March 29, 2018
Podcast from: https://bengreenfieldfitness.com/podcast/383-how-to-maximize-stem-cell-health-why-branched-chain-amino-acids-dont-work-how-to-get-a-better-score-on-a-vo2-max-test-much-more/
[03:41] News Flashes: Vigorous, Cold-Water Swim
[06:19] Best Heart Disease Risk Factor Markers
[10:48] The Next Blue Zone
[17:37] Special Announcements:Onnit/Thrive/Omax
[23:24] Listener Q&A: Why Branched Chain Amino Acids Don’t Work
[31:22] How to Get a Better Score on a VO2Max Test
[54:29] Does Intermittent Fasting Lower Hormones
[1:06:06] How to Maximize Your Stem Cell Health
[1:15:57] Giveaways & Goodies
[1:20:10] End of Podcast
Introduction: In this episode of the Ben Greenfield Fitness Show: How To Maximize Stem Cell Health, Why Branched Chain Amino Acids Don’t Work, Does Intermittent Fasting Lower Hormones, How To Get A Better Score On A VO2 Max Test, and much more.
Ben: Brock, I almost cancelled our podcast recording today. I almost cancelled.
Brock: I know, I got a very panicked email from you last night and I was on pins and needles waiting to see if you made it back from, were you in Florida?
Ben: It wasn’t Florida. I wasn’t panicked, I was just sitting in Chicago waiting for my flight to leave two hours after it was supposed to leave and realizing I was gonna have to get my ass out of bed this morning and come talk to you. But I got some sleepy time on the air, I got upgraded to first class so I was able to sleep on the airplane.
Ben: And I have a tip for everyone.
Ben: Maybe I’ll post this to our Ben Greenfield Instagram channel. I couldn’t find my sleeping mask, and who can sleep on an airplane without a sleep mask, with all those bright Christmas lights shining on and off?
Ben: And people call in the flight attendant and watch television, and of course the bright glare of the drink cart as they pass by and the light flashes off you.
Ben: It’s so distracting.
Ben: Anyways, so I made myself a sleep mask. I used some kinesio tape and some napkins from the flight attendant, then I wrapped the tape around the napkins and I made myself a sleeping mask. And I had a beautiful night of sleep last night on the airplane.
Ben: I took some CBD, and I took a lot of CBD actually while I was standing there waiting to get on the plane. I took about 60 mg of CBD, and then I got on the plane and I fell asleep with my little taped up sleep mask, and here I am.
Brock: Here you are. You know what I’ve done in the past is I actually take my socks off and wrap those around my eyes. Your idea’s a lot more hygienic.
Ben: [laughs] On an airplane, I would not be putting my socks on my eyes but I have used the sock trick before, I’ve used pants before…
Ben: Like stretchy pants that you could stretch around your eyes. I’ve used a pillow case…
Brock: The backwards hoodie, you put your hoodie on backwards and pull the hood up over your face, done that?
Ben: Yeah, and I’ve even seen some women on television advertisements for beauty, they use fruit. They use cucumbers and papaya slices, avocados…
Brock: Yeah they fall off really easily.
Ben: Yeah, fruit doesn’t work that well and it gets old. You can only use fruit for like a day and then you gotta throw it out.
Brock: Maybe put it on a sandwich.
Ben: If I’m gonna use all my energy to make a sleep mask, I want it to last, dang it. I don’t want a sandwich or fruit on my face, I want a sock or napkins with kinesio tape.
Ben: Hey Brock, did you hear the miracle news about a man who completely got rid of his chronic pain?
Brock: Because he froze himself, nearly to death? [laughs]
Ben: Well no. What happened, he was this dude from the UK and he had undergone this procedure so he had facial blushing. Apparently it was very embarrassing, like a really bad facial blushing.
Ben: So he had this thing called an endoscopic thoracic sympathectomy.
Ben: And that’s basically where they remove the sympathetic nervous system portion that goes to your face to ensure that you don’t have excessive sweating or blushing. And he had this horrible pain in his chest for ten weeks after the operation, doctors tried everything. It wasn’t his heart, but they tried analgesics and all sorts of pain meds, and then the dude decided that he would go for a swim. And he swam off the coast somewhere in the UK in this super cold water, and the headline says “Man’s chronic pain disappears after vigorous cold water swim.” He’s only swam for 60 seconds and it cured his pain, it all went away.
Brock: That’s… if it wasn’t Discover Magazine, I would calling bull crap on this.
Ben: I know, it’s like a legitimate, it’s not fake news. And you know what’s interesting, when it comes to pain and when it comes to inflammatory cytokines, I’ve said this before, cold water immersion beats out cryotherapy. But both actually do a very good job with pain, it appears in this gentleman’s case, it almost reset his nervous system in some way.
Ben: So I think the major moral of the story here is if you have anything wrong with your body that a doctor can’t figure out…
Ben: Just go jump in cold water. And his description was that it was pretty cold, he said he got an immersive rush of adrenaline and for the first time in months, completely forgot about the pain and the fear of shooting pains in his chest, and then he got out and they were gone. So…
Ben: Do not tell people that you heard on the Ben Greenfield Fitness Show that a good thing to do if you have chest pain that won’t go away is to jump in very cold water. But at the same time, chock another one up to the use of cold as free and inexpensive therapy, so…
Brock: Free and inexpensive.
Ben: Yeah, speaking of chest pain, Bob Harper the celebrity fitness trainer from the TV show Biggest Loser, he was the subject of a very interesting article in the New York Times about, they called a heart-risk factor even doctor’s know little about.
Brock: Even doctors, eh?
Ben: Even doctors. This one is actually about this heart disease risk factor called LPA, also pronounced LPa, and it accelerates the formation of plaque in the arteries, it promotes blood clots, apparently Mr. Bob Harper had very high levels of it.
Ben: And it’s a bigger risk factor than your triglycerides and of course a bigger risk factor than the LDL cholesterol which in fact, based on one study, LDL cholesterol is actually highly correlated with both intelligence and longevity. It’s this LPa that’s the more major risk factor that you have to worry about. And what they did was they talked about all the different ways that you could lower LPa like niacin which is a B-vitamin and what are called PCSK9 inhibitors. There’s even a pharmaceutical company, of course there is…
Brock: Of course.
Ben: Trying to develop a drug specifically to combat LPa, and it’s interesting because a lot of these cardiovascular blood tests will test for cholesterol, HDL, triglycerides, and not for LPa, but there is actually some benefit to LPa. And I think, before we start throwing a bunch of drugs at people to lower it, it’s very interesting. It promotes tissue repair, it acts as what’s called an acute phase reactant to assist with tissue repair. It allows for the release of a peptide, a lot of people are injecting BPC-157 or TB-500 or these different peptides. There’s a peptide called defensing, that is a peptide that is associated with LPa and actual reparation of tissue repair in vascular tissue and muscle tissue. It’s very interesting. Other evidence shows that it inhibits what’s called fibrinolysis, which is when you’re very sore and you build up a lot of these things called fibrins from muscles breaking down, it may actually assist, somehow, with binding to the surface of fibrin and inhibiting the lysing of a clot. And in some cases this might be cardio-protective so it’s very interesting.
Ben: It also has an effect on cancer, it can inhibit cancer growth and the spread of cancer. It causes what’s called proteolysis of something called plasminogen, which apparently in something that allows for vascularization to tumors. There’s a fantastic study where they go into all the ancestral mechanisms where LPa may be protective. It acts very similar to vitamin C.
Ben: And it can actually allow for better absorption of vitamin C and ascorbate in vitamin C is highly beneficial, and actually a powerful agent against heart disease. So it’s interesting and I think we don’t know enough about LPa to just say “hey, let’s shut it down completely” versus perhaps seeing if maybe it’s presence in high amounts kinda like inflammation being present in high amounts is simply a clue that there’s some underlying factor going on that should be addressed versus us throwing a bunch of drugs and huge doses of niacin to lower LPa. But it’s a very interesting little molecule.
Brock: Yeah, it sounds like its cholesterol all over again, really.
Brock: Cholesterol started off we were like “oh we found the thing that causes heart attacks, hurray, let’s lower it.”
Brock: And then realized that “whoops, that wasn’t quite the right idea.” Sounds like the same thing could happen with this.
Ben: Yeah, and the major moral of the story, I would say when you read these New York Times articles, go get tested for this right away and see if it’s high, well take everything with a grain of salt. Maybe you shouldn’t pop a drug to lower it before we know more about what exactly it is and what it does.
Ben: Kinda like statins. Statins are bad news bears for a lot of people.
Brock: Bad news bears.
Ben: Yeah, and then finally, since we’re talking about people dying and heart issues, let’s talk about people living.
Ben: So there’s possibly a new blue zone, you’d never guess what it is. It’s an urban population that’s leading the world in life expectancy, story on CNN, and by the way we’ll link to all these stories at bengreenfieldfitness.com/382 if you wanna check ‘em out.
Ben: Oh 383?
Brock: You’re living in the past, man.
Ben: I am, sorry. Outdated. You know what the city is, the city where they’re living, on average, much longer than the general population, up to 81.3 years for men and up to 87.3 years for women.
Ben: So unfair that they get to live longer.
Ben: What do you think it is, what city?
Brock: Oh, it’s totally Tampa. Tampa, Florida.
Ben: You close.
Brock: Am I close?
Ben: That’s the city where they leave their blinker on for two miles before they turn.
Ben: But you’re close. If you wanna live for a long time…
Brock: That’s like the biggest population of old people, right? Tampa?
Ben: Yeah. If you wanna live a long time, yeah Tampa or Fort Lauderdale.
Ben: It’s actually Hong Kong.
Ben: They say, and the reason for this, they say first, Hong Kong ranks very high for what they call enabling environments. And what that means is people just don’t distress as much because apparently there’s very easy access to public transport, healthy food, and public amenities like buses and bathrooms and stuff like that. They walk a lot, apparently they walk a lot, just about everywhere. And when they do take the metro, they’re very clean and they’re well air-conditioned, which I don’t know if that confers longevity, the air-conditioned part. But they talk about it in the article so it must be something to air-conditioning.
Brock: I guess.
Ben: They’re greener. It’s a very green city and a lot of people go out in the parks in the morning. I think they’re on to something here when they do tai chi or qigong calisthenics in the park. They have a lot of urban spaces, a lot of big, green urban spaces, which is crazy coz I always thought of Hong Kong as rats on sticks street food being thrust at you by some Chinese vendor in a dirty white apron.
Ben: And, I know, isn’t that a horrible…
Brock: That’s horrible. Have you been to Hong Kong?
Ben: Well, no. You know, I’ve walked through the streets of Bangkok, it’s like that. Well apparently they don’t allow street food anymore in Bangkok.
Ben: Maybe because of my poor experience with rats on sticks being thrust in my direction. They have good hospitals, apparently excellent health care system, a determined population meaning that a lot of them were like migrants who came over in search of better opportunities. So apparently they have a survival advantage with that, some kind of purpose. They have good weather, they say it’s not too hot, it’s not too cold which makes life easier and more comfortable, which I can raise an eyebrow at because there’s this idea that there is a certain amount of a hormetic response to getting exposed to cold and getting exposed to heat that I would think would confer longevity. But apparently air-conditioning and comfortable weather is what they’re saying helps these people out, maybe it’s the sweet spot of stress.
Ben: Or maybe it’s something else like the diet. They have a diet that’s somewhat similar to the Mediterranean cuisine, they say lots of fresh fish and fruits and vegetables and some amount of caloric control as well. And then a huge value on family, which of course we’ve seen a lot of blue zones, a virtue of respect for the parents and the elders and the ancestors. And basically a focus on children, the importance of family which also surprises me because I thought that they had like a one child policy in China, and after you had one kid, the government comes and ties your tubes or something. I dunno, do I have a horrible view of these?
Brock: You do. You need to go to Hong Kong.
Ben: I know.
Brock: I haven’t been there since the 80’s but it was quite a lovely place.
Ben: Oh, okay.
Brock: I really enjoyed myself there.
Ben: Well first of all, my apologies to anybody who’s Chinese and listening in, especially if you’re from Hong Kong. This is just the picture that I’ve somehow painted in my mind that was pleasantly smashed to smithereens by this article. I now want to go to Hong Kong.
Brock: Yeah, and it’s very different form mainland China.
Brock: Even when it was assimilated back into the country of China it still, because it was such an economic center, it really was able to maintain a lot of its societal norms and stuff and didn’t have to join back in with the communist philosophies.
Brock: It got away with a lot more.
Ben: Yeah, well I am gonna go. I am gonna go live in Sardinia, well not live, I’m gonna go visit Sardinia for a week. I’m going to this thing called Awesomeness Fest, isn’t that a great name?
Brock: [laughs] Awesomeness Fest.
Ben: Awesomeness Fest, put on by, and I think folks can register for that. We’ll put a link in the show notes to that one, Awesomeness Fest in Sardinia, Italy. And I’m also going to move the family to Estonia by Finland, this summer. We’re gonna live in Estonia for about a month and go to this thing called Mind Valley University, where a bunch of entrepreneurial people from around the world come together and take business classes and hang out and live in a cult-like format for a month. So I’m gonna join a cult in Estonia for a month, that’s called Mind Valley University and also go to this Mind Valley awesome-sauce fest in Sardinia. So anybody who wants to join in on that stuff, we’ll put a link to that in the calendar in the show notes at bengreenfieldfitness.com/383.
Ben: If you don’t feel like going to Estonia or Sardinia, come to Austin, Texas, April 27th through the 29th. Of all the conferences that I go to during the year, this is perhaps one of my favorites, Paleo f(x). It’s like the Woodstock of the ancestral health movement, where you get to go get high with all of your favorite ancestral health experts. I think that’s probably not what they mean when they say Woodstock but…
Brock: I think you’re the only one who calls it the Woodstock.
Ben: It’s like a giant music festival of beef jerky instead of music. I dunno, I’ve heard it described as the Woodstock and I never went to Woodstock so I don’t know.
Brock: Hmm, okay.
Ben: It’s kinda like Hong Kong. I’ve never been to Hong Kong or Woodstock so I can make up whatever I want about them.
Brock: Is that how it works?
Ben: Yeah, I think so.
Ben: Anyways though, Paleof(x), you can sign up over in the show notes as well as you can go check out all the other places I’ll be like Montana’s coming up, I’ll be competing the Montana Spartan, Trained to Hunt bow-hunting competition in Bonners Ferry, Idaho. Anytime you wanna go on an adventure and you wanna go on an adventure with me, just go to the show notes and you can see what adventures you can hop into. I’m always trying to find some cool thing for you to do, so there you have it.
Ben: Brock, this podcast is brought to you by, well let me ask you this: have you seen the death ball? The Death Star Slam ball?
Brock: Uh, not in real, no, but I’ve coveted it online.
Ben: You can get a medicine ball, it’s a 20 lb. med ball for thrusters and for throwing and for slamming, and it’s the Death Star. It’s the actual Star Wars Death Star, the Death Star Slam ball.
Ben: And it’s a really good, strong, dense, polyurethane rubber but more importantly, it’s the freaking Death Star.
Brock: And you know what goes really well with that is the Han Solo in carbonite yoga mat.
Brock: So then you can slam the Death Star into Han Solo’s face.
Ben: Both made by our wonderful and inventive, creative friends over at Onnit. You can get 10% off the Death Star Slam ball or Han Solo yoga mat or anything else from Onnit, you just go to bengreenfieldfitness.com/onnit. They have supplements and functional foods.
Brock: Functional foods.
Ben: I like to say functional because it makes me sound smart but I don’t know what a functional food actually is aside from the fact that it’s functional.
Ben: It could be used for something.
Brock: You can do something with it.
Ben: You can use your sandwich to hammer a nail in, so a hammer sandwich is a functional food.
Brock: A ham-sam, as we call ‘em.
Ben: A ham-sam, hmm. Bengreenfieldfitness.com/onnit, also of course these amazing pieces of fitness gear. Captain America and Ironman and Star Wars, I love it. I wish they had these kinda things when I was a kid coz I would’ve probably been way more fit.
Brock: Yeah, you wouldn’t have been such a little fatso.
Ben: My guns would be much larger now. This podcast is also brought to you by Thrive Market. You know what my favorite thing from Thrive Market is right now, these days?
Brock: Hmm, those big chunks of coconut you always talk about?
Ben: Hmm, those are good but the organic coconut flakes cereal. It’s literally cereal, just like I used to have as a kid but it’s only got three ingredients: coconut meat, coconut water, and palm starch. Organic coconut meat, organic coconut water, and organic palm starch, and you can pour yourself a… use some almond milk or some rice milk or some coconut milk, pour yourself a bowl of cereal. I like to throw a few almonds or cashews or macadamia nuts in there, a little handful of blueberries. You could just have yourself a bowl of cereal, guilt-free, and it tastes really good. It’s an amazing cereal.
Brock: Do people feel guilty when they have cereal? Is that a problem?
Ben: Well, I would hope that you would feel a little bit guilty these days if you have a big bowl of Cocoa Puffs and you drink the milk, or peanut butter Cap’n Crunch. I mean you gotta know that you just gave yourself cereal diabetes. But not with this stuff, not with the Thrive Market coconut flakes. And everybody listening in, Thrive Market’s like CostCo for everything… it’s like an online shopping club and you get all these healthy foods for 50% off retail prices. You find these amazing, tasty foods you’d never find before and you can filter whatever you wanna order, paleo, gluten-free, vegan, raw, non-GMO, organic, fair-trade. You can set up all your filters, it’s like when you filter stuff on Amazon except this one’s for hippies and healthy people.
Ben: So Thrive Market, the best way I can describe it, it’s like a CostCo membership for healthy food.
Brock: It’s like Whole Foods meets Amazon.
Ben: Mmhmm, yes.
Brock: But not for Whole Foods. I’m still angry with them because it’s been a year and a half, they’ve been saying they’re gonna come to Canada but they’re not here yet.
Ben: Well they’re in America, so neener-neener. And everybody listening in, you get $60 of free organic groceries at thrivemarket.com/ben. And finally, this podcast is brought to you by Omax.
Ben: I like to say it, Omax sounds sexual. Omax…
Brock: Oh I see what you’re doing. Omax…
Ben: Omax… But no, it could be sexual but it’s not. It’s clean, it’s family-friendly, it’s ultra-pure. These are omega-3 fatty acids and I tried this. I tried their little fish-burp test, I had 16 of these capsules.
Ben: The dose is supposed to be two, but I was like screw it, I’m taking a whole bunch. So I take 16 of these capsules which I think was like close to 30+ grams of fish oil, and I took it and no fish burps. Felt pretty good, actually.
Brock: Aside from the anal leakage, of course.
Ben: No, not of that. 94% pure omega-3 fatty acids and they use an incredibly pure fish oil, it’s the purest omega-3 supplement on the market. And fish oil, of course, is one of the most studied and safe supplements that exist, but taking a bad fish oil is worse for you than taking no fish oil at all. But this stuff is actually a good fish oil, and everybody listening in can get a whole box of it. If you wanna try a whole box like I did for free, try the whole box all at once so you can space out.
Brock: All at once? [laughs]
Ben: You go to tryomax.com/ben, free box of these omega-3 fatty acids. Terms and conditions apply, which probably means if you live in Hong Kong or you have horrible chest pain from a sympathetic nervous system disorder to your face, you might not be able to order. But other than that, everybody else can order, tryomax.com/ben.
Robert: Ben Greenfield, Robert Lad. Love your show, listening in for a couple of years now and it’s awesome. You are the man. Anyway, one question that I’ve had a recent… I’ve heard you mention a few times when referring to the branched chain amino acids, one of the possible negative glycemic effect’s blood sugar issues. That seems to contradict Dom D’Agostino mentioning, specifically leucine, as more of a ketogenic amino acid and that it didn’t have much blood sugar effect. I’ve been taking up to 5 gram of leucine pre-workout on occasion, especially if I’ve been fasted for a while, to help any muscle loss or reduce any possible muscle loss and just some extra fuel there. So anyway, if you can dig into this, that would be awesome. Just keep doing what you do, brotha, thank you.
Ben: Dominic D’Agostino says…
Brock: And if Dominic says, it must be true.
Ben: If Dominic says it, I mean he’s just a doctor.
Brock: Just a doctor.
Ben: Ketogenic doctor that can deadlift 500 lbs., what does he know, yeah.
Ben: Branched chain amino acids, I’m still not a fan of them but when you look at leucine, the branched chain amino acids I’ll get into them in just a second in more detail. But leucine and isoleucine and valine are the three branched chain amino acids, and some studies show that leucine actually does possess blood sugar reducing properties. It can release insulin from the pancreas, so its insulinogenic or it causes your insulin to spike.
Brock: Wait, wait, say that again. Its insulinogenic so it reduces blood sugar? No.
Ben: Yeah, it would decrease blood sugar, right? Because it releases insulin from the pancreas so that stimulates blood glucose uptake into a cell.
Ben: But they’ve also shown that it simulates what’s called S6K so it can inhibit insulin-stimulated glucose uptake for up to 45 minutes, it’s been shown to do that in cell cultures. And in living systems like humans, it kinda goes back and forth in terms of research that shows that it causes a spike in glucose, some that doesn’t. It definitely spikes insulin for sure, and so it’s very interesting in terms of the research on it when it comes to glucose uptake. But ultimately, it appears to promote glucose uptake in the muscle cells for about 45 minutes and then cut that off. Now I’m not a fan of branched chain amino acids in general though, so those are three of the nine essential acids that you need.
Ben: Branched chain amino acids I mentioned, leucine, isoleucine and valine. And most people these days take it because it’s advertised as something that would stimulate muscle protein synthesis and help to avoid fatigue and to focus better during workouts. And all these claims are mostly made based on studies done in rats back in the early 2000s.
Brock: Muscly, little rats.
Ben: Yeah, and since then they’ve done a ton of studies and they’ve shown that BCAAs taken alone in humans have no effect on muscle growth and retention, and don’t really do what they say that they’re supposed to do. BCAAs alone, by themselves, do not stimulate muscle protein synthesis. And of course leucine is one of the big ones, but spiking leucine, when you take a bunch of branched chain amino acids, spiking leucine signals the enzymes that degrades leucine and the other two branched chain amino acids, isoleucine and valine.
Brock: Wait, wait. Spiking leucine?
Ben: So when you spike leucine, when you take a bunch of branched chain amino acids…
Ben: That causes upregulation of the enzyme that degrades leucine because the body’s trying to keep the overall amino acid ratios in the body constant.
Brock: Oh okay.
Ben: So what happens is you’re left with an imbalance of what are called the essential amino acids coz remember the branched chain amino acids are just three of the nine. So it’s like you’ve dumped a bunch of tires out in your front yard but none of the other things that you need to make a car. And so first of all there’s that issue, is you actually decrease your amino acid availability when you take leucine all by itself when you take branched chain amino acids. And in addition, when you take BCAAs, the idea is the use of BCAAs minimizes serotonin activity by boosting leucine in the body, so they can help with mental focus and performance when you limit high amounts of serotonin. But the problem is that when you look at the actual research, you get a dip in leucine with the increased activity of this branched chain amino acid degrading enzyme and that increases serotonin production in the brain. So it’s not doing to the brain or to the muscles what it’s been advertised to do. Now when you look at the flipside and you take all nine of the amino acids, all nine of the essential amino acids all at once, that’s where you get a big, big difference. Because these essential amino acids, like the full essential amino acid blend, in the correct ratio, what that does is that stimulates protein synthesis, it’s highly bioavailablah-blah-blah?
Ben: Bioavailable? Yeah. You get decreased protein turnover, like we talked about in, I think last week’s episode, high blood levels of amino acids going into a workout saved you from even needing to do something like a post workout or a pre-workout meal. You get a decrease in the amount of tryptophan and that crosses the blood brain barrier so you get less sleepiness. A lot of people will walk during a long exercise session, they think it’s because they run out of carbohydrate and they exhausted their glycogen stores when in fact, all it’s due to is a decrease in blood amino acid availability. And there’s some very interesting research like liver, they’ve shown that essential amino acids can help prevent fatty liver disease so if you’re a heavy drinker and you wanna continue to be a heavy drinker, just take amino acids.
Brock: Hey, no problem.
Ben: But it actually can help the liver produce proteins like albumin and fibrinogen which both help with muscle repair and recovery. And it doesn’t add unnecessary, non-essential amino acids to the amino acid pool so the liver doesn’t have to metabolize those so at the same time it minimizes the burden on the liver. It doesn’t spike certain amino acids like taking just branched chain amino acids do, so you get a good balanced ratio and actual high levels of essential amino acids in the bloodstream. And ultimately when you look again at the glucose response to leucine in terms of the meat of this question, the research goes back and forth but ultimately it does not appear to be as beneficial as we’ve been led to believe when it comes to skeletal muscle performance of when it comes to any of the purported claims made about branched chain amino acids. So I mean if you have a branched chain amino acid supplement I would throw it out, I would only use essential amino acids especially if you’re trying to do the ketogenic thing or you’re trying to prevent muscle loss. I mean I know essential amino acids are more expensive but there’s a reason for that, so branched chain amino acids, they don’t work and there’s no evidence that they do. And I’m surprised at the number of people that still recommend them, frankly. I mean just try it, try a work out on branched chain amino acids, take 10g of branched chains, go out for a workout, and then the next day do the same workout or a couple of days later after you’ve recovered, do the same workout but take 10g of essential amino acids, you’ll notice a profound difference. So there you have it.
Brock: That’s the real test right there.
Andrew: Hey Ben, huge fan of the show. I’ve got a VO2 Max, incline, weighted fitness test that I need to do for a fire department recruitment process, and I was wondering if you had any tips on maybe some potential biohacking or training protocols that I can start implementing in my workouts right now to start preparing for this test. You’re wearing approximately 60 lbs. worth of gear and you have to walk at I think it’s a 10% incline for between 12-15 minutes. Any help would be great, man. Again, huge fan, really appreciate it, thank you.
Brock: Have you seen those fire department recruitment tests?
Ben: The fire department recruitment? My dad was a firefighter, my brother’s a firefighter, I used to…
Brock: Did they do those things where they run with these dummies over their shoulders and they have to pull a hose around the ramp building and stuff?
Brock: It’s killer. Those things are badass.
Ben: Yeah, I mean it’s like a Spartan stadium. All due respect to firefighter but yeah it’s like a Spartan stadium race. [laughs]
Brock: I dunno, the Spartan people don’t have to wear full gear and boots and a gas mask when they’re running around like the firefighters do.
Ben: This is true. Yeah no, firefighters are actually pretty badass. I hung around a lot of firefighters growing up.
Brock: Big props to those guys.
Ben: My dad was a firefighter, my brother’s a firefighter. And my dad was actually Chief of the volunteer fire department later on after he quit the city fire department. And so whenever there’s a big fire out in the county, us boys would get to go help and I remember that all these firefighter would pull up in their truck and they’d have all their gear on and they’re pulling out their gear, and I’d get a garden hose thrust into my hand.
Ben: And I was told to stand over in the corner and make sure the lawn was wetted.
Brock: Wearing your board shorts and a hose.
Ben: Yeah, so I got to be… but I still thought it was cool.
Brock: Yeah, it’s still cool.
Ben: Spraying the garden hose and pretend I was a firefighter. Yeah, anyways…
Ben: So I now have fireman envy.
Brock: Me too.
Ben: This VO2 Max test though, inclined, weighted fitness test, that’s interesting. Coz usually VO2 Max tests, if anybody’s done this, I used to own a bunch of personal training studios and gyms and we do these VO2 Max protocols like a Bruce protocol which is a graded exercise protocol that you’d think would be easy coz you’re walking. But the incline goes from 12 to 15 to 18, and up and up until it’s a pretty significant incline as you run at faster and faster speeds while typically 1-2 people are behind you on the treadmill waiting for you to fall off as your VO2 Max peaks and you go to complete exhaustion. It’s actually a very difficult test, there are tests you can take instead of that to find out your VO2 Max. There’s the Rockport walking test which approximates your VO2 based off of how quickly you can do a timed 1-mile track walk.
Ben: There’s the Cooper test where you’ll get how fast you can cover a distance over 12 minutes and then there’s an equation to approximate your VO2 Max based on that. And you know with all these new fitness wearables, there’s actually a lot of them that have accelerometer sensors and power meters built in that use what is called the Firstbeat method, like Garmin and Suunto. A lot of these companies, they make these heart rate monitors that pair to some kind of a timepiece that basically allows you to approximate your VO2 Max.
Brock: Yeah, those are pretty inaccurate, though.
Ben: Yeah, I mean they’re…
Brock: Or pretty approximate, let’s say.
Ben: You get like a subjective opinion of your VO2 Max. But the VO2 Max issue, by the way, speaking of timepieces, not to go down too deep of a rabbit hole, I should probably tell folks who we thought I would be racing for Team Timex this year, I’m not racing for Team Timex this year.
Brock: Huh, I thought you were.
Ben: I thought I was too…
Brock: That’s news to me.
Ben: This reporter from Gizmodo called me up on the telephone a couple of weeks ago and asked me about the stem cell injections that I did into my penis.
Brock: You don’t say? That wasn’t all over the internet.
Ben: I know, I got like 2.2 million views and freakin’ Cosmo picked it up.
Brock: Cosmo picked it up, yeah.
Ben: And this lady, whoever did this, they completely twisted everything I said on the phone. And essentially, long story short, pun intended, it was basically “man injects perfectly healthy penis with stem cells to see if he can increase size” which makes it sound like I had a really small [beep] to start off with and trying to make it bigger.
Brock: Pretty much, yeah.
Ben: But it also categorically falls, I didn’t even say that, I did the stem cell injection, (a) it was immersive journalism story for Men’s Health Magazine to just fill guys in on what it’s like to get a stem cell injection down there because a lot of guys will do this for erectile dysfunction. But the same mechanisms, vasculogenesis and increase in blood flow, so increase in blood vessels and increase in blood flow that would fix something like erectile dysfunction also gives you better sex and better orgasms and better blood flow in general. It’s like taking a bunch of beet root juice but kinda having it constantly there. Well one of the side effects, I told the reporter this, kinda did seem to make my penis bigger. I don’t know any other way to say it, like I’m just better hung when I look at myself in the mirror. And I thought at first because my penis looked like it got hit by a semi-truck after the injection…
Ben: Maybe it was just like resonant inflammation and bruising, but it in my opinion got… I mentioned this to the reporter kind of like in passing but she made that the focus of the story. And back to Timex, so I got a call from Timex Corporation, and they were very upset. They felt that this was far too inflammatory, not conservative enough for their organization; they’re a very conservative organization. They didn’t want somebody on the team who had stories out there on the internets about injecting stem cells into their [beep] to make it bigger. So they kicked me off the team, so I’m not racing for Team Timex. So there you have it, what were we talking about?
Brock: I don’t remember.
Ben: VO2 Max, yes.
Brock: Yes, okay.
Ben: So you wanna hack this VO2 Max test. VO2 Max is based off a few factors: (a) the ability of your muscles to actually grab blood as the blood rushes past, (b) your lung volume, your ability to be able to suck in x amount of air, and (c) the ability of the blood to be able to move that oxygen around the body. And so you look at people and you’ll see some people taking drugs like erythropoietin to boost VO2Max, which it can do. You get more blood, you increase your stroke volume, you increase your oxygen deliverability, you increase your VO2 Max. Of course, other things that would influence VO2 max, coz we always wanna look at how we could actually get it up would be cardiac output, how much blood your heart can pump out for any given beat. Like are there ways to increase blood volume aside from erythropoietin, which is illegal. Mitochondria, if you increase your mitochondrial density or the number of mitochondria that you have, then technically you would be able to increase your utilization of that oxygen to produce ATP and that would be another way to increase your VO2 Max.
You could also just increase your oxygen carrying capacity by somehow increasing the tidal volume or the strength of your inspiratory and expiratory muscles, etc. So there’s a lot of kind of ways you can go about doing this, but the big, big elephant in the room is just, if you were just gonna exercise, you don’t have any fitness gear aside from maybe your exercising with this weighted vest on, of course, that you’re gonna be doing your test with. And with your gear on, what are you looking at for sets and reps, and all the studies on VO2 Max pretty much come to the same conclusion when you look at increasing VO2 Max. It’s about 2-6 minutes and more of the studies come closer to 4-6 minutes, that’s how long you exercise for an interval. And the work to rest ratio goes anywhere from a 1:1 to a 2:1, so for example, one of my favorite VO2 Max increasing workouts is 4-6 rounds of 4-6 minutes with 4-6 minutes of recovery in between each of those efforts. And those efforts are as hard as you can sustain with good form.
Ben: You hop on a bike and you’re gonna do 5 by 5 minutes with 5 minute recoveries, pretty much as hard as you can maintain with good form.
Ben: So, that’s how the workout would actually look. You could do it on a treadmill, you can do it on a bicycle. I mean, I can’t get any more straight forward than that, 4-6 efforts, 4-6 minutes in duration, about 1:1 all the way up to a 3:1 work to rest ratio.
Brock: Now just to be clear in terms of what you were saying of doing it at a maximum that you can maintain with good form. Now does that mean you start off super-duper hard and you sort of like teeter out by the end of the 5 minutes or as much as you can hold constantly?
Ben: I like to use cadences to determine it or if you can maintain the same cadence. So if you’re on a bicycle, you set it at 90 and you work at what you would consider to be an 8 to a 9 on a scale of 1-10 when maintaining a cadence of 90 for that entire effort. And if your cadence drops below 90, you back off on the resistance just a little bit, so you’re able to maintain that same sustainable pace throughout.
Brock: Okay, so no booping out.
Ben: Yeah, exactly. If you are getting to the point where you can’t maintain the same cadence or you can’t maintain good biomechanics, then typically that’s too hard, so that’s a good rule to follow.
Ben: So anyways though, that’ll be what the workout looks like but then we get into the fun stuff, like how could you hack this. So first of all, I mentioned blood, blood volume, how people will take EPO. Well we’ve talked about before, on the show, how one of the ways that you can increase erythropoietin in the same way as taking something like EPO would be simply after workout, sitting in a sauna for 30 minutes. A hot sauna for 30 minutes, that increases blood volume, increases erythropoietin.
Brock: Some guy named the Get Fit Guy just did a podcast all about that kind of stuff.
Ben: Oh you did a podcast on that?
Brock: I did.
Ben: Yeah. For those of you who don’t know, Brock has a podcast. It’s on iTunes, you can find it, it’s called the Get Fit Guy podcast. For about five or six years, I did that show and then Brock took over the reins. It’s like a quick, little ten-minute podcast and stuff.
Brock: So you can find out about the sauna usage there.
Ben: Yeah, so sauna. Another way to increase erythropoietin would be via the use of certain substances like echinacea, beet juice, malic acid, citrulline. There’s a guy over at a company called Biotropic Labs, I’ve interviewed him before, his name is Craig Dinkel. And I actually use his stuff especially to load with before a race. Pretty much everything he makes is designed to build the blood, so that could be another thing that you could use and you could certainly pair that with something like a sauna or any of the other strategies that I’m talking about. That would be like a supplement way to increase your VO2 Max.
In addition to the erythropoietin in the blood cell consideration, I would personally, if you really wanna max VO2, get a test to see if your red blood cells, your red blood cell distribution with your iron status, your ferritin status, your hemoglobin and your hematocrit, are all optimized. And if not, let’s say your iron is really low, which is more common in women than in men, in men typically high iron or what’s called hemochromatosis is a bigger issue. You can get your iron tested, you can get your ferritin tested which is like your iron storage protein, you can find out if you should actually be replenishing. Thorne makes something called iron bisglycinate which is like a non-constipating form of iron. There’s another company called Floradix that makes something they call ferritin pyrophosphate, which is like a shot of iron you take.
Brock: It’s a liquid.
Ben: Yeah, but these are the type of things that you would take if you have anemic-like symptoms, and don’t take them as a band-aid. Oftentimes people who are anemic, who have low red blood cells, they’re over-training and so that’s something you’d want to adjust from a training or a programming standpoint. But some people just need to, especially if you’re not eating a lot of red meat or if you need to just boost those levels back up, take a Floradix ferritin or a Thorne iron bisglycinate, but definitely test first to see what your red blood cell and your iron and your ferritin actually look like. What else do I like? These inclined trainers, I’ve got one in my garage, fantastic for simulating the type of incline that you’re gonna be exposed to on a lot of these treadmill tests. So, a lot of treadmills, as you know, go up to 15%. What I got was a NordicTrack Incline Trainer, and I just went to Nordic Track coz they’re expensive and I got a payment plan. I think I paid like $50 a month, right? I got an inclined trainer in my garage, for me that’s a pretty good deal. $50 a month isn’t that bad, you can buy them on Amazon. But these inclined trainers are amazing. You can walk 3.5 miles an hour on a 30% incline and feel as though you’re sprinting.
Ben: With none of the impact of actually sprinting. So if you can’t run, it’s actually a really, really good way to increase your leg strength and your VO2 Max. If I ever wanna go climb a mountain without all the pounding of going downhill but get all the benefits of going uphill, I go out to the garage and just jam on that thing for a while. Sometimes I’ll just do a half hour very intense hike and sometimes my boys will come out to the garage and they’ll ask me what I’m doing, hang out for a while, they’ll hop on my back.
Ben: They’ll jump on my back and I gotta carry ‘em like a sandbag on this treadmill.
Brock: Nice, guys.
Ben: But yeah, it’s called a Nordic Track Inclined Trainer. I think everybody needs to have one in their garage. Every man, woman and child needs a Nordic Track Inclined Trainer in their garage. Maybe they can sponsor this episode.
Brock: Let’s hope so.
Ben: I would hunt down an inclined trainer or a stair mill at the gym can work too, but I like those inclined trainers. For weight around your body, if you didn’t want to get on your full gear, which is what I would actually recommend, but let’s say you’re listening in and maybe you’re not a firefighter but you kinda wanna hack your VO2 Max, definitely exercising against resistance. One of the best obstacle course racers in the business, Hobie Call, he used to do a ton of his runs and his treadmill work and his intervals and his copious number of walking lunges, he’d do it all with a weighted vest. I like a company called Hyperwear, makes a really good kida tight-fitting weighted vest that doesn’t bounce around a lot.
Brock: Yeah, it’s almost like compression gear.
Ben: Yeah, it’s a little bit more biomechanically favorable. So that’s a company called Hyperwear. I like their weighted vest, it comes with little weights. You can make it heavier, I think you can go 15 all the way up to 40 lbs. or something like that. So that’s a good weighted vest to add into some of these protocols, right? You can do 4-6 efforts or 4-6 minutes in duration with 4-6 minutes of recovery on something like an inclined trainer wearing that weighted vest, you could pop those supplements I talked about earlier, the Biotropic Labs stack, and then go in a sauna for 30 minutes after. That would be a perfect example, I mean you do that three times a week, your VO2 Max is gonna go through the roof.
Ben: The only other thing I’d add in would be this whole idea of mitochondrial density and first of all, if you wanted something kinda more expensive but highly efficacious, I actually did a workout on it this morning before we podcasted. They make this thing called a LiveO2 trainer, it’s the equivalent of spending 24 hours in a hyperbaric oxygen therapy chamber, but it’s like a 15-30 minute workout. And you place these hyperoxic air generators next to a bicycle or next to a treadmill, and you just breathe hypoxic air. Now normally when you breathe very high amounts of oxygen, it’s not gonna saturate your tissues with more oxygen unless you’ve induced a state of hypoxia beforehand. So what you do is you just jam on the bike as hard as you can for 15 seconds or 30 seconds while you have this thing switched to a hypoxic setting. So you’re breathing 30% less oxygen that would normally be in the air that you breathe, and then you flip the plus switch while still sprinting, and it switches it to almost pure oxygen and you breathe this oxygen in as you push harder and harder and harder. And you feel yourself get saturated with oxygen, then you recover, for example while keeping it on pure oxygen, and then you go back and you do it again.
For me, this morning, I did ten 30 second rounds of that. So that’s a perfect way, when you saturate the muscles with oxygen like that, the muscles make more mitochondria to deal with all that oxygen. It’s a great way to increase mitochondrial density and I use it almost like a flush. I got in from Chicago at about 1am last night and I was doing that workout around 7am this morning, and it’s good for giving me a flush of oxygen into my system. And for me it’s like a cup of coffee for my whole body. So those are expensive, I think you might be able to rent them but the company is called LiveO2, I’ll link to all this stuff in the show notes if you just go to bengreenfieldfitness.com/383. Those are a few of the things, but let’s say you wanted ton increase your mitochondrial density and you didn’t wanna buy something super-duper expensive like that. There are other little things, I’m not saying these are gonna make you an Olympic champion, but there’s things you could do like intermittent fasting. I think we have a question about intermittent fasting in this podcast episode.
Brock: We sure do.
Ben: But fasting increases your fat oxidation, but it also is something that can increase your mitochondria. You release more of what’s called AMPK, and that actually shifts you into nutritional ketosis and you produce more mitochondria, so intermittent fasting and then I do, like the workout I just described, I do that in a fasted state in the morning. And being in a fasted state like that and exercising typically will shift you into a certain amount of fatty acid and ketone production, coz you burn fatty acids in the Krebs cycle and that creates ketone bodies like betahydroxybutyrate without you actually having to actually consume ketones per se. And ketones increase your mitochondrial density because the body as to use fat as a primary fuel source so you need more mitochondria in order to do that. So that’s one way to do it. Very heavy weightlifting, it also can increase the mitochondrial density.
Brock: You mean like one rep max kinda stuff?
Ben: Yeah, like a 5 by 5 protocol or a single set to failure protocol or Doug McGuff, kinda body by science, extremely slow lifting type of protocol. A lot of that can induce what’s called mitochondrial biogenesis. To a certain extent, more than doing powerlifting or explosive lifting, so yeah, heavier, slower training is another way that you can do it. Cold exposure, we talked about cold exposure and I mentioned AMPK just a couple of minutes ago, and AMPK can enhance your ability to produce ATP and increase mitochondrial density and brown fat is another thing that can also increase that. And so from a perspective of mitochondrial density, cold exposure increases fat oxidation and increase mitochondrial density, so you could even do, like the workout I described, that 30 minute VO2 Max workout, finish with 30 minutes in the sauna then take a 5 minute cold shower, right? So, that’s another strategy that you can use.
There are certain foods and supplements that can assist with mitochondrial density, some of the ones I just described from Biotropic Labs would be included. A lot of these higher fat/lower carbohydrate type of strategies can help, but a lot of times people will take care of their gut and eat the right foods, but then they don’t pay attention to some of these other things that can also affect mitochondrial degeneration. This idea that the human body is a battery and so, and I don’t wanna go off too deep of an end because we’re long in the tooth, but exposing yourself to negative ions from fresh air or negative ion generators in your office, getting plenty of bright, natural light in the morning and then avoiding that light at night, drinking really good mineral-rich structured water, avoiding inflammation. A lot of these things to increase mitochondrial density are very important, there are entire books out there on taking care of the mitochondria. Interestingly, many of them are on cancer because cancer is essentially a mitochondrial metabolic disease so you look at books like “Tripping Over The Truth” or Nasha Winters’ book, what’s her book on cancer? It’s like “The Metabolic Approach To Cancer”, a lot of these books on cancer, actually are chock full of excellent advice for increasing the health of your mitochondria. And so those would also be books to look at as well, “Metabolic Approach to Cancer” is the one by Nasha Winters. There’s a newer book on mitochondria, we don’t need to edit this out per se. Lemme see, I’m gonna step back to my book shelf, I’m gonna shout at you Brock, okay?
Ben: Alright I have a bookshelf back here in my office, walking back around to it. It is called…
Brock: Picture this in your mind, everybody. Ben is strolling across the room, waving his arms.
Ben: “Mitochondria and the Future of Medicine”, really good book.
Ben: Yeah, that one too. That one and the “Metabolic Approach to Cancer” are really good for anybody who wants to increase their mitochondria. So “Mitochondria and the Future of Medicine”, I’m writing this down so I remember to put this in the show notes, and then “Metabolic Approach to Cancer”. Both of those as well, so I realize that there might be some people snickering about reading a cancer book to make yourself a better firefighter on a VO2 Max test, but I wanted to kinda cover some of the basics but then some of the things that would be considered just general lifestyle tips to help you better wit oxygen utilization and VO2 Max. So those are some of the biggies, but if I had to pick anything, put some freakin’ weight on, hop on an inclined trainer for 4-6 minutes, maximum sustainable pace, 4-6 minutes of recovery, and do 4-6 rounds of that. You do that 2-3 times a week, your VO2 Max is gonna go up, baby.
Andrew: Hey Ben, question for you. Would a 12-16 hour daily fast be safe for someone who is experiencing hypothyroid and borderline low testosterone issues?
Ben: A lot of Andrews calling in lately.
Brock: Yeah, I think last episode we had two Andrews as well.
Ben: Yeah, yeah.
Brock: We should just start calling this the Ben Greenfield Fitness Andrew Q&A.
Ben: Andrew’s a, isn’t that a Biblical name, Andrew? Like Peter, Paul?
Brock: Dude, you’re asking the wrong guy.
Ben: I think Andrew… I dunno. With a name like Benjamin, you’d think I’d know, Benjamin Greenfield.
Ben: Everybody thinks I’m a… Yeah, my brother’s name is Zachary, I’ve got another brother name Isaac.
Brock: Oh yeah.
Ben: People think we’re like the most Jewish of Jew families, but actually…
Brock: You’re the Old Testament family.
Ben: Yeah, I’m 25% Ashkenazi Jew and the rest of me is mutt, but I do have a really Jewish name. So…
Brock: Not that there’s anything wrong with that.
Ben: Thank you for being politically correct.
Brock: I just don’t wanna give the wrong approach.
Ben: Everybody knows, I was actually getting a massage in Miami from this guy named Rajah at a Hotel Carillon? I dunno how you pronounce it, it’s a nice hotel in Miami, though. I mentioned Miami, shout out to that hotel, they used to be the Canyon Ranch, it’s like a wellness facility where people go to live a long time and then… basically where rich people go to exercise all day is really what it is. But they’ve got this amazing spa with these crazy machines I’d never seen before like an infrared pod that you get inside and sweat before your massage, a full-on hydro-massage therapy bath, they had a rock climbing wall with a bunch of weight training equipment around it so you can weight train and then climb on a rock wall, but you didn’t need someone to belay for you because they had the rope set up as like this automatic belaying system. It’s really cool.
Ben: Yeah, Hotel Carillon in Miami. Anyways, how’d I get talking about Miami? Oh the massage I got there, it was by this Jewish guy. We were talking about Northern Galilee and how much I like Northern Galilee. I actually did a podcast about cancer with a professional basketball player who was in Northern Galilee and we stopped by his house and did a big podcast with him. Great episode, if anybody’s listening in, if you ever get a chance to visit Northern Galilee in Israel, go. The food’s amazing, they even got a triathlon over there. The Israman Triathlon, great triathlon. You swim in the Red Sea and then you go ride your bike up through the area around Egypt and then you come back, you run along the Red Sea, it’s a great spot, so…
Brock: Is it really red?
Brock: I heard it’s not that red.
Ben: I was in the triathlon so I was seeing red. It was red to me.
Brock: [laughs] Good answer, yeah.
Ben: Oh you know what else I was doing down there in Miami? The Miami Heat have taken on my services as a performance consultant so I’m helping them out…
Ben: With their team, the Miami Heat professional basketball team. So it’s kinda fun to spend a couple of days down there in America Airlines Arena and visit with their strength conditioning coaches and their staff about how to optimize the player’s health and kinda biohack the team a little bit. So yeah, a good basketball game while I was down there. Anyways, can we talk about fasting?
Brock: Yeah, please do coz I don’t know anything about the NBA.
Brock: I’m totally screwed here.
Ben: Yeah. Alright, we’ll avoid that and I’ll write a note to myself to definitely take you on a game on 21.
Brock: Although, did you get to meet Dwayne Wade or Hassan Whiteside?
Brock: Or Goran Dragic?
Ben: What’d you do, look up their roster and read it out loud? Is that what you’re doing? Coz you know a lot of names for somebody who doesn’t know anything about basketball.
Brock: Did you meet their mascot, Burn? [laughs] Or their general manager, Andy Eisenberg?
Ben: Alright, we digress.
Ben: So, you know I think Andrew is looking at this study that’s circulating called Within Day Energy Deficiency and Metabolic Perturbation in Male Endurance Athletes. My mom always told me to be careful with too much perturbation.
Brock: Yup, it makes you go blind.
Ben: And get hairy palms. Anyways though, within day energy deficiency and metabolic perturbation, you can explain that joke to your children, all you adults listening in with your kids.
Ben: They looked at a bunch of male endurance athletes and they looked at what’s called within day energy deficiency and within day energy balance. And they investigated their metabolic rate and their hormone markers to see if this energy deficiency produced any deleterious results, and it turns out, voila, no surprises here, that big, single hour energy deficits were associated with higher cortisol and lower testosterone.
Ben: And suppressed minimal resting metabolic rate and increase in catabolic markers in these male endurance athletes who had energy deficits that were exceeding 400 calories, and also who were engaging in a large amount of fasting in combination with these energy deficits. And here’s my problem with this study, it’s very simple, intermittent fasting is not synonymous with caloric restriction, right? I’m an eater, I can put away the calories, I eat about 3500-4000 calories a day, but I also compress all those calories into about 8-12 hours or so, coz I fast for 12-16 hours for every single 24 hours cycle. To get all the benefits of apoptosis and cellular clean up and the mitochondrial density that I talked about. There’s a lot of benefits to intermittent fasting, but it’s not synonymous with calorie restriction. You can fast and then eat a huge breakfast, eat a good sized lunch if you’re an athlete, eat a big dinner and then fast again. A lot of people think fasting means caloric restriction, it doesn’t. Now it’s harder to eat as many calories coz you’re shoving it all into a smaller, shorter window.
Ben: But it’s the athletes who fast and restrict calories who tend to have bigger issues with hormone deficits, especially females, and not the athletes who are just fasting. It’s that combination of fasting with caloric restriction. Does that make sense?
Brock: Yeah, okay. So as long as you’re… I think in the study they were showing the intake of food, and especially their breakfast was quite puny.
Brock: These people were eating small breakfast, big dinner, but not much for breakfast or lunch.
Ben: Right, like before I came down to my office here to record the podcast with you, I had breakfast. I had like a 1000 calorie smoothie. It was a big breakfast, a bunch of spirulina and that coconut cereal and all sorts of stuff thrown into it, but I also hadn’t eaten. I guess my last meal had been like somewhere in the plane from Miami to Chicago, about 15 hours earlier so yeah.
Ben: Anyways though, so intermittent fasting, it reduces insulin levels, it raises adiponectin which is this key hormone that tells your body to burn fat, it reduces oxidative stress, it increases your growth hormone levels. It actually turns on what’s called your sirt1 gene, which is the same longevity gene which is turned on by sirtuin-rich foods like blueberries and red wine and dark chocolate. I mentioned autophagy which is the process through which cells cleanse and detox and remove waste materials. It’s been shown to prevent cancer in animal studies and also reduce the side-effects caused by chemotherapy, it’s been show to increase neuronal formation in the brain so it’s very potentially defensive against dementia and Alzheimer’s but also just a good way to be a little bit more of a smart cookie during the day. There’s a lot of benefits to this intermittent fasting. The only issues I’ve seen with it is for example in some women, it can affect your levels of luteinizing hormone and follicle stimulating hormone when you excessively intermittent fast, and especially combine it with exercise.
There’s this hormone called kisspeptin that women make that causes them to be a little bit more sensitive to things like fasting. So it could throw off fertility and create a little bit of a hormonal imbalance, and so in women I’m not as big of a fan of fasting combined with high amounts of exercise. But even in a case like that, you can do something like use those amino acids I talked about, maintain high blood levels of amino acids and still get away with things like fasted workouts. So the trick is to identify whether you’re fasting or whether you’re also caloric restricting. Now on the flipside, when you look at fasting, there are some studies that show, for example the Journal of Metabolism and the British Journal of Nutrition did show that caloric ingestion post-workout can cause a decrease in testosterone, especially in males, right?
Ben: So Mark Sisson, I talked about this on a previous podcast, I like to fast after workout. They’ve also shown that fasting can decrease the hormone lectin which actually causes a stimulation of testosterone secretion, so blood testosterone levels would technically go up. There’s one study in the Journal of Clinical Investigation that showed that fasting, and this was a 24 hour fast, but a huge increase in growth hormone levels, right? So occasionally throwing in a longer fast appears to have a very good effect, and again this was in males, on growth hormone levels. There was another study in men in which they did an overnight fast in obese men and they saw a big release in what’s called gonadotropin-releasing hormone which is a testosterone precursor. So a lot of benefits, and even more benefits in men than in women, but the trick is that in most of these studies it wasn’t pure calorie restriction, it was a period of time that you go without eating. And for me, all I do is a 12-16 hour fast every single day, once a week to once every two weeks, I’ll fast from Saturday dinner until Sunday dinner. And I’m not concerned about hormones unless you’re actually restricting calories pretty significantly.
Brock: Now, what does this change at all if you’re hyperthyroid like Andrew is?
Ben: If you’re hyperthyroid?
Ben: If you’re hyperthyroid, that would be even less of a concern than if you were hypothyroid. If you’re hyperthyroid, sometimes there will be an increase in your metabolic rate and so you may need to eat even more calories, but ultimately hypothyroid folks tend to be a little bit more sensitive to excessive calorie restriction. But even in those folks, there haven’t shown there to be any type of induction of starvation syndrome or deleterious response in thyroid unless you’re excessively caloric restricting for over four weeks. So even that is less of an issue than a lot of people feel that it is. It basically comes down to the fact that you don’t want to excessively calorically restrict, even then it takes a few weeks for the damage to start to kick in, and ultimately intermittent fast but don’t confuse it with caloric restriction.
Jason: Hey Ben, this is Jason from Miami, Florida. I’ll be having stem cell treatment to address an old rotator cuff tear. I was wondering if there’s anything specific that I can do pre and post-surgery to maximize its effectiveness. I’m gonna follow my doctor’s instructions but was just wondering if there’s anything additional I can do, diet, training, any other hacks, to maximize the surgery’s effectiveness. I follow the general eating-training-recovery protocols you recommend so I’m pretty dialed in, but was just looking to see if there’s any targeted strategies I can use. It ain’t cheap so I just wanted to do everything I can for a positive outcome. Thanks, appreciate your contribution to the wellness place Ben, keep up the good work.
Ben: Yeah, this is interesting coz there’s a lot of talk these days about stem cells. I mean I was speaking at this regenerative medicine conference when I was down in Miami. I mean that’s what every single doctor’s talking about. Stem cells for the eyes, stem cells for the joints, and there’s even this one doctor, Dr. Harry Adelson down at Salt Lake City who’s developing a full-body makeover. He just knocks you out for a day and does stem cells like hair, skin, I think he does cerebrospinal fluid, everything.
Ben: So people are going to town with stem cells, but in many cases if you’re using your own stem cells, especially if you’re gonna extract your own stem cells, you wanna maximize stem cell health going into a collection like that, into a banking of your stem cells. Now if you’re using some kind of an umbilical or embryotic stem cell source or an exogenous stem cell source that’s not your own and you’re not going into surgery to actually have your stem cells extracted, it’s a little bit less of a consideration of this idea of increasing the viability of your stem cells, you know? In a case like that, you wanna just go back and listen to the old podcast we’ve done on how to recover faster from surgery and ways to prepare yourself going into surgery where we talk about… it’s very straightforward in those episodes. We talked about things like taking high amounts of vitamin C, taking lots of proteolytic enzymes for example.
Ben: And, what did we talk about? Vitamin C, proteolytic enzymes, amino acids, ensuring that you don’t high levels of inflammation, avoiding high levels of blood thinners like omega-3 fatty acids, etc. We’ll put a link in the show notes to the previous podcast that we did on how to recover more quickly from surgery. But let’s say that you actually want to increase your stem cell health because you’re going to go get your stem cells extracted, right? When I got my stem cells extracted, all they told me was I shoulda eaten more doughnuts going in coz they didn’t have enough fat.
Ben: They didn’t have enough fat to take out.
Brock: Do they only do fat on you or did they do the bone marrow as well?
Ben: I’ve done both. I’ve done bone for my hip at Forever Labs in Berkley and I’ve done actual stem cells from my fat tissue from the U.S. Stem Cell Clinic in Florida. There’s a few things that you can do. First of all, interestingly, steroidal drugs, they flip a switch on mesenchymal stem cells and essentially they’re toxic to stem cells, so if you’re taking any type of oral or epidural steroids like exogenous testosterone or any other form of steroid, I would not be taking those going into a stem cell extraction procedure or getting your tissues extracted to grow stem cells. So I would not do that. One thing they have shown is that stem cells actually differentiate better in a hypoxic environment. This is one of the reasons that people hypothesized why the folks in Boulder tend to have a very high amount of longevity when you isolate from all other external factors, altitude seems to confer some amount of longevity.
Doing some type of hypoxic training for example like I described earlier, that could actually be something you could do going into a stem cell extraction or if you just want to increase the viability of your stem cells, so that would be another thing that I would do. Antibiotics have definitely been shown to damage stem cells so I would not be using antibiotics. There are supplements that you can take, there’s a lot of them, that can actually enhance stem cell health, and in addition to just decreasing inflammation, cutting out sugar, cutting out vegetable oils, doing the things that just living a healthy lifestyle, paying attention to your air, quality of your air, light exposure, electricity. Supplements are very interesting, curcumin is one. Curcumin can cause brain stem cells to grow and proliferate and also decrease inflammation which helps mesenchymal stem cell formation. So curcumin would be one that you could load with, 1-2g like a really good company from Italy makes a bioavailable form of curcumin called Meriva. That company’s like Thorne for example, put it into their supplements, that’ll be one. Another would be resveratrol, like a concentrated resveratrol supplement, that would be something to definitely include to your stem cell support formula.
That will be another one in addition to curcumin, other things that they’ve studied to increase stem cell formation, spirulina, blue green algae. They’ve shown that can prevent inflammation induced decreases in brain stem cell proliferation and it may affect other stem cells as well, and they have shown that it improves function of stem cell mitochondria. Blueberry extracts, very similar to resveratrol, those contain very protective molecules, these sirtuin-based molecules that can also assist with stem cell health, so that’ll be another one. They’ve done studies on green tea, on astragalus, on goji berry, on high dose vitamin D, all of those seem to enhance the ability of the body’s natural repair mechanisms, the stem cells, and a lot of those were, in the one study that was done, they were all in combination and they were taken with probiotics of all things. So there’s another strategy, I’ll kind of put a list for you in the show notes, but interestingly, speak of the devil, my 1000 calorie smoothie I talked about this morning.
I’m actually testing different combination of things that can assist with stem cell formation, and so this particular smoothie which I actually had a company produce it for me, and I’m testing out some twists on this formula. But it’s like a stem cell enhancing shake and it had Pau D’ Arco bark tea and omega-3 fatty acids, organic green tea extract, organic cacao powder, organic blueberry extract, marine phytoplankton, blue green algae, aloe vera, also fantastic for stem cells, curcumin and colostrum and coffeeberry fruit extract along with moringa. So what I did was I basically took all of these things that are supposed to increase stem cells health and had them all put into a smoothie, so I’m experimenting with taste and texture and it’s gone from tasting like ass to actually tasting pretty good, like a chocolate milkshake.
Brock: Are you saying ass doesn’t taste good? Come on.
Ben: The last ass… I won’t go there.
Brock: Sorry, I shouldn’t have said that. [laughs]
Ben: It’s not flavorful. Anyways though, ultimately what I’m working on isn’t available right now although, nudge-nudge-wink-wink, stay tuned to my website, Kion, getkion.com if you wanna be the first to know.
Ben: K-I-O-N, when stuff like this that I work on actually goes live and becomes available for people to buy and use. But in the meantime, I’ll put a big list, go to bengreenfieldfitness.com/383. I’ll put a big list of things that I would add in from nutrients to some of those lifestyle practices that I talked about when I was discussing VO2 Max, taking into consideration air, light, water, electricity. And then just from a pure surgery recovery standpoint, vitamin C, proteolytic enzymes, amino acids, those’ll be your big three. And we’ll link to that podcast as well that we did on things that you can do to recover faster from surgery or things you should do going into surgery. One thing I didn’t mention, ketosis and exogenous ketones.
Ben: Both of those seems to confer some amount of benefit for stem cells as well, so there’s another one you can add in there. So, whole bunch of stuff that you can do. Hopefully that helps.
Brock: Whole bunch.
Ben: Yeah. Speaking of a whole bunch of stuff, shall we send somebody a whole bunch of stuff?
Brock: Yeah, well these three things.
Ben: Let’s do it, let’s give out a gift pack. So this is the part of the show where we give a handy-dandy Ben Greenfield Fitness Gear pack to the person who leaves the best iTunes review of the week. All you gotta do, if you hear us read your review on iTunes, just email [email protected] and we’ll send you a handy-dandy gear pack, jam packed with a tech shirt and a BPA-free water bottle and a beanie. We’ve got a review this week left by “1 stop listen”, 5 star review. 1 stop listen, it’s actually left by this guy named stevenw13 coz no reviewer can have just their name, they have to have a number afterwards.
Ben: 1 stop listen, 5 star review by stevenw13. Brock, you wanna take this one away?
Brock: I do, it goes like this. “The BG fitness podcast is your daily/weekly fill of what you can/should/better do with your life to just make other people around you think ‘what the hell are they doing to be so awesome?’” Nice, I’ve heard people say that many times around me.
Ben: Yeah, walking through the mall.
Ben: They flip their hair around. What the hell are they doing to be so awesome?
Brock: What the hell are they doing to be so awesome? “You get humor, Brock, love your quippy add-ins.” Quippy?
Ben: I dunno what quippy is.
Brock: “With a huge dose of evidence-based cutting research on how to become a better human. From heel to brain, Ben has got you covered to make wellness achievable from a hardcore athlete or a beginner.” He actually said beginning, that’s confusing.
Brock: “Listen in, you will not waste your time.”
Ben: From the heel to the brain, cool.
Brock: I think we do waste quite a bit of time, to be honest, Steven.
Ben: We do. We talked about Northern Galilee, we talked about random Miami Heat basketball players.
Brock: Yeah, we wasted a lot of time.
Ben: We wasted a lot of people’s precious lives, so yeah. My apologies but anyways, hopefully you got something out of that. And we’ll put all the links to everything we talked about from how to maximize your stem cell health and all these little nutrients you could use in your smoothies to how to get a better score on a VO2 Max test. Some of the research on these branched chain amino acids, some of the intermittent fasting stuff, and much more as well as some of the studies we talked about when it comes to Hong Kong and heart disease risk factors, cold water swims. Everything’s in there over at bengreenfieldfitness.com/383 where you can also leave comments, ask questions, stalk, troll, and do everything else people do on the internet.
Ben: So there you have it. Alright Brock, you got anything quippy to say?
Brock: I’m quip-less.
Brock: Completely quip-less.
Ben: Alright, well folks until next time, thanks for listening in, I’m Ben and he’s quippy.
Ben: Alright, later.
Mar 29, 2018, Podcast: 383 – Why Branched Chain Amino Acids Don't Work, How To Get A Better Score On A VO2 Max Test, Does Intermittent Fasting Lower Hormones, and How To Maximize Your Stem Cell Health.
Have a podcast question for Ben? Click the tab on the right (or go to SpeakPipe), use the Contact button on the app, or click the contact link in the footer..
News Flashes [00:03:41]
- Man’s chronic pain disappears after vigorous, cold-water swim.
- Could this be the next blue zone?
- Probably one of the best heart disease risk factor markers you could possibly track.
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Special Announcements [00:17:37]
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–Click here to follow Ben on Snapchat, and get ready for some epic stories about his morning, day and evening routine!
Ben's Adventures [00:15:27]
-NEW! Click here for the official BenGreenfieldFitness calendar.
-April 27-29, 2018: Paleof(x) in Austin, TX. Paleo f(x)™ is the world’s premier wellness event, covering health, nutrition, fitness, sustainability, & everything in between. Our tribe gathers to learn and grow together! Bringing the latest, most cutting-edge science and strategy together to help you create your very best life, Paleo f(x) is like the Woodstock of the ancestral movement, and I will be there. Sign up now to be the first to get tickets to this very exciting event! Sign up here and see you in Austin!
-May 5-6, 2018: Montana Beast and Sprint Weekend, Bigfork MT. Join Spartan Race and Discover Kalispell as we attempt to make history by breaking the GUINNESS WORLD RECORDS for most people performing burpees at one time.
-May 26, 2018: Train to Hunt / Bonners Ferry, Idaho. Whether you’re a flatlander, hunt out West, or past your prime, we want to make you a better hunter through fitness.
–May 31 to June 3, 2018: A-Fest / Sardinia, Italy. A-Fest is an invite-only transformational event that gathers a global tribe of change-makers and visionaries who are driven by epic ideas to impact the world. Apply now to get invited.
–June 28 to July 22, 2018: Mind Valley U / Tallinn, Estonia.
-The story of why Ben is not racing for Team Timex this year after all (hint: it's about this story). [00:35:03]
Giveaways & Goodies [01:15:57]
-Click here to get your own GreenfieldFitnessSystems.com gift pack, handpicked by Ben and chock full of $300 worth of biohacks, supplements, books and more. All at 50% discount!
-Grab your Official Ben Greenfield Fitness Gear package that comes with a tech shirt, a beanie and a water bottle.
-And of course, this week's top iTunes review – gets some BG Fitness swag straight from Ben – click here to leave your review for a chance to win some!
As compiled, deciphered, edited and sometimes read by Brock Armstrong, the Podcast Sidekick.
Why Branched Chain Amino Acids Don't Work [00:23:24]
Robert says: I have a question about Branch Chain Amino Acids. You say that you have concerns about their insulinogenic or glycemic effects but Dominic D'Agostino says that Leucine is a more of a ketogenic amino acid and that it didn't have much effect on blood sugar. I take up to 5 grams of Leucine before a workout, especially if have been fasting to help reduce muscle loss. If you can dig into this, that would be awesome.
In my response, I recommend:
How To Get A Better Score On A VO2 Max Test [00:31:22]
Andrew says: I have a Vo2 Max, incline, weighted fitness test coming up that I need to do for a fire department recruitment process. I was wondering if you have any tips, potential biohacking or training protocols that I can start using in preparation for this test. I will be wearing about 60lbs of gear, walking at a 12% incline for 12 – 15 minutes. Any help would be great!
In my response, I recommend:
–LiveO2 – get a free pulse oximeter and free shipping on this extremely easy-to-setup and easy-to-use unit with code GREENFIELD
–NordicTrack Incline Trainer
–Hyperwear Weighted Vest
–Biotropic Labs supplements
–Blood test for RBC's/iron/ferritin
–Thorne Iron Bisglycinate
–Mitochondria and the Future of Medicine
–Metabolic Approach to Cancer
Does Intermittent Fasting Lower Hormones? [00:54:29]
Andrew says: Would a 12-16 hour fast be safe for someone who is experiencing hyperthyroid and borderline testosterone issues? There is a study circulating that shows intermittent fasting can raise cortisol and lower testosterone.
In my response, I recommend:
-Study: Within-day Energy Deficiency and Metabolic Perturbation in Male Endurance Athletes.
–Exogenous Ketones, Code: GREENFIELD to save 10%
–Four New, Cutting-Edge Ways To Easily Shift Your Body Into Fat-Burning Mode & Ketosis
-How To Use Ketones For Longevity, How I Personally Use Ketone Salts & A New Chemical-Free, Clean Way To Get Into Ketosis
–How To Get Into Ketosis In 60 Minutes Or Less (& Which Vitamins, Minerals, Nutrients & More To Fill In The Holes Of A Ketogenic Diet)
–Exogenous Ketones, Deuterium-Depleted Water, Near Vs. Far Infrared, Scorpion Stings & More! A Special Episode Recorded Live In Panama
–Exoskeletons For Human Performance, Will Robots Rule The World, Ketosis For Muscle Gain & Much More
–Hotel Carillon in Miami
–Northern Galilee podcast with a basketball player who cured himself of cancer
How To Maximize Your Stem Cell Health [01:06:06]
Jason says: I am having stem cell treatment to address an old rotator cuff tear. I am wondering if there is anything specific that I can do pre and post surgery to maximize its effectiveness. I will follow my doctor's instructions but was wondering if there is anything I can do via diet, training or biohacks to maximize the treatment's effectiveness. It ain't cheap, so I want to do all I can do.
In my response, I recommend:
-Pau D’ Arco bark tea (2-3 cups per day of the tea)
-Superessentials fish oil (4 with any meal)
-Organic green tea extract (use throughout day)
-Organic cacao powder (use throughout day)
-Organic frozen blueberries (use throughout day)
-Activation Products Marine Phytoplankton (use in morning – 2 dropperfuls)
-Intranasal glutathione (use 2 sprays each nostril in morning)
-Colostrum (Colostrum – 4 upon waking)
-Bitter Melon Extract (Kion Lean – 2 before dinner)
-RecoveryBits (20-30 bits a day – with or without food)
-Thorne Multivitamin (take AM 3 capsules morning and PM 3 capsules evening)
-Organic Aloe Vera Juice (2 shots/day)
-Listen to this podcast and incorporate the recommendations on Moringa and on Coffeeberry Fruit Extract
-Either the ketogenic diet from Stephen Gundry’s Plant Paradox or from Dr. Terry Wahl’s Wahl’s Protocol
–Previous podcast about how to recover faster from surgery