[0:00:56] About the Podcast
[0:01:42] Podcast Sponsors
[0:04:11] Start of Talk Format and What it’s About
[0:06:22] Diet and Micronutrients
[0:12:46] How far back in your lineage do you go to determine what diet is appropriate for you?
[0:15:36] How do you test for a leaky gut, and how do you go about fixing it?
[0:18:33] Exercise and Movement
[0:24:10] What’s the best way to recover from your workout while in a fasted state?
[0:26:27] What about the super slow approach to working out?
[0:28:13] Podcast Sponsors
[0:34:36] How do you increase your REM sleep if it’s on the low side?
[0:36:33] What are the benefits of waking up when the sun rises for your circadian rhythm?
[0:39:06] Cardiovascular Health
[0:42:47] Is there a correlation between singing and fat loss?
[0:43:49] How do you address a consistently low LF?
[0:46:58] Brain Health
[0:50:53] What “brain hacks” exist to help in a hyper-stressful environment like living in a big city?
[0:53:15] Hormone Health
[0:59:10] What did you do to repair your thyroid?
[1:02:34] Stress and Inflammation
[1:06:51] What do you think of deuterium content in foods and waters?
[1:08:50] Immunity and Cancer
[1:14:30] What do you think of exposure to dirt as it pertains to immunity?
[1:18:24] Aesthetics, Symmetry, Beauty
[1:26:47] Closing the Podcast
Ben: I have a master’s degree in physiology, biomechanics, and human nutrition. I’ve spent the past two decades competing in some of the most masochistic events on the planet from SEALFit Kokoro, Spartan Agoge, and the world’s toughest mudder, the 13 Ironman triathlons, brutal bow hunts, adventure races, spearfishing, plant foraging, free diving, bodybuilding and beyond. I combine this intense time in the trenches with a blend of ancestral wisdom and modern science, search the globe for the world’s top experts in performance, fat loss, recovery, gut hormones, brain, beauty, and brawn to deliver you this podcast. Everything you need to know to live an adventurous, joyful, and fulfilling life. My name is Ben Greenfield. Enjoy the ride.
So, anyways, the shownotes for everything that you’re about to hear, I’m going to put those over at BenGreenfieldFitness.com/wellnesswheel. That’s BenGreenfieldFitness.com/wellnesswheel. And also, you can go listen to the previous podcast that I did with Dr. Darshan Shah of the NextHealth Clinic, who’s just a wealth of knowledge. That one is at BenGreenfieldFitness.com/nexthealthpodcast. So, a lot of things to remember, but it’s BenGreenfieldFitness.com/wellnesswheel is the shownotes for this podcast. BenGreenfieldFitness.com/nexthealthclinic is where you can get $500 off the MRI and all that jazz. And then BenGreenfieldFitness.com/nexthealthpodcast is where you can go listen to my previous podcast with Dr. Shah. I love what these folks are doing.
Today’s show, by the way, is brought to you by the brand-new berry aminos. Essential amino acids are something I’ve talked about a lot before for maintaining muscle mass, for maintaining anabolism even if you’re in a fasted state, for helping with sleep and transmitters, for repairing the gut, for repairing the joints. And we just launched a brand new addictively good flavor over at getkion.com. You can take one scoop, you can take two scoops. I dump it straight into my mouth because I’m a freak, but you can also mix it with water. You can mix it into a smoothie. It is one of the best ways, even more thoroughly absorbing collagen to feed amino acids into your system, [00:02:26], used to be a secret of the bodybuilding industry back when I was a bodybuilder, and now these things are hidden in the mainstream and they freaking work. So, we launched a brand-new berry flavor, tested the hell out of it, it tastes amazing. Go to Kion at getkion.com, and what you want to look for are the berry aminos. It tastes really good.
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It is one of those things that I recommend you sip at night. Mix it with some hot coconut milk or hot almond milk or rice milk or hemp milk or water or what have you. Drink this at night and that’s the time to do it, in my opinion. It just knocks you out. So, go to BenGreenfieldFitness.com/Organifi. That’s Organifi with an I, and use the discount code mentioned there. You’re going to save 20% off of anything from our friends at Organifi. So, enjoy that and enjoy this episode you’re about to hear. Again, all the shownotes are at BenGreenfieldFitness.com/wellnesswheel. Enjoy.
Male 1: Bit hands to Ben Greenfield everybody.
Ben: Thank you. Thank you, guys. This is almost like a town hall health talk, and I want this to be super interactive for you all. So, sometimes I’ll give a talk and I’ll have like a formal PowerPoint and a suit and tie and all that jazz but today, as Dr. Shah alluded to, I want to go over this big comprehensive wellness wheel, because it’s pretty sick. You guys can’t see it. They’re on that side, but basically, there’s a whole wheel here that goes over diet and micronutrients and exercise, and movement, inflammation, immunity. And what I thought would be cool, because it’s so comprehensive, is I just want to give you one or two of my top tips, and each of those categories–and I want to make this very interactive. I want to talk about what’s specific to you. Answer your burning questions as long as it doesn’t have anything to do with the strange growth on your right forearm or something like that. I will try and keep this relevant to the whole crowd.
But it’s going to be very Q&A-ish tonight. So, the way that the Q&A will work is I will dive into each topic and we’ll just dwell on that topic. We’ll open it up, we’ll ferment on, I will do some questions on it, and then kind of move on to the next topic. So, you can, at any point if you have a question, just raise your hand. We’ll run a mic out to you, answer your question, and then continue to move on through the wellness wheel. Does that sound like a plan to you guys? You just want me to talk at you for the next hour? Okay. Alright, we’ll make it more of a conversation.
And I literally just took some notes on my phone, this is very, very formal, about each of the different aspects of the wheel that I want to cover. I also put a longevity guide. I worked on like a free PDF for everybody here. So, if you go to BenGreenfieldFitnes.com/nexthealthtalk, BenGreenfieldFitnes.com/nexthealthtalk is where you can download this PDF. It’s got a whole bunch more. I made it to focus more on the longevity and anti-aging piece. So, there’s a whole bunch more content for you there too, if you guys want some extra goodies.
So, that being said, we can start wherever we want on this wheel, but I’m going to start at the top under diet and micronutrients because I get a lot of questions about this. What is the perfect human diet? What should you eat to enhance your health? Should you go keto? Should you go vegan? Should you go carnivore? Do you alternate day intermittent fast FMD, XYZ type of approach? And the fact is we live in an era of self-quantification where in my opinion, every single person in here should be on the diet that is unique for them because if you take–let’s say like a ketogenic diet. How many of you in here are on the new trendy ketogenic diet; high fat, low carb, fasting, sticks of butter in your coffee and coconut oil for dinner?
Well, the fact is, I mean a lot of people have things like a genetic variant. There’s a genetic variant, APOE44, and it would dictate that you could have a pretty deleterious response to saturated fats, and you would do better on a diet rich in Mediterranean fats that maybe only has 5% to 10% of some of those fats that are solid at room temperature. Many people get genetically tested and they’ve got something like familial hypercholesterolemia dictating that even though cholesterol is good, like I’m not shoving cluster under the bandwagon, for some people, cholesterol goes way, way up on a high-fat diet.
Some people have gallbladder issues, liver issues that limit the amount of bile that they can produce, hence, dictating that they’re not able to digest the fats as easily and it’s not genetically based. It’s just the fact that you have an organ that needs work prior to launching into something like a high-fat diet. So, in my opinion, we’re talking about the first aspects of this wheel, diet and micronutrients. You must choose a diet that’s specific to you.
Now that being said, pretty much every single healthy diet we see some of the same things over and over again popping up, right, and a lot of these blue zones. We see plant intake, high wild plant intake. I don’t care whether you’re a high fat/low carb, low fat/high carb. You must eat a high intake of wild plant matter. It appears, based on a lot of the blue zones in a lot of these areas where there’s a high number of centenarians, we see high plants intake. We see a very big focus on limitations in glucose fluctuations, something called glycemic variability, eating in a way that keeps your blood glucose from fluctuating during the day or moving in a way that keeps your blood glucose from fluctuating during the day.
I’ll give you one other example. We see that when people eat, they’re eating in a parasympathetically driven state. Like I don’t sit a lot but I sit to eat, and I chew my food for a long period of time, and I try to eat in a social setting where I’m surrounded by people and there’s talk and laughter and socializing and relationships and a lot of these things that keep you from just like stuffing food really quickly into your gaping maw and then moving on, like eating when you’re driving, eating when you’re commuting, eating by yourself when you’re touring around on Netflix or replying to emails, et cetera.
We don’t see that as a healthy characteristic of a diet that’s built for health and longevity. So, even though eating according to your genetics, your blood, your biomarkers, your unique body is important, there are also prevailing characteristics that we see over and over again in choosing a diet. That’s correct for you. And another part of this wellness wheel is of course micronutrients. And a big part of the micronutrient piece, in my opinion, is you must choose meals that are not only digestible but also nutrient dense.
What do I mean by that? Take quinoa for example. Who in here eats quinoa? Which I used to pronounce quinoa until I actually heard someone say it properly. Let’s say get a bag of quinoa from Costco and you make it. You follow the package directions and you wind up with quinoa in your turds in the toilet in an upset stomach and you think that this trendy superfruit quinoa is something that F’s up your gut when in fact, quinoa while being very nutrient dense, has to be rendered digestible. You have to soak it. You have to rinse it. In many cases, you can sprout it. And you take something that’s nutrient dense. You unlock the micronutrients by making it digestible.
You could look at other food groups that are highly digestible like sugar. A sugar digestible? Yeah. You start to digest that with the salivary amylase in your mouth as soon as it hits your mouth. But is it nutrient dense? You could argue no. I mean, there are some things like blackstrap molasses and raw honey and sugar cane. They give you some minerals and some nutrient density. But ultimately, sugar, although digestible, doesn’t fall into the category of nutrient density.
So, you choose a diet that’s right for you. You customize it based on your body. You follow these themes that we see over and over again in healthy cultures like fasting, like limitation of glycemic variability, like wild plants intake, like eating in a parasympathetic state. And then you choose foods that are nutrient dense and digestible. In my opinion, probably, if we were to choose one diet that’s pretty close to being a perfect human diet, if you could tweak it here and there for your needs, it would be something that’s very inclusive of a wide variety of food groups, something like the Weston A. Price diet where you’re eating dairy, and you’re eating grains, and you’re eating plants, and you’re eating fermented foods, and you’re eating organ meats, and eating a wide variety of foods. And sure, before embarking upon a diet like that, you might need to heal up a leaky gut, you might need to fix a gallbladder, do a liver cleanse, et cetera. But your goal should be no matter what kind of diet you’re on to get to the point where you can include as many different food groups as possible, then you treat the carb fat protein ratios based on you.
So, that’s the first part of the wellness wheel. It’s the diet and micronutrients. Now based on that, who has some questions about diet in general, choosing the diet for you, micronutrients? And let’s just run a mic to some of the folks who have their hands up. We’ll just take like two or three questions for each section here.
Male 2: Hey. If you’ve done something like 23andMe, and mine came back like 100% European. Now, how do you–
Ben: Well, 100%?
Male 2: A hundred percent.
Ben: No Asian?
Male 2: No Asian. Surprising, or anything that’s–
Ben: Wow. Very surprising.
Male 2: A little boring, but how would you go about picking the diet from 100% European? Do you go back 100 years, 1,000 years? How do you figure out what they ate?
Ben: Right. Yeah. Epigenetic mechanism starts to kick in after about two or three generations. You don’t have to go that far back. You don’t have to do like 10,000 years ago what were people eating in Northern Europe.
Male 2: But you’re going on Google, right?
Ben: Yeah, yeah. We know that folks in that region, they do a lot of fermenting, pickling, curing, high amount of fish intake, high amounts of fermented, like canned vegetable intake, not a lot of citrus fruits, not a lot of starches, lower levels of amylase production in the mouth. So, it’s kind of fun. It’s kind of like a little bit of detective work. And there are good books that could walk you through the process. Dr. Daphne Miller has the book “The Jungle Effect,” which talks about how to eat according to your ancestry and the type of diet she put her patients on based off of the area of the world they came from.
And when you combine that with something like a really good, say food allergy test, some blood and biomarker analysis to see what specific micronutrients or vitamins that you might be deficient in, and maybe even a gut panel, like a microbiome panel where you could look at everything from your gallbladder, your liver, parasites, yeast, fungus, et cetera. Then you could start to put the pieces together. You don’t have to go that far back in your ancestry.
Male 2: Two or three generations.
Ben: If you’re lucky enough to have grandparents like you could talk to them about what their diet was, and what their mom and dad ate. You really don’t have to go that far back. So, yeah.
Male 2: Okay. Awesome. Thank you.
Ben: Yeah. That’s actually total rabbit hole, but that’s why I’m not a huge fan. I have a lot of friends who are like families who are like–this seems like really trendy nowadays, like the nomadic homeschooling internet entrepreneur, working from the road type of life. But I think when it comes to setting up your gut microbiome, your skin microbiome, a more intimate relationship with the actual biome of the environment in which you’re living, the advantages of having like a home base, like a castle that you call home and raising your family in the same place where maybe you lived, your parents lived, thinking forward in terms of like a family trust and maybe amassing land for your children in a certain location. I think there are definite advantages to having a relationship with your local environment, your local family setting, et cetera. I think that translates the diet as well. So, yeah, good question.
Male 2: Thank you, Ben.
Ben: Yes, sir?
Male 3: Hey, Ben. How do you go about testing for a leaky gut? And then how do you go about fixing it? And also specifically, what do you watch out for when it comes to insets and how those would react to the gut and the stomach lining?
Ben: Yeah. So, in terms of identifying a leaky gut, you could get basically just a stool panel, like Genova Diagnostics, for example. They’ll let you go to Direct Labs or any laboratory testing website. That’s something you don’t even need a physician, or that you can just order test, and what it will do is test for parasites, yeast, fungus, but also a lot of inflammatory markers in the gut that could be indicative of leaky gut. If you don’t even want to test, I mean in many cases, seeing large food particles or like fatty deposits in your stool, for those of you who run an Instagram channel that shows pictures of your poop, this is something you could keep track of. I know some people that do that.
But the idea is you could pay attention to symptoms or you can also just pay attention to markers of inflammation on something like a three-day gut panel. And if you do have leaky gut, typically, the fix is combining an elimination diet, something like an SCD diet, specific carbohydrate diet, or a GAPS diet. That’s called a gut, in psychology, syndrome diet or a paleo autoimmune diet. None of which are diets unless you’ve got a full-blown celiac disease. I think anyone should be on for their whole life.
But you do a diet like that for 8 to 12 weeks. Allow your gut to heal. And you combine that with a lot of things that we know help to restore the mucosa lining of the gut and shut down inflammation in the gut like bone broth, L-glutamine, colostrum, chia seed. There are a lot of things that help to restore the lining of that. Colostrum is another really good one. At that point, you would then ideally return to a more inclusive diet after you’ve healed your gut. As far as NSAIDs, I think a lot of people are aware nowadays that ibuprofen and Advil are not God’s gift to mankind, like those things are not that great especially with what we know about the ability of curcumin and boswellia, and a lot of these more natural compounds to act in an anti-inflammatory way, in a much more natural manner.
But with NSAIDs, a lot of the research is showing that when combined with heat, when combined with movement, you get liver toxicity, kidney toxicity. It shocks me when I talk to my Ironman triathlon friends who are still popping ibuprofen during the race to quell pain. So, I’m not a fan of those in just about any circumstance when there are so many natural alternatives out there. So, yeah. You’ve got one right here. I mean, like Kion Flex, this is one of the supplements I formulated, and it’s just like curcumin and Boswellia and proteolytic enzymes and all the things you do if you didn’t want to do ibuprofen. So, thank you for throwing that softball, by the way, and putting that there.
Alright. Well, we want to make sure we hit every aspect of the wellness wheel. So, we’re just going to keep on rolling through, and I’m going to move on to exercise and movement. Again, I get a question very similar to like what’s the perfect human diet, what’s the perfect exercise program. And again, the answer is it depends. It’s highly dependent on your goals. Are you somebody who wants to do an Ironman? Are you somebody who just wants to live a long time? Are you somebody who wants to put on muscle? Are you somebody who wants to lose fat?
But ultimately, in my opinion, the perfect exercise and movement protocol should expose your body to certain physiological triggers that I think everybody will benefit from. Triggers that have been associated with things like decreased risk of mortality, improved cardiovascular status, improved performance on metabolism, et cetera. So, what would those be? There are a few of them. Number one is your maximum oxygen utilization, what’s called your VO2 max. I think everybody, every one to two weeks based on research, should do something that targets your maximum oxygen utilization. This dictates that instead of doing this very short, trendy, high-intensity interval training sessions that are like 30 seconds, 60 seconds, et cetera, you actually have to move at your maximum sustainable pace for about four to five minutes.
Now, this wouldn’t be an exercise session that you do every day, but just a couple of times–it would be a couple of times a month, up to four times a month. I do this once a week. You do interval training that’s longer intervals with longer rest periods. An example of that would be four minutes of exercise at your maximum sustainable pace followed by four minutes of recovery, like a one-to-one work to rest ratio. And you would do that like four or five times through. That’s called your VO2 max.
Another area you should target is your mitochondria. The mitochondria respond very well, the very short exercise bursts followed by long recovery periods. So, you target your VO2 max with the longer exercise sessions and the longer recovery periods. You target your mitochondria with the short intense exercise sessions and the long recovery period. So, this would be like 30 seconds hard, 2 minutes easy, 4 times through, something like that. As you begin to plan out your exercise program for the week, you’re just making sure that you check all of these boxes.
Another one that I think everybody should focus on is lactic acid tolerance, which is correlated to growth hormone and testosterone. An example of that is–and you ever heard of a Tabata set, T-A-B-A-T-A? These are very simple, the four minutes long. Everybody raise their hand, made a look of disgust because they’re difficult, they burn. But it’s 20 seconds hard, 10 seconds easy, 8 times through. It’s a four-minute set. It’s fabulous. It’s something that you could start and end a weight training session with, for example, or start or end a weight training session with. It’s called Tabata set, very good for your lactic acid tolerance.
Okay. So, we got lactic acid. We got mitochondria. We got VO2 max. Number four would be stamina. I think that everybody, at least once a week, should get out and do something long in a fasted state. I love to do like a Saturday or Sunday morning hike where I wake up fasted, go train my body how to burn fatty acids very efficiently, train it how to go for a longer time without fuel. Sometimes this could be a bike ride. Sometimes it could be a swim, hike, walk, what have you, but the idea is you’re training your body to go for longer periods of time in the absence of trail mix and energy bars.
Okay. So, those are hitting a lot of your cardiovascular parameters. And then the only other two things to really worry about from a movement and an exercise standpoint would be the strength component, the muscle component. So, what I like is at least one to two times a week, you lift heavy stuff in a very controlled, slow, very good form fashion. This would be like a super slow exercise protocol, or a 5×5 workout where you’re doing five sets of five reps of some full body moves like a bench press, a deadlift, a squat, a shoulder press, and some kind of a core movement. You don’t have to do a lot of those, but doing a super slow strength, I like to do that about two to three times a week. And then the area you won’t hit with that is the type of muscle fiber that’s very explosive, very fast twitch. So, one to two additional times a week, you do like a very short, like New York Times had a great article on the seven-minute workout where you’re doing bodyweight training, very intense 32nd efforts, 15 seconds off, or 32nd efforts, 10 seconds off. Move on to the next exercise.
And when you weave all these together into a program; VO2 max, mitochondria, lactic acid, stamina, heavy lifting, and some kind of explosive movement, you’re checking a lot of the boxes that you need to be a Batman of fitness, to have multiple skills to be able to get out and play just about any sport that you want. And as long as you’re engaged in low-level physical activity during the day, as long as you’re like these people who are standing up during my talk as opposed to these lazy asses who are sitting in their chairs, then you’re probably going to check a lot of the boxes when it comes to the exercise and movement piece.
The only last thing I would say is sometimes mobility is underemphasized, like hitting a foam roller, doing a lacrosse ball on the hips, getting a massage, that type of thing. The way I do that is I just wake up for the first 10 to 15 minutes of every day. I’ll make love to a foam roller. I’ll take out some kind of vibrating exercise gun. I’ll hit my quads with a lacrosse ball, whatever. So, by the end of the week, I’ve amassed like 70 to 90 minutes of mobility work that I’ll just do in the morning while I’m breathing or listening to some morning audio or something like that. So, that’s how I weave together all the exercise in the movement component.
So, based on that, what kind of questions you guys have about movement, about exercise, about fat loss or muscle gain, or anything kind of related to this component?
Male 4: Yeah. So, quick question. You talked about it on a podcast recently. If you are doing early morning workouts especially because you got to go to work, but you want to stay fasted, what’s the best thing to do post-workout? There are different things like EAAs and whatnot. What’s your advice for getting the best recovery from the workout and maximizing what you did?
Ben: Yeah. Evident studies show that if you wait to eat after a workout, that you actually experience an increasing growth hormone and testosterone, the only exception to this would be if you’re getting up in the morning and you’re working out in a fasted state. In which case, since you’re already fasted during the workout, it would actually benefit you to, sometime within about 20 to 60 minutes after that morning workout assuming it’s kind of a robust challenging workout, to eat, to have breakfast.
Now, if you’re more working on the afternoon, in the evening, earlier in the day, you’ve already said, you can actually benefit from waiting one to two hours or more after your workout. And you don’t have to take in like amino acids or some kind of supplement like that even in that scenario unless your goal is muscle gain, staying in as anabolic a state as possible. So, post-workout nutrition tends to be heavily overemphasized. The only time I tell people to emphasize it is if you’ve done a hard workout in a fasted state in the morning, then it behooves you to actually prioritize getting nutrition back into your body. Otherwise, with the only exception to this rule being if you’re going to exercise hard again within about eight hours and you got to replenish your glycogen levels and your amino acids and everything, then you don’t have to drop everything and go eat after workout.
And you could actually benefit from a hormonal standpoint and a fat loss standpoint by just letting yourself go until your next meal. And I do that very, very often. My scenario is I’ll typically wake up in a fasted state, I do easy exercise, and then I’ll have breakfast sometime within the next couple of hours. And then I do my afternoon or evening workout having not eaten for four to six hours, essentially lunchtime. And then after that workout, I’ll wait one to two hours until dinner.
Are there kind of exercise questions that we got?
Male 5: Hey, regarding the super slow approach. I’ve read Doug McGuff’s book, Body by Science, and he promotes more of a one week approach with needing six to seven days of recovery. And you’ve mentioned maybe doing two to three times a week. Can you talk about that in terms of are you changing up what you’re doing or do you think you could do the same super slow twice a week?
Ben: Yeah. Doug McGuff wrote a good book called Body by Science in which he highlights a lot of the peripheral and central cardiovascular benefits of lifting a single set to failure, like one single set of chest press, shoulder press, pull-down, seated row, and leg press, for example. And he endorses doing that just once a week. It’s like a 12 to 18-minute workout. But he’s also working primarily with either a sick or a senior population, whose goal is to just stave off cachexia or sarcopenia, or loss of muscle. I think that in the general population, who is a little bit healthier than who he is accustomed to working with, you can see better gains in muscle and better maintenance in muscle by doing the workout more frequently than that.
In addition, we can’t necessarily deny the fact that for some people including myself, like some kind of lifting or some kind of exercise, it’s almost like meditation. It just feels good to go out and move, and sure, maybe you don’t have to lift something heavy and do an exhausting workout like that more than one time a week but, myself included, I just feel a lot better when I’m doing something like two to three times a week, and my muscles just feel more capable. So, I think that you’ve got to couch some of Dr. McGuff’s advice in light of the fact that he’s working with a population that is necessarily athletic and may not even be as robust as the general population.
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So, the next section of the wellness wheel is sleep. It’s sleep. And of course, I could talk about sleep for a long time, and there’s of course all of these rules that we know about when it comes to proper sleep hygiene. Sleep in a cool environment. Preferably, sleep with as few clothes on as possible, although you can put socks on because when you keep your feet warm, it allows the rest of your body to stay cool. It’s a good little trick, but you sleep with your socks on, wearing as little as possible.
You keep the room cold. You keep the room silent or you pump white noise in through some kind of an app or some kind of a noise player next to your bed. You keep the room dark, preferably. You wear blue light blocking glasses. You install things like red incandescent bulbs in the bedroom so that there’s not a harsh artificial light. You use the bedroom for sleep or for sex but not a lot else. You don’t do business on your bed with your laptop. You don’t lay in bed reading books about your career or about things that are going to keep you up at night thinking about them. A lot of these things are–they’re becoming increasingly common knowledge when it comes to sleep hygiene.
What I’ve found though is something a lot of people don’t go out of their way to emphasize is exposure to as much natural blue light as possible early in the day, getting your ass outdoors as soon as possible in the morning when the sun has come up and exposing yourself to sunlight early in the day. That was one of the most profound things I’ve done in the past two years to increase my deep sleep percentages is my blue light exposure early in the day, preferably to as wide a spectrum of light as possible.
Now, I understand. For me, I live on a slope in the forest. Sometimes it’s dark. I don’t have a lot of sun. You guys are in L.A. Sometimes you get this thing called smog. The first few times that I came to L.A. and I’d open up my curtains in my hotel room and look outside, I’d think it was just like a Seattle grey dreary day and I realize that’s just freaking small. But there are things like blue light producing glasses, blue light producing ear devices, blue light producing panels or just light producing panels that you can stand in front of or bathe your body in front of to get as much blue light as possible early in the day.
That I think is probably one of the top sleep tips that I think flies under the radar is getting out and getting as much light as you can. I mean, like the blue light blocking glasses. Sometimes I will see people wearing those in inappropriate scenarios, like outside in the daytime. For example, Matt, you’re wearing your blue light blocking glasses right now but it is technically, I think the sun has set outside, when the sun is set in whatever area of the world you happen to be in, that’s when you should start to limit your blue light exposure.
Furthermore, even if it’s a middle of day and you’re working on your computer or you’re underneath bright LED of fluorescent lights, that’s another appropriate scenario to wear glasses like that. Although my personal protocol is I use the clear ones during the day so I’m blocking some of those wavelengths of light. Then I’ll switch to like a red or an orange at night. So, I’ve got kind of two different lenses that I’ll use. But ultimately, the idea is that blue light gets shoved under the bus sometimes. People are like, “Oh, that’s going to keep you awake at night.” But light early in the day is actually a pretty good thing, especially natural light as much as possible.
So, what kind of questions you guys have about sleep?
Male 6: Ben, thank you for being here with all of us. Appreciate it big time, Ben. I have a question about REM. I know you’ve talked quite a bit on your podcast about the importance of deep sleep and increasing that. And on my aura did I tend to get over two hours of deep sleep but under an hour of RAM usually. Is that a concern and what do you usually do for people in that scenario?
Ben: That’s a good question. A lot of people, they tend to have deficits in deep sleep, not REM sleep. I think a big part of sleep architecture is related to a lot of those sleep hygiene concepts that I talked about. Being able to bring yourself through each sleep cycle is related to lights. It’s related to the sound in the room. It’s related to thoughts that might be racing through your head and not doing business in bed, et cetera.
Have you ever looked into things like sleep apnea or your oxygen utilization during sleep, anything along those lines? Because one thing that you can do is you can wear a continuous pulse oximeter while you’re sleeping, and then you can get that data. Some oximeters will give you your oxygenation during an entire night of sleep and you can look at that. And if there are certain periods where your oxygen is dropping pretty rapidly, that could indicate sleep apnea that will be pulling you out of normal sleep architecture. And that’s something that a lot of people deal with. It happens more in back sleepers and side sleepers. It happens in people who have a lot of mouth breathing or shallow chest breathing during the day. They tend to revert to that at night as well.
And there are really good books about this type of thing like Patrick McKeown’s book, The Oxygen Advantage, that teaches you how to begin to breathe through your nose. On my podcast, I’ve interviewed a guy named Dr. Joseph Zelk, and we really geeked out on sleep apnea and how big of an issue that is when it comes to sleep cycles. That’s something you could look into. Yeah.
Male 6: Thank you.
Ben: Yeah. So, I would consider something like that.
Male 7: How’s it going, Ben?
Ben: Yeah. Pretty good, man.
Male 7: What do you think about the benefits of waking up for the sunrise to get someone’s circadian rhythm rolling in the morning versus sleeping in a little bit later until you wake up naturally or maybe trying to get to a point where you wake up naturally that early, like when you wake up?
Ben: Yeah. If you’re lucky enough to have a lifestyle that allows you to go to bed within about two to three hours after sunset and then wake with the sunrise, that’s ideal. That’s the way that nature is supposed to operate. However, we live in a post-industrial era. I doubt any of you are going to be in bed about an hour from now. We just live in an era where stuff happens at night. We’ve got all of the magic and the convenience of artificial lighting, but of course it means we’re constantly fighting an uphill battle because, as anyone who has been camping frequently knows, you get tired like at 8:00 or 9:00 p.m. and it’s pretty rare for you to be up past 10:00 p.m. when you’re camping.
But then as soon as you’re shifted back into an environment like this, it’s pretty damn hard to go to bed soon after the sunset, and it’s especially hard to go to bed at say like 10:00 or 11:00 p.m. and get up with the sunrise at 5:00 a.m., right? Not a lot of us are Navy SEALs and Jocko Willink and David Goggins and all these guys. They figure out how to do it, but some of these cats are wired up kind of differently and maybe shortening their lifespan and their recovery and their memory consolidation from some of that shortened sleep. So, in my opinion, it depends, if you can, truly. There are some people I work with, they go to bed at 8:00 p.m. and they get up at 4:00 a.m. And that’s great if your lifestyle accommodates that.
And the other issue is a lot of people will say, “Okay. Well, I’ve got four days of the week that I actually can do that, but then these three days of the week, I am not going to get bed ’til like 11:00 p.m. so I got to get up at 6:00 a.m. or 7:00 a.m.” The problem with that is the human body does very well with regular sleep-wake cycles. Like in an ideal scenario, your best sleep data, your best sleep architecture is going to come from going to bed at a frequent time and getting up at a frequent time. That’s normal. And for me personally, that’s 10:00 p.m. to 6:00 am. For you, it could be midnight to 7:00 a.m. But whatever it is, like having the normal sleep-wake cycles is very important. It’s tough, but in an ideal scenario, yeah, you go to bed soon after sunset, you get up at sunrise. I’m more of like a 10:00 p.m. to 6:00 a.m. guy, but yeah, it’s a good question.
Alright. Let’s move on to cardiovascular health. Number four, cardiovascular health. There are all sorts of things we can talk about when it comes to cardiovascular health. But in my opinion, the number one thing that you need to consider is the health of your vagus nerve. Your vagus nerve is what innervates the SA nodes, the electrical cells of your heart. And in an ideal scenario, you’ve got feedback from your sympathetic branch and your parasympathetic branch of your nervous system feeding into your heart, keeping your heart on cue, having a high, what’s called heart rate variability. Who in here knows about or tracks their HRV, their heart rate variability?
All that is, and there are devices now, like I’m wearing a ring that does it. A lot of these self-qualification wearables now do it. That measurement is the amount of time in between each beat of your heart. It’s not your heart rate. It’s the amount of time in between each beat of your heart. And in an ideal scenario, there are slight micro differences between each single beat. That reflects a robust nervous system, and in many cases, a healthier cardiovascular system because your cardiovascular system is responding very well to the cues that your nervous system is sending to it.
How do you increase the health of your vagus nerves that your heart rate is better able to respond to the cues from your nervous system? It actually comes down to a lot of things that are almost like a woo, kind of spiritual; chanting, singing, humming, good relationships, getting out in the cold, getting exposed to some heat every now and again, good breathwork, deep nasal breathing. There are a lot of things that enhance the help of a vagus nerve. And there’s technology too. I mean, there are companies like Fisher Wallace, for example. And I own a couple of these units that will make vagal nerve stimulators, which typically go on either side of the head. Sometimes they’ll be located closer to the neck. But these things actually stimulate the vagus nerve and increase the tone of the vagus nerves that your nervous system is speaking to your cardiovascular system in a more efficient way.
Now, in my opinion, a lot of people would experience improvements in the cardiovascular status if they were to focus on good interplay between the parasympathetic and the sympathetic nervous system. And one example of that would be your heart rate slows when you breathe out and it speeds up when you breathe in. And in most scenarios, you should be taking a longer time breathing out than you take when you breathe in. And again, books like that, what I mentioned, The Oxygen Advantage by Patrick McKeown, teach you to do this. I have this little device called a Relaxator that I got out of a book I forget the name of. It’s like “The Art of Breath” or something like that by author Anders Olsson. And I’ll put this thing in my mouth and go for a walk. What it is is it’s a device that forces you to breathe through your nose and then it gives you resistance as you breathe out through your mouth. So, it teaches you how to retain oxygen and also retain carbon dioxide at the same time and breathe out very slowly.
And when I do this, my HRV goes notably higher. You can also do this when you’re meditating, sitting in the sauna, lying in bed. But knowing how to tweak your vagus nerve, and even kind of getting dialed in to some of the neural feedback apps or rings or self-quantification devices that allow you to track your HRV is very prudent when it comes to your cardiovascular status, especially when combined with some of those exercise tips I gave you, like high-intensity interval training, lactic acid training, VO2 max training. So, you’re trying to get the interplay between the nervous system and the cardiovascular system. I think that’s one of the best things you can do for your heart.
What kind of questions you guys have about cardiovascular health?
Female 1: At one point, you had mentioned in a podcast something about fat being oxidized through breath. So, with what you’re saying here, have you ever come across any studies about like singing and fat loss?
Ben: If you dance a lot when you’re singing, maybe. No, I have not come across any studies about singing and fat loss, but I can’t say we’re going on PubMed and look for singing fat loss. The idea that you’re alluding to is the fact that we do lose a great deal of our carbon and the fact that we’re burning through the breath. And that’s one of the reasons that exercise works as you’re breathing rapidly or you’re moving oxygen in and carbon dioxide out and it enhances fat loss. But ultimately, I can’t say that singing, although it’s wonderful for the vagus nerve, singing, chanting, humming like I was talking about, I don’t know that it would increase fat loss, but it’s great for the vagus nerve and it’s great for cardiovascular health. Yeah. Sing in the shower, baby.
What other questions about cardiovascular? Yes, sir?
Male 8: Hi, Ben. Talking about HLV, a lot of people discuss how you can improve parasympathetic tone, but nobody talks about improving sympathetic tone. And personally speaking, this might not relate to anyone else, but if you’ve got a consistently low LF and low sympathetic tone, any thoughts what might be going on and how you might address that?
Ben: Yeah. Clarification of a few terms, when this gentleman says HF and LF, if you were to download like a neurofeedback out for your heart rate variability, like there’s one called NatureBeat. There’s another one called SweetBeat. And these will actually give you scores for what’s called your HF which stands for high frequency and your LF which stands for low frequency. Now, your HF is indicative of your parasympathetic nervous system score, your parasympathetic nervous system health/tone. The LF is indicative of your sympathetic nervous system tone. And the idea is that you would want a high HF and a high LF, which is going to give you a high overall heart rate variability. And if you had a low LF, that would indicate a low sympathetic nervous system tone.
Now, there are certain things that stress or that train the sympathetic nervous system. Sprinting is one example, like running from the line, running from the tiger for very brief burst like 10 to 30 seconds. I’ve used these apps to track my sympathetic nervous system stress during exercise. And you know the one exercise that stresses sympathetic tone the most? It’s a back squat, a back squat, barbell on your back performing a back squat. So, I actually go out of my way to include back squats as part of my work out because that’s a great way to get your sympathetic tone going.
Basically, anything that makes you feel as though you’re being attacked by a cougar or running from a lion in moderation, not like chronically throughout the whole day running from all the lines, jumping out from the email inbox in your computer, but just brief periods of time spent doing that with long recovery periods, that’s the way that I would go after sympathetic tone. And if you do that and also combine that with some of the other exercise things I talk about like stamina for your parasympathetic tone, slow eating, relaxation, meditation breathing, you’re kind of hitting both elements of the nervous system.
Male 8: But do you think that a lot of this sympathetic tone is indicative of any particular health concerns?
Ben: It could be. I mean, you can always get an EKG, like a stressed EKG and a resting EKG from a physician and find out if you actually have like paraventricular contractions or other electrical abnormalities of the heart. But that’s something you actually have to have overseen by a physician. So, yeah.
Male 8: Thank you.
Ben: Okay. Let’s go to number five, brain health. I suppose the soapbox that I want to get on here–how many of you in here take smart drugs, nootropics, microdose with LSD and psilocybin and lion’s mane and all this stuff? A lot of people are doing that these days but what you have to realize is that the mechanism of action for many of these compounds is they flood your synaptic clefts with dopamine and with serotonin. Neurotransmitters in increasingly high levels can render you increasingly insensitive to the action of those compounds. Meaning, cause and stimulation, even with something in a bottle that says it’s good for your brain is going to make you think faster and be smarter and improve cognitive performance, an IQ, an executive function.
The idea is still that you are robbing Peter to pay Paul. You’re still flooding yourself with neurotransmitters. And if you are depending on that for daily energy, then the world of smart drugs and nootropics is not doing you any service. And I find that myself–and probably many of you have experienced this as well. You wake up and once you’ve started to use whatever it might be; caffeine, nicotine, lion’s mane, any of these different stacks from CILTEP to Qualia to Alpha BRAIN, there’s like a million of them out there and I know a lot of people are taking them. The problem is if that becomes like your daily multivitamin, there is an issue. You are creating dopamine and serotonin excesses or deficiencies that closely mimic what you’d be getting if you were to be using like a selective serotonin reuptake inhibitor or some other antidepressant on a daily basis.
So, if you are finding yourself reliant upon those compounds, in my opinion, you need to back off and dial in your sleep and your energy levels first. For me, the best way to do this is–I love to camp and I love to hunt. And when I go off on a camping trip or a bow hunting trip, I go very–usually, there’s like pack weight specifications, et cetera, like my next tone is 10 days long up in Alaska. I can only have 50 pounds. And once you add up my gun and my bow and my food and my clothes, I can’t have like eight bottles of supplements in my bag. So, I got to just strip myself down and go with nothing and just focus on sleep, breathwork to control cortisol and to allow myself to relax, consumption of good plant foods or wild meat to be able to get my multivitamins and my minerals.
And ultimately, having those periods of the year where you strip down, where you switch to decaf instead of regular caffeine, where you choose times when life isn’t as busy and you’re able to wean yourself off of all these things that are stimulating neurotransmitters, that’s smart, because we live in a society that’s dependent on stimulants and it creates this scenario of uppers/downers. Maybe you’re not, whatever, doing crack cocaine during the day and taking Valium and Ambien at night, but maybe you are drinking three cups of coffee and taking some kind of a smart drug and then hitting the vape pen and taking the CBD and the melatonin at night, and that’s the roller coaster ride that you’re on.
And frankly, pardon the expression and the language, but that fucked up your neurotransmitters and it’s something that you should think about weaning yourself off of because I see this too much in the society that we’re living in where all this stuff is so readily available and so inexpensive. So, when it comes to brain health, I think that’s one of the number one things that you can do.
What kind of questions you guys have about brain? Yes, sir?
Male 9: Well, again, thanks for being here, Ben. It’s good to have you. I guess the thing I’m just wondering, we’re in a city, for those of us who live in L.A. who don’t live in like nature and environment, we’re constantly exposed to this sort of high stress, like our nervous systems are–and people don’t even realize it but we’re kind of in a cognitive state where we’re in a high-stress environment all the time; traffic, people, small, smog. So, do you have any neurohacks or any of the brain hacks or cognitive strategies you think or anything to help us mitigate that?
Ben: I think the number one thing that people do not teach themselves is proper breathwork. Everything from alternate nostril breathing to box breathing to nasal breathing to even working with some of the breathwork training devices that I talked about like the Relaxator or the power along or any of these things that train you how to use your Prana, how to use your breathwork to control your physiology. In my opinion, if you can control your cortisol with deep breathing before bed at night rather than whatever, the phosphatidylserine that you take to lower cortisol. And if you can amp yourself up pre-workout with a round of power breathing or breath of fire rather than a cup of coffee or some other stimulant, then you’re tapping into what the human body has built in to deal with a lot of these stressors. I do a lot of that. I do a lot of very quick meditation cycles, even just back there just now. I flipped on Brain.fm for 10 minutes. And there are other apps like Pzizz and SleepStream and others that will just play some relaxing beats in your ear and you just dwell with those. Like 10 minutes, you breathe your way through it. I’m okay with combining technology with some of this breathwork. It’s some of this relaxation.
The other thing I use quite a bit is light sound devices like I use one called a DAVID Delight Mind Alive. It’s flashes of light, it’s sound, and it’s a little bit of vagus nerve stimulation like cranial electrical stimulation, and you just go dead to the world, like 15/20 minutes. It hits the review button, then you come back, and you go to work. There are other similar devices like the BrainTap, like the NuCalm. But ultimately, those devices work pretty well too. So, use breathwork and even look in the technology as an alternative to stimulants. So, yeah.
Male 9: Okay. Great. Thanks. Great reminder.
Ben: Yes, sir. Digestive health, because I already kind of covered what I wanted to say, especially regarding on nutrient density and digestibility with what I was talking about food, what I’m going to do is move from digestive health, which would be number six, into hormone health. Probably, the number one thing that I see people doing that I think has a pretty profound impact on hormones is this cycle. Once again, we see a lot of these cycles that we get into of overtraining and undereating. I am shocked by the number of people who come to me for a consult on their testosterone levels or their progesterone levels or their lack of drive or their lack of energy and they’ve got their CrossFit workout, their hot yoga session, their SoulCycle session, their intermittent fasting, their 24-hour, fast their coming into work, their afternoon walk. They’re doing all these things that theoretically are kind of a good idea but they’ve piled too many of them on their plate.
We live in an information age where FOMO can cause you to overtrain and hormonally deplete yourself. I was just in New York City, and then I go there, like everybody knows I’m a fitness guy so I get the cryotherapy gym offering me a free pass, and the Spin session reaches out, and then two people contact me about the workout that they’re doing that morning. Same thing when I go to Boulder, like somebody wants to go on a bike ride but then somebody else wants to do a swim, and I know people who will say yes to all those sessions.
And then when you combine that with healthy eating, which by definition a lot of times exposes you to fewer calories, and that’s not necessarily a bad thing, but when you marry that to this intense lifestyle of overexercising and almost being afraid of missing out an exercise session or missing out on the ability to build muscle or lose fat, I see over and over again these hormonal issues. And the number one way that I found to fix that is to equip yourself with the ability to be able to make your body better in the absence of burning calories or a hard exercise session.
So, what do I mean by that? I have recovery days now that are completely devoted to either spirituality or cardiovascular blood flow or something that involves making my body or my brain better. What I’ve identified is usually the reason that I’m doing the exercise session in the first place. I crave some kind of self-improvement, which is almost like a built-in human desire. So, what does that look like? Well, it means on a day where I would have normally lifted weights and done a high-intensity interval training session, I might instead lay on my back in the sauna for 45 minutes and do breathwork and finish with another 10 minutes in a cold pool or in some kind of a cold session doing more breathwork and then later on that day hit the foam roller. I might have those days where I’m just out on a walk in the sunshine with my kids or out on an easy hike. I’m constantly asking myself, is my body fully recovered or am I simply jumping into yet another exercise session to scratch that exercise itch?
The same can be said for food, like intermittent fast. I do fasting mimicking diet four times a year. I do a 24-hour fast one to two times a month, but I also have certain periods of time where I refeed and I freaking mouth stuff. For me, because I’m still competing as an athlete, every evening, I refill my body with carbohydrates. Every single evening for me, I’m eating 100 to 150 grams of carbohydrates. I’m cyclic keto. I mean, I’m burning fatty acids all day long, then I’m replenishing my body, allowing my endocrine system what it needs to rebuild by doing an evening refeed.
Some of my clients aren’t as active as me. Some of them aren’t training for Spartans or triathlons or things like that. They’re doing a weekly refeed. They’re having like a Saturday night where they’re going out to their favorite restaurant just eating as much food as they want. I don’t call it as a cheat day because the problem with the cheat day is people get into that mentality that they’re going to go to Chick-fil-A and Domino’s Pizza and eat all their favorite guilty foods and comfort foods when they were a kid. But the problem is that a cheat day is not a cheat day. It turns into almost a cheat month because the inflammation from a high vegetable oil, sugar-laden meal, that will stay in your digestive tract for about 19 days. Meaning when you cheat and you go out to like crappy shitty pizza, that’s not just with you for that one day. It’s with you for a long time.
So, understand, there’s a difference between refeeding and refueling the body and taking care of it and resetting the metabolic rate and keeping your thyroid from downregulating by giving your body lots of really good nutrition food, nutritious food, and cheating on crap food. Like if I cheat, I don’t want to cheat on dog crap. I just want to cheat on more the ribeye steak and the sweet potato fries and the dark chocolate and the red wine and the good stuff. When you combine, allowing yourself to nourish your body with really good healthy food on a frequent basis, combined with periods of stoicism and fasting and lower calorie intake, and you allow yourself to do all the high-intensity interval training and the heavy lifting, but also have those patterns in your life where you have ways to make your body or your brain better without beating yourself up with exercise.
And this can include things like music, poetry, writing fiction, reading fiction, doing a lot of the things that actually still result in a release of dopamine without necessarily requiring exercise session. Then you allow yourself to avoid a lot of the hormonal depletion that can occur from getting in that cycle of overexercising and being on a constant diet. I think that’s how you keep your hormones optimized.
That being said, what kind of questions you guys have about hormones?
Female 2: First of all, I just want to plug your Gratitude Journal, because I feel like that really helps in so many of the areas we’ve already talked about. Just to start your day and get in that state, it brings you–
Ben: Yeah. And gratitude also helps you love yourself each day, right?
Female 2: Yeah.
Ben: And self-love is an important part and not beating yourself up.
Female 2: So, on the hormones for the thyroid, I know you went through a period where when you were ketogenic and exercising and doing that period of your life, you kind of trash thyroid. I’ve done similar things to mine and I’m wondering what you did to repair it. And then also now that you’re doing a little bit longer fasting instead of just your 12/14-hour intermittent, how is that going for you with your thyroid? Are you having issues with that?
Ben: Yeah. I had a lot of issues with thyroid and with testosterone when I was doing more of an endurance training protocol, burning a lot of calories, and also kind of congratulating myself on a strict ketogenic diet to get adequate conversion of T4 and to T3, for example, inactive thyroid hormone to more bioavailable active thyroid hormone. You need some amount of glucose. In the same way, high amounts of cortisol can decrease that conversion and lower your thyroid activity. I mean, so can other things like intake of foods that you might have an immune reaction to like high amounts of wheat or soy or dairy or things like that.
But ultimately, when I started doing things, the biggest difference for me was a daily, like a nightly carbohydrate refeed, just allowing myself to eat as many carbohydrates as my body was craving. I mean, Khalil saw me. I’ve [01:00:44] ______ and I had a couple of donuts and a big sugary coffee. I probably had 150 carbs over there soon as I walked in. But those are really the first carbohydrates that I had the whole day. So, identifying that my body responds very favorably from a thyroid standpoint to those type of refeeds at the end of the day, that made a big difference not only with thyroid but also with testosterone, especially when combined with reducing a lot of the chronic cardio.
So, that’s what made the biggest difference for me along with one other thing that I did, and that was shifting my diet. I’m omnivorous. I eat meat and vegetables, but I began to shift my meat intake towards a higher intake of not just the red meat. So, bone broth, bone marrow, organ meats, head cheese, Braunschweig, liver, thymus, like a lot of these more ancestral cuts of meat that we call offal, O-F-F-A-L, not A-W-F-U-L, that are just fantastic for your hormone status. So, that’s how I kind of tackle that.
Female 2: Now that you’re fasting, you’re finding that you’ve healed enough that you–
Ben: Oh yeah, because I fast and I feed. Remember, fasting is not necessarily synonymous with calorie restriction. Fasting is synonymous with compressed feeding windows. The only time I fast with calorie restriction is, on a quarterly basis now, I’ll spend five days with a lower calorie intake based on the research from Valter Longo in his longevity diet where you eat about 40% of your normal calorie intake, get an increase in growth hormone, you get an increase in testosterone. There are a lot of benefits to that. But it’s just five days. It’s just four times a year. All the rest of the time, even if I’m fasting for 16 hours a day, and I’ll sit down to dinner sometimes and punish 2,500 calories easily and another 1,000 at lunch. Loving your body with food is fine. There’s nothing wrong with that.
Okay. So, number eight. The eighth part of the wheel is stress and inflammation. Now, I already talked about one of the best ways to control stress. Anybody remember what that was? Breathwork, right, knowing how to use your breath to control your stress. The other thing that I think is the biggest component when it comes to the stress and inflammation piece is oils, and specifically, vegetable oils. I am far more careful with those than I am with sugar because I can burn sugar. You can metabolize sugar. Your body has sugar in it naturally. Your liver stores sugar. Your muscle stores sugar. In the form of glycogen, they release that. Sugar is not bad. High amount of sugar hanging around the bloodstream for a long period of time is an issue but sugar in and of itself is very naturally metabolized by the body.
However, oxidized vegetable oils, heated oils are not, and it’s shocking how many of us wander into a restaurant where our steak is 60/70 bucks a cut, the salad is $30, a decent California size tiny little piece of octopus is like 40 bucks on your appetizer, and we think, because it’s like small portions or pretty or nicely plated or expensive, that this must be healthy food. When in fact, if you wander into the back of that kitchen, they’re cutting their olive oil half in half with canola oil. You’re getting food that’s drenched in non-grass-fed butter and you’ve got sunflower oil and safflower oil and packaged healthy foods at the newsstand at the airport that say that they’re apple chips but you look at the label and the apple chips have vegetable oils in it.
I think that the best thing that you can do to reduce inflammation is to ruthlessly be cognizant of the vegetable oils in it. Ask the restaurant, “Hey, that roasted brussels sprouts that I’ve been getting for the past five years and the appetizers in my favorite restaurant, what are those cooked in?” Turns out it’s usually canola oil on the pan in the backroom. That doesn’t mean you have to stop eating brussels sprouts at that restaurant. In many cases, especially better restaurants, they’ll use an extra virgin olive oil, they’ll use a butter, they’ll use a more stable oil. You just have to ask.
But you need to begin to be cognizant that even–I recognize that probably a lot of you in this room are not eating out at Domino’s Pizza every night. But even if you’re eating what you would consider to be very healthy food, healthy packaged food or healthy restaurant food, a lot of that stuff is drenched in oils that are highly inflammatory because consider this, your body has to take the oils that are part of your diet and use that to make your cell membranes, use that to make your tissues where you metabolize sugar. You don’t do that with oils quite as much. Those actually make up your body. You are what you eat, especially when it comes to oils. You are even what you eat/ate when it comes to what kind of oils or grains or inflammatory products that the animals that you’re eating were more exposed to.
So, the number one thing that you can do in my opinion when it comes to inflammation is to be ruthlessly cognizant of the type of fats and the type of oils that you’re putting into your body. And high heat, like you could take a really good oil. But if you cook the hell out of it, then that–at home, if you’re cooking oil and it starts to smoke, that’s a bad sign. Different was I’m part of an extra virgin olive oil club, and sometimes I’ll get an oil from Australia and it will start to smoke after like one minute on medium high on my burner and then another oil because it has a higher amount of polyphenols and antioxidants, it’s more heat stable.
So, you really have to look into the oils that you’re using and identify those that are actually heat stable because it could even take a good fat and oxidize it if you don’t treat it well. I want to say it could be said for fish oil, right? You get a really good bottle of fish oil, but if that thing gets hot in the trunk of your car or if it’s just like opening your refrigerator for a long period of time and goes rancid, all of a sudden, those wonderful omega-3S aren’t doing your body any favors. So, yeah.
What other questions you guys have about stress and inflammation?
Male 10: Speaking of oils and inflammatory oils, what do you think about deuterium content of foods in water? Because these oils happen to have the highest deuterium content of any food on earth. So, yeah, how do you find that relates to this picture?
Ben: What Matt’s referring to is deuterium, and deuterium is this. It’s an isotope that we’re finding in increasing quantities, especially for example in produce that’s laden with pesticides and herbicides are grown in mineral depleted soils and in a lot of non-organic meats, processed oils, et cetera. The problem is that that displaces hydrogen in the body, so it can affect things like the electron transport chain in your mitochondria. And there are even companies now selling things like deuterium depleted water or trying to figure out ways to test your deuterium and determine whether or not you’re somebody who needs to be really limiting deuterium.
Now, interestingly, if you are being cognizant of your glycemic variability, how much your glucose fluctuates during the day, potentially eating something, not necessarily a strict ketogenic diet but at least allowing your body to churn out ketones, you wind up kind of creating a lot of your own deuterium depleted water. So, I’m not convinced that you got to spend like 10/12 bucks on bottle of deuterium depleted water, but it is something that I think is becoming an increasingly common issue is people have just too much deuterium built up in their bodies.
And there are companies now that will actually test your deuterium level. It’s like a breath test that you can order to your home. I forget the name of the main company that’s doing it now. Cignature Health, yeah. Yeah, it was Cignature with a C. So, deuterium, a lot of people are not talking about that. A lot of people don’t know about it, but DDW, deuterium depleted water or looking into deuterium levels, that’s actually something that’s kind of–it’s kind of the talk of some of the people who are at the forefront of health and nutrition now. So, it’s definitely something to be cognizant of.
Okay. Let’s go to number nine. Number nine of the wellness wheel is immunity and cancer. There’s a lot, of course, that we could talk about with any of these components of the wellness wheel, but I think that when it comes to immunity, one of the best things that you can do is to be aware of lymphatic flow and lymph fluid. I am constantly asking myself during the day, have I moved my lymph? Have I done things that will allow for lymphatic drainage? What are some things that can do that? I like rebounding. I like Kundalini breathwork that’s combined with movement and breath holds and more movement. Vibration platforms are another example.
These are things that you can equip your home or your office with to just keep your body circulating lymph flow throughout. Exercise will do it, but of course you need to be careful that you aren’t relying upon heavy exercise sessions because of what I explained to you about hormones as the number one way to move lymph fluid. I mean, there’s no reason that you can’t have a little balance board at work or a vibration platform or a mini rebounder that you jump on at certain points during the day, you walk or you stand up whenever you’re talking on the phone. And you even focus on, for example, like sleep positions that enhance your lymphatic drainage, like sleeping on your side, which we now know is one of the ways that you engage in what’s called glymphatic drainage, which is detoxification of the brain in the neural tissue as you sleep.
So, being aware of all these different ways that we can move a lymph through the body I think is very important. There are ways that you can move a lot of the lymph through the gut as well. There’s a really good Ayurvedic physician named Dr. John Douillard. He operates out of Boulder, Colorado. He has a really great book called Mind, Body, Sport. And he has a lot of Ayurvedic protocols in there that are fantastic for the immunity of the gut. One thing that he does is decoction tea. And this is something I make at home. It’s marshmallow and licorice root and–I’m blanking on the name of the last compound, and it’s marshmallow, licorice, and slippery elm. Slippery elm is the third component and you just basically make a vat of that and you boil it down, you put several cups of water and you boil it down ’til there’s just two or three cups left and it’s almost like this slimy mucus type of tea. Fantastic for the mucosal lining of your gut because your gut is where a lot of your immunity resides. And when you’re doing things like that combined with movement and vibration and rebounding, I think it’s one of the best things that you can do for your immune system.
And then when it comes to the cancer piece, which is of course intimately tied to immunity, probably one of the biggest light bulbs that went on for me when it came to cancer was when I was in Galilee, Israel and I had a chance to sit down with a guy who was a former professional basketball player who came down with cancer. And his realization and you’d have thought of–I’ve realized this before, but this is my first exposure to this idea that’s prevalent in traditional Chinese medicine, for example, that cancer is very much tied to emotions. And this was a very competitive type big guy. He had a lot of hatred and anger and bitterness and relationships that he hadn’t resolved in his life, and there’s this idea that cancer can begin by simply this type of things that get built up in the bones and built up in the tissue.
It’s related to these emotions that Dr. David Hawkins, in his excellent book Healing and Recovery, would refer to as the emotions that vibrate at a lower frequency, like anger and fear and shame. The three emotions that rank highest in that book by Dr. Hawkins are peace and love and joy. And I actually have this mantra that I repeat to myself during the day; peace, love, and joy. Now, peace to me means that I ruthlessly eliminate hurry from my life. Like I’m constantly in this state where things are going to be okay, I don’t have to get everything on the checklist done, I don’t have to jump out of bed in the morning, I can lay there and do my breathwork and do my gratitude journaling.
Love means that I go out of my way to sacrifice and to love others, and it doesn’t feel like sacrifice when it’s truly love. Like when I don’t want to when my wife pulls up in the pickup truck from the city that she drives to each weekend, it’s just overflowing with alfalfa bales and I know that they itch her skin, and I’ve got like 10 phone calls to make but all of a sudden, there’s a huge pickup truck full of alfalfa and I got to hold down to the barn. For me, I love my wife. I want her to be happy. I don’t want her to lay awake at night with her legs itching from alfalfa. So, I grab the alfalfa bales and I go out there and I move the alfalfa because I love her. Loving others and having love in your life and going out of your way to sacrifice up for others, even that gratitude journal I do in the morning, I write down one person who I can pray for or help or serve that day. That’s very important.
And finally, joy, laughter. I think many of us just move through the day without smiling, without laughing, without figuring out ways to crack jokes and make people happy and be funny. I mean, working peace and love and joy, specifically those three, figuring out ways to weave those into every day I think is one of the best things that you can do for immunity. And as much as many modern western trained docs would laugh at this, I think it’s one of the best things that you can do for cancer as well.
So, when it comes to immunity and cancer, what kind of questions do you guys have?
Male 11: Okay. Speaking of immunity then, what do you think about the exposure to dirt?
Ben: Yeah. It’s biome.
Male 11: I also recall you consuming some sort of Chinese worm or something.
Ben: Yes, yes, exactly. I think that that’s something that NextHealth tyranny is to begin doing is pig whipworm and rat tapeworm treatments. That’s called helminthic therapy. And you actually can. I have a whole article on this on my website for immune system modulation. I travel a lot and I’ve found that this actually helps me quite a bit when I travel as I actually–I use helminthic therapy. I have vials of pig whipworms and rat tapeworms in my refrigerator and I take a dose of that about every two weeks. But I don’t think that everybody–I’m on the road sometimes for like 20 days out of every month all over the freaking planet, so my immune system takes a hit.
I think getting outside, getting into the dirt, doing some of your workouts in the park that include things like bear crawls, laying down in your back in the grass, even using like a soil-based probiotic, for example, these are also things that bring us into closer connection with Mother Earth. And yeah, absolutely, a big part of immunity is the biome. So, getting out there, maybe even not showering and bathing as frequently, or when you do, just using water and not lots of soap, I think we could all benefit just a little bit from smelling like hippies. And we might get sick a little bit less. So, yeah, it’s a good point.
Okay. So, number 10 is detoxification. Detoxification is very much related to that immune system component that I talked about. And your body has built-in detoxification mechanisms, like your kidney, your liver, your colon, et cetera. And the three main ways that you detox really that I think everyone should do during the day is breathing, pooping, and sweating. Those are our three real elimination organs is out our ass through our skin and out through our mouths. So, breathing, that would be frequently moving. Like I’ve harped on breathwork multiple times, not just breathwork that’s vigorous, working in things like Kundalini breathwork or Wim Hof style breathwork, but also this component of regular bowel movements.
I do a coffee enema one to two times a week. When I travel, I use these little coffee enema suppositories called Glytamins that do something very similar as Glycin and caffeine and some of these things that are fantastic for maintaining my gallbladder’s bile production and the peristalsis in my gut and my liver health. So, this idea of not being afraid to put things up your butt that clean you out and let things frequently come out your butt that clean you out, I think that that’s another very, very important detoxification piece.
And then finally, sweating. We know there’s a lot of research on reduced mortality risk from people in Finland who are sweating four to five times a week. I go out of my way to sweat at least four to five times a week, either in a sauna, or if I’m not able to get into the sauna, I’ll wear extra clothing to the gym to get a sweat on. If you think back and you can’t think of the last time you were drenched in sweat, you’re probably not using your body’s largest detoxification organ properly. There are now companies like BioMath and higher dose and ways that you can, even with a very small footprint, introduce sauna therapy into your home. And yeah, there are other companies like Clearlight and Sunlighten, and people doing infrared saunas that take up a pretty small space in your home or your garage. But we live in an era where figuring out how to sweat shouldn’t be that hard. You breathe, you sweat, you poop, and I think those are the three most important things that you can do for your detoxification.
Now, I know that the talk is starting to get to the point where we’re a little bit long in the tooth and I want to still cover the last two aspects of the wellness wheel. So, now I’m going to keep moving through without Q&A, but we’ll have a chance afterwards to chat a little bit, I’m sure. That way, if you do need to take off after the talk, you can take off.
So, number 11 is aesthetics. Think of this as like symmetry. Think of this as beauty. Think of this as just looking good. We know we live in an era where we’re judged. I mean, we’re in freaking California where this is true than just about anywhere else, like your career, your salary, the way that people judge you. It’s not only based on what kind of car you drive but the way you carry yourself, the symmetry of your body, your facial structure. But you also, in the same way, when you focus on fertility and hormone balance, you feel better, you live a longer time. When you focus on your symmetry and your beauty and your self-care, even if that includes smelling like a hippie because you’re not showering as much, you actually do directly enhance your longevity, your lifespan, and your health.
Anybody in here familiar with Weston A. Price? I actually mentioned that diet earlier. Yeah. He discovered this substance called Activator X. Activator X is something that was prevalent in the diets of a lot of these ancestral hunter-gatherer tribes eating their indigenous diets. And it turned out that Activator X was the fat soluble vitamin, vitamin K. And vitamin K along with vitamin A, vitamin D, and vitamin E are some of the most important things not only for children and newborns to enhance their symmetry and their beauty but also for adults to develop good bone density.
The two things that I think are incredible for symmetry–and I’m working on a new book, and I have an entire chapter of the book. This chapter alone is like 80 pages long on different ways to enhance beauty and symmetry. But what comes up in that chapter over and over again is high amount of vitamin K intake from things like organ meats, marrow, grass-fed butter, fermented soybeans like natto, and a lot of these foods that we aren’t eating as much of these days. But also, something I’ve already–a horse I’ve kicked ass multiple times; proper breathwork patterns, deep nasal breathing, avoiding shallow chest breathing, avoiding some of these breathwork patterns that we now know do things like develop recessed jawlines and improper head carriage. And especially when you combine that with always looking on our phone, being hunched over our computer, we really develop the scenario where we’re actually not in a very symmetrical position, and also not giving our body the nutrients that it needs for symmetry in bone density.
So, when it comes to symmetry and when it comes to beauty, I would encourage you to eat a fat rich ancestral diet. And if you’re one of those people who falls in the category that I talked about earlier, familial hypercholesterolemia or one of these people that responds deleteriously to high-fat diet, you can still supplement with multivitamins that contain vitamin A, vitamin D, vitamin E, vitamin K, learn proper nasal breathing. These are the type of things that enhance symmetry and enhance beauty, and I think aesthetics. It’s not something that’s included in a wellness wheel like this very often but I do think it’s very important.
And then finally, there is longevity. I think this is a great place to finish. How do you live a long time? Let’s make this one into a quiz. If we look at all the Blue Zones that Dan Buettner wrote a book about, these areas where there are higher than average number of centenarians, of people living a long time, there are actually five characteristics that tend to overlap between nearly every single one of these blue zones. Who knows what those five characteristics are? Who can name a few? Yes, sir? Back there.
Male 12: No smoking.
Ben: No smoking is one. Correct. No smoking. That one’s pretty easy to wrap your head around. And in addition, if you have been smoking, best way to undo a lot of the damages is an intake high or a diet high in intake of things like flavonoids, polyphenols, dark purple, blue, dark red, green type of foods along with taurine. Taurine is another. It’s a supplement that can vastly enhance your ability to be able to recover if you’ve been smoking for a while, from a cardiovascular standpoint. Somebody else had their hand up. Yes? Yes. Low-level physical activity throughout the day, not necessarily a CrossFit water or spin session but just usually outdoors, low-level physical activity; hunting, gathering, gardening, walking, hauling alfalfa, what have you.
That does not mean that you shouldn’t go to the gym. We live in a post-industrial era where asses are sometimes planted in chairs. We sometimes have to get out and do something harder to battle the fact that we’re commuting, that we’re sitting. We might not be lucky enough to be a construction worker or a painter or gardener or hunter, but figuring out a way to simulate that somehow in our lives with standing a lot, treadmill workstations, walking, taking the stairs instead of the elevator, et cetera. Yes. No smoking, low-level physical activity, preferably outdoors. What are the other three?
Community, relationships, love, life, social times, having dinner with the family, not being by yourself, understanding that Facebook and Twitter and Instagram and Snapchat do not scratch our ancestral itch to be able to look people in the eyes, be with humans, be with flesh and blood, be in a tribe. All of us standing in here in this room right now, we are part of a tribe. Our tribe is that we’re interested in health, we’re interested in longevity, we’re speaking the same language, we’re sick and tired of being sick and tired or being in a world that is sick and tired. And so we all are kind of a tribe, like we speak the same language. You’re enhancing longevity right now just by being in a room of real flesh and blood people who are interested in some of the same things that you are. And that’s a big key. What are number four and five?
They’re related to diet and nutrition, although purpose is important. High wild plants intake, yup. That’s another one. High intake of foods that are bitter, foods that are wild, foods that are not necessarily the big, sweet, beautiful, fluffy produce that we get from the grocery store but instead some of the ugly stuff that we grow in our backyards that we get from the farmer’s market, the stuff that may not taste super sweet but that’s kind of bitter, kind of spicy, kind of herbaceous, these things pass on via something called xenohormesis, their protection onto you. Your cells become stronger when you consume this kind of compounds. So, yes, wild plants, eating a lot of rosemary in time and nettle and cilantro and herbs and spices and just really knowing how to dress up your food in that manner. And then what’s the last one?
So, it’s on the nutrition one. A lot of Paleo people don’t like this one. High legume intake. So, legumes would be things like lentils and seeds and nuts. Yes, they can be damaging to the gut but if you prepare them properly, if you learn the art of fermentation, slow cooking and slow food prep and soaking and sprouting, then you render this more digestible by your body. And in addition to that, I don’t necessarily think that is something magical about the legumes but rather the fact that these are slow carb foods, like they don’t cause big fluctuations in blood glucose like sugars and starches and breads and a lot of these sweeter or more processed and packaged carbohydrates that we find in a westernized diet contain.
So, returning to our roots of like slow carbohydrates, like slow-fermented sourdough bread and split mung beans and lentils and seeds and nuts that have been treated properly to reduce their phytic acid and their lectin content. So, yeah, low level physical activity during the day, social love, life relationships, lack of smoking, controlling your blood sugar by eating carbohydrates that are slower release like legumes, and then a high wild plant intake, those are five of the best things that you can do to enhance your longevity that do–stem cells and all the very cool anti-aging protocols that you can get in a place like this, those are great but those are the icing on the cake. You still got to get out in the sunlight, go outside barefoot and be with friends, and sweat in the sauna and take a cold shower at home and do a lot of these things. And once you’ve done these things, that’s when you delve into all the cool shit that you get to do in a place like this.
So, ultimately, that is the wellness wheel. That is the wellness wheel. We could dive into all this stuff in a lot more detail but I wanted to give you guys the big picture. And I also want to thank each and every one of you for making a commitment to your health, for coming here, for discovering a place like this that can enhance your health, for coming and listening to my message. What keeps me going, reading for hours every morning and not paying attention to politics or the blockchain or Hollywood, never seeing movies or anything else, what keeps me really driven, I’m very curious about this stuff, are people like you who want to make their lives better. And if I can make a difference in just a few lives with my life, that’s my purpose. This brings me a lot of joy. So, thank you guys for being here and allowing us to do this all together.
[1:27:38] End of Podcast
Hey, that’s it. Thanks for listening to the show. You can grab all the shownotes to resources, pretty much everything that I mentioned over at BenGreenfieldFitness.com, where there are plenty of other goodies from yours truly, including the very helpful “Ben Recommends” page. Now, one last thing, please know that all the links, all the promo codes, pretty much every resource that I mentioned to you during each episode, really helps to generate income for the podcast and it kind of helps to float this thing and enables me to keep spending the time to bring you the content every week. So, be sure to use the links, use the promo codes, use all of those goodies too. Alright. Thanks for listening.
At NextHealth in LA, I recently gave a talk on 12 different ways to optimize your body and brain, and in this recording, which includes my comprehensive overview of the “Wellness Wheel”, you’ll learn about…
-Diet and Micronutrients…6:30
- Every person should be on the diet that is unique to them
- Genetic variants
- Familial hypercholesterolemia
- Gallbladder, liver issues prevent proper digestion
- Common similarities in blue zones
- Plant intake
- Glycemic variability
- Parasympathetically driven state
- Choose meals that are digestible and nutrient-dense
- Weston A. Price diet
- Question: How far back in your lineage do you go to determine what diet is appropriate for you?
- Question: How do you test for a leaky gut, and how do you go about fixing it?
-Exercise and movement…18:25
- Physiological triggers that make up the ideal exercise protocol
- Max oxygen utilization: vo2 max
- Lactic acid tolerance
- Question: What’s the best way to recover from your workout while in a fasted state?
- Question: What about the super slow approach to working out?
- Common rules
- Keep room cold
- Wear as few clothes as possible
- Wear socks
- Silence or white noise
- Keep room dark
- Bluelight blocking glasses
- Use red light
- Uncommon rules
- Exposure to natural blue light early in the day
- Question: How do you increase your REM sleep if it’s on the low side?
- Question: What are the benefits of waking up when the sun rises for your circadian rhythm?
- Health of your vagus nerve is paramount
- Heart rate variability
- How to increase vagus nerve health?
- Question: Is there a correlation between singing and fat loss?
- Question: How do you address a consistently low LF?
- Things like nootropics, psilocybin, etc. can decrease your sensitivity to dopamine and serotonin
- Constant stimulation is like robbing Peter to pay Paul
- A dependence on “smart drugs” is harmful in the long run
- Question: What “brain hacks” exist to help in a hyper-stressful environment like living in a big city?
- Proper breath work
- Brain FM
- David Delight Mind Alive
- FOMO (fear of missing out) can cause you to overtrain and hormonally deplete yourself
- Equip yourself with the ability to make your body better with the absence of food or exercise
- Time with family
- A “cheat day” becomes a “cheat month”
- Christian Gratitude Journal
- Question: What did you do to repair your thyroid?
-Stress and Inflammation…1:02:35
- Vegetable oils are deleterious; ingest with caution
- Oils with high heat lose their efficacy
- Question: What do you think of deuterium content in foods and waters?
-Immunity and Cancer…1:08:51
- Be aware of lymphatic flow and lymph fluid
- Kundalini breathwork
- Standing at work
- John Douillard
- Concoction Tea
- Light bulb moment for me:
- Former basketball player who now has cancer
- Cancer tied to emotions
- Anger, Fear, Shame
- Peace, Love, Joy
- Ruthlessly eliminate hurry from my life
- Question: What do you think of exposure to dirt as it pertains to immunity?
- Three things you should do every day:
-Aesthetics, symmetry, beauty…1:18:35
- Affects your longevity and health
- Weston A. Price discovered Activation X
- 5 characteristics that overlap “blue zones”
- No smoking
- Low-level physical activity throughout the day
- Community, social relationships, time with family
- High wild plant intake
- High legume intake
-And much more…
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