Ep.75: Biohacking with Ben Greenfield
I have the most interesting guest to introduce to you, Ben Greenfield. He was raised in rural North Idaho. He was homeschooled all the way through senior year. He calls himself a complete nerd; president of the chess club, played violin for 13 years, wrote fantasy fictions, and spent his whole childhood with his nose in a book. He graduated high school at age 15 and started college right after that. As an undergraduate, Ben studied anatomy, physiology, biomechanics, pharmaceuticals, microbiology, biochem, and nutrition. He did an internship at Duke University and with the NFL. He graduated at the age of 20 as valedictorian, all while working as a bartender, personal trainer, lab assistant, nutritionist, and spinning instructor. Ben was then accepted into six medical schools but he decided instead to get a masters degree in exercise physiology and biomechanics. He opened a bunch of personal training studios, gyms and physiology and biomechanics labs all over the Northwest and he was voted America’s top personal trainer in 2008.
I’m not done yet…Ben has completed 120 races and 12 Ironman triathlons. He finished the coveted Spartan Delta. He’s a relentless self experimenter and he’s a leader in the field of biohacking. He’s also a bow hunter. He’s been on reality TV. He’s lived a lot of life and he’s only 36. In today’s episode, you will learn all about the exciting new field of biohacking. He will discuss some key strategies for improving energy, fitness and overall health.
LINKS AND RESOURCES:
Learn more about Ben and his biohacking strategies with Kion: HERE
Checkout his website: https://bengreenfieldfitness.com/
Read his book Beyond Training
Find greater peace with The Christian Gratitude Journal
Speaker 1: Ready to live at the higher vibrations, where peace, love, joy and good health are the daily standard? That’s what this show is all about. Welcome to Vibe. Here’s your host, Robyn Openshaw.
Robyn: Hey everyone, it’s Robyn Openshaw, and welcome back to Vibe. I have the most interesting guest to introduce to you. I’ve been trying to get him on the show for a long time. He’s a lot different than everybody else we’ve been interviewing. The only similarity is the one we just interviewed, Tal Gur, who did 100 big challenges/big goals in 10 years.
My friend, Ben Greenfield, was raised in rural North Idaho. He was homeschooled all the way through senior year. He calls himself a complete nerd, like “president of the chess club” complete nerd; [he] played violin for 13 years, wrote fantasy fictions, spent his whole childhood with his nose in a book. He graduated high school at age 15, and started college right after that. [He] played singles and doubles for the men’s tennis team at the age of 16.
So for four years as an undergraduate, Ben studied anatomy, physiology, biomechanics, pharmaceuticals, microbiology, biochem, and nutrition. Graduated top of his class. Did an internship at Duke University and with the NFL. Graduated at the age of 20 as valedictorian, all while working as a bartender, personal trainer, lab assistant, nutritionist, and spinning instructor.
If you’re not tired already listening to that, Ben was then accepted into six medical schools – but he decided instead to get a masters degree in exercise physiology and biomechanics. Then he jumped into the fitness world. He opened a bunch of personal training studios and gyms and physiology and biomechanics labs all over the Northwest, and he was voted America’s top personal trainer in 2008.
Ben has done 120 races and 12 Ironman triathlons. He’s a relentless self-experimenter, and he’s a leader in the field of biohacking. I have found that my audience doesn’t really know what biohacking is, for the most part, but I’m going to let Ben tell you what it is. Ben became a professional obstacle course racer. He completed the coveted Spartan Delta. He’s trained with Navy SEALS. He’s done, all over the world, open water swims, mountain runs, adventure races. He’s a bow hunter. I think he won some competitions in bow hunting. He’s been on reality TV. He’s lived a lot of life, and he’s only 34. Welcome to the show, Ben Greenfield.
Ben: I’m actually 36. I got older since whenever you got your hands on that bio, Robyn, apparently.
Robyn: That makes you downright old.
Ben: Or maybe you’re talking about my biological [age], not my chronological age, because I actually have been testing that. Have you heard about this test?
TeloYears is an analysis that samples the telomere length of all of your white blood cells. [They take] one drop of blood, and then it spits out, not your chronological age, but your biological age. I’ve been testing every year. I’ve really gotten into antiaging and longevity lately, and it’s actually getting younger. So maybe I am 34. Maybe you’re right. Maybe you called it.
Robyn: Well, with all the things that you do, if you’re going to be 36, I really want you to be a lot younger than 34. Are you seeing, like the repeat test that you do every year, that you’re getting a lower and lower number? Tell me about that.
Ben: Yeah, yeah. It is getting lower, but when I originally tested, it was two years higher than my chronological age; and it’s because of all that masochistic crap that you just listed off that I’ve done to my body over the past couple of decades – all these Spartan Deltas and Ironman races.
I mean, it’s really not a big news flash that that stuff isn’t that great for everything, from arterial stiffness to hormones. So I think I took some years off of my life doing all of that, and now I am attempting to undo some of that damage, with everything from stem cells injections to NAD therapy, to a lot of the things that science has to offer us for antiaging. So yeah. I’m 36 though, chronologically.
Robyn: Okay. So I’m really interested in what you just said, because we just live in this age where most people are exercising way too little, but then there’s this small section of people that, I’ve privately felt for a long time, are overdoing it. You seem to be admitting that maybe there is an overdue.
Ben: Oh, absolutely. The benefits of exercise actually begin to diminish. You see an increase in risks of mortality. There’s a Dr. James O’Keefe who has done some fascinating research on this, especially in endurance, in ultra-endurance athletes. It is about 60 minutes of anaerobic exercise, like crossfit/WOD type of stuff, intense exercise about 60 minutes. You see a pretty significant Law of Diminishing Returns.
For aerobic exercise, it’s about 90 minutes. By aerobic exercise, I don’t know … Well, right now, Robyn, as we were discussing before we started recording, I’m walking on the treadmill, right? That’s a very slow-paced, hunter-gatherer, gardeneresque type of activity. That’s not that type of 90 minutes I’m referring to.
I’m talking about like the marathon, or you out jogging in the streets for a couple of hours a day. That’s the type of low-level aerobic exercise that would be deleterious. It’s about 60 minutes of intensity, or 90 minutes of aerobic triathloning, or marathoning, or whatever on a daily basis that winds up being bad for you.
It’s surprising how many people still exercise that much when they don’t really need to, and when, of course, you don’t see exercise appearing in the Venn diagram of all the blue zones [of the world], right? You see wild plant intake, and, surprisingly enough, high intake of legumes, and friends, family and relationships, and love, and lack of smoking.
But yeah, I think a lot of people do overdo it. If climbing Mount Everest makes you happy and scratches an itch for you, or you want to go do like a Spartan or triathlon – great. But I don’t want to pull people into thinking that’s the way that you increase health and longevity, per se.
Robyn: I love that, your willingness to make yourself a human experiment, which is a big part of why you’ve gotten so much popularity online. I’ll just admit it, you’re my favorite biohacker because I really feel like you are walking the talk. You live on 10 acres with your wife and your twin boys. You’re out there bow hunting what you eat, and growing what you eat, and gathering what you eat, and I really am going to want to hear more about that.
Ben: Wait, am I even your favorite biohacker compared to Goat Man?
Robyn: Who’s Goat Man?
Ben: He’s a UK researcher. He actually wrote a book, called… it’s like, Becoming Goat Man. I think that’s the name of the book. You can probably look it up on Amazon.
He fitted himself with prosthetic limbs, and a special goat helmet, and attached a rumen to his stomach, and went out and lived with goats. He even used a form of trans-direct cranial stimulation, the same thing the Golden State Warriors are using to enhance hand-eye coordination of their players prior to a game.
Anyways, he used a different form of this to actually remove his ability to be able to speak properly, so that he wasn’t tempted to talk a lot when he was out there with the goats. So he biohacked himself into becoming a goat for, I think, a few weeks, living amongst the goats, somewhere in the pastoral hillside of the UK, to just see what it felt like to live a little bit more closely with nature and to be an animal. To me, that’s a pretty impressive feat of biohacking, and I think he should be your favorite.
Robyn: Well, I’ll really consider it. I raised my kids on goat milk, and I might have to seek this guy out if he’s reentered into regular human life.
Well, I was kind of like one-step-removed from the total natural lifestyle, and that I actually went and got the raw goat milk from someone who milked them themselves. I think it’s probably hard.
Ben: It is. We have Nigerian dwarf goats because we live out here – I’m walking on my treadmill, I’m looking out the window, and we’re covered in ice and snow right now. So we had to have pretty hardy animals on our property. So our chickens are Icelandic, and the goats are Nigerian dwarf goats, which are small hardy goats and they actually, for their size, give a lot of milk.
Robyn: It’s one of the great things about goats. I hear they’re good pets; look at all these multipurpose things that you can do with them, as well as they give you better milk than what cows will give you. Especially with all the steroids and hormones and antibiotics, right?
Ben: Well, I mean, even if you’ve got an organic A2 cow that’s grass fed, you still have a different size of the protein, right? It’s the thermodynamics of the protein.
When you look at the size of a small goat and the size of a full-grown goat, they’re actually closer in weight to a human than a cow is. [The protein in the milk is] a smaller, more absorbable protein. So you tend to see less immune issues.
For us, one of my twin sons would get asthma and some immunity-type of issues, especially during like a soccer match; he’d have a hard time breathing. He have to go sit on the sidelines, and what we did was we switched him from cow-based dairy to goat cheeses and goat dairy, and that fixed the issue, shockingly enough. So yeah, it’s very hypoallergenic. Like lamb meat is a very hypoallergenic meat.
That being said though, there was a period of time where I was sponsored, as an athlete, by a camel’s milk company. And apparently from a nutrient density and a hypoallergenicity standpoint, camel’s milk is at the top of the totem pole. But I just didn’t feel good about getting camel’s milk shipped to me on airplanes to sit in my fridge. It didn’t seem that sustainable, camels.
Robyn: Yeah, right there with you. I used to go to this really weird, dirty goat farm and get half gallon jars of unpasteurized goat milk. I did that for many, many years, like well over a decade, because I had the exact same experience you did and my eldest son was asthmatic. It’s actually pretty severe.
You would not have had to also get him off of sugar, but I got him off the processed train. That was a shift we made too, and we never used the bronchodilators and steroids and antibiotics again. That was the beginning of mini changes.
But yeah, getting my kids onto raw goat milk, there’s a lot more similarities to human breast milk with the smaller protein molecule, smaller fat molecule crossing the human semipermeable membrane.
Robyn: Without having that mucous-forming reaction. So, anybody who thinks you have to give your kids dairy, you don’t.
Ben: I also take a lot of colostrum. I use a goat-based colostrum. Not year-round. I’m careful with a lot of anabolic compounds like that, that increase growth hormones, just because I feel like being in a constantly anabolic state could potentially fly in the face of longevity. That’s why I fast, for example. I do intermittent fasting everyday, and on the weekends I fast from Saturday until Sunday dinner, and that’s not anabolic. It’s kind of catabolic.
But colostrum: as you’ve just eluded to, one of the things that it can do is actually close up some of the tight junctions in the gut. It acts on the Zonulin protein, I believe, in those tight junctions, in the same way that it can heal up a baby’s gut when a baby is first born. Most babies do have a leaky gut, and colostrum from mom’s breast milk helps to heal that up.
It can do the same thing to a permeable gut in adults; one of the things that it has been studied for is for athletes, or people, who exercise in the heat. You get a significant increase in gut permeability when you engage in intense exercise in the heat. So I take colostrum for about two weeks prior to a hot race.
I’ve got a race in San Jose at the end of March coming up, a Spartan race, and two weeks out from that race I’ll load with colostrum, and then I’ll also load with beet juice. The beet juice is different. That’s more of a nitric oxide precursor. The colostrum is more for keeping your gut less permeable in the heat. But it’s actually (a lot of athletes don’t know this) a fantastic supplement you use if you’re competing, especially in hot conditions.
Robyn: How about for so much of my audience who experiences gut issues? We have this huge epidemic in leaky gut and all that. Do you think it’s a good part for their first line of defense there?
Ben: Yeah, it is. Unless you have a significant immune reaction to any dairy protein, in which case you might want to be careful. But I like, for example, a Cyrex; it’s a good allergy test, or a food-intolerance testing panel. They do some really good food allergy and gluten cross-reactivity panels. You get tested just to make sure you’re not super sensitive to dairy. But yeah, as long as you don’t have any type of dairy protein allergy, it’s fantastic for that.
Robyn: So I watched a video you did with on somebody else’s show, and you were talking about how you like Cyrex. I wanted to tell you this, because I think you’ll be interested, that our friend, I’m sure you know him too, Dr. Alan Christianson –
Robyn: He did an experiment where he took the same person’s blood, and sent it to two different labs because, like me, he had the sense that a lot of these allergy testing labs are giving pretty bogus results.
So he took 22 people, and with some of them he sent two different vials of the same person’s blood to two different labs. And with some of the 22 people, he took their two vials of blood, marked them as two different people, and sent them to the same lab. In both cases, more than 80% of the time, the two test results came back so different, to be chalked up as if it was random chance, like two different people. So I share that with you because he actually proved how bogus a lot of the labs are, and it sounds like you think that the Cyrex lab gives good results. Is that what I hear you saying?
Ben: Yes. Apparently, they use something called a double assurance system, where they test both the raw and the cooked version of the protein, which is important because some people will have a reaction. Their white blood cell will show an immune reaction to a raw egg protein versus a cooked egg protein. Cyrex tests the raw and the cooked, and then they have some kind of an accuracy assessment that they do that make it more accurate.
[This assessment] gives you a much shorter list of foods that you can’t eat, that annoys you when you have it in your refrigerator, and it taunts you when you have these 100 different foods you can’t eat. It’s a pretty small list you get from Cyrex. Apparently, it produces fear fewer false positives. So I like it.
Robyn: Interesting. Alan Christianson’s favorites are Meridian Valley and Biotech.
I love that, if you’re going to be this biohacker and you’re constantly experimenting on yourself, that you’re willing to say, “Hey, I think these things actually aged me faster and I’m going to, in the name of being a true scientific experiment, I’m willing to talk about it.” Say, “Hey, that wasn’t really working for me.” What are some of your biohacking experiments on yourself that you think probably took you the wrong direction, and now you’ve changed; I’m curious if you’ve ever calmed down a bit because you’re so driven.
Ben: I am pretty driven, and based on a lot of personality assessments that I’ve done, I really do rank as what you might call an achiever. Someone who likes to be constantly productive. My wife will sit out on the porch in one of our hammocks up there and stare out at the forest, sipping on a glass of wine for like an hour and a half in the evening, and I can’t sit out there for more than five minutes without whining to go inside and work on a book or a blog post or play my guitar or make something or workout.
I’m hardwired to constantly want to be doing something. I thrive on hyper productivity and action and I’ve always kind of been that way. But when it comes to the core of your question, biohacking or biohacks that haven’t worked out, there’s not that many of them really. I haven’t seriously injured or hurt myself in any way with any biohacks, aside from cold thermogenesis. That’s one that gets popular, and I think some people overdo it. I certainly got very excited about it.
When I first interviewed Ray Cronise, I believe back in 2013, shortly after he wrote that Wired Magazine article about the positive effects of cold therapy on everything from nitric oxide production to conversion of white adipose to brown fat, I really got into it. I lived, at that time, close to the Spokane river, and I would go out to the Spokane river and swim in it. It would get colder and colder, and I think it was spring of 2014 when I went out there and just swam for as long as I could to get all the benefits of cold thermogenesis.
I remember sitting in my car afterwards, and I couldn’t figure out how to turn the car on, and I completely lost bowel control and literally just exploded with diarrhea all over my car seat because I was so cold, and so shivering, that I just lost complete control over everything. That’s probably the worst I’ve ever done to myself, was just getting too cold. I probably could have died swimming in the river at that temp.
So now I’m more of a quick in, quick out kind of cold guy. I had a crane drop a 19-foot endless pool, that I keep cold, back in the forest behind my house, and I go jump in that for about five minutes every morning. After I’ve gotten myself all nice and toasty warm in the infrared sauna, where I like to start off everyday with a little bit of hot and a little bit of cold.
That’s about the worst I’ve done to myself. Most of the other bad things I’ve done to myself have been like doing some of the things you talked about. Like the 24-hour world’s toughest mudder where my wife was crewing for me. All I was eating the whole time was those dry plantains because we stopped by Whole Foods on the way into the race.
I just grabbed a whole bunch of those, and those were sitting in the tent, and I did this 24-hour toughest mudder in the Vegas desert where it got just teeth grittingly cold at night. There was a point between about 2 and 4am where I’d have liked to crawl in the sleeping bag with her because I was shivering so bad. I couldn’t stop my whole body from shaking, and she just stripped me down naked and snuggled up next to me inside my sleeping bag for a couple of hours. Bless her heart to warm me up.
I’ve done multiple Ironman triathlons injured where I’ve just had to walk the marathon and take like six hours to get through it. I did that Spartan that you were talking about, the Spartan Delta, which was 32 degrees below zero back in Vermont and you couldn’t even pull down your pants to take a crap during the race. That’s freezing your butt cheeks off. A couple of girls lost toes in the first couple of hours of the race.
I remember one of the aid stations was just like a bunch of frozen fish and pots. You had to figure out how to take your fire starting kit, and I personally used a blue Gatorade to boil my fish in so I could actually eat some fish to keep going and continue the race to be able to finish. That was about a three-day event. All of those types of things.
I think that those definitely exceed the parameters of what we might consider a hormetic stress that would make you stronger, and instead produce inflammation and enough hormonal depletion to actually make you weaker. For me, with all that ultra-endurance stuff, especially when I was in the throes of it, I experienced really low testosterone and really significant disregulation of the thyroid. No surprise here, but really elevated hsCRP, and homocysteine, and and cytokines, and a lot of electrolyte abnormalities.
So yeah, it’s those things. It’s the stuff that we would consider to be, “Oh, you must be healthy because you look good in spandex and you can run 26 miles.” It’s like, those things really have damaged me, and the biohacks – everything from infrared lights to NAD injections to really good pulsed electromagnetic field therapy, to mitochondrial density, hyperoxic training, and ketogenic diet, a lot of those things –seemed to have healed a lot of the damage.
Honestly right now, at this point in my life, I feel like a million bucks. My wife and I were talking about this a couple of days ago, I feel like I’m 16 years old. I’m strong and I’m horny and I don’t get sick at all. I’ve got great energy during the day. I’m doing far less of this intense masochistic exercises.
As a matter of fact, I’ve shifted almost primarily to just like explosive exercise, high intensity interval training, working with the kettlebells, and doing short course racing instead of long course racing. So ultimately, I haven’t really messed myself up with any biohacks, I guess, aside from swimming for too long in a cold river.
Robyn: I’ve seen photos of you where you’re rocked up and weight 30 or 40 pounds more than you do now, and you described it in a rather negative way. Which makes me think of some friends of mine who have been in the fitness competition industry, and my personal opinion, which is what they’re doing is super, super terrible for their health, nutrition-wise. So talk about your [experience], of course you went and did that for a while. Of course you got all rocked up and looked like Mr. Universe. So what did you learn?
Ben: That was bodybuilding. I did that when I was younger. I was 21 and 22 years old when I body built. I weight about 175 right now, and I was 215 pounds at 3% body fat as a bodybuilder. That was hormone free. I was a poor college student. I really couldn’t afford drugs, and so I did it all by eating copious amounts of protein. I mean a lot of protein. I don’t know how many grams I was at per day, but well above that 200 gramish amount where you begin to get like ammonia toxicity, and a whole bunch of nitrogenous waste.
I was consuming a lot of protein, but bad protein. I mean, just whatever happened to be on sale, from the frozen steak section of the grocery store, to four or five cans of tuna at night. I was sponsored by ABB Bodybuilding Shakes, which is kind of like the number one doctor’s recommendation Ensure, which is like Maltodextrin, and soy protein isolate, and vegetable oil, and a bunch of crap in a can. Same thing, except this was just copious amounts of protein.
So it was a high, high, high protein, low fat, low carb diet that I followed while living in the gym, doing a full body exercise routine. Like a full body weight split, cleans, jerks, dead lifts, squats, presses, full body, three times a week, and then I do all of what I called my “vanity exercises” on the weekend where I’d blast the calves or the biceps or the triceps or the arms or the neck areas.
Yeah, I was pretty unhealthy. I looked really good, but again, very low testosterone. A lot of gut issues. That really messed up my gut for a long time. Yeah, like you mentioned, I did look good, and I got sort of strong, but not like functionally – you don’t even get that functionally strong when you’re doing that type of stuff. I’m probably stronger now than I was when I was a bodybuilder, but I had a lot of muscle and I looked good and I could pose.
I was married at the time. Married at the time, still am married, same girl, my wife Jessa. She used to go backstage with me, and she would smear the gold flakes tanning lotion all over me so I’d look really good underneath the lights, and then I’d drink a bunch of red wine and dark chocolate to bring blood to the surface of skin so you get all vasodilated. Then I’d go out on stage and I’d squeezed my butt cheeks till they cramped because I was dehydrated, and peeing orange from all the dandelion root extract I’d used before the shows to dehydrate myself, because it draws your skin closer into your muscles when you’re super-duper dehydrated. So yeah, also not the healthiest of sports.
Robyn: Wow, crazy. Crazy stories. Now, tell me how you get the self-confidence to go shoot yourself up with $8,000 worth of stem cells. I saw you do that on a video. Tell us about that.
Ben: Well, there is a company in Florida, the US Stem Cell Clinic. They extract fat from your back. So I had to go in there. It was a horrible procedure because I’m still pretty lean. I’m maybe like 7% body fat now. A big part of that is because I’m still racing. I still race professionally in the Spartan races and triathlons. So I purposefully keep myself lean.
Unlike the bodybuilding years, I’m actually eating a healthy diet. I eat a lot of fats. I’m still active enough where I stay pretty lean, and I’m naturally kind of lean anyways. But I go into this clinic and they’re like, “Dude, you should have had more donuts and Twinkies coming in here,” because I had almost no fat. So they had to thrust this needle in and out of my back for like 90 minutes, over and over again, just to suck enough fat out – and they still couldn’t reinject me that day because they had to take the fat and grow it because they still didn’t get enough fat from my back.
My back hurt for weeks. So anyways, they take this fat and they used a collagenous enzyme to break down the fat and the concentrate – the stem cells, mesenchymal stem cells, the MSCs – from the fat. Of course, those can be reinjected, as a lot of people know, into joints, similar to prolotherapy or platelet rich plasma, which I’ve also had done. It’s pretty efficacious, but these stem cells are far more efficacious and typically they’re combined with these growth factors from platelet rich plasma.
Meaning, once you’ve extracted those stem cells, and you’ve grown them and you’ve isolated the stem cells, and you get them shipped on ice to your house or to the doctor’s office who’s going to inject you, they’ll also, on the same day of the injection, take your blood. And they spin your blood in a centrifuge to concentrate what are called the growth factors and that’s called platelet rich plasma injection. Gold standards is when you’d inject a joint with both the stem cells and the platelet rich plasma to heal a joint.
But if you’re just going after the antiaging effect, the effect you might get similar to the studies where they reverse aging in old mice by injecting the old mice with the blood of young mice, then you can do the same thing by injecting the stem cells from the younger you, or just stem cells in general, into your bloodstream, and they will go anywhere they need to go to actually act on that tissue for healing.
So I got the procedure done. I waited a few months for them to actually grow the stem cells. I ordered them to my house and then I do push IVs on myself anyway. So once a week I do a push IV of a Myer’s cocktail, just a big blend of nutrients and vitamins and minerals, and then I also do a push IV of glutathione.
So for me, taking a needle and putting it into the vein on my arm and pushing the stem cells in there wasn’t too far of a cry from doing a Myer’s cocktail or glutathione injection. So I ordered the stem cells, and while I don’t believe it’s legal for a physician to, at this point, inject stem cells into your blood although they can inject joints, you can inject them into your own blood.
So I injected the stem cells and then I sent off my telomeres for analysis a couple of weeks later, and I’m waiting to get the results back but I’m interested to see what happen.
I mean, I feel really good. Like I mentioned, I honestly feel right now like I’m a teenager, and I don’t know if that’s from the stem cells or just from a clustered effect of all the things that I do each day for health. But ultimately, the tricky part was hoping I didn’t miss the vein with that really expensive bottle of stem cells. That’s the thing that was going through my head, because it’s kind of like you get one shot.
Robyn: Yeah, I was pretty amazed. My jaw was on the floor watching you mainline stem cells on your own that you probably couldn’t talk a physician into doing like that. But we did something similar with my son; two months ago he had all four impacted wisdom teeth out at the same time. My biological dentist prepared some platelet-rich fibrin and had the oral surgeon, who had no clue about any of this kind of stuff, inject in there along with some Ozone, and we got out of there with all four of his teeth. No steroids, no antibiotics, no dry socket, no cavitations which is pretty cool. So I’m a believer in this type of technology helping us with antiaging. But let me ask you something: I’m 15 years older than you, should I be banking stem cells or am I too old?
Ben: I don’t think you’re too old. I mean, look at it this way. You could take the 50-year old you and have that injected into the 65-year old you, or the 70-year old you, or the 80-year old you. So in my opinion, if you got the ability to be able to do it, it’s still a decent idea. Although there are, of course, umbilical or embryonic stem cells that a lot of older individuals will use rather than getting their own stem cells extracted.
Robyn: That’s what I’m wondering, should I just get them, get stem cells, from another person who’s much younger if it comes to that?
Ben: Right, like a baby. Yeah, you get less of the Image result for mesenchymal stem cells available, versus harvesting your own tissue and using that. This is hard for anybody who’s aging to hear, but the older you are, the weaker they are, and of course the shorter the telomeres are. So yeah, the longer you wait, the less effect of those stem cells will be. But it’s all relative, right? The 50-year old you is still far, far younger than the 65 or the 70 or the 80-year old you. So if you have the opportunity to be able to do it, I don’t think it would hurt. But yeah, the younger, the better in my opinion of course.
Robyn: Yeah, I feel like I’m kind of on that line where I don’t really know if I should be. I’ve never banked stem cells, but you’re coming to Park City soon, and we have a leader in the field of stem cell application and research and so I’ve always thought, “Maybe I should go do that.” But maybe no health issues have hit me yet so it hasn’t become [anything]. But it’s one of those things that you should think ahead on.
So take us into what you think the most exciting trends are in your world of biohacking. What do you see out there that troubles you, or what do you think is really exciting out there?
Ben: Well, some of the things that make me feel really good, and that I think there’s some decent research behind, would be like Photobiomodulation which is the use of infrared or various forms of lights, red light, near infrared, far infrared, or a variety of effects.
What I do is I work with two infrared panels, one in front of me and one behind me. Infrared can help with scar healing, and help with collagen and elastin in the skin, and it can also have a mood enhancing effect. It can cause a little bit of an increase in growth hormone. It can actually induce increased activity of cytochrome C oxidase in cells. So whether that be like Photobiomodulation or used in a headset, like this one called a Vilight that they use in a lot of dementia and Alzheimer’s patients that I own and use in the mornings. It’s like a cup of coffee for your brain.
I don’t want to be crass, but I’ll shine it on my testicles, for example, to enhance activity of the Leydig cells in the testes. This causes you to produce more testosterone, and at the same increases what’s called the angiogenesis, or the growth of new blood vessels, and so you could have better orgasms and better libido.
Then, of course, there’s the idea that you could combine it with something like a sauna; there’s a lot of these infrared saunas now. I use mine almost everyday. The skin is the largest detoxification organ, and not only is it good for sweat but you also get a little bit of a licing of cells as well, especially when you do something like a fasted infrared treatment. So I’m a big fan of that as one kind of cool biohack. Something I use everyday would be light via Photobiomodulation. A couple of others –
Robyn: How do you get that? Is that something you can buy and have at home?
Ben: Yeah. There’s a lot of brands out there. I used these ones called Joovv Lights, and they’re just these big panels. I have my own stand in my office, one behind me and one in front of me. So while I’m working, or I have to be on the treadmill, or I’ve got like a little wobble board beside my treadmill to use, and a mat – this mat’s interesting.
It’s a foot mat that was patterned after the Korean rice paddy fields by this Swiss inventor who used to walk in the fields, and you feel fantastic afterwards, and his feet got a lot stronger. So I have this mat that’s called the Kybun mat, K-Y-B-U-N. So I’ve got that, and like a balance board, and my treadmill. But then these lights, I can shine it anytime. Those are pretty cool.
Another one that I like is this concept of pulsed electromagnetic field therapy, that allows you to actually do anything from increase blood flow to tissue, to increase bone density. There’s some very interesting studies on tumors and the ability of PEMF to actually kill cancer cells, and there’s a lot of different PEMF device out there right now.
The one that I’m using, it’s like the price of a small car, but you could go to their website and look them up and see if there’s one you could just go to at a clinic in your area. It’s called a Pulse. This thing is called Pulse XL Pro, I think. It’s pulsecenters.com. It’s this giant table that you lay on, but I mean, this thing, they use it on race horses.
I’ve used a lot of these PEMF devices, and you can’t really feel them. This thing shakes your whole body, and just in the past couple of weeks, I had a little hip and back injury and this thing has made a night and day difference – like really, really strong, powerful. It called PEMF, pulsed electromagnetic field therapy.
You can use this for sleep, to increase your delta brainwave production by setting it on what would be called the Schumann resonance frequency which should be what the earth would emit. It’s the same frequency that the earth would emit when one would be earthing or grounding. This is like that on steroids. It’s a really, really high intensity PEMF. I like that. I’ve been using that a lot, like everyday. I use this Photobiomodulation everyday.
Then a lot of people are into hyperbaric oxygen therapy, which I briefly mentioned earlier, to enhance mitochondrial density. There’s this other device I have behind me, right now, that I actually did a little workout on this morning. It’s called a LiveO2 Adaptive Contrast unit. What it does is it sucks all the oxygen out of the air, and concentrates it inside of this bag. Then there’s a switch where you can switch to breathing pure oxygen if it’s in plus mode, or about 30% less oxygen than you would normally breathe at whatever area you happen to be in in the world elevation wise.
So you can go back and forth from hypoxia to hyperoxia. I’ll do 10 rounds of 15 seconds at hypoxia then 15 seconds at hyperoxia then 15 seconds of recovery at hyperoxia. This the equivalent, like 15 minutes of that, to 24 hours in a hyperbaric oxygen therapy chamber. And I’m riding a bicycle while I’m doing this.
So I would say, yeah, three things would be Photobiomodulation, really high intensity PEMF, and then like hypoxic, hyperoxic – what’s called Adaptive Contrast Training. People also call this Exercise With Oxygen Therapy, EWOT.
But I use this Joovv Light for the Photobiomodulation, and this one called Vilight for the head. Those are two really good devices. I’ve noticed a really positive effect with the PEMF; the one I use upstairs for sleep is called the Flex Pulse, but the bigger one in my office, for injuries and for a more full body effect, is called a Pulse XL Pro and then this hypoxic, hyperoxic unit, it’s called a LiveO2 Adaptive Contrast unit. Those are the three things that I use almost everyday.
Robyn: I have been furiously taking notes, probably follow up with about one or two of those things later.
I don’t think we should end the interview without talking about your take on food. You’re deep in the nutrition world. You eat a very, very clean diet. I watched your take on vegans, watched a video interview you did with someone else, and I was surprised at how much we see eye-to-eye, you and I, because I think of biohackers as big eaters.
While I don’t identify as a vegan, Ben, I love the idea of us eating more plants for the sustainability; I rarely eat animal products, and I kind of get my missing links covered in a variety of way, colleen and creatine and B12 and vitamin D.
I supplements for that, and I actually eat an animal product probably three times a month, specific ones usually to sort of to hedge my bets, because I don’t necessarily think that a vegan diet is the only way to go.
I don’t think you have to be vegan to be healthy but I was raised by a plant-based eater who was raised by a plant-based eater, and my grandmother went that way after being diagnosed with cancer and she went to Gerson therapy, and healed a terminal cancer diagnosis, and it was really powerful for me.
So somebody who wants to eat low on the food chain, like I do; I think that even the cleaner sources of animal protein available to most of us – because most of us aren’t going to go out in the woods with a bow, and bow hunt like you – I think a lot of those sources are problematic in the modern world. What do you think the average whole-foods-vegan needs to do supplementally, and what do you think is the right diet?
Ben: I don’t think there is a right diet. I think that people need to eat based on what they’re genetically hardwired to eat.
There are people who are Sub-Saharan African, or Southeast Asian, or people with familial hypercholesteremia, for example, who have very high levels of saturated fat sensitivity, who might produce inflammation or extremely high, high cholesterol or high particle count in response to one of these trendy, high fat, low carb or ketogenic diets.
Then there are other people who have very deleterious blood sugar responses based on, for example, a fasting study in Israel that inspired Robb Wolf’s book, Wired to Eat, who will have blood glucose that goes through the roof in response to a cookie or a banana or whatever, whereas other people are far less affected by that.
By testing your genetics, you can certainly get some clues, not only as to what your ancestors sort of ate, but also what genes you may have that may make you more or less predisposed to having a bad reaction to certain foods. We, of course, spend hours talking about everything from PPARSUs causing inflammation in response to ketogenic diets, to MTHFR issues related to your ability to be able to process some of these folate sources in the diet.
So ultimately (and I have an article about this on my website, it’s called “F diet”), how to customize your diet to you, which is based on this concept of testing. I was reading a fascinating research article the other day on how levels of Prevotella bacteria in the guts will cause you to have either a positive or a negative response to high fiber intake from plants, right? So even the gut microbiome might influence your propensity to thrive or not on a plant-based diet.
So it comes down to testing your body. We live in an era where it’s not that expensive to get a genetic test that would have costed like $10,000 a decade ago. You can go get it for $100 to $200 at, say like, 23andMe, and you could export that raw data if you want to take a really deep dive into, say like, StrateGene or Genetic Genie, and learn a lot more about what you should or should not be eating.
So I think you have to customize to you. My nutritional philosophy is as such when it comes to a book, like Steven Gundry’s Plant Paradox, that argues that plants are equipped to kill us as well.
My opinion on that is, not if you’re smarter than the plant, not if you know how to soak and how to sprout and how to ferment and how to deactivate phytic acids. I have bread almost everyday, but it’s via a slow fermentation process from a non-GMO wheat berry. The soured bread that my wife makes – a lot of the gluten is predigested and the glycemic index is lower. We talked about goat milk.
So ultimately, I think that just about anything in God’s green earth can be rendered digestible. So because of that, I’m a real foodie. I follow what might be closest to a Weston A. Price type of foundation approach, where I eat good, organic, raw dairy and I’ll eat grains, assuming they’ve been soaked and sprouted and fermented prepared properly. I eat meats and plants. I’m omnivorous in that sense, always from good sources.
So yeah, I think it’s a process of A, customization and then B, once you’ve customized (specifically when I say customization, like your macros and some of your food choices), then it still comes down to taking those foods and rendering them digestible by not being an idiot in the kitchen, by knowing how to do things.
I mean, anybody can take Quinoa and rinse that in a strainer and then soak it in a mason jar overnight, and change that water, and maybe do that one or two times. And if you know how to do that, you could probably sprout it too. That’s not rocket science, just a lot of people are honestly just lazy with food. They don’t render it digestible. So I think that’s a bigger issue than the actual macros or even the food choices that you make, just looking at the digestibility of the foods that you do eat.
But yeah, long story short, because I eat a nutrient-dense digestible diet from a wide variety of food sources, I’m omnivorous. And as I mentioned earlier, I’m careful not to overeat and careful not to be constantly consuming anabolic compounds like eggs and bacon and milk and dairy and meat. But yeah, I eat a lot of plants, higher fat, moderate protein, relatively low carb, a little bit more carb if I’m exercising a lot. That’s, in a nutshell, my diet.
Robyn: I love it. Great answers. Your wealth of knowledge at a young age.
I wanted to interview Ben because I’ve sat next to him at conferences, and he’s got like this duffle bag and he’s got all this healthy food, and he’ll go sit in the corner outside the room and meditate like he really walks the talk. That’s not true of everyone.
So I’m really impressed with how you’re living your life, and you seem to be just as motivated and excited about being a dad as everything else that you do. So I really admire you and I really have enjoyed the conversation. I knew I would. I’ve been really digging into your stuff and I knew that my audience would enjoy it even though the biohackers are usually the 25 to 45-year old male crowd and my crowd is the 35 to 65-year old women, which is most of the people who follow us at GreenSmoothieGirl and here on the podcast at Vibe.
But I’ve learned a lot and I really appreciate you taking the time. I know you’re crazy busy. You’re involved in so many different things. I mean, professional athlete to running this biohacker brand. So I really appreciate you being with us. Tell us where we can learn more about Ben Greenfield fitness and your podcast and your books that you’ve published. Tell us more.
Ben: You can just Google me. You can find my website where I do a podcast, and some articles, and got a book. But bengreenfieldfitness.com would be probably my top website. So there you go.
Robyn: What book would you send the 35 to 65-year old female crowd to?
Ben: I like a book that’s like 500 pages of a bunch of biohacks and tools and toys, and I recently updated it. It’s called Beyond Training. But honestly, the book of my own that I eat my own dog food off the most, sitting here behind me, is a gratitude journal. I gratitude every single morning, and I publish a gratitude journal that is my own gratitude practice that my wife and my two boys and I use each day. It’s called the Christian Gratitude Journal. That one’s pretty easy to find too. You could just Google it or find it on Amazon. But I think that that’s almost changing a lot of people’s lives more than the big thick book on biohacking. So that one’s at christiangratitude.com. But I’m just as proud of that one and feel like it’s producing a positive difference in a lot of people’s lives, so that would be a good one to check out if you you like that woo woo stuff, and that whole idea of optimizing your spirit each morning. It’s a good little read.
Robyn: We love that. We’re two woos around here, not one. So thank you so much for being with us Ben Greenfield.
Ben: Awesome. Well, thanks for having me on Robyn. I’m honored.