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Kevin: Welcome to TriSwimCoach. This is Kevin and this is episode number 78. And today I’m really excited to have Ben Greenfield on the show. bengreenfieldfitness.com and he is the author of the forth coming book, Beyond training: mastering endurance, health and life. And you can check that out and pre-order your copy at beyondtrainingbook.com. Ben, welcome back to TriSwimCoach.
Ben: Thanks. What’s it been like? Twelve years since I’ve been on.
Kevin: Yeah! But I think this is like your third or fourth appearance on the show.
Ben: Is it? Wow.
Kevin: Yeah, so if anyone wants to get the full details on Ben and his background and his site and everything, we’ve got a couple other podcasts that we get into detail on that. But wanted to focus today on your new book which I just got through, I can’t say I read every word in it. It is 468 pages so hope you forgive me for that.
Ben: Actually it’s 468 pages but then theirs 9 other hidden chapters online, that you unlock once you get the book. It’s kind of heavy, it’s a really, really big paperweight.
Kevin: Yeah, so you’ve been busy. When did you start this book?
Ben: I guess like internally, mentally 10 years ago, but I actually wrote it over the course of 2013.
Kevin: Nice. Yeah that’s pretty good timing. I wanted to just read out – I was taking notes on a bunch of stuff that I was like really interested in following up on and just for myself, just to look up. And so I just want to read out that for the audience. I wrote down ginger, bone broth, balloons, audios, [00:01:56 boutinet] audio meditation, busy [00:01:58] , blue light, glasses, great legs and Bernard Jensen, gelatin and MCT oil. And that’s just a few things. But there all kinds of nutty stuff in there, that is really fascinating. So what I want to get is to start of with. Who’s the book written for and how should people go about ready it. It’s kind of like before our body where it’s like where do you start, it’s huge, there’s so much in it, and it’s just packed full of really cool, really great tips. But it’s like where to, how to tackle it.
Ben: Yeah, It really is like you say kind of a cook book to where you can flip to a specific chapter and find out what you want to know in terms of everything from like the ideal fat-carbohydrate-protein percentage for your specific needs. Whether you’re old, young, vegan, primal, flash-paleo, whatever, to whether you want to kind of bio-hack your mind and learn about smart drugs to whether you want to increase strength or say you’re strong enough but you want to increase mobility or you’re injured and you want to heal up as fast as possible. You just kind of flip to the specific chapter to get every kind a hack tip-trick available for doing that. But you know it was really [00:03:11] it. I think a lot of people think that I write this kind of stuff for elite athletes or like the cutting edge performers, and well that type of person would certainly benefit from this information it’s pretty much written for every high achiever, whether that’s like mental like a CEO’s who’s handling multiple tasks and wearing a bunch of different hats during the day to like the soccer mom who is kind of in a similar mental both from a mental standpoint, to you know the average exercise enthusiasts, the weekend warrior, gym junkies, cross-fitters, triathletes, swimmers, cyclists, runners, spartan racers, adventure racers and you know, even bio-hackers and folks who are just interested in more like the heath or anti-aging or mental component in there or the physical components so. And probably the reason that I kind of cover all those spectrum is I kind of personally just fall into a lot of those categories, you know. like everything thing I do from kind of using smart drugs to hack my brain, to doing triathlons, to managing my time using specific like pieces of software and apps and lifestyle management techniques, so I include a lot of what I’ve kind of learned in the trenches in the book.
Kevin: Yes, so a lot of my audience are people that are doing triathlons and obviously are looking for swimming help or they’re thinking about doing a triathlon and they’re looking to do it because they want to get in shape. It sounds like, from my reading of the book, I think that any one in those categories should read the book before preparing for their next race, or whatever it is they are going to do to try to get healthy. Maybe it’s a triathlon, maybe it’s like a half marathon or whatever, but I think there’s so many go things in there that go against the, kind of, the main stream and the group think mentality out there, that everyone’s doing this so it must be right. Like Clif bars or Gatorade or whatever and there are so many things in there that just goes directly against that which I love. So yeah, where should someone like that start? Where do you think that they should-should they just start reading cover to cover?
Ben: Well in terms of where they should start, someone who just wants to just get in shape. If we’re talking about kind of like getting the most bang for your buck, going after the minimum effective dose to say get in shape for a triathlon as quickly as possible. Where you start, even before you buy the book, is get out of a chair. That’s like one of the worst things that you can do for your body and I’m standing right now, while I’m talking to you. I’ll be standing all day while I’m working talking on the phone, writing articles, meeting with clients etcetera. I have a big poster behind me and I talk about this gal a little bit in the book, her name is Katy Bowman from restorative exercise. She sent me this poster called think outside the chair and it’s got like 50 pictures of posters in it, like sitting postures, eating postures, standing postures, like all the different ways that you can move your body throughout the day to keep yourself metabolically active and to improve mobility to increase the levels of your fat burning enzymes lipase and also most importantly for folks who are exercising to keep your hip flexors lengthened because short hip flexors are one of the top ways to kind of mess up your body and set yourself up for hip mal-alignment while your swimming or biking or running or starting in a triathlon. It’s one of the top reasons people get injured right off the bat, is short hip flexors.
Kevin: Yeah, absolutely. And it’s cool. Is that when I was reading the book, I do some standing desks, I mean I don’t have a standing desk but I have like a make shift one and I do it like maybe twenty five, thirty percent of the time, but reading your book, I’m like I’ve gotta start doing this. Ever since the last few days, I’ve just been standing as much s I can and the also just walking wherever I go, if I can work a walk into the day somehow then helps so much and my past, I mean, I’ve had injuries from too much sitting and there’s somethings that I know are directly caused by the sitting at the computer all day, and so I think that’s so important and it gets overlooked so often. But I hear more about it these days and it’s cool. You got into the science behind it too.
Ben: Yeah absolutely. And there’s even this company that makes some MOGO which is like this little 2 pound, the best way I can explain it, is it’s like a bio mechanically compatible stool, that you can use it like hotel room, or at a coffee shop when you’re traveling it only ways like a pound and a half or two and you can pretty much piece together a standing work station anywhere if you’re traveling a lot, and you can even use it when you’re standing in line waiting to board a plane or place like that. And there’s a lot of ways that you can kinda defy the social norms of sitting in this relatively modern device called a chair.
Kevin: Yeah and it’s not easy at first. If you’ve been sitting for a while and you start doing the standing desk, it’s kind of a chore and it’s tough, but you just to ease into it, do a little bit more everyday and then you start get use to it, and the sitting starts to feel weird after a while.
Ben: Yeah. Exactly. Sitting just feels almost like wrong now.
Kevin: Yeah, totally. So we’re getting into the info. what should people know about training zones and in terms of health and also performance?
Ben: When it comes to training zones, those can be confusing. When you look at zones there are ways to quantify your intensity of training, in a way that allows you to choose the proper intensities during specific workouts. The simplest example is heart rate training zones divided into three different zones: Zone 1 very easy recovery, Zone 2 kind of middle of the pack and then Zone 3 high intensity. And so those training programs that are written with that zone. There’s training programs that use 5 zones, some that use 6 zones, some that use an incredibly confusing 7 or 8 zones, or are you just [00:08:55] bicycling power zone systems that I’ve seen that use 10 zones. So what I layout in the book specifically are 5 zones of training. Zone 1 easy recovery/restorative type of exercise, Zone 2 aerobic exercise, Zone 3 moderate intensity, Zone 4 kind of threshold/tempo/muscles burning and then Zone 5 focused speed. Now the reason that those are important is there’s pretty much two different ways that research has shown that you’re able to build endurance quickly, efficiently and safely. Number 1 is via what is called the polarized training method, where you are exercising with about 80 percent of your training time and kind of that zone 2 aerobic pace and then about 20 percent of your training time in zone 4 or zone 5, with very, very little insignificant amounts of time spent in like that zone 3 training which in the book I call it like your black hole, kind of like your junk miles. So that’s one way to build endurance is with that 80 percent – 20 percent approach, and that works very, very well if you have a lot of time on your hands to train, because the more you train in your aerobics zone the longer periods of time you need to spend training. And that would be for say the Iron man triathletes who has 20, 30 hours a week to spare, the swimmer whose gonna train 15, 20 hours a week. You know the person who has a lot of time. The other way to achieve very similar adaptations from a muscular and a cardiovascular standpoint is to simply spend almost zero time doing zone 2 aerobics training and to instead do almost everything using a high intensity interval approach with weight training thrown into the mix, both of which build up what is called your mitochondrial density, or your ability to be able to generate high amounts of ATP energy during exercise. And then to use those type of sessions, like high intensity interval training and weight training as the icing on the cake of a generally active lifestyle. And what I man when I say generally active life style is exactly what we just touched upon. Spending your day standing, moving, shaking, walking. I have a pull-up bar installed in the door of my office, and I do anywhere from 3 to 5 pulls every time I walk underneath it. I start off my day with about 5 to 10 minutes of yoga, like I’m trying to simulate as much as possible what my ancestors would have done in a pre-industrial era where they weren’t sitting in chairs at computers all day long. So I’m basically building this innate endurance, and then putting the cherry on the top at the end of the day with one hard session. And that hard session only needs to be like 20 to 60 minutes long rather than doing like 2 to 3 hours of aerobic training each day and then another 10 hours on the weekend. And the cool part about that approach is that it not only saves time and kind of allows you to free up extra hours for your friends or your family or your career, but it tends to be a little less draining. And you also build speed, you build power, you generally have a little bit nicer body than the skinny fat look you tend to get from training just aerobically. So I tend to choose the later approach. I have some athletes who come to me and they want to train with more hours, they just like to exercise and so with those folks I don’t use the high intensity interval training approach. I use that 80-20 polarized approach that I also lay out in the book. In the book I give you both ways and teach you how to do both ways but I personally use, just because of time limitations, that whole kind of high intensity workout plus just a real kind of hunter-gatherer kind of lifestyle, and the one thing you gotta remember about this whole thing is that the human body is an amazing endurance machine. So if like you read Tim Mills, Kevin or have you read his book.
Kevin: No I haven’t but I saw you quote him in your book.
Ben: Yeah. South African exercise physiologist who wrote the book, The lure of running and also a really good follow up book about how we’ve been deceived by sports drink companies called Waterlogged. What I like about Waterlogged is he gets into in that book about why humans as upright bipedal mammals who have low amounts of hair and who are able to engage in a high amount of evaporative cooling using things like sweating for example tend to be very, very good at going for long distances. It’s like this built in mechanism that we have, that we’re born with, compared to other animals that are better at things like power and speed. And so human’s weaknesses, our limitation is more of the power and the speed and the strength and if you go and you just train endurance all the time you’re training something that you’re actually naturally strong in, already. And if you train for strength and power and speed, what happens is the endurance kind of comes and you don’t have to work that hard at it and you can toe the starting line of say like an Iron-man triathlon having put in 8 – 10 maybe 12 hours a week, and be just as fit as your neighbor whose been training 30 hours a week, and be able to finish faster. So that’s one of the things I lay down in the book. It’s kind of the two different ways to do it.
Kevin: Yeah and that’s what I thought the book like this aspect of this high intensity training versus just mindless endurance, like mindless yards or miles or whatever. I think this is what, the key to this book and I think this is why it’s gonna – if this book gets out there and really takes a hold in the triathlon community, it’s gonna change everything. Because we’re so use to doing just going okay, just got to do a 1 hour swim workout and then tomorrow, I got to get out there on my bike for 2 1/2 hours and then I gotta run 18 miles the next day, and it’s like that’s what people are so ingrained in. But you’re showing how you can not only be more efficient, you can actually improve but you can also be more healthy. And I think that’s what’s been missing for so long in this sport.
Ben: Yep, I agree.
Kevin: So as far as the high intensity training, can you talk about how you can do this in the pool, like for swimmers, and then just kind of in general like what’s a good amount of high intensity training like how often should we do it?
Ben: First of all as far as the second part of your question, that’s quicker to answer. For any specific mode the body takes anywhere from 48 to 72 hours for your central nervous system to recover from true like high intensity interval training that’s hard enough to actually get you to fitness response. Like a lot of people do interval training but it’s not really interval training. It’s like, kinda sorta hard, but not that hard. Like if you’re gonna do true interval training like all out 25 or 50 or repeats in the pool you technically need 48 to 72 yours of active recovery between those sessions. Where you might be doing something different like high intensity interval training for the bike or the run using some different joints, and some different muscles and some different nerves, or like a mobility or injury prevention session, or not sitting on the couch in between sessions, but what that means is most swimmers will be able to do anywhere from 2 to a maximum of 4 sessions per week that are true high intensity interval training sessions. How do you know? Best way to do it, I lay in out in the book, is to use cheap and extremely effective heart rate variability tracking. Where you download one of these free or $1.00 to $4.00 heart-rate variability apps that allow you to test in the morning how recovered your nervous system is. And that way you just know. Like you wake up in the morning you test your nervous system. If your HRV score is high then that’s a good sign that you’re rested you’re ready and you can go out and do high intensity interval training. And that would mean once you’ve tested for a good four (4) weeks you’re going to have a pretty good finger on the pulse of whether or not you’re ready, like and how many sessions you can do per week. So like I said that doesn’t mean you can’t do easier sessions, drills, efficiency, economy type of things in between those harder training sessions but that’s how you’d do it. Now as far as the actual logistics of the session itself, some of the tactics that I like to use for high intensity training for swimmers would be for example under-speed training. Meaning that you are pulling one of those swim parachutes that you can get Amazon or swim smooth or swim outlet or these websites that allow you to pull resistance behind you in the water. Another way you can do that is via the stretch cords but those are a little bit more difficult to set up ’cause a lot of times you’ve got to have like some kind of a swim ladder or something outside the pool to put them on, and they’re a little bit more of a pain that just like hopping in the water and just like dropping one of these parachutes around your waist. Drag suits are also really, really good for this and those are things, like you don’t have to be an advance swimmer, to use a drag suit or a parachute. They are easier than you think. Another really good way to do this if you’re slightly more advanced, is to simply tie your feet together with an old bicycle tube or something that keeps you from kicking, those are all really good ways to train strength in the pool. There are also some paddle recommendations that I make in the book, like the finis agility paddles, which kind of bring your hand into the correct position during the pull, but also when you’re using paddles you’re going to increase your strength in the water and you pulling force and then the other thing that you can use that works really, really well in conjunction with this type of what I call under-speed or force training is hypoxic training where you do these but you wear like one of those front managed snorkels that you can get from finis and if you look on the finis website, they have cardio caps for those which is an air flow restrictor. So you can put that on top of the snorkel and it allows you to get a little less oxygen. I know some people are thinking, I need all the oxygen I can get when I’m swimming, what are you talking about? But if you don’t want to focus on the mechanics of breathing and you just want to focus on those force application in the water and the mechanics of your pull, and you also want to get just a little bit of that hypoxic red blood cell boosting effect of getting a little less oxygen. These front managed snorkels with their airflow restrictor cardio caps on them work really well. So I like under-speed and I like to combine hypoxic with under-speed. And I also like a little bit of over-speed training in the pool if you can do it. And I say in the pool but really it’s for swimming because I do most of my over-speed swimming in the river. If you have access to a river, it’s called a stream, swimming downstream is excellent for training of your nervous system to make you a faster swimmer and that’s over-speed training with the current. Another way that you can do over-speed training is with again a little bit more difficult to set up but the tubes that you attach where you swim against the tube and then you turn around and you swim with the tube and it just kind of pulls you across the pool and you stroke as quickly as possible. Fins are kinda, sorta a way to do over speed training where you wear fins they allow you to move more quickly in the water than you’d be able to without fins and so your arm turnover can be a little bit more quick. So it can train you again to have like if you say-let’s say for triathlon, if you pull open like a YouTube clip of like an ITU triathlon race or in the Olympics or whatever you’ll notice the turnovers of these swimmers is amazing. It’s just bam, bam, bam, bam, bam, bam, bam. And sometimes that’s hard to learn without the use of like fins or current or someway to kind of like keep your stroke rate up. The other thing that works pretty well, if you’re fortunate enough to have one, they are a little bit [00:20:13] trainer. These are trainers that you can keep in your garage or your home gym and you lay on your chest on this bench and it’s got a swim kinda like cords or cables attached to it and you can really do a real quick swim stroke rate with something like that. And if you’d like to you can even use music to drive that stroke rate. You can also whether you want to stroke fast or stroke slow or stroke at a specific speed, they make these swim metronomes, underwater metronomes that you can put inside your swim cap. There’s one called a wetronome and that will just beep, beep, beep, beep, beep kind of keep you on pace so you can have it to beat per stroke. Another way you can use those that’s kind of cool is and I’ve learned this from the folks at swim smooth, is you can make it beep per 25, so let’s say you want to swim two hundred meters, which would be what like 8, 25 meter chunks, you could set that metronome up so it beeps every, let’s say you set it up so it beats every 22 secs and so you’re trying to hit that 25 every 22 seconds and then the next week you set it for 21 seconds and so again just like a second faster per 25 and that’s a really good way to kind of like use that tempo again to get yourself naturally faster in the water. So yeah those are some of the ways that you can use a combination of little bio-hacks and gears and also like you’re training frequency to improve your fitness in the water.
Kevin: Yeah. Awesome. So you know google has the google glass. I think we need to invent the goggle, the google goggle.
Ben: The google goggle. Love it.
Kevin: Just with all this stuff. If you could see it, instead of just like the beeping. You could actually see what you were doing like how many strokes you’re taking and the counter and all that, would be awesome.
Ben: I’m sure that that is something that is either being worked on right now, or that needs to be worked on. So we need to go research that.
Kevin: Yeah, totally. Put it together. So going back, just to a couple things you said. The heart-rate variability apps, you said that there were apps that you can get for free or really cheap, that you can actually do this with. Because I have the old, the one that Dave Asprey was selling.
Ben: Yeah, the EM wave 2 is the kind of big clunky one that was put out by the HeartMath institute. They have a new one now. They have an app that you can hook a sensor up to, but it’s still about a 90 something dollar set up to get all their gear together. What I use is the SweetBeat system which is a – I think is a $4.99 app, with the only catch with that one being that you do need a wireless heart-rate monitor. Like a polar H7 or any other heart rate monitor that has Bluetooth. And a lot of people have those these days. So if you already have one that a pretty cheap entry level type of deal. Another way that you could go is they’ve got systems now that just use the camera lens in your phone and infrared to detect your heart-rate variability. They are a little less accurate than these ones that use chest rates straps but like Azumio, makes one called the stress check. I think that’s out of azumio.com. Or got some links [00:23:19 I write out] at beyondtrainingbook.com. But Azumio makes one that tests your heart rate variability, i think that one’s either free or a $1.00. So there is definitely some less expensive way to get into it versus buying like I think that HeartMath one’s like a $200 bio feedback device, with the idea being that the reason it’s more expensive is it comes with software so you could take your heart-rate variability while you’re looking at special software on your computer screen. That coaches you how to consciously control your stress, control your nervous system, control your blood pressure, heart rate stuff like that so it’s a little more advance it’s called bio feedback and it’s certainly a tool I talk about in the book, but it’s a little bit above and beyond just like testing your heart rate variability like I do it from anywhere from 3 to 5 minutes when I get up in the morning. And it’s just like one of those things I do when I wake up and it’s easy.
Kevin: So How many yards or how many meters are you doing these days, swimming wise?
Ben: I swim and this is what I did for the 2013 race season. I swam once a week. And for me that was just a lifestyle choice, versus getting to the pool, showering, you know or undressing showering, swimming, showering again, getting dressed. I ended up just beginning to swim once a week like one 40-60 minute tough swim session. A lot of the athletes that I coach with, I either use that approach and especially folks who have a decent history of swimming and don’t need to work on their feel for the water as much and for a lot of the other people we do very short swim sessions typically when they’re going to be at the gym anyway to cut down on time. And this is a good one for triathletes, so we’ll do like a short 20 minutes or maximum 30 minutes swim session, sometimes as short as 10-15 minutes, hop out of the pool head over to the bike and or the treadmill at the gym and just do like a series of short reps. Like a mile on the bike to a half mile of the treadmill three time through. And there almost like mini triathlons like that at the gym, or getting just little injections of feeling for the water, feel for the bike, feel for running spread throughout the week. That works pretty well and then a lot of times when it’s the summer I commute and I try and just kinda hack my life so that I’m working on fitness a lot while I’m doing other things. So I only ride once a week, when I’m training for Iron man but I’ll commute, like I’ll commute 2 miles to the grocery store and 3 miles to the gym and a mile down to return a movie to RedBox or whatever. and when I’m doing that a lot of times in my little backpack I’ve got a swim cap and goggles and I live in an area where there are open bodies of water. I have a river that kind of runs through my town, so when I’m out there running my errands I can stop chain my bike to a tree hop in the water do a quick 15-20 minutes swim and then continue on with what I’m doing. And that works really well for people who commute and stop, you just do it. and you gotta be willing in many cases to swim alone and stay close to shore and wear brightly colored swim cap and I mean like be safe but that’s another strategy that I’ll use sometimes is just like hopping in the water when I’m out there anyway.
Kevin: Pretty cool. I would think the water must be pretty freezing at this point.
Ben: Right now, I don’t even think it’s liquid. I believe it’s solid.
Kevin: So now moving on to mobility. I thought the couple chapters on mobility was really important here because that’s where the injury prevention comes in. Why is mobility important and how can people improve it?
Ben: Well the issue here is that most athletes wait until they are injured. Or most people who are exercising wait until they’re injured to go whether see a massage therapist, see a physical therapist, see like a you know, there’s like active release therapy and graston therapy and deep tissue massage and all these different ways that you can make an area feel better. Rub away the pain basically. But the issue is that most of the time these injuries stem from areas of poor oxygenation, inflammation or cross-linking of connective tissue, specifically cross-linking of the fibers and your fascia which is the sheet that surrounds your muscle tissue. And that’s usually not only why people get injured but also it’s why people aren’t mobile. Usually mobility is not an issue with your muscle fibers not being flexible enough, or your muscle belly not being flexible enough even though those are the things that we stretch when we we’re doing like a yoga class or static stretching or something like that. I mention that I do yoga every morning, I don’t do it to get stretchy and increase mobility. I do it cause it decreases stress and helps me to breathe and kind of like get focused and in the zone for my day. But I don’t deceive myself into thinking like it prevents injury or increases mobility or anything like that cause it doesn’t. And those studies have shown that it does. But decreasing fascial cross-linking and increasing oxygenation while driving out a lot of the byproducts like muscle contraction and workouts and stuff like that, that is really a good increasing mobility and it’s super easy to do. Like, I have two things, I have number one a form roller that has a bunch of little ridges coming out of it called a rumble roller. And I hit that on Tuesdays and Fridays. I put on my MP3 player usually put on a podcast and I make myself smarter while I sitting there rolling on my foam roller for 10 – 20 minutes. So that’s one really good way to get rid of fascial adhesions, if you don’t have time. Like I don’t have time to drive to a massage therapist, I just don’t. And lay there on the table for 15 minutes and drive home, it’s just not part of my life. It’s more relaxing to do that than hit a foam roller which is kind of teeth grittingly uncomfortable and requires you to move round a lot and manipulate your body into all these different positions to hit all your different muscles. Well for me foam rolling is just a time hack, saves me from going to go get massages. Now in addition to that foam roller, I also have , I used to use a lacrosse ball, where I use a lacrosse ball to kind of dig in the muscle and I talk in my book about another book called Becoming a supple leopard by a guy named Kelly Starett, that kind of has some really good little ways that you can use you know not just a foam roller and a lacrosse ball to increase mobility and decrease fascial adhesions but also barbells, door frames all sorts of ways he kind of manipulates the body. But [00:29:43] mention I used to use a lacrosse ball now, now I use this little ball that’s got like ridgy little spike sticking out of it. It’s an evil little thing that kind of hurts a little bit but man it just limbers you right out especially if you use that in the days leading up to an event or workout or race or triathlon or something like that. It make a night and day difference if you work it into your little corners of your hip and underneath your shoulders and some of these hot spots that tend to have mobility issues, and that one’s called a beastly ball. It’s made by the same folks that make the rumble roller and it’s about the size of a lacrosse ball but it’s covered in little ridges that kind of dig into your muscle a little bit better, so when I talk about mobility that’s what I’m talking about. Often confused with flexibility you know being able to touch your toes but mobility is way different. It makes a way bigger difference and I get into a lot of details into the book about some other methods and even foods you can eat to enhance mobility and increase your joint integrity but those are some of the over lying principles.
Kevin: Cool. Well, I wanted to, actually my most interested topic on all of this is nutrition. So I want to get into that. So how are you not a nutrition Nazi?
Ben: How am I not a nutrition Nazi? So I guess the main way that I’m not a nutrition Nazi, is that I don’t count, I don’t track. Once last year I was doing an experiment where I put my body into a state of ketosis, which is an extremely high fat, extremely low carb diet because I wanted to see if it was a viable performance hack specifically for Iron man. So I wanted to get my body into a state where it was utilizing almost no sugar as a fuel and huge amounts of fatty acids as a fuel. And when I first started to do that I certainly did track and measure because I had to make sure I was hitting like 80-90 percent fat-based intake and I had to limit carbohydrate to a certain extent using that particular dietary strategy, which I by no means endorse for everyone. I talk about the type of people that might benefit from that hack in the book. But that’s one situation where I count a little bit. But I don’t really really count carbs and proteins and fats as much as I pay attention to eating local real food, preparing it properly like just in the same way you wouldn’t jump out of a tree and bury your teeth and bite into the neck of a deer and expect for stuff not to go wrong, ’cause that’s not the way that you prepare a meal if you’re gonna eat venison for example. You’d have to humanely kill the deer and then you’d have to skin it and butcher it and cook the meat and even marinate it a little bit to activate some of those enzymes and pre-digest it a little bit. Same things like grains and grasses like quinoa for example. Before I eat quinoa, I go to Costco and I buy these organic quinoa, I don’t just take it home and eat it because it’s still covered in supponents which are a soap like irritant on the quinoa, so I soak it over night in an acidic medium like a little bit of vinegar and water and then I rinse it and that makes it digestible so that I don’t get a tummy ache and don’t wind up with pieces of quinoa in my poo. So to that extent I’m careful about what I eat, but I also don’t count I don’t measure. I just eat real food when I’m hungry I try to eat more fats that I do like proteins and carbohydrates because that reflects the actual way that our ancestors ate, it reflects the composition of breast milk, like it’s a pretty decent way to go but I’m not into counting calories. I think it takes a lot of the enjoyment out of food. If anything when you first switch to kind of like eating the right way you use mynet diary, or I talks about some of the good apps in the book that you can use like a really good one is again made by the company Azumio, it’s called the argus and it tracks like your steps and everything like that. But you can also take photos of your food but you just track for a little while. Like 3 – 4 weeks to check in to see how you’re doing, see what your percentages are at, and then you cut yourself loose, and you just quit counting. So I do think that it can take the enjoyment out of food to be a complete like you say nutritian Nazi.
Kevin: Yeah. There is so many details in your book, about just all the different types of food and all the different ways you can go about it and everything that you should watch and I thought it was really interesting because I’m a proponent as you probably know of the paleo way of eating, and it’s sounds like you’re pretty much in line with that. Although you’ve got a few things are a little bit, like you mentioned quinoa and in then in your book you have oats and a few other things that are not quite along the lines of the paleo prescription.
Ben: I’m definitely not paleo. When I travel, I go paleo because actually go more vegan when I travel actually to be frank with you because I don’t- a lot of times when I’m in the airport or whatever, I don’t know the source of the meat so I just play it safe and eat like seeds and fruit and a little bit of veg and wash it because you can’t wash meat very well. As far as when at home I do eat grains and grasses and my wife makes sourdough bread which is a fermented grain and my kids eat like I mentioned my quinoa, we’ll do gluten free oats if they’ve been soaked we do a lot of activation of the natural enzymes not just in grains, but even like seeds and nuts we soak those. You’ve got lots of mason jars around. Got an entire chapter in the book devoted to just all the stuff we have in our kitchen. Like our dehydrator and little sprouting jars for the counter top and just like little things you can have around. And even a good book to learn how to do a lot of that is the book Nourishing Traditions by Sally Fallon. If you want to learn how to incorporate a wider variety of foods into your diet, than the paleo approach might allow for. But if you don’t have the time of the desire to soak sprout for a minute, do all that stuff, do a lot of slow food prep, paleo is in my opinion like a safe way to go. If you’re at a restaurant eat paleo, if you’re traveling eat paleo. But for me food prep at home is kind of like a way to enjoy the finer things in life and kind of delve into all of the different thing on the planet that you could eat that I think that paleo potentially limits you on.
Kevin: Yeah, like that. So this is kind of a general question, that it just comes up so much because our sport the triathlon is just so overwhelmingly overloaded with carbs and it seems like most people just live on carbs but with your approach how many carbs do you think that people that are doing triathlons or endurance events should be eating?
Ben: You know it depends on the day, really. And it also depends on the person. So if someone’s first starting off into this whole like eat more like your ancestors type of approach which reflects more of like a 15-60 percent fat-based intake, sometimes I’ll gradually take them into that. But in most cases they’re coming to me eating a traditional endurance style that consists of anywhere from 50 up to 70 percent carbohydrate intake. So we gradually decrease carbohydrates and when you do that you tend to do like, you get dizzy because your body dumps storage carbohydrate and along with it, it dumps some water and dumps some sodium, so your blood pressure drops, so you got to do things like increase sea salt and mineral intake in your diet when you lower carbohydrates. Another thing that can happen is you tend to wind up with like fat in your stool, or like a little bit of burping up your meals because you’re not used to incorporating things like coconut milk or avocados and olive oil, you know more seeds, nuts, nut butter things of that nature so using an enzyme like a lipase enzyme for the first 4 weeks or so is important. But generally most folks who I work with and this is what I talk about in the book as well, we’re gradually trying to get down to anywhere depending on the day for an endurance athlete like for an active person who’s doing something like triathlon anywhere from 75 up to around 150 grams of carbohydrates a day. Again not having to count too much, but that’s right around anywhere from well range 300 up to 600 calories of carbohydrate on a daily basis. And that’s enough to kind of like let you form mucus, lets you form the glycoproteins that make up your joints. Allow for some energy, a little bit of glucose for your brain, without massively spiking your blood sugar levels or creating like potential for yeast and fungus overgrowth in the digestive track and a lot of the issues that can go along with excessive consumption of carbohydrate or a lot of fluctuations in blood glucose. And then on higher, heavier training days a lot of times it’s pretty ad libitum. It’s like as much carbohydrate as you kind of want as long as it’s from safe sources like white rice and sweet potatoes and yams and some seeds and nuts, quinoa, amaranth, millet, of course dark chocolate and a little bit of red wine. But on a big training day-you know when I was training for Iron man and I was doing like the ketosis thing, I could still be in ketosis, which means my body is like burning almost pure fats as a fuel and be up around 200 grams or 800 calories of carbohydrates a day and be able to handle that. You know obviously, if I wasn’t going out and going on a two hour bike ride or something like that, I wouldn’t be able to handle that amount but so it depends on the day, it depends on the athlete and what they’re starting off with and how what I call fat-adapted they are. But generally like starting range 75 to around 150 grams most days is a pretty decent range to go for.
Kevin: And that going to keep the love handles from building up and stuff like that?
Ben: Well it’s tricky. You definitely get a greater hormonal propensity for some of the things that can cause fat gain when you eat a lot of carbohydrates. Like conversion of carbohydrates to fats in the liver and then [00:39:19] regulation of the hormone ghrelin which actually makes you hungrier and an insensitivity to insulin which means that you got to churn out more and more insulin to be able to drive glucose into muscle cells and eventually you can become insulin insensitive, so the glucose doesn’t get driven in the muscle cells at all or to a very limited extent and winds up again being converted into fat in your liver. And so as far as the getting fat, maintaining a decent waist line type of deal ultimately calories are the most important thing. I know that that there’s this sharp intake of breath like from the [00:39:56 Gary Tabs] folks who are just like eat as many calories as you want as long as it’s not sugar and fructose, but ultimately you can get fat, stuffing your face with fat, you can get fat stuffing your face with carbohydrates. But ultimately from a hormonal stand point if you limit your carbohydrate intake it is going to be easier to moderate your overall calorie intake to be what is necessary for your body to stay a normal healthy metabolism without gaining fat or without gaining weight. So limited carbohydrates just makes it easier to not overeat calories is a better way to think of it because overeating calories could cause you to get fat.
Kevin: When you’re training in ketosis, when you went through that period. Did you notice that you just completely leaned out. Or how did that go?
Ben: So with ketosis, I didn’t necessarily notice much of a change in body composition, so my body fat was around 6 – 8 percent starting off and ran 6 – 8 throughout. What I noticed was more of a performance effect and a cognitive effect. Meaning that when I was in ketosis I was able to focus for longer periods of time and experience less mental energy surges. And then when I would get during a race, like about three to four hours in because I very rarely go for that long during training sessions. But during my half Iron man or Iron man events, I would simply get stronger and stronger and stronger. The longer the event went because I was so efficient at tapping into my body’s own fat a a fuel and also using some of the fats that I as dumping into my body during those events. One of the things I talk about in the book, is using like medium change triglyceride oil which bypasses digestion and gets incorporated into your muscle cells very, very quickly to be utilized as a fuel using slow release starches which acts similarly using higher levels of amino acids during exercise to stave off mental fatigue all these little things that you can do. But ultimately I noticed more of that go longer and grow stronger as the day goes on than I did at changing body composition. It wasn’t all sunshine and flowers like there were a few issues like I noticed that my thyroid hormone took a hit when I got my fat intake too high. And what you’re gonna find is if you go into ketosis or you try and elevate your fat intake too much. High levels of circulating blood fatty acids can inhibit the sensitivity of your cell surface receptors to thyroid hormone. And so you can wind up taking a hit in your thyroid, you also need certain levels of glucose to convert in active thyroid to active thyroid hormone. So if you go on a high fat diet and you start to get cold a lot and you start to feel like your metabolism is a little bit sluggish, probably means your thyroid isn’t responding very well to that. What I found fixed that was to incorporate organ meats into my diet. Like liver and sweetbreads and stuff like that which are natural sources of some of the things that support thyroid similar to what the Inuits do. They eat almost purely fat but they eat a lot of organ meats to support thy thyroid and to support their fertility. If you’re going to experiment with shoving your diet up to really high fat intake you got to consider some of those variables because it’s not in my opinion a natural diet, it’s a bio hack and so you do have to incorporate some extra little pieces of science to support that particular hack.
Kevin: Sure. Here’s a questions that I get pretty often nutrition wise. What is a good pre-workout, or pre-race snack?
Ben: Let’s see if we’re going to continue down this road and make the assumption that you’re eating a little bit more ancestrally. You’re eating more healthier, doing whatever, paleo, primal whatever. Pre-workout snack would be any easily digested fat along with an easily digested protein and preferably a carb that is a safe starch that doesn’t cause any type of potential for digestive irritation. An example of an easy to digest protein, I mean this is going to sound kind of far out, might be different from what you hear, you know, a lot of sports nutritionist say, but it would be like bone broth, chocked full of really good digestible amino acids and minerals. Very easy to make. Simple, simple to learn. One of the best kitchen skills you can pick up, is how to make bone broth, which is just like a whole chicken that you can get from the grocery store, or you can order bone broth frozen, to your door. There’s a website like thebrothery.com will send it to you. Or another form of easily digested protein, that is very very similar, is like a collagen, like a powdered collagen, or powdered gelatin like one or two brands that are decent. There’s one brand called great lakes, another brand called Bernard Jensen, you could order those off Amazon. And then about a table spoon or two of those gives you again a really good protein profile if you want to add the minerals to that, sprinkle a little sea salt in there. But that’s number one. Number two for the easily digested fats like I mentioned medium change triglycerides getting incorporated into that cell really nicely and are a good stable source of energy. Your body can’t handle that many medium change triglycerides without you experiencing a diaper moment so typically the equivalent of about 2 tablespoons or so of coconut oil or around 1/2 to a full tablespoon of a very concentrated form of coconut oil called MCT oil is another really good thing to include for a post workout for something like a really important workout or workout where you need a lot of focus and you don’t want to be thinking about digestion but you need that energy. And all of this for very long workout can be mixed into flasks or water bottles. And then as far as the starch goes if you want to go with kind of like the engineered starch-based route, I’m a fan of the stuff called Ucan Superstarch which is very slow release fuel that burns very clean that you can use during something like a long workout, like a marathon training or an Iron man run. Can mix about 100 calories or so of that and with an amino acid source and a fat source and that’s a really, really good kind of 1-2-3 combo pre-workout or during your workout. Another way to go if you just wanted less of kind of a weird route, just like a recognizable food group, would be like sweet potato or yam. You add a little bit of raw nut butter that hasn’t been oxidized or heated. So look for raw-raw almond butter, raw cashew butter or something like that. You add a little bit of sea salt and you add a little bit of raw honey for a little bit of sweetness and amino acids and that’s a really decent clean burning meal as well. Just like sweet potato or yam or you can also use white rice for this, some minerals from the sea salt, some raw nut butter and that burns pretty clean too.
Kevin: Cool. I’m writing these things down because I need to go shopping after all this. Cool, so yeah. I just have one more thing that I wanted to ask you, because I know you gotta go here in a few minutes. But I think, your book, also one of the things that is coming out of it, is that you can do these sports like triathlon and you can also have a life at the same time. So can you give a couple, 2, 3 ways that someone can kind of do that. To do triathlons, do say maybe Iron mans and still have a life and still be healthy and be able to do all kinds of other things.
Ben: Yeah, I mean, some of the things we hit on earlier as far as minimal training and incorporating fitness naturally into your life is really important. Like that’s probably one of the most important things I can tell you because they freeze up so much times. One of the other big things that I do for example is I’m really careful with check lists. Like you hear a lot of people tell you get a check list, write stuff down. The issue is that can back fire on you because sometimes it just turns to a monster list, right. This big to do list that’s never ending that ends up detracting from your life and then you finish up work at 5:00 or 6:00 or whatever and then you’ve got your to do list. So what I do is I actually have buckets. And I talk about this a little bit in the book. So each day has a bucket. Like Monday has a bucket. Tuesday had a bucket and I’ve got specific tasks for each day that go into that bucket. So if I want to make a video with my phone, for me, ’cause I do a lot of video on my YouTube channel, stuff like that. That’s Tuesday. That’s only a Tuesday activity and if I get an email about making a video. if I think about a video I want to make anything it just get shoves in one ear out the other, right unto that I have a friend named Ari Miesel, getleverage.com, who coined this term it my external brain, right. So it’s keeping a clear head at all times. You know Wednesdays is my podcast day. Sundays and Saturdays I review a lot of my clients notes from their training sessions and so each day has its own bucket. And once that bucket is taken care of it’s like that day is done, that’s it. And working through dinner or whatever. Another thing that I do is that I try and incorporate my family as much as possible into my workouts so you know we’ve got everything from skateboards to kids bikes to jogging trailers to the trailers that you toe behind the bike, to like, I time my swim during my kids Saturday swim lessons, so I’m swimming at the pool with my kids, you try and coordinate your life so I’m a bigger fan of incorporating the family and having your workouts be time spent with the family when you can versus you taking the approach of being the invisible workout guy. Who gets up at 3:00 am to workout and comes home at 5:00 am as the kids are getting up or whatever, to me that’s draining and it also doesn’t give a good example if you have a family and kids of, kind of like, showing them an example of you being a healthy person it works out. I’ve got a home gym. I do kettle bell swings, my kids have their little five pound kettle bell and they’re doing there kettle bell swings and they’ve got their little medicine ball, so we do a lot of that. and then let me think of another little lifestyle hack that I can give you here. One of the things that I’ll incorporate a lot of the times is just this thing of biphasic sleeping and the fact that you can get by on less sleep if you can somehow hack yourself into a deep sleep phase more quickly during the night and then getting to a nap phase at some point during the day to the best ways to do that for the deep sleep part is to amplify your melatonin production at night. Cold shower a couple of hours before bed does a really good job at that using artificial light blocking glasses, you can get them from computer gaming websites. They make anti-glare glazes for gamers and you can put those on, and they a lot of times they’ll block glare and block blue light from coming off kindles, phones, computers and allow you to get into your deep sleep phase more quickly when you do go to bed at night. And then for napping during the day, one of the better things to get you stabilized, shut down anxiety get you kinda out of beta brain wave mode from working and stressing and being anxious during the day so you could maybe like throw down a quick nap after lunch for example is passion flower extract. And literally you can just buy that off like Amazon. You take passion flower extract, use squeeze a few drops under your tongue, it does a really good natural job of calming you down. Gives you the chance to take a quick afternoon nap and then get back up and essentially allow you to accomplish a lot and be productive but not feel like you’ve got to sleep like nine hours a night because your just so busy that type of thing. Those are a few of the ways you can kind of hack your life to increase productivity.
Kevin: Awesome stuff, I’m gonna have to put all these things into show notes and make sure to link to them. If I can get all of them in there but there are some really good ones. So I’ll try to put them all in the show notes for everybody. Yes so the book, I really highly recommend everybody pick up a copy of this book. You can pre-order it, beyondtrainingbook.com and I’m just so getting a ton out of it. I’m going to use it as a resource for a whole bunch of things. Anyway, when will the book be available?
Ben: It will ship the first week of March, 2014. That’s the time that we’re recording this. It’s in a couple weeks.
Kevin: Are you doing a book tour, or are you appearing at a lot of shows, or things like that?
Ben: One of the things that I’ve heard a lot of people who publish books. Particularly in our circles, the health circles, say it’s one of the most unhealthy things that they ever did was write a book on health. And one of the reasons for that they sight, is that they spend so much time in airplanes, with these hectic travel schedules doing all these appearances at bookstores and book signings and book parties and all this stuff, and frankly those are a lot of hoops to jump through when you could just as easily get the word out about something that you’ve written via something like what you and I are doing know Kevin. I mean there’s a lot of people that can listen to this, that can get the same amount of advice, oh yeah I’m not there with a pen to sign your book, or t-shirt, or whatever. But for me going on a book tour in a traditional sense of the word does not make sense from a health standpoint. That really returns full circle to why I wrote the book in the first place and I think this is kind of a perfect thing for me to kind of finish up with is that everything I do in life now when it comes to performance is looked at through the lens of whether or not it’s actually going to make me healthy, help me to live longer, increase my quality of life or allow me to spend more time with my family or friends. It’s not just about whether or not it’s gonna make me faster or perform better. And when you start to look at life through that [00:53:01 lens], now is this workout, this 4 hour workout I just read in this triathlon magazine gonna improve performance absolutely, absolutely. Is it going to detract from my family, is it going to potentially wear my body down so I’m not able to spend as much time or focus as much on work the next day etcetera, yes. Could I replace it with a short 40 minute high intensity interval training session with some hypoxia and isometric set, you know, worked in from Ben’s Beyond Training book, absolutely. That’s the kind of a deal, is you look at everything through the lens of not just performance but also your own health and happiness and that’s really ultimately why I wrote the book.
Kevin: Yeah that’s awesome. That’s what I liked about it. I totally agree and hope it does really well and hope a lot of people read it and get a lot of it. Put some of the stuff into action. So Ben thanks so much for coming on, it was awesome chatting again and good luck with everything and good luck with the book.
Ben: Awesome. Thanks for having me on Kevin.[Closing Promo 00:54:02 – 00:54:23]