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

mark sisson

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

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

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

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

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

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

-Mark’s history as a pro triathlete…

-Why endurance athletes can actually get fat from training…

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

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

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

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

-And much more…

Resources for this episode:

Primal Mayonnaise

Focal Upright desk

Mark’s recent podcast with Joe Rogan

DNAFit genetic testing

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

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


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

meghan itunes

I get diet books in the mail all the time.

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

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

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

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

If you find yourself constantly caught up in new diets…

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

-And much more!

Resources from this episode:

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

-Another book Ben mentions: Reclaiming Conversation

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

A Rant About Supplements.

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

The Dark Side Of Coconut Oil: A Cautionary Tale For Coconut Oil Extremists.


In last week’s article “Four New, Cutting-Edge Ways To Easily Shift Your Body Into Fat-Burning Mode & Ketosis“, I finished with a somewhat mysterious word of caution to those who consume oodles of coconut oil (or MCT oil, for that matter).

Mystery, begone. 

In today’s article, myself and my friend Alyssa Siefert, PhD (a Biomedical Engineering Instructor/Researcher at Yale) are going to tell you about the dark side of coconut oil, and reveal a cautionary, scientifically accurate tale for any coconut oil extremists who insist on adding oodles of coconut oil to every smoothie and spoonful after spoonsful of MCT oil to every cup of coffee.

So go ahead, slowly step away from the giant vat of coconutty goodness, and open your mind to the possibility that, in the same way that too much protein could reduce lifespan and too few carbohydrates can cause joint and gut damage, too much coconut oil and MCT could also be a bit rough on your body…especially if you fall into the specific categories we discuss in this article.


If you’ve recently looked into topics like ketosis, fat burning efficiency, low carb diets, or even candida cleansing, you’ve no doubt heard of the myriad of benefits derived from coconut oil. Because it is rich in the medium- and long-chain fatty acids (MCFAs and LCFAs) you’re about to discover, coconut oil has too many compelling medicinal, metabolic, and cosmetic uses to list here.

And let’s not beat around the bush: you’ll find extra virgin coconut oil, full fat, non-BPA coconut milk, MCT oil and other similar fats recommended quite frequently here at

However, the recent paper “Dietary Fatty Acids Directly Impact Central Nervous System Autoimmunity via the Small Intestine” shed light on the potential downside of medium- and long-chain fatty acids (MCFAs and LCFAs).

This well-designed, high-impact scientific paper showed that lauric acid (LA), which usually makes up 50% or more of coconut oil, tips the balance of T-cells (immune cells that actively participate in the immune response) towards the production of inflammation, and also, in mouse models, exacerbates multiple sclerosis (MS), in which your immune system attacks the protective sheath (myelin) that covers nerve fibers and causes communication problems between your brain and the rest of your body.

So should people with intestinal inflammation or risk of MS go against the popular opinion of the internets and the majority of new diet books out there and instead limit their consumption of coconut and MCT oil?Can too much coconut or MCT cause inflammatory or immune issues in your body?

Can too much coconut or MCT oil cause inflammatory or immune issues in your body?

Let’s make some logical, data-driven conclusions, shall we?


First of all, what are MCFAs, LCFAs, MCT, PUFAs, MUFAs, and all these other confusing alphabet letter soup phrases?

Fatty Acids (FAs) are simply molecules consisting of long hydrocarbon chains capped with a carboxylic acid (COOH). This carboxylic acid is where “acid” part of fatty acid comes from. Fatty acids are termed “saturated” if there are hydrogen atoms at every possible position on the carbon chain, and “unsaturated” if there are open positions for hydrogens on carbons that are instead filled by a double bond between the carbon atoms.

Here’s a pretty picture to demonstrate:


FAs that only have one double bond are called mono-unsaturated fatty acids (MUFAs), while FAs with multiple double bonds are polyunsaturated FA (PUFAs). Fats are formed by chains of fatty acids connected together with glycerol, and are classified as monoglycerides (one FA per glycerol), diglycerides (two FA per glycerol), or triglycerides (you guessed it – three FA per glycerol). If this is getting too nerdy to remember, just think that saturated fats are solid at room temperature and unsaturated fats are liquid at room temp and often used as cooking oils.

Fats, like those you would consume from foods, are formed by chains of these fatty acids that have been connected together with glycerol, and these fats can be classified as monoglycerides (one FA per glycerol), diglycerides (two FA per glycerol), or triglycerides (you guessed it – three FA per glycerol).

If this is getting too nerdy to understand, just remember: saturated fats are solid at room temperature (like coconut oil) and unsaturated fats are liquid at room temp (like extra virgin olive oil).

Anyhoo…let’s get to know these FAs even better…

…Short-Chain Fatty Acids (SCFAs) have one to six carbon atoms, including acetic acid (C2), propionic acid (C3) and butyric acid (C6). SCFAs are made by the fermentation of dietary fiber such as vegetables by your intestinal bacteria (AKA your microbiota) and these SCFAs exhibit numerous health benefits, especially for preventing metabolic disorders by turning white adipose tissue into brown adipose tissue and by regulating blood sugar. SCFA treatments have also been shown to ameliorate mouse models of intestinal bowel disease (IBD) and allergic asthma.

Then we have FAs with longer chains of carbon atoms. The famous MCT oil is composed of Medium Chain Triglycerides that have FA chains ranging from 6-12 Carbons, including caproic acid (C6), caprylic acid (C8), capric acid (C10), and lauric acid (C12) – though, as you learned about in last week’s article about how to get into ketosis, it is hotly debated among nerds whether lauric acid is considered a MCT or LCT.

And yes, FAs get even longer. LCFAs have 12 or more carbon atoms and include eicosapentaenoic acid (EPA) (20 Carbons), docosahexaenoic acid (DHA) (22 Carbons), and, depending on whom you ask, lauric acid (12 Carbons).


OK, enough with the science lesson – when it comes to stuffing or not stuffing your face with coconut oil, why does this stuff even matter?


To answer this question, let’s get back to that recent study on coconut oil mentioned earlier.

While numerous internet articles on many popular diet and nutrition websites make a claim that over 1500 peer-reviewed scientific studies confirm that coconut oil is healthy, a quick Pubmed search shows that although there are that many studies relevant to coconut oil, many of them are not actually saying that coconut oil is a panacea.

Take a look at the screenshot below to judge for yourself.

png coc

Sure, there is indeed a great deal of high-quality scientific research showing that coconut oil has many health benefits, and even health benefits beyond the ones you’ve probably heard about a million times from various health gurus.

For example, did you know that coconut oil can mitigate the damaging effects of antibiotics? In this study, Nigerian researchers gave rats a broad-spectrum antibiotic (Trimethoprim-sulfamethoxazole), and produced significant increases in liver toxicity markers like serum total bilirubin, lactate dehydrogenase, and alkaline phosphatase. But supplementing these antibiotics with virgin coconut oil protected against this liver toxicity (here are a few other creative ways to limit the damage from antibiotics).

That said, the recent research findings mentioned earlier suggest that coconut oil is not healthy in all situations.

In the October 2015 issue of Immunity, a leading primary research immunology journal, the effects of FAs were meticulously investigated in a report entitled “Dietary Fatty Acids Directly Impact Central Nervous System Autoimmunity via the Small Intestine”. Download it here if you’d like.

In this study, researchers first added FAs ranging from C4 to C12 (from butyric acid to lauric acid) to naïve mouse T cells, showing that as the length of hydrocarbon backbone increased, the number of T cells that differentiated into Th17 cells increased in a strikingly linear fashion:

In this figure, naïve T cells were dosed with C4:0 = butyric acid, C6:0 = caproic acid, C8:0 = caprylic acid, C10:0 = capric acid, and C12:0 = LA, and the number of Th17 cells, marked by surface protein CD4 and production of IL-17, were quantified.
In this figure, naïve T cells were dosed with C4:0 = butyric acid, C6:0 = caproic acid, C8:0 = caprylic acid, C10:0 = capric acid, and C12:0 = LA, and the number of Th17 cells, marked by surface protein CD4 and production of IL-17, were quantified.

So what are Th17 cells, and why should we care?

Imbalanced T cell subsets drive numerous autoimmune diseases, and an abundance Th17 cells (called Th17-skewed immune system) can result in inflammatory autoimmune disease, including intestinal bowel disorder (IBD) and multiple sclerosis (MS).

See, Th17 cells are meant to attack parasites and pathogenic bacteria, but having too many of them in your body can increase the chances of their attacking your own tissues, such as myelin sheaths in the case of MS. But while Th17 cells promote inflammation, they can be balanced by anti-inflammatory regulatory T cells (Tregs), and it is the ratio of pro- and anti-inflammatory T cells, not the absolute number of each cell type, that is predictive of health and disease.

Therefore, researchers next quantified the effects of hydrocarbon chain length on Treg differentiation, finding that shorter chain FAs induced Tregs:

In this figure, naïve T cells were dosed with C4:0 = butyric acid, C6:0 = caproic acid, C8:0 = caprylic acid, C10:0 = capric acid and the number of Tregs, marked by surface proteins CD4 and CD25 and expression of transcription factor Foxp3, were quantified.
In this figure, naïve T cells were dosed with C4:0 = butyric acid, C6:0 = caproic acid, C8:0 = caprylic acid, C10:0 = capric acid and the number of Tregs, marked by surface proteins CD4 and CD25 and expression of transcription factor Foxp3, were quantified.

To determine if the Th17-skewing effects of LA were relevant to autoimmune diseases, mice with the mouse-version of MS (called EAE) were fed a diet of 30.9% fat with 13.5% of it LA (compared to control diet of 4.2% fat).

To relate this dietary regime to humans, for a person eating 2500 calories a day, that’s 750 calories from fat, and 101 calories from LA. Siince coconut oil is 120 calories per tablespoon, half of which come from LA, this translates to about 2 TB of coconut oil per day – a pretty reasonable dose. So since the dosing in this paper checks out, you can regard its results as likely relevant to your life (as opposed to studies that give crazy, otherworldly high doses of tested compounds).

Anyways, so back to this study. Mice eating higher amounts of LA exhibited Th17-skewing in the intestines, worsened MS symptoms, and changes in the microbiome (reduction in Prevotellaceae and S24-7 of the bacteria Bacteroidetes phylum). Disease worsening was actually worsened by this microbiota shift, as repeating this study with germ-free mice (that have no intestinal microbiota) did not result in Th17-skewing.

To be clear, these results show that high amounts of coconut oil can create rampant inflammation, nerve damage and worsen an autoimmune disease.

But wait, there’s good news.

Remarkably, feeding mice the SCFA proprionic acid (C3) both prevented the onset and alleviated symptoms of MS. The overall conclusion of this study is that through the intestinal microbiota, LCFA can induce pro-inflammatory T cells, and SCFA ca induce anti-inflammatory, regulatory T cells.

Therefore, SCFA can mitigate the harmful effects of LCFA.

In other words, if you consume SCFA along with your coconut and MCT oil based LCFAs, you mitigate the damage.

And where do you get SCFAs in quite generous amounts?

You guess it: vegetables.

A high-fat diet? Thumbs mostly down.

A high-fat diet mixed with a high intake of nutrient-rich, SCFA-inducing plants? Thumbs up.

Again and again, we see that health is achieved through balance (and at the end of this article, we’ll give you a link to a podcast in which I discuss the details of a high-fat, plant-based diet).


But wait. The tale of the dark side of coconut oil is not quite finished.

Another recent study highlights another potential risk of coconut oil. Researchers investigating the effects of soybean oil, alone and in conjunction with fructose (which has increased significantly in American diets), fed mice 40% of their daily calories from fat, either from coconut oil alone or a 50/50 mix of coconut and soybean oils.

Compared to 40% of calories from coconut oil alone, mice consuming soybean oil had increased obesity, insulin resistance, diabetes, and fatty livers, showing that the adverse effects were from the chemical nature of soybean oil, not the macronutrient breakdown.

So that’s a win for coconut oil, right?

Maybe not.

Interestingly, in the same study, mice fed all high-fat diets tested (coconut oil, coconut oil + soybean oil, with and without fructose supplementation), exhibited significantly reduced lengths of both small and large intestines. Researchers reasoned that this intestinal shortening, which has broad implications for microbial colonization and nutrient absorption, is likely due to reduced fiber intake, since 40% of calories were fat.

Lengths of small intestine (A) and colon (B) of male mice on the indicated diets for 35 weeks.
Lengths of small intestine (A) and colon (B) of male mice on the indicated diets for 35 weeks.

OK, these findings are kind of scary – so now should I stop eating coconut oil?


Back it up.

Coconut oil + SFCAs = good.

Coconut oil + fiber = good.

Coconut oil dumped into a cup of coffee, followed with a lone carrot beside your lunch and perhaps a scant serving of roasted vegetables with dinner? Not so good.

To put this in perspective, as you can read about here, Ben eats about 15-20+ servings of plants per day. And because of this, he gets away with a decent amount of coconut milk, coconut oil and MCT oil intake. All the SFCAs and fiber help balance out the potentially damaging effects of the fat, while still allowing him to get all the benefits of the fat.

Coconut oil, with around 90% of calories from saturated fat, 65% of which are MCTs, has been lauded as an ideal fat for cooking, ketosis, and prevention of metabolic and cardiovascular diseases. So we’re not saying coconut oil is unhealthy – just that it may be overhyped, and is too often recommended without simultaneous recommendations to eat your friggin’ vegetables.

As you can see, Ben likes to eat plants.


Before finishing up with a couple more practical recommendations and resources for you, here are a few caveats.

While it is tempting to accept as fact all conclusions drawn from studies published in peer-reviewed journals, as an academic, you need to realize that not all peer-reviewed journals are created equal. Scientific and medical journals are ranked by impact factor, with higher impact factors usually correlating with more rigorous, unbiased review processes of submitted data. Therefore, researchers regard conclusions from publications in high impact-factor journals, like Nature or New England Journal of Medicine, with greater levels of confidence than publications from low impact journals, which can suffer from shady and nepotistic publishing practices.

In addition, data and conclusions are only as valid and applicable as the experimental and statistical methods used. Often, gold-standard findings are found in meta-analyses, in which unbiased researchers (like epidemiologists or statisticians) re-analyze massive data sets from multiple studies. Still, when considering whether or not to apply findings from health-related studies to your own life, think about how robust the methods used are (did the researchers study 10 people or 10 thousand?), the dosing regime, and how similar you are to the experimental subjects.

Why are we telling you this?

Because the studies you just learned about are indeed valid, applicable and gold-standard studies. Not N=1 experimentation or tiny or sponsored by the anti-coconut-oil industry. So they’re important for you to know about.

But wait…weren’t these studies done in mice guts? Last I checked, we didn’t have tiny tails and cute whiskers…

The recent scientific paper “How informative is the mouse for human gut microbiota research?” helps elucidate this for us (the whole paper is actually quite fascinating and worth a read, especially if you don’t have a social life):

“…their advantages are numerous and, furthermore, the amount of research and knowledge on mouse gastroenterology, genetics and immunology far surpasses any other model. Murine mouse models provide a range of customizable genotypes and phenotypes far superior to any other model organism. They have thus played a very important role in the emerging gut microbiota research field. Owing to their widespread use in biomedical research, these models are complemented with extensive knowledge on genetic background and deep phenotypic and functional characterization. Moreover, with well-set-up standardized mouse house facilities throughout labs in the world, conducting experiments on mouse models, even germ-free ones, can be more easily achieved than with other models.”

Finally, as pointed out at the WholeHealthSource website, “Butyrate Suppresses Inflammation in the Gut and Other Tissues”:

“There are two main ways to get butyrate and other short-chain fatty acids. The first is to eat fiber and let your intestinal bacteria do the rest. Whole plant foods such as sweet potatoes, properly prepared whole grains, beans, vegetables, fruit and nuts are good sources of fiber. Refined foods such as white flour, white rice and sugar are very low in fiber. Clinical trials have shown that increasing dietary fiber increases butyrate production, and decreasing fiber decreases it.

Butyrate also occurs in significant amounts in food. What foods contain butyrate? Hmm, I wonder where the name BUTYR-ate came from? Butter perhaps?”

So yes, although you can overdo butter just like you can overdo coconut and MCT oil, if you are indeed consuming lots of LCFAs and MCTs, consume a bit of butter too. Thank you, Dave Asprey and Bulletproof Coffee, for pointing that out quite extensively.


Anyways, back to those practical recommendations.

Dr. Alyssa Siefert has a tablespoon of unrefined (virgin) coconut oil in her morning coffee, but she is mindful not to exceed a few tablespoons a day unless she is matching this increased LCFA consumption with fiber from whole plant foods, as fiber intake directly correlates with SCFA production in a healthy gut. She also reads labels to ensure she’s consuming organic unrefined (virgin) coconut oil that hasn’t been hydrogenated.

And, as mentioned earlier, Ben accompanies his 70-90% fat based diet with oodles and oodles of plant matter at each meal, and doesn’t count any carbohydrates he gets from sources like kale, spinach, tomatoes, etc. as part of his total daily carbohydrate intake.

The adverse effects of a high-fat diet may not result from what you’re putting in your body, but what you’re taking out (usually fiber) to allow increased intake of fats like coconut oil.

If you do happen to be a person whose baseline immunity tends toward inflammatory (for instance, a history of autoimmunity or skin conditions), then you should be especially be cautious about the amount of LCFA, MCT’s and coconut oil you consume, but we still consider coconut oil a much healthier replacement for the unsaturated fats like canola oil (that used to be touted as heart-healthy, especially for cooking).

So don’t fall into nutrition extremism. Including some coconut and MCT oil in your life is great, more is not necessarily better, especially if you’re not going out of your way to eat plants, which can be admittedly more time-consuming than spooning fat into a cup of coffee or tea.

Finally, here is a link to a podcast Ben recorded with Dr. Terry Wahl’s, in which they discuss exactly how to eat a plant-rich, high-fat diet.


If you enjoyed this article and want more balanced, accessible science updates on your newsfeed, then check out Dr. Alyssa Siefert at The Sociable Scientist on Facebook! And leave your questions, comments and feedback below. And eat your vegetables.

Why Healthy People Get Broken Guts, And What You Can Do About It.

ruscio itunes

You’ve probably seen it before.

The classic photo of a marathoner bent over the road, puking their guts out.

Or a triathlete hunched over with abdominal pain on the bike.

Or the bodybuilder wandering around the gym with persistent annoying gas, the weekend warrior unable to get through a single run without bloating or diarrhea, or the health nut who seems to be constantly constipated no matter what they do.

Today, we’re going to delve into why apparently healthy people, especially athletes and exercise enthusiasts, get broken guts, and what they can do about it.

Dr. Michael Ruscio is considered a leader in the functional medicine movement, as both a clinician and lecturer. He frequently speaks nationally to health care professionals as well as to the public. Dr. Ruscio has lectured at UC Berkeley, at the Ancestral Health Society and performed numerous interviews.

Dr. Ruscio is a post graduate continuing education provider at Life Chiropractic College West. He has a clinical practice in Northern California where he specializes in functional medicine and sees patients both domestically and internationally. He is currently writing a book on digestive conditions and thyroid disease. He is also currently working toward launching a clinical trial in his office in 2015.

Dr. Ruscio obtained his Doctorate of Chiropractic from Life Chiropractic College West and has completed post-doctoral specialty training in Functional Medicine. Prior to his specialty training, Dr. Ruscio obtained his B.S. in Exercise Science from the University of Massachusetts at Amherst.

-Dr. Ruscio’s personal diet, and what his typical day looks like (including his meal of choice at Whole Foods)…

-The surprising things that happen to your gut when you combine calories and high levels of physical activity…

-Whether athletes should fast, and what happens when an exercise enthusiast “stops the flow of calories” and fasts

-How an “elemental diet” works to reduce stress on the gut…

-When you actually should consider starving the bacteria in your gut…

-Whether you can combat “overstressing” the gut with food by simply using things like digestive enzymes…

-The biggest mistake most people make with cleanses, enemas and detoxing…

-How you can heal damage to the valves passing through your gut…

-If you could test anything and everything going in your gut, what you should test…

-And much more!

Resources from this episode:

Dr. Ruscio’s website and special gut testing discounts for BenGreenfieldFitness listeners

-Study: Exercise and associated dietary extremes impact on gut microbial diversity

Toll-like receptors and their downregulation in exercise enthusiasts

Elemental diet instructions

Digestive enzymes

Iberogast for gut motility

Motilpro for gut motility

Wurn protocol

Interstitial cells of cajal

Three day gut panel (stool test)

The bonus materials Dr. Ruscio and I discuss

More notes:

·        This study was in the journal Gut in 2014:  This study compared activity level and diet of professional Rugby players to that of non-athletes of similar size, sex and age.

·        Your gut contains many sensors called toll-like receptors or TLRs.  These TLRs are responsible for monitoring “stuff” in the gut; specifically they help us identify good stuff from bad stuff.

·        Exercise may modulate these sensors  and even prevent them from telling your immune system to attack.  Remember too much “attack” signaling can occur in autoimmune conditions.

·        It has been shown that hormones releases during exercise, like noradrenaline, stimulate the growth of non-pathogenic, commensal (aka ‘good’) E.Coli, as well as other gram-negative bacteria.



o   E. Coli is often stereotyped as being a bad guy, however there are many types of E. Coli, several are good guys.  In fact some E. Coli probiotics have shown impressive results for treating inflammatory bowel disease (Ulcerative Colitis and Crohn’s disease)



o   and IBS



·        However, just because some exercise is good does not mean more is better.  It has been shown that those who perform extreme levels of exercise are at increased risk for infection.  






·        Too much exercise may also cause leaky gut

·        This is likely because too much exercise can cause immune suppression.  This hints at the importance of balance.  For example other studies have shown moderate exercise may also reduce levels of colon cancer, while excessive amounts may be damaging to your gut.    

·        Mice who get physical activity show increased fermentation of prebiotics and well as a decreased inflammatory response.

o    Other animal studies also show exercise reduces intestinal inflammation




·        Exercising without a break may be the most stressful on your body.  For example short circuits with not rest or prolonged cardiovascular exercise with no rest may be the more problematic for those trying to recover from burnout or illness. 



§  The most important factor is ensuring you are exercising enough, but not too much. 


§  If you are ill or trying to recover from burnout, I recommend:

·        Getting light activity, outside (ideally in a forest-like environment) and preferably with a friend.

o   Start with 1-2 days a week, around 20-30 minutes and push yourself hard enough to break a light sweat.  Pay attention to the signs of overtraining.  If you do not experience any of these you can slowly ramp up your amount of exercise.

·         HRV (heart rate variability) is a simple and very inexpensive way to monitor yourself.

o   See here for more,

·        Exercise is an example of how we can modulate our internal environment making our bodies a hospitable place for good bacteria to grow.  By obtaining the appropriate amount of exercise you will modulate your immune system to allow more good bacteria to growth, thus optimizing your microbiota and overall health. 


Do you have questions, comments or feedback and why athletes get broken guts? Leave your thoughts below and either Dr. Ruscio or I will reply, and click here if you want access to a consult with Dr. Ruscio!

Four New, Cutting-Edge Ways To Easily Shift Your Body Into Fat-Burning Mode & Ketosis.

Ben Greenfield Ironman

Four years ago, I realized that I’d been duped.

I’d been lied to about carbohydrates.

Despite obtaining a graduate degree with advanced courses in human nutrition, biochemistry, microbiology and exercise physiology, a sports nutritionist certification, and plenty of time with my face stuffed in dietary research journals, I was simply doing things completely back-asswards when it came to fueling my body.

See, my physical performance on my “gold-standard” 50-60% carbohydrate intake was just fine. Performance wasn’t an issue. I was quite competitive and very fast in my triathlons, runs, swims, bike rides, and workouts.

But I also had bloating. Gas. Fermentation. Wildly fluctuating energy levels. Extra bits of fat around my belly and hips. Inflammation. All the warning signs of high blood glucose. All the signs that I was sacrificing health and longevity for performance…all the issues I talk about in gory detail in my book Beyond Training.

So I simply gave a finger to dyed-in-the-wool, orthodox sports nutrition advice that trickles down from companies like Gatorade, Powerbar and the US Government’s Food Pyramid. I took a deep, deep dive into a more ancestral, natural form of eating. I started eating more greens. More vegetables. More nutrient-dense plants.

And I combined those plants with oodles of healthy, natural fats like avocadoes, olive oil, coconut milk, seeds, nuts, fatty fish, grass-fed meats, and yes, even “weird” foods like bone broth, liver, sardines and many of these unorthodox meals and pantry foods.

I began eat the “cyclic” low-carbohydrate diet I outline in my book on low carbohydrate eating for athletes, meaning that I would save the majority of my carbohydrate intake for the very end of the day, and even then, I ate the clean stuff, like white rice, sweet potatoes, yams, quinoa, red wine and dark chocolate.

I even began to experiment with “ketosis”, a style of eating in which I incorporated strategies such as intermittent fasting, high amounts of coconut oil, complete avoidance of frequent snacking and grazing, and an even lower carbohydrate intake of less than 10% carbohydrates.

What is ketosis? Skip the next two paragraphs if you already know, but if not, give them a quick read.

Ketosis is a metabolic state where most of the body’s energy supply comes from ketone bodies in the blood, in contrast to a state of glycolysis where blood glucose provides most of the energy. Ketosis is characterized by serum blood concentrations of ketone bodies over 0.5 millimolar with low and stable levels of insulin and blood glucose. However, with ketone supplementation (as you’ll learn about later in this article) ketosis can actually be induced even when there are high levels of blood glucose.

Keto-adaptation, AKA “becoming a fat burning machine”, occurs when you have shifted your metabolism to relying on fat-based sources, instead of glucose (sugar) sources, as your primary source of fuel. Your body increases fat oxidation, and breaks down fats into ketones to be used as the primary energy source. Depending on your current level of carbohydrate intake (takes longer if you’re pretty sugar addicted), this process can take two weeks to six months to fully train your body to, but once done, it’s done, and you have achieved fat-burning status that can stick with you for life.

Frankly, the results of my foray into ketosis and eventually keto-adaptation were astounding. I had the best Ironman triathlon season of my life and shocking levels of mental focus and physical ease, especially for races and workouts that lasted longer than two hours. Without experiencing muscle loss, hunger pangs or brain fog, I found I could go the entire day without eating, which was enormously helpful for business and personal productivity. My gas, bloating, fermentation and GI “issues” disappeared. My blood levels of inflammatory markers like HS-CRP and cytokines dropped to rock-bottom, while my levels of good cholesterol, vitamin D, and anti-inflammatory fatty acids skyrocketed.

I reported on many of these dietary strategies, and the physical and mental performance results that ensued in the following articles:

The Great Ketogenic Ironman Experiment – Can You Go Low-Carb And Be A Fast Endurance Athlete Without Destroying Your Body?

Combining Low Carb And Extreme Exercise – The Official Results Of The Great Ketogenic Ironman Experiment

The Official “Ask Me Anything About Ketosis & Ironman” Premium Podcast with Ben Greenfield

At the end of this entire transition, I had spent nearly three years eating a high-fat, low-carbohydrate diet of 50-60% fat, 20-30% protein, 10-30% carbohydrate, and a final fourth year devoted to a full-blown “ketosis” approach of 70-90% fat, 20-30% protein, 5-10% carbohydrate.

And it all culminated with me stepping into Dr. Jeff Volek’s world famous laboratory at University of Connecitut to subject myself to extensive blood testing, chunks of muscle removed from my legs, fat sucked out of my butt-cheeks, urine, stool and gut microbiome testing, oxygen and carbon dioxide testing and countless hours of treadmill running to discover what a full twelve months of eating a ketotic diet had actually done to my body.

VO2 Max Test

You can read all the nitty-gritty details of that study in:

Rewriting The Fat Burning Textbook – Part 1: Why You’ve Been Lied To About Carbs And How To Turn Yourself Into A Fat Burning Machine.

Rewriting The Fat Burning Textbook – Part 2: Why You’ve Been Lied To About Carbs And How To Turn Yourself Into A Fat Burning Machine.
And you can now also check out the full study, which was just released a few weeks ago in the Journal of Metabolism at “Metabolic characteristics of keto-adapted ultra-endurance runners”. Here’s just a teaser from the abstract:


Many successful ultra-endurance athletes have switched from a high-carbohydrate to a low-carbohydrate diet, but they have not previously been studied to determine the extent of metabolic adaptations.


Twenty elite ultra-marathoners and ironman distance triathletes performed a maximal graded exercise test and a 180 min submaximal run at 64% VO2max on a treadmill to determine metabolic responses. One group habitually consumed a traditional high-carbohydrate (HC: n = 10, %carbohydrate:protein:fat = 59:14:25) diet, and the other a low-carbohydrate (LC; n = 10, 10:19:70) diet for an average of 20 months (range 9 to 36 months).


Peak fat oxidation was 2.3-fold higher in the LC group (1.54 ± 0.18 vs 0.67 ± 0.14 g/min; P = 0.000) and it occurred at a higher percentage of VO2max (70.3 ± 6.3 vs 54.9 ± 7.8%; P = 0.000). Mean fat oxidation during submaximal exercise was 59% higher in the LC group (1.21 ± 0.02 vs 0.76 ± 0.11 g/min; P = 0.000) corresponding to a greater relative contribution of fat (88 ± 2 vs 56 ± 8%; P = 0.000). Despite these marked differences in fuel use between LC and HC athletes, there were no significant differences in resting muscle glycogen and the level of depletion after 180 min of running (−64% from pre-exercise) and 120 min of recovery (−36% from pre-exercise).


Compared to highly trained ultra-endurance athletes consuming an HC diet, long-term keto-adaptation results in extraordinarily high rates of fat oxidation, whereas muscle glycogen utilization and repletion patterns during and after a 3 hour run are similar.

Blood and Muscle Sample Extraction


OK, so that’s all good. But wait.

What if you’re not an endurance athlete?

What if you have zero desire to run on a treadmill for an ungodly number of hours, or to do an Ironman, or a marathon, or – hell – even a 10K?

As I hint at in my article “Can You Build Muscle On A Low Carbohydrate Diet?”, in which I show how I helped my brother Zach become absolutely shredded on a diet very similar to mine, it turns out that this whole idea of ketosis isn’t just for endurance.

What are some other benefits of ketosis? The list is pretty exhaustive. Currently, research support the use of ketones for the following benefits:

  • Weight loss
  • Blood sugar balance and enhanced insulin sensitivity
  • Increase satiety, and decreased food cravings
  • Improved energy levels, oxygen capacity, motor performance & athletic performance
  • Enhanced blood flow through vasodilation
  • Migraine treatment
  • Neuroprotective benefits in seizure disorders; ADHD; Alzheimer ’s disease, memory and cognitive function; Parkinson’s Disease and Multiple Sclerosis
  • Autism and improved behavior and social impacts
  • Mood stabilization in bipolar disorder (type II)
  • Stroke prevention; cardiovascular disease; metabolic syndrome management; improved cholesterol levels
  • Inflammation management
  • Endurance enhancement

But ketosis is not all rainbows and unicorns. There is definitely a dark side to ketosis. For example, consider the following…

Dark Side To Ketosis #1: Triglycerides

Let’s say you decide you’re going to get into ketosis by eating boatloads of grass-fed butter, peanut butter, almond butter, animal meats, and oils, and you aren’t very selective in the quality of those fats.

That’s a definite shortcut to throwing your triglycerides through the roof.

And not only are high levels of circulating triglycerides a good way to get fat fast, but studies have consistently linked high triglyceride levels with heart disease, heart attacks and stroke. Fructose is one quick way to elevate triglycerides, but this really doesn’t seem to be an issue with high-fat, low-carbers.

However, vegetable oils and butter and animal fats and nuts and seeds can also significantly raise triglycerides. One big issue here is that if these oils and fats have been exposed to high amounts of temperature and processing, triglycerides are getting dumped into your body chock full of free radicals.

So if your high-fat diet includes a high amount of roasted seeds or roasted nuts, nut butters, heated oils such as heated coconut oil or heated extra virgin olive oil, barbecued meats or meats cooked at very high temperatures, then your triglyceride count is going to go up. You should have triglycerides that are less than 150mg/dL, and a triglyceride to HDL ratio that is no more than 4:1, and in most of the healthiest people I’ve worked with, triglycerides are under 100 and the triglyceride to HDL ratio is less than 2:1. If your ratio is whacked, your ketotic diet isn’t doing you any favors.

Dark Side To Ketosis #2: Inflammation

If you have high levels of cholesterol, which you probably do if you’re eating a high-fat, low-carb diet, then you need to be worried if your HS-CRP levels (a primary marker of inflammation) are above 1.0 mg/dL – even if you’re a hard charging athlete.

I like to see most people under 0.5 for CRP levels, and here’s why: a high amount of inflammation in your body is going to make the cholesterol circulating in your bloodstream more likely to become oxidized, generating a high amount of heart and connective tissue-damaging free radicals.

As a matter of fact, it’s more dangerous to have high levels of cholesterol and high levels of CRP than low levels of cholesterol and high levels of CRP – even if your high levels of cholesterol are “healthy”, big fluffy LDL particles, and not small, dense vLDL particles. In other words, no matter how many healthy fats you’re eating, these fats may actually come back to bite you if you’re creating high inflammation from too much exercise, not enough sleep, exposure to toxins and pollutants, or a high-stress lifestyle.

Dark Side To Ketosis #3: Cholesterol Damage

Free-ranging glucose molecules in your bloodstream can adhere to cholesterol particles and cause those particles to remain in the bloodstream for long periods of time, since your liver can’t properly process cholesterol when it has a glucose molecule attached to it.

The longer cholesterol circulates in your bloodstream, the higher the likelihood that it will dig its way into an endothelial wall and potentially contribute to atherosclerosis or plaque formation. This is why it’s so dangerous to eat a high-fat diet, but to also have your nightly dark chocolate bar, overdo it on the red wine, or have weekly “cheat days” with pizza, pasta, or sugar-laden ice cream.

So if you’re going to eat a high fat diet, then you need to ensure your fasted blood glucose levels are staying at around 70-90mg/dL, and your hemoglobin A1C (a 3 month “snapshot” of your glucose) is staying below 5.5. If not, your high fat diet could actually be significantly hurting you.

Dark Side To Ketosis #4: Thyroid Issues

Carbohydrates are necessary for the conversion of inactive thyroid hormone to active thyroid hormone, and if you’re on an extremely strict low carbohydrate diet, then you may actually be limiting this conversion. Your TSH is what tells your thyroid gland to “release more hormone,” so your TSH rises when your thyroid gland is underactive, or conversion of inactive to active thyroid hormone is inadequate. A high TSH means that the pituitary gland is releasing its hormone to try to get the thyroid to respond and produce more thyroid hormone. Because of inadequate carbohydrates, TSH will often elevate in a high-fat, low-carber – indicating potential for long-term thyroid and metabolic damage.

If I see a TSH above 2.0 or a trend towards higher values in someone who is testing repeatedly, I get worried – and prefer to see TSH at 0.5-2.0. Of course, this doesn’t mean that you begin to shove carbohydrates indiscriminately down the hatch. However, it means that your high-fat, low-carb diet should include thyroid supporting foods rich in iodine and selenium, such as sea vegetables and brazil nuts, and should also include carbohydrates timed properly, such as before, during or after workouts, when the carbohydrate is more likely to be utilized for energy and less likely to spike blood glucose levels.

It also means that if you’re a very active athlete or exercise enthusiast and you’re following “trickle-down” advice from the sedentary or less active ketosis experts to eat less than 40g of carbs per day, you’re making a big mistake when it comes to your hormonal balance, and you need to up your carbohydrate intake to 100-200g of carbs per day. You’d be surprised at how easy it is (if you’re a very active person) to stay in ketosis on this level of carbohydrate intake. Go ahead. Do Ketonix breath testing to prove me wrong. You can eat boatloads of carbohydrates at night and be back in ketosis within just two to three hours. When you combine that with the cutting-edge tricks you’re about to learn, you’ll find that you can toss hormonal issues out the window, get into ketosis, have your cake, and eat it too. Literally.

Dark Side To Ketosis #5: Social “Limitations”

Let’s face it: if you’re eating 70-90% fats, it can be very, very difficult to hang out with your friends at an Italian restaurant. Or to walk past a bakery. Or to find yourself surviving and having fun at a holiday party with fresh baked cookies, wine, chocolates, and cocktails.

In other words, I personally found that while following “strict ketosis”, things became eerily similar to the days in college when I was a competitive bodybuilder pursuing sub-3% body fat percentages. I simply wasn’t the most fun guy to hang out with in social situations due to my extreme dietary restrictions, the intense self-control became nearly exhausting, and when I traveled, I missed out on many culinary experiences, such as homemade ravioli in Rome, freshly baked crostinis in the Basque regions of Spain, and Korean rice bowls in Seoul.

As a matter of fact, what you’ve just read about is exactly why, after the study at University of Connecticut, I personally quit messing around with ketosis and returned to what I considered to be a more sane macronutrient intake of 50-60% fat, 20-30% protein, 10-30% carbohydrate.

OK, now don’t stop reading and walk away from this article because you don’t want to screw your triglyceride levels, jack up inflammation, oxidize your cholesterol, de-balance your hormones and be a complete bore at parties.

But surprisingly, every single one of the issues you just read about it can become a complete non-issue if you implement what you’re about to learn. And that’s exactly why I’ve returned to ketosis as my main diet.

That’s right: it turns out that if I could go back and do my year of strict ketosis again, I would do everything you’ve going to discover below. If I had done that, I would have avoided all the uncomfortable, unhealthy issues I experienced when I was eating a high-fat diet, and I would have gotten all the benefits with none of the harm. As a matter of fact, in the past 30 days, as I’ve begun a new journey into ketosis, I am now implementing the exact four methods you’re about to discover.


But first, before we delve into the latest and greatest biohacks to help you painlessly get into ketosis and stay in ketosis…what exactly got me back into being interested in ketosis in the first place?

In a word: freediving.


See, two years ago I released two podcasts that got me very enthralled with the concept of using both ketosis and freediving to become a better athlete, with a stronger nervous system and enhanced stress resilience:

Apparently, Dominic’s research seems to be suggesting the fact that diet-induced ketosis from a high-fat, low-carb intake, especially when combined with the use of nutrition supplements such as powdered ketones or MCT oil, can vastly reduce the need for the brain to use oxygen to burn glucose. This is because the brain can use up to around 75% of its fuel from ketones. So a ketone-fed or a fat-adapted brain can be better equipped to withstand low oxygen availability and potentially support longer breath-hold times. Dominic’s research also shows that in the presence of ketosis, the brain and body are able to resist the potential cell damage of long periods of time with low oxygen, also known as “hypoperfusion”.

As I learned in a University of Connecticut lab experiment I mentioned earlier in this article (gory details here), a high-fat, low-carb diet can teach and allow the muscles to tap into more fat for fuel, making your body crave less use of oxygen in the large muscles of the legs, arms or other areas that you’ve learned oxygen gets shunted away from when deep underwater.

A diet low in sugar and starch is also less acidic. This lowers carbon dioxide levels in the body, which could theoretically also increase breath hold time. This is because breath holding is normally terminated due to an urge to breathe that is mostly caused by increasing carbon dioxide levels.

Interestingly, most of the animals that regularly rely upon the mammalian diving reflex are marine mammals. Marine mammals, for the most part, live on almost exclusively fat and protein (e.g. fish) and yet are able to maintain a largely aerobic, (oxygen-based, metabolism – even while holding their breath.

Based on all this, along with advice from Dominic and information from previous podcast I’ve done with Dr. Peter Attia, the week prior to the epic freediving excursion that I outline in detail here, I began experimenting with all the strategies I’m about to outline below, and I was absolutely shocked.

What was I so shocked about?

I was shocked at how easy it was (using the new supplements and methods outlined below that have been developed since my initial foray into ketosis) to get into ketosis without extreme carbohydrate restriction, without excessive, diarrhea and “diaper-moment” inducing amounts of MCT and coconut oil, and without the inflammation, triglyceride and hormonal issues, or social discomfort I outline above. I was also able to achieve a much more immediate and deeper level of ketosis than I ever achieved in previous experiments sans these newer strategies you’re going to learn about.

Hooray for science.


OK, hang with me here. We’re almost to the point where I reveal the four new methods I recommend to get you into ketosis fast.

But first, I want to explain exactly why you’ve been lied to about carbs. After all, you may still be wondering why you can’t just slam an energy gel, bar or sports drink and go do your workout or race.

After all, if you open any textbook on human performance, read any magazine article on workout nutrition or review any research produced by the world’s leading exercise and diet science institutes, and you’ll see the same two pieces of standard advice churned out with robotic-like repetition:

Standard Piece of Advice #1: Before any big workout days, eat seven to ten grams of carbohydrate per kilogram of body weight daily for optimal performance. On any other days, eat five to seven grams of carbohydrate per kilogram of body weight.

So how many carbs is that? Let’s do the math. 7-10 g/kg of carbohydrates is about 3-4.5 g/lb. So in the 24 hours before a heavy workout day, a 150 pound male would be advised to eat roughly 450-675g of carbs. And that’s 1800-2700 calories of carbs per day – the equivalent of 38-56 slices of bread. Or 17-25 bowls of cereal. Pick your poison.


And on any average day, even a non-workout day, you’d be advised to eat around 2-3 g/lb, or 300-450g of carbs. That’s 1200-1800 calories of carbs per day. So if you were eating a relatively typical 2500 calorie per day intake, you’d be looking at about 50-75% carbohydrate based diet.

Don’t believe me? Does 50-75% seem like too much to you? Sadly, this level of carbohydrate intake is status quo for the gold standard in athletes and exercise enthusiasts.

The Gatorade Sports Science Institute (GSSI) is widely considered one of the world’s top go-to resources for cutting-edge exercise and nutrition science advice – which is probably why Gatorade vending machines dot the campus here, and the majority of the kids seem to be walking around campus with a never-ending big gulp-sized cup full of sports drink.

Anyways, here’s an excerpt on recommend carb intake from GSSI’s Sport Science Exchange Journal. Note that they actually go as high as TWELVE grams in this particular article:

“Adequate dietary carbohydrate is critical to raise muscle glycogen to high levels in preparation for the next day’s endurance competition or hard training session. Accordingly, during the 24 h prior to a hard training session or endurance competition, athletes should consume 7-12 g of carbohydrate per kilogram of body weight. However, during the 24 h prior to a moderate or easy day of training, athletes need to consume only 5-7 g of carbohydrate per kilogram of body weight.”

Here’s another excerpt from a different GSSI article:

“Soccer players’ diets, especially in the days before hard training or competition, should include 8-10 grams of carbohydrate per kilogram of body weight (3.5-4.5 g/lb). Cereals, fruits, vegetables, breads, and pastas are good sources of carbohydrates.”

Incidentally, a serving of Gatorade has about 25-35g of carbohydrates. Just sayin’.

OK, let’s move on to Standard Piece of Advice #2…

Standard Piece of Advice #2: Ensure that during exercise, you keep your blood glucose levels evaluated by consuming the majority of those carbohydrates are from fast-burning carb sources such as sugary drinks, gels, and bars during both prolonged activity (like a long run) and also intense activity (like weight training).

For example, from this GSSI article:

“The advice for prolonged endurance events (2.5 h or longer) is an intake of 90 g of multiple transportable carbohydrates per hour. This advice is not expressed relative to body mass because body size/mass appears to play no major role in exogenous carbohydrate oxidation.”

So what the heck does “multiple transportable carbohydrates” mean? In most cases, this refers to the standard two primary ingredients you’ll see featured in just about every sport drink and energy gel on the face of the planet: a mix of fructose and maltodextrin sugars.

From another GSSI article:

“Given that there is no known detriment to consumption of a high-carbohydrate diet (other than body weight gain due to water retention) and some research reports a benefit, it is recommended that all athletes consume a high-carbohydrate training diet, i.e., at least 60-70% of energy as carbohydrate (7-10 g/kg), and increase this to 65-85% for the few days before competition. Use of a carbohydrate supplement before and during exercise will likely improve performance of intermittent, high-intensity sprints.”

The “no known detriment to consumption of a high-carbohydrate diet” part of that statement above is very damn disturbing. You’ll learn why in just a moment.

However, at the risk of appearing to be on a completely biased anti-Gatorade rant, and to drive home the point that a relatively enormous intake of carbohydrates is recommended for performance, I’ll also point out this anecdote from the “Nutrition And Athletic Performance” position statement from the American College of Sports Medicine:

“For events longer than 60 minutes, consuming 0.7 g carbohydrates·kg-1 body weight·h-1 (approximately 30-60 g·h-1) has been shown unequivocally to extend endurance performance. Consuming carbohydrates during exercise is even more important in situations when athletes have not carbohydrate-loaded, not consumed pre-exercise meals, or restricted energy intake for weight loss. Carbohydrate intake should begin shortly after the onset of activity; [and continue] at 15- to 20-min intervals throughout the activity.”

And from the International Olympic Committee’s “Consensus Statement on Sports Nutrition” for longer exercise efforts:

“To achieve the relatively high rates of intake (up to 90 grams/hour) needed to optimize results in events lasting longer than three hours, athletes should practice consuming carbohydrates during training to develop an individual strategy, and should make use of sport foods and drinks containing carbohydrate combinations that will maximize absorption from the gut and minimize gastrointestinal disturbances.”

Are you getting the feeling that the Holy Grail of nutrition for athletes seems to be to protect carbohydrate stores at all times?

You’d be right with that feeling.

The general argument for carbohydrate consumption goes something like this:

Physical or mental fatigue during workouts (or while you’re sitting at your office) is caused by the low blood glucose that occurs as your carbohydrate fuel tank approaches empty (also known as the infamous “bonk”, which is awesomely demonstrated in this funniest running cartoon I’ve ever seen). Because it is generally (and sadly) accepted as orthodox knowledge that the human body can’t burn fat as a reliable fuel source – especially when you’re exercising for long periods of time or at high intensities – nearly every shred of nutrition science is simply looking for ways to somehow increase the size of your carbohydrate fuel tank and hack the body to allow it to store more carbs or absorb carbs more quickly.

Ironically, these efforts to encourage sky-high levels of carbohydrate intake are continued despite the fact that even the leanest of people naturally have tens of thousands of calories of readily accessible storage fat.

In fact, most folks have enough stored body fat to fuel aerobic activity for days and days without running out of energy. For example, a 150 pound dude at a hot, sexy and ripped at 8% body fat still carries 12 pounds of storage fat – which at 3500 calories per pound of fat can easily liberate 42,000 calories of useable fuel for exercise. You’ve got those same thousands of calories sitting around your waist, abs, hip, butt and thighs – just sitting there, waiting to be burnt.

Yet, it’s still standard advice to eat Wheaties for breakfast, guzzle Gatorade during a hard workout and to down a sugary Jamba Juice as you walk out of the gym. And this is the message being preached worldwide to kids and adults by exercise nutritionists and scientific bastions of diet research. We accept this as status quo.

Just think about it: when was the last time you ate a Powerbar before a workout? Had a big smoothie before you hit the gym? Finished up a workout and dumped some kind of powder into your blender (check the label and you’ll probably see maltodextrin and/or fructose as primary ingredients)?

Now, there is absolutely no arguing with the fact that high carbohydrate intake before, during and after a workout can certainly improve performance. So sure – there is at least some logic to the standard recommendation that you should consume a diet which provides high carbohydrate availability before and during exercise.

But while carbohydrates can help you have a better workout, go faster, or go longer, this only applies to acute, in-the-moment performance. Once you take a look (which you’re about to do) at the long-term effects of chronic high blood sugar levels, things change drastically. If the damage that you’re above to discover is worth it to you, then you are either mildly masochistic or you value performance much more than health.

Perhaps you fall into the category of Olympic athletes who would dope with damaging drugs, even if they knew it would kill them. However, if you desire a long, high-quality life, you don’t want to be a washed up ex-exerciser with diabetes, or you don’t want to experience joint, nerve and brain inflammation, damage and degradation, you may need to adjust your lens.

Your lens?

That’s right.

This all depends on the lens through which you view your body and value your health, and your own personal philosophy on performance vs. health.

So what is your lens? Are you chasing performance and a better body at all costs, or are you willing to entertain the idea of thinking outside the box and defying standard practice if it means that you can achieve the same or superior levels of performance, and a better body, but with superior long-term health implications?

Before we discover the answer to that question, let’s delve in and find out what happens if you actually listen to the standard advice to fuel your workouts with massive amounts of “healthy” carbohydrates.

The bullet points below will help you understand the risks of consuming carbohydrate levels like “7-10g/kg” (if you want more details and studies behind some of these points, read this excellent article from the Life Extension Foundation).

-Cancer: Numerous studies have found that the risk for cancer increases with high blood sugar, which makes sense, since cancer cells feed primarily on glucose. This includes cancers of the endometrium, pancreas, and colon and colorectal tumors. Tim Ferriss recently hosted a fantastic article by Peter Attia about this very issue, and how ketosis may indeed be a potential cancer cure.

-Cardiovascular Disease: High blood sugar has been shown to increase the risk for cardiovascular events, cardiovascular disease, and cardiovascular mortality—while lower glucose levels result in lower cardiovascular risk. Coronary artery disease risk has been shown to be twice as high in patients with impaired glucose tolerance, compared with patients with more normal glucose tolerance. The risk for stroke increases as fasting glucose levels rise above 83 mg/dL. In fact, every 18 mg/dL increase beyond 83 results in a 27 percent greater risk of dying from stroke. Incidentally, glucose can “stick” to cholesterol particles and render these particles extremely dangerous from a heart health standpoint, which is why it’s all the more important to control blood sugar levels if you’re eating a “high-fat diet.”

-Cognitive Issues: High blood sugar results in cognitive impairment and dementia.

-Kidney Disease: Surges in blood sugar drive the production of fibrous kidney tissue and vascular complications in the kidneys, which can cause chronic kidney disease. There is a direct increase in chronic kidney disease as levels of hemoglobin A1c (a three-month “snapshot” of glucose control) rise.

-Pancreatic Dysfunction: The beta cells in the pancreas that produce the insulin to help control blood sugar become dysfunctional with high blood glucose, raising the risk for type 2 diabetes. Researchers have discovered that beta cell issues are detectable in people whose glucose levels spike two hours after eating, despite those levels staying within the range considered normal and safe by the medical establishment.

-Diabetic Retinopathy: Diabetic retinopathy is damage to the retina that can lead to blindness—and it is highly aggravated by high blood sugar.

-Nervous System Damage: It’s been shown that patients with neuropathy whose after-meal glucose readings were above the diabetic threshold sustained damage to their large nerve fibers. Even neuropathy patients whose glucose readings remained well within the normal range showed damage to their small nerve fibers. Studies have shown that within any blood sugar range, the higher the glucose, the greater the damage to nerve fibers.

I don’t know about you, but I find these risks pretty damn concerning. The fact is that I want to be around to play with my grandkids, and considering that my genetic testing with 23andMe has revealed that I have a higher-than-normal risk for type 2 diabetes, I doubt that shoving more gooey gels and sugary sports drinks into my pie hole is going to do my health any favors. So if I can achieve similar levels of performance and body composition with carbohydrate restriction, I’m all in.

But let’s say you have a hard time thinking 20 years ahead to your future health prospects.

Perhaps diabetes and joint degradation seem like a long way off to you, and it’s tough to get motivated by those vague concepts. You just want to rock your workouts, feel like a million bucks and look good naked – right now. In that case, there still a multitude of benefits to controlling blood sugar and lowering carbohydrate intake.

For example, a key component of safe and lasting fat loss is your capability to tap into your body’s own storage fat for energy. This access to fat cannot happen if your body is constantly drawing on carbohydrate reserves and blood glucose for energy. In the type of moderate- to high-carbohydrate diets you’ve learned are widely recommended by prevailing nutrition science, not only does the utilization of fat for energy become far less crucial (since you’re constantly dumping readily available sugar sources into your body), but your metabolism never becomes efficient at using fat. There is a growing body of evidence proving that a high-fat, low-carbohydrate diet results in faster and more permanent weight loss than a low-fat diet. Furthermore, appetite satiety and dietary satisfaction significantly improve with a high-fat, low-carbohydrate diet that includes moderate protein.

A study in the Journal of Applied Physiology showed that people who do twice-a-day workouts, but defy standard nutrition recommendations by not eating for two hours after the first session (thus depleting carbohydrate stores with the first session) experienced a better ability to burn fat (with no loss in performance) compared with a group that trained only once a day and ate carbohydrates afterward.

Another study, described in detail in this excellent article series on high fat diets for cyclists, deprived participants of carbohydrates then subjected them to high-intensity interval training on a bicycle – and showed better fat burning and an increase in the enzymes responsible for fat metabolism, again with no loss of performance.

And biochemistry research shows that when carbohydrate stores are depleted by almost 50 percent (e.g. by doing a workout without eating carbohydrates), there is increased stimulus for enhanced enzyme activity in skeletal muscle – which is a good thing, since it means that you can more efficiently produce ATP energy from fat calories.

But the benefits of going low carb don’t stop at fat loss.

For example, in trained people and athletes who eat a low-carbohydrate, high-fat diet (not to be confused with a low-carbohydrate, high-protein diet), a large amount of fat burning can take place at intensities well above 80 percent maximum oxygen utilization (VO2 max) – allowing for very-high-intensity or long efforts with low calorie intake and also allowing for use of fat fuel stores during long steady-state exercise, even at a relatively fast pace (so much for the “fat burning zone” giving you the best bang for your buck). With high-fat, low-carb intake, you can go hard and still burn tons of fat. In addition, this means that more carbohydrate stores will be available when you really need them, such as for an all-out, 100%, maximum effort.

You also get incredible gains in metabolic efficiency when you use fat as a primary source of fuel – especially when doing high-intensity interval training – with this one-two combo causing potent 3–5 percent decreases in the oxygen cost of exercise, which is extremely significant. Translated into real- world numbers, this increased fat utilization from carbohydrate restriction and high-intensity interval training would allow you to pedal a bicycle at a threshold of 315 watts, whereas a high-carbohydrate, aerobic-only program (the way most people train) would allow for only 300 watts. Talk to any cyclist and you’ll find out that an 15 extra watts of power is huge in a sport like cycling, and something most cyclists train years and years to achieve.

high-fat diet also trains your body to burn even more fat during exercise, even at high intensities. Fat is released faster and in greater amounts from your storage adipose tissue and transported more quickly into your muscles and mitochondria. Your muscles also store more energy as fat and use this fat-based fuel more efficiently and quickly. Even more interestingly, a high-fat diet can cause a shift in the gene expression that codes for specific proteins that increase fat metabolism – and create very similar adaptations to exercise itself. So the mere act of shifting primary fuel intake from carbohydrates to fat begins to make you more “fit”, even if you’re not exercising.

And guess what else?

This benefit surprised me when I first discovered it, but eating fewer carbohydrates during a workout can actually help you recover from workouts faster. The repair and recovery of skeletal muscle tissue is dependent on the “transcription” of certain components of your RNA. And a bout of endurance exercise combined with low muscle-carbohydrate stores can result in greater activation of this transcription. In other words, by training in a low-carbohydrate state, you train your body to recover faster.

But sadly, whether due to government subsidy of high carb foods like corn and grain, funding from big companies like Gatorade and Powerbar, our sugar-addicted Western palates, or the constant (unfounded) fear mongering about saturated fats and heart disease, the type of research that shows these fat-burning and performance benefits of carbohydrate restriction simply get shoved under the rug.

In addition, most studies that compare carbohydrate utilization with fat utilization fail to take into account the fact that full “fat adaptation” that allows you to gain all the benefits of using fat as a fuel actually takes time – often more than four weeks – and up to a couple years. But since most studies that compare fat and carbohydrate burning are short-term, you rarely see the benefits of this kind of fat adaptation actually fleshed out in research. Instead, the average research participant begins the study in a non-fat adapted state, gets either a high fat or high carb diet, then launches into exercise. But in an ideal study, that person would have followed either a high-fat or high-carb diet for many months before getting their fat burning capability investigated.

So the textbooks and the nutrition science recommendations stick to the standard two pieces of advice you learned about earlier, and continue to preach that to be a good exerciser, to get maximum performance and to optimize your workouts, you need to be a complete carbaholic.

But what if this wasn’t true?

What if we could prove that eating a low-carb, high-fat diet for a long time, becoming fat-adapted and even avoiding carbohydrates during the one time when we’re most encouraged to consume carbohydrates (during exercise)…

…could actually turn you into a fat-burning machine without losing a shred of performance capability or causing any metabolic damage?

Well, as you’ve learned, that has just been proven this year, and you can read all the details in the study that was just released a few weeks ago in the Journal of Metabolism at “Metabolic characteristics of keto-adapted ultra-endurance runners”.

So, let’s summarize what you’ve learned so far:

  1. I used to eat lots of carbohydrates. Then, for health reasons, I quit and shifted to a high-fat diet.
  1. Eventually, I began utilizing ketosis, and got even better results.
  1. But I experienced some significant logistical and health issues with ketosis, so I shifted back into a “non-ketotic” but still relatively low-carb diet, while continuing to avoid high carb intake due to the host of health issues you just learned about.
  1. Then recently, in my recent foray into freediving, I re-explored the newer, more cutting-edge ways to get into ketosis.
  1. Which brings us, drumroll please, into the four new cutting-edge ways to easily shift your body into fat burning and ketosis.

Let’s do this.


Cutting-Edge Way To Get Into Ketosis #1: Powdered MCT’s + Exogenous Ketones In The Form Of “BHB Salts”

Supplementing with exogenous ketones allows you to experience deep ketosis and elevated blood ketone levels, without having to eat copious amounts of fats,  follow an excessively carbohydrate restrictive ketogenic diet, or doing a ton of fasting which, as you learned earlier, is often difficult or even damaging to adhere to.

To understand exogenous ketones, you should know that there are three types of ketones: beta-hydroxybutyrate (BHB), acetoacetate (ACA) and acetone, and all three are the normal by-products of fat breakdown by your body. In much the same way as glucose, ketones can be used by your tissues, especially your brain, diaphragm and heart and are actually a far more efficient fuel source than glucose.

BHB is the primary ketone your body can most efficiently use as fuel during exercise and at rest (especially when you’re keto-adapted), it is the most stable of the ketones, and it is actually found in nature in many foods including eggs and milk. A “BHB salt” is simply a compound that consists of sodium (Na+), potassium (K+), and the ketone body beta-hydroxybutyrate.

Before you consume a BHB salt, these individual components are held together by ionic bonds. However, when you consume a supplement containing a BHB salt, it is absorbed into the blood where it dissociates into free sodium (Na+), potassium (K+), and finally, the actual ketone. This means that consuming a product containing a BHB directly and immediately puts ketones into your blood, without the need for you to eat tons of fats or engage in carbohydrate restriction or fasting to generate the ketones.

Yes, that means that normally your body would only generate BHB after it metabolizes fats or is in a deep state of fasting or carbohydrate restriction, but you can bypass that entire process by simply ingesting a BHB salt, and thus get yourself into a deep state of ketosis in as little as ten minutes flat.

Then there’s medium chain triglycerides (MCT’s). Most dietary fat has to be converted into water soluble molecules that then need to enter the liver via your lymph system. Your liver then converts these molecules to fatty acids and ketone bodies. But unlike most other forms of dietary fats, MCT’s can enter your liver directly without having to go through your lymph system. This means that consuming MCT’s gives your body an opportunity to quickly produce ketone bodies.

The addition of MCT powder to ketones serves the purpose of maintaining endogenous production of ketone bodies by stimulating fatty acid oxidation in the liver, which then causes the production of even more ketone bodies. In this transcript from a podcast with Dr. Dom D’Agostino it is mentioned that MCT’s cross the blood-brain barrier straight to the brain. So not only are the ketones being used by the brain as an alternative fuel but so are MCT’s.


In this study by Dr. Dominic D’Agostino it is also mentioned that your blood brain barrier (BBB) “is relatively impermeable to most hydrophilic substances, such as ketone bodies. Therefore, the transport of ketones across the BBB is highly dependent on specific carrier-mediated facilitated transport by a family of proton-linked monocarboxylic acid transporters”. Basically, what this means is that MCT powder may act as a carrier to shuttle the ketone bodies across the BBB.

So…just imagine if you could inject your body with a one-two combo of BHB salts and MCT’s.

Enter a product called KETO//OS (Ketone Operating System) made by a company called Prüvit. KETO//OS is a ketone salt formula that has been researched, tested, and physician approved to provide elevated blood ketone levels to the body.

Keto OS
KETO//OS contains a specifically engineered ratio of ketone mineral salts blended with a high fiber based medium chain triglyceride (MCT) formulation, so you get a potent delivery of both exogenous ketones and medium chain triglycerides.  It is simply a powder that you mix with 8-10 oz of water. Within 15-30 minutes it puts your body into a full and deep state of ketosis.

Here’s what the nutrition label of this stuff looks like:

keto os-nutrition-facts

As you can see, it’s very clean – primarily BHB salts, MCT powder, and natural flavors along with stevia, in a caffeine-free or caffeinated version.

Now, there a few things you should know before you begin using KETO//OS. First, ketones naturally act as a diuretic, so you lose salt, potassium, calcium and magnesium, and it is generally encouraged to increase sodium intake with ketones. That’s why there is extra sodium added to KETO//OS. The combination of BHB with sodium also acts as a bit of a buffer to buffer natural ketone acidity.

Next, you should know that supplementing with KETO//OS (or following a ketogenic diet) can cause a slightly diuretic, water-losing effect, and can deplete your natural magnesium, potassium and sodium stores. This can be rectified by supplementing with a good electrolyte or increasing the sodium in your diet. This is another reason KETO//OS adds additional sodium to the formulation to counteract this sodium depletion.

Next, you need to ease yourself into this stuff. As I mentioned earlier, KETO//OS is blended with MCT’s, which can cause digestive distress if you’re not used to consuming them. This is due to the fact that your body has not yet adapted to the increased fats in your diet, and is less efficient at utilizing ketones as its fuel source. Once your body has adapted to MCT in the diet, the digestive distress will resolve.  But I recommend you start slowly with just about a half a serving a day, and over two weeks, build up to a full serving twice a day.

You can actually do more than two servings per day if you want, and you can experiment to see how many servings your body should handle. You should know that it would be very difficult to overdose on ketones. They are water soluble, so any excess ketones will be eliminated mainly via the urine.

Since originally publishing this article, I’ve been asked whether elevating blood ketones with exogenous sources could trigger a ketone-induced release of insulin that would theoretically reduce hepatic ketogenesis and perhaps slow fat mobilization. This makes sense since you are putting more energy into the system in general (from exogenous ketones), so there would be less need to draw off your own fat stores.

What actually happens is that when you deliver pure BHB (BHB ketone salts) along with MCT’s, there continues to be high rates of hepatic ketogenesis, but the liver production of ketones comes mostly from the MCT’s, not from your own fat stores.

However, at the same time, it should be noted that MCT’s gradually enhance the fat oxidation capacity of the liver and muscle, so this is turning you into a better fat burner overall if they continue to stay in ketosis.

What’s the takeaway message? If you’re trying to lose weight, don’t overdo the use of exogenous ketones (e.g. use 1-2 servings per day), commit to a long period of time spent in ketosis, and use MCT’s in addition to ketones.


Cutting-Edge Way To Get Into Ketosis #2: KetoCaNa

KetoCaNa, which is made by Prototype Nutrition, is very similar to the KETO//OS I discuss above, but does not contain MCT’s. That’s really the primary difference. So if you don’t like MCT’s or if you want fewer calories in a powdered, exogenous ketone product, then you can add this one into your ketogenic protocol.

ks-ketocanaRather than containing sodium and potassium BHB salts, KetoCaNa contains sodium and calcium salts. Some folks find this sodium/calcium blend gets them into ketosis more quickly than a sodium/potassium blend, but I haven’t personally noticed a significant difference between the two in my Ketonix ketone breath testing.

Here’s what the KetoCaNa label looks like:

ketocana label

KetoCaNa contains 11.7 grams of the ketone body Beta-Hydroxybutyrate (BHB), and consumption of KetoCaNa before exercise can result in significant decreases in oxygen demand and increases in physical performance, along with heightened mental acuity and cognitive performance.

Similar to the BHB salts and MCT’s from the KETO//OS I discuss above, powdered forms of ketones are excellent if you don’t want to completely eliminate carbohydrates or fat or eat copious amounts of fats, but want to simultaneously maintain high levels of blood ketones. It may also be used to ease the transition into a ketogenic state, because it can help alleviate the fatigue and lethargy some  people experience while making the transition from a glucose metabolism (carb burning mode) to ketone metabolism (fat burning mode).

KetoCaNa is pretty dang easy to use: you just stir it into about eight ounces of cold water until dissolved for best results.

I’ll warn you: when you first start using BHB salts like KetoCaNa, it can cause some temporary GI upset until you get acclimated to use. For me, this manifested in just a little bit of gas and bloating that subsided after about one week of use. Additionally, you should know that this product contains salt, so it counts as part of your daily salt intake.

If you are already in ketosis and accustomed to high-fat, low-carb diets, you can take one heaping scoop in about eight ounces of water fifteen minutes prior to working out. It stays in your system and will provide your body with elevated ketone levels for about three hours. When taken as a pre-workout, KetoCaNa has also been shown to decrease the amount of oxygen consumed at a given power output.

If you are transitioning into a state of ketosis then you should use a loading phase with this stuff. For that, it is recommended that you take three servings per day for two to three days, and one of these servings should be ingested fifteen minutes pre-workout.

Again, to clarify, this is simply a “lower calorie” version of exogenous ketones since it doesn’t contain MCT’s. So if your stomach doesn’t do well with MCT’s or if you want to consume fewer calories, this may be a better option for you.

The good folks at Prototype Nutrition are offering a 10% discount on KetoCaNa. Just click here and use code “BG2015”.


Cutting-Edge Way To Get Into Ketosis #3: C8 or C10 MCT Oils

You may already be familiar with the cognitive boosting properties of MCT oil if you’ve tried Bulletproof Coffee, the ketogenic coffee blend that involves mixing butter, some form of MCT oil or coconut oil, and some tasty additions like chocolate or cinnamon.

However, there’s plenty of confusion out there about all the different forms of MCT’s, and there’s an important difference between oils like coconut oil, XCT oil, MCT oil, and a newer addition to the MCT family called Brain Octane.

Take coconut oil for example. The coconut oil industry loves to market the idea that relatively inexpensive and abundant coconut oil is a great source of MCTs because it’s “62% MCT oil”, but the problem is that studies show you can’t get many useful ketogenic MCT’s from just eating coconut oil or even most brands of “MCT oil”, which are often is diluted with lauric acid, a cheap, hugely abundant part of coconut oil that is typically marketed as an MCT oil.

Now don’t get me wrong: coconut oil (in moderated amounts) can be good for you. Eating it provides cheap and abundant lauric acid, a useful oil that is sold as an MCT oil even though it does not act like an MCT in the body.

In the US especially, coconut oil and MCT oil manufacturers are legally allowed to claim that lauric acid is an MCT because chemists named it that way, even though it does not act like other true biological MCT oils. If you are relying on plain coconut oil or “MCT-labeled” oil to get enough useful MCTs, think again and check the label: odds are you’re getting very few of the potent, ketogenic shorter chain MCTs (also known as “C8” and “C10”), and instead getting mostly cheaper but ineffective lauric acid.

Let’s delve into the nitty-gritty science here, shall we? Heck, you’ve made it this far so we might as well.

Coconut oil marketers often say there are four kinds of MCT oils found in coconut oil: C6, C8, C10, and C12 (the numbers define the length of the carbon chains).

Even though chemists long ago decided to call all of these MCTs, biologists now understand that the cheapest and most common of the MCTs, C12 or lauric acid, is actually a “pseudo-MCT”.

This C12 Lauric acid is a great food source, but it behaves like an LCT (long chain triglyceride) and not an MCT when you consume it, which means you don’t get the fast ketone energy from C12 Lauric acid that you get from C8 or C10.

As a matter of fact, from a pure biology perspective, lauric acid should actually be considered a LCT, because unlike C8 and C10 forms of MCT, lauric acid gets processed by your liver. This matters because your body metabolizes MCT’s differently than LCT’s: unlike LCT’s, MCT’s get very quickly converted into ketone energy to fuel your brain and body instead of requiring a pit stop in the liver for processing.

How did this incorrect labeling of C12 Lauric acid happen? Chemists counted the number of carbon chains and arbitrarily decided what was medium. So lauric acid is a chemical MCT but it is not a true biological MCT because your body does not treat it as an MCT.

Since your body treats lauric acid differently from the get go, it deserves to be treated honestly on oil marketing labels too! Hopefully, chemists will eventually change the classification to be more accurate. So basically, coconut oil and MCT oils comprised of lauric acid are not really true MCT’s capable of getting you into ketosis fast.

So then, what is an MCT Oil?

Here’s the deal: there are several main types of fatty acid oils found in coconut oil, but only the three listed below behave in your body as true biological MCT’s. This means that they bypass the metabolic burden of processing in the liver so they quickly become ketone-based energy in your brain and muscles.

These true MCT’s are:

C6, Caproic Acid:

There’s not enough of it to matter in coconut oil, it tastes bad, and it often results in stomach/gastric upset, but it does get converted quickly into ketones. If your MCT oil brand of choice makes your throat burn or has a weird flavor, one reason may be that the distillation did not remove enough of the C6. There are other reasons this can happen too, discussed below.

C8, Caprylic Acid (the primary MCT found in Brain Octane):

C8 is the rarest MCT found in coconut oil, comprising about 6% of coconut oil. It has potent anti-microbial properties (way more potent than lauric acid) to help you maintain a healthy gut, and it is the fastest MCT to metabolize in the brain. (hence the name Brain Octane). Your liver does not need to process C8, and it only takes the steps for your body to turn it into ATP cellular energy (sugar takes 26 steps). You would need 18 tablespoons of coconut oil to get just one tablespoon of Brain Octane.Brain_Octanebrain octane label

C10, Capric Acid (the primary MCT found in XCT Oil):

This is the second shortest form of MCT, also rare and comprising about 8% of coconut oil. It is slower to turn into energy but less expensive than C8. XCT Oil is triple-distilled in a non-oxygen atmosphere with no solvents, and it contains C10 and C8, because these are the only two MCT oils that turn into ATP quickly without the liver. You would need 6 tablespoons of coconut oil to get one tablespoon of XCT oil.

xct oil

xct oil label

C12, Lauric Acid:

C12 is about 50+% of coconut oil, and it requires a pit stop in the liver rather than getting immediately converted into energy like the other MCT’s listed above. This is why it is more accurately described as an LCT, not an MCT like marketers claim. It raises cholesterol more than any other fatty acid. It is also commonly cited as having antimicrobial benefits, which is does – except the shorter chain MCT oils are more effective against candida yeast infections, and even gonorrhea and chlamydia.

C14 and above (LCT’s):

These are the widely recognized LCT’s, or long chain fatty acids in coconut oil, mostly saturated, including stearic acid (C18:0), oleic acid (C18:1), and linoleic acid (18:2). The exact percentage of each depends on region the coconut is grown, time of harvest, and other growing variables. They are good as a fuel source in your food, and have some of the tastiness of coconut oil, if your goal is getting into ketosis fast, you won’t benefit from eating a lot more of them compared to eating true medium chain fatty acids.

When it comes to any of these forms of MCT oil, purity matters too. Some folks get severe diarrhea and throat irritation from commercially available MCT oils, and this is usually an oil purity issue.

The reason purity matters is that C17 is a byproduct of most MCT oil production processes, and it, along with C6, is a major cause of throat burning and gut irritation. Most MCT’s on the market are manufactured via chemical and solvent based refining, which involves using chemicals like hexane and different enzymes and combustion chemicals, such as sodium methoxide. But ideally, you should get an MCT oil that is made using triple steam distillation in a non-oxygen atmosphere to avoid lipid oxidation and create a purer end-product.

So ultimately, if you want the most ketogenically favorable, non-gut irritating potent and pure, chemical-free extract of coconut oil,  you’ll benefit the most from the cognitive aspects of an ultra-distilled MCT like Brain Octane oil (pure C8) or XCT Oil (C8 and C10).

So which MCT to pick? Brain Octane (pure C8) provides the fastest rise in ketones and burns the cleanest, with minimal gut irritation. XCT oil is more affordable but works more slowly with less direct cognitive effects. The capric acid C10 in XCT Oil doesn’t break down into ketones as quickly as pure caprylic C8, but capric acid C10 is more affordable, so you can save money by going with the XCT oil. XCT oil still goes to brain energy, just not as quickly as Brain Octane. Both can be used for energy without processing by the liver, unlike many other fats and oils.

Ultimately, you should use Brain Octane Oil if you want the maximum cognitive benefit, fastest foray into ketosis and quickest digestion. Use XCT oil if you are looking to economize while getting a metabolic boost and a slower smaller cognitive effect.


Cutting-Edge Way To Get Into Ketosis #4: CarbFuel

Yep. You heard me right.

Carbs can get you into fat burning mode.

Here’s how…

The smart folks at what I consider to be the top supplement company on the face of the planet (click here to read why I think that) just released a new carbohydrate-based exercise fuel called “EXOS CarbFuel”…

…and while you’d think, based on the name, that this stuff is right up there with slamming a Gatorade, a sugary gel or an energy bar, it’s actually, it’s far, far different. It is certainly true that most carbohydrate powders, beverages, bars and gels produce a huge spike of blood glucose or create some seriously disturbing fermentation in your gut or do both. Sure, you may get “energy” in the form of sugar, but along with that energy, you’ll get all the chronic health risks of constant blood sugar spikes you just learned about, or plenty of gas and bloating during your workouts, runs, bike rides or races, or both.

EXOS CarbFuel is designed to combat all these issues. Its main ingredients, a plant-based, gluten-free non-GMO pea starch and pure dextrose give you a unique carbohydrate blend that’s slowly absorbed and released into your bloodstream to maintain stable blood sugar and insulin levels. This helps provide steady energy, while preventing the mental and physical energy crashes associated with other faster-digesting carbohydrate sources.

So it’s designed in a complete opposite manner of the other carbohydrate blends out there.

But in my opinion, because I’m very, very much on the high-fat, metabolically efficient, ketosis bandwagon now, I still modify EXOS’s recommended method of using CarbFuel.


Easy: I use about half of the recommended serving of CarbFuel, and I instead add one scoop of Catalyte electrolytes, one scoop of Aminos, and one serving of ketones and/or MCT’s in the form of Brain Octane, KetoCaNa or KETO//OS (pick your poison, it’s up to you). While any of these forms of ketones and/or MCT’s works for daily focus and short workouts, I found that for long workouts they aren’t very gut friendly unless you really spread out the dosage (e.g. one serving every three hours), so you’d only really use that stuff in something like, say, an Ironman triathlon or multi-day adventure race.

exos carb


For any hard endurance efforts that take me longer than ninety minutes, I simply shake all this into a water bottle or flask for an hour’s worth of clean, slow-burning energy that gives:

  1. a slow-burning carbohydrate source;
  2. an electrolyte source;
  3. an amino acid source;
  4. an easily digested fat source that bypasses digestion and gets burnt directly as fuel.

In my opinion, this gives me the best of both worlds: just enough of a slow-bleed of carbohydrates to keep from bonking, enough electrolytes to keep my mineral levels topped off, enough amino acids to supply fuel for my brain and keep muscles from catabolizing, and enough fats to keep me in metabolically-efficient, fat-burning ketosis.

Of course, if your workout is less than ninety minutes, and you’ve had a decent pre-workout meal at some point in the past 2-3 hours, you don’t need to eat anything at all during a workout.

But let’s face it:

Some people race triathlons that definitely last longer than ninety minutes (Ironman, anybody)?

Some people do Spartan beasts or long Tough Mudders.

Some people go on two-plus hour bike rides.

Some people don’t have time before or after a workout to hunt down or prepare a proper pre or post-workout meal.

Some people run marathons.

You get the idea. There are definitely times when you do need a fuel like this. Just don’t think you need to use it if you’re headed to the gym for an easy thirty minute jaunt on the treadmill.

So there you have it. For the long stuff, I use EXOS CarbFuel. It burns clean. It keeps you in fat-burning mode. It doesn’t ferment in your gut or cause bloating. It tastes very nice, especially when you blend it with the stuff I recommended above.




I know that was a freaking boatload of information.

So bookmark this article and use it as a reference for your training, your daily productivity, and your competitions. Save it to your phone, your e-reader, your computer or wherever else you need it as a quick reference.

And, should your head still be spinning from the knowledge dump, here’s the summary of how to use these four new cutting-edge ways to easily shift your body into fat burning mode and ketosis.

  1. Use up to two servings of KETO//OS as a pre- or during-workout fuel for workouts, or for a snack throughout the day to keep you in ketosis. And yes, it can be mixed into smoothies or other drinks.
  1. Use up to three servings per day of KetoCaNa (10% discount code BG2015) a pre- or during-workout fuel for workouts, or for a snack throughout the day to keep you in ketosis, with the main difference between it and KETO//OS being that it is a different form of BHB salts and doesn’t contain MCT’s.
  1. If you’re serious about maximizing the benefits ketosis, then forego coconut oil, MCT liquid oil, olive oil, etc. and instead use Brain Octane as your oil of choice for recipes like bulletproof coffee, or in teas, salad dressings, or as a sushi or entrée flavor enhancer. For a slightly less expensive, but not quite as effective form of MCT, use XCT oil.
  1. For any long 90+ minute workouts or competitions for which glycogen depletion is a potential issue, use CarbFuel, but use half of the recommended serving of it, and add one scoop of Catalyte electrolytes, one scoop of Aminos, and one serving of medium chain triglycerides in the form of Brain Octane, KetoCaNa or KETO//OS (pick your poison, it’s up to you).

That’s it. You keep each of these options in your cupboard and you’ll have every weapon you need for easy fat-burning and ketosis, and each of these options will allow you to sustain high levels of blood ketones while still eating enough carbohydrates to avoid the metabolic damage that can occur from extreme carbohydrate restriction.

Our bodies were meant to burn ketones. We have a parallel system within us designed to use ketones as an energy source. Ketones are faster and more efficient than the way our bodies use glucose. Ketones give you 38% more energy than you can get from glucose. We as a society are following a deceptive food pyramid.

We’re operating in a high carb world where food is abundant and it is destroying our brains and bodies.

And that’s dumb.

Finally, exactly one week from now, I’m going to tell you why simply eating oodles of coconut oil to get yourself into ketosis could be a very, very bad idea indeed. Stay tuned for that post (you can click here to subscribe to my free newsletter and find out instantly when that article gets released).

And in the meantime, leave your questions, comments and feedback below!


A Final Smattering of Research For You

In case your brain isn’t full yet, here are a few additional studies and resources you may enjoy:

The Charlie Foundation for Ketogenic Therapies website:

Ellen Davis’ Ketogenic Diet Resource website:

The Effects of Beta-Hydroxybutyrate on Cognition

Dietary ketosis enhances memory in mild cognitive impairment

Increased plasma ketone bodies resulted in a corresponding reduction in cerebral metabolic rates of glucose:

Under conditions of ketosis, glucose consumption is decreased in the cortex and cerebellum:

Brain, Livin’ On Ketones – A Molecular Neuroscience Look At The Ketogenic Diet

Neuroprotective and disease-modifying effects of the ketogenic diet

Nutrition and Traumatic Brain Injury: Improving Acute and Subacute Health Outcomes in Military Personnel (2011)

Clinical review: Ketones and brain injury

No impaired endurance performance when in ketosis:

Treatment of diabetes and diabetic complications with a ketogenic diet

Insulin Sensitivity and Glucose Tolerance Are Altered by Maintenance on a Ketogenic Diet

Long-term ketogenic diet reduces blood glucose:

Ketogenic Diet Could Delay the Effects of Aging

Scientists see a Ketogenic Diet for Aging and Longevity

Ketosis cleans our cells

Long-term ketogenic diet significantly reduced the body weight and body mass index of the patients:

Cancer Cells Can’t Live Using Ketones As A Fuel

Ketogenic Diet for Cancer – ClinicalTrial

Effects of a ketogenic diet on tumor metabolism and nutritional status in pediatric oncology patients: two case reports.

Amino Acids, BCAA’s, EAA’s, Ketosis, Bonking & More With 41 Time Ironman Triathlete Dr. David Minkoff.

minkoff itunes

Dr. David Minkoff and I go way back.

I first met this MD and 41 time Ironman triathlon finisher at the Half-Ironman World Championships in Florida six years ago, and interviewed him a few weeks later in the podcast episode “A Peek Into The Life of An Ironman, Natural Medicine Physician.

Then, he helped me with metal detoxification using a metal chelating spray he designed, and I interviewed him about this in the podcast “How Hidden Sources Of Heavy Metals Are Destroying Your Health, And What You Can Do About It.”

He also helped me with my son’s exercise induced asthma, which is now completely eliminated using the techniques Dr. Minkoff introduced me to in the podcast “Why More Kids Are Getting Exercise Induced Asthma, and What You Can Do About It.

Now Dr. Minkoff is back. And he’s back to fill us in on amino acids, branched chain amino acids, ketosis, bonking and more! During our discussion, you’ll discover:

-The shocking story of how Dr. Minkoff reversed his wife’s MS by detoxifying the mercury build-up in her body…

-The exact dosage of amino acids Dr. Minkoff used to completely heal a hamstring injury…

-The important difference between amino acids, protein powder and food-based protein from sources like steak and eggs…

-Why BCAAs and EAAs are much different, and why EAAs are not turned into sugar in the body…

-How to use EAAs during periods of ketosis or carbohydrate restriction…

-How long before a workout to use EAAs and how many to use during a workout…

-How many amino acids you can safely take on a daily basis…

-How to use EAAs for intermittent fasting, controlling carbohydrate cravings and fat loss… 

-And much more!


More About Dr. Minkoff:

Dr. Minkoff graduated from the University of Wisconsin Medical School in 1974 and was elected to the “Phi Beta Kappa” of medical schools, the prestigious Alpha Omega Alpha Honors Medical Fraternity for very high academic achievement. He then worked as an attending physician in infectious disease, co-directed a neo-natal intensive care unit and worked in emergency medicine until 1995.

In 1997, his interest in alternative and complementary medicine led him to open LifeWorks Wellness Center, which has become one of the foremost alternative medicine clinics in the U.S. His search to find a source of the highest quality nutritional supplements led him to establish BodyHealth in 2000, a resource that could provide doctors with the best possible supplementation and education for their patients. Today, his BodyHealth products are used by hundreds of practitioners and individual consumers who seek all-natural wellness and detoxification supplements with a demonstrated high level of quality and effectiveness.

In addition to their use by patients looking to heal disease, the BodyHealth products are also used by sports enthusiasts interested in achieving and maintaining optimal performance. As a 40-time Ironman triathlon finisher, (including 8 appearances at the Ironman World Championships) Dr. Minkoff has first-hand experience to help athletes achieve optimum conditioning. His expertise in protein synthesis, detoxification, and nutrition allow them to run, swim, and bike faster and longer.


This episode is brought to you by:

Four Sigma Foods – Visit and use code ‘bengreenfield’ for 15% off!

Resources we discuss in this episode:

NatureAminos Essential Amino Acids

Pancreatic enzymes

ION Panel from DirectLabs

MetalFree detox spray

Interview with Dr. Minkoff: How Hidden Sources Of Heavy Metals Are Destroying Your Health, And What You Can Do About It.

Interview with Dr. Minkoff: A Peek Into The Life of An Ironman, Natural Medicine Physician.

Interview with Dr. Minkoff: Why More Kids Are Getting Exercise Induced Asthma, and What You Can Do About It.

Do you have questions, comments or feedback for Dr. Minkoff? Leave your thoughts below and either he or I will reply!

Mushroom Lies: Why Most Medicinal Mushroom Supplements Are Chock Full Of Grain & Dangerous Compounds, And What You Can Do About It.

pod cast jeff intunes

Last year, my friend Skye Chilton visited my house. One night, he sat down at my kitchen table and spread out an array of colorful mushrooms, including cordyceps, a mushroom well-known for it’s athletic performance enhancing capabilities (and one that I recently tweeted this study about).

“Taste this.” Skye said, as he handed me a standard, commercial cordyceps product. It was tasteless, flavorless and a bland brownish color. I didn’t care for it.

Then he gave me another handful of cordyceps. This different blend was a rich, reddish-brown color, and had a powerful, potent, medicinal taste. Within just a couple minutes I felt a surge of energy.

The difference between these two mushroom extracts was noticeable, palatable, and significant.

So what makes one mushroom extract different from another?

Do medicinal mushrooms have different benefits depending on how they are grown, what stage they are harvested in, or where they are sourced?

How do you actually use mushrooms in your daily life?

In today’s podcast, you’ll get all these answers and more from Skye’s father, Jeff Chilton, who wrote a book called “The Mushroom Cultivator: A Practical Guide to Growing Mushrooms at Home“, which Skye gave me after he left my house, and which I realized after I read it is the most comprehensive guide on medicinal mushrooms I’ve ever seen.

In the 1980’s he operated a commercial mushroom spawn laboratory, and in 1989 he started one of the first medicinal mushroom businesses in North America. His company, Nammex, sells certified organic mushroom extracts to nutritional supplement businesses in the US, Canada and worldwide.

During our discussion, you’ll discover:

-Why you should add mushroom extracts such as reishi, shitaake, cordyceps to a morning cup of coffee…

-The important difference between medicinal mushroom and the kind of mushrooms you eat as food…

-How to cut through the confusion of which mushroom extracts are actually quality and which are a complete waste of your money…

-Why some mushrooms just contain grain, with very little actual mushroom extract…

-An easy way you can use an iodine dropper test yourself at home to see if a mushroom contains a bunch of cheap starch
-The medical condition that some people have which indicates they should avoid eating mushrooms…
-Whether psychedelic mushrooms are safe, or have any helpful utilization…
-And much more!
Resources from this episode:
FourSigmaFoods mushroom extracts (the ones Ben uses)
Do you have questions, comments or feedback about medicinal mushrooms? Leave your thoughts below and either Jeff or I will reply.

Can Weed Really Shrink Your Brain?

weedbrain itunes

A few weeks ago, I talked on this podcast episode about whether THC can cause damage to the grey matter in your brain.

But, frankly, I spent very little time addressing the matter on that particular show, so in today’s episode, I’m revisiting the topic of THC, brain damage, liver damage, myths about marijuana, CBD, smart drugs, nootropics and more with Dr. Andrew Hill, Lead Neuroscientist at truBrain, and one smart cookie.

During our discussion, you’ll discover:

-Why left-handed people are more sensitive to chemical stimulants…

-The truth behind the evidence that THC can shrink the brain…

-The important differences between THC and CBD…

-How Dr. Hill can “reset” tolerance to marijuana using neurofeedback in his clinic…

-If there is a deleterious effect of THC on the liver or other organs…

-How to map your brain and change your brain using neurofeedback…

-Little known smart drug ingredients such as oxiracetam and centrophenoxine…

-And much more, including a killer giveaway at the end of the show!

Resources & studies cited in this episode:

Decreased grey matter but increased connectivity (not controlled for SES):
More recent and much larger study that failed to find grey matter volume changes:
And a summary of another study that found decreased volume, and the two studies that refute this:

Peak Brain Institute

Pocket Neurobics

Heart Rate Variability (HRV) Training

TruBrain drinks and capsules (use code BEN to save 50%)

Previous episode with Dr. Andrew Hill on smart drugs vs. nootropics

Water soluble CBD

Do you have questions, comments or feedback for myself or Dr. Andrew Hill? Leave your thoughts below and one of us will reply.

The Ultimate Bone Broth FAQ: Everything You’ve Always Wanted To Know About Bone Broth.

Kettle & Fire Bone Broth

Last week, I posed a question on the BenGreenfieldFitness Facebook page:

BONE BROTH:: Is it still a mystery for you? Or perhaps you can make broth like a ninja, but you don’t know exactly what…

Posted by Ben Greenfield Fitness on Thursday, October 22, 2015

After reading the dozens of comments and questions that came through about this flavorful “lifeblood” that I personally drink almost every day, I sat down and created this FAQ for you.

So go ahead and heat up a cup of bone broth, add a pinch of sea salt, sip it just like coffee out of your favorite mug, and enjoy reading.


Q: Why Bone Broth?

Here’s the deal: regular old meat that you can from, say, a steak can be pretty good stuff.

But that meat contains lots and lots of methionine, which is an amino acid found in steak, eggs, dairy, and other animal foods, and excess methionine has been shown to reduce longevity in animal trial. However, restricting methionine in an effort to live longer may not be necessary if you eat enough of another amino acid called glycine, which is the primary amino acid found in the gelatin of bone broth. As a matter of fact, adding glycine to a meat-based, methionine-rich diet has even been shown to mimic the life extension normally seen with methionine restriction.

In other words, red meat and meat in general may be a lifespan-reducing food, but only if consumed in the absence of marrow, bones, broth, and other “ancestral” parts we eat so little of these days.

Regular meat lacks significant amounts of not just glycine, but another amino acids called proline. Glycine and proline are crucial for a repairing and healing the lining of your gut and for supporting digestion, muscle repair, muscle growth, the nervous system, and the immune system. This chicken broth study at the University of Nebraska even showed that the glycine and proline produced from chicken stock can significantly reduce inflammation in your respiratory system and your digestive system.

But the benefits of bone broth don’t stop with glycine and proline. Bone broth is also a good source of the minerals calcium, phosphorus, magnesium, and potassium, and (particularly in bone broth made with vinegar), these minerals are in extremely absorbable form. Bone broth also contains glucosamine and chondroitin, compounds that are typically sold as nutritional supplements in spendy pill form for management of inflammation, arthritis, and joint pain, but that you can also get for far cheaper in broth. Broth also contains hyaluronic acid, which has been shown to improve quality of life and reduced pain in patients with osteoarthritis.

The bones themselves that are left over after you make broth contain a protein called collagen, and the breakdown of this collagen then produces gelatin (click here to listen to a podcast in which I thoroughly explain the differences between collagen and gelatin). Gelatin can help to heal a leaky gut, serve as a source of soothing calories for people with gut inflammation or autoimmune disorders, and may also help reduce joint pain, reduce inflammation, prevent bone loss, and build healthy skin, hair, and nails.

Finally, the glycine in gelatin is excellent for sleep, so you can curl up with a nice warm mug of bone broth before bed.


Q. How Do I Make Bone Broth?

Let’s start here: don’t buy bone broth from the grocery store. 

Broth (often labeled as “stock”) from the grocery store is prepared using harsh, high temperatures and accelerated cooking techniques, resulting in a watery, non-nutrient-dense, non-gelatin-rich broth. Once you add in unnatural additives like MSG and other flavors, it just turns into an unhealthy, chemical soup.

But whether you use chicken bones, beef bones or fish bones, bone broth isn’t hard to make. One of my favorite organizations and websites, the “Weston A. Price Foundation” has this excellent resource on bone broth, which includes the following three recipes for chicken, beef or fish:

Chicken Stock

1 whole free-range chicken or 2 to 3 pounds of bony chicken parts, such as necks, backs, breastbones and wings*
gizzards from one chicken (optional)
2-4 chicken feet (optional)
4 quarts cold filtered water
2 tablespoons vinegar (Adding an acid like lemon juice or vinegar will help to extract minerals from the bones.  Use a mild-flavored vinegar, like apple cider or rice wine, as white vinegar may taste too harsh in a mellow broth) 
1 large onion, coarsely chopped
2 carrots, peeled and coarsely chopped
3 celery stalks, coarsely chopped
1 bunch parsley

*Note: Farm-raised, free-range chickens give the best results. Many commercialy-raised chickens will not produce stock that gels.

If you are using a whole chicken, cut off the wings and remove the neck, fat glands and the gizzards from the cavity. Cut chicken parts into several pieces. (If you are using a whole chicken, remove the neck and wings and cut them into several pieces.) Place chicken or chicken pieces in a large stainless steel pot with water, vinegar and all vegetables except parsley. Let stand 30 minutes to 1 hour. Bring to a boil, and remove scum that rises to the top. Reduce heat, cover and simmer for 6 to 8 hours. The longer you cook the stock, the richer and more flavorful it will be. About 10 minutes before finishing the stock, add parsley. This will impart additional mineral ions to the broth.

Remove whole chicken or pieces with a slotted spoon. If you are using a whole chicken, let cool and remove chicken meat from the carcass. Reserve for other uses, such as chicken salads, enchiladas, sandwiches or curries. Strain the stock into a large bowl and reserve in your refrigerator until the fat rises to the top and congeals. Skim off this fat and reserve the stock in covered containers in your refrigerator or freezer.

Beef Stock

about 4 pounds beef marrow and knuckle bones
1 calves foot, cut into pieces (optional)
3 pounds meaty rib or neck bones
4 or more quarts cold filtered water
1/2 cup vinegar
3 onions, coarsely chopped
3 carrots, coarsely chopped
3 celery stalks, coarsely chopped
several sprigs of fresh thyme, tied together
1 teaspoon dried green peppercorns, crushed
l bunch parsley

Place the knuckle and marrow bones and optional calves foot in a very large pot with vinegar and cover with water. Let stand for one hour. Meanwhile, place the meaty bones in a roasting pan and brown at 350 degrees in the oven. When well browned, add to the pot along with the vegetables. Pour the fat out of the roasting pan, add cold water to the pan, set over a high flame and bring to a boil, stirring with a wooden spoon to loosen up coagulated juices. Add this liquid to the pot. Add additional water, if necessary, to cover the bones; but the liquid should come no higher than within one inch of the rim of the pot, as the volume expands slightly during cooking. Bring to a boil. A large amount of scum will come to the top, and it is important to remove this with a spoon. After you have skimmed, reduce heat and add the thyme and crushed peppercorns.

Simmer stock for at least 12 and as long as 72 hours. Just before finishing, add the parsley and simmer another 10 minutes. You will now have a pot of rather repulsive-looking brown liquid containing globs of gelatinous and fatty material. It doesn’t even smell particularly good. But don’t despair. After straining you will have a delicious and nourishing clear broth that forms the basis for many other recipes.

Remove bones with tongs or a slotted spoon. Strain the stock into a large bowl. Let cool in the refrigerator and remove the congealed fat that rises to the top. Transfer to smaller containers and to the freezer for long-term storage.

Fish Stock

3 or 4 whole carcasses, including heads, of non-oily fish such as sole, turbot, rockfish or snapper
2 tablespoons butter
2 onions, coarsely chopped
1 carrot, coarsely chopped
several sprigs fresh thyme
several sprigs parsley
1 bay leaf
1/2 cup dry white wine or vermouth
1/4 cup vinegar
about 3 quarts cold filtered water

Ideally, fish stock is made from the bones of sole or turbot. In Europe, you can buy these fish on the bone. The fish monger skins and filets the fish for you, giving you the filets for your evening meal and the bones for making the stock and final sauce. Unfortunately, in America sole arrives at the fish market preboned. But snapper, rock fish and other non-oily fish work equally well; and a good fish merchant will save the carcasses for you if you ask him. As he normally throws these carcasses away, he shouldn’t charge you for them. Be sure to take the heads as well as the body—these are especially rich in iodine and fat-soluble vitamins. Classic cooking texts advise against using oily fish such as salmon for making broth, probably because highly unsaturated fish oils become rancid during the long cooking process.

Melt butter in a large stainless steel pot. Add the vegetables and cook very gently, about 1/2 hour, until they are soft. Add wine and bring to a boil. Add the fish carcasses and cover with cold, filtered water. Add vinegar. Bring to a boil and skim off the scum and impurities as they rise to the top. Tie herbs together and add to the pot. Reduce heat, cover and simmer for at least 4 hours or as long as 24 hours. Remove carcasses with tongs or a slotted spoon and strain the liquid into pint-sized storage containers for refrigerator or freezer. Chill well in the refrigerator and remove any congealed fat before transferring to the freezer for long-term storage.

Even if you don’t have a slow-cooker you can still reproduce any of these recipes on a stovetop, with a large pot on low heat.


Q. How Many Calories Are In Bone Broth?

This definitely depends on your water-to-bones ratio. A super-complicated and annoying way to get an extremely accurate calculation would be to weigh the bones before you boil them, then weigh the bones again after the broth is done. The difference in weight would be how much of the marrow, fat and cartilage has melted into the broth. Then you would need to use an online calorie calculator to figure out how many calories that particular mass of fat is, and that would be how many calories are in the entire batch of broth (since water has no calories).

Oomph. Probably not worth it compared to getting a ballpark approximation.

There are nutrient profiles of various broths on the Nutrition Data website (originally derived from the USDA database), and although these almost certainly were not prepared with vinegar over the course of 24-48 hours as a traditional bone broth would be…

…it appears that around an ounce of bone broth, including fats and gelatin, comes out to around 35-40 calories. 


Q. Where Do I Get Bones?

Butchers almost always have bones. You probably have a butcher near your house.

But local farms have bones too (you can ask around at a farmers market). If you know someone who hunts, they likely have access to bones they may not be using. The meat department of many stores also have bones.

However, if you want to ensure a good, organic, clean bones source (which is very important, especially if you’ve seen the latest scary news on lead, bones and bone broth), stick to local organic farms that have pastured chicken or 100% grass-fed beef or simply order your bones online from a website such as U.S. Wellness Meats.

You can use bones from just about any animal, including beef, veal,  lamb, bison or buffalo, venison, chicken, duck, goose, turkey, or pork. Ideally, you should use a wide variety of bones, including marrow bones, oxtail bones, soup bones, and even larger bones like knuckle bones or feet (e.g. chicken feet), which contain more cartilage and more collagen. Knuckle, patella, femur, and feet bones are the bones that contain the highest concentration of white and red stem-cell marrow, as well as high levels of collagen.

And yes, you can re-use bones to make multiple batches of broth until the bones go soft (at which point, if you’d like, you can also eat the soft bony material that is left over). Just be sure to use fresh vegetables, herbs, and spices each time you make a new batch.

Finally, as “gross” as some people think this is, I take the incredibly tasty and nourishing pile of soft bones that are left over after a long bone broth simmer, I sprinkle them with sea salt and black pepper, then I saute them in a cast-iron pan with olive oil or butter and eat them with cheese, yogurt or roasted vegetables. Yes, it may sound strange, but this is one of my favorite meals each week after we make bone broth.


Q. What Do You Do With All The Fat On Top Of The Broth?


If you are 100% sure your bones are from a clean, organic source you can just keep the bits of fat in the broth and consume the fat when you drink your broth hot or make recipes from the broth.

Skimming off most of the fat is only that important if A) you’re using bones from animals that are conventionally raised (toxins tend to store mostly in fat); B) you’re trying to reduce the number of calories in your broth; or C) you just don’t like chewing on clumps of fat.

If you want to remove the fat, it’s quite easy. After you’re done cooking, remove your broth from the heat, and strain it. Then let your broth sit in the fridge for a couple hours, at which point the fat will rise to the top and harden. You can then scrape off the fat with a spoon or spatula.

Don’t confuse the fat with the gelatin. The gelatin is the Jell-O like, jiggling substance. That gelatin will return to an edible liquid state as soon as you heat your broth. In contrast, the fat is generally comprised of big clumps of white-ish chewy stuff. I personally eat both the big globs of gelatinous goodness and the fatty material too. I eat the soft leftover bones too.

If your broth doesn’t contain jiggly gelatin, then you need to read this article from the Healthy Home Economist, which gives five reasons broth doesn’t gel. Usually, it comes down to not using enough bones, adding too much water, or not cooking the broth for long enough (yet another reason to avoid the average broth from the grocery store). Generally, to get an adequately long cooking time, you should cook chicken bones a minimum of eight hours and up to 24 hours and beef bones a minimum of twelve hours and up to 48 hours.


Q. How Do I Use My Broth? 


Whenever any recipe, whether a risotto, a casserole, a soup, etc. calls for broth or stock, you just use your broth. My #1 recommended cookbook for a plethora of mouthwatering broth recipe is “Nourishing Traditions” by Sally Fallon.

But you don’t have to get all Chef Bouardi with fancy recipes. For example, during the day I also like to simply heat a cup of broth on the stove, add a sprinkling of black pepper and turmeric, and drink a mug of it the same way as I would drink coffee or tea. Occasionally, if I’m feeling too lazy to heat food or cook but I need a quick source of minerals, amino acids, or gelatin, I’ll just snag a glass jar of broth out of the fridge and drink it cold.


Q. How Do I Store Broth?

You can keep broth in the fridge for no longer than 3-4 days, but it can keep in the freezer for up to a year. As I discuss in my essential kitchen tools article, we always store in some kind of BPA-free plastic or in glass mason jars. Be sure to let the broth cool down before transferring to glass, and if you’re freezing, leave some space at the top, since the frozen broth will expand.

Here’s a tip: for easily adding small amounts of broth to recipes, you can store some it in an ice cube tray in the freezer. One cube is about an ounce, so this means that a recipe which calls for 1/4 cup of broth would require two cubes, 1/2 a cup would be four cubes, etc.


Q. Can I Just Order Bone Broth Online?

I get it. Making your own bone broth can be a bit of a chore.

But as you learned above, getting it from the grocery store is a very bad idea.

So why not order online? The primary problem with ordering bone broth online from a place like, say, Amazon, is that you run into all the BPA-packaging, MSG, non-organic, fast cook time issues, etc. that you get from grocery store bone broth. Some sources, such as The Brothery, will ship good, organic bone broth to you in frozen form, but that can be a bit iffy if you happen to be traveling when your bone broth arrives and it sits in the sun for a couple days, if you want to consume your bone broth as soon as it arrives, or if you don’t want to store your bone broth in the freezer.

One solution I’ve had my eyes on lately is the Kettle & Fire. Every batch of Kettle & Fire’s beef bone broth is made with bones from 100% grass fed, pasture grazed cattle that are antibiotic and hormone free. They also use all organic vegetables, sea salt and herbs.

But as you now know, this isn’t super unique. You can do this yourself or you can order organic bone broths from other sources too.

However, the unique part about this stuff from Kettle & Fire is the packaging. They use a new, modern packaging technology called “hot fill asceptic packaging”. This packaging process uses $6 million worth of modern packaging equipment. This makes the broth shelf-stable, but also allows complete retention of all the nutrition of frozen broth without requiring the broth be frozen or refrigerated. The packaging process also does not add any preservatives, extra sodium or chemicals to the broth to make it shelf stable, and you can tell by looking at the ingredients label that there are no preservatives, just:

“filtered water, grass-fed beef bones from organically raised cows, organic onions, organic carrots, organic celery, organic parsley, apple cider vinegar, sea salt, black peppercorn, bay, thyme and rosemary”.

The broth is then sealed in BPA-free pouches to preserve maximum nutrition and freshness. Kettle & Fire makes their broth the traditional way – slow simmered over low heat for 24+ hours – to give the bone marrow, collagen and amino acids time to soak into the broth. To top things off, their bone broth is fresh and never frozen.

This stuff is made using bones from animals that were humanely raised on open pastures with clean diets free of antibiotics, hormones and grains. Kettle & Fire only uses organic vegetables and herbs and their water is filtered, ensuring the final product is as pure, flavorful, packed full of vitamins, minerals and gelatin, and free of gluten, dairy, soy, salt, preservatives, MSG, added flavorings and added colorings. All of the products are also made in a kitchen free of gluten, dairy and soy.

So not only is Kettle & Fire’s broth incredibly good for you, it’s incredibly tasty and incredibly portable. They worked with a team of classically trained chefs to make sure their bone broth is extremely flavorful and full of nutrients and healthy amino acids. It doesn’t get much better than that, and now, with their unique, BPA-free packaging that doesn’t need freezing or refrigeration, you can have your bone broth anytime, anyplace – on a bike ride, on an airplane, during a road trip, while camping, you name it.

To get 20% off and an exclusive deal on bone broth that only BenGreenfieldFitness readers get, you can click here to visit the Kettle & Fire portable bone broth. Enjoy! 


I do believe I covered just about everything here! But if you have more questions, comments or feedback about bone broth, or your own bone broth tips or recipes to add, simply leave your thoughts below.

278 Pounds Of Fat Magically Disappears In Just One Year…On A High-Carb, Low-Fat, Sugar-Laden Diet?

pod cast high carb itunes

Meet Denise Minger.


Wait, no. That’s not Denise. 

This is Denise.


The woman above Denise is a woman from a dietary study who lost 123 pounds in just shy of a year. She’s not to be confused with the woman above her, who obliterated 278 pounds in a bit over a year.

All on a 90-95% carbohydrate based, high-sugar, high-starch, low-fat diet.

And that’s just a peek into the contents of today’s podcast. But back to Denise.

Denise blogs at, where she just released the controversial article “IN DEFENSE OF LOW FAT: A CALL FOR SOME EVOLUTION OF THOUGHT.” That particular article is exactly what we’re going to be digging into this podcast…

…but Denise is no stranger to Last year, I published the article “How To Figure Out What Diet Is Right For You“, which contains many anecdotes from Denise’s book “Death By Food Pyramid“.

As a self-described health blogger, Denise typically spends about five hours a day reading and writing about nutrition. In both her writings and lectures she has a reputation for aggressively challenging today’s leading voices of conventional wisdom, and is perhaps most famous for her thorough refutation of “The China Study” book. Denise is considered to be a major thorn in the side of both mainstream nutritionists and other health figures who adhere to standard dietary dogma.

During my discussion with Denise, you’ll discover:

-Why Denise doesn’t drink coffee and eats lots of sushi and sashimi…

-How in the process of redeeming fat, we traded one form of oversimplified blame for another…

-What carbosis is, and why you need to be very careful mixing carbohydrates with fats…

-Why our current definition of low fat is very flawed, and the more appropriate definition of what low fat actually is…

-The low fat history you’ve probably never heard…

-The shocking evidence that sugar and white rice can actually cure diabetes and melt fat off the body…

-How decreasing “healthy” saturated fat and increasing intake of vegetable oils has been shown in baffling research to actually benefit conditions such as multiple sclerosis…

-Why it’s a myth that a low-fat, high-carb vegetable diet is what eventually killed researcher Nathan Pritikin….

-Why Denise has changed her mind about some issues she had with the documentary “Forks Over Knives”, and why she apologizes to vegans and vegetarians…

-And much more!

Do you have questions, comments or feedback about high carb vs. high fat, and Denise’s new take on a high carb, low fat diet? Your own thoughts to share? Leave it all below and either Denise or I will reply!

The Zen Of Chinese Adaptogenic Herbs: An Interview With The Inventor Of World’s Most Potent Adaptogens.


My guest on today’s podcast is Roger Drummer.

Roger is kinda like Raiden from Mortal Kombat (pictured above) – you know, the guy that wears the conical, straw Chinese harvester and can generate magical orbs of electricity from his hands.

Except, in this case, Roger plays with adaptogenic herbs. He’s a Chinese herbal adaptogen formulator, a Certified Nutritionist and NCCAOM Diplomate of Chinese Herbology, holds a U.S. patent for developing a process to grow biologically active, anthocyanin-enriched medicinal mushrooms, and is in my opinion, one of the best-kept secrets in natural medicine and health enhancement. Roger even formulates personalized tonic herbs for thousands of clients, including many notable celebrities (which I ask him about in this podcast episode), and has trained in Shiatsu, Jin Shin Do, Reiki and Kriya Yoga, along with being a former triathlete, runner, cycling enthusiast, husband and father of three girls.

I’ve personally known Roger for over five years, and it’s been about three years since I’ve had him on a podcast (see “Chinese Medicine & Why Sugars Don’t Add Up Right on Food Labels.“), so I figured that it was high time I had him back, especially since he just released a sugar-free version of my favorite adaptogenic herb complex: Tian Chi.

So what is an adaptogen?

Adaptogens are a unique category of herbs that facilitate your body’s “adaptation” to stress. They help your body maintain, build or fix its own natural healthy processes, even if you’re exposed to a wide range of external and internal stressors.

This means, that, for example, adaptogens can help increase cortisol if cortisol is low, or decrease cortisol if cortisol is high. They can also be used for anything from cognitive performance to enhanced endurance at altitude.

Roger is actually the inventor of the exact Chinese adaptogenic blend that holds a special place in my refrigerator: the one I mentioned above called Tian Chi . Here’s the label:

Tian Chi is a tiny packet that contains an herbal tonic blend of the most renowned adaptogens in the Orient. 

Every herb used in TianChi is far more pure and potent than typical old, ineffective and often dangerous or nasty-ingredient laced 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 stark 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 uses only wild crafted herbs – herbs found in their natural state, free from pesticides and exposure to pollution.

You will feel this stuff instantly, guaranteed.

Below is a complete list of the pure and potent herbs you’ll find inside each pack of TianChi, with a guarantee of extreme freshness.

-Schizandra – the “Five flavor berry” is known as a beauty enhancing herb, one of the main herbs pictured with Lady Maku the Goddess of Beauty. It helps restores proper water metabolism to the cells, detoxifies the liver and lungs, and is an important herb for building lung energy. It tonifies the reproductive system, builds sexual fluids and moistens the skin. Schizandra has been successfully used in China to treat hepatitis. It contains over 20 lignans that bind to carcinogenic substances and safely removes them from the body. A mild adaptogen and powerful anti-oxidant, schizandra is the Chinese equivalent to milk thistle.

-Reishi Mushroom – Reishi is known as the “Mushroom of Immortality,” and “Herb of Good Fortune”. It is the most highly revered herb in China for its ability to brighten the mind and spirit. Historically used for boosting immunity, liver detoxing, blood purifying and building, and is known as a potent stress reliever.

-Ashwagandha– Ashwagandha is known as Indian ginseng and one of the most famous of all Ayurvedic herbs. It is a premier adaptogen and has a profound effect on regulating the HPA Axis (hypothalamus/pituitary/adrenal axis) which is the basis of stress response. Although many herbs have been crowded into this category I still maintain that the “Gang of Four”, ashwagandha, rhodiola, reishi and eleuthero, are truly substances that can effectively regulate stress response.

-Rhodiola – Rhodiola is known as the “Rose of Heaven” and “Plateau Ginseng.” It is one of the premier adaptogens in the entire world and one of my personal favorites. Regarded as life-prolonging and wisdom enhancing, it can reduce stress response, is blood purifying and is said to balance both creative and cognitive functions of the brain. One of the best herbs for blood oxygenation, it is useful for all endurance sports. Used to treat depression and chronic fatigue and protects against radiation. It is a favorite herb for cosmonauts and mountain climbers. Rhodiola is a “Three Treasure” tonic, it builds Jing, Chi and Shen.

-Ecklonia Cava – Ecklonia Cava is a seaweed extract that is the most potent plant based antioxidant known. Because it is partially fat-soluble it crosses the blood brain barrier and is particularly useful in controlling inflammation in the brain. Ecklonia Cava lasts for 12 hours in the body, much more than any other antioxidant.

-Eleuthero – This is the herb that launched all of the studies on adaptogenic herbs. Commonly used as an adaptogen in regulating stress response and strengthening adrenal function. It’s famous as a physical endurance and mental enhancing herb used by cosmonauts for its blood oxygen enriching properties. Eleuthero is a great herb for anyone who’s involved in sports or work that demands strength and endurance. It’s more Chi building than Jing, even though I use it primarily for its effect on the kidney-adrenal energy. Eleuthero is seldom sold as a bulk herb as it’s not very nutrient dense. It takes over 40 lbs of good root to make one pound of powdered extract.

-Epimedium – Fepimediumamous as “goat sex tea”, epimedium is known throughout the world as herbal aphrodisiac. Lost in its reputation is that it’s also a great herb for increasing circulation in the brain and improving general immunity. Epimedium adds a spark of Yang or fire to the adrenals and has been shown to increase fertility. It is a Jing tonic.

-Cistanches – Its Chinese neucommia barkame is “Duzhong” having been named after a doctor who took it and achieved great intellectual success. Eucommia is a premier Jing tonic as it contains a perfect balance of Yin and Yang energy. Its main use is in bone strengthening formulas and can be used for increasing fertility and regulating blood pressure.

-Gotu Kola – Gotu Kola is one of the most important rejuvenating herbs in Ayurvedic medicine. It’s used to help revitalize the brain and nerve cells. Gotu Kola is historically used to increase intelligence, memory, longevity and decrease senility. It has been known to support normal immune function and adrenal energy. It is also a powerful blood purifier and is commonly used in Ayurveda to treat chronic skin diseases. Gotu Kola is commonly used by monks and yogis in the Himalayas as an aid to meditation; similar to how Reishi is used in China by the Taoist monks.

-Albizzia Flower – This flower is known as the herb for “forgetting cares and sorrows” and “collective happiness flower”. It is an ultimate Shen tonic and is often used improving memory, circulation, and has mood elevating properties.

-Astragalus – Astragalus is one of the greatest Chi tonics in all of Chinese Herbology. It’s often used as a ginseng replacement in younger people. Recently it has gain great popularity as an immune building herb. It’s used to help strengthen digestion and lung function, for recovery from illness and as an energy building herb. It is said to build Upright Chi, meaning when the lungs are strong and the breath is deep, it promotes good posture and holds the organs in place. Astragalus is an excellent herb for maintaining the Protective Chi circulating on the surface of the skin helping to ward off seasonal illness. If the cold wind seems to bother your neck it’s often a sign you’re Protective Chi is weak.

-Green Tea – One green tea of the most powerful plant-based antioxidants, green tea builds immunity, increases circulation and is a best known for it’s anti-inflammatory properties. Studies have shown it to be valuable for memory enhancement. Most of green tea’s antioxidant polyphenols are from a class called catechins of which EGCG seems to dominate. It has been described as natures most potent anticancer agent.

-Polygonum (Ho Shou Wu) – translates as “Ho’s black hair” one of the main kidney restoratives in Chinese herbology. Legend has it that Ho, an aging lonely hermit living on the edge of town saw a vine intertwined on his walk through the forest. The vines resembled a couple embracing and so he harvested the root, cooked it and consumed the tea. His hair turned back to black from snow white (hence the name) and he actually married and had a son. They both lived to over 100 years old and the herb has since been called Ho’s black hair.

-Lycium (Goji) – LyciGojium is a restorative for the liver and kidneys, popular these days as Goji, and one of the 5 most famous herbs in China. Reputed to be the main food of Li Chen Yuang for the first 125 years of his life (he added some ginseng root for the next half of his life). Li died at a banquet in his honor after consuming a heavy dinner (he was a Taoist hermit who lived on herbs and vegetables) causing a national uproar and disgrace for the public official who hosted the event.

-Other herbs: Anemarrhena, Licorice, Polygala, Clubmoss, Cocoa Bean Extract, Stevia Leaf, Acerola Cherry, and Raspberry.

During my discussion with Roger, you’ll discover:

-The delicate process via which wildcrafted herbs are actually extracted in China, and exactly how they find their way to the USA…

-The important difference between wild and cultivated herbs…

-Roger’s top herb recommendation for regulating cortisol levels and eliminating adrenal fatigue issues…

-The truth about whether resveratrol really does have an anti-aging effect…

-How D-Ribose rebuilds your energy stores and ATP levels, and exactly how much you need…

-Why so many smart drugs and nootropic compounds use the substance “choline” in their formulations, the form of choline that contains the highest concentrations of actual choline…

-Why Roger isn’t a fan of using regular stevia mixed with adaptogenic herb extracts, and instead uses a specialized form of stevia root…

-The main differences between Tian Chi and Inner Peace…


Resources from this episode:

Tian Chi Chinese Adaptogenic Herb Complex

Inner Peace Chinese Adaptogenic Herb Complex

-My previous podcast with Roger “Chinese Medicine & Why Sugars Don’t Add Up Right on Food Labels.

Roger’s Herbworks website

Do you have questions, comments or feedback for me or Roger about Chinese adaptogenic herbs, Tian Chi, or anything else we discuss in this podcast. Leave your thoughts below and one of us will reply!

How To Eat Algae (The Ultimate Guide To Fueling With Spirulina And Chlorella).

how to eat algae

Every morning I put about 30 tiny chorella tablets on top of my morning smoothie.

Then, later in the day, I often swallow another 30-50 tiny spirulina tablets pre-workout.

Regardless of whether you think that us land-dwelling creatures at some point evolved from ocean-dwelling life (a belief espoused by my previous podcast guest Jack Kruse to encourage people spend time in the cold and to eat more seafood), it can’t be denied that fish, turtles, and millions of other large and small inhabitants of water rely on one extremely dense nutrition source for sustenance of life…

…algae – particularly from spirulina and chlorella sources.

Algae Tab

One tab of algae about the size of the one pictured above gives you the same nutrition as eating salads all day long.

Those fish are pretty darn smart, huh?

But algae isn’t just something that our ocean dwelling neighbors can eat and thrive upon.

Algae has been used by tens of millions of people in Asia for over 50 years, and even Olympic athletes and NASA astronauts have relied on algae for decades as a way to pack a lot of nutrients into a very small volume of food, probably since algae contains 1,000 times more nutrition than anything else in the world (or if you’d like to think about it this way, one gram of algae – about the equivalent in a tiny tablet – contains the nutritional equivalent of 1,000 grams of fruits and vegetables).

Yet, for some strange reason, although it meets all FDA requirements and has been sold in the USA for four decades, algae remains virtually unknown to mainstream America.

Seriously – ask yourself – when was the last time you thought of extremely nutrient dense foods like steak, nut butter, blueberries, kale and then pictured algae along in there with those other oft-mentioned foods?

Fact is, you’re missing out on a big nutritional hack if you’re not eating some form of algae. So today, I’m going to tell you exactly how to find and use algae in your diet, and no, it does not involve sticking your head into fish tank and gulping down slimy green plants.

OK here we go…


What Is Algae And Why Is It Good For Me?

There are two basic forms of algae that you can easily get your hands on at health food stores, on the internet, or in supplements: chlorella and spirulina.

Chlorella is a single-celled freshwater micro-algae that contains the highest known quality of chlorophyll found in a nature. Chlorophyll has a chemical structure very similar to hemoglobin, and because of these properties, it can carry oxygen around in the blood and increase your red blood cell count. There is even recent research that shows that a combination of chlorophyll in your bloodstream and exposure to sunlight can allow you to produce ATP without actually eating any calories.

Compared to other commercial sources of chlorophyll like wheat grass, barley, and alfalfa (all popular ingredients in “greens” supplements), chlorella has five times more chlorophyll than wheat grass, twelve times more than barley and nearly ten times more than alfalfa. Because of it’s extreme photosynthetic efficiency from the high levels of chlorophyll, chlorella is a very attractive potential food and energy source (it is also high in protein and other essential nutrients, and when dried, is about 45% protein, 20%fat, 20% carbohydrate, 5% fiber, and 10% minerals and vitamins).

Interestingly, chlorella also seems to be programmed for ultimate survival and replication, with a very unique ability to nearly quadruple in quantity every 20 hours, which is something that no other plant or substance on earth can do. This unique ability exists because chlorella is 3% RNA and 0.3% DNA by weight (which means that it contains some of the highest RNA/DNA nucleic acid components of any other food on the planet).

What this means for you is that in your own body, these nucleic acids (RNA and DNA) are responsible for cellular renewal, growth and repair – and these same nucleic acids significantly decline with age – which means that not having enough nucleic acid on board leads to aging, a weakened immune system and an inability to recovery quickly.

Chlorella, by virtue of its superior RNA and DNA content, could assist in slowing this aging process and preventing the onset of many chronic, degenerative illnesses associated with getting older (and these same hyperspeed repair mechanisms help you to recovery from workouts with lightning speed).

But that’s not the whole story on chlorella.

The indigestible cellulose of chlorella’s cell wall can attract and bind with heavy metals such as lead, mercury and cadmium and help to remove them from your body. These natural detoxification properties mean that chlorella is a good way to reverse the damage from environmental pollutants and toxins found in many foods. In addition to leaching metals, chlorella can assist with the removal of hydrocarbon pesticides, herbicides and insecticides, and can also have protective effect on the liver, your body’s valuable toxin filter.

Now let’s look at chlorella’s close cousin: spirulina.

Spirulina is also a microalgae, but it’s actually higher than chlorella in protein content, at about 60% protein, with all the essential amino acids. Although spirulina’s slightly reduced amounts of methionine, cysteine and lysine make it (or chlorella) not quite as complete a protein source as meat, eggs or milk, algae is still highly superior to any other plant protein, like legumes or grains.

Spirulina is also about 7% lipid, and high in gamma-linolenic acid (GLA), along with other essential fatty acids, including eicosapentaenoic acid (EPA) and docosahexaenoic acid (DHA). For a vegan or vegetarian who doesn’t eat fish, or has a hard time getting enough fats or proteins, this is really good news – an ocean chock full of what you need to keep your brain and nervous system from deteriorating.

And spirulina is a rich source of vitamins, including vitamin B (but not B12, so you’ll still need another source of that), vitamin C, vitamin D, vitamin E, and minerals like like potassium, calcium, chromium, copper, iron, magnesium, manganese, phosphorus, selenium, sodium and zinc.

Compared to any other plant, spirulina also has the highest concentration of antioxidants in the world, the highest concentration of beta carotene in the world, is a great source of fuel for the good bacteria in your gut, and has the second highest concentration of omega 3 fatty acids (second only to mother’s milk). On top of that, it has over 40 vitamins and minerals despite having only one calorie per serving.

A small amount of spirulina not only increases physical energy and mental focus, but the nutrient density can replace the need for taking large amounts of other supplements, and both spirulina and chlorella algae sources are safe for children. Spirulina’s high concentration of antioxidants and essential fatty acids contribute to heart and brain health, normalize blood pressure, correct anemia, normalize healthy cholesterol levels, and even reduce cancer risk. Most importantly, spirulina can do this without caffeine, sugar, chemicals or a prescription.

Spirulina contains over forty vitamins and minerals and has over 60% protein, the highest concentration of protein by weight in the world and over three times that of steak. Spirulina is also hailed as the answer to world hunger by The United Nations, and endorsed by NASA, who says that spirulina has approximately one thousand times more nutrition than other fruit or vegetable.

The protein in spirulina contains eighteen of the twenty amino acids, including all eight essential amino acids your body can’t produce, making it a complete protein. The aminos are unstructured, which means they are quickly and easily absorbed. Spirulina also boasts more beta carotene than carrots, more iron than spinach; more antioxidants than blueberries, more chlorophyll than liquid chlorophyll and has a nutritional profile that is almost identical to breastmilk, nature’s other perfect food.

So even though chlorella is high in protein, spirulina is even higher in protein, and also an excellent dietary source for muscle recovery and repair, amino acids and fatty acids (especially if you’re vegetarian or vegan and don’t eat meats or have a hard time getting enough fats – which is why I think it’s crazy that algae isn’t discussed in articles like this: Can A Vegan Diet Fuel A High Performance Athlete?). 


A History Of Algae

Despite it’s enormous nutrient density, algae is no overnight success. Although it was among the first plant life on earth, algae didn’t really attract much attention until 1890, when Dutch microbiologist Martinus Beijerinck began to study chlorella algae and grow it in his lab.

A few years later, German scientists discovered that algae has an extremely high concentration of edible protein, a discovery that later led to Otto Heinrich Warburg winning the Nobel Prize for his work on photosynthesis in chlorella. The German discovery also ultimately proved to be somewhat lifesaving, when World War I left them without food or livestock and the German Government used chlorella algae to feed their starving nation.

After the war, algae seemed to be forgotten as a food source, and interest in it didn’t resurface again until World War II, when the Hiroshima bomb destroyed Japan’s food supply and the US Government sent chlorella algae along with other food supplies to help them avoid starvation. The chlorella was a desperately needed source of protein, and to everyone’s surprise, it also seemed to alleviate some of the effects of radiation poisoning. The US Government took note of this, and in the late 1940’s began extensive research on algae. Algae’s ability to assist with remediation of radiation poisoning has since been confirmed and used at other radiation disasters including Chernobyl.

By the early 1950’s, algae’s nutritional profile began to draw significant attention in the USA. Even NASA threw their support behind algae and announced their intention to grow it in space. Algae’s nutritional pedigree was further solidified when The Carnegie Institute declared it was the answer to America’s growing nutrition crisis and recommended algae be put into production immediately for mass consumption. The only problem was that algae had never been produced for mass consumption, so The Carnegie Institute funded the world’s first pilot plant to do it. However, the algae proved too complicated to grow and the pilot plant was shut down after just one year.

But the algae story doesn’t end there. The Rockefeller Foundation stepped in and offered financial support to the Japanese so they could learn how to grow algae for mass consumption. The Japanese accepted the challenge and, although it took them ten years, by the early 1960’s algae production in Japan was a vibrant industry and well on its way to becoming a multi-billion dollar industry.

Spirulina and chlorella algae are now firmly entrenched in Japan’s food supply. Algae’s nutritional profile and agricultural efficiency, on an acre-per-acre basis, provides two hundred times more protein than cattle while using one tenth of the water, making it an eco-friendly and sustainable food crop.

Algae is still relatively unheard of in the USA, but over the last fifty years, it has grown into a substantial industry in Asia, where tens of millions of folks take algae every day instead of vitamins. Asian athletes use it to improve their performance, and entire Asian countries use it as a source of protein and to increase their energy, focus, vitality, remove toxins, speed recovery and prevent hangovers.

Algae is not only an important crop in Asia, but it has now quickly become one of the most studied food sources in the world. There are over 100,000 scientific reports documenting algae’s hundreds of benefits and nutritional properties.



So What Algae Is Best?

Now wait a minute.

Even if you’re drooling over the benefits of algae, you can’t just go rushing to your local bargain supplements outlet or bulk foods website to grab just any old algae source.

When it comes to algae, if you’re serious about what you put into your body, the source matters.

So here are 8 very important considerations for you if you don’t want to waste money on a bunch of completely ineffective algae – you should read and follow these 8 tips if you don’t want to do more harm than good to your body in the process of introducing algae into your diet.

1. Get certified, organic non-genetically modified (non GMO) algae. Purity is important with this stuff, and you don’t want to be eating genetic mutants that have been dosed repeatedly in herbicides and pesticides. There is a wide variance in the quality of spirulina and chlorella algae. Not all algae is grown using the same level of quality control.

2. Don’t get algae from spirulina and chlorella companies that put “fillers” in their algae. This means you would need 10-20 times the algae necessary to actually get a positive effect – and that amount with completely flip your stomach. Just get 100% pure spirulina and chlorella. Similarly, do not get chlorella or spirulina in any kind of gel cap, especially if you are vegetarian or vegan, since most of those gel caps are made from fish oil. In most cases, you have no idea what other fillers are in those gelatin capsules.

3. Just like beef, there are different grades of spirulina and chlorella. The lower quality grades have fewer nutrients, lower concentration of protein and less potency, and once again, you would need 10-20 times the normal amount of an inferior grade of algae to get any good effect.

4. The country of origin where spirulina and chlorella are grown is very important. For example, many suppliers of spirulina in China have been found to falsify their paper work and claims about being organic (in fact, there are a lot of products that come out of China that are falsely certified). Yet a company that just wants to make sales will usually go with the cheapest suppliers – and often that means they are buying the algae from China. This is very dangerous because you really don’t know what you are getting, and you could be harming your health more than helping your health if you buy cheaper spirulina or chlorella that was grown in China – and may in fact contain not only a high concentration of contaminants, but also a lower grade of algae.

5. Similarly, due to the ongoing radiation problems from the Fukushima nuclear disaster, be careful with any spirulina or chlorella that was grown in Japan. Spirulina and chlorella are grown hydroponically (in water), so any radiation could potentially be in the Japanese water in small amounts.

6. Be careful with your source, because extraction techniques vary when it comes to algae. One technique that can be used to “crack” the exterior shell of chlorella (so that the nutrients can be absorbed by your body) is via passing the chlorella through a sound chamber and using sound wave vibrations for extraction. This is a relatively new technique and preserves all the nutrition in the chlorella. This is in contrast to all the Japanese and most other growers of chlorella in Asia, who use a 50 year old technique in which they tumble the chlorella with glass beads to crack it. This method is dangerous – primarily because the chlorella can be contaminated by the lead in the glass and also because the process produces high amounts of heat, which damages the nutritional quality of the chlorella.

7. Do not use spirulina or chlorella that has been exposed to heat drying. This is very important because heat damages the active enzymes in the algae, and prevents it from being a truly “raw” food. A process called air drying involves shooting the algae into the air and allowing it to fall into piles of powder, which are then packed into the small “pellets” or “bits”, and this process is considered low heat and much safer.

8. Pay attention to the algae preservation methods. For example, algae can easily and safely be stored in vacuum packed, non-transparent bags or containers, which have a stable shelf life of over two years. These type of containers can also be specially coated to protect the algae from UV rays. This is important because algae has the highest concentration of chlorophyll on the planet (which is what makes it green) but chlorophyll is very light sensitive. As soon as light starts to hit the algae, the nutrients in the chlorophyll start to lose their potency. So if your spirulina or chlorella is coming in a transparent container or bag, that is not a good thing.



How To Use Algae During Exercise

So now we get to the million dollar question: can you actually get any benefits by eatiing algae during exercise, such as marathons, triathlons, obstacle races, tennis matches, hunting, or any other form of physical activity?

I asked Catharine Arnston, the Founder and CEO of ENERGYbits, about the feedback she’s gotten from athletes who have experimented with using algae during competition. She supplied me with the following fun facts.

1) Algae is a slow-release form of energy. Algae sources such as spirulina provide steady energy compared to fructose or maltodextrin-based carbohydrate gels, which can provide a short burst of energy followed by a crash. Research shows endurance athletes can perform just fine using fuel sources that provide steady energy, and I also wrote about this topic in my article on fat-based energy gels.

2) Algae does not create stomach distress. Sugar and caffeine can tend to irritate the stomach when an athlete uses them during a race or workout. This is because the blood flow normally used for digestion is supplying oxygen and nutrients to the athlete’s muscles. High calorie compounds low in nutrient density can enter the gastrointestinal tract undigested where bacteria can ferment the undigested matter and where blood flow must be diverted for digestion. This can lead to fermentation, gas, cramps and an urge to empty the bowels. Algae does not contain ingredients that irritate the stomach and all the nutrients in spirulina are quickly absorbed, so algae does not contribute to indigestion or GI distress during exercise.

3) Algae has an extremely high concentration of protein (64%). Most other energy products designed for exercise (such as gels) either contain no protein or less protein (see chart below). In contrast, protein from algae is exclusively in the form of unstructured amino acids. It contains eighteen of the twenty amino acids, including the eight essential aminos your body cannot produce, making it a complete protein. Since spirulina does not have a cellulose wall, these amino acids are absorbed quickly and enter the bloodstream instantly. The high concentration of B vitamins in spirulina also help convert the amino acids to glucose, along with assisting in muscle repair and recovery post-workout.

energy bits comparison

4) Algae contains all nine B Vitamins. A lack of B Vitamins can potentially to poor athletic performance and a decreased ability to build or repair muscle. If other energy products contain B Vitamins, they tend to be in lower amounts and are usually artificially produced and not easily absorbed.

5) Algae contains the highest concentration of iron in the world – up to 48 times more iron than raw spinach and 28 times more iron than beef liver. Insufficient amounts of iron reduce oxygen uptake and can lead to anemia-like symptoms and less oxygen, which can lower athletic performance. Most other energy products such as gels or sports drinks do not contain iron.

6) Algae provide naturally occurring nitric oxide, a vasodilator that opens blood vessels and facilitates blood flow to improve athletic performance. As the blood flow increases, more oxygen is delivered to the athlete’s muscles and brain, fatigue is reduced and focus is enhanced. Other energy products such as gels and sports drinks do not contain this type of natural nitric oxide.

7) Algae can increase mental focus and decrease cognitive fatigue due to many factors, including nitric oxide as well as a high concentration of Essential Fatty Acids (EFA) such as Omega-3. Fish has long been referred to as a helpful brain food due to its high concentration of Omega-3, but a little known fact is that fish don’t create Omega-3: they get it from eating algae. The brain in particular is almost 60% fat and requires EFA’s to perform optimally.. Virtually no other energy gels or sports drinks contain such high amount of EFA’s.

8) Algae is alkaline, and an alkaline diet can improve an athlete’s performance. When athletes perform, they release high amounts of free radicals and hydrogen ions from lactic acid, which can cause a net acidic effect. The acidity strips the negative charge from the outside of the hemoglobin, causing it the hemoglobin to clump. This clumping not only reduces the hemoglobin’s ability to carry iron or oxygen, but also prevents the hemoglobin from fitting into the body’s 19 billion+ microscopic capillaries. The net result is an athlete’s muscles and brain are deprived of vital oxygen, so performance potentially decreases and muscle fatigue increases. Alkaline compounds can help restore the pH balance to an athlete’s blood so that this clumping does not occur. The high concentration of iron in spirulina can further improve performance by increasing the amount of oxygen in the hemoglobin.

9) Algae has the highest known concentration of antioxidants and an ORAC value 100 times higher than cherries. Antioxidants are necessary to fight free radicals, which can cause long term damage to cells and DNA, both of which contribute to decreased energy and rapid aging. Although antioxidants have not conclusively been found to drastically improve a professional athlete’s performance, many weekend warriors have seen some benefits. Algae contains a higher concentration of antioxidants than most other energy products, all in a form that is naturally occurring, such as beta carotene.

10) Algae is an eco-friendly, sustainable crop. Algae releases oxygen and removes carbon dioxide from the air as it is growing, and requires very little land or water to grow, making it one of the most eco-friendly, efficient crops in the world. It produces two hundred times more protein per acre than beef while using only one tenth of the water. And since it is a crop that is grown in fresh water tanks, algae is a more sustainable, eco-friendly source of Omega-3 fatty acids than fish oil. It preserves ocean wildlife and doesn’t damage the delicate ocean eco-system in the same way as overfishing, making it an ethical sports nutrition compound too.

In my discussion with her, Catharine also noted that athletes add in too many bars, gels, sports drinks or chews, primarily because they don’t believe that algae can provide them with enough energy (because most athletes still believe that calories are the only substance that can provide energy). But most athletes find they are able to rely on 1/2 to 1/4 of their normal calorie intake when consuming a small handful of spirulina each hour, primarily due to factors such as fatty acids, nitric oxide, B-vitamins, amino acids and chlorophyll – rather than simply sugar.

She recommends you swallow spirulina algae bits with water because most people do not like the green taste or the chewy consistency (the chewiness is due to the high concentration of protein and Essential Fatty Acids). On the other hand, chlorella algae bits (more of a recovery algae) are not chewy and many athletes like to eat them by the handful like nuts. Some people also like to grind them up and add them to a smoothie, or toss them into a salad, yogurt or spoonful of peanut butter.

For basic algae usage during exercise, Catharine recommends taking 30-50 algae bits (preferably ENERGYbits, which are the spirulina form) 15-30 minutes before any workout, run or race and then 15- 30 more ENERGYbits every hour, or whenever you feel fatigued. You can also take 30-50 RECOVERYbits (the chlorella form) before a race or big workout if you want the chlorella to start buffering lactic acid while you are racing, although most athletes take RECOVERYbits post race. 30-50 tablets may sound like a huge amount, but remember that each tablet is very tiny, and a handful is actually quite easy to swallow (here are a few videos that show you how).



Finally, I’ve been asked before if any of this stuff can be toxic.

Fact is, toxicological studies of the effects of algae (primarily spirulina) consumption on humans and animals, including feeding as much as 800mg/kg, and replacing up to 60% of protein intake with algae sources, have shown no toxic effects, and in contrast, algae intake has actually been found to prevent damage caused by toxins that affect the heart, liver, kidneys, neurons, eyes, ovaries, DNA, and testicles. Dozens of human clinical studies have shown no harmful effects of algae supplementation.

But a word of warning: no matter which source of algae you choose, if you get chewable spirulina or chlorella tablets, they will turn your mouth temporarily green. But you can easily rinse with water if you want to get your adorable, kissable face back.

It’s pretty amazing what a tiny handful of little green tablets can do (and remember, these algae tablets are just one calorie per serving).

Do you have questions, comments or feedback about how to use algae? Leave your thoughts below. You can also click here and use code BEN to save 10% on any of the algae products I personally use, including spirulina ENERGYbits and chlorella RECOVERYbits.

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:

-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!

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


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!

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

B all four

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!


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.


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].


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


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).


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.



[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 Blenders Can Destroy Food, Why I Eat 20-25 Servings Of Vegetables Each Day, The Vegan-Paleo Debate & Much More.

Dr. Richard Aiken

Every morning I start my day with what I call my “big-ass smoothie”. In a moment, you’re going to find out what this has to do with my guest in today’s podcast, Richard Aiken, who is pictured above on his horse Teeko, which he used to race in Western “Ride & Tie” races, an endurance race up and down mountains for two people and a horse.

Anyways, back to my smoothie.

The smoothie begins with a huge bunch of greens. I prefer kale, but spinach, bok choy, mustard greens, etc. also do the trick, and lately I’ve been making a concerted effort to go out into the forest near my house and pick at least one or two “wild” plants to throw in too (such as plantain, nettle, wild mint, etc.)

Next, I add some kind of herb. Cleansing herbs like parsley, cilantro or thyme are nice. Rather than opting for the old, dried, powdered versions you buy from the grocery store, I buy them fresh or pick them fresh from my garden.

Next is half an avocado (or occasionally a whole avocado if it’s a high calorie day) along 2 teaspoons organic cacao powder, 2 teaspoons cinnamon, a teaspoon of sea salt (I use this fancy Aztecan stuff), and 1 tablespoon extra virgin olive oil or coconut oil.

Then, before blending, I add just enough full fat coconut milk to make all my plants blend. I prefer an extremely thick smoothie that I have to eat with a spoon (so that the digestive enzymes in my mouth can work on pre-digesting before the food even makes it to my gut). Like my mom always said, “Chew your liquids and drink your solids.”

Then, I blend everything above for about 60 seconds-ish. I’ve always had a hunch that it may not be that great to pulverize things like protein powder, collagen, etc., and I also don’t want to pulverize the chunky chunks of goodness I’m about to toss in. So after blending, to my green goodness, I add 20-30g of a “clean” protein powder, 1 large handful of unroasted, non-vegetable-oil coated walnuts or almonds, 1 small handful organic dark cacao nibs and 1 large handful organic unsweetened coconut flakes.

I then use a spatula to ensure the entire contents of this relatively expensive smoothie make it into my giant morning breakfast mug, although I have been known to simply eat it straight out of the blender container when in a hurry. Depending on how exact my measurements are, my big-ass smoothie weighs in in at anywhere from 700-1000 calories.

Throughout the remainder of the day after the smoothie, I consume a giant salad at lunch, and heaps of vegetables for dinner. So I’d estimate that I probably consume 20-25 “servings” of vegetables each day, typically accompanied by boatloads of oils and fats such as olives, olive oil, coconut milk, coconut oil, avocados, fatty fish, bone broth, and organ meats.

OK, so why am I telling you all this?

Here’s why: I just read a book called The New Ancestral Diet, and it’s reinvented the way I think about all these plants I’ve been eating.

The New Ancestral DietPrint is described like this:

“We as primates have struggled mightily during the past 85 million years to find and eat enough food for survival. Fortunately, every one of your ancestors was successful so that you might succeed in that same endeavor. However, today that survival is in jeopardy. Recently and suddenly, from an evolutionary standpoint, the problem of subsistence in “civilized” countries has inverted: we have plenty of food but are not making selections that lead to long-term survival.

Our plant-based ancestral diets for which we have become genetically adapted have become animal-based. For thousands of millennia, primate nutrition happened while seeking a wide variety fruits and vegetables sufficiently energy-dense to supply our needed daily calories. Today we still seek energy-dense foods, but in the form of high fat animal products or sweet processed foods. Nutrient-dense foods, formerly our staples, are tolerated as side-dishes.

Taste, the most primitive of our senses, over the eons existed for our survival (as all the other senses), that is, to deselect plants sufficiently bitter as likely toxic or non-digestible. With the expansion of our brain capacity, taste was joined by higher brain regions’ appreciation of flavor. The result is a demand for flavorful energy-dense foods. Every meal experience must “taste good”. Dietary patterns based on such flavorful energy-dense foods has lead to chronic inflammatory states with high morbidly and mortality in the Western world.

This book suggests a return to our true ancestral dietary patterns, supplemented by what is known from the latest scientific research concerning nutritional health. It is clear that we have evolved to be quite versatile eaters and while we can eat a variety of foods, a whole-food varied plant-based diet is best for our long-term health and happiness.”

In the book, author Richard Aiken, a medical doctor and PhD in chemical engineering, describes how plants wage a chemical warfare against our body, why we should be careful with pulverizing and blending the hell out of our vegetables, why epidemiological data is very strong for a whole-food, primarily plant-based diet, and much more.

He holds a PhD in chemical engineering from Princeton University and an MD from the University of Utah. He has lectured throughout the United States and Europe, is the author of numerous peer reviewed scientific articles on nutrition and chemistry, and is a board certified psychiatrist with a clinical practice in Springfield, Missouri.

During today’s podcast interview with Richard, you’ll discover:

-How endurance runners can keep up with horses during races in the mountains…

-Richard’s journey from getting a PhD in chemical engineering from Princeton, to starting a space exploration company to singing opera to attending medical school…

-How human beings progressed from insectivore to fruitarian to herbivore…

-Why the advent of cooking tubers may have been more important than the advent of cooking meat…

-The amazing recent research on chlorophyll, sunlight and the potential ability for humans to photosynthesize…

-Why you should go out of your way to eat things that don’t taste good…

-Whether blenders can damage plant matter and if so, what the alternatives are…

-And much more!

Resources from this episode:

Denise Minger’s refutation of The China Study

The Hillbilly Vegan Facebook page

Richard’s website MoodForLife

The New Ancestral Diet book

-The recent research on chlorophyll, sunlight and the potential ability for humans to photosynthesize

Do you have questions, comments or feedback for Dr. Aiken or me about this episode? Leave your thoughts below!