Episode #341 – Full Transcript

Affiliate Disclosure


Podcast #341 from https://bengreenfieldfitness.com/2015/12/341/ 


Introduction:  In this episode of the Ben Greenfield Fitness Show:  Why You Wake Up At The Same Time Every Night, How to Hack Your Nervous System, How To Know A Fish Oil IS Bad, Ways To Increase Grip Strength, How To Get Motivated To 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’s for the natural movement, get out there!  When you’re looking at all the studies done…studies that have shown the greatest efficacy…”  All the information you need in one place right here, right now, on the Ben Greenfield Fitness Podcast.

Ben:   So Rachel, does my voice sound funny this morning?

Rachel:   A little bit.  Why?  Are you wearing something really tight?

Ben:   I’m been squeezed.  I’m wearing like a corset.

Rachel:   Oh, you are?

Ben:  Yeah.  I’m wearing one of the shirts.  So, the shirt that I’m wearing is called AlignMed, AlignMed.  So, I’ve gotten a snowboard accident.

Rachel:  Oh no!

Ben:   Meaning I went off one of my teeny-tiny, little jumps while snowboarding with my kids over the weekend and crashed and crunched into my shoulder but…

Rachel:   Awww!

Ben:   … you know, I’m doin’ all the usuals on it, running, electro strength stim, and ice, magnesium.  Last night I actually put some topical THC on it, but apparently it’s an anti-inflammatory.  I slept wonderfully.  Thank you very much.

Rachel:   That sounds lovely!

Ben:   It actually was quite lovely.  But now I’m wearing this shirt, it’s called AlignMed and they say that it increases proprioception and that is has something called neuro bands in it which are panels of variable elasticity that mirror the contractive properties of muscle along with a bunch of other little geeky terms they used in the marketing materials for this particular shirt.  All I know is that it’s extremely, extremely tight and I’m keeping my fingers cross that it somehow pulls my shoulder back and keeps it in proper alignment to help it to heal.  So anyways, yeah!  That’s my fashion choice for this morning.

Rachel:   … really, really high voice for the rest of the podcast.

Ben:   Really high voice.  Phenomenal cosmic power!  Itty-bitty live in space!

Rachel:   (laughs)

News Flashes:

Ben:   By the way, before we jump in to news flashes, Rachel, that was an Aladdin reference.

Rachel:   (loud laughter)  Good to know!  Thank you, Ben!

Ben:   From the Disney cartoon, Aladdin.

Rachel:   Yeah.  I wonder what was going on there.

Ben:   The Genie, he has phenomenal cosmic power but in itty-bitty living space which is how I feel right now.  My entire upper body has an itty-bitty living space.

Anyways though, we digress.  So, this is the part of the Ben Greenfield fitness show where we tell you all about the latest, greatest, news flashes and articles I discovered across the internet this week and we pick a few of them.  And if you want one everyday, 2 everyday sometimes, where can they go, Rachel?

Rachel:    They can go to twitter.com/bengreenfield, you can also get some really cool stuff on instragram which is more of like the behind the scenes, what’s going on in Ben’s life, what’s really like to live with Ben and his family, and then you can also go to…

Ben:   Not that anyone actually lives with me and my family…

Rachel:  Well, you know live to get…

Ben:  But they could see what it’s like, yes.

Rachel:  Yes exactly.

Ben:  If that’s what you’re saying.

Rachel:   Or you can go to facebook.com/BGfitness.

Ben:   Boom! There you go.  So this week, one of the interesting articles that I tweeted about was a protein in the gut that explains why some people can’t stomach gluten.  So, you may be one of those people who breaks out in embarrassing farts when you visit the bakery, whereas your neighbor across the street can eat scones like they’re going out of style.  And the reason for that is that some people are sensitive to gluten and some people aren’t, but what they found now is the actual protein that could be responsible for that.  So, what they found is that what are called gluten-sensitive individuals which are people who don’t have like celiac disease or something like that, but just kinda don’t do so well when they have, you know, whatever – bread, cous, and stuff like that.  They may harbor high levels of a molecule called …. (drumroll please)  zonulin.  Have you heard of zonulin?

Rachel:   I haven’t.  No!

Ben:   Be a great name for a child,  Zonulin.  In science fiction novel.

Rachel:   But this is big news.

Ben:   Yes!  So zonulin…

Rachel:   This gonna put something’s in place.  Yup!


Ben:   Yes.  Zonulin is a molecule that’s link to inflammation, and it’s already been shown to be high in people who have celiac disease but they’ve also found about 6% of people all the around the world, the global population has gluten sensitivity specifically related to this zonulin protein.  So, zonulin is an inflammatory protein that regulates leakiness in the gut.  It opens and closes this junctions between the cells in the lining of your digestive tract.  And when you have something like – let’s say if you’ve ever had food poisoning, or you’ve had some kind of bacterial imbalance in your gut, what happens is you produce or you express more of this zonulin protein which creates leakiness in the gut.  If you’ve ever heard of leaky gut, zonulin is the protein that’s responsible for that.  Once you get that, not only can you have increased sensitivity to gluten but you can also experience things like irritable bowel syndrome, constipation, and all those type of things.  So it turns out that zonulin is the villain.

Rachel:   Is there something that we can use to kinda help that?

Ben:   Yeah.  One of the things and this is interestingly, one of the reasons why children who are breast fed ted to have fewer GI issues later in life is because colostrum, which is the part of mammals in milk – colostrum is a molecule that can assist with the closing of those gaps in the lining of the digestive tract when zonulin is present, almost like colostrum.  This would be a great science fiction novel – Colostrum Fight Zonulin.

Rachel:   (laughs)

Ben:   Great names!

Rachel:   Oh!  Love it!  Can’t wait.

Ben:   So anyways, colostrum would be one of those things that you can use.  So if you’ve ever had food poisoning or you have some kind of a bacterial imbalance or maybe you’re just – you never got to take part in the joys of breastfeeding when you were a child, you should take colostrum.  So colostrum, you could get it in like goat’s milk, you can get it in supplemental form, powder form, capsule form.  I’ve got a whole article – I’ve written about colostrum there.  I’ll link to in the show notes if people wanna dig in to that more.  And today’s show notes are at bengreeenfieldfitness.com/341.

Another interesting – I’ve got a couple of things I wanted to talk about regarding sleeps.  So there was this new study that just came out a couple of weeks ago called Sleep Intensity and The Evolution of Human Cognition.  Now, this is something I’ve always puzzled about, why my dog will like lie around on the living room floor and just sleep for what seems like half the day.

Rachel:   Right.  All day sometimes.

Ben:   But then it’s not like his runnin’ around at night catching squirrels, like he’s sleeping at night too.

Rachel:   Yeah, he’s just sleeping.  That’s like all he does.

Ben:   Yeah, and you’ll see this a lot of times like if you go to the zoo, and it’s not the kind of zoo where they tranquilize the animals.  You’ll see like the primary activity of choice from most animals seem to be just like sleeping.

Rachel:   Hangin’ out and sleeping, yeah!

Ben:   I wonder why my animal sleeps so much, and sometimes I wondered, I’m like should we as humans be like sleeping more?

Rachel:   No, uhmm.

Ben:  Like, is this something that we’re missing out on because of our busy lifestyles?  Oh, it turns out the answer is no!  What this study found was that when you take humans and you compare our sleep patterns with everything from like baboons to lemurs to orangutans to chimpanzees, to hundreds of different other mammals that they looked at in this study that took place at Duke University, what they found was that humans are exceptionally short sleepers that we get by on this average of 7-9 hours of sleep at night because we experienced much, much more of this rapid eye movement sleep.  This deep rapid eye movement sleep were more you know, like neuronal repair and recovery occurs…

Rachel:   Takes place, yup…

Ben:   Yeah, when we sleep – about 25% of our sleep is REM sleep, and in most other animals on the face of the planet, REM sleep barely even goes off a 5%.

Rachel:   Wow!

Ben:   In terms of the amount of sleep.  So it turns out that humans have this mechanism where we are able to have shorter amounts of sleep but the sleep that we do get is higher quality than any other animals, and the proposed reason for this by the researchers was that shorter sleep could potentially free up time for humans to do things like learn new skills, or for just social bonds, sharpening memory, boost brain power, you know all the things that kinda make us – Oh! So much better than any other animal on the face of the planet that allows us to do things like invent cars, and nuclear weapons.

Rachel:   Right.  Big build buildings and bridges, and go to space, and moon, movement, and all that crazy stuff.

Ben:   Exactly.  Facebook, twitter, snapchat.

Rachel:   (laughs)  Facebook!  Most of us spend our free time doing.


Ben:   Yeah.  So humans sleep more efficiently.  Isn’t that cool?

Rachel:   That’s fascinating!  Really.

Ben:   Yeah, I thought that was really interesting and so I don’t feel guilty anymore when I see animals sleeping a lot because my sleep is a hell of a lot better than there sleep when I actually do sleep, and science… that’s science.  That’s right.  And – but there is this one thing that I’ve always puzzled about, and this relates to the last little news flash that I wanted to bring up today.  And that is that I will sometimes have periods of time, I don’t know if it happens to you, Rachel, but I’ve talk to other people this happens to – where you wake up at like the same time every night.

Rachel:   Umm. yeah.  No, it doesn’t happen for me but it happens to my partner actually.

Ben:   Okay, yeah.  So, it’ll happen for certain amount of time where like last week,  there were 3 nights in a row where I woke up at 3 AM, and I’ll have some periods of time where I wake up like 1 or 2 AM, and I’ve been able to identify specific patterns.  Like sometimes when I wake up around midnight or 1, it’s because I just didn’t eat enough that day and I know it’s a dip in blood sugar, it’s hypoglycemia.

Rachel:   Yeah.

Ben:   But then sometimes like when I wake up at 3 or 4 AM, it’s after I’ve had like more than I glass of alcohol or something with alcohol, sometimes I wake up at like 4 or 5 AM and I’ll be like really sweaty and hot, but sometimes this will happen multiple times in a row.  Well, there’s this very interesting article and this one I’ll totally admit, this is not clinical research.  This is more of an article that talks a little bit about Chinese medicine.  Traditional Chinese medicine has something called a meridian clock, and what a meridian clock is is it’s all the 24-hours of the day, and this specific organs that tend to dominate in terms of activity during those different parts of the day.  So you’ve got like your small intestine, and your bladder, and your kidney, and so for example, if you – and I’ll put a link to this clock ‘cause it’s really interesting.  So if you look at like 2 AM for example, 2 AM would be when the liver meridian would be most active…

Rachel:   Wow!

Ben:   … and that is when issues with the liver such as liver toxicity, or perhaps the use of pharmaceuticals, things of that nature would wake you around 2 AM.  And it actually, this particular chart goes even one step further and links specific organs and this is something again related to Chinese medicine.  Specific organ dysfunctions are related to specific emotions.  So when you look up the liver for example, the emotion associated with the liver is if you have struggles with your overall vision for life, or your internal plans, like if something is unclear in terms of what your vision is for life at that point in your life, then that 2 AM wake time or liver issues would be two reasons that you might be waking up frequently at 2AM.

Rachel:   So, let me ask you, Ben.  It’s your liver that’s waking you up at this time, isn’t it?

Ben:   Well, if it was at 2 AM, yeah.  I mean, but for me if fluctuation – I mean, just like everybody, for me lately like I mentioned, last week it was about 3 AM, kinda 4 AM-ish, like in that range, when I looked at the Chinese meridian clock, and again, I know there are some of you scientists out there snickering, but at the same time I don’t completely…

Rachel:   Calm down.

Ben:   I don’t completely a shoo Eastern medicine.

Rachel:   Partly.

Ben:   So, 3 and 4 AM would be the lung – lung paradigm.

Rachel:   Uhmm, and what the emotion associated with the lung?

Ben:   So, the emotion associated with the lungs is understanding what is true value, and also communication and relationships with the outside world.

Rachel:   Wooow!  That’s deep!

Ben:   So, it’s really interesting.

Rachel:   Yeah, that’s a great kinda framework to like really assess your life on a lot of different levels which I… uhmm.

Ben:   It is, it is.  And me just the way I think, I tend to go more towards the physical, the biological, the…

Rachel:    And I’m all emotional… (laughs)  alright, Ben, let’s talk about emotions. (laughs)

Ben:   So for me, the more interesting part is – okay, what did I do to my lungs.  Did I inhale something?  Well, here’s the interesting thing: last week I was – and I don’t want to completely sound like a pothead or something like that on the show, but I was experimenting with this new – it’s like vape pen but it’s a specific kind of vaporizing pen that you use to like vaporize substances like a – there are these substances in the whole like marijuana market.  There’s one called wax, and another called crumble, and I was basically messing around with these and seeing what was like ‘cause I’m constantly using my body as a guinea pig for everything.

Rachel:   Everybody else, yeah.

Ben:   Cold thermogenesis to supplements, to – not allowed with pharmaceuticals.  I’m pretty careful with those, but yeah!  So last week I was doing a lot of vaping and like combusting, and I’m wondering if that particularly affected my lung meridian, and that is why I was waking up frequently between 3 and 4 AM.


Rachel:   Yeah, so there you go.

Ben:   So, interesting stuff and I’ll link to this home meridian in the show notes for those of you who wanna go off the deepened of the woo-woo.  But now that we’ve got the woo-woo out of the way, let’s go ahead and jump in to this week’s special announcements, shall we?

Special Announcements:

Ben:   Rachel, this podcast is brought to you by Green Juice Powder.

Rachel:   Green juice powder!

Ben:   Have you ever had green juice powder?

Rachel:   Yum.

Ben:   It almost seems like a – ill-fitting title to mix the words juice with powder.

Rachel:   Powder… exactly! (laughs)

Ben:   But it makes sense, it’s like green juice but it’s a powder.  So there is this stuff.  I actually put it in my smoothie this morning.  It’s called gently dried super food powder.  There’s this company called FitLife and they make this stuff called organifi coconut and ashwagandha infused green juice powder.  And we’ve talked about ashwagandha quite a bit before, and so I thought it was quite intriguing that this stuff has ashwagandha in it, but also got a few other things we’ve talked about in the show before.  It’s got turmeric on it, so you’ve got all of your antioxidants, has lemon – they use a dried coconut powder, so you get some of the electrolytes you’ll get from coconut water.  The sweetener that they use is a very low glycemic index sweetener.  It’s called monk fruit.  Monk fruit is the sweetener.

Rachel:   What is monk fruit?

Ben:   Monk fruit is – what is monk fruit?  It’s harvested by a one-armed monk.

Rachel:   (laughs aloud)

Ben:   No, monk fruit is like this green kinda like lime-sized fruit and it’s – even though it’s sweet, kinda like stevia is, it’s gotta very, very low glycemic index so it doesn’t spike your blood sugar.  It’s got some matcha green tea in it, so you get all the benefits of green tea – the epigallocatechins, or however it’s pronounced – the EGCG…

Rachel:   That’s a long word.

Ben:   wheatgrass, beats, mints, a little bit of a digestive – those from spirulina in there.  There’s some chlorella in there, so kind of a cool little powder.  And you put about one scoop into like your daily smoothie, your glass of water, or something like that, and you don’t have to drag out your juicer or necessarily your blender, and you could just get your own juice.

Rachel:   Uhmm, nice and easy.

Ben:   So, cool stuff and again, like there are so – many people are like –“Dude, how many other freakin’ green juices can there be on the planet.”  I would say that the main reason to check out this stuff in my opinion is the amount of ayurvetic herbs and adaptogens that it has in it.  We’ll talk a little bit more about adaptogens in today’s show.  But ashwagandha in particular – ashwagandha – do you know what ashwagandha means?

Rachel:   No!  I don’t.  Please tell me.

Ben:   It’s got – and interesting, it’s like odor of the horse.

Rachel:   Ohhh!  That was not what I thought it was gonna be.

Ben:   Yeah, yeah.  Don’t quote me on that.  It’s something very, very close to that.  As a matter of fact, we could probably figure it out, but it’s something, something horse.  It is… ashwagandha, the smell of a horse, the smell of a horse is the literal meaning, toward that, so I was close.  The odor – smell, either way, so.  Now, you really wanna drink this stuff so that you too have the smell of a horse.  So you can get this stuff if you go to bengreenfieldfitness.com/FitLife, that’s bengreenfieldfitness.com/fitlife.  You get 25% off when you use coupon code “Ben”, so you can just order like palettes of green juice powder to your doorstep to last you during the entire year of 2016.  Coupon code “Ben”… go ahead…

Rachel:   You’ll never have to juice again!

Ben: Ever, ever!  You can get rid of your juicer.  Throw it out or give it away.  Bengreenfieldfitness.com/fitlife with code “Ben”.

Okay, so what else?  For those of you who wanna lame excuse to come to the Spokane, Washington or Coeur d'Alene, Idaho area, coming soon!  January 9th and 10th, 2016 is the Spokane Health and Fitness Expo.

Rachel:   Cool!

Ben:   From all over the globe, of course, all about Spokane Health and Fitness Expo.  You can check it out – spokanehealthfitexpo.com or I’ll put a link in the show notes for ya’, but I’ll be speaking there.

Rachel:   Nice!  And what do you gonna speak on?

Ben:   I’m gonna talk about reasons why people don’t lose weight.  Like all of the under the radar reasons why if you’ve got your exercise and your diet just like perfect, why you still don’t lose weight.  So I’ll be talking about everything from your endocrine system to the liver, to estrogen dominance, to all the different reasons that fly under the radar but that keep people from losing weight.  So, that will be at Spokane Health and Fitness Expo, January 9th, I’m actually talking at 11 AM.  I believe that’s a Saturday morning.  So, be skipping my normal Saturday foray up to the slopes to strap on my snowboard and will instead be at the Spokane Health and Fitness Expo speaking to people in Spandex.


Rachel:   Very good!  Do give him around a favor.  Thanks Ben!

Ben:   There you go.  Also, one another – one to keep your eye on that I’d recommend that I mentioned last week is the PaleoFX Conference which you can check out at bengreenfieldfitness.com/paleo16, that’s the link you can use to kinda get the discounted early bird tickets.  Bengreenfieldfitness.com/paleo16.  Not only is it in Austin, Texas, so if the event just completely sucks you, at least have good barbeque, but it is kinda like everybody who’s anybody in the whole like health and fitness, and healthy living sector.  So, they’ve got like authors and physicians, and scientists, and health entrepreneurs, and professional athletes, and bloggers, and biohackers, and everybody, one big party.

Rachel:   Is it set-up kind of like booth rack or you know, or it’s just kind of people speaking?

Ben:   Well, it’s both, both.  So, there’s like a huge booth area, they have like fitness competitions, they have like outdoor workouts, they’ve got like talks going all day long usually 3 different talks at the same time, so…

Rachel:   And lots of fun… is that lots of fun gear that you can play around with?

Ben:   Uhmmm, yeah!

Rachel:   Yay!  That sounds fun.

Ben:   Yeah, they’ve got like gear and they’ve got like you know, the newest, greatest bars, like that’s where they launch like the Cricket, like the insect-protein bars they launch there, so.

Rachel:   Ohhh, delicious!

Ben:   Yeah, yeah!  Cool place to be.  I’m gonna be speaking there and my wife will probably doing – she usually goes down there and does cooking classes.

Rachel:   Nice!

Ben:  So, I wish they also have there – cooking classes.  So check it out, bengreenfieldfitness.com/paleo16.  You do not need to be a paleo, you don’t have to wear the loin cloth and the – and carry around the big wooden clog to be able to get by at paleoFX.

Rachel:   They accept vegetarians and vegans?

Ben:   Oh!  Very – well…

Rachel:   Will you guys accept us?

Ben:   Tell you what, I’ll bring my baguette.  Rachel, you bring your cucumber and will walk around and pissin’ off all the paleo.  Delicious!  Done.

Rachel:   Let’s do it!

Listener Q & A:

Josh:   Hey Ben, how should I go about balancing out my parasympathetic and sympathetic nervous system?  What should I eat and how often should I exercise?  And does weed help?  Thanks!

Ben:   Wo Rachel, this is a topic that is near and dear to my heart, the nervous system.

Rachel:   Yeah!  I’m fascinated to hear what you have to say about this.

Ben:   Well, the nervous system in particular – so, let’s start here.  The sympathetic and parasympathetic nervous system are technically referred to as your autonomic nervous system.  Your autonomic nervous system.  And it’s very, very interesting because your nervous system is something that a lot of people don’t pay attention to because you can’t feel it quite as well compared to say like your muscular skeletal system, but the recovery of your nervous system and the balance of your nervous system are in my opinion just as if not more important than what’s going on with your muscular skeletal system or your fascia or your connective tissue.  And that’s why every morning the one thing that I measure before I get out of bed is my nervous system.  I use a heart rate variability measurement and that looks at my sympathetic nervous system – the fight and flight branch, it looks at the parasympathetic nervous system, it tells me the balance of my nervous system before I even get out of bed in the morning because that’s something I wanna track.  I wanna track how food, supplements, exercise, sleep, everything, affects my nervous system so that I could make good choices in life.  ‘Cause if my nervous system is strong, frankly, if you look at something like the zone or like the area that was originally discovered in athletic but that now extends to all different areas of life, it is the specific state of mind that you can be in when you’re creating a huge amount of alpha brain waves and when you have easy focus throughout the day whether it be during a workout, whether it be playing sports, whether it be writing, consulting, talking on the phone, doing emails, whatever, being in the zone is a low stress high productivity state, and you can’t do it unless you’re nervous system is balance.

Rachel:   Okay, question.  Can you actually feel your nervous system at all?  Like is that something like anxiety or fear, or something like that?  Is that actually feeling your parasympathetic or sympathetic nervous system?

Ben:   Yes, it is.  So, that’s a great question and that’s a good jumping off to talk about the difference between the two nervous systems.  Don’t hit fast forward by the way if you think I’m just gonna say your sympathetic is your fight and flight, and your parasympathetic is rest and digest because I’m gonna fill you guys in on a little bit more than that.  A lot of things that fly under the radar when it comes to your nervous system.

Rachel:   Yay!

Ben:   And I’m also gonna give you some pretty cool information about how to hack your nervous system.  I wanna give you guys the best information.  You know, last week we had a pretty extensive discussion about Alzheimer’s and hacking cognitive performance.


This week we’re gonna talk about your nervous system.

Rachel:   So we’re about to get real nerdy, right?

Ben:   We’re about to get nerdy.

Rachel:   Yeah!  Let’s do!

Ben:   Strap on your propeller hats.  So, the sympathetic nervous system is one branch of your autonomic nervous system.  The sympathetic nervous system is the one that basically, like I’ve mentioned is referred to as your fight and flight nervous system but it’s specifically is involved to the release of catecholamines.  So, you’ve this catecholamines that are excitatory like epinephrine and norepinephrine, and dopamine, and those get released by your adrenal glands and/or by your nerve tissue and they act as what are called sympathomimetic hormones or neurotransmitters.  So, this sympathetic nervous system is involved in the production of both hormones and neurotransmitters, and they are excitatory, they keep you awake, they prepare you to basically go.  Now, the interesting thing is that the sympathetic nervous system is heavily involved in inflammation and the immune response.  Meaning, in the case of over-reactive sympathetic nervous system or sympathetic nervous system that is over stimulated, you tend to have a high amount of immune response to for example, foods.  That same inflammation can cause the over expression of the zonulin protein that we referred to earlier, which is why too exercise or stress can cause you to be allergic to things that you would normally not be allergic to, or can cause you to have adverse reactions to specific foods that you would normally be allergic to.  It’s also why if you’re going through a period of heavy stress in your life, it is advised to simplify things like the diet because your gut is going to be more leaky, you’re gonna be more susceptible to reacting to both inflammation as well as immune system as a (cross talk).  So, the sympathetic nervous system can definitely get over expressed if you have too much stress, too much exercise, you’re going too fast, you can create that inflammation.

Rachel:   Is it important to stress the sympathetic nervous system at all?

Ben:   It is important to stress the sympathetic nervous system.  It is important to (I should say) to train the sympathetic nervous system to activate the glands and the organs that defends your body against attack.  That is actually what’s called the hormetic response.  So when you expose your body to sane amounts of exercise, cold, heat, even radiation interestingly like small doses of radiation such as you would get from rocks, from sunlight, things like that.  You’re activating your sympathetic nervous system and you’re allowing sane production of some of these excitatory neurotransmitters that allow your body to have a trained, robust, stress response.

Rachel:   Okay.

Ben:   But over activation of the sympathetic nervous system is when we get for example, over activation of an autoimmune response or activation of inflammation, too much of that adrenalin rush, etc.  So we don’t want over activation of the sympathetic nervous system.   When we look at the parasympathetic nervous system, it acts quite differently than the sympathetic nervous system.  So, the parasympathetic nervous system consists mainly of just one nerve – your vagus nerve.  It’s one of your cranial nerves.  It’s the largest nerve and it owes it name, this vagus nerve refers to the wondering course that nerve has throughout your body – kind of along your body.  So it originates in your brain stem and then it passes through your neck and your thorax, to your abdomen and it has a bunch of branching off fibers to a ton of different organs like your heart, and your lungs, and your GI tract, and your pancreas.  And unlike the sympathetic nervous system which produces a huge variety of excitatory neurotransmitters, there’s really one primary neurotransmitter released by the parasympathetic nervous system, and that’s choline – acetylcholine.  So all the branches of this vagus nervous release acetylcholine and it has different effects on all these different tissues but generally it will act to shutdown inflammation, to decrease the immune response, to cause everything from like peristalsis or movement of foods to the digestive tract to occur, to assist with sleep occurring, etc.  So basically, enervation of this vagus nerve kinda like settles you down.  And you can certainly have over stimulation of the vagus nerve.  You can have over stimulation of the parasympathetic nervous system pathways, and that can actually lead you to just basically you know, be lazy, be too rested and digested.  So, in the same way that you can over stimulate the sympathetic nervous system, you can also over stimulate the parasympathetic nervous system.


Rachel:   Does over stimulation of the parasympathetic nervous system have any biological – like you said, it could cause you to be lazy but does it have anything like biological, like the sympathetic nervous system causes inflammation, what does the parasympathetic nervous system do?

Ben:   Primarily, you’d experience lethargy and fatigue…

Rachel:   Okay.

Ben:   … if you had an overstimulated and unbalanced parasympathetic nervous system.  So case in point, let’s talk about like quantification of this.  If you were to measure your heart rate variability everyday, and the app that I use is the one that I helped to design.  It’s called the NatureBeat app.  You can check it out at greenfieldfitnesssystems.com/naturebeat.  You know, full disclosure – that’s like my app but it’s also what I use.  You know, anytime I design something it usually cost something I wanna use or access myself, and this heart rate variability app, what it will do is for example, it’s got two different scores that will give: your low frequency score, which is the measurement of your sympathetic nervous system, and your high score which is a measurement of your parasympathetic nervous system.  And if you’ve got for example an overstimulated sympathetic nervous system, sometimes what’s your going to find is that that low frequency score which is indicative of your sympathetic nervous system.  It’s very low, it’s almost like your sympathetic nervous system is overworked, and so you’d have an imbalance and you could see when you wake up in the morning – oh hey, I’ve been really beating up my fight and flight nervous system too much.  I am potentiality going to get sick.  I’m probably inflamed, I need to simplify my diet, I need to not do like heavy weight training and high intensity intervals today, and today I might do yoga or sauna, or something like that.  And you know, vice-versa; the same could be said for the parasympathetic nervous system.  If you have a low parasympathetic nervous system score a lot of times it’s because you’ve been overtraining with like too much aerobic activity, too much endurance activity, and you need to lay off going out for 1 hour long lunch time run, or something like that, so.

Rachel:   Uhmm, and what about high scores on both of them?

Ben:   High scores on both of them would be good.  That’s generally what you want is ideally and in the ideal state of rise, you got a 1:1 ratio between low frequency and high frequency, and you’ve got an equal ratio between sympathetic and parasympathetic nervous systems.

Rachel:   Okay.

Ben:   So, how can we actually get into that balance?  That’s a question.  Well, there are a variety of different tactics that you can use.  So let’s start – and I know I get called out sometimes for recommending a huge variety of supplements, and kind of like our discussion on Alzheimer’s last week.  It’s like – what – everything that I discussed there in terms of increasing blood flow to the brain, or improving cognitive performance, those would be things that you would pull out if you know that you’d had like traumatic brain injury, if you’ve been concussed, if you know you have hypoperfusion to the brain, if you know you have a high risk for Alzheimer’s, etc.  I’m not saying everyone on the face of the planet needs to take like vinpocetine, and gingko-biloba everyday.  In the same way, if you find that your nervous system is imbalanced, you’re under state of stress or both your sympathetic or parasympathetic nervous system or both, you may wanna use some of these strategies that I’m talking about.  So, the first and probably the most standout strategy from a supplementation standpoint to balance the nervous system would be the use of adaptogens.  And the idea that a pill or that an herbal compound could somehow improve mental and physical performance was actually first experimented with via the use of an adaptogen.  And this was in World War II when they were given various stimulants to pilots, certain members of submarine crews, and in some of the Russian military journals, you’ll find the use of one of the first adaptogens that’s mentioned in literature and that is Schisandra.  I think it has a great, it can be a comic book character.

Rachel:   Schisam!

Ben:   Kinda like our friend zonulin and colostrum.  Yeah, schisandra.  So schisandra is an adaptogen, and basically what it can do is it can help the body to deal with stress and generally allow the body to adapt to stress a little bit better, and what they found was that with schisandra particularly – this originated from the use or it’s use by Russian hunters, this is why the Russian military began to use was they would use it to reduce thirst, to reduce hunger, to reduce exhaustion, and to improve night vision while hunting.  And so this is why they started to use it in the Russian military during World War II.  That is one example of an adaptogen and the power of something like an adaptogen.  There are other things that schisandra has been shown to do for example is to regulate the production of heat shock proteins which should be like why you would go into a sauna to improve your stress resilience to heat, or your stress resilience to fluctuations and environment.  So if you’re gonna go and try to withstand extremes of cold or extremes of heat, or you find yourself very sensitive to cold or sensitive to heat, that would be a case where something like schisandra as an adaptogen would help you out quite a bit.


There are other adaptogens as well, and all of them act primarily via the release of what are called finalex or triterpenoids or steroidal precursors.  So they all assist with your stress response by producing specific compounds or molecules in your body that help with that.  So some of the well-known adaptogens would be for example, rhodiola.  Rhodiola is one that you’ll see quite a bit.  Eleuthero is another, ashwagandha which we talked about earlier, that would be considered an adaptogen.  The schisandra that I talked about, that’s an adaptogen, but what you’re seeing in addition to the heat shock protein regulation is they for example, will modify the cortisol and glucocorticoid receptors in what’s called your hypothalamic pituitary adrenal axis.

Rachel:   So this is the part that like I love this concept of adaptogens but I sometimes feel like how can they – they’re like magical.  You know? Like they do – it’s weird!

Ben:   Yeah, that’s actually – yeah, you read my mind ‘cause that’s why I was actually just gonna talk about was cortisol and glucocorticoid receptors and your HPA axis, those are the receptors that interact with cortisol, and what adaptogens have been shown to do is they would upregulate the density of those receptors if you need to have more interaction with cortisol.  So for example, if you’ve produced a lot of cortisol and you need receptors to interact with those cortisol molecules, the adaptogens will increase the density of receptors responsible for interacting with cortisol, or conversely if you’d creating less cortisol, they’ll downregulate the expression of those receptors.  And so, what’s happening is you are if you are in a state of low stimulus, low cortisol production, etc. adaptogens can slightly upregulate cortisol production, or if you are in a state of high cortisol, excess of cortisol production, it can actually downregulate your sensitivity to or the production of cortisol.

Rachel:   That actually blows my mind a little bit.  Like (laughs) you know, I am not the most scientific person but it just seems like a little fairy.

Ben:   It’s the same reason that when if you eat a plant that has been exposed to a high amount of environmental stress, a wild plant, you will produce more endogenous antioxidants in response to the consumption of that plant that’s been bit up, that’s a little bit more of a hardy plant compared to say like a plant that is domesticated.  It’s why eating a wide variety of foods can be so helpful especially when it comes to the plant kingdom because you actually equip your body to better be able to withstand stress, and this adaptogens act very similarly.

Rachel:   That’s fascinating!

Ben:   Yeah, it’s cool stuff.  So I mean essentially what you eat can allow you to adapt the stress and can allow the balance in your nervous system.  We see a lot of other things with adaptogens, for example, they help with the production of nitric oxide, they assist with the synthesis of ATP.  There’s actually a very, very interesting study or not really a study – more of a meta-study that’s been done on adaptogens and all of the different proven clinical effects of adaptogens, and I will link to that particular study in the show notes.  If you go to bengreenfieldfitness.com/341.  If you really wanna look at the clinical studies that backup the usefulness of adaptogens.  So if you look up for example, here’s another very, very cool thing about adaptogens; you look up like eleuthero, eleuthero is another one that you’ll find in adaptogenic compounds.  They did one study on 6,000 different subjects aged 19-72 and what they did was they looked at their cognitive performance in normal conditions and in stressful conditions.  And so, for example, they would looked at these folks mental work capacities in high temperature environments under periods of forced work, under loud noise conditions, under motion sickness, under heavy physical burden, under like deep sea conditions or underwater conditions, and what they found was that the use of eleuthero in all cases increased mental work capacity when under periods of heavy stress, and that’s particularly done via modulation of the nervous system.  So they found very similar results in terms of stress adaptation and cognitive function under stress with rhodiola.  That’s another big one.  Schisandra like I mentioned, wakefulness, even night vision, it’s really, really interesting what a lot of these adaptogens can do.

Rachel:  Did they compare at all the people who are under stress who are using adaptogens, cognitive ability vs. the people who went under stress all using adaptogens at all?

Ben:   Right, exactly.  They used normal and stressful work conditions.


Rachel:   Uhmm, wow!

Ben:   Yeah.  So really the two main areas that adaptogens are going to work upon are going to increase attention or endurance in situations where performance would normally be decreased by a lot of stress, and then they can also help to increase like relaxation and the ability to be able to withstand excessive sympathetic nervous system activation in  response to stress.

Rachel:   When you talked about excessive sympathetic nervous system activation, I think about monks.  Like they…

Ben:   Uhmm.  Not, not monk fruit but actual monks.

Rachel:   Not monk fruit but this  is a theme in today’s podcast – this monks.  Like they sit and they meditate all day.  Like – does that – is that kinda have any kind of bad ramifications biologically?

Ben:   What do you mean?  Meditation?

Rachel: Well, yeah!  I mean, if you just – like it’s that over activation of the parasympathetic nervous system?

Ben:  It technically would involve – so a monk would have an under trained sympathetic nervous system.

Rachel:   Right.

Ben:   You would not want to bring a monk into battle with you.

Rachel:   Right!

Ben:   But most of us intuitively know that.

Rachel:  Well, you wouldn’t want them anyway ‘cause they don’t gonna be very helpful!

Ben:   Right, right, exactly.  So yes, you can excessively meditated, you can excessively yoga, you can excessively use your gratitude journal to the point where you are abandoning and ignoring your sympathetic nervous system, but if you have for example, a very, very low frequency score when you measure your heart rate variability, were you’ve got a very kinda beat up, underactive sympathetic nervous system or not a beat up, but underactive sympathetic nervous system, you’d actually want to train your sympathetic nervous system, or you’d conversely want to do a lot of yoga, meditation, etc. if you had a very beat up sympathetic nervous system.

Rachel:   Okay.

Ben:   So ultimately, adaptogens – we talked a little bit about ashwagandha, that green juice powder we’re talking about before, what I’ll personally do is one packet of Tianchi which has schisandra, rhodiola, eleuthero, ashwagandha – pretty much every adaptogen on the face of the planet.  I have a really comprehensive podcast with the formulator of that adaptogenic herb complex.  That is one that I use about 5 days of the week.  So, I don’t do like the adaptogens everyday but I do live what I consider to be (everybody think this about themselves) like guess, what I consider to be like a slightly higher stress lifestyle.

Rachel:   I don’t think that about myself. (laughs)

Ben:   I’m just like, I’m hard-wired to just go, go, go from the minute I get up, and I find that these adaptogens help me.  So in the mid-morning or the mid-afternoon, I will use a packet of this adaptogenic herb complex.  And so, that’s one way that I keep my nervous system balanced, so.

Rachel:   And for someone like me who’s wired to be mindful, mindful, mindful, and go slow, slow, slow – it would also help me?

Ben:   Hmm, not as much as it would help.  I found it it’s better for cases of sympathetic dominance than parasympathetic dominance frankly, yeah.

Rachel:   Okay, alright.  Basically, does it need to go and run a marathon?  So, what it’s like?

Ben:   Right, right.  Now when we look at the parasympathetic nervous system, in many cases if you’re parasympathetic dominance – sometimes it doesn’t just mean that you’re living a very relaxed lifestyle, that you’re doing plenty of yoga, and meditation and gratitude journaling, you’ll also see that in a situation of parasympathetic dominance that can be related to chronic fatigue syndrome, or like low levels of energy due to nutrient deficiencies.  Now, in a case like that I actually recommend folks who feel like they just lethargic, unmotivated, etc. they’ll look for the potential for micronutrient deficiencies.  You’ll also tend to see higher levels of toxic metals when you do like a hair mineral analysis.  There’s a very interesting article by a gentleman named Dr. Wilson that talks about using a hair analysis to look at both sympathetic dominance as well as parasympathetic dominance particularly looking at sodium to potassium ratios.  And this is really interesting, but what they’ve found with hair mineral analysis is that if you have an elevated sodium to potassium ratio which is just basically be an electrolyte imbalance brought about by mineral depletion of the adrenal glands, that that would be indicative of sympathetic dominance.  It’s basically one way by looking at the minerals that are in your hair to figure at if you’re exhausting the minerals in your adrenal glands from too much sympathetic nervous system activation.

Rachel:   Hmm, that make sense.

Ben:   And then conversely what you tend to see in a hair mineral analysis with parasympathetic nervous system dominance that would be not a good thing like lethargy and fatigue, and stuff like that, you see a higher level of toxic metals and a lower level of micronutrients.


Rachel:  So it’s basically a way of figuring out whether your parasympathetic dominance is a positive or a negative thing.

Ben:   Right, exactly.  And I’ve done a whole podcast on hair mineral analysis, you know, I’ve personally done a few different hair mineral analysis myself with Dr. Wendy Myers, the gal who I did that podcast with.  I will admit that the amount of clinical research done on hair mineral analysis is a little bit weak, but I wanted to bring it up because it is something that used especially in alternative medicine to diagnose either sympathetic or parasympathetic dominance.  Now, there’s more clinical research behind heart rate variability measurement than there is behind hair mineral analysis.  And considering that heart rate variability measurement is instant and more easily accessible than going in and getting your haircut, putting in an envelope million off to someone and paying them to do a hair mineral analysis.  I’d err towards heart rate variability but at the same time I wanna lay some of the options down on the table for our listeners and for people who want to explore hair mineral analysis or who can’t figure out why they have for example, sympathetic dominance or parasympathetic dominance.  It’s one of the options out there, so.

Rachel:   Okay.

Ben:   Make sense?

Rachel:   Yes!  Thank you!

Ben:   Okay, cool!  So, what are some other things that we can do to balance our nervous system.  I talked about adaptogens, there’s also been quite a bit of research done on the interplay between the endocannabinoid system and the autonomic nervous system.  Meaning that, for example they did one study, really interesting study on rabbits and the interaction between the vagus nerve and transmission in the heart or heart signal cause by parasympathetic activation of the vagus nerve.  And what they found was that when rats were administered cannabinoids, there was an effect particularly on parasympathetic feedback to the cardiovascular system, and it actually cause an increased in heart rate variability due to better vague nerve tone through the use of cannabinoids.  And that that’s not mean that you have to use for example, THC or vape weed or something like that to get the activation of these cannabinoid receptors.  You can even use something like CBD for example which we’ve talked about before, but essentially what we’re talking about is specific activation of the vagus nerve.  They’ve also got another study called cannabinoid inhibition of electrical potentials results in a reduction of noradrenaline release from sympathetic nervous system nurse.  I know that’s a mouthful but what it means basically is that cannabinoids can decrease activation of the sympathetic nervous system if you tend to have an overactive sympathetic nervous system.  And they’ve also found endocannabinoids to be able to regulate intestinal motility and the innervaton of smooth muscle associated with your digestive system, you urinary system, and your reproductive system which is why the use of weed or marijuana or CBD gives you better digestion, better poop, and better sex.

Rachel:   Wow!

Ben:   Yeah!  There’s all that.

Rachel:   What doesn’t it do?  We’re getting to that point…

 Ben:   What doesn’t it do… so, CBD and or marijuana, the use of adaptogenic herbs – that would be two things from a supplementation standpoint.  One other thing from a supplementation standpoint that you could look into and this is kind of interesting one, is the use of nicotine, and nicotine can actually affect your cholinergic signaling.  Remember that acetylcholine is the primary neurotransmitter that is produced by your vagus nerve or produced in response to electrical stimulation of your vagus nerve.  And what they found is that nicotine can assist with activation of the parasympathetic nervous system, and even modulation of inflammation, modulation of immune response, and modulation of excessive stress with the use of like nicotine gum or nicotine patches for example.

Rachel:   So this would be if you had an overactive sympathetic nervous system, you would want to trigger a reaction from your parasympathetic nervous system to balance it out…okay.

Ben:   Right!  Basically what it comes down to is if you – let’s say you’re extremely stressed, you know you’ve got an overactive nervous system, you know that maybe you have leaky gut syndrome, irritable bowel, a lot of other issues related to having an over activated sympathetic nervous system, probably the holy grail for you to choose if  you’re just gonna do a few things is you would take either CBD or THC, and nicotine – so, we didn’t say cigarettes, kids – and then adaptogenic herbs like those would be the top three that you would use.  Now, kinda similar to our discussion on Alzheimer’s last week, you know, life goes way beyond just like the use of supplements or oil, or tinctures or herbs, and they’re also biohacking tools or pieces of gear, or lifestyle adjustments that can be made that will affect the autonomic nervous system.  So for example, there are three different things that are in particular will increase the tone of your vagus nerve, and that will remember assist with not only the increase in your parasympathetic nervous activation, but also help to balance out excessive sympathetic nervous system activation.  So, we’re talking about increasing vagal tone, increasing the ability of the vagus nerve to be able to produce acetylcholine.  There are few things that can do that – one is the activation of your mammalian dive reflex.

Rachel:   Wooooooh!

Ben:   And that’s why free divers are so zen.

Rachel:   That is awesome!

Ben:   There’s actually a direct correlation between being underwater and being relax under water, and in particular the use of cold water or cold thermogenesis, right?  Like cold water immersion and particularly training yourself to be able to withstand the rigors of cold water immersion that results in a significant improvement in vagal tone, and this can even be something as simple as a daily cold shower.

Rachel:   Mmm-hmm, that is fascinating.  So mammalian dive reflex.

Ben:   Yeah, the mammalian dive reflex…  I’ve got two podcasts coming up on it, so stay tuned…

Rachel:   Okay.

Ben:  January 9th and January 16th, we have back to back podcast with Brian MacKenzie who runs the Performance Breathing Workshops, and then also Ted Harty who teaches the Immersion Free diving clinics, and we take a deep dive (pun intended), into the…

Rachel:   (chuckles)

Ben:   … mammalian dive reflex in those upcoming podcasts.  So stay tuned for that but know for now that cold thermogenesis is one very good way to improve vagal tone.  Another way to improve vagal tone is via neurofeedback, and in particular, what that means is that you can for example, attach a very easy to use cable to your ear – to the end of your ear to measure the amount of time spent between each heartbeat, your heart rate variability and then the other end to that cable can plug in to a computer like a piece of software.  And there’s one particular form of neurofeedback called the emWave produced by the HeartMath Institute.  There are other forms of neurofeedback that can be done in the clinical study which I talked about in my podcast with Dr. Andrew Hill and you can go listen to that.  It’s called QEEG analysis and EEG neurofeedback, and that’s something you do more like a neurofeedback practitioners office, but you can also do like your own self-neurofeedback using something like heart rate variability training and like this emWave for example.  It’s made by company called the HeartMath Institute which has a lot of interesting information on neurofeedback and self-neurofeedback.  And that’s another way that’s been shown into improve a vagus nerve tone would be the use of EEG neurofeedback, and it’s literally like you are connecting yourself to this cable that goes into your computer and then you’re like looking at screen and trying to make flowers grow or trying to change like the landscape by consciously altering your breath pattern and your thoughts.

Rachel:   Okay, wow!

Ben:  Yeah, that would be quite useful for people who have sympathetic dominance.  And then finally, really interesting…

Rachel:   Is it just like literally just thinking happy thoughts?

Ben:   It kinda is that easy, yeah. Thinking thoughts of gratitude, place them in your heart, etc. but it’s one thing to grasp the concept of doing that and actually do it, right?

Rachel:   Right.

Ben:   A lot of people go, “I had an idea” but they don’t do it…

Rachel:   Yup.

Ben:   … like you actually have to time to do and go freaking do it.

Rachel:   Mmm-hmm.

Ben:   So there’s also the concept that the vagus nerve travels through your jaw, and a lot of people they have jaws that have aligned the same the way that people have spines are aligned.  So you can have a jaw realignment done to improve the tone of vagus nerve, this is something that chiropractic physician can do, and you wanna find someone who is well-versed in like upper cranial craniosacral like alignment of your atlas, your axis vertebral sections, and also your jaw to be able to analyze whether or not your jaw is out of alignment and to be able to realign the jaw.  And by aligning your jaw, you can directly increase your parasympathetic nervous system activation, a lower inflammation, lower highly sensitive immune system, and improve the vagus nerve tone.

Rachel:   Do you… I mean just really quickly, a little personal experience.  I went to see a chiro probably two years ago for the first time in like ten years and he realigned my sacroiliac joint?

Ben:   Mmm-hmm.  Yeah.

Rachel:   And I…

Ben:   Which is not up by your jaw that’s down…

Rachel:   No, it’s not.  But I bawled my eyes out…


I cried for solid hour afterwards, and I had no idea why.

Ben:   Yeah, the SI joint especially in people who do chronic repetitive motion activity like cycling or running, it almost tends to be stuck.  You’ve got like a greasily surface and then a smooth surface, and those surfaces in the SI joint can tend to stick against each other, and reduce mobility in the pelvis, and that can also affect your vagus nerves.

Rachel:   Yeah.

Ben:   That’s very interesting.

Rachel:   Yup.  Would crying with that have anything to do with my vagus nerve?

Ben:   Exactly, yeah.  So you would have activated your parasympathetic nervous system.  I know for some of you who are like, “Ah, sounds like woo-woo”, that is simply a acetylcholine related – what probably happen was you gotta dump of acetylcholine by your vagus nerve after realignment…

Rachel:   Uhm, yeah.  It was the weirdest experience.

Ben:   Yeah, yeah.  Okay, so we’ve got jaw realignment, we’ve got cold thermogenesis, we’ve got use something like emWave, breathing – that’s kind of a no-brainer…like deep breathing, setting the stage for breathing.  Every morning I start off my day while I am lying there doing my five minutes of heart rate variability measurement, I simply do deep breathing.  And during the time that I do that, I’m actually gratitude journaling so I’ve got a little journal…

Rachel:   That’s three things at once! (laughs)

Ben:   I know.  So a lot of stuff to think about, you gotta breathe, you gotta write, you have to allow your heart rate to be measured.

Rachel:   (laughs)

Ben:   It’s tough.  Smoke will come out of your ears.  No, it’s really quite simple.  No, literally I just roll over, I put on my heart rate strap, it takes 3 seconds…and I opened up…

Rachel:   No, it makes sense, it allows you to sit in there for 5 minutes…

Ben:   … my eyes, and started journaling, and I just make sure as I journal, yeah, you’ll find such shallow chest breathing activates vary receptors in the chest responsible for producing cortisol.

Rachel:   Yeah.

Ben:   So.  (panting sound) Or even just like the normal absence of like deep belly breathing that a lot of us engage in through the day, that will activate cortisol release and activate the sympathetic nervous system.  When I am lying in bed, what I find is that if I can set a standard for the rest of the day by before even I get out of bed breathing more slowly, having a lower respiratory rate anywhere from 8 to 12 breaths per minute which you can measure and you can measure it throughout the day if you’d like to, using like this app that I talked about – the NatureBeat app.  It’s where your heart rate monitored during the day to kinda see what your respiration rates doing.  You can measure respiration rate and ensure that your respiration is slow and deep throughout the day, and that really helps to keep your nervous system balanced but I’m a big fan of setting the stage early in the day by starting off your day with 5-minutes of deep breathing.  And the cool thing is that the other thing’s been shown to activate both vagal nerve tone as well as parasympathetic nerve activation is and I know you like this, Rachel, ‘cause it’s a woo.

Rachel:   (laughs)

Ben:   It’s gratitude.

Rachel:   Yeah.

Ben:   Gratitude practice.

Rachel:   Mmm-hmm.

Ben:   So when I will post my heart rate variability scores and this is why I get up on my soap box, and I sound like a braggadocios (curse word) but it’s simply the fact.  I’ll post my scores and people will say “How do you get your scores so freaking high?” like “Why is your nervous system so robust? Why your score’s balanced? Why is your heart rate variability so high?” Well, if you looked at what I just talked about Rachel, I take adaptogenic herbs, I use CBD, I don’t use nicotine, I’ll be interested to see what happen if I did, but I don’t probably do that.  I do deep breathing, I do gratitude, I do cold thermogenesis, and I don’t – I’ve never done a jaw realignment but I do deep mobility work twice a week using a foam roller and a variety of different like the lacrosse balls and tortuous devices.  So everything that I just talked about, the only two that I don’t personally use myself are a daily EEG neurofeedback, so I used to use the emWave quite a bit, and I don’t do that anymore.  I think I’ve kinda figured out how to consciously get myself to relax after using it for a period of time, so I don’t do that and I don’t do nicotine.  But everything else I just talked about I do every day, I think it helps out quite a bit with my – with the balance of my autonomic nervous system.

Rachel:   So you are case study, basically?

Ben:   Yeah.

Rachel:   This stuff works?

Ben:   Yeah, this stuff works.  Exactly.

Rachel:   Yup.

Ben:   Exactly.  So I will put links to most everything that I just discussed from the emWave unit, to Hair Mineral Analysis, to adaptogens, etc. in the show notes over at bengreenfieldfitness.com/341, if you wanna check it out.  The one thing that I would ask you as a listener to do for us is because I actually have not yet done too much guinea pigging or experimentation with nicotine, if you have a good resource, a good clean source of nicotine – I believe another source of that is nicotinamide.  If you have some resources that you like to add in the comment sections to help myself and other listeners out, feel free to surf over there and then add in with some of your own feedback on nicotine would be if any of you have used nicotine to improve the health of your autonomic nervous system.  So that being said, Josh, I’m sure your ears are smoking right now…

Rachel:   (chuckles)

Ben:   … but you know and you’re probably rushing out to find weed and cigarettes…

Rachel:   (laughs)

Ben:   So well, go ahead and move on to the next question, but I hope that that was helpful for you and anybody else who wants to balance your sympathetic and parasympathetic mojo.

Anthony:   Hi Ben, I have a question about rancidity of oils around the home and how would you go about testing this? I’m talking about oils that you use for cooking, putting on your salads even fish oils.  I have – I got a bottle of fermented cod liver oil that I had in the fridge for about two years, and I’m not so sure if it’s a healthy oil anymore to put it in my body.  Yeah, would like your insights on this.  Thank you.

Ben:   Rachel, have you ever had the fish oil burps?

Rachel:   Uh, no.

Ben:   (chuckles)

Rachel:   Sounds gross, though. (laughs)

Ben:   The fish oil burps are what keep many people from using fish oil or taking the fish oil.  They buy fish oil, they’ll take fish oil, they get the fish oil burp which are just literally what they sound like and smells like a… yeah, it smells like a fish.  What do you call it – they cut up all the fish, you know, like a fish market basically inside of your mouth.

Rachel:   Mmm-hmm.  Gross.

Ben:   Pikes peak when you belch.

Rachel:   (chuckles)

Ben:   And so that’s actually one sign that a fish oil can be bad.  So…

Rachel:   Oh?

Ben:   You get fish oil in kinda two different forms: you can get in liquids and you get in capsules and actually, I wanna talk about a little bit about two different forms of oil that I use in particular that I find are the most damaging to folks.  A lot of people use them and a lot of people would do more harm than good one when they use, and that’s fish oil and olive oil – fish oil and olive oil.  So there’s this idea of oxidation, and the fact that a lot of oils can be susceptible to oxidation.  Oxidation is just you know, it’s like a rush… rust you know, that stuff – that reddish, orange stuff rust.

Rachel:   Yup.

Ben:   And so oil can react with oxygen and when oil reacts with oxygen, oxidation can occur, and one of the reasons that that occurs is simply the reaction of the bonds in like the fish oil or in olive oil with oxygen.

Rachel:   So is this non-capsule form only? Or does it also…

Ben:   Yeah, this can actually happen to both liquid forms of fish oil as well as capsule form of fish oil.

Rachel:   Oh, wow.

Ben:   And fish oils are particularly fragile or particularly susceptible to oxidation.  EPA and DHA are polyunsaturated fatty acids that means they have multiple double bonds between their carbon atoms, so this big layers of carbon atoms and this multiple double bonds, but this also makes them very unstable because double bonds can readily react with oxygen.  And when that happens you get unpleasant fishy flavors, you get odors but more concerningly, you actually get damaged, you get a bunch of free radicals when you consume that fish oil.  I mean, normally you consume a fish oil to decrease inflammation, to improve the availability of things like EPA and DHA form in neuronal tissue, to improve the integrity of like the myelin sheaths in your cell membranes, but if you’re taking in an oxidized fish oil, you are in fact achieving the opposite effect.  So when you know that oxidation occurs when oil comes in the contact with oxygen from the environment, that should give you a pretty good clue about fish oil, and some of the things that you need to consider when it comes to fish oil ‘cause there’s several different factors that can be controlled to reduce the amount of oxidation.

Rachel:   And then like how long does it kinda take? Is there like a general throw out your olive oil or fish oil after some amount of time?

Ben: Hmm.  Yeah, so most fish oil products for example will stay a shelf life of 24 months from the date that they’re made.

Rachel:   Okay.

Ben:   But that is assumingly aren’t opened and they aren’t exposed to light, and aren’t exposed to heat.  And independent laboratory testing you know, we did a podcast for example at the folks from lab door, it’s found that many brands don’t meet that stated shelf life claim and once something’s been opened or exposed to light, typically, oxidation for a fish oil for example, you’re looking at 90 to a 100 days.  Even if it’s got antioxidants in its package along with it, you don’t want to like stock up on fish oil for more than about 90 to 100 days, so.

Rachel:   Mmm-hmm.

Ben:   So, around that 3 months range.

Rachel:   Okay, all of my olive oils… (laughs)

Ben:   We’ll talk about olive oil in a little bit because if it’s got enough antioxidants in it, it might be able to increase that shelf life a little bit longer with olive oil.


Fish oil is actually a little bit more fragile than olive oil based on the amount of those double bonds.  So, temperature is one big contributing factor for oxidation in oil.  So when you get fish oil, that’s best to store it in the refrigerator after you opened it and to avoid allowing it to become exposed to heat, so that’s one biggie.  If you have fish oil, keep it in a fridge, or you can also keep it in a freezer interestingly and it will still get metabolized just fine by your body.  Light can also cause oxidation that’s why you’ll find most high quality fish oils are packaged in like those dark, brown glass bottles or in something that’s not translucent that protects them against damage by light, you’d never wanna buy fish oil that’s in clear packaging.  I’d never buy fish oil unless you can actually see through the bottle and see the fish oil, that’s a bad news bears, so you don’t want a fish oil that’s in like a clear container.  So oxygen exposure can also be a catalyst for oxidation, and that’s why you’ll find some of the better fish oils or actually package of fish oils, and cover them with an inert gas like nitrogen at all possible points during the production of that fish oil.  It’s called nitrogen purging in the supplementation industry, and is a method of reducing the oxidation of the fish oil.  That’s unfortunately something that you don’t find a lot of fish oil and manufacturers doing because it’s expensive and it increases the price of the fish oil, and that’s one reason that you get what you pay for when it comes to fish oil.  Now another thing, that I think is quite handy and this is something I mentioned while talking about Alzheimer’s.  In my last week’s discussion on Alzheimer’s I talked about EPA and DHA are two very good strategies for reducing the risk or slowing the progression of Alzheimer’s but that you must, must, must choose a fish oil or an EPA or DHA source that has antioxidants added into it so that those polyunsaturated oils aren’t becoming oxidized.  So the most common antioxidant that you’ll find added to fish oil that is quite efficacious is called tocopherols.  Vitamin…

Rachel:   About literally be in the ingredient’s list?

Ben:   Mmm-hmm. Yup, it would be.

Rachel:   Oh, really? Wow!

Ben:   Vitamin E would be another one, and another very good antioxidant that’s actually one that you can also use as a standard supplement if you got like a sunburn or something like that is astaxanthin.  Astaxanthin is a very, very potent antioxidant.  The fish oil that I use is actually dark black like when you look at the capsule, it’s a dark black capsule.  The fish oil itself is like a beige clear-ish color but an astaxanthin is what makes it black…

Rachel:   Mmm.  I see.

Ben:   … because the stuff that I use, the stuff that I use is called SuperEssentials Fish Oil.

Rachel:   Yup.

Ben:   I take two every morning, and it’s like a black capsule because of they actually have Vitamin E, tocopherols and the astaxanthin in that fish oil.  So you want fish oil, again, that’s not been exposed to a lot of temperature, that’s not in a clear container, that has preferably been mixed using nitrogen purging in the manufacturing process, and then has antioxidants added to it, and if you’ve done all that stuff, you’ve got a pretty good chance that your fish oil’s gonna last at least that 90 to 100 days that it should.  If you taste it and it smells fishy, the fishy smell is created via oxidation of those double bonds so that’s one thing.  Also if it taste fishy, same thing, if you get fishy burps, same thing.  So that’s the main way that you can know if the fish oil is bad, if it smells or taste fishy or you know it’s been exposed to high temperatures or a lot of light or a lot of oxygen.

Rachel:   Okay.  Awesome! And what about olive oil?

Ben:   So olive oil is very, very similar in terms of knowing if it’s bad.  You can look at the way that it smells, and the way that it taste.  So what you’ll find is that an olive oil like it’s a rancid and it’s gonna be the exact same mechanism of action as what will happen with something like a fish oil.  But the – an olive oil that is rancid is gonna smell like crans or potty, if you smelled either of those.

Rachel:   I have never smelled either of those.  (laughs)

Ben:   You need to get yourself some crans or potty to get on the job.

Rachel:   Alright.

Ben:   So if it smells like cranss or potty, if it tastes like a rancid nut, like that awkward taste of a rancid nut, it has like a greasy-nut feel…that would be the flavor of a rancid olive oil.  And every single time your olive oil gets exposed to air or light just like fish oil, it undergoes oxidation and will get rancid much more quickly which is why again olive oil should be in dark glass bottles, not like the clear bottles that you’ll see a lot of them at the grocery store and definitely not plastic.  And then also it should be stored in the dark, cool place like the bottom of the pantry for example.

Rachel:   So you wouldn’t put olive oil in the fridge?

Ben:   You can put it in the fridge because your refrigerator light turns off when you close your fridge, believe it or not.

Rachel:   (laughs)

Ben:   Magic – light is not on all the time.

Rachel:   I was actually wondering if it would be too cold.

Ben:   Now sometimes, yeah, depending on the temperature of your fridge it can make your olive oil hard, so.

Rachel:   Yes.

Ben:   Yeah, so that’s just gonna depend.  Now the other thing is that there are factors that can influence the capability of an olive oil to go rancid particularly the level of antioxidants similar to fish oil, and also what’s called the chlorophyll content of an olive oil.


The higher the quality of an olive oil, the higher the amount of chlorophyll that it will have, the lower propensity it will have for oxidation.

Rachel:   Okay.

Ben:   Now there’s also this concept of fusty oil – f-u-s-t-y, fusty oil, that will happen if the olive sit for too long before they’re milled which can lead to fermentation of those actual olives and when that happens, your olive oil is going to have like a fermentation smell to it.  So they’ll smell a little bit like vinegary or it’ll taste a little but vinegary – that’ll be a fusty olive oil, a fusty olive oil.

Rachel:   Wait, is that bad?

Ben:   That would also be bad, that would be an olive oil that is it’s not gonna have a flavor that you want, and it’s also indicative that some oxidation has occurred.  There’s some other issues with olive oil for example, mold – if it tastes dusty or moldy that’s another indication that the olives have sat around for too long prior to the making of the olive oil and you’ll find that done a lot of times – it’s like a cheap inexpensive olive oil.  But those defects, like a fusty olive oil, a moldy olive oil or a rancid olive oil are pretty common, it’s pretty common to have adulterated olive oils in the U.S.  And I’ve actually got an article that I’ve written about this over at bengreenfieldfitness.com, and I’ll link to it in the show notes.  But they’ll often times takes something that they’ve marketed as extra-virgin olive oil and then dilute it with things like hazelnut or soy bean or corn or sunflower or palm oil or one of these other oils that is cheaper, that’s less expensive, but that also increases the propensity of the olive oil to become oxidized decreases the healthfulness of the olive oil and influences its taste.  So…

Rachel:   And again, would that be on the ingredient’s list?

Ben:   That would not be, that just comes down to the…

Rachel:   That’s crazy!

Ben:   … choosing a good source.  I am actually, don’t laugh, I am part of… so my… I’ve completed…

Rachel:   I’m already laughing. (laughs)

Ben:   I’ve completely outsourced my wine and my olive oil, so I get 6 bottles of wine shipped to my house each month.  It is the low mold wine with grapes that are grown at high altitude, and it is the stuff that has higher concentration of polyphenols, of flavonoids.  They ferment it for a longer period of time so there’s less sugar and hooray for us, more alcohol.

Rachel:   (chuckles)

Ben:   And that’s also called FitVine wine.

Rachel:   Uh-huh.

Ben:   Wrote an article on it…

Rachel:   Yup.

Ben:   But extra virgin olive oil, I’m also part of an extra virgin olive oil club.

Rachel:   (chuckles)

Ben:   So each quarter, I get 3 bottles of olive oil completely pure, it’s from around the world like this last shipment was from Australia, sometimes it will come from…

Rachel:   You’re welcome.

Ben:   Chile, Spain, Italy.  It comes with like tasting notes, it comes in this dark glass bottles, it’s extremely flavorful, if you like every olive oil taste like crap compare to this stuff…

Rachel:   Right.

Ben:   And it’s not rancid, so that’s and I haven’t outsourced my fish oil, I just don’t have to order more fish oil.  But yeah, my olive oil comes once a quarter, 3 bottles and my wine comes once a month, 6 bottles and yes, that means I drink more wine than I do olive oil.

Rachel:   (laughs) Thank God.

Ben:   But my wife drinks lots of wine, actually a lot of faster than I do.  She probably does – she does like a giant fish bowl-sized glass of wine a night.

Rachel:   Every night.

Ben:   I do like a small…

Rachel:   Good on her.  I love Jessa!

Ben:   … glass, small glass once every 1 to 2 nights, but ultimately that’s kinda what you need to know when it comes to fish oil and when it comes to olive oil.  I’ll put a link in the show notes to the SuperEssentials Fish Oil that I use as well as the article I wrote on olive oil, but hopefully that gives you some good info on fish oil and olive oil and how to know if this stuff is bad.

Anne:   Hi Ben, it’s Anne from Boston again.  I’m calling because I recently started rock climbing in the gym and I wondered about it.  I’ve been listening to your podcast for a couple of years at this point, I never heard you talk about it as a sport.  Wondered what you’ve thought of rock climbing and what you would do in order to get really good as fast as possible.  Thanks for the advice, love the podcast.

Ben:   Have you ever gone rock climbing, Rachel?

Rachel:   I haven’t.  I’m scared of heights.

Ben:   Never?

Rachel:   I’m scared of heights!

Ben:   What about like the itty-bitty like a cruise ship, like the itty-bitty rolls?

Rachel:   No, no.  I haven’t.

Ben:   Alright.  Well, rock climbing is actually – it’s a great sport and I like to think that even though I haven’t done a terribly large amount of rock climbing, I’ve done you know, indoor rock climbing.  I’ll go about once a month, my gym has a rock climbing wall that I take the kids to the boulder back and forth.  I did a lot more rock climbing when I was a kid when the gymnastics facility, my parents put me in gymnastics which was great even though I still can’t do the full splits, so it was potentially huge.

Rachel:   I can.  I was a gymnast I can do the full splits.

Ben:   Huge waste of time but they had a rock climbing wall…

Rachel:   (laughs)

Ben:   … and actually loves the rock climbing wall more than I did taking the gymnastics classes.  But rock climbing has an interesting, interesting requirement when it comes to physiology, the physiology of climbing.


There’s actually a great research article in the Journal of Sports Medicine that was done in which they investigated the physiological response to rock climbing, and it kind of really like a unique set of fitness parameters to be a good rock climber.  And I’ll go into some of the ways that I personally increase my own grip strength for like Spartan and obstacle racing which is quite handy to have increase grip strength.  It has from everything from testosterone and growth hormone, to your ability to able to like navigate like a monkey through obstacles, but also of course if you’re gonna be a rock climber, as you would’ve guessed, you want better grip strength.

Rachel:   Yes.

Ben:   Or if you wanna be like one of those little, short Japanese guys on American Ninja Warrior that kinda like jump from 1 horizontal like 2 by 4 to another, like through the air and land stick it and hold on, it’s crazy.

Rachel:   (chuckles)

Ben:   Anyways, if those are your aspirations in life.  So physiological responses to rock climbing.  First of all, oxygen consumption, they’ve worked at VO2 max, like your maximum oxygen consumption during climbing, and they found that you only reach about 40 to 50% of your VO2 max, your maximum oxygen consumption while climbing.  So it looks like your lung capacity is not a factor at all when it comes to climbing, it’s not a limiting factor if you’re training to be a climber that should be pretty low on the totem pole, like increasing your overall maximum oxygen capacity.

Rachel:   Okay.

Ben:   Now, what’s interesting is there’s two different types of VO2 max.  You can look at overall VO2 max, you can also look at what’s called specific VO2 max, and when you looked at what’s called arm specific VO2 max – that actually gets close to a 100% in rock climbers due to…

Rachel:   That kinda makes sense.

Ben:   Yeah, so to increase what’s called anaerobic glycolysis in the hands due to like this repeated isometric contractions that rock climbers have to do.  So what this comes down to…

Rachel:  And that – like holding on for dear life literally.

Ben:   Right. Exactly.  So it behooves you to more train your ability to hold on to something for a long period of time for maximal contraction, and also to train your ability to buffer lactic acid in the fingers and the hands, and I’ll talk about how to do that in a second.  Then it’ll just like do repeated like bike sprints or run sprints for example, so even like hard climbing, your oxygen consumption does not go up very much.  Now, what does go up is your heart rate and your blood pressure, they found that heart rate will go up to a 180 beats per minute during rock climbing, and this is a unique sport in that there’s typically not such as stark differentiation between VO2 max and heart rate.  Meaning, the heart rate rises out of proportion relative to VO2 max or oxygen consumption while rock climbing and that’s because of those repetitive isometric contractions of the forearm and the hand musculature so your blood pressure and your heart rate rise steeply out of proportion compared to your oxygen consumption. And so again, when you look at how you’d want to train to be able to handle this, you would want to do isometric contractions, hangs, climbing where your arms are often held above the level of your heart in order to be able to withstand that disproportion increase in heart rate.  So rather than increasing your heart rate by again, doing like bike repeats or run repeats, you’d want to increase your heart rate by doing isometric contractions, so yeah.  And again, this would be relevant to not just rock climbers, this would be also relevant to like obstacle racers, and it’s possible that part of that heart rate increase could also be explained by the physiological or not the physiological, the psychological stress or the anxiety associated with like you know altitude…

Rachel:   Falling to your death.

Ben:   Yeah, falling to your death and being shadowed on the rocks below.

Rachel:   (laughs)

Ben:   Exactly.  So another thing that they have found to be quite high in terms of its millimolar concentration in climbers is blood lactate.  So blood lactate will range from 3 to 6 millimolars and even though that’s not as high as like a marathoner or a cyclist, it’s significantly high.  And considering that in localized areas it can climb higher than 6 like in the fingers in the hands, training yourself to be able to buffer lactic acid would be another very smart strategy if you were wanting to become as good a rock climber or as good a gripper or as good in obstacle racer, as good an American ninja warrior as possible.

Rachel:   (chuckles) And how do you buffer a lactic acid?

Ben:   Well, one way to buffer lactic acid is simply to train with those kind of isometric contractions, and I’ve got a few good training tools or training aids that I’ll give to folks in just a second.  But interestingly, they’ve even found a particular dietary components that can help buffer lactic acid, and while this would not be as important as some of the actual training methods I’ll talk about in a second, the two things that can help with buffering lactic acid, one would be…


ensuring that your diet is not too acidic, it’s like an Alkaline diet that’s comprised of not too much commercial red meat, dairy, alcohol, caffeine – all of those notoriously acidic foods, and instead more focused on like dark, leafy greens, lemons, and some of the citrusy fruits.  You can download like a whole acid alkaline food chart and see which foods err towards alkalinic, and leading up an event for which you’ve got a high amount of lactic acid boating, it can behoove you to a definitely choose a more alkalinic diet.  The other thing interestingly that we’ve talked about in the show before is baking soda, loading with baking soda…

Rachel:   Huh!

Ben:   … which can give you the screaming cheznuts and explosive diarrhea if you eat too much of it.

Rachel:   That’s what I had, yup.

Ben:   But the way you do baking sodas, you just use like a very like small like half a teaspoon amount every 20 minutes for about 2 hours prior to an event for which you’d know you’re gonna produce a bunch of lactic acid, and that can actually significantly have to buffer lactic acid without producing GI distress.  So you kinda like taper your doses over the course of about 2 hours every 20 minutes and about a little less than a teaspoon.

Rachel:   And you probably wanna try that before the big day, right?

Ben:   Probably because nobody wants to poop while they’re hanging from a rock…

Rachel:   (laughs) Right.

Ben:   … like 30 feet above the ground on their friends where be laying for them so, you not wanna lose your friends.

Rachel:   (chuckles)

Ben:   Be that particular method.  And then finally, there’s muscular fatigue that they looked at in the study of rock climbing physiology, and we found that muscle fatigue was as you would have expected one of the physiological mechanism that causes failure during rock climbing in both the legs and the arms.  So when we talk about muscle fatigue, we’re talking about the ability to do repetitive contractions for anywhere from 5 to 20 minutes.  Repetitive contractions of the legs and of the arms because you’re often doing that when you’re climbing a specific route, so…and as you would have expected they also found that in rock climbers, they have particularly low body fat percentages because of the need to have a really good power to weight ratio to pull yourself up a rock climbing or to propel yourself up a rock climbing wall, so they would tend to find about 4 to 14% body fat average for men and 10 to 20% for women.  So, paying attention to how many calories you stuff in your face could behoove you if you plan on climbing up a wall.

Rachel:   And slightly on related question, but how good of an overall workout for health and longevity is rock climbing?

Ben:   It’s pretty good.

Rachel:   Yeah?

Ben:   It’s pretty good.  So the area that you would be neglecting as we’ve just learned about would be your VO2 max, so if you’re rock climbing like a full like you know, of a wide spectrum of physiological scales and like good overall of fitness.  Two things don’t get trained on rock climbing actually VO2 max and also surprisingly, flexibility.  And what they found in that study was that flexibility was not significantly different between the lead climbers, recreational climbers and non-climbers including range of motion at the hip and range of motion at the shoulder.

Rachel:   That seems really kinda intuitive.

Ben:   It does, but it turns out that rock climbers don’t have much greater flexibility than general population, and so that’ll be another thing.  Like if you are rock climber and you’re using rock climbing as one of your sole means of fitness training, you would also want to include some VO2 max sets right? Like 2 to 4 minute intervals in running or cycling and you may also want to include you know, maybe a couple of yoga sessions a week type of thing.  So yeah!

Rachel:   Good stuff!

Ben:  So as far as some training tools, a few training tools I can give you that I particularly do: first of all, we have an entire podcast on training grip strength, and I’ll link to that in the show notes like we did a – we did like a full like half-hour treaties on grip strength, so listen to that one, I’ll link to it at bengreenfieldfitness.com/341.  But I’ll also recommend two things I keep in my car: so I keep in my car a Captains of Crush hand gripper, so when I’m like sitting at stop lights or driving around in my car, I can do repetitive isometric contractions, I use that particular brand, because it’s well-made, its durable, and they sell them in resistances from like 50 lbs. all the way up to something just crazy like 400 lbs.  So you can literally as you get better and better at one hand gripper you can eventually like go to Amazon and go to the next level up, it’s like 20 or 40 lbs. heavier.  In addition, because what you don’t want is to create and imbalance in your ability to close your hands, you also wanna be able to open your hands, and rock climbers, climbers, obstacle racers and American ninja warrior competitors, etc. who get elbow pain, will want to know this, but you want to train your hand’s ability to open as well.  And so the same company that produces this Captains of Crush hand grippers also produces these bands that are called Expand Your Hand Bands, and literally just like these little lastic bands that you open your hands against.  So I keep both of those in my car, and I’ll go back and forth between the Captains of Crush, and the Expand Your Hand Bands.


In addition, when we talk about elbow pain, there is a condition called the golfer’s elbow or climbers elbow.

Rachel:   Hmm-hmm.

Ben:   And its pain in the medial elbow and the inside of the arm, and the way that you get rid of this is by doing what’s called active release therapy on the inside of the elbow where you’re pinning the tendons on the inside of the elbow with your arm bent and then slowly extending the arm.  Now when you combine this with deep tissue massage up and down your forearm, you can keep at bay a lot of the forearm injuries and elbow injuries in chronic competitive motion injuries that rock climbers get and there is… go ahead.

Rachel:   Do they get in their wrists as well?

Ben:   More the elbow, more of the inside of the elbow, particularly.  There’s one device called the ArmAid and it’s like the… it looks like a giant claw and I own one, I use it almost every day ‘cause I do like you know, tons of pull-ups and swings and stuff like that for obstacle training, and it allows you to do that deep tissue work, and you’re own after release therapy, so you don’t have to like spend a bunch of money and go drive through massage therapist and get your form to worked on frequently, and I really swear by, it’s called the ArmAid.  A couple of other things that I’d recommend, one is there is a company called TreeBallClimbing and they sell training devices, climbing holds and things that you can even like take the hotel rooms or to other gyms like the sell, like a ball with a carry bean around the end of it that you could hang from a pull-up bar at the gym, and rather than holding onto a bar, it’s like holding onto a ball.  You can also get like these pinchers or what they call crimps so you can hold on to along with horizontal blocks like cliffhangers and you can literally just like build a little rock climbing gym at your house, or have portable rock climbing gear that you can take with you when you’re on the go…

Rachel:   That’s awesome.

Ben:   … and when you just wanna bring some to the gym.  Yeah, just check them out at treeballclimbing.com

Rachel:   And they stick anywhere?

Ben:   Yeah.  You can just hang them from anywhere, so you can create your own you know, rigs, hanging materials.  I learned about this from KC, the American Ninja Warrior girl, we interviewed her for the Obstacle Dominator podcast that I do, and she talked about how she used this Tree Ball Climbing tools to train for American Ninja Warrior.

Rachel:   Very cool.

Ben:   So, those can also be useful, and thee the final thing that I recommend is just a lot of dead hank where you just like hang in front of a pull-up bar.  And this is something that I’ll do: I’ll put on a podcast or an audio book and just hang for as long as I can.

Rachel:   And what’s a good hang time?

Ben:   If you don’t get up to about like 8 to 10 minutes, that’s pretty good…

Rachel:   Yup.

Ben:   Just being able to hang from a bar for long and that’s training that isometric contraction, that lactic acid build up a lot of those things that kinda tend to fatigue of rock climbing.  I’ve got one other rock climbing tip for you, and this would be 20 tips from top professional rock climbers, it’s an excellent article, and appeared on a climbing magazine.  I’m gonna link to that in the show notes for you, but there are few real pieces of  gold from that particular article, so for example, one is they’ll recommend that you try like some of your easier rock climbing roots, once you’ve got them down wearing a weighted belt or a weighted vest to increase your grip strength.  Another tip in there is to rather than just practice statically holding the wall to train a lot for jumping for and latching on to walls, by for example, training yourself to jump, hold under pull-up bar and then drop from the pull-up bar then run it again, jump and hold onto it.  You’re basically training yourself how to dynamically grip in addition to be being able to statically grip, so learning how to like grab things, see them, explode up to them and hold onto them, that’s the technique that climbers will use quite a bit.  And then, another thing that they recommend on this particular article is the use of taping, so in many cases they’ll tape fingers.  They’ll tape specific fingers to prevent tendon damage, you can take like kinesio tape and wrap the insides of the fingers especially if you’re a new climber, and you don’t wanna get like chronic competitive motion injuries in your fingers, you can use like kinesio tape like a rock tape on the fingers to keep them from getting injured as you train your grip.  And this would be especially useful for a new climbers who wanna climb but don’t wanna get like an overused injury in your fingers or the hands.  So I’ll link to that entire article in the notes for today’s podcast, but…

Rachel:   Awesome.

Ben:   That would be a good one to go through.  So there you go, now you can be a monkey and Rachel, now you have no excuse aside from fear of heights, to head out and hit the rocks.

Rachel:   Love it.  I’ll do it.

Eric:   Hey Ben, my name is Eric Gandras.  I am a big fan of the podcast.


I love listening to it while I workout, and I constantly employ your helpful tips.  I’m a host of a podcast that I call “How to Be a Grown-up” that I do for my high school students that teaches them despite their economically depressed home lives they should still care about their health, their wellness and their purposeful direction in their lives.  So my question to you would be this: I’ve quite a few students that struggle with the motivation to be active in their day to day lives for a myriad reasons and I’d love to know, what is something that you might suggest to my students to get them off the couch, set down the video game controls, and make a positive decision to be healthy? Thank you so much for what you do and for being such a powerful force for good and health in this world.  You are a constant, daily inspiration to me, not just as a person that likes to be fit and does obstacle racing, but also as your work in the parenting sphere as well.  You’re awesome, my man and I’d really love to know your opinion on this.  So again, thanks so much.

Ben:   Well Eric sounds like a pretty nice guy.

Rachel:  Yes, he does.  He sounds lovely.

Ben:   Thank you for the kind words, Eric.

Rachel:   Sounds like you doing some great work as well.

Ben:   Mmm-hmm.  We’ll check out your podcast “How to be a Grown-up”.

Rachel:   Love it! (chuckles)

Ben:   Here we go.  At least…

Rachel:   I need to know how to be a grown up.

Ben:   Tell all the high school student to find out and seriously, I’m not a high school student but I can definitely use some advice on how to be a grown up…

Rachel:   (chuckles)

Ben:   So, leap out of bed every morning feeling like a little boy.

Rachel:   (chuckles)

Ben:   So anyways, ‘How to Get Motivated to Exercise’? I have an article about this and Eric, I will link to that article for you, it’s on my – I do a little 5-minute podcast or we call the Get Fit Guy podcast, and I did a particular episode on exercise motivation, and I give ten exercise motivation tips.  I’ll give you the quick countdown now and then if you want to delve even more deeply into these tips, you can go over to bengreefieldfitness.com/341, and check out the notes that I have there.  But in no particular order of importance, here are the 10 exercise motivation tips that I give in that particular episode: the first is caffeine.  They found that about a 100 milligrams of caffeine can stimulate the central nervous system to release adrenaline without over-stimulating the nervous system, and can actually improve motivation.  It’s not just a feeling; it’s actually been proven that caffeine can increase your motivation to exercise.  Not that I endorse a bunch of high school students running around thread balls but…

Rachel:   Those in caffeine.

Ben:   … a cup of coffee from Starbucks can be helpful.  The next, and these are all things that have been proven to help with motivation, next is to clip photos.  So if there’s a body or a look that you’re trying to achieve like a better butt or a flat stomach or more shapely calves, then you look for photos of that look in fitness magazines or in books, and then you can clip them and you can post them to your refrigerator or your bathroom mirror, or wherever you tend to spend a lot of time looking at photographs – your car, your rear-view mirror and hang-up your Brad Pitt from your rear-view mirror.

Rachel:   There you go, yup.

Ben:   Social accountability – Facebook, your own blog, Twitter account, whatever. Telling others about your exercise goals will create extrinsic  motivation and the fear of embarrassment that you may be held through to those goals whether or not, whether you did or did not achieved them – so that’s another one.  Get a workout buddy, and to keep you from sleeping through a workout, there’s nothing like knowing that you’ve got a friend tapping your feet, waiting for you at the gym at 6 a.m.   And that kind of accountability can be both annoying but also incredibly motivating.

Rachel:   Right, yup.

Ben:   So, you know, and that could be like a fitness group or an exercise club like a Master’s you know, swim class or triathlon training group or something like that or could also just be a fitness specific friend.  So my next up would be if you can’t find a specific friend, you can hire one, and I found that some people, to push them over the edge, simply have to take out their wallet and hire a personal trainer.  And even if were just a few sessions, a personal trainer can be an incredibly motivating way to have someone just go Jillian Michaels on your ass…

Rachel:   (chuckles)

Ben:   … and get you motivated to exercise, so that’d be another one to do – personal trainer.  Make a plan! So even if you can’t afford a personal trainer, avoiding decision making fatigue by having something written out and this is a big one from me.  When I roll up off bed every morning, I know what I’m going to do for that day.  The only thing that would keep me from doing what I plan on doing for that day from an exercise standpoint would be of my heart rate variability score, which we mentioned earlier, is really, really low in which case I would consider skipping that day’s workout or substituting.  But most of the time, on a Sunday night, I have planned out Monday thru Sunday and know what I’m going to be doing for my workouts, my exercises, my recovery, etc.  So having a plan can be incredibly motivating and help you to avoid the decision making fatigue that keeps you from exercising.


Next would be the keep a log, so that would be writing down using a phone app or a diary or a log, keeping track of what it is that you’ve done.  A lot people are just like getting a little slim journal and take it with them to the gym or to their workout, write down what they did for that day, and it can be motivating to be able to look back and see the momentum that you’ve gained thus far.

Rachel:   Yup, yup.

Ben:   Yup.  Next thing is to take pictures not of other people like Brad Pitt or Kim Kardashian but instead, you would take pictures of yourself.  So I would have some or my clients do this: my clients who have aesthetic goals, they will take a front pictures of themselves and a side pictures of themselves in their underwear or their skivvies and they will send that to me every couple of weeks.  So that they are being held accountable not just to themselves for that aesthetic appearance they’re trying to achieve, but also to myself.  And knowing that someone’s gonna be whipping at the camera, taking photo of you once every couple of weeks can be incredibly motivating if your goals are aesthetic…

Rachel:   Right.

Ben:   … when it comes to exercise.  Next would be the scale and even though I don’t particularly like scales, sometimes I think that they can make people too self-critical, get too caught up in numbers, etc., sometimes you just have to know where the dial is moving especially if weight loss is a deal for you.  So I’m a big fan of like this Withings scales for that purpose that will tell you, like your body fat percentage which is important to make sure that even if you’re the scale isn’t budging from a weight standpoint, you might see that your body fat is decreasing.  But also because those will like sync to an app that will you know, when we talked about logging, keep track of your weight, your body fat percentage allow you to have some quantitative measurements.  So photos can show you the quality of your progress, but a scale can show you kinda like the quantity of your progress and progress can be motivating.

Rachel:   Definitely, yup.

Ben:   And then finally, a self-talk.  Really interestingly, they’ve shown that just going into a workout and having specific phrases that you say to yourself like “I can do this”, “I got this”, you know that Mark Divine, the Navy Seal commander, he’s got one that he does call where he say, “Easy Day” or “looking good” or “feeling good”, “I ought to be in Hollywood”,you know.

Rachel:   (laughs)

Ben:   Those types of phrases, believe it or not, those can help.  And I’ve done that many a time when getting out of bed in the morning or prior to starting a workout. I will simply use this simple 3 word phrase “I got this” before starting and even something as simple as that can be really motivating.

Rachel:   Yeah!

Ben:   So you can try that if nothing else, “I got this”, would be a good one, so.

Rachel:   Yup.

Ben:   So try out some of those tips and I’ll put a link Eric, to that entire article in the show notes if you want to share that with some of the students that you work with, and hopefully that’s helpful to you.  So, that… that was quite a bit that we went over just now…

Rachel:   That was huge.

Ben:   In all of those questions but head over to bengreenfieldfitness.com/341, if you wanna access the show notes for any and all of that.  But we’re not done yet, no we’re not.

Rachel:   We’re not done yet, my favoritepart.

Ben:   Because we have that final favorite part where we read this week’s top review to you, and if you leave a review, if you go to iTunes, leave a review – not only does it vastly helps spread the message of the show, but it also puts you into the drawing to where if we read your review on the show and you email [email protected], that’s [email protected], we’ll send you a Ben Greenfield Fitness tech t-shirt, we’ll send you a fancy BPA-free water bottle and we will send you a beanie – a Ben Greenfield Fitness beanie which I’ve been wearing quite a bit when hitting the slopes.  And if you just can’t wait for your review to be read, you can actually buy any of that stuff.  You go to bengreenfield fitness .com/gear – you can buy any of that stuff for yourself.  It’s like $40 or something like that, so just get the whole package: the shirt, the bottle, the hat.

Rachel:   Yup.

Ben:   Something else, you can support the show that way, you can also support it by leaving a review and this week’s review is a 5-star review from Ann from Germany in ‘Which has great mix of information, useful tips, worth listening’.  She left this on Christmas Eve, December 24th, so she even went out of her way on a very important holiday to leave us a review.

Rachel:   That’s very sweet.  Thank you, Ann.

Ben:   Wanna take this one away?

Rachel:   I’d love to. Alright. Ann says, “I find the 340 podcast on fat burning efficiency, brain efficiency and thermo genesis highly informative all combined the topics made out for pool of very useful information and must-know for anyone who wants to look deeper into the possibilities.  A marathon podcasting indeed – you’re right and it was – which will invigorate anyone who…

Ben:   But still shorter than this one.

Rachel:   Right. “I thank Ben Greenfield for his dedication to his show, his passion for the sports and for the knowledge that he shares with all listeners.  Loved the show.”

Ben:   Mmm.  Thank you, Ann…

Rachel:   Very sweet.

Ben:   … from Germany.  So hopefully, you will forgive us for producing yet another marathon podcast this week, but ultimately, glad we could help with that pool… that pool of very useful information.  Perhaps we should start call it the ‘pool’ rather than the ‘podcast’.

Rachel:   Yeah. (laughs)

Ben:   Ben Greenfield Fitness Pool.  So if you’re listening in and you liked that, you can go leave a review in iTunes.  We’ll put an easy link for you to do so with links and resources for everything that we talked about today.  If you visit bengreenfieldfitness.com/341, stay tuned for this weekend’s show, fantastic weekend podcast coming up on why some people who chase the silver bullet of health do more harm in themselves than good, and some really practical ways that you can avoid kinda getting dug into the hole of orthorexia or like a…

Rachel:   Hmm?

Ben:   … preoccupation with health than nutrition and fitness – really interesting stuff.  So that’s coming in Saturday?

Rachel:   The next time you hear from me, I’m gonna be in Australia! Yey!

Ben:   Aus, in Australia.  So Rachel’s off to hang out with the kiwi fruits…

Rachel:   Kangaroos.

Ben:   the mock fruits, kangaroos, the koala bears.

Rachel:   Yup.

Ben:   I’m off to go trips through the snow just because I can and you are off with the heedful of knowledge in the latest Ben Greenfield Fitness show.  Check out the show notes, bengreenfieldfitness.com/341, have a healthy week!

You’ve been listening to the Ben Greenfield Fitness Podcast.  Go to bengreenfieldfitness.com for even more cutting edge fitness and performance advice.

[1:42:23.1]     END


December 30, 2015 Podcast (Ben mentions AlignMed shirt in intro): Why You Wake Up At The Same Time Every Night, How To Hack Your Nervous System, Is Your Fish Oil Bad & More!

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Listener Q&A:

As compiled, deciphered, edited and sometimes read by Rachel Browne, the NEW Podcast Sidekick.

How To Hack Your Nervous System

Josh says: How should he go about balancing his sympathetic and parasympathetic nervous system? What should he eat, how often should he exercise and does weed help?

In my response, I recommend:
This paper on Adaptogens
Hair Mineral Analysis
EEG Neurofeedback and this Dr. Andrew Hill episode
eMWave Hearth Math Institute

How To Know If Fish Oil Is Bad

Anthony says: How do you go about testing rancidity of oils around the home? He has a bottle of cod liver oil that he’s had in the fridge for about two years, and he’s not so sure if it’s a healthy oil to be putting into your body.

In my response, I recommend:
SuperEssentials Fish Oil
This Olive Oil Hoax

5 Ways To Increase Grip Strength (& Become A Better Rock Climber)

Anne says: She recently started rock climbing and she’s wondering what you think of rock climbing and what would you do to get really good and as fast as possible?

In my response, I recommend:
This previous podcast on grip strength
Captains Of Crush (repeated isometric contractions)
Expand Your Hand Bands
20 tips for rock climber’s article

How To Get Motivated To Exercise

Erick says: He’s the host of a podcast “How to be a Grown Up” that he does for his high school students, when he tries to put forward that despite their economically depressed home lives they should still care about their health, wellness find a purposeful direction in their lives. He has a few students that struggle to be motivated to get active and he’d love to know what is something you might suggest to get them off the couch and making positive decisions to be healthy?

In my response, I recommend:
How To Get Motivated To Exercise

Read more https://bengreenfieldfitness.com/2015/12/341/

Ask Ben a Podcast Question

One thought on “Episode #341 – Full Transcript

  1. Carl Watson says:

    Many young athletes do tend to tap into the parasympathetic ‘fight or flight’ too often which leads to imbalances/burnout. Although not as sexy, the parasympathetic is just as important. A great example of this is in Muay Thai kickboxing. It’s evolved to the point (consciously or not) where a large part of the pre fight ritual includes the spiritual grounding techniques and poses/motions. Then they can kick the #**# out of each other

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