[Transcript] Q&A 453: Science-Based Trick For Morning Alertness, Hard vs. Easy Cardio Debate, How To Make A Vegan Diet Healthy, The Benefits Of Cigarettes & Much More.

Affiliate Disclosure


From podcast: https://bengreenfieldlife.com/podcast/qa-453/

[00:00:00] Introduction

[00:00:36] Podcast Sponsors

[00:04:25] New Video Show

[00:05:13] Updates on Sleep Devices

[00:11:28] NewsFlashes

[00:11:52] Want more morning alertness?

[00:20:29] HIIT

[00:27:50] Podcast Sponsors

[00:31:34] cont. on HIIT

[00:34:51] The Relationship between Plant-Based Diet Index and Semen Parameters of Men with Infertility

[00:39:39] The Top 100 Best-Selling Nutrition Books In Canada Are Written By Authors With Financial Incentives

[00:47:25] Cigarette Smoking

[00:55:31] Q&A on Twitter Spaces

[00:55:51] Does sprinting count as lower-body workout for strength and endurance, not hypertrophy?

[01:00:09] More on Biohacking Sleep

[01:05:17] End of Podcast

Ben:  In this episode of the Ben Greenfield Life podcast.

Science-based tricks for morning alertness, hard versus easy cardio debate, how to make a vegan diet healthy, the benefits of cigarettes, and much more.

Faith, family, fitness, health, performance, nutrition, longevity, ancestral living, biohacking, and a whole lot more. Welcome to the show.

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Jay, this is an odd morning for me. I've got all sorts of cables and devices and random cameras and microphones and eight different pieces of software open on my computer. I suppose, this is kind of a special announcement. I can see you, you can see me, and we are officially switching to this podcast, the Ben Greenfield Life show being a video show.

Jay:  Dude, look at us. Welcome to 2023. We joined the game.

Ben:  Man, we haven't done a Q&A in quite some time, and just for those of you listening in, I keep all the shownotes for every Q&A, we take copious shownotes. So, BenGreenfieldLife.com/453. We'll link to all the newsflashes and anything else we talk about, special announcements.

Since we haven't talked in just a little bit, Jay, is everything good?

Jay:  Everything's good other than the fact, and this is a fun thing for us to open up with. Apparently, I thought I was getting amazing deep sleep like I was getting three-plus hours, come to find out maybe I wasn't and I'm only getting an hour. And, I'm sure you know what I'm talking about, right, with this whole new change in some algorithms. I don't like to name companies because I own a biometric company, so I don't want to get sued by anybody. But, there's been some changes in different algorithms that are looking at sleep staging.

Ben:  Is it a ring company that rhymes with Roura?

Jay:  Maybe.

Ben:  Okay.

Jay:  It's a great guess, Ben. They have a new sleep staging. It's in beta, but essentially what they're using, and I love this, they're using more or less high-fidelity heart rate variability data to look at sleep staging. But, those who have a “high heart rate variability,” which is where I fall into the category apparently according to Oura, my deep sleep stages has been skewed. So, for instance, last night, it says on the old algorithm–

Ben:  Keep talking. I mean, I'm going to pull open my own data here while you're talking.

Jay:  Yeah, do it, do it.

Ben:  It's super nerdy but keep going.

Jay:  Okay, if you open it up and you go and just look at the sleep staging, it'll say new sleep stage beta or the old one. You just have to toggle it on. So, last night, I'll show the camera too, I had three and a half hours last night in the old Oura Ring, I guess, you could say algorithm, new one, 53 minutes. So, I was off by almost three hours? What's going on here?

Ben:  Thank you for doing this. By the way, I never saw this setting. If people have an Oura Ring and I open up my sleep stages, you're saying that it's more accurate if I toggle that new sleep staging beta thing to be on?

Jay:  So, apparently, it is supposed to be. I mean, again, Oura says it's in beta right now, but apparently, it is supposed to be more closely associated with sleep staging on a polysomnography, so an actual sleep study.

Ben:  That's interesting. I just got back from almost two weeks of being gone from my family and traveling. I was speaking at a longevity. Oops, I'm not supposed to say that. I learned at this conference, this anti-aging and longevity conference that I spoke at, it's a private membership-only event so I won't say the name of it because then people might feel left out or whatever. But, you're supposed to say age reversal now. Apparently, you're not supposed to say longevity and anti-aging, it's age reversal. That's the new moniker that all the cool kids are using.

But, I was traveling, and during my trip, I was like, “Geez, I just really want to experiment with some new things for getting a good night of sleep.” And, I recently posted this to Instagram, some of the stuff that I tried. So, first of all, I got those tape strips, Hostage Tape. They sent me these tape strips that they sent me back when I had a beard and a mustache because it's apparently good for keeping your mouth taped when you have hair on your face. So, I did that and then the other thing because we all know that the best way to assess whether something's working is to do a whole bunch of other things with it at the same time. That's just science.

Jay:  Scientific way.

Ben:  Yeah. So, I did that and then I did my usual keep the room cold, use a red light headlamp to get around at night. I had one of those little Joovv Gos that I was using to light up my room in the morning and in the evening to simulate sunrise and sunset. Actually, no, I'd say three main things that I did and my sleep scores were an average of 94% during my two weeks of travel with eight hours of sleep a night, which is amazing. That's better sleep than I get at home. So, I was mouth taping and then I was running a light sound stimulation or breathwork session on myself every night for 20 or 30 minutes, which I don't do at home because frankly, I like sex, I like talking with my wife, I like our evening prayers, I like my kids a little bit, and I like to read them stories and stuff. And frankly, I don't have the time at home to do some 30-minute light sound stimulation thing. But, when I'm traveling, I don't have a life. So, by 9:15 p.m., I could get in bed. And so, I was using either the BrainTap or the Othership app to do breathwork for relaxation or one of the light sound stimulation sessions for relaxation to kind of turn my brain off in the evening.

So, I was doing that every night. I was doing the mouth tape every night. And then, as I usually do when I travel, I was using a melatonin suppository. But, I did another thing that guy, Dr. John Lieurance, I recently talked about this on a podcast who makes those melatonin suppositories, he has another one called Solace. And, he designed it for pain and it's got this Chinese herb in it that's been studied for insomnia and sleep support. And, John told me, he's like, the people I've given it to for pain have been crushing sleep also. I think it's called Corydalis is the name of this stuff. They get a little bit of organic CBD. They put that in there. And so, I was putting two things in my booty, melatonin suppository and a solid suppository using Hostage Tape and then that lights on stimulation, which sounds like a lot of stuff. But, honestly, it takes two minutes to pull this stuff on. And, dude, my sleep was so good. It was one of those deals where I got back from two weeks of travel and felt like I had been on vacation or something. When you walk in the door, you just don't feel exhausted and jet-lagged and sleep deprived, it felt like that. So, I think that might be kind of sort of maybe my new travel protocol. I don't know.

Jay:  That could be a good go-to. I don't know. For me, my sleep is really bad and inconsistent when I travel, especially that first night. That first night, it's just a weird atmosphere. I don't know if it's an evolutionary thing like you're not in your environment, you're not at home. And so, I never sleep well. And then, it's like the night before I go home, it's maybe the anxiety of like, “Oh, man, I got to get everything wrapped up, get to the airport, do all those things. So, sleep just generally isn't great for me when I travel. But, some great tips to end up trying. I love breathwork or any type of biofeedback or anything before bed. That's a really great way to downregulate the number system.

Ben:  Yeah. And, it doesn't have to be long. I said 20 to 30 minutes, but I mean, the Othership app has Yoga Nidra and breath sessions that are eight minutes long. The BrainTap, I think, has one as short as 10 minutes. But, I think 20 to 30 minutes is kind of my sweet spot.

Let's jump in to today's news flashes.

Jay:  Let's go.

Ben:  Alright, everybody. Welcome to the newsflashes. So, this is the part of the show where I discuss some of the more compelling posts that I've made of late regarding the news, specifically, typically it's scientific nutrition exercise, age reversal, as we know we're supposed to say now, news that we've posted of late to primarily Twitter, although I kind of post these all over the place. 

So, our first newsflash was very interesting, new study or paper really on morning alertness, morning alertness. This was pretty interesting, I think especially because a lot of people struggle to figure out why some mornings they wake up groggy and some mornings they wake up bright and bushy-tailed, a metaphor I've never quite understood. And, they're wondering, “Oh, gosh, was it a supplement I took? Was it the temperature? Was it light?” Whatever. But, what this prospective longitudinal study did was they had over 800 twins and then also genetically unrelated adults. So, they were able to study genetics in this, which is really interesting when you have a twin population so they're able to see, well, are genetics playing a role here?

It turns out, long story short, even though I'll link to the full paper if you go to BenGreenfieldLife.com/453, is that your morning alertness is not affected by your genetics, but it is affected by four independent variables that they found in this study. Number one was no surprise, sleep quantity and quality the night before. That's a big duh. If it's poor, you're going to have poor morning alertness. The second was physical activity the day prior. And, they found regarding physical activity that a greater amount of physical activity the day prior resulted in increased amounts of morning alertness, which again, I don't think that is much of a shocker either although in this case, these were people that were not athletes or heavy trainers or people who would have been at risk of overtraining. They were engaged in just a modest amount of physical activity.

I didn't see a table in there that actually showed on the study the actual amount of physical activity. I don't know if you had a chance to take a look at it, Jay, but I mean, in a nutshell, what it comes down to is if you exercise the day prior, you are going to have higher amounts of morning alertness on the following day. Meaning, technically if you want to hack cognitive performance the next morning, do an exercise session the previous day. It doesn't say what time would be ideal either, although we know that the best times for exercise are typically within two to three hours of waking to take advantage of that cortisol awakening response or out sometime in the later afternoon to early evening when body temperature and grip strength and reaction time peaks. So, regardless, we know that some type of physical activity and prior physical activity the day before.

The next thing was super interesting. It was what they ate in the morning. So, these measurements of morning alertness were obviously not occurring right when these people got up, but later on in the day. And, they found that what they ate in the morning affected morning alertness. And interestingly, this is kind of hard to wrap your head around initially when you hear it, but I'll explain. 

Higher amounts of carbohydrates in the morning seems to increase morning alertness significantly. However, high amounts of blood glucose, meaning large amounts of glycemic variability due to the hypoglycemic drop that occurred afterwards and also the release of serotonin, which causes a tryptophan post-turkey dinner sluggishness in the brain occurred or was present in people with decreased morning alertness, which sounds paradoxical. Carbohydrates with breakfast or for your first-morning meal increases morning alertness, yet an increase in blood glucose decreases morning alertness or at least a significant increase in blood glucose decreases morning alertness to the extent where they even tested a glucose drip to raise blood glucose and found, yeah, this actually does decrease morning alertness.  

But, what they explained in the paper was that a well-composed meal that also includes proteins and fats, and even though they didn't list it, I would also say fibers causes a slowed release of those carbohydrates to the extent to where the carbohydrates with the morning meal allow for energy glucose for the brain, et cetera, that keeps morning alertness high without the blood glucose spike that could cause morning alertness to be low.

So, what I'm saying here, the takeaway from this is if you were going to have carbohydrates for breakfast, which appears to be a hack to increase morning alertness, then they should be paired with proteins and fats. It shouldn't just be toast with jam or oatmeal with brown sugar or a bowl of cereal. I doubt a lot of our listeners are consuming those type of things anyways. But, the thing to understand here is that it appears that the reason that the carbohydrates with the morning meal increased alertness for the rest of the morning was because of that long slow stable release in energy with a slight increase in blood glucose that wouldn't happen in response to skipping breakfast or having just a high-fat, high-protein breakfast. So, I think that based on this, it would be prudent if you are struggling with morning alertness and want your morning alertness to be higher to consume some type of low glycemic index carbohydrate in moderation with breakfast.

Now, this does not need to be a pasta feed or a couple bottles of Gatorade. This can literally be, I'm going to dump a handful of blueberries into my morning smoothie or I'm going to have a little serving of fruit or say some sweet potato with my eggs or something like that. Now, I know that this is coming from me, the guy who says, “Well, try to eat the lion's share of your carbohydrates in the evening to support sleep and to allow yourself to be able to burn more fats and proteins during the day,” but this study got me thinking, I'm like, “Well, gosh, if people are seeing an energy dip that's related to low blood glucose, then maybe they should include just a little bit of a low glycemic index carbohydrate with breakfast.” And, I think that based on what this study is showing that that could actually be prudent. And, for most people who are exercising or being physically active in the morning, anyways, I don't think you're getting any more about getting fat or something by having a handful of blueberries with breakfast. So, that was interesting.

Jay:  I thought we had the excuse though to eat cinnamon toast crunch. It's going to go with it, man. Sugary cereal.

Ben:  It's got to be that one of those new paleo keto low-carb cereals. I was telling somebody the other day, and again, they're not a sponsor of this show or anything, but Magic Spoon, they actually did a pretty good job replicating all of our favorite morning Frosted Flakes and Fruity Loops and Cocoa Puffs flavors without the crap. I'll occasionally have a bowl of Magic Spoon with some yogurt or some coconut milk and it's pretty good.

Jay:  I need to give it a try. I saw it at Sprouts. It was like 12 bucks a box. And, I was like, “Is this shit worth it?”

Ben:  You got to eat rice and beans for all your other meals because of the dent in your pocketbook, but you're at least going to have a guilt-free breakfast.

Oh, and I did mention there were four independent factors that they looked at. One was the sleep quality and quantity night before. One was physical activity the day prior. One was a breakfast rich in carbohydrate. But, the fourth was the paradox, lower blood glucose after breakfast. That's why I wanted to explain that. So, you have higher morning alertness if you have carbs for breakfast, but it has to be paired with a low blood glucose response. I guess the other hack could be maybe to take a blood glucose disposal agent like berberine or bitter melon or something like that before you have breakfast if you include carbs with it.

Jay:  I feel like for the physical activity component, I was just thinking about this as you read through these results is that there has to be that threshold but I feel like the primary mediating variable here is still sleep because I've found that even if I train really hard, as long as I get a good quality and quantity of sleep, then my recovery and then alertness tends to be better than if I paired a high level of physical activity or the same high level of physical activity with poor sleep. And, maybe that's just me anecdotally, but I think it makes sense that, again, if you're an athlete or you're training hard, yes, that is a huge priority for you. But, prioritizing sleep as well is key for morning alertness. So, I would put that–I mean, I know it wasn't necessarily talked about distinctively in the study, but it seems to make intuitive sense.

Ben:  Yeah. And, there's a lot of other kind of subtle variables that got into it. It's actually a great read, the whole paper just in terms of understanding circadian rhythmicity and glucose monitoring breakfast and physical activities. And, they use some accelerometers to detect sleep and wake cycles. So, I thought it was kind of a cool paper, so we'll link to that, BenGreenfieldLife.com/453.

Now, speaking of exercise, I also came across three different articles that got me thinking about what's better for specifically fat loss and weight management and metabolic response to exercise, high-intensity interval training or low steady state cardio because that's this constant debate. 

The reason it got me thinking about that was because the journal kinesiology review recently released a paper that was titled “Extraordinary claims in the literature on high-intensity interval training are the extraordinary claims supported by extraordinary evidence.” And, what they said was that there were four claims people often make about high-intensity interval training. One, that it lowers the risk of mortality more than moderate-intensity continuous exercise. Two, that it doubles endurance performance after only 15 minutes of training over two weeks. Three, that one minute of HIIT is equivalent to 45 minutes of moderate-intensity continuous exercise. I've always had my eyebrow raised at that anyways because it seems a little bit ludicrous. And then, four, HIIT is more pleasant and enjoyable than moderate-intensity continuous exercise. No, it's not.

Jay:  Whoever made that claim has never done it before.

Ben:  Yeah, exactly. Well, that's going to get me into what I wanted to talk about when it comes to this because when they looked into this, basically they found that most of those claims are pretty darn questionable. And, what they also found was that the majority of people who do high-intensity interval training, this is important for you if you're listening right now to understand, do not reach the same level of intensity as the actual studies that are done on high-intensity interval training. People hear about, let's say a Tabata set, 20 seconds hard, 10 seconds easy, barely anybody actually goes as hard as they demonstrate is beneficial in the actual research studies in labs. And, barely anybody goes as easy as they're supposed to during the rest periods. Most people are 20 seconds push, 10 seconds okay, keep moving and kind of push a little less harder than 20 seconds push. I'm guilty of that sometimes too because let's face it, it actually is hard to truly get up to 90 to 100% intensity or even exceed VO2 max.

There are two ways, and I talk about this, both in “Boundless” and then my previous endurance training manual called “Beyond Training.” There's two different ways to stimulate mitochondrial proliferation and endurance and muscular endurance. One is via what's called the PGC-1alpha pathway. You know what that stands for, by the way, Jay? You want to sound really smart?

Jay:  That is well beyond my pay grade, brother.

Ben: It's the master switch that increases mitochondrial density and the activity of what are called oxidative enzymes. Both of which are highly favorable for not only just overall decrease in mortality but increase in fat burning, increase in endurance, et cetera. And, the PGC-1alpha pathway is the master switch that responds to this moderate-intensity continuous steady-state exercise. It's the peroxisome proliferator-activated receptor-G coactivator-1alpha pathway. That's actually what it stands for.

Jay:  Exactly what I was thinking.

Ben:  Yeah. That's what you were thinking, I know.

In addition to that, however, a second pathway, the shortcut pathway, the hack pathway, it's the adenosine monophosphate kinase, the AMPK pathway, which some people might also be familiar with. So, you have two different ways to get fit. One is the slow way, the PGC-1alpha pathway, one is the AMPK pathway. The lion's share of professional endurance athletes walking in the face of this planet trigger the PGC-1alpha pathway 80% of the time. They've actually studied this, cross-country skiers, marathoners, triathletes, et cetera, the best of the best, even just naturally without even knowing about it tend to do about 80% of activity that is at aerobic threshold, low intensity triggering the PGC-1 alpha pathway. And then, that's important, the other 20%, they do it extremely high intensities triggering the AMPK pathway and very little in between.

Now, my recommendation in the past to folks who want to hack time, get fit, increase lifespan and health span and burn fat and increase the level of mitochondria is to mostly work on that AMPK pathway if you have limited time. If you're actual real person in the real world, not a professional athlete, what I've said in the past is yes, use high-intensity interval training because you can trigger that AMPK pathway. And then, what you do is you hit the PGC-1alpha pathway by just making sure you're engaged in low-level physical activity during the day. Walk when you take phone calls. Take the stairs. Go on some hikes here and there. Ride your bike to work or to the grocery store if you can. Just basically try to simulate a hunter-gatherer ancestral lifestyle. And, that way, you're not spending two to three hours in the gym on a treadmill or an elliptical trainer triggering that pathway, you're instead just triggering it through your activities of daily living. And then, when it is time to work out, you trigger that AMPK pathway through high-intensity interval training because it's the bee's knees, baby. 

Now, here's what these papers that I'll link to in the shownotes get into is, yeah, it's the bee's knees, but most people, they don't actually reach the required intensity to do it. So, the takeaway message here is I'm still a big fan of HIIT, but I was pretty shocked to realize barely anybody actually does HIIT properly. So, this might require you doing a few sessions with the trainer or using some kind of a computer or a wearable or some other modality to make sure your heart rate's getting high enough. But, the long story short, the big takeaway message here is if you're exercising with high-intensity interval training and you're not seeing results, it's probably because your intervals aren't hard enough or your exercise intervals are hard enough and your recovery intervals aren't easy enough.

Jay:  Yeah.

Ben:  Right. I'd recommend in the paths to trigger mitochondria, do 30 seconds hard, use one to four work-to-rest ratio, and do five rounds of that. So, we're talking about 30 seconds hard, 2 minutes easy, 30 seconds hard, two minutes easy, five times through. Alright, pretty doable to wrap your head around.

Those 30 seconds need to be smoke coming out your ears. Some of these needing to hold a gun to my head. Sorry for the violent analogy to get me to do this 25 seconds. And, I don't know if I can hold on for dear life. And, those two minutes are something you'd pay a million dollars to be able to have available at the end of that 30-second effort.

Jay:  So, Ben, you and I have talked about in the past even smaller segments for workout or even smaller working set like 10 to 15 seconds to where you're literally doing. It's not 90%, it's 100% all out everything you can give because a lot of people can do a 100% in 10 to 15 seconds. Do you think that's too small of a window now? Because I'm thinking there are some people who I've worked with in the past who even 30 seconds to go 100% is still pretty challenging, but 10 to 15 seconds with like a two to three-minute break is doable for them and they still relish the two to three-minute break.

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That's just basic exercise physiology. You have your creatine phosphagenic pathway where you're splitting creatine to create ATP. That pathway poops out somewhere around the 15-second mark. So, theoretically, you can go balls out for 10 to 15 seconds. The anaerobic glycolysis is going to last in a highly fit individual, you might be able to go as long as two minutes. But, for most people, it's 30 seconds to 60 seconds maximum. So, you could go at 90 to 95% for up to perhaps two minutes depending on how fit you are. And then, you really start to shift into burning more fats, fewer carbohydrates, more aerobic, less anaerobic once you start to cross that two-minute threshold.

So, the main thing then would be that the majority of high-intensity interval training should be in that 10-second up to a maximum of two minutes in length for the exercise intervals. The only exception to that would be that they have shown that if you want to increase your VO2 max, your maximum oxygen consumption, which is heavily correlated with longevity and also performance that doing maximum sustainable pace efforts for four to five minutes works really well. And, that's with a one-to-one work-to-rest ratio. 

And so, with some of the people who I work with, I will have them do–and, that's not very frequent, that's once every week to once every two weeks. So, I'll just put a workout when I'm programming a workout for one of my clients where it's like a VO2 max triggering workout and they might do it every other Saturday like twice a month where they're doing four to five minutes as hard as they can sustain for four to five minutes. So, what I mean by that is if you're doing a bicycle, if you started off at 90 BPM, you finish at 90 BPM in terms of your cycling cadence, but you maintain that the entire time. And, that entire time, you're basically going as hard as you possibly can but without a drop off in power output and/or in cadence. Then, you recover for four to five minutes and you do that four to five times through. So, that's a solid 30 minutes of exercise with half of that being pretty difficult. But, that would be a rare example of a high-intensity interval training session that's effective for desired fitness goal that is a little bit longer than that two-minute range. But, that's because it's VO2 max, and VO2 max does have an aerobic component. Does that make sense?

Jay:  That makes sense, yeah.

Ben:  And then, one other thing and I'll link to this, part of this tweet that I sent out referenced a paper called “Slow and Steady, or Hard and Fast.” And, Brad Schoenfeld, a fantastic researcher, was a part of that paper along with James Steele and Daniel Plotkin and a few other good folks in exercise physiology and exercise science literature. This came out last year and basically one of the big takeaways from that, it was actually written in the conclusion in the abstract they said that their findings provided compelling evidence that the pattern of intensity of effort or volume during exercise had minimal influence on longitudinal changes in fat mass or fat-free mass. And, basically the best exercise program that you can adhere to when it comes to training your aerobic or endurance system is the one that you're going to do regularly and consistently. That's the most important thing, which I think applies to just about anything: Diet, exercise, you name it.

Jay:  Right, that makes sense.

Ben:  Okay. So, another one, we're going to totally just shifts topics here and talk about sperm. The reason I want to bring this up, you hear a lot these days–I think, Paul Saladino, The Carnivore MD guy, has said this. I've heard other people primarily like paleo or carnivore diet enthusiasts say this, when you are on a plant-based diet, your fertility suffers and sperm quality decreases all the way down to people referencing Kellogg. Part of that was based on, I think Seventh-Day Adventism. I don't want to insult a bunch of Seventh-Day Adventists, but the idea here was that if you feed a diet high in grains and low in protein and fat, and relatively high in processed carbohydrates to males that their propensity to want to go out and have a whole bunch of sex and even make a lot of babies and have a high amount of libido and sexual drive decreases. Therefore, a hack for keeping guys straight-laced and all churchy would be to just have cornflakes for breakfast every morning instead of eggs and bacon and liver. And, there is kind of sort of something to that. You actually see in a lot of vegan and plant-based diet studies a drop in sperm quality and a drop in fertility.

So, there is some truth to that. However, there was a recent cross-sectional study in men with infertility and they looked at eating animal-based foods and eating plant-based foods, but what they looked at with the plant-based foods was whether the plant-based diet index, they called it, was either what they called a healthy plant-based index diet or an unhealthy plant-based index diet. So, essentially, they were looking at, okay. So, let's see, you are going to go vegan or vegetarian or whatever, what if you're doing soaking, sprouting, fermenting, whole grains, fruits, vegetables, nuts, legumes? And, what happens if you're going fruit juices, sugar-sweetened beverages, ultra-processed foods, refined grains versus whole grains, potatoes, and sweet foods? 

And, the results were not that surprising. Greater adherence to a healthy plant-based diet was associated with higher sperm density and better sperm motility versus the unhealthy plant-based index diet, which is unfortunately all too common. The stereotypical Trader Joe's grocery store, soy milk, tofu, fructose, laden, refined grains, eating everything out of packages plant-based diet versus what we might call a more, I don't know, Garden of Eden-esque type of diet, rich in natural fruits and vegetables and produce and natural compounds and unprocessed grains and things of that nature. Well, it turns out that you can't paint with a broad brush and say that a plant-based diet renders all males infertile. An unhealthy plant-based diet steeped in refined grains and sugar-sweetened foods and ultra-processed foods appears to be horrific for fertility and sperm quality. But, a healthy plant-based diet is not going to castrate you, which I think it seems that a lot of carnivore diet enthusiasts might be climbing. So, this was interesting to actually see it fleshed out in the literature.

Jay:  It is super interesting. I mean, I would guess that the carnivore advocates would argue, well then, let's still compare that to, let's say, a fully animal-based diet and see if that improves sperm quality even more so. But, yeah, I think you're right, there tends to be a lot of broad-brush painting here in terms of just all plant-based diets will lead towards kind of this pathway. But, we know that there are indeed healthier options out there, it's not just that everybody's eating a bunch of fruit juice, sugar-sweetened beverages, and refined stuff all the time.

Ben:  You're right. Let's face it, the ultimate study would be healthy plant-based diet, unhealthy plant-based diet, healthy nose-to-tail regeneratively raised grass-fed grass-finished carnivore diet versus meat and ribeye steaks and greasy burgers carnivore and animal-based diet. And, what's going to win out, I suspect, and this would probably come as no surprise to people, a healthy omnivorous natural diet would probably be top of the totem pole. A healthy plant-based diet would probably be second. An unhealthy omnivorous diet would probably be third. And, an unhealthy plant-based diet would probably be last place for fertility. That's what I'm guessing.

Jay:  That's what I would think too.

Ben:  But, I'm no scientist. So anyways, it's interesting.

Speaking of me not being a scientist, I also wanted to mention here as we get towards the end of the newsflashes, a couple interesting takeaways. First of all, I actually thought this was interesting. There was a paper that evaluated the credibility of the top 100 best-selling nutrition books. In this case, they did in Canada. And, the takeaways were a little bit concerning because I think that we as human beings naturally have this unhealthy cognitive bias that if something is written down and if a book happens to have gotten published, it must be God's truth. It has to be fact. Otherwise, how could it be printed? How could it have found its way to a library and been bound between two beautiful hardcovers with an author's name on it, maybe a New York Times bestseller stamp? This must be true what I'm reading. We just think that. I think part of it's just our educational process. We grow up getting books handed to us and hey, this is the truth.

Well, no, especially me being in the publishing industry and seeing how technically easy it is to actually get someone to publish a book for you. Later on, just so I can figure out how actually easy it is to get a research paper published too, which is kind of shocking.

Jay:  I think it's the scariest.

Ben:  Yeah, it was interesting because what they did was they looked at author credentials, they looked at financial incentives, who's paying the bills? Whose pocket? Who's in your pocket? And, also scientific citations of the top 100 best-selling books in nutrition-related categories from Amazon Canada. And, what they looked at was financial incentives; products, services, endorsements, social media pages. They looked at author credentials like degrees, background, educational history. And then, the number of scientific citations, in-text citations at a reference section, and the number of scientific journals cited in said books. 

So, what they found was that there was a huge amount, possibly not a surprise here to people, of I guess questionable information in these nutrition books. Half of the authors lacked academic training or clinical experience in the category in which they were writing about when it came to nutrition. Most of them, the lion's share of them were financially incentivized by a supplement company or by someone else who was sponsoring the book that had been written. And then, one-third of the books had no scientific evidence, zero scientific citations, whatsoever. And, these are books that people are reading, the top 100 books teaching them about what they should eat. 

This is concerning because I mean, I don't even know if I need to say why it's concerning, but look, I've said this about personal trainers. If you're assessing your personal trainer based on their Instagram followers, based on their body which is probably supported by science that goes as we found out with the Liver King way beyond what they might tell you that they're doing, and into the category of the price of a small car worth of supplements and steroids and injections each month, that person might be giving you an exercise program that actually does not have science behind it. The same goes for nutrition. If you are having a nutrition plan written for you or you're reading a nutrition book and you look at the education of that author and you look at the number of scientific claims or scientific citations in their book and you look at whether or not they're, I don't know, giant tome on the damaging effects of lectins, and lectins come from the devil and that chapter happens to finish with a little discount for the supplement that they made that digests lectins for you, you should at least raise an eyebrow, okay?

Now, I understand, I wrote a few nutrition books. And, my nutrition books have supplements that I'm affiliated with that I sell in them. They have occasional claims in them that come more from eastern lore and thousands of years of ancestral wisdom and not actual peer-reviewed double-blinded clinical research. However, I have a master's degree in physiology and biomechanics with an emphasis in human nutrition and spent years and years studying this in a certified strength conditioning coach certification from the NSCA, highly credible company, and a CISSN, which is a pretty respected nutrition certification. And, there are over 800 scientific references in “Boundless” alone and almost that many in a book like “Beyond Training.” And, I tell you all of the companies that I might be affiliated with or financially profit from if you happen to go out and buy said supplement.

So, this isn't the pot calling the kettle black, this is just me pointing out the fact that if you're out there reading books, at least look at the author's education, at least look at the number of references or the presence of scientific evidence, and at least take into consideration financial incentives. And again, that doesn't mean that if someone's profiting from a book that doesn't have truth in it. My most popular interview last year was Tony Robbins and Pierre Diamandis talking about age reversal strategies. Well, technically, every chapter in that book, what's it called, “Lifespan” is a pitch fest for companies that they've invested in. Now, technically, they don't say in each chapter, “Hey, I invested or in profiting from this company.” I think they do somewhere in the end of the book. If someone were reading that without understanding that, they might swallow everything that book says, hook, line and sinker, and they may or may not be led down the wrong path. I don't know. I think the book was amazing. I think the fact that Peter and Tony probably profited quite a bit based on the growth of companies they talk about in that book and the sale of products that they talk about in that book. Yeah, they profit, but I don't think that that makes the information of the book bad. I thought it was great book. And, there were a lot of scientific references in it.

So, the presence of the author profiting, I mean, I'm total capitalist. I don't mind people making a buck. But, I think people just need to understand that just because a book is published, and this study really pointed out quite glaringly, that does not mean that that book is something that you should take as God's truth for what you need to be eating the rest of your life.

Jay:   Yeah, for sure. We're in the age of the influencer, man. So, anybody can put up their shingle and get on Instagram or TikTok and develop a lot of followers. And, the next thing we know, people are running after them in different type of royalty deals to do their own books, tell us how you got there, what was your journey look like. 

And then, again, there's nothing inherently wrong with that. I don't want to dispel this idea that people can't go out there and really make something for themselves, but it shouldn't be that we just blindly follow the advice of everybody. We have to do a little bit of our own digging, which means that we have to do a little bit of our own work and sometimes we're a little bit lazy and it's difficult to do that. But, I think it's just a little bit of extra time and effort. And then, also just kind of questioning. I don't mind people being cynical, as a scientist, as a clinician, myself, I have to be a bit cynical and kind of dig into things on my own not just kind of take it for its face value. And, I think everybody has the responsibility to be a little bit of a cynic or at least to scientist, which are kind of one and the same, in my opinion, sometimes. But, we all have that responsibility. So, that's kind of my take.

The other thing that I take from this, Ben, is that we should just not trust Canadians. Those who are north of the border, man, they should be playing hockey and eating their poutine.

Ben:  They're very polite, but highly suspect when it comes to credibility. I think that's the main thing this paper pointed out. No, I'm kidding. I love Canadians.

Jay:  Yeah, me too.

Ben:  I also have never had poutine in my life. I need to add that to the bucket list.

Alright, let's keep going. I promised that I would talk about nicotine. Let's talk about that before we talk about cigarettes. Nicotine is pretty interesting stuff. So, like tobacco in itself obviously being highly concentrated in nicotine is this favored compound in a lot of ancestral cultures. It was used by a lot of native tribes and early physicians for things like ulcers, for example, even energy, hunting, you name it. But, they also recognize that a large dose of tobacco could cause a toxic effect. 

Now, in the 1800s, I think it was they discovered nicotine and they discovered that there was this far pharmacological property of the tobacco plant based on nicotine. And, even though tobacco itself was carcinogenic, meaning it had a lot of polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons in it, the nicotine, the main alkaloid in tobacco had a lot of positive properties and a lot of highly addictive properties. So, nicotine acts on these receptors in the brain called nicotinic cholinergic receptors. And, those receptors can get flooded with dopamine and require more and more nicotine over time to actually get the wakefulness or focus-enhancing effects of nicotine.

Now, interestingly though, when you trigger those cholinergic pathways, you get better reaction time, you get better cognitive performance, you get increased arousal, it combats glutamate, rather it would increase glutamate, it would combat GABA, which is the inhibitory neurotransmitter that causes sleep drive even though the nicotine is in and out of the system pretty quick and you could usually do a little bit at night and it doesn't impair sleep the way caffeine would, it still is going to a little bit. And then, the other thing that happens with nicotine, this is really interesting, is there are certain diseases like Parkinson's disease, for example, that because of the dopaminergic and the choline stimulating effect of nicotine, those diseases seem to be helped by nicotine.

And so, there's a lot going on when it comes to tobacco despite it being often high in heavy metals, high in carcinogens. There is support especially for neurological conditions and for the nootropic effect of nicotine that dictates that we can't completely shove that plant under the bus. Now, cigarettes are, of course, probably one of the more vilified delivery mechanisms for nicotine. However, there was a paper that a lot of people might not be familiar with, it's called “Cigarette smoking: an underused tool in high-performance endurance training.” This paper is a staple of medical literature and it is a summary of all of the good things that cigarettes do for you when it comes to endurance training.

So, for example, if we look at cigarette smoking, it has an impact on three different things that are favorable for endurance performance: Serum hemoglobin, lung volume, and weight loss or powder weight ratio. Okay, so blood hemoglobin concentrations are the oxygen-carrying capacity of the blood is something that a lot of athletes will try to increase with altitude training or blood doping, or use of hormones like EPO. Well, it turns out that cigarette smoking has been associated via research with persistent long-term increases in hemoglobin. As a matter of fact, smoking 10 or more cigarettes a day gives you an average hemoglobin increase of 3.5%, which is pretty significant. And, that's maybe half of what you get through the use of the illegal performance-enhancing drug, erythropoietin. But, long-term use of cigarettes increases serum hemoglobin, it increases lung volume. Cigarette smoking, especially related to the onset of chronic obstructive pulmonary disease, seems to cause some type of an increase in lung capacity which seems paradoxical but it might just be that, I don't know, diaphragmatic inspirational, expirational muscle endurance effect of smoking a cigarette. I don't know, but we see an increase in total lung capacity when someone is a regular cigarette smoker.

And then, finally, we know cigarettes stimulate weight loss through increased metabolic demand, through appetite suppression, and through the action of nicotine, that magical molecule that I just mentioned. And, these effects appear to be dose-dependent. The more cigarettes you smoke and the longer period of time for your life that you've smoked cigarettes, the more of a benefit of hemoglobin in total lung capacity and weight loss you seem to experience. So, what this paper was trying to point out–and, by the way, Jay, are you going to go out and start chain smoking now?

Jay:  I mean, you sound like a walking talking ad for smoking, so yeah, I feel like follow you up on all these. Let's go.

Ben:  Yeah. So, the reason that they publish this paper was it was almost a joke. What they wanted to point out with this was that when an expert in a field provides a summary of literature, which is what I just gave to you, that generates useful recommendations and new conceptualizations of a topic, and the research results are selectively chosen, which is the case–okay, a lot of what I told you was selectively chosen, it was hand-picked, it was cherry-picked to make cigarettes look good. There is a great potential for research to create a convincing argument for a faulty hypothesis. Despite everything I just told you, we know there are reams of other data that show that cigarette smoke is just going to kill you and it's horrific for your cardiovascular system. 

However, it is possible to twist science to make a case for just about anything. And so, yeah, we could say, okay, well, I don't want to do altitude training because I can actually find a lot of papers that show that altitude training is associated with several severe and life-threatening risks like pulmonary edema and cerebral edema and even severe flatulence. Yes, there's an altitude training study that shows that altitude training is associated with severe flatulence or flatus explosion.

Jay:  Watch out.

Ben:  Yeah. And so, I could therefore say, well, cigarettes will also have the same effect with fewer of those side effects and definitely not flatulence. So, go for cigarettes instead. So, the reason I'm pairing this with what I just said about the Canadian book expose is never swallow something hook, line, and sinker. Always question, always dig, always seek the advice of folks who you actually trust who you know might not be financially incentivized or otherwise incentivized to make a point for you because as we can see now via things like the nutrition books in Canada or this article that shows that you can use research to show that something that we know is bad for you is actually good for you, you just need to proceed with caution. That all being said, I'm going to go smoke a cigar.

Jay:  Right. I was wondering where you were going with that study. I was like, “I wonder what Ben's going to pull from this.” He's going to say all of these great things about cigarette smoking and then be like, “Well, but it's offset by all the really crappy things that go along with smoking.” But now, it's true, man, it's true.

The one thing that I will tell people as well because this one, it comes up a lot. I've seen a lot of people post stuff on social media or they'll send me via email a study and I'll look at it and it's some obscure research study out of nowhere with non-credible, it's not peer-reviewed, it hasn't gone through the rigorous scientific process of being approved by peers in the field. And, I'll kind of basically send it over to them be like, “Listen, there was five participants in this study over the course of a week and this wasn't even reviewed well, the methodology was pretty poor.” But again, the layperson may not understand that, right? They just see, it looks like it comes from the journal of such and such published by these people at this university and therefore let me accept it for what it is. And unfortunately, you can't blame people, right? A lot of times people just don't know any better. But, I think, again, it's our responsibility to kind of learn those things and understand what we're looking at when we're looking at it.

Ben:  Yeah. Well, hopefully, we've scared enough people to death to where they're just going to climb under a rock and eat fruits and berries.

Jay:  Mission accomplished.

Ben:  Speaking of other people, we have alluded to the fact that we have a whole bunch of people live on Twitter Spaces right now. And, even though we went kind of long in the tooth with our introduction and our newsflashes, I think we have time for at least a couple of questions from the folks on Twitter.

So, we have a question from Twitter, from Irfan. He says, “Does sprinting count as lower body workout for strength and endurance, not hypertrophy?” By sprinting, I'm assuming running might mean sprinting on a bicycle count as a lower body workout for strength than endurance, not hypertrophy?

So, when I used to do triathlon, I would go out and do hill climbs and stuff like that on the bicycle and I was always under the impression that if I was going to be doing hill climbs on my bicycle, uphill runs on the treadmill, cycling at a low cadence and a high resistance that I was getting the type of strength training in strength stimulus that I would be getting if I were doing strength training at the gym. Well, if you think about it, let's say you take the average 30-minute spin class, which was technically short for a spin class, how many repetitions are you doing, Jay, with your legs during a class like that?

Jay:  A lot more than a normal squat set.

Ben:  Thousands. And, we know that when you look at hypertrophy and strength training adaptations in the gym, they tend to drop off after 12 reps, right? And, I wrote about this in a book that I wrote some time ago. I think you can still find on Amazon, it's Strength Training for Endurance Sports. It's a fallacy that by doing uphill bike rides and uphill sprints and resisted strength work for the legs from an endurance standpoint that you're going to develop the type of strength that's actually going to result in say an increase in injury prevention or stimulation of new muscle fiber growth or anything like that. 

It doesn't count as a lower-body traditional strength training workout. You actually have to if you want to be a well-rounded athlete pair even resisted endurance training with things like six to eight reps, four sets of squats or weighted lunges or deadlifts or Nordic curls or back extensions or the type of things that would trigger a strength training response in the leg. So, long story short is don't fool yourself into thinking that just because some Tour de France cyclist has thunder thighs that you're going to get that type of leg toning by doing a few resistance train bike rides per week.

The fact is that if you're an anomaly and you're a highly trained specifically cyclists who does a ton of cycling–and, even some bodybuilders use this approach, they'll do a lot of cycling to stimulate their legs and their quads. When I was a bodybuilder in college, I did teach a lot of spin classes. I played water polo and I have to admit I did minimal leg work. I had a couple of times a week that I would do squats and deadlifts and things like that. And, I had pretty good leg tone. But, most people are not going to get the type of leg tone, full glutes, muscle activation, hypertrophy in the legs, et cetera, that they desire from just steep uphill hiking and cycling at a low cadence with a high resistance or anything like that. Long story short is if you truly want to maximize strength, power, and hypertrophy adaptations, you need to be in the gym and you need to be doing far fewer than thousands of repetitions you might be doing in a spin class or an uphill treadmill or outdoor hill running workout.

So, the long answer to Irfan's question, but no, sprinting doesn't count as a lower body workout for strength and endurance. You have to resistance training in order to trigger those parameters. I would say the only exception that would possibly be slightly higher rep lower resistance with something like blood flow restriction bands which seem to be that one thing when you cut off blood flow to a muscle that can result in a little bit of a hypertrophic response.

Jay:  Yeah, because you would expect that if it were the case that's sprinting if it led to strength, I'm assuming that they would have studies demonstrating that outside of any resistance training or weight training work for that individual, that increasing kind of their sprint workouts would then lead to them being able to have higher, let's say, one rep maxes in those types of workouts. And, that research is not there because that does not happen. Is that basically it?

Ben:  Yeah, that's basically it. That's basically it. So, I hope that clarifies. So, do strength training and do endurance training. And, as we learned earlier, if you are using HIIT training, do it hard enough.

In the couple of minutes that we have left, Jay, do you have any last tips, any last new discoveries, any last cool new things that you're excited about that you want to share with people?

Jay:  Yeah, I do. So, I would say one of the things that I have been working on that I have found to be really fascinating because this whole deep sleep thing has kind of bothered me because I tend to be a bit of a data nerd. I mean, I own a data and biometric company, so data is just kind of naturally a part of my everyday waking hour and sleeping hour. And so, I've been playing around with some different protocols for sleep and deep sleep, just seeing if they worked and I did not do it last night and I had a suppression of this deep sleep and I'm like, “Oh, maybe there's something to it.” 

So, I have been–I know you and I both use the ChiliPad and I mean, I swear by the thing I love that thing just because for me, I always have been a hot sleeper. And, I have been doing this thing where I've just kind of keep it cold all night long until the last hour or so. I would have it kind of crank up a little bit higher and get a little bit warmer. But, actually what I've been doing and I just forgot to set it last night because I keep it on airplane mode underneath the bed, I have been doing it to where I progressively warm up throughout the night. So, I set it at, let's say, 54 when I get in the bed. And then, progressively throughout the night, starting at around 12:00 a.m. to about 4:00 or 5:00 a.m. when I wake up, it goes up by basically 5-degree increments every single hour. And, I have found that, for me, I actually stay asleep a lot longer when it's not just one set cold temperature throughout the night.

Ben:  When are you increasing the heat? At what point during the night?

Jay:  So, I'd normally go to bed about 9 o'clock and then around 12:00, so three hours after I fall asleep is when I'm starting to increase the heat by about 5 degrees. And, I've noticed that shift and increase my overall deep sleep because I was getting about three hours of deep sleep kind of around that time and then the back end of my sleeve was where I was not seeing much, it was a more REM and light but a lot more light than anything.

Ben:  Yeah.

Jay:  And so, I was like, well, maybe I can play around with some temperature and increasing kind of the temperature in just small little bits throughout the night actually helped me to get more deep and REM sleep, which I found fascinating.

Ben:  Yeah. So, if someone does have a ChiliPad or something like that, they could program that using the app and you could actually set it. So, it gets a little bit warmer towards the middle of the evening and then gets cool again or maybe warm again. I know it does have a setting that shows that if you make it slightly warm as you're getting close to your desired awakening time, it can ease the transition, the awakening, which to me even though I'm too lazy to do anything except just set mine on cold and fall asleep seems a pretty decent idea to experiment with.

Well, that's interesting. It reminds me of something I was thinking about the other day, and this might be something interesting to end on, is I have this Faraday bed canopy. I'm going to do a video of it. So, push a remote button and the canopy goes down, which is pretty cool and it blocks all EMF. And, I've got this pulsed electromagnetic field mat under my body as I sleep. And then, I got a ChiliPad, this cool neck supporting pillow that I sleep with, and all this stuff on my side of the bed and get all this stuff all set up and turned on and everything. And then, I roll over to my wife's side of the bed and pretty much spend the entire evening snuggled up next to my wife completely away from all the things that I just turned on for the whole night. And so, it's a little bit paradoxical, but it makes me feel good that it's all over there, turned on should I ever decide to forsake my wife and go back over to my actual biohacked side of the bed. So, sometimes folks, all you need is a good snuggle.

Jay:  That's it. Does she not like the cool bed and stuff?

Ben:  I mean, it's not that she doesn't like it, she couldn't care less. If I were to set all up for and turn it on for, it's not like she's not going to like it, but yeah, she couldn't care less, she's not going to take the time. So, think about the most biohacking she does is she takes some supplements that some doctor recommended to her for just aging well and managing hormones. I think she has a little bit of DHEA, a little bit of progesterone. She takes some magnesium before bed. I think she takes a little bit of Maca when she gets up in the morning and she'll sometimes use the Four Sigmatic mushrooms in her coffee. She does a little bit of hot yoga. She play some tennis. And, I think that's the extent of her entire age reversal strategy. I like getting to the dinner table and not having to talk about health and fitness and biohacking because nobody at the dinner table cares about it.

Alright. Well, that being said, we should probably end this thing. I'm glad it went well. And, by the way, if you want to watch the video, my face standing there talking to Jay's face, if that's your thing, go to BenGreenfieldLife.com/453. That's BenGreenfieldLife.com/453. We'll put the shownotes, put the video. Everything you need will be over there.

Jay, thanks for joining me and showing your lovely face and possibly or possibly not putting on pants.

Jay:  You'll never know my secrets.

Ben:  Alright, folks, never know. Later.

More than ever these days, people like you and me need a fresh entertaining, well-informed, and often outside-the-box approach to discovering the health, and happiness, and hope that we all crave. So, I hope I've been able to do that for you on this episode today. And, if you liked it or if you love what I'm up to, then please leave me a review on your preferred podcast listening channel wherever that might be, and just find the Ben Greenfield Life episode. Say something nice. Thanks so much. It means a lot.



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Listener Q&A:

Q: Does sprinting count as lower body workout for strength and endurance, not hypertrophy?…55:47

Ben and Jay Recommend:
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  • To maximize strength, power and hypertrophy adaptations, you need to be in the gym, and you need to be doing far fewer than thousands of repetitions
  • BFR bands

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