July 17, 2018
I stared out the window at the doe gently padding its way from the treeline of the forest, then across my driveway. It stopped and glanced my direction. Could it possibly hear the loud buzzing noise emanating from the modified car buffer I was massaging my head with as I stood barefoot in the kitchen, staring off into the wilderness behind my Washington state home? As the doe trailed off into the forest, I moved the car buffer from the right side of my skull to the left, gently digging into the tight craniosacral muscles at the back of the head with the rapid vibrational waves.
Why such a strange morning habit? In this case, better blood flow to my skull, a bit of a wake-me-up buzz for my head, and lower blood pressure and stress the entire remainder of the day from my relaxed neck and trapezius muscles. But my morning routine is not limited to taking a car buffer to my head – and indeed my entire day spanning into the afternoon and evening is rife with elaborate routine.
Why? Consider just a few brief snippets of the morning and daily routines of a handful of successful pop culture, historical and political icons:
“… secretary of state and president, John Quincy Adams skinny dipped in the Potomac River in the morning, always trying to see how long he could swim without touching the bottom (he got up to 80 minutes before his wife told him to stop).”
“…after putting his kids to bed, President Obama goes over briefing papers and does paperwork, and then reads a book for pleasure for a half hour before turning in…”
“…Stephen King writes every day of the year without exception beginning work between 8:00 and 8:30 am. He has a glass of water or cup of tea and takes a vitamin pill each day, ensuring he is in the same seat and his papers and desk are arranged in the same way every single day. King has a daily writing quota of two thousand words and rarely allows himself to quit until he’s reached his goal.”
“…the 31-year-old Harvard dropout and founder of Facebook, Mark Zuckerberg, is well known for almost always wearing a plain gray T-shirt, saying in a 2014 interview that wearing the same shirt helps allow him to make as few decisions as possible.”
As a matter of fact, I don’t know any successful people who do not have some kind of a relatively structured and occasionally elaborate daily routine. Heck, there’s even an entire book – a book I recommend you read – entitled “Daily Rituals: How Artists Work”. The book includes a quote from novelist Franz Kafka, who, frustrated with his living quarters and day job, wrote in a letter to his fiancee Felice Bauer in 1912…
…“time is short, my strength is limited, the office is a horror, the apartment is noisy, and if a pleasant, straightforward life is not possible then one must try to wriggle through by subtle maneuvers.”
Kafka is just one of the book’s 161 great minds of history, including novelists, poets, playwrights, painters, philosophers, scientists, and mathematicians, who all describe how they implement daily, often automated and slightly subconscious, rituals to get done the work they love to do, whether that be waking early or staying up late; self-medicating with a morning doughnut or a hot bath; drinking vast quantities of coffee (it is said the philosopher Voltaire consumed 40-50 cups per day), or taking long daily walks.
For example, Thomas Wolfe wrote standing up in the kitchen, the top of the refrigerator as his desk, dreamily fondling his “male configurations” (and you thought my infrared light on the balls trick is strange!), philosopher Jean-Paul Sartre chewed on Corydrane tablets (a mix of amphetamine and aspirin), ingesting ten times the recommended dose each day, and Descartes preferred to linger in bed, his mind wandering in sleep through woods, gardens, and enchanted palaces where he experienced “every pleasure imaginable.” British author Anthony Trollope demanded of himself that each morning he write three thousand words (at precisely 250 words every fifteen minutes for three hours) before going off to his job at the postal service, which he kept for thirty-three years during the writing of more than two dozen books, choreographer George Balanchine did most of his work while ironing, and composer and pianist George Gershwin worked for twelve hours a day from late morning to midnight, composing at the piano in pajamas, bathrobe, and slippers.
While I don’t necessarily endorse establish a daily habit of beginning each morning with a doughnut or spending your entire waking hours “lingering in bed” for enhanced productivity, I do know this for a fact: not only does a daily routine provide for structure and productivity to each day, but it also gives something to fall back upon and to depend upon in times of stress, and routine serves to be a fantastic source of comfort, peace and relaxation when life gets moving too fast or become too difficult.
So to fully equip you with your own daily routine, this article will delve into many of my own morning, afternoon and evening routines that I’ve discovered to vastly enhance and optimize my own health, energy, body, brain, sleep and beyond, beginning with the most logical place to begin: the start of your day.
The Morning Ritual
Nearly ten years ago, I posted to my YouTube channel a video collection of me performing a set series of strange poses in my backyard while wearing teeny-tiny black shorts. That ten minute stretching routine was actually my very first foray into doing the same something at the beginning of each day: something that established blood flow, healthy breathwork patterns and the physical momentum that inspired me to achieve even more the rest of the day (call me crazy, but as a guy with an all-or-nothing mentality, I’m often far more inspired to hit the gym if I know I’ve already started my day with, say, 100 jumping jacks). Prior to beginning to do this morning physical routine, I would simply roll out of bed, make a quick coffee and head to work tight, tired and deoxygenated, with absolutely no clue as to how much better a morning ritual can make your day.
Since then, my morning ritual has progressed far beyond the level of just a few silly stretches in my underwear. It has, in fact, morphed into an absolutely epic series of journaling, elaborate exercises, physical twists, oils, supplements, toilet techniques and an entire host of other ridiculously complex self-care habits that I’ve managed to automate and insert into each morning while maintaining high productivity.
And I’m not complaining: not only do I absolutely love my morning routine, hopping out of bed each day with a steely determination to go check off all those items I know will make my morning that much better, but I also now know that a morning, an afternoon and an evening series of rituals, habits and routines are a healthy and fulfilling way to “bookend” sections your day (just like gratitude!). A morning ritual, in particular, allows you to prioritize all the items necessary to care for yourself and your body, your brain and your spirit at a time when your willpower, decision-making motivation and energy is high, grounding your body and mind, and even giving you something “old and reliable” to use when you’re traveling or starting your day in strange, new places.
Before you dive in, it’s important to understand that any new routine can initially feel intimidating and confusing until it becomes an automatic habit. But after two to four weeks of launching into a routine, you’ll begin adopting automation for the habits you’re about to discover without even thinking about it. You just need to stick with it each day until your new ritual or any add-ons to your existing ritual become automatic and even subconscious.
I wake. Unless I have a flight to catch, I do not use an alarm due to its ability to rip one out of deep sleep and leave the body groggy for the first hour or so of the day. If you must use an alarm, I’d recommend a natural light producing alarm clock or an alarm such as the Sleep Cycle that tracks your sleep, then wakes you in your lightest stages of sleep. This allows me to follow my body’s natural clock.
If you’re afraid you might upset a client, miss an appointment get “fired from work”, then you need to understand the importance of “zeitgeists”, which are circadian rhythm cues that let your body and brain know that it is either morning or evening. The most important such cues are A) light; B) movement; C) a meal. For example, if you desire for your wake time to be at 6 am, and you’re currently finding yourself sleeping in until 7 am, then at 6am, as close as possible to waking, you should A) get plenty of morning sunlight or use something like an ear-light “Human Charger” or eye-light “Re-Timer”; B) do morning movement between 6am and 7am and C) don’t skip breakfast, and preferably have breakfast within a couple hours after waking up. This habit works especially well when traveling outside your normal time zone.
Anyways, back to my own waking routine. Upon waking, I roll over, strap on a Bluetooth-enabled heart rate monitor (most models work but one of the more accurate is the Viiiva brand), smear conducting gel all over the strap’s electrodes, and get a quick five minute measurement of my heart rate variability (HRV), nervous system readiness and stress using an app called NatureBeat. While I monitor my HRV, I read anything that feeds or teaches me about the spiritual disciplines I hold dear, particularly prayer, study, silence, solitude, meditation or fasting. This is usually my Bible, my “Our Daily Bread” devotional or a spiritual book, followed by completion of my daily entry into my Christian Gratitude Journal. I then take a quick 60-second glance at my Oura ring sleep data so that I can get any information I need about how any habits the night prior affected my sleep patterns, and I hop out of bed and head downstairs to the kitchen.
Once in the kitchen, I drink about 24 ounces of water, into which I typically add several goodies – most often 10 drops of lemon essential oil or a squeeze of half a lemon for alkalinity and 5 drops oil of oregano for immunity, along with a pinch of sea salt for electrolytes. As I drink this water, I take any morning supplements best consumed on an empty stomach. What I take varies depending on my goals. For example, if I have a workout planned for the morning, I’ll consume 1-2g of creatine monohydrate (the most the body can absorb at a time is around 1.5g). I’ll often also include a bit of thyroid support (my thyroid is still a bit sluggish from year of chronic cardio training for Ironman triathlon), a handful of nootropic pills such as Qualia Mind or Lion’s Mane extract, and, if I’m preparing for a competition, a handful of colostrum capsules, which are fantastic for keeping the gut lining from becoming permeable due to hard exercise in the heat. The way I describe my supplementation strategy to folks is that my supplement pantry is just like my refrigerator – even though you’ll open my refrigerator and find, say, ribeye steak, eggs, kimchi, saurkraut, mixed greens, carrots, yogurt, chia seed slurry, bone broth, mayonnaise, cucumbers and parmesan cheese, this doesn’t mean I eat all those foods every day. I simply choose the specific foods that I have on my personal “menu” for that day. The same goes for supplementation: if I’m injured, I include a joint support compound such as curcumin, if my gut is feeling under the weather, I’ll include digestive enzymes or digestif supplements such as ginger, or if I’ve been around sick kids or am hopping on an airplane, a dropperful of oregano.
After hydrating and taking my supplements, I put on the water to boil for my French Press coffee and then proceed to do my 15-minute morning movement routine. The series of moves that I perform are designed to turn on my glutes, activate my deep breathing patterns and decompress my spine. This is typically a mash-up of “Core Foundation” exercises, jumping up and down on a mini-trampoline or standing on a vibration platform (also a great way to get the bowels moving), a few choice yoga stretches and a bit of foam rolling and deep tissue work. If it’s a nice day, I’ll do all this outside into the sun in my bare feet to get the benefits of earthing or grounding along with my dose of morning sunlight.
Now fully energized, I charge back to the kitchen and grab the coffee, which, up until recently, has been caffeinated for 3 weeks, then decaffeinated for 1 week, allowing me to only be nursing a caffeine habit 75% of the time (and allow for resensitization of the adenosine receptors. And no, I do not use copious amounts of butter or MCT oil or any other form of calories. Just black coffee to keep me in my fasted state, thank you very much.
Now, I know what you're thinking…
…wait Ben: doesn't coffee destroy your adrenals, give you the jitters, jack up cortisol and blood pressure and render you addicted to caffeine?
I'll admit that one downside of frequent coffee consumption can be caffeine overload. Some people are fast metabolizers of caffeine, and some are slow metabolizer, and slow metabolizers tolerate far less caffeine (e.g. one cup a day) compared to fast metabolizers. You can easily test this via a 23andme genetic analysis. Or you can just listen to your body: if you start to feel that jittery feeling, you have likely reached your personal threshold for caffeine.
However, scientific evidence indicates that for the vast, general population of healthy adults, moderate caffeine intake is not associated with commonly cited adverse effects, and surprisingly, the health benefits are linearly correlated with the amount of coffee drunk. Acceptable caffeine levels for most adults with no major health issues comes out to about 4-5 mg per kg body weight and that about 400mg per day should be the max (that's around 4-5 cups of brewed coffee, although rumor is that the philosopher Voltaire consumed more than 60 cups per day). Even low dose caffeine can improve mental performance and protect against Alzheimer’s. But acting in a similar manner to anti-depressants, high doses of caffeine (or ephedrine, ephedra, guarana, Ritalin, and any other central nervous system stimulant) can flood the brain with excitatory neurotransmitters, creating neurotransmitter resistance or long-term receptor damage.
The solution I've implemented in the past and alluded to above for not being overcaffeinated? Simple.
For seven to ten days out of every month, I pull out a bag of swiss-water processed decaffeinated ground coffee and make myself a piping hot, muddy black cup of decaf as a substitute for regular. Here’s why this works: people who use frequently use coffee, tea, soda or energy drinks actually change their brain’s chemistry and physical characteristics over time. Because it is both water and fat soluble, caffeine can easily cross your blood-brain barrier, and as you dump more and more caffeine into your body, your brain cells actually grow an excess of receptors for an inhibitory neurotransmitter called adenosine. Adenosine causes feelings of tiredness, but the structure of caffeine closely resembles adenosine – so caffeine can easily fit into your brain cells’ receptors for adenosine. See what I mean below?
With its receptors constantly plugged up by caffeine, adenosine can no longer bind to those receptors and cause the feeling of tiredness. Unfortunately, your body’s response is to create more and more adenosine receptors, so you eventually need more and more caffeine to block the feeling of tiredness. Then, over time, you build up a tolerance to caffeine’s ability to achieve this effect.
The good news is that to kick a caffeine habit and “reset” your adenosine receptors, you only need to get through about 7-12 days of caffeine avoidance, which is why in the past, I've recommended that you should consider keeping a bag of decaf coffee or decaf tea handy and taking a week-long break from coffee about once every one to two months. This allows you to tap into the wonderful aroma, taste, social benefits and bowel-moving glory of a hot morning beverage without exhausting your neurotransmitters.
But my recommendations have since changed, and I'm really not using quite as much decaf. Why?
It comes down to the roasting process of the coffee that I now use. Roasting involves some pretty complicated science: it literally involves taking a substance that has 300 volatile aromatic compounds and converting it into a substance with over 1000 volatile aromatic compounds. As you can imagine, this comes down to a lot more than simply tossing a metal bucket of coffee beans into a giant oven.
Why is the roasting process so important when it comes to your health and adrenals, and the purity of the coffee you drink? Think about this: even the highest quality coffee beans contain a substance called acrylamide, which has been known to cause cancer in animals. Most roasters work to roast the hell out of the coffee bean to eradicate this substance, but this dark roast process will often introduce other cancer-causing chemicals. For example, at high temperatures, roasting produces Polycyclic Aromatic Hydrocarbons (PAHs) and results in the burnt flavor that so many coffees are known for. Taste is also a factor: taking out the beans before they're too well-done preserves things like citric acid and malic acids, which provide orange and apple flavors. But leaving the beans in long enough to develop sweeter flavors like caramel, cacao and vanilla is also important! And if you leave the beans in too long? Burnt charcoal-ey carbon flavor. Ew.
But if a smokeless roasting process is used (this is pretty rare in the industry, but a few folks still do it), it obliterates acrylamide without sacrificing the numerous antioxidants found in coffee or creating PAHs. In addition, and most important the caffeine issue, this allows for a coveted sweet spot between a dense amount of antioxidants with only a low-to-moderate amount of caffeine. Compare your coffee to a nice cut of beef: you wouldn't blast a filet mignon to well-done – you'd instead gently cook to a tasty and tender medium-rare for the ultimate combination of taste and health.
In other words, with a medium roast and a smokeless roasting process, you can get all the benefits of coffee, without all the issues of adrenal exhaustion and the jitters. You can have your cup and sip it too, baby.
While I drink my coffee, I do a bit of light morning reading, usually blogs or research articles. I stay far, far away from e-mail, social media and anything that would stress me out at this time of day. If I’m outside, then I’m already in the sunlight. But if I’m in the basement gym, I flip on the lights, which are powered by a special kind of bulb called “Awake And Alert“. These bulbs crank out massive amounts of blue light, and this is why, if the day is gray, I’ll head to the gym rather than the backyard patio for a massive dose of light. Remember: light is a good circadian rhythm cue.
So I’ll let you in on a little secret: I only poop once-a-day. That’s right – I get it all out of the way with one massive toilet trip first thing in the morning. There’s just something I don’t like about walking around during the current day with the previous day’s majority of solid waste still inside me.
I’ve pretty much got the morning poo down to a science. I stroll into the bathroom, hop onto my Squatty Potty then shift, shimmy and shake until everything is out. I’ve personally found that with about a half-teaspoon of the ayurvedic herb Triphala at night along with 400mg of magnesium citrate and that piping hot cup of morning black coffee, I can poo like clockwork right about this time every morning.
Typically, while on the toilet, I do indeed have my phone, and I scroll through emails and Facebook (yep, you know it and you’ve done it yourself once or twice I’d imagine), read any of my bathroom books and magazines, and just chill out until everything is expulsed. This is generally an oh-so-glorious 15-20 minutes. I walk out of that experience with a big satisfied smile on my face. In addition, every Wednesday, to increase the health of my liver, my gallbladder and my colon, I give myself a coffee enema, which is far simpler than you’d think.
I hang out with my twin boys before they head to the bus stop. We talk about their sleep, their dreams, their morning journaling, breakfast, and the day’s activities. Then they’re off until 4:00 pm, which gives me 8 hours of extreme productivity. My day’s goal is always to be finished up with all my hard, focused “deep work” by the time the boys get home, so we have plenty of time for afternoon workouts, adventures and fun father-son activities.
I complete 30 minutes of fasted morning movement. I prefer to ease myself into the morning with simple exercise, rather than a brutal morning sufferfest, and you can learn why in my last article on sleep patterns and circadian rhythm. The morning exercise varies a bit from day-to-day based on how my body is feeling but is generally comprised of some form of yoga, deep tissue and mobility work, infrared sauna, a sunshine walk, or an easy swim. I always finish any of these routines with a quick cold shower or cold plunge.
Optional breakfast. If I’ve eaten a late night dinner or large evening meal the night prior, I skip breakfast, and often simply have a second cup of coffee. With very little exception, on the days that I do eat breakfast, I make either A) a “big-ass” green smoothie (see below) or B) my famous “healthy Wendy’s frosty smoothie”. During breakfast or while sipping my second coffee, I surf through blogs, read research, review the day’s calendar of activities, and wipe smoothie goodness off my face.
For choice A)…to a decent blender such as a Vitamix, Blendtec or Ninja, add:
-A huge bunch of organic greens such as a spring mix, kale, spinach, bok choy, or mustard greens.
-Some kind of herb. Cleansing herbs like parsley, cilantro or thyme are nice. Preferably get ‘em fresh.
-Half an avocado, or a whole one if I anticipate a high calorie, high activity day.
-4-6oz of full-fat coconut milk that is BPA free or organic bone broth. The less liquid you use, the thicker your smoothie will be. I prefer an extremely thick smoothie that I can eat with a spoon so that the digestive enzymes in my mouth can work on pre-digesting before the food even makes it to my gut. Like my mother always said, “Chew your liquids and drink your solids.”
-2 teaspoons organic cacao powder.
-2 teaspoons Ceylon cinnamon
-1/2-1 teaspoon sea salt (I use the fancy Aztecan stuff).
-1 tablespoon MCT oil, extra virgin olive oil, avocado oil, or coconut oil.
OK, stop there. Blend everything above for 60 seconds-ish. You don’t want to pulverize later additions such protein powder, collagen, etc., and you also don’t want to pulverize the chunky chunks of goodness you’re about to toss in.
Now, let’s keep going. To your blended green goodness, now add:
-15-30g of a “clean” protein powder with no added fillers or artificial sweeteners. If you choose a vegan source such as pea, hemp, or rice, you can break open a few digestive enzyme capsules into your smoothie to increase the bioavailability of the protein.
-For additional joint, skin and muscle support (especially if you don’t use bone broth as your liquid base) add 2 teaspoons of a good organic collagen hydrolysate.
Now blend again. Quickly this time so that you don’t pulverize the chunks. About 15 seconds will do.
Finally, stir (don’t blend) one or a mix of the following ingredients:
-1 small handful organic dark cacao nibs
-1 handful organic unsweetened coconut flakes
-1 handful organic spirulina or chlorella tablets
-1 handful of unroasted, non-vegetable-oil coated nuts such as walnuts, almonds, cashews, brazil nuts or, if you can find them, my favorite: Baru nuts.
Boom. That’s it. You’re now ready to begin consuming your smoothie, preferably with a spoon or a spatula. I personally use an enormous mug with the inspirational “Man In The Arena” quote from Theodore Roosevelt. Depending on how exact your measurements are, this smoothie is going to weigh in at anywhere from 600-1000 calories, so scale yours accordingly if you want fewer calories.
The two morning supplements that I consistently swallow before diving into this smoothie are best taken before or with a meal are 10-20g of a good fish oil (I use the brand Superessentials) and a serving of a good multivitamin (I use the “Thorne AM/PM” formula).
Finally, I’d be remiss not to mention that I occasionally – especially when my wife and children are gone and I’m free to get as weird as I want with my diet – break the mold of my daily routine and instead implement what I call “The Ultimate Biohacked Diet”. A blend of ancestral foods blended with modern science, it includes skipping lunch and incorporating a neural-enhancing, ego-dissolving dietary approach comprised of the following groups:
Major calories and nutrients:
Meat, wild-caught fish, bone broth, bitter greens and wild plants – some of the most nutrient-dense food groups you can easily find.
Black and green tea, red wine and coffee – all chock full of antioxidants and longevity-enhancing compounds.
Exogenous ketones, fish oil, creatine, essential amino acids
Nootropics: Micro-doses of psilocybin blended with Lion’s Mane and niacin (a mind-bending, productivity-enhancing, brain-spinning stack made popular by mushroom expert and mycology researcher Paul Stamets)
Here’s how a sample day looks on this diet:
-Morning supplements: creatine, fish oil, mushroom stack
-Breakfast: Salmon and dandelion greens with green tea
-Snack: One cup of bone broth.
-Lunch: Fasting – black coffee only.
-Pre-workout: Exogenous ketones and essential amino acids.
-Dinner: Celebration of a day of hard work with a bone-in grass-fed ribeye steak accompanied by red wine and nettle leaves or some other handful of wild plants.
So that's it: the “Ultimate Biohacked Diet”. I’ve found this blend to work quite well on cognitively demanding days when I’m at home, when my wife and children are gone, and when I need to buckle down and tackle a good 12-16 hours of deep work, which I occasionally do.
The workday officially begins.
The Afternoon Ritual
Breakfast finished, shards of green smoothie and spirulina often still lodged in my teeth, it is now time for work to commence. At this point, I am supercharged with nutrients and caffeine, and I’m ready and raring to launch into the morning’s activities, which will involve approximately four hours of “Deep Work” (the book by Cal Newport of the same name does a fantastic job explaining why the maximum amount of time the average human can spend immersed in deep, focused, productive work is approximately four to five hours). As I learned from a “Morningness-Eveningness Questionnaire”, one’s most attention-demanding, left-brained tasks should be performed during your what is called “peak hours”, while the most creativeness-demanding, right-brained tasks should be performed during “non-peak hours”. Based on the results from my questionnaire, my own personal peak hours occur from about 9:30 am until 1:00 pm, and so I choose this time for my daily deep work session.
During these peak hours, I am like a horse with blinders, completely focused on my primary tasks for the day. I do not snack on anything but sparkling water with a few drops of stevia added (or a couple cans of Zevia soda), I do not answer my phone, I do not text message, I disable all push notifications on the computer and phone, and if I am working while traveling or at a coffee shop or shared workspace, I put in headphones (often playing Brain.FM focus tracks).
During this time, I alternate from seated to standing to lunging to kneeling to lying, etc. exactly as I outline in my last article on how to hack your workplace. Admittedly, I feel that a great deal of my productivity and hyperfocus is due to the fact that I have “hacked” my home office environment to be as natural as possible, with no brain-fog inducing dirty electricity, no WiFi (everything is hardwired with shielded Cat-6 ethernet cable), no stand-up desk motors or treadmill motors, a HEPA air filter, a hydrogen-rich water generator and many other “building biology” tactics you in my quick e-book How To Biohack The Ultimate Healthy Home. I also use only biologically friendly, low-flicker lightbulbs and computer monitors, diffuse pine or evergreen essential oil via desktop air diffuser, and keep a variety of NASA approved air filtering plants such as Weeping Fig, Peace Lily and Boston Fern scattered throughout both the office and the rest of the home. In other words, it’s like I’m working on a pristine Himalayan mountaintop, without the wind chill factor.
Although I work in one long intense session of four hours, which is primarily comprised of writing, recording, editing and phone or Skype consults, I take brief breaks throughout for quick exercise bursts, stretches and eye care. Technically, if I wanted to be ultra-scientific with these breaks, I would incorporate the research-based Pomodoro timing of “52 minutes on, 17 minutes off”, but frankly, I’ve found that my own personal preferences and productivity work best with 25 minutes on and 5 minutes off. As a matter of fact, I keep a device on my desk called a “NanoVi”, which circulates DNA-repairing air that has been infused with small amounts of Reactive Oxygen Species (ROS’s), and I simply turn this on for 25 minutes. When it shuts off, it serves as my reminder to begin my 5-minute break. During these breaks, in addition to exercises such as jumping jacks, burpees, kettlebell swings or mini-trampoline jumping, I reset my visual balance by stepping out my office door or gazing out my office window and focusing my eyes on a series of close trees, more distant trees, the far horizon, the sun, and any moving objects such as cars or birds. A nifty program I have installed on my computer called “Iris” can remind you to do this. This software also reduces light, glare and flicker from a computer screen and can also be set up to remind you to take your Pomodoro breaks at whatever timing and frequency you desire.
Once I’ve slammed shut my laptop and turned off my working brain, the very first thing I then do is take a deep breath, listen to my body, and assess whether the day is a “nap day”. If I am coming off a non-taxing day of exercise the day before, it’s an easy recovery day, I have completed at least five 90 minute sleep cycles the night before (as mentioned in my sleep article here), or I’m simply not tired, I will typically forego my usual post-lunch nap.
But most days, I nap. So just before lunch, I consume something that will help me wind my busy mind down and decrease cortisol so that I can more quickly fall asleep after lunch. My afternoon napping weapon of choice is Inner Peace, which is a blend of Chinese herbal adaptogens, along with two packets of Four Sigmatic Reishi extract. I take both of these just before lunch, along with a digestive enzyme or more lemon juice in water if I feel as though the morning of work has created excessive stress that could threaten to impair my ability to digest lunch optimally.
Then, based on the Ayurvedic and Chinese medicine principles of dietary variation, best learned in the book “Returning To An Ancestral Diet” by my friend Dr. Michael Smith), I choose one of two lunches: a cold, big-ass salad if it’s a hot spring or summer day or more warming “stir-fry” if it’s a cold fall or winter day.
My entire lunch – and frankly, every meal I eat each day – is highly focused on the concept of…
In a nutshell, as you learn more about in this article I wrote on blood sugar control, glycemic variability (also known as “GV”) refers to blood glucose oscillations that occur throughout the day, including hypoglycemic periods and postprandial (after a meal) increases, as well as blood glucose fluctuations that occur at the same time on different days. In plain speak, glycemic variability basically refers to how much your blood sugar bounces around at any given point in your life. When it comes to your health, it is, in my opinion, a more important variable to consider than cholesterol, vitamin D, minerals, telomere length, cortisol, testosterone or just about any biomarker one could ever measure (except, perhaps, inflammation, which I would rank right up there with glycemic variability).
Based on this concept of glycemic variability, and also based on the concept that to reduce decision making fatigue and to reduce dietary variation (e.g. not knowing how many calories you're eating because your meals fluctuate so much) my lunchtime salad is focused on herbs and digestifs that enhance my own insulin response to the meal, along with limitation of both starches and high amounts of protein.
On most days, I add a handful of wild plants or organic produce, such as arugula, nettle, spinach, thyme, cilantro, parsley, etc. to a large bowl (it’s eerily similar to my smoothie, but the plants are in a bowl rather than a blender jar). Over the plants, I lay a bed of lightly sauteed Japanese shirataki noodles (they're zero calories and zero carbohydrates harvested from Japanese yams)- along with one can of sardines (or occasionally a couple lightly scrambled eggs on the days I don’t feel like fish) and a choice number of oils, herbs and spices such fennel seeds, olive oil, lemon juice, vinegar, sea salt, black pepper, rosemary, thyme, cayenne and turmeric. If I want extra calories, I then top with half a sliced avocado, a slice of a good, hard fermented cheese such as Pecorino or a soft cheese such as goat cheese, or a handful of walnuts, brazil nuts, macadamia nuts, almonds, pine nuts, sesame seeds, or any other seed or nut option. Usually, rather than eating my salad with a fork, I eat my entire salad wrapped up like a burrito in a nori seaweed wrap. The size of my salad typically necessitates two seaweed wraps, which basically turns my entire lunch into two big-ass vegetable-sardine burritos. And that's lunch, folks. I can make it in ten minutes flat, it tastes amazing, and if you haven't yet tried this salad method, you are, in my opinion, missing out on a crucial component of your culinary existence.
As for the “warm” version of this lunch that I eat in the fall and winter when I don’t desire the intense cooling effect of oodles of raw vegetables and instead want something hot? It’s quite simple, really: I prepare essentially the identical salad I described above, but I toss it all into a cast iron skillet and lightly saute for about ten minutes. I then toss back into the bowl and eat the same way I eat my salad: using nori wraps as a hand-roll style delivery mechanism. Whether I’m eating this or the salad, I make sure to chew each bite 20-25 times to enhance digestion and to further improve glycemic variability.
Many folks have raised an eyebrow at my claims that I personally eat a couple dozen portions of plants each day, but as you can see, it’s totally possible to do with a breakfast smoothie, a lunchtime salad and a few choice vegetables with dinner.
Then, with olive oil and tomato juice drizzling down my chin from wrapping my salad or stir-fry contents burrito-style in a nori wrap, I generally eat outside in the sunshine on my porch or inside at my kitchen table, either listening to an audiobook or podcast, reading a magazine, watching an instructional video on YouTube (e.g. cooking, guitar, documentary clips, etc.) or doing anything else that is relatively non-stressful.
My post-lunch napping routine is a science honed down over years of practice, and I can now fall asleep within five minutes and wake completely refreshed. In addition to the Inner Peace and Reishi I mentioned earlier, my napping process is as follows:
Step 1: Unfold and plug-in Biomat on the floor of my office, bedroom, living room, or wherever else I plan on sleeping. This thing generates teddy bear-esque, warming, infrared heat that immediately calms my brain and body, and based on my own HRV testing, causes an immediate upregulation of my parasympathetic nervous system. If I’ve been traveling and am jetlagged, I’ll occasionally nap on the PulseCenters PEMF table instead, which is very good for lowering inflammation but doesn’t provide the relaxing warmth of the Biomat.
Step 2: Pull on Normatec gradated compression boots, which give me a full toe-to-thigh leg massage while I’m napping.
Step 3: On my smartphone, open Brain.FM napping app and place SleepStream app in “Power Nap” binaural beats mode with “Sleepstream Mix” as white noise in the background. You must wear headphones for this to work properly, and because people are still active in my home while I’m napping, I use a good set of Bose noise-blocking headphones.
Step 4: Put on SleepMaster wraparound sleep mask, which generously covers both eyes and ears.
Step 5: Turn on essential oil diffuser with lavender or any other relaxing scent.
That may seem complex, but it only takes me about two minutes to set all this up (remember: every ritual and routine in your day will eventually become automatic and slightly subconscious, just like your daily commute), and once my head hits the pillow, I’m out for a good 25-50 minutes of the afternoon. If your napping time is limited, you will be pleased to know that the Power Nap setting on the Sleepstream app will allow for adjustments of 10 minutes up to infinity, gently lulling you back into a wakeful state without any harsh alarms. The Brain.FM app also has a power nap setting.
The best part about taking an afternoon nap is that it gives you a “second day”. As soon as my eyes pop open, I’m groggy for about five to ten minutes, and then, typically after doing 100 jumping jacks and chomping on a nicotine toothpick, nicotine mint, spoonful of black ant extract or some other quick, fast-acting cognitive pick-me-up I’m back in action. At this point in the day, I usually have a solid 75 minutes to “kill” before my sons arrive home from school.
So that I can spend quality, undistracted time with my kids, my goal is to be completely finished with any focused time-consuming tasks or fires that need putting out before throw open the front door and come running down to my office to present me with their latest project, new book or exciting discover.
Since my peak morning hours are now over, I typically devote this time of the day to my more reactive tasks, including:
-diving into the email inbox
-checking text messages, WhatsApp messages, important Voxer audios
-working on pieces that still need “tying up” from the morning work, such as finishing podcast shownotes or adding links to articles I’ve written.
Most of these activities tend to follow Parkinson’s Rule, which dictates that tasks will expand to the time you allot to them. Because I only allow a maximum of 75 minutes for these activities, they don’t wind up taking too much precious time, and I fly through them with maximum efficiency. If I have any time left over, I’ll jot down a few notes, open appropriate browser windows or skeleton out book chapters, magazine articles, podcast shownotes, blog posts or other copywriting tasks in anticipation of the next morning’s deep work session.
The boys arrive home from school, and now the fun begins. See, I’m a firm believer in challenging the human body and brain with novel movements and new learning challenges. Furthermore, my education philosophy is that an ideal one-two combo for a child is that they be given the opportunity to learn formal educational concepts such as reading, writing, arithmetic, grammar, history, etc. from a tutor or teacher who is best equipped to teach them those materials, and that in that same school scenario, they also learn how to play well with others, how to be a good little “factory worker”, team player and cooperative group participant who works well with others.
When they arrive home from school, the parenting role is then not to assume the child has learned “everything they need to know at school”, but to instead immerse the child in less traditional schooling activities that teach them how to be a resilient, independent, free-spirited thinker, along with exposing them to hobbies, discoveries and interests they may not otherwise have been exposed to at school, including activities like hunting, plant foraging, meditation, fringe sports, new workouts, etc.
So a typical hour to hour and a half of activity with my kids after they’ve arrived home from school often includes:
-Playing basketball in the driveway
-Long walks with breath-holding and nasal breathing practices
-Plant foraging hikes
-Creating tinctures, oils and lotions from wild plants
-Rope climbing and playing on the obstacle course
-Riding bikes, skateboards and scooters
-Sauna and cold
This part of the day is never the same. Some days, the kids walk in the door, grab a snack, then head back out for an extracurricular activity such as piano lessons or a playdate with their schoolmates and I’m left with an extra chunk of time for work. Some days, I’m “under the gun” to finish an article or work on a business project and must sacrifice this time for a quick snuggle with the kids and a focus on more quality time at our family dinner and bedtime later in the day. But most days, the late afternoon is set aside for the type of activities above.
Based on your built-in chronobiology discussed in my last big article on sleep, it's in the afternoon when your body temperature peaks, your post-workout protein synthesis peaks, your reaction time peaks, a second rise in testosterone peaks and your overall ability to handle a difficult workout session peaks – making the latter half of the day a perfect time to throw down the day’s most demanding amount of physical activity. I’ve found this approach to be far superior to working out hard in the morning, when your body already has produced a natural surge of cortisol and when you're far more likely to engage in post-workout compensatory eating and just sitting on your ass during the workday because you crushed a 5 am WOD.
Being the quintessential “biohacker” that I am, along with my hyperproductive mentality to achieve the minimum effective dose of exercise while maintaining maximum amounts of fitness, my afternoon or early evening workout is what I call a “Weird Workout”.
What do I mean by “Weird Workout”? While I can often be found running through the outside forest, climbing ropes, hauling sandbags, carrying rocks, flipping tires, riding my bicycle, swimming, trail running or spending time in nature for my workout routine, if I’m not in training for a specific event such an obstacle race or triathlon, my time is limited or I'm in an intensive season of writing, working or building Kion, I will definitely use specific biohacks to enhance the efficiency of my workout and squeeze a huge amount of fitness-building into a very short period of time.
For example, a typical Weird Workout for me would involve:
-15 minutes of hypoxic/hyperoxic training on my bicycle, which is set up next to a LiveO2 unit that allows me to switch between hypoxia (low oxygen) and hyperoxia (high oxygen) as I work through a series of short, explosive sprints. This exposes my body to the mitochondrial building equivalent of spending an entire 24 hours in a hyperbaric oxygen therapy chamber or going on a 3-hour bike ride but squeezes it all into a brief 15-minute window.
-15 minutes “single-set-to-failure” training. After a hypoxic/hyperoxic training session, I'll then move on to perform 60-90 seconds of an isometric contraction to complete failure by using a special force plate called a “PeakFitPro“, which pairs to my phone and allows me to completely exhaust a muscle group during one single, difficult set. A typical workout would include bench press, pulldown, overhead press, deadlift and squat. Doug McGuff’s book Body By Science does a good job explaining how this approach develops both cardiovascular fitness and strength simultaneously while resulting in a very large surge of post-workout growth hormone (which is enhanced even more by the fact that I do not eat anything for 2-3 hours following my afternoon workout). Sometimes, I’ll use something called an “X3 Bar” to do the same thing with a series of heavy-duty elastic bands that are attached to a special rotating bar that simulates an Olympic lifting barbell. Other times, I opt for a more hybrid bodyweight/kettlebell approach using the “Neuro-Mass” system by Jon Bruney. I’ve found PeakFitPro isometric training, X3 bar elastic band training and Neuro-Mass training to all be very effective modes of strength training with the minimum effective dose of exercise.
-15 minutes infrared sauna finisher. To boost red blood cell production and nitric oxide production, and to further enhance cardiovascular adaptations to the workout above, I'll often finish things off with a sweat and several ELDOA and Core Foundation moves in a full spectrum infrared sauna.
You do the math. That's 45 minutes total, and includes better living through science and fun, cool tools to gain big breakthroughs in fitness in a relatively short period of time and the ability to simultaneously build important fitness parameters such as strength, power, muscle, mitochondria, cardiovascular endurance and VO2 max all in one fell swoop. When combined with an active workday in which I take frequent breaks for movements such as kettlebell swings, hex bar deadlifts, burpees and jumping jacks, I can keep myself in very, very good shape with just 3-4 hours per week of formal training using the scenario I've just described.
Of course, I understand that a LiveO2 system, a PeakFitPro, an X3 bar, or an infrared sauna cost a chunk of change. But look at it this way: if you're biohacking on a budget, you can simulate these type of workouts with less expensive equipment.
For example, if you’re on a budget or on the go, you can easily try 10 rounds of a 30-second sprint with a TrainingMask on, with each round followed by a 30-second recovery with the mask off. Then you move on to a super slow 60 seconds up, 60 seconds down repeat of pushup, pullup, overhead press, deadlift and squat. Then finish up with an extremely hot soak in a hot tub, a dry sauna or a steam room at the gym. Everything I’ve just described is very similar to how I tackle my more intense workouts while traveling with limited equipment or gym access.
One other very important consideration if you’re a parent, know a parent or plan on being one: my boys often join me in parts of my early evening workout routines, and in these cases, the workout is sometimes a bit different. Why do I go through the trouble and often, the distraction, of including my children in these workouts? In my book “10 Ways To Grow Tiny Superhumans“, I detail the results of a fascinating study at the University of Essex that investigated the perception of children about their parents’ activity levels. In the study, researchers asked schoolchildren to rate how active they thought their parents were. Then they had those children complete a test of their own cardio fitness. In this case, they used a “beep” test, which is a common way to measure basic fitness levels.
What researchers found was that the likelihood of the child having greater fitness based on their performance on the bleep test was directly influenced by how active that child perceived their parents to be. In other words, kids who were under the impression that their parents didn’t exercise very much, did not appear themselves to be exercising very much. This resulted in a dramatic decrease in their fitness compared to peers who rated their parents more highly in the physical fitness department.
This means that no matter their age, kids really do pay attention to and mimic their parents. So a big step to getting your kids fit is to be an example yourself. It makes a much bigger difference than you may think. Because of this, I’ll often weave in routines such as:
1. Body Weight Workout:
-20 feet backward and forward crabwalks with kid riding on waist
-20 reps overhead child presses with squat
-20 feet bear crawls with kid on back
-10 pushups with kid on back
-20 feet crocodile crawls with kid on back
-10 arm curls holding kid upside down by their legs
2. Pool Workout:
-2 lengths underwater swimming with kid on back
-2 lengths doggy paddle with kid on back
-20 reps pool pullouts with kid on back
-2 minutes treading water with kid on back
3. Kids “Mini-Version” of My Workout:
-I sprint hill in weighted vest, kids sprint hill weight-free
-I do 10 reps barbell squat, kids do 10 reps bodyweight squat
-I do 10 reps barbell deadlift, kids do 10 reps sandbag deadlift
-I do 10 reps kettlebell swing, kids do 10 reps smaller kettlebell swing
-I do 30 burpees, kids do 10 burpees
-I spend 30 minutes in infrared sauna, kids join me for first 10 minutes
You get the idea. Sure, sometimes my workout simply isn’t conducive to including children, such as when I’m training for an obstacle course race or triathlon that dictates a 40% incline walk on treadmill for 45 minutes or a hammerfest bike session in the hills behind the house or one of those “Weird Workouts”, but I try to save these “adults-only” focused solo workouts for when the boys have some kind of post-school activity such as tennis, Awanas, piano lessons, etc.
By this time of the evening, my workout is typically done, which important, because – as you can read about in my last big article on sleep – you should finish any intense workouts at least three hours prior to bedtime so that cortisol subsides and your core cools for better deep sleep cycles.
Because I highly value my family dinners and don’t want to be distracted by work or thoughts racing through my mind later on in the evening, I spend this last forty-five minutes of my day, prior to my evening routine:
- Putting out any last minute workout fires, taking one final deep dive into the email inbox, getting any brainstorms, thought streams, ideas, tasks, to-do’s and other distractions out of my head and onto a document or calendar on my computer.
- Spending at least twenty minutes writing in my fantasy fiction book series.
During this time, nearly seven days a week, I’m typically vaporizing herbs, essential oils and loose-leaf teas, while simultaneously sipping on a glass of organic, biodynamic red wine from a giant fish-bowl size glass or a homemade Moscow Mule from a copper mug.
For those of you unfamiliar with vaporizing: one nifty trick I learned from friend and health pioneer Paul Chek is that by using a vaporizer in a very non-traditional way, one can get a dose of uplifting nicotine form organic tobacco, along with a lung-based delivery of a host of other compounds that can instantly act for either stimulation and relaxation, depending on the blend you pick.
For example, one pick-me-up blend I use in the “Da Buddha” vaporizer that sits on my desk is organic tobacco, dried and ground green tea leaves, and a couple drops of cinnamon or frankincense essential oils. For a more relaxing blend, I’ll use a relaxing indica cannabis strain, dried and ground chamomile tea leaves, and a small sprinkling of lavender essential oil. It’s plenty of fun to come up with your own recipes, but here are a few ideas to get your brain spinning:
-Peppermint leaves or oil: Improves blood circulation, raises alertness and clears the lungs and respiratory passages.
-Gotu Kola leaves or extract: Sharpens memory and concentration.
-Skullcap or Hops: Mild sedative with a calming effect. Skullcap also good for headaches, which makes me wonder if that’s why it’s named that.
-Wild Oat: Reduces mental tension and anxiety.
-Cloves: Reduces food cravings.
-Primrose: Helps heal lung damage from smoking.
-Chamomile: Antidepressant, relaxation and sleep.
-Ginger Root: Good for indigestion or stomach cramps, or pre-meal as a digestif.
-Marijuana: Indica strain good for relaxation, sativa strain good as a pick-me-up.
Whatever you choose, be sure to select herbicide and pesticide free leaves and plants. I do indeed recommend the Da Buddha vaporizer due to its ability to offer a variety of temperature settings for the strains and blends that you choose. You can learn more about the benefits of vaporizing in my Q&A podcast where I discuss vaporizing essential oils.
Why do I also choose this time of day to drink? Three main reasons, really.
First, I love the taste of wine, but I’m also well aware that alcoholic drinks and the fructose and other sugars therein can make you fat if you consume them in a fed state, so I instead consume my daily glass of wine in a “fasted” state post-workout (vs., say, having a big glass of wine during dinner or after stuffing my face with dinner). In this post-workout situation, the fructose sugars in the wine simply help to replenish my liver glycogen stores (muscles do not contain the enzyme to store fructose as glycogen, but the liver does), and the glucose and sucrose sugars are far less likely to spend significant amounts of time in my bloodstream. It’s important to realize that calories from alcohol must be preferentially burnt by your body prior to any calories from carbohydrates, proteins and fats, and that alcohol also inhibits fatty acid oxidation, so drinking on an empty stomach trumps drinking with dinner for this reason and also because – let’s face it – if you’re drinking to destress and induce a bit of a happy head high, it’s far easier to accomplish on an empty stomach.
The other compound I’ll often consume during this final workout of the day is essential amino acids (EAA’s). If my workout has included any eccentric, muscle-damaging activities such as running or weight training, I pop 10-20 grams of EAA’s, which help drastically with muscle repair and avoidance of tissue catabolism, but don’t contain many calories, so they keep me in a post-workout, relatively fasted state that boosts my natural testosterone and growth hormone.
So that’s how the afternoon ends these days: a final head-clearing session performed while sipping wine, munching on amino acids and vaping odd supernutrients.
But wait, Ben! What about what happens after 7:45 pm? Dinner macronutrient ratios? Sleep routines? Evening hacks? Making love? Black-out curtains? Epic fireside dance routines?
Let’s find out, shall we?
The Evening Ritual
–8:00 pm-9:00 pm-ish…
At this point in the day, I emerge from the office to help prepare dinner and to assemble the family for our evening meal. Yes, we are absolutely a late dinner family. While we do indeed eat together as a family most nights of the week, we’ve simply found that in our household, it works best to save dinner for later in the day, after nearly everything else is complete.
Since my entire family is on board with the concept that snacking and grazing is overrated and that three square meals a day is about the most that you need to keep your metabolism elevated, nobody in the family really creates any grief over waiting a long time for dinner. I’ll readily admit that I’ve seen plenty of evidence that eating a large meal too close to bedtime can disrupt sleep but, fact is, there’s only so much time in the day, and I’d personally rather sit down to a meal completely de-stressed after having accomplished all my tasks for the day rather than eat dinner early just to get that extra one percentage of deep sleep. In addition, because I fast most mornings until at least mid-morning, this typically shifts my entire meal pattern forward just slightly anyways.
When we do sit down for dinner, unless it is a very special “movie night” (about once a month), or we’ve decided to watch a cooking or travel TV show, we go completely screen and device free for dinner, and typically play a board game, spark table topic conversations with questions such as “What Superhero Would You Want Here At Dinner With Us?” or “Where Would You Travel If You Could Snap Your Fingers And Transport Us Anywhere Right Now?”, chat about the day, discuss what it is that we learned in our morning devotionals, and name what it is that we were grateful for that day.
As a rule, dinner is nearly always the most carbohydrate-rich meal of the day, and I typically, depending on the day’s level of physical activity, will typically eat 100-150g (400-600 calories) of carbohydrates with dinner. The concept here is that while carbohydrates will indeed spike insulin, as long as your muscle glycogen stores are not full (as will be the case at the end of an active day, and especially at the end of the day that includes a hard workout in the afternoon or early evening) the insulin will drive carbohydrates into muscle tissue, not into fat tissue. John Kiefer explains this concept quite thoroughly in his “Carb Backloading” book. In addition, consuming carbohydrates with dinner allows for a slight spike in serotonin levels, which can assist with sleep, especially in highly active individuals.
For blood glucose control, I consume bitter melon extract capsules (which act very similarly to the diabetic drug Metformin) prior to dinner every night, and will often take a larger dose (3-4 capsules), if the dinner is very large in carbohydrate content (e.g. 100g+) or if I’m going to a restaurant or a party where I do not know exactly what I’m going to be eating or I anticipate high carbohydrate intake. You can discover plenty more about my tactics for controlling blood sugar, and why I’m a big fan of digestifs or bitters prior to a meal, in my blog post entitled “The Ultimate Guide To Biohacking Your Blood Sugar Levels (And Why Sugar Sometimes Isn’t Bad”.
The homemade Moscow Mule I referred to earlier is a perfect example of a digestif. Over a copper mug full of ice, I add a touch of ginger beer, half a shot of gin or vodka, the squeeze of half a lemon or lime, several fresh mint leaves, a pinch of sea salt and a sprinkling of any cocktail bitters I happen to have around. If I haven’t had that to drink during my evening work hours, I will either take a few digestive enzyme capsules prior to dinner or even put a few drops of a digestive essential oil such as peppermint or “Digize” into a glass of water.
So what exactly do we eat for dinner here in the Greenfield house?
As you’ve already read, I eat nearly the same thing every day for breakfast and lunch each day, but dinner tends to be the most varied meal of the day and is a chance for the ultimate foodie to try new recipes, new meals or even new restaurants. Making dinner the most complex or random meal of the day also allows for the fact that dinner is often the perfect meal to place yourself into social situations, be surrounded by friends and family, and celebrate the end of a productive, hard-working day.
Typically, dinner includes A) an organic meat or protein source such as sauteed wild-caught fish, barbecued grass-fed beef, fried pastured eggs, roasted chicken or grilled pork; B) a carbohydrate such as beets, parsnips, carrots, sweet potatoes, yams, slow-fermented sourdough bread, quinoa, amaranth or millet; C) a fat such as a hard parmesan, soft goat cheese, avocado, extra virgin olive oil, avocado oil mayonnaise, bone broth, grass-fed butter or a homemade gravy or sauce; D) herbs and spices such as turmeric, cayenne, ginger, thyme, parsley, rosemary, cilantro, mint, paprika, sea salt and black pepper.
Contrary to what many folks seem to assume (since I’m a hunter and often hang out with the Paleo crowd), we actually don’t eat meat every night, especially red meat, and I personally only have a hefty portion of meat once every 3-4 days.
Why the meat moderation? Three reasons, really:
#1: Meat has been shown to cause what is known as “Neu5Gc-mediated autoimmunity”, which can cause everything from skin issues to hypothyroidism to increased cancer risk. You can read about this in Part 1 and Part 2 of author Paul Jaminet’s recent treatise on the topic of red meat and Neu5Gc.
#2: Excessive meat and protein intake is very anabolic, can cause uncontrolled division of a population of rogue cells in the body, and can increase cancer risk, especially if that meat is cooked or processed. Stephen Guyenet has written an excellent research-based article series on this topic.
#3: Due to meat and high protein intake activation of a protein called mTOR and an increase in the rate at which telomeres shorten, there is a definite tradeoff between meat intake, protein, growth and longevity. Ray Cronise details this in his Metabolic Winter Hypothesis by Ray Cronise.
If we’re not eating dinner at home, we will typically wind up at a sushi, Korean, Japanese, or local “farm-to-table” restaurant, at which we implement the following best practices:
-Always substitute roasted vegetables for any bread or mashed potatoes, and turn down or avoid bread or chips if brought to the table, unless they are something like slow-fermented sourdough bread or non-GMO corn chips in moderation.
-Acceptable starches: rice, quinoa, amaranth, millet, sweet potato, yam, squash, carrot, beet or other non-gluten, non-GMO sources.
-Acceptable proteins: nuts, seeds, grains and any non-fried meat that is cooked in preferably low temperatures with healthy oils and is organic, local, wild or grass-fed.
-Acceptable fats: coconut oil, grass-fed butter, olive oil, flaxseed oil, avocado oil, macadamia nut oil, and any fat that is 100% natural, that is not a vegetable oil, that is not batter-fried, and that is not an oil with a low smoke point (e.g. canola oil, sunflower oil or safflower oil) that has been heated. When in doubt, we ask for creams, dressings and sauces “on the side”. You’d be surprised at how many restaurants are willing and able to take those tasty fried Brussels Sprouts and cook them up in grass-fed butter or extra virgin olive oil for you, rather than the canola oil they typically use on such appetizers.
I’m also often asked about post-dinner snacks and desserts. I am indeed a fan of polishing off dinner with something sweet or fun, including:
-A quarter bar of 85%+ dark chocolate dipped in almond, walnut or cashew butter…
-A spoonful of coconut oil or coconut butter topped with nut butter and raw honey…
-A golden milk bedtime elixir or cup of the done-for-you version: Organifi Gold
-Or my favorite of late: a few dollops of my Salted Caramel Chocolate Collagen Ice Cream recipe (see sidebar)…
Once I’ve finished stuffing my face, I glance at my watch. While I don’t get too obsessed over quantification, I do indeed perform a quick mental calculation and plan to wait at least 12 hours before eating again. This means that if I’m finished with dinner and snacking at 9 pm, I won’t eat again until 9 am. If 10 pm, then I will put off breakfast until 10 am. If I eat a midnight snack, I won’t eat again until noon. Due to the extensive research on the link between intermittent fasting and longevity, cellular repair and gut health, on nearly every day of the year, I incorporate this 12 to 16 hour fasted window. During this time, the only items I consume are any non-calorie based supplements such as my multi-vitamin, water, sparkling water with stevia, Zevia, coffee or green tea.
With dinner over, it’s now time to begin winding down for the night. In my last big blog post on blood sugar control, you learned about the importance of a postprandial stroll for improving the glucose response to a meal. If I’m at a restaurant or traveling, I use this technique, but when I’m at home, I’ve found that cleaning the kitchen, trudging up and down the stairs, putting the goats and chickens to sleep, and all the other household to-do’s that must be accomplished before bed seem to easily get me the equivalent of 15 minutes of walking.
During this time, our bedtime ritual begins. It all begins with helping my twin boys, River and Terran. They personally take very, very good care of their teeth and bodies prior to bed, and I don’t need to help them too much. We raised them on Kid’s Calm Liquid Multivitamin, but now that they have teeth, they each use the no-sugar version of the Smarty Pants Kid’s Multivitamins, then brush their teeth with a special tooth powder that my wife Jessa makes (thanks to my friend The Wellness Mama for this tooth remineralizing recipe). While the boys are taking their multivitamin, brushing their teeth, doing their coconut oil pulling and getting into their pajamas, I take care of my own body, using their same tooth powder and implementing all the pre-sleep supplements and steps I discussed in my blog post “The Last Resource On Sleep You’ll Ever Need”.
After this, the entire family up to the boy’s bedroom, where I play them a bedtime song, lullaby, hymn or my own twist on their favorite pop song, usually on the guitar or the ukulele. We then gather around to give thanks to God for one little thing we’re grateful for that day and also pray for one way that we can help make someone’s life better the next day (this is very similar to our morning Christian Gratitude Journal practice). I say General Douglas McArthur’s prayer over them, the same prayer I highlight in “Five Quotes I Live By, Three Keys To Happiness, Two Questions To Ask Yourself & One Must-Do Thought Experiment.“, and then tuck them away to sleep.
Once the kids are tucked away, Jessa and I head for the bedroom. Let’s face it: I’ve outlined my sleep habits in nitty-gritty details in previous blog posts, including this latest comprehensive one. I also have an upcoming article in which you'll learn plenty about lovemaking sessions and optimizing sex. But below, I’ll give you a few bullet points for both sex and sleep.
Let’s begin with the former. Jessa and I generally don’t waste too much time staying up after putting the kids to bed, and rarely watch TV or spend time on a computer, Kindle or phone at this point in the evening. But if we do get it on, we typically get it on in the evening. I really don’t feel I need to get into too much detail as I don’t use too many “sex hacks” or crazy sex toys, and am seldom dressed in leather and handcuffed with an apple in my mouth, but nonetheless here are a few quick tips:
-We use natural lambskin condoms for the ultimate sensory experience…
-If it’s legal in your state, a THC balm can also make things a bit more exciting, and we use one called “Bond“…
-We use a special kind of bulb in our room made by Lighting Science. It is a biological LED bulb engineered to remove blue light, but the nice thing is that it also gives off a bit of a red glow that seems to be perfect for sex…
-We have big stand-up mirrors in the bedroom – can’t recommend them highly enough…
In my recent presentation at the Men’s Sexual Satisfaction Summit, I get into plenty more details about sexual habits, sexual practices, and sexual health, so go listen to that, and if you want to enhance sexual fitness, I’d also recommend you check out my article on “The Private Gym”, my recent Men’s Health January 2018 article, and also stay tuned for an upcoming, very comprehensive post on sex health, sex hacks and sex habits.
After making love, I typically settle myself down by reading fiction (currently I’m knee deep in “Game Of Thrones” for about twenty minutes), then, by 10:45 pm at the latest, it’s time for sleep. Again, I’ve got some very comprehensive blog posts on sleep, but in a concise format, here’s my entire current pre-sleep routine:
-Turn on the “Flexpulse” PEMF in sleep mode (if I’m traveling) or if I’m at home, turn on my latest toy: a “Biobalance” mat for PEMF. Both were developed by my former podcast guest Dr. William Pawluk.
-Turn my ChiliPad to 60 degrees…
-Put the room temp at 64-66 degrees…
-Close the blackout curtains…
-Rub down any sore muscles or tight spots with magnesium lotion…
-Flip on essential oil diffuser or (if traveling) sprinkle a few drops of essential lavender oil on the pillow…
-Put on my MindFold sleep and relaxation mask (this is the same type of mask often used for DMT trips, plant-based medicine journeys, etc. but also works perfectly for sleep).
-Put on my Sleepstream app and play it in “Deep Sleep” mode and/or play Brain.FM sleep track through my SleepPhones (better for side sleepers) or through Bose noise blocking headphones (better for back sleepers)
I realize this seems like a lot of “stuff”, but now that it’s a nightly habit, I fly through this entire routine in about 2 minutes, and makes a night-and-day difference (pun intended) in sleep quality and quantity.
Finally, for the final five minutes before I drift into la-la land, I ask myself one final question “What Good Have I Done This Day”. This single act of self-reflection, which was a regular habit of Benjamin Franklin, allows me to dwell briefly upon any ways that I could have lived my life better that day and small positive adjustments I can make to my daily routine.
What About Travel?
You’ve done it. You set up your own personal, flawless, tried-and-true morning, afternoon and evening routines. You know when to eat, when to stretch, when to poop, when to exercise, when to meditate, when to journal and when to sit in your lucky chair. And then a week of travel strikes. Your entire routine goes to pot as you sit on an airplane during your normal morning walk time, you’re stuck in a hotel that removes you from the habit-forming zone of your familiar office, and when you step into the health club, it’s a completely different scene than your customary gym. You suddenly feel out of control. Sound familiar?
Fact is, as a guy who is traveling for an average of 180 days a year, I know exactly what you’re experiencing, and I’ve had to figure out how to take my own elaborate rituals and routines “on the road” to allow me to optimize my body and brain and stay sane when I travel. Here are a few of my own personal habits for travel that allow me to effectively “transfer” my habits into new environments:
1. I Include 15 Minutes Of “Me-Time” Upon Waking
No matter where I am at in the world, whether the coffeemaker is in the hotel room or the lobby, whether I have to be on stage speaking in an hour or my flight arrived at 3 am the evening prior or it’s snowing, sleeting or sunny outside, I always set the chronograph on my stopwatch to 15 minutes and spend 15 minutes “making my body better”, usually using the same tried-and-true stretch routines I do at home. As a matter of fact, I have a few such routines in my back pocket that I can do anytime, anywhere in the world, including:
-15 minutes yoga warriors and sun salutations
-15 minutes of ELDOA stretches
-15 minutes foam rolling and deep tissue work
-15 minutes arm swings, leg swings and calisthenics
-15 minutes walk with deep nasal breathing and box breathing
2. I Have Airplane “Rules”
Even if I’m jetlagged, tired as hell, or simply don’t want to budge my butt out of my comfy window seat on the plane, I follow specific rules and habits that make every flight for me include a set routine I can rely on. My rules are as follows:
-every time I use the bathroom on the airplane I perform 20 air squats
-for every hour of flight time, I go to the back of the plane and perform a set toe-to-head stretch routine I know I can do in small spaces without annoying people, specifically: 10 ten calf raises with shoulder shrugs, ten deep squats, ten torso twists side-to-side, ten arm circles in each direction and ten neck circles.
-for any airplane naps, I use foam earplugs, a very good eye blocking mask (I use Mindfold brand), Bose noise-blocking headphones, the Sleepstream sleep app, a J-hook inflatable travel pillow and 2 packets of FourSigmatic Reishi extract. I’ve trained myself to fall asleep very quickly on airplanes by using these airplane napping tools.
Of course, you can grab even more airplane and jet lag tips from my last big sleep article here.
3. I Replicate My Home Working & Sleeping Environment
When I’m at a hotel or Airbnb, I do as much as I can to replicate my home office environment. Using the desk the TV is on, a kitchen counter, or a chair stacked on top of a coffee table, I fashion a standing workstation. I create a dark sleeping environment by fastening the clasps of closet hangers across the window curtains and unplugging everything in the room I don’t use (e.g. the microwave, the TV, etc.). I sprinkle lavender essential oil on the bed pillows, I set the room to exactly 66 degrees Fahrenheit and I hang the Do Not Disturb sign on the door.
4. I Have A Travel Sleep Kit
I may not be able to take a giant Chilipad, a knee pillow or red lamp with me when I travel, but I do have a minimalist sleep kit that neatly fits into a small, blue silk bag that I place the corner of my laptop messenger bag, namely: a sleep mask, earplugs, noise blocking headphone, lavender essential oil, noise-blocking headphones, a small portable “Flexpulse” PEMF device and typically some type of CBD, such as a CBD vape pen or CBD oil.
Just like a child can stay content and happy when traveling with their lucky teddy bear or precious sleep blankie, I’ve found that these type of specific tools, rituals and habits that I use when I travel keep me sane, well rested and productive.
Summary & Sample Day
Whew! You made it through.
Before closing, I’d like to make three final resource recommendation to you. One is a very quick read that I discovered this weekend entitled “Goals vs. Habits”, in which you discover why implementing small habits in your life may indeed be even more important than setting big goals. A place where you can hunt down the routines of many famous folks is the blog Daily Routines. Another place where you can find the routines of some interesting, famous and successful folks is the excellent book “Daily Rituals: How Artists Work“.
And finally, remember: this exhaustive list of habits may seem – well – exhausting! Or intimidating. Or excessive. But frankly, after making these routines and habits subconscious and automatic rituals, I barely even think about them, and I simply flow with ease through the day. You’ll discover that the same thing happens to you once you make a commitment to one month of establishing a morning, afternoon and evening routine. You don’t need to do everything at once but can gradually begin to incorporate into your own life in your own way each of the tactics I’ve described.
When you do, you’ll sleep amazingly your productivity will go through the roof, your exercise will become easy, your body and brain will start working the way they’re supposed to, and you’ll live in an upgraded fashion, unlike 99% of the world’s population, with performance, fat loss, recovery, digestion, brain, sleep and hormone optimization. Enjoy the feeling.
In the meantime, from this article, identify one (yes, just one!) morning habit, afternoon habit and evening habit you can incorporate into your life beginning today. Gratitude journaling? A morning walk in the sunshine? A big-ass salad? A post-lunch nap? Drinking wine before instead of after dinner? Lavender on your pillow? You get the idea. Start small, but start with something to begin to gain momentum today.
Do you have questions, thoughts or feedback for me about my daily routine? Leave your comments below and I will reply!
20 thoughts on “Ritual & Routine: How To Systematize Your Life For Optimized Health & Longevity (& My Own Fully Updated Daily Habits).”
Hi Ben!!! I’m so extremely grateful to have the opportunity to message you. I know you predominantly focus on physical health and spirituality, but I’m dying to know your productivity strategies as you are one of the most productive people I know in the entire world, and I don’t say that blindly considering your age and when you pile everything you do into one list. I have a few (many Smiling face with open mouth and smiling eyes) questions. Even a one word reply or a few would be so appreciated. If these would make good podcast content, please LMK and I’ll gladly record any! These questions may seem unimportant, but they’re actually where I struggle with the most oddly. (in vague “information digestion, management, and application”) I have big goals and I know I need to level up to achieve them. I believe you might have some transformative answers (no pressure LOL).
1. I read your latest extensive routine digest, but nowhere in it did I see planning. Do you plan daily goals and to do’s? When do you do this? How do you do this (in a paper planner, on evernote, all in the calendar blocked out, or even in your head)? Do you have a format for planning? I know you Eat The Frog, anything similar? Any questions you ask? Any principles to follow?
2. In your routine, I also noticed no “study/learning session”. I recognize that your work is that much of a daily learner. Researching, reading, teaching, and the like. But your field is mostly in health, wellness, spirit, etc. What about learning about other areas not necessarily for work? When do you study love relationships, parenting, finances, business, etc.? Are these just integrated in your morning routine readings scattered in that routine? Or during lunch? In the evening in place of playing the guitar occasionally or when? Also, what’s your process for learning? Do you just aim to digest as much as possible and hope your brain will retain what’s most valuable and apply it when needed in your life? Or do you take furious notes (in evernote perhaps?) and immediately after studying implement it all in your life in a tangible way? What’s your general process? PS: As a bonus, any favorite tools/softwares?
3. I feel I have so many ideas, but then they get disorganized, looking through them becomes overwhelming, and it just becomes clutter. Is this article (https://bengreenfieldfitness.com/article/lifestyle-articles/ben-greenfield-productivity-tips/) still up to par in that you use Evernote and your strategies for it? Do you use Google Docs, Instapaper, bookmarking, or etc. One key issue here for me was I felt overwhelmed that information was all over the place for me. How do these tools you use to capture ideas and create them in life integrate, and now get out of hand with endless lists and content that isn’t even important or relevant anymore?
4. Another thing you interestingly didn’t mention in your routine is doing “other to do’s”, to do’s and work in areas besides your career. Just as setting up your own personal fitness equipment or buying a subscription to a massage parlor, or setting up a new learning platform, or doing a chore, buying a new car, anything else besides work. When are these to do? Are they included in your normal “Work” time blocks and that work is not necessarily for career, but whatevers is most important and those may be one of them? If this is the case, perhaps a more deeper quezon, how do you determine what’s important and worth doing for how long?
5. Lastly (I swear :-)), here are some less important, small questions but still that are fascinating to me. Goals: where do you write and how do you track them? Tools: Hopefully this can be done without risking cybersecurity, but I’d be super interested if you shared a screenshot of both the apps on your phone and computer. I imagine you’ve gathered so many amazing, useful softwares across the years and compiling them in one piece of content I think could be super useful.
Thanks so much for everything! Even if you don’t answer, you have all my respect, and please keep kicking ass because people like me so greatly benefit.
Hi Ben, do you meditate? do you use any device to help meditate like Muse or EmWave…? do you recommend any?
Yes, I have a podcast on this: https://bengreenfieldfitness.com/podcast/sleep-po…
thank you very much for your answer, love your work and energy, God bless you and your familly
Not sure if there is a clear answer to this but I have been debating where to invest in first, an infrared sauna or a chilipad. I have been dealing with extreme fatigue and brain fog for over a year and a half and wondering if you think one would have a larger impact over the other.
Also, have you heard anything about the sauna brand JNH lifestyles Brand?
Thanks for all you do!
Dismiss the second question! Found some alarming reviews on Youtube
Apples and organes man. I'd say infrared sauna, but if you're having trouble sleeping because of temperature, chilipad could be a life saver. Chilipad is also way cheaper than an infrared sauna, so if price is an issue, I'd go with that.
What is your Moscow mule recipe? Thanks! Just moved to Washington state three months ago. I’m hoping to catch a seminar of yours sometime soon.
Honestly, it changes all the time. Sometimes I use kombucha, really digging using Zevia Ginger Beer lately though: https://amzn.to/2neIPNo, add your alcohol of choice, some sea salt and lime. I usually post these on the fly recipes to Snapchat. https://BenGreenfieldFitness.com/snapchat
Very interesting read, thanks Ben!
Inspired by your talk at Joe Rogan podcast, recently I started doing coffee enemas. I did it twice so far. It wasn’t terrible, but also I didn’t experience any tremendous cleanse, squicky cleanse like you described. But 4 days later I got diarrhea and stomach pain/cramps. I do have a slow metabolism, so now I’m confused: is my lever cleansing with a delay or something else is going on? I’m on keto and didn’t eat anything different than usual.
Tough to say. Possible you injected air or put tube too far in. :/ That, or you are having a bit of a detox reaction. I could help you more via a one-on-one consult, BenGreenfieldFitness.com/coaching
Thank you! Helped a lot! You are awesome!
Holy Toledo! I’m exhausted from just reading this! I have my daily rituals, however they are quite less complicated. Thanks for the peek!
Very interesting text !!
Good JOB !
A compilation with many things.
I missed the moments which you read your book.
Do you use the battery that comes with most noise-canceling headphones? I have found that similar to cell phones if I use noise canceling headphones with a battery it gives me a headache. Great article, and thanks for all your insight!
No, I do not use the battery or bluetooth.
How are you able to consume 1-2g of creatine monohydrate on an empty stomach without diaper pants?
Never had an issue. Creatine has never caused gut issues for me. I use this: https://getkion.com/shop/muscle-gain-products/tho…
Thanks for the details and the continual reminder that your habits change on an as-needed basis. I especially appreciate that you elaborate on why you’ve made changes from past habits. I can remember your early fascination with kundalini yoga and I’m glad you’ve expanded your vision to include other modern techniques.
A good framework for other folks to adapt and adjust to their own needs. I made lots of notes. But scratched off several when the price tags popped up. Something to aspire to down the road…
Know no limits,
This was an incredibly thorough article – and I really appreciate the layout of all of the things you do in your routine. I’ve been trying to compile something like this in a notebook based on your podcasts and posts and this just took care of it all! Thank you so much!