x[1:13] The Dream Herb
[3:53] News Flashes/“Why Do You Race Faster Than You Train?”
[8:42] Gene Splicing
[13:08] The Growing Global Epidemic Called Myopia
[18:22] Special Announcements/Organifi Green Juice
[21:49] Four Sigmatic Coffee
[24:16] Harry’s Shaving Plan
[25:38] Where Ben Will Be In The Next Few Months
[28:05] Listener Q & A/Dealing With Elevation Sickness
[44:04] Muscle Cramping
[1:00:32] Calorie And Carb Cycling
[1:12:49] Five Books for Power and Strength
[1:20:44] iTunes Review Concerns
[1:21:32] iTunes Review
[1:24:38] End of Podcast
Introduction: In this episode of The Ben Greenfield Fitness Podcast: Everything That You Need To Know About Muscle Cramping, Calorie And Carb Cycling, Gene Splicing, Fixing Altitude Sickness, and much more.
He’s an expert in human performance and nutrition, voted America’s top personal trainer and one of the globe’s most influential people in health and fitness. His show provides you with everything you need to optimize physical and mental performance. He is Ben Greenfield. “Power, speed, mobility, balance – whatever it is for you that’s the natural movement, get out there! When you look at all the studies done… studies that have shown the greatest efficacy…” All the information you need in one place, right here, right now, on the Ben Greenfield Fitness podcast.
Ben: Rachel, I'm very excited right now.
Rachel: Why are you excited?
Ben: Well, I just ordered the Dream Herb.
Rachel: The Dream Herb, Ben. It's called a herb.
Ben: The Dream Herb. I actually, typically when I wake up in the morning, I have half a dozen to a dozen or more text messages on my phone from all manner of physicians, and biohackers, and friends in the fitness and nutrition industry. And one of my friends, Olly, he's a doctor over in Finland, he sent me this brand new article on something called Calea Zacatechichi.
Rachel: That is quite a mouthful.
Ben: I don't even know if I'm pronouncing this correctly. It's also known as Calea Z. So this is also called the dream herb, not herb, which promotes meaningful vivid dreams and potential for lucid dreams. So, I dug into this thing and I did just order the tea leaves on Amazon, you can get these tea leaves on Amazon, and you're supposed to drink this tea before bed. The claims here are it has little or no effect on waking consciousness, so you don't feel anything if you're awake.
However, it intensifies and prolongs your dreams on an epic level, creates vivid dreams, even those who never remember, while not increasing the likelihood of sleep paralysis as some other things, such as high dose cannabidiol or something like that would do when it comes to getting you into a lucid dream state. So if you're someone who wants to dream vividly, apparently this stuff works. And I have no personal experience, all I know is that right before we got on the podcast today, I pressed the order button on Amazon. So I have some coming my way.
Rachel: And what's your dream state like currently? Do you have lucid dream, or remember your dreams, or anything?
Ben: I do, but I don't use dream tea. And this dream tea off of Amazon, I mean it literally, on the cover of the label, right, it comes in this little brown bag and it says: “Medicated tea. Dream lucid dreaming. Soothing and calming composition of rain forest botanicals known to hold properties which enhance deep dreaming and lucidity in the mind.”
Rachel: Fascinating. I'm gonna try some too.
Ben: Yeah. So, we'll see what happens. What's that movie about dreaming?
Rachel: Inception. I love that film. Let's do it.
Ben: So, speaking of hardcore science, and this is the part of the show where we talk all about science. There was a new study that I thought was kinda interesting for me, personally, 'cause I'm out there competing in races quite often, and I always wonder when I'm out there in a race, why is it that I push myself so much harder when I'm racing than I do when I'm training, even when I'm training with other people sometimes. And they actually did a study where they looked into this, and I'll link to this article. It's called “Why Do You Race Faster Than You Train?”
Rachel: Brilliant study.
Ben: Brilliant. So, it involves cyclists. They had these cyclists do a pair of 4 kilometer time trials, which is just a total pain cave effort. And they did it once by themselves, and then they did it again with a virtual competitor. So I suppose this is one of those computer programs where you have another virtual cyclist kinda like in front of you that you're trying to keep up with or beat. And not surprisingly, all the cyclists were able to go faster when they were pitted against a virtual competitor. So they completed the time trial in an average of 6 minutes and 22 seconds when they had a competitor they were going to against versus 6 minutes and 33 seconds when they weren't, which doesn't sound like much but it is.
Rachel: So what's the deal with that? Why are they doing that? Is it just an ego thing?
Ben: Okay. So, here's what they did. It's much more science-y than that, Rachel. Much more science-y than ego. So what they did was before and after each of these efforts, they had the cyclists do what's called a maximum voluntary contraction of their leg muscles. And then, during that maximum voluntary contraction, they used electrical muscle stimulation to see how much extra force they could basically shock out of the muscle.
And what this allowed them to do was to calculate what's called peripheral fatigue, which is how much weaker the muscle was after the time trial, and central fatigue, which is how much weaker the signal from the brain to the muscle was after the time trial, 'cause there's a difference between your muscle getting tired from lactic acid build-up, and neuronal fatigue, and all these issues versus central fatigue, which is just basically your brain telling your muscles, “Hey, I'm crapped out. Please stop. We're gonna die.”
So, what they showed was that in both of these trials, whether you were working by yourself or whether you were working against a virtual competitor, the central fatigue was the same, meaning that the message that the brain sends to the muscles to shut down before you die or have a heart attack, is the same whether you're racing as a competitor or whether you're just out there on your own.
What they found was that peripheral fatigue was much, much higher, meaning, somehow, when we are competing against other people, all those things that build up in our muscles, like lactic acid and hydrogen ions, which create acidity in the muscle, and like depletion of ATP, your body's energy currency, we somehow have the ability to be able to tolerate much much higher levels of that, which is basically just pain during exercise. When you're competing against someone versus when we're just out there by ourselves, we're actually able to tolerate more, what would be called, localized muscle pain.
Rachel: Well, it makes sense doesn't it? Everyone always races better on race day.
Ben: It makes sense and of course, the takeaway message like, “Okay. That's great. What do we do about it?” The takeaway message for me is that, “Okay. So, if peripheral fatigue is something that we're able to tolerate higher and higher amounts of when we're out there competing in events, what are things that we could do to our bodies to help to elevate that peripheral fatigue ceiling even higher?” Can we, and this is where we turn to better living through science, could we take something that helps to buffer lactic acid, like sodium bicarbonate or baking soda? Could we use ATP? Could be used things that help to shuttle things out of tissue more quickly? Things we talked about on the podcast before like oxaloacetate to convert lactic acid and into glucose more quickly. But the idea here is that it turns out it's more peripheral fatigue than central fatigue. And if you're a geek and you wanna read the article, we'll link to it in the news flashes. Where can we find the news flashes, Rachel?
Ben: 358. Cool. I wasn't quite sure of our number. We have so freaking many podcasts.
Rachel: So many.
Ben: The numbers are just dizzying.
Rachel: Alright. What else we got?
Ben: Okay. So, here's another interesting one. Crispr Technology. I was just speaking at the Ancestral Health Symposium, also known as AHS, and if you wanna go see my talk, by the way, which was about striking a balance between natural living and biohacking, you can find that video if you just were to, you know, we'll put a link to it in the show notes. Just go to bengreenfieldfitness.com/358. Rachel, jot that down.
Rachel: Jotted down.
Ben: We'll put a link to that video in the show notes. But I was there, and I was having dinner with this girl who works as a gene researcher. I don't know if she's listening in, but she was such a geek on gene research that the earrings that she was wearing were DNA earrings.
Ben: Yeah. Actual DNA strands.
Rachel: I love it.
Ben: So she was into it, and she was telling me, she's like, “Well, did you know that the Chinese are gene splicing themselves to be resistant to HIV?” I'm like, “What?” She said, “Yes.” So there's this thing called Crispr, and Crispr, a lot of people probably heard of this, but Crispr is a technology that allows you to actually edit cells, to edit your genes.
Rachel: That's so mind blowing.
Ben: And apparently, the Chinese scientists are altering the gene's susceptibility to HIV. But what this article that I just read, it just came out last week, is that they're actually editing what are called T cells. So T cells are your immune system cells, and what they're doing is they're removing T cells from your blood, so you take the T cell out of the blood, and then they're using this Crispr technology, which is gene editing technology, and they're deleting a gene for a molecule called PD1.
And the reason that's important is because a lot of tumors produce molecules that slip into PD1 and turn off the T cell that basically make you susceptible to cancer, or to HIV, or to anything that that T cell would normally allow you to fight against. And so, what they're doing is they're taking the PD1 gene out of the T cell, and that would cause the T cell to, rather than ignore a tumor, to actually attack a tumor. And this is one of the first cases in which they're actually not taking DNA and altering it, they're editing the human genome.
Ben: Apparently, and this article also goes into this, for those of you who wanna go on and read it, for those of you who are conspiracy theorists, apparently over in China, they're already doing this type of genome editing technology not just on blood, but like in human embryos, and sperm, and eggs, and they're actually trying to create designer babies.
Rachel: I'm not surprised.
Ben: They could be really racking up the gold medals in the Olympics. I would say like 12 years from now.
Rachel: Every American's worst nightmare.
Ben: When all these gene edited babies come along. But really fascinating because we talk a lot on this show about getting your genes tested, and for example, finding out if you have a lot of fast twitch versus a lot of slow twitch muscle so that you know if you're a power responder when it comes to exercise versus an endurance responder. Or taking your genetic data from something like 23andMe and exporting it to a website, like Promethease is a popular one, and you can actually figure out whether you respond better to a low carb/high fat diet or a high carb/low fat diet. But it's turning out that if all this gene editing technology takes off, that might not even matter. You could be like, “Okay. Well, I really enjoy rice, so turn me into a high carber, baby.”
Rachel: What do you think about it being the ultimate of better living through science?
Ben: It could be. It could also just create a bunch of genetic freaks. And then there's that ethical question, or happiness question too. It's like can you be happy with who you are and how you were born versus just like going in, and changing your body, and altering your genes? And of course, for me, I wanna see a lot of people do this, and lot of rodents do this, and a lot of fruit flies do it before I would jump into doing this myself. I think playing with your DNA could be dangerous.
Ben: Kids, don't do this at home. And then something else that's really interesting, the growing global epidemic of something called myopia. Have you seen?
Rachel: I have. I have. It's crazy.
Ben: Yeah. It's this idea that half the planet is going to need glasses by 2050 because of screens.
Ben: And it's this global prevalence of something called myopia, which is basically short sightedness, and this article goes into the fact that they have traced this directly to the fact that most of our time during the day is spent focusing on objects that are anywhere from 6 inches to about 2 feet ahead of us. And this is obviously not rocket science when it comes to you figuring out what to do about it.
The article itself just verifies what I personally, and you probably, and I would imagine many of our listeners, Rachel, have suspected, that maybe looking at screens all day isn't good for us. But the myth is that, or the misunderstanding, or whatever you call it, is when you're focusing on something far off in the distance, that you're straining your eyes. It's the opposite. Your eye muscles actually strain and contract when you're looking at something close. When you look at something far, the way that the eye works is the muscles around the eye actually relax when you're looking at something far off in the distance.
So the key here, and this is something that I'm very careful to do when I have a giant picture window in front of me right now that, as you and I are talking, I'm not looking at my computer. I'm looking way off into the forest, and I'm looking at trees that are 10 feet away, and mountains that are a mile away, and rocks that are, I'd say about the 50 yards or so away. But the idea is that you want to, I mean you could use the Pomodoro Technique or any other technique that you want for eye brakes, but you want to focus your eyes on objects far off in the distance frequently throughout the day. All the more so if you're a typist, or a blogger, or an author, or somebody on the computer all day.
Rachel: So what are people gonna do if they don't have a beautiful big window looking out into the mountains?
Ben: It's not rocket science, is it. Go outside and look at a bus that's driving away. Yeah. Look at a skyscraper often. Anything that allows you take your eyes off your screen.
There's a guy I'm actually getting on the podcast. As a matter of fact, he runs a website called IrisTech. So I've really been geeking out on monitors, like the backlighting of monitors. For example, the monitor that I use is called an EIZO, E-I-Z-O, and the backlighting of that monitor was actually designed to be more compatible with the human eyes. It's less harsh. But that monitor also has the ability to do things like decrease the power, change up the color frequencies, do all these things that make it more natural.
But then this guy at IrisTech, who again, I'm gonna be interviewing him very soon, he's developed technology that not only adjusts the lighting and the resolution of that monitor throughout the day based on where the sun is setting or rising, depending on what area of the world that you're in, but then he's also got little tweaks that will change the font of a website that you're looking at to turn it from a serif-based font into an arial-based font, so it's easier on the eyes to read.
Rachel: That's awesome.
Ben: Or he's got a little feature were every 25 minutes or every 55 minutes, it'll pop up on the computer and tell you: “take your eyes off the screen,” “look away off into the distance.” So stay tuned for a podcast with him. But yeah, it's really interesting that they're saying how many people in the world are gonna need glasses at some point in the future because of these screens.
Rachel: Yeah. It's crazy. It's currently apparently at 34% of the population and it's going to double in 30 years.
Ben: Have you heard of Vision Gym?
Rachel: I haven't. No.
Ben: I interviewed the folks from a website called Z-Health in the past and we talked about this thing called Vision Gym that they created. It's basically just a series of eye exercises that you do. I'm writing a note to myself and I will put a link to this Vision Gym program. I have it. I bought it for my wife who, bless her heart, never did it because the shoemaker's wife wears no shoes. But it's a series of exercises designed to retrain the eyes and to wean you off of things like contact lenses and glasses. And a lot of it does involve diversion and conversion, meaning focusing on objects far off in the distance and gradually objects closer to you, and it's this whole kinda like done-for-you program that you go to, but we'll link to that one too in the show notes.
Rachel: Good. I'm gonna do that one.
Ben: Do that one.
Rachel: I definitely have recently been diagnosed with short sightedness.
Ben: Yes. Okay. I'll send you a link to this Vision Gym too, or find the podcast that we did on it 'cause we've interviewed them. So check out that and everything else, along with the herb for lucid dreaming, over at bengreenfieldfitness.com/358.
Ben: Rachel, do you like horseradish?
Rachel: I love horseradish so much. I, when I go and eat sushi…
Ben: I know you're a vegetarian and you don't put on prime rib…
Rachel: No. I put it like…
Ben: But you do like it?
Rachel: Well, wasabi is a form of horseradish. And I wanna like blow my face off every time I eat sushi. I love it.
Ben: You want to blow your face…
Rachel: Yeah. I just gotta keep adding wasabi until my ears start to pound, and my noise starts to pound and sting, and my eyes start watering. It's ridiculous.
Ben: I'll have to add “blow my face off” to my vernacular.
Ben: It just sounds…
Rachel: So, yes. I love horseradish. Moral of the story.
Ben: Well, Moringa is the actual term given to this tree called a horseradish tree. Moringa, M-O-R-I-N-G-A. And it's really high in protein, and calcium, and vitamin C, and potassium. Moringa is an extremely nutrient-dense tree. You harvest the leaves, I believe, from this moringa tree, and it's also called the horseradish tree. It's been shown to lower blood sugar levels, to reduce inflammation, to increase your levels of HDL, even to protect against arsenic toxicity, if that's something that is concerning to you, which actually believe it or not, brown rice is a very high source of arsenic in people's diets. So there's something to that.
Anyways though, the reason I'm telling you all this is because we have mentioned a few times before about how one of our sponsors for the show is this green juice, this Organifi Green Juice. And whenever I go through the list of things that it has in it, like wheat grass, and spiruina, and chlorella, and coconut extract, and red beet, when I get to horseradish, it just always sounds funny that horseradish is in there. But that's what it is, it's a horseradish tree leaf from this moringa plant that's extremely nutrient dense.
Rachel: I have heard so much about moringa recently, and I really did a quick Google to see if you had talked about it before, and you've only mentioned it a little bit. But I've heard it might be, and I know how we all feel about the marketing of superfoods, but it's supposed to be pretty up there with incredible plants.
Ben: Yeah. And it's also a detoxifier for water, meaning that you can steep water in these moringa leaves, and there's some kind of a protein in the seed that binds to impurities in water so that they're clustered up and they can get separated from the water.
Rachel: And I heard it's one of those plants that, when you plant it in a garden with other vegetables that take nutrients from the soil, it actually adds nutrients to the soil. So it's a good tree to plant with vegetables and things.
Ben: Wow. That's amazing.
Rachel: It just is a super plant. I'm really excited about the plant. I definitely wanna more about it, and I just found out it's in Fitlife Organifi Green Juice.
Ben: Yup! Cures cancer. Makes you fly.
Ben: Removes all wrinkles from your face.
Rachel: I'm buying it.
Ben: Yeah. So anyways though, it is in this Fitlife stuff. Really good green juice. And everybody who's listening in gets a discount on this green juice. At 20%, which is actually pretty good. Go to bengreenfieldfitness.com/organifi and use discount code there, and you can get 20% off some of the tastiest horseradish on the face of the planet.
Also, speaking of tasty, this podcast is brought to you by premium instant coffee. Instant, meaning it's a powder that you just add water to. This is the coffee that I travel with. We've talked about Kimera Koffee before, how it has nootropics added to it, but there's also there's also this stuff called mushroom coffee. So, the mushroom coffee has chaga in it, which is a very alkalinic, immune boosting mushroom. And then it has cordyceps in it, which is really good for your adrenal glands, and it also activates lung tissue, which is, I think we have a question later on today about altitude sickness and altitude training, and cordyceps is really good for that as well.
But basically this coffee, it's about 2,000 milligrams of Arabica coffee, like an organic Arabica coffee, combined with wild crafted Siberian chaga mushroom, and then a cordyceps mushroom that's been dual extracted, meaning that they extract it in water, and then they extract it in alcohol so you get both the water soluble, and then the fat soluble components of the cordyceps. It's made by a company called Four Sigmatic Foods Mushroom Coffee with cordyceps and chaga. And whenever I travel, my method is I count on my fingers the number of days that I'm traveling, and I put one to two packets of mushroom coffee extract for each day that I'm traveling. And then when I get into my hotel room, I run the little coffee maker in the hotel room without the coffee. I just run it so I get the hot water, and then I add two packets of this mushroom coffee to it.
Rachel: I read a really interesting post by these guys the other day, Four Sigmatic, and they mentioned that, and I agree there is a perception of instant coffee as being kinda terrible, but apparently that's largely because it's just terribly made. And this stuff is very, very well made.
Ben: Yes. This is not Folgers.
Rachel: This is definitely not Folgers.
Ben: This is not the best part of waking up. So you can go to, here's the URL foursigmatic.com/greenfield. That's just a frickin' mouthful. Nobody's gonna remember that. I mean do people actually remember this stuff when you're out there? I don't know.
Rachel: They do!
Ben: I would just go to the show notes at bengreenfieldfitness.com/358. But anyways, the coupon code is Ben Greenfield and that gets you 15% off the instant coffee.
Ben: So, or anything else on their mushroom site.
And then finally, this podcast is brought to you by Harry's. And Harry's has a shaving plan. What the shaving plan is is you get the Harry's ergonomic designed razor, the foaming shave gel, all the blades that you need, but then they basically will just ship the blades to you each month, and you just keep on saving on your blades with these ongoing shipments of not three, not four, but, count 'em, five blades, the foaming shave gel with the aloe vera. Really, really great company when it comes to cutting out the middleman and giving you a luxurious Cadillac-like shave…
Rachel: Men go through five blades a month shaving?
Ben: Mhmm. Well, I'm manly. I've got a lot of testosterone.
Rachel: You've got so much hair, Ben.
Ben: My chest, everywhere. My eye, my unibrow, my Greek unibrow.
Rachel: You've got a baby face.
Rachel: You basically have half-Asian genes. You're gonna look like you're 16 until you're 60.
Ben: That's right. I've got reverse Benjamin Button syndrome. So, you can get $5 off the Harry's Shaving Plan or anything else from Harry's. You go to harrys.com, that's H-A-R-R-Y-S dot com, and you enter code Ben at check out to get 5 bucks off your Harry's Razor. And I recommend you try out that shave plan, so it's just all outsourced and done for you. No decision making fatigue at all.
And then, finally, for those of you who always wanna wonder where I'm at in the world, or any get-togethers, we just had some great get-togethers in Boulder, Colorado where I was out for the Ancestral Health Symposium. But two things I would look forward to coming up in November, because frankly I'm gonna be mostly hunting in August and September. And unless you wanna join along with me and follow me through the woods hunting, there's not gonna be many meet ups and travel happening in August or September because I'm gonna be out filling my refrigerator with meat/freezer with meat, but the Finland Biohacking Conference is coming up on November 18th, and we'll put a link to that in the show notes because if you like to travel and you like better living through science and biohacking, this is one of the best conferences on the face of the planet, in my opinion, in terms of good food, awesome biohacks, cool science, great speakers, and so on. And Finland. You can't go wrong, Finland.
Ben: There's rumor on the streets that Rachel might go.
Rachel: I might go. I really want to.
Ben: And then also the Weston A. Price Foundation, I will be speaking at the Weston A. Price Conference, and for those of you who are really wanting to learn more about ancestral nutrition, eat really, really good food, and lots of really good free food, and food samples of awesome things like bone broth, and pemmican, and all these things that our ancestors stuff their faces with, the Weston A. Price Conference is actually right before that Finland conference. I believe the 14th through the 16th is the Weston A. Price Foundation Conference. You could even, if you wanna pull a Ben Greenfield, 'cause I like to talk about myself in the third person, you could go to the Weston A. Price Conference, which is somewhere in the south, I don't even remember.
Ben: Yeah, Alabama. And then just fly straight over to Helsinki, Finland with me. For an awesome one-two combo. So check out both of those events. Those are coming in November if you want a fun November and haven't had it planned out yet. So check all that out. We'll put links to that in the show notes over at bengreenfieldfitness.com/358.
Listener Q & A:
Jenny: Hey, Ben. This is Jenny from Indianapolis. I'm a fit and active 52 year old woman who lives and works about 500 feet above sea level. My husband and I are planning a backpacking trip through Yellowstone this fall, and we'll be hiking about 6,000 to 8,000 thousand feet above sea level. My concern is elevation sickness. We've snow skied out west before and I've experienced that horrible headache nausea feeling that comes with it. And I was wondering if you have any tips on how to avoid acclimating and getting used to working out at elevation. Thanks again.
Ben: A topic near and dear to my heart. You know why?
Rachel: Well, I would say you live at altitude, but you don't.
Ben: I don't. No. I was just hacking up a lung competing in the Train To Hunt National Championships over in Park City, Utah.
Rachel: Hacking up a lung?
Ben: I think we were at about 8,300 feet. It was one of those competitions where I got about halfway through, I mean day one, we were out orienteering and GPS wayfinding at 11 PM at night. So, they basically wanted to start the thing off with just four hours of orienteering and wayfinding. And then you wake up the next morning and you've got five hours of shooting competition. And then, after that, a 4 mile race with, depending on which division you're in, anywhere from 50 to 100 pounds on your pack, and then you hit the sack, you collapse, you wake up the next morning, and you have obstacle racing with weapons for the next several hours. So it's a brutal event. I literally just flew back from it last night. So I'm just now in the land of oxygen once again. So, I always ask myself though, “Why did I not do more altitude training?”
Rachel: Right. And if you were gonna do altitude training, what would you do?
Ben: Well, we've actually, to be frank, we've talked about altitude training a lot before on the show, but what we haven't talked about is this whole concept of like altitude sickness, elevation sickness. A lot of the things that can be done for elevation sickness can also be done for altitude training. I mean, if you go to bengreenfieldfitness.com, you do a search for altitude training, we have actually two really good podcasts and articles on it. But when it comes at altitude sickness, there's this pathological effect of high altitude on humans caused by that acute exposure to low partial pressure of oxygen, and it's similar to how you'd feel if you had the flu, or carbon monoxide poisoning, or a hangover for example. And the reason for this is of course the lack of oxygen in the air, and different people have different susceptibilities to it, but it generally doesn't start to happen until you get to about a little over 6,000 feet, about 6,500 feet or so above sea level.
And interestingly, by the way, for those of you wonder if you should altitude train for an event or not, you don't really need to unless it is indeed above 6,000 feet. That's like the magic mark at which not only altitude sickness sets in, but also the magic mark, where if you're gonna compete at altitude, you need to be doing altitude training if you're gonna be above 6,000 feet. And you don't want to, like me, hack up a lung during competition, or get blue lips. So, you'll get headache fatigue, stomach illness, dizziness, sleep disturbances, all these different issues.
And the typical allopathic response of this, the modern medical response, is there are certain medications that they'll prescribe. One common one is called Diamox. That's the trade name for this supplement. It's called acetazolamide is the approximate name for it, but they'll give this to folks who are, for example, at Everest base camp and who are climbing. And the reason for this is that's a diuretic. It stimulates your kidneys to secrete more bicarbonate and that actually acidifies your blood. And it's really interesting.
When you acidify the blood, that change in pH will increase the depth of respiration, and the frequency of respiration, and it speeds up the natural acclimatization process. It's really interesting. You can actually acidify your blood. And it works, it's not that healthy, it's processed by the liver. I think that there are other more natural things that you can do that we'll talk about in a second, but I think it's really interesting how blood acidification is actually how medicine pulls off eliminating altitude sickness. And I suppose if it were a last ditch effort and you were climbing Everest, this would work. The interesting thing is the other pharmaceutical that can work for this is Sildenafil. Do you know what Sildenafil is?
Rachel: No idea.
Ben: That's the active ingredient in Viagra.
Rachel: Oh. Wow.
Ben: You can take your boner pills up to the mountains and…
Rachel: Help you with altitude sickness.
Ben: That may also be a little bit. Completely aside, that's banned by USADA and the World Anti-Doping Association, et cetera. So don't do that if you're, for example, gonna be competing in the Spartan World Championships in Lake Tahoe, or something like that. But anyway, it's interesting. Now if you look at the indigenous peoples of South America, this is really interesting, one of the things that they did quite a bit, and still do, is they chew Coca leaves to alleviate the symptoms of altitude sickness. Have you ever chewed Coca?
Rachel: I haven't.
Ben: Okay. You can get some forms of Coca leaves, for example, on Amazon, and I'll link to that in the show notes. I personally, I'm not gonna pretend I've used them because I haven't. I have actually not ever used cocoa leaves. They're one of those things that I hear are a great pick-me-up. On my list of things to experiment with, but that's one thing is the chewing of Coca leaves to alleviate the symptoms of altitude sickness. So that would be one more natural method. Now if you look at Asia, a really popular therapy over in Asia is Rhodiola, which is a Chinese adaptogenic herb, and that's actually one that's a little bit easier to get your hands on. What I use when I go to altitude and I'm spending long periods of time at altitude, and I actually didn't take it with me to this Train To Hunt National Championships because, well, I guess I'll just tell you the long story.
So I usually use the stuff called TianChi. So TianChi is this a blend of some of the most potent adaptogenic herbs on the face of the planet. So Rhodiola is one of the ones that's in there, and it's considered to be one of the most treasured herbs in Chinese medicine. It's good for blood purifying, it's good for cognitive function, it's good for oxygenation, and it's good for altitude. There's a bunch of other stuff in there that also works really well at altitude, cordyceps, and ashwagandha, reishi mushroom, and something called schisandra, which is really good for the lungs. It's potent stuff. Anyways though, my wife used all my TianChi.
Rachel: Oh. She did? I didn't even know she took TianChi
Ben: She did that iridology exam, and it turns out that she needed some help with blood purification. So I said, “Here's my box of TianChi. Take this every day.” And she did. I know I just said the shoemaker wears no shoes a little bit ago, but this was a case where she actually took my advice, and took my TianChi, and also screwed me over completely because I didn't have any. But that stuff, it has a really, really good form of Rhodiola in it. And Rhodiola in general would be good, but that TianChi stuff, it has rhodiola and then some.
Rachel: Do these work similar to the pharmaceuticals? Or do they work in a completely different way?
Ben: Completely different way. They work similar to coca leaves or rhodiola. They don't acidify the blood.
Rachel: What do they do?
Ben: So Rhodiola, for example, actually it causes what's called adrenal activation of lung tissue. It works in your adrenal glands and increases stimulus to your lungs via your adrenal glands is the way that would work. It also increases the oxygen carrying capacity of the blood. But that one's like a cocktail, 'cause there's like 40 different herbs in TianChi. It's like 99 bucks for a box. There's 30 packets in a box. You're paying 3 bucks a serving really. But in my opinion, it's worth it. It's like you can use it as a smart drug, you can use it's a pre-performance aid, et cetera. Yes. Stress relief, you name it. So anyways, there's that. That would be another one. So Rhodiola and coca leaves. And Viagra, of course.
And then there are some other good natural fixes for altitude sickness. Ginkgo Biloba, they've done some good studies. One really good study at the Memorial Sloan Kettering Center, which is a great research center, and they found that ginkgo could absolutely and significantly decrease the intensity of altitude illness. So that's one. Ginger is another. So just a basic ginger extract, ginger root, ginger tea, very, very good, of course, for digestion and for nausea. But it also works for altitude sickness. So that would be another one that you could bring with you to altitude. Anything that thins the blood can help. Now most of us know that fish oil can thin the blood. So that one would certainly fall in there. But two other things that can thin the blood, one that I actually eat copious amounts of.
So I had the worst airplane meal ever yesterday. I stopped off at Whole Foods on my way to the airport and I made myself a little salad that I could bring on to the airport in my little paper bag. My salad was full of cruciferous vegetables because cruciferous vegetables are really full of sulfur-based antioxidants. And you actually get exposed to a lot of radiation and oxidation when you're flying, and things like broccoli, and cauliflower, and stinky things like garlic and eggs, those can help out a lot with jet lag and with the damage that can accrue in your body from frequent flying. So my salad that I apologized to the person who was sitting next to me on the plane, if you're a podcast listener…
Rachel: ‘Cause it got really stinky.
Ben: It was basically roasted vegetables. I went to, I love going to the salad bar at Whole Foods and getting all those roast, like they roast eggplant, and zucchini, and red peppers, and green peppers, and I'll put a bunch of those over a bed of kale. And then I put some salt and pepper on that, but then I threw cruciferous vegetables on top.
Rachel: And then were they in your backpack the whole afternoon?
Ben: No. I had broccoli, I had cauliflower, and I had, I swear, eight tablespoons of that roasted garlic that they have at Whole Foods. I love that stuff. And so the problem with the Whole Foods salad bars, there's not really good sources of protein. Most of the proteins are cooked in canola oil, so I try to avoid those at the hot food bar at Whole Foods. Instead, I migrate over to the Asian section and then grab myself a can of either Wild Planet or Bella sardines, both of which are sardines from really good sustainable wild-caught sources. And then I open the can of sardines and I put that on my salad. So I basically had sardines and garlic on the plane.
And that's just the worst plane meal ever, but it was really tasty. Anyways, garlic thins the blood. So garlic can work for altitude sickness. Cloves work very similarly. So garlic and cloves. Just don't be mean and eat it on the plane. Wait until you get to the mountains. But garlic and cloves, and interestingly, sardines, because they are source of fish oil, would also be fine. So eat a very stinky salad is what I'm saying.
And then there's also essential oils. Lavender is a very good herbal treatment that can help with sleep, and it has a good sedative, relaxing property. But it also is really, really good at decreasing the symptoms of altitude sickness. Smearing lavender on your upper lip, or on your chest, or anywhere where you're gonna smell it. That can work out quite well also. So that would be another one.
And then the final two that I would throw at you, one would be water. Really good water, and I've said this before in the podcast, whenever I land anywhere, whether it's altitude or not, one of the first things I do is I go to the grocery store, it doesn't have to be a Whole Paycheck, Whole Foods, it can be just a regular old grocery store, and find yourself glass bottled water. Glass bottled water doesn't have a lot of the plastics floating around in it. It tends to be higher in minerals. It tends to be a little bit cleaner source of water, and get really well hydrated with good glass bottled water because you'll find, when you get to altitude, you start peeing yellow and even like orange-ish yellow, drinking as much water as you normally drink at non-altitude or sea level. And so lots of water, that's another one, and good water.
And then, finally, this is something a lot of people don't know, but I think that the listeners who are listening in who are doing ketosis, and low carb diets, and all that jazz, your body shifts from fatty acid utilization to more carbohydrate utilization. This value called your respiratory quotient, your RQ, goes up when you are at altitude. And when your RQ goes up, that means that you are generating more carbon dioxide because you're burning more carbohydrates as a fuel. So, you may actually need to tweak your carbohydrate intake up just slightly because your blood sugar levels are going to fall more quickly because you're burning carbohydrate more readily at altitude and burning fats less readily. So you may also need to increase your carbohydrate intake a little bit. So get yourself over to an Italian restaurant and some pasta and pizza into your system.
Rachel: And is there anything that people can do prior to actually getting up there to avoid altitude sickness?
Ben: Well, I mean, altitude training. You could do anything from sauna to increase your blood volume and your production of erythropoietin, or red blood cell precursors. They have some good studies showing that sauna can help out quite a bit with altitude acclimation. They make, and this refers back to the podcast that we've done on altitude training, companies like Hypoxico make altitude generators that you can put next to a treadmill or a bicycle, and you put the mask on your face and you work out, and it decreases the partial pressure of oxygen in the air while you're exercising. So that's another example. You can even use things like static apnea tables. There are apps that you can download to your phone that have you hold your breath for a certain amount of time, and then breathe, and hold your breath. And they'll put you through intervals or you gradually increase your ability to be able to tolerate carbon dioxide.
So, yeah. There's lots of things that you can do leading up to actually heading to altitude. And what I'd recommend that you do for that is just go to bengreenfieldfitness.com, and do a search for altitude training because, while this is probably one of the few times we've talked about altitude sickness, specifically on the show, we have some pretty good shows that we've done on all these different biohacks that are out there for altitude training. So, go check those out. And, yeah. And that would be it.
And by the way, last thing would be if you were listening in and you have experimented much with coca leaves, let us know in the comments section because that's actually something that I'm looking for a good source for, and that I want to try myself. And I'm sure some listeners want to try that too. So if you've got a good source for coca leaves, let us know in the podcast because that's something that I'm certainly interested in. I know, Rachel, you probably are too, right?
Ben: Coca, baby. Alright. There you have it.
Rachel: Hi, Ben and Rachel. Another Rachel here from Sydney, Australia. First off, I love listening to your podcasts and reading new material. So, thank you very much from over here. My question relates to muscle cramps. My husband gets terrible cramps and they can occur at any time, typically at night time though. Also runs during runs over 12k, during the day, but as I said, mostly at night time and they can be anywhere on the body. He takes magnesium and camp bark formula in tablet form, two a day, and magnesium forte. We've tried so many things, but nothing seems to work. He rolls, stretches, he doesn't relax. His mom had this issue and they both have blue feet. It's really annoying for him and me. I'm may well have missed something that you've already posted regarding this, but I haven't found it. So, sorry in advance, but thank you also in advance. Thanks! Bye!
Ben: A Rachel from Australia.
Rachel: Yeah, but she's from Sydney.
Ben: Why do you say it like that?
Rachel: We're very different people. No! I'm just kidding, Rachel! I'm just kidding!
Ben: Wait. What's the deal with Sydney?
Rachel: No. There's nothing wrong with Sydney. It's just I'm from Melbourne, but I lived in Melbourne and Sydney, and Melbourne I kinda liked. They're kinda like America and Canada in a way.
Ben: Is that like saying like when somebody calls in from Hawaii, and you say they're American but they're Hawaiian?
Rachel: Right. No. I mean, similar, but different. Same same, but different.
Ben: Interesting, as I insult everybody from Hawaii. Interesting. Okay. So, cramps. Cramps. Cramps. Cramps. We've talked about this a little bit before on the show, but there are some things that I definitely want to go over here when it comes to cramping, because I know it's a topic near and dear to many people's hearts. So first of all, a lot of people think that of course crapping is due to electrolyte or water loss, with the common explanation or argument being when you exercise, you sweat, you release water and electrolytes like sodium, and potassium, and magnesium, and calcium, and chloride, and as you lose more and more of that, your body gets depleted and, because electrolytes help to conduct nerve impulses through your body, which causes your muscles to contract, when you lose enough water or you lose enough electrolytes, the nerve impulses from your brain to your muscles get all deranged and that makes your muscles cramp. That is how companies like Gatorade have made a lot of money, 'cause of that argument.
The problem with that, and the reason why losing electrolytes and losing water probably doesn't cause, or at least isn't the primary cause of muscle cramps, is because, first of all, sweat contains more water than it does electrolytes. When you get dehydrated, your blood levels of electrolytes, and they actually studied this, they actually go up or they stay about the same. We don't see a big drop in plasma electrolytes, unless someone has been exercising for more than 24 hours. So unless we're talking about a multi-day adventure race, the whole electrolyte argument really doesn't hold up that well. They've also done studies in which they've looked to athletes who get muscle cramps and they have about the same level of electrolytes and the same level of dehydration as athletes who don't cramp. And so no studies have found a relation between athletes' electrolyte levels and their risk of cramping. And by the way, one of those same studies from a drinking Gatorade did not prevent people from cramping at all.
Rachel: Well, I was thinking that would probably be an easy fix because you'd just drink more water and intake more electrolytes, and then it would either fix the cramping or it wouldn't. But there's lots of people that write in saying that it hasn't helped. So it makes sense.
Ben: Well, the other thing is if cramps are caused by losing too many electrolytes, then all, or most of your muscles, should cramp, not just some of them. Okay. So when people get a real electrolyte deficiency, when you actually look at blood electrolyte levels, virtually all of the muscles going to spasms. So we're talking about, “Oh, my leg! My elbow! My jaw! Everything is cramping!” That's a true electrolyte deficiency. In most cases, if it's just your calves, or if it's just your biceps, or something like that, that's not a true electrolyte deficiency. And the other thing is that if it is an electrolyte deficiency, then taking electrolytes should make the cramp go away. Like swallowing electrolytes should make the cramp go away, drinking a bunch of water should make the cramp go away, and that doesn't actually happen.
So when we look at what really causes muscle cramps, the most scientifically supported theory is that muscle cramps are caused by premature fatigue. Basically, you get tired, your muscles reflex control gets dysfunctional, and instead of contracting and relaxing like it's supposed to, the muscle simply keeps on firing. It's twitchy. It can't stop contracting. And that theory is actually supported by many lines of evidence.
So for example, the muscles that you use most during your workouts are the ones that usually cramp. And the muscles that cross multiple joints are more likely to cramp than other muscles because those muscles generally have more activity. You're more likely to cramp during competition or during a race than you are in training when you're pushing that muscle harder than you would normally even at the same level of hydration and the same level of electrolyte status. And then finally, we've seen that athletes who have more muscle damage, who are less tapered going into a race or competition, they actually tend to cramp more because that muscle becomes more susceptible to fatigue.
So based on this, the number one thing that you can do if you're someone who gets cramping during exercises such as races or very hard workouts, is (a) begin to push that muscle just as hard during training sessions as you plan on doing during races, which is one big mistake that people make. They simply don't push as hard in training as they're gonna push in a race. It sounds simple and stupid, but it's true. Number two would be foam roll and do deep tissue work a ton before a race or an event in which you are susceptible to cramping. So if your calves cramp a lot, or your biceps cramp a lot, you wanna do like lacrosse ball, foam rolling, deep tissue work, massage as much as you can to actually decrease that muscle's susceptibility to cramp, to become tight, and to fatigue. And then finally, you would of course, want to taper going into an event in which cramping has been an issue for you in the past. You wanna take those muscles that are susceptible to fatigue and follow that rule that it's better to take them into an event 10% under trained versus 1% over trained, if that makes sense.
Ben: So that's one really important consideration here when it comes to cramping that I wanted to point out is that the electrolyte and the hydration status is not as important as the soft tissue integrity, and the training status of the muscle, and the relaxation of the muscle.
Rachel: So he's cramping at night time and he's already doing all of those things. What else could it be?
Ben: I wanna get into this issue with night cramps in a second. But before I do, I should also point out two other things to folks. There was a recent study in The Journal of Strength and Conditioning Research that looked into the best predictions of calf cramping. And they found that when it comes to calf cramping, which is probably one of the more common forms of cramping that people experience, again, hydration was not a predicting factor. Electrolytes were not a predicting factor. The two predicting factors for propensity to cramp, especially in the calves during exercise were,( drum roll please) low back pain and age. Now, in the case of the former, low back pain, it's probably because low back pain is heavily correlated with poor mobility, poor muscle tone, and muscular imbalances. Okay. People who have low back pain tend to have poor biomechanics. So that's probably why that is.
And then when it comes to age, we know that aging can result in more muscle adhesions, more scar tissue, and less quality of muscle fiber, which we could work on with deep tissue work, like foam rolling, and massage therapy, and some of those things I was talking about earlier. But it's really interesting. If you can get rid of low back pain and you can get rid of muscle adhesions and scar tissue, and poor movement capacity of a muscle, then once again, you're putting yourself into a status where you're far less likely to cramp. So I thought that was really interesting was that recent study in The Journal of Strength and Conditioning Research.
Rachel: Very interesting.
Ben: And then the other thing I was gonna mention was I also have about an hour long podcast that I did called “Beyond Dehydration: Why Cramping Really Happens and What You Can Do About It.” And in that particular podcast, we geeked out on cramping at an extremely deep level when it comes to the neurological reason that cramps occur. So go listen to that podcast. And if you go to bengreenfieldfitness.com/358, I'll link to that in the show notes. So now we get to this issue with this night cramp thing. Now another name for this can be Restless Leg Syndrome, or RLS. Have you heard of this before, Rachel?
Rachel: I have. Yup.
Ben: It's a neurological disorder and they estimate that about 12 Million people in America have it. It happens when you're lying in bed at night and you get this tingling, or aching, or itching, or cramping, or tugging kinda like deep below the skin of your legs, and sometimes it happens in the thighs, and the feet, and the hands, and the arms too. And there are a variety of things that they've looked into that can actually help with this type of issue at night. One that they found is cutting out any stimulants starting from noon on. Caffeine, nicotine, anything that would be considered a stimulant. Crack cocaine and hookers, like anything that's getting you excited before bed time, get rid of it. Okay? Substitute decaffeinated varieties, use white teas instead of coffees, things like that. So that's another one that they found can actually increase susceptibility to night cramps.
They have found that stress can actually cause it, and including simple techniques like breathing, and meditation, and yoga, and simply not working too close to bedtime can even help out quite a bit with these night cramps too. It sounds simple and stupid, but it can actually work. In many cases, calcium-magnesium imbalances, and the use of topical, like transdermal magnesium, like smearing magnesium on those tissues that are susceptible to cramping, especially if this is a night time leg cramp issue, that can help out quite a bit as well. That's another one thing that they found can help. Compression socks, wearing compression gear, compression tights, compression leggings, compression socks, maybe not the sexiest thing to wear to bed, but that can actually help out quite a bit as well. Unfortunately, that flies in the face of something we talked about, I dunno if you remember this Rachel, when we talked about how they found that when your feet are cold at night when you're sleeping, you sleep more deeply.
Rachel: I do remember that. Yes.
Ben: And you can stick your feet out from underneath the covers, or even get one of these, what do they call 'em, the Chilly Pad devices that allow your bed to be more cool.
Rachel: It was because it decreased your core body temperature, right? So you could technically wear the compression socks and then sleep in like a super cold room, and it's gonna be the same thing.
Ben: Right. Exactly. Sleep naked just wearing compression socks. It's a sexy, sexy look. Trust me.
Rachel: It's gonna be a great look.
Ben: Yeah. So that's another one. Acupuncture, they found that acupuncture can actually help quite a bit with Restless Leg Syndrome. And so that would be another one you could look into is the use of acupuncture. Obviously that's a little bit less convenient 'cause you have to go to a practitioner to do it. And then, finally, there is this concept that the taste of something extremely, like a gag reflex type of bitter-salty can actually decrease what's called the alpha motor neuron reflex that causes your body to go in a protective spasm. This is one of the reasons why if I'm in a long race, like I'm gonna to be racing the Ultra Beast in Lake Tahoe in October, and that's like the Spartan Beast, the 13 mile Spartan Beast, except times two. Meaning you get to the finish line and, unfortunately, take a loving long glance at the finish line, and then run right past it and keep going to do laps.
Rachel: Sounds like hell.
Ben: It is gonna be hell.
Rachel: But you're gonna drink something that stimulates your gag reflex, and that's gonna stop you from getting muscle cramps, right?
Ben: I'm doing it because doing something that you're fearful of, or that's scary, or that's uncomfortable is one of the most character building things that you can do. Plus it allows me to help inspire our listeners to keep on pushing themselves. Plus I learn a lot about nutrition, and biohacking, and training, and stuff when I'm out doing the, like if I was just sitting in my mom's basement answering questions on a podcast, I don't think that these podcasts would be very well informed. Or at least they'd be full of a lot more BS rather than in the trenches advice.
Ben: We digress. So the idea is, and I've gotten a lot of questions about this, like there's this new, have you heard about this stuff called Hotshot?
Ben: Okay. So this company developed this, they call “the proprietary formulation of organic spice extracts.” But, basically, it's lime juice concentrate, and cayenne, and they've got some stevia in there, and a whole bunch of little things that are like salty/bitter. And the reason for that is when you even taste this stuff, you don't even need to swallow it, you just taste it. It hits your tongue, and it causes that alpha motor neuron to relax. Now, a lot of people have asked me about Hotshot, and if anybody from Hotshot is listening in, my apologies, but it's basically like expensive pickle juice.
Rachel: Expensive stuff you can make at home?
Ben: Expensive cayenne pepper. What I tell people is, if you're going to race stop in at the truck stop on your way and grab a few mustard packets from the hotdog stand, and you can just open those, and dump them in your mouth, and that will reverse a cramp when it happens, when you're not racing. What I…
Rachel: Have you tried this? Have you ever gotten muscle cramps?
Ben: Yeah. It happened to me at the Spartan World Championships last year. And so, and this is what I was talking about when I was starting to talk about that Ultra Beast is I carry a little Ziploc bag with electrolyte capsules in it. I'm not brand specific. Just like any salt capsule. However, I don't swallow the capsule because they've, again like I mentioned earlier, your electrolyte status isn't gonna affect your cramping unless you're severely electrolyte depleted. Instead, I break open the capsule, and I dump it on my tongue, and it's an extremely salty, horrible taste. But within a second, that cramp goes away and it's not anywhere near enough time for those salts to actually make their way into muscle tissue. It's because the taste of something salty, or the taste of something extremely spicy, or the taste of something pickle juicy, all of that actually stimulate sensory nerves that will get rid of that motor neuron reflex, that protective reflex that the muscle goes into.
And that's another thing that you can do is if you get night cramps, just keep a mustard packet, or some pickle juice, or something extremely salty, even a little salt lick next to your bed stand, and that taste, that bitter/salty/spicy taste can actually decrease the cramping. Anyways though, also go listen to this podcast though, that big, long podcast that I did on muscle cramping. That might help too. And we'll put a link to that. Just go to bengreenfieldfitness.com/358 and I'll link to that one in the show notes also.
Jeff: Hey, Ben. This is Jeff. Quick question about fat burn and calorie deficit. I generally stay in fat burn and eat pretty healthy, and I was wondering if we workout every day and we're anywhere between 500 and 1,000 calorie deficit, is that safe and okay to do? How long of a time period can you go that way? I only have maybe 5, 10 more pounds to lose, but really working on endurance, muscle strength, and so forth. So I'd love to hear what you think. Thanks.
Ben: Rachel, are you familiar with this concept of cycling calories or cycling carbohydrates?
Rachel: No. I just eat food.
Ben: Okay. You just eat food.
Rachel: Did I fail? Was that a big cross next to my name?
Ben: No. I like your food. For those of you who have not tuned into, what is it, bengreenfieldfitness.com/snapchat, Rachel and I actually had a wonderful food…
Ben: We actually had a great, we know how to party.
Rachel: We do, don't we?
Ben: I was over in Seattle. No, I was over in Portland for the Spartan Race. I did the 4 hour Hurricane Heat, and then the Portland Spartan Sprint, and Rachel and I met up afterwards 'cause she was over in Portland and we did 60 minutes of hot-cold contrast at the Russian sauna, and then we did ginger shots and a giant bowl full of like kale and seaweed.
Rachel: Yup. Lots of good stuff.
Ben: All of this superfoods. Yeah. We party in style. So, I do like Rachel's palate even though I have to add tasty meat…
Rachel: You do have to add tasty meat. You need tasty meat. And also, I spent most of my time just kinda sitting on the bench reading while you did the crazy hot-cold stuff.
Ben: I saw that. I was taking a 5 minute cold shower while you were reading a book.
Rachel: And I was kind of shying away.
Ben: Lazy. Okay. So, carb cycling. Let's start here because what we're really talking about is this idea that if you stayed at caloric deficit for too long, you could potentially develop, it's an overused term, but this whole concept of starvation syndrome, or downregulation of thyroid hormone production from being at a consistent calorie deficit, even downregulation of a lot of fertility-based hormones because our bodies, from an evolutionary/ancestral standpoint don't want us to make babies when food is not present in adequate quantities. We don't want to have little babies that starve and die. It's a morbid thought, but it's an ancestral mechanism.
So in its most basic format, carb cycling, and this is related to calorie cycling too, which I'll get into, not just carb cycling, but it's a planned alteration of your carbohydrate intake to prevent a fat loss plateau and also to prevent a drop in metabolism when you are restricting calories or when you are restricting carbohydrates. So the idea here is the body actually handles short-term deprivation of calories, or short-term deprivation of carbohydrates, very, very well, and brief and relatively infrequent periods of fasting, like 24 hour plus fast, or a carbohydrate restriction can be really advantageous for losing fat, and for health and longevity in general.
There was one study in The American Journal of Cardiology that noted that bouts of fasting spread throughout the year actually improve markers of cardiovascular disease, and these are 24 hour fasts. This is one reason why my wife does a 24 hour fast almost every week. I do one just about once a month. I train so much that it's harder for me to do a full-on fast. A guy who I was just staying with down in Park City, a really good, kinda like anti-aging and health doc who I interviewed for next week's podcast, when I was there his daughter was doing a five day fast because she was about to head off to college, and she just wanted to do like a full on detox of her body. So she was just doing a five day water fast.
The thing is though, restricting calories or carbohydrates for really long periods of time can have some negative metabolic effects because of what's called the hypothalamic-pituitary-adrenal access, your body's kinda like mission control for hormones. That can actually, in response to long-term calorie restriction or long-term carbohydrate restriction, cause things like reduced metabolic rate, and reduced thyroid hormone output, and reduced sympathetic fight and flight nervous system activity.
So a Crossfit workout or a high intensity training session becomes more difficult. It can result in lower amounts of the appetite regulating hormone leptin. It can result in lower amounts of reproductive hormone output, which I referred to earlier. And this has been shown over and over again in studies. It can bring fat loss to a standstill and also lower the metabolic rate. It's a metabolic response to extreme carbohydrate restriction or extreme calorie restriction. This has been proven over and over again in studies, how long term energy reduction can come back and bite you in the butt if you're not careful. So this is where planned manipulation and planned variation of your calorie intake and your carbohydrate intake can come in very handy.
Rachel: Right. So what's a good number?
Ben: Well, let's get into that. So, basically, what they found in multiple studies is that in a state of a negative energy balance, negative calorie intake, having certain days in which you increase carbohydrate intake and/or increase calorie intake actually increases thyroid output, and controls hunger, and can keep a lot of these reproductive hormones elevated. In addition, when you have planned refeeds of carbohydrate, whether it's dinners or meals throughout the week, you get an insulin release which a lot of people freak out about because high levels of chronically elevated insulin can keep fat cells from mobilizing fatty acids in to tissue, but insulin is very anabolic as well. So you're trying to gain muscle and lose fat simultaneously, having certain periods of time where you actually experience an insulin surge can help out quite a bit with that whole “gain muscle, lose fat” type of approach.
So a refeed, which is what you'd wanna do is basically a planned increase in calorie intake, or a planned increase in carbohydrate intake that is typically either one meal for a full 8 to 12 hour day, and typically consists of a big increase in carbohydrates, or a big increase in calories, or both. So an example of this would be you're following a strict diet of, let's say, 1,500 calories five days a week, let's say each of the weekdays, and then on the weekend you're doing 500 to 1,000 calories more than that, like 2,500 calories of slightly more carbohydrates and slightly increased calories. That would be one approach, would be that five days of dieting, two days of not, I wouldn't say cheating, but just know higher calorie or higher carbohydrate intake.
Another example, because they've looked at a lot of different examples in literature, one would be simply having one day of higher carbohydrate intake about every two weeks. And the reasoning behind that is that it takes about four weeks for the metabolism to really begin to downregulate things like thyroid hormone and reproductive hormone output when you are restricting calories or restricting carbohydrates. So you nip that in the bud by having that one Saturday every two weeks where you're just basically eating ad libitum, or eating a higher amount of calories or a higher amount of carbohydrates. In very active people, and this would include myself, you can even do a carbohydrate or a calorie feed once a day. And what I mean by that is I will go the entire day eating almost zero carbohydrates and at the very end of the day, after I've worked out, when my muscles are very receptive to taking in that carbohydrate and storing it away as muscle glycogen, or the liver to store it away as liver glycogen, that's when I'll eat anywhere from 100 to 200 grams of carbohydrates.
So a lot of different refeed cycles out there, but ultimately the idea, to answer Jeff's question specifically, is that if you're at a 500 to a 1,000 calorie deficit you can, on paper go for weeks at a daily deficit of that level without doing metabolic damage. For long term muscle gain and fat loss, it is prudent though to do a refeed one to two days of the week, and then have your other five days be lower calorie. Or if you're really wanting to be restrictive, once every two weeks do a refeed. And when I say refeed, generally, the best way to go about that is you figure out what your metabolic rate is, and there's a lot of different equations out there for metabolic rate.
I have a website called getfitguy.com, and on that website at getfitguy.com, I have a bunch of metabolic rate calculators that allow you to figure out your metabolic rate, like how many calories that you're burning throughout the day. And what you do is you actually figure out how many calories that you're burning, you figure out what your metabolic rate is, and you over and above that by about 500 to 1,000 calories. So if it turns out that you're burning naturally 2,500 calories a day, you have that one day of the week where you eat 3,500, or that one day every two weeks where you eat 3,500 calories. And furthermore, if you're normally eating, let's say, 20% carbohydrate intake, like restricting carbohydrates, on that day you might up your carb intake to 30 or 40%.
Again, in literature, there are so many different variations of a calorie refeeding, or a calorie cycling, or a carbohydrate cycling diet I can't say that there's one way that's best. But for very active people, I like once a day having that carbohydrate refeed, and then once a week having a day of the week preferably your most active day of the week, where you just eat ad libitum, or even slightly more than what your body needs. And then for less active people, just once every two weeks, or once every four weeks, have that refeed day or that big refeed cheat meal where you go to, whatever. I don't know why Olive Garden comes my head 'cause I freaking hate the Olive Garden. It's the fakest Italian food on the planet, but you go to Whole Foods and you make yourself a nice big-ass salad, and you put a sardine on there, can of sardines on there. There you go.
Rachel: So does a calorie deficit, or cycling carbs or calories impact women and men differently?
Ben: That's a good question. Women respond more deleteriously to long term calorie restriction or fasting, we've talked about this on the podcast, due to the hormone called kisspeptin. It'll get decreased in response to long-term calorie restriction or carbohydrate restriction in women. And when that happens, you begin to stop producing the luteinizing hormone and follicle stimulating hormone. So you start to lose your period, and drop bone density, and you'll lose some of your drive, et cetera. Women seem to do better with higher amounts of fat intake, higher amounts of fat storage, and less frequent fasting than men do. But I haven't seen any studies that have shown men versus women in a calorie cycling comparison. But I would say, if anything, women benefit from more frequent refeeds, or at least less calorie restriction or less frequent fasting then men do.
Rachel: Right. Good to know.
Ben: Yeah. So anyways, Jeff, my recommendation is look into the wide wonderful world of calorie cycling and carbohydrate cycling. That's where I'd start, man.
Jason: Hey, Ben. Love your show. Listen to it all the time. Just a quick question. I'm a police officer here in Albury, New South Wales, Australia. I'm looking to start reading some more books on strength and functional strength for policing to get my power and strength going a bit more. Just wondering what books you would suggest for that. Love the podcast. Listen to it all the time.
Ben: Alright. So I'm going to start this off by saying, even though I just mentioned it, if you're not following me on Snapchat, I am constantly reading books. I have a giant stack. It annoys the heck out of my wife because there are seven books stacked high next to my bed stand that I read each night. There's another four here in my office.
Rachel: Seven different books that you read at the same time?
Ben: There's five, I'm going through my Kindle right now, but I try to take photos of the most notable sections as I go through them and I've been posting those to Snapchat. So, for example, this morning I posted a comparison of what they call a lion versus a dolphin versus a bear versus a wolf, and how these different personality types respond to circadian timing differently. Like sleep timing, sex timing, meal timing, et cetera. Fascinating book. I actually was sitting, having dinner with my family, when I got back from Park City last night, and we were all taking the survey in the book to figure out which animal we are like. My wife is a bear.
Rachel: I'm definitely a lion or a wolf.
Ben: I'm a lion. Have you read this book?
Rachel: No. I just know it.
Ben: It's called “The Power of When.” You just know it.
Rachel: I just know it. Women's intuition.
Ben: Alright. So, in response to Jason's question, the best books for power and strength, let me give you five. How's that sound good? That enough to get you started?
Rachel: Five is good. It's a good number. It's a whole number.
Ben: Okay. So, first of all, “Starting Strength” by Mark Rippetoe. I think that everyone who's trying to build strength should know how to move a barbell with proper biomechanics, and “Starting Strength” by Mark Rippetoe is a perfect way to learn how to do things like a barbell deadlift or a barbell squat with very good form. And it's simply one of the best tools, the barbell, for building mass very efficiently. But you can hurt yourself if you don't do it right, kids. So “Starting Strength” by Mark Rippetoe. That'll be number one. Fantastic book.
The next one would be “Mass Made Simple” by Dan John, who has been a guest on this podcast, who is quite the ninja when it comes to getting swole, and who has an excellent program in that book for developing mass that I've done typically in what I would call the off season. Like the period of time, kinda like the winter when you're eating more food, when it's kinda of fun to put on mass anyways, and turning all of the Thanksgiving turkey, and the holiday cookies into muscle. This “Mass Made Simple” book is really good. It's the same workout over and over and over again, but it works like gangbusters for putting on muscle. Ignore all the nutritional advice in that book because it's basically based on eating peanut butter and jelly sandwiches and whey protein shakes. But for the actual exercises, that book is really good. “Mass Made Simple” by Dan John. So that would be number two.
The next book would be one that I've talked about recently on the show before, that I really like, that all you need to do it, the only equipment you need for the book would be a kettlebell, two kettlebells actually, and your body weight, and that one's called “Neuromass” by Jon Bruney. And Neuromass is a program in which you do super slow, what they call a grinding exercise, followed by a very quick and explosive power exercise, followed by an isometric exercise for one specific body part, like the quads, or your hamstrings, or your shoulders. Then you move on to the next body part. That is a good program if you want to build both neuromuscular strength, and musculoskeletal strength, and mass simultaneously. So that one's called “Neuromass.” That would be number three.
Number four would be a book by Pavel Tsatsouline, and Pavel Tsatsouline is a guy I followed for quite some time. This is one of the first exercise books I ever purchased actually. It's called “The Naked Warrior: Master The Secrets of The Super-Strong — Using Bodyweight Exercises Only.”
Rachel: That one sounds fun.
Ben: Yeah. And this book is basically everything from the philosophies of Greek wrestling, to Chinese kung-fu, to modern special ops. Basically all these different strategies that are used by people to put on muscle and to gain strength, but just using bodyweight. You learn how to do things like pistols, and single-arm push-ups, and Pavel has a lot of other books, but this one in particular is a great one to start with, I would say. It's called “The Naked Warrior.” Naked Warrior. So, that would be number four.
Rachel: And the final one?
Ben: And then the final one isn't a book. It's a magazine and I subscribe to it. I actually have it right here on my desk, the latest Summer 2016 edition of this magazine. And the magazine is called MILO, M-I-L-O. It's put out by Dragon Door Publications and Dragon Door has a lot of really good books for building mass and strength. But, for example, some of the features in this particular book are how to build grip strength like wrist and grip strength, an interview with the German superpower Josef Mengele, review of the Los Angeles Fit Expo, and something called grip strength excellence, an article called “The Sum of All Strength: Tendons and Ligaments,” drills for strength training technique, all sorts of really, really good reviews of gear that can be used for training, like hip belt squats that you, like weight training belts that you can attach plates to do squats with, to Captains of Crush grip strength training devices.
The book is just full of giant men from Finland and women, with thighs that are larger than my torso, lifting. And if thumbing through this magazine doesn't make you want to go lift something heavy, or flip a tire, then something's wrong with you. So it's called MILO, M-I-L-O strength. And both this, The Naked Warrior, Neuromass, Mass Made Simple, and Starting Strength, that's where I'll go. I mean, my library is huge. I have literally thousands of books down here in my basement. Have you ever been in my basement, Rachel?
Rachel: I've seen your library and it is humongous.
Ben: Yeah. So, I'm just surrounded by books. My wife is always on me to throw my T-shirts and throw my books, but I just won't.
Rachel: Oh. You shouldn't throw out books.
Ben: No. Never. So anyways, Jason, that is where I would start. And if you are listening in, anybody out there and you have something that you would add, go over to the to the show note at bengreenfieldfitness.com/358, and let us know what your favorite strength training books are. But those are mine, and we'll link to those, along with everything else that I discussed in this podcast, from the altitude training supplements that I recommend, to some of those cool studies on gene splicing, and why you race faster than you train, to herbs for lucid dreaming, and oh so much more over at bengreenfieldfitness.com/358. And this is, I suppose, a perfect time to give away some swag. What do you think?
Rachel: It's always a good time to give away some swag.
Ben: Alright. So, here's the deal. First of all, I noticed we haven't had many iTunes reviews lately and it's probably because I've done a very poor job reminding you. So if you haven't yet left an iTunes review and you're out there listening, then you are using us. You're using us. You're not creating good karma. You gotta believe that.
Rachel: Is this guilting? By guilting you into leaving us a good review.
Ben: I'm guilting you. Five star reveiw.
Rachel: We're shamelessly doing it. We're quite happy about it.
Ben: Yeah. If you leave a five star review, and we read your view on the show, and you hear your review read on the show, and, not done yet, you e-mail [email protected], that's G-E-A-R at greenfieldfitnesssystems.com, we'll send you some gear. Include your T-shirt size, but we'll send you a cool tech T-shirt, water bottle, beanie, everything. So it looks like we actually have a fantastic review left by Ahliv called “My Workout Companion.” She left five stars and, or he, yeah. I dunno why I assumed Ahliv was a girl, but you wanna take this one away, Rachel.
Rachel: Yes. Alright. “Thank you, Ben. I've been listening to you since January. You've been my workout companion. I've lost 55 pounds since January 1st. I'm also stronger than I was last year, even though I'm smaller. I have to give you credit for the inspiration and motivation. Many times I've wanted to stop my workout early, but you've kept me going. I've learned so much from you and look forward to your podcasts every day/week. I've changed my life for the better listening to you and I know I'm not the only one. You're the best.”
Ben: Smaller but stronger. Lost 55 pounds. That's pretty good.
Rachel: Incredible. Good job.
Ben: That's incredible. Nice work. Nice work, awesome review, and we're all about helping people get stronger and smaller. So, if you too want to get stronger and smaller, listen to the show. Leave us a review.
We also, last thing I wanna mention if you're listening in, you may have heard that we're going to start transitioning to once per week podcast that are going to be the long-form podcasts, and as we approach September and October of 2016, you're gonna to start to notice the frequency of the podcast decreases, but the quality just goes through the freaking roof. So, this weekend we will have a Saturday podcast for you. Next week, Rachel and I will not be back, but you will get to hear me interview the great Dan Pompa, whose house I just left yesterday, and we're gonna be talking about some pretty mind-blowing detoxification strategies that I had personally never heard of before. So, stay tuned for that. Visit bengreenfieldfitness.com/358, follow my little book Underlyings over at bengreenfieldfitness.com/snapchat, and have yourself a healthy week. What do you think, Rachel?
Rachel: See you later.
Ben: Alright. Later.
You’ve been listening to the Ben Greenfield Fitness Podcast. Go to bengreenfieldfitness.com for even more cutting edge fitness and performance advice.
August 10, 2016 Podcast: 358: Muscle Cramping, Calorie & Carb Cycling, Gene Splicing, Fixing Altitude Sickness & More!
Have a podcast question for Ben? Click the tab on the right (or go to SpeakPipe), use the Contact button on the app, click Ask a Podcast Question at the bottom of this page, or use the “Ask Ben” form at the bottom of this page.
- Fascinating…this is why we race faster than we train.
- Gene splicing…it’s coming folks.
- Sad but true and why I have upcoming podcast on computer monitors. (check out VisionGym for fixing my myopia)
- An herb for lucid dreaming? Cool. (here is what I ordered)
This podcast is brought to you by:
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Nov 17-18, 2016: Ben is speaking at the Biohacker’s Summit in Helsinki, Finland. Discover the latest in wearables, internet of things, digital health, and mobile apps to increase performance, be healthier, stay fit, and get more done. Learn about taking food, preparation, cooking, and eating to the next level with the latest science and kitchen chemistry. Even delve into implanted chips, gene therapy, bionic arms, biometric shirts, robotic assistants, and virtual reality. Two days with an amazing crowd and a closing party with upgraded DJs to talk about. Click here to get in now at a 40% discount.
Nov 11-14, 2016: Ben is speaking at this year’s Wise Traditions on real food to enhance physical and mental performance. If you’re an athlete, this is the talk for you! Click here to sign up.
Did you miss the weekend podcast episode with Dr Chutkan? It was a must-listen – titled “The Gut Super Special: Eating Camel Poop, Weird Constipation Causes, Pig Whipworms & More: How to Banish Bloat, Fix Your Microbiome & Reboot Your Gut”. Click here to listen now or download for later!
Grab the Official Ben Greenfield Fitness Gear package that comes with a tech shirt, a beanie and a water bottle.
And of course, this week’s top iTunes review – gets some BG Fitness swag straight from Ben – click here to leave your review for a chance to win some!
As compiled, deciphered, edited and sometimes read by Rachel Browne, the Podcast Sidekick.
Natural Remedies For Altitude Sickness
Jenny says: She’s from Indiana. She’s a fit and active 52 year old woman that lives 500ft above sea level. Her husband and her are planning a backpacking trip to Yellowstone this fall and she’ll be hiking at 6000ft – 8000. Her concern is elevation sickness. She’s snow skied out west before and she’s experienced that horrible that headache and nausea feeling that comes with it and she’s wondering if you have any tips for how to avoid altitude sickness and get used to working out?
Everything You Need To Know About Muscle Cramping
Rachel says: She’s from Sydney and she loves the podcast and thanks for everything you do. Her question relates to muscle cramps. Her husband gets terrible cramps and they can occur at any time, like during runs over 12K and during the day, but they mostly occur at night. He takes magnesium and camp bark formula two times per day and magnesium forte. They’ve tried so many things but nothing seems to work. He rolls, stretches, doesn’t relax etc, his mum had this issue and they both have blue feet. She may well have missed something you’ve already written about it but she can’t find it.
In my response, I recommend:
–This podcast on muscle cramping
How To Cycle Your Calories & Carbs
Jeff says: Question about fat burn and calories deficit. He generally stays in fat burn and eats pretty healthy. He’s wondering if he works out everyday and he’s anywhere between 500-1000 cal deficit is that safe and OK to do, how long of a time period can he go that way? He only has 5-10 pounds to lose but he’s really working on endurance, muscle strength and so forth.
In my response, I recommend:
The 5 Best Books For Power & Strength
Jason says: He’s a police officer in Albury and he’s looking to start reading books on function strength for policing, he’s looking to gain power and strength. What books would you recommend for that?