[00:00:42] Earthing and Grounding
[00:03:26] News Flashes
[00:03:59] Chatter About eTRF
[00:06:20] Carbs at Night
[00:10:24] Studies Related to Light
[00:16:26] One Good Reason Why Sauna Use Makes You Live Longer
[00:22:58] Podcast Sponsors
[00:28:05] Listener Q&A: Is Earthing Dangerous?
[00:38:48] Ben’s Top Recovery Tactics
[00:52:23] Can You Do Cold Therapy If You’re Sick?
[00:59:33] Leave a Review for the Podcast
[01:01:10] End of Podcast
Ben: In this episode of the Ben Greenfield Fitness Podcast.
Why you should eat your carbohydrates at night? Is earthing or grounding dangerous if you live in the USA? Can cold therapy be bad for you if you’re sick? And much more.
Health, performance, nutrition, longevity, ancestral living, biohacking, and much more. My name is Ben Greenfield. Welcome to the show.
Well, hey, folks. This threatens to be a pretty lonely show, lonely, lonely, lonely. Why? Because my entire house got dumped on by a snowstorm last night. So, my usual podcast sidekick, Dr. Jay Wiles, is, unfortunately, unable to join me because I have no internet. On the flip side, I’m not being bombarded by any EMF or Wi-Fi, this entire podcast episode, because I have no internet. So, there’s that. You should see me. Actually, not only do I have no internet, but as I’m recording this for you, I am hooked up to something that we’re going to talk about on today’s show. I say we, I mean I, that I’m going to talk about on today’s show.
I got a bunch of questions after I interviewed this cat, Clint Ober, about grounding and earthing. To me, that was a mind-blowing episode. My kids watched his documentary and they’ve been going everywhere barefoot. I have been grounded using one of his grounding mats at my desk for every single episode I record. Not only that, I’ve got a giant cable going out the door of my office plugged in via a stake into the ground. And then I have a grounding patch coming off of that stake, and it’s actually attached to me. I specifically have it on my stomach right now while I’m recording this podcast. So, I am chock-full of negative ions.
And if, as you would find out if you go and listen to that podcast with Clint Ober, you’re familiar with earthing and grounding, then you know that this means I’m sucking up a bunch of negative ions from the planet Earth, same as if I were outside barefoot not inside my office in front of a computer. And because of that, I’m actually charging my body. The entire body operates on an electrochemical gradient, on a charge inside the cell and a charge outside the cell, exposure to appliances, Bluetooth, Wi-Fi, et cetera, that shoves that charge in a positive direction. And by getting in touch with our dear Mother Earth, we can actually bring that charge back into a proper ratio.
We’re actually going to get into a little bit more of that on today’s show, as well as some great questions about cold therapy, some of my top recovery and injury prevention hacks, and some of the latest research that I have come across since the last Q&A episode that we’ve done, that I’ve done. So, all the shownotes for everything that I’ll be getting into in today’s show you can grab over at BenGreenfieldFitness.com/404. That’s BenGreenfieldFitness.com/404. So, I think that’s it. I have no witty banter because I have no sidekick to engage in witty banter with. So, let’s just jump right in. Shall we?
Alright. This is the part of the show where I give you a little bit more insight into some of the more compelling pieces of research that I tend to tweet out. Meaning, if you follow me at twitter.com/bengreenfield, it’s a great way to get an aggregate of all the different research studies in the realm of nutrition, and fitness, performance, recovery, biohacking, et cetera, that I’m constantly studying up on and stumble across.
And, there is right now, of course, in the whole wellness sector a lot of chatter about fasting and what forms of fasting are best. One form that you may or may not be familiar with is called eTRF. I’ll pause here and let those of you who are great health jeopardy competitors guess what eTRF stands for. It’s early time-restricted feeding that, just as the name implies, early time-restricted feeding means that you consume breakfast soon upon waking, and then you finish your final meal of the day in the mid-afternoon to the early evening. So, you’re basically front-loading all your calories early in the day.
And there are a lot of folks championing this type of approach to eating, and there are some advantages that have been seen in studies when you consume more of your calories earlier in the day and then just like stop eating around 2:00 or 3:00 p.m. So, your early time-restricted feeding window would be like 8:00 a.m. to 2:00 p.m. And they’ve shown things like improved insulin sensitivity and reduced oxidative stress, reduced blood pressure, better and more stabilized appetite with this type of approach. But a lot of times, folks omit some of the downsides. For example, it’s been shown to cause an increased resting heart rate, which may actually accelerate aging. It’s been shown to increase triglyceride levels. It’s shown a significant total drop in cholesterol. And perhaps, one of the most glaring issues is that it turns you into complete fuddy-duddy every single evening of your life because you’re not going out to social dinners engaging in family dinners, et cetera.
However, that being said, some evidence has shown that early time-restricted feeding could be beneficial. That being said, some of the later studies on this have found that as long as you have what’s called a compressed feeding window, it doesn’t matter that much whether you or compressed feeding window is 8:00 a.m. to 2:00 p.m., or let’s say 10:00 a.m. to 6:00 p.m., which my own feeding window is about 10:00 a.m. to 8:00 p.m., or around in that window. Meaning, I’m only eating the majority of my calories from 10:00 a.m., or between the hours of 10:00 a.m. and 8:00 p.m.
But the further consideration when it comes down to this is when do you eat your carbohydrates. And I’ve actually got a lot of questions from folks about why, as I’ve alluded to many times before on the show, I consume the majority of my carbohydrates in the evening. Well, some of the reasons for that I’ve already elucidated. For example, by saving all my carbohydrate intake for the end of the day, I’m keeping my body in a state of fatty acid oxidation during the majority of the day, or I’m in a state of ketosis. Essentially, when you save all your carbohydrates for the end of the day, especially if you’re an active person, you are in a form of what is known as cyclic ketosis. Meaning, your body’s burning fatty acids, generating ketones all day long, and then at the very end of the day, you have this refeed and then you’re back into ketosis by the next morning, or based on my own breath and blood ketone testing, often within two to three hours after you finish that evening feed.
The other cool part about this scenario for active people is it allows you to refill your glycogen stores. And if you’re doing a workout, as I often do in the later afternoon or the early evening, which is a good time to work out because that’s when your body temperature peaks and your grip strength peaks, your testosterone peaks, your post-workout protein synthesis is higher, then that means that you’re going to be insulin sensitive after that workout. And whereas a lot of people will tell you while you’re more insulin sensitive in the morning, which is true, therefore, you should have more of your carbohydrates with breakfast and not have carbohydrates with dinner. The fact is you can artificially induce a state of insulin sensitivity by simply working out in the late afternoon or the early evening.
So, the idea here is that those are just a few of the reasons I consume my carbohydrates at night, but I’m going to link to you a very compelling study in the shownotes over at BenGreenfieldFitness.com/404 that actually investigated what happens when, in this case, a group of about 78 police officers that they studied ate their carbohydrates at dinner versus just consumed carbohydrates ad libitum throughout the day, instead of saving all the carbohydrates for dinner. Now, both groups were eating a similar amount of carbohydrates, right? It’s just that one was saving them for dinner.
Now, when you look at the group that had the carbohydrates eaten mostly at night, A, hunger scores were lower. They had greater weight loss, they had lower abdominal circumference, they had more significant body mass reductions. And in addition to that, they had lower insulin resistance, lower low-density lipoprotein cholesterol, higher HDL, lower levels of the inflammatory markers CRP, lower levels of tumor necrosis factor, and lower levels of another inflammatory compound called interleukin 6. So, what this means is that especially in an active population, if you’re saving your carbohydrates for the evening and you’re doing a good job with that, and breakfast and lunch are primarily fatty acids, and the proteins and vegetables and things like that, you’re actually setting yourself up to get all the glycogen that you need for performance. And metabolic factors appear to be more favorably influenced.
So, ultimately, the message is this, be active, save all the carbohydrates for the end of the day, eat healthy carbohydrates with dinner. For me, that’s a glass of red wine, some purple potato, or yam, or sweet potato, or maybe some rice, amaranth, millet, quinoa, some of my wife’s lovely slow-fermented sourdough bread. I’m not talking about cherry turnovers and French fries, but healthy carbohydrates. And then you rinse, wash and repeat, and you don’t eat any more carbohydrates for about 24 hours or until your next dinner time. So, I’ll link to that study in the shownotes. It’s very, very interesting. And hopefully, that clears up some of the questions that I get about why I eat the majority of my carbohydrates at night.
Now, there were another couple of studies related to light, and I don’t know if any of you heard my podcast with Matt Maruca, but it was a wonderful show about the health benefits of sunlight and the unhealthy effects of artificial light. Well, these latest two studies that recently came out are very interesting. One looked at what happens to the mitochondria in your retina. Some of us forget that mitochondria are abundant in many tissues we often don’t think about, including retinal tissue. So, the chromophores in your retina have many mitochondria, and these mitochondria allows them to absorb light, and it induces these photochemical effects that allow your eyes to operate properly, similar to a muscle in your body, or an organ, or any other part of your tissue that relies upon proper function of mitochondria to operate the way that it’s supposed to.
Well, it turns out that they studied up on what happens when this short wavelength, high-energy, strongly penetrating blue light is basically exposed to the retina. This is the exact type of light you would find in commercially available white light-emitting diodes aka LEDs; the computer monitors you’re staring at, in many cases, signs, brake lights, the mall, the department store, anywhere where you’re getting a lot of artificial light. Well, what they found was that the photochemical damage and programmed what is called cell death in the retina goes through the roof when you get exposed to these light-emitting diodes. The article actually refers to them as blue light hazards.
This really shocked me in terms of the amount of eye damage and the amount of overall oxidative stress and reactive oxygen species accumulation that they noted occurring in especially eye tissue and the retina in response to blue light. It ultimately resulted in irreversible cell death. That’s a direct quote from the study, “irreversible cell death” with the use of LED devices. When I saw this study, I actually went inside and I got both my boys, who both have MacBooks, I had them set up their MacBooks, I had them set up their little eye touches that they use for recording their podcast and taking photos and things like that next to their iBooks, and I walked them through step by step on how to use the exact light-blocking software I use on my computer called Iris Tech, which naturally just the blue light coming off the computer-based on when the sun sets and when the sun rises. And then, I showed them how to activate all the new features on the new iOS, which allows for your phone to shift to dark mode at night and significantly reduces the amount of blue light at night. And I explained to them this latest study that shows how much damage, how much cell death can occur to your eyes with this exposure to blue light.
Now, here’s what’s even more interesting, or just as interesting perhaps. At the same time that this study came out, another study came out that showed that not everybody responds the same, meeting, especially when it comes to the way that blue light can disrupt your natural circadian rhythm, different people respond differently. This study found a 50-fold difference in sensitivity to bright light across individuals. This is why I suspect my wife can lay in bed at night and dink around on her phone with zero blue light blocking glasses on. She doesn’t have a night mode activated on her phone. I just let her do her thing. But she falls asleep at night. She’ll sleep eight to nine hours, deep sleep, wake up incredibly refreshed.
If I’m looking at my phone or at screens at night and I don’t have that blue light blocking function like Iris Tech activated, or I’m not wearing blue light blocking glasses, my sleep score absolutely plummets, totally sucks. Well, it turns out there’s actually genetic variability in terms of the amount of melatonin that gets suppressed in response to blue light. So, what this means is that if you’re listening in and you’re one of those people who’s just like, “What’s wrong with me? I cannot sleep my–” whatever, if you’re measuring with your Oura ring or some other self-quantification device, my deep sleep levels plummet when I get exposed to blue light at night. I have restless sleep. My sleep latency, how long it takes me to fall asleep goes up.
Well, it turns out that you’re probably one of those people who, similar to how many people are EMF sensitive and get brain fog and fuzzy thinking and just don’t feel quite right when they’re around Wi-Fi routers a lot or cell phone signals a lot, same thing with blue lights. Some people are more sensitive than others. So, this is very interesting, this study, and it went into some of the different forms of light that would help people who have seasonal affective disorder, some of the differences, and that’s a great phrase, differences between how people respond to dim light versus bright light. But it’s really interesting all this research now that’s coming out on light.
I would say the best resource that I have for you right now would be go and listen to my recent podcast with Matt Maruca. And then also, go and grab this Irish Tech software or listen to my podcast with Daniel, who developed this Irish Tech software because it’s the best software I’ve found, way better than that stuff called–or that old-school one called f.lux. This one called Iris can do things like decrease the color temperature, adjust the font. You can switch it to full red light mode, suck all the blue light off the screen. But that’s what I recommend that you get. I also recommend you go back and listen to that light episode. So, I’m going to link to the Irish Tech software, my episode with Matt Maruca, and my episode on this Iris Tech software with the software programmer who designed that if you go to the shownotes at BenGreenfieldFitness.com/404.
Okay. I’ve got one more pretty interesting study for you. So, this one actually is related to heat shock proteins. Now, it’s no secret, I’m a fan of the sauna. I’m in the sauna four or five times a week, typically. For a good 30 minutes, I use an infrared which takes longer to get hot, but I turn it on like 30 to 45 minutes before I get in, and then I move in there. I do yoga flow. I do breathwork. And so my body gets pretty hot. And of course, one of the important reasons for that, and I’ll get into the nitty-gritty of this momentarily, is that that produces a lot of these so-called heat shock proteins.
Well, you just got done hearing about how different people have different genes that make them respond differently to exposure to blue light. It turns out that based on this latest study, the same can be said of these heat shock proteins. There is a direct correlation between heat shock proteins and the expression of stress genes associated with longevity. And in this study, it was found that certain human beings express a greater amount of these heat shock proteins, especially after heat stimulation. And so, the study, which I’ll link to in the shownotes, tells you exactly which SNPs you can look at, or which genotypes you could look at. If you’ve ever had your DNA analyzed, they’re called the HSP genes, and you can see if you carry the form of those genes, specifically what would be called the AA form of those genes. And that actually means that you would produce less of these so-called heat shock proteins, and therefore, may benefit more from prioritizing frequent sauna exposure.
So, what’s the deal with these heat shock proteins anyway? Basically, they discovered them in 1962 in fruit flies and they’re abbreviated HSP. So, I’m going to start calling them HSPs during the rest of this explanation. So, what they found was that HSPs protect biomolecules from damage. They basically act as chaperones, meaning that they can help proteins to fold properly. Or if proteins are misfolded in your body, which is one of the primary causes of aging, it can help to reshape those correctly. In addition, they protect against sarcopenia or muscle wasting, which is why frequent sauna use, even if you can’t exercise, can actually do a good job maintaining muscle. And they’ve found a direct correlation in fruit flies and rodent models, and now humans between the expression of heat shock proteins and potential for longevity.
Now, it turns out that there are ways other than the sauna to activate heat shock proteins. For example, calorie restriction activates heat shock proteins, consumption of some of these wild plants, wild spices, turmeric and ginger and things that are bitter, those activate heat shock proteins. Exercise activates heat shock proteins. And even probiotics and prebiotics in your diet encourage a microbiome response that increases the expression of heat shock proteins. What kind of things would reduce heat shock proteins? Insulin resistance, brought on by high amounts of starch and sugar consumption, a diet very skewed towards saturated fat. Right? So, not like a Mediterranean high-fat olive oil avocado diet, but the whole coconut oil butter lard type of approach to ketosis or a high-fat diet. That would actually reduce heat shock protein production. And it turns out that this is important just to all the different neuroprotective and muscle protective properties that heat shock proteins tend to induce.
So, we know these things are very important. And oh, there’s one other very interesting thing, by the way. You know about this concept of xenohormesis. Well, alcohol is a mild stressor as well. This is probably why many of the Blue Zones, areas where people are living at disproportionately long period of time, they actually consume small sane amounts of alcohol each day as almost like this mild stress to the body. Well, it turns out that an average of a drink a day not only lowers your heart attack risk and your cancer risk but it raises levels of heat shock protein. So, hooray, get in the sauna in the morning, have a glass of wine at night.
Now, here’s what else is cool, counterintuitive but cool, pun intended. Cold temperature can also trigger the release of heat shock proteins. So, when you’re in the cold, there’s a specific response to the cold called this protein–it’s a protein called RMB3, and that promotes neurogenesis, it promotes this norepinephrine response, but it also can increase the level of heat shock proteins, which have this direct protective effect on your body. There’s even a study that demonstrates a drop in infectious disease rates in people who do some kind of a cold plunge or a cold shower on a frequent basis.
Wim Hof is probably one of the more popular guys who has made cold thermogenesis sexy. And he’s actually able to suppress his immune system, to alter his immune system in response to the type of cold immersion and breathwork that he does. And that can contribute to positive outcomes from things like arthritis, for diabetes, and for Alzheimer’s. This guy actually has conscious control over these physiological adaptations. Now, I do have a question in today’s show later on about whether if you’re sick or if you have adrenal fatigue, you should be doing this type of cold therapy. But that should at least give you a clue. If cold can upregulate the ability of your immune system to modulate properly, then it could actually be a very good thing for increasing your resilience to stress and increasing the strength of your immune system.
And it turns out that if you have access to your genetics, you can actually go and see, based on this latest study, that different people have different genes responsible for higher or lower levels of heat shock protein. You can determine if a sauna is something you should really actually prioritize if you’re somebody who doesn’t naturally produce a lot of these heat shock proteins. So, hopefully, some of those anecdotes are interesting for you. And I am going to link to all of that stuff in the shownotes at BenGreenfieldFitness.com/404.
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Ray: Hi, Ben. My name is Ray, and my question is on earthing. After your podcast with Clint Ober, I was fascinated by the science and immediately began digging deeper into the topic. I ordered Clint’s sleeping mats for me, my wife, and two boys. And as you know, the mats plug into the ground of a home wall outlet. We immediately noticed a huge positive difference when we started sleeping on the mats. Then I started reading and watching videos about dirty electricity dangers when using the earthing products that plug into ground of our home outlets. They say that the long ground wires create loops in our homes and act as antennas and pick up EMFs from everything including our appliances and Wi-Fi, and it focuses that EMF on our bodies while we sleep. My question to you, is this something that you’ve researched? And if so, is it better to connect the mats using grounding rods?
Ben: Alright. Well, this is a question that I get a lot. So, I figure we should address this once and for all, this idea that the way that power travels back and forth from power substations to your house would actually cause some kind of like a surge in power that would focus electromagnetic fields on your body while you’re sleeping, or while you’re standing on a grounding mat, or something like that. And there’s a lot of claims. For example, folks will say if you use a grounding product in the presence of EMFs, dangerous currents will circulate in your body, or that dirty electricity will come in through the grounding cord of a grounding mat or an earthing mat that you’re standing on or you’re sleeping on and come through your body.
That high electric fields in your home could put your risk of a shock if you’re standing on one of these grounding mats, or that grounding turns you into an antenna and draws EMFs into your body, or that it’s even best not to ground yourself if you live in the city or in the suburbs because of the presence of this so-called stray voltage or ground currents as a result of our electrical system feeding AC electricity into the ground.
Well, frankly, none of this is actually the case. And I’ll try to do the best job as I can explaining to you why. I’m not going to get into the benefits of earthing or grounding. You need to go and listen to my podcast with Clint Ober because again, it was one of my favorite podcasts I’ve recorded the past few months. It really got me super-duper even more so than I was before into this concept of using grounding mats, using earthing mats, using earthing shoes, going outside barefoot, et cetera, especially when I travel and when I’ve been on airplanes.
So, let’s go ahead and get into why some of these claims are false. So, first of all, there’s this statement that when you are grounded, you become this antenna for voltages to get into your body and harm you. So, the fact is that the masts and the metal structures of antennas for, say like, TV or radio transmissions, they’re grounded to protect them against lightning. But the antennas themselves are not grounded, just the masts and the metal structures. So, when you are grounded, you become essentially like a Faraday cage. And this Faraday cage effect prevents EMFs generated by electric wires of your home from penetrating your body.
So, what a Faraday cage is it’s a metal enclosure used to block electromagnetic fields. Now, contrary to what a lot of people say, there’s no voltage that gets into your body when you’re grounded. It’s the exact opposite. EMFs actually get reflected away from you, very similar to when you are in a grounded Faraday cage. Grounding basically drops the voltage on your body to nearly zero. And they’ve done studies on this. For example, one study where they had 50 different people who were grounded, they then measured body voltage where it can be very easily done with an AC body voltage meter. Body voltage was decreased by an average of 58-fold when these people were grounded versus when they were not grounded.
And then they measured the AC current generated through their body when they stood by a computer monitor, a desk lamp, a scanner, a phone. And every single person who was grounded, the AC body voltage was 2,000 times lower than the minimum perceptible current and 50-fold lower than when they weren’t grounded. Meaning that research has actually shown that not only do the currents from these home devices not pass through your body when you’re grounded, but your ability to be able to be protected by the EMFs being generated from them is actually significantly increased.
Now, there’s also this common argument that we’re exposed to spikes of electricity when we’re on these grounding mats or these earthing mats, and understand why that’s not the case. You have to understand what a lot of people seem to not understand, and that’s the difference between a DC current and an AC current, between a direct current and an alternating current circuit, okay? So, a DC current is basically open. There’s no current flow. It’s just like a battery, which would be the voltage source, and a load like, say, a light bulb. Alright, the circuit’s open. There’s no current flow. As soon as you close that circuit, electrons would flow from the battery to the actual light bulb. And there’s no, actually, frequency generated, right? So, there’s no EMFs in something like a DC current.
Now, you can’t be a part of a DC circuit unless you’re connected somewhere within that flow of electrons, which you’re also not when you’re on a grounding mat. Now, the AC circuit in your home, it works like this. A power plant would generate AC voltage that gets transmitted to your home via wires. And the entry point for the electricity at your home is a panel, all right, your main supply panel. So, the switch is open so the electric energy of the live wire is interrupted and is not supplying electric power to your appliances. And then as soon as you close that switch, which means you turn your breakers on, that’s when electric energy is provided to your appliances that would enable them to function. And so all of the wires in your home, now that that power is coming in, are emitting significant levels of EMF. Okay?
So, the idea here is though all of these electrons in that circuit, they’re not flowing, they’re wiggling back and forth, right? They’re wiggling back and forth at a frequency, like say, 50 or 60 times per second. That would be a frequency of 50 or 60 Hertz. So, there’s no flow in one direction or the other. These electrons are only moving like one hundred thousandths of an inch in each direction, and it’s that rapid back-and-forth movement of the electrons that would keep the lights on or allow your toaster to work.
Now, if you’re grounded with a grounding mat connected to the earth via your house ground wire, which I’m actually standing on right now as I’m talking to you, then you’re not actually part of that AC circuit, okay? You’re simply grounded to the ground itself. Meaning that all of these electrons, they’re literally just like bouncing off your body. This is essentially like the Faraday cage effect because you’ve dropped your body voltage. So, you’re not part of the AC circuit in your house when you’re standing on the grounding mat. You’re actually protected from the wiggling of the electrons that are part of that AC circuit and you’re significantly reducing the AC voltage on your body.
So, when you ground yourself, you’re immediately equalizing yourself to the earth’s electric potential. No dirty electricity can flow through a ground wire through an earthing system and then through the body. There is no flow because you’re not part of a closed DC circuit, right? You’re just immersed with an AC circuit surrounding you, and the grounding is what’s preventing the charge buildup on your body. So, not only is grounding not dangerous in the presence of EMFs that are floating around you, but it’s highly protective. So, when there’s an increase in EMFs around a grounded person, electrical field measurements around that person show an increase but an AC body voltage meter can show that your actual body voltage decreases, which is why this is actually safe, okay? And I highly encourage it even if you live in an urban or suburban area.
Now, another thing you should know is that the warning that urban and suburban grounds are somehow infected with high electrical currents, that’s really exaggerated. Significant voltage in the ground is pretty limited to specific areas, like right next to power stations or right next to electrical trains, but it’s not that big. You can actually measure the circuit in the earth. And we really don’t see any evidence of these big power surges coming through the planet. So, ultimately, it’s very safe to sleep on a grounding mat, to stand on a grounding mat. You can measure yourself with a body voltage meter to see what I mean.
And when you look at all the different studies that have been published in peer-reviewed health journals showing these significant benefits of grounding in terms of decreasing inflammation and decreasing the overall body voltage, I mean, to me it’s a no-brainer. I am a huge fan of these. I’ll get off my soapbox now. But ultimately, go listen to my podcast with Clint Ober. Grounding is not going to turn you into an antenna. It’s not going to create a loop in your home. All of his products come with this special plug that you plug into the wall that will tell you if wherever you’re at, wherever you’re grounding, if that outlet is properly grounded.
And you can also, as I’m doing right now, have your grounding cable just plugged in to the yard outside your house or outside your office via metal state directly into the ground. So, I realized that for some people, this is a totally foreign concept, this idea of grounding or earthing, but I’m enormously into it. I’m a huge fan. I consider it just as important as water, minerals, light, heat, cold, movement, good nutrition, having this intimate connection with the planet Earth, I think is incredibly important.
Aaron: Hey, Ben. My name is Aaron. I’m about a year into jiu-jitsu, and I’ve noticed a common theme from most of the upper belts. Everyone is always injured. I know that soreness and pulled muscles are inevitable, but I’m talking more extreme injuries having to resolve in some sort of surgery. Just wondering if you could recommend any sort of recovery and injury prevention tactics. Any tips would be greatly appreciated, and thank you for the podcast. I’m a big fan.
Ben: Alright. Recovery tactics to keep you from getting injured frequently. Well, there’s a lot. There’s a lot we could get into. I already covered one thing that’s incredibly important for decreasing inflammation, and that’s grounding or earthing. And some of the studies in the book, “Earthing,” actually get into how much more quickly athletes recover specifically from delayed onset muscle soreness. That was a study just done in 2018 when they are outside barefoot or when they’re using these grounding or earthing mats.
But some other things that I think are very important to consider. Number one is I encourage all my clients and the folks who I speak with about recovery, injury, athletes to do as I do and set aside 15 minutes of the day, preferably in the morning. I always do this as the coffee is brewing in the morning, to do self-inflicted deep tissue work. So, I’ve got Kelly Starrett’s book, “Becoming a Supple Leopard,” in my living room in this giant wicker box that’s full of lacrosse balls, Hypervolt body massage therapy device, a MyoBuddy body massage therapy device, some different shaped foam rollers and vibrating recovery balls. And 15 minutes every morning, I just do my own self-inflicted deep tissue work. Yes, I get a massage once a week, but by the end of the week, I’ve done 75 plus minutes of my own self-inflicted deep tissue work specifically on any sore spots, any tight spots, et cetera, and I think that is enormous when it comes to injury prevention potential.
Now, some of the other things that can help. First of all, I get a lot of questions about stem cells. And yes, stem cells can increase your body’s overall stem cell pool and significantly increase your ability to recover. But I don’t think everybody these days needs to rush out and get their fat cells extracted from their adipose tissue or get their bone extracted from their marrow, their bone cells extracted from their marrow because now, what a lot of doctors are doing is they’re combining non-autologous sources of stem cells like umbilical, or amniotic, or placental with these special molecules that cause the stem cells to be able to travel where they’re needed in the body most efficiently.
And these little tiny molecules or cell signaling molecules that essentially upgrade a stem cell, even if it’s not your own fat or your own bone, they’re called exosomes. And I think that a stem cell injection combined with exosomes into a joint or an area of tissue that’s inflamed or prone to injury is a very good one-two combo. In addition, if you listened to my recent podcast interview with Dr. Matt Cook, he’s doing a few other things in addition to things like stem cells and exosomes, specifically the ones that I think are most affected that he’s doing is Prolozone, meaning, injection of ozone into the tissue, platelet-rich plasma injections, which are the injection of growth factors in a tissue.
And then finally, what’s called nerve hydrodissection, which is a method via which you’re reducing a lot of the nerve irritation that can lead to the pain that surrounds a previously injured area. So, if you were going to find a doctor to do some of these procedures on you, you would want to look up a regenerative medicine physician, someone very similar to Dr. Matt Cook. And some of the best treatments I consider would be non-autologous stem cell therapy, if you don’t want the hassle of getting your fat or your bone extracted, combined with the exosomes. And then Prolozone, PRP, and finally, nerve hydrodissection. Obviously, that’s something that’s a little bit more extreme than, say, just like grounding or earthing, but it can be very effective.
Now, a few other things that I recommend. Number one would be, I use compression gear quite a bit as a recovery tactic. It hasn’t been shown to be that effective as a performance-enhancing tactic, but the use of compression tights like gradated compression tights, the use of something like the NormaTec boots that will circulate air in a gradated fashion while you’re watching TV, or in my case, while I’m taking a nap, compression socks, compression shorts. There are even companies that make compression tops. All of these can be fantastic for basically using a squeezing motion to transport fluid, including lymph fluid and inflammatory byproducts out of your limbs to accelerate the recovery process. So, I think compression is a very good strategy.
Another one that I really like is the use of specifically placed strips of Kinesio tape. Like RockTape, for example, is one very good brand, Kaytape is another, SpiderTech is another. You may have seen Olympians, or marathoners, or CrossFitters, or triathletes with these bright strips of tape around their body on specific joints to support an area or to lift the skin off of the underlying tissue just a little bit to improve blood flow and lymph drainage. And these things can actually work very well. I’m wearing some right now on my toe where I had a little bit of an injury, like some fatty inflammation in the bunion underneath the toe, or in a bunion area underneath the toe. And this can actually help with supporting an area, reducing pain, and improving recovery. So, in the same way that I’m a fan of compression garments, I’m a fan of Kinesio tape to support, especially an injured area.
Now, another one that I really like for enhancing blood flow to an area and reducing the formation of inflammatory byproducts is low-level electrical muscle stimulation. For example, there’s one device called a Marc Pro. It’s different than a lot of other electrical muscle stimulation devices in that the waveform that it uses, it gently grabs muscle fibers in a very gradual fashion. So, some electrical muscle stimulation devices are designed to cause muscle hypertrophy, or even eccentric muscle tearing or muscle damage. But something like the Marc Pro, it can actually improve blood flow to an area.
And one trick that I’ll often recommend to folks for EMS, especially if they’re using it on an injury to help heal up an injury or a sore spot faster, is you apply some type of a topical lotion, like a topical magnesium or arnica or CBD. And then on top of that lotion, you put the electrical muscle stimulation pads, so they’re driving that transdermal cream deeper into the tissue, and then you surround that with ice, which allows you to really jack up the intensity of the EMS. And you do that for about 15 to 20 minutes. If you have an actual injured area, you can do that two to three times a day for 15 to 20 minutes. The reduction in pain and the speed in healing can be dramatic with that type of approach.
A few other things that I really liked. Number one would be photobiomodulation. I already talked about how that mitochondrial enzyme called cytochrome C oxidase can accept photons of energy in the form of light to enhance mitochondrial function. But this same principle is the principle upon which things like low-level laser therapy and these light panels I was talking about earlier work. They can actually reduce pain related to inflammation, and they’ve been used successfully for treating tendinitis, for arthritis, for lowering levels of pain-producing chemicals like prostaglandins and interleukin, decreasing oxidative stress, helping to heal up things like bruises and swelling and internal bleeding more quickly. And so I’m a huge fan of the use of like infrared saunas, infrared light panels, low-level laser. These are treatments that can be really, really effective for staving off injuries, for increasing blood flow to areas. And that’s another one that I really like.
And then finally, before I give you a couple of tips regarding your diet and supplementation, I am a huge fan of pulsed electromagnetic field therapy. Probably one of the favorites, admittedly expensive but favorite devices that I own is the Pulse Centers’ PEMF unit, which is a very high-intensity series of magnetic pulses that can travel through injured tissue. They upregulate heat shock protein, which you learned about earlier. They increase the uptake of oxygen and nutrients into tissue.
Many studies have shown PEMF to be effective in healing not only soft tissue injuries but also bony injuries. They can stimulate ATP production because they cause what’s called myosin phosphorylation. So, they can decrease the amount of time that it takes you to recover and to restore your energy stores after a workout. These things are sold in portable units you can take with you on the go like the FlexPulse, or the EarthPulse, or the ICES M1. Those are examples of portable PEMF devices. There’s also one you can sleep on made by Dr. William Pollack called the BioBalance mat. There’s the one I own called the Pulse Centers‘ PEMF unit. But these things are very, very good for both recovery, and also healing up injuries faster.
And then finally, when it comes to the diet, I am a fan of fasting. Fasting will increase the process of autophagy, and intermittent fasting can actually help to clear away old cells and improve recovery. You don’t want to overdo that as an athlete, but for most of the females who I work with, I recommend anywhere from a 10 to a 12-hour daily intermittent fast, and for guys at 12 to 16-hour intermittent fast. There’s this idea that free radical formation and satellite cell proliferation are both modulated by frequent periods of fasting. And while it may seem difficult to draw the corollary in your head between not eating and recovering faster or healing injuries faster, there’s a lot of evidence to show that it really can do things like upregulate stem cells, enhance cellular autophagy, decrease inflammation. And as long as you’re not engaged in excessive calorie restriction, but instead just ensuring you’re getting some time-restricted eating in, that can help out.
Anti-inflammatory diet, there are a ton of good resources out there. Dr. Will Cole just wrote a wonderful new book on the anti-inflammatory diet, which I’ll link to in the shownotes over at BenGreenfieldFitness.com/404. You can go to a website like inflammationfactor.com and see what type of foods are more inflammatory versus less inflammatory. For example, foods with a high level of inflammation-fighting properties would be like ginger, blue, red and purple fruits and vegetables, pineapple which has this proteolytic enzyme in it called bromelain that helps to break down fibrinogen in your body, garlic, salmon, avocado, apple cider vinegar. And no doubt, as you would expect, the type of things that would be more inflammatory would be like high amounts of red meat, caffeine, dairy, grains, et cetera, anything that’s going to cause a spike in glycemic index or a spike in insulin. And so those would be the foods you would want to moderate. But look into an anti-inflammatory diet.
And then when it comes to supplements, I think the top two that I like for speeding up the rate at which an injury can heal or keeping the joints healthy to stave off injury–actually, I’m going to name three for you. One would be collagen or amino acids, consuming the equivalent of 40 grams of collagen or 20 grams of amino acids on a daily basis because those are going to be used as the building blocks for your tissue. Number two would be a high DHA fish oil. Specifically, the DHA is what’s going to have the most powerful anti-inflammatory benefit. And then finally, proteolytic enzymes such as papain, bromelain, trypsin, chymotrypsin.
There are brands such as Wobenzym. At Kion, we have our own brand called Kion Flex, which is fantastic support for that healthy inflammatory process. But if you’re just going to do three things, it’d be 20 grams of aminos or 40 grams of collagen a day, higher dose fish oil, like 8 to 10 grams of really DHA rich fish oil per day. I like the brand SuperEssentials for that. And we have that at Kion. And then especially on an empty stomach, take about 4 to 8, when people are injured I’ll have them take up to 12 Kion Flex in the evening on an empty stomach. So, those would be some of the biggies. You might have to hit rewind and take some notes again. But everything that I just told you are some of my big wins that I’m doing on a daily basis for recovery. So, hopefully, that gets your wheels turning.
Carmen: Hey, Ben. My name is Carmen and I’m from Germany. I wanted to start cold therapy for health reasons, but also to not always feel as cold as I do right now and it’s been two months. I’ve tried cryotherapy and cold showers, but always got sick afterwards. I’ve got Hashimoto’s disease, and I’m also still recovering from adrenal fatigue. A doctor once told me I get sick after trying cold therapy because my adrenals can’t handle the cold. Is it true? How can I slowly start some kind of cold therapy? Any other ideas besides cold showers?
Ben: Alright. So, should you stay out of the cold when you’re sick or if you have adrenal fatigue? Well, let’s look at what actually happens in terms of adrenal function in response to cold because this has been studied in multiple, multiple scenarios in both rodent and human models. So, ultimately, cold exposure causes this acute steep rise in sympathetic nervous system activity. Meaning, your HRV, your heart rate variability decreases, your vasoconstriction increases. The amount of norepinephrine, epinephrine, adrenaline, all your adrenal hormones are going to kick into overdrive in response to cold exposure. But here’s what’s interesting. It’s very, very similar to exercise. There’s one study that they did on autonomic nervous system and adrenal response to cold in folks who were in Antarctica in extreme cold environments for a long period of time. What happens is that over time, you see an overall stabilization of nervous system activity, an overall rise in HRV, and a drop in norepinephrine, and a drop in cortisol as soon as you’re out of the cold.
So, it’s very similar to an exercise session. In that respect, an exercise session stresses you out, activates the sympathetic nervous system, rises the heart rate, causes an increase in cortisol, epinephrine, adrenaline, et cetera. But then once you’ve finished, not only do all those parameters reverse, but they reverse to an even more stabilized state than if you hadn’t done the exercise, or you hadn’t done the cold session. We know in animal and human studies, there is a big increase in corticosteroid and catecholamine production in response to cold.
Now, in someone who does have adrenal issues that are limiting the ability of their hypothalamic-pituitary-adrenal axis to properly function, this means that cold could almost be viewed as a bit of a jumpstart for that system. Now, in addition to that, they’ve also shown that if you have epinephrine deficiencies, adrenaline deficiencies, and this was in rodent models, exposure to fluctuations in temperature may actually start to help to upregulate the normal production of some of those adrenal-based hormones via something called mitochondrial uncoupling. So, your body actually goes into overdrive to try and maintain a normal temperature, and it kicks your adrenals back into proper function.
Now, when we look at the immune function in the same way that cold seems to step up these adrenal hormones, in the way that they’re produced, and also activate the sympathetic nervous system, it also appears to turn on many of the genes responsible for upregulating T cell production. So, it modulates the immune system or shifts it into more of a slightly pro-inflammatory state, a state in which it’s churning out more of its immune function, more of its T helper cells, for example. And this would be very similar again to if you’ve done a hard exercise session, or if you’ve become injured.
And ultimately, the long-term effect of that would be positive modulation of the immune system. Meaning that even though there is a sharp uprise in T cell production in some of these immune factors as an acute response to cold long-term, these parameters seem to stabilize and you actually become stronger with regard to your immune system, and you see a decrease in cytokines, you see a decrease in leukocytes, you see an increase in overall immune system function in response to cold from a chronic standpoint.
So, taking all of that into an account, and I’m going to actually link to a ton of different studies, all of which I’ve just alluded to in the shownotes. But it turns out–and I want to mention one other actually before I summarize here for you. It turns out that if you exercise in the cold, like vigorous exercise in the cold weather, that actually results in long-term immune impairment, right? So, it’s like the combination of two sympathetically driven activities. The cold plus heart exercise, that would be a no-no. That’s where you cross the threshold then it’s too much of what is a good thing. So, it appears cold exposure is good, but cold exposure combined with hard exercise is where you start to see some issues in terms of immune system impairment and adrenal exhaustion.
So, the overall takeaway message is this. A, brief intermittent bouts of cold exposure are going to actually be good for your immune system. And, when I’m sick, or when I have congestion, or I have a cold, I actually just recently came back from a wilderness survival course where I was out for five days in the cold, came back had the sniffles, I actually get into the cold water for about two to five minutes. And part of that is just based on inspiration from a guy like Wim Hof, who has shown that your immune system can significantly increase its ability to modulate effectively when you get exposed to the cold, okay?
So, I’m a fan of cold exposure. It’s never made my cold worse. What I don’t do is go out for long runs or long exercise sessions in the cold. We’re talking about brief intermittent exposure to the cold two to five minutes. Now, it also appears that this can help when it comes to adrenal fatigue by helping to upregulate sympathetic nervous system function and actually give your adrenals a little kick in the side so to speak in terms of your adrenaline, your epinephrine production, et cetera.
So, ultimately, it comes down to this, long cold baths 10, 20 minutes, probably a no. Long exercise sessions in the cold, adrenal fatigue, cases of sickness, definitely a no. Short cold showers, short cold plunges, short cold soaks, we’re talking two to five minutes, absolute yes based on the research that I’ve seen. So, that’s the way that I would consider whether or not you’re going to get into the cold and how you’re going to approach the cold. So, hopefully, that is helpful for you. And I’m going to link to all of those research studies along with everything else that I’ve talked about in today’s show if you go to BenGreenfieldFitness.com/404.
Now, a couple of other things that I wanted to mention. First of all, your reviews are super helpful. They give me good feedback because I read them on what you guys think about the show. But based on the way that the Apple podcast algorithm works, when you leave a review, it helps more people find this show. So, if there’s anything you can do as a thank you for me taking the time to go through these questions for you and stay on top of the research for you, and hopefully, give you something interesting to listen to while you’re working out, while you’re on your commute, just open up whatever podcast app you’re listening right now, or you’re using right now, Spotify or Overcast or Castbox or Apple podcasts or whatever, leave the show a quick review. It’s super-duper appreciated.
In addition to that, be sure you visit the shownotes. I always work hard. I’m putting together really good shownotes for you. So, you can go to BenGreenfieldFitness.com/404 to access everything I talked about with regards to earthing, grounding, some of my top recovery tactics, et cetera. And then finally, when you’re over there, you can leave questions, comments, feedback about anything that you heard on today’s show and I’ll be happy to reply and continue further dialogue with you over there. So, I think that’s about it. Hopefully, this wasn’t too boring for you without the witty banter that I usually have on the shows with my sidekick Dr. Jay Wiles, but I wanted to get an episode out for you. So, hopefully, that’s been helpful. And I am, as you probably know by now, Ben Greenfield, signing out from BenGreenfieldFitness.com. Have an amazing week.
Well, thanks for listening to today’s show. You can grab all the shownotes, the resources, pretty much everything that I mentioned over at BenGreenfieldFitness.com, along with plenty of other goodies from me, including the highly helpful “Ben Recommends” page, which is a list of pretty much everything that I’ve ever recommended for hormone, sleep, digestion, fat loss, performance, and plenty more. Please, also, know that all the links, all the promo codes, that I mentioned during this and every episode, helped to make this podcast happen and to generate income that enables me to keep bringing you this content every single week. When you listen in, be sure to use the links in the shownotes, use the promo codes that I generate, because that helps to float this thing and keep it coming to you each and every week.
Prior to asking your question, do a search in the upper right-hand corner of this website for the keywords associated with your question. Many of the questions we receive have already been answered here at Ben Greenfield Fitness!
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- Blue light from modern, fluorescent lighting is damaging to the mitochondria in your retina…10:29
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- Here’s one good reason why sauna use makes you live longer, and why some people can get away with LESS heat therapy:
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Here’s where I’m speaking and traveling around the world coming soon:
- October 26: SoCal Beast and Sprint Spartan, Tejon Ranch, Lebec CA– One of the more picturesque courses on the Spartan circuit, Tejon Ranch offers virtually untouched land with steep inclines, rugged mountains, oak-covered rolling hills, and heavily wooded valleys. Click here to sign up, and try not to get too distracted by the breathtaking views.
- November 23: AT&T Park Stadium Sprint Spartan, San Francisco, CA – When was the last time you got to run around a major league baseball field? Expect to be thrown a few curve balls (so to speak) as you navigate staircases, dugouts, and tunnels that make up the AT&T Park’s five levels. Sign up here!
Is Earthing Dangerous?…28:06
Ray asks: After your podcast with Clint Ober, I was fascinated with the science and immediately began digging deeper into the topic. I ordered Clint’s sleeping mats for me, my wife and two boys, and as you know the mats plug into the ground via a wall outlet. We immediately noticed a huge positive difference when we began sleeping on the mats. Then I started reading and watching videos about dirty electricity dangers when using earthing mats that plug into the ground with the home outlets. They say the long ground wires create loops in our homes and act as antennas which pick up EMF’s from everything including our appliances and wifi, and it focuses that EMF on our bodies while we sleep. Is this something you’ve researched, and if so, is it better to connect the mats using grounding rods?
In my response, I recommend:
- My podcast with Clint Ober on grounding/earthing
- Article: Beware of Earthing Misinformation from The Earthing Institute
- Article: Studies Confirm Indoor Grounding Safety and Reduced Exposure to AC Voltage EMF’s from
- The Earthing Institute
Ben’s Top Recovery Tactics…38:51
Aaron asks: I’m about a year into jiu-jitsu, and I’ve noticed a common theme from most of the upper belts. Everyone is always injured. I know that soreness and pulled muscles are inevitable, but I’m talking about more extreme injuries that require some sort of surgery. Can you recommend any recovery and injury prevention tactics that will help me avoid similar injuries?
In my response, I recommend:
- Set aside 15 minutes a day to do self-inflicted deep tissue work
- BGF podcast w/ Matt Cookon nerve hydrodissection
- NormaTecPulsing Compression Recovery Boots
- SpiderTech kinesio tape
- Marc ProLow-level electrical muscle stimulation recovery unit
- Photobiomodulation by JOOVV
- PEMF therapy: Flex Pulse, Earth Pulse, BioBalance Mat, Pulse Centers
- Intermittent Fasting: BGF podcast on fasting
- Inflammation Factor rating
- The Inflammation Spectrum– book on anti-inflammatory diet by Will Cole:
- Supplements: Collagenand amino acids, high DHA fish oil (LivingFuel super essentials), proteolytic enzymes (Kion Flex)
Can You Do Cold Therapy If You’re Sick?…52:25
Carmen from Germany asks: I want to start cold therapy for health reasons, but also to not always feel as cold as I do right now. I’ve tried cryotherapy and cold showers, but I’ve always gotten sick afterwards. I have Hashimoto’s disease, and I’m also recovering from adrenal fatigue. A doctor once told me I get sick after trying cold therapy because my adrenals can’t handle the cold. Is this true? How can I start any type of cold therapy, and what else from cold showers can I do?
In my response, I recommend:
- Article: Changes in plasma cortisol during acute cold exposure in euthermic European hedgehogs: thermoregulatory role of the hypothalamo-pituitary-adrenal axis
- Article: Autonomic Nervous System and Adrenal Response to Cold in Man at Antarctica
- Historical Survey: Catecholamines and Exposure to Cold
- Effects of Acute Cold Exposure on Plasma Concentrations of Noradrenaline and Adrenaline in Sheep
- Effect of epinephrine deficiency on cold tolerance and on brown adipose tissue
- Scientists unearth vital link between fat, immunity and heat regulation
- Cold acclimation affects immune composition in skeletal muscle of healthy lean subjects
- The Effects of Cold Exposure on Leukocytes, Hormones and Cytokines during Acute Exercise in Humans
- Immune Responses to Exercising in a Cold Environment