July 23, 2022
From podcast: https://bengreenfieldlife.com/podcast/ryan-parrott/
[00:00:56] Podcast Sponsors
[00:03:49] Guest Introduction
[00:06:23] Ryan's personal journey to the present day, and how he got the name “Birdman”
[00:11:42] Addressing a severely underserved segment of combat-sustained injuries through Sons of the Flag
[00:16:27] The Human Performance Project: what it is and who it serves
[00:29:00] Podcast Sponsors
[00:32:40] The first 3 things you should do when you want to take control of your health and fitness
[00:41:24] The first to do when you realize you're broken physically, spiritually, and emotionally
[00:47:49] How you will feel if you attempt a hard-core cleanse
[00:50:00] Hot / Cold Contrast
[00:53:58] Improving the overall sleep experience
[01:00:33] The system in the body that needs the most attention, and how to address it
[01:05:11] To what extent will improving your physical game improve your mental game?
[01:09:31] Closing the Podcast
[01:11:17] End of Podcast
Ben: My name is Ben Greenfield. And, on this episode of the Ben Greenfield Life podcast.
Ryan: TBI, PTSD, the new stuff with the NFL, the CTE, I 100% agree that all of it is 100% real. But, I can't believe that that's the only reason that this is happening. So, they get that tandem skydive and then they get the trip around the world with the team and just learn more about what we're going through and see with their own eyes. Really be a part of making this thing happen to make people better.
When you're part of a team, you have one commonality, that goal that you're all trying to achieve but you all are putting your side into it to become part of the team, you always win.
Ben: Faith, family, fitness, health, performance, nutrition, longevity, ancestral living, biohacking, and a whole lot more. Welcome to the show.
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Well, folks a couple of months ago, I got contacted by a guy named Ryan, Ryan “Birdman” Parrot. And, he in a nutshell informed me that his sniper partner in the SEAL teams took his life three years ago. And, a big, big part of that was probably due to some issues related to the way that we treat everything from TBI, to concussion, to trauma, to some of the other issues in the military and first responder community. And, there are particular concerns around health, nutrition, sleep, et cetera. And, Ryan really expressed a passion for wanting to not only teach military members and first responders what they really don't get taught especially when it comes to the realms of optimizing human performance, but also, he really wanted to create a way to restart the engine for the warfighter, or the career firefighter, or the law enforcement personnel to be able to come out of their careers a lot more unfractured so to speak.
So, Ryan went on to fill me in about this thing called The Human Performance Project that involves a team of operators basically going to seven continents in seven days doing seven different base or skydive jumps, seven marathons, seven swims. It looked pretty epic. It looked up the alley of the type of stuff that I like to be involved with or at least help out with. So, I decided to get Ryan on the show for a couple of reasons.
First of all, so he could fill you in on this human performance project but also he wanted to pick my brain about some of the pointy edge so to speak of nutrition and training and optimizing one's performance to be able to prepare for something like this. So, this should be a pretty fun discussion. We just decided we'd record the whole thing. And, I will put all of the links to everything that Ryan and I talk about if you go to BenGreenfieldLife.com/HumanPerformanceProject. If you want to support what he's doing, if you want to ask questions, if you have comments feedback, et cetera, it's at BenGreenfieldLife.com/HumanPerformanceProject.
So, Ryan, welcome to the show, man.
Ryan: Ben, I can't thank you enough for having me. It's amazing how the interwebs work when you reach out to somebody and they truly care. So, I'm grateful to be here.
Ben: Yeah. I'm still trying to figure out how the interwebs work myself, but I'm slowly learning.
Now, you've got a pretty extensive resume in addition to filling us in on why your nickname is Birdman, I'd love to hear how you came to do what you do because I know you're a former navy seal but also an action sports athlete, author, public speaker, you've founded a couple of non-profits. So, fill me out on what brought you to your journey thus far, and also do tell how you got the nickname Birdman.
Ryan: Absolutely. I mean, the gut check and the reality of how everything brought me here is God. God's the simplest answer. I didn't always say that, but I always believed it. Now, I know truly in my heart that the path that I'm on is just the creation of God and then I'm just supposed to follow this path. But, I continually check back to ask myself, “Am I on the right path?” Or, “Am I doing what you intend me to do?” The long story is I grew up in Detroit, Michigan, and I was playing pretty competitive hockey, I was failing every subject in school, and I was going absolutely nowhere in life. And, it's a story that most people have when they try to do something great. You're coming from something or nothing and you're moving into something greater than yourself.
And, it was a teacher of mine in Vietnam who was a marine. He's talked about Marine Corps every day. I was so fired up. One particular day, he comes in and says, “There's only one thing better than Marine Corps, that's the U.S. Navy SEALS.” We're a bunch of kids, we don't know anything. So, of course, I was listening like, “What are the Navy SEALs?” And, he made it sound Navy SEALs live on the Moon and they breathe water and all this epic stuff that we do do for those of you who want to join. So then, I was like, “Okay, I'm doing this.” From that point, I was just talking the talk, I wasn't walking the walk, wasn't training, doing anything, I was just reading material, and then 9/11 happened. And, I remember seeing it, everybody in the country, everybody in the world saw this on the TV, and it shattered us inside. And, it also brought us closer together. And, it's been such a long time since our country has truly felt that togetherness. So, that for me was the reckoning point to say, “get up, go do something greater [00:08:15] _____.” I still have class right then and there 9/11, went to enlist, was too young, had to wait a few months, but I enlisted. And, the hopes were to become a SEAL.
I was very, very blessed for right after graduating high school, training at the YMCA every day doing everything wrong from eating to actually trying to train with big dudes that were stronger than me and proper/improper form, all that jazz, but I ended up getting selected to go to SEAL training and started out with class 245 in 2003 and I was accepted. I graduated 2004 and I initially joined Seal Team 7 where my eight-year career of deploying to combat in Iraq. My time all was spent in Iraq, Philippines, and Lebanon. Was wonderful. I mean some of the greatest humans in the world, some of the most motivated athletes/warriors in the world who all have a common goal. And, that's something so unique is that when you're part of a team, you have one commonality. That goal that you're all trying to achieve but you all are putting your side into it to become part of the team, you always win. That was the beauty of being a seal was the people that I was surrounded with not just so much the job.
So, I did eight years and I thought that was my time, I got burned out. Just all I did was deploy and I was like, “For me, I'm good, I want to do something else now and I got an offer to come to Dallas, Texas.” Moved here, supposed to take a job in corporate America. That would have never worked out for me because I'm not a corporate guy. You can't see me, but full sleeve tattoos, I love wearing board shorts, tank tops, flip-flops, rocking it, and corporate America just wouldn't be my thing. Never worked out, so I'm grateful.
Initially met a burn survivor named Sam Brown who is a beautiful human being, severely burned as an army ranger. And, I asked him what they were doing for him today. I had never seen tried an issue like that. I've been burned myself, been blown up in Iraq 2005, and that's actually how I got my nickname Birdman is we were driving down Rock, Michigan, we hit an IED or an improvised explosive device, and it shot me out of the turret of our Hummer into the sky. So, from that point, I went Birdman.
Ben: So, that's why they called you Birdman. Oh, my gosh.
Ben: So, literally your vehicle was hit by an IED and the detonation literally threw you from the Humvee?
Ryan: Yeah, it was the scariest thing I have ever felt in my life. It was so powerful. And, I'll tell you what, I rode a professional bowl a few years back for a charity event and it made that bowl feel like I was just sitting in a chair. Those IEDs are unreal and we're very fortunate that it didn't blow up to its full net worth or debt worth. So, essentially if it would have worked the way it was supposed and designed to be, we would have been dead.
Ryan: So, we're very blessed.
Ben: By the way, are you lucid for that whole event when it detonated when you flew through the air? Do you remember everything or is it all just foggy?
Ryan: There was one split second when it initially went off where everything just stopped for a second, everything. And then, I remember right after that initial explosion and I faded out for a second came back in, the Hummer lifted up in the front, it landed back down in the dirt, but it had no front end anymore so then it slammed into the dirt. All this dirt started shooting up. There was a fireball that came blowing through the cockpit incinerating everybody inside me. I took the path of least resistance with that overpressure and was shot straight out of the turret onto the ground. Now, we make the joke that I went 2-3,000 feet just for fun, but I was just blown up on top of the turret to where I would fall off of it and land on the ground and completely just — I was a mess.
Ben: Wow, wow, that's crazy.
So, you finished all that and you basically after what'd you say eight years as a U.S. Navy SEAL, three combat tours. Is that when you hung up the hat and moved on?
Ryan: Yeah, absolutely. That for me was enough. And, I didn't get out having any issues. That was the thing or at least I didn't think I did. I was actually pretty excited. I didn't have terrible war wounds or any of that stuff. And, I had my head on a swivel, it's moving pretty good. And, I knew that I had some good life to live afterwards, so I came out pretty good so I thought. And, that's when I told you I met Sam Brown.
So, I started that charity Sons of the Flag for burn care because I realized that of all the injuries that you can sustain being in the military and the fire service that burns is just one of those underprivileged organizations that just doesn't get the carrot needs. It's one of those things that falls into a different department within the medical field. It might fall into cranial facial and reconstructive surgery department which gets big funding for bigger plays as opposed to specific just general burn care. Wasn't nationally accredited curriculum too. So, if you're a burn surgeon, you could be a general or plastic surgeon who's never done any time in burn care and could be operating on burns. Well, that's unacceptable but it's not nationally accredited.
And so, we started this organization to do two things. One, really to focus on hiring those doctors and get them through fellowship. So, we scholarship these doctors to go through a fellowship burn fellowship program so that they can become burn reconstructive surgeons so that our patients are truly getting work done by people who understand the injury as a whole. And then, the other side is to take care of the patient and their family. So, how do we do that? Real deal surgery. We're going to send you to the elites, the ones that not only we create but the ones that are really running the show in this game, and sending them to them for one-on-one consultations so that they can identify their complete issues and then come in all at once together and fix them and get them onto a quality of life.
So, that's what Sons of the Flag does. You named it Sons of the Flag from a poem written in World War I. Our charity has been 10 years. It hit the 10-year mark this year, so we're super excited. I remember Ross Perot Sr. telling me when I first met him and I told him about starting Sons of the Flag and he said, “Oh, cool. How long you been around or just started seriously? Where are you going to be at in five years?” “I have no idea, sir.” And, he goes, “Well, when you figure that out, you come and talk to me and we'll have a chat.” So, grateful to say that he was a supporter of ours before he passed and it's just one of those wonderful things where so many people stepped up to the plate around the country to help. Sons of the Flag evolve because the fire service needs our help more than ever. They're at the highest level to get burned. Our military has slowed down since we're not in combat as much anymore but still needs it. When we have these huge issues like war, when we have firefighters daily fighting, those are the only times when things really evolve. We need to evolve things at that speed when there are no problems happening. So, that's why we put these charities in place. So, we're grateful for the 10 years and we're going to continue to rock it. And, Sons of the Flag will always stay within burn care. That'll be always for burns.
So, if you're listening and you have a burn, you know somebody who has a burn or need any help, go to sonsoftheflag.org.
Ben: sonsoftheflag.org. I'll link to that too in the shownotes.
So, I want to pivot now after you tell me your whole story. And, by the way, I should briefly rabbit hole here. I have a great deal of respect especially for not only SEAL operatives but anybody who's on the pointy edge of performance in the Armed Forces and beyond because I actually, I don't know if you've ever heard of former Navy SEAL commander Mark Divine‘s gig that he does down in California called Kokoro —
Ryan: I know Mark.
Ben: Yeah. Okay. So, he has this thing called Kokoro. And, one year I was crazy enough to sign up for it and I got his, whatever it was, something like 12 weeks. It was more than that, 36 weeks maybe to SEAL fit he called it. And, I followed that thing to the T, just trained my eyeballs out until I was just, gosh, lactic acid coming out my ears and followed to the T, showed up and went through. It was about six days because I did the academy. And then, there was a few days after just no sleep, training all day. Obviously, nothing compared to the hell week that you went through, Ryan. But, I just got a tiny, tiny taste. There were no guns, no boats, but definitely a lot of evolutions. And, it was probably one of the hardest things I did. I remember when it all ended, I literally just collapsed on one of my friends couches down in Encinitas, California, and woke up 18 hours later. But, it was character building that's for sure. I've toyed around with the idea of maybe sending my sons back down there when they're 18 to put a little hair on their chest. But, I have a lot of respect for what you guys do. Not only physically but also mentally and emotionally because that thing put me through the ringer. Probably one of the hardest things I've done.
But, I wanted to ask you now, we can get into the sexy stuff, this Human Performance Project because you sent me a deck on it, you sent me a PDF and it looks sick. You guys are going all over the world skydiving, running, swimming. Fill me in on what this is and why you put it together.
Ryan: First, I want to say Mark Divine is a legend. And, yes, his stuff is. Yes, he is, he's great, he's just such a great human and he's got it together. So, yes, his program is amazing. I'm so glad to hear because every time I hear somebody, “Do you know Mark Divine?” I'm like, “Yes, I do.” And, I have not been through his program, but I know all about it. So, yeah, a great person, great team guy.
The Human Performance Project, after my call, I got a call on January 2nd, 2019 that my sniper partner David R. Metcalf took his life. This is not the first time that I've lost a teammate to suicide, but I can't take it anymore. And, this one was a fatal blow to my heart because this guy, he was my right hand, he was my sniper partner. We were together on everything and he was also our “true north” in the platoon. I get emotional talking about it because we're not blood brothers, but I love him as much as a brother. And, that's what the military creates. And, he was the true north, he had it together. He was always doing correct exercise. He was always preparing his meals and making sure he had the nutrition and the vitamins, the supplementation every single day. He was getting his sleep. He wasn't going out and getting crazy drunk all the time. He wasn't doing any of that, he was doing the good stuff. He was on his 20-year mark. And, I got the call from another teammate and it just shattered me. And, instead of the thing that I would normally revert to which would be depression, sadness, the emotions that fill in when you hear something like this, it was more of a mission to say, “Alright, I'm done. I am done with this. It's time to step up and do something.”
And so, this program is completely for David. It's leaving, so he's basically saying to me and all of us that are on this team, “Help me figure out what we need to help the troops with from here on in because stuff is just too hard.” And so, I reached out to a few people that I knew and I said, “Here's a thesis for you.” We keep focusing on mental health, the TBI, the traumatic brain injury, the PTSD, post-traumatic stress, whatever we were focused on, the new stuff with the NFL, the CTE. I 100% agree that all of it is 100% real. I've dealt with some of it. But, I can't believe that that's the only reason that this is happening, so I wanted to take a step deeper. Started to think about it for my own education. Is this because of brain or is this more? What do I know? I know that when you get into the military, there's no human performance training, whatsoever. There's not a day when I serve that I ever, ever learn anything about human performance, how to do things right, I never learned correct exercise in my entire life, never learned how to eat clean. You're not fed healthy in the military, you are fed, but you're not and you're fed well but you're not felt clean well. Supplementation is all about what's the fad, who's taking what. So, if my buddies are taking that, well, I'm going to take that too because I want to be part of the team and I don't want to do the research. And so, I'm taking stuff that's putting a bunch of fillers in my system instead of the actual clean stuff.
Ben: Kind of crazy, by the way, if I get interject like that. It's the same reason that I was shocked as a triathlete when I was racing with team Timex, we would often have training camps at some professional athletic facilities including some NFL stadiums, for example, and you'd walk into a locker room and just be a bunch of endocrine disrupting chemicals and a bunch of crap in the bathrooms. And, you think, “Gosh, they want to optimize these players' testosterone levels and endocrine system, and yet there's a bunch of estrogen-generating chemicals here in the locker room.”
And then, another example was I was working with a professional basketball team and same thing, you walk into their gym. And, yeah, they've got weight training equipment but no consideration of air, light, water, electricity, blood tests, and biomarkers on the athletes to test their specific nutrition parameters. Especially in professional sports in the military, it's almost a good old boys' network where it's still the old school just eat crap and train hard type of model.
Ryan: That is exactly it. You destroy yourself because of the demand of the job. You're willing to do anything to sacrifice because you got to keep up to the level of execution and readiness yet at the end of the day, you're not looking out for yourself and then you falter.
So, my thesis was instead of focusing on the brain for this one, let's look at the physiology. Let's look at the entire body how the systems work, why do we need these systems, what do they do for us, what do they need to thrive, and then let's take that and educate people. And so, I flipped it to a doctor friend of mine at Harvard and I said, “Hey, what are your thoughts on this thesis here?” And, he goes, “You should go to med school.” I was like, “Okay, I'm not doing that.” Cool. I told you about my high school and how my curriculars were awesome. Not doing that. So, “What do you think here?” And, he says, “Dude, I think you're on to something.” And, the simplest thing is we're not creating something new here and we're not trying to tell anybody we're creating something new, we're going to expose the true values of what your body needs to thrive in life in a simplified version, a manual.
And so, the idea for us is we train all year long, 2022. We are training. Our team of athletes, our test subjects, and our support team are training and identifying markers. We have a coach in multiple different disciplines. We're looking at different biomarkers. We're taking supplementation. We're sponsored by Thorne. We're sponsored by BUBS collagen protein. I mean, we are rocking and rolling with some good stuff. And, we're testing different theories to ensure that our bodies are getting up to an ultimate position of human performance to attack this what we call deployment section where we will travel the world and we are going to do seven skydives, seven marathons, seven plunges in the water on seven continents in seven days. So, essentially, it's doing a jump, full marathon, and then a plunge back-to-back for seven days on all seven continents. And, that's considered our breakdown phase which would mimic your time in service or your time as a professional athlete and the heartache that you put on it. So, the breakdown phase we call it.
And then, from the breakdown phase, once we get completed with that, we move into the reboot phase. All the while taking all of the data and putting it into this simplified manual that we're going to call right now as the Metcalf manual, which will be the derivative of, can we give this to a 14-year-old boy or girl who is getting into their life and wants to understand how to live with longevity in mind all the way up to the person who's got 20 years of heartache on their body that wants to recover their trauma how do they reboot their systems, simplifying it, showing actual videos inside the manual, making this simplified though so people jump in because the biggest thing for me is, “Where do you start? Everybody gives me this credit for being a seal and I don't quite get it because you look at me as this ultimate athlete and that I'm like, ‘I don't know anything.' So, what's so special about this project to me and what's so special about being on your podcast brother is that you have SMEs, subject matter experts all the time. You are a subject matter expert yourself. I am the least qualified to be on this podcast, but I am the end user of the manual that we are creating. So, that's what's very exciting for me.
Ben: Yeah. And, I think it's so cool this idea of putting together a human performance manual especially for operators and for folks who don't get this type of education.
Now, a couple a couple of logistical questions, are you guys actually going to do the seven continents all in the span of a week or are the seven days split up with days in between?
Ryan: No, no. Yeah, that's the logistical nightmare we're facing right now. But, yeah, seven days straight, all seven continents in seven days. The second we jump, that kicks off the seven days to get all seven continents completed.
Ben: Okay. So, you jump, it's a base or a skydive jump and then you're doing 26.2 miles. Is that rucking, running, hiking? Or, how do you guys plan to tackle the marathon component?
Ryan: So, here is an interesting. My vision and theory was an ultra-marathon, so kind of a run walk kind of jog in between fart liking it almost as well. But, we're so blessed there's amazing coach wrote a book called “Finding Ultra,” Chris Hoth.
Ben: Oh, yeah.
Ryan: So, he's actually coaching us right now.
Ben: Okay, fantastic. Yeah. He's a good guy to have in your back pocket now. I think he has a history in swimming, but how far are you guys going to be swimming?
Ryan: We're just doing a plunge. The plunge was just to add because the sea, air, and land is SEAL, and I just wanted to throw that in to really tie it all together. We don't have time to do a ton of swimming because we have to get out of that plane and get to the next location. So, it's just a plunge plus it's a nice way to actually wash our bodies off after the nonsense of running 26.2. So, it's really interesting. And, we have a collaborative effort of operators, we have SEALs, we have ex-Army special operators at the highest level that are going to be doing this. And, we have ages from 35 to 50. So, we're going to get a really nice data dump of what's going on, plus we have some ultramarathon runners that are going with us as well to be pacers. So, we've pretty much got everything covered.
Ben: So, how many people total are going to be gallivanting across the globe for this thing?
Ryan: An interesting way we put this together. So, we have roughly 32 people on the team that will be going. And, that's our seven test subject athletes and then we have the support staff with that. That's about 32 people. And then, we sold seats on the plane or are still continuing to sell seats on the plane; two VIPs who want to go on this trip, join the team with us. You want to buy a seat on the plane? You're more than welcome to.
Ben: So, people are listening, they can actually join in on this thing?
Ryan: Absolutely join. We still have a few seats available. You just go to americanextreme.com and email us and we can talk to you, I'll call you personally and we'll talk about it. But, yes, 65 to 70 people max that we will be taking around the globe.
Ben: And, when's it kick off?
Ryan: As of right now February 15th everybody meets in Dallas, February 15, 2023, we meet in Dallas to get checks, med checks, make sure everybody's 100% good, no COVID, no nothing, have a little dinner, good night's sleep, and then wake up in the morning say some prayers, and then we jump on the plane. We had to our first location to get prepped for Antarctica.
Ben: Okay. So, you're doing Antarctica, and where else are you going to be over the seven days?
Ryan: As of today, the locations would go from Antarctica to Perth, Australia, to Dubai, to Cairo, Egypt, up to London, England, down to Cartagena, Colombia, and then finishing off at the UDT-SEAL Museum in Fort Pierce, Florida.
Ben: Wow. What aircraft are you using to get around?
Ryan: 757 Boeing jet, so right now, we've been blessed to get a really cool airplane and it's got everything we need for the 70 people, it's got a full kitchen and galley that's reclined to three-quarter if not full so we can actually make everybody sleep. So, we are really going to focus on. As much as this is a breakdown phase, it's also about you can't just completely destroy yourself. That's not worth it. And, at this point, we got to learn some things, but we can't just crush ourselves to where we can't finish. So, we're making sure that we have the capability to truly sleep when we need to sleep.
Ben: Yeah, yeah. And so, for the skydiving. But, let's say somebody's listening in, they want to join you guys, do they have to have skydiving experience or you guys jump in tandem? Or, how does that work?
Ryan: This is the beauty is the people who join the team, they'll be given a task but they will not be running the marathons, they will not be doing the jumps. What they'll be doing is an excursion on each continent. So, they get to see seven continents in seven days and be part of our team and help support this mission. We are giving them the option to do a tandem skydive into Antarctica, which is a very, very special and very unique thing just a small percentage of the world has ever done one in Antarctica. So, that's a very elite thing to do and pretty hard to put together.
So, they get that tandem skydive and then they get the trip around the world with the team and get to hang out with everybody on the plane and just learn more about what we're going through and see with their own eyes, be a part of the documentary, be a part of the manual, really be a part of making this thing happen to make people better.
Ben: Yeah, it actually sounds pretty sweet. You're tempting me. And, I'm tempted to join in myself although I have zero skydiving experience, I have always been interested in jumping out of a plane. So, maybe we'll have to talk later and see if we can make it happen.
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What I want to do next is talk a little bit about where I can help you guys out, what kind of questions you have for me. Because when you first reach out to me, it sounded you did have some, and I'm curious what kind of stuff I can fill in for you as far as gaps in information when it comes to physical training or diet or sleep or supplementation or anything else?
Ryan: This is the greatest. Yeah, this is my favorite part. So, I'll kick it off with one of my teammates on this project, Alex. He's one of my mentors as well. His question right out of the gate was, what are the first three things you recommend someone do once they realize that they have to take control of their health and fitness and they're clueless?
Ben: It's a very broad question because obviously, it's going to be different for each person. Some people are going to have a history of already knowing what they need to know about nutrition, others will know nothing about nutrition but know about physical aspects of performance like how to lift in the gym, et cetera.
I would say that because there is so much information out there about how to move, lift, run, sprint, et cetera, and then how to eat, you flip open the average men's health or women's health magazine, you get a lot of that information. I think that the things that move the dial when it comes to stuff that might fly under the radar — gosh, you're going to limit me to three. I think the biggest ones are paying attention to, A, the concept of the human body being a battery. So, making sure you're staying consistently charged from an electrical standpoint. Meaning the electrochemical gradient across every cell is necessary to be precisely controlled for optimized performance, sleep, energy, et cetera.
And so, that would mean including ample amounts of earthing, grounding, being outdoors, barefoot, touching rocks, touching trees, being in the ocean, being in sand, and basically charging up the battery. We live in boxes a lot largely disconnected from the planet and largely connected to deleterious electrical signals. And, that kind of drains the battery. So, number one would be some type of earthing and grounding component. That would include the use of pulsed electromagnetic field therapy, grounding mats, earthing. That's just all the stuff to keep you connected to the planet. People often kind of don't pay attention that variable. Another big, big part of the electrical component would be what's called photobiomodulation. Meaning getting exposed to as much sunlight, infrared light, natural light as possible, especially during the day. So, that'll be number one.
I'd say number two would be thermoregulation. Meaning making sure you go out of your way every day or at least multiple times a week to undergo stressors of heat such as sauna or exercise in hot temperature with extra clothing on or anything that causes the body to have a requirement to produce more heat shock proteins for stress resilience. And, the same would be said for cold like exposing the body to the rigors of cold thermogenesis on a regular basis for everything from vagus nerve tone to increased fat loss and glucose stabilization to the same type of stress resilience you get from heat. So, that would be another one.
And then, I would say the last one would be even though a lot of people will start to when they decide to go down the path of getting healthy or eat healthy, they often don't pay attention to two other components related to the body's electricity. And, that would be water and minerals like good clean pure water paying attention to the filtration of the water, the source of the water. It's such a huge variable that a lot of people don't pay attention to and then full spectrum minerals, electrolytes really good salts used throughout the day that can be a game changer for a lot of people. So, I would say some type of grounding, earthing, electrical component, some type of light component, some type of heat and cold stressor component, and then paying attention to the water and the minerals.
And so, that would be the one thing I pay attention to that's all related to the body's electricity or the body's mitochondria. The other two I would pay attention to would be, first of all, the sleep component and second of all, the stress component. For the sleep component, that would mean really educating yourself on sleep hygiene, sleep cold, sleep dark, sleep silent, everything from blue light blockers at night to blackout curtains whenever possible to get in the room as cold as possible. If you can't, lukewarm shower before bed or avoiding a heavy meal or heavy exercise session before bed just to amp up sleep, keeping the room quiet, not working in bed, and basically prioritizing sleep and educating yourself on sleep hygiene.
And then, for the last component, stress, I think the very best thing to do would be to begin to monitor what's called your heart rate variability, which is I think one of the best indicators of where the body's at from a stress load standpoint and where the body's at in terms of what it can handle. And then, as you're measuring HRV, I would say the one thing that goes hand in hand with that as the lowest hanging proof for managing stress would be a robust breath work practice like using an app like Othership. There's another good new one called Hanu Health, but basically anything that teaches you how to do everything from box breathing which one I did, Mark Divine's thing down in Kokoro. He's super big on box breathing but not just box breathing, also things like Wim Hof breathing, resilience-based breathing, breath holds, CO2 tables, O2 tables, similar like a free diver would do for apnea, but basically big, big attention paid to using the breath to control the physiology and to control the stress. So, in a nutshell, it would be if you're already moving and eating healthy, pay attention to the body's electrical components, pay attention to sleep and sleep hygiene, and then pay attention to stress HRV and breathwork. I think those would be the biggest three.
Ryan: I can't wait for this to come out so I can listen to it 50 times over to get that again. That was awesome. Well, let's dial it down then so I can kind of ask my question.
So, let's just put me in the context of being the end user. So, I serve eight years in the military. I go from being in high school and that's the joke I make to every corporation I talk to is my resume is awesome and I'll submit it to you. It says “Walgreens photo printer, U.S. Navy SEAL sniper.” I get into the military. I'm a hardcore believer in what I'm doing. Okay. So, I'm committed to the team. I don't want a girlfriend. I don't want to get married. I don't want kids. This is my life. This is my true life. I wanted to stay focused on my job. And, I was young and so that I was always there for the team. And so, we would train very hard.
Obviously, you're damaging yourself, you're running up and down undulating terrain in the hottest temperatures, the coldest temperatures, you're underwater at the coldest temperatures but not doing it in the health and performance manner, you're doing it more in a “how do I survive?” manner. You're doing this completely around the clock, you're upsetting every part of your system. You're not eating healthy. You get exercise when you're back at home. When you're not back at home, you don't have exercise. We call it body by workup. So, whatever training we're doing for the day, that's considered your workout, but it's not really physical PT, it's just what we're doing. You're eating meals and they're giving you a ton of food, but it's not necessarily the food that you need. We don't know anything about supplementation, so I was taking everything from N.O.-XPLODE to Syntha 6 and not putting the companies down that I took the proteins or the products from. But, I was taking what I was told to take, creatines, all this stuff getting back knee, getting acne, getting bigger, getting bloated. I'm doing this around the clock. Then, when we come home, it's work hard, play hard. And then, we go out at night, we party, we drink beer, lots of beer, lots of liquor. I do that. That's what I used to do. I don't drink anymore.
Ben: Refilling the glycogen levels we call that.
Ryan: Perfect. So, all this wash, rinse and repeat day to day to day to day. And, it becomes this ritual and this rhythm that you get into as an operator. So, I do this for eight years, I get out, and then my body and everything starts to truly fall apart. Let's play that out. When I get out, I look at my feet, I have toe fungus or toenail fungus on every toe, toenail, move it up the chain. My knees are shot from all the wrecking and undulating terrain, get hip issues, get back issues, and then it goes into my health. I just haven't been training. I don't want to train so I'm feeling lethargic, a little energy, and then it goes into the mental side of the house where now I'm having mood swings, I'm having depression, anxiety. And, that just takes me deeper to where I don't want to do anything. So then, I turned to the bottle which I did and I didn't do anything to disrupt anybody or anything. I don't have a heroic story of how I came out of the dark. I drank hard for a while just was basically killing myself slowly but not attempting to, just drinking, because I don't want to think about anything. And then, I finally said, “Okay, I need to get squared away.”
So, from that point, when I'm that guy and I'm not the only guy who goes through this same scenario, I feel the majority of the guys may be similar. What is the first thing that we do?
Ben: Well, it's kind of funny because the description that you give me is very similar to when somebody comes to me for coaching and they have been living a somewhat crappy lifestyle kind of sort of prioritizing health here and there but they just basically need to start from scratch and press the reboot button.
So, typically in a scenario like that if I'm able to get blood tests and biomicro tests on somebody, I'll do it. And, the gold standard test, I try to run would be a really good blood performance panel like Wellness FX has a good one called the Longevity Panel. Inside Tracker is a great service but basically full blood panel, full micronutrient panel. I think the best one out there is called the Nutreval, full stool panel to look at parasites, yeast, fungus, stuff going on in the gut. There's one by Genova Diagnostics, it's a three-day stool panel where you collect your poop for three days and eventually ship it off after much of the chagrin of your spouse or significant other it's been sitting in the refrigerator for the past few days in a prepaid FedEx box.
And then, you've got a urinary hormone analysis because you get a lot better data for hormones from urine than you do from blood. And then, typically I'll runs some type of food allergy panel, it's a company called Cyrex that does a really, really good job with food allergy panels. And then, a genetic test to see what type of uphill battle somebody might be fighting from a genetic standpoint. I think one of the better tests out there for this one is called StrateGene.
Now, obviously, some people aren't going to run all those tests, some people aren't going to run any of those tests, but if I'm able to start with self-quantification, it gives you a really, really good baseline to say, “Okay, based on the blood, the urine, the stool, the food allergy, the genes, and the micronutrients, here is the diet that this person should be eating” because as you know, Ryan, based on biochemical individuality, one diet does not fit for all of humankind. We can customize it based on blood and biomarkers and genes ideally, and then also what kind of supplementation program should this person be on to fill in some of the gaps that the diet might not be filling.
Now, once you've got that data, you can then sit down and say, “Okay. Well, here's what the diet should look like. Here's what the supplementation, the replenishment program should look like.” And then, most folks need some type of hardcore reboot. And, a lot of times, that's due to adrenal fatigue, sometimes it's due to muscle damage, sometimes it's due to joint degradation, sometimes it's due to micronutrient deficiencies. But, what I mean by reboot is typically I'll spend about two and up to eight weeks or so having that person do typically some kind of a special diet more of a cleansing-based diet where there's a lot of vegetables. I kind of cut back on meat, I cut back on coffee, I cut back on alcohol. I even cut back on protein a little bit just to allow their body to bounce back. And, that often includes overnight intermittent fast, sometimes a weekly 24-hour dinner time to dinner time fast. You just basically have the body in cleanup mode because although a lot of people want to jump straight into the hard and heavy training, if you lay down the hard and heavy training on a shaky foundation, you'll wind up just getting injuries and illness down the road inevitably a lot more significantly than you would, had you not done some kind of a reboot. So, you do the testing.
And then, the type of diet that I'm talking about would be a couple examples would be paleo autoimmune diet. That's a really good example of a super clean diet that's free of seeds, and nuts, and soy, and light shades, and some of the stuff that the body needs when it's time to clean up. There's another one called the Colorado Cleanse diet which I really like. It's made by a guy named Dr. John Douillard out of Boulder Colorado. He's been on the podcast before. That's a two-week cleanup protocol that I really like because it doesn't involve a lot of spendy supplements and stuff, it's more of a natural ayurvedic-based cleanse. Sometimes some type of a juice fast, sometimes if somebody has severe gut issues, I'll even put them on what's called an elemental diet where it's this super-duper clean use of something like you mentioned, Thorne, the Thorne SGS powder as breakfast, lunch, and dinner sometimes for up to two weeks as a way to just allow the body to clean up.
Now, this is paired with restorative exercise. So, typically in a scenario like this, I've got somebody doing bodyweight workouts every day down to three to four times per week. Some amount of light cardio like swimming, or elliptical, or rowing, or cycling, some type of sauna practice, some type of cold practice, some type of yoga practice, some type of breathwork practice, and then a ton of mobility work like foam rollers, lacrosse balls, et cetera. And, there's not a lot of heavy lifting, there's not a lot of high-intensity interval training, there's not a lot of deep lung rucking or really, really long cardio work, it's just a lot of restorative stuff to allow the body to bounce back.
And then, once somebody's tested, once somebody's gone through a little bit of cleanup diet, once somebody's done a lot of more of the restorative component of the movement protocol, then after — again, anywhere from two to eight weeks, I'll shift them slowly into a more comprehensive diet that's appropriate to their genetics and their blood and their biomarkers, whether that's a Mediterranean diet, or a paleo diet, or a carnivore diet, or a keto diet, or whatever it is that their physiology is indicating that they need. And then, in conjunction with that, I'll begin to move them into more heavy lifting, more high-intensity interval training, more for example, on the weekends, longer cardio workouts, but I never start with that stuff, I start with the testing, with the cleanup, with the restorative exercise. And then, when somebody's ready. And, a lot of times, I'll gauge whether they're ready based on not only how they're looking, how they're feeling, how they're performing, but also based on what I mentioned earlier, those HRV metrics, the sign of the nervous system readiness because that reflects so many different components of health. And, once they've consistently got high HRV, once they're consistently feeling good, once they feel they've got everything set up and they're on cruise control, that's when I'll start making stuff a little bit more tough, introducing a little bit more dietary variety, and introducing a little bit more advanced exercise components.
Ryan: Wow. So, when you talk about the cleanup phase when you're actually getting people detoxified and getting their bodies back to homeostasis, what should they feel at that point? Because I think a lot of the misconception is people go into these hardcore cleansing things and they quit quickly. I've done it before, my wife is really big into this stuff and she's the one who got me on this path and we did our first one. I was like, by day three when I couldn't eat anything that I was seeing, I was like I'm losing my mind. When you get through something like that, what should you truly feel like?
Ben: So, you should pay attention to a few parameters. Sleep architecture should be really good. So, if you're using an Oura or a Whoop or some other type of sleep tracking system, you should be getting consistently high sleep scores. HRV, like I mentioned, should be consistently high. And, HRV is a little bit subjective based on the individual but you should see a trend of HRV going up, up, up, and sometimes plateauing over a certain period of time preferably as the resting heart rate decreases. Sometimes when HRV increases and resting heart rate increases, that can be a sign of overtraining, which a lot of times on a reboot protocol isn't going to be an issue. That rarely occurs but typically you're looking for a drop in resting heart rate paired with an increase in HRV.
Improvement in sleep architecture, like I mentioned, improvement in bowel habits typically you start pooping one to two times a day and the poops are clean and they feel good and you feel empty when you finish and there's a relative absence of gas and bloating. Not a lot of brain fog during the day like a lot more clear thinking, a lot better cognitive and executive performance, verbal fluency, word recall, et cetera, indicating that the gut-brain axis is working properly and the brain is beginning to get tuned and a little bit detoxified. And then, from a performance standpoint, almost a high drive to move like no resistance to actually wanting to go hit the sauna, go do the cold thermogenesis, get in the yoga or the foam rolling or the massage or the body weight protocols. Almost just this mental drive that begins to blossom as somebody begins to clean everything up.
So, those are some of the main things would be the sleep, the nervous system readiness, the bowel habits, the overall drive to exercise, and a lot of the brain performance getting a lot more clean.
Ryan: So, let's move into that because you just mentioned the heat to cold. So, I know nothing about we just bought ourselves an infrared sauna, we got at the house, just starting to get into it and use it, and an ice bath coming on the way. So, what do you do for that? How do you supplement those or use them in conjunction with each other to truly get what you need out of them?
Ben: Yeah. There's a few different protocols, few different ways to tackle it. One would be hot/cold contrast, meaning going back and forth and back and forth and back and forth. That's a little bit more of a pain in the ass versus say just doing the sauna for an extended period of time like 20 to 45 minutes and then finishing with one bout of cold. It can be a little bit more time-consuming, there's a lot more dry off, go this way, go that way. But, what I recommend to folks typically is once a week, there's some type of more intense hot cold contrast where you might go three minutes or I'm sorry, you start with the heat typically but you might go 15 minutes in the sauna so you got a good sweat going and then you do a three-minute cold plunge and you do three rounds of that. Or, if you're doing water-based hot cold contrast, you got a hot tub next to a cold pool, it's five minutes hot tub, five minutes cold, 4/4, 3/3, 2/2, 1/1. That kind of back and forth and back and forth. But, you don't have to do that every day. That would be once a week for that gold standard hot cold contrast typical day. And, this would be anywhere from three to five days of the week. And, this is very similar to my practice. It's typically a long sauna sit. Again, 20 to 45 minutes so you have a good deep sweat going on whether it's a dry sauna or an infrared sauna. I think those two are best. Steam saunas, they tend to accumulate mold, sometimes the water isn't clean in them. So, I'm not a huge fan of the steam saunas but infrared or dry sauna, 20 to 45 minutes. And then, what you do is typically finish that up with anywhere from 2 to 10 minutes of intense cold or something that really, really cools the body off. And then, you finish with cold, forcing the body to, again, build stress resilience, build glucose tolerance, burn fat, et cetera, to heat the body back up. So, that's an approximate gold standard protocol when it comes to the hot/cold practice.
Ryan: Is this a scenario that goes in the morning, afternoon, evening, or obviously not evening but afternoon, morning type?
Ben: Yeah. I mean, so I'm a fan of doing a lot of that deep restorative stuff like hot cold contrast, yoga, fasted cardio, et cetera, in the morning because you naturally have a pretty big cortisol surge when you wake up and you don't necessarily have to pile a bunch of hard exercise on top of that cortisol surge. It's kind of when you're in a fasted state, you wake up before breakfast, you do a lot of the deep restorative stuff if you have the luxury of time to be able to pull off this scenario because then in the afternoon or the early evening, that's when your body temp peaks, your grip strength peaks, your testosterone peaks, your reaction time peaks, your post-workout protein synthesis peaks. There's a lot of variables that dictate that saving the harder workout for later on in the day between say 4:00 to 6:00 p.m. is a little bit better. So, if you have the luxury of time to do a two a day and you can do that deep restorative hot cold contrast type of stuff in the morning and then do the harder stuff in the afternoon the early evening, that's an ideal scenario.
Now, of course, the best time to exercise or the best time to move or do a protocol is the time that you're actually going to do it. So, if that means you have to shove everything in the morning, then fine or if that means that you just know that based on decision-making fatigue and willpower, you're not going to do the hard work out later on the day and you just got to get it done first thing in the day, fine, do it and then do the sauna in the cold later on before dinner for example, which can kind of help sleep sometimes depending on who you are. But, ideally you've got hot cold contrast in the morning and then the harder exercise session later on in the day with the one caveat to that being for me personally, I'm a twice-a-day cold guy. Meaning I go super cold in the morning at some point before breakfast and then at some point following my afternoon to early evening exercise session, I go super cold again just to decrease the core temperature and that also really helps with sleep later on just because it drops the core temperature. So, that's what the gold standard scenario would look like.
Ryan: One of the biggest things that our troops, our first responders is they have that always on alert, they have to be on alert at all times so they are just completely at ready 10. And, they don't know how to come off it, I don't know how to come off of it. And, I've even worsened my state of that because of doing extreme sports jumping off of cliffs and base jumping and wing shooting and skydiving and all that. That just blows you through the roof where you get this major adrenal fatigue.
So, sleep has become a horrible scenario for soldiers and first responders. And, obviously, the reasons why first responders any time that ball rings, they're waking up middle of the night out of their bed, sometimes they get three, four calls a night so they're continually trying to drop into sleep not getting it to achieve REM and then they're waking up again to go do it. Hyper-vigilant, going to that ex, hitting that target, same thing with the troops or the soldiers, special operators. They get that high adrenal fatigue. They are just always at your ready 10 and then they don't know how to come off it.
So now, we've reversed our cycle where we're always up and alert at night, and then we want to sleep during the day but we have to work during the day so we end up destroying our sleep. And, guys will go months if not years without getting any good sleep.
How do we reboot that system because that's a huge component to what we're talking about?
Ben: Yeah, yeah. And, it's something that pops up over and over again. You get the ideal sleep hygiene dialed in, the cold, and the darkness and the silence, but you still have crappy sleep just because you spent so long either in a state of adrenal fatigue or lying in bed awake unless your body and your brain is conditioned for the bedroom and the sleep environment to be a painful struggle in an uphill battle. I think that this is a scenario in which certain choice compounds or supplements can really, really help to reboot the circadian rhythm along with so-called zeitgebers. Zeitgebers are time cues. Meaning things that help you to restore the body's natural circadian rhythm.
So, for the former, typically if somebody's having a lot of sleep issues, I'll start them off with what I call a melatonin sledgehammer protocol where we'll do a ton of melatonin, sometimes for three days, sometimes for seven days. I've even done this for up to a month with some people but up until the point where they're sleeping through the night. And, you almost use melatonin to train the sleep system. It's a lot. I use a company called MitoZen out of Sarasota, Florida because they do high-dose melatonin. And, I'll go 100 to 300 milligrams. Again, sometimes we're up to a month. I think the best delivery mechanism is a suppository because it slowly gets into the system during the night and then you pair that with some anxiolytic. I used to really recommend CBD for this, which can work pretty well. Typically, CBD though even that's a higher dosage than a lot of people think, that's also usually 100 to 300 milligrams. And then, the sleep product that I developed for Kion, Kion Sleep works really, really well and the scenario too isn't anxiolytic because it's got theanine and GABA and a 5-HTP which all help to support natural sleep. So, those are the top three things is the Kion Sleep, the CBD, and the melatonin. And, you're just stacking that and stacking it and stacking until you start to sleep through the night and your brain begins to get used to just staying in bed during the night asleep.
Now, the other component, these zeitgebers, what I mean by that is some type of timed exercise session in the morning and preferably not super-duper, duper, duper early if you struggle with staying in bed long enough and get up super early. If you do start to wake up at say I think for a lot of people to struggle around 3:00 or 4:00 a.m., if they're poor sleepers, well instead of getting up and exercising, get up and do your reading, your meditation, spiritual time, easy stuff, keep the room dark, wear blue light blocking glasses. Basically, don't send your message that those wee hours of the morning are the time to get up and crush the day. And then, when the time arrives in the morning when you do want to kind of shift the circadian rhythm, that's when you start, work out, you take off the blue light blocking glasses, you put on the lights in the house and you start to send your body a message that that's daytime. And, these zeitgebers that are referred to, one is light. So, you blast yourself with as much natural light as possible preferably before noon, and preferably be a sunlight if you can get it. And, if you can't get sunlight like these blue light boxes that they make for seasonal affective disorder can work really well as one example. They also make lights like glasses that have lights in them and ear pieces that have light in them. There's one called the Re-timer. There's one called the Human Charger. And, I'll use those a lot when I travel and I need to blast myself with light. But, I might not have access to a lot of natural sunlight.
The other two zeitgebers that are really, really good in addition to light are exercise. So, some type of timed exercise session at about the time in the morning when you want to start getting up. And, again, that can be the easy restorative stuff. It doesn't have to be a hardcore CrossFit workout or something like that, it can, again, be like sauna, cold, yoga, restorative exercise, et cetera. And then, the final zeitgeber is food. If you're having trouble with sleep, don't wait until 10:00 or 11:00 a.m. to eat, don't do the compressed feeding window thing at least not until you're starting to get a good night of sleep. So, what that means is you might get up, wait, wait, wait, wait, wait until it's time when you actually want to start waking up, blast yourself with light, get in an exercise session, and then go have a meal but ensure that especially from the circadian rhythmicity standpoint that first meal of the day is pretty rich in protein like 30 to 40 grams of protein. That also helps to really reset the circadian rhythm.
So, yeah, you do the melatonin sledgehammer slightly higher dose CBD, something like Kion Sleep or some other anxiolytic at night paired with a lot of the sleep hygiene like cold room, dark room, no business in bed, no screens in bed, et cetera. Wake up and then when the time arrives when you want to start sending your body a message that it's wakey, wakey time, that's when you pull in sleep, you pull and exercise, and you pull on a protein-rich meal following those two. If you do that for a month, then I mean, a lot of times that's all it takes to sleep well for the rest of your life.
Ryan: Wow. There's so much information. That's fantastic. I mean I'm going to send this podcast out to all my teammates because they need to hear this information because we just don't have a starting point. That's the biggest problem here. It takes so long to get into the special operations community. It is such a gut-wrenching deal to get into it. It's so easy and so quick to get out of it. And then, you're on your own as a civilian, not part of the brotherhood anymore. Even though you are still part of the brotherhood, you're not on a team and you're not doing the daily job but you're still left with all the effects.
So, is there a system in your body that you think is under-misdiagnosed or undertaken care of that something that we can focus on because we don't know anything about anatomy, they don't teach any of that stuff? So, what are some of the systems that if we were to start out day one as an operator in the military, first responder, or person who's trying to get ready to kick off their life as an athlete or just in health, what systems should we focus on and how should we take care of them?
Ben: I talk about this a little bit in my books “Beyond Training” and in “Boundless” but I like to chunk the body into specific categories. And so, what I would focus on is from a physiology standpoint, this is physiology 101 for people who want a quick education in muscle physiology and exercise physiology. So, you want to pay attention to your mitochondria, which I mentioned earlier. Best way to train the mitochondria in addition to a lot of the electrical components I talked about earlier like grounding, earthing, water, minerals, heat, cold, perfectly very healthy diet also would be to do at some point during the week about four to six hard 30-second efforts followed by long luxurious rest periods like four to six minutes in duration. So, a four to one to a maximum of three to one work to rest ratio. So, you're hitting the mitochondria.
The second component be lactic acid like training your body how to deal with the burn. And, for that, typically it's something like say a classic Tabata set like three times a week doing a four-minute 20 seconds hard, 10 seconds easy on an AirDyne or a rower or an elliptical trainer. So, you're checking that box for lactic acid tolerance. Third box to check would be VO2, your maximum oxygen utilization. That's usually the toughest session that you do. Typically, you only need to do that once every one to two weeks. But, the gold standard VO2 max session is four to six minutes at maximum sustainable pace, four to six minutes of recovery in between each of those efforts active recovery. You could easily do this on an AirDyne bike or whatever. And then, you do that four to six times through. So, VO2 max is four to six minutes, four to six recovery, four to six minute recoveries, four to six times through.
Muscle strength. Typically for that, I'm a huge fan of super slow controlled lifting. Not that powerlifting and CrossFit and heavy weight lifting that's at a faster pace is bad, but I find for people who want to be in it for the long haul- – my workout this morning was one set of chest press, pull down, row, squat, deadlift, and overhead press, but each set took me two and a half to three minutes like single set to failure, super slow, super controlled. I think it's one of the best and safest ways to get strong, stay strong in the long game without injuries. And then, what you stack on top of that if you're doing a super slow workout to maximum three times a week would be a couple of more explosive body weight or kettlebell style workouts. Again, they can just be full-body swings to push-ups or Turkish get-ups with some rows and some overhead presses. But, all super light body weight or kettlebell work as a couple of the other functional explosive sessions from a muscle standpoint, you got the super slow work and the explosive work.
And then, the last two components would be every single day some form of mobility like foam roller, lacrosse ball. For me, it's 10 to 15 minutes as soon as I get up in the morning. So, by the end of the week, I've accumulated 75 minutes of deep tissue work. And then, finally, at least one longer fasted fat loss session, a long hike, long ruck, long swim, long bike ride. For a lot of people this is the weekend, but it's going out for one and a half to three hours preferably very little fuel so you're training your body how to burn fat efficiently. And, if you step back and look at things big picture, if you're training mitochondrial density, you're training lactic acid tolerance, you're training VO2 max, you're training some of the slow grinding strength, you're training some of the explosive lighter strength, working on the mobility and the soft tissue compliance and then finally the longer fasted fat burning type of cardio, you're hitting every single physiological variable that you need to hit across the course of a week or two. And, that's the way that I typically will structure someone's exercise program. Obviously, there's little tweaks here and there. Somebody's a triathlete or a marathoner versus a football player or soccer athlete. I'll tweak things accordingly. But, those are generally the biggest body systems to pay attention to from a physiology standpoint.
We could talk all day too, I know. But, by the way, we've probably got another 5-10 minutes or so, so I want to of course answer any other last-hanging threads that you have. But then, of course, I'm sure we'll be talking more after this too. So, go ahead.
Ryan: Yeah. So, I mean, I think my biggest question I think closing that scenario up would be, if you implement the things we just discussed that you just mentioned, you really rehabilitate yourself once you're out of the military or you can start doing it while you're in or starting even day one but you do these things, you make them a practice. I mean, are you truly going to rebalance yourself? Is your mental hygiene going to become a better functioning system because of the effort that you're putting into your physicality or physiology?
Ben: Can you repeat that one more time? Is your mental health going to improve? Is that what you said?
Ryan: Yes. Is your mental health going to improve because of the work that you're putting into your anatomy, your physiology?
Ben: Well, I mean, that's the classic. It's not the destination, it's the journey. Any of this stuff is going to be character-building and improve focus and stick-to-itiveness and character, et cetera. But, I think that getting down into the nitty-gritty science of it, the answer is, yeah, because when you're exercising like this, you're increasing brain-derived neurotrophic factor, which is miracle growth for the brain. You're increasing vascular endothelial growth factor which increases a bunch of blood flow to the brain. You are similar to meditation training the brain to go for longer periods of time without multitasking, without distractions, especially if you're not jumping around a muppet in the gym the whole time but saying really dedicated like it takes focus to do a chest press protocol where you're doing it two and a half three minutes. Set the failure, for example, or a long ruck in a fasted state.
And so, there's a great book called “Spark” by Jonathan Ratey. Kind of an old classic book on exercise literature related to brain performance and mental performance when one is physically active. When you pair that with the idea that that gut-brain access I mentioned earlier is dependent upon absence of leaky gut, parasites, yeast, fungus, a healthy nutrition protocol, if you're moving and then healing the gut, doing a little bit of that reboot type of protocol I talked about earlier and then moving into a healthy eating scenario, yeah, I mean, there's no doubt that the brain is going to directly benefit from that. If you have a history of TBI concussion, yeah, there's other stuff you got to do. High-dose fish oil, infrared light therapy for the head, hyperbaric oxygen therapy, sometimes a low dose psilocybin with lion's mane for neuroplasticity and neurogenesis, the use of liquid ketones or coconut oils. There's books like “The End of Alzheimer's” by Dale Bredesen or “Breaking Alzheimer's” by Dwayne Goodenowe, which really I think are two manuals that can really, really help with knowing all the different variables that go into healing TBI, concussion, or that go into remapping and rewiring the brain. I have tons of podcasts on that kind of stuff as well that gosh, I've probably done a dozen different podcasts on concussion, on TVI and proper management of it. I've interviewed guys like Dr. Dan Engle, the author of the Concussion Repair Manual, which is fantastic. I've interviewed Dr. Andrew Hill who specializes in neurofeedback to repair the brain. But, yeah, I mean, exercise and eating healthy is going to move the dial a ton. And then, if there's a pretty significant history of head damage or brain trauma, then you start to pull out some of these other stops that get a little bit more specific to the individual.
Ryan: Well, that's the biggest component for me when it comes to the mental health side of this stuff. So, we've been very blessed, we just partnered with the Center for BrainHealth in Dallas, Texas, so we're going to be doing this thing called Extreme Brain, which is testing our athletes or test subjects before and after this excursion around the world to see what changes happen because this is obviously a lot that's going on, a lot to the anatomy, a lot to the mental side, the spiritual, emotional. This is covering all bases, so we're going to check this out to see what happens and what information we can gather from it.
So, I appreciate you telling me all this stuff. This is something that operators, soldiers, airmen, marines, we get into the intricacies and the hacking and all this other stuff. None of that ever matters until you get to the baseline. So, this is very important. I really appreciate your time for all this stuff.
I forgot to mention this one cool thing about this whole project is you can actually win this trip to go with us.
Ben: Oh, really? How's that work?
Ryan: All you have to do is go to americanextreme.com. That's our website and you just click on the Chosen. And, you can buy a ticket, enters you into a raffle and this automated system is going to pick one lucky winner to go with us on the trip of a lifetime.
Ben: I love it. And, what I'll do Ryan is I'll link to all that at BenGreenfieldLife.com/HumanPerformanceProject. And then, I know that there's, gosh, plenty more that we could talk about, and I actually want to continue the conversation about maybe a scenario where I can join in with you guys and make a little bit of an adventure. But, in the meantime, I really want to make my audience aware of the project, toss a few ideas out to you in terms of where you guys could start in terms of your physical training, and your nutrition. Obviously, there's some stuff that goes into that seven-day journey that goes outside the realm of the average diet and gets into the type of stuff that you take with you on the road for a seven-day journey like that, liquid ketones and amino acids, the kind of stuff that keeps you going when you don't have access to real whole food during a training scenario or competition scenario like that. So, we can talk about a lot of that stuff in the future. But, in the meantime, I'm really hoping that folks got a little bit out of this, and also that maybe a few of my listeners decide to join in and either support you guys or actually be with you and maybe even win that spot on the plane. So, I'm going to link to everything, again, at BenGreenfieldLife.com/HumanPerformanceProject.
And, Ryan, I just want to thank you for reaching out to me and for your heart in terms of how many people you want to help for Sons of the Flag, for everything that you're doing, and I'm just happy to be able to help in any way I can.
Ryan: Truly grateful. You are one of the good ones, man. And, I'm very lucky to learn from you. It's an honor.
Ryan: Definitely want to have you a part of the team and we'll be introducing you to the core team of the SMEs for further advice.
Ben: Alright, folks. Well, I'm Ben Greenfield along with Ryan “The Birdman” Parrott signing out from BenGreenfieldLife.com. Have an amazing week.
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.
A few weeks ago, a guy named Ryan “Birdman” Parrott contacted me.
Here's what he said…
“My sniper partner in the SEAL Teams took his life three years ago, and I am tired of it. I know for a fact that there are plenty of brain treatment centers around the country, but the military, and first responder communities’ leadership, don’t seem to care about their health, nutrition, and sleep, so we are going to work with physicians, sports physiologists, and mental health experts to develop a simplistic manual that will showcase: 1) turning the ignition on so that kids who are starting to get athletic can understand how to create a baseline of correct fitness and how to get back to homeostasis (this also goes for brand new military members and first responders because they don’t get taught human performance); 2) restarting the engine for the warfighter, career firefighter, and law enforcement, so that they can come out of their careers unfractured.
This manual should and will discuss what to do on the flip side to reboot. I am not going to sit back and watch another warfighter take their own life because they are not being tended to after devoting everything that God has given to them to national security. I have run a successful non-profit for burn survivors called ‘Sons of the Flag‘ for the past ten years and am now making this my number one focus to do my part…
…it's called The Human Performance Project…
…and I would love your advice on nutrition and supplementation as we begin this training and as we analyze our blood to give us all a better understanding of what is truly making us better. These are all warfighters on the team that will be training to pull this off, and I am the youngest guy on the team, so we have our work cut out for us.”
Ryan's Human Performance Project is designed to gain outcomes on human performance by testing supplements while training and looking deep into the DNA, physiology, and human spirit, to create a docuseries along with a manual that supports all data-driven findings and proof of concept. The program is designed to essentially press the reset button on a 20-year military veteran or first responder and start the engine for the next generation to train, eat, sleep, diet, and live well.
Originally from Detriot, Michigan, Ryan is an author, public speaker, former Navy SEAL, patent holder, action sports athlete, and founder of two non-profits benefitting veterans and first responders. Ryan enlisted in the Navy after watching the Twin Towers fall on 9/11, and served eight years as a U.S. Navy SEAL attached to SEAL Team SEVEN, completing three combat tours to Iraq before being assigned to Advanced Training Command as an Instructor.
In 2005, while serving in Iraq, Ryan Birdman was riding atop a Humvee manning the gun turret in enemy territory when his vehicle was hit by an improvised explosive device (IED), causing a detonation and throwing him from the Humvee. Ryan regained composure with his face and hands burned and witnessed his fellow team members suffer devastating burn and blast injuries. While Ryan's burns were only first- and second-degree, his teammates suffered lifelong injuries.
In 2012, Ryan established Sons of the Flag to help burn survivors and their families find the help and medical attention they truly deserve. He is also the founder of the Bird’s Eye View Project, addressing the extreme needs of veterans and first responders through extreme sports. He authored Sons of the Flag: Real Accounts from the last 100 years of American Service.
Now a sponsored athlete in the extreme sports arena, Ryan Birdman has founded The Human Performance Project, taking a deeper dive into health and wellness and giving the next generation a better understanding of taking proper care of their bodies through physical, mental, emotional, and spiritual guidance from world-renowned experts in their fields. After I read Ryan's message, I decided to ask him to be on the show to talk about how to truly optimize performance, especially when you need to be on the physical and mental cutting edge.
More info on the Human Performance Project is here.
During our discussion, you'll discover:
-Ryan's personal journey to the present day, and how he got the name “Birdman”…06:25
- Grew up in Detroit, MI; going nowhere in life
- Marine Vietnam vet motivated Ryan to join the Navy SEALS
- Enlisted in the navy after 9/11; 8-year career ensued
- IED detonated under HUMVEE, Ryan shot into the air like a bird
- “Blissfully unaware” of emotional damage inflicted during combat tours
-Addressing a severely underserved segment of combat-sustained injuries through Sons of the Flag…11:52
- Burn victims are placed into an ambiguous category of care providers
- Sons of the Flag recruits and funds training for highly-skilled burn care providers
- Help with expenses of burn surgery
- “Sons of the Flag” is a poem from WWI
- Mark Divine's Kokoro program
- Podcasts with Mark Divine:
-The Human Performance Project: what it is and who it serves…16:26
- Sniper partner took his own life in 2019; he was the “true north” of the platoon
- Rather than reverting to depression, Ryan decided to step up and provide help for those suffering from post-combat stress
- Look beyond brain injuries and emotional stress or mental health
- Pro sports and military is an “old boy network”; eat and supplement however everyone else does it
- Look at the entire body; what does it need to thrive?
- Bird’s Eye View Project
- Sponsored by Thorne, BUBS Collagen Protein
- Skydive, marathon, plunge in water on 7 continents in 7 days (breakdown phase)
- Reboot phase would be outlined in a sort of “Metcalf Manual”
- Chris Hoth
- americanextreme.com if you want to join in (February 13, 2023)
-The first 3 things you should do when you want to take control of your health and fitness…33:00
- Electrical components
- The Body Electric by Robert Becker
- Earthing and grounding
- Grounding mats
- Thermoregulation: stressors of heat and cold
- Water and minerals
- Blue light blockers
- Blackout curtains
- Avoid heavy meal just before bed
- HRV monitor
- Breathwork practice
- Othership app
-The first thing to do when you realize you're broken physically, spiritually, and emotionally…41:30
- Wellness FX Longevity panel (for men and women)
- Insider Tracker
- Nutreval panel
- Genova Diagnostic stool panel
- Urine hormone analysis
- Cyrex food allergy panel
- StrateGene genetic test
- “Reboot” protocol:
- 2-8 weeks on a cleansing type diet
- Intermittent and 24-hour fasting
- Paleo autoimmune diet
- Colorado Cleanse diet
- Juice fast or elemental diet
- Thorne SGS powder
-How you will feel if you attempt a hard-core cleanse…47:50
- Sleep architecture: high sleep scores
- HRV should be high
- Improvement in gut
- Higher cognitive performance
- High drive to move; little resistance to doing the work
-Improving the overall sleep experience…55:00
- Melatonin “sledgehammer” protocol
- MitoZen Melatonin Suppository (use code BEN to save 5%)
- Kion Sleep
- Zeitgeber: a cue that helps to reset the circadian rhythm
-The system in the body that needs the most attention, and how to address it…1:00:03
- Beyond Training by Ben Greenfield
- Boundless by Ben Greenfield
- 4-6 hard, 30-second efforts, followed by lots of rest
- Train to deal with lactic acid
- VO2: 4-6 max. sustainable pace; 4-6 minutes rest; 4x through
- Muscle strength: super-slow, controlled lifting
- Mobility training: foam roller, ball, etc.
- Fasted fat-loss session: hike, bike ride
-To what extent will improving your physical game improve your mental game?…1:05:15
- Spark by John Ratey
- The End of Alzheimer's by Dale Bredesen
- Breaking Alzheimer's by Dayan Goodenowe
- Podcasts about TBI and Concussion:
- Nasal Glutathione, Psychedelics, Dynavision & More – The Concussion Repair Manual: A Practical Guide to Recovering from Traumatic Brain Injuries
- Ben Got COVID (& What He Did About It), How To Fix Issues With Your Brain, The “God Cap” For Neurofeedback, Do Home Neurofeedback Devices Work & More With Dr. Andrew Hill.
- Why You May Have A Head Injury Or Concussion (Even If You Don’t Know It) And What To Do About It.
- Concussions: A Must-Listen Podcast If You Or A Loved One Have Ever Had A Head Injury, with Dr Kelly Ryder.
- Center For BrainHealth
- Get a chance to win a slot for an experience of a lifetime!
-And much more!
- Pulsed Electromagnetic Field (PEMF) Healing Summit (July 12 – 20, 2022). Click here to register for the event now
- Keep up on Ben's LIVE appearances by following bengreenfieldlife.com/calendar
Resources from this episode:
– Ryan “Birdman” Parrott:
- The Human Performance Project
- Sons of the Flag
- Bird’s Eye View Project
- Sons of the Flag: Real Accounts from the last 100 years of American Service
– 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
- Fire & Ice: Tips, Tricks & Biohacks To Maximize The Benefits Of Sauna, Hyperthermia, Cryotherapy & Cold Thermogenesis.
- Nasal Glutathione, Psychedelics, Dynavision & More – The Concussion Repair Manual: A Practical Guide to Recovering from Traumatic Brain Injuries
- Ben Got COVID (& What He Did About It), How To Fix Issues With Your Brain, The “God Cap” For Neurofeedback, Do Home Neurofeedback Devices Work & More With Dr. Andrew Hill.
- Why You May Have A Head Injury Or Concussion (Even If You Don’t Know It) And What To Do About It.
- Concussions: A Must-Listen Podcast If You Or A Loved One Have Ever Had A Head Injury, with Dr Kelly Ryder.
- The Zen of “The Zone” – How To Breathe The Right Way When You’re Working Out, with John Douillard.
- Sunlight Makes You Skinny & Blue Light Makes You Fat: 11 Ways To Biohack Light To Optimize Your Body & Brain.
- The “Re-Timer” Effect: How To Re-Time Your Circadian Rhythms If You Wake Up Too Early Or Stay Up Too Late.
- 6 Steps To Achieving The Ideal Combination Of Fitness, Longevity, And Looking Good Naked (A Hybrid Training Approach For Anti-Aging & Performance)
- How To Tap Into The Secret Psychedelic Tactics Of The Ancients Using A Free & Fast Anti-Aging, Stress-Busting, Energy-Boosting Hack.
- The Latest Research On Fasting: What 9 New Studies Say About Fasting’s Effects On Fat Loss, Satiety, Insulin Resistance, & More.
- The Body Electric by Robert Becker
- Beyond Training by Ben Greenfield
- Boundless by Ben Greenfield
- Spark by John Ratey
- The End of Alzheimer's by Dale Bredesen
- Breaking Alzheimer's by Dayan Goodenowe
- Wellness FX Longevity Panel For Men
- Wellness FX Longevity panel For Women
- Nutreval FMV
- Genova Complete Gut Test Kit
- DUTCH Urine Steroid Hormone Profile
- Cyrex Food Allergy Test
– Other Resources:
- Mark Divine's Kokoro Program
- Thorne SGS
- BUBS Collagen Protein
- Water And Wellness
- MitoZen Melatonin Suppository (use code BEN to save 5%)
- Kion Sleep
- RA Optics Blue Light Blockers
- Human Charger
- Ultimate Longevity Earthing And Grounding Mats
- Clearlight Sauna
- Morozko Forge Ice Bath
- Blackout Curtains
- Insider Tracker
- Sons of the Flag Poem
- Paleo Autoimmune Diet
- Elemental Diet
- Colorado Cleanse Diet
- Center For BrainHealth
–Kion Aminos: Building blocks for muscle recovery, reduced cravings, better cognition, immunity, and more.
–Masszymes: A powerful best-in-class enzyme supplement that improves digestion, reduces gas and bloating, and provides relief from constipation. Click our link to claim your exclusive free product bundle.
–Inside Tracker: Created by leading scientists in aging, genetics, and biometrics, InsideTracker analyzes your blood, DNA, and fitness tracking data to identify where you’re optimized—and where you’re not.
–Organifi Green Juice: Now you can get all your healthy superfoods in one glass…with No Shopping, No Blending, No Juicing, and No Cleanup. Get a 20% discount on your entire order when you use discount code: BENG20
–Ketone IQ by HVMN: One Bottle of Ketone-IQ contains 10 servings designed to be taken daily in the morning to elevate your ketone levels.