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5 Little-Known Ways To Biohack Your Workouts, Enhance Your Exercise Productivity & Maximize Your Fitness.

BiohackingBen

Yep, I’m that guy who maximizes my time spent sitting in traffic by training my lungs with a resisted breath trainer while performing hand sets on a grip strengthening device and listening to audiobooks on an .mp3 player.

I also walk on a treadmill while doing phone consults, stand on a balance-building mat while doing podcasts, sport a weighted vest while doing yard chores, and wear ice-packed vests and special cold thermogenesis clothing to burn fat while working on my books.

So why go through all that “trouble” rather than simply taking the traditional route of hopping on an exercise bike or hoisting a barbell?

In the article “Does Biohacking Your Body Really Work”, I tackle this often uncomfortable and awkward topic of why you may want to consider maximizing your exercise time by occasionally forsaking your usual gym workout and bypassing your standard fitness routines to delve instead into the world of techniques such as hyperbaric oxygen therapy, electrostimulation, cold thermogenesis, whole body vibration and more. In that article, I discuss how one of the more appealing aspects of this type of fitness “biohacking” is the ability to get maximum effects with a minimal effective dose of effort, or to achieve more than one fitness result at the same time with as much efficiency as possible.

There are actually five workouts that fall into this exercise biohacking category – worouts that I regularly perform as a part of my fitness routine. Each combines three different elements of training that synergistically work together to provide you with enhanced exercise productivity and as much bang for the buck as possible in the minimum amount of time.

Let’s jump in, shall we? Prepare for strange looks from your family, neighbors and fellow gym-goers…

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Biohacked Workout #1: Cold Water Swimming + Hypoxia + Weights

Pro surfer and fitness icon Laird Hamilton first popularized the concept of carrying rocks, kettlebells and dumbbells underwater (here’s a video example), and author Neil Strauss (the same guy who taught me about these crazy little miracle berries) introduced me to these type of water workouts several months ago during a longevity conference in Los Angeles.

The basic workout consists of holding your breath underwater in a pool, river or lake, and treading water, running, walking, doing explosive squats and sprints or simply swimming underwater with a weight held to your chest, your side or between your legs.

Even in the absence of long breath-holds or cold water, these type of workouts build strength, stress-resilience, mental focus and lung capacity all at the same time. But when combined with the calorie-burning and positive cardiovascular effects of cold water exposure, and the growth hormone and enhanced oxygen utilization benefits of breath-holding, these underwater workouts become all the more potent.

Here’s a sample routine:

-Get in a body of water, preferably a cold, outdoor pool, lake or river with a 10 pound dumbbell.

-Hold the dumbbell to your chest and attempt to swim underwater about 25 meters, or to the other end of the pool.

-Come back to where you started, but this time on your back in a seated position with your feet above the surface of the water, treading water with your hands, holding your head above water, and clutching the dumbbell between your thighs.

-Repeat for 3-5 rounds.

What to expect: better breath-holding capacity, increased fat burning due to cold temperatures, improved tolerance to lactic acid/lactic acid buffering capacity and muscular training with low joint impact.

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Biohacked Workout #2: Sauna + Resisted Breath Training + Yoga or Body Weight Exercises

I’ve lately been using a hot, insulated, infrared sauna for heat acclimation training and detox, an N=1 experiment you can read about in more detail here. But rather than simply sitting cross-legged in the sauna and staring at the wall, I’ve instead been working on my mobility, isometric strength and inspiratory and expiratory muscle capacity by also including yoga and resisted breathing during my 30 minutes forays into one very sweaty “pain cave”.

First, I pre-heat the sauna while I warm up my body with a 20-30 minute run, bike ride, or weight training routine. As I outline in the sauna article referenced above, I also use high dose niacin to enhance fat cell lipolysis during the subsequent sauna routine. Then I go into the sauna, put on a resisted breath training mask (like an Elevation Training Mask) and perform a routine similar to this:

-5 repetitions of yoga “chatarunga” motion

-1 round of yoga sun salutations

-Repeat chatarunga to sun salutations three times

-10 body weight squats

-1 repetition of chatarunga

-60 second isometric lunge hold on right leg

-1 repetition of chatarunga

-60 second isometric lunge hold on right leg

-Repeat squats, chatarunga, and lunge holds three times

-Finish with 5 minutes of box breathing while still wearing mask

What to expect: increased inspiratory, expiratory and diaphragmatic muscular endurance, increased production of heat shock proteins, cooling capabilities and stress tolerance, detoxification, increased production of nitric oxide and improved mobility.

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Biohacked Workout #3: Foam Rolling + Resisted Breath Training + Calisthenics

As I’ve written about many times before, I’m a big, big fan of frequent use of a foam roller to keep injuries at bay and to keep the body mobile. Problem is, the 20-45 minutes it takes to perform a full body foam rolling routine are 20-45 minutes that I’m not able to spend “getting fit”. So when I do my foam rolling routine, (which I perform two times per week), I put on a podcast or an audiobook, wear a resisted breath training mask and inject calisthenic exercises into my rolling so that I am able to achieve injury prevention, breath training, and cardiovascular exercise all at once. Here’s how I do it:

Perform 20-30 “passes” with the foam roller on each muscle group outlined below. One “pass” means would mean rolling up the muscle group and back down the muscle group one time. Complete each station below once, progressing from one station to the next with minimal rest.

Station 1: 10 burpees. Foam roll achilles and calf R side.

Station 2: 10 burpees. Foam roll achilles and calf L side.

Station 3: Foam roll hamstring R side. 20 high leg swings R leg forward to backwards.

Station 4: Foam roll hamstring L side. 20 high leg swings L leg forward to backwards.

Station 5: 10 burpees. Foam roll R outside of hip.

Station 6: 10 burpees. Foam roll L outside of hip.

Station 7: Foam roll IT band R side. 20 side-to-side leg swings R leg.

Station 8: Foam roll IT band L side. 20 side-to-side leg swings L leg.

Station 9: 10 burpees. Foam roll R adductors/inside of thighs.

Station 10: 10 burpees. Foam roll L adductors/inside of thighs.

Station 11: 50 jumping jacks. Foam roll back bottom-to-top.

Station 12: 50 jumping jacks. Foam roll entire R shoulder complex.

Station 13: 50 jumping jacks. Foam roll entire L shoulder complex.

Station 14: 10 burpees. Foam roll neck (back, L side, R side)

Station 15: 10 burpees. Foam roll entire front of quads.

Because I’ve worked all the knots and fascial adhesions of of my tissues with this routine, I usually do 5 minutes of inversion table as a finisher. And yes, I get very funny looks when the UPS driver rolls up to the house and I’m there hanging in my underwear, dripping with sweat, and wearing a breath training mask. But he’ll survive.

In the meantime, if you need videos or demonstrations of any of the foam roller exercises above, then you can click here for a series of videos from yours truly. By the way, you get extra fitness bonus points if you do this routine in a dry or infrared sauna.

What to expect: improved cardiovascular fitness, fewer injuries, more mobility, increased inspiratory, expiratory and diaphragmatic muscular endurance, and a big dump of feel-good neurotransmitters like dopamine and serotonin from all the fascial work on the foam roller.

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Biohacked Workout #4: Hiking + Weighted Vest + Resisted Breath Training

I love to get out in nature and hike, especially with my kids, but frankly, for anyone who’s gotten into pretty good shape, hiking is not an extremely strenuous activity. However, once you add extra weight in the form of a weighted vest or weighted backpack and add resisted breath training with a mask, hiking becomes a much more challenging cardiovascular and strength building routine.

I’m certainly not saying that every hike you do needs to be a masochistic sufferfest, but if you’re pressed for time, it can be convenient to have the option to turn a family foray into the park into a more challenging workout for you.

The concept is pretty simple: put on weight (usually about 1/3 to 1/4 of your body weight is a good amount of weight to achieve a significant training effect), put on a mask (optional, but certainly good for introducing even more difficulty), and then start hiking. If the going gets so steep that you find you need extra air, you can always remove the mask, then put it back on for the downhills. The extra weight? Well, you’re stuck with it. Enjoy.

What to expect: a big strength-building challenge for your glutes and hamstrings, cardiovascular training effects, increased inspiratory, expiratory and diaphragmatic muscular endurance, time spent in nature, and the thrill of knowing that at any moment you may get tackled by a park ranger who thinks you are a terrorist.

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Biohacked Workout #5: Walking + Electrostimulation + Sprinting

In my home office, I have a manual treadmill in front of my standing desk. Although I typically use the treadmill for easy walking during phone calls or consults, I also have an upper body strength training and lower body aerobic routine that I occasionally perform on the same treadmill. For this workout, you’ll need an electrostimulation (EMS) device, which you can learn more about here. You can also play around with variations on this workout, such as using a stationary bicycle instead of a treadmill, or using the EMS on your lower body instead of your upper body and doing the workout on rowing machine.

Prepare for a lung-busting, muscle-burning experience. Here’s how this routine works.

-Attach electrodes to your biceps and triceps, to your chest and shoulders, to your abs, or to any upper body muscle series that you want to target. Your choice.

-Set the EMS device in strength training mode or power training mode so that it’s “grabbing” as many muscle fibers as possibly, which it will typically do for 10-30 seconds before giving you about 10-30 seconds of recovery, which most programs can be set to do for anywhere from 20-30 repetitions.

-While the EMS device is doing the stimulation of your upper body, walk on the treadmill.

-While the EMS device is giving you your recovery periods, run or sprint on the treadmill.

-Repeat for the entire EMS session, which will typically last 20-30 minutes.

Warning: for this routine, you’ll probably need to reinforce the electrodes with ace bandages or some other kind of wrap to ensure they don’t fall off while you run. If you think like me, you’ve probably already realized you could put on an elevation training mask for this routine if you want an even bigger challenge.

What to expect: upper body muscular strength and power building, often accompanied by some soreness afterwards if you’re not accustomed to EMS, an increase in cardiovascular and running performance, and a big increase in pain tolerance. You’ll see what I mean.

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Summary

I’ve certainly heard the argument that by using these and many other biohacking tricks that you may somehow “miss the journey” of getting fit, whether you’re trying to lose 20 pounds or train for an Ironman triathlon.

Depending on your perspective, this could be true. For example, if I decide to visit my Grandma in Florida, I could hop in the car and take a roadtrip across the country, taking in the sights and scenery of the USA, rather than forking over my hard earned cash for an afternoon airplane flight.

I could also set aside time in my weekly schedule to go navigate the grocery store aisle or the farmer’s market and then spend plenty of time in the kitchen cooking my own food, rather than, say, shopping for groceries online, having an assistant pick up food for me, or outsourcing my food preparation to a meal delivery service.

Ultimately, this all depends on which parts of the journey you personally enjoy. As far as the cross country road trip vs. the direct flight to Grandma’s house is concerned, I’d probably “biohack” my travel experience, skip the “journey” and instead choose the option that allows me spend more time with Grandma.

When it comes to shopping for groceries and cooking, I’d rather spend a little time each week visiting at a farmer’s market or preparing a tasty meal in the kitchen, but if my schedule is jam-packed, I may indeed “biohack” my meal and have my wife pick up some sushi or Thai food, or opt for a blender and a protein smoothie instead.

And when it comes to exercise, I do indeed enjoy riding my bicycle, but if I can skip a long 5 hour weekend ride and instead be competitive in, say, an Ironman triathlon, by riding my bicycle inside a sauna for two hours while wearing an elevation training mask, I’ll likely choose the latter, since it would leave me three extra hours to hang out with my kids or to get some work done and pay the bills.

When it comes to this stuff, I don’t follow any hard and fast rules. Sometimes I completely unplug, strap on some running shoes, and hit the trail. And sometimes I’ve got just 20 minutes to do an extremely high quality workout, so I instead get on a treadmill with an electrostimulation unit and a resistance training mask. It all depends on what the moment requires. Would the former be easier and less logistically challenging? Sure. But sometimes you get results that correspond to the effort you put in, and in this example, my results will be far superior with the latter, even if it seems inconvenient or it hurts a little bit.

Either way, I can definitely guarantee that by including the five workouts described above as staples sprinkled through my monthly training routine, I’m able to kill many birds with one stone, and have much more time left over for other activities, even though I’ll be the first to admit that it can sometimes be a bit of a pain in the neck to do a yoga session inside an infrared sauna while wearing a mask, rather than doing my sun salutations in the backyard garden.

But that’s just me.

How about you? What do you think? Do you plan on trying any of these workouts? If you have more questions or comments about these five biohacked workouts, then leave your thoughts and join the conversation below.

Plant-Based Medicine 101: How To Use Wild Plants For Cognitive Enhancement, Physical Performance, Immunity And More!

plant-based medicine

Wild plants growing right in your own backyard can be used to enhance digestion, increase cognitive performance and improve endurance.

You just have to know how to use them.

And in today’s podcast with Guido Masé, you’re going to learn exactly how.

Guido is author of the book “The Wild Medicine Solution: Healing With Aromatic, Bitter And Tonic Plants“, a clinical herbalist, herbal educator, and garden steward specializing in holistic Western herbalism. A described his plant-based medicine approach as “eclectic” and “drawing upon many influences”. He spent his childhood in Italy, in the central Alps and in a Renaissance town called Ferrara. Then, after traveling the United States, he settled into Vermont where he has been living since 1996.

He is a founding co-director of the Vermont Center for Integrative Herbalism, an herbal medicine clinic and school. He serves as chief herbalist for the Urban Moonshine Natural Products Company, where he oversees research for an all-organic whole-plant tincture line and participates in product education and quality control.

Guido is also a trail runner and marathoner, and in this episode, you’ll discover:

-How Guido became a “wild plant” expert…

-What is it that has changed in domesticated plants that make them so much more inferior than wild plants…

-The important differences between aromatic, bitter and tonic plants…

-How many plants you actually need to produce a tincture…

-Why alcohol is such a great medium to mix wild plant extracts into…

-How you can use “bitters” to enhance your digestive process (and how they’re far different than digestive enzymes)…

-Why you should include plants like endives, radicchio, frisee, dandelion and mustard greens on your salad or with your meals…

-How to use wild plant extracts to support long bike rides, run or feats of endurance performance…

-How to use pine, mint, lavender and lemon balm to enhance cognitive performance…

-How you can easily make your own tonics and tinctures from common wild plants growing right in your own backyard…

-And much more!

Resources from this episode:

-Guido’s book: The Wild Medicine Solution: Healing With Aromatic, Bitter And Tonic Plants

-Guido’s blog: ARadicle.blogspot.com

-The Urban Moonshine products

TianChi Chinese Adaptogenic Herb

Do you have questions, comments or feedback for Guido or me about plant-based medicine, how to find and use wild plants, “Urban Moonshine” or anything else we discuss in this episode? Leave your thoughts below!

Polyphasic Sleep, Water Fasts, Marijuana, Smart Drugs, Electrical Stimulation & More With Jesse Lawler of SmartDrugSmarts.

jesse lawler

Meet Jesse Lawler (pictured above), my guest in today’s podcast.

Jesse is a software developer, a self-experimentalist, and a health nut; he tweaks his diet, exercise habits, and medicine cabinet on an ongoing basis, always seeking the optimal balance for performance and cognition.

He has flirted with everything from paleontology and genetic engineering to screenwriting, green-tech, software engineering, photography, and neuroscience.

Jesse is also the host of Smart Drug Smarts, a podcast about “practical neuroscience,” where he speaks each week with the world’s leading minds in neurology, brain-tech, and the social issues related to cognitive enhancement.

During our discussion, you’ll discover:

-How Jesse rode his bicycle across the entire country with no training…

-Why Jesse went from 100% vegan to 100% Paleo…

-The details of Jesse’s week long water fast, what he discovered along the way, and the crazy mistake he made after…

-When a “polyphasic sleep schedule” is an appropriate strategy to manage fatigue or lack of sleep…

-Why Jessa drinks zero amounts of alcohol…

-The details of Jesse’s recent Ritalin experiment…

-Whether marijuana damages your brain and memory or makes you stupid, and the concept of micro-dosing with compounds such as THC or CBD…

-Jesse’s favorite smart drug and nootropic stacks…

-And much more!

Resources from this episode:

HammerNutrition Seat Saver (use 15% discount code 80244)

The SmartDrugSmarts podcast

Nicotine patch + Nuvigil

Aniracetam

Axon Labs – Nexus & Mitogen

Headspace app

NatureCBD

Do you have questions, comments or feedback about smart drugs, nootropics, cognitive performance, water fasts, ketosis, water fasts, or anything else Jesse and I discuss in this episode? Leave your thoughts below and either Jesse or I will reply.

Pink Makes You Docile, Orange Makes You Buy Stuff, Red Makes You Mad: How To Use Color Light Therapy For Mood, Cognition, Healing & More.

2000px-Chakras.svg

A couple weeks ago, in my article “Three Ways To Biohack A Sauna For More Heat, A Better Detox & Enhanced Fitness“, I used the slightly woo-woo sounding term “chromotherapy”.

Upon deeper digging, it turns out that chromotherapy, also known as color light therapy, is something we all encounter every day, such as when we walk outside and experience optimism induced by a blue sky or orange sun, or experience quite the opposite effect from a grey day.

Light therapy is also used to relieve Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD), regulate your internal biological clock (circadian rhythms), and affect mood. Companies such as GE and Philips have even created phototherapeutic products such as the home lighting “Hue” system to improve and regulate mood. The therapeutic applications of light and color are also being investigated in many hospitals and
research centers worldwide. Results so far indicate that full-spectrum, ultraviolet, colored, and laser
light can have therapeutic value for a range of conditions from chronic pain and depression to
immune disorders.

Although I didn’t know what it was called at the time, the concepts behind chromotherapy were something I first encountered a couple years ago when I read the book “Drunk Tank Pink“, a rather fascinating read which describes how the isolation tanks in many prisons are painted a specific color of pink that is known to pacify feelings of anger and rage. The book also describes how we tend to trust people who wear blue shirts, we are more likely to donate when the donation button is pink on a website, we are more likely to buy when a button is orange, and much more.

I’ve also written about how I wear a special set of purple tinted lenses to enhance my reading speed and visual perception, have red light bulbs in my room for relaxation, blue light bulbs in my office and bedroom for alertness, and even bright yellow LED lights for inner ear phototherapy.

It turns out that color, specifically when combined with light, can actually affect both emotions and energy systems. So now, as I perform my daily sauna session in which I sit, stand, sweat, swing kettlebells and do yoga while using my magical chromotherapy wand (the sauna remote control) to vary colors from red to blue to green and beyond, I’ve delved a bit more into playing around with chromotherapy. In this article you’re going to learn exactly how you can use color to do things like change your mood, your cognition, your performance and more.

Although it’s slightly pseudoscientific, I find this stuff fascinating, and I think you’ll find a few gems in this relatively short article. Enjoy (and I’ll include a link to a longer, scientific article at the end).

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How Color Affects Your Health & Physiology

So here’s the basic and very brief science of color…

…color is simply light that has been split into different wavelengths that vibrate at different speeds and at different frequencies. Objects that absorb all wavelengths and do not reflect any back are black. Objects that reflect all wavelengths and do reflect are white. Everything between black and white is color. Colors are wavelengths of energy that, to you and me, appear as color because of the potential and capabilities of any given object to either absorb or reflect the energy.

There. Every physicist on the face of the planet is probably snickering, but that, my friend, is how I personally define color.

Now, let’s look at which colors do what for your emotions, your health and your physiology.

Much of the information below is derived from both Ayurvedic, Egyptian, Chinese and Greek medicine. For example, in India, Ayurveda, an ancient form of medicine practiced for thousands of years, is based on the idea that every individual contains five elements of the universe which are present in specific proportions unique to each individual, including their personality type and constitution. When these elements are out of balance, Ayurvedic medicine implements color therapy to restore this balance.

For example, in Eastern medicine, you’ll often encounter the concept of chakras. The body has seven major energy centers at the sites of each of the major endocrine glands, and these are known as chakras. Each chakra is responsive to a different color, each chakra energizes and sustains certain organs and each chakra corresponds to specific states of consciousness, personality types and endocrine secretions.

Check out the image at the top of this post. See how those colors line up to specific areas on the body?

For example:

Red – Root chakra
Orange – Sacral chakra
Green – Heart chakra
Blue – Throat chakra
Indigo – Brow chakra
Violet – Crown chakra

In ancient Egypt, the art of healing with color was founded in the Hermetic tradition, and both the ancient Egyptians and Greeks used colored minerals, stones, crystals, salves, and dyes as remedies, as well as painted treatment sanctuaries in various shades of color. In China, traditional Chinese medicine associates specific colors with specific organs and energy systems.

Now I’ll be among the first to admit that many Eastern healing traditions aren’t necessarily rooted in hardcore, Western, clinical, white lab-coat research, but I certainly know that when using chromotherapy light with colors you’re about to read about below, I’ve experienced several of the effects listed, and I’ve tried to include as many resources and references as I could hunt down below this list of colors.

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Red and Pink

In chromotherapy, red and pink are called “The Great Energizers.” They are said to help loosen and release muscle stiffness and constrictions. Red and pink promote cellular growth and the circulatory system, and therapy with these colors are indicated for colds, sluggish or dormant conditions, such as pneumonia, arthritis, anemia, as a liver stimulant, an energy builder, and for increasing circulation. Red stimulates the base of the spine, causing the adrenal glands to release adrenaline. Red can also cause hemoglobin to multiply, increasing energy, raising body temperature conditions and stimulating sensory nerves such as hearing, taste, smell, and metabolism. It is supposedly excellent for anemia or blood-related conditions. Pink helps activate and eliminate impurities from the blood stream. It also acts as a cleanser, strengthening the veins and arteries.

Practical Suggestion: place a red light or red heat lamp next to your bedstand for use in the evenings.

Yellow

Yellow helps awaken mental inspiration by arousing higher mental function and self-control and has a very enriching effect upon the intellect. It is an excellent color for nervous or nerve-related conditions or ailments, stimulating the solar plexus. Yellow can be used for conditions of the stomach, liver, and
intestines, and can help the pores of the skin by repairing scar tissue. Yellow rays supposedly also have an alkalizing affect that strengthens the nerves. Typical diseases treated by yellow are constipation, gas, liver troubles, diabetes, eczema and nervous exhaustion. Providing clarity of thought, increasing awareness, stimulating interest and curiosity, the color yellow is related to the ability to perceive or understand. So basically, yellow energy connects us to our mental self.

Practical Suggestion: venture outside into the sunlight when you need a burst of creativity.

Green

Green is considered to be the universal healing color. Green is midway in the color spectrum, and because of this, it is said to contain both a physical nature and a spiritual nature. So green can be used for just about any condition in need of healing. When in doubt, green is always a good choice and will help relax muscles, nerves and thoughts. It is neither relaxing nor astringent in its impact. In a more practical sense, green affects blood pressure and all conditions of the heart, and is said to be able to help heal many illnesses of this nature, specifically including heart troubles, decreasing and stabilizing blood pressure, ulcers, headaches, nervous disorders and influenza, and acts as a general tonic.

Practical Suggestion: place a good variety green plants in your home, your office and your bedroom (NASA has a list of some of the best ones here).

Blue

Blue is at the opposite end of the visible spectrum, and can be used for any type of ailments associated with speech, communication, or the throat. It is a mentally relaxing color. Blue has a pacifying effect on the nervous system, which encourages relaxation and makes it ideal for sleep problems. Relaxing, soothing blue rays (not to be confused with the harsh, blue light used in things like light-boxing devices and computer screens) can bring calm and peace to the mind that is worried, excited, or in a constant nervous state. It is a very positive color, indicating truth, loyalty and reliability, as expressed in the sentiment of being “true blue.”

Practical Suggestion: occasionally take a break, lay on your back and gaze up at a blue sky.

Orange

Orange has a freeing action upon the mind, relieving repression (which is apparently why its such a good color for the buy button on a website). Because orange is a blend of red and yellow, it supposedly combines physical energy with mental wisdom, inducing a combination of a physical reaction and mental response. Orange is warm, cheering, and non-constricting, and is considered to be the best emotional stimulant, helping to remove inhibitions and pave independent social behavior. So perhaps orange-tinted glasses would be the ones to wear to a party, or on a rainy day. Physiologically, orange aids in repairing inflammation of the kidneys, gallstones, menstrual cramps, epilepsy, wet cough and all sinus conditions.

Practical Suggestion: wear bright orange colors when you want to go out and do something daring, like an obstacle race.

Violet

Violet is the last color you can see before light passes on to ultra-violet. This color is supposed to be an excellent remedy for neurosis, diseases of the scalp, sciatica, tumors, rheumatism, cerebral-spinal meningitis, concussion, cramps and epilepsy. Wow. Some color experts believe that it also provides nourishment to the cells in the upper brain, which purifies thoughts and feelings, and gives inspiration. Violet is also able to enhance artistic talent and creativity, and Leonardo da Vinci proclaimed that you can increase the power of meditation ten fold by meditating under the gentle rays of violet, as found in church windows.

Practical Suggestion: get some violent tinted glasses for times when you need creativity or artistic inspiration.

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Summary

I’m not saying color and light is going to heal disease in any significant way. But I do think that it affects your energy systems and organs, and I know for a fact that it affects your cognition, your moods and your emotions.

If your nerdy self is interested in the proposed scientific mechanisms of why exposure to these specific frequencies of colors has this type of effect, then you should know that it basically it all comes down to the ability of a light wave to vibrate molecules at a specific frequency.

The paper “A Critical Analysis of Chromotherapy and Its Scientific Evolution” describes it like this,

“The quantum mechanical dipole moment as a result of the absorption of different colors, we conjecture, produces charge quantization phenomena. This review illustrates that the development of science in the field of electromagnetic radiation/energy can be very helpful in discovering new dimensions of this old theory…

…these visual colors with their unique wavelength and oscillations, when combined with a light source and selectively applied to impaired organs or life systems, provide the necessary healing energy required by the body. “

Anyways, go read the paper if you really want to delve into the nitty-gritty science. In the meantime, I’d recommend that, if this stuff fascinates you and you want to dive right into the practical application and experimentation, you start with any or all of the following:

-Install lights from Lighting Science or the Phillips Hue system in your house, then experiment with the colors above to see what kind of feelings and moods you experience.

Read the book “Drunk Tank Pink” by Adam Alder, which is an excellent treatise on color for everything from mood to marketing.

-Play around with a “chromotherapy torch”. I found one on this website. It’s basically very similar to a flashlight, but with colored discs.

Check out my sauna article, especially the parts about the chromotherapy sauna I use. If you get the sauna, mess around with the colors while you’re in there. It’s amazing what you can do to your mood, and how you can choose different colors based on how you are feeling (e.g. red for arousal, green for happiness, yellow for creativity, etc.)

-Play around with visualizing color. My tennis coach used to have us do this in college so that we could close our eyes before a point and visualize a specific color that relaxed us (my color was blue). When he initially taught us this method, we would first  get extremely relaxed using something called “progressive neuromuscular relaxation“, and then once in that state of relaxation, we would imagine our color. This way, during a match, we could instantly replicate that same state of relaxation by imagining our color in the heat of the moment. If you can visualize the color you need, you can access the color and its associated benefits anytime and pretty much anywhere. Just close your eyes, relax your head, neck shoulders, and concentrate on your breathing. Then visualize the desired color  and, still focusing on your breathing, imagine “absorbing” that color and having your body be filled with that color each time you breath in. You can do this for just a few seconds, or for several minutes, just like a meditation session. 

Have you personally experimented with chromotherapy? If so, which color “feels” best for you? Do you have questions, comments or your own practical suggestions about how to use color? Leave your thoughts below and I’ll reply.

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More Resources

1. This is a very comprehensive article on Chromotherapy with a lot of science behind it:A Critical Analysis of Chromotherapy and Its Scientific Evolution

2. Natural Standard: An organization that produces scientifically based reviews of
complementary and alternative medicine (CAM) topics, including color therapy.

3. National Center for Complementary and Alternative Medicine (NCCAM).

References

1. Deppe A. Ocular light therapy: a case study. Aust J Holist Nurs 2000;7(1):41.

2. Geldschlager S. Osteopathic versus orthopedic treatments for chronic epicondylopathia humeri radialis: a randomized controlled trial. Forsch Komplementarmed Klass Naturheilkd
2004;Apr, 11(2):93-97.

3. Maher CG. Effective physical treatment of chronic low back pain. Orthop Clin North Am
2004;Jan, 35(1):57-64.

4. Natural Standard Research Collaboration, Chief Editors: Ulbricht C, Basch E, Natural
Standard Herb and Supplement Reference: Evidence-Based Clinical Reviews, USA. Elsevier/Mosby, 2005.

5. Ohara M, Kawashima Y, Kitajima s, et al. Inhibition Of lung metastasis of B16 melanoma
cells exposed to blue light in mice. Int J Molecular Medicine 2002;10(6):701-705.

6. Wileman SM, Eagles JM, Andrew JE, et al. Light therapy for seasonal affective disorder
in primary care: randomized controlled trial. Br J Psych 2001;178:311-316.

7. Wohlfarth H, Schultz A. The effect of colour psychodynamic environment modification on sound levels in elementary schools. Int J Biosocial Res 2002;(5):12-19.

8. Zifkin BG, Inoue Y. Visual reflex seizures induced by complex stimuliEpilepsia 2004;45(Suppl 1):27-29.

The Ultimate Guide To Biohacking Exercise With Oxygen Therapy, Hypoxia, Elevation & Altitude Training.

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Two weeks ago, in the audio podcast with Alex Tarris “Shattering The Myths Of Detox Therapy, Infrared Saunas, Health Scams & More”, we discussed both hypoxia (low oxygen availability) and hyperoxia (high oxygen availability) and the therapeutic and performance-enhancing benefits of both of these strategies. 

After I released that particular episode, I had an interesting conversation with my friend Dr. Johnathan Edwards, who is an endurance athlete, private practice anesthesiologist, physiologist and sports medicine physician based in Las Vegas, Nevada. Since Dr. Edwards consults with many professional athletes in many different disciplines in North America and Europe, including cyclists in the Tour de France, AMA motocross athletes and UFC fighters, I was specifically curious to hear his opinion on “how much oxygen is too much” and “how little oxygen is too little”.

In other words, if you use something like a hyperbaric oxygen therapy chamber or some other form of concentrated oxygen, can you do to much of it to the point where it becomes damaging to your brain or body?

And the same goes for hypoxia: if you overdo something like elevation training, an altitude tent, or a hypoxic air generator, could you also hurt your health or your performance gains?

So in today’s article, written by Dr. Edwards with some editing and additions by yours truly, you’re going to discover the truth about oxygen therapy, altitude training, hypoxia, biohacking elevation, how much oxygen is too much and how much oxygen is too little. Enjoy.

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Supplemental Oxygen Therapy: What You Need To Know

You often see NFL players on the sidelines breathing oxygen, and you may wonder whether breathing that high concentration of oxygen through a special mask is actually helping them to recover faster, or perhaps it’s just a placebo.Though a colorless, odorless gas that is poorly understood by most doctors and sports practitioners, oxygen is essential to life, it is in 21% of every breath you take, and, believe it or not, supplemental oxygen is actually regulated as a prescription drug in the U.S. by the FDA.

In people with lung disease, supplemental oxygen clearly has many beneficial effects that have been proven in clinical studies. Even in the absence of disease, supplemental oxygen, such as is found in a hyperbaric oxygen therapy chamber or some of the other oxygen delivery tools you’ll learn about later in this article, can also help regular non-diseased people (and athletes) with wound healing, tissue repair, recovery, fighting inflammation, mental acuity, increased exercise capacity, and much more.

But due to complicated and erroneous things taught in medical school, along with some cloudy ideas about sick people and supplemental oxygen somehow inducing “free radical formation”, many physicians and laypeople have a mistrust of oxygen. And it’s true: there are some very important things to consider when administering oxygen, since it is possible to give too much oxygen as well as too little.

Many scientists don’t believe it’s possible to increase the oxygen in your blood by breathing supplemental oxygen or by using a hyperbaric oxygen chamber.

But they’re wrong, and here’s why.

Oxygen is contained in the blood in two forms:

(1) dissolved in plasma, which is about 2% oxygen;

(2) bound to hemoglobin in red blood cells, which is about 98% oxygen.

Breathing supplemental oxygen saturates the hemoglobin and increases the concentration of dissolved oxygen in plasma. As an example, one of the really neat procedures I do as an anesthesiologist is to perform something called pre-oxygenation (also known as de-nitrogenation) on patients before they undergo general anesthesia.

Using a mask system, I administer 100% oxygen for 3 to 5 minutes, and then induce general anesthesia. Assuming the patient is relatively healthy, the patient’s oxygen saturation will stay at 100% without a single breath for up to 5 minutes, and without harming the patient or causing excessive free radical formation. This is possible is because the concentration of oxygen in the plasma is maximized. In many cases, very high concentrations of oxygen can be given throughout the entire operation.

When it comes to athletic performance, studies are mixed about whether supplemental oxygen actually helps. For example, I work with many professional cyclists and UFC fighters who use supplemental oxygen, particularly when they are training at higher altitudes.Whether or not you believe that oxygen is beneficial, many of these athletes “feel” that it works for them.  Oxygen has indeed been shown in studies to positively affect power, but apparently not VO2 max (your maximal consumption of oxygen) )(1, 2, 3).

At high altitude, we do know that supplemental oxygen increases work capacity, and may also reduce perceived exertion (1,2, 4, 5). At sea level, the effect of supplemental oxygen is less clear, although I have athletes report that it helps reduce their rating of perceived exertion while performing high-intensity intervals. It’s apparent that it is not all about getting more oxygen to the tissues, and that other things are happening when you use supplemental oxygen. The leading theories include effects on pulmonary, cardiac, and acid-base physiology (3, 6, 7).

It is theoretically possible get too much oxygen, but rest assured that it is nearly impossible to do while on land. Problems from oxygen toxicity occur most often in hospitalized patients with lung disease and in scuba diving. In the case of patients in the hospital, they are receiving very high concentrations of oxygen for more than 12 hours via a closed system (endotracheal tube), and lung injury results from a combination of free radical oxygen formation and dry air. In the case of scuba diving, the partial pressure of oxygen increases as a diver descends deeper and this increases oxygen in the blood. When the oxygen concentration surpasses 160% of normal, seizures can occur.

But these are not the type of scenarios you’d experience when using supplemental oxygen therapy or a hyperbaric oxygen chamber.

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Altitude Training & Hypoxia

Exposure to hypoxia does several things in the body. For example, increasing red blood cell mass to increase oxygen transport capabilities is the one you probably already know about. However, there are many other hypoxic and altitude training adaptations that take place, such as structural and functional changes to hemoglobin. A protein called Hypoxia Inducible Factor 1 (HIF-1) is increased with exposure to hypoxia (8). HIF-1 actually tells the kidneys and liver to make erythropoietin (EPO), which in turn tells the bone marrow to produce more red blood cells (interestingly, this same adaptation takes place with sauna training). There are also several genetic adaptations that take place, including higher mRNA levels to hemoglobin. Many enzymes involved in mitochondrial energy processes are both up and down regulated. With prolonged exposure to hypoxia, your white blood cells may decrease, affecting your immune system (8).

Altitude training or simulation of altitude training is accomplished, as you’d probably guess, by living in less oxygen, giving less oxygen, or somehow inducing hypoxia (low oxygen availability). Hypoxic training, or the practice of limiting oxygen availability while training, has been used for decades to improve performance. The United States Olympic Training Center and many other training facilities use hypoxic training to significantly increase the speed of gains in performance (6, 7). A period of altitude training can be helpful to athletes, but it can be a real art to know how long to stay at altitude or a hypoxic environment and when to get out. When using altitude to increase performance, I usually advise athletes to set their altitude tents or altitude training devices at between 12% and 18% oxygen, which corresponds to about 6,000 to 14,000 feet. Most of my athletes will train at altitude or use altitude simulated training blocks for 2-8 weeks at a time.

However, it is very important to monitor your fatigue and ideally other variables such as adrenal stress index and heart rate variability. This is because if you “over-do” altitude, you risk peaking well after the event or even worse, you wind up so fatigued that you can’t even function properly.

How could altitude or too much oxygen deprivation cause these issues?

Hypoxia is defined as any condition in which a human breathes less than 21% oxygen, and over a prolonged period of time, this reduced oxygen content of air or a body of water can be detrimental to aerobic respiration. Severe hypoxia can be a devastating complication during a surgery or a heart attack, causing brain injury or death. Fortunately, this type of injury from hypoxia is rare.

Altitude sickness also results from hypoxia and is manageable with proper treatment and prevention. But severe altitude sickness can lead to more serious issues, such as swelling in your lungs and brain and pulmonary hypertension. The take home message is that if you feel sick or weak or fatigued and are not generating an adaptive response to a hypoxic environment, then you need to get back to a lower altitude.

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How To Use Hyperoxygenation & Hypoxia

OK, now we get to the fun stuff: the practical applications of using an oxygen concentrator and a hypoxic generator while training.

First, let’s clear up what these things really are.

An oxygen concentrator is a machine that pressurizes room air and separates the nitrogen from the oxygen, delivering a high concentration of oxygen and exhausting a high concentration of nitrogen. A hypoxic generator machine works identically the same as an oxygen concentrator, except that the machine has been professionally modified so that the exhaust (the high nitrogen gas), is directed to the person via a tube. Hypoxic generators and oxygen concentrators can be expensive, costing as high as thousands of dollars.

I coach my athletes to train with oxygen concentrators (also known as Exercise with Oxygen, or EWOT) and also hypoxic generators. Sometimes I advise hyperoxia and sometimes hypoxia, depending on the goals. Using a nasal cannula or mask delivery system, athletes can perform exercise intervals in the presence of high oxygen or low oxygen. Usually, these type of intervals are done on an indoor trainer or treadmill.

Exercise with oxygen therapy can increase exercise capacity and lead to performance gains, and this effect is most pronounced at high altitudes (5, 6, personal data). On the flip side, an athlete can use a hypoxic generator to simulate a certain altitude and prepare for elevation competition. As you learned earlier, training in a hypoxic environment boosts the production of red blood cells and causes the other adaptations discussed above.

I also utilize portable oxygen delivery systems. For example, athletes competing in high altitude events can use a special oxygen concentrator that is small enough to fit into a backpack. This means that after the stage or event, they can achieve better recovery, especially if the competition is occuring at high altitude. While training at high altitude and not in a controlled environment such as on a treadmill or indoor bicycle, runners and cyclists can use oxygen via a very small oxygen canisters that fit into a backpack. Athletes who stress about training indoors love this option.

You would use a face mask or a nasal cannula to deliver this oxygen. Some scientists theorize that this could be harmful, but it’s important to remember that it’s nearly impossible to cause oxygen toxicity or severe hypoxemia, especially when training close to sea level. The reason for this is that oxygen delivery via a mask or nasal cannula always involves some entrainment of room air. When receiving 100 percent oxygen via a nasal cannula, the highest concentration of oxygen that can be delivered is 40%. Using a mask without a re-breather bag, the highest concentration of oxygen that can be delivered is 60%, and with a mask rebreather bag system, the highest concentration of oxygen that can be delivered is 80%.

So delivery of oxygen from an oxygen concentrator is never going to be 100%. Once you throw in the imperfections of a mask, it’s readily apparent that no one is going to get hurt by breathing pure oxygen while training. Sure, drying of the airway might be a concern if you are using oxygen for hours at a time, and this is particularly only a problem if training in a dry environment like Las Vegas, Nevada or Boulder, Colorado.

Then there’s Hyperbaric Oxygen Therapy (HBOT). HBOT use is increasing each year by medical professionals, sports practitioners, and health spas. Anyone can purchase a HBOT machine for home use. HBOT was first developed for deep sea divers suffering from decompression illness (the bends), and off-lable, HBOT is now being used to treat autism, multiple sclerosis, stroke and brain injury. The dangers of HBOT are rare but real, and include seizures, collapsed lung and combustion.

The main effect of HBOT is hyperoxia (high oxygen availability). The physiological effects of HBOT include enhanced oxygen delivery, reduction of edema, increased immune system and decreased inflammation. New blood vessel formation, bone growth, as well as collagen production are also known long term effects (9). This can be especially beneficial for wound healing and recovery from radiation injury, and may allow for faster recovery from hard, damaging workouts. Paradoxically, HBOT causes vasoconstriction (shrinking of blood vessels), but the resulting elevated carrying capacity of oxygen in the arterial blood results in augmented oxygen delivery to tissues (9).

HBOT seems to be promising in the recovery of injuries or recovery from hard workouts, but larger randomized controlled studies are needed to confirm that it is a safe and effective therapy for these type of situations. One of the downsides is that since you must be lying down or standing up in a small chamber, exercise cannot be easily combined with HBOT. But at the end of the day, HBOT does indeed increase the oxygen delivery to the tissues and blood, and multitudes of athletes swear by it (even athletes who are not sponsored by any HBOT companies).

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Product List – Tricks Of The Trade

OK, so what do you need to get started with either hyperoxia or hypoxia training? Here’s a list of my favorite tricks of the trade.

Altitude Training Tent or Altitude Chamber

I would recommend you purchase a tent from a company like Hypoxico, who can also outfit any room in your house to be an altitude chamber. However, I do have athletes who construct their own tents using PVC pipe and a thick grade plastic and tape. In this video, Jonathan Hornbeck, currently a professional cyclist for Team Hincapie demonstrates how to make your own tent.

Oxygen Saturation Monitor

Although any oxygen saturation monitor would work for seeing a rise or drop in your blood oxygenation levels, I really like the Masimo Mighty Sat, which is the highest tech oxygen saturation monitor that I have found, and is available to the public. Dotsie Bausch, a silver medalist in the 2012 Olympics, uses Masimo products.  The main difference is that the Masimo pulse oximeter is always accurate, and it measures the Plethysmosography Variablility Index (PVI) which measure the changes in your blood perfusion during the respiratory cycle. Simply, PVI is another tool to measure fluid status after large shifts in blood volume, such as would occur with heavy exercise. Finally, a pulse oximeter is another verification that I am indeed training in a hypoxic state while performing hypoxic intervals or resting in a tent. Just about any pulse oximeter will get the job done.

Oxygen Analyzers

I use an oxygen analzyer to monitor the oxygen concentration in my altitude tent or exercise circuit –  I use the Pro O2 Oxygen analyzer from Nuvair. It’s dependable and they provide a good warranty. Nuvair specializes in scuba equipment, and for the money, it does the job and rivals more expensive versions. In fact, one of my riders, Romain Bardet, who rides for the Ag2r pro cycling team, uses this exact model for his altitude tent.

Oxygen Concentrators

You can buy an oxygen concentrator new online, but I suggest looking up an oxygen concentrator repair shop in your area and inquire about buying a new or refurbished oxygen concentrator. Get one that puts out at least 5 liters per minute. Andy Champagne from O2CRS, a local shop in Las Vegas, is very knowledgeable and reasonably priced.  I use an oxygen concentrator mainly for my high intensity intervals. But I also use it when the air quality gets really bad or I have inhaled a bunch of smoke. Firefighters use oxygen concentrators regularly to detox the levels of carbon monoxide in their bodies after fighting a fire.

Hypoxic Generators

Companies like Hypoxico make a great machine for altitude training that you can roll around in your basement, garage, or gym. Alternatively, you can have a professional modify an existing oxygen concentrator machine into a hypoxic generator. Again, the guys at O2CRS.com do a great job.

Oxygen Reservoir

Companies like liveO2 make a portable, easy to use oxygen reservoir that works really well for exercising with supplemental oxygen. Alternatively, it is possible to make one yourself by using a small trash can, then sealing the top and creating an inlet and outlet. Here is a video of the liveO2 oxygen reservoir system.

Altitude Training Masks

A double one-way valve mask is required for oxygen or hypoxia exercise circuits. Hypoxico sells a mask that is specially made for hypoxic interval training. Sometimes you will find these masks on Amazon and Alibaba commerce websites. Please note that an elevation training mask is not the same thing, and Ben explains why here.

Oxygen Tanks

Pure oxygen requires a prescription from a doctor. However, welding grade oxygen is still 94% pure, and still does the job. In fact, oxygen bars use welding grade oxygen. So align yourself with a welding shop or oxygen company and have them fill your oxygen tanks for you and you should be good!  

Some of my athletes who train at very high altitudes will actually use an oxygen tank along with a nasal cannula, both of which are small enough to fit into a backpack. Just before they are about to start their intervals, they will turn the oxygen dial to hi-flow and perform their intervals. This allows them to increase their exercise capacity at higher altitudes.

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Summary

Let’s finish with an example of a supplement oxygen interval training session that I personally perform using an oxygen concentrator and a universal mask circuit. It’s quite simple and consists of one minute long all-out intervals. First, I warm up, and then exercise at an easy, aerobic pace for 5 minutes, followed by 1 minute all-out, followed by a 4 minute recovery, then 1 minute all-out, and so on until I get to 1 minute all-out and 1 minute rest, at which time I repeat the intervals 1 to 3 times.

So to clarify – you would do the following wearing a mask and nasal cannula that is connected to supplemental oxygen :

5 easy, 1 hard.

4 easy, 1 hard.

3 easy, 1 hard.

2 easy, 1 hard.

1 easy, 1 hard.

Repeat 1-3x.

Ben has been experimenting with a Hypoxico Everest II altitude simulator for hypoxia, using an Intermittent Hypoxic Training (IHT) protocol very similar to that outlined in these instructions (5 minutes exercise with hypoxia, followed by 5 minutes without hypoxia, for 30-60 minutes at an aerobic pace).

It appears that when it comes to hypoxic training, you can also benefit from short, repeated 10-30 second high-intensity bursts followed by longer recovery periods, a strategy which appears to be just as beneficial as longer efforts and is outlined in detail in this study, and also in this section of the Wikipedia page on altitude training.

So that’s it! Do you have questions, comments or feedback for Ben or Dr. Edwards, your own oxygen biohacks to add, or anything else you’d like to share? Leave your thoughts below and either Dr. Edwards or I will reply.

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References

  1. Med Sci Sports Exerc. 2005 Jul;37(7):1175-9.

Effects of hyperoxic training on performance and cardiorespiratory response to exercise.
http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/16015135

  1. J Sports Sci. 2012 May;30(9):851-8.

Effects of hyperoxia during recovery from 5×30-s bouts of maximal-intensity exercise.

  1. J Exp Biol. 2001 Sep;204(Pt 18):3225-34.

Evidence that a central governor regulates exercise performance during acute hypoxia and hyperoxia.

Noakes. http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/11581338

  1. The Effect Of Training While Breathing Oxygen-Enriched Air On Time-To-Exhauston And Aerobic Capacity
    https://www.asep.org/asep/asep/JEParmstrong.html
  1. Med Sci Sports Exerc. 2004 Nov;36(11):1888-94.

Effect of FIO2 on oxidative stress during interval training at moderate altitude.

http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/15514503

  1. Altitude, hypoxic and hyperoxic Training: research evidence vs. practical applications

http://www.vacumed.com/pdfs/Hyperoxic_Science.pdf

http://www.runhilaryrun.ca/Trent/GeneralInterestArticles/Stellingwerff-AltitudeTrainingArticle.pdf

  1. J Exp Biol. 2001 Sep;204(Pt 18):3195-9.

Human aerobic performance: too much ado about limits to V(O(2)).

http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/11581334

  1. J Exp Biol. 2001 Sep;204(Pt 18):3133-9.

Muscle tissue adaptations to hypoxia.

http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/11581327

  1. Hyperbaric effects on sports injuries PDF

http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3382683/pdf/10.1177_1759720X11399172.pdf

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

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The Iceman is back.

Wim Hof is a Dutch world record holder, adventurer and daredevil, nicknamed “the Iceman” for his ability to withstand extreme cold.

He holds twenty world records – including a world record for longest ice bath, and has stayed immersed in ice for as long as 1 hour and 52 minutes and 42 seconds.

In 2007, Wim attempted, but failed (due to a foot injury), to climb Mount Everest wearing nothing but shorts.

Then, in 2009, he reached the top of Mount Kilimanjaro in his shorts within two days.

In 2009, Wim also completed a full marathon above the polar circle in Finland, in temperatures close to −20 °C (−4 °F) – dressed in nothing but shorts. He finished the marathon in 5 hours and 25 minutes.

In  2011, Hof also ran a full marathon in the Namib Desert without water. 

And in this most recent Vice video, Wim demonstrates how he can consciously alter his immune system activity using a combination of breathing and cold.

So how does the Iceman do it?

In my previous episode with Wim, “Conquer The Cold And Get Quantum Leaps In Performance In This Exclusive Interview With The Amazing Iceman Wim Hof“, you discovered many of his secrets, including:

-How Wim uses the science of breathing to control his body temperature and resistance to the cold…

-Wim’s breathing technique fully explained

-a recent study of the influence of concentration/meditation on autonomic nervous system activity and the innate immune response

-Wim’s book: “Becoming The Iceman“…

-Wim’s meditation technique…

-How Wi ran full marathon in the desert with no water…

-Whether cold thermogenesis give some kind of adaptation to perform better in heat…

-Why cold doesn’t really make you sick, and the true effects on the immune system…

-Why Wim took a group of thrombosis patients into the icy Sweden wilderness…

-How you can learn Wim’s secret techniques from the Iceman himself…

-And much more.

Now, in today’s audio episode, Wim and I delve into even more of his tips, tricks and biohacks to conquer the cold and get quantum leaps in performance, and you’ll discover even more, including:

-How Wim got started with cold exposure…

-How Wim’s breathing techniques can be used to withstand not just extremes of cold, but also extremes of heat and other forms of stress…

-Whether Wim gets cold skin burns…

-The details of Wim’s groundbreaking new study “Voluntary activation of the sympathetic nervous system and attenuation of the innate immune response in humans“…

-What Wim thinks about popular cold thermogenesis gear, like ice vests and cooling pants…

-What kind of workouts Wim does, including extreme isometrics and cold yoga…

-Why Wim only eats once per day…

Resources from this episode:

Wim’s complete training program “Wim Hof Method 10-week online course” to teach you his techniques.

-Study: Voluntary activation of the sympathetic nervous system and attenuation of the innate immune response in humans.

-Wim’s “Inner Fire” App.

Do you have questions, comments or feedback about this episode with Iceman Wim Hof? Leave your thoughts below!

Three Ways To Biohack A Sauna For More Heat, A Better Detox & Enhanced Fitness.

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New feature! Push the play button above or click here to subscribe for free in iTunes to get the audio version of this post. Let me know in the comments section if you find this feature oh-so-handy-dandy. 

I will be the first to admit that I spent most of my life not really understanding the difference between a “regular” sauna and an infrared sauna.

While I’ve certainly covered wet saunas vs. dry saunas on a heat acclimation webinar for USA Triathlon, and I’ve thoroughly discussed the myriad of benefits from heat exposure (from dry saunas to steam rooms to those dorky sauna suits) in a very popular interview with Dr. Rhonda Patrick

…until the recent show “Shattering The Myths Of Detox Therapy, Infrared Saunas, Health Scams & More” I’d never really delved into the concept of infrared saunas on the podcast either.

But now that I’m spending at least two and, based on the results of this Finnish longevity study, as many as five days per week in an infrared sauna, I figured it was high time I filled you in on what I’m doing with infrared, why, and three ways to biohack your sauna for more heat, more sweat, and bigger benefits.

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Why You Should Use A Far Infrared Sauna

First, you should know that this article isn’t really going to delve into the nitty-gritty of why heat therapy and saunas are beneficial, because I’ve covered that in great detail before.

But before learning how to biohack your sauna experience, it is important for you to have a basic idea of what an infrared sauna is, and how it differs from dry saunas or steam rooms, especially if you haven’t jumped on the sauna bandwagon yet.

Basically, an infrared sauna is a type of sauna that uses light to create heat. These saunas are sometimes also called far-infrared saunas, and the “far” simply describes where the infrared waves fall on the light spectrum.

A traditional “dry sauna” uses heat from rocks or other heating elements to warm the air, which in turn warms your body. So a dry sauna must rely only on indirect means of heat: first, convection (air currents) and then, conduction (direct contact of hot air with the skin) to produce its heating effect.

But because an infrared sauna instead relies upon light, it can heat your body directly without significantly warming the air around you, and the light waves from the infrared sauna penetrate deep (2-6 inches) into your body for a heating effect that allows more activation of your sweat glands compared to dry sauna. So an infrared sauna doesn’t feel as hot as a dry sauna, but you sweat as much or more.

In the book Beyond Antibiotics, Dr. Michael A. Schmidt explains the benefits of the slightly lower temperature of an infrared sauna like this:

“Saunas are being used by some doctors to stimulate the release of toxins from the bodies of their patients. They have found that a lower temperature (105º-130ºF) sauna taken for a longer duration is most beneficial. These low temperatures stimulate a fat sweat, which eliminates toxins stored in fat, as opposed to the high temperature sauna, which encourages a water sweat.”

Interestingly, the far infrared rays you get in an infrared sauna consist of similar wavelengths that are emitted naturally by the human body (yes, your body emits it’s own light radiation). This is one potential explanation of why many people feel so energetically rejuvenated and balanced from contact with far infrared waves in an infrared sauna compared to feeling “drained and dehydrated” after a dry sauna experience. Tests have shown that the energy output in an infrared sauna is tuned so closely to your body’s own infrared radiation that you absorb as much as 93% of the far infrared waves that reach your skin.

infrared

So how does a far infrared sauna actually generate heat and invisible light?

Far infrared saunas typically use either a carbon or ceramic heater, which do not turn red hot like the heating elements inside a conventional dry sauna, but instead produce invisible, far infrared heat. This is the same type of heat as produced by the sun, but without any of the effects of solar radiation. For years, many folks in the alternative health community have sworn by using infrared heat lamps as a source of far infrared heat, but these lamps can be cumbersome, they can get extremely hot to the touch and they  can be difficult to maintain at a constant temperature compared to an infrared sauna.

So basically, an infrared sauna is like having a tiny little temperature-controlled sunshine inside an enclosed room, without the UV radiation.

In an infrared sauna, only 20 percent of the energy from the light is used to heat the air, leaving the rest of the energy to heat the body. The temperature inside a typical infrared sauna is adjustable and averages about 100°F to 140°F, depending on how long you warm the sauna up before getting in, and what you put the temperature setting at. Many people actually find the lower levels of heat in an infrared to be more comfortable than a dry sauna. But although the temperature is slightly lower, you still sweat a ton in an infrared sauna, which is why they’re so popular for detoxification. However, a typical infrared sauna is still not quite hot enough for me, because I’m not just in there to detoxify, but also to produce a crap-ton of heat shock proteins, stress resilience and cardiovascular blood flow, so you’ll find out what I do about the need for more heat shortly.

So do the things actually work?

As the Mayo Clinic has reported here, several studies have looked at using infrared saunas in the treatment of chronic health problems, such as high blood pressure, congestive heart failure and rheumatoid arthritis, and these studies have indeed found some evidence of benefit. For athletes using a sauna post-exercise, those benefits can extend to being as powerful as illegal performance enhancing drugs.

No adverse effects have ever been reported with infrared saunas, and until I recently began using an infrared sauna, I’d already been using infrared therapy with a heating mat called a “Biomat” for the past two years. But even though a Biomat offers you a relaxing, warm surface to curl-up on for something like a soothing afternoon nap, it doesn’t hold a candle to the biohacked sauna experience you’re about to discover.

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The Problem With Infrared Saunas

Unfortunately, for most people, it’s not the slightly lower levels of heat that tend to be the problem with an infrared sauna. Instead, it’s the fact that most infrared saunas are concentrated hothouses chock full of Electromagnetic Fields (EMF), basically turning what is supposed to be a detoxification and longevity-enhancing experience into the equivalent of hanging out in a a microwave or perched inside a giant WiFi router, leaving you with cell damage, brain fog and inflammation after your sauna session.

You’ve probably heard of EMF before, but here’s a quick reminder: EMF are energy waves with frequencies below 300 hertz or cycles per second. Unless you live on a pristine Himalayan mountaintop, the electromagnetic fields you probably encounter daily are from things such as power lines, radar and microwave towers, television and computer screens, motors, fluorescent lights, microwave ovens, cell phones, electric blankets, house wiring and hundreds of other common electrical devices. For more detail on common environmental EMF’s lurking in your home and office, and also practical instructions on how to mitigate them, I’d recommend you check out my book “How To Biohack The Ultimate Healthy Home”.

Anyways, deleterious health effects associated with EMF include:

  • Memory Loss
  • Depression
  • Loss of Energy
  • Irritability
  • Inability To Concentrate
  • Weakened Immune System
  • Chronic Fatigue
  • Headaches

In case you want to investigate this more for yourself, the following are links to more information about the effects of EMF:

1) US Center for Disease Control Fact Sheet about EMF
2) World Health Organization – International EMF Project
3) Waveguide
4) Good Mercola article on EMF
5) General EMF Info
6) EMF Journal Action Alert regarding EMF levels and Cell Phone use

Also, here’s an excerpt from Peter Asmus’s book “Introduction to Energy in California”:

“Remember when people who spoke of cigarettes causing cancer were derided as being alarmist nuts? (If you do remember that, you are at least 55 years old!) Today people who assert that there could be, let alone that there is, a risk associated with cell phone use are viewed as a bit wacky. Well, the Marlboro man died of lung cancer and it appears there is a growing body of information to suggest that the Nokia man might be saddled with dementia or Alzheimers (among others) for the privilege!

Consider the following findings:
• 3% of the population may have severe reactions to electromagnetic fields (EMFs) thought by some to shorten life expectancy.
• Young people who start using cell phones before the age of 20 have a five-fold increase in brain cancer risk.
• Up to one-third of the population may suffer from electrical hypersensitivity from EMF exposure.”

And finally, for the ultimate guide to EMF, I’d recommend the book “Zapped: Why Your Cell Phone Shouldn’t Be Your Alarm Clock and 1,268 Ways to Outsmart the Hazards of Electronic Pollution“.

Anyways, it can be touch to generate infrared light without also generating EMF. As I’ve mentioned before on a podcast, this is the reason the infrared Biomat that I use comes with a built-in EMF blocker between the wall outlet and the controller device. And I’d settle for nothing less on an infrared sauna.

So for my own personal infrared sauna, I chose a model that has a type of heater called a “True Wave II”, which contains a carbon based infrared heater with virtually no EMF. It’s made by a company called “Clearlight”, using a manufacturing process that allows them to cancel out EMF to levels that are nearly undetectable.

Using ultra-sensitive EMF testing equipment, all of the True Wave heaters inside a Clearlight sauna are tested to ensure low and safe levels of EMF. EMF is measured in milligauss (mG), and when measuring with a gauss meter (a simple technique I describe here), your exposure to EMF should not exceed 3 milligauss. This level is based on recommendations from both the EPA (U.S. Environmental Protection Agency) and also the Swedish standards for EMF.

Now I’m not really comfortable even getting very close to 3mG, so I was pretty pleased to find out that the EMF levels measured inside my Clearlight Infrared Sauna all around my seated position are at nearly 0mG. If I use a Tri-Field EMF meter and measure directly on top of the heaters (and I’m definitely not sitting on top of the heaters!), the heaters have an average EMF output of about 2.5mG. That’s compared to over 100mg for other carbon based heaters in standard infrared saunas.

You can see the testing below performed by EMF testing lab “VitaTech Electromagnetics”. It’s pretty shocking how high the levels of EMF are in some saunas. You can download the full test report .pdf fromVitaTech by clicking here. The EMF readings below are measured directly on the heater, and again, it’s important to understand that where you are seated in the sauna, the levels are virtually zero, since you do not sit on top of the heater.

emf reading

Since I like to move around, exercise, do Bikram yoga, and even occasionally drag an exercise bike or a kettlebell into my sauna, the Clearlight model I chose is the “Sanctuary Y model” which is is the only combination personal hot yoga room and infrared sauna available on the market. You can leave in the two 35″ benches and you have a state-of-the-art full spectrum infrared sauna for lounging and reading, or you can remove the benches and have your own private hot yoga room with built-in heated yoga mat floor. Even though the EMF levels are rock bottom, the True Wave Full Spectrum heater system in the Clearlight delivers over 20 times the power of any other infrared sauna, but that’s still not enough for me, so I’ll fill you in on my hacks in just a moment.

Anyways, before we move on, here’s how to get a fat discount at the same place I bought my Clearlight sauna:

1. Go to HealthHacksReviewed.com. This is the same site my guest Alex Tarris and I discussed in the recent podcast “Shattering The Myths Of Detox Therapy, Infrared Saunas, Health Scams & More”. Good deals on health equipment.

2. Once you’re there or in contact with them, mention my name, or when you order, use code “bengreen15”. 

3. That code, which you can use anytime, as much as you want will actually give you 15% off anything on the HealthHacksReviewed.com site (like portable saunas, lay-down saunas, home detox equipment, etc.), but in terms of EMF, yoga capabilities, heat, etc. I can’t personally vouch for any sauna except the Clearlight. A few exclusions apply.

If that seems like too much trouble to go through, or you want to get your sauna direct from the manufacturer, you can also click here to get a sauna directly from Clearlight.

OK, let’s summarize what we know so far.

1) Infrared saunas are a great way to heat your body “from the inside out”, which gives you not just heat and sweat benefits, but also detox benefits.

2) Most infrared saunas are concentrated sources of EMF, so I use the low-EMF “Clearlight” brand.

3) My sauna still isn’t hot enough for my personal preferences.

Now it’s time to move on to the fun stuff: three ways to biohack your sauna experience. This is where things get really interesting.

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Sauna Biohack #1. Hack Your Sauna Hotter

Even though far infared saunas do a dang good job heating you “from the inside out” and producing the subsequent detoxification effect, there is one problem: even you sweat more quickly in an infrared sauna than you will in a dry sauna, and you will keep on sweating for a longer period of time, infrared saunas simply don’t get as hot inside as a traditional dry sauna.

Most of the heat escapes the sauna by rising and escaping out the ceiling. And I don’t know about you, but I certainly don’t want to miss out on many of the positive physiological responses to uncomfortable heat, such as the production of heat shock proteins and stress resilience, the production of nitric oxide and enhanced blood flow, the increase in cardiovascular performance, the increase in brain derived neurotrophic factor and all the other cool (or hot?) things I discuss in my podcast episode with Dr. Rhonda Patrick “Everything You Need To Know About How To Use Heat Exposure To Enhance Performance, Burn Fat, Gain Muscle And Think Better.”

So you’re about to learn how you can get an extra 10 degrees out of your sauna, and save a lot of electricity as a bonus.

It’s important to understand that most of the heat escapes an infrared sauna by rising and escaping out of the ceiling. The most important first step you can take when biohacking your infrared sauna is to insulate the ceiling. My friend Brett, a fellow biohacker who first put this idea in my head, charted his infrared sauna temperature and his sweat volume during a typical sauna session and found that after insulating it with the technique you’re about to learn, he got ten extra fahrenheit degrees of heat and nearly 30% more sweat volume!

Instructions for insulating your sauna ceiling:

Step 1: Remove plywood from the top of your sauna. Measure distance from the top of sauna to bottom of where the plywood was. This will determine the maximum amount of insulation board you can use to replace the plywood. Some people insulate it even thicker and leave the plywood completely off, but this can detract from the aesthetic pleasantness of a nice plywood ceiling, so it’s completely our call how thick you want to go with the insulation.

Step 2: Once you determine your desired insulation depth, go to your local hardware or building supply store and get a sheet of the highest R value foam board that you can find for that thickness. If you do one layer, a 4 by 8 sheet will easily have enough volume to insulate any sauna. You might find that two layers of thin board fits better or gives you better R value. Also get a good roll of quality duct type tape. You will need a sharp long and stiff kitchen knife and a straight edge with which to cut and mark the foam board. Some small metal staples can also be handy for holding wires in place, but are not necessary. A roll of tape and screws or nails might prove helpful as well.

Step 3: Measure the largest exposed sections of the sauna roof and cut the foam boards to fit the largest spaces. To cut foam board, simply mark it with a straight edge and a pen and then cut the marked area with your kitchen knife. Of course, it’s better to make your foam board a little bit too big than too small, since you can always cut off a little more later if you need to. Be sure to note where the vents are on the sauna roof and make sure that you plan to keep these clear when you put your foam board up, or drill or cut holes in the foam board to match the location of the vents. Also move any and all wires to the edges of the sauna top, and then staple or tape the wires in place if necessary.

Step 4: Make holes in your foam board for thermostat, vents, speakers and lights (if your infrared sauna has these). Here’s an easy way to do this: make a loop of tape, adhesive side out, and place the tape on the spots of the ceiling you need have uncovered, such as over a vent. Then place the foam board in position on the ceiling, and the tape will stick on the board. Then remove the board, and you now know the location on the board to cut out! If you have a sounds system in your sauna, the tape won’t stick too well to the speakers, so for the speakers you can place screws on the perimeter of the magnet facing up. Then press the board down over those areas and the screws will stick in foam board. You then simply cut a circle in the foam board and chisel out the approximate amount of depth. I wouldn’t cut all the way through as this could allow air flow and heat loss. You just want it thin enough to where the speaker sound can come through. For the lights, you will want to check to see if they are LED or incandescent. If they are LED, then you can cut out a small cavity and it will work fine. If the lights are incandescent or fluorescent you will want to allow an adequate hole for cooling of the lights. Make sure not to insulate on top of the control mechanism, which is usually a stainless steel box on the top of the sauna.

Step 5: After placing the large pieces of foam board, follow the same process and fill in the smaller areas on the ceiling with small pieces of foam board. Duct tape all of the seams, replace the plywood top, verify that all vent holes are vacant, then duct tape the perimeter and seams of the plywood top.

Boom. Now you have a super efficient sauna that heats up quickly and allows you to create lots more heat and sweat. Here are a few photos of my heat biohacked sauna:

The roof…using some basic 10lb weight plates to hold insulation down…

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Another view of the roof…

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A close up of the roof and how the insulation is slightly cut to fit siding…

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The cork placed in the inside hole next to the speaker to hold heat in…

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How the sauna sits in my home gym…

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Sauna Biohack #2. Add Extra Heaters

OK, so now you’ve got your sauna ceiling insulated. This is going to significantly jack up the heat levels. I must emphasize that the Clearlight saunas have excellent low-EMF heaters and get pretty hot, but I also realize that some of my readers are really masochistic heat-hacking ninjas, and may want to get a really, really intense sweat on.

But I found that I wanted my sauna to get even warmer. Perhaps I’m a glutton for punishment, perhaps I’ve grown too accustomed to heat because to all my racing in the extreme heat of places like Hawaii and Thailand, or perhaps my body just has a lot of heat shock proteins and good cardiovascular cooling mechanisms, but I like my sauna really, really hot.

Again, I could just use an extremely hot dry sauna, but I’d still be missing out on all the benefits of infrared, and I want the best of both worlds.

So here’s the next step I took to get my sauna even hotter: I added two 2000 watt heaters to my sauna.

Now, before you rush out to Google the best price on space heaters, you should now that just like most infrared saunas, most space heaters are notoriously annoying sources of EMF. My friend Brett, the guy I mentioned earlier who first put the idea in my head of insulating my sauna, actually purchased several different space heaters and tested them all for EMF. He found the Delonghi HVY1030 space heater to be both affordable and have very low EMF. But the problem is that a space heater shuts off at around 120 degrees, so it is only useful for pre-heating your sauna (helping it to heat up faster if you want to accelerate the pre-heating process).

There is no space heater that Brett or I have found that doesn’t have this annoying high temperature shut off feature. It’s probably some stupid fire code regulation or something.

But you can think outside the box…

…and this is where a portable stove burner comes in. Yes, a stove burner is normally used for cooking food, but portable stove burners also don’t have high temp shut offs, and they put out plenty of heat. Before choosing a portable stove burner, I’d recommend you first check your breaker to see how strong a stove burner you can get. If you have a 15 amp breaker, then your stove burner can be 1500 watts, and if you have a 20 amp breaker, then you can go step up 2000 watts. To check your breaker amps (if your breaker isn’t labeled), you can simply call your local neighborhood electrician, or you can overload the circuit with a couple of space heaters or hair dryers and see which breaker trips. Or you can use this slightly more precise technique to measure the amps of your circuit breakers.

So, what did I find to be the best portable stove burner heaters?

For a nice, cast-iron 1500 watt, I recommend the Broil King PCR-1B. The fact that this burner is cast-iron means that it is very heavy, which gives you a bit of built in safety, since it won’t easily tip over. And if you want to step up to 2000 watts, then you will need two of the MaxiMatic ESB-301F Elite Cuisine Single Cast Burner 1000-Watt Hot Plate.

For added safety and to avoid the heaters moving or tipping, you should create a sturdy base for your stove burner. To do this, you can mount the burner(s) to a thick, heavy piece of wood such as a short 2×12 or a piece of plywood. I’d recommend you also create a protective barrier over the top of your stove burners. You can do this by surrounding the burner with some thick wire like chicken-wire over the top of the burner and a couple inches around the sides. You can then attach the wire screen to the wood base. And for Pete’s sake: if you have young children running around, know where those stove burners and kids are at all times unless you want some free hot branding tattoos for your young ones.

Will these stove burners put out a little EMF?

Ultimately, yes. But the important thing to know about EMF’s is that they follow the inverse square law, which, simply put, means the amount of EMF reduces very quickly as distance from the EMF increases. This is why overhead high voltage power lines will give you far less EMF exposure than a very low voltage electric blanket, since the blanket is very close, but the power lines are far away.

For example, when I tested my portable stove burner, I had to be 12 inches away to get below 2 milligauss, a completely safe acceptable level of EMF. So if you put portable stove burners or space heaters in your sauna, just make sure you hang out about a foot or more away from them, which is easy enough to do.

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Sauna Biohack #3. Detox With Niacin

Detoxification is a topic I’ve covered many times before in other articles, and probably the best resources for you in this regard for you are the Get-Fit Guy episodes “Is Detoxing A Myth?” and “How To Detox Your Liver & Kidneys”. My friend Brett (the same guy I’ve mentioned twice already who figured out how to hack his sauna and introducted me to the strategies above) has also spent the past 20 years experimenting with detox strategies from herbal tea, to colonics, to enemas, and runs a sauna detox with niacin group on Facebook.

I’d never heard of this particular niacin+sauna strategy, but a few weeks ago, Brett sent me this very interesting anecdote:

“About 8 years ago I discovered a book called Clear Body, Clear Mind by L. Ron Hubbard. The book was written many decades ago and the purpose of the book was to teach the reader how to clear toxins from drug use by using a sauna for long periods of time, combined with niacin and other special supplements. What was different about this book is that it had the actual research and data to prove its claims, along with numerous accounts of high levels of toxins in the blood being dramatically reduced by this protocol, and continuing to reduce for weeks after the protocol was completed.

Then I learned that most detox experts, from Dr. Yu to David Root, say that Hubbard’s protocol is the most effective detoxification protocol there is. Period. It is so effective that the government recently funded a study for vets doing this protocol.

The basic idea behind the protocol is this: high dose niacin causes lipolysis, or rupturing, of the fat cells (the same thing happens with extreme, rapid weight loss). This rupturing is what releases the toxins from fat cells (you can read exactly about how that whole process works in my article “Does Fat Loss Cause A Toxin Release?”). The running/exercise part of the protocol (which you’ll learn about in a second) increases circulation, especially in the lymphatic system where fat cells are carried. Then the sweating in the sauna releases these toxins through your body’s primary and largest detoxification organ: your skin. Later, even more of the toxins are eliminated through the stool. Supplements that you take during the protocol are primarily designed to replace lost minerals, electrolytes and fats, and to help to absorb the mobilized toxins in the gastrointestinal tract.

I will give a summarized version of the protocol in the subsequent paragraphs, but first, a big warning: do not do this protocol without a full and comprehensive understanding of it. If you mobilize high amounts of toxins and do not completely include all the other aspects of the protocol you will suffer from hypertoxemia. So to get a full understanding of the protocol, you need to read the book Clear Body, Clear Mind by L. Ron Hubbard. You must get the 2002 or 1990 copyright date of the book, and Bookfinder.com will help you get a used copy very affordably (the new editions of the book have been oversimplified and lack crucial valuable information).

The protocol lasts about 30 days, but can be customized to fit your schedule. The sauna duration is directly correlated to your toxicity. If you’ve been living healthy for a long time (e.g. a decade or more), then reduced sauna time is needed. If you have been exposed to chemicals and eaten a standard American diet and taken drugs of any kind legal or illegal then you will need to increase the sauna duration.”

Brett then went on to explain this basic protocol:

“First, heat up your sauna long before you go for your run. You want it roasting hot. I have the best far infared sauna made (Clearlight) and I still have insulated the ceiling and I put a space heater in it to keep it even hotter. In addition, I blocked the hole where the thermostats is with a cork so that the heaters stay on the entire time. Because of this, I purchased a separate thermometer to monitor temperatures. These steps increased my sweat volume dramatically.

Next, take high dose niacin right before your run. A dosing chart is in the book. Follow it. Then, go for a run for 20-30 minutes. If you can’t run, ride a bike, use an elliptical trainer, jump on a mini-trampoline, etc. The primary goal is to raise body heat and to increase lymph and blood flow. I also turn the sauna timer back on to make sure it is still warming up when I run. For the exercise, I recommend dressing as warm as you can tolerate to raise your core temperature. When I did this, I sweated much more while I was in the sauna.

Next, get in the sauna and stay in the sauna for as long as you can tolerate. Around an hour works for most people depending on toxicity – the more toxic, the more time, the less toxic, the less time.

Finally, cool yourself with a lukewarm or cold shower, then take appropriate doses of mineral, electrolytes and fats and oils as described in the book.

Repeat daily for 30 days.

When you finish, you will have eliminated years of toxins and you will benefit tremendously in numerous ways from this protocol. This protocol is usually administered by professionals. If you decide to do this without supervision, then you need to have complete knowledge of the protocol and access to others for support and questions and answers. I have a support group for this at Facebook called “sauna detox with niacin”.”

It turns out that Dr. Joseph Mercola recently learned about this protocol. This guy has heard about every detox method there is, and he was shocked and amazed. Check out his reaction in the video below. It is only 3 minutes long but it will give you an idea of the validity of the program from one of the most trusted natural health experts on the internet.

The idea behind combining the niacin, the exercise and the heat is that the niacin and the heat causes a “Rebound Lipolysis“, meaning that the niacin first tries to prevent lipolysis and then after one to two hours, it rebounds and leads to massive fat cell release of triglycerides and at the same time release of toxic chemicals such as BPA, PCB’s, pharmaceutical byproducts, etc. Clearlight has a very helpful .pdf that you can download here which outlines more of the science behind detoxification and their own Clearlight Sauna Session Protocol.

Now here’s the deal: I don’t live a very toxic lifestyle. And I haven’t for over a decade. So I didn’t do the exact protocol above per se, but instead simplified into the following steps:

1. I modified my sauna using both the insulation and stove burner hacks you learned earlier in the article. I must emphasize that the stove burners aren’t completely necessary because the sauna does get pretty hot by itself, and you may want to forego the stove burners altogether if you have kids around.

2. I read the book Clear Body, Clear Mind and for 30 days, I followed the niacin dosing chart prior to my pre-sauna exercise. I used this form of niacin and for me it came out to 500mg week 1, 1000mg week 2, 2000mg week 3, 3000mg week 4. I chose the Thorne Niasafe because it’s in a safer form of niacin called “Inositol Hexaniacinate”. This is important because the side effects of high amounts of niacin range from flushing and itching to liver toxicity and impaired glucose tolerance. I didn’t take any of other supplements in the book, because I already get plenty of healthy fats and oils and take a chelated mineral/multivitamin complex.

3. During the entire protocol, I used the following simple sauna + exercise strategy: after my hardest workout of each day, I sat, read, stretched, did yoga, and foam rolled in the sauna for 30-45 minutes, depending on my available amount of time. This may seem like a big chunk of time, but to maximize productivity I simply saved all my reading and stretching and foam rolling and yoga for my sauna time. 

Although I did not measure sweat volume, the amount of sweat pouring from my skin dwarfed any “normal” dry sauna session I’ve ever done. I already eat plenty of fats and oils, but I included plenty of electrolyte powder in the water I consumed after each session, along with hefty amounts of water and generous portions of sea salt with dinner.

Although my eyeballs literally feel as though they’re going to pop out of my head during these sessions, once I get my post-session cold shower in, I feel absolutely amazing. Again, I’m not sure how many toxins I dumped during my initial 30 day niacin phase, since I’m not very “toxic” in the first place, but for the rest of the day after my sauna session, I noticed marked improvements in skin tone, clarity of thought, calm and focus.

And even though now that I’m done with the 30 day protocol and I’m no longer doing the daily niacin sauna protocol, I’m still using my sauna nearly every day. You could probably say that I am now officially addicted to heat therapy. And yes, I am aware of L. Ron Hubbard’s affiliations and I am not a member of the Church of Scientology. I just like to get high on niacin and do kettlebell swings in my sauna.

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Summary

So that’s it! What do you think?

Do you plan on using any of these sauna biohacks? Leave your comments, thoughts and feedback below.

If you want a Clearlight sauna – the same I am using and same Alex Tarris and I discussed in the episode “Shattering The Myths Of Detox Therapy, Infrared Saunas, Health Scams & More”, you can simply go to HealthHacksReviewed.com and when you call or write them, mention my name, or use code bengreen15, and you’ll get 15% off anything on the site (a few exclusions apply). You can use that code anytime, as much as you want. Or you can click here to get a sauna directly from Clearlight.

Oh, and below are some fancy exterior and interior photos, along with exact specs and features, for the Clearlight Sanctuary Y model that I personally use. You’ll notice that the specs show that the ceiling includes something called “color therapy”, also known as “chromotherapy”. I didn’t even tap into that concept in this article but am working on an article about that chromotherapy feature for you too. It’s a very slick and helpful feature for fixing and aligning your sleep cycles, biohacking circadian rhythms, etc..

Enjoy, and leave any questions or thoughts in the comments section.

Clearlight Sanctuary 2 FS Spec Sheet

Clearlight Sanctuary C FS Spec Sheet Clearlight Sanctuary One Sheet Spec Sheet Clearlight Sanctuary Y FS Spec Sheet

 

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How A Steady Diet Of Standard Education Is Choking The Creativity, Health & Fitness Out Of Our Kids And What You Can Do About It.

unschooling-ben-hewitt

I was homeschooled my entire life, K-12. So I was intrigued by a recent article in Outside Online that begins like this:

“In early September, in a clapboard house situated on 43 acres just outside a small town in northern Vermont, two boys awaken. They are brothers; the older is 12, the younger 9, and they rise to a day that has barely emerged from the clutches of dark. It is not yet autumn, but already the air has begun to change, the soft nights of late summer lengthening and chilling into the season to come. Outside the boys’ bedroom window, the leaves on the maples are just starting to turn.

School is back in session and has been for two weeks or more, but the boys are unhurried. They dress slowly, quietly. Faded and frayed thrift-store camo pants. Flannel shirts. Rubber barn boots. Around their waists, leather belts with knife sheaths. In each sheath, a fixed-blade knife.

By 6:30, with the first rays of sun burning through the ground-level fog, the boys are outside. At some point in the next hour, a yellow school bus will rumble past the end of the driveway that connects the farm to the town road. The bus will be full of children the boys’ age, their foreheads pressed against the glass, gazing at the unfurling landscape, the fields and hills and forests of the small working-class community they call home.

The boys will pay the bus no heed. This could be because they will be seated at the kitchen table, eating breakfast with their parents. Or it might be because they are already deep in the woods below the house, where a prolific brook trout stream sluices through a stand of balsam fir; there is an old stone bridge abutment at the stream’s edge, and the boys enjoy standing atop it, dangling fresh-dug worms into the water. Perhaps they won’t notice the bus because they are already immersed in some other project: tillering a longbow of black locust, or starting a fire over which to cook the quartet of brookies they’ve caught. They heat a flat rock at the fire’s edge, and the hot stone turns the fishes’ flesh milky white and flaky.

Or maybe the boys will pay the bus no heed because its passing is meaningless to them. Maybe they have never ridden in a school bus, and maybe this is because they’ve never been to school. Perhaps they have not passed even a single day of their short childhoods inside the four walls of a classroom, their gazes shifting between window and clock, window and clock, counting the restless hours and interminable minutes until release.

Maybe the boys are actually my sons, and maybe their names are Fin and Rye, and maybe, if my wife, Penny, and I get our way, they will never go to school.

Hey, a father can dream, can’t he?”

Today, I have that dreaming father on the podcast, and you’re going to learn everything you need to know about unschooling, alternative education models, sustainable homestead living, and much more. Even if you don’t live “in the sticks”, you’re going to pick up plenty of advice about how to raise your own children or help those around you raise their children to become independent, free-thinking resilient kids who know how to thrive in unpredictable situations.

My guest is Ben Hewitt, author of Home Grown: Adventures in Parenting Off the Beaten Path, Unschooling, and Reconnecting with the Natural World, and in this interview, you’ll discover:

-How Ben and his family live like royalty on a thrifty budget, and how you can too…

-How to find mentors and internships for your children…

-How Ben’s children learned how to read with no “formal” education…

-The difference between unschooling and homeschooling…

-How to unschool even if you don’t live on a farm or a homestead, especially if you’re in an urban environment…

-How to ensure that your children don’t become isolated loners or socially awkward…

-Potential alternatives to unschooling for people who aren’t confident doing it or don’t have the time…

-And much more!

Resources from this episode:

-Book: Home Grown: Adventures in Parenting Off the Beaten Path, Unschooling, and Reconnecting with the Natural World

-Book: The Nourishing Homestead: One Back-to-the-Land Family’s Plan for Cultivating Soil, Skills, and Spirit

-Book: Deschooling Society

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

Shattering The Myths Of Detox Therapy, Infrared Saunas, Health Scams & More.

oxygen therapy

In today’s podcast, you get to meet my friend Alex Tarris. 

Alex’s job is to test and review health technology – stuff like saunas, biohacking gear, cold lasers, hyperbaric oxygen therapy and oxygen concentrators, steam generators, whole body vibration, rebounders, infrared mats –  you get the idea. He has a masters degrees in nutrition, and over a decade of experience working as a consultant for the sports, health and spa industries.
Sounds like an interesting job, especially in an industry fraught with cheap Chinese knock-offs, product scams, overpriced equipment and a severe lack of proven, credible research findings.
In this jam-packed podcast episode, I interview Alex about detoxing, saunas, popular wellness-enhancing gear, health scams and much more. Alex’s website is HealthHacksReviewed.com, where you can use code bengreen15 for a 15% discount on anything there (a few exclusions apply). Alex also has specifically mentioned you can also leave any comments or questions you have about our conversation below, and he’ll personally answer.
During our discussion, you’ll discover:
-The biggest benefits and the biggest risks of infrared saunas, and what you must be cautious with when you’re sitting in one…
-Why the woods from most companies that produce saunas are extremely unhealthy…
-What an oxygen concentrator is and how you can use it for something called “Exercise With Oxygen Therapy” (EWOT)…
-Why certain versions of hyperbaric oxygen therapy are actually illegal to buy in the USA…
-How the average steam room at a gym can fill your lungs with chlorine and fluoride, and how to easily make your own steam room in your own shower… 
-What Alex thinks about mini-trampolines, rebounders, and whole body vibration, and whether it is silly “fake” exercise…
-Why cheap, knock-off products such as elliptical trainers or whole body vibration can mess you up biomechanically…
-The difference between patented truly innovative functional features backed by engineering and research vs. features that are simply trademarked terms that a company is using for the marketing appeal of their content to entice you into an increased perceived value of their brand…
-What Alex would put in the “ultimate man cave” if he were going to build some kind of chamber that contained all the best personal health, detox, exercise equipment he could have in it.
-Why your elliptical machine could be destroying your hips and knees…
-And much more!
Again, for a 15% sitewide discount on anything Alex and I discuss in this episode, just visit HealthHacksReviewed.com, and use promo code bengreen15. Just put that promo code in the section that says Promocode in the Contact/Support page response form. That’ll give you 15% off anything on his site and you can use that code anytime, as much as you want (the specific sauna I use that Alex and I discuss in this episode is the “Clearlight Series Y Infrared Sauna – the code works on that sauna, but a few exclusions apply for other things on Alex’s site).
Resources we discuss during this episode:
Leave your questions, comments and feedback below and either Alex or I will respond!

Mint-Chocolate Water, Upper Lip Peppermint Sniffing, Peppermint Fat Bombs & More: How Peppermint Can Enhance Performance

peppermint

I’ve been on a bit of a mint kick lately.

For example, I put a few drops of peppermint essential oil in my daily SodaStream carbonated water that I make to keep my appetite satiated between meals. Occasionally, if I really want to feel like I’m “drinking Christmas”, I’ll throw in a few drops of chocolate stevia to make mint-chocolate water. I don’t know why this makes me feel like it’s Christmas-time, but it just does. So there.

But there are other ways I’ve been using mint too.

For example, because of research that you’re going to learn about a bit later in this article, I’ve been dabbing a little peppermint essential oil on my upper lip prior to hard workouts, and also when I need a “wake-me-up” boost of focus while working on books, articles, etc.

And then of course, there’s my peppermint fat bomb, which also happens to go quite well with chocolate flavored substances. To make this, I blend or vigorously stir 4 ounces of BPA-free full fat coconut milk with a few drops of peppermint essential oil, a tablespoon of alkali-free dark chocolate powder and a few chunks of very dark, dairy-free, gluten-free chocolate. I then throw this in the freezer for about 20-30 minutes and…voila! A healthy and extremely satiating peppermint fat bomb.

You’re going to learn why I like peppermint so much in today’s article, written by guest author and naturopathic physician Sarah LoBisco, who you may recognize from the podcast episode “Everything You Need To Know About Essential Oils For Fat Loss, Performance, Smart Drugs, Scar Healing, Detoxing And More.

 

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Peppermint 101

There are over 25 species in the genus “mentha“, some existing as pure species, some existing as hybrid species, but by far the most important, useful and popular being peppermint, which is a cross between water mint (M. aquatica ) and spearmint (M. spicata). The majority of scientifically validated mint studies to date have focused specifically on this peppermint version of herb.

Peppermint (Mentha x piperita) is a perennial herb that grows in moist, temperate areas and blooms from July through August.1 The plant grows about 2-3 feet tall and sprouts tiny purple flowers. It is native to Europe and Asia, though some varieties are indigenous to South Africa, South America, and Australia. Today, peppermint has been nationalized to much of Europe and North America.

Peppermint is one of the most popularly consumed single ingredients used in herbal teas, which are brewed from the peppermint plant leaves. The leaves contain the phenolic constituents of rosmarinic acid and several flavonoids, including eriocitrin, luteolin and hesperidin. The essential oil of peppermint has been used in traditional medicines3 as well and, commercially, the oil of peppermint is used as a fragrant component in personal care items such as soaps and cosmetics.Peppermint oil consists of many components, including menthol menthone, menthyl acetate, menthofuran 1,8 cineol and pulegone. These compounds act in synergism to give peppermint a wide array of applications,3 and it is even used quite widely as a flavoring agent in pharmaceuticals and the food industry.1

The therapeutic use of peppermint, however, far surpasses its enticing minty smell and has many impressive benefits, perhaps the most well-known being peppermint’s long history of supporting the digestive system.1-2

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Digestive Health

If you’ve ever sucked on peppermint when you’ve had a stomachache, drank peppermint tea for bloating, gas, diarrhea or constipation, or even sniffed peppermint oil or dabbed it on your upper lip to control nausea, morning sickness or motion sickness, then you were on the right track.

Peppermint oil has been proven in several randomized trials to improve symptoms related to irritable bowel syndrome.4-9 A 2005 literature review of 16 different trials concluded that peppermint oil may be a first choice option “in IBS patients with non-serious constipation or diarrhea to alleviate general symptoms and to improve quality of life.” 9

Peppermint oil also has been studied and found to be supportive for other digestive issues such as esophageal spasms, 10-12 assisting with stomach emptying, 13 general digestive discomfort in adults and infants, 14-15 and feelings of queasiness.16-17

 A review article in Phytotherapy Research also supported the use of peppermint leaves in tablet or encapsulated form to improve gastrointestinal symptoms as compared to placebo.

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Other Uses for Peppermint & Menthol

In addition to enhancing cognitive focus during your workout, peppermint oil may also help open your lungs or reduce nasal congestion pre-workout (or at any other time you want to breathe better during the day) and has been shown to be helpful in supporting the respiratory system. 22-23  Rats with nasal symptoms were given peppermint leaves and stems and fractions containing luteoin-7-O-rutinoside, a flavonoid, seemed to suppress sneezing of these rodents.

Peppermint oil has been shown to support the immune system and has been studied for in vitro activity of inhibition of unwanted critters. 18-21

If you’re traveling to an area affected by radiation, such as Japan or sections of the Pacific ocean, you may want to bring along some peppermint. Several animal studies have shown positive results using mint for protection against radiation. 24-25 In an in vivo study, mice were given either double distilled water or leaf extract of M. piperita orally for three days. Following their final dose, they were exposed to 8 Gy of gamma radiation. Animals pretreated with the leaf extract of peppermint and exposed to 8.0 Gy gamma radiation exhibited a significant increase in the activities of the powerful antioxidant glutathione.

This led the authors to conclude, “The results of the present investigation suggest the antioxidant and free radical scavenging activities of leaf extract of M. piperita are the likely mechanism of radiation protection.”

But the free radical scavenging and antioxidant benefits of peppermint don’t stop with protecting you from radiation. An in vitro comparison study to assess the phenolic and antioxidant scavenging power of peppermint preparations evaluated the following: light petroleum (PE), dichloromethane (CH2Cl2), acetonitrile (ACN), ethyl acetate (EtOAc), methanol (MeOH), n-butanol and water (H2O) extracts. The EtOAc, ACN and H2O-soluble peppermint extracts demonstrated the most potent iron(III) reductive and hydroxyl free radical scavenging properties. The PE, MeOH and H2O peppermint extracts demonstrated moderate iron(II) chelating activity.

And here’s an FYI for you guys out there: another study on the antioxidant capacity of peppermint is entitled, “Protection against radiation-induced testicular damage in Swiss albino mice by Mentha piperita.” Peppermint also plays a potential role in prostate cell health, with an in vitro trial supporting menthol’s role in modulating prostate cell health via a complex mechanism with the active form of vitamin D. 30

Women: don’t feel left out. A 5 day study with 21 women experiencing hirsutism, which is an abnormal growth of hair on a person’s face and body, especially on a women with Polycystic Ovarian Syndrome (PCOS), demonstrated positive hormonal benefits after ingesting steeped spearmint tea. The women were assigned to consume the tea twice a day during their follicular phase of their menstrual cycle. The authors reported a significant decrease in free testosterone and increase in luteinizing hormone, follicle-stimulating hormone and estradiol with no significant decreases in total testosterone or dehydroepiandrostenedione sulphate (DHEA-S) levels.

There’s a reason peppermint is in your toothpaste or toothpowder too. Peppermint oil may help with dental health, plaque 26 and decreasing dental biofilms.27

Then there’s one of my favorite aspects of peppermint for hard-charging folks who need to think better or want to exercise harder: the cognitive support and smart-drug like benefits. A double-blind, placebo-controlled, randomized cross-over design study with 32 healthy subjects found that a “combination of peppermint oil, eucalyptus oil and ethanol increased cognitive performance and had a muscle-relaxing and mentally relaxing effect…” 28

Another study with 44 participants showed benefits of the aroma of peppermint in relationship to memory tests and alertness.29 In a cross-over study with 133 individuals who were assigned to chew mint or fruit gum, researchers noted that:

“Chewing gum was associated with greater alertness and a more positive mood. Reaction times were quicker in the gum condition, and this effect became bigger as the task became more difficult. Chewing gum also improved selective and sustained attention. Heart rate and cortisol levels were higher when chewing which confirms the alerting effect of chewing gum.”  

Note: stay away from aspartame in gum – I know that this B-Fresh Vitamin B-enriched xylitol peppermint gum brand is the stuff Ben Greenfield chews.

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Can Peppermint Oil Damage Your Gut?

American guts are in trouble and athletes especially can be more prone to issues if they aren’t modulating the excessive inflammation and cortisol that can result from strenuous training. This leads many to reach for quick relief such as acid reflux medication and proton pump inhibitors. According to Medscape, Nexium earned $15,298,228 for its stock holders, giving it fourth place for top pharmaceutical sales during April 2014-May 2015. You know that’s bad news if you read the BenGreenfieldFitness article “Why Kill Your Stomach Acid”.

Due to all the powers of peppermint, you may be wondering about the safety of using peppermint oil for digestion compared to these dangerous heartburn medications. In this article, I discuss the 3 major factors involved in common sense use of peppermint oil and I take a critical look at toxicity reports. The bottom line is this: essential oils have a very safe track record and the herb peppermint, when used as directed, has very few side effects as well.

However, if you are taking medications such as heartburn medications for digestive distress, there is a potential of their interaction with peppermint oil, due to peppermint’s ability to modulate motility of the digestive tract in vitro and in vivo. Drugs that decrease stomach pH, such as H2 blockers or proton pump inhibitors, could potentially cause enteric coated capsules of peppermint to dissolve earlier (the enteric coating is used in capsules to prevent premature absorption in the stomach).

The Natural Standard Database also reports a potential peppermint interaction with medications that metabolize through a specific liver enzymatic pathway. However, this is also more theoretical evidence and has not been demonstrated in humans. 36-38

Ultimately, if you’re avoiding things like heartburn medications, you don’t have anything to worry about when it comes to using peppermint oil for digestion. Hopefully, you’ve been following Ben’s advice about how to naturally heal your gut with diet and supplements and don’t need to worry about this. Rather, you can consider peppermint oil as a potent tool to put in your water in order to enhance your health and support digestive wellness.

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The Exercise-Boosting Power of Peppermint

Peppermint oil has also been studied for its benefits in athletic performance.31-33 One recent study showed an immediate effect of peppermint oil on athletic performance.

The study included 30 healthy male university students randomly divided into an experimental group of oral administration of peppermint oil (50 ul) and a control group. The study aimed to determine if ingestion of peppermint oil modulated physiological parameters and exercise performance after 5 minutes and 1 hour. The authors measured maximum isometric grip force, vertical and long jumps, spirometric parameters, visual and audio reaction times, blood pressure, heart rate, and breathe rate. The results revealed significant improvement in all of the variables following peppermint essential oil consumption. Specifically, the authors reported:

“Experimental group compared with control group showed an incremental and a significant increase in the grip force (36.1%), standing vertical jump (7.0%), and standing long jump (6.4%). Data obtained from the experimental group after five minutes exhibited a significant increase in the forced vital capacity in first second (FVC1)(35.1%), peak inspiratory flow rate (PIF) (66.4%), and peak expiratory flow rate (PEF) (65.1%), whereas after one hour, only PIF shown a significant increase as compare with the baseline and control group. At both times, visual and audio reaction times were significantly decreased. Physiological parameters were also significantly improved after five minutes. A considerable enhancement in the grip force, spirometry, and other parameters were the important findings of this study.”

The researchers explained that the improvements in the spirometric measurements (FVC1, PEF, and PIF) could relate to the effects of peppermint on bronchial smooth muscle.31

Another study examined the response of 12 male students after 10 days of supplementation with peppermint oil (.05ml) in water. The trial supported the effectiveness of peppermint essential oil on the exercise performance, gas analysis, spirometry parameters, blood pressure, and respiratory rate in the young male students. The authors also concluded that, “Relaxation of bronchial smooth muscles, increase in the ventilation and brain oxygen concentration, and decrease in the blood lactate level are the most plausible explanations.” (1 ounce is 2 TBSP or 30 ml) 32

Finally, a third study in 2001 demonstrated that the impact of peppermint odor during exercise in 40 adults improved running speed, hand-grip strength, and number of push-ups verses the non-odor exposed control subjects.33

In another interesting study, menthol’s cooling effect was assessed by evaluating cycling performance in 12 males in a tropical climate. The athletes “drank 190 mL of either aromatized (i.e., with 0.5 mL of menthol (5 gr/L)) or a non-aromatized beverage (neutral temperature: 23°C±0.1°C, cold: 3°C±0.1°C, or ice-slush: 1°C±0.7°C)…” They concluded, “Cold water or ice-slush with menthol aroma seems to be the most effective beverage for endurance exercise in a tropical climate.” 34

Some people ask me for the references behind using peppermint to cool one down when the body is too hot. There is actually some basic science behind this. Specifically, one major active constituent of peppermint is menthol, and menthol directly effects your thermoreceptors via something called “TRPM8”. Think “icy hot!”

Check out the full menthol section of this study if you want to geek out and explore the fascinating world of thermoreceptors. This may explain why some people report a relief in discomfort with peppermint oil application, via the “gate-control theory.” 35

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Summary (a final word from Ben)

I’m grateful that Dr. Lobisco helped me dig into the peppermint research that you’ve discovered above, because mint really is one of my favorite natural compounds that I use every day.

But I don’t overdo peppermint.

I simply use it a few times per day in water, in gum, in my mint-fat bomb, or on my upper lip, but I’m not constantly chomping on peppermint gum, the mint-fat bomb isn’t a nightly ritual and it’s only one bottle of peppermint water that I drink each day. Just like anything (and as referenced in this recent fascinating peppermint/athletic performance video at the NutritionFacts website), you can have too much of a good thing. Frankly, in the case of peppermint, too much of it can lower libido.

So yeah, don’t smear peppermint all over your body on date night.

But if you do want to use peppermint, I’d recommend these thre sources:

Peppermint essential oil

B-Fresh Vitamin B-enriched xylitol peppermint gum

Organic heirloom peppermint seeds for your garden (mint is extremely easy to grow)

And that’s it! Leave your questions, comments and feedback below, and either Dr. Lobisco or I will reply. Happy mint-sniffing.

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References:

  1. Natural Standard Database. Peppermint Oil. (Professional Database-Subscription Required).
  2. Peppermint. University of Maryland Medical Center.Umm.edu.
  3. McKay, D. L. and Blumberg, J. B. A review of the bioactivity and potential health benefits of peppermint tea (Mentha piperita L.). Phytother.Res 2006;20(8):619-633.
  4. M S Alam, P K Roy, A R Miah, S H Mollick, M R Khan, M C Mahmud, S Khatun. Efficacy of Peppermint Oil in Diarrhea Predominant IBS – A Double Blind Randomized Placebo – Controlled Study. Mymensingh Med J. 2013 Jan ;22(1):27-30. PMID: 23416804
  5. Cappello, M Spezzaferro, L Grossi, L Manzoli, L Marzio. Peppermint oil (Mintoil) in the treatment of irritable bowel syndrome: a prospective double blind placebo-controlled randomized trial. Dig Liver Dis. 2007 Jun;39(6):530-6. Epub 2007 Apr 8. PMID: 17420159
  6. H G Grigoleit, P Grigoleit. Peppermint oil in irritable bowel syndrome. Phytomedicine. 2005 Aug;12(8):601-6. PMID: 16121521
  7. R M Kline, J J Kline, Di Palma J, G J Barbero. Enteric-coated, pH-dependent peppermint oil capsules for the treatment of irritable bowel syndrome in children. J Pediatr. 2001 Jan;138(1):125-8. PMID: 11148527
  8. H Liu, G H Chen, H Z Yeh, C K Huang, S K Poon. Enteric-coated peppermint-oil capsules in the treatment of irritable bowel syndrome: a prospective, randomized trial. J Gastroenterol. 1997 Dec;32(6):765-8. PMID: 9430014
  9. Mayo Clinic. Irritable Bowel Syndrome (IBS) Health Center. Irritable Bowel Syndrome. http://www.webmd.com/ibs/features/irritable_bowel_syndrome?page=2
  10. Pimentel M1, Bonorris GG, Chow EJ, Lin HC. Peppermint oil improves the manometric findings in diffuse esophageal spasm. J Clin Gastroenterol. 2001 Jul;33(1):27-31. PMID:11418786
  11. M J Sparks, P O’Sullivan, A A Herrington, S K Morcos. Does peppermint oil relieve spasm during barium enema? Br J Radiol. 1995 Aug;68(812):841-3. PMID: 7551780
  12. T Asao, H Kuwano, M Ide, I Hirayama, J-I Nakamura, K-I Fujita, R Horiuti. Spasmolytic effect of peppermint oil in barium during double-contrast barium enema compared with Buscopan. Clin Radiol. 2003 Apr;58(4):301-5. PMID: 12662951
  13. Masahiko Inamori, Tomoyuki Akiyama, Keiko Akimoto, Koji Fujita, Hirokazu Takahashi, Masato Yoneda, Yasunobu Abe, Kensuke Kubota, Satoru Saito, Norio Ueno, Atsushi Nakajima. Early effects of peppermint oil on gastric emptying: a crossover study using a continuous real-time 13C breath test (BreathID system). J Gastroenterol. 2007 Jul;42(7):539-42. Epub 2007 Jul 25. PMID: 17653649
  14. B May, S Köhler, B Schneider. Efficacy and tolerability of a fixed combination of peppermint oil and caraway oil in patients suffering from functional dyspepsia. Aliment Pharmacol Ther. 2000 Dec;14(12):1671-7. PMID: 11121917
  15. João Guilherme Bezerra Alves, Rita de Cássia Coelho Moraes de Brito, Telma Samila Cavalcanti. Effectiveness of Mentha piperita in the Treatment of Infantile Colic: A Crossover Study. Evid Based Complement Alternat Med. 2012 ;2012:981352. Epub 2012 Jul 12. PMID: 22844342
  16. Anderson, L., Gross, J. (2004). Aromatherapy with peppermint, isopropyl alcohol, or placebo is equally effective in relieving postoperative nausea. Journal of Peri-Anesthesia Nursing, 19, (1), 29-35.
  17. Z Tayarani-Najaran, E Talasaz-Firoozi, R Nasiri, N Jalali, Mk Hassanzadeh. Antiemetic activity of volatile oil from Mentha spicata and Mentha× piperita in chemotherapy-induced nausea and vomiting. Ecancermedicalscience. 2013 ;7:290. Epub 2013 Jan 31. PMID: 23390455
  18. Silke Nolkemper, Jürgen Reichling, Florian C Stintzing, Reinhold Carle, Paul Schnitzler. Antiviral effect of aqueous extracts from species of the Lamiaceae family against Herpes simplex virus type 1 and type 2 in vitro. Planta Med. 2006 Dec;72(15):1378-82. Epub 2006 Nov 7. PMID: 17091431
  19. A Schuhmacher, J Reichling, P Schnitzler. Virucidal effect of peppermint oil on the enveloped viruses herpes simplex virus type 1 and type 2 in vitro. Phytomedicine. 2003;10(6-7):504-10. PMID: 13678235
  20. Liang, R. et al. Physical and Antimicrobial Properties of Peppermint Oil Nanoemulsion. J. Agric. Food Chem., 2012, 60 (30), pp 7548–7555. DOI: 10.1021/jf301129k
  21. Peppermint, cinnamon bark and lavender essential oils may be useful as antibiotic resistance modifying agents. Phytomedicine. 2013. http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/23537749
  22. T Inoue, Y Sugimoto, H Masuda, C Kamei. Effects of peppermint (Mentha piperita L.) extracts on experimental allergic rhinitis in rats. Biol Pharm Bull. 2001 Jan;24(1):92-5. PMID: 11201253
  23. V A Shkurupi?, O A Odintsova, N V Kazarinova, K G Tkrachenko. [Use of essential oil of peppermint (Mentha piperita) in the complex treatment of patients with infiltrative pulmonary tuberculosis]. Virol J. 2009 Jan 20;6:8. PMID: 17128800
  24. Hanaa A Hassan, Hani S Hafez, Mona S Goda. Mentha piperita as a pivotal neuro-protective agent against gamma irradiation induced DNA fragmentation and apoptosis : Mentha extract as a neuroprotective against gamma irradiation. Cytotechnology. 2013 Jan ;65(1):145-56. Epub 2012 Sep 21. PMID: 23011739
  25. Ravindra M Samarth, Meenakshi Samarth. Protection against radiation-induced testicular damage in Swiss albino mice by Mentha piperita (Linn.). Basic Clin Pharmacol Toxicol. 2009 Apr;104(4):329-34. PMID: 19320637
  26. Shojaedin Shayegh, Iraj Rasooli, Massoud Taghizadeh, Shakiba Darvish Alipoor Astaneh. Phytotherapeutic inhibition of supragingival dental plaque. Nat Prod Res. 2008 Mar 20;22(5):428-39. PMID: 18404563
  27. Iraj Rasooli, Shojaedin Shayegh, Massoud Taghizadeh, Shakiba Darvish Alipoor Astaneh. Phytotherapeutic prevention of dental biofilm formation. Phytother Res. 2008 Sep;22(9):1162-7. PMID: 18729251
  28. Göbel H, Schmidt G, Soyka D. Effect of peppermint and eucalyptus oil preparations on neurophysiological and experimental algesimetric headache parameters. Cephalalgia. 1994 Jun;14(3):228-34; discussion 182.
  29. Mark Moss, Steven Hewitt, Lucy Moss, Keith Wesnes. Modulation of cognitive performance and mood by aromas of peppermint and ylang-ylang. Nutr Cancer. 2006;55(1):53-62. PMID: 18041606
  30. Eun-Jung Park, Su-Hwa Kim, Byung-Joo Kim, Sung-Young Kim, Insuk So, Ju-Hong Jeon. Menthol Enhances an Antiproliferative Activity of 1alpha,25-Dihydroxyvitamin D(3) in LNCaP Cells. J Clin Biochem Nutr. 2009 Mar;44(2):125-30. Epub 2009 Feb 28. PMID: 19308266
  31. Meamarbashi A. Instant effects of peppermint essential oil on the physiological parameters and exercise performance. Avicenna Journal of Phytomedicine. 2014;4(1):72-78.
  32. Meamarbashi A, Rajabi A. Journal of the International Society of Sports Nutrition 2013, 10:15  doi:10.1186/1550-2783-10-15
  33. B Raudenbush, N Corley, W Eppich. Journal of Sport & Exercise Psychology. 2001. 23: 156-160.
  34. Riera F, Trong TT, Sinnapah S, Hue O. Physical and Perceptual Cooling with Beverages to Increase Cycle Performance in a Tropical Climate. Hayashi N, ed. PLoS ONE. 2014;9(8):e103718. doi:10.1371/journal.pone.0103718.
  35. Simon J Davies, Louise M Harding, Andrew P Baranowski. A novel treatment of postherpetic neuralgia using peppermint oil. Clin J Pain. 2002 May-Jun;18(3):200-2 PMID: 12048423
  36. Dresser GK1, Wacher V, Wong S, Wong HT, Bailey DG. Evaluation of peppermint oil and ascorbyl palmitate as inhibitors of cytochrome P4503A4 activity in vitro and in vivo. Clin Pharmacol Ther. 2002 Sep;72(3):247-55.
  37. Natural Standard Database. Peppermint Oil. (Professional Database-Subscription Required).
  38. Goerg KJ, Spilker TH. Effect of peppermint oil and caraway oil on gastrointestinal motility in healthy volunteers: a pharmacodynamic study using simultaneous determination of gastric and gall-bladder emptying and orocaecal transit time. Aliment Pharmacol Ther. 2003; 17: 445–451.

 

How To Biohack Your Green Smoothie (And Can High Speed Blenders Really Damage Your Food?)

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Last week, I released the podcast episode with Dr. Richard Aiken entitled “How Blenders Can Destroy Food, Why I Eat 20-25 Servings Of Vegetables Each Day, The Vegan-Paleo Debate & Much More

During the show, Dr. Aiken explained the potentially damaging effects of high-speed blending on food and referenced a recent experiment he performed on bananas.

Today, Dr. Aiken was kind enough to send me the complete results of that experiment, published in their full, scientifically nerdy details below. Enjoy, and leave your questions, comments and feedback below!

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How High Speed Blenders Affect Your Food

There has been some concern as to the effect of high-speed mechanical blending on the nutrient value of fruits and vegetables.  The main concern is that rupture of the cell walls and organelles within the plant cell releases nutrients, but also  vigorously exposes them to atmospheric oxygen with potentially damaging or nutrient deactivating oxidation reactions.

Before jumping into the experiment that I conducted to determine whether this oxidation actually takes place, it’s important to understand exactly how most popular high-speed mechanical blenders work.

There are two primary physical processes that work to mechanically break down the cell wall of plants:

1) shear forces

2) cavitation

Shear forces are created by the high-speed impact of the food with the blender blades.  This includes direct cutting by the blade itself as well as shearing by application of high kinetic energy of the particulate matter moving through surrounding medium and striking other particles and the container.

Cavitation is caused by the Bernoulli effect – the same principle behind air flight – planes and helicopters and why boats can sail faster against the wind than with the wind.  The speed of the blades in fluid cause a decrease in pressure above the blades equal to the vapor pressure of the fluid, similar to boiling. Bubbles form on the blades (assuming a fluid component), are flung away and implode, causing very powerful shockwaves that further break down even the smallest of remaining particles.

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The Importance Of Polyphenoloxidases (PPO)

The enzymes in the class Polyphenoloxidases (PPO) appear to reside in the plastids of all plants and are released when the plastid cell membrane is disrupted. PPO is thought to play an important role in the resistance of plants to microbial and viral infections and to adverse climatic conditions.

Phenolic compounds are responsible for the color of many plants and impart taste and flavor.  They are important antioxidants. In the presence of oxygen from air, the enzyme PPO catalyzes the first steps in the biochemical conversion of phenolics to produce quinones, which undergo further polymerization to yield dark, insoluble polymers referred to as melanin.

This is the same melanin that determines darkness of human skin and hair. In plants, melanin forms barriers and has antimicrobial properties that prevent the spread of infection in plant tissues. Note that enzymatic browning is considered desirable for the color and taste of tea, coffee and chocolate.

There are many phenolic (or polyphenolic) compounds in fruits and vegetables. Epidemiological studies and associated meta-analyses strongly suggest that long term consumption of diets rich in plant polyphenols offer protection against development of cancers, cardiovascular diseases, diabetes, osteoporosis and neurodegenerative diseases [1].

Polyphenols can be divided into many different subcategories, such as anthocyans  and flavonoids. Flavonoids are formed in plants from the aromatic amino acids phenylalanine and tyrosine. Tyrosine also synthesizes DOPA (3,4-dihydroxyphenethylamine) that forms dopamine.

Many plants synthesize dopamine to varying degrees. The highest concentrations have been observed in bananas, levels of 40 to 50 parts per million by weight.

Acidity, temperature, and chemicals can all affect PPO activity. When it comes to acidity, the optimum pH for PPO activity has been shown to be 7 (dopamine substrate). However, the enzyme displays high activity between pH 6.5–7.5 and the activity rapidly decreases at more acidic pH values [2].

Temperature also affects PPO. Heating at 60 degrees for 30 minutes reduces the enzymatic activity by 50%; heating at 90 degrees C completely destroys the enzyme.  The optimum temperature for maximum activity is 30 degrees C (86 degrees F).

Finally, some chemicals affect PPO. It has been shown that complete inhibition of PPO activity is found with as low as 0.8 mM ascorbic acid [3].  Ascorbic acid, also known as vitamin C, acts as an antioxidant because it reduces the initial quinone formed by the enzyme to the original diphenol.

Citric acid also can inhibit PPO activity, although not as strongly as ascorbic acid [4]. Citric acid exists in much greater than trace amounts in a variety of fruits and vegetables, most notably citrus fruits.  Lemons and limes have particularly high concentrations of the acid; it can constitute as much as 8% of the dry weight of these fruits. The concentrations of citric acid in citrus fruits range from 0.005 mol/L for oranges and grapefruits to 0.30 mol/L in lemons and limes [5].

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The Banana Blending Experiment

Organic bananas (PLU-94011) at ripening stage 5 (yellow peel with green tip) were used for this study. Dopamine has been reported as the major natural occurring substrate in banana pulp and the fastest and most important reactant in the production of melanin (darkening) [6]. PPO activity was determined by visualization of browning on a scale 0 – 5, where 5 is darkest noted and 0 is no noted darkening.

Direct blending high-speed one minute

The first trial involved blending three bananas directly in a Vitamix blender, first at slower speeds, then when mixed, at high speeds for 60 seconds. A significant vortex formed.

The results are shown below.

Note this picture was taken within 15 seconds of the end of the blending.  Already a browning is seen.  I will assign a darkness scale of 4 to this, where 5 is the darkest of any of the trials at prolonged time scales.

B first high speed

Blending with water shield low-speed short time

The next trial used two bananas with a water shield (room temperature).  It was attempted to keep the bananas under water during the blending and the vortex was mechanically disturbed. The mixture was blended for about 30 seconds on an intermediate to low setting.

The result, just after blending, is shown below on the left, compared to the first trial, now after about 15 minutes.

B first and second

I shall assign a darkening scale of 2 to this mixture.

After about a half hour, the two trials have the following appearance.

B first and second later

The first trial remains at a score of 4 while the second trial has darkened to a 3.

High-speed blending at cold temperature and with lime juice

The juice of a single lime was added to ice cold water. Lime was chosen as the pH of lime juice is quite low (2.0 – 2.4) and the ascorbic acid content is  high. Bananas were then introduced. The mixture was then blended at high speed for about 60 seconds.  The result, appearing on the far left in the picture below indicates a “0” on the darkness scale.

B all three

The first trial is in the middle and has reached a score of “5”, while trial 2 is a “4” after about an hour and a half.

Further high-speed blending with ice water and lime

The last trial was the same as the third except the mixture was further subjected to an additional 90 seconds of high speed blending (for a total of 150 seconds).  This trial appears second from the left in the picture below.  The third trial has now begun to separate after about a half hour but there is negligible browning.

B all four

Taste and flavor

Trial #1’s taste was bland; also a scum formed on the top of the glass.  Trial #2 tasted much better initially but lost taste with time.

Trials #3 and #4 were far superior – strong banana taste but the citrus was evident and tangy.  This remained the case after several hours.

The browning (oxidation) results are summarized on the table below:

Elapsed time after blending, minutes 0 30 90
Trial type                 Darkening score
1. high-speed blending, 60 sec 4 4 5
2. low-speed blending under water, 20 sec 2 3 4
3. high-speed cold water blending with lime, 60 sec 0 0 1
4. prolonged high-speed blending with lime, 150 sec 0 0 1

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Conclusions & Practical Takeaways

There is a significant amount of oxidation that occurs while blending bananas.  The oxidation reaction is slowed somewhat by blending at slower speeds, but even then significant oxidation occurs. Reduction of the temperature, an increase in acidity and particularly the chemical influence of ascorbic acid apparently stops the catalysis of DOPA (dopamine) by PPO and therefore its oxidation.

Although this experiment was specifically performed on a fruit with the major phenolic component dopamine, the results could probably be extended to other phenolic-containing plants.

So I recommend that to minimize oxidation and damage to plant nutrients that prior to blending your plants (such as you might do when making a green smoothie), that A) you pre-blend and use as your blending “liquid” a cold water solution containing a fruit with a high ascorbic acid content and low pH (e.g. a lemon, orange or lime) B) you then blend your plants in this solution at a high speed and C) don’t worry much about the time spent blending if you use this approach (e.g. not much difference between 60s and 150s in terms of oxidation).

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Final Note From Ben

So, based on this information, am I going to change the way I make my morning big-ass green smoothie (recipe here)?

You betcha.

And it’s quite simple. What I’ll do as the very first step prior to tossing my smoothie materials into my blender is to use that same blender to blend about 4oz of cold water mixed with the juice of 1 lemon or 1 lime. That’s it. Then I’ll go about making my smoothie as usual, and simply use that cold water + lemon/lime blend as my liquid medium for making my smoothie.

And a big thanks to Dr. Richard Aiken for sacrificing his bananas to make us all healthier. Leave your questions and comments below, and let me know if you too plan on altering your smoothie preparation process.

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References

[1] Pandey, K. B., and Rizvi, S. I., (November 2009), Plant polyphenols as dietary antioxidants in human health and disease, Oxid Med Cell Longev 2(5), 270–278.

[2] Chaisakdanugull, C., and Theerakulkait, C. (2009) Partial purification and characterization of banana[Musa (AAA Group) ‘Gros Michel’] polyphenol oxidase, International J of Food Science and Technology 44, 840-846

[3] U ̈ mit U ̈ nal, M. (2007). Properties of polyphenol oxidase from Anamur banana (Musa cavendishii). Food Chemistry, 100, 909–913.

[4] Purification and characterization of polyphenol oxidase from banana (Musa sapientum L.) pulp.

  1. P. Yang, S. Fujita, M. Ashrafuzzaman, N. Nakamura, N. Hayashi

J Agric Food Chem. 2000 July; 48(7): 2732–2735.

[5] Penniston KL, Nakada SY, Holmes RP, Assimos DG; Nakada; Holmes; Assimos (2008). “Quantitative Assessment of Citric Acid in Lemon Juice, Lime Juice, and Commercially-Available Fruit Juice Products” . Journal of Endourology 22 (3): 567–570.

[6] Palmer, J. K. Banana polyphenol oxidase: Preparation and properties. Plant Physiol. 1963, 38, 508-513.

How Gluten-Free Beer Works & How To Get Rid Of The Gluten In Beer Without Making Beer Taste Like Crap.

Omission Beer

Mmm…beer.

I drank crap loads of the stuff in college. And in this case, I literally do mean crap loads because the morning after a night of partaking in frothy, hoppy brew, I could easily decommission any bathroom in sight.

Of course, I always chalked the gas, bloating and other digestive distress that ensued from beer consumption to lack of sleep, a hard night of partying, and possibly the enormous post-midnight pizzas or burritos that I inevitably consumed  after the drinking was done.

But then, post-college, the problems with beer continued, even in the absence of beer-induced debauchery. 

For example, I found that even a normal, sane pint of beer consumed at a backyard barbecue could easily set off heartburn, or a bit of gas, or indigestion, or simply a post-drinking fuzzy head or urge to nap. Sure, a quality microbrew tasted oh-so-good, but still seemed to still set off some kind of gastric or nervous system dysfunction.

So for years, and until quite recently, I simply quit beer. 

And this was frustrating, because, as you learned in the recent podcast in which I discussed “The Effects Of Beer On Hydration“, a cold brew after a hot summer’s workout ranks right up there with burgers, sweet potato fries and watermelon on my summer cravings list.

What exactly is it about beer that can leave you feeling less than stellar, especially in the brain or gut department? You’re about to discover the answer, and you’re also going to learn how gluten-free beer works and why you may want to consider trying gluten-free beer, even if you don’t have full-blown celiac disease or gluten intolerance.

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The Problem With Beer

Let’s start here: in the podcast “8 Scary Beers You Should Stop Drinking Now“, I introduce you to all the hidden assailants in the average cheapo brew, from Pabst Blue Ribbon to Bud Light. In that podcast, you learn about everything from BPA to high fructose corn syrup to GMO ingredients to a host of other hormonal disruptors and potential carcinogens in beer.

So let’s now operate on the assumption that you’ve committed to drinking high quality microbrews made from holistic ingredients without any of the frankenfuel ingredients I discussed in that episode. In other words, you’re turned into a full-fledged beer snob, or at least you like to think that you make the healthy choices when it comes to beer.

But there’s still one glaring and damaging component of beer that even the good stuff contains…

…gluten.

Unless you’ve been hiding under a rock, you probably know by now that gluten can be found in many common cereal grains, such as barley and wheat. Even in small quantities, glutens from barley and wheat (specifically the glycoproteins “hordein” and “gliadin”, which do indeed sound like tiny little fart-inducing demons) can trigger serious gut inflammation in those who suffer from celiac disease, and in people who don’t suffer from celiac disease but are gluten intolerant or gluten sensitive, these same proteins can cause brief bouts of everything from constipation to bloating to brain fog to sleepiness.

Now of course, if you are a savvy, modern, somewhat nutritionally informed beer enthusiast who has read articles like this recent one in the New York Times entitled “The Myth Of Big Bad Gluten“, then you would probably argue the levels of gluten in beer are really only a concern for those with diagnosed celiac disease, and that for the rest of us, gluten intolerance is either all “in our head”, it’s simply following the latest food craze, or that any gut discomfort is not induced not by gluten, but by other issues such as leaky gut syndrome, the consumption of fermented foods that often accompany gluten, or simply excess carbohydrates.

And while I’ll admit that the gluten-free craze is absolutely blown out of proportion, especially with the gluten-free label getting slapped onto everything from water to licorice, if you think that gluten intolerance is really only an issue for those who have celiac disease, you’d be wrong.

For example, Dr. William Davis, author of the book “Wheat Belly” and a previous podcast guest, had this to say in response to the recent New York Times article suggesting that gluten intolerance is all in our heads:

“There are plenty of other components of wheat and grains for which we have no adaptations. What about tolerance to those phytates in the other 90% of people who continue to have iron, zinc, magnesium, and calcium absorption blocked? What about tolerance for the people who are susceptible to the mind and emotional effects of the gliadin protein that cause paranoia in schizophrenics, mania in people with bipolar illness, behavioral outbursts and abbreviated attention spans in kids with ADHD and autistic spectrum disorder, or 24-hour-a-day food obsessions in people with bulimia and binge eating disorder? What about adaptation to the central nervous system damage inflicted by the gliadin protein that is responsible for deterioration of the cerebellum resulting in cerebellar ataxia, or peripheral neuropathy (50% of unexplained peripheral neuropathies have now been associated with wheat gliadin), or temporal lobe calcification that results in “absence” seizures, or the recently described “gluten encephalathy,” i..e, dementia from wheat? How about majority of people who, regardless of number of AMY1 genes, still experience high blood sugars from wheat and grain consumption? How about the direct gastrointestinal toxicity of wheat germ agglutinin and the endocrine disruptive and inflammatory effects it exerts when absorbed in microgram quantities? What about adaptation to common wheat and grain allergies manifested as skin rashes, asthma, and gastrointestinal distress?”

Geez.

Allow me to translate that for you. Basically, what Dr. Davis is saying is that even if gluten doesn’t cause you to blow diarrhea out your butt in the bathroom, and even if it has absolutely no effects on your gut whatsoever, it can still wreak havoc on your nervous system, your brain and your ability to absorb precious vitamins, nutrients and minerals from your food.

Yeah, but how much gluten is actually in beer? Isn’t it only present in trace amounts?

It is certainly true that beers brewed from cereals such as millet, rice, sorghum, buckwheat and corn, all of which do not contain gluten or contain very trace amounts of gluten, do not trigger an autoimmune response in celiacs. In most countries, this technically classifies these type of beers as gluten-free beers.

However, I’m not sure if you’ve partaken of these forms of beer made with non-traditional ingredients, but in my quest to discover some kind of beer that agrees with my tummy and my nervous system I certainly have. I distinctly remember sitting one day outdoors at a pub in the sunshine ordering lunch when my eyes settled upon a seemingly brilliant new addition to the menu: gluten-free beer. Eureka!

I ordered up a bottle, rolled up my sleeves and took a swig. To my dismay, I discovered that, similar to gluten-free bread, gluten-free pasta and gluten-free baked goods, beer not made from traditional ingredients like wheat and barley tastes like…

…liquid cardboard.

And, again similar to other gluten-free foods, the gluten-free beers that actually do taste decent taste that way because they’ve had a bunch of post-fermentation sugars added such as honey and maltodextrin.

No, thank you. 

Of course, when it comes to the more traditional beers made with wheat and barley, the glycoprotein hordein found in barley and the glycoprotein gliadin found in wheat are types of gluten that can absolutely trigger nasty symptoms in sufferers of Celiac disease or in people who are insensitive to gluten.

And while many brewers will even argue that the hordein in barley, and even some of the gluten in wheat, is converted into non-harmful amino acids during the fermentation process, I certainly haven’t found that my gastrointestinal tract or post-beer bathroom experience or fuzzy post-drinking head agrees with that statement. This is likely because the barley hordeins in a barely-based beer may not actually be detected, but smaller pieces of these proteins, known as peptides, can remain and be toxic for celiacs.

Then there are “hybrids” like Corona. According to tests done by the Argentine Coeliac Association (ACELA) and the Swedish National Food Agency, Corona contains less than 20 ppm, making it legally gluten-free (FYI, around the world standards of “gluten free” vary – for example, in the European Union a beer with less than 20 parts per million gluten (20ppm) is “gluten free”, while in Australia only beers with no detectable gluten can be described as gluten free). This is because Corona, like most pale lagers, contains rice or corn in addition to the malted barley. But because it still has barely, it still has the gluten – just less of it. So  if you’re sensitive to gluten or you have Celiac disease, then these type of beers are no good.

Finally, in August of 2013, the U.S. FDA released updated regulations on gluten-free labeling. The FDA maintained the widely accepted global gluten-free standard (set by the CODEX Alimentarius commission in 1978) of less than 20ppm of gluten. But unfortunately, at the time of the ruling, they did not rule on fermented products like beer, and so as a result the “TTB”, which is the organization that governs malt beverage labels and generally follows the FDA, did not adopt any new labeling regulations. Basically this means that even a gluten-free beer may not only taste like crap, but may not even be gluten-free at all.

So for years, I have simply avoided beer. 

But recently, I have once again begun partaking of the occasional frosty brew. My refrigerator is actually now full of gluten-free beer. In the same way that I delved into a healthy alternative to wine in my article “Dark & Dirty Secrets Of The Wine Industry, Four Ways To Make Wine Healthier, and What Kind Of Wine Fit People Should Drink“, I’ve now discovered that there actually is a way to drink gluten-free beer that doesn’t taste like…well, the term I’m about to use below.

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How To Get Rid Of The Gluten In Beer Without Making Beer Taste Like Crap

Yeah, the title of this section kind of sums it up: how do you actually get rid of the gluten in beer without making beer taste like crap, horse piss, cardboard or any of the other affectionate terms often used to describe the taste of gluten-free beer?

To make a gluten-free beer that tastes good, you cannot, as I mentioned earlier, start with bland, tasteless ingredients like tapioca, rice and corn. Instead, you have to begin with the basic ingredients used in the process of creating any great craft beers: malted barley, hops, water, and yeast.

But here’s where things get different. Once the beers are ready for the fermentation tanks, you add a special brewing enzyme that can break apart and detoxify the gluten protein chains. The form of brewing enzyme used by “Omission” the gluten-free brand of beer I’ve been drinking is called Brewer’s Clarex.

Yes, I agree: Brewer’s Clarex sounds like a horrible chemical that you wouldn’t want anywhere near your frosty brew.

But the fact is, it’s just a fancy scientific title given to a natural protease enzyme that I first mentioned back in podcast episode #319, in which I discussed brand new research about a potent gluten-digesting enzyme isolated from a mold called Aspergillus niger. Turns out that this enzyme is sold commercially under the Brewer’s Clarex name by DSM Food Technologies.Brewer’s Clarex is sometimes generically abbreviated “AN-PEP” which is an acronym for “Aspergillis niger prolyl-endoprotease”. OK, now you understand why they call it Clarex? Aspergillis niger prolyl-endoprotease sounds frighteningly complex and unmarketable in comparison.

Anyways, the target of this enzyme’s action is an amino acid called proline.

Why proline? There are several forms of gluten depending on the source grain, including beit wheat, barley, and rye. Some folks also lump oats into the gluten containing grain category. However, no matter which type of gluten-containing grain, each one is extraordinarily rich in proline, and the proline amino acid can be found repeating often and throughout gluten molecules. The way that Brewer’s Clarex works is by breaking one of the two bonds surrounding proline. The end result of cleaving the protein chain is a boatload of small peptide fragments that each have a proline on one end.

Stick with me here.

Imagine a protein as a string of white beads in which each bead is one amino acid. But on that string of white beads, each time a proline appears it shows as a blue bead instead of a white bead. So what you’d see is a very long beaded chain with a blue bead occurring for every small handful of white beads. When treated with Brewer’s Clarex, the single long beaded chain would now be a bunch of much smaller white bead chains that each have a blue bead on the end. So the chain breaks where ever there’s a blue bead.

Brewer’s Clarex was initially developed to combat “beer haze”, which, it turns out, is a result of gluten proteins reacting with other beer constituents to form a precipitate which eventually gets big enough to form what is called a haze particle. That makes foggy, nasty-looking beer. Since the gluten molecule has been rendered into tiny pieces as a result of Brewer’s Clarex action on proline, the other active beer ingredients can no longer bind to proline to make these haze particles.

But beyond disrupting haze locations on the protein to help make beer clear, the fact that Brewer’s Clarex digests gluten into small fragments is of obvious importance for people with gluten sensitivity. Along their length, gluten proteins contain sections of certain specific amino acid sequences that trigger immune reactions in celiacs and anybody else with gluten sensitivity or gluten intolerance.

These toxic peptide sequences in a gluten molecule are referred to as epitopes, and they are the very specific sections of gluten that trigger reactions to gluten. In fact, most of what makes up gluten are inert sequences of amino acids (non-epitopes) that periodically border one of these toxic epitope sequences. But since these epitopes contain proline, they are broken apart by Brewer’s Clarex into smaller pieces, which (chemically speaking) don’t resemble their origins and which behave differently when consumed by a human. Research has shown that epitopes lose their toxicity as a result of being broken apart into fragments.

OK, so going back to our beaded chain concept: let’s imagine an epitope involves red beads and is defined as a repeating, alternating structure of three red and three blue beads bound together (yep, that’s a total of beads) In this case, Brewer’s Clarex would break apart the alternating red and blue sequences at the blue binding points and the six bead structure would no longer exist. So the epitope is gone. Vamoose. Bub-bye. Essentially, the parts do not equal the sum, and the toxicity disappears.

Boom. I shall now remove the propellor hat.

So, has this special enyzmatic treatment been proven to actually work? 

In 2013, Mass Spectrometry research was conducted by an independent lab which validated that the Omission Lager and Pale Ale are totally devoid of any known barley “toxic epitopes”, which are the specific peptide sequences and reactive sites in gluten molecules that cause deleterious reactions in the human small intestine. No epitopes, no nasty epitope poopies. Jackpot.

The beers were also tested using the R5 Competitive ELISA and were found to lack any measurable gluten content.

R5 Competitive ELISA?

Yeah, that’s what I was wondering too.

R5 Competitive ELISA is an internationally validated form of testing for gluten-based peptides that was recognized in 2013 by AACCI and the American Society of Brewing Chemists for testing fermented foods and beverages to determine whether they conform to the required threshold of less than 20mg gluten/kg (that’s the same as 20ppm) in total gluten for gluten-free products. While it is not a routine protocol to test beers with this protocol, Omission beers have also been tested using the A1 Competitive ELISA, the G12 Competitive, and a G12 LFD, all variations of this ELISA test.

None of these three tests were able to quantify any gluten in the beers.

Hooray.

After the special enzymatic treatment, the Omission beers are then packaged in a closed environment to eliminate any cross contamination risk. This is because the beers are brewed at breweries that also brew traditional gluten-containing craft beers. So Omission has to take precautions in the brewing and packaging facilities to ensure that you get a consistent product that meets the 20ppm or lower gluten-free standards. Samples from every batch of beer are tested internally for gluten content before packaging, and then the packaged samples are sent to an external lab for testing before being released from the brewery.

In addition, the Omission beers are the first beers to be packaged after the packaging lines have been thoroughly cleaned and sanitized, and during the packaging process the facility is locked down to prevent any cross contamination. 

So they’re going through some pretty calculated steps here to ensure you don’t mess up your nervous system or decommission any bathrooms.

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Summary

And that, my friends, is why the only beer I’m now drinking is Omission gluten-free beer.

This stuff is brewed by Widmer Brothers Brewing in Portland, Oregon and by the Redhook Brewery in Portsmouth, New Hampshire and really is the first craft beer brand in the United States focused exclusively on brewing great tasting craft beers with traditional beer ingredients specially crafted to remove gluten.

You aren’t going to find Omission beer on tap, but you can use the website FindOmissionBeer.com to hunt down a bottle near you. The reason they don’t package Omission in kegs is to avoid any cross-contamination risks and the possibility of you being accidentally served a pint of beer other than the Omission that you ordered.

But you can always grab a frosty pint glass to accompany your bottle, and then simply close your eyes, take a sip, and pretend it came straight from the tap.

Here’s how they describe their beers (and yes, I’m a crappy beer-describer, so I’m using their exact description rather than my own, which would be something along the lines of “brown, cold, tastes good”).

Lager: Omission Lager is a refreshing and crisp beer, brewed in the traditional lager style. Perfect for a variety of beer drinking occasions, Omission Lager’s aromatic hop profile offers a unique, easy-drinking beer for those looking for a lighter and approachable beer style. 

MALTS: Pale
HOPS: Sterling, Mount Hood, and Hallertau
IBU: 20
ABV: 4.6%

Pale Ale: Bold and hoppy, Omission Pale Ale is a hop-forward American Pale Ale, brewed to showcase the Cascade hop profile. Amber in color, Omission Pale Ale’s floral aroma is complimented by caramel malt body, making for a delicious craft beer.

MALTS: Pale, Caramel, Honey, Dark Munich
HOPS: Cascade
IBU: 33
ABV: 5.8%

IPA: Omission IPA is a bright, hop forward Northwest Style IPA produced in the spirit of the original IPAs shipped from the UK to India in the late 1800’s. The heavy-handed use of Cascade and Summit hops give it notable pine, citrus, and grapefruit aromas and flavors. The bitterness is what you would expect of a NW IPA but this beer is balanced and smooth due to the perfect level of malt sweetness. The finish is crisp, clean, and refreshing – it’s a true IPA lover’s IPA.

MALTS: Pale and Caramel 10°L
HOPS: Summit, and Cascade
IBU: 65
ABV: 6.7%

Is your mouth watering yet?

It likely is, unless you’re my wife, who still hates beer, even with our refrigerator full of Omission. Ah well. More for me.

Finally, in case you were about to ask the big GMO question, Omission beers are not brewed with any genetically modified ingredients. Just malted barley, hops, water and yeast. That’s it. Oh yeah, and it’s in glass, so no BPA-in-your-can issues either.

Bon appetit. Drink up, guilt-free. No beer farts, no beer brain fog, no post beer sleepiness. Check it out at FindOmissionBeer.com.

So, do you have questions, comments or feedback about gluten-free beer? Do you have your own favorite brands of gluten-free beer to add? Have you tried Omission beer? Leave your thoughts below!

Can Exercise Cause Depression?

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Meet Wesley Chapman, pictured above.

He was abandoned at 1 by his father, then at 6 1/2 by his mother. 

He tried to commit suicide 12 times before his 16th birthday.

Wesley was on 25 meds a day for 10 years.

His liver failed at age 16 and he was given a 20% chance to live.

But for the past 19 years, Wesley has been studying health, the brain and alternative methods to failed treatments for depression, and today, we specifically discuss the shocking link between exercise and depression.

-How Wesley detoxed off 25 different medications and healed his liver…

-The little-known link between your colon and your brain…

-How exercise can make you depressed, even if you’re not “overtrained”…

-Why pharmaceutical companies have been writing Wesley angry letters…

-What types of physical activity and exercise can actually make you depressed…

Resources from this episode:

-“The Human Project

Coffee enemas

Body Dysmorphic Disorder

Do you have questions, comments or feedback about whether exercise causes depression? Leave your thoughts below!

Four Scary Facts About Gyms & Why You Should Get Fit Outdoors Instead.

Tireflipping

I’ve recently been exercising outdoors far, far more than I ever have in my life. As a matter of fact, these days I’m in the gym about an average of once every two to three weeks. This stands in pretty stark contrast to the years when I was a bodybuilder, spending 1.5-2 hours in the morning pumping iron at the gym, typically followed by another visit to the gym later in the afternoon or early evening, or the years when I was a personal trainer spending about 5am until 9pm most days at the gym.

So yeah, I’ve been a gym rat before.

And don’t get me wrong: if the only thing that keeps you physically active, exercising, and motivated to train or live healthy is a gym membership and a regular visit to your health club, then that’s far, far better than laying on the couch eating twinkies and watching Game of Thrones.

But at the same time, the reason I’ve personally begun avoiding the gym is not simply because it’s summer and the weather is nice or because I’m training for outdoors, muddy obstacle races. Instead, I’ve become increasingly aware that there are some big problems with gyms and some big benefits to being outdoors that you’re going to discover in this article.

Keep reading, because you’re going to learn about four problems with health clubs, gyms and tight indoor spaces where lots of people are exercising, and you’re also going to learn about the potent fixes that nature can provide. Finally, rather than keep you hanging in desperation about where you’re going to exercise, I’ll also give you plenty of tips to exercise outdoors, no matter where you live.

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Scary Fact #1:  Machines

In my article “How to Use Weightlifting Machines”, I talk about how to use several popular machines at the gym. But rather than taking this as a blatant endorsement by me to use weight machines, I’d rather you consider it as advice for weightlifting beginners who need the guidance of a machine to move through a specific range-of-motion without risk of injury.

Unfortunately, once you’re out of the realm of lifting light weights and doing very basic exercise, machines are not your best bet. Just because an exercise machine is at a gym or health club does not mean it’s safe or designed with proper biomechanics, and while poor form on any machine can turn an otherwise safe move into a risky activity, there are some machines that you should completely avoid, even if you can do them with good form.

In no particular order, the machines you should absolutely avoid at the gym are:

  • Machine Side Raise
  • Machine Abductor (legs out)
  • Machine Adductor (legs in)
  • Cable Pulldowns Behind Your Neck
  • Seated Abdominal Rotation Machine
  • Seated Crunch Machine
  • Smith Machine Presses or Squats

For more details on why I’m not a fan of these machines at all, and to get alternatives to these machines, read my article “Top 7 Exercises To Avoid”.

In my opinion, unless you’re a complete beginner, the only time you should really be using weight machines is for something like a Doug Mcguff Body By Science-esque extremely super slow workout, which I’ll occasionally do if I’m stuck at hotel with no free weights and I want a good resistance training routine. You can learn why I favor this approach in the podcast “Does Weight Training Count As Cardio”.

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Scary Fact #2: Spinning

I used to be a “spin nazi”.

I taught spin classes nearly every day at my local gym, and each class was structured with specific, focused intervals designed to enhance aerobic or anaerobic energy systems, such as 5×5 minutes at tempo pace and RPM of 90 with an increase of heart rate by 3-5 beats for each successive 5 minutes, and 2.5 minute recovery periods; or a ladder of 10 seconds, 20 seconds and 30 seconds at 120RPM with 60 second recoveries after each. Most of the attendees were triathletes, cyclists or athletes, and we didn’t do anything that remotely resembled the dance-class nature of many spin classes these days.

In contrast, the average spin class at a gym involves a high number of squats, hovers, push-ups, gyrations, hip thrusts, and other ridiculous dance moves that are not meant to be performed while pedaling a bicycle. These can not only put your shoulders and knees at a very high risk of injury, but also train energy systems that just aren’t very efficient to train on a bike. In other words, if you want to do push-ups and squats, then get off the bike to do them.

No indoor cycling certification programs condone this type of activity, but these methods are still used by certified instructors at many health clubs. If your spinning class makes you feel as though you can’t simply sit and pedal correctly for more than 15, 30, or even 60 seconds without having to flap your arms like a muppet or jump up and down while singing the chorus to an Abba song set to techno, you should find a new class. Click here to see two shocking videos that show the type of spinning classes to avoid.

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Scary Fact #3: Smoothie Bars

News flash: just because a food is sold at a health club does not mean it’s healthy. The average protein bar contains many unhealthy ingredients, including high fructose corn syrup, fractionated palm kernel oil, artificial sweeteners, wheat, rice, or other refined sugars, and high amounts of gut-wrenching sugar alcohols such as xylitol, sorbitol, and erythritol.

Many of the smoothies prepared and sold at a gym are made from sugar concentrates combined with highly processed protein powders and vegetable oils – and are typically dumped into a 20-24oz cup that can let you suck down 600-1,000 calories in just a few minutes. So a dutiful gym-goer can slave away on a treadmill for an hour, then grab a smoothie on their way out the door that contains nearly twice the calories they actually burned during the workout.

If you need to grab a smoothie, then look for minimal ingredients, such as water, nut butter, protein powder and a banana (as opposed to oodles of fruit concentrate and sugar). If you need a protein bar, choose one with minimal ingredients (such as fruits and nuts), raw nuts and seeds, or hypo-allergenic carbs such rice crisps rather than wheat or soy. And only use these foods as a quick snack to tide you over until you can get a real meal, or to keep you from “bonking” at the gym, and not as a staple or a stand-by in your diet.

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Scary Fact #4: Pollution

OK, this next one is a biggie. I hope you’re sitting down.

Recent studies (a full list is provided at the end of this article) have highlighted the fact that there are concerningly high levels of carcinogens in the air of the average fitness center, as well as significant amounts of harmful bacteria on the surfaces of fitness equipment such as treadmills and weight training machines.

I’ve addressed the problem with air pollution in my article “Is Exercising in Pollution Bad For You?”, and the takeaway message from that article is that, compared to skipping exercise altogether, it’s still better to exercise even if you’re in a polluted area. But at the same time, the CDC, the EPA, and plenty of medical journals have found that exposure to air pollutants in urban areas is linked to higher rates of asthma and abnormal heart rhythms, and increases your risk of death from cardiovascular disease, respiratory diseases, and all causes. What this means is that if you actually do have the choice between, say, exercising in your backyard or a nearby park or forest versus exercising in the gym, you’d be far better off with the former.

And then there’s recent data showing that the indoor air quality in some fitness centers may be just as harmful to health as the air pollutants in urban areas. For example, one study last year in the journal Building and Environment found unacceptably high levels of carbon dioxide, formaldehyde and other volatile organic compounds (VOCs), and particle pollution in multiple indoor fitness centers.

Next, there’s carbon dioxide (CO2). Since expiration releases CO2, its levels significantly rise when there are lots of people huffing and puffing in a room, especially if that room is poorly ventilated. So, the more folks you cram into an indoor space running on treadmills, rowing, riding bikes, lifting weights, and jumping around, the worse the quality of air in that space. This is why I’m a bigger fan of home gyms than commercial gyms, and also a fan of getting in and out of a gym quickly by utilizing a strategy such as High Intensity Interval Training (HIIT).

One study showed the highest levels of CO2 in an interior room used for indoor cycling spin classes. I’m not saying that these CO2 levels are toxic and going to kill you, but they’re not completely harmless either. This is all the more concerning when you consider the fact that most building owners (gyms often lease from building owners) save money by recycling used air instead of heating or cooling fresh air from outside.

And then there’s the issue with mold. My friend Dave Asprey just released a documentary called “Moldy,” about hidden sources of environmental mold that deleteriously affect the health of more than 100 million people worldwide. Indoor mold can be even more damaging than well-known pollutants such as asbestos and lead, and unfortunately, mold is common in gyms, locker rooms, swimming pool areas, and saunas because they are full of bacteria and moist air. These inhaled mold toxins can be just as harmful as mold that you eat from a piece of old food.

I’ve worked at plenty of gyms and health clubs and know for a fact that the cleaning procedures at many, many facilities are less than stellar, and that mold is often ignored or left to hang out for long periods of time (a good test for the cleanliness of your gym is to leave a small piece of chewed gum in a corner, ledge, crack, space, etc., and see how many days it takes to disappear—you’d be shocked!) So, if your gym or the locker room area in your health club is somewhat humid, smells like sweaty socks, or has frequent puddles or pools of water that are there throughout the day, there are likely mold and fungus issues.

Next, there’s the problem with something called “particulate matter” in indoor spaces such as gyms. Particulate matter is a mixture of solid and liquid droplets such as nitrates, sulfates, organic chemicals, metals, and soil or dust, and they can come from rubber mats, metal plates, and dumbbells banging together, and even dead pieces of skin from other people working out (ew!). The problem is that these particles are small enough to pass through your nasal cavities and enter your lungs, especially when you’re breathing hard in an indoor exercise environment.

Unfortunately, over a quarter of the gyms in the study I mentioned earlier exceed the indoor limit for these kind of particles. It is true that HEPA air filters and a good gym cleaning protocol can help out quite a bit in this situation, unless the cleaners are made of toxic chemicals, which can then enter the air and get recirculated. Even school gymnasiums have been found to contain significantly high levels of particulate matter, such as dust, soil, and bacteria that can trigger immune, asthmatic and allergic responses in susceptible children.

Next is the issue of volatile organic compounds (VOCs). Exposure to VOCs in high levels can cause skin irritation, neurotoxicity, and hepatotoxicity (toxicity of the liver). The scary fact is that over eighty percent of the gyms that have been studied exceed the acceptable level of unsafe VOCs, which include compounds such as formaldehyde, fire retardants, acetone, and other substances that off gas from carpeting, furniture, cleaners, paint, among others. Levels of VOCs tend to be higher in gyms with newer equipment, and also in spaces that have been recently cleaned (due to the cleaning chemicals used).

Finally, there are all those synthetic fragrances, colognes, and deodorants that your fellow gym-goers have plastered all over their bodies and that are filling the air around you. I address these type of hormonal and endocrine disruptors in the episode on estrogen dominance, but these can also be a serious issue that, frustratingly, can be out of your control unless you have the courage to ask the woman running on the treadmill next to you to slather on a bit less perfume.

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What To Do Instead Of Hitting The Gym

There’s no doubt that going to the gym is a great way to stay fit and to get motivated. Even if you have a home gym (which I also do), a health club or gym offers a variety of equipment, classes, personal trainers, and people to inspire and teach you that you just won’t be able to replicate at home. Plus, gyms often have perks such as child care, a spa or sauna, personal trainers, contests and competitions, and other helpful ways to help you get fitter faster or stay motivated.

In other words, don’t stop going to the gym if that’s all you’re able to do to get yourself motivated to be fit. And don’t stop going to the gym if a gym is your job (e.g. you’re a personal trainer). But perhaps you could print this article and give it to your gym owner. That’s a thought.

But I’m still convinced that you shouldn’t rely on the gym as an absolute must for your workouts unless you live in a complete urban oasis with absolutely zero access to a park, an outdoors trail or your own backyard or patio. This is because the list of benefits from exercising outdoors dwarfs the benefits of exercising indoors.

For example, in my podcast episode, “Forest Bathing, Sleep Hacking, Cell Phones & Water: The Underground Guide To Lowering Cortisol When Nothing Else Seems To Be Working,” my guest Evan Brand and I discuss the amazing research that shows that something as simple as spending time in the trees, walking in forests, exercising on nature trails, and hiking outdoors exposes you to tiny particles and phytochemicals that plants release, and this in turn helps decrease salivary cortisol, depression, and anger.

Also, in the article “How To Use Cold Weather To Lose Weight“, you learn that stepping outside the constant comfort of air conditioning and heaters, and instead getting frequent exposure to temperature fluctuations such as cold air, snow, rain, sun, heat, and other environmental variables can increase stress resilience, burn more calories, increase cardiovascular performance, and get you more fit quickly.

Now, a new article, “Natural environments, ancestral diets, and microbial ecology: is there a modern “paleo-deficit disorder”?” highlights research from as early as the 1960s, which shows that early-life experience with microbiota and other bacteria found in outdoor situations, along with environmental stress, can actually positively influence longevity and health outcomes. The author recognized the co-evolutionary relationship between microbiota and the human host. The article points out the fact that there is lower health, more anxiety and depression, and increased incidence of immune-related disease in developed nations that have become too sanitized—specifically too sanitized with respect to not being outside around dirt, trees, animals, and other natural areas of “microbial ecology” (which, by the way, is far different than manmade bacteria and synthetic toxins and chemicals in gyms.

In a 2010 Japanese study of shinrin-yoku (defined as “taking in the forest atmosphere, or forest bathing”), researchers found that elements of the environment, such as the odor of wood, the sound of running stream water, and the scenery of the forest, can provide relaxation and reduce stress, and those taking part in the study experienced lower levels of cortisol, a lower pulse rate, and lower blood pressure.

This should all really come as no surprise. Scientists have long known that sunlight can lower depression, especially depression from seasonal affective disorder (SAD). A 2007 study from the University of Essex found that something as simple as a walk in the countryside reduces depression in 71% of participants. These same researchers found that nature therapy, also known as “ecotherapy,” and spending as little as five minutes in a natural setting, whether walking in a park or gardening in the backyard, can improve mood, self-esteem, and motivation.

Other health care professionals are also finding that being in a natural environment has numerous benefits for kids, and can combat the obesity, anxiety, depression, and other health issues that arise with “nature-deficit disorder.” For example, in an article at WebMD, nurse Stacy Bosch of the Clark County School District in Nevada is cited as seeing many students who are overweight or have type-2 diabetes, and she notes that, more often than not, these kids spend very little time outside. To get the kids and their parents away from the TV or computer and increase their physical activity can help control weight and blood sugar, Bosch writes a prescription for the entire family to go to one into nature areas and simply take a walk.

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How to Exercise Outdoors

So now that you know that constantly being indoors in a gym may not be the best thing for your health, and that being outdoors in nature provides you with a myriad of benefits, what are some ways you can start exercising outdoors? Here are a five quick tips:

1. Walk More

Consider walking the kids to school or the bus stop in the morning, hoofing it to pick up a bag of groceries or run errands at lunchtime, and walking the dog or taking a stroll after dinner each evening. Want to step it up a notch? Grab a kettlebell, dumbbell, sandbag, heavy backpack, or other weight and challenge yourself to walk 1, 2, or 3 miles (Just like I have my “Kettlebell Yoga“, I also have my “Kettlebell Walks”)

2. Find A Park

Anytime I’m traveling, I use Google maps “find nearby” function to find the nearest local park where I can go do dips and push-ups on park benches, jog or run on the park trails, do yoga in a quiet grassy area, or even do skips, hops, bounds, and sprints on a wide open section of grass.

3. Build A Backyard Gym

In my article “Strongman Workouts for Fat Loss, Muscle Gain, and Performance,” I give you plenty of backyard and outdoor gym ideas, including:

-Make A Sandbag: I made my sandbag in about 30 minutes by purchasing a couple military duffel bags off Amazon, then putting pea gravel into plastic contractor bags, and putting the gravel-filled plastic bags into the duffel bags. Here are some good sandbag instructions. Or you can buy pre-made sandbags from a website like Onnit.

-Get A Tire: I pulled into my local tire store and asked them if they had any old heavy tires they didn’t need anymore. They gave me four of them for free, and even offered to help toss them into the back of the pickup truck for me! Afterwards, I realized that a true Strongman probably would have put the tires into the truck himself.

-Hunt Down A Tree: Whenever I go on a hike, I make it a goal to find at least one log and carry it for a little while, either overhead or clutched in my arms or on my shoulders. But the past couple times, I’ve taken the heavy logs home so that I have them in my garage for easy access.

-Find A Rock: My nearby river has some nice big rocks that I also took home to my yard. These kind-of-big river rocks are smooth and don’t give you as many scrapes and cuts as some of the rougher varieties.

-Push A Car: Have a manual car or truck, and a driveway or access to a big empty parking lot? Simply put your vehicle into neutral and get ready for the workout of your life.

Want even more? Check out my Cropfit newsletter, in which I talk about how a nineteenth-century farmer would be pushing, pulling, lifting, hoisting, bending, twisting, and moving all day long. While you may not have a farm, and you may not have a desire to build a giant wooden barn, you can certainly inject a little extra fitness in your daily routine with activities such as:

-Going to your local hardware store, buying a rope, attaching it to a tire or cinder block, and practicing dragging an object in your driveway or backyard.

-Planting a small patio garden and going outside (moving!) to water, pick, plant, and care for your plants.

-Going to a park that has a safe and sturdy wooden fence and climbing over fences, under fences, or even balancing on top of fences.

-Finding a heavy river rock and carrying it up or down a hill, or (more practically) building a wall, firepit, gardening area, etc. in your backyard with large rocks.

You get the idea. Last tip? Listen to my podcast interview with Zach Even-Esh, where he talks about even more “underground” ways to get fit outside without using standard gym equipment.

4. Hike

Hiking is also a great sport to do with friends or family, since it generally allows you to talk and explore while you’re doing it. With a little research about your local area, you can often find short hikes that offer good scenery without too much difficulty or special equipment. More difficult hikes with weight packs, boulder scaling, elevation training masks and even stops to do burpees or to carry heavy rocks or logs can provide you with an extreme fitness challenge that’s just as tough as any intense class you might take at a gym.

5. Find Water

From swimming to kayaking and canoeing to paddleboarding, swimming in rivers, lakes, or the ocean gives you the benefits of cold thermogenesis, a non-weight bearing form of exercise, and exposure to even more elements of nature – without all the chlorine and mold issues I talked about earlier. You can easily combine workouts that involve sprints, burpees, push-ups, mountain climbers, lunges, and squats can easily with forays into the water for freestyle and underwater swimming.

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Summary

Again, I must emphasize that if all you have access to is a gym, then that’s usually better than nothing.

But it’s very, very rare that I run into a situation where I simply can’t get fit unless I enter the hallowed doors of a health club. The world and the great outdoors can be your gym, and your natural movement skills will progress by leaps and bounds once you realize this.

I encourage you to figure out how you can hack your environment to make that switch happen, and to leave your comments, questions and feedback below!

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References

http://www.epa.gov/airnow/2014conference/Plenary/Monday/Boehmer_NAQC_2014_final2.pdf

http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/25712593

http://www.nejm.org/doi/full/10.1056/NEJM200012143432401#t=abstract

http://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/S0360132314002856

http://toxtown.nlm.nih.gov/text_version/chemicals.php?id=31

http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/21457336

http://www.epa.gov/pm/

http://www.epa.gov/iaq/voc2.html

http://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/S0360132314002856?np=y

http://ibe.sagepub.com/content/12/6/427.full.pdf+html

http://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/S0013935111000934

The Nitty-Gritty Underground World of Supplement Ingredients, Sports Nutrition Frankenfuels, Illegally Laced Compounds & More.

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My guest in today’s podcast, Shawn Wells, MPH, RD, CISSN, has probably forgotten more about supplements than most people will ever know. His brain contains an extremely unique blend of time spent in the science trenches and a formal education in the fields of performance nutrition and supplementation.

Shawn attended UNC-Chapel Hill, earning a Master’s degree in Nutrition and minor in Exercise Science. His education also includes credentials of Registered Dietitian, Certified Sport Nutritionist (CISSN), and board member of the ISSN. His role as CEO of Zone Halo Research, a consulting group for supplement formulations, and CSO of Biotrust, along with extensive experience in formulating supplements for big companies (likely some of the ones you’ve tried in the past few years) distinguish him as an expert in sports nutrition and supplementation.

If you’re into supplements, you will love this interview with Shawn Wells. We discuss:

-How Shawn went from being a practicing Chief Clinical Dietitian to being in the thick of the supplement industry, and some of the most helpful books he read along the way…

-The most important factors that differentiate a high-quality supplement manufacturer from a low-quality one…

-The deceptive practice of “fairy-dusting” and why many, many supplement manufacturers do it…

-How to know if taking different supplements together (e.g. stacking) can be dangerous, or on the flipside, more efficacious than taking one at a time…

-Why a supplement can rapidly degrade as soon as you put it into your refrigerator or pantry…

-Why everything from solubility to flavor additives can make or break the absorption and efficacy of supplements like whey protein…

-Why you could be getting 600mg of caffeine (6 cups of coffee!) in an average “energy” supplement that says it only has 100mg…

-The surprising development that Shawn things is the next big thing in the world of supplements and nutrition…

-And much more!

Resources we discuss during this episode:

-Book “Optimum Sports Nutrition by Dr. Michael Colgan

-Book “The Four Agreements

The Examine Research Digest

Behind The Scenes Of How A Supplement Is Made

My podcast interview with the folks at LabDoor “The Crazy, True & Scary Facts About The Supplements Industry”

BioTrust supplements

Do you have questions, comments or feedback about how to know supplement ingredients or anything else Shawn and I discuss? Leave your thoughts below.

How to Make Your Own Smart Drugs, Natural Nootropic Stacks, My Brain-Enhancing Compounds of Choice & Much More!.

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The word “nootropic” or “smart drug” (yeah, there’s a slight difference between the two, as I discuss in this podcast) is quickly becoming a household name, especially due to all the recent media hype and interviews that have disclosed how popular smart drugs are among Silicon Valley CEOs and college students.

That, along with the smart drug movies “Limitless” and “Lucy“.

Although you can easily purchase synthesized smart drug and nootropic supplements from a variety of online retailers, I also think it’s a bit intriguing to consider the possibility of creating your own perfect blend of smart drugs customized to you.

But unless you’re a redneck living in a trailer park and you’re comfortable blowing up your home (or you’re willing to go to the extent that I do in my How To Make Your Own Smart Drugs video) it may not be quite safe to try to synthesize piracetam blends or any of the other commonplace smart drugs in your kitchen. However, when it comes to natural nootropic herbs, it’s a different story, and you can certainly take steps to blend up some of the naturally occurring nootropics that offer similar benefits.

In addition, with what you’re about to learn, you can also stack a variety of different smart drug and nootropic supplements together to achieve some pretty cool results. Happy blendin’.

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Synthetic vs. Natural Nootropics

There are numerous synthetic smart drugs that are utilized nowadays by people from all walks of life, from CEO’s to soccer moms. For example, Piracetam was one of the first lab created compounds specifically designed to enhance cognitive performance, and although it is a synthesized chemical (with chemical name 2-oxo-1-pyrrolidine acetamide) it is generally regarded as being safe. The vast majority of people can take this supplement without needing to worry about suffering from any major side effects. However, there are also many notable natural and herbal nootropics (listed below), and some of them offer benefits that are similar to the synthetic, lab created options, which is good news if you want to completely steer clear of chemicals.

Or you can have the best of both worlds. The reality is that you can mix and match a blend of herbal, natural or synthetic nootropics to help yourself with a long list of goals, ranging from memory improvement to a reduction in anxiety. And if you don’t have the time or you’re not comfortable making your own smart drug stack out of synthesized or natural supplements in bulk powder form, you can still easily find enough alternatives in this article to reap the rewards associated with nootropics and smart drugs.

Finally, like I mentioned earlier, if you’re still confused about the difference between a smart drug and a nootropic, listen to this.

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Notable Natural and Herbal Nootropics

Before you can begin putting together the perfect stack to fit your needs, you should be aware of which natural options are available. It is also important to learn about the scientific research that verifies their cognitive enhancing properties. So I’ve compiled a list of some of the most popular choices that you see popping up as ingredients or featured components of most popular smart drugs stacks these days:

1. Huperzine-A

Many people classify Huperzine-A as a natural nootropic because it is derived from the Chinese club moss plant. There is some laboratory manipulation that takes places during the creation of this nootropic, but it appears to be extremely beneficial because the final result is a highly purified substance. Medical studies have concluded that Huperzine-A has minimal to no side effects and no toxicity, which makes it generally regarded as safe for human consumption. Research has also determined that this supplement can provide significant memory improvements in Alzheimer’s and vascular dementia patients. There are also generous amounts in the adaptogenic herb complex TianChi.

2. Bacopa Monnieri

Bacopa Monnieri is an extract from the Brahmi plant. According to WebMD, Bacopa is used for a wide variety of purposes, including as a supplemental Alzheimer’s treatment and way to reduce anxiety. Evidence suggests that this natural nootropic is effective at improving memory and hand-eye coordination. There have also been some studies that link Bacopa with a reduction in anxiety, insomnia and concentration issues. In one study, 300 mg was given daily to participants for 12 weeks and there were reported improvements in thinking ability and memory.

3. Lion’s Mane

This edible mushroom can be found in gourmet food stores, and it is also available in a supplement version. Just like many other mushrooms, Lion’s Mane is believed to offer benefits that go beyond nutrition. In fact, there have been several studies conducted in an attempt to discover Lion’s Mane’s full potential, and the results are very promising. For example, 750 mg daily gave test subjects a significant boost in their cognitive functionality. A small clinical study showcased the possibility that this nootropic can offer reduced anxiety and depression. I also discuss the potent Lion’s Mane dual extracted mushroom tea in my podcast with foursigmafoods.

4. Ginkgo Biloba

Leaves from the Ginkgo Biloba tree have been used in Chinese medicine for thousands of years. The Mayo Clinic did an analysis of each of the medical purposes that this nootropic is used for, and they determined that there is a good amount of scientific evidence to suggest that Ginkgo Biloba is useful for improving cognitive performance and reducing anxiety.

5. Artichoke Extract

This supplement is made from the leaves of artichokes. There is a lot of evidence that strongly suggests artichoke extract supplements offer neural antioxidant properties. Additionally, several nootropic user reviews have mentioned enhanced memory in relation to taking this product. Tim Ferriss talked about this one a bit in my most recent podcast with him, particularly referencing it’s presence in “CILTEP“.

6. Tryptophan

You are probably most familiar with this essential amino acid because it is in turkey and people (erroneously) believe that it makes them sleepy. However, tryptophan is also available in pill format, and it is most commonly taken as a non-prescription aid for depression. Tryptophan works by increasing the amount of serotonin in your brain. When used for this purpose, it is typically taken three to four times per day for a total of eight to 12 grams. Additionally, there has been at least one study that links this natural nootropic to a reduction in memory deficits.

7. L-Theanine

Theanine is found naturally in green tea, and it is an amino acid. When taken as a supplement, L-Theanine is believed to offer a reduction in anxiety symptoms. Studies also suggest that drinking green tea or taking L-Theanine in a pill format can help reduce neurodegeneration. Many nootropic enthusiasts stack caffeine and L-Theanine because of reported benefits such as enhanced attention and cognition without the issues that often accompany large quantities of caffeine. One example of a combo like this is the “pink powder packet” delta-E.

8. CBD

Due to their properties that help protect nerve cells, especially brain cells, cannabinoids, specifically the cannabidiols derived from CBD that I first introduced in my article “A 100% Legal Way To Get All The Benefits Of Weed Without Actually Smoking Weed”, plays a key role in slowing and preventing the damage to the human brain found in Alzheimer ’s disease, as well as other forms of dementia, depression and neurodegeneration.

Components of CBD can inhibit the enzyme acetylcholinesterase, a substance that plays a key role in inducing β amyloid plaques that form in the brain to cause Alzheimer’s and dementia. And finally, if you do happen to smoke weed and you’re concerned about the potential memory-damaging effects of THC, then it’s important to know that CBD can counteract these effects, especially when taken in conjunction with marijuana.

This list is by no means complete, but it offers a good overview of the natural options that are generally considered “go-to” ingredients in most modern smart drug and nootropic compounds. When you consider all of the cognitive benefits that have been scientifically linked to each of the previously listed nootropics, it becomes easy to see how you can potentially build your own stack without necessarily spending money on pills and packaging (note that most synthetic nootropics are generally regarded as safe, so choosing to stick with natural options may simply be a personal preference or N=1 experiment, and is not something I’m influenced to recommend because of any serious safety concerns I’ve seen in research).

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Two Natural Nootropic Stacks

The purpose of stacking compounds is to “stack” together a variety of ingredients to get the best possible synergistic combination of each supplement’s purported benefits.

For example, one of the most popular stacks of smart drugs is a blend of Piracetam, Aniracetam and Oxiracetam, all of which you can purchase in bulk powder form here. This is also known as the “PAO” stack, and the approximate ratios for suggested doses are a 2:1:1 ratio of 1500 mg Piracetam with 750mg Aniracetam and 750mg Oxiracetam. These synthesized compounds are well-known to help improve multiple cognitive functions, and by taking them together you can enhance the overall cognitive boost compared to taking just one. I discuss stacks like this in detail in the podcast episode “What Are The Best Brain Supplements And Smart Drugs To Shut Down Brain Inflammation And Make You Smarter?” with Steven Fowkes.

But if you want to steer clear of lab derived compounds, you can take the same approach with nootropics instead of smart drugs by simply stacking with natural and herbal supplements instead of chemicals. In fact, one of the most popular “beginner” stacks utilizes two natural nootropics: caffeine and L-Theanine. Let’s take a closer look at this stack, along with another natural nootropic option that can offer a nice blend of cognitive benefits.

1. L-Theanine & Caffeine Stack

L-Theanine and caffeine have been shown during medical testing to boost concentration and energy while also reducing anxiety symptoms. Caffeine can be very potent in high quantities, but it also often leads to headaches and jitteriness. Many people find that adding L-Theanine to a caffeine mix reduces or completely removes these negative side effects.

For these purposes, a good ratio is four parts L-Theanine to one part caffeine. For example, one of the most common dosage amounts is 400 mg of L-Theanine stacked with 100 mg of caffeine. However, you may want to start off with a lower dose to test things out, such as 50 mg of caffeine and 200 mg of L-Theanine, and then work your way up from there. The company Natural Stacks makes a stack of caffeine and L-Theanine in a good ratio, and call it “Smart Caffeine”. That or the pink powder “deltaE” are two good, done-for-you options in this category, unless you opt to buy bulk from a company like Peak Nootropics and make your own.

2. Ginkgo Biloba, Bacopa Monnieri & Lion’s Mane Stack

If you are looking for a natural stack that is reported to boost focus, memory and learning, then you can turn to the combination of Lion’s Mane, Bacopa Monnieri and Ginkgo Biloba to help you achieve the desired results. The studies I listed earlier point out that these supplements offer a nice mixture of nootropic effects, including better cognitive performance and relief from some of the symptoms associated with anxiety and depression.

Reviews about this stack indicate that it can boost alertness for approximately six hours at a time. However, it is important to be aware of the fact that users have reported a delay of up to 12 weeks before this stack reaches its full potential. In other words, this is not a natural nootropic stack that is likely to provide you with “instant results”.

As with any other stack, you need to be cognizant of your stacking choices. After all, putting together the same dosage of each component that you would take individually is not typically a wise choice due to the way that each supplement blends together. For this stack, most folks use the following daily combination, and you can find most of this stuff in bulk on Amazon.

After 12 weeks, if you are not experiencing positive results, you may need to adjust the dosages in your stack. Start with small increments such as increasing each dose of the Bacopa Monnieri to 150 mg. This is a game of patience, as these increases could take an additional 12 weeks to achieve optimal results.

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Three Stacks That Come In Pre-Packaged Formats

It is not always necessary to purchase each component of your stack separately. Instead, you can turn to combination pills that take out all of the guesswork. One of the biggest perks associated with these natural smart drugs is the fact that you will not need to portion out the specific dosage of each supplement in your stack. It can also be more cost-effective to take advantage of this format.

1. CILTEP

When it comes to natural stacking, CILTEP is by far one of the most frequently utilized and discussed options. Originally created in 2012 by a nootropic and neurochemistry enthusiast, this blend’s popularity quickly soared after users, including Tim Ferriss, began reporting positive results. All of the ingredients in the CILTEP pill are natural, so people who wish to steer clear of synthesized products can easily do so. The main base ingredients for this particular supplement is artichoke extracts and forskolin.

Each CILTEP pill also contains vitamin B6, L-phenylalanine and acetyl-L-carnitine. The creators recommend two to three capsules at the beginning of each day. It has been suggested that skipping one to two days per week will offer better results. Although CILTEP itself has not undergone medical testing, the individual ingredients have all been proven to be beneficial for the human body and brain. Therefore, it is not surprising that CILTEP has found a big audience. In fact, one of the biggest proponents of this natural nootropic blend is Martin Jacobson, who reportedly utilized CILTEP while becoming the 2014 World Series of Poker Champion.

I interview CILTEP creator Roy Krebs in this podcast episode.

2. Alpha Brain

This combination product is touted as containing all earth-grown ingredients, which earns it a spot on the natural stack list. Just like CILTEP, Alpha Brain (created by the company Onnit) combines all of the components for you into a single pill for easier usage. According to a clinical trial that was conducted by the Boston Center for Memory, this product has demonstrated a notable increase in cognitive performance for healthy individuals.

Alpha Brain contains Alpha GPC, AC-11, Bacopa Monniera and Huperzine-A. Medical testing has shown that Alpha GPC has the potential to boost the memory and learning capacity of users. AC-11 is derived from a rainforest herb, and studies have found that it may be able to help people in a variety of ways such as slowing the growth of cell cancers due to its reported DNA repairing antioxidant properties.

Reviews of Alpha Brain suggest taking two to three capsules per day. It has also been pointed out that this supplement appears to work best if you keep taking it daily for at least two weeks. Most people indicated that the effects associated with Alpha Brain become more pronounced over time, so you need to let this nootropic blend build up in your system for a while before you judge its overall effectiveness.

3. TianChi

The list of herbs and ingredients in TianChi are way to long to list here, but you can read them in full detail here. I also snapped this photo below of the box in my refrigerator:

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I think “Huperzine” supplements have been flying off the shelves since Tim Ferriss mentioned them in his popular “Four Hour Body” book. Huperzine is an “acetylcholinesterase inhibitor”, which means you get more of the neurotransmitter acetylcholine rushing around in your brain. You call these type of compounds “cholinomimetics“.

Acetylcholine is a very important neurotransmitter that is found in many nootropics, and the foundation of several smart drugs is to simply halt breakdown of acetylcholine, or maximize production of acetylcholine (also known as aceytlcholine agonists).

Studies have shown that Huperzine supplementation has neuroprotective effects and enhances cognitive function in animals and humans, but what most people don’t know is that there are natural herbal sources of Huperzine. For example, in Chinese herbal medicine, an herb called “Club Moss” is used slow progression of Alzheimer’s. Guess what the active ingredient in Club Moss is? That’s right – Huperzine, and it’s one of the primary active ingredients, along with over 30 other ingredients, in TianChi.

Every herb used in TianChi is far more pure and potent than typical old, ineffective and often dangerous or nasty-ingredient laced nootropic herbs on the market. Very few products contain 100% whole herb extracts. On average the herbal extracts are at least 10:1 yields, meaning it takes 10 pounds of raw herb to produce 1 pound of pure extract. Most manufacturers start with pure yield and cut them to concentrations of 4:1 or 5:1 by adding filler. This produces a cheaper, but less effective extract. Imagine buying a 5:1 extract that originally was 45:1.

In contrast, the herbal extracts used in TianChi yield 12:1 or greater, and there is even one herb in TianChi that is a 45:1 yield. In other words, you would have to take 9x as much herb from any other source to equal the potency in TianChi. And you would be getting mostly filler, harmful ingredients, and very few results. All of the herbs in TianChi are Non-GMO, Kosher Certified and non-irradiated. They are extracted in purified water and test free of heavy metals, and the creator, a Chinese herbolist based out of Oregon state, use only wild crafted herbs, which are herbs found in their natural state, free from pesticides and exposure to pollution.

I interview TianChi creator and Chinese herbologist Roger Drummer in this podcast episode. The stuff has trace amounts of fructose in it, so I recommend taking it on an empty stomach in the mid-morning. Strangely enough, I’ve found it’s effects to be even more enhanced with consuming with a beet juice or beet powder, probably due to the vasodilation effect of the beets.

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Tips For Making Your Own Stack

Natural and synthetic stacks that have been used frequently by other people are a good way to get started because you can rely on a lot of data to determine which option is best for you. However, you can also make your own perfect smart drug stack by studying the research associated with each natural supplement and experimenting with multiple blends. For example, during my podcast episode with Roy Krebs, the creator of CILTEP, he describes how took a close look at the various components he chose and made sure to select nootropics that were likely to blend well together.

You will also want to carefully consider what your exact needs are. After all, if you want to reduce feelings of anxiety and depression but do not necessarily care about enhancing your cognitive performance, you may wish to stick with a single nootropic that affects dopamine product, such as tryptophan or dopamine brain food. Or you could add Bacopa Monnieri to either of these if you also wanted to improve your memory. Then, for longer term cognitive performance that lasts the whole day, you could add Piracetam, and if you begin experiencing headaches, which is often due to choline depletion during the use of a racetam, you could add Alpha-GPC to this stack.

As you can see, the sky’s the limit, and you can chose based on your specific needs exactly how you are going to stack a nootropic combo, a smart drug combo, or both.

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Choosing the Best Options for Your Lifestyle

You can easily purchase bulk synthetic, natural and herbal nootropics online. The powder option will save you money in most cases, but it can be more difficult to work with because each dose will need to be weighed out.

The stacks that are blended into one pill could be built by acquiring each individual ingredient. This will give you more control over exactly how much of each component you take, but it will also be a much more labor-intensive and time-consuming process. In my opinion, the convenience and time-saving factor of taking a single pill or packet generally outweighs the potential benefits of perfecting a stack. However, if you are committed to making your own smart drugs, it probably makes the most sense to invest in each ingredient so that you can stack according to your own specific needs.

If you go this DIY route, you’ll primarily need:

A) bulk nootropics and smart drug ingredients;

B) a digital kitchen scale and / or digital spoon scale;

C) capsules and an encapsulation machine

Be aware that even natural, herbal products can cause some side effects. Most of the issues that are experienced with natural nootropics are mild and not very common. Synthetic smart drug supplements usually have more noticeable side effects, but many of these side effects can be alleviated by putting the right stacks together. This is, for example, the primary reason that people add choline to a racetam stack.

Finally don’t forget that some nootropics minimize the effect of the other pills that they are stacked with. A good example is that L-Theanine can remove the negative aspects of caffeine, but it may also give you a reduction in the overall anticipated energy boost as a result. This is yet another compelling reason to study the effects that each component has on the human body and experiment with multiple supplements to find your perfect smart drug stack.

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Summary

Ultimately, the burning question I get most often is:

What do YOU use Ben?”

To be honest, I fluctuate. I’ve used everything you just read about, from CILTEP to Alpha Brain to TianChi to mushroom extracts, and also made my own blends of L-theanine and caffeine and blends of piracetam, aniracetam and Alpha-GPC.

Currently, when I travel, which is quite often, I tend to take something that is easily portable, and it’s usually capsules of CILTEP or Alpha-Brain. I do not rely regularly on these, but I do use prior to speaking on stage or heavy bouts of writing.

And when I’m at home, I tend to stick to a big cup of mold-free black coffee early in the morning, TianChi in the mid-morning on any very cognitively demanding or sleep deprived days, and mushroom blends like FourSigma Lion’s Mane in the afternoon. In the evening, it’s usually cannabidiol via NatureCBD for relaxation, and occasionally when I’m playing music, at a party, or writing THC/CBD combinations either vaporized or in edible form. To maintain my sensitivity and avoid building up any tolerances, I switch to decaf coffee 1 week out of every 3 weeks, and also completely cut out any smart drugs, nootropics or cannabis-based products 1 week out of every 3 weeks.

And finally, just prior to releasing this article, I experimented twice with the following stack: 3 capsules of Alpha-Brain and 2 capsules of NatureCBD. Both times I used this stack I was short on sleep (operation on about 5 hours of sleep) and both times I was as productive as a madman from about 5am to 1pm. I then fell asleep both times for about 1 hour, then woke up in a pile of my own drool, feeling incredibly refreshed and like a new man. So at this point, although I can’ t say I’d recommend this stack unless you have the option of a nap, it is probably the most powerful blend I’ve experienced yet.

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So that’s it! I hope that was helpful. If you enjoyed this article, you may want to check out two chapters that formed important elements of the mental section my Beyond Training book:

How To Fix Your Brain, Part 1

How To Fix Your Brain, Part 2

And be sure to leave your questions, comments, feedback, preferred smart drug stacks, tips and other thoughts below!

The Blood Test Your Doctor Won’t Order…

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I get dozens of calls, podcast questions, and emails each week from people who ask things like…

“How can I optimize my health and longevity?”
 
“How can I live a long time and feel good doing it?”
 
“What supplements should I take for peak performance?”
 
“What should my ideal diet look like?”

Honestly, without any data about you, I have no idea.

This is because unless you know what your blood looks like under a microscope, there is no way for you to identify with 100% confidence what steps you should take to eat the right diet, to take the right supplements, to protect your health, to enhance your well-being, to perform at peak capacity, and perhaps most importantly, to live as long as possible with as high a quality of life as possible.

But sadly, most annual medical check-ups that the average physician orders are simply routine, old-school blood tests that don’t even test for the most important markers of disease risk, and that are simply designed to make sure you’re “not dying”. They aren’t designed to optimize longevity or to ensure your body is completely primed to perform at peak capacity. 

However, what most people don’t realize is that you can skip your physician and simply manage the entire process for getting your blood work done yourself.And if you want to test absolutely every little thing that affects your organs, your energy, your hormones, your health and your longevity, then you should definitely keep reading.

Working closely with WellnessFX, America’s top laboratory for concierge blood testing and online access to all your blood testing results, I’ve developed the”Greenfield Longevity Blood Testing Package”, which is the most complete blood testing package that money can buy.

When you click on the link above, you’ll see that there’s one package I specifically designed for men, and one for women. Here’s an example of what the men’s longevity panel covers:

  • 25-Hydroxy-Vitamin D
  • Apolipoprotein A-1
  • Apolipoprotein B
  • Blood Lead
  • Blood Mercury
  • Cardio IQ Lipoprotein Fractionation, Ion Mobility
  • Complete Blood Count w/ differential
  • Complete Metabolic Panel
  • Copper
  • Cortisol
  • Dehydroepiandrosterone Sulfate
  • Ferritin, serum
  • Fibrinogen
  • Folate
  • Free Fatty Acids
  • Hemoglobin A1c
  • Homocysteine
  • High-sensitivity C-reactive protein
  • IGF-1 (Growth hormone surrogate)
  • Insulin
  • Iron, TIBC
  • Lipid Panel
  • Lipoprotein (a)
  • Lipoprotein-associated Phospholipase A2
  • Luteininzing Hormone
  • Omega 3 Fatty Acids
  • RBC Magnesium
  • Reverse T-3
  • Selenium
  • SHBG (sex hormone binding globulin)
  • T-3 Total
  • T-3 Uptake
  • T-4 (Thyroxine)
  • T-3 Free
  • T-4 Free
  • Testosterone + Free Testosterone
  • Thiamine
  • Thyroglobulin Antibodies
  • Thyroid Peroxidase AB
  • TSH
  • Uric Acid
  • Vitamin A
  • Vitamin B12
  • Zinc
  • Estradiol

And the women’s longevity panel includes:

  • 25-Hydroxy-Vitamin D
  • Apolipoprotein A-1
  • Apolipoprotein B
  • Blood Lead
  • Blood Mercury
  • Cardio IQ Lipoprotein Fractionation, Ion Mobility
  • Complete Blood Count w/ differential
  • Complete Metabolic Panel
  • Copper
  • Cortisol
  • Dehydroepiandrosterone Sulfate
  • Ferritin, serum
  • Fibrinogen
  • Folate
  • Free Fatty Acids
  • Hemoglobin A1c
  • Homocysteine
  • High-sensitivity C-reactive protein
  • IGF-1 (Growth hormone surrogate)
  • Insulin
  • Iron, TIBC
  • Lipid Panel
  • Lipoprotein (a)
  • Lipoprotein-associated Phospholipase A2
  • Luteininzing Hormone
  • Omega 3 Fatty Acids
  • RBC Magnesium
  • Reverse T-3
  • Selenium
  • SHBG (sex hormone binding globulin)
  • T-3 Total
  • T-3 Uptake
  • T-4 (Thyroxine)
  • T-3 Free
  • T-4 Free
  • Testosterone + Free Testosterone
  • Thiamine
  • Thyroglobulin Antibodies
  • Thyroid Peroxidase AB
  • TSH
  • Uric Acid
  • Vitamin A
  • Vitamin B12
  • Zinc
  • Estradiol
  • Progesterone
  • Follicle Stimulating Hormone

As you can see, this is by far the most comprehensive blood testing package that exists, and I created it for the health enthusiast, biohacker and anti-aging individual who wants access to the same type of executive health panel and screening that would normally cost tens of thousands of dollars at a longevity institute.

You can check out the new longevity blood panel here. If you have questions, simply leave your comment below and I’ll be happy to help.