Introduction: In this episode of the Ben Greenfield Fitness show: The New “Red Meat Causes Cancer” Study, How Low Can Your Body Fat Go, Five Ways To Know If Your Heart Is Healthy, Is Reverse Osmosis Water Healthy, What To Do About High Heart Rate During Exercise, and much more!
He’s an expert in human performance and nutrition, voted America’s top personal trainer and one of the globe’s most influential people in health and fitness. His show provides you with everything you need to optimize physical and mental performance. He is Ben Greenfield. “Power, speed, mobility, balance – whatever it is for you that for natural movement, get out there! When you’re working all the studies done… studies that have shown the greatest effort to see…” All the information you need in one place right here, right now, on the Ben Greenfield Fitness podcast.
Ben: Well, I’m dressed up quite fashionably this morning, Rachel.
Rachel: Really? What are you wearing?
Ben: I’m wearing among other things, it’s not the only thing that I’m wearing although it would be an interesting look if it were. I’m wearing a weighted vest this morning as we record our episode.
Rachel: Oh and what inspired you to be wearing a weighted vest this morning?
Ben: Well, aside from the extreme fashion effect, all the cool kids are wearing weighted vests these days, as you know.
Rachel: Oh, they’re about to start wearing them (chuckles).
Ben: We got – we had a listener right in: a guy who we talked about a couple of podcast episodes ago. This is the guy who pees on himself.
Rachel: I remember.
Ben: Do you remember this guy?
Rachel: I do. Yeah.
Ben: Yeah, it’s like the ultra runner who find out he could drink less water by peeing on himself to stay cool.
Ben: Right? He of course doesn’t call it ‘peeing on himself’, he calls it his ‘fluid recycling technique’, his unusual fluid recycling technique.
Rachel: And it’s much more digestible as a name?
Ben: Yeah, and he wrote into the show because apparently he’s a listener at least he listened to that episode, and he says in his training, before his big Ultra Run, he was actually only running about 4-5 hours a week, 4-5 hours a week of running which is not much for an extreme, long Ultra runner.
Rachel: Right, right.
Ben: And what he says is and I’ll quote him here. He says, “I spend more time strength training and the proof is in the footing. I ran 16,300 miles in 621 days with zero overuse injuries.”
Ben: Crapola of running.
Ben: But he says, “I work in standing desk, I sit as little as possible and…”, and here’s the kicker that influences my fashion choice this morning. He says, “I wear weights the whole time, essentially, living under hyper gravity.” And this is a technique that he uses as a way for runners to train during the day while dramatically reducing injury risk. So basically, he keeps himself loaded with weights while he works during the day, so.
Rachel: Wow. And have you heard of this before?
Ben: Well, I’ve written before about like you know, when you’re cleaning the garage, you’re doing the laundry, you’re – you know, whatever, wearing a weighted vest so that you are forcing to move your muscles to be stimulated as you’re working or to burn more calories. But I’ve never really thought about just kinda loading myself the whole day…
Ben: So, I’m either going to get a horribly bad back and perhaps shrink a few inches or you’re gonna see me winning Ultra Runs.
Rachel: Wow, can’t wait to hear.
Ben: There you have it, hyper gravity, baby.
Rachel: So Ben, some fascinating claims this week about red meat causing cancer. What have you got to say about this?
Ben: So it’s kinda funny. Everybody and their dog were tweeting at me yesterday about this study of red meat and red meat causing cancer. And then I wake up this morning to the smell of bacon…
Ben: …as my children are biggies in this enormous pals – bacon at the kitchen table and…
Rachel: So it came fully waited in the Greenfield family, then?
Ben: Yes. I actually was joking to my kids about how they were going, probably not a great thing to joke about kids to before they head to school in the morning. But I was joking to them about how they were gonna get cancer, and then we had a nice, long discussion about how anything can make you sick or kill you, including water in correct amounts or from the improper sources. So, anyways, let’s get into this whole ‘red meat causes cancer’ study.
Rachel: It’s juicy for show.
Ben: It is quite juicy, yes. So here we go: the actual paper and in all of the headlines that you’re reading, they’re based on this summary paper that refers to a meta-analysis of about 800 different studies. So what happened was all these researchers met at the International Agency for Research on Cancer. That’s a mouthful – the IARC which is an arm of the World Health Organization, the WHO and they came up after looking at all these studies with some pretty strong conclusions about red meat. And specifically, the major conclusion that they came to was with regards to colorectal cancer. So when it comes to colorectal cancer, they classified processed red meat – that’s processed red meat like you know, I don’t know, a birdie beef jerky as a Group 1 carcinogen.
Ben: Carcinogenic to humans. As for regular red meat, not processed red meat but just you know, the average steak that you might barbecue.
Ben: They classified that as a Group 2A carcinogen. The difference between a Group 1 and a Group 2A is that the Group1 is definitely carcinogenic, Group 2A means it’s probably carcinogenic, so. So let’s dig in to what we can derive from this. So first of all, the study itself was very interesting in terms of the percentage of a risk that they said was increased by eating meat, so basically, it’s a relative risk. So what they found out was a 17% increase in colorectal cancer emerge when you consume red meat and each additional intake of red meat, about a quarter pound was associated with 17% increase in colorectal cancer. Now 17% sounds pretty big, but that’s a relative risk and what that means is that the absolute risk of developing colorectal cancer isn’t that high. So for the average 50 year old, the lifetime risk of developing colorectal cancer is about 1.8%. So increasing an absolute risk of 1.8% up by relative risk of 17%…
Ben: …doesn’t really account for as much as it sounds like it accounts for. So just a slight kinda thing to be aware of whenever you’re hearing percentages, know if it’s an absolute risk or a relative risk.
Ben: So 17% is not super huge but it still is significant.
Ben: So let’s get into not just why this might be the case but also a couple of other things about this study that I want to get into before we go into – get into why red meat might cause this. So first of all, it’s not like we didn’t really know some of these already. So processed red meat is something that has been linked to cancer for many years, and we’ve seen some studies that also suggest that regular red meat, we’ve talked about this on the show before, especially from factory farms…
Ben: …and commercial sources might not be all that great for yah.
Ben: So, you’re buying your steak at Walmart as you did on Master Chef…
Ben: (chuckles), it might not be the best thing for you.
Rachel: They didn’t make any of claims about organic versus whatever?
Ben: No, they didn’t differentiate the quality of meat.
Ben: Just you know, that’s the problem: they’re rating from like, whatever, saturated fat studies to salt studies. You know, for example with the salt study where they’re showing that keeping salt intake less than 2,000mg per day. Are they talking about salt from TV dinners or they’re talking about salt from like…
Rachel: Sea salt, right?
Ben: Himalayan sea salt and like seaweed from sushi and you know, maybe some nice mineral, rich fruits and vegetables.
Rachel: Right, right, right.
Ben: So you know, you always have to look at the actual source. And then the next thing to bear in mind is that most of this evidence that was reviewed was from what’s called epidemiological evidence. So that’s where you observe people over time or you rely upon like food intake surveys or not talking about a bunch of people inside of a lab…and inside of a closed-off room being studied, you know, via 2 wave mirrors by men in white lab coats.
Ben: So, these aren’t like super duper strict controlled studies.
Ben: And then the last thing to bear in mind, before we get into why meat might be causing cancer is that the dose makes the poison, right? Like this is what I was talking to my kids about. The average amount of meat being consumed in these studies comes out to about 50 grams per day, so when you look at like, bacon, 50 grams per day of bacon. Well, if you are doing the whole like you know, Paleo thing, if you’re eating bacon for breakfast and maybe a ______ [0:09.52.6] for lunch, and then some ham or fish of something like that for dinner – you’re eating a lot of meat.
Ben: And anytime that you’re overdoing something…
it can be a sure fire recipe for creating some health issues.
Rachel: Okay, yup.
Ben: Unless it’s my giant ass green kale smoothie which you could just have for every meal if you want to.
Rachel: So everything else in moderation.
Ben: That’s right. Everything else aside from my giant fat kale smoothie, you can do in moderation. So let’s talk about some of the reasons that this might be an issue. So the first kinda suspect when it comes to cancer is something called NOCs, NOCs are N-nitroso compounds. N-nitroso compounds are something that the hemoglobin in red meats, red meat is red because it has this hemoglobin in it. That’s the red pigment in blood, it’s why red meat can be kinda good for like let’s say, athletes for example, because you’re getting lots of good absorbable hemoglobin. But the problem is that some of that pigment can be processed in your gut to create these N-nitroso compounds and those can damage the gut lining and when cells in the gut lining are damaged, DNA damaged can occur overtime. So the processed forms of red meat like say, bacon or hotdogs, these can lead to the production of these NOCs much faster than even unprocessed meat. And so, that could be part of the issue here is DNA damaged from N-nitroso compounds, particularly from red meat that is rich in hemoglobin and processed. So that’s one issue.
Ben: That’s one possible mechanism here. The next is what are called heat compounds, now heat compounds make that delicious, crusty, black chard flavor that we get when we barbecue meat. What are called heterocyclic amines HSAs, those can also damage the gut. Now there are of course, things that you can consume along with meat to vastly reduce HSAs. This is why we marinated with spices. This is why a lot of times we’ll have meat with vegetables especially cruciferous vegetables like broccoli or Brussels sprouts. A lot of these can significantly reduce the formation of these heterocyclic amines, but if you’re studying a population that’s doing a lot of barbecue, a lot of charring, a lot of heavy cooking of meat, not eating a lot of vegetables or not using a lot of marinades, you’re definitely looking at an increase risk for cancer – so heterocyclic amines are the next. Despite how much you may enjoy the crunchy charred flavor of your rib eyed steak, it may not be best to burn it or if you like it that way, you may want to use a…
Rachel: Even vegetables…
Ben: generous portion of marinade.
Ben: So the next thing is iron. Now red meat is as we know, rich in iron and this is good for people who may have anemia or low iron level but on the flip side, iron can be very easily oxidized. Now think about the rusty nail, that’s iron.
Ben: It’s why especially men who weren’t losing iron monthly like women are need to be cautious about their iron levels and test on those levels at least on yearly basis, I test my iron levels 4 times a year to check and see what they’re at. N0w iron, especially iron for meat can pretty easily build up in intestinal cells because iron is not as tightly bound, like when you eat plants, even plants that seem to be rich in iron like spinach or kale, whatever. The iron tends to be relatively tightly bound to those plants, it’s in what’s called that’s non heme form. But the heme form of iron that you find in meat, a lot of times, that does actually get not just oxidized but it builds up in the gut and it can eventually lead into cell damage, in a very similar way that these N-nitroso compounds can lead to cell damage. And this is why you need to be careful if you’re taking iron supplements, it’s why you need to be careful again, dose is you know, the poison is in the dose.
Ben: And if you’re eating a ton of red meat, you may be overdoing the iron.
Ben: So there are a couple of other reasons, I’m not done yet.
Ben: A couple other reasons: so one is something that I actually talked about in the podcast last year because there was a red meat study last year in which meat was linked to cancer. And the term here that you need to know is called TMAO – so TMAO stands for trimethylamine N-oxide and TMAO is something that can be formed by bacteria in your gut when you consume red meat. And TMAO is something that’s been linked t0 disease, particularly disease in the gut or a change in the gut bacterial profile and it’s possible that in the absence of a healthy gut…
in the absence of probiotic intake, intake of fermented food, etc. but at the same time, high intake of red meat that you could create like rampant TMAO production.
Ben: And someone who has good gut flora, this is not an issue, in someone who has a poor gut bacterial balance however, TMAO can be a serious issue. So that’s the next thing, is – particularly in people who have unhealthy guts, red meat could be a bigger issue. And then the last thing is something called Neu5Gc. Now the idea with Neu5Gc is that’s a type of sugar and normally, what happens with Neu5Gc is it gets incorporated into our cells, but some people have an autoimmune reaction to this compound. They produce antibodies against it. Almost like a food allergy to red meat and in these people, when you get a very high build up of this Neu5Gc and the antibodies they get produced in response to it, it can increase risk for cancer. So that’s another area that comes into play here is an autoimmune reaction to red meat. So let’s step back and look at this big picture.
Rachel: That’s a lot. That’s a lot.
Ben: Now about what we can do ‘cause there’s a lot of stuff. So A.) if you’re gonna use red meat and you’re gonna cook with red meat, makes sure that you use marinades and that you’ll eat plenty of plants. So that will help out with these N-nitroso compounds that can get formed and also the heterocyclic amines that can get formed.
Ben: B.) limit your intake of red meat, particularly processed red meat…
Ben: Yeah, bacon, beef jerky, hotdogs, etc. There should not be staples in your diet, there should be treats…
Ben: And the less processed, the better. Next, and especially if you are a man, test your iron levels and ensure that your iron levels are not building up to the point where you’re at risk for hemochromatosis, so very simple blood test that you can get for iron.
Ben: And make sure you’re not overdoing it with iron supplements and red meat at the same time. Next, use probiotics or eat a wide variety of fermented foods if you’re gonna eat red meat, that’s another thing that I highly recommend. And then finally, even though it can be expensive, you can go to a lab like Cyrex Laboratories for example, in which you can get the 3 best arrays there are an array 3, an array 4 and an array 10 which will tell you not just beyond the shadow of a doubt, whether you’re allergic to gluten, but whether you’re allergic to a wide variety of foods that cross react with gluten, and whether you’re allergic to a lot of these other proteins including the protein in say, red meat, like this Neu5Gc that could be something that causes like an immune related issue. And then the last thing that you go without saying is – I mean just limit your intake of meat and protein in general. Something I’ve talked about in the show before is when you overdo protein and you overdo meat, you create a lot of what’s called this activation of a protein in your body called mTOR that increases the rate which telomere shortening and could potentially decrease longevity and increase risk of cancer. So essentially what this comes down to is if you overdo protein intake and overdo meat intake, you’re in this constant anabolic pro-growth state that is not necessarily conducive to longevity, it’s conducive to look in really good in your…
Ben: …walk to the gun shell…
Ben: …of getting swole, baby.
Ben: But at the same time you know, the bigger you are, it’s like the elephant versus the mouse, right? They are some advantages to being big and being able to lift heavy stuff but you eventually get to this point where there’s a lot of diminishing returns…
Rachel: Mmm-hmm. Mmm-hmm.
Ben: and so you gotta be careful.
Rachel: And so you know, the headlines are saying things like ‘red meat causes cancer’ and that’s pretty vague. So the only type of cancer we’re looking at is colon cancer? Is that correct?
Ben: Yes, so they should adjust all the headlines saying…
Ben: ‘Red meat gives you butt cancer’.
Rachel: (laughs) Well, it’s a very inflammatory headline. I’m sure it causes people a lot of fear but it’s not really something as extreme as what seems to be, being put out there.
Ben: Exactly, yup, so now you know the truth. Anyways though, there are couple other things I wanted to mention real quick in the news flashes. And by the way, any studies we talked about, etc. I put links to all of them and you can access those links in the show notes. And the show notes for this episode, episode number 336 are shocker…
Ben: …at bengreenfieldfitness.com/336. So another thing that I tweeted this week about runners, so this is kind of an interesting one – running makes you fat.
So this was a study that they did at Harvard University, and what they found was that marathon training has little or no effect in terms of helping you to lose weight and in fact in many people, especially with people who are running more than 15 miles a week at a nice, steady aerobic pace, they’re actually getting fatter.
Ben: So what they found was that in runners running 4 times per week, so 4 times per week for 3 months, 11% loss weight, 78% loss no weight and 11% gained weight.
Ben: Some of these are as to gain weight and one time are gaining body fat.
Rachel: So what why is this?
Ben: Well there’s a few reasons for this. I was actually, I was interviewed on a new show yesterday about this and what I pointed out was: a.) when you are exercising aerobically, you tend to have a higher appetite afterwards. The reason for that is when you’re lifting weights or you’re doing sprints, you’re body produces lactic acid. Lactic acid gets converted into glucose very readily in your body and this glucose conserve as a fuel for, for example, brain tissue. And so when you finished your hard workout, you’re actually less hungry than when you finished an aerobic workout which makes you more hungry. So that’s one thing. The next thing is that long, slow distance training doesn’t build muscle, and lean muscle increases metabolism and has – it causes a simultaneous increase in a lot of these same hormones we talked about last week in response to cold like adiponectin and irisin. You get a little bit of a surge of these in response to weight training or sprint training as well, and you don’t get that with long, slow, endurance training. And then finally and they talked about this a little bit in Jeff Volek and Steve Phinney’s book “The Art and Science of Low Carbohydrate Performance”. They bring up a study that showed that for some reason in response to long distance running, probably some kind of evolutionary like energy conservation mechanism. You see a drop in thyroid activity and a drop in metabolic weight, and because you’re sending your body the message that ‘hey, you gotta go for long periods of time everyday so we might wanna suck away some fats to help you out with that.”
Rachel: Right, right.
Ben: So now I’m not saying, let’s put it this way: if somebody had to choose between like sitting on a couch all day and running a marathon or running 50 miles a week or you know, running three times a week for 4 months, I’d say, ‘go run’.
Ben: But at the same time, there are some issues with our perception of running as a good way to lose weight that are just seriously flawed and it turns out that a good way to get say, skinny fat would be to run and do run training for marathon without including say sprints or weight training, so.
Rachel: What about not doing that long, slow-bone running but doing like high intensity or anything like that?
Ben: Yeah, that’s what most of my run training programs are based on, right? Like a typical week, you would do a track workout, you do a hill workout and then you do a very focused long run but your long run’s like 60 minutes…
Ben: …and it’s not that 3 hour-death march that you see a lot of people shuffling through down the trails.
Rachel: And that’s gonna work better for losing weight?
Ben: There you have it. If you’ve signed up for marathon don’t necessarily keep your fingers crossed that it’s gonna help you lose weight, get better body. Okay and then the last thing was a study on sleep, catch up sleep. This is something new and dear to my heart ‘cause I’ve spent the past 72 hours or so down in Encinitas, California at this Kokoro Camp, and I was able to squeeze in a few cat naps here and there but spent the better part of the past 3 days awake.
Ben: Walk up and down the beach and you know, we set on people on marches down the sand, beside the ocean and you know, watching folks do ungodly amounts of burpees, etc. And it turns out that based on a recent study that just appeared in the Journal of Clinical Endocrinology. What happens is if someone has a long history of sleep deprivation, right? Like at least a 6 month history of lifestyle-driven, restricted sleep, you know like long work hours, occasionally a little bit of weekend catch up sleep, etc. – we know. And I’ve talked about this on the podcast before you get disregulation of glucose and insulin, you get a disregulation of the hormones called leptin and ghrelin which are responsible for either regulating appetite or stimulating appetite respectively. You get an increase in cortisol, you get a drop in testosterone, you get a drop in something called luteinizing hormone which is something produced by your brain…
that causes you to produce a lot of your – like your testosterone for example. So you get a lot of disregulation of a bunch of different blood parameters in response to long-term sleep deprivation.
Ben: You get some of a response to short-term sleep deprivation, frankly. But long-term sleep deprivation, you get a lot of issues with this. So what they did was they took a group of folks who had been engaged in at least 6 months of poor sleep, crappy sleep patterns and they gave them 3 nights of catch-up sleep. So when I say 3 nights of catch-up sleep, what they gave them were about 10 hours of sleep per night, they call these ‘intervention nights’. And 10 hours is pretty good, it’s pretty decent amount of sleep. They even used acoustic stimuli you know, which I’m assuming were binaural beats to help keep these folks kinda like in a sleepy unbothered, uninterrupted state.
Ben: And they were able to show that all of these metabolic effects of chronic repetitive sleep restriction were reversed with just 3 nights of catch up sleep.
Rachel: Wow. Wow.
Ben: So it turns out that sleep – you know, lack of sleep is powerful, but sleep in terms of just like turning around a lot of issues is pretty powerful as well.
Ben: So there you have it ‘catch up sleep’, not to be confused with ‘ketchup sleep’.
Rachel: (laughs) So you can receive all of these News Flashes and more every single day if you’re following Ben on Twitter.com/BenGreenfield, Instagram.com/GenGreenfieldFitness and Facebook.com/BGFitness.
Ben: Rachel, did you hear the weekend podcast episode with Denise Minger called “278 Pounds Of Fat Magically Disappears In Just One Year On A High-Carb, Low-Fat, Sugar-Laden Diet”?
Rachel: (chuckles) I definitely did. And it was controversial.
Ben: It was. We get about 50 comments or so in the show notes for that podcast right now. If you didn’t listen to that one, you need to go listen it. Trust me.
Ben: It’s one of those that you may wanna even listen to a couple of times. We’ll put a link to it in the show notes over at bengreenfieldfitness.com/336, but if you did not have the chance to listen to that episode with Denise Minger on high carb versus low carb, definitely go, give a listen. So, it may make you think twice about stuffing your face with either bacon, or peanut butter cup and crunch just in case maybe…
Rachel: Two things I don’t do but even I, listening to it, I was really interested to hear what she had to say I thought she – you know for a lot of people, she’s quite inflammatory but I thought, she was pretty grounded and just you know, interesting.
Ben: Maybe your takeaway message was do not combine bacon with peanut butter cup and crunch, so.
Ben: That’s the biggest mistake you can make. This podcast is actually brought to you by Texas Superfood. So speaking of food and food cravings and everything, a big, big part of food cravings as well as lack of sleep can be micro-nutrient and nutrients deficiencies, vitamin deficiencies, etc. And what Texas Superfood is, is 55 – count them, 55 fruits and vegetables in one serving and you can use a capsule, you can use a powder or you can use one of their stick packs which is like this portable little pack that you take with you on the go. So it’s 55 fresh, raw, vine-ripen fruits and vegetables, and they’ve got probiotics in there, they’ve got digestive enzymes in there so you can basically get a mega-dose of nutrients without having to eat ungodly amounts and pounds and pounds of food. So, it’s called Texas Superfood and we have a discount code for folks. You go to texassuperfood.com, not texassuperfoods, texassuperfood.com and use promo code ‘ben’ and check out to get 10% off of your order of Superfood, so…
Ben: Texas Superfood. Yeah, yummy. This podcast is also brought to you by Onnit, on it, baby. So last week we talked about Onnit’s warrior bar and their nut butter, this week I wanted to mention that not only when you visit onnit.com/bengreenfield do you save 10% off of all their tasty functional foods, but you can also get a savage workout if you order dome of their Primal Bells. Have you seen these Primal Bells, Rachel?
Rachel: And although… no, I haven’t, no.
Ben: So they’re kettlebells, they come in gorilla…
Rachel: Oh, I have.
Ben: …or zombie faces.
Rachel: Yeah, yeah.
Ben: They’re made from this really high quality, extremely rust and chip resistant, coated iron kettlebells, but then they 3D scan them to ensure perfect balance; even though they have the gorilla face…
or the zombie face on them, and they just looked cool, they’re like pieces of art in your gym. I’ve got them scattered and not just in my gym but in a few other spots around the house. As you walk into my house and you’re prone to see a zombie or gorilla kettlebell in just about any room. So you can get those over at onnit.com/bengreenfield and you can save a bunch of money on them when you get to onnit.com/bengreenfield. So Rachel, you’re gonna get yourself a gorilla or is it?
Rachel: Yeah, I’ll get a gorilla. I need things to make me look a hot ass.
Ben: Well I was trying to figure out, what are you gonna be for Halloween’s? Speaking of zombies.
Rachel: Oooh. I haven’t thought about it. Typical foreigner doesn’t get the Halloween thing.
Ben: You know Halloween’s like 4 days away.
Rachel: Last year I went as a koala.
Ben: A koala bear?
Ben: Like the…
Rachel: It was adorable.
Ben: …full-on koala costume?
Rachel: It was a onesie. Yup.
Ben: Okay, interesting.
Ben: I haven’t decided yet what I’m gonna be. I was thinking about maybe, my last thought – because I always try to come up with pretty lazy costumes. I was thinking about putting on a bathrobe, some flannel pajama pants, wife beater and some sunglasses and just go in as ‘the dude’ from The Big Lebowski.
Ben: It would be a comfortable costume.
Rachel: It would be. I was really actually appreciative of my onesie last year ‘cause it’s kinda chilly and that onesie was so comfortable.
Rachel: So yeah, comfort more than style.
Ben: Yes, my children are Yeti and the Headless Horseman, so I figured The Dude outfit right and there.
Ben: Couple other quick things for this Special Announcements: the Unbeatable Mind retreat, I will be speaking down there in Carlsbad, California. You can go to bengreenfieldfitness.com/unbeatable15 to get into that, it is a part of Navy Seal Commander Mark Divine’s organization takes place at the site of the world famous Kokoro Camp that I was just at and you get everything from warrior yoga to morning SealFit wods, to amazing meals, to guys like Robb Wolfe and sleep expert Kirk Parsley, ketogenic expert Dominic D’Agostino, bunch of cool folks were talking there and speaking there. I’m on a nutrition panel, I’ll be down there, so come check that out. Spaces are limited but you can get into that at bengreenfieldfitness.com/unbeatable15, I think they will only let like a 100 people in, so.
Rachel: Mmm. Get in, quick.
Ben: Act fast! That’s December 4th through the 6th, and then the last thing I wanted to mention is that the World’s Toughest Mudder is coming up in a couple of weeks, so that’s gonna be in November 14th and again, tune in to the Obstacle Dominator podcast which is the Obstacle Racing podcast that myself and a couple of other folks produce. You can check that out at obstacledominator.com, but if you’re Spartan racer or you like the Tough Mudder or you’re gonna be at that event, the World’s Toughest Mudder, you wanna tune in to all the action that we’re gonna be podcasting about over at obstacledominator.com.
Rachel: Are you still gonna have an after party?
Ben: Oh yeah, we’re still planning on throwing down, so you can stay tuned to all that action over on that podcast, so obstacledominator.com, check it out.
Listener Q & A:
Anna: Hi Ben and Rachel! I’m Ana, a big fan of your show from Spain. You know how you always say that women should lift heavy and not worry about getting bulky? How about those few of us who really want to get bulky or ripped, how far in our lowest body fat could we go without risking hormonal problems? What diet and exercise do you recommend? Can you add the age issue into it, please? I’m 43. Thanks! Keep up the awesome job you’re doing.
Ben: Rachel, do you know your body fat percentage?
Rachel: I don’t. I’ve actually never measured it. I mean Yankee, come on, we don’t that! (laughs)
Ben: You somewhat mean, do you have a six pack or an eight pack…
Ben: …or a four pack?
Rachel: I was a gymnast for 10 years and I never got a six pack. I think there’s something genetically against me.
Ben: Yeah, yeah. Your abs might be broken.
Ben: You need that checked out.
Ben: My – so my wife has had her body fat measured. I’ve – I used to measure thousands and thousands of people. I had horrible job at University of Idaho when I managed the wellness program there. I was the guy who did free body fat emails. And so, in addition to you know, personal training and teaching spin classes and managing the wellness center and launching you know, new wellness programs and you know, group personal training, and all that jazz and measuring all the personal trainers, one of the primary components of my job was about a dozen times a day to measure the body fat on all the sorority girls who would walk in, who want their 7 site skin fold calipers, so.
Rachel: Oh, such a hard job.
Ben: It’s a tough job.
Rachel: Oh, Ben.
Ben: Take them in a side room, undress them…
Rachel: Wow. (laughs)
Ben: …gauge 7 different body fat sites. So, I did really a sucky job in college, let me tell you. (chuckles) But anyways, I got pretty good at skin caliper measurements and the way that those work is you pinch several different spots on the body and you measure the skin fold of each of those spots and then you plug that into the equation to get body fat percentages, so. My wife, when I measured her, shy typically comes out to and I’ve still done her a couple of times in the body fat percentage. She comes out to 8 to 9% every time, and she is one of those skinny, Montana-rancher girls who finds funky just fine and you know, she has her monthly period and everything like that but she does just fine and feels great at 8 to 9%. I fluctuate, right now I’m at about 7%, I’ve been as low as when I was body building 3% and felt…
Ben: …absolutely horrible. So you know, our family, my kids are gonna be super duper lean just ‘cause my wife and I tend to kinda lean towards body fat percentages, but the ranges are huge based on everything from genetics to body type. The idea here though is you carry 2 kinds of fat in your body: you got essential fat, now essential fat is stored in very small amounts in bone marrow, in organs, in your central nervous system like lining your nerves and your muscles. And you need it for normal, healthy functioning of all those body fat systems, all those body systems. And then you have storage fat, now storage fat would be like adipose tissue, white fat, brown fat, fat that is stocked for energy or that is used to create heat you know, insulation. So for men, the essential body fat, the stuff that get stored in bone marrow, organs and etc., typically makes up around 3% on the average guy. Now in women, essential body fat stores typically are closer to about 10 to 12% essential body fat…
Ben: …and that’s because of female reproductive function and the fact that females tend to store more fat in breast, pelvis, hips and thighs. Either child birth or the functions that come after child birth, that’s just natural fertility. So the idea here is that in most cases, for the average women, the minimum body fat percentage is around 13 to 17%, beginning in a pretty broad brush. And I’ll get into like ages and percentages here in a second, but the idea is that if body fat falls below in most women, falls below 13 to 17%, what typically happens is you send the message to your body that there’s not enough body fat to basically nurture a fetus if you would become pregnant. I mean, and a big part of this is just basic evolutionary mechanism…
Ben: So the female body has that certain amount of fat in order to reproduce and reproduction is still wanted the primary you know, whether or not you want to have babies, like that’s something your body wants to…
Ben: …stay prepared to do.
Ben: What happens typically is you get a menorrhea or the menstrual cycle ceases and the body becomes temporarily infertile, that’s you know, the major thing that happens when it comes to dropping body fat. The other thing that’s really, really big for women and this is the reason that you see a lot of like female cross-country runners for example, always struggling with stress fractures because they’re running so much, limiting food intake, body fat drops really low. What you get is a drop in circulating levels of estrogen which are not only, that estrogen is not just like the principal reproductive hormone but it’s also necessary for bone density.
Ben: So you see a big drop in bone density and a big drop in fertility and then you also get some other things. You get like a drop in thyroid activity, you get extreme cold sensitivity and those are the biggies, the drop in the thyroid, the drop in estrogen and the drop in fertility.
Rachel: So even if you’re like lifting a lot while you have a really low body fat, will it still affect your hormones in the same way?
Ben: You know, theoretically, and this is kinda like blue sky stuff, like you can go with weights, you can kinda jack up your testosterone and your growth hormone you know, acutely, right? Temporarily after hard and heavy weight training session, but people who are super lean get to the point where they just can’t lift weights very heavy ‘cause they don’t have the energy and everything necessary for that.
Ben: And even when I was a body builder, I was lifting pretty heavy weights but once I got down under 3%, my testosterone dropped, my sex drive dropped. I, you know, I looked like this great big old chunk of meat though I wanna do is just like lay on the couch.
Rachel: And then my other question is – when I was a gymnast, there was basically delayed on set of menstrual cycles ‘cause you train so much. So when you lose it, is it such a bad thing or does it just come straight back?
Ben: When you lose your menstrual cycle, you lose a lot of a natural production of progesterone and estrogen…
Rachel: Mmm. Okay.
Ben: …that are supposed to happen each month and so you can get a gradual drop in bone density. You can get in many cases if progesterone drops low enough an issues called estrogen dominance which leads to…once you do begin eating, body fat getting distributed in places that you don’t wanna get it distributed. Drop in progesterone also can cause like a lack of motivation, lack of drive, lack of drive. A little bit of depression-like symptoms, so yeah.
Rachel: Feels terrible.
Rachel: So stay above 13%.
Ben: Well, in most cases, yes. Even though it’s going to very few, like I mentioned, my wife is one of those people which just based on her genetics, like she just got skinny genes.
Rachel: Skinny genes.
Ben: Skinny genes. But there are some ways that you can, there’s actually, I’m gonna link to some picture descriptions for folks in the show notes who – if anybody wants to either go calculate their body fat using some handy dandy online body fat calculators I’ll link to. Or if you wanna look at pictures of what a certain percentage of fat in men and what is the certain percentage of fat in women actually looks like, follow the link in the show notes. So what we see in men is typically anything around like 3 to 4%, that’s what you’ll see in bodybuilders. That’s what you’ll see like striations and like all the veins popping out and everything like that. And you know, anything below that is extremely unhealthy and even that is not healthy. Around 6 to 7% is from men, what you’re typically gonna see on like magazine cover models and these aren’t like bodybuilders but you still get vascularity, you still got abs showing up.
Ben: That type of thing that you’d see in like a photo shoot for men – 6 to 7%. Ten to 12% is frankly a more healthy range for men who are shooting for like testosterone, drive, etc. You can still see some muscles kinda standing out a lot of times like this would be more of like the GQ model being 10 to 12% versus like the Men’s Fitness cover which would be closer like 6 to 7%. So 10 to 12% you know, you still have what would be considered you know, very attractive body to the opposite sex, etc. you know, and…
Rachel: Mmm-hmm. (chuckles)
Ben: I think it’s the more healthy body fat percentage to and it also keeps you warm.
Rachel: Yeah, I’m looking at it right now. It looks very healthy compared to 3 to 4 and 6 to 7.
Ben: I don’t think 6 to 7 is that bad but it’s pushing the border of healthiness, basically. Fifteen percent is typically where you start to see some of the muscles not showing up anymore, you don’t sit some striations and sometimes you start to see a little bit of protrude around the mid-section – not a lot but around 15%, you start to see it a little bit more body fat. And then once you get to 20%, that’s where you start to look kinda soft. Not necessarily fat and round but just full-on soft. We’re talking about pen still here but…
Rachel: Yup. Yup.
Ben: And then once you get to 25%, that’s where you definitely can see like some fat around the mid section, you know like a male version of a muffin top, etc. would be at right on 25%, 30%, now you’re getting up into the overweight-obese category and so on up. And then once you get to 35, 40, etc. like 40% is just like full-on, big, fat and that’s basically what you’re looking at as far as men goes.
Rachel: Mmm-hmm. Right.
Ben: And follow the link in the show notes if you wanna see the visualization of this. For women usually, you know, we’re turning back to like the bodybuilding you know, type of status or like the posing on stage. Typically you’re gonna see somewhere around 8 up around 12% for women, again, depending on the body fat type but like vascularity, striations, bikini fitness models, bodybuilder women, etc., 8 to 12% is typically what you’re gonna see – like lots of veins sticking out, etc. Now, once you get above 12%, all the way up to 17% like that 13 to 17% range that I talked about – that is really the body that a lot of women are kinda going for. It’s like the magazine cover model look, the bikini model look and you tend to see some amount of fat in the hips, butt and thighs. You get a decent amount of essential fat, a lot of times you can still be regular at that body fat percentage but you – you know, look at in the swimsuits or…
Rachel: I’m looking at her and she doesn’t look like she’s got any fat on her (laughs).
Ben: In 15 to 17%?
Rachel: Yeah, I don’t know what you see in that.
Ben: That’s the photo – I suspect looking in that photo at the woman in that photo is probably closer to 13%…
Ben: But yeah that’s pretty lean. Then you get pushing up closer to 20% and again, for most women the ultimate kinda like marriage of health longevity and you know, a nice body if that’s what you’re going for occur somewhere right around that 20% range where you actually are really regular, really fertile. But you know, there’s not necessarily bunch of striations and vascularity and stuff like that, but that is a pretty good number to shoot for, in my…and if you’re going for again, like the ultimate and like health and longevity and performance and kinda getting everything I’ll put together.
Rachel: Right, right.
Ben: So once you get up above 25% that would be like a very curvaceous woman which a lot of people are frankly going for these days, you know, it’s curves, it’s some amount of body fats, some amount of cushioning, again it’s not like a super unhealthy body fat percentage, and a lot of feel good and look good closer to 25%.
Ben: Once you get – now whereas men, if a man is at about 20%, he starts to look fat. A woman at 20% still looks pretty lean, a woman at 30%. at 30% body fat – that’s for women would tend to start to look fat with 30%.
Ben: Then similar to men, you know, women are always legging behind men like 5 to 10%, so once the woman is at 35%, she’s starting to look a little soft, she’s not someone you’d see and say is like obese or seen in some cases even extremely overweight, but it’s some softness. Then once a woman gets above 40% that’s where you would definitely notice that that woman is fat, whereas the man, once a man gets above 30%, that’s where you’d notice that a man is looking fat and then…and everything just kinda goes up from there. But you’ll see a lot of women you know, the upper around like 50%, from man that’s morbidly, morbidly obese. Some women naturally are up around 50% especially if they’re like an endomorphic like apple shapes so women definitely tend to air you know, more towards at slightly higher percentage body fat. But if you’re listening in, definitely go check out the body fat percentage photos that I’ll link to, it’s over in this website called builtlean.com, I’ll link to this in the show notes at bengreenfieldfitness.com/336. That’s kinda the deal with the body fat percentage.
Rachel: Interesting stuff. I reckon off the top of my head, I’m 23% body fat and in winter, I’m 26% halfway (laughs).
Ben: Mmm-mmm. That’s actually really interesting observation, I’d – just today, I started doing what I tend to do in the winter which is have a couple of days per week where I kinda back off like the metabolic conditioning type of workouts…
Ben: and I just instead lift some heavy stuff for about 5 to 6 reps.
Ben: And you know, eat little bit more food for breakfast, lunch and dinner, get the insulation on, baby and hibernate.
David: Hey Ben and Rachel, this is David. I wanna start by saying that I love you guys podcast, I listen to it just about every episode that comes up. But my question is about heart health, I’ve tried looking at your Ben Greenfield heart health on Google, stuff like that, but nothing really seems to pop up. But I’ve been told that I have a heart murmur and – but every checkup that I’ve ever had you know, my heart appears to be healthy and I don’t know, a completely normal condition. But what kinds of things can I do to increase the healthiness of my heart and what kinds of things might I avoid since I have a heart murmur? Hopefully that’s enough detail to kinda punch in the right direction, but I appreciate it. Thanks for everything you guys are doing, looking forward to hearing your answer.
Ben: Well, heart murmurs. Heart murmurs are kinda interesting because there these sounds that the heart makes as the blood circulates through the heart’s chambers and the valves are through these blood vessels near the heart. And a lot of times, you will hear them and they’re totally normal, they’re benign and they’re known as functional or physiologic murmurs, they don’t necessarily indicate heart valve problems.
Ben: So, there are things that I think go above and beyond murmurs that you should look into in terms of quantifying your heart health, so.
Ben: And I’ve actually you know, I’ve been freaking scared before because I’ve seen all these stories about like triathletes and marathoners dropping dead during races, and a couple of years ago, I went to my local heart clinic…
and I got a – an electro-cardiogram, an EKG, stress EKG, where I got hooked up to a bunch of electrodes and then just ran on a treadmill you know, until I was about to fall off the back of the treadmill. And what the physician measured during that test was the electrical status of my heart and whether or not there were any what are called a periventricular PVCs, periventricular contractions, I believe is what the ‘C’ stands for. Say, it might be something else. But PVC is anyways are an indication that there are some electrical abnormalities going on with the heart. And sure enough and the doc told me after this test, so this is pretty common with endurance athletes, once I got close up to my VO2 max, my maximum pace, I experienced a pretty big cluster of misfiring of the SA node and the electrical activity in my heart.
Ben: So, that was a little bit disheartening but apparently, that’s something that’s common especially among athletes.
Rachel: And that’s something we should be worried about?
Ben: Well, possibly. We’ll get into that in just a second. But the other thing is that I did what’s called an ultrasound echocardiogram and that is where they look at whether or not you have what’s called athlete’s heart, which is a thickening of the wall of your left ventricle of the heart, sometimes accompanied by scarring. And it turns out that in my case, I had the thickening but not the scarring. And the scarring is the bigger issue when it comes to you being at risk for potentially having like a heart attack or improper function of the heart, especially during exercise.
Ben: So those were the two tests that I got, and those were the two if you kinda wanna do things on a budget, as far as analyzing your heart health that I would recommend for athletes – would be like a stress EKG and an ultrasound echocardiogram. But there are some other things that I’d recommend a.) when it comes to testing and b.) when it comes to like things you can look for in your blood and biomarkers when it comes to just seeing if your heart is actually healthy. So before we jump into that, Rachel, have you done any heart testing or do you test blood, biomarkers or anything like that?
Rachel: I have did test – did a comprehensive blood test… a couple years ago when I was probably partway from being vegetarian but nothing on the heart, nothing on the heart.
Rachel: I think my heart’s healthy (laughs).
Ben: What do you mean ‘partway through being vegetarian’?
Rachel: Well, that’s true – that indicates that there’s an end point and there hasn’t been one yet.
Ben: Half-meat vegetarian.
Rachel: Probably about 5 years into being vegetarian.
Ben: Taking half the bacon off…
Ben: …of the sandwich, is that vegetarian?
Ben: So, one test, in addition to the two that I just described that I think that most people should get is what’s called the coronary artery calcium score. So there’s a website called trackyourplaque.com which is probably the most famous of the websites out there when it comes to pretty comprehensive explanation of what this test actually is and where you can get it. But the idea here is that most of the calcium in your body is in your teeth and in your bones, of course. But about 1% is in your blood, and this calcium that’s in your blood can deposit in the arteries and calcification of the walls of the arteries is something that you’ll see quite commonly in people who are at risk for heart issues or for blockage. So when you want to see, if you have any of this calcification going on, you can get one of these calcium score test and in most cases, it’s gonna be older people who have calcification, however, what they’re finding is that more and more are probably because of like Western diets, inflammation, etc. Coronary calcium build-up and its contribution to atherosclerosis is something that they’re seeing in younger and younger people as well now.
Ben: Atherosclerosis would just basically be like inflammation of the vascular wall, the build-up of plaque or calcium…
Rachel: Okay, okay. Mmm-hmm.
Ben: …in the wall, particularly of the coronary arteries. So what you can get is this calcium score and all it measures is whether or not you have calcification going on and how much of it is actually occurring. It’s like a calcium score of 0 would be ‘you got no plaque’, like calcium score of 1 to 10 would be mild amounts of plaque but low risk of coronary artery disease. Once you get above 10 that’s where you definitely have some atherosclerotic plaque; once you get above a 100, that’s like definite narrowing of the corner arteries because you got caught so much calcification going on. And then like a coronary calcium score of over 400 would be mean that you are at a high, high risk for having a heart attack due to atherosclerotic build-up, so.
Rachel: And so what age would be a good age to start thinking about it?
Ben: I’ve been thinking about going in for this test myself, just to see, just ‘cause I’m curious and you know, I’m constantly trying to quantify and you know, same reason that I got a colonoscopy 15 years earlier that I needed to. It’s the same as when I tested my blood 4 times this year, it’s the same reason I poop in a little tray twice a year and you know, I’m constantly running these tests in my body. You know, the recommendations are I believe, 50 for men and 60 for women or something very close to that, because men tend to have heart issues a little bit earlier in life and women tend to see a little bit later. But yeah, as far as when to do it, I mean honestly, if you’re worried about coronary calcification or if you at some point in your life have eaten unhealthy diet, it would be something to look into.
Rachel: Look into, yeah.
Ben: Yeah. Now I’ve been thinking about getting it, but you can check it out: trackyourplaque.com would be the main website to learn more about that particular test. If I can go back and do all of my heart tests over again, I would just get the EKG and echocardiogram, I’ll also get this coronary calcium one. So, if you weren’t going to shove over all the money for these tests though and you wanted to still measure a few things, there are some other things that you can measure. So I’m going to give you a few of them: first of all, before I jump into these, I wanna tell you that I’m gonna link to a really comprehensive paper that just appeared in a journal of lipids. If you love to read and you wanna knock yourself with this, the title of this study is emerging risk biomarkers and cardiovascular disease. And basically, it’s the best paper I’ve seen of late that goes into why LDL cholesterol levels really don’t have much at all to do with heart disease and aren’t a very good marker for cardiovascular disease. Even though we tend to say LDL is the bad stuff, it’s really not; there are a lot of other things to bear in mind. The paper itself has some really helpful tables and everything in terms of like which biomarkers are more important and which ones to look at. But from a simple standpoint, a few that I look at: the first is your triglycerides to HDL ratio, so you’ll on most blood test, you’ll be able to get both triglyceride and HDL. And essentially what you’re looking at is you’re ensuring that the triglyceride to HDL ratio is at 1 or lower. Meaning, that HDLs are the same as or higher than triglycerides. And that’s a bigger risk factor for coronary heart disease, then something like you’re LDL cholesterol levels, so you’re looking at your triglycerides and you’re looking at your HDL. And just put very simply, what would increase HDL? A high intake of plant matter…
Ben: and also high intake of fish-based oils like you know, eating a lot of cold water fish or taking a fish oil.
Ben: What would controversially increase triglycerides that you wouldn’t wanna do, well the biggies for that would be high amounts of fructose, high amounts of alcohol and shocker, high amounts of especially on a hyper choleric diet: high amounts of things like butter and coconut oil and medium chain triglycerides and a lot of these that “healthy people” are consuming nowadays.
Ben: Like the whole high fat sector, so.
Rachel: And is that kinda what you touched on with the last podcast that the increase in the very fat diet was response to a heart disease? And now I’m consuming way more of these fats.
Ben: Right, exactly. So the idea is that especially in the presence of sugars and carbohydrates, you’d want to limit those amounts of fats, but overall, in general, some people are just doing too much butter, too much coconut oil, too many medium chain triglycerides and the triglycerides to HDL ratio is much higher than 1, so. That’s one thing is you wanna look at HDL and triglycerides. The next thing that you wanna look at is blood glucose, the longer amount of time that glucose spends in the blood stream, the more likely that glucose is to adhere to fats that are circulating in your bloodstream and when glucose adheres to fats in the bloodstream, it can cause those fats to become inflammatory or to become atherosclerotic or to become oxidized – all of which would not be a good thing. And so, chronically elevated blood glucose levels are typically something that’s going to happen as a result of a.) snacking – right? Like eating 6 to 10 small meals per day, is the blood glucose levels are constantly going up. B.) being sedentary, right? Like sitting all day long or not doing what I’m doing right now, standing with the weighted vest on, but instead, just like you know, sitting, not keeping in metabolism elevated.
Ben: And then interestingly, stress – because stress and cortisol particularly causes glycogenolysis. What that means is that it causes the liver to release glycogen and to up regulate blood glucose. This is the reason why if you would attest your blood glucose after a hard exercise session, it wouldn’t be low, it would be high because all the cortisol you produce from a hard exercise session actually causes your liver to release a bunch of glycogen and your muscles to release a bunch of glycogen which bumps up your blood glucose levels. So the idea here is that when you’re exercising, that’s not a big of an issue but if it’s all day long because of cortisol and stress from cortisol, it does become an issue, so.
Ben: So that’s the next one is blood glucose. So the next thing after glucose would be inflammation. Now there’s a variety of different test for inflammation like hs-CRP and homocysteine and Lp-PLA and all these different blood markers that will tell you whether or not you are inflamed. And if you are inflamed, it can cause high amount of cholesterol circulating in your blood stream to become more damaging, more atherosclerotic. So hs-CRP on a blood test is typically a marker of muscle damage. But there are two other things that you can test, one called homocysteine and one called Lp-PLA, and both of these are more indicative of vascular or gut inflammation. And so those who’d be a couple of pay attention to when it comes to heart health as well – would be inflammation, so and I measure all three when I get a blood test done. The next thing from basically like a testing standpoint that you can do and the last one that I would recommend would be heart rate variability and this isn’t the biomarker; this is more of like a self-quantification device. So what I do in the morning is I roll over, I put on a Bluetooth enabled heart rate strap and I use the NatureBEAT device and I’ll link to all the stuff in the show notes for you to check out but the NatureBEAT device will measure not only my heart but heart rate variability. The beat to beat variation in the heart and so it’ll tell me whether or not I have a high amount of sympathetic nervous system activity like fight or flight or parasympathetic nervous system activity a rest and digest. And how well my brain is talking to my heart and if the heart rate variability is very low and consistently very low, it can indicate that your nervous systems interplay with your heart is poor and…
Rachel: Oh, wow.
Ben: …you’re either overtraining or you’re overaging or you’re overstressed, so that’s another way that you could kind of test the health of your heart from a nervous system standpoint. So, as far as ways to know if your heart is healthy, if you have a heart murmur? I would be looking at a stress EKG, an ultrasound echocardiogram, I would be looking at a calcium score and then I’ll get a blood test and look at HDL triglycerides, blood glucose and inflammation and then I would also do a daily heart rate variability measurement. And if you really wanna kinda keep your finger on the pulse, pun intended…
Ben: …of what’s going on with your heart, those would be kinda like the gold standards in my opinion. Then and they’re pretty low hanging fruit, like all those are pretty easy to do.
Rachel: And what about increasing the healthiness? What can we do for that?
Ben: Increasing the healthiness just comes down to I mean, freaking everything, well let’s talk about the variables that I just mentioned, right? Like HDL would be increased plant intake, increased fish oil intake. Triglycerides, moderate alcohol intake, decreased fructose intake, decreased intake of dense sources of oils and fats in general. Not saying fats are bad but I’m saying like in excess especially in a hyper caloric diet, they can be an issue. Stabilized blood glucose, how do you do that? Avoid frequent snacking, avoid lots of starches and sugars and stay physically active. Decreased inflammation, how do you do that? That’s typically environmental: electricity, water, air are biggies, right? So, you breathe clean air and you have air filters; you breathe clean water or you breathe clean water?
Ben: You drink clean water and you have water filters and you’re careful with constantly being exposed to electrical pollution, WiFi signals, etc. I’m a big fan of environment in terms of inflammation. And of course, you know food can cause inflammation as well, like commercial meat, grains, corns, things of that nature – those kinda contribute to inflammation as well. But I find in people who are conscious of that and eating healthy, water, electricity and air are just as big, so.
Rachel Right, wow.
Ben: And then stress, you know…
It’s no mystery that sleep, meditation, yoga, good relationships, love, taking your time, deep breathing – all of those are enormously helpful when it comes to stress. Now we’ll also – I think we also have a question about exercise related to heart health, so we can get into some of the things you may want to avoid regarding exercise, I guess in response to our next question.
Anonymous: Hi Ben. Today I was at training and on my bike and sort of the first 8 minutes of the ride, my heart rate was really unsteady but got up to 233, and as long as it’s been but I’ve last sort 6 weeks. It’s been probably every 3 or 4 training sessions it’s been getting up over the 200 mark, don’t sort of feeling any pain or anything like that but should I’m sort of stuck and get worried?
Ben: Holy-moly, 233 for a heart rate. That’s pretty high.
Rachel: I don’t know what that means…
Ben: (fast rattling sound)
Rachel: that means, I’m agreeing.
Ben: That’s high. Well, do you ever test in your morning, like your resting heart rate or your heart rate doing yoga, anything like that?
Rachel: I haven’t, no but I will. I will.
Ben: Okay, so like…
Rachel: What are the different like measurement for it as in why is 233 high?
Ben: Well 233 is high because if you look at for example, like a resting heart rate in most like healthy people, it’s gonna be between 40 and 60. And then if you look at when it gets to during like an easy exercise session, it’s 90 to 120. And then during like an aerobic exercise session, a 120 to 150 and then during a hard exercise session, a 150 up to maybe 200, and then at 200 be like…
Ben: …a really young person, right? So 233, that’s up into the range of what’s called V-tach or ventricular tachycardia – V-tach, that’s a V-T-A-C-H. So the idea behind V-tach is it’s an abnormally rapid ventricular rhythm, and a lot of times it can be anything that’s an excessive 200 beats per minute. And in an older individual, because your maximum heart rate tends to drop as you age, the general formula is 220 minus your age, would be your maximum heart rate. So when in a 20 year old, the maximum heart rate theoretically would be approximately, it’s not super accurate but approximately 200. However in the 70 year-old, the maximum heart rate would be 150 right? So when a 70 year-old a heart rate of a 160 could be V-tach, you know whereas that’s not a V-tach for a younger person.
Rachel: Right, right, right.
Ben: But the idea is that this arrhythmia, this V-tach originates in one of the ventricles in the heart. So you have two different ventricles: your left ventricle and your right ventricle and it can originate in the pacemaker cells of either of those ventricles, or the pacemaker cells are stimulate either those ventricles but it’s essentially an uncoordinated contraction of the heart. Meaning that the pacemaker cells are not firing properly and what happens is the ventricles tend to not contract the way that they should to pump blood out to the body but instead they kind of tremble, right? They kind of twitch and the just like produce this (fast rattling sound) type of heart rate that’s super duper high. And there are many different triggers that can cause this: it can be like an abnormality with the vegas nerve, it can be an abnormality with the pacemaker cells in the heart, it can be an abnormality with the ventricles, it can be something like the excess scarring that I talked about and typically, in someone who has a V-tach, you’ll go through everything from an MRI to what’s called angiogram. It’s one of these calcium score tests that I talked about to run this ECG test that I talked about, many different test that they’ll typically do to see why V-tach would be occurring. And treatment for V-tach in an athlete would typically involve inserting a catheter into the heart and cauterizing the area of the heart effectively killing in this called radiofrequency oblation and if that’s not possible or it doesn’t work, then you would get a pacemaker put in. I mean, it’s a pre – V-tach can be pretty serious issue and there are a lot of endurance athletes that tend to get V-tach. There’s something about the mineral loss and the electrical abnormalities in the heart stress that occurs during endurance exercise in particular that seems to cost a lot of endurance athletes. And there’s a lot of professional endurance athletes for example, I talked about this quite a bit in my book, folks like professional triathlete Greg Welch is one who’s famous for having to retire after V-tach diagnosis. Emma Carney, who’s an Australian ITU triathlon champion…
She had to retire after a V-tach diagnosis, and she actually had to get fitted with a defibrillator to stabilize her condition and you know, she’s kinda sort of made a way back into sport but she can’t compete at a high level ever again. You know…
Ben: These two people like Greg Welch and Emma Carney are some really physiologically gifted athletes with strong hearts but they pretty much got struck down by an arrhythmia V-tach that is fatal or can be fatal if it occurs to you while you’re out there you know, riding your bike or running or swimming or doing whatever it is that you’re doing and you don’t catch it in time, so. It’s not something to ignore this whole V-tach issue, so.
Rachel: So if your heart rate is higher than it’s highest, does that automatically mean you have it?
Ben: It can and in many cases if it occurs regularly during exercise, that means that you have exercise induced V-tach and there are some things that can increase your susceptibility to this. Drinking a bunch of caffeine before workout, high blood pressure, an imbalance in electrolytes, right? Like in potassium or magnesium, there’s a lot of things that can cause you to become more pre-disposed to V-tach and as it occurs over and over again, you can actually experience damage to the heart, so it’s not something to ignore. And if you take care of your blood pressure and you take care of electrolyte imbalances, and you take care of like excessive caffeine intake prior to a workout and it’s still happening, then you may be somebody who actually has to avoid activities that cause ventricular tachycardia, so, or get it fixed. Like I mentioned, one of the things that you can get as well is called the catheter oblation. And that’s where they use a catheter and they mix this high frequency electric current, and they get rid of the area that’s actually causing this abnormal rhythm, so that’s one thing that can be done: you destroy a little bit of your heart tissue when you do that but you get rid of the offending area.
Ben: Another thing that I mentioned like this Emma Carney athlete got this implanted defibrillator and that’s the device that monitors and controls your heart’s rhythm that gets implanted in your skin, it’s very similar like a pacemaker. And it’s got these lead wires in it and it basically stops when or it stops the tachycardia when the tachycardia occurs, it sends an electrical signal across these leads to the heart to restore normal heart rhythm, so it detects and then adjusts for V-tach. So those are couple of the major treatments that you would get if doing things like controlling blood pressure, taking in adequate electrolytes, controlling stress of the high amounts of caffeine, etc. didn’t get rid of this issue. But ultimately, what it comes down to is I have seen many athletes who get V-tach and just needs to switch to yoga, some super slow weight training, some easy walks and things that are less stressful on heart. I know I’ve shoved you know, between saying marathoners get fat and endurance athletes with heart issues may have to stop endurance exercise, kinda shoves a lot of runners under the bus today, but that’s kinda the reality of it. The last thing you should be aware of however is that some heart rate monitors just suck and don’t give you accurate values. If the electrodes on a heart rate monitor say like a chest strap that you’re wearing are not wet or you don’t have some kind of like conducting gel applied underneath that heart rate monitor, it can generate a signal that makes you think that your heart is going 200 or 250 beats a minute, but it’s not really. So that’s the last thing is freaking, like just take 2 fingers and check on your wrists or on your carotid artery in your neck before you – you know, throw up your hands and rush into the emergency room at your local hospital. You may wanna actually check to make sure the heart rate monitor itself is sending an accurate signal.
Rachel: Right. And so otherwise, my kiwi friend, go see the doctor.
Ben: Yes, go see the doctor, get some tests, pay attention to everything that I’ve been talking about when it comes to the heart and which appears to be an underlined theme of today’s podcast.
Cathy: Hi Ben, I got a quick question for you today. I’m curious about drinking reverse osmosis water or distilled water. I hear a lot of people say it’s perfectly fine and I hear a lot of people say that it’s actually dangerous because it doesn’t have the minerals and it will strip the minerals in your body, etc., etc., so just wondering if you have thought on that. I know you can replace, put mineral drops back into water like this but I’ve also heard that that’s bad because these mineral – trace mineral drops have all minerals including things like mercury and tin and lead, though it’s in small amounts, they you know, I still obviously like to avoid that.
So I just wanted to know your thoughts on that and thanks as always for your awesome information, bye!
Rachel: So I need some clarification here, Ben. What is reversed osmosis water?
Ben: I’m glad you asked.
Ben: Reverse osmosis – so that’s where you use pressure to push water through these tini-tiny pores, so it filters out like chemicals, bacteria, minerals – it’s like an arrangement of different sized membranes and then also carb, in so you can pretty much filter out just about everything that’s in water with reverse osmosis. It’s considered the gold standard when it comes to just pretty much getting rid of everything like fluoride, minerals, birth control pills and pharmaceuticals in the water, you know, chlorine – you name it – it gets filtered out with reverse osmosis.
Ben: And that can be the issue with reverse osmosis is because even though I recommend people who live in areas with municipal water that has like chlorine and fluoride, if you live in urban area where we know that a lot of stuff that’s getting like flushed down the toilet is winding up in the water supply which is nasty to think about, but it’s reality. That maybe you’re drinking your neighbor’s poo and your neighbor’s birth control pills.
Rachel: (laughs) Lovely!
Ben: Reverse osmosis is a good idea, but the problem is that you get rid of the bad stuff and you get rid of the good stuff, too, so.
Ben: So the idea here is that if you have a reverse osmosis system which again is what I recommend is gold standard if you live in an urban area with municipal water, you have to figure out how to add the good stuff back into the water. And when I say the good stuff, I’m specifically referring to minerals, minerals are the biggies.
Rachel: Mmm-hmm. Right
Ben: So reverse osmosis demineralizes the water to the extent where you know, iron and calcium and manganese and magnesium and potassium and chloride and all these stuff gets filtered out creating you know, not just the problems that we just in talking about like the potential for electrical abnormalities in the body. But low bone density and lack of healthy teeth and you know, a lot of issues when you…
Rachel: Right, right.
Ben: …strip all the minerals from the water. So the cool thing is that you know, just the simple search on Amazon for example, and I’ll put a link in the show notes to some of these, reveals that there are a lot of reverse osmosis systems now that come with remineralization filters.
Ben: And all these are are just you know, essentially the special systems that add minerals back into the water so that you don’t need have to worry about it, right? So, it’s called the reverse osmosis system with remineralization. There’s several different forms out there, there’s a company called A-P-E-C, APEC, that’s one of the high rated, built in the USA systems, it’s got really, really high reviews on Amazon, it’d be one to look into. I’ll link to a few different options over at bengreenfieldfitness.com/336, so that’s one option is a remineralizer.
Rachel: Is there any issues with what they’re putting back into it when they remineralize?
Ben: Potentially and that is one of the problems with potential for exposure to metal, to mercury, to lead, etc., depending on the amount that they’re adding back in.
Ben: That APEC one is not bad, you can also just get a reverse osmosis without the remineralizer, if you want to take over that process yourself and use what Cathy mentions and that is Trace liquid minerals.
Ben: So trace liquid minerals are and we talked about these a few podcast episodes ago. They’re just these liquid mineral sources that have copper and iodine and iron and manganese and chromium and zinc, and all these trace elements or trace minerals in pretty good ratios. So they’re not designed to overload you with very, very trace amounts of lead or very, very trace’s amounts of any of these other metals you know, zinc, etc. But just because they have – just because a trace mineral supplement has these metals in it, does not mean that they’re in such high amounts that you have to work with them.
Rachel: Right, right.
Ben: So like, it’s not like drinking paint. So the idea though is that you do, even if you’re getting say like, you’re using reverse osmosis system and you’re taking a shot of trace liquid minerals each morning which is what you would do if you’re using something like this. You buy some trace liquid minerals and you take a shot each day and there are few decent brands out there, we sell one brand made by Natural Calm. So like my kids used the Natural Calm multivitamin and then I recommend them to a lot of clients to just go to greenfieldfitnesssystems.com and get the trace minerals that we sell there, it’s made by the same company that makes this liquid multivitamin that my kids use…
because everything is in a pretty good ratio and that one I’ll vouch for its efficacy. But even that one you can overdo. What happens is usually your digestive system is the first place that side effects will start to occur if you do a mineral supplement. You’ll typically get gastric upset, nausea, vomiting, cramping, diarrhea, and that’s because when trace minerals start approaching their tolerable upper intake levels, they start to draw a bunch of water you’re your gut and once you get higher up in terms of an imbalance mineral intake, you can get tremors, muscles spasms, you can have like trouble walking, trouble with brain function, you know, if iodine levels get too high and you’re not balance that with selenium, you can get thyroid gland and thyroid hormone issues. So, the idea here is that more is not better…
Ben: More is not better when it comes to trace minerals, so if you’re gonna use your reverse osmosis filter and you’re gonna take trace minerals, stick to the serving that’s recommended on the label, don’t take more.
Rachel: So in contrast, is it worst to have water that doesn’t have any minerals or to have water that has too many minerals?
Ben: It would be better to have water that doesn’t have minerals in it and then add your own.
Ben: Right? And so do like take your own shot of trace liquid minerals everyday or even like use a really good mineral rich salt, right? Like there are different salt like I use this Aztec salt stuff. I have a combination of things that I do and it’s not because my water is low on minerals but it’s because I exercise, I sweat a lot, I do my sauna thing every morning, like I sweat bucket loads every morning, so I use a lot of different minerals sources during the day. The way that my water system is set up is I’m on raw water but that doesn’t mean I just like have a bucket that I got on the backyard, like a wooden bucket that I draw off from the hole in the ground. Like the water comes out from the well, it passes through a bacterial iron filter which is a hydrogen peroxide bacterial iron filter, then it passes through a manganese filter because there are high amounts of iron found in the water and then I did a hair test, I tested very high from manganese on my hair test. So I went back, I tested the water from manganese and sure enough, manganese levels are through the roof…
Ben: …in the well water. So then I added a manganese filter and then after it passes through the iron filter and then the manganese filter, I have a passing through a structured water filter which if you listen to my interview with Dr. Gerald Pollack, on my interview with Dr. Anthony Beck. You know that water vibrates at specific frequencies and after it passes through a bunch of filters and after it sits in the cistern or sits in pipes for a long time, it’s no longer vibrating at those frequencies. And so, I pass it through what’s called the structured water filter which is a series of glass beads that causes the water to begin vibrating at that natural frequency again, that would normally be vibrating at when it passes through, so like a bunch of rocks travelling through an underground spring closer to the earth…
Ben: …so it restores water to its natural frequencies and that creates what is called an exclusion zone. So an exclusion zone is bonding of water molecules that goes above and beyond just hydrogen oxygen bonding. Really fascinating stuff, you could go, if you would, just Google Dr. Gerald Pollack – P-o-l-l-a-c-k and look at some of his research at the University of Washington. He’s found that you can actually enhance cellular hydration when you consume water that is vibrating at the specific frequencies, so that’s why I use a structured water filter as well. And so, if you’re on well water, test your water, filter out the stuff that’s unhealthy for you and then pass out water through a structured filter. If you are on municipal water, use a reverse osmosis filter, preferably with a remineralizer or as your own minerals back in by just consuming this during the day…
Ben: And also, preferably, pass it through, after it passes through reverse osmosis, have after – have your plumber out this in after in passes though reverse osmosis, have it pass through a structured water filter. So I’ll put links and more resources and an explanation for all these stuff over on the show notes if again, you’re nerdy and you just wanna dig into this, but that’s what I’d recommend when it comes to filtering out your water, so there you have it. Do you filter you water?
Rachel: I don’t but I can taste the difference for sure between like all the different types of water. So, we’re moving into a new house next week, so I’m gonna actually own a house and care about that kind of stuff. It’s interesting.
Rachel: Renting and not been able to do too much about it.
Ben: ‘Cause buying Pellegrino, taking baths in Pellegrino and showers in Pellegrino…
Ben: …and get a little spendy, so.
Time for review?
Ben: The review of the week, that time has come. And if you hear your review read, if you go to iTunes and you leave the show a review which is fantastic – we actually had a bunch of people leave us reviews in the past couple of weeks and it’s really helped out with getting the show a lot of good publicity on iTunes. So, if you hear your review read by us, and you email [email protected], that’s [email protected], we will send you a really cool gift pack, just let us know your t-shirt size and your address when you email in. So we have a review called ‘Absolutely the best health and fitness podcast’ and leave us 5 stars, so thank you so much. And the review is left by $V – current handle? I don’t know what that means, $V, you wanna take this one away?
Rachel: Yes! It’s my favorite part.
Rachel: Okay. “I have listened to Ben’s podcast for a long time and I have to say that is changed my total outlook on health and fitness. I totally appreciate the evidence based info but I also really like the discussions about the things out there that might be considered woo-woo science or controversial.”
Rachel: “I always feel like Ben is very honest and forthright when it comes to his opinion, and he always lets his listeners know when he might have a conflict of interest like if he actually sells the product to you he is reviewing. I also like the fact that Ben walks the walk, that he’s always in shape and that he competes in the very things that he talks about in his podcast. I guess it comes down to the fact that I believe Ben is the real deal, and then he is not just out to make a buck. Keep up the good work and I love your new sidekick, I just wish I could remember her name.”
Rachel: What a sweet review.
Ben: It was all good up to that point.
Ben: You have to remember her name.
Rachel: Whatever, the best part!
Ben: That’s right, Rachel.
Rachel: That’s my name!
Ben: So anyways, now you won’t forget her name ever again. It’s Rachel and perhaps, Rachel, we just need to do a better job reminding people of that in each episode.
Ben: I’ll call you out by name. So Rachel is so much easier to remember than our previous podcast host, Brock Jason Skywalker Armstrong.
Rachel: Is Skywalker really his name?
Ben: So I’m pretty sure… that’s his full name and we have a whole discussion about that in the podcast episode and we had like renaming and multiple like parents different names of each, I forget the whole story but yeah, anyways.
Rachel: Rachel’s much easier.
Ben: So there you have it. So, anyways though, everybody, thank you for listening in. This weekend, stay tune because we have a fantastic podcast episode coming up with a woman who lifts coconuts with her vagina.
Rachel: Kim Anami!
Ben: That’s right.
Rachel: Kim Anami.
Ben: A sexual health and the vagina weight lifting expert, so stay tuned for that coming up this weekend. Might be an ear muffs one for the kids, but check out the show notes for this particular episode you just finished listening to over at bengreenfieldfitness.com/336. Thanks for listening in, we’ll put links to everything we talked about over there at bengreenfieldfitness.com/336 from the Red meat causes cancer study, to reverse osmosis options, to structured water filters, to the studies I talked about in terms of a heart disease risk factors, etc., etc. and of course, body fat percentage photos – should you want to see the difference between 3% and 40%. Check it all out bengreenfieldfitness.com/336. Thanks for listening and have a wonderful week!
You’ve been listening to the Ben Greenfield Fitness Podcast. Go to bengreenfieldfitness.com for even more cutting edge fitness and performance advice.
Oct 28, 2015 Podcast: How Low Can Your Body Fat Go, The New “Red Meat Causes Cancer” Study, Five Ways To Know If Your Heart Is Healthy
Have a podcast question for Ben? Click the tab on the right (or go to SpeakPipe), use the Contact button on the app, click Ask a Podcast Question at the bottom of this page, or use the “Ask Ben” form at the bottom of this page.
- The truth about the brand new “red meat causes cancer” craze.
- In runners running 4x/wk for 3 months, 11% lost weight, 11% GAINED weight, and 78% lost NO weight.
- Hooray…catch up sleep actually ‘works’.
Finally, Kevin Carr (who we discussed in episode 334) wrote in to say:
“Hi Ben – Kevin Carr here, I’ve been a listener of your podcast for the last 6 months – following the completion of my world run, and enjoy the show a lot. Thank you for mentioning my unusual fluid-recycling techniques for extreme long running! I enjoy the show as although I run extreme distances I train very efficiently – for instance throughout the last 5 weeks of the world run I averaged 75km a day, however in training before the run I was running only 4-5 hours a week. I spend more time strength training – both ‘maximal strength’ and prehab style movement patterns than running – and the proof is in the pudding I ran 16,300 miles in 621 days with zero ‘overuse’ injuries. I also work at a standing desk – sit as little as possible and wear weights the whole time – essentially live under ‘hyper gravity’ these techniques amongst others are an incredibly efficient way for runners to train whilst dramatically reducing injury risk – both through over training and through being stronger in the events. I was heavily inspired by William Sichel – a Scottish Ultra Marathon runner who turned his back on ‘high mileage’ training to develop more efficient/intense ways of training – William is also a ketogenic athlete. Myself I’ve been training fasted for almost a decade now and recently moved to a cyclical-ketogenic diet. Best of luck in your upcoming 24 hour tough mudder, Kevin.”
Did you miss the weekend podcast episode with Denise Minger? It was a must-listen – titled “278 Pounds Of Fat Magically Disappears In Just One Year… On A High-Carb, Low-Fat, Sugar-Laden Diet” Click here to listen now or download for later!
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Now Available – Ben Greenfield’s “REV Yourself Conference” – 25 Packaged Interviews With The World’s Leading Experts In Physical & Mental Performance Enhancement Strategies. In this package, you’ll get to watch and listen as Ben Greenfield sits down with the world’s leading experts in biohacking, physical performance, mental performance, cognitive enhancement, personal productivity, muscle gain, fat loss and more. In a frank, easy-to-understand, fireside chat format, these experts reveal all their most cutting-edge secrets, and your access to the videos and audios also includes helpful notes, summaries and more. From Dr. Mercola to Mark Sisson to Nora Gedgaudas, you can check out the lineup and get access 24 hours a day, 7 days a week, forever (no expiration!) once you click here to get lifetime access for $47.
Dec 4-6, 2015: Ben is speaking at the Unbeatable Mind Retreat in Carlsbad, California. This is where SEALFit and Navy SEAL Commander Mark Divine will be assembling the best of the best in everything from performance to cutting-edge mental training to advanced sleep tactics and more. Includes amazing ancestral meals, morning WOD’s at SEALFit HQ (the site of the world famous Kokoro camp), Warrior Yoga instruction and workouts, and speakers such as Robb Wolf, Dr. Kirk Parsley, Dominic D’Agostino, and more.
Nov 14, 2015: Ben will be competing at the World’s Toughest Mudder. If you live near Las Vegas or Henderson, Nevada, be sure to come watch the action!
Nov 17-18, 2016: Ben is speaking at the Biohacker’s Summit in Helsinki, Finland. Discover the latest in wearables, internet of things, digital health, and mobile apps to increase performance, be healthier, stay fit, and get more done. Learn about taking food, preparation, cooking, and eating to the next level with the latest science and kitchen chemistry. Even delve into implanted chips, gene therapy, bionic arms, biometric shirts, robotic assistants, and virtual reality. Two days with an amazing crowd and a closing party with upgraded DJs to talk about. Click here to get in now.
Ben Greenfield’s New York Times Bestselling book Beyond Training is now available on Audible! After spending over 43 hours in front of a microphone, Ben has finished recording a 100% (fully updated) audio recording of this quintessential guide to performance, recovery, fat loss, digestion, brain, sleep, hormones and more. If you’re new to Audible, you can get it now for free by clicking here.
Grab this Official Ben Greenfield Fitness Gear package that comes with a tech shirt, a beanie and a water bottle.
And of course, this week’s top iTunes review – gets some BG Fitness swag straight from Ben – click here to leave your review for a chance to win some!
As compiled, deciphered, edited and sometimes read by Rachel Browne, the NEW Podcast Sidekick.
How Low Can Your Body Fat Go?
Ana says: She wants to lift heavy to get bulky. What’s the lowest body fat she can go without risking hormonal problems? What diet and exercise do you recommend and can you add in the age issue, she’s 43.
Five Ways To Know If Your Heart Is Healthy
David says: He has a heart murmur. But every check up he has his heart is healthy. What kinds of things can he do to increase the healthiness of this heart and what kind of things should he avoid.
In my response, I recommend:
–Emerging Risk Biomarkers in Cardiovascular Diseases and Disorders
–NatureBEAT HRV app
What To Do About High Heart Rate During Exercise
Anonymous says: When training on his bike recently, his heart rate got up to 233, and that’s the highest it been. He’s noticed over the last 6 weeks, every 3 or 4 training sessions it’s been getting up over the 200 mark. He’s not feeling pain, but should he be worried?
Is Reverse Osmosis Water Healthy?
Cathy says: She’s curious about drinking reverse osmosis water or distilled water. A lot of people say its fine and a lot say it’s dangerous because it doesn’t have the minerals in it and can strip the minerals from your body. She knows you can put mineral drops back into the water but she’s also heard that’s bad because trace mineral drops have mercury and lead, etc. What are your thoughts?