[Transcript] – The Hardest Hike In America, How To Train & Eat For Altitude, Dangerous Ingredients In Supplements & More With Craig Dinkel of Biotropic Labs.

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Podcast from:  https://bengreenfieldfitness.com/podcast/fitness-podcasts/the-hardest-hike-in-america/

[00:00] Introduction/Kion Lean/Omax

[04:06] Ben’s Breakfast Smoothie

[07:30] Craig’s Nutrition as of Late

[23:35] How Craig Is Training for the Hike

[31:38] Undertraining vs. Overtraining for an Event

[35:27] Atrantil/TruNiagen

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[39:13] Continuation

[41:45] Why Craig’s Supplements are in Capsule Form

[55:02] Craig’s Supplementation

[58:58] Does Craig Use a Trainer Like the VersaClimb

[1:12:07] End of Podcast

Ben:  Hey.  What’s up?  It’s Ben Greenfield.  Today’s podcast guest is, I think, a four-timer, possibly even a five-timer.  He’s been on the show a lot.  We always had a lot of fun when we chat.  His name’s Craig Dinkel.  So, you’re going to love what we talk about.  Today, he’s training for this crazy hike, actually the hardest hike in all of America, and he’s sharing all of his training secrets with us today.  We talk nutrition, everything.

So, before we jump in there is something very popular that is now officially available again, it’s called Kion Lean.  For a long time, this stuff, which is my go-to fat loss and blood sugar control supplement has been sold out over at Kion because it’s so effective.  I mean, I’ve tested my blood sugar after using this stuff and it drops my blood sugar lower than the diabetic drug Metformin.  Since I like to have a drink every night, it also helps that it has rock lotus in it, which not only assists with improving liver function, but also regulates glucose metabolism.  The primary ingredient in this stuff is bitter melon extract.  If you ever heard me speak from stage about the number one way to enhance longevity, to lower glycaemic variability, and this stuff lowers that blood glucose response like crazy.  So, that’s all.  Those are the two ingredients, bitter melon extract, rock lotus extract.  You can also take it before a sauna to enhance the effects of a sauna and the formation of heat shock proteins.  You could take it before cold thermogenesis to enhance the conversion of white fat to brown fat.  So many things going for this stuff.  So, it’s called Kion Lean.  Just got back into stock.  It starts shipping August 10th.  So, you go to getkion.com, getkion.com, and this stuff is called Kion Lean.

This podcast is also brought to by another interesting supplement.  I want to discuss omega 3’s for a second.  There is this company that has what they claim is the purest omega 3 supplement on the market.  So, I do a lot of homework when somebody comes to me and says something like that.  So I tried some of this stuff out and not only do you get zero fish burps from it, but they have a freezer test challenge.  Basically, if you freeze most other omega three supplements, they get cloudy.  That’s all the filler.  But the Omax 3 soft gel, they call it the soft gel, it stays totally clear.  It’s that pure.  Zero fish burps as well, did I mention?  So, it’s almost 94% pure omega three fatty acids.  They’ve got an EPA to DHEA ratio of 4:1, which is very similar to what you’d find in a big ol’ fillet of wild caught fish.  They specifically engineered this stuff to manage inflammation and to manage joint pain, and you get a box for free.  That’s right.  For nothing.  So, the way that you get a free box of Omax is you go to tryomax.com/Ben.  That’s tryomax.com/Ben.  Gets you a free box of Omax 3.  It comes with a 60-day money back guarantee.  So, you have a lot of time to try this out and see whether it works for you.  If it doesn’t, just package all that non-cloudy fish oil up and send it back. tryomax.com/Ben for a free box.  Some terms and conditions apply, hopefully not to you, but go over there to get your free box, tryomax.com/Ben.

Ben:  Hey, folks.  What’s up?  It’s Ben Greenfield, and I’m flying high this morning.  I actually have been switching up my breakfasts of late.  Actually, I’m curious.  I want to hear what today’s podcast guest had today for breakfast because he’s training for this crazy Sierra High Route Solo in August.  It’s like this off-grid 200-mile hike at altitude, 9,000 to 12,000 feet altitude.  So, I’m curious, and we’re going to dig into how he’s training and how he’s eating for that.  But here’s my switch up for breakfast.  You know what?  I’m just going to say hello to you, Craig, first before I just start to talk about my breakfast while ignoring you.

Craig:  Hello.  It’s great to talk to you again, and I’m dying to hear about your breakfast.  It might help my breakfast.

Ben:  So, my breakfast did include some things that you introduced me to, but then it’s also, it’s kind of changed up because I’m of course, halfway like, F-List celebrity famous for my crazy big-ass smoothies of late I think was the one that I described on the Joe Rogan Show, which was the Wendy’s Frosty Smoothie where we take a whole bunch of bone broth and blend that up with ice and a little bit of lemon, which enhances the collagen absorption from the broth, and some stevia, and a little bit of protein powder.  And that’s the base.  There’s a bunch of other little superfoods that go in there, but the trick is that you blend it for four or five minutes.  And as you blend it for four or five minutes, it introduces a little bit of air, a little bit of creaminess, and little bit of frostiness to the recipe.  But what I’ve been doing of late is, simply due to the fact I’ve been super busy, in the mornings especially, and I’ve been consuming my breakfast while I’m working, even while I’m podcasting.  I have a little breakfast left here right in front of me.  So, I’ve been taking bone broth, I’ve been using this Kettle & Fire bone broth, and I’ve interviewed these folks in the past, they do organic packaged bone broth, and what I do is I heat it up over the stove top and then I blend it with just a whole bunch of different super nutrients.

So, this morning into the bone broth, I put a couple teaspoons of maca root, a teaspoon of this black ant extract stuff which is incredibly high in zinc, a little bit of vanilla stevia, and then I actually broke open seven capsules of this Qualia Mind nootropic and I dropped all of that in there, and then I also, and I want to hear what your thoughts are on this, I broke open three capsules of AFA, three capsules of the Oxcia, and three capsules of your chlorella, I put all of those in there in celebration of the fact that I will be interviewing you.  I blended that all for about two minutes on high, and I sucked that down for breakfast.  And I gotta tell you, man, I’m flying high.

Craig:  It sounds like a witch’s brew, man.  Sounds great!

Ben:  It tasted really good.  I’ll put the recipe in the show notes for everybody listening in.  It’s at bengreenfieldfitness.com/cleanup, ’cause we’re going to be me talking about, among other things today, how to clean up the hidden ingredients in your supplements. But bengreenfieldfitness.com/cleanup, I’ll put that whole recipe.  But in the meantime, Craig, what was your brew of choice today, if anything?

Craig:  Man, I’ve had a recent event.  I started to have a blood sugar issue.  So, I have to start managing my carbohydrate intake much more carefully than I’ve had to in the past.  I’ve been a huge carbohydrate guy.  I mean, I like bread, I like toast, I like jam, stuff like that in the morning with a lot of protein.  But these days, I have to keep sort of an eye on this thing and navigate the world through more protein and carbohydrates, which makes this trip that I’m going to be doing very interesting ’cause I’m going to be walking and hiking off-route for about, in rough terrain, hopefully I’ll be doing about 7,000 vertical a day, but not less than, let’s say, 5,000 vertical a day.  I’m very, very curious to see how my metabolism works with blood sugar ’cause I have to eat a lot of carbohydrate up there and I’ll get a little less protein up there to drive me.  So, I’m curious to see how my blood sugar works.  But that’s a long roundabout way to get to the answer to your question.  These days, what I do for breakfast is pretty simple stuff.  It’s going to be four overeasy eggs, or it’s going to be, this is going to sound strange, but I like omelets, but I don’t like a heavy egg omelet.  So, I’ll make two two-egg omelets with a bunch of cheese, some avocado, and some chicken or protein in there that I can handle.  So, I do that two times because I like the thinner egg omelet over than, eggs tend to thicken up when you make ’em in an omelet, and I know that sounds a bit off course here, but that’s how I like to eat my eggs.

Ben:  Interesting.  So, are you concerned at all, and have you looked into this at all, about the fact that when you’re trying to regulate blood sugar, you can experience blood sugar swings and a high blood sugar, even with too much protein.  The classic case would be the guy Shawn Baker, who’s the champion right now of the carnivore diet.  He revealed his blood labs, he published them on his website, and he’s like borderline type two diabetic.  Granted, he’s eating I think four to six pounds of meat per day, but his blood sugar levels are through the freakin’ roof because of the gluconeogenic effects of protein when you’re trying to control blood sugar versus, say, doing more vegetables and monounsaturated fats, smaller amounts of saturated fats, that type of approach.

Craig:  That’s really interesting.  I feel bad for that guy ’cause I don’t have that problem.  I find that any time I just maintain the exercise I do and I train pretty hard, I guess we’re going to get into that, but I don’t always train hard.  But when I’m training for an event, I do train event specific and grueling.  We talked a little bit about that in the past, but I find that when I just get really disciplined, here’s my problem, I get really disciplined, I do a paleo-like diet, high protein, very low carbohydrate, high fat, and my blood sugar lines right up.  The problem is is that the consequences of that, for me, are hunger.  I’m always hungry.  And I’ve lost a lot of weight because of it.  I used to weigh right in around 190 and about 185, and right now, I hover right around 178, 180, which is, it’s a number from college days, practically for me.  So, I’m leaner than I’ve ever been and I suppose that’s a good thing, and I don’t fit the profile for any sort of high blood sugar problem, but here it is.  But, no.  Great exercise, really good exercise, and mostly going heavy paleo puts my numbers right down into normal ranges.  I mean, I can really get them back to normal, it’s just hard.  It takes a lot of discipline, and I’m hungry.  So, that’s why I’m really curious about what’s going to happen on the hike because I can’t eat like that up there.  I have to have oatmeal for breakfast, I have to have high carbohydrate meals for dinner, but I’m trusting and counting on the fact that I’m going to be walking 10 hours a day and…

Ben:  Yeah.  It’s a speed bump.  And a lot of people don’t realize this, especially a lot especially lot of endurance athletes, and I know that at the time of this recording, I was actually texting Ian Adamson the past couple of days about this ’cause I’m interested in possibly getting involved on a team next year, Primal Quest and Eco-Challenge, and some of these big adventure races, they’re becoming a thing again.  All these big, long seven-day adventure races I used to watch when I was a kid, and I told him, “If there’s a chance for me to be on a team, I might leap at some like that.”  But a lot of even these serious endurance folks don’t realize that once you get into altitude, this was even interesting for me, and I found out when I was researching for Beyond Training, my last book, about altitude training, I discovered that the body actually shifts into a higher amount of glucose and carbohydrate utilization at altitude.  There’s a direct correlation.

So, not only does your high level physical activity dictate that the calories you’re eating and the carbohydrates that you’re eating are going to be a moot point when it comes to blood sugar regulation, but your body actually doesn’t do as well with, say, ketosis or pure fatty acid utilization the higher you get, the more you need to eat easy-to-digest carbohydrate sources.  So, it’s probably a little bit less of an issue for you at altitude.  But I’ve still found, and again, at the time of this recording, I will have already released my podcast with Sami Inkinen, who runs Virta Health, and they manage diabetic issues for a lot of people.  I’ve also interviewed Dominic D’Agostino before, and those guys are very much into macadamia nuts and also spirulina and chlorella, which I know is an ingredient in the supplements that you make, the chlorella is.  But the combination of the omega 3 fatty acids and the high nutrient density with low volume of algae, so it’s easy to transport, combined with the slow bleed of the high amount of saturated fats from the macadamia nuts is kind of a really good one-two combo, and that’s something I’ll munch on.  I’m actually flying to Estonia tomorrow, I have a 10-and-half hour flight, Seattle to Frankfurt, first thing in the morning and…

Craig:  Do you ever stop moving?

Ben:  No.  And I’ll get on the airplane with a bag, my bags already packed upstairs, macadamia nuts and these EnergyBits which have chlorella and spirulina and stuff in them.  And I’ve also, as soon as I get back, I go to race at altitude in Mesa, Colorado, the Train To Hunt World Championships.  So, I’ve got your Oxcia, your chlorella, and your AFA, and I’m loading with those.  I load with those for at least two weeks going into every one of my competitions.  So, I’ve got those packed in my bag.  But macadamia nuts and these EnergyBits, like the chewable spirulina and chlorella tablets, that’s what I’ll tend to eat for long periods of time.  But you also may want to use a strategy, like throwing in some macadamia nuts to kind of stabilize the blood sugar and give you a slow bleed along with some of the more carbohydrate dense sources you’ll have at altitude.

Craig:  Yeah.  That’s a really good idea.  If I remember correctly, I got to look this up again, but I think macadamia nuts are actually the best nut that I can eat for managing blood sugar as the nut group goes.  So, that’s definitely something that’s going to be in my grab bag.  I guess, a lot of people like to make this stuff called “gorp”.  You’re probably familiar with it.  It’s M&M’s, peanuts, candies, all these sort of stuff to…

Ben:  What do they call it?  Gorp?

Craig:  Yeah.  That’s an old term for it, gorp.  Can you believe that?  I don’t know what else it’s called, but…

Ben:  G-O-R-P?

Craig:  Yeah.  It’s an ugly name.

Ben:  And what’s in it?

Craig:  They’ll mix stuff up.  It could have raisins, it can have dehydrated fruit, it’ll have nuts of all kinds, M&M’s will be in there too.  I never thought of it.  It’s really a great healthy energy source when you’re up there in the mountains and climbing at altitude and going straight up and down and up all the time.  But it’s a lot of sugar, but I think these days, there are better ways to fuel yourself.  So, what you’re talking about with macadamia nuts, I could do sort of a hybrid version of that, a newer hybrid version of gorp with macadamia nuts, maybe raisins isn’t such a bad thing in the world, and some other nuts in there that will help move me along.

Ben:  Yeah.  I would even consider, and this is something a lot of people don’t think about when they consider blood sugar regulation, the fermentability of your choice of carbohydrate.  For example, dried fruit is good because it’s pretty nutrient dense for the volume and it doesn’t have a lot of water weight to it for climbing, but it’s also extremely fermentable, especially if people have fructose malabsorption or FODMAP issues.  So, what I recommend a lot of times as an easy-to-digest carbohydrate source is something that’s got dextrin or a little bit of a potato-based starch.  One that I like is dried plantains.  You can get these from the bulk food section of a lot of grocery stores.  You got to check to make sure they’re not coated in canola oil, ’cause a lot of them are. There’s companies like Thrive Market online that will just sell you regular old organic plantain, but it’s pretty light and you can use that, for example, you can have a bag with macadamia nuts with plantain or like a potato-based source, dried sweet potato, dried yam.  You can get this stuff, again, like Thrive Market is a good place, Amazon has some of this as well, and you can mix it with the macadamia nuts and the algae.  So instead of fermentable fruit, you’ve got an easier-to-digest but still relatively dense and also, you can argue a more ancestral kind of root-based carbohydrate source along with the huge amount of calories you get from the mac nuts, and the saturated fats, and the slow bleed of energy from the mac nuts, and then the nutrients from the algae.

Craig:  Yeah.  That sounds phenomenal.  That sounds like a gorp I need to put together.  I love plantains too.  I love plantains.

Ben:  Call it “good gorp”.

Craig:  [laughs] Yeah.  I guess another term, I guess the more common term for is trail mix.  I don’t know where the term gorp came from.  That’s what I first heard, but it’s also called trail mix.  So, any combination of the things that we just discussed, that you just mentioned and I mentioned a minute ago, would constitute trail mix or gorp.  But I like what you described better.  It sounds like a healthier fuel source.  So, that’s something I think I’ll build up.  I also have to resupply on this trip.  I have to go in with about 15, 20 pounds of food, and after about a hundred, 120 miles, somewhere right in around there, I have a resupply coming in.  So, I’ll be having to resupply twice.

Ben:  How do they get you your resupply on these trips?

Craig:  In this case, the trail, it’s not a trail.  I don’t want to call it that ’cause it’s definitely not a look-at-the-ground-and-walk, it’s a look-up-at-peak-to-peak.  It’s like a waypoint hike, if you will.  So, you got to navigate from waypoint to waypoint, looking up at peaks and figuring out how to get to the next waypoint.  Nothing’s a straight line. Most of it’s not a straight line.  Most of it’s, “Okay.  There it is,” five miles out or three miles out, and I got to figure out how to get there.  So, it’s up, and down, and around, and over.  But at about the 120-mile point, I’ll go through a place called Red’s Meadows, it’s in the mammoth area, so I’ll have a box waiting.  I’ll forward a box there, have my brother forward me a box when I’m about five days into the hike.  It’ll be sitting there, waiting for me.  I’ll show up there basically on vapor, no fuel at all, resupply, and then get back out there.

And speaking of resupply, this is a pain in the butt ’cause a lot of this stuff has to be put into a bear canister ’cause I’m going through bear country.  Fortunately, not brown bear country.  It’s just black bear country.  But if you know the story, and a lot of people don’t, grizzly bear’s bad news.  We all know that, and a lot of people don’t understand how bad news black bear are.  The difference between them, and certainly no guarantees here, but you have probably a better chance of surviving a grizzly bear attack if you know how to behave with a grizzly bear than you do if a black bear decides to attack.
Ben:  No kidding?

Craig:  That’s a fact.  That’s a hard, stone cold, ugly fact.  If a black bear decides to attack, which they rarely do, that’s the upside of being around black bears, that they just they just don’t attack.  But when they do, you have to fight for your life.  They fight to kill.  Grizzly bear, on the other hand, are 10 times stronger.  They’re tanks.  They’re brutal.  They’re tough as hell, as you know.  Story after story, you’ve heard about people getting mauled and surviving because the old story of you play dead with a with a grizzly bear is true.  And they tend to, not always, but they tend to leave you alone and go away, or maybe, and here’s the worst part of it, if you do survive a grizzly bear attack, the worst thing that can happen is they’ll, after they think you’re dead, they’ll drag you off the trail, they’ll cover you with sticks, and branches, and stuff, but they still tend to go away and then come back later to have their meal.  And it’s at that point, you just get up and go, and I mean go.  So, with a grizzly bear, in fact, you play dead.  You do everything you can to not threaten it and play dead.  And with a black bear, you fight for your life ’cause, like a polar bear, they’re just going to kill you.  Ain’t that weird?

Ben:  Dang.  That’s interesting.  I hope the black bears don’t have a taste for macadamia nuts and plantains, or I may have just completely screwed you.  Are you doing, and actually, before I ask you this question, I should clarify.  For those of you who do not know Craig, I just took for granted that you would know him because this is his fourth time on my show.

Craig:  I think it’s the fifth.

Ben:  Is it the fifth?

Craig:  It’s the fifth.

Ben:  Really?  I’ll put a link to all of Craig’s past episodes on the on the show.  But in a nutshell, 30 second overview, Craig is a former extremely high-level competitive swimmer who shifted into climbing and altitude training, and at the same time launched a nutrition supplement company called BioTropic that I discovered a few years ago.  And I now use and load with his supplements before I go to races.  It’s kind of like beet juice on steroids.  He’s got chlorella, and he’s got echinacea, and he’s got different forms of algae, different forms of liver extract.  Basically everything that you’d need to legally dope your blood without actually using erythropoeitin, when you combine his supplements with some of the proven ways you that can train for altitude, including hypoxia training, of course just going to altitude and training, and even doing, I do a lot of this high-heat sauna training, which we’ve talked all about before in previous episodes, how to kind of biohack altitude training, it’s incredibly potent.  Like his stuff is a fantastic one-two combo for anybody who wants to boost the blood, and it also works really well for anything for which you’d need like kind of a full body Viagra effect, including sex.  Your supplements are good pre-sex as well.

Craig:  I’ve had people comment on that.  I never bring it up, but it’s true.

Ben:  Yeah!  They’re like boner pills, basically.  Except they’re, again, without the Viagra and the prescription thrown in.  Well basically, that’s the skinny on Craig.  Is that a good 30 second overview, Craig?

Craig:  That’s good.  I did build these products around my own experience, when I was training for a couple of Olympic teams.  So, they were built with blood development, blood oxygenation, and red blood cell development in mind.  And so, what you’re just saying about, what Ben’s saying about the, well, let’s say the ED effect is sort of a pleasant aftereffect, an unintended but good consequence of this product.  I never had that in mind, but it did work out that way.

Ben:  Yeah.  You just got to build it in sound effects.  You open up the capsule and it’ll will give you a little boing-oing-oing-oing.  Anyways though, go listen to Craig’s previous shows if you want a deep-deep dive into the ingredients of his supplements, into his background.  Just go to bengreenfieldfitness.com/cleanup.  That’s bengreenfieldfitness.com/cleanup because again, we’re going talk a little bit about some of the calcium carbonate, and dicalcium phosphate, and micro crystalline cellulose, and some of these other things you might see in your supplements that we’re going to have conversation around ’cause I wanted to ask Craig about this.  I noticed he was starting to clean up his own brand, and so I figured it’d be high time to get him on the podcast to talk about this.  But we digress.  You’re doing this climb, 200 miles at altitude, 9,000, 12,000 feet.  We talked about some of the nutrition considerations. You’re navigating via map and compass.  So, like you mentioned, it’s only waypoints.  So, it’s pretty serious, pretty rough.  Black bears thrown into the mix as well.  Talk to me about how you’re training for this thing in terms of, not the nutrition piece, which we kind of touched on, but more like the training, or even, if we want to go here, I know it annoys some people when I bring this up, but even like biohacks and things you’re doing to speed up the process.

Craig:  Yeah.  Well, look.  I tend to be a bit insane about my training.  And what I do, no one has to do this way.  And I know you and I have some differences on training philosophy, but I just come from a background that was unkind and brutal as a swimmer.  That’s just the way it is.  There’s nothing when you’re trying to make an NCAA team or an Olympic team, an Olympic trials event that’s kind.  There’s nothing smiling about the sport of swimming.  It’s a hard sport.  It’s an unkind sport.  And that’s my background, that’s what I’m used to.  I’m used to being beat up.  So, with that sort of background, and one other backdrop here, I went on a hike several years ago.  I got really interested in this high-altitude training and hiking ’cause my brother’s a Class 5 climber.  He’s been climbing as long as I’ve been swimming.  And I read Krakaure’s book, “Into Thin Air”, and I was fascinated and really a bit surprised at the personality types that did that kind of climbing up Everest and back.  I thought they were crazy and insane and couldn’t understand them at all.  ‘Cause it’s one thing to, jeez, I mean, it’s one thing to train for an event, it’s another thing to want to get to the top of Everest.  It’s hard stuff, and it takes months, and it’s very expensive.

But after a while, I just got more and more intrigued, and I called up my brother and said, “Hey, let’s let’s go up the Grand together.  I want you to take me up on your next hike.”  And the short version of that story is, I don’t think I’ve told you this story, but the very short version of that story as he said, “Yeah.  Just show up you don’t need to train or anything.  You were once a world-class athlete.”  I said to him, “Gee.  That doesn’t make sense.  I think you got to train for this stuff.  You can’t just show up and do it.”  And he kept assuring me everything would be fine.  Well, the bottom line is it wasn’t fine.  I did listen to him, I didn’t follow my own good instincts and my own good judgment, and I showed up and I just got the crap beat out of me by the mountain.  I couldn’t handle it.  I knew 10 steps in.  And these are straight up mountains.  They start with trails, and then eventually they go a bit off trail, and you’re in scree, and you’re in talus and granite boulders, and big rocks, and stuff like that.  It gets hard.  The bottom line is it just screwed me up bad.  I was out of shape.  I couldn’t handle it.  I had 50, 60 pounds on my back.  And I never forgot that experience and went back to training really, really hard for these events.

So that’s a backdrop to explain why I do it the way I do it now.  No one needs to do it the way I do it.  I’m a bit insane this way.  So, I’ll swim about, ’cause that’s my background, and just for conditioning and lung work, I do about 3,000 thousand yards a day and a master’s program here in Texas.  I train in Texas, which is hill country.  It’s not flatten, but it sure as heck isn’t California or where you live.  You’ve got great mountains around you that can really, really get you trained for this sort of event.  So, I don’t have that going on.  I have to kind of find every way I can to replicate the difficulty.  So, what I do is 3,000 yards a day, five days a week.  I get into the gym three days a week, but with a trainer because I need to be pushed beyond my capability.  I do not like to, in the pool, I can’t, my capability, no one can spot you, no one can push you.  They can just yell at you and you work as hard as you can do.  But in the gym, I hire a trainer to push me beyond my capabilities and there’s a reason for that.  If I don’t like it, there’s nothing about it I like.  I just learned at the alternative is worse.  So I’d rather do to pain now and make the training inglorious, so that when I get to my event, it’s a glorious event.  And then lastly, so, I swim hard five days a week, I’ll get in the gym three days a week and train very, very hard, lot of leg work.  Tons of leg work, deadlifts, squats, and stuff like that.

But then I have a training backpack, and I currently, I’m walking with about 70 pounds on my back, which is more than I’ll carry.  I’ll go out into the back country with somewhere right around 30 pounds.  And so, I’ll do, on the weekend, a 10-mile, 70-pound weighted hike in hill country.  And I can make it tough.  Even though it’s not mountainous, I can make it very, very hard here.  There are difficult climbs here to do, despite the fact they’re only hills, but you can make it hard.  And then during the week I’ll shorten that up and I’ll drop the weight down to about 50 pounds and do two, three-mile hikes.  So, three, three, and ten on the hike, swimming and in the gym.  And then I won’t taper for this event.  I’ll train hard right up to the event because I’m going to be out there, it’s going to take me about two to two and a half, let’s just say two to three weeks to complete it.  So, I figure I’ll let my body begin to taper and rest on the trail.  So, I’ll go in tired.  And that’s what my training looks like.  Again, I do it that way because that time…
Ben:  I don’t get that.  Why would your body taper and rest when you’re already out there at altitude, beating yourself up?

Craig:  Well, it’s true that it’s going to be tough at altitude.  I’m going to have some oxygen issues up there.  It’s definitely going to be a lot of vertical and it’s going to put a lot of work on my body.  But I know my body really well, and I’ve done this kind of training before for this specific type of event, when I went back to the Grand because I got spit off the mountain so hard and so embarrassingly that I went and did what I believed I knew best for my body and trained just the way I’ve described to you, and they end up being just glorious events.  When I say taper, let me, it’s a great question, by the way.  You put that really well.  Let me just dial that in a little bit.  When I mean taper, what I mean is when you back off that kind of work, 15,000 yards a week, 15 miles of very hard, heavy hiking and gym work, your body does go through some amount of rest. Now it’s true, some of that is mitigated by the fact that you’re now climbing straight up and down up at altitude and dealing with oxygen issues, but the net result has historically been, boy, I love this question because you’re making me really think hard about what’s coming up here, historically, that type of training does wonders for me and the event ends up being, I can almost ultra-run.  That’s a bit of an exaggeration.  I can almost run the mountains when I train that way.

But you’ve hit the nail on the head and I have to really, really think about this too because this is the first time I’m going to be going into a situation where my work is not measured in miles.  So, I mention 10 miles, and three miles, and stuff like that.  But it on this particular walk, as I like to call it in the mountaineering community, it’s all about the vertical, not the miles.  The miles will be dictated by how much vertical I can do on a daily basis, and the degree of angle, the degree of incline.  So, all of that adds up to, at the end of the day, you look at your vertical and you see what the miles are and that’s how you begin to figure out what your average is going to be.  So, it’s a whole new way of thinking about it.  So, that’s a really, really good question, and something that’s new to me and took me a second to realize, this is not like going up the Grand like I used to do. This is a whole different ball of wax, even though the Grand is basically straight up and straight down, that’s a three-day event.  This is a…

Ben:  Yeah.  The reason I ask you, one of the best pieces of advice, I think Peter Reid, who won a whole bunch of Ironman triathlons back in the day, he gave me this advice. We were teaching a cycling camp together.  He said, “It’s better to go into the race or the event 1%,” how did he put it. Oh, yeah, “10% undertrained versus 1% overtrained.”  It’s better to go in 10% undertrained versus 1% overtrained.”  Time and time again, I’ve had my best events when I feel like, dude, I got sick two weeks ago going into the race, and didn’t get the training in I wanted to get in.  I go forced to rest ’cause I was travelling too much, my kids had a bunch of stuff going on so I couldn’t work out going to this race, couldn’t do the stereotypical panic training, and the race just turns out way better.  Your legs are light as a feather and you’re totally tapered and super compensated.

Craig:  Yeah.  I think that’s really good point.  And also, one, I think is worth taking a minute at least from my point of view, to talk about.  I love that idea.  When I think of 10% undertrained, what that means to me, or how I would think about it or approach that, is come off training, begin a tapering process that’s event-specific so that you go in, as you’re pointing out, somewhat rested.  That’s critical and I agree with that.  And the term “overtraining” is a bit of a misnomer.  And so when I use the term “overtraining”, I sort of use it is a very loose term, meaning I train really hard, but I don’t overtrain. ‘Cause overtraining is a really important, it’s a technical word in sports.  And if you overtrain, you’re exhausted, you can’t get anything done.  Tapering doesn’t really work, you’re beat up, you’re exhausted, and you don’t have a good event if you overtrain.  I’ve had friends do that.  They’ve been kicked out of work out by the team physicians for three or four days to just rest and come back around.  So there is such a thing as, I’ll just call it for now “true overtraining”, which is detrimental and no amount of tapering fixes that.  You just have to rest and then come back to training.

Whereas what I do, which is, just say tons of volume training, but I always know how to train inside, let’s say, the envelope so that I don’t move to that point where, like what you just described and what Reid just described, doesn’t happen to me.  So, in other words, because it’s two weeks long, because it’s not a day event, if it was a day event, I’d taper for this, I’d back off.  I’d start backing off two weeks out big time.  I’d be backing off and I’d go in just like you described.  He calls it 10% undertrained, I’d prefer to think of it as tapered, which in a way is you’ve reduced training and you’re not at your, the tricky thing about tapering is, what people don’t understand is that you’re not at your mid-season best or at your highest level of training.  You can’t lift as much, you can’t maybe run as far when you’re tapered.  But again, if it’s event-specific, you’re going to have like what you do, a world-class event, your best run, your best bike ride because you’re lean, you’re clean, everything is rested.  The rest is critical.  And you’re going to have the best event possible if you’re tapered properly.  So I would do that if it was a day or two event, or even a three-day event.  But because it’s such a long event, I think I got to go in tired and just figure it out.  So, some of this is an experiment for me.  I’ve never done it this way before.  I’m looking forward to it.

Ben:  Yeah.  So, there’s zero trails.  Does that mean you’re basically just bushwhacking?

Craig:  It’s effectively zero, to be really, really clear, it’s roughly 200 miles.  It starts on a trail that’s about, I think, five miles long.  And then from that point, you go off-trail.  And about, if I remember correctly, about 30 miles of the 200 miles does go back on trail.  It’ll pick up the PCT, the Pacific Crest Trail, and the John Muir trail, and a couple of obscure trails for just a minute here and there because on those spots on this particular route, the guy who invented this route way back in the ’70s, those areas that end up going on trail are because the terrain is so rough, it’s not recommended to go any further.  So he found a way to circumvent what would end up being Class 5 climbing, which I’m not interested at all in doing, rope, carabiner, and rappelling, and all that stuff.  And I wouldn’t do that alone anyway.  So, this is designed to be something that you can do for 200 miles and, while difficult, I mean some people, I think I sent you an article that someone wrote, calling it “The Hardest Hike in America”.

Ben:  You sent me that article, and I want to link to that.  If folks go to bengreenfieldfitness.com/cleanup, it’s a really great article on Gizmodo written by this guy that not only did it, but kind of, he spelled out a lot of the gear that he used as far as the GPS, and the watches, and everything that he used to actually do the event, some really good links to maps.  If you’re listening in and your heavy into hiking and you want to try something like this out, it’s a great article.  So I’ll link to that one in the show notes.  It’s called “The Hardest Hike in America”.

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Ben:  Anyways, though.  So, yeah, it is interesting what you say about the super compensation and the overreaching and then bouncing back or tapering, Craig.  I don’t know if you track this stuff, but I’ve been using the OURA ring lately, and you could use a heart rate variability app, you could use body temperature tracking, you can even use these pulse oximeters that track your oxygen.  But the idea is that, for example, when I sit around for a few days going into a race, I only do some walks, a little bit of sauna, some swimming, some easy elastic band-work, stuff like that, I see my body temp during the night drop, I see my heart rate variability, especially during the night, ’cause this thing takes five minute measurements all during the night, that goes up, I see my actual heart rate decrease which goes along with the body temperature decreasing.  And then if you take your pulse oximetry, which is very easy to do, I’ve got a little pulse oximeter here on my desk, it climbs from 97, to 98, to 99 as your body builds all these new red blood cells after it’s no longer getting beat up and they have a chance to, in a sense catch up, it’s actually very cool and very easy to see what happens when you taper the right way.  And it’s also interesting to see what happens when you ignore it going low.  You can predict injury or illness pretty accurately.  So, it’s kind of cool what happens to the body and also cool that we live in a day and age where you can track it pretty intensively.  Do you use any of these self-qualification devices, by the way?

Craig:  You’re busting me and you’re outing me here.  I don’t and I need to.  I’m starting to move into some of this other technology.  I guess a lot of what I do is just sort of been the way I’ve done it.  Doesn’t make it right and it’s not complete, but I need to do that stuff.  So, that’s a great piece of advice.

Ben:  Yeah.  Well, what you have been doing is you’ve been cleaning up your supplements.  I want to talk about this.  So, you’ve got all these formulas and you wrote to me until you kind of optimized the formulas, and you kept the same amount of ingredients.  ‘Cause you have your Oxcia, which is the one that buffers lactic acid and increases oxygen delivery, and then the other one’s the chlorella for the immune system and the red blood cell production, and then also your AFA, which also has the liver in it which is great for again, red blood cells, blood flow, hormones, and the immune system, but these were originally tablets.  I actually used to chew ’em.  Like you would send me these bottles, and I’d just throw ’em in my mouth and chew ’em like a meal.  Tell me about why you switched to capsules, which is what I, for example, I broke open and put into my smoothie this morning.

Craig:  Yeah.  Another great question here.  There are two reasons for this, and it really began a couple years ago when I got some feedback from some of the ladies saying, “Gee, Craig.  It’s a big tablet.  Is there any way you can cut it back?”  And I said, “I’ve got to do that research and figure it out and see if there’s a way to do that that makes sense.”  And then I got some feedback from some other customers that said this stuff really works.  I have two, they’re not sponsored, but they’re two professionally-sponsored athletes that use, like you that use the products and have done the blood test, the blood work on it, and they’re very serious, they’re no-nonsense.   They don’t say what isn’t so, at least for them.  Again, I always speak in terms of one’s own individual experiences.  What’s true for me may not be true for you and so on.  So, I’d like to be really transparent about all of this.  So speaking certainly for myself and them, and maybe to some degree for you too, they did the blood work, they have to do the blood work, and they’re tested by these governing bodies all the time, and they’re getting phenomenal uptake, and they were getting the same result I get which I do get a bump in red blood cell production, I do get, when I do my chlorella formula with the echinacea, when I’m disciplined about it, I get colds way less often.

So, I knew that the formula is really good and I didn’t want to do anything to impact that.  So I talked to my manufacturer and said, “Look.  How much of what’s in my formula is binders that hold it all together?”  And by the way, a lot of people, of those people too, I would say what you do, I say, “Look.  Blend it up in a blender, or crush it up into a drink, or eat it.”  And did it wasn’t bad tasting at all.  You could taste most of the ingredients, not the binders.  But I had a few people say, “Gee, I just prefer not to have that stuff in there.”  So I looked up all of these ingredients, and I suppose there’s some discussion on the kinds of things that bind my ingredients together, or ingredients in general in many, many supplements which have the ingredients I’ve taken out…

Ben:  Yeah.  Like magnesium stearate, and sodium selenate, and titanium dioxide, and all this stuff.

Craig:  Yeah.  Very common.  And I thought, “Well, what if I could get a cleaner uptake?”  So anyway, I talked to my manufacture and said, “How much of the formula is actually to get that one milligram pill, is actual binder,” and it was 40% of it.  And I said, “Hell.  Get rid of it, clean it up.  People would like not to have it, many people wish not to have it.”  And so, I said, “Just take it out.  Let’s move to a capsule and purify it.”  So, now when you take it, you’re just getting pure clean ingredient.  As I call it, my own term, competitive uptakes.  So in other words, the calcium carbonate, the dicalcium phosphate, these are the things that were taken out.  Microcrystalline cellulose, stearic acid, here’s one I’m not all that familiar with, croscarmellose sodium, whatever that is, silicon dioxide and pharmaceutical glaze, all gone.  So there’s just no reason, it’s not stuff that’s going to hurt you, but there’s no reason to have it in there and I’d rather create a product that’s cleaner, and more optimized, and has better uptake, and gives you a better hit.  And that’s exactly…

Ben:  The sodium croscarmellose, that’s an emulsifier.  It’s used to make the ingredients kind of mix together a little bit better.  And emulsifiers are pretty common in a lot of these supplements, but ultimately, the more you can take out, the better.  But I want to take a little bit more of kind of a deep dive into a few of these ingredients, like dicalcium phosphate.  So, that bulks out tablets.  I know it’s not very well-absorbed or used by the body.  It’s like this cheap inorganic form of calcium.  A lot of people see calcium and they just assume that calcium is in there, so must be good for you.  But it’s inorganic, it’s inexpensive, and your body doesn’t actually absorb it.  So if anything, one I’ve noticed that that tends to cause in people, and they eat a lot of this in their supplements, is constipation.  The high levels of the calcium carbonate and dicalcium phosphate, you don’t have to worry too much in my opinion, about excessive calcification in the bloodstream and arterial calcification, things like that because a lot of it doesn’t get absorbed all.  It just kind of sticks around the gut, but that’s where you get the issues with constipation.  So, that’s one reason that I was kind of happy to see that the calcium carbonate and dicalcium phosphate was taken out of there.  Now what about the cellulose?  A lot of people just say the cellulose is basically microcrystalline cellulose.  It’s a fiber.  Did you just take that out to have a smaller capsule or what was your reasoning behind the cellulose piece?

Craig:  Well, I took it all of it out for two reasons.  So yes, you heard what I said in the beginning there.  Some of the people didn’t like the size of it.  So it got me, and it’s not that much smaller interestingly, but got smaller capsule, and it just made sense to me that if I could get 100% pure ingredient here and get a slightly better hit, or any better hit at all, from just having pure ingredient in there, then it meant everything should have to go.  And that was the thinking behind all of it, the microcrytalline cellulose and everything.  None of this stuff is necessarily bad for you or bad for you at all, but why not just get the purest, cleanest hit you can possibly get.  And again, speaking for myself, the change, I feel a slightly better hit.  I can’t say that I get a massive hit, but I do get a change, I do get a better hit, and some of the sponsored racers that did the blood work got a better.  And that’s why I…

Ben:  What do you I mean better hit?

Craig:  A stronger effect from it.

Ben:  Okay.  Gotcha.

Craig:  Get a stronger effect from it.

Ben:  Okay, yeah.  The cellulose is totally indigestible.  That’s why I wasn’t too concerned about the, I don’t get too concerned about, usually it’s called cellulose or microcrystalline cellulose on capsules.  So that one, I’m not as concerned about as the calcium but then you also took out titanium dioxide.  And that’s interesting, because they’ve actually shown titanium dioxide to be a potential carcinogen, and it’s in a ton of supplements.  In rodents studies, there’s a direct link between titanium dioxide and respiratory tract cancer.  But it’s used in freakin’ toothpaste, it’s used in supplements, it’s used in pharmaceutical compounds.  And again, if you’re taking, I know a lot of listeners do this, they’re taking 10, 15 different supplements, you’re looking at a lot of titanium dioxide.

Craig:  It’s just better, I think, my own opinion, I just think it’s better to get as clean as you can and that’s the whole idea behind optimization.  Just making this a pure ingredient formula.  The only thing in there that’s not a pure ingredient would just be, now we have a gelatin capsule.  And at some point here, we’ll get vegan option here too.  But what I say at…

Ben:  Oh, because the gelatin is derived from animals.

Craig:  Right.  So what I tell people, but we do in fact, have a vegan formula too in this regard.  Just do what you did with capsules, just crush it up or open up the capsules and pour it into your water, pour it into your drink…

Ben:  I didn’t even think about that.  So when I do that, I’m not actually getting the gelatin?  So technically, I could do, well, I’m using the bone broth anyways, so it doesn’t matter.  But if I were vegan or vegetarian, you could literally just open it up and ditch the capsule.  But have you formulated these to take into consideration the acidic environment of the stomach?  Is it necessary for it to be a time-release capsule or something like that for people who break open capsules?

Craig:  That’s another really good question.  I haven’t given that thought because, as I was creating this stuff and how it worked on me didn’t dictate that I had to think in those terms, but that’s something worth putting some thought into.  But, no.  That didn’t go into this because, for me, historically, when I take this stuff, I get the hit I want when I want it, which is usually within 20 or 30 minutes of taking it.  And I never thought of it in terms of a time-released formula that would last throughout the day.  Remember, I come from a sprint background.  So, I want to get the best hit I can just ahead of my event.  So whether it’s training for two hours or hiking, I’ll have to do it every day when I’m hiking several times a day.  But that’s how I looked at.  I never looked at it in terms of the time-released…

Ben:  Yeah.  I know for probiotics, that’s important.  For probiotics, breaking ’em open and dumping them a lot of times, they’re not going to survive the acidic nature of the stomach.  There are a few others are like that.  Usually they’re like some type of gut compound or gut formula that you want to wind up in the small intestine or the large intestine a little bit more intact.  But in most cases, it’s a moot point to break it open unless, again, it’s like a probiotic or a gut-type of support compound.  Another one that was in there was magnesium stearate.  Magnesium stearate.  That one we see a lot in as well as a binder in nutraceutical and pharmaceutical products, the research I’ve seen on that one kind of goes back and forth.  The only compelling study I’ve seen was a slight suppression of immune function and it can cause a little bit of gastric distress in some people especially, again, if they’re doing a lot of magnesium, meaning they’re taking a lot of supplements.  ‘Cause if you’re taking a handful, heck, I know some anti-aging enthusiasts who’re taking 70 to 80 capsules a day of a wide variety of things.  Then you’re talking about literally like tablespoons of magnesium stearate if you’re going that route.  And in my opinion, you get to the point where you do really want to take into consideration at that point the amount of magnesium stearate or even the amount of calcium carbonate or dicalcium phosphate that you’re consuming.  So, for that, I think it just kind of depends on how much that you’re actually getting.

Craig:  I think that’s a really good point too.  That, along with the, as you mentioned earlier, the calcium carbonate and dicalcium phosphate.  I think where the antagonist, and some people, very, very few, but very few people would say, “Gee.  I love the product, Craig, but I’m having a little bit of a digestive issue with it.”  And it took me some time to figure out that those were likely the culprits. And so, gone.  They’re just gone.  And again, it just made more sense to create a product that’s as clean and natural all the way through that delivers pure energy and just rid myself of all of these things. And so, it’s a much better product today than it was yesterday.

Ben:  Silica was one of the last ones that was in there that I know you took out.  That’s another one that I don’t worry about too much.  Actually, silica is one that, some people will take that as a supplement for bone and collagen formation, and skin and nail health, and typically it’s on the label as silica or silicone dioxide, compared to some of the calcium diphosphates, and calcium ingredients, and some of these other things that can cause some gut distress like high levels of magnesium stearate.  Silicone is not one that I worry about too much.  What I like though is that it’s just a super clean capsule now when I look at the label.  So, in terms of what’s actually in there, are there any excipients, or fillers, or anything like that?  And if so, how do you even pull that off?  Why would somebody even put extra ingredients into a gelatin capsule if they weren’t necessary?  Like are there disadvantages to taking all this stuff out?

Craig:   No.  Not at all.  As I understand it and see it, researched, talked about it, I mean, I did this for a long time before I made the move.  From my point of view, how about zero disadvantage, and how about 100% advantage because, again, you’re just getting clean, pure ingredient now.  That’s the only thing your digestive tract is working on uptaking instead of working any of this other filler ingredients.  So, no.  It’s all upside as far as I know.  I always defer to your expertise and people of your level.  You’re way up the curve on the science side of this stuff.  But, no.  No downside.

Ben:  I mean, when I went to Thorne, and I toured their facilities, they told me that a lot of this stuff, some of these anti-caking agents, for example, those are added to stop the ingredients from clogging up the machines.  I mean, are you destroying factories with these things now?  Or do people not care about that?

Craig:  [laughs] No.  I’m not destroying machines, and factories are surviving me.  So, no.  We’re not having any difficulty with that at all.  And plus, the product is meant to be used, I mean, it could sit on the shelf for as long as the lot numbers in, or I think it’s good for two years under these current conditions, where I think the tablets might have been good for longer.  But I just preferred to have people using the product, taking it when they need it.  And anyone who’s sitting it on the shelf for over a year probably isn’t going to be using it anyway.  So, no, we’re not breaking machines, and factories are surviving me, and it’s holding together just fine.  And maybe just a shorter shelf life as a result of it, but…

Ben:  Yeah.  I was going to say a lot of these things are preservatives and they do allow for a little bit better, not only the ability of the ingredients to stick together, or to make swallowing easier, or that type of thing, or to maintain power consistency, but it’s to save ingredients from spoiling.  And what you’re saying is you may have shortened the life of your ingredients a little bit.

Craig:  Yeah.  And the trade off, again, is a cleaner, purer ingredient with a better hit as I as I see it, believe it, and felt it.  And as I say, if something’s going to be sitting on the shelf for five years, probably you’re not training anymore, you’re not doing much of anything.  So I feel like it was a minor trade off to get a better product that a few years on the shelf as opposed to five years on the shelf.

Ben:  So, how much of this stuff are you taking, going into this this hardest hike in America that you’re doing?

Craig:  Look, you’ve been a big inspiration to me.  Part of the reason I’m doing this is because you’re out there doing big stuff, and I said, “Gee, Ben’s an inspiration.  I need to do something big here.”  But I’ve always wanted to hike these long-haul hikes anyway, like the AT, the Pacific…

Ben:  I don’t know, man.  I’m doing hour-long Spartan races.  You’re going on a multiple, how many days is this thing going to take?

Craig:  Don’t dismiss it.  I’m not buying that.  Neither is the audience.  You’re a bad boy and we all know it.  This is about a two-week event.  It depends on how many miles I can do…

Ben:  Geez.  I haven’t done anything like that.

Craig:  Well, look.  Maybe not like this, but I think things are mostly relative.  So the stuff you’re doing, I can’t do.  I couldn’t train for a Spartan event and get through that stuff.  It’ll blow me away.  That’s tough.  What you’re doing is hard stuff.  You have my admiration.  I don’t know how you do it.  This is not quite like what you do, I think.  I’m not saying that training is an art, I’m not saying it’s not a difficult event, and I’m not saying that doing 7,000 or 5,000 vertical feet a day is easy.  It isn’t.  But I think what you do is harder.  I honestly, honest to God, think what you do is harder.  So the way I’m training for it, and so the other inspiration I’ve gotten from you, maybe I was an accidental hacker way back in the day when I was constructing this stuff.  I didn’t think of it that way, I was just trying to selfishly find something that would give me a competitive edge.  And so, these compilations came together and, for me, they worked. And so, today, things are a little different.  I got you out there hacking away and your creme de la creme group doing the same thing, and I thought, “Well, I’m going to be up here between 9 to 12,000 feet, AFA has the heavy iron content in it, and iron is a precursor, it’s a huge important ingredient for red blood cell production and energy, and that’s the AFA product.

So the way I’m looking at this is really the way I recommend most athletes do it coincidentally, but I’ll switch it up when I get out there, which is I’ll probably take three of these things, the AFA right out of the gate in the morning when I start to hit the trail, probably somewhere, let’s say that’s six, seven in the morning, somewhere around 10 or 11, I’ll drop Oxcia to get some more vasodilation and some better oxygen delivery.  And later in the day, I’ll do the chlorella.  That’s been my routine.  That’s worked for my chemistry really, really well.  I may switch that around up there and see what happens.  I may start off with Oxcia to get the immediate vasodilation, to get the bigger blood flow and the bigger oxygen delivery right out of the gate, but I really want to take advantage of the AFA product also because of the iron in it, the desiccated liver in it, and also because of AFA’s properties for repair, for muscle repair.  So, I’m going to be in an environment that’s brutal, and hard, and tough, and I’m going to need a…

Ben:  AFA being the aquae-flos algae?

Craig:  Yes, correct.

Ben:  Am I pronouncing that right?  Aquae-flos?

Craig:  Uhuh.

Ben:  Yeah.  So, back to training for a second.  When you’re strapping on the 70-pound backpack and you’re going out and doing your rocking, for me especially, when I was training for events like the Ultra Beast World Championships for Spartan and Tahoe, and some of these events where you’re climbing for a long period of time, I didn’t want to damage my knees from doing the downhill component ’cause what goes up must come down, unless you had a helicopter or a car at the top to pick you.  So I would use this Nordic Track incline training.  It goes up to a 40% incline.  Are you using anything like a stairmill, or an incline trainer, or, actually, another one, you know who swears by this is LeBron James.  He has this, a whole bunch of folks in Hollywood use it now, they get super fast results, training to put on muscle or lose fat pretty quickly.  As a matter of fact, I think that in all of his different houses across the country, LeBron James has one of these, and it’s the VersaClimber.  I know a lot of climbers use this as well.  Do you use the VersaClimber, or an incline trainer, or anything like that?

Craig:  Man, I’ve use that stuff so much in the past, and I’ll come back to a phrase I’ve been using a little bit in this conversation here, which is “event specific”.  So, the answer is no.  And the reason is that, it’s really phenomenal training.  The problem is in both cases, it’s straight ahead training.  Meaning that if you’re on a treadmill, no matter what the angle is, no matter how hard you make it, you’re walking a straight line and there’s no variation in the ground there.  And it’s the same thing with the VersaClimber.  I recommend both for adjunct training or ancillary training, cardio training, conditioning training, but you have to get out there when you’re going into this kind of environment, when the ground is unstable, meaning there are boulders, there’s granite, huge giant granite slabs, and talus, and the ground is moving, and rock formations everywhere.  As I say, it’s only about 30 miles of the actual trail.  The rest is all like I’ve just described.

So, I gotta get out there and I’ve got to find places that can get as close to replicating the real thing.  You don’t have to go as heavy as I go.  I do think when you’re doing what I’m doing here, you should be training at a minimum up to the weight you’re carrying.  I just like to go in, I like to train hard and heavy and then go in light.  So, no.  I think those are great, great ways to train.  But I think it’s a mistake, if you’re doing a trail, I think that’s fine.  I think there’s nothing wrong with doing a trail where it’s mostly dirt.  There’s still going to be some unstable terrain there, but mostly dirt and well-trodden and hammered down, I think that VersaClimber‘s phenomenal, hard, hard training.  I try to avoid the VersaClimber, to tell you the truth.  I was there when it came out and it frightened me then, and it frightens me today, and I sort of look at it as some sort of monolith.

Ben:  It’s good, man.  It came out in 1981.  The year I was born, actually.

Craig:  Yeah.  It’s a tough, tough, tough machine.  So, I go out with weight and try to replicate groundwork, so my ankles roll and turn and I go through all of that stuff.

Ben:  Yeah.  You know what?  I kind of agree with you, but at the same time, ’cause I found that my ankles were pretty able to handle a lot of the downhill and the undulating and unpredictable terrain when I went out and did a lot of the races, especially during the year I was using that Nordic Track incline trainer a lot, I would actually use, and this sounds dumb, I don’t want to be one of those guys who just got a bunch of stuff in my basement and never gets up in the mountains, but these balance boards, I have like a FluidStance trainer here at my desk that I’ll stand on while I’m working.  And there’s another one, the BOSU obviously is another one you can stand on when you’re weight-bearing.  And then I do a lot of single-leg training, single-leg squats.  When I’m in the sauna doing my heat training, I interviewed this gal named Belisa Vranich and we talked about, was it Belisa?  No, it was Emily Splichal.  We talked about her book “Barefoot Strong” and she has all of these exercises to strengthen your ankles and the supporting musculature for your ankles while you’re just brushing your teeth or in the sauna.  And I’ll link, if you guys go to bengreenfieldfitness.com/cleanup, I’ll link to my interview with her.  But, dude. I know it sounds like a silly little biohacker doesn’t want to go outside and run downhill through the rocks, but especially if your time is limited, or you’re stuck indoors, you’re working at an office, I think that one-two combo of doing something like the incline trainer with a balance board or a balance device can get you decently strong as far as that ankle health is concerned.

Craig:  I totally agree, especially, oh, I agree with all of that, first of all.  I just sort of have a preference of trying to emulate what it is I’ll be doing, where I’m going in my training.  So, that’s the only reason why.  Plus, the fact of the matter is the VersaClimber scares the shit out of me.  I’m just being honest with you.  But that balance work you’re talking about is phenomenal.  It’s not crazy at all.  That really does, I have weak ankles. So everyone says, “Yeah.  You got to go out with trail running shoes or special hiking shoes that free up your ankle so you can move.”  And I say, “Gee.  You don’t know me and you’re wrong about that in my case.  I have to have at a minimum, mid-ankle support ’cause I roll.”  And the exercise you just described is perfect for that.  It’s just perfect.  Whether you’re brushing your teeth or doing it at your desk like you are in the gym, for strengthening ankles.  And not only are you strengthening your ankles, but you’re getting great balance work, and I deal with a lot of balance problems out there. Not internally.  Just you’re in an environment that checks your balance all the time.  So the balance board work or the ball work, really, really phenomenal for getting your balance in line and also strengthening your ankle.  Couldn’t endorse that move, really for any sport.  I think that’s great for any sport.

Ben:  Yeah.  The other thing that I should harp upon with this ankle issue, ’cause I played college tennis and just brutally destroyed my ankles.  Between that and high school basketball, like I had sprained ankles all the time growing up, and I overuse this one muscle related to the ankles now.  Whenever I get a massage, I have my massage therapist work on this because it gets super duper tight, ’cause this particular muscle, I’ll tell you about it, overworks to protect the ankles.  And when it overworks, it gets tight, it gets adhesed, and that actually affects your knee mobility.  So I get knee pain if I don’t have a massage therapist work on this area, and it’s difficult to hit yourself deep enough with a foam roller or anything else, it’s your peroneal tendon that travels up and down, the outside of the leg.  It kind of runs down the lower leg bone, the fibula, and kind of behind that bony lump on the outside of your ankle.

Craig:  And that is the part that I roll.

Ben:  Your lateral malleoulus.  Yeah.  Dude, you get deep tissue work done on that if you have ankle issues, helps tremendously.  Like whenever I get that area worked on, it’s one of the tightest, most teeth grittingly tight areas in my body.  But anybody who spends a lot time on their feet, I’m telling you, ask your massage therapist or look up a picture of the peroneal tendon, and if you can, you can try to hit it with a golf ball or that type of thing.  But man, that area for people with ankle issues is golden once you figure out how to increase mobility in the peroneal tendon.

Craig:  It’s totally true.  But another thing I wanted to, now that I’m giving it a little more thought here about you’re talking about downhill, and knees, and stuff like that, another reason why I go out there and try to replicate the real thing is in the climbing community up to Class 4, it’s really, really, really hard to replicate going downhill the way you just described.  The effect on your knees, the effect on the quads, hamstrings, glutes totally changes when you’re going downhill versus uphill.  So, I’m really good uphill and I’m not as good downhill, and it’s really, really hard to train for that in the gym, on a VersaClimber, even on an inverse incline treadmill.  You really need to do a lot of downhill work and build up to that so that you can strengthen your knees for that particular movement and get used to the rear part of your body doing the work as opposed to the front part of your body, hams, and glutes, and gastrocs as opposed to quads.

So that’s another reason why event, for this again, specifically for a lot of vertical, up and down, 7,000 up, 7,000 down.  You got to do something that gets you into a scene where you’re walking down here with weight on your back.  And just further to that point, I think of training in the back country the same way I think of training in the gym, it’s going to be in variable sets and moving up.  So, I might start very, very light just to warm up and loosen up, and just go through a series of increasing weights, using gym is an analogy here to the back country.  So, I met a guy yesterday who’s going out in seven weeks to the same area, but not the same hike, and he’s breaking in his shoes with seven weeks to go with no weight on his back at all.  I said, “Dude, you’re behind the curve, bud.”

Ben:  Geez.

Craig:  Yeah!  Exactly!  I was sort of shocked.  I said, “You got to get some weight on your back here.  You got to get 10 pounds in this week.”  So this is an example of what I tell people.  “Just do 10 pounds this week.  You have seven weeks to go, which is not a lot.  But then next week, do 20.  Then the next week, do 30.  By the time you get to 40, it’s a big jump, but you should be able to handle it.”  But steadily going up in weight over long, I’ve been training for four months now for this, so I’m ready to go now.  I wish I could just get up and go now, but my permits don’t let me into the high country until August.  So, I can’t go ’til August.  I’ll be going in August 7th and hopefully coming out sometime around August 23rd, right in around there.

Ben:  August 7th to August 23rd.  Can people track this at all?  You running like an Instagram account or anything like that?

Craig:  Yeah, yeah!  Good question!  Thanks for bringing that up.  I’m bringing in, just in case, ’cause it is very remote and I’m going solo terrain, bringing a Delorme Tracker in with me.  So, I’ll put that, I’ll send it to you so you can have it and people can log in and they can see where I’m at and what the trail looks like.  And if they’re curious about it, they can have a laugh at how long it’s taken me to get done what I thought would be done much quicker.  How about that?

Ben:  Okay.  Cool.  So, send that over to me and I’ll put a link in the show notes, which are going to be at bengreenfieldfitness.com/cleanup if any of you guys want to track Craig.  And then also, I’ll put a link to the previous episodes that I did with Craig over there and some of the other stuff we talked about in today’s show.  Everything from my breakfast smoothie/bone broth thing that I made this morning, to the BioTropic website.  I know we can get 20% off of all Craig’s supplements, use code Ben.  The AFAs, like Craig mentioned, the Flos-Aquae algae, beet root powder, cordyceps, and liver anhydrate.  If you don’t like liver, you can just take his capsules every day.  I take them every day, so I don’t have to worry that much about doing my serving of liver every week.  And then chlorella,beet root powder, cordyceps, and echinacea is in his second one, the one that’s called Chlorella.  And then then last one is called Oxcia, and that one’s malic acid and citrulline for buffering lactic acid, kind of staving off the burn. That’s another one that works really well, any time you need to get your pump on or get the blood flowing.  So, any of those three, if you guys are listening, you can get a discount with code Ben.  I’ll put a link to the show notes to Craig’s website for all that stuff.  And then you can also go over there and track Craig.  Craig, as usual, dude, it’s always interesting to talk to you and pick your brain about what you’re up to.

Craig:  Well, it’s always my pleasure.  I love talking to you.  You’re a sharp dude, and I always learn something talking to you.  So thanks for taking the time, man.  It’s been a blast.  It’s always a blast.

Ben:  Awesome.  Thanks.  And by the way, if I sounded mildly distracted during this interview…

Craig:  Yeah.  Tell ’em!  Let ’em know.

Ben:  I wasn’t distracted, but… so, I just got back last night from, where the heck was I?  It was Boise, Idaho.  Sometimes I forget where I was.  And I was racing the Spartan down there, my hotel I stayed at is this, I’m going to shove ’em under the bus, The Grove Hotel in Boise.  I got covered in bed bug bites.  And I woke up this morning, and my elbow is swollen, like the size of a baseball from all this venom that’s in my elbow, like I’ve got these little bites.  I smeared myself in myrrh and frankincense essential oil last night to kind of draw some of that out, but dude, like right now, like while we’re talking, my right arm, even my fingers are throbbing from this elbow all swollen up.  So, if anybody’s listening in and you’ve got tips for me to suck out the venom from a bed bug bite, or you can pull any sway with the Grove Hotel and tell ’em to clean up their beds, I’m all ears.  This thing’s banging in my side right now.  I’m going to have to fix this thing up.  You don’t have any supplements for that, do you?

Craig:  Give me a few weeks and I’ll get you hooked up.  I’ll come up with something.

Ben:  That’ll sell like hotcakes, the bed bug supplement.

Craig:  Someone’s gotta come up with.  Why not me?  But also, you’re being humble. What he’s all also not telling y’all is that he’s going to be on the cover of Outdoor Magazine in the coming months and doing an interview with…

Ben:  I think it’s called Outside Magazine.

Craig:  Outside Magazine!  Pardon me.  Outside Magazine.  Hey, easy slip.  But anyway, it’s a big thing and that’s really cool.  I’m looking forward to reading that article.

Ben:  Yeah.  I’m actually rushing off to an interview with them right after this.

Craig:  Okay.  Alright.

Ben:  So, again, folks, go to bengreenfieldfitness.com/cleanup.  That’s where I’ll have all the show notes.  Thanks for listening in.  And until next time, I’m Ben Greenfield and BioTropics Labs CEO, founder, crazy mad scientist inventor Craig Dinkel signing out from bengreenfieldfitness.com.

Craig:  Always fun.  Thanks a lot.  See y’all.  Buh-bye.

Ben:  Have an amazing week.



In the podcast episode “Shattering World Swim Records On 25-Piece Fried Chicken Buckets, Climbing Mountains While Eating Defatted, Vegan, Grass-Fed, Argentinian Liver Anhydrate & Much More” I interviewed athlete and supplement designer Craig Dinkel about a special blood oxygenating formula called “Biotropic”.

After that interview, I received an onslaught of questions about everything from grass-fed liver anhydrate to cordyceps senesis to hidden benefits of beetroots, the detoxification properties of algae, whether it’s really true you can get all the benefits of blood doping without actually blood doping and more.

So Craig came back to answer those questions in “Recovery For Aging Athletes, Cross-Patterning, A New Kind Of High Intensity Interval Training, An Oxygen Boosting Supplement Called “Oxcia” & More!”,

Then appeared once again in an episode on “How To Legally Dope Your Blood“.

And, yes folks, once more in A Potent Pre-Sauna Stack, How To Cleanse Your Blood Before Bed, 700%+ Endurance Increases, The Best Supplements For Altitude Performance & Much More

Today’s Craig’s back for a fifth time. He’s taking on one of the hardest hikes in America, the Sierra High Route and doing it solo, in August.  It’s an off the grid, roughly 200-mile difficult hike at altitude, between 9,000 and 12,000ft, with huge elevation gain and loss every day, along with zero trails, navigating solely via map and compass.  It’s quite serious and rough.

In this episode, you’ll hear:

Ben’s new breakfast bone broth concoction he’s been making in the mornings…5:00

-The difference between getting attacked by a black bear and grizzly bear…16:00

-What Craig is doing to prepare for his hike, and why it’s better to go into an event 10% undertrained vs. 1% overtrained…30:45

-Whether you need to worry about the following ingredients in your supplements…44:00
1) Calcium Carbonate
2) Dicalcium Phosphate
3) Microcrystalline Cellulose
4) Stearic Acid
5) Croscarmellose Sodium
6) Silicon Dioxide
7) Pharmaceutical Glaze

-The exercise machine that Lebron James and the rest of Hollywood swears by…59:00

-How to train your ankles without actually running downhill (and the one tendon to address if you have tight or injured ankles)…1:02:00

-And much more!

Episode Sponsors

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Tru Niagen Support muscle recovery, increase energy and regulate your circadian rhythm with Tru Niagen.

Resources from this episode:

-Ben’s breakfast: Kettle & Fire bone broth blended with 1 teaspoon Ant Extract, 1 teaspoon Organic Maca, 1 dropperful Omica Organic Stevia, and three capsules each of Oxcia, Chlorella and AFA from Biotropic Labs.

Organic macadamia nuts

EnergyBits spirulina and chlorella tablets

Organic plantain chips

The Oura ring

NordicTrack Incline Trainer


The Fluid Stance

The book “Barefoot Strong” by Emily Splichal (and my interview with her)

The Biotropic website for all Craig’s supplements (use code ben to get 20% discount)

Shattering World Swim Records On 25-Piece Fried Chicken Buckets, Climbing Mountains While Eating Defatted, Vegan, Grass-Fed, Argentinian Liver Anhydrate & Much More.

Recovery For Aging Athletes, Cross-Patterning, A New Kind Of High Intensity Interval Training, An Oxygen Boosting Supplement Called “Oxcia” & More!

How To Legally Dope Your Blood (Without Actually Taking Illegal Drugs).

Follow Craig on Twitter

Follow Craig on Facebook


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