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Health & Wellness

Podcast No. 44: Ben Greenfield, Coach, Speaker, NY Times Bestselling Author

October 15, 2019

My guest today is Ben Greenfield, one of the most distinguished minds in the fitness space.

By Will Ahmed

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Ben is the author of more than a dozen books, including the New York Times bestseller Beyond Training. His new book, coming out shortly, is titled Boundless: Upgrade Your Brain, Optimize Your Body & Defy Aging. In addition to being a renowned coach, speaker, author and podcast host, Ben is also an accomplished triathlete and Spartan racer.

I caught up with Ben at the Spartan World Championships last month in Lake Tahoe. We discuss how he got to where he is today, including why he came to love endurance sports and the science behind optimizing the human body for them. We also take a deep dive into the various supplements, tools and techniques Ben uses everyday to maximize his own performance, as well as what he feels is undervalued in fitness today and the tests he believes everyone should take to live longer and healthier lives.

Ben is truly a fascinating individual, and I can guarantee you’ll learn something new about your body by listening to this podcast.

Ben Greenfield Podcast Show Notes:

4:01 – Cold Soaks. “It means I’m going to find a cool waterfall or cool creek, dunk my head a few times, I’m usually in there 2-5 minutes.”

4:39 – Fitness Background. “I always knew I wanted to teach. … I grew up with that love for nature immersion, and movement.” When Ben started playing tennis at age 14 he realized he wanted to optimize his body to improve his game. “From there, all the reading and the research and the teaching started to get hyper-focused on exercise physiology and nutrition. I fell in love with the science and the application.”

7:40 – Why he Likes Endurance Sports. “How do you unpack the science behind what’s going on in this race? … It seems like endurance sports are a harder nut to crack when it comes to the physiology and the nutrition because they are sports of attrition.”

9:02 – Daily Routine, Home vs. Traveling. “The same general practices persist throughout, with the exception being that I have a lot of fancy things at my house that I can’t use when I’m traveling,” like a photobiomodulation light panel.

9:58 – Gratitude Journal. It’s the first thing Ben does each morning. “One thing that I’m grateful for that day, one truth that really lept out to me, and one person who I can pray for or help or serve.”

11:23 – Oil Pulling Oil as a mouthwash. “A blend of different essential oils that clean the bacteria of the mouth. … The Dirt makes a pretty good brand that I like.”

12:17 – Coffee & Recovery. While it’s brewing, “I spend the first 15 minutes of my day basically taking care of my body. My self-love time,” with foam rollers, lacrosse balls, other “small mobility tools. I just kind of combine breathing and stretching, basically moving my body and preparing it for the day, focussing on deep nasal breathing.”

13:57 – Morning Reading. “I always start off the day by learning, vs reacting and responding … It’s just easy to sip a cup of coffee and read.”

15:40 – Hydrogen-Rich Water. “Has been shown to be a very good anti-inflammatory,” Ben says.

16:43 – Coffee Enemas. “There’s nothing to make you feel as clean as a whistle as a coffee enema.”

17:46 – Intermittent Fasting. “I always everyday do a 12-16 hour intermittent fast.”

18:11 – Daily Workout. “It’s high-intensity concurrent strength and endurance training. Almost no break time. I squeeze a lot of volume into about 60 minutes of work time. … I’ve got two movement sessions per day, one hard one, and one kind of easy, parasympathetic swim/walk.”

20:30 – What’s Underrated in Fitness. “Minimal effective dose of training. Two to three minutes of time under tension for a muscle group is enough … an absolutely fabulous time hack.” He’s a fan of the Vasper machine and ARX Fit machines.

22:47 – Gym as Meditation? “I find for me, [going to the gym is] just as stabilizing, if not more, than meditation. I’m constantly focusing on body awareness and mindfulness when I’m at the gym. … If the gym is your happy place, don’t feel guilty about that.”

23:47 – Nasal Breathing. “When you have high levels of CO2, oxygen dissociates more readily into tissues.” Check out The Oxygen Advantage by Patrick McKeown. Also, “When you breathe through your nose you are humidifying the air, which allows for more oxygen dissociation in the lungs.”

27:48 – His Children are “Unschooled.” Officially they are homeschooled, but Ben says “We do not use a curriculum, they wake up in the morning and they do whatever they want to do. My job as a parent is to simply surround them with as many proactive activities and teachers and tutors and things that keep them from flipping on the TV and playing video games all day.” They do well on the state-mandated standardized tests. “You could drop my kids in the wilderness and they’re going to come out alive.”

30:01 – Deep Work. He’s a big fan of Cal Newport’s ideas. “I spend 4-5 hours immersed in non-reactive work.”

32:45 – Superfood Smoothies. “My smoothies are pretty damn extravagant. We’re talking bone broth, collagen…”

33:17 – Diet. “It’s almost like a bastardized version of the carnivore diet. I hunt, with a bow. I like the challenge of spot and stalk. I practice everyday. … I eat a lot of organ meats.”

30:50 – Hunting & Getting into Archery. “There’s a few really good bow-hunting podcasts out there.”

36:07 – Naps. “I always take a nap for about 20-45 minutes after lunch. It’s a recovery nap.” Ben uses Normatec and other things while he’s napping, including NuCalm and an app called Brain FM. “I find that nap gives me almost two days, then I’m super productive for 2 hours [afterwards].”

38:10 – Nicotine Gum. “It’s just like a good little cognitive pick-me-up.”

39:55 – Family Time. “The entire evening is with the family, we play games, we play music, we read, we go through our gratitude journals for the day.”

41:07 – Bedtime Hacks. “I have replaced all the light bulbs with red incandescent bulbs, so there’s no blue light in the bedroom. … I have a ChiliPad that circulates 55-degree cold water under the bed that keeps my core temperature down.”

42:53 – Sleep Supplements. “I take about 60-80 milligrams of CBD, and I take a few capsules of this supplement called Sleep Remedy.”

43:55 – CBD and Sleep. “It definitely enhances deep sleep [for me], but only in high doses, and only in the absence of THC, which seems to disrupt deep sleep cycles.”

44:22 – Falling Asleep with 4-7-8 Breathing. “My latency has considerably improved since adopting that breath cycle.”

44:57 – Sleep Mask. “I use one called a Mindfold.”

45:36 – Avoiding Blue Light (even during the daytime). “My house is all natural incandescent lighting. When I’m traveling I wear clear, fashionable blue-light blocking glasses [during the day]. They help if you’re in unnatural artificial light settings for a long time.”

47:18 – Sunlight Exposure. “For the first few minutes of the day is important, or at least simulating it.” Ben travels with glasses that do that for him when he’s stuck inside in the morning. “I blast my eyes and ears with light if I can’t get outside in the sun in the morning.”

48:15 – Value of Data Quantification. “It allows you to make informed decisions. It’s also highly motivating, I protect my sleep more now that I measure it.” He says the same goes for HRV too. “Anything you test, anything you measure, it keeps you accountable.”

50:12 – Tests Everyone Should Do. Wear something that quantifies sleep and HRV. “Overall heart rate and overall step count would be pretty high up there too. And a basic way to track blood glucose and inflammation, because glycemic variability and inflammation are the two best predictors of overall wellness, health and longevity.”

51:52 – New Book. “I’m putting the finishing touches on a massive new book, it’s called Boundless.” Check out “A complete manual to mind, body and spirit optimization … Very advanced anti-aging and longevity stuff.”

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Will Ahmed

Will Ahmed is the Founder and CEO of WHOOP, which has developed next generation wearable technology for optimizing human performance and health. WHOOP members include professional athletes, Fortune 500 CEOs, fitness enthusiasts, military personnel, frontline workers and a broad range of people looking to improve their performance. WHOOP has raised more than $400 million from top investors and is valued at $3.6 billion, making it the most valuable standalone wearables company in the world. Ahmed has recruited an active advisory board that consists of some of the world’s most notable cardiologists, technologists, marketers, and designers. Ahmed was recently named to the 2021 Sports Business Journal 40 under 40 list as well as 2020 Fortune 40 Under 40 Healthcare list and previously named to Forbes 30 Under 30 and Boston Business Journal’s 40 Under 40. Ahmed founded WHOOP as a student at Harvard, where he captained the Men’s Varsity Squash Team and graduated with an A.B. in government.