –

Improved memory
Faster Reaction time
Promotes Dopamine growth
Increased learning
Improved problem-solving skills
Enhanced sensory perception

ALCAR –

Powerful Anti-Oxidant
Boosts Acetylcholine production
Increases Learning, Mood, Clarity of Thought
Neuroprotective

Cognitive protectants below…

Centrophenoxine –

Choline Source
Fights Brain decline
Increases Learning, Mood, Clarity of Thought
Neuroprotective and boost Neuroplasticity
One of the safest supplements we sell

Citicoline –

Powerful Choline Source
Boosts Acetylcholine production
Increases Learning, Mood, and Clear Thoughts
Neuroprotective/Fights Brain Decline

L-Theanine –

Natural Nootropic
Boosts Alpha Brain waves
Boosts Neurotransmitters
Alleviates anxiety and stress
Neuroprotective/Fights Brain Decline

Noopept –

Powerful Racetam
Boosts Acetylcholine production
The best Nootropic for creating and recalling memories, and learning
Increases Neuron Growth
Neuroprotective – helps restore damaged parts of the brain

Piracetam –

Increased Memory
Improved Learning
Greater Focus
Heightened Sensory Function
Reduced Anxiety/Depression
Improved Vasodilation
Reduced Brain Trauma

Phenibut –

Anxiety reduction
Relaxation
Sleep induction
Reduced stress
Improved mood

Pyritinol –

Improved memory
Faster Reaction time
Promotes Dopamine growth
Increased learning
Improved problem-solving skills
Enhanced sensory perception

Choline sources

Alpha GPC –

Increased learning
Improved memory
Heightened sensory perception
Increased focus
Improved motor skills

ALCAR –

Powerful Anti-Oxidant
Boosts Acetylcholine production
Increases Learning, Mood, Clarity of Thought
Neuroprotective

A few example stacks with some average results listed below. Feel free to use this stack is you’d like the results listed.

Busy Mode:

20mg x Noopept

200mg x Phenylpiracetam

1gram x ALCAR

250mg x Adrafinil

This stack is something you will DEFINITELY feel. I call this the busy mode stack for one reason. The combination of Racetams and Adrafinil allow for complete focus as well as potential time dilation effects. You could tweak the amount of Adrafinil or Phenylpiracetam if this stack is too much for you: just lower the amounts by 50mgs.

Capital C(reativity) stack:

500mg x Aniracetam

150mg x Phenylpiracetam

300mg x Pyritinol

20mg x Noopept

150mg x L-Theanine

This stack is great for any artist or creative person who needs an extra boost for a project. This stack honestly bothers me sometimes because what happens to me is that I’ll have 5 to 7 songs get stuck in my head a day: songs I haven’t heard in years! Now obviously, this is highly personal and won’t happen to everyone. But it’s just a nice little way to explain the creative boost you’ll get.

Do you have questions, comments or feedback about the exploding world of eSports,  or anything else Zach and I discussed in this episode? Leave your thoughts below and either Zach or I will reply.

Get A Grip: Why Grip Strength Is So Darn Important And 7 Potent Ways To Increase Your Grip Strength.

gripstrength

Quick question: which of your muscles did you use the most over the past hour? The past day? The past week? If you’re like most people on the face of this planet, the answer is this: your fingers, hands, wrists and forearms.

Just think about it: not only does nearly every sport that exists, from swimming to wrestling to golf to tennis to football to basketball to baseball to climbing to obstacle course racing and beyond require extremely high activity levels of the thirty-five tiny gripping muscles in your forearms and hand…

…but most common activities of daily living also rely upon adequate strength and endurance in these muscles too, including typing, moving the trackpad or mouse on your computer, doing the dishes, carrying laundry, turning a doorknob, vacuuming, driving, and even sex (seriously, just try to get it on in the bedroom with your hands tied behind your back or your fingers clenched in fists the whole time).

So in this article, you’re going to learn more about why good grip is so important,  the top techniques for not enhancing grip but also eliminating wrist and elbow pain,  and some of the top grip strengthening secrets from my personal fitness coach Yancy Culp.

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Why Good Grip Is So Important

If your grip and forearm muscles are not conditioned with mobility, strength and endurance, then the result winds up being the frustrating chronic repetitive motion injuries that plague both office workers and athletes alike. For example, without adequate grip and forearm strength, tennis players develop tennis elbow (lateral epicondylitis), which is debilitating and disabling pain on the outside of the elbow. Golfers, climbers, CrossFitters and obstacle racers who don’t have adequate grip and forearm training often develop the opposite issue, a problem known as golfers elbow, climbers elbow and medial epicondylitis, which is basically pain anywhere on the inside of the elbow and forearm. People who work on a computer often get one or both of these same issues. And you can undergo all the deep tissue work, injections, massage, and anti-inflammatory remedies on the face of the planet, but until you address the underlying issue of grip and forearm conditioning, these problems will continue to plague you.

It actually baffles me why many physical therapists, physicians and chiropractors don’t more often prescribe grip strengthening strategies for recovery from issues such as tennis elbow or golfer’s elbow or carpal tunnel syndrome. For me personally, the elbow pain that I’ve gotten from the combination of copious amounts of pull-ups and rope climbing combined with ungodly amounts of time spent typing away on my Macbook Pro has only really been remedied with the type of grip exercises you’re going to get later on this article, and not via remedies such as injections or topical ointments or curcumin or ginger or anything else that would normally work for injuries on other parts of my body.

Fitness training legend Charles Poliquin backs this up when he says…

… “these ailments are often caused by improper strength ratios between the elbow muscles and the forearm muscles. If the elbow flexors, like the biceps and brachialis, are too strong for the forearm flexors, uneven tension accumulates in the soft tissue and results in elbow pain”.

Yep, that means that all the bicep curls, preacher curls, barbell curls, tricep extensions, and any other “traditional” arm training exercise you may be doing could actually make your problem worse not better if you’re not training and mobilizing your grip at the same time.

Heck, issues with your grip can even radiate out to other areas of your body and cause even more injuries that you’d never guess would have had anything to do with your grip. For example, the health of your shoulder and rotator cuff has been correlated to the strength of your grip. One study found that grip strength has a significant correlation with the muscle strength of shoulder abduction and external rotation, and another study has revealed increased prevalence of rotator cuff weakness and injury on the same side of a hand injury or disorder.

But grip strength goes above and beyond just injury prevention. For example, it’s been proven in multiple studies that grip strength is a fantastic predictor of overall body strength. In his book Science of Sports Training, sport scientist Thomas Kurz recommends the measurement of handgrip strength using something called a grip dynamometer (you can get one for home use here) to reveal the strength and physical readiness of an athlete. For example, if grip strength is fallen below baseline or before where it was before the previous day’s work out, it can actually be an indicator of fatigue or lack of optimal recovery.

Back to the wisdom of Charles Poliquin, who also says that…

… “when your grip strength improves, less neural drive is needed for the forearm and hand muscles to perform other exercises. That is why many trainees report breaking training plateaus in a host of lifts, ranging from dead lifts to curls, after doing a grip specialization routine.”

In my Get-Fit Guy episode “How to Train like an American Ninja Warrior“, I talk about why grip strength is paramount in an obstacle-style event, especially for obstacles in “American Ninja Warrior” like the Arm Rings, Salmon Ladder, Devil Steps, and the Pipe Slider. In that episode, I mention that some of my favorite grip strengthening activities include doing pull-ups or assisted pull-ups with as many different grips as possible, wrapping a towel around a bar and hanging from the towel, walking while holding some kind of heavy rock or a bucket filled with water, pinching two weight plates together with one hand, and even bouldering at my local rock climbing facility.

But you don’t need to be training for a TV show to benefit from these type of movements. As you’ve just learned, you can be a writer with wrist pain or a golfer with elbow pain and these same exercises, when performed properly and combined with a few other tips you’ll get towards the end of this article, can banish your frustrating pain.

I detail many of these grip-strengthening strategies in my answer to a rock climber on the podcast episode “The Best Ways To Increase Grip Strength”. The reason I go out of my way to find so many different ways to train my grip is because there are so many tiny muscles in your fingers, your hands, your wrists and your forearms that the greater the variety of ways you can train your grip, the greater the likelihood that your grip isn’t going to fail when you need it the most. And the less the likelihood that you’re going to develop chronic repetitive motion injuries from things like typing, housework or other activities of daily living.

It’s also important to understand that (as I also detail in the podcast “The Best Ways To Increase Grip Strength”) some of your grip work should be heavy, short and explosive to build grip strength and the ability to grasp a variety of objects, while some of your grip work should be light, long and slow to build grip endurance and the ability to “hold on” for long periods of time.

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Enter Yancy Culp

Last year, I hired a fitness coach to help me personally stay motivated, stay accountable, to reduce my own “decision-making fatigue” when it came to planning my own workouts, and to also get faster and more proficient in the sport of obstacle course racing. My coach’s name is Yancy Culp, and since hiring him, the grip strength and the mobility in my fingers, hands and wrists have absolutely exploded. So to give you even more insight on the nitty-gritty of how to increase your grip strength, I turned to Yancy to get his thoughts in to gain more insight into his techniques.

Here’s what Yancy had to say when I asked for his best grip training secrets:

“I grew up on a farm where I was required to work with my hands literally seven days a week, performing various tasks from hauling hay, to chopping wood, to building fences, to working livestock, to a variety of other farm duties. When I began competing in obstacle course racing (affectionately known as “OCR”), I quickly realized that these many years of working with my hands played a key role in my ability to complete the various upper body obstacles (note from Ben: Yancy was actually one of the few athletes during the entire racing year to be able to complete every single obstacle with zero failures).

The moment I left the farm, I stayed active in various sports such as such as powerlifting and weightlifting and football – sports that required me to continue using my grip, so I rolled right in to the world of obstacle course racing without every going through a period of time where I allowed my grip strength to significantly decline.

Once I began to hit obstacle course races, I realized that the same grip strength and grip endurance that helps you prevent nagging elbow and wrist injuries, helps you with activities of daily living and helps you maintain overall body strength can also help you with rope climbs, monkey bars, rigs containing numerous types of hand holds you must traverse such as balls, pipes, ropes and rings, herculean hoists, sandbag and bucket carries, Tarzan swings, sideways wall traverse, upside down rope traverse, cargo nets, walls, and a huge variety of other obstacles you might encounter in a Spartan race, a Tough Mudder, a BattleFrog or any other obstacle race.

But even if you didn’t grow up on a farm, or have never done much weightlifting or powerlifting, or you have never trained your grip strength and currently feel as if you have terrible grip strength (and, if you’re an OCR athlete, you struggle with every upper body obstacle on an obstacle race course), you can still develop epic grip strength faster than you’d think.

The Best Grip Strengthening Exercises

Let’s first start with some of the more common, traditional methods of developing grip strength, and then I’ll provide you with a few methods and activities and sports you may not have considered.

1) Do a farmer’s carry (also known as a farmer’s walk) using as many different type of weighted objects as possible, including sandbags, kettle bells, dumbbells, barbells, milk jugs, cinderblocks, tires and just about anything else you can get your hands on. What’s a farmer’s carry? You guessed it: just pick up the weights and start walking for as long as you can. When you get tired, set the weight down, shake out your hands for a few seconds (note from Ben: it takes approximately eight seconds for your hands to replenish their creatine levels and begin producing ATP energy again), then pick up the weights and start walking again. You can go up hills, down hills, upstairs, downstairs, around your backyard, stepping up and down off benches, you name it.

2) Do pull-ups using various grip positions from a front, overhand grip, to a neutral, sideways grip, to a reverse, underhanded grip. On the same type of objects that you do pull-ups from, you can also do static hanging using various grip positions. So, for example, you can do three pull-ups, and then do a static hang, which means you simply hang for as long as you can until your grip gives out. Do this over and over again as a set worked into one of your workouts. If you’d like, you can do things like cardio and core work in between your pull-ups and your hangs. And here’s a quick tip: the thicker the bar, the better training for your grip. If the bar is too thin, just wrap a towel around it and do your pull-ups or your hangs from the towel instead of the bar. Once you’ve conquered the pull-up, grab a weight and put it between your feet, put on a weighted vest, or wear a weighted belt and being to do resistance hangs and resistance pull-ups.

3) Pick heavy stuff up – specifically by using deadlifts and deadlift varieties. Using a variety of handgrips and a variety of bar shapes (again, the thicker the bar the better) and a variety of objects, simply practice picking a heavy weight up and off the ground over and over again. Shock your body by using low reps with high weight on some days, and high rep with low weight on other days. If you don’t have a barbell to do your deadlifts, you can do deadlifts with a sandbag, a couple of kettle bells, dumbbells, heavy rocks, logs, you name it.

4) Use handgrip strengthening devices. One of the best handgrip strengthening devices out there is made by a company called “Captains Of Crush”, and comes in a variety of levels from easy all the way up to several hundred pounds of resistance. The same company also has little elastic bands for your fingers called “Hand Expanders”. When you combine regular use of a handgrip strengthening device with these elastic bands for your fingers, it’s not only a perfect way to train grip, but also an extremely effective way to get rid of issues such as tennis elbow and golfer’s elbow (pain on the outside or pain on the inside of your elbow).

5) Hit the playground. On a playground, play around with as many different methods of traversing the monkey bars as possible: sideways, front-to-back, back-to-front, one arm on a bar at a time, both arms on a bar at a time, etc. Throw in other moves on the playground equipment if other equipment is around, like climbing up the swingset chains, shimmying up poles, hanging upside down and doing pull-ups from the jungle gym, and even bouldering back and forth on kid’s rock climbing walls. You can easily spend an entire workout at a playground, and throw in sprints, skips, bounds, hops, burpees and other moves in between your playground time.

In addition to the tips above, when working with Ben and my other clients, I also implement a few of my lesser-known grip-strengthening methods that allow you to have fun at the same time you’re getting a better grip, including Jiu Jitsu, Judo, other martial arts, wrestling, climbing trees, working with hand tools such as shovels, hoes, rakes (pretty much anything and everything associated with landscaping and gardening), cutting and chopping wood, swinging sledgehammers against giant tires, hauling hay, water skiing, wakeboarding and other water sports where you have to hold a ski rope. Other activities qualify too, such as playing a guitar for long periods of time, walking through airports carrying your luggage in your hands rather than rolling it on wheels or slinging it over your shoulders, and yes, even the extremely macho activity of kneading bread.

So as you can see, there are a huge variety of ways to train your grip. However, I’m often asked what my “bread-and-butter” grip training exercises are. So, in no particular order of importance, here are seven of my favorites.

7 Top Grip Strengthening Exercises

  1. Sandbell rows
  2. Sandbell snatch & throw
  3. Sledgehammer swings
  4. Tire flip
  5. Horizontal and vertical pull-ups and hang
  6. Farmer’s walk
  7. Hand grip strengthening device

In the video below, I demonstrate each of these exercises:

When I incorporate these strategies with Ben and my other clients, I work grip strength training into the training program a minimum of three times a week, sometimes as part of a bigger workout and sometimes on its own as part of a “mini-workout”. For an OCR athlete, or anyone else who wants a better grip fast, a huge key is to include as much variety in a single workout as possible, because in many cases you’ll have to deal with two, three, four or five grip strength obstacles within a very short distance out on course (in a Spartan race, a series of obstacles like this all lined up in a row tend to be called a “Burpee-maker”, due to the high rate of grip failure and the ensuing burpees you must do if you fail any of those obstacles).

Performing higher rep count sets that get you a forearm and grip burning feeling (which means lactic acid is building up in those muscles), then resting, and repeating while using many different types of devices as possible can go a long way in helping you out on a race course, and in building grip endurance.

A Sample Grip Strengthening Workout

Here’s what a very basic and easy-to-implement sample workout I’d program for Ben would look like:

-Run for two minutes at race pace

-Do sandbag farmer’s carry for thirty seconds

-Do ten pull-ups, then hang until forced to drop

-Continue repeating for ten rounds but drop pull-ups down to 9/8/7/6/5/4/3/2/1 for remaining nine sets. 

The reasoning behind training like this is it’s easy for many to step up to a pull-up bar and knock out pull-ups when they are fresh, but hitting that bar with a high heart rate and after hammering the grip with the farmer’s walk is a whole different story.  Completing workouts like this will start to build a lot of confidence as you approach obstacles out on a course, and even if you never plan on doing an obstacle course race, developing a strong grip will help you reduce risk of elbow and wrist injuries, increase overall body strength, and reduce your propensity for shoulder injury.

Oh, and one final thing: try not to wear gloves. Rather than relying on the tacky grip of a glove, it’s better to build up callouses and tough skin on your hands and fingers. Plus, if you are indeed an obstacle course racer and your gloves get wet or muddy, you’re going to find that you slide off obstacles quite quickly. In other words: ugly, beat-up hands with big old muscular sausage fingers make for a great grip.

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Summary

A big thanks to coach Yancy Culp for these tips!

There are a couple extra quick take-aways I want to throw in before bringing this article to a close. In a recent podcast I recorded with an award-winning author about avoiding elbow and wrist pain by dictating rather than typing on a computer, I mention two other strategies – strategies that you should highly consider implementing if you type a lot, have wrist or elbow pain from any other activity, or if you’re doing plenty of the type of grip strengthening exercises you’ve just learned.

1) Get Yourself An “Arm Aid” Device. This is a device that looks like some kind of a medieval torture device but that actually works better than anything I have found for deep tissue work on your wrists, forearms and elbows. Here’s a video of me demonstrating what it looks like and how to use it.

2) Try The “Elbow Cure” Program. At first glance this website appears to be selling a cheesy, internet marketing slang-filled e-book, but it’s actually one of the most innovative programs I’ve ever used for eliminating my own elbow pain fast. It involves things like a hammer, rubber bands, big wooden sticks, and other easy-to-find tools for banishing elbow pain. It’s a very simple, easy-to-follow program.

Do you have questions, comments or feedback about getting a better grip, your own grip strengthening tips to add, or anything else? Leave your thoughts below and either Yancy or I will reply!

Primal Endurance: How To Escape Chronic Cardio & Carbohydrate Dependency & Become A Fat Burning Beast.

mark sisson

Mark Sisson is my guest on today’s podcast. Mark is the de-facto leader of the primal and paleo lifestyle movement, and unlike the many instant and self-anointed experts who have descended upon the endurance scene in recent years, Mark boasts a rich history in endurance sports.

He’s run a 2:18 marathon, has a 4th place Hawaii Ironman finish to his credit, has spearheaded triathlon’s global anti-doping program for the International Triathlon Union, and has coached and advised leading professional athletes, including Olympic triathlon gold and silver medalist Simon Whitfield and Tour de France cyclist Dave Zabriskie.

Mark just put the finishing touches on a new book called “Primal Endurance” – a book that shakes up the status quo and challenges the overly stressful, ineffective conventional approach to endurance training. While marathons and triathlons are wildly popular and bring much gratification and camaraderie to the participants, the majority of athletes are too slow, continually tired, and carry too much body fat respective to the time they devote to training. The prevailing “chronic cardio” approach promotes carbohydrate dependency, overly stressful lifestyle patterns, and ultimately burnout.

To overcome this conundrum, Primal Endurance applies an all-encompassing approach to endurance training that includes primal-aligned eating to escape carbohydrate dependency and enhance fat metabolism, building an aerobic base with comfortably paced workouts, strategically introducing high intensity strength and sprint workouts, emphasizing rest, recovery, and an annual periodization, and finally cultivating an intuitive approach to training instead of the usual robotic approach of fixed weekly workout schedules.

I delve into these concepts in today’s podcast with Mark. During our discussion, you’ll discover:

-What Mark’s “perfect day” looks like…

-Mark’s history as a pro triathlete…

-Why endurance athletes can actually get fat from training…

-Why it can be a myth that you have exercise for long periods of time at that intensity to get very good endurance results…

-How to do something called “maximum sustained power training”…

-Why a ketogenic endurance athlete can recover faster from stressful training…

-Why Mark doesn’t use heart rate variability (HRV) measurements…

-And much more…

Resources for this episode:

Primal Mayonnaise

Focal Upright desk

Mark’s recent podcast with Joe Rogan

DNAFit genetic testing

-Book: Primal Endurance: Escape chronic cardio and carbohydrate dependency and become a fat burning beast!

Do you have questions, comments or feedback for me or Mark about today’s episode? Leave your thoughts below and be sure to check out Mark’s new book…

PrimalEndurance_FrontCover

345: How To Burn Calories Without Exercising, Chocolate’s Effect On Your Skin, Eliminating Muscle Imbalances & More!

345

Click here for the full written transcript of this podcast episode.

February 3, 2016 Podcast: 345: How To Burn Calories Without Exercising, Chocolate’s Effect On Your Skin, Eliminating Muscle Imbalances & More!

Have a podcast question for Ben? Click the tab on the right (or go to SpeakPipe), use the Contact button on the app, call 1-877-209-9439, or use the “Ask Ben” form at the bottom of this page.

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News Flashes:

You can receive these News Flashes (and more) every single day, if you follow Ben on Twitter.com/BenGreenfield, Instagram.com/BenGreenfieldFitness, Facebook.com/BGFitness and Google+.

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Special Announcements:

This podcast is brought to you by:

-Kimera Koffee: here’s today’s recipe (and use code BEN for 10% off at KimeraKoffee.com)

Gorilla Coffee

-20 oz brewed Kimera Koffee (Hot)
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-2 tablespoon of raw almond butter
-1 tablespoon of maca root
-1 pinch of stevia to taste
-Blend and get ready for a ride.

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Did you miss the weekend podcast episode with Joanna Penn? It was a must-listen – titled “How To Banish Forearm and Elbow Pain, Burn Calories, Build Endurance& Maintain Muscle While Writing.” Click here to listen now or download for later!

New course from Ben! The 7 Day Full Body Reboot Program To Get Strong And Fit. Optimal fitness and health are closer than you think. In just one week, you can set yourself up for a strong, long, lean and healthy body.

May 27-29, 2016: Ben is speaking at PaleoFX 2016 in Austin, Texas. This is the The Who’s Who gathering of the Paleo movement, with world-class speakers including New York Times bestselling authors, leading physicians, scientists, health entrepreneurs, professional athletes, fitness professionals, activists, bloggers, biohackers, and more. And you DON’T need to be Paleo to be able to get a ton of benefit and fun out of this one! Also, one day prior, on May 26 is Health Entrepreneurs f(x) – a full day of deep discussion on marketing, business development, and entrepreneurship for health and wellness people, featuring Mark Sisson, Robb Wolf, Melissa Hartwig, Sarah Ballantyne, Mike Bledsoe, Abel James, and a bunch of other speakers in small group coaching sessions.

Nov 17-18, 2016: Ben is speaking at the Biohacker’s Summit in Helsinki, Finland. Discover the latest in wearables, internet of things, digital health, and mobile apps to increase performance, be healthier, stay fit, and get more done. Learn about taking food, preparation, cooking, and eating to the next level with the latest science and kitchen chemistry. Even delve into implanted chips, gene therapy, bionic arms, biometric shirts, robotic assistants, and virtual reality. Two days with an amazing crowd and a closing party with upgraded DJs to talk about. Click here to get in now at a 40% discount.

Grab this Official Ben Greenfield Fitness Gear package that comes with a tech shirt, a beanie and a water bottle.

And of course, this week’s top iTunes review – gets some BG Fitness swag straight from Ben – click here to leave your review for a chance to win some!

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Listener Q&A:

As compiled, deciphered, edited and sometimes read by Rachel Browne, the NEW Podcast Sidekick.

How To Get Ready For A Hot Race

Sarah says: She’s a new triathlete looking to complete her first 70.3.  She’s from Adelaide is a really dry heat, but the race is in Cairns, which is known for it’s humidity and wet, tropical heat. How does she prepare herself for a humid 70.3 ironman, in a dry place like Adelaide. She currently doesn’t have access to a sauna – any other ideas?

In my response, I recommend:
A heat suit

How To Fix Muscle Imbalances

Kyle says: His question is a muscle and body imbalances. He used to road race motorcycles professionally and had a dislocated left hip, left ACL replacement and many other injuries on his left side. He’s been racing triathlon’s for the last few years and at this point he’s completed an ironman distance, but feels his imbalances on his left side are having an affect on his training and efficiency. He currently uses globus electro-stimulation, eats more fat and fewer cards, and uses cold therapy and curcumin, colostrum all based on your advice, but he’s wondering if you have any ideas on how to help his imbalance?

In my response, I recommend:
-“Becoming A Supple Leopard
-An inversion table, a giant band, and a decent traction website or book.
NatureFlex
-Ben’s Fabulous Four: plank, clamshell, external rotation, row
Z-Health podcast

How To Burn Calories Without Exercising

Anna says: She’s in college student studying human health and performance. What might be some bio-hacks you would have for a college student, who’s sitting, has limited time for workouts etc.

In my response, I recommend:
Coolfatburner
Compex or MarcPro ($32 discount at http://www.MarcPro.com with discount code “Ben”)
PowerLung

How To Lower Your Sperm Count

Randy says: Is there any substance that’s been actually proven to reduce one’s sperm count. His son is looking to have his sperm count lowered and he’s wondering if there are supplements or anything he could eat or reduce the chances of anything life-changing happening.

In my response, I recommend:
Chasteberry

Hey, have you guys heard the latest from Dr. Drew’s podcast? He’s been working out your mind with talk about philosophy, comedy and more in the last couple weeks. Philosophy can work its way into fitness through the power of mind & body, so check it out now at PodcastOne.com or on iTunes.
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Prior to asking your question, do a search in upper right hand corner of this website for the keywords associated with your question. Many of the questions we receive have already been answered here at Ben Greenfield Fitness!

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How A Manual Treadmill Can Teach You To Run, And How To Use One Properly (Even At A Desk).

jeff vernon itunes

Last year, I posted an article entitled “How To Turn Your Desk Into A Calorie Decimating Workstation“, and created the video “How Should You Stand At A Standing Desk?” 

In both those resources, and on many podcasts (including this one on “How To Burn More Fat At Work), I’ve talked about and featured a special kind of treadmill called a “TrueForm” treadmill.

See, when I set about to modify my standing workstation into a treadmill desk, I ran into a two big problems, namely…

1. Treadmills Have Motors.

Treadmills with motors – the kind you’d normally need for running, and the kind typically used at treadmill workstations – are not only big and bulky, but produce enormous amounts of electromagnetic fields (EMF) and “dirty electricity”, which has been linked to brain fog, altered cellular metabolism, cancer risk, and much more.

In addition, a treadmill belt that runs on a motor allows you to walk and run while leaning slightly backwards and engaging in a full-on heel strike, which alters your running and walking gait, destroys your biomechanics and can actually turn you into a worse runner or a sloppy walker.

2. Manual Treadmills Are Too Slow For Running.

So a non-motorized treadmill (also known as a manual treadmill) is a good solution compared to a motorized treadmill. But the problem is that most manual treadmills only reach a maximum speed of 3.5-4.0 miles per hour, and this means that you can never use a manual treadmill for running. Since I wanted to intersperse short fitness and metabolism boosting sprints into my walking workday, (e.g. stopping every hour to do a brief 2 minute sprint, or doing a bit of jogging in between consults and phone calls) this means I’d have to buy and find space for two separate treadmills – one for walking and one for running!

So over several months, I searched high and low for a treadmill that is A) a manual treadmill without a motor; B) compact enough to fit under my standing desk; and C) didn’t produce electrical pollution and D) could operate at both casual walking paces, light jogs and high running speeds.

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The solution that I eventually found is something called a “TrueForm treadmill” made by Samsara Fitness. The unique looking TrueForm has several extremely unique characteristics that set it apart from any treadmill on the face of the planet, and is unlike any treadmill you’ve ever tried.

First, there is no motor and there are no buttons. The treadmill is entirely manual and is powered by you, which means that you are not only exposing yourself to zero electrical pollution and saving 100% on electrical costs, but also moving far more naturally due to the non-motorized belt design.

When you walk on a TrueForm treadmill, you burn more calories, get better balance (especially if you don’t use the rails) and build stronger leg and core muscles, since you’re doing the work instead of a treadmill motor. And the faster you move, the faster the treadmill goes, just like when you walk, jog or sprint outside.

But it gets even better, because the TrueForm treadmill is the first and only treadmill to actually teach you the skill of running. This is because the only way to really get the belt moving is to lean slightly forward, strike with your mid to front-forefoot, and maintain a high cadence, which means your body learns to run exactly like the most elite runners on the face of the planet run. This honestly took me a little bit of getting used to, because I’m used to being able to “lean back” and be lazy on a treadmill, and frankly, this treadmill instead forces you to move with pristine form.

Finally, the rails are removable. And although TrueForm is legally required to send you the treadmill with the rails attached, you can take them off for the ultimate balance-enhancing experience as you walk, jog and run.

best treadmill desk

 

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So that’s great and all, but can this thing really teach you how to run with proper biomechanics? On today’s audio podcast, I get Jeff Vernon the owner of SamsaraFitness on the show and we address this question and much more.

You’ll discover:

-How the Trueform actually works, and why it is shaped the way it is…

-How to use a manual treadmill properly…

-Specific drills you can do on a manual treadmill to enhance your running form…

-What a standard running treadmill won’t work on a stand-up desk…

-The difference between the different Trueform models (the low-rider, the enduro and the performance)…

-Why the Trueform is different than other manual treadmills, and why it’s “built like a tank”…

-And much more!

Do you have questions, comments or feedback for Jeff or me? Leave your thoughts below and one of us will reply! And click here to use code BEN for a 10% discount on your Trueform.

Five Quotes I Live By, Three Keys To Happiness, Two Questions To Ask Yourself & One Must-Do Thought Experiment.

beng

This may be the most important article I’ve ever written.

Here’s why…

…you and I love getting fit, feeling good about the way our bodies look, and quenching our deep-seeded thirst to live life to the fullest by challenging our bodies and brains to achieve exciting and fulfilling feats of physical and mental performance, right?

That’s why I’m on a constant quest to discover methods of training, fueling and living that are perfectly healthy and natural, but still allow you and I to look, feel and perform at our peak capabilities, and to achieve an ideal blend of health and performance.

But, life goes beyond your body and brain.

Life goes beyond physical and mental performance.

Feats like finishing a triathlon, getting muddy in an obstacle race, achieving a new deadlift PR, learning how to hack your mind for mental performance, or unlocking keys to maximum longevity are all for naught and frankly, quite meaningless, unless you have a good soul, a strong spirit, satisfaction, happiness and life purpose.

The last thing you want written on your tombstone is “He Was A Good Exerciser” or “She Was Really Smart” or “He Did Crazy Adventures” or “She Won Lots Of Races”.  

There’s more to life than that.

So how do you ensure that you’re not squandering the life you’ve been blessed with by wasting your time shoving weights around in the gym or pounding the pavement? How do you ensure an infatuation with biohacking or longevity isn’t just an endless, pointless pursuit of health? How do you ensure that getting leaner, stronger, faster or smarter isn’t just a self-serving, selfish objective?

At the risk of writing a very woo-woo, ethereal thought-stream, I’m going to tell you how I personally balance achieving purpose and meaning in life with what would appear to be a nearly obsessive infatuation with health and longevity, jet-setting around the globe in a pursuit of some of the most masochistic and extreme adventures on the face of the planet and spending an inordinate amount of time building my body and my brain.

If you pursue the betterment of your body and brain through the lens of what you’re about to read, then you’re going to find that your pursuits are far more meaningful, fulfilling and lasting than that temporary high you get after crossing the finish line, walking out of the gym, or polishing off a great adventure.

Specifically, I’m going to give you three keys to happiness and meaning in life, five quotes I live by, two questions to ask yourself and one must-do thought experiment.

Enjoy reading, and jump into the discussion by leaving your own comments below.

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Three Keys To Happiness & Meaning In Life

I tell my twin boys River and Terran that there are three things that are truly important in life.

Even if you get hit by a bus tomorrow and completely lose the ability to use your arms and legs and you can never exercise again, or you get some rare disease that takes away your eyesight, your taste, your smell and your hearing, or you lose all your money and you can never travel or go on adventures again, if you have these three things in your life, you’ll still have happiness and meaning.

The first key to happiness and meaning in life is love.

You’ve no doubt heard of gratitude.

Robert A. Emmons, Ph.D., author of “The Science of Gratitude” and a leading gratitude researcher, has conducted multiple studies on the link between gratitude and well-being. His research confirms that gratitude increases happiness and reduces depression. Gratitude improves physical health. Grateful people experience fewer aches and pains and they report feeling healthier than other people. Grateful people are also more likely to take care of their health. They exercise more often and are more likely to attend preventive health check-ups, which can contribute to longevity. Gratitude also reduces a multitude of toxic emotions, ranging from envy and resentment to frustration and regret.

Writing in a gratitude journal has been shown to both strengthen the immune system and help you sleep better and longer, and individuals who practice gratefulness report fewer headaches, less congestion, and less stomach pain.

To be grateful is to express love and to feel love. Quite simply, gratitude is love. That’s why gratitude is so powerful. 

Love is the greatest emotion you can have in your life. Heck, love is the greatest emotion in the universe. In the book “The Blue Zones: Lessons for Living Longer From the People Who’ve Lived the Longest“, you can read about how love in relationships, love in families, being loved, feeling love and giving love is one of the biggest keys to happiness and longevity.

The most esteemed book in my life, the Bible, has this to say about love:

…”love covers a multitude of sins…”

…”you shall love your neighbor as yourself…”

…”now faith, hope, and love abide, these three; but the greatest of these is love…”

So I tell my children that above all, they must strive to have love in their life – by both giving love and receiving love.

The second key to happiness and meaning in life is to have a career you’re passionate about. 

Now don’t get me wrong: I do not believe you should randomly following your passions. In his book “So Good They Can’t Ignore You: Why Skills Trump Passion in the Quest for Work You Love“, author Cal Newport debunks the long-held belief that “follow your passion” is good advice. Not only is the cliché flawed because preexisting passions are rare and have little to do with how most people end up loving their work, but cliché can also be dangerous, leading to anxiety and chronic job hopping. Just listen to my friend Jordan Harbinger’s recent ArtOfCharm podcast interview with Cal to get the nitty-gritty details of what this means.

Instead, as Cal details in his newest book “Deep Work: Rules for Focused Success in a Distracted World“, career (and life) satisfaction is achieved by building up a rare and valuable skill; then using this skill as leverage to take control of your working life and growing more passionate about that skill as you become a master craftsman at that skill. For example, my son River may not currently have much of a passion for woodwork, but if he practices carving, gets better and better at making intricate pieces of furniture and art, develops woodworking skills that are good and valuable and eventually begins selling his woodwork, starting a woodwork YouTube channel, or writing a blog about woodwork, he’s going to eventually be living a life immersed in something he’s passionate about.

In other words: if you’re unhappy with your job or life’s current situation, just get really good at what you’re currently doing, and you’d be surprised at what happens. Passion will grow.

OK, so I tell my children that the number one key is love. The number two key is career passion achieved by deep, meaningful and valuable work.

And the number three key to happiness and meaning in life is to believe that there is a great and wonderful and enchanting story for your life.

In his book “Unfinished Business: Believing Is Only The Beginning“, author Rich Stearns presents the concept that there are three choices you can make about the story of your life. Here is what he has to say:

Choice #1 is to believe that there is no story.

Rich says:

“We can choose to believe that there simply is no story or mystery to figure out and that everything we see and experience is totally random and without meaning. There is no truth. We are just a meaningless species on a meaningless planet in a meaningless universe. There is, therefore, no God and no real defining purpose to our lives. When I was in college, there was a popular bumper sticker that summed this up succinctly—“Life sucks, and then you die”—quite a noble motto to live by…

…kill your ego, because nothing you do will ever matter. That’s OK, though. It’s not just you. It’s all of us. It’s taken 100,000 years for our species to hump and grunt its way into momentary dominance on this pale blue dot, but nothing we’ve accomplished is all that outstanding when you consider that a Mall of America–sized asteroid is all it would take to turn humanity into the next thin layer of fossil fuels. Greatness is nothing but the surface tension on the spit bubble of human endeavor. On a geological time scale, our measurable effect on the planet is a greasy burp. We are 7 billion tiny flecks of talking meat stuck to an unremarkable mud ball hurtling through space in an unimaginably vast universe for no particular reason. There is no difference between kings and cripples, my friend. We’re all the same hodgepodge of primordial goo, and the pursuit of greatness is a fool’s errand. Pursue happiness instead. Find peace in your insignificance, and just let your anxiety go. Learn to savor the likely truth that the sum total of human achievement won’t even register in the grand scheme, so you might as well just enjoy whatever talents you have. Use them to make yourself and others happy, and set aside any desire to be great or outstanding.

What an inspiring philosophy to live by—we are just “7 billion tiny flecks of talking meat stuck to an unremarkable mud ball hurtling through space in an unimaginably vast universe for no particular reason.” Now, that makes me want to jump out of bed each morning to greet the day! People who believe Choice #1, that there is no story, often just ramble through life doing whatever feels good until the clock runs out. They have a mentality of “eat, drink and be merry, for tomorrow we die.” But because we don’t live in isolation, there are implications to Choice #1.

A person’s view of truth always has consequences. What happens when your actions and decisions come into conflict with mine? Since we are both just “tiny flecks of talking meat” spinning in the “same hodgepodge of primordial goo,” there is really no such thing as right or wrong, so the only mechanism to resolve our disputes is force or power; survival of the fittest. If you really believe that human beings are no more than flecks of meat, then taking a human life has no more significance than picking a mushroom or squashing an ant. One “fleck of meat” could form alliances with others to achieve their aims by overpowering another group of “meat flecks” with different goals. The group with the most power wins; right and wrong don’t even enter into the discussion.

Choice #1 leads to a world without truth, and a world without truth leads to chaos. So what are the consequences of all of this? One just needs to look at the bloody and brutal course of world history to see the answer. This worldview is essentially the worldview of someone who is an atheist—life is pretty much meaningless and there is no higher purpose to our lives.”

I don’t know about you, but Choice #1 seems pretty depressing to me, and it’s not the advice I give to my kids or the story by which I live my own life..

Choice #2 is to make up your own story. 

“People in this category are not necessarily selfish or egotistical. They can be quite pleasant and even admirable and inspiring. At their core they are quite practical: “I’m here. I have a life to live, so I am going to make some basic decisions about what I believe, how I will live, and what values will best guide me as I walk through life.” These are the “what’s right for you may not be right for me” people. They essentially invent their own truth but don’t require or expect that others will necessarily live by it. They often begin sentences with “I think that . . .” or “I believe that . . .” They fill in the blanks with their own home brew.

Here are a few of the manufactured “truisms” that might undergird the worldviews of these folks:

• You should be able to do whatever you want as long as it doesn’t hurt other people.
• The one who dies with the most toys wins.
• Winning isn’t everything; it’s the only thing.
• We can all find God in our inner self.
• It’s a dog-eat-dog world, and only the strong survive.
• I think that all religions are just different roads to the same truth.
• Everyone should have an equal opportunity to pursue his or her dreams.

Note that some of these truisms are quite appealing while others are quite awful. The thing that they have in common is that they are all made up and arbitrary. They may or may not be true. They are made to create meaning for people who don’t really believe there is such a thing as absolute truth.

Here is where our 2006 Word of the Year, truthiness, comes in handy. truthiness, n.: the quality of preferring concepts or facts one wishes to be true, rather than concepts or facts known to be true.

To solve the great mystery of their lives, people who have chosen to make up their own stories do so to create the meaning and purpose that their lives lack. I believe this may also speak to something innate within us that compels us to seek truth and meaning. The fact that we long for it so universally suggests to me that there must be such a thing as a truth and meaning that satisfies that longing, just as there is such a thing as food that satisfies our experience of hunger. So who are these people who have chosen to make up their own stories about truth?

Actually, this “make up your own story” approach to life’s great mystery can produce both monsters and saints. They could be drug dealers or human traffickers as easily as they could be homemakers or schoolteachers. They might be NBA all-stars or Fortune 500 CEOs. Usually they share the fairly universal human goal—happiness. It’s just that some pursue it through violence and crime and others through hard work and education. Some even find it in helping their fellow man and being generous.

People can live an entire lifetime pursuing happiness and fulfillment without really worrying about whether there is some deeper truth or bigger story that they might be a part of. They are the stars of their own movies, writing their own stories and making their own rules. For seventy or eighty years they move from one event to the next, like balls in a pinball machine, bouncing off bumpers with lights flashing and bells ringing all the way. They are busy racking up points and bonuses until the ball finally goes down the drain, the noises stop, and the lights go out. Game Over!”

For obvious reasons, I’m not a fan of Choice #2 either. And then there’s the third option.

Choice #3 is to become part of a greater story.

“If you read a mystery novel, there is one thing you know for sure: someone wrote it; there was an author. The author creates the setting (the place where everything happens), the plot, and all of the characters in the story. The author gives each character unique traits and personalities and a role to play in the bigger story. And, perhaps the most significant aspect of this metaphor, every character is designed to play a key role. Let me underscore this one more time. If God is the Author of the big story and you are a character in that story, then it follows that the Author created you to play a key role in his story.

The Author created you to play a key role in his story. You have probably seen The Lord of the Rings movie trilogy, and I hope you have read the books too. J. R. R. Tolkien, the author of those books, created an astonishing world called Middle Earth. It was a remarkable place filled with adventure and dragons and orcs and hobbits. It was a story of good versus evil, of kings and sorcerers, wizards and magic. And the characters in the book—Frodo, Arwen, Gandalf, Sam, and many others—were placed in the midst of a big story unfolding around them that went back into time for thousands of years. Tolkien had created each of them to play some role in his sprawling epic story.

And as we read about them, we realize that each of them struggled to make sense of the story and to understand just what his or her role should be. They couldn’t see the whole of the big story from the author’s point of view; they could only see the part that was in front of them with occasional glimpses of the broader narrative. But each of them had to puzzle out the role he or she was meant to play, based on the information that character had.

Well, doesn’t it make sense that our story has an author too—one who created the world and the universe we were born into, one who cast the vision for the expansive plot and story narrative that has unfolded over eons of time, one who began the story and also will bring it to its conclusion? Doesn’t it also follow that this same Author/Creator gave life to each and every character in his story—to you and to me—and that he created each one of us with unique gifts, talents, and personalities; and that he placed us within his story in both space and time?

I want to be frank in stating that all of this requires a significant leap of faith. Philosophers have been debating the existence of God for millennia, and I will not bring an end to that debate here. But again, I want to appeal to your common sense—something philosophers don’t always have in abundance. Doesn’t it make more sense to believe that our story has an Author than to believe that everything we see and experience is meaningless and without purpose?”

And that third option, the choice to believe that you are living out a pre-written, amazing, exciting, enchanting adventure is the choice I live my life by and the choice I recommend to my children…and to you.

So that’s it: have love, live your passion, and believe in a greater story for your life. Those are my three keys to happiness and meaning in life.

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Two Important Questions To Ask Yourself

Alright, so once you’ve established love, a passion for your work and the belief in a greater story, what comes next? 

Here’s where I recommend you start: there are two important questions that you should ask yourself, questions for which you must have a firm answer if you want actual direction in life, and questions that you should ask yourself so that you are not engaged in an endless selfish pursuit of spinning your wheels exercising or competing or traveling or adventuring or pursuing your career or finding love or making money or writing the next great American novel or getting a better body or enhancing your brain.

The first question you must ask yourself is this: where am I going?

Ask yourself where you are going. What is the end result? Why are you doing what you are doing right now? What is the vision? As Verne Harnish says in book Scaling Up, what is your “Big Ass Hairy Goal”?

For example, if you’d asked me a year ago, I would have said that in my wildest dreams, what I ultimately want to do is provide you with one single, convenient stream of information that gives you all the lifestyle solutions, coaching, consulting, foods, supplements, gear, technology, biohacks, knowledge and education that you need to live life to the fullest while pursuing the ultimate combination of health and performance, to live life at whatever screaming fast pace makes you happy and fulfilled, and to live life at a level that allows you to experience exactly the way your human machine was meant to look, feel and perform.

And that’s still my goal. That’s still where I’m going. But I also want to enable you to satisfy a deeper meaning and a deeper purpose in your life.

But at the same time, over the past couple years, things have changed as I’ve matured. I now also want to enable you to satisfy a deeper meaning and a deeper purpose in your life than simply living in an optimized human machine. I want to help you go above and beyond the physical and mental and instead delve into experiencing love, passion and a greater story for your life. I want to help you have not just a healthy body and mind, but also a healthy soul.

This means that rather then simply writing, podcasting and producing content focused on biohacking, performance, fat loss, recovery, digestion, brain, sleep and hormone optimization, I also want to help you have a healthy family life and create a lasting legacy of resilient children who will grow up to make this world a better place, to be able to tap into skills that go beyond just exercising, such as making beautiful music and reading enchanting books and cooking amazing meals, and to learn how to have those things in your life that you just learned are so important, things like love and passion and realizing your part of a greater story.

And of course the concept of answering the “where am I going” question must be balanced with the realization that, as one of my favorite books “Just Enough” explains, life is an unpredictable adventure, a series of moving targets, and an exciting, enchanting roller coaster ride during which your journey to your Big Ass Hairy Goal may wind up being a journey that is far, far different than what you might currently envision, but at the same time you must have some notion of why it is that you’re doing what you’re doing and what it is that you want to achieve when you get out of bed each morning.

The second question you must ask yourself is this: how am I making the world a better place?

Just think about it: are you affecting positive and lasting change in the world through what you do? Or are you just living life as a series of repetitive rushes of adrenaline? A pursuit of getting a bigger bank account? A goal of building a big business you can sell? Sex. Fame. Power.

Take me, for example.

So far, I’ve lived a crazy, adventurous life that has so far involved everything from bodybuilding to Ironman triathlon to fame and success as one of the world’s top personal trainers to obstacle course racing to bow hunting to training with the Navy SEALs to free diving to being a New York Times best-selling author to fulfilling my dream of writing a fantasy fiction book to competing in the upcoming and coveted Spartan Delta event, to training for my first kickboxing fight this summer, to building a beautiful home that is a mashup of ancestral off-the-grid living combined with a crazy biohacking lab.

Wow. Sounds pretty cool, huh?

But really, this is all pointless unless I actually leave this world a better place.  If you read through the list above, it actually looks a bit selfish when you really think about it, right?

As one of my favorite Bible verses says, “What does it profit a man if he gains the whole world and yet loses his own soul?”  Now, don’t get me wrong, I’m not saying that going out and doing good deeds to help make the world a better place is going to necessarily make you a good person or “save your soul”,  but it’s certainly reflective that you’ve got your priorities straight and certainly reflective that your soul is probably in the right place.

I used to think that making the world a better place had to involve doing something big. I used to think that I had to go to Africa and spend a month feeding starving children. I used to think that I had to start some huge charity to donate enormous sums of money to help those in need. I used to think that I had to get on stage in front of thousands of people to spark an enormous uprising of folks who would go out and fight injustice in the world.

But I’ve realized that’s not the case. I realize that thinking too big when it comes to making the world a better place can sometimes be a self-defeating enterprise.

Instead, I’ve recently partnered with my church to feed fifty families each week at a local, poverty-stricken elementary school full of kids who normally might get one meal during an entire weekend.  I’ve been setting aside at least 10%  of every dime that I make each month to help support my church, which does a great deal of good in the local community. I’m supporting one little girl in Ethiopia with food, clothing, shelter and clean water.  I’m waking up each morning and choosing one person in my life who I can help or serve that day. That’s it. None of these things are huge or impressive or earth shattering.

But boy, oh boy, I’d say these things are so much more meaningful than any accomplishments that might show up on my resume, wouldn’t you? 

So how can you make the world a better place? Start small. Go shovel your neighbor’s driveway. Go play your instrument at the local nursing home.  Find the one person in your neighborhood who has trouble moving and mow their lawn. Go volunteer for one afternoon a month at your local shelter.

That’s it.

Let’s review where we’re at so far.

Have love, live your passion, and believe in a greater story for your life.

Have a plan for where you are going. Ask yourself how you are changing the world. 

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One Must-Do Thought Experiment

Next, there is one important thought experiment that will nearly wrap all this up.

A few years ago, I read an article that  challenged the reader to write their own obituary, with the goal being to inspire you get out there and start making any changes that you need to so that you can “live up” to your fantasy obituary.

And while writing your own obituary is actually a good idea, I personally have found it to be even more meaningful and simple and elegant to engage in the thought experiment of writing what you want to appear on your tombstone.  After all, you can only fit so much on a tombstone and so you must be clear and precise with imagining exactly how it is that you wants to be remembered.

Will your tombstone say that you did a good job living a really long time, beating out the lifespan of your peers by a good five years?

Will it say that you had the nicest six pack abs ever seen on Instagram?

Will it say that you could both run a five minute mile and also squat 400 pounds?

Will it say you could memorize a deck of cards in less than two minutes?

Will it say that you were really healthy and toxin free?

Sometimes it would seem to and outside observer that, by our actions, that’s the kind of thing were striving for on our tombstone and that’s the kind of things that we pour our lives into. Anti-aging. Exercise. Healthy living. Optimized minds. Detoxing.

And while all of those things are great when it comes to taking care of the bodies that we’ve been blessed with, they really aren’t all that meaningful in the whole scheme of things, are they?

What do I want my tombstone to say? I want it to say this:

He loved. He cared. He inspired.

What do I mean by that?

He loved: I poured out my heart to love everyone around me, no matter who they were. My life was full of love and relationships and laughter and gratitude in family and friends and those were more important than my own selfish pursuits.

He cared: I actually freaking cared about the people around me –  not about what they could do for me, but about what I could do for them.  And I’ll be honest with you, I still sometimes do a pretty crappy job of that. I can still be a pretty self-serving guy. I can be arrogant. Selfish. Rude. Short. Proud. That’s something I’m trying harder and harder every day to put behind me and it’s always been an uphill battle for me.

He inspired: I’ve realized more and more that when I go out and cross the finish line of crazy, difficult, masochistic events, or embark upon difficult adventures, or use myself as a guinea pig and put time in the trenches to figure out what works and what doesn’t when it comes to this crazy world of fitness and diets and biohacking and performance, it’s not about me. It’s about inspiring others to go out and chase their dreams. For some reason, I’ve been hardwired with a deep desire to challenge myself, to compete, to live life at this screaming fast pace that I live it at, and I’m realizing more and more that the deep reason behind that is so that I can inspire you to go out and climb your own personal Mount Everest.

So what will your tombstone say?

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Five Quotes I Live By

Finally, as silly as it may seem, I want to leave you with a few gems. There are five quotes that I live my life by and these are quotes that will help you better understand where I’m coming from. Just do me a favor. If you have your own quote or quotes that you live your life by, then, along with all the other questions and thought experiments in this article, leave your quote or quotes in the comments section below.

The first quote I live my life by is by Robert Heinlein.  It goes like this, and it probably reflects why I’m always learning, always experimenting, and always chasing new adventures.

“A human being should be able to change a diaper, plan an invasion, butcher a hog, conn a ship, design a building, write a sonnet, balance accounts, build a wall, set a bone, comfort the dying, take orders, give orders, cooperate, act alone, solve equations, analyze a new problem, pitch manure, program a computer, cook a tasty meal, fight efficiently, die gallantly. Specialization is for insects.”

Quote number two is a quote that I already mentioned once in this article and it comes from the book of Mark in the Bible (Mark chapter 8, verse 36). Somebody out there will always seem to be greater, faster, stronger, richer, more powerful than you, and you can spend your life in an endless pursuit of chasing after what they have, but it’s all for naught unless your soul is in the right place. So this quote helps me keep perspective in life when I’m tempted to pursue wealth or fame or prestige and it goes like this:

“What does it profit a man if he gains the whole world and yet loses his own soul.”

I discovered quote number three when I served on the board for the Fellowship of Christian Athletes (FCA). The FCA has something called an “Competitor’s Creed”,  I read it before I head out into the field of battle for a competition or race so that I remember why am really out there, and it goes like this:

“I am a Christian first and last.
I am created in the likeness of
God Almighty to bring Him glory.
I am a member of Team Jesus Christ.
I wear the colors of the cross.

I am a Competitor now and forever.
I am made to strive, to strain,
to stretch and to succeed
in the arena of competition.
I am a Christian Competitor
and as such, I face my challenger
with the face of Christ.

I do not trust in myself.
I do not boast in my abilities
or believe in my own strength.
I rely solely on the power of God.
I compete for the pleasure of
my Heavenly Father, the honor of Christ
and the reputation of the Holy Spirit.

My attitude on and off
the field is above reproach –
my conduct beyond criticism.
Whether I am preparing,
practicing or playing;
I submit to God’s authority
and those He has put over me.
I respect my coaches, officials,
teammates and competitors
out of respect for the Lord.

My body is the temple of Jesus Christ.
I protect it from within and without.
Nothing enters my body that
does not honor the Living God.
My sweat is an offering to my Master.
My soreness is a sacrifice to my Savior.

I give my all – all of the time.
I do not give up. I do not give in.
I do not give out. I am the Lord’s warrior –
a competitor by conviction
and a disciple of determination.
I am confident beyond reason
because my confidence lies in Christ.
The results of my efforts
must result in His glory.

LET THE COMPETITION BEGIN.
LET THE GLORY BE GOD’S.”

Quote number four  is short and simple and it’s what I tell myself when the going gets really tough. Word on the street is that this one came from Lance Armstrong. He may not have proven himself to be a man of the most upstanding character, but when you’re really hurting this quote works like a charm, And it’s probably why, with over 150 events and 6,000 miles of racing logged, I’ve only ever had two events that I didn’t finish.

“Pain is temporary. Quitting lasts forever.”

And then finally, there’s quote number five. Perhaps it’s more of a prayer than a quote, but when I tuck my little boys into bed at night and I watch their beautiful eyes close as their heads hit the pillow, I close my own eyes and I recite the same words that the great US General Douglas MacArthur said for his own son:

“Build me sons, O Lord, who will be strong enough to know when they are weak; and brave enough to face themselves when they are afraid; sons who will be proud and unbending in honest defeat and humble and gentle in victory.

Build me sons whose wishes will not take the place of deeds; sons who will know Thee — and that to know themselves is the foundation stone of knowledge.

Lead them, I pray, not in the path of ease and comfort, but under the stress and spur of difficulties and challenge. Here let them learn to stand up in the storm; here let them learn compassion for those who fail.

Build me sons whose hearts will be clear, whose goals will be high, sons who will master themselves before they seek to master other men, sons who will reach into the future, yet never forget the past.

And after all these things are theirs, add, I pray, enough of a sense of humor, so that they may always be serious, yet never take themselves too seriously. Give them humility, so that they may always remember the simplicity of true greatness, the open mind of true wisdom, and the meekness of true strength.

Then I, their father, will dare to whisper, ‘I have not lived in vain!'”

Even if I fail in every pursuit that I put my hands to, I can take confidence in the fact that I’m doing everything that I can to leave a mighty legacy who will grow up to make this world a better place. And that’s one of the strongest emotions that I experience every day.

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Summary

So there you have it.

Frankly, I’m a little nervous to press publish on today’s article. I know I’ve gone to places in this article that I don’t usually go. I know that I’ve delved into the woo-woo, the serial, the spiritual, the stuff that, like politics, tends to ruffle feathers and create controversy.

But like I’ve said many times in this article, the reason for that is that my purpose in life goes beyond blood and guts and muscle and fat loss and neurons and oils and tinctures and steel barbells and looking good in spandex and barb wire and finish lines.

And I can’t just keep that to myself.

In summary, I’m challenging you to join the conversation. In the comments section below, answer any or all of the following questions:

Do you have love, passion and a greater story in your life?

Where are you going?

How are you changing the world?

What’s going to be written on your tombstone?

What quote or quotes do you live by?

And finally, what can I do better? What can I change for you? How can I use my platform to serve you better? How can I care for you more?

Fire away, and I promise to read everything you write.

How To Cease Endless Fad Diets (And The #1 Question You Must Ask Yourself About Food).

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I get diet books in the mail all the time.

No, I don’t have some kind of online shopping fetish for diet books.

People just send them to me. Unsolicited. As a matter of fact, it’s a well-known fact in the health and nutrition industry that one of the fastest ways to “make a buck” is to write and sell a diet book. It plays on the psychology that people are constantly looking for next answer to the diet that’s not currently working for them. Or they’re bored. Or have grass-is-always-greener syndrome.

Anyhow, as you can imagine, I was quite pleased when I received an undieting book in the mail last week. UnDiet: Eat Your Way To Vibrant Health, which includes a plan for an 8-week transformation and more than 35 delicious gluten-free, plant-based recipes.

Meghan Telpner, the author of UnDiet is a Toronto-based author, speaker, and nutritionist. She used to have Crohn’s disease, but after throwing up her hands in frustration at the way the modern medical system was trying to heal her, and instead embarking upon her own path of healing, she’s fixed her gut, and learned quite a bit about food, exercise, and psychology along the way.

If you find yourself constantly caught up in new diets…

….or you deal with stress constantly damaging your gut…

…or you have Crohn’s or some other kind of gut issue…

…or you look good on the outside but feel like crap on the inside…

…then this episode is a must-listen for you. In it, you’ll discover:

-The exact steps Meghan used (after nearly having her colon removed from debilitating Crohn’s disease) healed her entire gut in just 4 weeks…

-Why you should learn to cook, even if you have someone or some service who can do all the healthy cooking for you…

What to do when you see a food, or a workout, or some other activity and it just doesn’t “feel right”…

-Why Meghan thinks yoga is harder than a stairclimber or a high-intensity workout…

-Why a cute outfit doesn’t mean much if you feel like total crappola…

-How you can get around the awkwardness of questioning paradigms, and being “that person” at a dinner party who perhaps doesn’t use a microwave or drinks green smoothies…

-In the end, the most important question to ask yourself when it comes to “undieting”…

-And much more!

Resources from this episode:

-Book Ben mentions early in episode: The Hidden Half of Nature: Microbial Roots Of Life & Health

-Another book Ben mentions: Reclaiming Conversation

Do you have questions, comments or feedback about how to quit dieting? Leave your thoughts below and either Meghan or I will reply!

A Surgeon’s Little-Known Secret to Biohacking Your Body With Oxygen Therapy

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You may remember Dr. Johnathan Edwards, MD: an endurance athlete, private practice anesthesiologist, physiologist and sports medicine physician based in Las Vegas, and a guy who consults with a huge number of professional athletes in many different disciplines in North America and Europe, including cyclists in the Tour de France, AMA motocross athletes and UFC fighters.

A few weeks ago, here at BenGreenfieldFitness.com, Dr. Edwards wrote The Ultimate Guide To Biohacking Exercise With Oxygen Therapy, Hypoxia, Elevation & Altitude Training, and in that article, Dr. Edwards touched on the surprising things you can do to enhance physical and mental performance if you know how to use oxygen the right way. In that article, you learned that if you want a shortcut to maximizing lung capacity and recovery you can (and should) increase the amount of oxygen available to your body via a protocol called “Exercise With Oxygen Therapy”, or “EWOT”.

Problem is, it can be incredibly difficult to figure out how to get an oxygen concentrator, how to “hack” it to be efficient enough for EWOT, and then what to do with it once you have your oxygen concentrator all setup. Sure you could buy an oxygen concentrator and a large reservoir, just like the one you’re about to learn to make, but it’s going to set you back some thousands of dollars. In other words, this stuff can be confusing and can be expensive. That’s probably why Dr. Edward’s original article received plenty of comments and questions about EWOT.

But it’s actually not that difficult and quite inexpensive to make yourself an oxygen concentrator that rivals what is used in fancy sports science and exercise physiology labs.

So now, without further ado, I present to you…

…a new article from Dr. Edwards that shows you exactly how to get, how to biohack, and how to use an oxygen concentrator.

If you’re one of the guys or girls who simply isn’t technically or engineer minded, but who wants all the biohacking benefits of exercise with oxygen therapy, I’d recommend you post this article to Craiglist to find someone to make it for you, or give this article to your closest friend who you know loves to do projects like this, and have them make it for you. You’re still going to literally save thousands and thousands of dollars.

Finally, please note that this is not medical advice or medical device, and the information you’re about to read is meant for educational purposes only.

—————–

The popularity of oxygen therapy has skyrocketed in recent years.

Athletes are now using concentrated oxygen for recovery and to gain an athletic advantage. Tiger Woods, Michael Phelps, Mario Lemieux, Olympic athletes, multiple players in the NBA, NFL and professional baseball all use some type of oxygen therapy.

As an anesthesiologist, I have a unique perspective on oxygen, having spent much of my career providing oxygen to patients during surgery. I also use oxygen therapy outside the operating room for sports and medical applications such as healing diabetic wounds, treating firefighters with carbon monoxide poisoning and other ailments. And I have other patients who use it simply because they believe it will enhance their physical or mental performance. Supplemental oxygen has even been touted to improve sex!

But getting access to oxygen therapy can be an expensive and difficult endeavor. Your two main options are hyperbaric oxygen (HBO) therapy or mask oxygen. These both produce an increase in tissue oxygen concentrations in your body. Hyperbaric therapy increases the oxygen via increases in atmospheric pressure in a sealed space. A mask system delivers oxygen with a tank or oxygen concentrator machine and increases oxygen via a sealed mask. The first option, hyperbaric oxygen therapy units, is a very expensive option. But the second options, an oxygen concentrator, is much less expensive and quite easy to use in your own home.

I am not going to delve into the micro details about the amazing things that happen to your body and tissues when you use supplemental oxygen. For that, please go back and read The Ultimate Guide To Biohacking Exercise With Oxygen Therapy, Hypoxia, Elevation & Altitude Training.

Instead, I want to dive into the nitty-gritty of how to hack your oxygen levels using an oxygen concentrator.

———————-

So how can you optimize the amount of oxygen delivered to your body?

As stated above, you could use a hyperbaric setup or you could use an oxygen concentrator. An oxygen concentrator is a machine that basically pressurizes room air, separates the oxygen from the nitrogen, and delivers a high concentration of oxygen through one port and a hypoxic mixture of air through another port. You may recall that in the article I wrote for BenGreenfieldFitness a couple weeks ago, I mentioned:

“You can buy a refurbished oxygen concentrator online for as little as 300 dollars, but I suggest looking up an oxygen concentrator repair shop in your area and inquire about buying a new or refurbished oxygen concentrator. You’ll notice that many places require a doctor’s prescription for new oxygen concentrators, but not refurbished ones. This is because refurbished machines are considered as replacement parts and do not require a prescription. In any case, get one that puts out at least 5 liters per minute. My friend Andy Champagne from O2CRS, a local shop in Las Vegas, is very knowledgeable and has reasonably priced units. Mention this article and he’ll give you a 5% discount.

So, let’s say you’ve got your oxygen concentrator. Often the oxygen port will be on the top of the machine. A hypoxic port is inside in the machine. Here’s what the average oxygen concentrator looks like:
Oxygen Concentrator

Figure 1. A typical oxygen concentrator. There is a dial for adjusting the flow of oxygen and the port is located on the upper right of the machine.

Most oxygen concentrators deliver about 5 liters per minute, and some as high as 10 liters per minute. To obtain high oxygen levels, a sealed mask system connected to a reservoir is essential. Regular mask systems allow too much of something called “air entrainment.” The volume of the reservoir is important and needs to be at least 100 liters.

Simple math tells you that you will run out of oxygen pretty quickly without a large reservoir. Breathing normally, you inspire about a half a liter per breath, and this increases significantly during exercise. This is the reason for those super big bags from companies like the LiveO2 system. I have found that at least 100 to 200-liter reservoir is needed for most 30-60 minute exercise with oxygen therapy (EWOT) sessions.

———————-

OK, now, here are the instructions for biohacking your oxygen concentrator:

Step 1: Obtain an oxygen concentrator. Scroll up and read again, search the internet, or contact Andy at O2CRS. If possible, consider buying a 10-liter machine, but a 5-liter machine does the job just fine.

Step 2: Make the reservoir.

Materials required to make the reservoir bag:
-a roll of thick 4 mm (or more) plastic
– a ¾ inch PVC reducer bushing
-½ inch PVC coupler
-½ inch PVC cap
– a CPAP adapter

You can purchase the CPAP adaptor at O2CRS or from Alibaba.com, and the rest you can buy from your local home improvement store. Below are photos of the PVC coupler, the bushing and the CPAP adapter. Just comment below this article if you’re confused about any of the materials you’ll need, and I’d be happy to reply.
coupler and bushingFigure 2. On the left, the ½ inch PVC coupler, on the right, a ¾ inch PVC reducer bushing.

CPAP adaptor

Figure 3. CPAP adaptor. This piece attaches to the ½ inch coupler on one side and CPAP tubing on the other. It also has a port to attach the oxygen tubing.

The plastic required for the reservoir bag needs to be at least 4 millimeters thick or more. Most fabric stores sell a thick plastic that come in a roll.

Lay the plastic on a flat surface, and then, using a heat gun or iron, heat the ends of the plastic together on each side, leaving the bottom unsealed. An iron is recommended, set on a low heat setting. Heat around the edges, sealing three sides of the bag only.

Flat Iron

Figure 4. Use an iron on low heat to melt the two edges of the thick plastic together. This step may need to be repeated several times.

At the bottom of the bag near the unsealed opening, cut an “X” about ½ inch in diameter. Place the ¾ inch reducer bushing inside the bag just under the opening that was cut into the plastic. Then place the ½ inch coupler on top of the “X” on the outside of the bag. Now push the two pieces together, forcing the plastic into larger ¾ inch coupler. This is what creates the seal. It should look like this:

reducer bushing

Figure 5. Place the ¾ inch reducer bushing under the plastic, and cut an “X” in order to insert the ½ inch coupler into the reducer bushing, creating a seal.

coupler

Figure 6. Firmly insert the ½ inch coupler into the reducer bushing. This seals the fitting into the plastic.

coupler and bushing2

Figure 7. The coupler and reducer bushing successfully inserted into the plastic.

Now attach the CPAP adapter to the ½ inch PVC reducer bushing and put the ½ inch PVC cap onto the end of the CPAP adapter port. Now the bottom of the reservoir bag can be finished by sealing the open end with the heat gun or iron.

reservoir

Figure 8. Inflating the reservoir with oxygen. Notice the oxygen tubing at the top. The CPAP tubing is attached to the ½ inch coupler.

inflated reservoir

Figure 9. The reservoir fully inflated and holding about 200 liters of oxygen. Be careful to not overfill as the bag will come apart with too much pressure.

Step 3: Attach the oxygen tubing and fill the reservoir. Use oxygen tubing that will connect to the machine to the oxygen outlet on the CPAP adaptor. This is usually a thin, plastic tubing that should come with the oxygen concentrator. Also, cover the open end of the CPAP adaptor with the ½ inch PVC cap.

Step 4: After the reservoir is filled, connect the CPAP tubing to the CPAP adapter. You can buy CPAP tubing from most medical stores. Again, depending on your situation and how far your treadmill, exercise bike, etc. is from the actual oxygen concentrator, you will need at least 10 feet or more of CPAP tubing. At this point you may want to attach the reservoir to the wall (use double sided tape) or just leave it on the ground or perhaps under your bed. Be creative!

Step 5: Connect the CPAP tube to the mask. The mask is a dual one-way valve that is quite easy to get from a medical store. Be sure to connect the CPAP tubing to the intake port of the mask, you will exhale out of the out-take port.

dual valve oxygen mask

Figure 10. Dual valve oxygen mask.

Again, once everything is connected, simply turn the machine on and let it run. Be sure the reservoir is capped off. The oxygen concentrator has to fill the reservoir bag, so if you are filling at, say five liters per minute, this will take about sixty minutes for a 200-liter bag.

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OK, so now you’re probably wondering how to use this contraption. Here goes…

The mask should fit comfortably on your face. Adjust the straps until you have a good fit. If there is any pain or there are any leaks, then the mask is not fitted correctly. A good seal is very important and you should be able to breathe comfortably. If you have a 200-liter reservoir, breathing normally at sixteen times a minute will give you about thirty minutes of oxygen.

Using the mask oxygen system during exercise will deplete the reservoir much sooner, but it is still enough to do a good session.

One interval session that I use often on my bicycle trainer goes as follows:

-Be sure to fill the oxygen reservoir adequately before you start

-Warm up without oxygen until you reach your tar¬get pulse rate (usually 10-15 minutes)

-Put on the oxygen mask

-Sprint at 90 to 100% of your max¬i¬mum power or heart rate for 30 seconds

-Rest about 1 to 1.5 minutes

-Repeat at least 8 to 10 times

-During the session, use a fingertip pulse oximeter to monitor your pulse rate and O2 saturation. You should see consistently high levels of oxygen saturation (96+). Ideally, you should feel that your recovery between intervals is quicker than you would experience without the oxygen, and your perceived exertion at any given intensity will be a less than normal. Note, that it generally does not improve your peak performance or power output.

I also like to use an oxygen concentrator for enhancing recovery by literally just sitting on the couch and wearing the mask after a really hard workout or a race. In fact, a recent article published in the Journal of Strength and Conditioning Research showed that supplemental oxygen quickened recovery and improved muscle contractility after exercise. It has also been shown to speed up muscle tissue metabolism and increases tissue blood circulation.

For more ideas on hyperoxia and exercise with oxygen therapy protocols, you can check out plenty of tips on the internet. One site I particularly like for this is LiveO2.com and Ewot.com.

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Summary

So that’s it! Voila, you now have a system that will deliver oxygen at a high rate to your body during exercise, and in doing so, you’ll get all the performance-enhancing benefits I outline here.

And like I mentioned, if you need to get your hands on a used oxygen concentrator to build what you’ve just learned about, just look up my friend Andy Champagne from O2CRS.com, who is very knowledgeable and has reasonably priced units. Mention this article and he’ll give you a 5% discount.

Do you plan on using any of these oxygen biohacks? Was any of this confusing for you or do you need clarification on the design of the oxygen concentrator or the exercise protocol? Leave your comments, thoughts and feedback below, and I promise to reply.

Do You Have What It Takes To Be One Of The Strongest & Most Mentally Tough Citizens On Earth?

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Ever heard of the ancient Spartan Agoge?

If you haven’t heard of it, and you have a deep-rooted desire to become the strongest physical and mental version of yourself that you can possibly be, then I’d highly recommend that you keep reading.

The Agoge was the rigorous education and training regimen mandated for all male Spartan citizens (except the firstborn son of ruling houses). The training involved learning stealth, extreme loyalty, military and combat training, pain tolerance training, hunting skills, survival training and social communication preparation.

The aim of the system was to produce hardcore physically, mentally and morally strong males capable to serve in the Spartan army. Because Sparta was the only Greek city with no defensive walls, these men would become the “walls of Sparta”.

The Agoge was legendary and prestigious throughout the Greek world, and many aristocratic families from other cities vied to send their sons to Sparta to participate in the Agoge. The Spartans were extremely selective in which young men they would permit to enroll, and such honors were usually awarded to the honored citizens of Sparta in other cities and to just a few other families of supreme ancestry and importance.

In other words, the Spartans wanted to produce the strongest and most mentally tough citizens on earth, and to do this, they used the Agoge, a system of training that became the envy of the known world.

So why am I telling you all this?

Because now you too can become one of the strongest and most mentally tough citizens on earth. The biggest, baddest, toughest, most mentally resilient, loyal, moral, competitive and extreme version of you.

Sound like a worthy goal? Sound like something you’d like to slap on your resume? Sounds like something that will make you feel unstoppable, bulletproof and capable of handling anything life throws at you?

Then keep reading.

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The New Spartan Agoge

The ancient Spartans may be long gone, but a modern version of their Agoge is back.

The new Spartan Agoge, which was recently announced by the Spartan Race organization, will be held in Pittsfield, Vermont, on the famous “farm” of Spartan founder Joe DeSena, twice a year, once in summer and once in winter – and the first ever Agoge begins this February.

Here’s just a taste of what to expect:

To complete the Agoge, you must commit to a 60-hour Agoge when you register, with an option to complete your training at 24- and 48-hour marks (just in case 60 hours turns out to be too big of a bite for you to chew). If you make it 24 hours, you will have completed “The Agoge 24,” and if you make it 48 hours, you will be credited with “The Agoge 48.” If you complete the Spartan Agoge in its entirety, you officially achieve “The Agoge 60.”

In the future, the Spartan will host the Agoge in historic locations across the globe and even feature longer durations for those who have already achieved the Agoge 60.

To complete the Spartan Agoge, you must overcome mental and physical obstacles that aim to develop your body, mind and spirit. Want some nitty-gritty details on what to expect? Then go listen to the Obstacle Dominator Episode 48 and Episode 50, a free two-part audio series on the Spartan Agoge.

I must emphasize that this event is not the equivalent of finally “getting your butt off the couch” to lose a few pounds. Instead, you will need to undertake months of learning, training and self-discovery to earn what will become a coveted achievement (and I’ve got a bunch more tips for you in just a moment – tips that will help you accelerate the process of getting ready for this thing).

To gain entry, you must apply, submit a list of references, and have successfully completed a considerable number of endurance and intellectual challenges. For example, you could have developed perseverance, camaraderie, and leadership training through the military, or by completing a good handful of difficult Spartan Races or other obstacle races, some tough Ironman triathlons, the famous Navy SEAL Kokoro camp, or anything else that really makes your bad-ass-ed-ness resume pop.

Is that even worth the trouble?

I’d say so. After all, finishers of the Agoge become innovative thinkers, prudent risk-takers, and expert decision-makers. They will embody the Spartan Code, a code of honor and respect that breeds trust and inspires action. Most importantly, they become masters of themselves. That sounds like a pretty good crowd to be a part of, and it means this isn’t just a masochistic sufferfest. Instead, the promise is that you will emerge with a whole new skillset of survival that will make you one of the toughest people on the face of the planet.

Oh, and that’s not all.

If you actually manage to pull off the Agoge, you become eligible to get the coveted Spartan Delta.

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The Spartan Delta

And what exactly is the Spartan Delta?

Here’s a video that sums it up:

In short, the Delta itself promises to be one of the most coveted and beautiful trophies in the world, and a sign to yourself and the rest of the world that you possess everything it takes to take on any challenge, period. Once you’ve gotten the Agoge out of the way (or saved the Agoge for later), the Delta basically involves building an unbreakable body, an unshakable mind, and a spirit forged in steel by completing the following:

-A Spartan TriFecta (Sprint, Super, and Beast spartan race)

-An Endurance TriFecta (Spartan Regular Hurricane Heat, Spartan 12 Hour Hurricane Heat, and Spartan Ultra Beast) e).

-A Spartan Training TriFecta (an SGX Spartan Coaching Class, Spartan X Online Course Completion, and, of course, the Agoge you just read about).

If half the phrases above sound like gobbledygook and you’re not familiar with Spartan racing terms, you can click here to go delve into what each of the above components is.

But, in a nutshell, anybody who completes the Delta sets themselves apart in the endurance athlete, grit, military, obstacle racing, confidence, and mental toughness community. You become a leader, a model, a teacher, and a master of yourself.

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How To Prepare For The Spartan Agoge

Alright, let’s just say, theoretically, that you haven’t yet shrunk away from your computer screen to go hunt down a kale shake and a yoga class.

Let’s just say this thing intrigues you.

Let’s just say that you, like me, can’t turn down a chance to live life the fullest and see what your body and brain are truly capable of.

If that were the case, and you’re still reading, how would I propose you prepare for a challenge like this? In three steps that look, read and sound far, far easier than may appear, here are my recommendations:

Step 1: Review the best mental strength podcasts and articles I have produced. Here are the ones I recommend:

Look, Feel and Perform Like An Ancient Spartan Warrior – How To Become An Absolute Physical Beast

26 Mile Night Hikes, Surf Swim Torture, 450 Pound Giant Logs And More: What To Expect at SEALFit Kokoro Camp And 9 Ways To Get More Tough.

The Iceman Returns: Wim Hof On Climbing Frigid Mountains In Underwear, Eating Only Once A Day, Activating Hormones With Breathing & More.

Secrets Of The Navy Seals: How To Train, Eat & Think Like The World’s Toughest Fighters

How Breath-Holding, Blood-Doping, Shark-Chasing, Free-Diving & Ketosis Can Activate Your Body’s Most Primal Reflex.

Step 2: Get the ultimate combination of strength, grit and endurance by reviewing the following resources:

Train Like The Lone Survivor – 3 Books That Will Turn You Into A Beast.

A Legendary Strength Coach’s Secrets to Build Mass Fast Without Destroying Your Body.

How Underground Russian Techniques From Old Soviet Training Journals Can Turn You Into An Endurance Beast.

Top 10 Tips To Race A Spartan Beast.

-Step 3: Make your body bulletproof to injury and overtraining by reviewing the following resources:

Regularly do the Foam Roller Mobility Routine I describe in 5 Little-Known Ways To Biohack Your Workouts, Enhance Your Exercise Productivity & Maximize Your Fitness.

Regularly do heat acclimation workouts like this.

-How To Turn Your Workspace Into A Calorie Decimating Standing Desk or Treadmill Workstation.

26 Top Ways To Recover From Workouts and Injuries with Lightning Speed

25 Ways To Know With Laser-Like Accuracy If Your Body Is Truly Recovered And Ready To Train

To put the icing on the cake, you may want to add the brand new, fully updated version of my 450 page book Beyond Training: Mastering Endurance, Health & Life (New, Updated Edition) to your library. And actually read it (or listen to it while you’re training).

Let’s face it: if you really, truly want to show up for the Spartan Agoge or complete the Spartan Delta, there is absolutely nothing that is going to replace getting out there and kicking your own ass with gritty, bonified, physically and mentally difficult workouts. So you can’t just sit at your computer and listen to, read or watch the resources above. Instead, review them, avoid getting sucked down other rabbit holes or distracted by shiny internet pennies, and start practicing and implementing what you learn. I’m serious: I know my own material and I’ve narrowed down the best of the best for you, so you don’t have to waste time hunting down other stuff. 

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Summary

Well, I don’t know about you, but I’m certainly in.

I’ve got my plane tickets to Vermont and you’ll see me at the Winter Agoge.

I’ll also be completing the full Spartan Delta.

And here are a few final resources for you to take a deeper dive, or to put your money where your mind is and register.

Click here to learn more about Spartan’s 2016 “Year Of Resilience”

Click here for the official Spartan Delta information and sign-up page

Click here for the official Agoge general information page/schedule

Click here for the official February “Winter Agoge” page

Click here for the official June “Summer Agoge” page

So, what do you think? Do you think you could handle the Agoge? The full Delta? Do you have more training or other questions for me? Leave your questions, comments and feedback below.

Two Stunning But Little-Known Ways To Fix Your Body: Unlocking The Power Of Light & Cold

QuantletCloseup

A few weeks ago, medtech entrepreneur and biohacker Ruben Salinas was my guest on the podcast “The Quantlet: The World’s First Wearable That Uses Cold & Light To Shut Down Inflammation, Enhance Sleep, Improve Cognition & Amplify Performance“.

After that episode, we received stacks upon stacks of questions from you and other readers about how light and how cold can be used to change your biology, increase your performance, decrease inflammation, and enhance cognition, and how exactly this whole “Quantlet” thing works.

So, without further ado, let’s don our propeller hats and dive into the stuff they don’t teach doctors at medical school – information that is critical to know if you want to fix your body, enhance your brain, and optimize your biology – and the two stunning but little-known ways to take your health to the next level.

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The Effects of Light in Biology

Let’s begin with the stuff pouring out of the screen you’re reading this on right now: light.

As you can learn in the podcast “How To Use Low Level Light Therapy And Intranasal Light Therapy For Athletic Performance, Cognitive Enhancement & More” light energy is, according to quantum mechanics, composed of photons or packets of energy. The energy of a single photon depends on its wavelength. Therefore, the energy in a “dose” of light depends on the number of photons and on their wavelength or color (for example, blue photons have more energy than green photons that have more energy than red, that have more energy than near infrared (IR), etc.)

albert-einstein-light-quantaGood ol’ Einstein proposed that light is composed of bodies called photons. He further claimed that a photon is the smallest unit of light and has a dual nature, being both a particle and a wave at the same time. A photon travels at the speed of light and its energy is related to the frequency of radiation. The energy of the photon is transferred to the electrons when it collides with any material substance.

The shorter the wavelength of light, the greater the energy transferred to the electron. Ultraviolet (UV) is shorter than IR, for example, and that means UV photons carry more energy than IR ones. That’s why you can hang out in an IR sauna all day long and just sweat, but if you hang out in the UV photon light of the sun all day long, you may get a bit of radiation on your skin that we call a sunburn. This is because the intensity of the light determines how many photons strike any given surface and how many electrons are, thus, affected. The higher the intensity of light, the greater the number of photons and therefore, the greater the amount of energy transferred to the electrons.

Photons that are delivered into living tissue can either be absorbed or scattered. Photons that are absorbed interact with a chromophore located within the tissue, such as is the case with the eyes (and as illustrated below). A chromophore is the part of a molecule responsible for its color. The color arises when a molecule absorbs certain wavelengths of visible light and transmits or reflects others.

Light reception in animals is mediated by opsin visual pigments. Opsins are receptor proteins that are attached to a light-sensitive chromophore, which is made by your body from vitamin A (yup – that’s why vitamin A-rich carrots are beneficial for your eyesight). Chromophores change shape when they absorb a photon of light. This activates the opsin that it is bound to and causes it to send a cellular signal which can be interpreted by the nervous system.

chromophore

The effects of light in biology, specifically termed “photobiomodulation”, were discovered over 40 years ago and have since been studied at institutions such as Harvard, NASA and the Department of Defense. Most of the evidence for photobiomodulation has focused on light therapy that improves tissue repair (skin wounds, muscle, tendon, bone, nerves), reduces inflammation and reduces pain wherever the beam is applied. (PubMed refs)

Photobiomodulation has a photochemical effect, much like photosynthesis in plants. One of the main mechanisms of action occurs in your mitochondria, the cellular power plants inside nearly every cell of our bodies. Photobiomodulation studies have provided sufficient empirical evidence of the value of light in medicine. The effect depends on the application of the correct wavelength and density of light, delivered to the target tissues for an appropriate period of time.

OK. Hold up a sec.

Smoke pouring out your ears yet from this information dump?

All you’ve basically learned so far is that just like a plant can absorb light to make energy, your body can absorb light to make energy.

Yes, you are kind of like a plant.

Let’s dive even deeper, shall we?

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How Light Affects Your Blood

Let’s next imagine what would happen if your blood was exposed to a daily influx of therapeutic light…

According to the scientific literature, light acts at the cellular level by stimulating cells to generate more energy and utilize oxygen more effectively. Within certain blood-based cells exist mitochondria, which produce cellular energy in the form of a molecule called adenosine triphosphate or ATP for short.

An enzyme in mitochondria known as cytochrome c-oxidase (CCO) utilizes light photons to increase ATP and reduce oxidative stress. A cascade of mitochondrial and intracellular downstream effects lead to improved tissue repair and reduced inflammation.This process also creates mild oxidants (ROS) that lead to both cellular repair, healing and gene transcription. (Pubmed references here).

Photobiomodulation-mechanisms-medium

In multiple studies conducted in Russia, China, Brazil, and Germany, specific frequencies and intensities of light delivered directly into the blood included improvements in lipid levels and cholesterol, improved blood sugar levels, better clotting, reduction of arthritic pain and fibromyalgia symptoms, and even increased immunity.

So light hits your blood, decreases inflammation and allows for enhanced cellular energy production. And that, my friend, is why you feel so, so good when you go for a walk in the sunshine. And that’s also why most plants die without light. 

Yep, remember, you are very much like a plant.

Now let’s look at the implications of this for performance…

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Light to Enhance Athletic Performance

About the worst thing you can do for physical or mental performance is to spend your day indoors, without light – even if it’s in a gym or training facility. And here’s why…

In sports medicine in particular, photobiomodulation has demonstrated increased exercise capacity and longer exercise times, as well as improved biomarkers (including reduced Lactate, Creatine Kinase, and CRP) after exercise in people treated with red and infrared light. It has also been reported to release certain brain compounds that positively affect mood and sleep.

The Italian researchers Raggi and Vallesi performed a first study in athletes for investigation the effect of blood irradiation on strength and endurance. The data were published in the journal “Schmerz & Aupunktur” in Germany in 2008. In this study, athletes showed remarkable benefits, increasing their exercise performance by over 20% in multiple exercise categories from just 10 days of blood irradiation.

What’s more interesting is that the effects lasted for 16 weeks after the end of the treatment! The researchers hypothesized that this duration had to do with red blood cells’ mean lifetime: 12-15 weeks.

Several other studies can be found in the literature that are of significance in sports medicine. First, a Polish study that demonstrated higher exercise capacity, longer exercise time and longer distance of a 6 minute walk test, in 39 coronary artery disease patients, treated with LLLT on the chest area. In a second study, isolated rat tibial anterior muscles were fatigued with electric current until initial strength was lowered to 50%. Then, the rats were divided into two groups: one treated with LLLT treated and a control group. The laser irradiated group had significantly longer time to reach 50% reduction of strength, significantly higher peak force and significantly lower creatine kinase blood levels (muscle damage index).

Other studies have shown the important effect of increased blood flow occurring systemically in the body after blood irradiation. A Japanese research group performed LLLT on the common carotid artery area and noted that blood flow volume in the central retinal artery and ophthalmic artery increased. A similar experiment was carried out by Makihara et al, whereby LLLT was applied to the right temporomandibular joint area, which yielded dilation of blood vessels and increases in blood flow volume in the superficial temporal artery.

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Surprisingly, this effect was observed bilaterally. Lastly, Wasik et al, observed PO2 and SaO2 increasing after whole blood sample irradiation with 632 nm laser was performed and yet other studies have also reported effects related to increased erythrocyte deformability and microcirculation enhancement.

Mittermayr et al showed that blue laser releases Nitric Oxide (NO) from Haemoglobin (Hb). NO-Hb is a form of met-Hb, with low O2 linking power. Free NO released from Hb is a powerful molecule producing vasodilatation and perfusion enhancement. Concurrently, Hb’s O2 linking power is increased when NO is released. In a study performed by Simonian et al, isolated erythrocyte membranes were irradiated and Citb 558 III activity was measured. Cit b 558 III is a membrane enzyme that restores met-Hb (H+-Hb, CO2-Hb, DPG-Hb) to normal Hb, with higher O2 linking power. Cit b 558 III activity was enhanced after light irradiation.

Once again, I’ll recommend you listen to the podcast “How To Use Low Level Light Therapy And Intranasal Light Therapy For Athletic Performance, Cognitive Enhancement & More” if you want a more detailed explanation of how light irradiation increases blood flow…

…but in simple terms: light is like Viagra for your blood. 

Make sense?

OK, now let’s imagine what would happen if we combined light with cold.

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The Effect of Cold (Thermoregulation) on Performance

It’s been shown that both physical and mental functions can be impaired when your body’s core temperature rises and that’s exactly why you’ll see elite athletes dip themselves in “ice baths” or use cold packs not only after an athletic performance, but also to produce performance-enhancing effects during short and intensive resistance exercises and also prior to long endurance events in the heat, such as a cycling stage.

All the riders on Omega Pharma-Quick Step utilize ice baths immediately after the stage to speed recovery. ©BrakeThrough Media

But the issues with these types of aids and treatment with cold is that they don’t penetrate much deeper than skin level.

And worse yet, the cold itself can result in vasoconstriction of the peripheral blood vessels and cause the opposite effect – potentially less blood to working tissue. This type of application of cold does not effective at cooling the body’s core, which includes the main organs and ultimately even the brain.

So it’s a catch-22: yeah, the cold can help keep your core cool and your blood cool. But it also causes a boatload of vasoconstriction.

You know this if you’ve ever taken an ice bath, then tried to go on a run.

Now everyone from Olympic trainers to those in the military Special Forces are always demanding a smarter and more effective way to quickly cool down the body for optimal performance. And luckily, a few researchers at Stanford University have actually successfully demonstrated that heat can be extracted from the body core through the palm of the hand. There are two primary steps involved in cooling the body’s core: convection and conduction of heat from the blood. The Stanford researchers were able to use both heat transfer mechanisms by designing a specialized glove that uses a vacuum to negate the effect that cold has on vasoconstriction.

But unfortunately, as you can see below, the design, weight and size of the “cooling glove” isn’t very practical at all.

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Is There A Way To Enhance Performance By Effectively Combining Light & Cold?

So, we now know photons of concentrated light do some pretty dang cool things to your blood and body.

And we now also know that cold, when used the right way, can be more effective than illegal performance enhancing drugs.

So now we come full circle to the reason I explained all of this to you in the first place:  a wearable device called “The Quantlet” that combines light and cold.

See, any of the typical wearable devices on the market right now are designed to measure you vs. doing something to you. This means that many of these new wearables simply measure things like the number of steps you’ve taken, your heart rate or other similar metrics.

But what if you could simply wear a device that actually helped you naturally optimize your own body’s natural physiological functions by leveraging the power of two of Mother Nature’s most powerful yet fundamental forces: light and thermal cooling energy?

Over a year ago a team of five physicians, scientists and engineers set out to finally make this type of wearable a reality.

All the research was there.

All the results of performance and health improvements by using photobiomodulation and cold had been documented. You just read about those results.

Now it was time to put all those years of data, research and more into developing a delivery method The so that the average person of any ages, any background and any goal could have access to one powerful device that could literally change their health.

Enter the Quantlet.

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What Is The Quantlet?

The Quantlet’s name comes from the device’s roots in quantum physics, specifically the photoelectric effect. This was first discovered by Hertz, and the theory of light put forth by Einstein. According to the photoelectric effect, when light strikes any material substance, electrons are discharged, creating a current. Simply, light interacts with matter as the energy of the light is transferred to the electrons. In 1905, Einstein offered an explanation for this phenomenon for which he was awarded a Nobel Prize.

By irradiating the skin on the wrist to reach the blood, the Quantlet is designed to achieve the same results that users of intravenous irradiation have reported, including improvements in sports performance and physical and mental disposition, as well as sleep quality.

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It uses visible red and infrared to deliver the photobiomodulating effect that is most well-understood and researched, and discussed earlier in this article. The other frequency sets that the Quantlet uses are in the violet, blue and green range.

There are three main reasons for the violet, blue and green range used in the Quantlet. It is a known fact that e.g. the cytochrome-C-oxidase-complex as the final part of the mitochondrial respiratory chain absorbs light in the red- and infrared rangeHowever, the NADH-complex as the first component absorbs it in the blue range. The second reason is because of the effect on blue and green on HEME within red blood cells and the third effect is that of light-mediated vasodilation. This was first described in 1968 by Furchgott, in his nitric oxide research that lead to his receipt of a Nobel Prize thirty years later in 1998.

Later studies conducted by other researchers confirmed and extended Furchgott’s early work, and demonstrated the ability of light to influence the localized production or release of NO, and to stimulate vasodilation through the effect of NO on cGMP. This suggests that properly-designed illumination devices may be effective at increasing localized NO availability.

Experimental results (discussed in detail in my podcast with the inventor here) with the Quantlet demonstrate that most of the benefit of hand cooling can be obtained without the use of a vacuum-assisted glove. Instead, the Quantlet’s novel, patent-pending configuration achieves similar results by simply extracting heat transcutaneously through the wrist. While the thermal conductivity of skin varies, this device achieves heat transfer rates approximating those observed at Stanford through a much more practical wearable design. The Quantlet’s cooling module uses electronic components called thermoelectric coolers (TECs) that leverage something known as the Peltier effect. By using a solid-state electronic mechanism to cool the body, the development team removed the need for any cooling fluids and minimized the device’s footprint. Through the specially designed heat-sink and cooling fan, the Quantlet achieves remarkable TEC efficiency, enabling its cooling surface to reach low enough temperatures to provide an extremely powerful heat exchange, even when operating in relatively high-temperature environments.

Further, the Quantlet’s light module stimulates vasodilation through the localized release of nitric oxide (NO) by irradiating the placement site with appropriate light frequencies. So, unlike the big ol’ Stanford cooling glove, it does not need a vacuum pump either! This feature has the bonus effect of systemically releasing NO and enhancing oxygen uptake by helping blood vessels dilate and improving blood flow.

The experiments with the Quantlet’s multiple iterations also helped the designers make improvements in the cooling module’s heat exchange plate design and the light module’s most optimal LED placement, power density and light frequency set to maximize the synergistic effect of light & cold on your body.

…and the thing actually works…

In the following video, you will see how the temperature of the right hand is lower than that of the left hand, indicating a progressive and effective cooling of blood flow to the hand. The video itself explains what this means for performance:

And, since many of you have also asked for more information regarding what results to expect on the wellness side of things, in this video, one of the Quantlet’s co-inventors shares some of the latest results he has observed via biochemical marker testing:

The designers of the Quantlet have performed both experimental and model-based analysis of the most recent Quantlet design, demonstrating that most of the benefit of hand cooling can be obtained through the wrist using their novel, patent-pending configuration.

Now let’s delve into a few more nitty-gritty details about this thing.

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How Long Are You Supposed To Wear It For?

The short answer is it depends…the longer answer is that it depends on what you are trying to do with it. So, to simplify, let’s split that into two categories:

1. Performance

Wear it 30 minutes pre-exercise for light and cold programs and 30-60 minutes post-exercise to reduce muscle fatigue and boost recovery. Most experts don’t agree yet, so it’s disingenuous to think we know better. In the end, and as we’ll talk about, this may vary by individual and the goal is to provide the means through the Quantlet’s software for that individual to find what works best for them.

2. Wellness

For wellness, the recommended wear time is approximately 30 minutes, once or twice per day, and for about 10 days for the full effect to be noticeable. This is enough time for the body’s entire blood supply to receive light, enabling a systemic effect.

For other, more specific uses, the device’s programs can be easily adjusted for much shorter time-frames for localized irradiation. So, in a nutshell, it can be used at different times of day to irradiate other parts of the body such as specific muscles, the forehead, etc.

But, the designers of the Quantlet don’t speak much about that due to regulatory restrictions on medical claims. I plan on doing quite a bit of guinea-pigging with this thing once I get it, and I promise to keep you well-informed.

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Are There Any Negative Side Effects?

OK, so are there potentially downsides to wearing this thing for extended periods of time?

One important point that has been demonstrated by multiple studies in cell culture, animal models and in clinical studies, is the concept of a Biphasic Dose Response when the outcome is compared with the total delivered light energy density (fluence). In short, what this finding suggests is that different wavelengths, pulses, coherence, and even light polarization have some effect on the magnitude of the photobiomodulation effect.

Put simply, too much or too little light and cold can produce no effects or even counterproductive effects. The Quantlet uses well-accepted and researched parameters to maximize its effects and minimize the potential of “over-irradiation”, but in short, if you wear the thing all day long and never take it off, and you find yourself shivering all day, or you feel less than stellar from being constantly exposed to light (e.g. using it while you sleep), then for Pete’s sakes, adjust accordingly. Just like anything, you can have too much of a good thing, and you can’t just wear this thing 24-7 like a FitBit. It’s just not that kind of wearable.

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Summary

Many people are (and should be!) skeptical when they hear what a new product with bold claims like this might do for them, especially when its basis and primary mechanisms of action are scientifically complex.

To put your mind at rest, I can tell you that data available on the two fundamentals the device is based on appears to be solid, while still limited and the team behind it is equally solid and I am looking forward to testing my own Quantlet as soon as it arrive in mid-2016.

As a matter of fact, by mid-2016, once both are released, I plan to really only use and extensively test two specific wearables: 1) the Oura ring for quantifying sleep, heart rate, respiration, etc.; 2) the Quantlet for delivering light and cold. That’s not too geeky, right?

What about you? Do you have questions about The Quantlet? About how to use light and cold to enhance your biology? Do you plan on getting one of these? Leave your thoughts below, and I’ll reply!

How To Hold Your Breath For Four Minutes, Training Mask Myths, Performance Breathing & More With Brian Mackenzie

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From power breathing to underwater workouts to Wim Hof-style cold water immersion to sexy Training Masks to freediving, spearfishing and beyond, it seems that performance breathwork is taking the world by storm.

In today’s podcast, I take a deep dive with performance breathing expert Brian Mackenzie.

Brian is a strength and conditioning and movement expert, and creator of CrossFit Endurance (which I interviewed him about way back in podcast episode #47) He co-authored the book “Power, Speed, Endurance: A Skill Based approach to Endurance Training“, recently co-authored “Unbreakable Runner” and works with professional and elite level athletes in running, cycling, rowing, MMA, MIL/SOF, LEO, Fire/EMT, surfing, paddling, swimming, CrossFit, including Olympic Gold Medalists and World Champions.

Brian and his programs have been featured in Competitor Magazine, Runners World, Triathlete Magazine, Men’s Journal, ESPN Rise, The Economist, Tim Ferriss’ New York Times bestseller The 4-Hour Body, Men’s Running UK, LA Sport & Fitness, Muscle & Performance Magazine, and Rivera Magazine.

During our discussion, you’ll discover:

-The true science behind the Training Mask, and whether it actually works…

-How to use oxygen and carbon dioxide static apnea tables…

-Why so many freedivers and spearfishers are dying from shallow water blackouts…

-The uncommon restricted breath training devices Brian uses in his clinics…

-How to use hyperoxia…

-Where to start if you want to hold your breath for four minutes…

-And much more!

Resources from this episode:

This TrainingMask workout

The TrainingMask (use code GREEN1 for 20% discount)

The PowerLung

FINIS Swim Snorkel

TheTurbine nasal dilator

Power, Speed, Endurance book

Unbreakable Runner book

Deep Survival: Who Lives, Who Dies, and Why book

Do you have questions, comments or feedback about performance breathing? Leave your thoughts below and either Brian or I will reply!

342: The Dark Side Of Travel, How To Rebuild Fitness Fast, How To Stop Receding Hairline & More!

The Dark Side Of Travel, How To Rebuild Fitness Fast, How To Stop Receding Hairline & More!

Click here for the full written transcript of this podcast episode.

January 7, 2016 Podcast:The Dark Side Of Travel, How To Rebuild Fitness Fast, How To Stop Receding Hairline & More!

Have a podcast question for Ben? Click the tab on the right (or go to SpeakPipe), use the Contact button on the app, call 1-877-209-9439, or use the “Ask Ben” form at the bottom of this page.

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News Flashes:

You can receive these News Flashes (and more) every single day, if you follow Ben on Twitter.com/BenGreenfield, Instagram.com/BenGreenfieldFitness, Facebook.com/BGFitness and Google+.

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Special Announcements:

This podcast is brought to you by:

-Nuts.com – Get 4 free samples (choose from over 50 options – that’s a $15 value!) with code “FITNESS” at Nuts.com.

-Casper Matresses – Get $50 off at Casper.com/ben with discount code “ben”.

GreenfieldFitnessSystems “surprise gift box” – 50% discount on instant access to a box shipped to your front doorstep and full of the latest cutting-edge biohacking gear, nutrients, smart drugs and more, handpicked and curated by Ben.

Did you miss the weekend podcast episode with Devin Burke? It was a must-listen – titled “How To Quit Obsessing About Health, Eating & Exercise: Dodging The Silver Bullet Of Orthorexia And Body Dysmorphic Disorder.”  Click here to listen now or download for later!

New course from Ben! The 7 Day Full Body Reboot Program To Get Strong And Fit is 30% off until this Saturday. Optimal fitness and health are closer than you think. In just one week, you can set yourself up for a strong, long, lean and healthy body.

Jan 9, 11am: Ben is speaking at the Spokane Health and Fitness Expo. For all the Spokane and Coeur D’ Alene locals, find more info here: http://spokanehealthfitexpo.com/.

May 27-29, 2016: Ben is speaking at PaleoFX 2016 in Austin, Texas. This is the The Who’s Who gathering of the Paleo movement, with world-class speakers including New York Times bestselling authors, leading physicians, scientists, health entrepreneurs, professional athletes, fitness professionals, activists, bloggers, biohackers, and more. And you DON’T need to be Paleo to be able to get a ton of benefit and fun out of this one!

Nov 17-18, 2016: Ben is speaking at the Biohacker’s Summit in Helsinki, Finland. Discover the latest in wearables, internet of things, digital health, and mobile apps to increase performance, be healthier, stay fit, and get more done. Learn about taking food, preparation, cooking, and eating to the next level with the latest science and kitchen chemistry. Even delve into implanted chips, gene therapy, bionic arms, biometric shirts, robotic assistants, and virtual reality. Two days with an amazing crowd and a closing party with upgraded DJs to talk about. Click here to get in now at a 40% discount.

Grab this Official Ben Greenfield Fitness Gear package that comes with a tech shirt, a beanie and a water bottle.

And of course, this week’s top iTunes review – gets some BG Fitness swag straight from Ben – click here to leave your review for a chance to win some!

Waaa….no new reviews? Get on it peeps. It’s good karma and here’s how.

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Listener Q&A:

As compiled, deciphered, edited and sometimes read by Rachel Browne, the NEW Podcast Sidekick.

How To Rebuild Fitness Fast

Sean says: He was recently diagnosed with Lyme disease and he’s wondering what the best way to rebuild your fitness and strength after an injury or health issue and how to track your recovery?

Is Underwater Breath Holding Dangerous? (And How To Avoid Shallow Water Blackouts)

Dundee says: He’s been seeing a lot of articles condemning the practice of doing laps while holding your breath. He’s concerned by all the ‘bad press’ about the practice and the articles that are highlighting the risk of black outs. He knows you’re a proponent of that kind of training, what’s your take on this?

In my response, I recommend:
The Dartmouth swimmer who died
My article on freediving

How To Stop Receding Hairline

Darrell says:  He loves the show and always has.  He’s been training for 10 years + at a high intensity and in the past three years he’s noticed as his training intensity and load has increased his hair has slowly diminished and where he used to have a massive afro, he now has a receding hair line. He thinks it might have something to do with the amount of stress he’s putting his body under, what are your thoughts?

In my response, I recommend:
Lab testing for hair loss
Vitamin B Complex
Iron
TianChi Adaptogenic herbs
Episode #249 on hair loss, in which I recommend:
Vitamin D3 and the latest research on Vitamin D 
Fish oil – 2-5g/day + cod liver oil, 1-2T/day
Magnesium (500-1000mg/day)
-Brazil nuts (selenium) – 5-6/day (get raw, not roasted and keep frozen)
Grass fed beef – several 6-8oz servings/week
-If you do not eat shellfish or use zinc regularly, also include 2-4 Prostelan capsules per day (5 Alpha Reductase inhibitor + Zinc)
And then use either:
D-Aspartic Acid – 3g/day (approx 1 teaspoon) combined with Myomin (aromatase inhibitor) – 1000-1500mg/day
OR
-5 day on/2 day off of herbal blend of tribulis, maca, nettle, fenugreek (recommend RenewMale, Aggressive Strength, or Onnit T+)

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Prior to asking your question, do a search in upper right hand corner of this website for the keywords associated with your question. Many of the questions we receive have already been answered here at Ben Greenfield Fitness!

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Ben Greenfield’s Sauna Workout (The Exact Sauna Workout I Do Every Morning)

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As I mentioned in my recent talk (pictured above) at the Biohackers Summit in Finland, I’m simply not a guy who leaps out of bed in the morning to charge up a mountain, do a Crossfit WOD, hammer on my bicycle, or throw a barbell on my back.

Instead, as you can read about in the article “My Exact Morning Routine Unveiled Step-By-Step“, I’m a big proponent of engaging in morning activities that don’t involve running from an imaginary lion and instead involve activating the parasympathetic, “rest-and-digest” branch of your autonomic nervous system.

This practice sets the standard for the entire rest of your day to be less stressful and more productive, and, as I discussed in the recent podcast episode #341 on how to hack your nervous system, even allows you to do things like decrease salivary cortisol, do more subconscious deep diaphragmatic breathing and produce more focused alpha brain waves during the rest of your day. So I typically save any hard workouts for the later afternoon to early evening, when body temperature peaks, reaction time peaks and post-workout protein synthesis peaks.

These days, nearly every morning, my parasympathetic nervous system, relaxation-inducing and stress-relieving activity of choice is a thirty minute sauna workout in this infrared sauna that I “biohacked” in my basement, and in this article, I’m going to give you the exact sauna routine I do every day.

Even if you don’t own a sauna, you can do this same morning workout in your living room, basement, backyard or in the sauna at a health club. All you need is your body weight, and the self control to engage in deep breathing and focused movement for thirty minutes each morning. Enjoy!

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Let’s start with why I choose to use the sauna so friggin’ much. In the article “Ten Scientifically Proven Reasons I Am Addicted To A Daily Sauna” I delve into the nitty-gritty details and research, and here’s a synopsis of sauna benefits I describe in that article:

-Increased lifespan with lower risk of sudden cardiac death and fatal coronary heart disease.
-Skin-based detoxification of heavy metals and environmental chemicals.
-Increased growth hormone production and muscle fiber recovery.
-Arthritis relief and lower muscle soreness / joint pain.
-Increased lean muscle mass and increased fat oxidation.
-Rise in white blood cell count and immune system integrity.
-Increased capillary circulation to skin for color, tone and skin repair.
-Relief of insomnia and enhanced deep sleep.
-Increased red blood cell production and endurance performance.
-Increased stress resilience from heat shock protein production.

In addition, here’s a synopsis of what my former podcast guest Dr. Rhonda Patrick has to say in her article “Are Saunas The Next Big Performance Enhancing Drug?

-Enhance endurance by increasing nutrient delivery to muscles thereby reducing the depletion of glycogen stores.
-Reducing heart rate and reducing core temperature during workload.
-Increase muscle hypertrophy by preventing protein degradation.
-Cause induction of heat shock proteins and a hormetic response (which has also been shown to increase longevity in lower organisms).
-Cause a massive release of growth hormone.
-Improving insulin sensitivity.
-Increases the storage and release of norepinephrine, which improves attention and focus.
-Increases prolactin, which causes your brain to function faster by enhancing myelination and helps to repair damaged neurons.
-Increases BDNF, which causes the growth of new brain cells, improves the ability for you to retain new information, and ameliorates certain types of depression and anxiety.
-Causes a robust increase in dynorphin, which results in your body becoming more sensitive to the ensuing endorphins.

So if you’re not already hitting a sauna at least once a week, you should be. And I’m really not joking, I’m now using the sauna every single day of the week for thirty minutes. But rather than staring at the wall or reading magazines, I get the most bang for the buck out of my sauna routine by doing the workout you’re about to discover.

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Every morning I wake up, check my heart rate variability for five minutes while I journal and read, then I get out of bed, wander downstairs to the kitchen, and put on the coffee on. While the coffee is brewing, I do some easy stretching and foam rolling. I then drink my cup of coffee while reading blog posts, research articles and anything else relatively non-stressful, then I go down to the basement and turn on the sauna to pre-heat it. While the sauna is pre-heating, I use the restroom.

Then, I perform the following three times through, either doing deep nasal breathing or using an elevation training mask for the entire routine:

-One Full Yoga Sun Salutation Series

-20 Hindu Squats

-One Full Yoga Sun Salutation Series

-20 Hindu Pushups

-One Full Yoga Sun Salutation Series

-60 second Boat Pose

-60 second Wheel Pose

-10 Lateral Lunges Right Leg

-10 Lateral Lunges Left Leg

-60 seconds of The Founder Exercise (from this book by Dr. Eric Goodman)

When completed three times through, all the steps above take approximately thirty minutes. To hyperoxygenate my body and get a final dump of blood vessel expanding nitric oxide into my system, I finish with fifty deep, rapid, hyperoxygenation breaths (described in detail here) and a five to ten minute cold shower or cold pool soak.

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So that’s it.

When I finish this morning sauna routine, my body feels mobile, pain-free, full of energy, and “charged up” for the day.

A few questions came through in the comments section below which I think may benefit from addressed here, so here we go:

Q. Why not a wet sauna/steam room?

A. Here’s why I don’t use a steam room: I can never be sure of the quality of the water I’m sucking in. As I delve into in this post on “The Scary Facts About Gyms“, a wet sauna ensures you are breathing in flouride, chlorine, birth control pills, pharmaceuticals and anything else that happens to be in the water supply of the gym unless they are using a very good central water filter in that gym, which is usually not the case. However, if you put one in your own house and you can control any mold or fungi, it’s not a bad option (although you do miss out on all the benefits of infrared).

Q. Do you take a cold shower after?

A. Yep, I take an icy cold shower or (if I can find the time) a 5-10 minute soak in the cold pool outside my house.

Q. For those without access to a sauna, how many/how much of these benefits could come with simply overdressing?

A. If you can get pretty darn hot while exercising, then you can definitely reap the benefits of heat shock protein production, blood flow, nitric oxide production, etc., but here’s the issue (and why I choose the sauna): that can be far more stressful and conducive to overtraining than a relaxing (albeit hot) sauna session.

What do you think? Do you plan on giving this a try? Do you have your own sauna routine to share, or questions about mine? Leave your thoughts below and I promise to reply. 

If you want the same sauna that I use (The Clearlight Series Y Yoga Sauna), go to Clearlight website, and use code “BEN”, which gets you $450 off regular pricing, free shipping ($550) and a free ergonomic backrest (reg.$70.) Or call 800.317.5070 and tell them you want the “Ben Greenfield Special” – they’ll hook you up. 

How To Quit Obsessing About Health, Eating & Exercise: Dodging The Silver Bullet Of Orthorexia and Body Dysmorphic Disorder.

pod cast devin burke itunes

Ever heard of “orthorexia”?

It’s is an eating disorder characterized by an extreme or excessive preoccupation with avoiding foods perceived to be unhealthy. 

In other words, it’s being absolutely obsessed with eating all things paleo, gluten-free, vegan, raw, non-GMO, organic, and fair-trade, and counting every friggin’ calorie of it.

Or how about “body dysmorphic disorder?”

This one is characterized by an obsessive preoccupation that some aspect of one’s own appearance is severely flawed and warrants exceptional measures to hide or fix it.

In other words, you must maintain a nice body, at all costs.

Unfortunately, it’s all-too-common to see eating-obsessed, exercise-obsessed people destroying their bodies and their minds with worrying and an obsessive-compulsive approach to nutrition and fitness.

My guest in today’s podcast, Devin Burke, takes a completely opposite approach to health: a minimalist approach. He preaches that people are often obsessively looking for that “silver bullet” and unfortunately often miss tapping into the potential that is right in front of them – if they are only inspired, educated and disciplined enough to implement these necessary changes they could take them to the “next level”, without an unhealthy obsession.

Devin is a wellness educator, and passionate health coach. He is a Certified Holistic Health Coach and a Certified Personal Trainer by the American College of Sports Medicine. He is the founder of Empowerment Wellness Solutions, a healthy lifestyle coaching business based in South Florida and author of “Healthy Eating in the 21st Century”. And he is also a graduate of the Institute for Integrative Nutrition, the world’s top online school for becoming a health, lifestyle and nutrition coach (get a huge savings on an IIN certification if you contact them and mention this show).

During our discussion, you’ll discover:

-How to completely reset your brain to eliminate an obsession with eating gluten-free, or getting X number of calories, or eating the perfect carb:fat:protein ratios…

-How something called neurolinguistic programming can help you overcome an obsession with food…

Why you need to branch-out and eat a variety of different foods, even if that includes components such as dairy and gluten…

-What to eat when you’re traveling or at a party, and you want to “enjoy” food, but you still want to avoid making yourself sick or unhealthy…

-Why what pop culture tells you is the perfect body completely flies in the face of your natural human ancestry and genetic hardwiring…

-How to create exercise goals that go above and beyond just “getting a better body”…

-How to quit obsessing over WiFi signals, mold, drinking water, personal care products and household cleaning chemicals…

-Why true happiness is not tied to perfect health and how to truly achieve happiness…

-And much more!

This episode is brought to you by:

Kimera Koffee – Visit KimeraKoffee.com and use code ‘ben’ for 10% off!

Resources from this episode:

The Institute for Integrative Nutrition (get a huge savings when you mention this show)…

The gut/DNA/blood testing Ben Greenfield uses to customize his diet…

My previous podcast on how to rewire your body and brain with neurolinguistic programming…

Do you have questions, comments or feedback for Devin or I? Do you agree or disagree with what we say in this show? Leave your thoughts below and one of us will reply!

341: Why You Wake Up At The Same Time Every Night, How To Hack Your Nervous System, Is Your Fish Oil Bad & More!

341_ Why You Wake Up At The Same Time Every Night, How To Hack Your Nervous System, Is Your Fish Oil Bad & More!

Click here for the full written transcript of this podcast episode.

December 30, 2015 Podcast (Ben mentions AlignMed shirt in intro): Why You Wake Up At The Same Time Every Night, How To Hack Your Nervous System, Is Your Fish Oil Bad & More!

Have a podcast question for Ben? Click the tab on the right (or go to SpeakPipe), use the Contact button on the app, call 1-877-209-9439, or use the “Ask Ben” form at the bottom of this page.

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News Flashes:

You can receive these News Flashes (and more) every single day, if you follow Ben on Twitter.com/BenGreenfield, Instagram.com/BenGreenfieldFitness, Facebook.com/BGFitness and Google+.

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Special Announcements:

This podcast is brought to you by: FitLife’s “Organifi” Green Juice Powder.Easier than eating vegetables or juicing. No shopping, no juicing, no blending, no clean-up. Organic, Vegan, Gluten Free, Dairy Free, Soy Free. Special Ingredient includes Ayurvedic Herb Ashwagandha – shown to lower cortisol, increase strength, and improve mental focus! Go to BenGreenfieldFitness.com/FitLife. Coupon Code ‘BEN’ will get you 25% off through January 1!

Did you miss the weekend podcast episode with Brian Rose? It was a must-listen – titled “Ayahuasca, Smart Drugs, Anti-Aging & More With Brian Rose of London Real”. Click here to listen now or download for later!

Jan 9, 11am: Ben is speaking at the Spokane Health and Fitness Expo. For all the Spokane and Coeur D’ Alene locals, find more info here: http://spokanehealthfitexpo.com/

May 27-29, 2016: Ben is speaking at PaleoFX 2016 in Austin, Texas. This is the The Who’s Who gathering of the Paleo movement, with world-class speakers including New York Times bestselling authors, leading physicians, scientists, health entrepreneurs, professional athletes, fitness professionals, activists, bloggers, biohackers, and more. And you DON’T need to be Paleo to be able to get a ton of benefit and fun out of this one!

Nov 17-18, 2016: Ben is speaking at the Biohacker’s Summit in Helsinki, Finland. Discover the latest in wearables, internet of things, digital health, and mobile apps to increase performance, be healthier, stay fit, and get more done. Learn about taking food, preparation, cooking, and eating to the next level with the latest science and kitchen chemistry. Even delve into implanted chips, gene therapy, bionic arms, biometric shirts, robotic assistants, and virtual reality. Two days with an amazing crowd and a closing party with upgraded DJs to talk about. Click here to get in now at a 40% discount.

Grab this Official Ben Greenfield Fitness Gear package that comes with a tech shirt, a beanie and a water bottle.

And of course, this week’s top iTunes review – gets some BG Fitness swag straight from Ben – click here to leave your review for a chance to win some!

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Listener Q&A:

As compiled, deciphered, edited and sometimes read by Rachel Browne, the NEW Podcast Sidekick.

How To Hack Your Nervous System

Josh says: How should he go about balancing his sympathetic and parasympathetic nervous system? What should he eat, how often should he exercise and does weed help?

How To Know If Fish Oil Is Bad

Anthony says: How do you go about testing rancidity of oils around the home? He has a bottle of cod liver oil that he’s had in the fridge for about two years, and he’s not so sure if it’s a healthy oil to be putting into your body.

In my response, I recommend:
SuperEssentials Fish Oil
This Olive Oil Hoax

5 Ways To Increase Grip Strength (& Become A Better Rock Climber)

Anne says: She recently started rock climbing and she’s wondering what you think of rock climbing and what would you do to get really good and as fast as possible?

How To Get Motivated To Exercise

Erick says: He’s the host of a podcast “How to be a Grown Up” that he does for his high school students, when he tries to put forward that despite their economically depressed home lives they should still care about their health, wellness find a purposeful direction in their lives. He has a few students that struggle to be motivated to get active and he’d love to know what is something you might suggest to get them off the couch and making positive decisions to be healthy?

In my response, I recommend:
How To Get Motivated To Exercise

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Prior to asking your question, do a search in upper right hand corner of this website for the keywords associated with your question. Many of the questions we receive have already been answered here at Ben Greenfield Fitness!

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A Rant About Supplements.

rant1
Last week, I posted my birthday rant.
It was so popular that I’m back now, one week later, with another brief rant for you.
Enjoy.
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I’m often asked the difference between something from the “Nature” brand of supplements I’ve personally developed…
…and, say, another supplement brand or product that appears to be very similar. My recent article about NatureAminos is a perfect example of this: obviously there are many other similar amino acid supplements out there, such as Master Amino Pattern (MAP) or PerfectAminos.
The answer is very simple, and twofold:
1) I used my modifications and recommendations on an existing brand to make it better.
In some cases, a lab or supplement company has developed and patented a very good technology – a technology that I want to use to create a product which that company has not yet created. A perfect example of this is NatureCBD. The company BioCBD+ developed the process of blending turmeric with organic cannabis to isolate both the curcuminoids and the cannabinoids.
But I wanted to take this one step further and add in ashwagandha and lemon balm for relaxation, cortisol lowering and in higher amounts, elimination of insomnia or the inability to fall asleep. So I approached them and had them “custom formulate” a modification of their formula for me. This means NatureCBD is similar to many products BioCBD+ has, but different in that I’ve added my own personal twist and extra ingredients to an existing supplement delivery technology.
2) I’ve private labeled an existing formula under my own brand to more effectively spread my message.
In some cases, a supplement you will find at GreenfieldFitnessSystems.com is indeed nearly identical to another supplement or formula that already exists, but has been branded with my “Nature” brand and label. The advantage of this for you is that: A) GreenfieldFitnessSystems.com becomes a convenient “one stop shop” for you, rather than you needing to go to the four corners of the earth to find the stuff I recommend or endorse; B) you save on shipping; C) you avoid getting any fake knock-offs; D) every time you use my brand vs. another brand, you (and I know this sounds potentially selfish) are “brand-building” Ben Greenfield and the Nature brand, and you are helping me to spread the message and my unique flavor of living life to the fullest and getting the ideal blend of performance, health, happiness and longevity.
So…let me know if that makes sense, and please feel free to leave your thoughts and comments below. I hope these little rants help you better understand me and my message. 

Everything You Need To Know About How To Use Amino Acids For Muscle Gain, Appetite Control, Injury Repair, Ketosis And More

Bg Aminos

It seems these days that the building blocks of proteins, affectionately known as “amino acids”, are viewed as tiny little gold nuggets that bestow superhuman powers upon anyone lucky enough to stumble upon them in a sports gel, capsule, fizzy drink or cocktail.

After all, these little guys are starting to get put by nutrition supplement manufacturers into just about everything: from your engineered pre-workout snack, to your during workout beverage, to your post-workout smoothie mix.

But why are amino acids so prevalent now as the “darling” of the supplement industry?

And more importantly, do amino acids actually work any better or differently than, say, protein powder or eggs or a steak?

And of course, when it comes to your hard-earned dollars and which supplements you “prioritize”, do amino acids really help you exercise or function…or are nutrition supplement companies pulling a fast one on you?

You’re about to find out, and have a bit of educational fun in the process. If you want to transform yourself into a real amino acid ninja, then a perfect audio companion to this article is the podcast I released a couple days entitled: Amino Acids, BCAA’s, EAA’s, Ketosis, Bonking & More With 41 Time Ironman Triathlete Dr. David Minkoff.

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Update:

Since first publishing this article, I’ve received a lot of question on dosing, so here is a quick update to this article from Dr. Minkoff (I think the part about how pro cyclists use this stuff is pretty intriguing):

For most people who do not have gigantic bodies, 10 grams of amino acids 3 times a day would be maximum the body could use. If more are taken they will just be metabolized into sugar or stored as fat. Taking more than 10 grams of amino acids at a time can also will do the same thing. Lance Armstrong, George Hincapie and Viatcheslav Eckimov did this regimen during the tour and were anabolic during the tour. That was something they were never able to achieve without this formula. They didn’t have body breakdown and were actually more fit at the end than the beginning. It allowed their bodies to accommodate to the stress and get stronger.

Update #2:

I have included a full list of research on amino acid utilization at the end of this article.

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How Amino Acids Work

Let’s start by taking a trip down memory lane.

When I took my freshman level biology class at University of Idaho, my professor described muscle like a big Lego castle (or Lego pirate ship, depending on your tastes), and then describied amino acids as all the little Lego parts that made up the giant Lego structure (your muscle).

Convenient explanation? Yes. Complete explanation? Not exactly.

See, the role of amino acids goes way beyond being Lego-like building blocks. Amino acids are essential for the synthesis of proteins, enzymes, hormones, neurotransmitters, metabolic pathways, mental stabilization, and just about every function that takes place within your body.

So, using the “Legos-are-amino-acids” example, a more appropriate analogy would be that you dump all the Legos out of the box and they self-assemble in a magic pirate ship, then float into the air and fly around the room shooting miniature cannon balls at pesky flies, fixing holes in the drywall of your house, and then tucking you into bed for a refreshing night of deep sleep.

In other words, the function of amino acids goes far beyond being simple “building blocks”.

In the nutrition supplement industry (when I use that word, it seems to denote big fat guys in black suits sitting around an oak conference table, but in reality, most of these folks are skinny athletes in white shoes and geeky shorts), amino acid supplements fall into two basic categories: Essential Amino Acids (EAA’s) and Branched Chain Amino Acids (BCAA’s).

And there’s plenty of confusion about the difference between EAA’s and BCAA’s.

So let’s start with the first category: the EAA’s (and by the way, using the acronym like I do will make you seem super smart if you hang around any bros at the gym).

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Essential Amino Acids

Essential amino acids, as the name implies, are essential because they can’t simply be made by your body like all the other amino acids can. Instead, you have to get EAA’s from your diet or other exogenous sources.

Have you ever heard of Private Tim Hall, AKA Pvt. Tim Hall? If you’re a biology or chemistry geek, you probably have, because his name is the mnemonic commonly used to remember these essential amino acids, which are, drumroll please:

Phenylanine, Valine, Threonine, Tryptophan, Isoleucine, Methionine, Histidine, Arginine,Leucine and Lysine.

Get it? PVT Tim Hall?

Thanks Tim, we’ll send you a check if we ever win money in Biology Trivial Pursuit.

Anyways, let’s take a look at why the heck Pvt. Tim might do us good during exercise, starting with P.

P: Phenylalanine is traditionally marketed for it’s analgesic (pain-killing) and antidepressant effect, and is a precursor to the synthesis of norepinephrine and dopamine, two “feel-good” brain chemicals. This could be good because elevated brain levels of norepinephrine and dopamine may actually lower your “RPE” or Rating of Perceived Exertion During Exercise, which means you could be happier when you’re suffering hallway through a killer workout session, an Ironman bike ride, an obstacle race, or any voluminous or intense event.

V: Valine, along with Isoleucine and Leucine, is a real player, because it is BOTH an Essential Amino Acid and a Branched Chain Amino Acid. Valine is an essential amino acid. It can help to prevent muscle proteins from breaking down during exercise. This means that if you take Valine during exercise, you could recover faster because you’d have less muscle damage. More details on that below, when we delve into BCAA’s.

T: Threonine research is a bit scant. I personally couldn’t find much at all that explained why threonine could assist with exercise performance, but would hazard a guess that it is included in essential amino acid supplements because it is just that: essential. And many of the studies done on EAA’s just basically use all of them, rather than isolating one, like Threonine. For example (and this is a bit interesting for people who are masochistic enough to like working out starved) there is a significant muscle-preserving effect of a essential amino acids when ingested during training in a fasted state, and this includes decreased indicators of muscle damage and inflammation. This basically means that if you popped some essential amino acids, even if you didn’t eat anything, you wouldn’t “cannibalize” as much lean muscle during a fasted workout session.

OK, sorry, I got sidetracked there.

T: Tryptophan is an interesting one. It is a precursor for serotonin, a brain neurotransmitter that can suppress pain, and if you’re taking some before bed at night, even induce a bit of sleepiness. The main reason to take tryptophan would be to increase tolerance to pain during hard workouts, games or races. But studies to this point go back and forth on whether or not that actually improves performance.

I: Isoleucine, another BCAA that has some of the same advantages of Valine. Again…more on BCAA’s coming in a sec.

M: Methionine helps your body process and eliminate fat. It contains sulfur, a substance that is required for the production of the body’s most abundant natural antioxidant, glutathione. Your body also needs plenty of methionine to produce two other sulfur-containing amino acids, cysteine and taurine, which help the body eliminate toxins, build strong, healthy tissues, and promote cardiovascular health. Methionine is a “lipotropic”, which means it helps your liver process fats, prevents accumulation of fat in the liver and ensures normal liver function, which is essential for the elimination of toxins from your body. Methionine also supports liver function by regulating glutathione supplies – glutathione is needed to help neutralize toxins in the liver.

H: Histidine, as the name implies, is a precursor to histamine, and actually has some antioxidant properties and plays a key role in carnosine synthesis. What’s that mean, exactly? Here’s a clarification: histamine could help you fight off the cell damaging free radicals you produce during exercise, and carnosine helps you get rid of muscle burn more quickly, and helps turn lactic acid back into useable muscle fuel. Interestingly, though histidine is often listed as “essential” histidine is not technically essential, because when you take an EAA supplement, the levels of histidine in your blood will rise within one hour. But Tim and biology professors worldwide might be pissed if we abbreviate Tim Hall to Tim All, so we’ll roll with the mnemonic for now.

A: Next is arginine, and if you’re reading this and you’re an old man who has relied on a little blue pill called Viagra to have a happier time in the sac, you can thank arginine. Arginine helps with nitric oxide synthesis, and nitric oxide is a vasodilator that increases blood flow and could help with exercise capacity (in the case of the blue pill, for one specific body part). Most of the studies on arginine show that it also helps folks with cardiovascular disease improve exercise capacity.

L: Leucine is yet another BCAA.. Yes, as I keep promising, we will get to BCAA’s very soon.

L: Lysine is something my Mom used to take to help cold sores that she got from eating citrusy foods. That’s basically because it helps heal mouth tissue. But more importantly for exercising individuals, lysine may actual assist with growth-hormone release, which could vastly improve muscle repair and recovery, although if you take lysine in it’s isolated form, the amount you’d have to take to increase growth hormone release would cause gastrointestinal distress, or as I like to it, sad poopies. But combined with all the other essential amino acids, there may be a growth hormone response in smaller doses, and there is some clinical evidence that essential amino acid supplementation could stimulate growth hormone releasing factors.

OK, that almost wraps it up for good ol’ Private Tim Hall.

The only thing I didn’t mention is that the EAA’s have a bit of an insulin and cortisol increasing effect, which confuses some people as to why EAA’s would be good. But before you draw back in shock and go flush all your essential amino acids down the toilet because you heard insulin and cortisol make you fat, remember that both insulin and cortisol are crucial (in smaller amounts) for the “anabolic process”, or the growth, repair and recovery of lean muscle tissue.

So the amount of these hormones you get in essential amino acids is far different than the stress and insulin and cortisol response you get from, say, doing burpees with your mother-in-law while eating a pint of ice cream smothered in whiskey while working on an all-nighter project for work.

You can get more instructions and details on timing, dosages and effects of EAA’s here.

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Branched Chain Amino Acids

Next come BCAA’s, the slightly less well-endowed (albeit much cheaper) cousin of EAA’s.

BCAA’s are quite interesting because they are metabolized in your muscle, rather than in the liver. This means that BCAA’s, without any requirement for much digestion or “processing” at all, can be relied on as an actual energy source during exercise, and could therefore prevent premature muscle breakdown. There was actually one compelling study done by a guy named Ohtani that showed exercising individuals who got BCAA’s had better exercise efficiency and exercise capacity compared to a group that didn’t get BCAA’s.

Other studies have found that BCAA’s could increase a variety of factors that are really useful for anyone who cares about their physical performance…like red blood cell count, hemoglobin, hematocrit and serum albumin. They can also lower fasting blood glucose and decrease creatine phophokinase, which means less inflammation, better red blood cell formation, and better formation of storage carbohydrate.

But that ain’t all.

BCAA supplementation after exercise has been shown to cause faster recovery of muscle strength, and even more interestingly, the ability to slow down muscle breakdown even during intense training and “overreaching” (getting very close to overtraining). Just Google the branched chain amino acid studies by Sugita and Kraemer for more on that (yes, shocker, this is a blog post, and not a peer reviewed scientific journal report with full citations, because if it was the latter, you’d be asleep by now – so if you’re a science nazi, then go get busy on Google scholar).

OK, so continuing onto with the many cool things that BCAA’s can do…

When you supplement with BCAA’s, they can decrease the blood indicators of muscle tissue damage after long periods of exercise, thus indicating reduced muscle damage. They also help maintain higher blood levels of amino acids, which, if you recall from the EAA explanation above, can make you feel happier even when you’re suffering hard during exercise. So as you may have guessed, low blood levels of BCAA’s are correlated with increased fatigue and reduced physical performance.

Heck, they even use BCAA’s in medicine. BCAA’s could help people recover from liver disease, could assist with improvements in patients with lateral sclerosis, and could help recovery in patients who have gone through trauma, extreme physical stress (can you say “triathlon”, “Crossfit WOD”, “obstacle race” or “airline travel”?), kidney failure, and burns.

But here is what I think could be the two most interesting things about BCAA’s, especially for fat loss:

1. In his book, “SuperHealth: The Last Diet You’ll Ever Need”, my friend KC Craichy swears by them for significantly decreasing your appetite when taken 30-60 minutes prior to exercise.

2. When taken prior to a fasted exercise session, BCAA’s could increase fat oxidation (and yes, I’ll actually cite a study for this one, it was “Branched-chain amino acids supplementation enhances exercise capacity and lipid oxidation during endurance exercise after muscle glycogen depletion.“, by Gualano, et al)

3. My friend Dominic D’ Agostino, ketosis researcher at University of Florida, swears by BCAA’s for maintaining high-intensity performance while in ketosis, a strategy he recently outlined in this recent ketosis podcast with Tim Ferris.

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How To Use EAA’s and BCAA’s

So if you’ve stayed with me so far, here’s the take-away message about amino acids:

“If all EAA’s are present, your appetite is satiated, muscle repair and recovery can start before you’re even done with your workout, and when you need a fast, nearly instantly absorbable form of protein or you’re mentally stretched toward the end of a tough workout, game or race, high blood levels of amino acids can allow the body and brain to continue to both repair and to work hard instead of getting cannibalized and shutting down.”

Based on all this, do I take BCAA’s and EAA’s?

You bet I do.

And I swear by them for enhancing mental focus during a workout, keeping me from cannibalizing muscle (especially during fasted morning workout sessions), and decreasing post-workout muscle soreness.

When racing triathlons or obstacle races or other long competitive events, I pop 5-10 grams of amino acids per hour, and after hard workouts, I’ll pop another 5-10 grams of amino acids, often with a glass of wine (wine, although a tasty post-workout treat to finish off a hard evening workout, sadly does not contain any actual protein, darn it).

I also use these aminos when I can’t get my hands on quality protein, such as when I don’t have time to make a real meal after a workout, or on a plane flight when the “fish” that gets shoved in front of you in the airline meal appears to be a rubber doggie toy laced with chemicals, or during a week or a day when I’m limiting meat consumption (shocker for bacon enthusiasts: I actually do occasionally limit meat consumption as a longevity-enhancing technique).

Now here’s what I didn’t tell you yet, and something that is going to save you a ton of trouble when it comes to how many “bottles” of different supplements you use: any essential amino acid blend also contains all the BCAA’s. So if you use an EAA formulation that is in the proper ratios, you get every single benefit you just read about in this article, without having to buy both EAA’s and BCAA’s.

That’s why I don’t use BCAA’s. Not only are they only giving me less than half of the amino acid needs, but they also aren’t necessary in a protocol that already includes EAA’s. I only use EAAs.

So which amino acids do I personally take?

I can tell you that I do not take the popular brands that have artificial sweeteners like sucralose or added sugars like maltodextrin.

I also do not take any amino acids that don’t come in the necessary ratios, because I do not want to completely waste my money, a concept my guest Dr. David Minkoff delves into in this podcast episode.

I rarely use powders simply because they’re harder for me to travel with and more time-consuming to mix.

Instead, I use an essential amino acids blend called “NatureAminos“, which comes in a convenient, portable tablet form. Each capsule contains exactly one gram of EAA’s (easy for calculating your dosages) and contains every single amino acid you’ve just read about in the exact ratios necessary for achieving lean muscle maintenance, immune system health, injury healing, staving off central nervous system fatigue during exercise, controlling food cravings, and every other benefit you’ve just got done reading about.

So why are NatureAminos any different than other protein sources?

It all comes down to quality. The chart below illustrates the Amino Acid Utilization (AAU™) that NatureAminos offers, which is dramatically greater than dietary protein sources.

Dietary-Protein-Sources

  • At the low end of the spectrum are branched chain amino acids – only 1% of their content is utilized by the body, with 99% resulting in waste that your body must then process and eliminate.
  • Next are whey and soy proteins – only 18% or less of their content is utilized by the body with 83% leaving as waste.
  • Food like meat, fish and poultry fare just a bit better, with 32% being absorbed and 68% being wasted.
  • Eggs are the winners in the food category with 48% being utilized and 52% converted to waste.

Now…

…compare those numbers to NatureAminos – a massive 99% is put to work by the body, with only 1% leaving as waste. Not only that, but NatureAminos is absorbed by the body within 23 minutes. And there is only 0.4 of a calorie per tablet.

So this means that unlike, say, whey protein powder or meat or eggs or nuts, which can take hours to digest and absorb, NatureAminos is fully digested within 23 minutes from its ingestion.

In addition, Dr. David Minkoff, who helped develop the NatureAminos blend, tested the top selling amino acid blends on the market, including BCAA’s. The net utilization of these blends, which is the percentage of them actually used by the body to make protein, only ranged from 0% (yes, 0%) to 20%. This seems pretty lousy when you compare to the NatureAminos utilization of 99%. Even spirulina was tested, and I’ve talked about spirulina before as a much hallowed protein preference of vegans and vegetarians worldwide. But of 24 different spirulina products tested, the utilization ranged from a low of 0% utilized to a maximum of 6%. So spirulina may grow whales, but it is not necessarily a good protein source when compared to NatureAminos for humans.

On an airplane? I pop 10 with a can of club soda to crush food cravings and keep me from digging around in my bag for chocolate.

Post-workout? I take 5-10 immediately, which is much easier than mixing a protein shake (and zero calories for those of you wanting recovery without the calories).

Injured or sick? I’ll take up to 30 in a single day to give my body extra protein without creating digestive strain or inflammation.

You can click here to try a bottle of NatureAminos now, and you can use code BGAMINO10 to save 10% on your first order. They’re in tablet form, they’re 100% natural, and they’re very easy to use (this page contains full instructions).

Enjoy, and leave your questions, comments or feedback about amino acids below.

NatureAminos-orig

More Research:

The following is a list of research on both Biobuild and Master Amino Pattern (MAP), which were both used as the original formulations on which NatureAminos were built.

Master Amino Pattern (MAP) Weight Loss Paper  – Word Document format