[00:45] Sheer Strength Labs
[03:17] About Wim Hof
[07:45] How Wim Got Started Into What He Is Now Known For
[13:33] What Makes Wim Able To Withstand The Cold
[22:07] What Wim Does When Doing His Breath Work Prior To Something
[26:21] What Wim Did For A Specific University Study
[29:15] How Wim Taught The Breathing Technique
[45:29] Body Cooling Gear
[48:27] Wim’s Other Physical Exercises
[52:44] Wim’s Diet
[55:32] Sunlight Exposure
[1:00:11] End of Podcast
Ben: Nice. Maybe when I come over to Poland, I’ll have to bring my guitar so we can jam. I play more country music.
Wim: Okay. Music is universal, so I think we can play together.
Ben: That’s right. Cool.
Ben: Today’s episode of The Ben Greenfield Fitness Show is brought to you by Sheer Strength Labs. If you’re an athlete or you spend any time in the gym, Sheer Strength is the place for supplements and nutrition to enhance your workouts and take ’em to the next level. All of their products are backed by science and are tested for purity. I’ve personally used their testosterone booster and can definitely attest to its results. They also have one of the most potent and best tasting pre-workout powders on the market. So if you go to sheerstrengthlabs.com/greenfield, you can see some of my favorite products, you can get a stack of their best supplements at a big discount, and you can get their creatine for, brace yourself, just five bucks. So the website is sheerstrengthlabs.com/greenfield. That’s sheerstrenghtlabs.com/greenfield. Go check ’em out.
In this episode of the Ben Greenfield Fitness Show:
“Sunday morning, I was walking in a park, 17 years old, nobody was awake, and I felt attracted to the cold water. I went into this ice water, I went into it and I felt this, what I was looking for without thought, without minding about. It felt the connection within the depths of myself. And then I found out that by breathing differently, I could expose myself to the cold more, and more, and more.”
Ben: Hey, folks. Welcome to the Ben Greenfield Fitness Show. And today on the show, the Iceman is back. Who is the Iceman? His name is Wim Hof, and you may actually remember Wim from an episode that we did last year. Wim is a Dutch world record holder, he’s an adventurer, he’s a daredevil, he’s nicknamed “the Iceman” for his extreme ability to be able to withstand cold. And Wim holds 20 world records, including a world record for the longest ice bath. In 2007 I believe it was, he made a Mount Everest climbing attempt wearing nothing but shorts. And then in 2009, he reached the top of Mount Kilimanjaro in his shorts within a couple of days. He’s done a full marathon above the polar circle in Finland in temperatures close to negative 20 degrees Celsius dressed in, again, nothing but shorts. And in 2011, interestingly, he ran a full marathon in the Namib Desert without water. Now, there was recently a Vice video that was a released, an extremely popular Vice video, I will link to it in the show notes for you, and the show notes are over at bengreenfieldfitness.com/icemanreturns. And in that video, Wim demonstrates how he consciously alters his immune system activity using a combination of breath work and cold. It’s an intriguing video. I watched it just this week. And again, I’ll link to it in the show notes.
But today, you’re going to learn how the Iceman, how Wim actually consciously controls his nervous system. You’re going to learn about this latest study on the voluntary activation of the sympathetic nervous system, and the ability to be able to shut down the inflammatory response using breath work and cold, and a lot of other things that Wim and I didn’t get a chance to talk about in the other episode. Now the last thing I want to say before Wim and I take it away here is that if you really want to learn even more about the benefits of cold thermogenesis and some of Wim’s breath work protocols, please go listen to the previous episode that we did with Wim last year. And again, I’ll link to that and all the resources from this episode over at bengreenfieldfitness.com/icemanreturns. So that being said Wim, welcome to the show, man.
Wim: Thank you, thank you. I feel welcome. It was a great introduction. And I directly want actually to dive into depth of our, not only our physiology, but also about the proof scientifically. Maybe you have read, you mailed me about the congratulations on the books, on the university, the release of Biology Now, Chapter 22 about the immune systems and endocrine systems, and the title is “Testing The Iceman”. But it’s not about the Iceman anymore. It’s about you, it’s about your listeners, it’s about your neighbor, it’s about everybody being able to tap into the autonomic nervous system. And of course, up ’til now it was not known to be possible to go into the deepest layers of our physiology. We showed it now. We showed it…
Ben: And I have a link to that study in the show notes. I want to ask you more about that study in a minute. But before we even delve into that, when I watched that documentary on Vice, there were a lot of videos of you as a, I guess, a young man doing things like yoga, and breath work, and handstands, and things of that nature. Is that how you kind of got into all of this, like the voluntary activation of your nervous system and the cold exposure? Did it all start with a yoga practice? Or how did you actually get tapped into beginning to experiment with cold and breath work?
Wim: So many books I read before, I encountered this, about the autonomic nervous system. When I was 17, I already had read many, many, many books on esoteric disciplines, Buddhism, Hinduism, traditions, cultures, and languages. I was into that. And I was into yoga, I was into kung fu, and I was into karate, I was into Sufism, into dervish dancing, into tai chi, and all that. But it never could get to me for real as being a searcher, a soul searcher. I was going into all these books, and all these disciplines, and everything, but it did not really get to what I was really looking for. All that had made possible to search, and to find, and do more, and more, and more is when a Sunday morning, I was walking in a park, 17 years old, and nobody was awake. I looked around and felt attracted to the cold water. And went into this ice water, which I had a thin layer of ice beyond it. I looked around, I could undress myself, nobody was there. I was in it. I went into it. And I felt this, “This is what I was looking for,” without thought, without minding about it. It just felt great. It felt a connection within the depth of myself, and thus giving a great experience. I returned the other day and again, and again, and again. And then I found out that by breathing differently, I could expose myself to the cold more, and more, and more.
Ben: So was that just self-experimentation that allowed you to discover that breathing protocol? Or at that point in your life, had you already learned a little bit about breath work, or breathology, or yoga-style breathing? Or did you just kind of make it up as you went?
Wim: I read a whole lot about all kinds of practices, but not as they are known right now. It was far more complicated written. Like esoteric disciplines, parts of scriptures, and a yoga lifestyle of yogis living in caves, doing all kinds of practices also like Tummo in Tibet inside snow, and the mountains, and all that. Very esoteric, very far away. What I did was found out that in the back of my park in Amsterdam where there are channels, I just stayed in the water and it opened that book within me. Page number one. So actually, yeah, it’s my own experience. And I never really had a teacher to teach me. It’s the cold. The cold is my teacher. He is merciless, and he is righteous, and that’s my teacher. He opened up my physiology.
Ben: In the documentary, you say that “you find god in the cold” I think is how you phrased it. What do you mean by that?
Wim: God is there, is nature. The way nature has built us is being able to control consciously happiness, health, strength. And now we have shown this scientifically, but then to me, it was an indiscriminately feeling or “this is it”. And all that has been made up in scriptures never got to me in that state of consciousness or feeling “this is god”. They tell, “God is there and you have to buy it. And these are the rules, and these are the ethics.” And the Buddhists have a different way and the Hinduists have a different, the Jains, et cetera. And I represent, they all have different, “you have to believe this”, and “you have to believe that”. I just felt it over there. The depth of that feeling transcends all the scriptures. It’s merciless, but it’s righteous, and it taught me.
Ben: A lot of people, getting to that point about it being merciless, about cold being merciless, they would probably say that “the devil is in the cold”, not “god is in the cold” because you see so many people, they get exposed to cold, and snow, and icy showers, and cold rooms, and frankly they freak out. You get the mammalian dive reflex, and you get the uncomfortableness, and all you want to do is switch the water on the cold shower to warm, or go from a cold soak as quickly as you can into a warm bath. People get very, very uncomfortable with the cold. And I know we talked about this a little bit in the last episode that we did, but I’d like to revisit it just for a little bit on this episode. What is it about proper breathing that allows you to be able to handle the cold? What happens when you breathe the right way that allows you to be able to withstand cold temperatures that would normally be so uncomfortable?
Wim: Yes. Just now, waiting for a new analysis just on the breathing from the university. It’s coming in two weeks. So they saw, because of the breathing, we are able to tap into the brain stem, and the brain stem produces adrenaline. And because of these breathing techniques, we are able to tap in to this hormonal gland, the pineal gland, the hypothalamus, pituitary gland consciously, and produce, for example, more adrenalin lying in bed, doing this breathing techniques, more adrenalin than somebody in fear for the first time going into a bungee jump. You see what I mean? And what do you need when you are exposed to impact from cold, heat, oxygen deprivation, stress of daily life, or big stress of an accident, et cetera? We got a fight and flight reflex inside of us. We have no control. And this technique brings you back consciously in control [0:14:48] ______ reflex. It brings you back to secrete hormones in the pineal gland and the hypothalamus, which is creating this pure adrenaline lying in bed, and create or generate more adrenalin than somebody in fear for the first time going into a bungee jump. That’s like, [0:15:13] ______ . That, we do it controlled. So if you go into the cold, or the heat, or any exposure in heart nature or enormous stress, then you have to counter and to step in to this brain stem, and this is what these breathing techniques bring it all about, and you are able to withstand the extreme impact going on. And the cold, we just use to see if you are doing a good job.
Ben: When you are trying to produce adrenaline through your breath, are you hyperventilating? Meaning, are you like breathing in a bunch of oxygen and retaining a bunch of carbon dioxide, or are you doing the opposite? Are you trying to breathe off a lot of carbon dioxide and limit your oxygen? Like is it hypoxia or hyperoxia that you’re trying to achieve to get that adrenaline release?
Wim: It’s both. But there is more to it. What we do, and they saw it, monitoring in the university, what we do is first drive off carbon dioxide.
Ben: Drive off carbon dioxide?
Wim: Yes. And to bring in more oxygen because of that. It goes in freely, it roams freely throughout the body then. And then it creates a pH degree level which is higher, higher alkaline degree is going. Then at a certain point when you’re fully saturated with all the oxygen and pH level is up, we just shut off after exhalation. And we are able to do that because the body is alkaline and the body has a lot of oxygen. Then what happens? After one and a half minutes, the oxygen goes down under 100% to 90, 80, 70, 60, 50, 40, 30, then even the measurement devices existent, they shut off. They cannot measure anymore how low your saturation of oxygen in the blood is going. We see it all the time with people. What happens is that the body goes into survival mode. It goes into a deeper level in your brain, into the brain stem, the hypothalamus, pituitary gland, pineal gland, and it brings about the most effective way to go around to survive. But there is no force going on, you don’t feel agony, you don’t feel anything but, “This is nice.” And whenever you feel the urge to breathe again, breathe in fully, you keep it 10 to 15 seconds, and then your tissue even opens up more. And in the second round, and the following rounds, you will be able to state even like two, three, four minutes, five minutes without air in the lungs.
Wim: Yes! Oh, yeah! No problem. And I got women doing it seven minutes.
Ben: Interesting, interesting. Now are these the same type of techniques that free divers use to be able to hold their breath for a long time underwater?
Wim: Yes. But I don’t recommend to do it under the water. I’ve been talking to these champions into this discipline, and that’s okay. If you are an expert and you know what you do, then that’s okay. But for most people, it is not accessible and they probably will drown if they do this because they don’t understand their reflexes, the CO2 is not going up, thus you don’t feel the urge to breathe, so you stay under.
Ben: Right. Because you’ve blown off a lot of your carbon dioxide?
Wim: Yes. And that’s why I recommend people never to do this underwater unless you are very experienced with the techniques.
Ben: Yeah. I’ve actually been trying to learn some of the breath techniques for free diving because I’m taking a free diving course coming up in November. And yeah, you do a great deal of exhaling, and one of the things that they warn you about is, because of what you’ve just alluded to, once you’ve breathed off a lot of your carbon dioxide, you can easily blackout without realizing that you’re going to blackout.
Wim: That’s it, that’s it. And people drown. But the aim is not “how far can I go”, “how deep can I go without air in the lungs or with a lot of air in my lungs”, et cetera. That’s very interesting, it’s very challenging, very exciting, but my goal is to have people tap into their three layers of the immune system. And that means how to learn to prevent from disease, how to activate the deepest layers in our physiology, that’s my aim. And for that, also going along with the endocrine system. Endocrine systems is about adrenaline, but also about serotonin, about DMT, about melatonin, about not needing to, or about redirecting your mood when you feel bad.
Ben: That’s interesting that you mention DMT, because DMT is something that is considering some cases to be like a nightmare neurotransmitter, or a hallucinogenic type of neurotransmitter and something that people for example, would experience when using ayahuasca. And I’ve done a lot of this hyper oxygenation breathing, or what some people call warrior breathing, or fire breathing. At one point during a breath work camp, we did almost an hour and a half of that style of breathing and got into almost like a meditative, trance-like state. Are you, prior to engaging in like your long immersions in ice, or running a marathon in the snow, are you doing this type of breath work for a very, very long period of time to the point where you’re getting into almost like a hallucinogenic state?
Wim: No, not really. What I do is physiologically change my pH levels and bring them in order, in the natural order. And I showed, in the university, to be able, just by thinking, just by thinking that I was going into the cold to raise myself metabolic activity with 300%.
Ben: It’s like that book “The Inner Game Of Tennis”, or “The Inner Game Of Golf”. You just imagined yourself in the cold, huh?
Wim: And that’s what we all got. And that’s what we need to be conscious of, and to learn to make consciously use of this fact.
Ben: So are you saying that you could practice being better able to withstand cold exposure by simply imagining yourself in the cold and then engaging in the style of breath work that you teach?
Wim: Oh, yes. And for that, not only the cold, also the heat, also the oxygen deprivative situations, or any stress on the body, any difficulty you have in your life. And you imagine that you are there, your influence is impeccable by your mind. But use a little bit of breathing, because then it brings up the pH level, and the right pH level is the right conductor for the neurotransmitters, which is our mind. Our mind is neurotransmitters. There is a neural path between the brains and the body. If you go too much to doctors, this, and that, and that, you’re not using your neural path within. You’re going out. So we go in. For that, we use conscious breathing. If you breathe, but also with your consciousness, that’s the mind, which is able to influence cell metabolic activity, and with the right pH level, which is the conductor of the neurotransmitters, the electric signals coming from your mind, which is neurotransmitters, chemistry, then it travels to the body, and it travels not only to cell, but to the DNA itself. That’s what we have been showing now. We are there. So what we say is very simple, scientifically endorsed, and it’s physics, and it’s magic.
Ben: Yeah. It’s amazing. And when I was watching the documentary, and I watched it with my boys, it’s kind of funny when you bring this up as far as genetics go. I’ve been throwing them in the cold water since they were babies, bringing them down to the Spokane River, bringing them out to the cold pool, and they were watching in the documentary, and they kept commenting that they didn’t think that it looked all that hard, or that they had no problems with the cold, but I truly believe that it’s because they are genetically different. A lot of these children from the Cherokee Indian tribes, to the Inuits, to a lot of these folks who just grow up with cold exposure, they’re able to produce that adrenaline response, they’re able to produce that nitric oxide, they’re able to actually self-warm the body in a way that we now have to teach people how to do consciously. But I think that in kids who grow up being exposed to this, I think they can just do it automatically subconsciously, for us like breathing. Now this study, “Voluntary Activation of the Sympathetic Nervous System And Attenuation of the Innate Immune Response in Humans”, fascinating study, and I’m going to link to in the show notes, but I think it lends itself well to being able to present a really good example of how this type of breath work affects your immune system or your inflammatory response. What did you go about doing, or what did the researchers go about doing in that study? What is it that they had the participants do?
Wim: I taught ’em four days, without prior experience in the cold, to endure. And at the fourth day, a temperature of -20 Fahrenheit, or things like that, or Celsius, really cold, with blasting winds.
Ben: So you had the study subjects show up to do this. And when you said that you trained them, when you say that you taught them these techniques, what exactly did you do? What was it that you were teaching them exactly?
Wim: I told them first, “Listen, guys. We are going to be the first ones to show that scientifically that we are going to win the war against, the war that created the most casualties and misery ever, which is the war against the bacteria, the virus, and the vaccine. We are going to show in four days’ time that we are able to tackle this problem, this ignorance going on, and show that the autonomic nervous system, the innate immune system, the sympathetic nervous system, et cetera, are all the blah blah of this science, we’re going to tackle it and we’re going to show this.” And you know what we did? We went and they were convinced about this story. This is my mission. My mission is that these Cherokee kids, or natural beings, they already know, but we alienate it from nature. It’s not them. We alienated from it, and now we have all these diseases, and all these depressions going on, and we got all these technical, beautiful, innovations and things, but we actually have no guarantee for health, strength, and happiness. And now we have been shown go back to nature and you find the connection with the hormonal system, with the immune system, with the autonomic nervous system, and you are the master of your body, you are the master of your soul, and we show it scientifically.
Ben: So when these people show up, when you’re training them for four days or for 10 days, I mean I know you even have like a 10, I believe it’s a 10 week online course for these techniques. And I realize, for us during the course of a podcast to be able to talk about what you teach people over the course of four days, or 10 days, or 10 weeks will only scratch the surface. But do you just kind of put them in a room and teach them these breathing techniques? Are they in a classroom sitting at desks? How does it work exactly?
Wim: Yeah. Simply a room, and it was still not restored, just a room with, nothing fancy. But the people, they felt motivated. “Hey, we are into research. This is the Iceman. This is a man and a mission. He believes. He wants to show scientifically what’s going on.” So they were motivated, very motivated. The doctors present at that the time in the room, making notes, and these guys began to do this, the breathing cycles. Normally I’d take about 10 weeks to do that, to build it up easy, step by step, et cetera, which is okay. But now, it’s research. So I’m onto it, I’m into it. If there is a war, if there is fire in your house, you go quickly. You do not think. So that’s the energy at that moment. We just go. “Come on.” Within four days of practice at home, in the afternoons we went in to freezing cold water near a cascade, the Polish-Czech border over there in the mountains. It’s really cold. With the right motivation and the breathing, the breathing makes the pH level go up, and the natural physiology of ours as we are mammals is going to be triggered because of the cold. And it just, it gets in.
Ben: So you teach them these breathing techniques, they blow off all the CO2, they increase their pH, you put them in a cold environment, and then what? What are you measuring?
Wim: Simply there was no measurement to going on. It’s just feeling, and dedication, and motivation. So at the fourth day, we went to this mountain all in clothes, “We’re going to climb the mountain today, and we’re going to be hours exposed to freezing cold.” It was like -10 at the base of the mountain. -10 Celsius, which is, what is it in Fahrenheit? Maybe 10?
Ben: Yeah. It’s freaking cold. It’s below freezing.
Wim: Yeah. Yeah, it is. They came out very remarkable. They came out of the car, which was really, “We got to go into the [0:31:54] ______ . We’re going to have it cold. But right now, warm and music.” And they really had a shock ’cause it was -10. Then I told them. “Okay. Get a grip. Let’s go. This is the one.” And we go, and 20 minutes later, they were transpiring in shorts on the slopes of the mountain. They really felt great! And we went up, and four hours we had to climb in shorts. And there was actually no problem. We got an encounter with military people dressed like ninjas, and they saw us coming up in shorts. It was a hilarious situation.
Ben: They’re decked out in all their warming gear, and you guys are walking up in shorts. And were you barefoot?
Wim: No. It was necessary to go barefoot in this research, experiment, et cetera.
Ben: Gotcha. So was this a different experiment than, this experiment where you had these people up in Poland, was this the same group of subjects who you later did this study on the production of the cytokines?
Wim: Yes. Exactly. We arrived at the summit and we danced the Harlem Shake up there, we felt this is it. We got it there. I saw these guys back in their natural state of their physiology, and our state of our physiology is able to get into any layer of our immune system. So I was convinced at that time, but it was only a feeling. I just felt that. I felt I was sure. Four days later, they also showed to be able, within a quarter of an hour, just by the breathing, no cold anymore, just by breathing, to tap into their physiology and to suppress all the cytokines released because of the endotoxin getting in, the bacteria, which is creating an immune response, like uncontrollable shivering, fever, headaches, all over agony, things like that, and convulsions, and vomiting, and all that. And they were just sitting like this. But within a quarter of an hour, they control, 100%. All of them. So 100% score, all of the people who had been instructed in these simple things, simple methods, whatever it is. It has no name. It’s going back to do natural state of the physiology, and they showed it.
Ben: And so they actually took this group that you trained and compared them to a group that was not trained. And both groups, did they actually inject him with an endotoxin? Do I understand that correctly?
Wim: Yes. With an E. coli bacteria.
Ben: So they injected both groups with E. coli, and the coli bacterial endotoxin, which would normally result in, obviously, a pretty pronounced inflammatory response. And they found with this group that you trained to do this respiratory alkalosis, and this hypoxia, and the cold work…
Wim: Exactly. You got it.
Ben: They were able to handle the inflammation better and, from what I understand, it was primarily via the production of adrenaline and the production of cytokines. Or limited production of cytokines, I guess would be…
Wim: Now we get to the subject. Now we get into subject. The innate immune system, which is uncontrollable, they say, now has been influenced. But there is a third layer in the immune system, which is a specific adaptive immune system. If their innate immune system which is creating all this inflammation, which is like 300 policemen or fireworkers, but they don’t know where fire is going on. So all the body is in inflammation. Now if that one does not work, the third layer is going to take place. And the third layer is the specific adaptive system, the immune system, which is the looking and learning, “What is going on? I need this specific molecule, this specific hormone. I will put it on the cell membrane and make the cell to death.” But that normally takes over two weeks, three weeks. And sometimes it’s a lost thing because the cell is mutating, like HIV, AIDS, and all that. And it shows in this study, did you read to study, by the way?
Ben: Oh, yeah. Absolutely. And I’m going to link to it because it’s not one of those studies you have to pay for. The full thing’s available, and I’ll link to the show note for people. Again, show notes are at bengreenfieldfitness.com/icemanreturns. But, yeah. It’s a fascinating, fascinating study because as you’re mentioning, a lot of these autoimmune diseases and inflammatory-related diseases, a big, big part of them are influenced by these pro-inflammatory cytokines that circulate through the body. And it actually is amazing that these folks who you trained were producing far fewer cytokines and handling the inflammation and the endotoxemia amazingly better.
Wim: Yes. Okay. Then they still didn’t study the third layers, which is the specific adaptive immune system because it takes weeks normally to get it. But think logically. At the time when there is inflammation, and there’s a lot less inflammation, a lot less cytokines, cytokines are just messengers bringing a reactive, they make the fire, the inflammation. That’s what they do, they are messengers. What if there is no need for the messengers to come because we got a specific hormone released because we tap into the third layer, the adaptive immune system, which normally takes weeks to produce a molecule, a hormone specifically directly which goes to the E. coli bacteria and shuts off her possible interaction with our bodies and our immune system. Do you see what I mean?
Ben: So you’re not talking just then about reducing the inflammatory response to a stressor, like an endotoxemia? You’re talking about actually being able to do battle against it and disable that toxin itself?
Wim: Specifically. What normally takes two to three weeks, and in the case of HIV, for example, it takes years, and then finally the immune system doesn’t know anything anymore, and we get AIDs, even mutating cells in HIV, and that’s not me, it’s in the university books, you can read about it. What I think now, and I’m always a seer, a visionary in this, is that we have encountered not only the second layer, which is the innate immune system, but also the specific adaptive immune system, which is the deepest layer of our immune system, and make it work within a quarter of an hour.
Ben: Amazing. I have a few questions about this from a practical standpoint. A lot of people kind of complain about issues like this, or ask me questions about issues like this so I’m curious to hear your standpoint. The first is when you’re doing training like this to enhance your immune response, or some people even do it to burn fat for example, to convert white adipose tissue into brown adipose tissue, or to burn more calories, do you ever deal with skin burns, with very dry skin from the amount of cold exposure?
Wim: No. Not at all.
Ben: Really? Okay. That’s one of the complaints that you get from people.
Wim: Once I had a cold injury, self-inflicted, in a half-marathon, barefoot, very severe conditions, very cold and beyond the Polish circle after 18 kilometers. That’s about, I don’t know, 12 miles or something. Barefoot. The professor, he told me that irreparable damage was done at my toe. So I would develop a necrosis, dead tissue. But I never did that. And he told me, “Four months, we’ll come back, and then [0:41:45] ______ or you lose your toe.” Things like that. He gave me a lot of medicines, and pills, and prescriptions, et cetera, but I never used it. I began to train on that. And within a month, and due to breathing and all that, within a month I was healed. It was okay again. So three months later, I was on Mount Everest doing another expedition. What I want to say about this people who have problems with skin burns and things like that because you got first, second, and third degree skin burn as well as self-inflicted cold injury, which is creating the same, blisters and all that, and irreparable damage because the cell cannot go below zero degrees, then there is irreparable damage done. But this is all signs, this is all physiology written as we know it now.
What I do, I have so much more capability within our physiology, and we are like you, I see you’re a very practical, very determined, very analyzing person, I respect that very much, I love it, I love your way of thinking, doing, et cetera, we are pioneers of new ways of understanding our physiology which is able to work with stress, with the hormonal system, with the vascular system, and all that. So we are at the brink of new insights, new discoveries, and I’m into that, and I use science to do that. So to get rid of speculation, and eventually this, and possible this, and possible that. No, we make it fact, factual. I’m waiting for new analysis to come, science and all that protocols, et cetera, no money is into this. This is natural. This is the Cherokee who was not impressed about all this. “We got to bring it back to …”
Ben: Right. It should be normal. It should be normal to be okay with your home being a little bit cold, or with jumping in the cold water, or with, perhaps, turning on your shower and not having that nice steady stream of warm water, but instead being greeted by that shot of espresso-like stream of cold, right?
Wim: Yes. We have this mammalian nature and all these mechanisms who want to help us to stay alive, good hormonally, not depressed, but in a good mood. All this, we destimulate it because of our comfort behaviorism. And then we ask ourselves, “Oh, I’m sick. I’m this, I’m that.” No, you never got into this natural state of yours because you go too much into controlling nature and you are part of nature. We have to go back to nature a little.
Ben: You are not, as Nassim Taleb would say in his book “Antifragile”, antifragile.
Wim: Yes! Exactly!
Ben: Yeah. It’s one of those concepts that simply comes down to living outside your comfort zone. Now related to the question about skin burns and also the question about people, as you alluded to, making money off of this, what is your opinion on this surge in body cooling gear usually marketed for fat loss? Like cooling vests and cooling tights, or like compression gear that you fill with ice, or ice packs that you can wear when you’re at the office. Have you seen things like this before?
Wim: No. I didn’t see.
Ben: Yeah. What they’re doing now is they’re selling fat loss gear that would be like…
Wim: I heard about it.
Ben: Like a Cool Fat Burner vest is one example. And I’ve had this guy in the podcast before and he’s done interesting clinical studies on metabolism, and brown adipose, and release of hormones like adiponectin and irisin for metabolism and fatty acid burning, and you put on this this gear that has ice in it or that has cooling packs in it and you just wear this gear around the house. You’ve never experimented with that type of thing, like wearing an ice vest or something like that?
Wim: I heard things about it, but no, no, no. I never did that.
Ben: Do you have an opinion on it?
Wim: Yeah. Sure. I mean, just breathe deeper and consciously. The thing about fat is simply, it’s getting into our system because we become too acidic. A whole lot of people have a whole lot of trouble with the right pH degree, so naturally your body is making an insulation, it’s an insulation method. So I know how to deal with that. Just breathe deeper and more consciously, and then the neural pathway within the body will take care of too much fat. Because too much fat in nature means you will grow slower, and that’s not the idea of evolution, and of mammalian behavior, or being. So we tackled the problem from a different way. Not by vests and all that.
Ben: There’s a physician named Dr. Cate Shanahan who’s written a book called “Deep Nutrition”, and in that book she alludes to that very fact that if you shut down inflammation, she refers to it a little bit differently than you, you say getting yourself out of a non-acidic state, she refers to you as getting yourself out of an inflammatory state, but really it’s the same thing, that you can actually, once you’ve gotten rid of inflammation and once you’ve put yourself at a calorie deficit, you can induce fat cell apoptosis or fat cell death. But the problem is most people are too acidic or too of inflamed to actually achieve fat cell death, so the fat cells just shrink but then they refill as soon as you begin to eat again. So, yeah. It’s very interesting. That breath work that you’re talking about, like alkalosis-style breath work can actually achieve that similar kind of anti-inflammatory state, and obviously as you’ve proven in this recent study, the shutdown of inflammatory cytokines, which would technically limit you from being able to lose fat if you have too many of these cytokines. Do you do other kinds of workouts though? Do you do strength training, or do you do high intensity interval training, or do you have other things that you do for a workout? Or do you just swim in cold water?
Wim: No, I do all kinds of things. Right now, once again I want to do, for example, I want to bring about 30 people who are motivated and then climb Kilimanjaro in shorts in Reykjavik. Another town that I want to do it in 24 hours, and regardless of age. The oldest participant 77 years going to take part and climb faster than any mountaineer is able to do, and in shorts. I mean that means dedication. As long as training are going around, my wife wants to run a marathon very soon. I said, “Okay, why not?” If you are able to breathe in a way that you are able to not disconnect in the cell, and that’s the way to not block this cell it and it is going to be acidic, no, you keep our own breathing. That way that jet energy is maintained, you can do about anything.
Ben: Do you do a lot of just like steep hiking, or treadmill work, or stair climbing? Is that kind of the crux of your training program?
Wim: Yes. Like I’m here now. But say if I stand like this without a chair for an hour.
Ben: Yeah. So you do isometric type of training?
Wim: Yes. And I made people do that in a half hour.
Ben: You make them stand in the cold like in a deep squat for a half hour? Those type of things?
Ben: What about yoga in the cold? Do you do yoga in the cold?
Wim: Yes. Because yoga needs a trigger in the cold, in the vascular system, which is blood, is increased in its flow. There’s more, so blood is like oil to the joints. So I learn to be more flexible outside in the cold, in their trunks, than inside in a warm environment.
Ben: What about the sauna? Do you use infrared sauna, or dry sauna, or steam saunas, or anything like that?
Wim: Oh, I love it. I love it. I love it. I love it. It’s very nice, but the real training is being done in the extreme nature. The rest is nice and it’s okay. I love it. I’m very non-dogmatic. Whatever you like to do, I respect that. But then if you really want to get in deeper levels of your physiology, we use, I use cold, or I use heat, or I use oxygen deprivation whatever, and make people understand, and I say, “Always understanding comes by feeling.” Feeling is understanding. A lot of feel first that they are so much more able to do so much more within their body, and then it’s your choice what you do with it.
Ben: You know hypoxia, heat, and cold are three training modalities that I swear by. Especially because they don’t beat up your body from a joint breakdown standpoint, and from a catabolic standpoint the same way that long runs or very hard weightlifting sessions do. And I can, for example, like on Wednesdays, which are typically recovery day for me, I do cold hypoxic underwater swimming, I do infrared sauna, and then I do like foam rolling and mobility work, but I wear one of these breath restriction masks when I do it, one of these elevation training masks. And you can finish a day like that that incorporates the extremes of heat, the extremes of cold, and the extremes of oxygen deprivation. And you feel as though you’ve put a great deal of good work into your body, but you don’t feel beat up like you would after a day of running or a day of strength training. And so I think those three things hypoxia, heat, and cold are tools everyone should be using. I think you’ve just tapped into them at an extreme level. Now what about your diet? Do you follow any specific dietary protocols or supplementation protocols when you’re doing this?
Wim: No. I just eat once a day.
Ben: You eat once a day?
Wim: 35 years already and I feel great.
Ben: Breakfast, or dinner, or does it matter?
Wim: After 6 o’clock.
Ben: So you fast the entire day, and then after 6 PM you have a meal?
Wim: To me it’s no fast. I’m so adapted to it and got so much energy. Another thing is the breathing, once again, brings in this effect on the cell. Food is equivalent to energy, isn’t it? That’s why we take food, and minerals, and vitamins, et cetera. I get my vitamins and my minerals. But the amount of food is equivalent to energy. What now if we are able, by breathing differently, to influence the metabolic process of making the energy, the ATP in this cell and produce more energy because of influencing by the right oxygen exercise, which is called aerobic dissimilation, this process in the cell. I’m doing that. So much energy I get, and anybody can do this.
Ben: What do you eat when you eat just once per day? Like what would a typical dinner look like for you? Is it just like an ungodly number of calories with a wide variety of foods, or is it like the same smoothie every night? What is it that you would eat after 6 PM for that once a day meal?
Wim: I’m not really thinking about it. What does a bear in the forest when he sees what it can eat? He smells what is good and what is bad. What is poison and what is edible. So I do the same thing. I’m a mammalian. We all got this sense, but as long as you are so alienated from your sense, you won’t be able to choose the right food.
Ben: Well let me put it this way: what did you eat last night for dinner?
Wim: Oh, last night. A lot of tomatoes I liked. Sometimes I got a green for spinach tomatoes. And last night was a lot of tomatoes, avocado, and some lettuce. Yeah, a lot of food yesterday.
Ben: So you spend an ungodly amount of time in the cold, which would make most people extremely ravenous, and you have tomatoes, spinach, lettuce, and avocado?
Wim: Yes. Yes, exactly.
Ben: No fish, no steak, no nuts, or seeds, or anything like that?
Wim: No. No need, no need.
Ben: Wow. That must be a lot of vegetables.
Wim: No, no. Not so much, not so much. But a lot of the tomatoes. (laughs)
Ben: Interesting. Do you get a lot of sunlight exposure?
Wim: Yeah. In just three weeks in the Spanish Pyrenees, which is sun, sun, sun, sun.
Ben: Yeah. I was just curious because there’s this recent study that showed that human beings may have the capability to take some of the chlorella and chlorophyll-based matter from plants and convert it into ATP using sunlight as a fuel source, similar to plants. And whenever I talk with someone who eats a lot of vegetables and spends a lot of time in nature, I suspect that’s probably one of the reasons they’re able to get by on what seems to look like a low amount of calories is that ATP production from sunlight and chlorophyll.
Wim: That must be the case of my children. They all are vegetarians and even vegans, and still doing okay. I mean they are doing great, they burst out with a lot energy. All the time. I think eating once a day knowing how the chemical processes go on in the cell, and bring it to science and show it could be a solution to the food problem in the world. That’s another interesting thing.
Ben: Ties into everything else that you’re doing as well, like this concept that taking a long period of time between each meal can induce lower inflammation and cellular clean-up, like cellular apoptosis or turnover of cell death in a good way. And it sounds like you’re kind of tapping into that too by combining the infrequent feedings with the hypoxia, and the cold, and the heat.
Wim: Yes. You got it!
Ben: Yeah. Interesting.
Wim: It’s interesting, what you say. I like your way of looking at things. You’re very investigative and you’re, whatever this is, Skype, or podcast, or whatever you do. I don’t care. What I do care is I listen to a very interesting man who is an investigator of life and he knows, like me, there is more that meets the eye, and we are going into that. And now we meet and that’s great. I think, yeah, it’s nice meeting you, man.
Ben: Well you have your 10 week online course, and I know a lot of people are going to want to learn these type of things, and perhaps they can’t travel to Poland necessarily, but I know you have lots of different courses online. I’ll link to those in the show note so people can kind of tap into ’em and check ’em out at bengreenfieldfitness.com/icemanreturns. I’ll also link to this recent study as well as the fascinating Vice video. It’s not long. It’s like 35 minutes long. I think everyone should check it out. And you also have an app, I know, that works on some of these breathwork techniques as well called the Inner Fire app, and I’ll also link to that. Wim, this has been the second time that you’ve been a guest on the show. You and I have yet to actually hang out. But at some point, I would love to climb Mount Kilimanjaro or some other crazy place with you wearing only shorts.
Wim: Yes, sir!
Ben: Alright. We’ll do it.
Wim: Yes, sir! We got it! We are the warriors, huh?
Ben: At some point. Stay tuned. You heard it here. Alright, folks. Well, again bengreenfieldfitness.com/icemanreturns is where you can get more of Wim. Wim, thanks for coming on the show today, man. I really appreciate it.
Wim: I love you. You’re great. Thank you.
Ben: Alright, folks. This is Ben Greenfield and Wim Hof signing out from bengreenfieldfitness.com. Have a wonderful week.
The Iceman is back.
Wim Hof is a Dutch world record holder, adventurer and daredevil, nicknamed “the Iceman” for his ability to withstand extreme cold.
He holds twenty world records – including a world record for longest ice bath, and has stayed immersed in ice for as long as 1 hour and 52 minutes and 42 seconds.
In 2007, Wim attempted, but failed (due to a foot injury), to climb Mount Everest wearing nothing but shorts.
Then, in 2009, he reached the top of Mount Kilimanjaro in his shorts within two days.
In 2009, Wim also completed a full marathon above the polar circle in Finland, in temperatures close to −20 °C (−4 °F) – dressed in nothing but shorts. He finished the marathon in 5 hours and 25 minutes.
In 2011, Hof also ran a full marathon in the Namib Desert without water.
And in this most recent Vice video, Wim demonstrates how he can consciously alter his immune system activity using a combination of breathing and cold.
So how does the Iceman do it?
In my previous episode with Wim, “Conquer The Cold And Get Quantum Leaps In Performance In This Exclusive Interview With The Amazing Iceman Wim Hof“, you discovered many of his secrets, including:
-How Wim uses the science of breathing to control his body temperature and resistance to the cold…
-a recent study of the influence of concentration/meditation on autonomic nervous system activity and the innate immune response…
-Wim’s book: “Becoming The Iceman“…
-Wim’s meditation technique…
-How Wi ran full marathon in the desert with no water…
-Whether cold thermogenesis give some kind of adaptation to perform better in heat…
-Why cold doesn’t really make you sick, and the true effects on the immune system…
-Why Wim took a group of thrombosis patients into the icy Sweden wilderness…
-How you can learn Wim’s secret techniques from the Iceman himself…
-And much more.
Now, in today’s audio episode, Wim and I delve into even more of his tips, tricks and biohacks to conquer the cold and get quantum leaps in performance, and you’ll discover even more, including:
-How Wim got started with cold exposure…
-How Wim’s breathing techniques can be used to withstand not just extremes of cold, but also extremes of heat and other forms of stress…
-Whether Wim gets cold skin burns…
-The details of Wim’s groundbreaking new study “Voluntary activation of the sympathetic nervous system and attenuation of the innate immune response in humans“…
-What Wim thinks about popular cold thermogenesis gear, like ice vests and cooling pants…
-What kind of workouts Wim does, including extreme isometrics and cold yoga…
-Why Wim only eats once per day…
Resources from this episode:
-Wim’s “Inner Fire” App.