Episode 158 with Ben Greenfield
What’s up everyone? Drew Manning here from Fit2Fat2Fit. You are listening to the Fit2Fat2Fit Experience Podcast. I have an awesome Podcast episode for you guys today with my good buddy, Ben Greenfield. Now if you don’t know who Ben Greenfield is, you might have heard him on Joe Rogan or a few other Podcasts. He is probably the world’s best biohacker or the world’s craziest biohacker. He is a super nerd, but I mean it in the best way possible. Super smart and you will learn that very quickly as we jump into the episode. He is from Idaho. He began college at 16 years old. He grew up as an athlete and played a lot of different sports. He studied anatomy and physiology, biomechanics, pharmaceutical’s, microbiology, biochemistry and nutrition and eventually rose to the top of his class. He completed an internship at Duke University in the National Football League. He then graduated in 2004 at 20 years old and was a top senior in his class at the University of Idaho. He is a family man and has two little boys, I believe. He lives in Washington these days. He’s the founder and CEO of ‘Kion’. Which is a supplement company. He is always out there testing stuff on himself. You might of seen him testing some things on his genitals, which he is very well known for from stem cells to PRP shots, which we have talked about before on this Podcast. Today’s episode though, I want to dive deep with him. I want to keep it very basic, but also we actually dive into plant medicine. We also talk about him and his dad. We also talk to him about his views on plant medicine as a christian. It is a very interesting conversation. I think you guys will really enjoy this episode. Your minds will be blown by a lot of the stuff he talks about, because he is really, really smart. I definitely look up to him. He is just a good guy and he is who he is. He doesn’t pretend to be anybody he is not. He’s real. I think you guys will really enjoy this episode with Ben Greenfield.
Drew: Alright, Ben Greenfield, welcome to the show man. How are you doing today?
Ben: I’m good, dude. I’m good. I literally just got out of the sauna. I’m still sweating a little bit.
Drew: Yeah. You look like you are walking on something too?
Ben: I am walking on something called a treadmill.
Drew: *laughing* That is really cool. I feel kind of lazy just kind of setting in a chair right now. But that’s ok.
Ben: I was going to say, you appear to be like on the bed or are you in a hotel room?
Drew: I am in a hotel room in Santa Monica California right now. A little bit of a business/vacation trip. Yes. But anyways, I really appreciate you coming on, man. We’ve met a few times in person and I am really excited to finally have you on. I’ve pushed this back a couple of times, so I apologize. I really appreciate you taking the time out of your day to jump on the show.
Ben: That’s ok. I understand that you are an ass**le, who likes to take advantage of my time and my schedule. *laughing*
Ben: It’s all good! *laughing*
Drew: Everybody thinks that about me. It’s so weird. Totally kidding. I kind of want to start off on a different topic than most people. Most people like to talk to you about ‘quote unquote’ biohacking. The first question I have for you though honestly is do you believe there is this parallel between the physical health and spiritual health, you being a man of faith? And if so, what does that look like or what does that mean to you?
Ben: You know, everyone has a purpose that they were born for, a distinct calling and a distinct set of gifts. Whether you are an artist or an engineer or a physician or an astronaut. Whatever it is that you were born with the calling to be, you have this set of talents. Not to say that I am a fan of the fixed mentality that you are only good at certain things when you are born, therefore you can not be good at other things. For example, I was told growing up that I was not good at math and not good at science, so until college, I had very poor grades in both of those subjects. I was told I was very creative, very right brained. I was told I read and I write very well, I play the violin, but you’re not that great at math and science. So, I accepted that. Now, the fact was I was indeed born with a talent to be able to read and write and teach, those are three skills that I have, music and art are a couple of others. I was perhaps less interested and less adapt at math and at science, but nonetheless, I do believe that a child should be brought up with the understanding that if they put their effort into anything, they can get pretty good at it. But they will always have this innate set of talents that caters to the specific purpose that they were born for. Once they find that purpose, that’s what is going to give them passion. That is what is going to as Mark Twain puts it, make their work everyday feel like play. Now, for you to actually fully live your passion, for you to fully live your purpose, for you to make the impact in the world that you were born to make, you must have a vessel to be able to accomplish that purpose and to be able to accomplish that mission. Your vessel is your body and the engine is your brain. If you aren’t taking good care of those, if you are not optimizing yourself physically and mentally, if you aren’t using everything from ancestral wisdom to modern science and biohacking to get the most of your body and brain, then I believe that you are leaving a little bit on the table when it comes to the impact you can make in the world. Maybe you are ok with that, but for me, I want to leave this world a much, much better place. I want to equip my children and their children’s children in the legacy that I leave after me to make this world a better place. If I can take care of my body and I can take care of my brain and I can even spend a few extra years on this planet changing the world for the better because I have optimized my longevity and I’ve lived a life in which I take care of myself both physically and mentally, then I will be able to accomplish that purpose. Now, what does this have to do with the spirit or the soul? That is what feeds the soul, is living your purpose. There are some very important things in life, such as taking care of yourself financially and taking care of yourself physically like I just mentioned. Engaging in hobbies and engaging in a fulfilling career. But ultimately it is all for naught if your soul is shriveled up and unfulfilled because you are not living your purpose and your passion. So, what it comes down to is that you take care of yourself physically so that you can live your purpose, so that you can satisfy your soul and that is how you maintain a healthy satisfied spirit. That is how you maintain happiness during your life.
Drew: I love that. That is a great answer. I feel like there is a lot of people who might just focus on one area or the other and kind of let the other areas go. You see people in the fitness area all the time that their whole focus is they want to look good. They want to have a six pack and that is the end all be all and maybe that will bring them fulfillment. Then they let their spiritual health kind of suffer.
Ben: It comes down to this, sorry to interrupt Drew.
Drew: Go ahead.
Ben: It comes down to the spiritual disciplines. This means that you should, as much as you focus on your high intensity interval training, your kettlebell swinging, your swimming, your biking, your running or marathon, whatever it is that you are doing to take care of yourself physically, and also as much as you are doing biohacking and brain training and all these things for the brain, there are spiritual disciplines that you must learn and that you must implement in your life just as rigorously as you implement those physical and those mental tactics. Those disciplines would be things like silence and solitude. Finding a time during the day to actually step away to be mindful and to meditate. Fasting would be considered a spiritual discipline. Many consider that to be just a pure physical discipline, but it actually is a spiritual discipline. We see many great leaders from Jesus to Ghandi engaging in regular fasting. We also see that as a prevalent characteristic of many religions. Meditation, I already mentioned, and even study the spiritual disciplines. Having some kind of devotional or spiritual book that you read to feed your spirit and to discover more about what it means to optimize your soul and your spirit. What it means to love others and dare I say much of this with a grain of people who believe that we are god or people who are atheist. I believe that there is a God. I like to live my life with the belief that there is a higher power that we are all created and that we are a part of this big magical J. R. R. Tolkien story. And part of that story is loving back the Creator that made us by taking care of the planet and by loving others and taking care of others. And by honoring our parents and taking care of them as they grow old. There are so many things that lend to a society stability to our world when we engage in it and believe in a higher power and when we engage in the practice of loving others. Ultimately, coming full circle, you and I both talk to a population of people who are very disciplined physically. At least I get that impression of you and your audience and also people who are very keen on this whole concept of biohacking and optimizing the brain. Let me tell you, there are a lot of people out there who are weak spiritually, because they don’t engage in the spiritual disciplines. If I could give you one practical tip, it would be to take one day, for me it’s Sunday. You set that day aside to be the day you engage in deep prep work, prayer, meditation, silence, solitude. It’s certainly ok, and I actually endorse this, to use something like plant based medicines to delve even deeper into spirituality. But rather than buffeting yourself physically, rather than messing around with all these technologies and biohacks on that day, that is your day to engage deep into spiritual disciplines. If you do that, you carry that momentum spiritually throughout the entire week. Even if the rest of the week you are only able to devote say, 15-20 minutes of things like meditation or prayer or some kind of spiritual reading.
Drew: Yeah. I feel like spiritual health is something that is a small investment for …. it could be just like one day out of the week or just one hour out of the day to just focus on that, but it gives you a lot of return on your investment, in my opinion. Do you see, for example you mentioned plant based medicines, certain people that have certain spiritual faiths might think those things are bad or have been taught that those things are bad since we were kids. How have you transitioned from that mentality, or maybe you have always had the mentality, but how do people accept that when they think those things are bad for you? They think they shouldn’t do them because they mess with your spirituality, how do you open up their paradigm to this other world that can benefit them spiritually?
Ben: This is prevalent in our culture. Lectins are bad, don’t eat them. Gluten is bad, don’t eat it. Saponins are bad. Stay away from ancient grasses like quinoa or millet. Marijuana is bad because it could be overused and make you lazy or shrink the gray matter in your brain. Wine to many people of certain religions is bad because it ultimately might make you lose control. Or it might be an escape from stress when you should be using prayer instead of nightly turning to that fishbowl size glass of wine. People go on and on about all of these things that are bad. Well, look, let’s look at it this way, God surrounded us with this great green earth chalk full of plants and rocks and trees and compounds and molecules. All sorts of magical amazing things that we can tap into with intelligence and wisdom. We don’t say I’m not going to eat quinoa. We do what the south americans do and we rinse all the saponins off. They use the saponins to wash their clothes because it is so irritant to the digestive tract. Then you eat the quinoa if you have treated it correctly. You don’t just pick wheat from the field and chew on it because that gluten protein is going to cause some digestive issues. You slow ferment it and you make yourself some sour dough and you reduce the gluten content and pre-digest a little bit and even lower the glycemic index. You don’t not eat potatoes or tomatoes, but you cook them properly and even use something like a pressure cooker in many cases so you can treat the lectins and inhibit the ability of those to cause digestive distress. You don’t completely avoid eating meat because it is dangerous. You are not going to jump out of a tree and sink your neck into the hide of a deer and go about eating meat that way. You do it intelligently. With marijuana, you don’t smoke your ass off every night, but you use it now and again when you need to be relaxed or when you need to induce a little bit of creativity. Psilocybin, same thing, when you read a book like ‘Stealing Fire’, there are certain periods of time during the year when you might engage in a more hedonistic trip version of psilocybin to go through a very deep place in a proper way where you are able to dissolve your ego. Whether that be with something like Psilocybin or DMT or even LSD, if you are are going to use a synthetic, and you come away with that with some pretty intense spiritual breakthroughs that you otherwise would not have been able to recognize, had you not been able to shove your ego to the side. You can also engage in a little bit more stoic limited use of compounds like that. Like I mentioned weeklys, for me it would be a small dose of Psilocybin with a little bit of lions mane and a little bit of niacin to induce blood flow to induce neurogenisis. You even look at these things and there are clues in nature that I think God made some of these things to look a certain way. Like walnuts are good for your brain and eggs are good for your eyes. You look at lion’s mane mushroom and it’s spout looks like a bunch of neurons and axons and it’s fantastic for the brain. So ultimately, I think everything in nature has a purpose and it has a use, but it must be used with responsibility and intelligence and wisdom. If that’s done, then I really think there is absolutely nothing wrong with it. I think that in reality, if you are a disciplined person, the pros outweigh the cons.
Drew: Gotcha. Thank you for touching on that by the way. I feel like it’s just this old programming of what we have been taught to think our whole lives of these things are bad. But like you are saying, there can be a beneficial use physically, but also spiritually as well. God gave us these things to experiment with but also, maybe to also learn from making mistakes with certain substances. Like, ‘Oh this poison could kill me, so I better not do that.’ Like with a certain plant or a certain animal that has toxins or poison.
Ben: Yeah, exactly. This poison might kill me, but maybe it’s on this planet so I can use it for hunting.
Drew: Yeah, right.
Ben: Like a South American hunter using a tree frog as poison on the tip of their arrow.
Drew: Yeah man. You and your family recently went to Estonia. Can you talk to us about what that was like? What was the purpose of that and what did you learn from going to Estonia? It looked like an awesome trip.
Ben: Estonia is a very medieval city located over by Finland on the Baltic Sea and very similar to Finland, which is one of my favorite places to visit. It has a very robust sauna culture. Everything there is organic. They don’t use a lot of glyphosate. It has a lot of history. They were attacked by the Germans. They were attacked by the Russians. They were a very kind of beat up people, kind of like the Jewish nation, they have kind of bounced back and they are very strong and resilient. Just a very cool culture. One of my friends, Vishen Lakhiani, who runs MindValley, a kind of a spiritual optimizing company that teaches things like Yoga and Meditation. Well, they also want to reinvent education. They want to teach children how to learn things that go beyond reading, writing and arithmetic. Teach them everything from being a good entrepreneur to reading body language, to emotional intelligence to a host of things that a lot of children don’t learn in school. Furthermore, they want education to be a little bit more of a family event, where parents learn along with their children. The whole family is immersed in this education that is very non-traditional but a little more global. Once a year they create a university in a different city on the globe. For one month and you can attend for one week, two weeks or three weeks or four weeks. Parents, family, children, singles, they all come together and they learn from teachers. I taught there. My friend Jim Quick taught memory and learning there. My friend taught nutrition there. There are a lot of different classes that you can take throughout the day. It’s almost like a mini-college. They have it in a really cool place, like Estonia. Estonia, by the way, because it is so medieval, I mean all the restaurants are like elk, boar, giant leg of pork and duck. These amazing breads and honey meat and spiced wine. It’s a very cool place to visit. There is a very cool section of town called Old Towne, everything there is just medieval. Again the food is fantastic, it is all organic and grown there locally. A very cool place to go. One of the highlights for me was something I’ve always wanted to do. Even though as you have probably suspected from my rant earlier, I’m very into this concept of legacy and taking care of your children and your children’s children and equipping them to grow up to make this world a better place. There is this program called ‘Life Book’ in which you take everything from your values, your beliefs, what you hold dear as a family, what you hold dear personally. What you want to build in terms of your character, what you hold dear in terms of quality of life and your vision for your future and you spend four days, 8-10 hours a day immersed in this program where you are mapping out, along with your partner, your entire life plan. So, it’s almost like this manual that you can hand to your children. That you can build upon, as you grow and learn and add new values and beliefs and you can add quotes and photographs too. I mean, I know some people whose Life Book is literally over a thousand pages long. Mine walking out of there after five days in Estonia is about 300 pages long. It is literally, if I were to walk out the door and get hit by a bus, what my children would be able to open and read and learn everything that dad held dear. All of the lessons I have learned in life, all of the books I recommend, all of the people who I look up to and all of the quotes that I love. All of my values, my beliefs, what I envision for my families future and for our children. So, being able to go through that process, which is part of MindValley University was quite profound as well. At some point I am going to, on my own Podcast, interview the people who kind of invented that whole Life Book process so that people can learn a little bit more about how they can go about doing that themselves. Ultimately Estonia was a very cool blend of exposure to a medieval culture, saunas and the Baltic Sea and also MindValley University and very good food. I ate a lot of pig, elk, a lot of wild animals.
Drew: Yeah. That sounds like an awesome time, man. And just your family being able to have that experience with you, for me life is about making memories. I feel like that is one thing we can leave behind for our kids are these memories to take with them. Like, ‘Oh remember that trip we took with dad to Estonia? We did this, we did that.’ It sounds like you do an awesome job with your family. That is the next thing I want to talk about, because me and you have talked about this. Being in a health and wellness phase and having a family, sometimes I feel like it’s a lot more challenging than someone who has a brand who has no kids. How do you find time to do all these amazing things with what you do? You are a busy guy. But then also find time to give to your family as well. Because I feel like you give so much to other people, you experiment a lot on yourself. How do you make that time for you and your family to make sure they are a priority and your work is a priority too?
Ben: It all comes down to routines, rituals and habits, as a matter of fact just this morning on my own website, I don’t know when this Podcast is coming out, but if you were just to do a search for Ben Greenfield daily routine and just limit your search results to something like the past couple of months, you would find this. It is about a 5000 word article on my daily routine. Everything is set and structured in a very precise manner. Not that I am of the mindset that I am going to allow myself to become stressed out or depressed if I am ripped out of that routine because something happened. Let’s say, my grandmother recently died, so I had to shuffle a bunch of stuff around. I will be flying down to Miami to be at her memorial service. That will take me out of my habit and my ritual and my routine. I of course have travel habits, rituals and routines. The idea is I systematize my entire life, but I don’t allow myself to get stressed if that system occasionally breaks. That is something important to set a presidence for what I am about to say. But ultimately I wake up and I have a daily gratitude practice, some deep tissue work, some Yoga. I have my cup of coffee. I use the restroom. I do my half hour of sauna then jump into the cold pool. I do 4-5 hours of deep, deep work. I am in a fasted state toward minimal food or if it’s a very intensive training day, after a greek smoothie or something like that, I stop and break for lunch. I take a nap. I get up and polish off work before the kids get home from school. I spend a bunch of time with the kids. I get my workout in, sometimes with the family, sometimes solo. Finish that up and have another hour to hour and a half of putting out fires of work and then I stop. I come up and have dinner. We have family time during dinner, then we begin our bedtime ritual. Finally I get into bed, if there is any lovemaking to be had, that is all taken care of. Then I read for about a half hour and then I fall asleep. I do not watch TV. I do not read the newspaper. I am a complete idiot when it comes to politics and pop culture. But ultimately, I spend my entire life devoted to my actual purpose, which I alluded to, but did not define earlier, which is to empower people to live an adventurous, joyful and fulfilling life. I feed everything through that filter, every decision through that filter, whether it’s a hell yes or a hell no. Does this equip me to empower other people to live a more adventurous and joyful and fulfilling life? If it doesn’t, the answer is no and if it does, the answer is yes. It allows me to make decisions pretty intelligently. But ultimately everything comes down to ritual and habit and routine. I not only have everything mapped out, but I know at the beginning of the week the exact workouts I’m doing on which days, so there is no decision making fatigue. I know my entire calendar. I have it all printed out. It’s right in front of me on the whiteboard to my left. Then finally, I outsource and automate and delegate with a great deal of efficiency, meaning I use books like ‘Less Doing’ by Ari Meisels , or ‘Four Hour Work Week’ by Tim Ferriss . If there is anything, anything from mowing my yard, to tightening the toilet seat, to cleaning the hot tub, to doing the dishes or making my bed to anything, or putting water in an essential oil diffuser, you name it, I don’t do it. I have someone else do it. I have an assistant who I literally pay to live with me. I have people I pay to mow my lawn. People I pay to pave the driveway, certainly I miss out on certain things in life and certainly there are some things I enjoy doing that I still do, like chopping wood. Plus it doubles as a workout or shoveling snow for example. But ultimately I do a huge amount of delegating and that makes a big difference, in addition to also doing the habits and the daily rituals and routines.
Drew: Thanks for listing that. That’s a great example for people like me or just people listening that want to learn how to systemize their life. Just the fact that you are able to list off all those things pretty easily of what your day looks like, means you have been doing that for a long time. There are so many questions I have for you and I know we have a short amount of time. My next question is I want to talk about telomeres. My audience might not have ever heard of telomeres. Can you describe what they are in a nutshell and why they are important to get those tested? And talk about your results?
Ben: They are the end caps on your DNA that keep your DNA from unraveling. The shorter your telomeres are, the more accelerated you are aging or the shorter your life span will be. Shorter telomere length is associated with increased risk of mortality. Longer telomere length with longevity. There are certain things you can do to decrease the rate of which your telomere shortens. A perfect example would be fasting. Fasting has a profound effect on your own stem cell production and also on your telomere length. Another example would be anything that increases your own indigenous stem cell production, certain nutrients such as blueberries and aloe vera, colostrum. There is a variety of super foods that have a direct longevity enhancing effect and can decrease the rate of which your telomere shortens. There are also lifestyle practices, typically things that would be considered homesis. Things that would be bad for you in large doses but are good for you in small doses. Things like sweating it out in a sauna and getting yourself really hot. If you spent two hours in there you would have mineral deficiencies and a cardiovascular issue, but in small amounts, it’s good for you. Cold is the same thing. If you are staying cold for a very long time, your immune system would suffer. You would get very, very cold and you would be unable to focus. You would lose bowel control. You would begin to kill brain cells. But in small amounts, it’s actually quite good for you and your telomeres. Sunlight or daily exposure to UVA and UVB radiation. If you were to do that for 10 hours a day, you would be burnt and you would increase your risk of cancer, especially skin cancer. But in small doses, it’s actually quite good for you. Good air, good light, good water, mitigating your exposure to a lot of dirty electricity, wi-fi, all of these may have an impact on telomeres as well. Then eliminating certain things from your diet, such as high amounts of grains and vegetable oils. Not sugars per say, but when you eat the sugars. Be sure you consume sugar when you are in a very insulin sensitive state, such as post workout or when you are riding a bike. Perhaps your having some sweet potatoes or yams or bread with dinner and then you are going to go on a post prandial 15 minute walk. Ultimately though, when it comes down to your telomeres and decreasing the rate at which you age, some of the biggest things you can do is to fast and to engage in some of those hormetic stressors like cold, heat and sunlight. Make sure you’ve got clean air, good natural light in your home. Be careful with artificial lighting, be careful about too much wi-fi and too much blue tooth and just overuse of technology. Then good clean pure water that you drink and of course, returning full circle to what we were talking about earlier, the spiritual disciplines. It appears that meditation, prayer and being with people you love, life, social relationships, family and laughter, all of that has an impact on telomere length as well. I personally, when I first began looking into telomeres, had a biological age of 37 and a chronological age of 34.
Drew: Was that …. sorry to interrupt, would that result right there ….
Ben: No, that means I was older biologically than I was chronologically. Currently my chronological age is 37 and my biological age, based on telomere testing, is 20. So simply by implementing many of the tactics that I described to you over the past four years or so, I have dramatically decreased the rate of which my telomere shortened. I also, of course even more importantly, feel wonderful and sleep amazingly and have great energy levels throughout the day. I have high libedo and I’m able to be there for my children. I’m not exhausted when they get home from school. I don’t have brain fog or out of control appetite cravings. There is a lot of qualitative advantages that go along with that quantitative goal of decreasing the rate of which your telomere shortens.
Drew: That is remarkable. I think that …. Is that something that your average person can go and get tested? Is it hard to find tests for that? Explain where they should go if they want to get their telomeres tested.
Ben: There are a couple of companies that do it. The company that I know of that I personally use right now is called ‘TeloYears’. I interviewed them on my website, if you were to go there and do a search for TeloYears at BenGreenfieldfitness.com. We spent about an hour delving into their entire process. But more or less, it’s a few drops of blood from your finger on a little stick that they send you. You turn around and ship that off to them and within a couple of weeks you have your telomere results back.
Drew: Gotcha. I will put that in the show notes and people can check that out. Something I am interested in, but I have never got tested. I think it’s important to kind of see where you are at, your biological age versus your chronological age. I think that’s great information to kind of give you feedback of, ‘Ok is the lifestyle I am living, is it benefiting me in the long term?’ I might be losing weight, but there is a lot of unhealthy ways to lose weight, as you know. Some people would just focus on that as the end all, be all. But I think that and blood work are probably the most two overlooked things that are actually telling you what is optimal for your body, rather than just weight loss.
Ben: Yes. There are a lot of unhealthy people with high amounts of inflammation, and huge blood sugar swings. By the way, those are the two factors that are going to impact most dramatically how early you die. The level of inflammation and how often your blood sugars fluctuate throughout the day. They have got hormone imbalances, poor sleep, poor energy levels, brain fog, but they have veins in their abs and 4% body fat and a rock hard a**. Frankly just because you look good in spandex or with your shirt off or you look good naked, that does not correlate with health. As a matter of fact, I believe things like fertility correlate with health. Are you waking up with a morning boner or getting a boner sometime during the night, or do you have your period regularly and are you fertile. I believe that things such as low amounts of inflammation are correlated with health. You have a low amount of vegetable oil intake and really good, not to kick this horse to death, but air, light, water and electricity in your personal environment. Your blood sugar regulation, is your blood sugar all over the place during the day because you are eating a widely varied diet? You have carbohydrates coming in throughout the day. You are snacking and grazing throughout the day versus eating a high amount of mono and saturated fats. A limited amount but some saturated fats, but varied kind of like a mediterranean type diet that also implements a decent amount of fasting. Or at least a period of time in the night or morning where you don’t eat, but you also have a time between meals. These are all things that have a more dramatic effect on health than your fitness levels. I say that because if you open the blue zones, you know these areas where people are living a disproportionately long period of time, we don’t see CrossFit wods and we don’t see Triathlons and Spartan races and all these things that are incredibly fulfilling and can make you feel good. Especially if you are relegated to a desk job all day long and you want to get out and have an adventure for yourself and live life and climb your own personal Everest. But that’s not what is going to move the dial dramatically in your health and your longevity. Instead it’s again, good air, light, water, electricity, family, social life, low level of physical activity during the day and exposure to some of those mild hormetic stressors such as cold and heat and sunlight that I was talking about earlier.
Drew: Yeah. Thanks for touching on that because I think it’s so important. People get so wrapped up in, “I need to look like Ben Greenfield or Drew Manning or these instagram models.’ Because they think that’s what healthy is supposed to look like, when in reality, healthy looks different for each person. But we compare ourselves in our modern society and in social media and movies and magazines. We think that is what we are supposed to look like so we eat what we think Ben Greenfield eats so that we look that way. When in reality, that is not going to happen. *laughing*
Ben: Yeah. You look that way as a faultion of living a healthy life, not because you are going out of your way to make sure you hit bi’s and tri’s and calves on Wednesday and core and legs on Thursday. Ultimately if you live a life of low level physical activity, you lift heavy stuff every once in awhile, you sprint every once in a while, you clean up your diet and you expose yourself to a lot of those mild hormetic stressors, your body starts to look pretty dang good without you fretting over it or spending all your time in front of a mirror.
Drew: Yeah. Let’s go back a little bit. How long ago in time was it when you did that 12 month study of endurance testing with the ketogenic diet, where you were strict keto with like 80% fat? How long ago was that, by the way?
Ben: That was about 4-5 years ago.
Drew: Ok, so let’s dive back into that. During that time of your life, were you kind of sold on the ketogenic diet as this way of increasing your endurance and an optimal way to live during that testing?
Ben: No. I don’t believe the ketogenic diet is the optimal way to live.
Drew: Cool. I …. the reason that I …. oh, go ahead ….
Ben: I believe that we certainly see in every ancestral diet on the planet the inclusion of tubers and starches and ample amounts of carbohydrates, especially in the face of physical activity. We see hunter/gatherer tribes stopping their entire hunt to go harvest giant hives full of honey to get all that fructose and those dense amounts of carbohydrates and calories, rather than going after the animal. It takes a lot more calories to burn to chase down. We see people achieving ketosis because they’re fasting and they are physically active and not because they are sucking down exogenous ketones and putting butter in their coffee. As a matter of fact, a lot of people don’t realize this but the ancient form of ketones was organ meat. Organ meats, especially liver, have naturally high levels of BHB in them. A lot of people will say, ‘Oh ancient man wasn’t in ketosis and didn’t have exogenous ketones.’ Well the fact is they did, they were just getting them through fasting and inclusion of organ meats rather than putting a stick of butter in their coffee and drinking some nasty tasting exogenous ketone. But ultimately ketosis can be a good path. I am not against better living through science and I’m not against carbohydrate restriction when it makes sense. For example, we know it’s a good diet for managing some medical conditions, such as epilepsy or seizure or Alzheimer’s or early onset dementia. Things along those lines can benefit dramatically from reducing blood sugar fluctuations and even amping up blood level ketones. We know the liver, the diaphragm and the heart can rely on ketones as a primary source of fuel. For me, as an endurance athlete, when I began experimenting with that diet about 6-7 years ago, it turned out to really help me engage in low level aerobic exercise for very long periods of time. When I was performing, say Iron Man Triathlon, rather than my peers who were sucking down maltodextrin, fructose and giant pre-race bowls of oatmeal. I was drinking a bulletproof coffee and consuming nut butter and coconut oils and MCT and some amino acids and electrolytes during the race and feeling wonderful. I also got less of the gas and bloating and inflammation during. Ultimately that study you eluded to found that athletes who do follow a ketogenic diet, do wind up burning about 1.5-1.7 grams of fat per minute. Also, much, much higher percentage of fat at rest compared to the general population, which is highly advantageous for an endurance athlete who has an unlimited amount of storage carbohydrate available and needs to be able to tap into fat very efficiently. At the same time, I discovered by following a strict ketogenic diet with very little carbohydrate, like about 10% carbs for 12 months, I had thyroid issues and my testosterone plumeted and my libedo dropped. It wasn’t necessarily healthy. Now I have discovered a more sane approach is to, yes, certainly have those times when you are limiting sugars and starches. Certainly have those times when you are fasting, I fast each day. But ultimately, especially if you are going to be physically active and especially if you want ample glucose available for thyroid activity, healthy amounts of insulin and some amount of anabolism, good Serotonin for sleep levels. Have enough hormones where you are not down regulating fertility. You need to engage in some amount of carbohydrate, what we call refeeding. I am a much bigger fan now of a cyclic ketogenic diet for most folks. It’s where you limit sugars and starches throughout the day and then I personally towards the end of the day, because that is when I have my workout. I will typically save all my carbohydrates for dinner. The less active you are, the less carbs you need. But ultimately I don’t endorse sitting on your ass all day because you are in ketosis. I endorse a physically active and rigorous and adventurous lifestyle, combined with limiting sugars and carbs when they need to be limited. Then refueling your body and refilling that energy tank when it makes sense to refill it. Then finally, and I will shut up, there is a whole social component, right? It’s fun to eat amazing foods and new foods and bread and sushi. Go out to Italian every once in a while and eat that chicken parm or an amazing bed of gnochy. There is certainly a time and a place to eat carbohydrates, not because it is functional food, but just because you are enjoying life.
Drew: Yeah. I appreciate you talking about that because I feel like no matter what camp you are in as far as nutrition goes, it can become dogmatic for some people to where it almost becomes a religion. Where they start to look at carbs as a sin and they feel guilty or ashamed if they consume those carbohydrates. I think it’s important for you to touch on that, where you were strict keto and there was an advantage for what you were trying to accomplish at that point in time, but where you are at now, what is optimal for you is different than what was looked at as optimal during that study. There was a price to pay for you and you talked about those negative things that happened from doing that for a long period of time. I think it’s really important for people to hear. No matter what camp you are in I think metabolic flexibility maybe that might be the optimal or ultimate goal for people trying to discover what is best for them over the long term. What worked for you yesterday, might not work for you today. I really appreciate you talking about that because I think it is important for people to learn, you don’t need to stay this way for the rest of your life and eat the exact same macronutrient ratio until the end of your days. I think that’s really important for people to hear. We are running out of time here, Ben. But the last question I have for you is people come to you because you know so much. You are really smart. You know your stuff. If there was one person on this planet that is alive or dead that you could interview and sit down and talk to for a day, who would that person be for you?
Ben: It would Theodore Roosevelt because he was a ‘man’s man’. He was an author. He was a creative artistic man, but also deeply engaged in physical culture. He was a good leader. He was well spoken. He was inspirational. He lived an adventurous lifestyle. He was a joyful happy laughter filled man. Although I don’t necessarily agree with everything that he did politically, he’s a very interesting guy. He would be the guy I would want to sit down and have dinner with. He engaged in a lot of the things that fulfill my passion, which again would be to empower people to live a more adventurous and joyful fulfilling life. He seemed pretty adventurous, joyful and fulfilled.
Drew: Gotcha. What’s the one kind of, because you don’t really watch TV. I am assuming you don’t really watch movies, what’s the one thing you do to kind of let go of this rigid structure of your schedule, that is kind of mindless for you. That’s just like, ok I need a break from all of this structure. Do you have something like that?
Ben: Typically it is going on a hike or a nice walk in a good nature setting and letting my mind wander.
Drew: So, you are not watching any Bachelor or Bachelorette? Or do you even know what that is? *laughing*
Ben: I know what that is. But look, if I am going to eat a cheat meal, I am going to cheat on a huge ass ribeye steak, and a wonderful 100 dollar red wine and the most amazing dark chocolate on the face of the planet. If I am going to cheat, I am not going to cheat on complete dog crap that is going to make me feel horrible afterwards. If I am going to go wander and breakaway from my ritual and routine, I want to feel wonderful and restored afterwards and not like I spent two hours of my life completely wasting it and not making an impact on the world.
Drew: Gotcha. I love that man. I appreciate your passion. Where can people go to find you on social media or your website, your books or all of that?
Ben: Just google Ben Greenfield or go to BenGreenfieldFitness.com.
Drew: Love it. Ben, thank you so much for coming on. I just want to say thank you for what you do and being an example in this industry and the impact you are making for your family. Man, I love seeing you and what you do with your kids and your wife. I love it. I am looking forward to connecting with you in Utah. I will have to have you on in the future, there is a lot of questions I didn’t get to.
Ben: Alright. Sweet, man. Catch you later. Thanks for having me on. Bye everybody.
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