May 22, 2017
I am writing this guest post after returning from a week in the backwoods of Idaho fishing with Ben Greenfield and his twin 9 year old sons. Yep, I'm the same dude featured in Ben's recent podcast “A $17,000 Whole Body Healing Machine, Fish Oil Overdoses From Giant Steelhead, Eating Bones, Killing Tumors With Ketosis & More!“
So who am I, exactly?
My name is Christopher Claunch (also known on social media as “@gunsandduns“). I spent 18 years in the restaurant business, and I currently own a sporting goods store in Hagerman, ID. I side hustle as a digital marketing consulting for outdoors entrepreneurs, I recently started a podcast bridging the gap between recreation and technology, and I'm also an avid fly fisherman and bowhunter. I love to teach people to fly cast and share my experiences with others, especially children.
And after the intense time I experienced with Ben last month (which you're about to read about), I decided that when I grow up, I want to be just like Ben.
Anyways, I submitted this guest post to Ben because I wanted to share some valuable lessons I learned watching Ben apply his own exercise and diet practices (including plenty of pullups from pretty much any tree branch or back porch we came across, as evidenced above), biohacks and healthy living methods in the flesh. As a cook and food aficionado, I decided to intertwine into this article my observations about Ben’s health and wellness teachings into culinary concepts such as flavor and taste.
Finally, I'm also going to give you an inside glimpse and express my insights of what Ben is really like behind the scenes.
Spoiler alert: I found Ben to be fascinating, hilarious, and fun, and I think you should know what he is like as an “everyday guy”, and I've saved plenty of those observations for the end of this article. I hope you enjoy the post, learn something new, and have a little fun along the way. Let's do this.
How I Met Ben (& A Spicy Story)
About a year and a half ago, a mutual friend, previous podcast guest of Ben's and my hunting mentor Shad Wheeler (also a triathlete) bridged an introduction between Ben and me. I knew Ben loved the outdoors and shared many of my passions, so Ben and I began to discuss ways we could help each other. I asked Ben to help me get in better shape and, in exchange, Ben was interested in me teaching some fly fishing skills to him and his boys.
Perfect win-win, eh?
As I've learned since getting to know him, Ben is a voracious student of life in general, and he expressed a deep desire for him and his twin boys River and Terran to learn to fly fish. So we began to exchange information and ideas. Ben wanted to chase the elusive B-Run Steelhead on the South Fork of the Clearwater River (after all, a fishing trip wouldn’t be congruent with Ben's love for challenging sports like spearfishing and bowhunting if he chose an easy species of fish to hunt).
I was admittedly nervous about cooking for Ben and the boys. I was also anxious about whether we’d find fish, and I was a certainly very uncertain about what Ben would be like in person (more on that later).
While we were getting acquainted leading up to the trip, Ben began helping me prepare for the Train to Hunt which also included Ben making detailed eating and supplementation suggestions to me based on my blood panels and biomarkers. I must admit that I was a bit shocked when he would share his findings and advice with me without ever actually meeting me in-person, and simply by looking at my bloodwork. I suspected he was following the Dr. House school of diagnostics. Was Ben rifling through my refrigerator and trash cans? Was he was peering through my windows to see what I ate?
Whatever Ben was doing, his prognosis nailed exactly what was going on with me and my physiology. He made recommendations on nutritional changes and workouts, gave me a training plan to follow, and while following his advice my progress becamse exceptional.
During this time, I realized the pain = benefits dichotomy. What do I mean by that?
Here's what I mean: things that cause discomfort often result in very positive outcomes. Discomfort enhancing our being is a dichotomy Ben repeatedly stressed not only in my training plan, but also during our fishing week together. For example, he suggested I put myself in positions of daily discomfort to improve my overall health and wellness, including things like cold plunges and body weight resistance movements to name a few. Heck, after hanging out with him just one week, I find myself doing simple, but slightly pain-producing efforts like long planks while listening to his podcast and combining nasal breathing and breath hold during brisk walks.
Let's use a culinary example, shall we? When we place a Thai chili pepper in our mouths and bite through the skin, an amazing thing happens. Our tongue (skin or eyes) begin to burn. Some suggest that we actually eat because we like this kind of thrilling sensation associated with certain foods. The two most common chemical compounds that initiate this kind of burning are capsaicin and dihydrocapsaicin, usually referred to as capsaicinoids. Besides a searing in our mouths, eating hot peppers sets off a chain reaction of chemical interactions that is quite fascinating – and can moreover be beneficial for our physiology.
When I have a conversation with Ben Greenfield or listen to his podcasts, I get to thinking more about this dichotomy.
When we initiate discomfort or pain in ourselves knowingly, why are the effects are traumatic in some instances and healing in other instances?
Since I am the resident expert on culinary in the group, I started to look into things like hot peppers and their active chemical compound capsaicin. We like eating hot peppers even though they burn our mouths. Why? It is the complexity created in the feel of food we eat that arouses a myriad of sensations. Capsaicin also heals and revitalizes us. More on that later.
The burning sensation we experience when we eat peppers is the reaction of the capsaicinoids with our mucous membranes. The capsaicin molecules bind to the membranes, and we feel heat and pain. Once the capsaicinoids bind, we run for a glass of cold water or milk or frosty beer for relief. But wait! We discover water and milk and beer do not help much. So what will?
Keep reading for the answer.
More about Taste, Flavor & Mouthfeel
When peppers contact your tongue, the chemicals bind to taste buds by dissolving into saliva. The saliva carries the chemicals to your taste pores. Contact to taste receptors causes stimulation of cells called “gustatory cells”, which then emit signals to the gustatory cortex of the brain, also known as the “G-cortex”. The G-cortex interprets the signal and makes you aware of the flavor. For some paradoxical reason, most people's brains actually like this painstaking experience and get a pleasurable dopamine release from it.
Additionally, capsaicinoids send signals that irritate and stimulate nociceptor (pain associated nerve endings) in your mouth. Some nerves monitor and feel pain (nociceptors) and some monitor and feel temperature (thermoreceptors). This combination of flavor and suffering in culinary circles is called “pungency.” When cooking for Ben during our steelhead fishing trip, pungency was a frequent arsenal in my culinary toolbox. Ben digs spicy and has said many times before, “Capsaicin increases the bioavailability of many beneficial compounds.”
Pungency makes food appealing when used in proper combinations of flavors and tastes. It creates depth, character, and complexity on our palettes. Many of us love this. Showing how tough we are at the local pepper eating contest, or making a cool Instagram story vid of ourselves downing ghost peppers are other reasons we love spicy peppers.
But that’s not all.
We like certain foods to be served hot, and other dishes to be cold. Why? Heated foods like soup makes them feel and taste better. Frigid raw milk tastes and feels better than room temperature. When preparing cuisine, stimulation and arousal are my favorite mouthfeel descriptors. Spicy peppers stimulate and arouse. Moreover, when I hear the terms stimulation and arousal I become profoundly more interested in a topic.
Let’s dig in further shall we?
There is a process that occurs called “chemesthesis” which combines all the sensations that drive what we each determine for ourselves is the ideal meal choice. Taste, flavor, feelings, touch, thermal, environment, and pain are stimuli working in unison. Arousal and stimulus through a combination of sensations and perceptions make us like (or dislike) something like peppers. So sometimes we mistakenly overdo the KickAss Ghost Pepper Sauce. If you do overdo it, below are five quick hacks to sooth the pain.
Five Hacks for Burning Lips
Ordered least to most effective, here are my top five alternatives to water, beer or milk for fixing that overpowering hot sensation in your mouth (just like plunging into cold pool from a sauna).
- Liquor – Vodka or bourbon work well. However, sweetened hard alcohols like coconut rum are better (Ben's a fan of kombucha with a just a touch of vodka added).
- Heavy Cream – Try adding a bit of dark chocolate stevia to it.
- Avocado Oil – Extra virgin olive oil or macadamia nut oil works well too.
- Raw Honey – Also a great remedy for steam and heat burns on skin.
- Butter Mints – Yes, these aren't low in sugar per se, but I once ate a Ghost Pepper (highest on Scoville heat scale I have heard rumors of a Carolina Reaper measuring 2,200,000 Scoville Heat Units too) on accident, and I was freaking out. I thought my tongue was going to explode and I worsened the situation with carbonated beer. The owner of the restaurant quickly retrieved butter mints. I placed two butter mints on my tongue, there was immediate relief. The event was 30 years ago, and I recall the incident with remarkable clarity.
Fresh mint leaves, coconut ice cream, a sliced avocado or a bit of banana will also will provide some relief from an overdose of capsaicin.
And let's not forget oxygen. The damaged area of your tongue needs return to a state of homeostasis. You can assist the mouth to “heal” by deploying oxygen to the damaged area. The healing process is different than breaking down the capsaicinoids and reliving symptoms.
You can deploy more oxygen to the affected area with breath work. Breathe deeply in through your nose, holding for one second and then blowing all the way out of the mouth to increase oxygen flowing over the damaged area of your tongue. Oxygen served up via your bloodstream helps the area of “burnt” tissue heal internally. The administration of something like a spoonful of raw honey or any of the other tips above breaks down the capsaicin, thus slowing and diluting the chemical reaction and soothing the symptoms of spicy food overdose.
Breathing and blood oxygen levels are other topics Ben and I dug into during our retreat, and here's a full list of some of Ben's best podcast on breathing:
- Pee Strips, Power Lungs & Pulse Oximeters: How To Flip The Switch On Your Body’s Own Natural Ability To Heal Itself (& Little-Known Ways To Breathe Better)
- How To Hold Your Breath For Four Minutes, Training Mask Myths, Performance Breathing & More
- Freediving, Breathholding, Iceman Wim Hof, Tom Cruise’s Mission Impossible Training, How To Use Static Apnea Tables & More!
- Conquer The Cold And Get Quantum Leaps In Performance In This Exclusive Interview With The Amazing Iceman Wim Hof
- The Iceman Returns: Wim Hof On Climbing Frigid Mountains In Underwear, Eating Only Once A Day, Activating Hormones With Breathing & More
In addition, there's also a link between ketosis and oxygen utilization, and the podcast below is one of my all-time favorites on exogenous ketone supplements, blood oxygen, and the future of ketosis.
Ben and I dig deeper into foods that cure cancer in this podcast we recorded live over dinner at Lifewater Ranch, the spot we stayed at during this fishing trip.
Back To Taste, Flavor & Chicken Curry Tacos
OK, let's get back to taste and flavor. I was taught Flavor Dynamics and Fusion Cooking at Culinary Institute of America Greystone in Napa Valley, CA. There are five primary tastes I focus on in my cooking and in the meals I prepared for Ben and his boys:
- Salty – Self-explanatory, right?
- Sweet – Sugar, molasses, fruit, etc.
- Sour – Borderline mouth burn. Sour is a discomforting “feeling” that induces most to proceed with caution. Much like hot peppers, sour is an acquired taste. The tingling jaw is a sour response sensation you feel when eating a big mouthful of any sour food.
- Bitter – Another cautionary taste used in culinary applications to add complexity and character to foods, and includes lemons, cloves, and vinegar.
- Savory – People often misuse the word. Savory’s root is in the word delicious (rhe Japanese translation is Umami). Think of mushroom, truffles, steak and wild game. Much of this savory taste sensation is derived from glutamate and other amino acids.
You might be asking, “That’s all?”
Yes, those are the only five tastes. No more, no less.
Establishing the full measure of flavor requires many senses working in concert with the five tastes. For instance: sight, smell, and feel are just a few such sense. Spiciness from something like chili powder or peppers deliver added bitter taste and pungent feel. I frequently add dichotomy to the flavor equation by blending opposing flavors and tastes that complement the overall experience of the preparation.
For example, for one dinner during Ben's stay, I fused Thai Cuisine and Mexican fare. The result was my soon-to-be world famous Chicken Curry Tacos. In the filling for these tacos, I elicited the opposing sweet taste of raisins to complement the bitter taste of hot peppers. The coconut milk that I use in the sauce soothes the pain stirred by the pungency of the peppers and curry. The full-fat organic sour cream on the side conflicts with the sharpness of the local cheddar cheese that all come together in the mouth to form an opulent symphony of flavor. This taco dish left everyone raving, including Ben's boys.
I know you probably want it, so here's the recipe:
Free Range Chicken Curry Tacos
Chicken Curry tacos are a fusion cooking delight combining Thai and Mexican Cusine. They can be made in my KetoClaunchCuisine preparation using Claunch's Keto Cheddar Baked Taco Shells or the meat is excellent over salads.
- 2 Whole Free Range Organic Roasted Chicken – Skin On 200 g Raw Ea
- 1 Whole Organic Yellow Onion
- 4 TBLS Organic Brazil Nut Butter
- 2 TBLS Organic Coconut Oil
- 1 Medium Fresh Garlic Clove
- 2 TBLS Organic Yellow Curry Powder
- 2 TBLS Organic Turmeric Powder You can double curry if your don't have turmeric
- 1 TBLS Ground Cinnamon
- 2 BOX Organic Raisins 28 g Ea
- 5 tsp Ava Jane's Kitchen Colima Sea Salt
- 1 TBLS Fresh Black Pepper
- 2 TBLS KerryGold Unsalted Butter
- 8 TBLS Sour Cream
- 8 Ea Tortillas
- 2 Cups Shredded Sharp Cheddar Cheese Use a pepper jack or mozzarella if using cheddar shells
- Dice chicken being careful to leave the skin on resulting in cubes about the size of a craps dice.
- Chop the onion into a medium dice about half the size of the Chicken cubes.
- Crush the garlic cloves with the edge of your knife blade and peel all the skin from each clove. Finely mince garlic.
- Melt Coconut Oil on medium heat and Sautee onion until slightly translucent. Add garlic and wait for 30 seconds before adding chicken. Add the chicken and mix gently.
- Add KerryGold butter and melt to create a liquid vehicle for emulsifying all the spices. Add black pepper, curry, turmeric, and Colima Sea Salt. Sautee for 5 Minutes until chicken is fully cooked through.
- Finish by adding nut butter, raisins, and cinnamon. Gently mix until a creamy yellow sauce covers all the ingredients.
- While keeping the meat warm in the pan, heat 2 TBLS of avocado oil on med-high in a large skillet. Place your choice of tortilla (no need to re-cook cheddar shells), in the oil for about ten seconds per side allowing them to absorb the oil. Fold in half and place between two paper towels on your serving plate. Since making tacos in a very personal choice, I recommend allowing your guests to design their own.
Slather a spoonful of sour cream in the bottom of your taco shell of choice and put two heaping TBLS of chicken curry meat into the shell. Cover with a healthy portion of sharp cheddar and greens if you like. Adding pico de gallo or siracha to top your taco adds a nice spice and provides a dose of capsaicin.
In addition to these tacos, a few other high-fat, ancestral, low-sugar delicacies I prepared for Ben's family included:
Keto Brazil Nut Butter
I have always been a peanut butter addict. The ketogenic diet changed my macronutrient profile to the extremely low carb, moderate protein, and high-fat diet. I went in search of a creamy/crunchy treat to fill the void. I have been enjoying Brazil nuts to address the selenium deficiency us middle-aged men tend to suffer. This buttery badassery is what I devised to scratch my own itch.
- 1/4 Cup Toasted Brazil nuts chopped fine
- 1/4 Cup Your favorite nut butter Jar used as preparation and holding container and nut butter used as a base.
- 6 TBLS MCT-8 (Caprylic Acid) or Brain Octane Oil
- 8 TBLS Organic Coconut Oil and Ghee (Carrington Farms)
- 2 TBLS Ghirardelli 100% cocoa Powder
- 1/2 Cup Organic Brazil Nut Butter
- 1 TBLS Pure vanilla extract
- 1 Pinch Ava Jane's Kitchen Colima Sea Salt Sprinkle a pinch on your treat at serving time
- 2 Scoop MTN OPS Magnum Vanilla Protein Powder For protein focused nutrition plan and great taste
- Use a glass jar of your favorite nut butter with approximately 1/4 cup of remnants left in the jar for your container. Add MCT-8 oil and mix together in the jar to make a moist gel.
- Use a glass jar of your favorite nut butter with approximately 1/4 cup of remnants left in the jar for your container. Add MCT-8 oil and mix together in the jar to make a moist gel.
- In a sauce pan, glass bowl, or measuring cup melt Coconut Oil and Ghee and Organic Brazil nut butter and fold together. Pour slowly into your jar.
- Slowly add your cocoa powder as it will try and escape in a puff of cocoa dust if added too quickly. You can also add baking cocoa squares to the previous step if you prefer. Add Vanilla extract and stir well.
- Fold toasted Brazil nuts and stir with a rubber spatula until mixture is all one consistent color.
- Add Quest Nutrition MCT Oil Powder to adjust consistency.
- Place container in refrigerator to set up.
- Place on your favorite edible transport or a spoon and sprinkle with a pinch of Ava Jane's Kitchen Colima Sea Salt.
Keto Pickle Lunch
Keto Pickle Lunch had to get its start somewhere. As an outdoors man on the go, I’m often pressed for time, space, and proper nutritional profile when it comes to food choices. I am also currently facing the demands of the ketogenic diet. Under these conditions, portable, quick, and easy are the criteria and seem to trump nutritious along the way.
Have you noticed this yourself?
Pickles are a fermented food, super portable, low in calories, have no sugar, and they taste killer. My better two-thirds Teresa and I, have recently been experimenting with homemade pickles and decided they would be a great delivery vehicle for other foods. That is the genesis for the world famous keto pickle lunch.
If you can eat peanut butter in a piece of celery, then you can for damn sure eat tuna in a pickle half. I contend you should for the flavor and the health benefits. I think pickles get left out on many program regiments these days.
I absolutely love this creative preparation and I has been joining me on day hunting and fishing trips as my regular counterpart.
- 4 Whole Dill Cucumber Pickle cut in half lengthwise
- 3-3.75 Inches sriracha garlic
- 12 Oz Wild Line Caught Albacore in Olive Oil
- 2 TBLS Avocado Mayonnaise
- 4 TBLS MCT-8 (Caprylic Acid) or Brain Octane Oil
- 6 Whole Toasted Brazil nuts chopped and salted
- 1 Stalk Celery diced fine
- 1 tsp Mustard
Herbs and Spices
- 1 Cup Fresh Chives chopped fine
- 1 tsp Dried Oregano Leaves
- 1 TBLS Fresh Black Pepper
- 1 TBLS Sriracha
- 1 TBLS Ava Jane's Kitchen Colima Sea Salt
- Dice celery stick into 1/8 inch pieces.
- Chop chives into small 1/8 inch pieces
- Open but do not drain Albacore tuna and place and add to a large mixing bowl. Stir and separate tuna with a fork.
- Add black pepper, dried oregano, celery, chives, sea salt, and mustard and mix well with tuna.
- Add MCT-8 and avocado Mayo and mix well.
- Finish with mustard, sriracha, and half the brazil nuts.
- Slice the pickle lengthwise and carve out a modest amount of the guts to make a holding area for the mixture.
Add a generous heaping portion of tuna to the pickle boats and sprinkle the remaining brazil nuts over the top and enjoy.
A Lil’ Neuroscience to Ice the Cake
If you want to geek out on flavor and science, read on. Wrapping up the flavor explanation, I'm now going to examine the roles neural pathways and brain function play in our food biases. Fond memories and a feeling of nostalgia can influence food choices. Depression or a break up will change what we pick off the menu too. When you're eating a proper, complex meal, the thoughts, feelings, emotions, mental pictures and physical sensations come together in that fleeting moment on your palette to create the overall flavor.
Associations can change flavor too. Who we were with, the temperature when we last ate and even sounds, intensity of the conversation, and mood all have a say in influencing flavor. These are all considerations and variables that make a group contribution to why we “taste” foods differently (did you ever notice you never discover a new favorite meal at a funeral)?
Varying physiological states influence flavor and taste too. This is why food is not as desirable with a cold (because your nasal passages aren’t functioning – your nose is on the sidelines and no longer a major contributor to your interpretations). We all feel, see, smell, and hear different things where we eat our meals. We all interpret our thoughts, associations, and memories differently. Therefore, we all taste our foods differently.
The myriad of sensations, feelings, thoughts, environment, and tastes, are orchestrated together in an instant, and thus explains the complex beast known as flavor. And yes, I discovered that for even more complexity, Ben travels with a pretty wide array of food flavor enhancers, including clumpy sea salt, a very dense, high-quality turmeric and MCT oil (a very effective flavor enhancer), all of which he proceeded to dump on just about every meal I cooked.
Thermogenesis & Capsaicin a Dynamic Duo
One day, Ben and I discussed cold thermogenesis as a closely related advocate to capsaicin for fat loss, especially after Ben recommended either spicy cayenne extract (e.g. blended into coffee or tea) or green tea extract as a pre-cold fat loss enhancing strategy.
Coincidentally, this discussion happened to have occurred while we were enjoying cold plunges and soaking in the 55-degree salt water pool at the ranch we stayed at. Ben took the frigid water in stride, while I gasped for air and suffered during my ordeal, watching Ben's closed mouth to try to get a concept of how to nasal breath while engaged in multiple face plunges to activate the mammalian dive reflex and vagus nerve tone.
An hour or so after the initial shock of the cold plunge, I noticed a significant uptake in brain clarity and energy. I was actually jacked up for hours. The best results I noted were that after performing a 45-minute-ish cold soak (trust me, a podcast or audiobook is crucial for this length of time). I followed up with five minutes in the hot tub, and five minutes back in the cold pool, repeating three times. I wouldn’t have spent an entire afternoon doing this if Ben hadn’t led by example, throwing down these same kind of hot-cold contrast “workouts” himself every day we would come back from fishing.
Basically, cold thermogenesis is capsaicin “on steroids” when it comes to health and wellness benefits. Used together, they are a quite potent and powerful pair, and of course, cold exposure is just another example of discomfort that yields profound results.
Capsaicin and cold as a fat loss hack for someone battling the bulge is an excellent tool, specifically for those of us in the after 50 age group. Why?
- It suppresses appetite by reducing ghrelin concentrations (ghrelin makes us crave foods, especially when we wake)
- Capsaicin binds to the TRPV1 receptor in the gut, is absorbed into the bloodstream and initiates the release of catecholamines. The release stirs an increase of sympathetic nervous system activity. An Interesting podcast on catecholamines, ketosis, and cancer prevention can be found in Ben's aforementioned podcast episode with Dom D’Agostino.
- The rise in core and skin temperature we are feeling in early stage thermogenesis is a physical manifestation of increased energy spend, evidenced in elevated brown adipose tissue (BAT). A propagation of fat oxidation is occurring and takes almost no energy in terms of muscle movement. In other words, your body begins burning fat during sleep and rest.
- Supplementing with capsaicin is just a small hack that acts as a catalyst and can assist one in losing fat while on any fat loss regimen. Like I mentioned earlier, Ben also likes pairing cold with caffeine, green tea, and even something called “bitter melon extract“.
Add thermogenesis into your life utilizing in many forms of it as possible, including cool fat burning gear, cold showers, ice baths, etc. and your fat burning efficiency will increase dramatically.
Five Other Capsaicin & Cold Discoveries From My Week with Ben
Here's a few other random tips I picked up from Ben during our week together…
- Capsaicin has pain and has pain relieving qualities. Topical “spicy” creams can deliver excellent results, providing pain relief from osteoporosis, fibromyalgia, and diabetic neuropathy.
- Humans are the only creatures on earth that eat peppers. The phytochemical capsaicin, found primarily in the seeds and membranes surrounding them, is a defense mechanism to prevent seeds from being eaten by animals. So if you have leaky gut or other gut issues, you need to be sure you only eat peppers in moderation and preferably skip the skins and skip the seeds. Ben likes a great new book called “Plant Paradox” for more on this issue.
- Contrary to what you may think, hot peppers don’t cause ulcers. Quite the opposite, in fact. A mild amount of something you think might be harmful can trigger protection via the product of gut mucus, and capsaicin triggers mechanisms in the stomach that protect the stomach lining. Ben talks about that in this podcast.
- A study published in Cancer Research found that capsaicin caused cancer cells to commit suicide. The substance caused almost 80 percent of prostate cancer cells to die in mice, and prostate tumors treated with capsaicin were about one-fifth the size of those in untreated mice. “Capsaicin inhibits the growth of human prostate cancer cells in Petri dishes and mice,” says lead researcher Dr. H. Phillip Koeffler, director of hematology and oncology at Cedars-Sinai Medical Center and a professor of medicine at the University of California, Los Angeles.
- Cayenne pepper is a supplement often ingested in capsule form to fight inflammation and relieve congestion.
Will The Real Ben Greenfield Please Stand Up?
All in all, my week with Ben sent me on many new journeys.
However, the most meaningful and memorable thing I took away was not directly health and fitness related at all. The most inspirational takeaway I left with is this: Ben is an extraordinary human being.
The reason I say, “The Real Ben Greenfield” is that the persona we see from Ben on social media, TV, and podcasts these days is only a portion of Ben's real character, and he's actually a very vulnerable, transparent, woo-woo, spiritual, music-loving, geeky family man – not some hardcore jock biohacker. I don’t think him hiding that fact this is intentional. I just think we all have a limited amount of “stuff” we can all put out there, and Ben only scratches the surface of his true character in the public persona he displays on all his channels to instead because he instead focuses on crazy, trendy things he knows are going to entertain and educate people, rather than being the mild-mannered Dad from “Little House On The Prairie”, which he's actually more like in person.
I mean, let's face it – we choose to put out there what is going to be valuable and entertaining to our readers and listeners and followers. I get it. Ben is not shy when it comes to being transparent. He puts it all out there on a very personal level. From poop to sexual performance, nothing seems to be too intimate to share. And he's the same way in person. But I realized that above all, he's also a husband, a family man, a loving and caring dad, and a guy who actually digs simple living and a quiet life.
And yeah, I'll admit, he's smart. Ben turned out to be one of the most cerebral and mindful people I have ever met. During our time, I felt as though I was in the company of a walking encyclopedia on pretty much anything relevant to health, nutrition, anti-aging, fitness, biohacking and beyond. Ben’s brain and information recall are completely mind-blowing. When it comes to knowledge, understanding, and the ability to take uber-complex science and make it simple, Ben is a master.
The Ben Greenfield I’ve been lucky enough to get to know was so much different than I had manufactured in my mind. Leading up to the trip, I had started to formulate stereotypes I suspected about Ben, based on his relative “fame” as a crazy biohacking uber-athlete. I was also unsettled because he runs in the circles of influence I value most. So I wanted to make a good impression, and I wanted to exceed his expectations like he had exceeded mine. I also just wanted us to enjoy our time together, and I wanted Ben to like me.
The impoverished English language will not allow a description of the full spectrum of my experience getting to know The Real Ben Greenfield. You see, I had preconceived the tough guy persona. Spartan Racer. Internet celebrity. Preoccupied, busy, and distant. Conceivably, I also envisioned Ben would be hard to get to know.
And boy, did I miss the mark – so far off the mark it was it was laughable. I think I described Ben as a “softie” at one point to his face, just when he had finished snuggling with his boys for nearly an hour and reading to them, playing them the ukulele and blowing on his “LoveTuner” for them before bed.
I realized as we were off doing wild plant foraging with his boys one day that Ben possesses a distinct ability to stay present and pay close attention to his sons’ needs. He taught them, and he played with them. He challenged them around every bend. I could tell how close they were as a family. But then when he was speaking to me, his attention and focus shifted to me. The boys did their own thing while Ben and I conversed and his boys showed respect for our time together in the moment. I was impressed by how he's raised his children, to say the least.
Of course, for our plant foraging walk that we embarked upon on our very first day at Lifewater Ranch, Ben chose the most difficult, obstacle-strewn path possible. Up we went, and up, and up some more. The hike was full of terraces and ponds, stunning views, and wildlife. And this was one of my very first impressions of Ben – he chooses the hard ways and loves obstacles not because they're annoying ways to show off masochism, but because these kind of “spicy peppers” added to the food of like make you and those you are with better, more resilient people, and keep plenty of flavor in your daily routine.
This plant-foraging hike also turned out to be all about Ben's boys. We watched them play, imagine, search, dig, and dream big. When we discovered an Oregon Grape Root plant, Ben emerged as the teacher, showing his boys and I how to shave the yellow-ish orange root for powerful gut medicine. He challenged the boys with fun rewards for finding new things in the wilderness, eating praying mantis eggs, trying new wild plants and lifting heavy rocks. Ben made up all sorts of games where his boys competed against their personal abilities. This was remarkable to witness first-hand – how to truly raise, as Ben calls it, “tiny superhumans“.
Of course, sometimes even the best of tiny superhumans needs help crossing the wild current of a strong stream to go after the bigger fish:
Besides being a great father, I noticed Ben is an excellent helper, spiritual head of household, husband, musician, singer, community leader, philanthropist, author, friend, and a ferocious worker. He practices what he preaches. My week with Ben and his boys turned out to be amazing. We had a great time fishing, we learned to fly cast together, and we all had numerous fish hooked up. We even landed a few giant and elusive B-Run steelhead. We ate like kings, we made new friends, we exercised our bodies, and even challenged our minds with activities like chess and new songs on the guitar and ukulele. Ultimately, I discovered Ben is just as much into building a strong mind and strong spirit as he is into building a strong body.
So that's it.
That's capsaicin, that's cold thermogenesis, and that's my impression of Ben Greenfield.
If you ever have an opportunity to meet, join Ben on a challenge, or have him as a coach or personal consultant I fervently recommend it. Take the plunge. You’ll be glad you did.
And one last thing, because Ben promised me I could throw in a shameless plug for a place he wound up really liking and plans to come back to himself. If you’re looking for a super cool retreat in the woods of Idaho with as much to do and you can imagine, then contact Sandy Staab at Lifewater Ranch and mention me and this article, or the podcast Ben and I recorded straight from the ranch. Who knows? If all the stars line up, maybe I’ll come and cook for you, and at the least, Sandy will cut you a deal as a friend of Ben's and mine. Simply mention “Ben Greenfield” when you reserve your spot at Lifewater ranch in 2017 you will be entitled to a 5% discount.
That’s all I got. Thanks for reading, and leave your questions, comments and feedback below.