[00:01:23] Podcast Sponsors
[00:03:45] Guest Introduction
[00:07:17] Nick's History with the Navy SEALs
[00:10:57] Developing a Mindset to Overcome Uncertainty and the Unknown
[00:14:34] The Most Important Quality of a SEAL Leader in Nick's View
[00:21:44] Ibogaine Used as Treatment for PTSD
[00:27:05] How Nick Has Treated Neural Inflammation and PTSD
[00:35:35] Podcast Sponsors
[00:38:21] cont. How Nick has treated neural inflammation and PTSD
[00:43:04] Dealing with Unhealthy Habits Nick Took from The Military to Civilian Life
[00:49:49] Nick's Approach to Sleep in and Out of the Military
[00:55:56] Nick's Fitness Regimen Post-Military
[01:00:31] Why Drinking Water Is Not the Best Way to Hydrate
[01:08:58] Why Nick feels Like He's Living On Borrowed Time
[01:14:05] Life Advice Nick Shares with His Children
[01:22:40] Final Comments
[01:24:17] End of Podcast
Ben: On this episode of the Ben Greenfield Fitness Podcast.
Nick: I'm still a former SEAL. I still have that part of me very much alive, never goes away. I've just learned to embrace so much more than just that. Everybody's saying like, “Live in the present,” like, “Live in the moment,” and there's a lot of all the motivational stuff like that. I get it, the people that you love. Be humble with the world. And I think if people carry themselves with a little bit more humility, this world would be a much nicer place to be.
Ben: Health, performance, nutrition, longevity, ancestral living, biohacking, and much more. My name is Ben Greenfield. Welcome to the show.
So, I recently made a trip down to San Diego and met a ton of interesting people there and recorded a few podcasts for you. You may have already heard the episode with Paul Chek that I recorded during my time there. But I also met a fantastic gentleman named Nick Norris, a former active-duty Navy SEAL, who you may also be familiar with from having heard him on Tim Ferriss' podcast. But Nick and I had a fantastic discussion, and I think you're really going to dig this one.
You are also going to dig the brand new rebrand that we just did at Kion. So, for example, not only did we change all our packaging, logo, colors, fonts, and overall look, but we switched all our packaging to PET. So, PET is recycled, it has a lower carbon footprint and other plastics, it has a lower overall carbon footprint than glass, totally BPA-free, all eco-friendly label adhesives, which require less chemical solvents to remove speeds up the recycling process. Our new coffee bags, our organic, wonderful, tasty fresh coffee are new. We chose a new coffee bag that preserves the freshness of the coffee, but it's more eco-friendly. So, the new coffee bags are made of renewable wood pulp and sugar-based materials, no fossil fuels involved in the production of them, their entire process leaves a negative carbon footprint. But everything inside the packages are all the same clean, science-backed formulas that you've grown to know and love. So, you get a 10% discount from anything at Kion if you go to getK-I-O-N.com/bengreenfield. That's 10% off your first order at getK-I-O-N.com/bengreenfield.
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Alright, let's go talk to my friend Nick Norris.
I think Tracy, our host, who's a private podcasting studio we're using, she said it's green tea. I think she said there's collagen in there, tocotrienols, which is like vitamin A.
Nick: It's really good.
Ben: I don't know. You're in the supplement industry now. You got to know this stuff.
Nick: I know far less than you do, trust me. If you brought me on to be an expert in nutraceuticals today, I may let you down, but–
Ben: Alright. Well, if we both get explosive diarrhea like 30 minutes from now, we can thank this lovely green concoction that we're drinking. You guys, I'm with Nick Norris, a guy I just met like five minutes ago. And as folks like us do, we just decided to record a podcast for you. In all seriousness, no, we planned this out a couple of months ago. Nick, a mutual acquaintance of ours, Ed…
Ben: …O'Keefe introduced us. Also, he's in San Diego, isn't he?
Nick: He's in Chicago.
Ben: Oh, he's in Chicago.
Nick: So, that was the connection to Ed. I'm a South Chicago guy, and Ed is a little bit older than I am, but knew my wife's older sister, a bunch of my cousins from the private high school, Catholic high school we went to. And then, he saw stuff on our new company, Protekt, and then reached out because he's been in the eCommerce world for a long time.
Nick: So, we reconnected on that end.
Ben: Yeah. And it's so funny, all these little mutual acquaintances because when we met a little bit ago, and I'll explain more about who you are for those in the audience who want to know more here about this mysterious guy I'm talking to, you walked in with this box of like supplements, and sunscreens, and body protection compounds, and handed it to me, and I opened it and saw Mark Healey‘s name on the packages. And Mark, I got stuck on the beach with in Molokai, Hawaii, of all places, hunting Axis deer. And we had both begged our deer and wound up spearfishing. And it was amazing for me because Mark said he's a waterman/practically a pro-spearfisherman. And so, he just taught me all these tricks about going down under the water and scratching the rocks, and he wound up harvesting just a crap ton of fish and these little–they weren't clams, or something like a clam that he was getting off of the rocks. And we had this like fire roast on the beach, massive feast that would have cost us like 180 bucks a plate at a restaurant. We were just eating, stranded literally on the beach in Molokai because we didn't know when our helicopter was going to come pick us up. So, we were just chilling, literally like eating lobster skewered on spearfishing rods.
Nick: And Molokai is a tough place to get to, or even be allowed to hunt and do anything on.
Ben: Yeah. I don't know if I should say that on this podcast.
Nick: No, no. But it's like I think it's special because it's a testament to Mark's character. Mark is, he's allowed to go to those places because he's just such a respectful human being. I mean, I said when I met Mark, Mark would have been a phenomenal team guy. He just has like this grit and a personality that's so synonymous with what I've come to know as a SEAL. He's just such a good person, works hard, has tremendous determination, and is just somebody that actually I look up to a lot. I mean, that's the reason he co-founded the new company with us, is because–and he's the guy that I wanted to be around on a continual basis to make myself better.
Ben: Yeah. And you actually just made this very easy for me, the segue there, because you mentioned it, not me, that you are a former active duty Navy SEAL.
Ben: And I know that Tim Ferriss, another mutual acquaintance, has interviewed you on his podcast, and I don't necessarily want to produce for folks a carbon copy of everything that Tim talked to you about. So, if you guys want to, you can go listen to Nick's interview with Tim Ferriss as well. I'll link to all this stuff in the shownotes. Just go to BenGreenfieldFitness.com/nick, N-I-C-K. And everything that Nick and I talk about you can find there. But Nick is a graduate of the United States Naval Academy and Basic Underwater Demolition and SEAL (BUD/S) Class 247.
Nick: Yeah, 247.
Ben: I would like to say I had that memorized, but I did have a little help from my notes here. So, you basically did SEAL training. You completed it in 2004?
Nick: Yes, 2004 I completed. I started in '03 after graduating from school.
Ben: Okay. And then, you were a combat advisor to Iraqi and Afghan military units, cross-functional team leader, ground force commander during combat operations in Iraq and Afghanistan?
Ben: So, you've been out there, so to speak?
Nick: Yeah. More than some, a lot less than others. So, I always like to put that out there. I mean, I had the opportunity to serve in combat. I served alongside Army Infantry, Marine Corps Infantry, other SEALs, other special operations units, and it always is humbling to be around guys that have seen more than I ever have the opportunity to see. Yeah, a total honor.
Ben: I can only imagine. Most of my experience, so to speak, if you want to call it experience, with anything regarding the Navy SEALs was going down to visit Mark Divine, actually, near here in Encinitas to do his Kokoro course. And also, he has a–I forget what it's called, but you have like five days of immersive training before Kokoro, which is three to four days of kind of like sleep deprivation. I always feel self-conscious talking to actual Navy SEALs about this, but it's kind of like their miniature civilian-esque version of hell week where you don't sleep. You don't get guns or boats, but you do a lot of marching, and burpees, and death rocks, and all that jazz.
Nick: Well, you don't touch any of that stuff in first phase anyway.
Nick: So, you pretty much get the same experience.
Ben: Yeah. It was hard though. That was probably one of the harder crucibles after doing all these different adventure races and things that I've done. That was the combination of the sleep deprivation, and in my opinion, and you can correct me if I'm wrong, a whole host of these so-called evolutions, like a 26-mile night hike, or in and out of the Pacific Ocean all night long until you're hypothermic. But a big part of it was I don't think the rigorousness of the evolutions themselves, which anybody–not anybody, but if you're trained, you can get through, but it's more of the mind-effing component of not knowing what's coming next.
Nick: Totally. I was going to jump in and tell you that it's the ability to overcome uncertainty and the unknown because when you're in that environment–I mean, I adventure raced a lot and ultra-ran, and very difficult–I mean, I guess more high output, kind of high performance. But going into BUD/S and specifically hell week, you just don't know. You don't know when you're going to get pulled out of the water, you don't know when the evolution is going to end, you don't know what's coming after it, and I think that uncertainty starts to build a certain type of mindset, which really I think is what sets us apart from our opponents overseas.
Ben: Yeah. I want to talk about that mindset because there's this theory that I've read multiple times that if you look at Navy SEALs, and I've heard people say this, for example, about the NFL also is another one that comes to mind, that a lot of these folks have the same genetic hardwiring as basically like a serial killer. Like specifically, there's this gene responsible for clearing dopamine called the COMT gene. And apparently, people who have like the warrior–you're familiar with the whole warrior versus warrior vitality?
Nick: So, you brought it up in some of our initial communication. So, I actually dug into it because I had not really dug into that and researched it. So, yeah, it was intriguing to read about it.
Ben: There's an entire book about it. It's called “Driven.” I will probably have released my interview with the author of that book, Doug Brackmann, by the time this interview comes out, but it's this whole idea of not being able to shut your brain off, being in constant alert mode, and also really needing to have excitement, occasional unpredictability, and danger woven into one's lifestyle to actually feel complete. And otherwise, you just feel like dead or bored. Do you think that yourself or a lot of your fellow SEALs seem to have that type of genetic hardwiring?
Nick: Yeah. So, thinking about that, absolutely–I mean, the things that you just described, I mean, I actually am very interested in reading that book now because what you described is something that I think sets us apart on active duty, makes us tremendously good at what we do, but it's also something that's a major pitfall, post-transition in what guys get out. So, I think that definitely, I mean, that exists. I think there's so many other combinations of genetic predispositions that lead to the end result that we see in the SEAL teams because I did see–you see guys that are warriors and you also see guys that are the warrior type individual that's…they're more analytical, maybe want to think about it and plan out what's going on. So, you find both of those. I think what our community does extremely well is take all of those people–
Ben: Your community being the Navy SEAL?
Nick: It is, yeah, with the Naval Special Warfare. I think we do a good job at training people, like immersing them in a high-stress environment and inoculating them to that stress. So, even that person that's analytical and maybe not doesn't have the genetic predisposition to be that high performer in that high-stress environment can still be a high performer in that environment even though they weren't genetically inclined to start with.
Ben: Right. So, the warriors don't necessarily get partitioned to being like the Navy SEAL accountant, so to speak? They're still team members that's training in a way?
Nick: No. I mean, there's guys that I know that are highly respected from our community that probably would fit that description and have performed extremely well in combat, in very, very intense combat. So, it's interesting though. There is something to it. I mean, I think if you had to just put your chips on a certain genetic type, you would probably lean on towards the one that is able to clear those hormones–
Ben: We have a bunch of young men listening and right now are going and searching through their 23andMe results to see if they fit the warrior or COMT gene profile. For those of you listening, it just basically means you clear dopamine very slowly.
Nick: Right. It doesn't mean you're a serial killer.
Ben: Right. It does not mean you're a serial killer.
Nick: I'll get a call from Naval Special Warfare Command saying, “Hey, you can't be framing SEALs as serial killers.”
Ben: Right. Exactly. Now, I don't know if you get sick of talking about this stuff, but people just love to hear stories. And I'm sure you've had a couple of situations arise during your training or during your combat that were particularly difficult times for you, either in training or elsewhere that you experienced. And I'm just curious, do you have a couple really, really rigorous things you've been to or been through that just put you through the ringer big time?
Nick: Yeah. I mean, there's a lot. I mean, there's one that came up because I was thinking about this the other day. It's not as sexy as kind of a combat story, but for me, it was a pivotal moment in training where we're doing log PT. And I went into BUD/S in very good shape. I was very well-prepared. I mean, I think you get that luxury being at the Naval Academy spending four years just getting ready for it. So, I felt really good, and I felt strong in a lot of the stuff that we did. And I remember specifically a log PT where you're carrying around these large logs in your boat crews, and we started to attrite people. Like, I was short. I wasn't the shortest.
Ben: Right. The entire crew carrying one kind of giant telephone pole-esque log.
Ben: I actually remember doing a little bit of this in Encinitas. And you always felt screwed if you were like the tall guy.
Nick: Yeah, if you're the tall guy. Well, we started attriting people in our class that were really short. So, like the class, they're falling. It worked out that way. So, I remember specifically my boat crew got whittled down to like three people, maybe four people, and trying to carry that thing, and actually execute very simple drills.
Ben: So, every time your boat crew gets whittled down, they don't add an extra person, you just carry a heavier load?
Nick: Well, in that situation, they didn't, and it was a moment where I physically was broken. I remember trying to pick up a log and moving in a couple inches, and them not carrying them as in the cadre, and really having a dig. And I had dug as an athlete, but never dug to the point where I was like, I was failing miserably and they were letting me fail over and over and over and over again for probably an hour and a half or two hours. And it wasn't so much the physical output and the failure physically, but it was like my breakdown emotionally. And for me, it wasn't like a proud moment, but I remember finally being secured, like allowing us to go back in and be done with the evolution.
And I remember screaming at guys that were putting out, and guys that were quitting, and guys that were moaning and complaining. And I look back at it now and I'm like, “Man.” I mean, I learned so much from that because I saw how I lost control of my emotions. And I think at that moment, I made a commitment to myself personally that if I can do anything and focus on anything as being an officer and a leader in the SEAL teams, it's going to be controlling my emotions because people will look to me as a leader in combat as somebody that can control their emotions, can make decisions, not allow the stress in the situation to really push me emotionally and detract from my effectiveness on the ground. So, yeah. I can't remember a lot of stuff from BUD/S. You start to lose memories from the sleep deprivation and just the monotony, but I mean, I probably will remember that 'til the day that I die. It was a turning point for me.
Ben: You know, it's interesting when it comes to frustration and, particularly, the emotional component of training. There's a neuroscientist and a friend of mine, Dr. Andrew Huberman at Stanford.
Nick: I know Andrew.
Ben: You know Andrew. And Andrew has this thing that he talks about where one of the stress pathways in the amygdala can actually be controlled by the element of forward progress, which is why sometimes it can be incredibly stressful leaving at the end of the day to go for a walk, or go for a run, or just move. It's why mice in the middle of a field, if scientists set a tiny mouse treadmill in the middle of the field, the mice find that and just start to run on the treadmill to engage in that stress-relieving forward progress.
And for me, and I don't know if you felt the same way during that log evolution, but anytime that you are in a stressful event and unable to make forward progress, that seems to be the real kicker emotionally. They say in wilderness survival, the very best thing you can do is just do something. I mean, carve your freaking name in a tree. Just something that makes you feel as though you're making forward progress. And I remember probably one of the most frustrated I've ever been during a physical event was in Seattle, I did one of these Spartan hurricane heats where they started the race–typically, the actual race might start on a Saturday at 8:00 a.m. But for people who are doing the hurricane heat, you might show up on a Friday night at 7:00 p.m., do a 12-hour heat, and then go and do the race afterwards. And we had to transfer about a 90-pound sandbag from one area of the race to another area about two miles away. It was wet, it was raining, and there was a very steep slope. And I remember trying to climb that slope for nearly four hours with a sandbag and couldn't move an inch, couldn't move, and that was the most frustrating part, was not being able to make forward progress.
Nick: Yeah. It breaks people.
Nick: I think that's so accurate. I mean, I can tell you personally, I climb. I've relied on outside guys, a couple guys out of the U.K.
Ben: Rock climb.
Nick: Rock climb, yeah. So, there's a couple guys out of the U.K. called Lattice, a couple really phenomenal trainers in the climbing realm. And I had trained with them for a long time for several years. And then, this past year, I just took a break, and I noticed myself stumbling because I didn't have structure. I didn't have those little micro-goals in place. And I went back to them about five or six weeks ago because I just said, “Hey, I need to do something. I need to put something back in place as far as structure is concerned, so I can start accomplishing little things to start elevating my overall mood and my outlook on my performance.”
Because in climbing, you can train a whole bunch and then go outside and fail repeatedly on a boulder problem that you're working, or a sport climb that you're trying to send for years. And if you don't have those little micro-training goals in place where you're feeling like, “Hey, I'm making progress, my fingers got 2% stronger over the last three weeks, or I could do one more one-arm pull-up,” that makes a massive difference, and I can attest to it. I mean, just something as simple as instituting like daily mobility work after meditation in the morning, doing it every single day, not missing a single day has elevated my mood over the last two months tremendously.
Ben: Do you self-quantify? Do you use like a WHOOP, or an Oura, or anything that actually gives you real-time feedback? Or are you one of those guys who more sets a goal on the calendar and your metric is whether or not you achieve that goal?
Nick: Yeah. I'm probably the guy that sets the goal on the calendar and my metric is achieving the goal. I mean, actually, I've connected with the folks over at Oura. They're actually involved in a non-profit kind of scientific study that we're doing together.
Ben: What's the study?
Nick: So, this will probably totally derail the conversation.
Ben: That's okay. I'm all about derailing.
Nick: I'm deeply involved with an organization called Veterans Exploring Treatment Solutions, which is basically a 501(c)(3) that raises money to fund research advocacy and then actual treatment in the psychedelic assisted psychotherapy realm.
Ben: Oh, really?
Nick: So, the organizations working on a partnership with Stanford to study ibogaine–
Ben: Is that how you know Andrew?
Nick: I met Andrew through–so, Pat Dossett, who is the CEO of Madefor, and Blake Mycoskie is his business partner. Blake has founded Toms. So, I met Andrew through him, and I also met Andrew through another former SEAL that we're connected with.
Ben: Okay, gotcha.
Ben: Now, ibogaine, is that the primary medicine that you're looking at for PTSD?
Nick: It is.
Ben: The reason I asked is I'm more familiar with that for addiction.
Nick: So, yeah. For sure it's definitely known in the world as a very strong anti-addictive medicine. It's being looked at now in order to combat the issues surrounding micro-traumatic brain injury, like MTBI.
Ben: No kidding. Really? In the same doses that one would–because for an addiction dose, I mean, I think it was Chris Bell who recently did a documentary on ibogainers in the process of producing one, and that is a hefty treatment. I mean, you have to–I almost went down to South America to do ibogaine. Did not because the amount of discomfort associated with that particular thing versus me just wanting to do it as an immersive journalist, not because I have an addiction, but I had to take–I do get an EKG and send all my data over. It's an incredibly harrowing experience to do ibogaine. Are we talking about something similar to what one might go down to South America to do for PTSD?
Nick: Yeah. So, I'm not a physician by any means, but I know that the dose is less when you're talking about a flood dose of ibogaine.
Ben: By the way, not being a physician just means you can say things and not get sued for it?
Ben: Yeah, yeah.
Nick: So, the dose is smaller than somebody that is addicted to opiates, but it's still a very heavy dose. I'm a bit ball-parking this, but maybe it's an 800-milligram dose of ibogaine as opposed to like a 1,200 or 1,300 milligram dose.
Ben: Okay. Yeah.
Nick: But the preparation is significant. The risk mitigation is significant because there is risk with cardiac arrhythmias and stuff like that. So, EKG, blood panel, medical supervision, all of that stuff is in play. But the reason that the organization's looking at it and has been backing guys, specifically from our community but other guys from the Marine Corps and the Army have been through the treatment, is because of the anti-inflammatory properties and some of the links to neurogenesis.
Ben: From a neural standpoint.
Nick: For sure.
Ben: So, kind of like the same type of thing that a guy like Dominic D'Agostino is doing with ketone research, but this would approach neural inflammation from an ibogaine standpoint. This is interesting. After looking into ibogaine for addiction, and also just to see what it was like as a plant medicine, I found multiple anecdotes of it being used as a microdose for energy like pre-workout energy. And I actually got my hands on–I think they were 30 or 60 milligram South African bush extract, the same type of extract that some of these tribal areas, like in Africa, from what I understand, will use to whip themselves up into a frenzy, kind of like the Viking berserkers, I think they took Harmaline or something like that. But ibogaine is similar, and took some before workout, I got a bottle of it and would take 30 to 60 milligrams before workout. And actually, it is quite a shot in the arm, smaller doses.
Nick: Yeah. I think they did in Canada, for a period of time, they had small dose, like microdose ibogaine. That was available I think through the medical system. I don't know if it is anymore.
Ben: I don't remember where I got. I probably had to pay bitcoin for it.
Nick: And then, it's ibogaine also. I mean, the big hurdle for the organization is that guys have to seek treatment in countries where it's legal, it's not on schedule. Guys are going down to receive treatment in Mexico or Costa Rica, places where they can do it safely and legally. But there's a lot of science and a lot of interest in the science behind it, and we think that it's a very interesting protocol to pursue. I mean, personally, I can attest to it. It's life-changing.
Ben: Well, that's what I want to ask you, is your interest in that fueled by you having to deal with neural inflammation or PTSD yourself? And if so, aside from ibogaine, did you go through any other experiences that allowed you to relieve that?
Nick: Yeah. I mean, I interviewed with Tim, as you alluded to in the beginning, about–really, it was the first time I've really opened up publicly about my struggles, and really, I was timid about that initially, fear judgment, fear being labeled as somebody that's broken or weak, and that was a big changing point for me.
Ben: You mean doing the podcast about it?
Nick: I think, yeah, doing the podcast. But leading up to that, yeah, I struggled immensely. I mean, I left the SEAL teams. I think part of the reason SEALs are very effective is our innate ability to compartmentalize, and that compartmentalization is phenomenal when it comes to being an effective SEAL on the battlefield. It's not so great as a father or a husband.
Ben: What do you mean compartmentalize?
Nick: I think we have a very strong ability to take grief, stress, and lock it away, kind of deal with it, clear dopamine, fast in order to get back on target and make very objective decisions in high-stress environments. And things like, for me, personally, grief, which I experienced a lot of, but I didn't really truly access it and explore it and try to resolve it, I just would lose somebody that was close to me, whether they were a friend in combat or a family member, and then lock the grief away. Grieve for a very short period of time, lock it away. It doesn't serve me. I need to be objective, I need to be back on target and ready to perform at a very high level.
And I think a lot of guys will take that ability to compartmentalize and just continue to do it after they leave the military. Compartmentalized grief, it just starts to add up over time to the point where you can't take anymore. I mean, as a human being, you're only capable of locking so much of that away before you start to turn to substance abuse, whether it'd be alcohol or painkillers, or just watching yourself change from like a psychological standpoint. I saw myself become a much more agitated angry version of myself that I really never was. I became very apathetic about the things that I typically would frame as things that I love, working out, physical fitness, climbing, being outside, being in the mountains. Just didn't want to do any of it. I felt very flat as a whole, and I think that was very scary for me. Feeling flat is something that I never felt before, especially being a SEAL, I always felt like I could do anything, I was invincible and I was passionate about life, and I lost that. So, that led me on my path to try to figure out ways to combat that without relying solely on an antidepressant.
Ben: And was that ibogaine for you?
Nick: It wasn't initially. I did blood work. I was trying to look at it from under the endocrine standpoint.
Ben: You mean like testosterone and DHEA, that type of thing?
Nick: Exactly, yeah. So, I got blood work done and like I was good, then the doctors initially labeled what I was telling them as a clinical depressive episode, which threw me through a loop because I didn't feel like I was depressed necessarily, I just didn't feel. And I ultimately went in and did transcranial magnetic stimulation. I was introduced to that a couple times.
Ben: You mean like tDCS?
Nick: So, this is like TMS.
Nick: So, it's a magnet, NeuroStar magnet that I think is being used to basically treat depression. It's supposed to re-tune brainwaves, brainwave activity. So, if you're depressed and you got lower brainwave activity, it's bringing that up. And if you're anxious or you're spiking and you have higher activity, it's bringing you down to more of a–
Ben: Is it a head-worn device?
Nick: So, you'd sit in a chair, and then there'd be like a large magnet that they would position on the frontal lobe and treat with that. And I'll say I found relief for a period of time. The battery was like four weeks or so, four to six weeks. And I interviewed with Tim and I told Tim in our interview that, yeah, I did find relief. It brought me out of that headspace, but I found myself slipping afterwards. It was like a temporary relief.
Ben: It didn't stick?
Nick: No, it didn't stick, especially after the second battery.
Ben: And nobody wants to walk around with a magnet on their head their whole life.
Nick: Well, going in, like I had to go driving up to this facility to go to a place where they could do the treatment. I mean, that's disruptive. That doesn't help. But at the same time, it's like I'm not going to do this for the rest of my life.
Ben: Yes. Unsustainable.
Nick: So, after that, I think I was, and it's kind of crazy, but I think I started running into friends of mine that had been exposed to psychedelic-assisted psychotherapy, namely ibogaine. And these are guys that I respected deeply from the SEAL teams. They were guys that I wanted to be like as an operator. And to see the difference in the way they carry themselves, their ability to express emotion, it's like totally opposite. I mean, Ben, you didn't know me before, but hearing me talk now, it actually throws me off by talking about a more loving, compassionate–
Ben: Were you just more a deadpan before?
Nick: Yeah. I just probably wasn't as open and vulnerable to talking about compassion, and gratitude, and love. And even saying the words “I love you” to people other than my mom, or my brother, or my wife, was very awkward. And I find myself now, like I was exposed to some of these guys that were very open saying like, “Hey, I love you.” It was pretty miraculous to watch that, and then I specifically had a very good friend of mine that I watched transform. And I knew this guy very well because we served in combat together, and I got to see the change in him post-treatment. He was just a lighter, brighter version of himself that I had never even really seen before, and that was intriguing. It was intriguing enough for me to explore it, and then I explored it.
Nick: And it had a profound impact on me. I mean, to the point where I am completely invested in helping push the research and the advocacy, and ensuring that something like this–and I want to say ibogaine has significant risks associated with it. I'm not by any means saying like people should hear that and go out and be like, “I'm going to do ibogaine.” Absolutely not.
Ben: Right. Ibogaine is a big stick.
Nick: It's a big stick. And for us, I mean, with MTBI, being one of the major…we feel is a major contributing factor to veteran suicide because of the scarring that's deep in the brain that you don't even know exists until it's too late sometimes where people would take their life. And they were completely stable, normal, effective people, and then all of a sudden, they're gone. So, yeah, it was very, very impactful for me, and I think it's something that I would love to see that research be progressed. And I'd also like to see not only this, but other psychedelic medicines brought to the forefront in the right way. There's a huge focus on the pre-work and the post-integrative therapy, and really galvanizing change that will last, meditating, working out, breathwork.
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Alright, back to Nick.
There's a lot. I mean, I was talking about Matt Johnson, who's doing a lot of the nicotine addiction treatment studies at Johns Hopkins, and he sent me over kind of like the protocol that they currently use for their psilocybin-assisted psychotherapy for nicotine addiction. It is a massive tome that goes way beyond just taking a heroic dose of psilocybin and sitting back with some music. I mean, there is essential oil therapy, and there are talk sessions after talk sessions all spread throughout, and meditation, and visualization, so much that it actually made me wonder. I think I asked Matt this when I interviewed him, like, how much of this stuff would actually work? Even the absence of psilocybin, I would imagine, that would have a pretty good effect.
And what I would like to see honestly is this multi-modality approach where for something like TBI, perhaps you'd do use something along the lines of ibogaine, but then also, something like a lot of what a guy like Dale Bredesen does for Alzheimer's or dementia, hyperbaric therapy and ketones, related to Dominic's research that I mentioned earlier, high-dose fish oil and vinpocetine. All these things stacked I think can make a really big difference. Did you experiment with any so-called, or do you, so-called biohacks for cognition, or for recovery, or for the brain specifically, like hyperbaric or anything like that?
Nick: Yeah. I mean, A, I look up to a guy like you. You're so in the science and the research. You've become a resource for not only me, but I know a lot of guys. I mean, SEALs. And I think veterans as a whole are just–they're geeks when it comes to researching the most effective biohack that's going to make them perform better, feel better. So, yeah. I just bought my own sauna and I bought–I'm going to convert an ice chest temporarily before I could afford something more permanent.
Ben: Yeah. I was going to say that company I'm working with now, Morozko, they do the done-for-you units. I mean, talking about lows for a couple hundred bucks versus 2,000 to 6,000 for a done-for-you, there's the convenience factor of course.
Nick: I mean, they're beautiful, and they're convenient for sure. But I'm implementing that. I know for me, contrast therapy is phenomenal. There's a ton of science–
Ben: Hot and cold contrast therapy?
Nick: And I love it. I feel good. I sit in a sauna, and then go into an ice bath. I mean, there's science behind it, but I can tell you that I feel better.
Ben: Oh, it's amazing. It's transformative even in small doses. It was actually because I'm down here in San Diego talking to you because I came down here for a kettlebell training certification, which just put me through the ringer every day and went to the physical therapist. A couple of nights ago, the guy who I was with–well, I went up to see Sean Golden [phonetic], a really cool local guy. But his partner, another doc up there named Tyler, was kind of like in the room with us and he was just this, just an extremely fit, a 50-plus-year-old guy. You could tell he was vibrant, he was smart, he was fit, he's an ultra-marathoner, he's a doctor, very well put together. And just like this light in his eyes, you can see he's full of life.
I'm laying there on the table and Sean's working on me super hard, digging into my IT bands and my TFL. I'm trying to distract myself talking to Tyler and I'm like, “Dude, you're pretty on top of things. How do you actually take care of yourself?” And he said one of his top methods is actually hot/cold contrast therapy. But I asked him, “What are you doing? Are you sitting in the sauna for a half hour then jumping in the cold pool?” Because that's what I do. I'll go sit in the sauna for a half-hour, two to five minutes of cold therapy. He does like 60 minutes of ice every morning, literally, ice bath 60 minutes, deep meditative breathing, which I mean, doing something for him–I mean, the power of hot and cold, particularly when you're taken outside your comfort zone is pretty transformative.
Nick: Are you sure he's not a cyborg, like from the universal–
Ben: He looked like he could have been one, yeah, yeah. So, that or somebody who's got an extra hour in the morning to sit in an ice tub.
Nick: Oh, man.
Ben: Yeah. For me, my problem with long bouts of cold, probably because of my skinny ass genes, is that the caloric hypercompensation that occurs afterwards just because I get so cold, I can warm myself up through burpees or eating. And so, I'll just exercise and eat all day after cold and be exhausted by the end of this So, I have to use smaller bouts than that. But yeah, hot/cold contrast is amazing.
Nick: That's a big deal.
Ben: It's an integral part of my life. Now, when it comes to the SEAL, something I wanted to ask you about was, you'll hear a lot of people, let's say like a Jocko Willink, for example, talk about all these amazing leadership lessons and self-character development, and grit, and all of the skills that one develops being a SEAL. Aside from some of your ability to compartmentalize and detach yourself emotionally from certain factors, were there other unhealthy habits that you think you took with you into civilian life? I mean, we hear about a lot of people talk about all the healthy habits, but were there unhealthy things that you took with you?
Nick: Yeah. I mean, we chatted a bunch about it already, but I mean, the compartmentalization is the first thing that comes to mind, which again is a double-edged sword. It's effective when you need it to be, but it can also be the thing that weighs you down the most. So, that definitely has been tough. You'd think that SEALs wouldn't fear judgment, but I think I feared a lot about the judgment of others because the culture, you either are in or you're out, right? Your reputation is good or bad, and you work really hard to make sure that your reputation stays stellar, that you're a good operator, you do what you say you're going to do. You work hard, you're a contributing member of the team, you're carrying yourself with humility. And I think some of that makes guys very, very difficult on themselves. It's really difficult to exercise self-love and compassion. Afterwards, we become very hard on ourselves.
Nick: And I've watched, myself included, guys crash pretty violently. And guys from the outside, people look at one of us and say, “Those guys are stellar. They're superhuman, they've done all this stuff, they've accomplished all this.” And the voice inside our head is saying that I haven't done enough, I haven't proved myself. I've gotten out now, and what have I done to deserve all this recognition?
Ben: It sounds almost a little bit like a sort of messiah complex, and I'm carrying–you're a man of faith, are you not?
Nick: I am.
Ben: Yeah. I'm curious how much you've woven your faith into that, being able to–just because I find myself experiencing this tendency to want to be the hero to the world, to be the messiah versus accepting the fact that there is a messiah and that person already exists in the form of Jesus Christ. And my role, my responsibility is to direct people to that rather than try to fit that role myself. I'm curious how your faith has worked into your ability to be able to deal with that self-judgment.
Nick: Yeah. I mean, I always believed in God. I grew up Roman Catholic and I'd like to frame it as I believed and I understood, and I could reference scripture, but I never really felt God before in my life. And recently, I think–
Ben: You mean like a deep spiritual aesthetic way?
Nick: I think deeply understanding when somebody talks about the love that our creator has for us, whatever you want to label that creator, understanding what that love really is and how powerful it is I think is a–I finally got to a point where I understand. I see my little boy and my little girl, and that love that I have for my children is the only way I can describe that now, and I feel it. It's something that's tangible, and I feel it, and I can't–it's hard, it's ineffable, right, to try to put a label on that feeling.
Ben: I get it. It's like when I had children. And increasingly, just being with my boys and loving them more with each day, having that be almost just like a tiny glimpse into how much, despite our own failures, we are loved, has just been transformative for me, just knowing–in the same way that another warrior, King David in the Bible, you read the Psalms and you realize how much this guy would just call out Abba, Abba, Abba, and reach out to this father that he had in another ethereal dimension to get him through hard times and just to cast I think a lot of his burden upon that external source. It's super powerful.
And then, knowing how much that source loves you, and then having a model in your own life, like a little person that you're trying to take care of and you're like, “Oh, this is just a tiny glimpse of the way that God feels towards me as a tiny human and the amount of love–” because like my kids, if they F up and just do something stupid, and whatever, break a dish in the kitchen or whatever, miss school for the day because they're playing Minecraft, anything like that, yeah, there's a part of me that will judge that or become mildly upset by it. But the amount of love I have for them, there's no way anything would get in the way for that. Like, they can come back to me at the end of every single day, and as long as I know that they learn from their mistakes or feel bad about what they did, I mean, I will just keep on loving them no matter what. Knowing that you are loved no matter what by a greater power, to me, it's just amazing.
Nick: That's the only way that I can even understand it, is because I understand it now as a parent, and it's tangible to me in that context, and I finally get it. Like, I never got it. I knew my mom and dad loved me, but I never felt that. I never really truly understood and I think that's one of the major changes that's happened in my life recently. It's just I get that and I now recognize it so many other places. Specifically, within the community of guys that I've served with in the teams, I feel that, too. I finally feel love for the first time and can express that love openly without fear of judgment and not be so hard on myself.
Ben: Right. Like a phileo, like the Greek term for fraternal love.
Ben: Yeah, yeah. Now, how about total 180, but when we're talking about unhealthy habits, you've hit on some stuff I guess like cognitively or psychologically. But what about something like–this is just for me as a sleep geek. I like to ask about this, but for you, obviously, you went through a period of time, some pretty intense sleep deprivation. How do you deal with sleep now? Are you one of those guys who prides yourself like I see many hard-charging high-achievers doing on four to six hours of sleep? Are you like a sleep hacker, or what's your approach to sleep?
Nick: No. So, my sleep was disrupted significantly for a long time, and I think that was just chronic exposure to stress, sleep deprivation, odd operating hours. And then, MTBI I think plays into all of that. So, yeah, it was messed up. I don't recall dreaming for a decade plus.
Nick: I mean, maybe every now and then, but it wasn't a regular basis where I'd wake up the next morning and be like, “Oh, yeah, I dreamt last night.”
Ben: Say, your REM sleep was probably non-existent?
Nick: Probably terrible, or non-existent. And I wasn't recovering. It's probably led to a lot of the physical stuff that I am recovering from and continuing to rehab. I mean, I will say like I went through the psychedelic-assisted psychotherapy. I had the experience with ibogaine. My sleep has never been better, but it's not attributed solely to that. I mean, I think that going back to your multimodal approach, that was a catalyst. It really cracked things open for me. I leaned heavily on meditation. I got into meditation to prepare for that experience, but I now will be a lifelong meditator.
Ben: You got into meditation to prepare for–
Nick: For the experience with ibogaine.
Ben: For the experience with ibogaine. What form of meditation?
Nick: So, I initially was exposed to Sam Harris' app, Waking Up app. Tim had recommended it as just a meditation app to get me started. So, I did that initially. So, I mean, I will credit Sam with like–
Ben: So, it was like a new thing for you like in the past couple of years?
Nick: Yeah. I started meditating just after I interviewed with Tim, the spring of '19 probably.
Nick: So, it's brand new to me. So, I would attribute the big experience meditation. I mean, meditation has been so huge for me. I think it–
Ben: What does that look like for you, meditation?
Nick: So, I–
Ben: Or is it still the Waking Up app?
Nick: No. So, I moved away from that. I've just developed my own meditative practice. I've tried a bunch of different stuff. I mean, I've sat for an hour every single morning for a period of time. But now, I stick with like 20 minutes first thing in the morning when I wake up and it really sets the stage for me to be focused, and calm, and have perspective on the day.
Nick: Just mindfulness. I think it's mindfulness more than anything else. And then, I will incorporate breathwork. I'm an advocate of breathwork, and not all the time. I'm a big fan of intuition now. If I feel like that makes sense, I will embrace that. If not, I stick with kind of a mindfulness meditation approach.
Ben: Yeah. You would actually dig this book I was talking about earlier by Doug Brackmann, the book “Driven,” about the meditation that he has developed for these hard-charging high-achievers because it's actually eyes open meditation to allow you to actually get relaxed enough as one of these so-called driven COMT gene individuals because by closing your eyes, you basically stress yourself out to a certain extent because you aren't able to be aware of potential threats in your environment. And so, his form of meditation is very interesting. I believe it's just like 5 to 10 minutes, but your eyes are slightly open as you're sitting. And so, it's difficult to describe, but it's almost like your eyelashes are almost together, but you can still see silhouettes. I tried it a few times. It's really interesting because it's almost like an environmental awareness form of meditation. You know everything that's going on around you, but you're still in a meditative state.
Nick: Yeah. I could attest to the fact that I know I'm getting better at it. I'm way better at being okay with the fact that somebody might be walking past me, or into the room, or past me on the deck. But I definitely have noticed that I would be on edge. I mean, there's some times where no one came in, but I'm just so aware that I feel like the heater or the AC will come on on a vent and it's blowing the blanket in a certain way or the pillow. And I can feel that and I think that one of my kids had come into the room and was like bouncing on the corner of the bed, and it actually freaks me out a little bit.
Ben: Yeah, yeah. That's one of the reasons why I think a lot of the warrior types of difficulty with hotel rooms. And I'm kind of wired up the same way. I'd took a totally different path than you, obviously, but I–in a hotel room, the tiniest, tiniest little thing goes off and I'm up like a shot because I think somebody's coming into the room, but it's crazy illogical things. Why would someone be walking around my hotel room?
Nick: It's not a bad thing though. I mean, I think staying vigilant and operating between green and yellow is a good thing.
Nick: I think so many people walk around this world aloof, not prepared, and I think that's a good thing. People are worried sometimes that they're going to change completely if they embrace vulnerability and love, and all the stuff that we've been talking about. But you never change this–I mean, I'm still a former SEAL. I still have that part of me very much alive. I'm very vigilant and I still–for all intents and purposes, I have no problem going back into that type of environment. So, it never goes away. I've just learned to embrace so much more than just that.
Ben: Yeah. Besides bouldering and rock climbing, which you're obviously super into, is there anything else that you're doing as part of your fitness regimen? Like, have you carried a lot of that from your SEAL training days, just like really hitting it hard every day, or what does it look like for you right now?
Nick: Yeah. So, I mean, bouldering is what I love, namely because it puts me outside. Being outdoors is so healthy for me, and a lot of that micro-goal setting. I mean, climbing is I guess like surfing. You could pursue it your entire life and never be perfect. You're always going to grow. You're always going to be able to build on it. So, I think I like that component of it. I can train and I'm always achieving little micro-goals and always progressing towards this unattainable perfection. So, I do a lot of climbing, specific climbing intensive training, but I was always in–I mean, especially as a SEAL, I was always into more ultra-endurance suffer fest type stuff.
Ben: Yeah. Like long rocks?
Nick: Long rocks or just being out in the middle of nowhere, like long trail runs. I was ultra-running to train for adventure racing to prepare for BUD/S and being a SEAL. And I think that stuff really paid off as a team guy because so much of what we did overseas was carry weight, body armor weapons, rucks, whatever, on offset patrols over uneven pretty gnarly terrain. And I always felt really good about that. And I always had a good strength to bodyweight ratio. And I think I cope very well with sleep deprivation and just long burn endurance. So, I still will dip into that from time to time. I'm not running and focusing on that nearly as much, but I have certain unnamed friends from the former SEALs from the community that will still reach out every now and then. One of which is the one that introed me to Tim originally. He will be notorious for reaching out and telling me he's going to go do something terrible this year and he would appreciate it if I join.
Ben: I used to get that all the time. I say yes all the time. And now, somebody invited me to…I think it was the ÖTILLÖ Swimrun Championships a few months ago. And now, I've learned my lesson. I know the yes is easy, and then you dug yourself into a hole of some pretty intensive training. Yet I think that ambulating underload is something that almost everyone would benefit from doing a few times a month. Like, I try to get out on a Saturday or a Sunday, wearing a backpack or wearing a weighted vest, get my phone if I got to catch up on some phone calls. I will head out my door on all the old farm roads and walk and walk and walk. It's kind of like a staple in my routine, one to three hours every weekend.
Ben: Three hours isn't incredibly long, but I think that a lot more people would benefit both mentally and physically from just training oneself to go for a long period of time. I think that's like one of the holes in CrossFit, for example, is there's not a lot of–there's like that long time just moving and moving, that forward progress we're talking about, right?
Nick: Right. Well, by default, I mean, I didn't even think of it because it's just part of the activity, but I went out climbing yesterday, bouldering outside, and just to a local spot, so it's not like–it was off trail on single track or fire road, but it was just paved road, uphill for like 30 or 45 minutes, and I was carrying 40 plus pounds of gear, massive crash pad, all my climbing stuff, lights to climb at night, and it feels good. And I'm not even running all that much, but I can still handle that, and that's the awesome part of walking underload. Like, you don't have to put in 30, 40, 50 miles a week of running. You can still go out there and just carry that load, go for a long time, and you get a massive benefit.
Ben: Go for a hunt with Mark sometimes, pack a deer and elk out. That was actually one of my inspirations to start doing a lot more heavy-packed loads or just getting ready to haul out elk or haul out deer.
Nick: Well, it's so much more fun, like, when you have something to prepare for.
Nick: And then, I'm goal-oriented, right?
Nick: If you're going to go out to do a bow hunt with Mark, you're like, “I don't want to look like a loser. I go on this–”
Ben: Or I don't want to get an elk and have to go on three trips to fetch it back. So, I just got to deal with 100 pounds in my pack.
Ben: You obviously have this nutrition supplements company. It's called Protekt, which is, what, is it sunscreen?
Nick: So, we have organic zinc sunscreen, and then we have a lion's mane mushroom capsule with a complex of some other mushrooms. We have a B12, D3, K2 tincture and we have a plant-based BCAA effervescent tab.
Ben: Solid. Cool.
Nick: And then, the staple of the brand is just now coming online, and Mark Healey is a co-founder. We have this battery of liquid packs. And the mantra for the brand is like, keep it simple, like simple routines, effective results. And you and I were chatting about this. You can get lost in the complexity of the supplement world.
Ben: Yeah. Too many skews, like too many stuff like that. I was telling you before we started recording, it's always me at Kion. I'm the idea man, right? I'll come to my team with like four different ideas that I want to launch in a quarter and repeatedly had to get shut down by the CFO and the CEO before finally realizing it's better to stay simple on like one focused product and not have an enormous skew of 200 different–because you got to keep track of raw ingredients and scalability, and launching everything. So, you guys keep it pretty simple.
Nick: Keep it simple, and it probably actually goes back to–you're asking about things that I use, like biohacks, like other modalities to keep me healthy long term. And in hydration, as simple as it is, and you think that I would have been like an avid hydrator and totally read up on it, I was terrible about drinking water. For most of my adult life and even as an athlete, I could run on like eight ounces of water and not drink any all day. And I started hydrating on a regular basis. It's become part of my daily routine of making sure that I'm putting enough water in my system and making sure I'm getting the right balance of electrolytes. And hydration has been critical, and that's why we did this liquid pack presentation and delivery system for Protekt is we wanted to give people very baseline fundamental supplements, like we have an energy, we have an immune support, a rest and a hydration. But if you're going to take it, you got to dump it into 16 ounces of water. So, we're kind of, by default, forcing people just to drink water because I tell people, I'm like, “If you do nothing for yourself, just drink more water.”
Ben: Well, I mean, that's kind of like South African exercise physiologist Tim Knox whole concept is you cannot drink just water because of the onset of hyponatremia and the fact that water, in many cases, especially if it's filtered, tends to be somewhat mineral deficient and you can actually create some blood pressure and blood dilution issues, and potentially even swelling in the brain due to excessive intake of just pure water. And then, there was another book that's funny we're talking about this while we're at the house of Tracy Duhs, who's a local hydration expert. I'll be interviewing her on Wednesday, actually, about a lot of this stuff.
But I read this really great book called–it's not Hydrate. I'll remember the name of it. But it's about this idea that drinking water is one of the least efficient ways to hydrate oneself, granted if the water does have a lot of minerals added to it, it can be, but things like fruits, vegetables, chia seeds, slurries, a lot of these compounds from nature in which the water is naturally structured or naturally in like a viscous gel, not a gas or a liquid or a solid, but related to the research that Dr. Gerald Pollack has done at the University of Washington decided that water can form almost like a gel-like structure. And by adding minerals to water, preferably even water that has been structured, you can enhance the hydrating aspects of that water even better, but then also working in, and this is one reason why eating out of packages and containers is one of the things that's relatively poor to do if your goal is hydration, consuming foods that are naturally rich in water. Like a sweet potato versus sweet potato crisps, or sweet potato fries, or fruit versus dried fruit, or a chia seed slurry versus a handful of nuts.
And for me, that hydration light bulb moment occurred when I used to race Ironman triathlon and we had exercise physiology from the Gatorade Sports Science Institute come in and test all of us. And he did a sweat sodium analysis, and I was losing a massive amount of electrolytes per hour way more than I thought. And when I found that out, I amped up my daily salt intake, like not just sodium chloride, but actual good mineral-rich salt like Celtic salt, and I use this Mexican salt, and I love a black cone of salt. There's a few different salts that I vary, but this really mineral-rich salt, I amped up to six plus grams. And one of the things I noticed most was I used to lay awake in bed at night and could hear my blood pounding in my ears unable to sleep. That went away within like two days once I started heavily salting my food. But yeah, it does come down, and that's what annoys me when a doctor will say just like, “Drink more water.” It's what you put in the water, and also the water content of the food that you consume I think is key.
Nick: Yeah. I think that that's one of the biggest drivers of wellness for me. And even as a climber, I had this crazy paranoia that the better hydrated I was, the more I would weigh because water's so heavy. And I would reduce my strength, the bodyweight ratio that I struggle with already because I'm like a heavier stocky person. And it's like the opposite, right? You actually will shed excess water weight and bloat and all that stuff.
Ben: All the more so if you're low carb or keto, just because you shed a lot of glycogen, and glycogen has like four times the amount of minerals. And so, yeah, it's interesting, this concept especially of increasing mineral intake if you're following like a low carb or ketogenic diet. Are you following a specific nutrition protocol?
Nick: I've tried them all, not necessarily. I mean, I probably am lower carb, but I have not eliminated it. Yeah. I've tried to go totally ketogenic and I've tried to go vegan, I've gone just vegetarian, I've tried carnivore a little bit. For me, it's a balance. I need carbs to perform really well. I've just found that even eating more carbs and carb-heavy food later in the day has helped me tremendously.
Ben: Oh, that carb backload, I still swear by it. That's what I've been doing for years. I eat no carbs all day long, carbs at the end of the day, serotonin, melatonin release, put the glycogen storage for the next day.
Nick: I'm a huge advocate.
Ben: It works perfectly.
Nick: It's actually like trial by fire because I didn't do that and I would be like, “Man, I am on this stringent ketogenic diet, and I should be performing well, and I feel terrible.”
Nick: So, for me, as an individual, I've noticed like reintroducing carbs late in the day–and that's typically when I'll train hard when I'm climbing. For some reason, I just boulder better later in the day. And when I do that, when I intermittent fast, that is one thing that I have found has worked for me fairly well. So, like if I'm breaking my fast later in the day, but I'm not eating a ton right before I train, I'm fasted before I'm training, and then afterwards, putting those carbs back in my system.
Ben: It's almost my exact protocol. It's funny because we break all the rules, right? There's all these rhythm experts who are in their white lab coats, whatever. I'm not going to throw names out there, I guess, but they say, “Oh, don't eat any food after 6:00 p.m. and don't exercise later in the day.” And I'm like, “No. We're moving, we're shaking, we're exercising, bouldering in the afternoon and the evening, doing a kettlebell training routine before dinner, eating a bunch of carbs with dinner.” I always see better sleep architecture and better blood and biomarkers in the people I work with who exercise, who eat a solid evening meal, get an amazing night of sleep and aren't cold, and drive-less, and hungry all day, and unable to build any appreciable amount of muscle or bone density because they're nutrient stripped, and mineral stripped, and carb stripped. So, yeah, I think it's interesting.
Nick: I mean, the disclaimer is like, “I have not read that philosophy from you at all so I didn't come into this skewed.” That's just what I found to work for me.
Ben: Right. It's the difference between the skinny scientists who wants to live a long time and the person who also wants to experience life to the fullest and be harder to kill, yeah.
Nick: Right. I feel the same. I have my perspective on life and mortality is along the same lines, like, I know I'm only here for a sliver of time, and I feel like I'm on borrowed time. I shared in a previous podcast that I did with my friend Andy Stumpf about a near-death experience I had in 2018. So, I drowned, basically drowned in Hawaii. I was cliff jumping with my brother-in-law, wrong place, wrong time.
Ben: Which island?
Nick: On the Big Island.
Ben: Was it the cliffs at the end of Aliʻi Drive?
Nick: It was on the salt side of the island.
Ben: Okay. [01:09:34] _____ these cliffs by 60-foot jump?
Nick: Well, this was kind of an area that probably people weren't cliff jumping.
Ben: Okay. Yeah.
Nick: So, it wasn't like your typical cliff jumping area. I mean, retrospect, would I go cliff jumping there? No, but I made the mistake and I did that, and yeah. I mean, I had a full-blown near-death experience. My brother-in-law dragged me, my unconscious body out to sea and we were picked up by–there's a kayaker that actually was out there with another guy, and they pulled my body onto the boat and it saved my life. But that has opened my eyes tremendously to my own mortality. I mean, I feel like I'm on borrowed time right now and it's so important to live like people–everybody's saying like, “Live in the present,” like, “Live in the moment.” There's all the motivational stuff like that. I get it. All I want to do is I want to be happy, and I want to love people, and I want to be loved, and I want to make an impact that's meaningful in that small sliver of time that we have left on this planet before we move on.
Ben: Yeah. Well, my take on it back to the whole faith aspect and my belief in immortality, the fact that some semblance of me, arguably the most important part, my soul or my spirit, which I think is actually where consciousness resides, will be around for eternity, for better or worse, depending on your take on things. And because of that, when I feel FOMO, when I feel as though I don't have enough time to live and experience, or to, whatever, explore a different culture, or cuisine, or language, or musical instrument, or books, or anything else like that, I remind myself, “I'm going to be around forever. I'm going to be around forever and I do not have to be impatient with this process.” And there was even a time where I thought, “Yeah, I'm going to be around forever, but all these cool things on planet Earth, I'm going to be some spiritual floating ethereal body somewhere.”
And then, I read this book called “Heaven” by Randy Alcorn. And this book is an amazing treatise of how heaven and this chance to live in eternity is just a chance to enjoy everything that's around us right now, the amazing books and fruits, and maybe not meet. I don't know if there'll be death or not, but all these cool things that we sometimes get FOMO over. We've got eternity, infinity to be able to experience, and Randy's book highlighted how heaven isn't just a bunch of us sitting on clouds playing harps with wings, and that it's actually even a more full experience of all the magical, cool, enchanting things that we get to experience right now on Earth. And now, when I FOMO, I'm like, “Oh, but I want to visit Okinawa, and Sardinia, and Nikoya, and go see all these Blue Zones, and go try this fruit, and that food, and that experience. It's like, “No, dude, you got infinity, you got eternity. It's going to be fine.” Yeah, yeah.
Nick: Yeah. I mean, for me, in that experience–
Ben: That's FOMO cure.
Nick: Yeah, yeah. Knowing that you have access to it forever. I mean, in that near-death experience, I saw my kids.
Nick: And it was very powerful for me. Actually, I mean, it scared me for a long time, but I can't even put words to it to describe it, but the intensity of that love that I told you about, it showed up. I didn't recall anything else, I didn't care about anything else, all I wanted–I was just frozen in this moment of understanding that love that I have for my children, and I was with them, whatever that means. I felt like I was with my kids. And it was almost like it was just this perfect moment. And for me, as I look at the other side, that embodies it. It captures it. Just being all consumed in that intense love is–I can sit there forever. It's just this peaceful, beautiful thing, and it's here all the time, and I think that was the missing link in my life is that that exists. That's here. My kids are at home and I can have that right now. I don't need to wait for anything. There's no search for that. It's there. And it's going to be there for me forever for eternity. And it took a lot of fear out of the concept of death.
Ben: What do you tell your kids in terms of important pieces of life advice that you share with them regularly that you feel is just a message that you would leave them with? For me, one thing I find myself telling them over and over again, probably because we journal our purpose statements every night, is find your purpose in life, and then love as many people as you can with that purpose every day of your life and you'll always be self-actualized, you'll always be fulfilled, you'll always be happy. Do you have something that you find yourself a piece of life wisdom that you find yourself wishing your kids knew or something you tell them frequently from your experiences in life?
Nick: Yeah. I mean, I would agree with you.
Ben: You can't steal mine.
Nick: I'm not going to steal yours, but I will say I tell my kids to be kind and be loving all the time. That's how we correct behavior with our kids. If they're yelling at each other, wanting to hit each other, taking each other's stuff, “Just be kind. Say something kind to your sister or your brother. You love them. I know you do, so you treat them as such.” I think the other thing I would love them to carry forward if nothing else is just a deep sense of humility. Carry yourself with humility your entire life regardless of what you end up doing. Wherever your purpose takes you in this life and whoever you end up being with, just be humble. And I mean, humility has been the cornerstone of my life. It was the number one thing that I leaned on as a leader in the SEAL teams, and I find myself gut-checking myself with humility even in my marriage with my wife. Like, be humble with the people that you love, be humble with the world. And I think if people carry themselves with a little bit more humility, this world would be a much nicer place to be.
Ben: Yeah, yeah, absolutely. And that concept of loving others, something I shared with my kids a few weeks ago that I found to be transformative for me, and I can't believe I just recently discovered this, but that idea of the golden rule, and loving others, and actually putting yourself in other's shoes, deep visualization on that. And for me, now I've started to create this automatic habit of–like right now, I'm talking with you, Nick, and I actually think of myself right in your chair looking at me. What is Nick seeing? Like, what is Nick thinking about? What am I saying right now? What is Nick's impression of the way I'm carrying myself, the way I'm sitting actually truly putting yourself in another person's shoes?
And it takes practice, it takes imagination, it takes visualization tactics to be able to really feel what somebody else is feeling in the moment. I found that to be one of the best ways to really truly love others. You have to put yourself in their shoes and not just say it, but literally, when you're at the grocery store and the person's begging your groceries, what are they seeing? How are they perceiving the way that I'm looking at them? Can I close my eyes right now and imagine I'm not standing here but I'm actually over there begging the groceries? And what are they feeling? What are they experiencing? What are their hands doing? How are they breathing? And it's transformative. And this is a new thing for me, which is probably what I'm talking about. It's only been in the past two months that I've really started to put myself in other's shoes, in other people's shoes and realize how powerful I can be.
Nick: Oh, I think it, dude. I think that's so awesome. I'm listening to you say that right now, and that's probably been part of the change in me, like, maybe I haven't been consciously doing that exercise. But in a way, I think I have. I think my eyes have been opened. I feel more awake and able to understand, and just feel empathetic to people's situations. Again, I was very pragmatic and direct, and I just did what I needed to do to be effective in my job. But now, I pass by people that are homeless, that are begging on the corner and stuff like that. Whenever I can, I want to just give, I want to give our leftovers to them, give them something to help them out. And I would have never been like that. I mean, I was always just like, “Ah, ignore them,” put my head down, keep walking. I can't ignore it now.
And I'm not perfect by any means, but I think the fact that even those–that happening to me at all, it's showing me like a different side of myself that I never really had access to. But it all comes down to just trying to understand other people's situations. I mean, I think if we did that right now with all the conflict and turmoil that we're seeing right now in this country, the world, if we just tried a little bit harder and understanding each other's perspectives, and just trying to love each other, knowing that we're all human beings, for me, there's nothing kumbaya or woo-woo about that. That's just being a good person.
Ben: Yeah, it is. I mean, that was Jesus Christ's entire message was–I mean, not his entire message but a big core part of it. I'm reading through the gospels right now over and over again. You've been blessed to bless other people. I mean, you've got stuff so spread the wealth, give your gift to others, give your blessings to others, don't hoard. There's the parable about the guy who dies with a whole warehouse and silos full of all of his grain and gold and belongings, and yeah, you got to take care of your family, you got to leave a legacy. But once you've got enough, there's enough to go around for a lot of other people, and it's a great perspective.
Nick: I can tell you, I've touched that moment for a second and it was a very sobering moment. And I wasn't thinking about how much money I have in the bank, or what I got going with my job next. It was literally how much I love my children. That's the only thing. In that moment, if I would have given everything that I own and would ever own just to be hugging my daughter and my son, I'm lit up right now thinking about it. I mean, the hair's standing up on the back of my neck. I mean, that's how real it is for me, and I wish more people could experience that. I think touching death for a moment is a blessing. I'm so thankful for it and it's changed me forever.
Ben: Without jumping off a cliff and almost drowning. Maybe without–
Nick: If I could do that, yeah. Well, I mean, that's the power in these compounds, right? You get to touch it.
Ben: I've done ego death experiences with medicines, and yeah, it's transformative. But some are called and some are not, but I think that those who are called either accidentally, like you with your near-death experience, or those who do so intentionally with plant medicine, I always see folks come back with a message to share with people similar to what you've been able to share today, that it's family, that it's children, that it's blessing others, that it's loving others, and that's what's most important even.
Nick: Every single guy, so the guys now that have come back from these medicine experiences, it blows me away. You have the most hardcore warriors on this planet that I never would have thought I would have heard the word, kind of love, being the ultimate truth coming out of their mouths. I mean, that's exactly the common thread. Every single one of these guys talked about how love is at the center point of everything, it was the center point of the experience. It's what has transformed their lives and opened them up to be a less callous, cold version of themselves. So, yeah, I'm a believer in it. I mean, I felt my medicine experience, it integrated my near-death experience in a way that I can't even put to words. I went and felt what I felt when I died in that experience, and that's what made the near-death experience that much more real. I mean, there's something profound that exists after we go. I mean, I firmly believe that our soul carries on.
Ben: Yeah. It's quite a unique perspective because there's not enormously large number of people who have both had a near-death experience, and then also simulated that with medicine. That's actually to me a little bit settling to know that there are corollaries that you draw that are similar between the two so that people don't have to go out and actually almost die.
Ben: So, as we wrap up here, again, BenGreenfieldFitness.com/nick is where–I'll not only link to the interview that you did with Tim, which you brought up a couple of times because you guys talked about a lot of other things, and then also to your company, Protekt, and the book “Driven” that I mentioned, pretty much everything you guys heard I'll link to in the shownotes. But in terms of you and where you're most prolific, where would be the best place for people to keep track of you if they actually found you to be an interesting person?
Nick: So, I'm on Instagram. I mean, if you look up Nick Norris, I think I'm like Nick Norris–
Ben: I've got it right here, Nick_Norris1981.
Ben: Is that when you were born?
Nick: I was late to the Instagram game so I had to add the date of birth.
Ben: Yeah. It's like the old AOL. I think my AOL username was like whos410s because Ben Greenfield was taken, I like to put 10 as something [01:23:33] _____. Were you born in '81?
Nick: I was.
Ben: What month?
Ben: Okay. I'm December '81. My wife's June '81.
Nick: Okay. June 6.
Nick: No. It's just…
Ben: It's a ton of fun.
Nick: …an honor spending time with you and meeting you in person.
Ben: Yeah. Like we were talking about before the show, these are discussions that would be amazing to have even when they're not being recorded with a–this always sounds insulting to my audience, but with a bunch of flies on the wall. Alright, man, thanks.
Nick: Thank you.
Well, thanks for listening to today's show. You can grab all the shownotes, the resources, pretty much everything that I mentioned over at BenGreenfieldFitness.com, along with plenty of other goodies from me, including the highly helpful “Ben Recommends” page, which is a list of pretty much everything that I've ever recommended for hormone, sleep, digestion, fat loss, performance, and plenty more. Please, also, know that all the links, all the promo codes, that I mentioned during this and every episode, helped to make this podcast happen and to generate income that enables me to keep bringing you this content every single week. When you listen in, be sure to use the links in the shownotes, use the promo codes that I generate, because that helps to float this thing and keep it coming to you each and every week.
No trip to San Diego would be complete without interviewing at least one Navy SEAL, which is exactly what I got up to on a recent trip to Southern California.
Nick Norris is a graduate of both the United States Naval Academy and Basic Underwater Demolition / SEAL (BUD/S) Class 247. Upon completion of SEAL training in 2004, Nick assumed progressively higher positions of leadership within Naval Special Warfare. His deployed roles included combat advisor to Iraqi and Afghan military units, Cross-Functional Team Leader, and Ground Force Commander during combat operations in both Iraq and Afghanistan.
Nick was most recently assigned to Naval Special Warfare Basic Training Command — SEAL Qualification Training (SQT) as Officer in Charge prior to transitioning off active duty. Originally from Chicago, Nick received his bachelor's in science from the United States Naval Academy in 2003 and his master's in science in real estate from The University of San Diego in 2013. He is currently the executive director of the C4 Foundation, which provides support and resources through science-based programs to active-duty Navy SEALs and their families, and is a board member of Veterans Exploring Treatment Solutions, a nonprofit focused on ending the veteran suicide epidemic via resources, research, and advocacy related to psychedelic-assisted therapy. Nick is also the co-founder and CEO of Protekt Products, a wellness company that is committed to positively impacting customer health via both personal care products and nutritional supplements. Both Protekt and the C4 Foundation value the power of time spent in the outdoors and the positive impact it has on overall well-being.
During this discussion, you'll discover:
-Nick's history with the Navy SEALs…7:15
- Nick's interview with Tim Ferriss
- Graduated SEAL training in 2004
- Served in Iraq in the mid-2000s alongside multi services
- BGF podcasts with Mark Divine
- Mark Divine's Kokoro program(Ben says this is one of the more difficult things he's done)
-Developing a mindset to overcome uncertainty and the unknown…11:00
- COMT gene(shared by serial killers)
- Means you clear dopamine slower than others
- Drivenby Dr. Doug Brackmann
- Driven: Understanding and Harnessing the Genetic Gifts Shared by Entrepreneurs, Navy SEALs, Pro Athletes (& Maybe You), With Dr. Doug Brackmann.
- What separates SEALs from the rest of their peers; it's also a barrier to civilian life when they leave the service
- High-stress environment in SEAL training enables those not genetically endowed to operate under extreme stress
-The most important quality of a SEAL leader in Nick's view…14:37
- Nick was part of a drill carrying a very heavy object
- People were falling out, quitting left and right
- This led to Nick being extremely frustrated, nearly losing control of his emotions
- He realized that being in control of his emotions was the most important quality of being an officer in the SEALs
- Andrew Huberman of Stanford U.
- Sometimes the best thing you can do is somethingto make you feel like you're making forward progress
- Latticeclimbing group in the UK
-Ibogaine used as treatment for PTSD…21:45
- Oura Ring
- Veterans Exploring Treatment Solutionsorganization Nick mentions
- Blake Mycoskie and Pat Dossett of Madefor
- Studying Ibogaine as a treatment for PTSD/micro TBI
- Chris Bell documentary on Ibogaine
- Typical dose is around 800 mg; smaller than when used for opioid addiction
- Risk of cardiac arrhythmia, EKG is needed prior to treatment
- Ibogaine microdose for energy prior to workout
-How Nick has treated neural inflammation and PTSD…27:15
- Nick struggled with shame associated with PTSD (was reluctant to open up on Ferriss' podcast)
- SEALs are great at “compartmentalizing”; great for their job, not so much in civilian life
- Felt “flat” after leaving the SEALs
- Initially approached it from an endocrine standpoint
- Docs labeled it as clinical depression
- Transcranial magnetic stimulation(TMS)
- Eventually led to Ibogaine on the recommendation (and social proof) of fellow SEALs
- Approach Ibogaine with much caution
- Hot/cold contrast therapy
- Morozko Forge(use code BENFORGE to save $150)
-Dealing with unhealthy habits Nick took from the military to civilian life…43:30
- Fear of judgment; you're either “in” or “out” as a SEAL
- Overcoming “messiah” complex
- Relate love for our children with the love God has for us
- Unconditional love from a greater power
-Nick's approach to sleep in and out of the military…49:50
- Sleep was messed up for most of his military career (REM sleep was non-existent)
- Psychedelic-assisted therapy
- Multi-modal approach
- Meditation to prepare for experience of ibogaine
- Drivenby Doug Brackmann
- Staying vigilant and operating between green and yellow is a good thing
-Nick's fitness regimen post-military…56:00
- Bouldering keeps him outdoors
- Ambulating under load (walking for an extended period of time with weight)
-Why drinking water is not the best way to hydrate…1:00:30
- Protekt Products
- “Keep it simple” is the mantra for the brand
- Book on hydration – Quenchby Dana Cohen (drinking water is inefficient for hydrating)
- Consume foods that are naturally plenteous in water (not dehydrated variants)
- What's in the water and water content of the food you eat is the most important factor
- Exercise and a good meal in the afternoon and evening often contradict conventional wisdom
-Why Nick feels like he's living on borrowed time…1:09:00
- Nearly drowned while cliff jumping on the Big Island of Hawai'i
- Belief in eternal life as a panacea to FOMO
- Heavenby Randy Alcorn
-Life advice Nick shares with his children…1:14:00
-And much more!
Resources from this episode:
– Nick Norris:
- Protekt Products
- C4 Foundation
- Veterans Exploring Treatment Solutions
- Nick's Interview with Tim Ferriss
– Podcasts and articles:
- Potent Breathwork Tactics From a Navy SEAL Commander, Staring Down Your Wolf, Operating Calmly Under Stress & More With Mark Divine.
- Secrets of the Navy SEALs: How to Train, Eat & Think Like the World’s Toughest Fighters With Mark Divine.
- Driven: Understanding and Harnessing the Genetic Gifts Shared by Entrepreneurs, Navy SEALs, Pro Athletes (& Maybe You), With Dr. Doug Brackmann.
- The Man Who is Curing Blindness and Alzheimers, Growing New Brain Cells & Elegantly Fabricating Some of The Most Powerful Nootropics Known to Humankind, With Dr. Andrew Huberman.
- Why You Can’t Afford Not to Meditate (& One Simple Mindfulness Exercise You Can Do Today)
- The Ultimate Breathwork Ninja Guide: How to Banish Stress & Kiss High Cortisol Goodbye
– Other resources:
- Oura Ring
- Morozko Forge(use code BENFORGE to save $150)
- Mark Divine's Kokoro Program
- Waking Up App
- Andrew Huberman of Stanford University
- Chris Bell Documentary on Ibogaine
- Psychedelic-assisted Therapy
- Transcranial Magnetic Stimulation (TMS)
- Intuition Meditation
- COMT Gene
- Lattice Climbing
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