August 20, 2016
[0:53] Kimera Koffee
[2:42] Blue Apron
[4:17] Organifi Green Juice
[5:39] Our Premium Channel/ Inner Circle/ Forum
[9:21] About Bob Troia
[11:33] The Story Behind The Name Quantified Bob
[12:28] How Bob Accounts For Variables When Quantifying
[17:00] What Happened When Bob Hacked His Glucose
[24:58] How Much Oxaloacetate Bob Used
[26:09] What Test Bob Uses To Monitor Glucose
31:05] Other Quantification Tests Bob Ran
[40:04] Other Things in The Environment Bob Has Tracked
[47:32] Bob and The Gold Standard For Air And Water
[49:58] Sleep Tracking
[54:09] Tracking Aging
[58:01] Why Bob Tested His Omega-3 and Omega-6 Ratio
[1:02:20] Bob's Use of Electrostimulation
[1:07:37] Craziest Thing Bob Did For Quantification
[1:19:01] End of Podcast
Ben: Good morning, mañana. Ben Greenfield here. I actually have coffee. This is one of the rare occasions where I'm drinking coffee while I'm talking to you. Is this annoying? (takes a sip of coffee) I hate it when people eat on the radio, but this isn't the radio. It's a podcast. This coffee is kinda cold, by the way.
If anybody has any fixes for cold coffee in the morning, please let me know 'cause it's annoying to dump it back on the stove top and drink it. I don't know. First world problems. Anyways, today I'm interviewing this guy named Quantified Bob. It sounds like a dumb name, but he's actually a really interesting guy and his website is super interesting too. I took a deep dive down the rabbit hole of his quantifiedbob.com website. It's amazing. So, had to get him on the show.
But speaking of coffee, before we actually interview Bob, I wanted to tell you about a recipe. Because in the last podcast episode we talked about altitude performance, and there is this recipe for something called a high altitude smoothie they call the “loaded smoothie” for a quick on-the-go breakfast. Here's how it goes. You take one and half cups of coffee that you've brewed. And then you add your milk, like your coconut milk, or almond milk, or camel milk. I actually have camel milk in my refrigerator right now. Perhaps more on that in the future podcast. They're wanting me to try it, and see if I like it, and see if my biceps explode out the skin of my arms from drinking camel milk.
Anyways, though. So you take your coffee and your milk, and then you basically blend that with protein powder, almond butter, coconut oil, cinnamon, and then this last ingredient is actually the one that I think makes the recipe, raw organic cocoa butter, which you can probably find on Amazon, or the folks at BulletProof, I know, have a like an alkali-free cacao butter. Alkali-free meaning that your brain isn't gonna slowly die as you drink your coco. Anyways, you blend that, you put it over ice.
That recipe comes straight to you from the coffee people who actually sponsored today's podcast episode. Kimera Koffee, which is coffee that has nootropics, mind and cognitive enhancing nootropics, added to it. You get 10% off anything at Kimera Koffee, and you can make your high altitude smoothie with it when you go to K-I-M-E-R-A-K-O-F-F-E-E, kimerakoffee.com, you get 10% off with code Ben. So check out Kimera Koffee.
This podcast is also brought to you by eggplant, shishito, and summer bean stir fry. That actually, that's not who it's brought to you by. That's the recipe that they make, Blue Apron. Was that offensive, by the way, for me to make that accent and read it like that? You know what? I love Asians. I love Asia. Eggplant, shishito, and summer bean stir fry. I'm gonna go eat Korean tonight. Anyways though, so that is a really good dish that basically arrives at your house, all the ingredients are there. Everything you need for the stir fry, the crisp summer beans, and the blistered shishito peppers, and the jasmine rice, and the ginger, sauteed cashews. And then you make it, so it teaches you how to cook, but they send all the recipes to your house too. These are the folks at Blue Apron.
So Blue Apron, all their beef is raised humanely, the chickens are free-range, the pork is raised naturally, they've got vegan and vegetarian options, gluten-free options. They source from artisanal suppliers, family-run farms, fisheries, ranchers. Really cool way to get your food, especially if you want affordable food for less than 10 bucks a meal and you want convenient done-for-you recipes. So, teach yourself how to cook and make life convenient in the same way. You get three meals free, with free shipping. Not one, not two, but, count 'em, three meals free. You go to blueapron.com/ben, that's blueapron.com/ben. Blue Apron. A better way to cook. So check 'em out.
This podcast is also brought to you, and by the way, don't fast forward through the commercials 'cause I have something to tell you at the end. You fast forward through the commercials anyways. You're not like that. These people support the show, it's brought to you by Organifi, Organifi Green Juice powder. Now what this stuff has in it, in addition to wheat grass, and spirulina, and chlorella, and green tea, and horseradish powder, which we talked about in the last podcast, and ashwagandha, and turmeric, is they have… (burps) Excuse me. I can't speak this morning. Maybe I should wait until I finish my coffee. They have mint extract, which I really like because when I put a scoop of this in my morning smoothie, mint is a digestif, but it's also got a little bit of like a pick-me-up, wakefulness factor, and it's just this pleasant taste. It's the small things that matter, and I think the mint puts this stuff over the roof. And in my personal opinion, if you're not a mint person, then screw you. Find some other gently dried super greens powder. I dare you. But in the meantime, try this stuff. You can get a 20% off. You go to bengreenfieldfitness.com/fitlife, bengreenfieldfitness.com/fitlife, and discount code Ben gets you 20% off. So check it out.
Last thing I wanted to tell you was I get a lot of questions now about our premium channels. So we take hidden podcast episodes, interviews I haven't released in other places, PDFs, videos from conferences I'm at, et cetera, and we jam pack all of those for $9.99 a year into what we call our Premium channel. So there's an app for this podcast, I don't know if you knew that, for Android and iPhone. And there's this huge collection, like 300 plus episodes that never make their way on to iTunes or anywhere else. They're just hidden for, again, 10 bucks here.
So if you're bored and you run out of stuff to listen, or you want downloads, free stuff, et cetera, you go to bengreenfieldfitness.com/premium. That is different than my inner circle. Okay, so I have the premium podcasts in the inner circle. The inner circle, all that is, that also is $9.99, not per year, I'm sorry, but per month, and that is a monthly workshop and kinda like a living room chat with me and my wife, like a full on Q and A where we drink wine, and answer your questions, and talk about mildly offensive, or controversial, or other items we can't talk about on this podcast because this is for the general public and children.
But also, we have a forum, a very robust forum which is a place where we do things like group coaching, and answer your questions, and my wife puts out a monthly magazine. It's pretty much, if you wanna stalk the Greenfield family, or I should say be a part of our family, that's the inner circle. So that's the difference between the inner circle and the premium offering. A lot of people do both, okay? A lot of people do both to get all of the goodness 'cause I spend my life researching what works, what doesn't, getting out there in the trenches, figuring out stuff for you, just like my guest, Quantified Bob, today. So, how to get it? bengreenfieldfitness.com/premium is the premium channel, and then bengreenfieldfitness.com/innercircle is the inner circle. goodness. Alright. Let's go talk with Bob. Shall we?
In this episode of The Ben Greenfield Fitness Show:
“They measure the length of your telomeres. The idea is the longer those telomeres are, from a longevity standpoint, they can divide many more times before the fraying and death will occur. So you want to have as long telomeres as possible.” “I can pull biometric data up to see like, do I act a certain way, or breathe differently, or sweat, and things like that so to kind of figure out, ‘Okay. Now I'm aware of what I do.' How do I fix that to improve my likelihood of winning?” “And I could see that my glucose readings tended to be higher on a Monday, maybe that's like the stress of the work week. It dropped down by the weekend.”
He’s an expert in human performance and nutrition, voted America’s top personal trainer and one of the globe’s most influential people in health and fitness. His show provides you with everything you need to optimize physical and mental performance. He is Ben Greenfield. “Power, speed, mobility, balance – whatever it is for you that’s the natural movement, get out there! When you look at all the studies done… studies that have shown the greatest efficacy…” All the information you need in one place, right here, right now, on the Ben Greenfield Fitness podcast.
Ben: Hey. What's up, folks? It's Ben Greenfield, and I just realized that I did not yet open my morning Zevia soda. So let me get that open. I'm actually drinking a stevia-flavored soda this morning because I've been fasting for quite some time now. I'm doing an experiment in which I'm gathering blood glucose and ketone values, and also, a phlebotomist just left my house. And that phlebotomist mist was doing a full WellnessFX blood panel and then what's called a cytokine inflammatory panel. So I am bleeding out of many, many orifices this morning. I haven't eaten, and so this threatens to be a quite interesting podcast, especially when you consider that my guest today is himself a quantification nerd that puts me to shame. His name, at least when it comes to quantification, his name is Bob and he goes by Quantified Bob. You can actually check out his website. It's very fascinating. It's at quantifiedbob.com.
Someone told me about Quantified Bob at a biohacking conference. So I went and checked out his website, and this dude tracks his entire life tirelessly. He has reams of data and insight on everything from how the body responds to varying amounts of starch intake, to electrostimulation, to artificial light, to different diets, to cognitive performance training, and a whole lot more. He, himself, is a serial entrepreneur in digital technology and describes himself as a left and right brain thinker who is equal parts technical, creative, and analytical. Anyways though, Bob is big-time into quantification and biohacking. And I have a hunch that today's show will be quite interesting, not only because of Bob's past, but also because I'll be taking breaks as we go to poke myself with needles. So, Bob, welcome to the show, man.
Bob: Hi, Ben. Thanks for having me. I'm a big fan of your show.
Ben: Awesome. Well, it's good to know people besides my mom are listening because I know my wife doesn't listen. I say many things about her on the show and she never brings them up. So, she's either extremely polite or she's not listening. Anyways though, we digress. Why do you call yourself Quantified Bob? I'm just curious about how that title arose.
Bob: Sure. Well, I've always been interested in finding ways to better understand and optimize different areas of my life, and it was for a long time, it was something I really just kept to myself 'cause I thought maybe other people would view it as weird. But over the years, I started running into other people who shared this passion and this sort of evolved into what's now known as the quantified self for biohacking movements, and I was actually surprised people had any interest in what I was up to, or doing, or learning. So I got pretty inspired after the first ever Quantified Self Conference and I said, “You know what? I should start publicly sharing some of this information about what I'm up to.” I needed a domain name for the website, and really Quantified Bob was just the first thing that popped up. People refer to me as Quantified Bob, but really, it came out of the name for the blog.
Ben: Gotcha. And normally, I would probably save this question for the end, but I wanna ask you this right now, 'cause I know you quantify a ton of things, and we're gonna have a lot of fun today, and get into those, but when you're quantifying yourself and you are testing yourself, for example, I'm in a fasted state right now so that the impact of food doesn't affect the blood, and the glucose, and the ketone values I'm collecting specifically, and I do that because, obviously for me to have whatever, anything from coffee, to food, et cetera is going to introduce confounding variables. How do you account for all of the different potentially confounding variables when you’re testing and tracking your data?
Bob: Yes. It's a big challenge because if the goal of cell tracking at the end of the day, well for me at least, is to optimize my life and free up time at some degree for certain parts of my life, but if it becomes a burden and time consuming really, then what's the point? So that's on one hand, but on the other hand there's a saying that goes, “you can't manage what you don't measure.” So, like you said, you're doing an experiment right now where you're trying to reduce the number of variables. Like you don't want to affect your experiment by other things that are happening.
So maybe we just take a step back and we look at the types of data we gather. There are things like passively collected data that you sort of don't have to think about, it could be if you have a wearable, it's just pulling biometric data off of you. You may have something to help track your sleep. We can use our phone or other devices to track our location. You can track your time, and work, or doing other things. So those are things that you don't have to invest a whole lot of time into, and they can kind of be independently collected.
Then you've got manually captured data, like you mentioned, glucose, ketones, you step on a scale, body composition, measuring your mood, tracking workouts, diet and supplements. That's like another layer of data. And then we've got data that's a layer above that which is less frequently collected more periodically. So, blood work, lab tests, things like that. And then if you wanna go another degree outside of that, you can overlay external data. Maybe you want to look at things like the weather, or the stock market, and overlay that to see if that's having any kind of impact on you. So, in terms of the confounding variables and how do you limit things, I think there is that sort of set-it-and-forget-it standpoint that you really want to make as much of it passive as possible and have it automated. But if I'm doing an experiment, you definitely need to, you can't be running, let's say, eight experiments at once because you'll inherently affect the results of one experiment with the other.
So for me, I've got sort of a baseline of things I'm just collecting that's very passive, and if I'm going into like a certain type of experiment or even testing a theory, I'll make sure to, for example, if you're doing a fasting-type experiment, I'll make sure that I limit things like exercise. If I'm doing something that's gonna measure inflammatory markers, well what if overexert myself working out or I roll my ankle, that's gonna create an acute inflammatory response which may affect the data. So you have to kind of figure out ways to balance all of that.
Ben: Okay. Yeah. That makes sense. So basically, if you're, for example, testing blood glucose, you would wanna eliminate as many variables as you can that will affect glucose, and exercise and food obviously be big ones, but sometimes I think about things like lighting, and sun, and the air that we breathe, and exposure to WiFi or Bluetooth, and all these little things that affect our bodies. I'm always wondering, when we're quantifying, how many variables are affecting us on a day to day basis that are kinda like throwing a wrench into some of that data.
But ultimately, I think the takeaway for folks listening in is as you delve into, perhaps some of the experiments that we're gonna talk about on today's show, make sure that you do account for some of that stuff. ‘Cause otherwise, you just don't know, or at least track. So for example, every single time that I'm taking a glucose or a ketone measurement right now, I'm tracking what I've been doing for the last 60 minutes. I'm tracking how I felt if I've, how the bowel movements have been, if I've been thinking more clearly, less clearly, sleepy or less sleepy, that type of thing. So writing things down can help out quite a bit too as you're tracking, and often I'll just use the notes function on my phone, for example, or a simple Excel spreadsheet. I don't get too down and dirty with my qualification in terms of having it take over my life. But it does help to keep track of some of these things.
Now, one of the first things I wanted to ask about Bob was you did a glucose tracking experiment in which you say you hacked and tracked your glucose. I'm curious, obviously a lot of people understand glucose and that it's blood sugar, et cetera, but what kind of unique things did you do, or unique things did you find when you were messing around with your blood glucose?
Bob: Yes. So what inspired this experiment was really, I was looking over my 23andMe data. I was one of the early users. So it's a genetic testing service. You spit into a tube, and saliva, and then they'll sequence, and they used to give you these health reports. They don't do it as much anymore, I was grandfathered into the old reports. But it showed I had an elevated risk of Type II diabetes. Now granted, like the average American, I think is about 26%, and I was probably about 10 points higher.
Ben: Interesting. I share that characteristic, by the way.
Bob: Yeah. And it's in my family on one side. It had a few relatives, extended relatives that have developed Type II diabetes. So I started digging into that a little bit more. I saw that the American Diabetes Association had some guidelines that said your “okay” glucose is between 70 and 130 milligrams per deciliter, which is why I think people get surprised when a doctor says to them, “Hey, you have Type II diabetes,” because it shouldn't be something that sneaks up on you. The problem is if you're at 129, they're gonna tell you you're in the okay range, until you go over that 130.
Ben: Right. Now, a quick question before jumping in. When you did your genetic testing, were you already kind of like geeked out on quantification at that point? Or was this your first foray into testing things?
Bob: No. I was collecting a lot of different data, I think, at the time, beyond blood work. This was the first sort of add-on type of test when they first came online because genetic testing had been prohibitively expensive, and I think when 23andMe came out, it was maybe $200 or so to do the test. So it was another area, the same way I've done gut biome testing and things like that, it was another set of data that I could look at and then correlating it with other information I had. So, in terms of the reason for the experiment, there's anti-aging groups like Life Extension Foundation that said, “Really you need to be below 85 milligrams per deciliter. That's a good baseline.” Actually, even below 80. So what I did was I just started taking a baseline of fasting glucose readings. So every morning, first thing after I wake up, pull a drop of blood with a glucose meter and just note the values every day. So I got a 30 day baseline.
Then I came across a supplement called oxaloacetate, which I know you've discussed in depth. So I was intrigued by some of the experiments that I have been run with it. Now, granted it was done on a lot of lab animals, but it showed how it had benefits to mimic caloric restriction and had some longevity benefits. So what I did was I did the 30 day baseline, I just started supplementing with oxaloacetate for another 30 days, and took again morning fasting readings every morning. And it was really interesting to see the effects. It actually knocked my morning fasting glucose readings down pretty considerably. I saw it just spike down. There's about a one week loading phase, and then it started going down. And then once I got off of it, my levels came back up, but not to the levels they were at previously.
Ben: Interesting. So you were using oxaloacetate, and for those of you who don't know what oxaloacetate is, it's actually part of the Krebs cycle, which is what we feed glucose into, for example, to generate ATP. And I know that oxaloacetate, if I am correct, I believe it's like a rate limiter in terms of your ability to utilize fatty acids as a fuel, meaning that the more oxaloacetate you can kinda pump into your system, the more quickly you might be able to engage in fatty acid synthesis, and then ATP production through the breakdown of fats. Is that kinda the idea behind oxaloacetate from a metabolic standpoint?
Bob: Yeah. And for me specifically, it was on the sort of the short term benefits of it where again, I experimented with things like intermittent fasting and I wanted to see if I can get some of those same benefits by supplementing with it 'cause that was one of the claims of what it can do is almost mimic some of those caloric restriction type of benefits.
Ben: Right. Kinda what they say about, for example, the use of MCT oil or ketones to mimic being in ketosis. But instead, you're taking exogenous forms, like dumping a bunch of MCT oil on your pasta, or C8 oil on your sushi, or something like that to put yourself in a “fasted state” even though you're eating.
Bob: Exactly. And to go back to collecting data and being overwhelmed with it, when I first started this experiment, I structured it where I was gonna be taking glucose readings many, many times a day over the course of the week. And it just became way too burdensome, and I realized that really the only important metric was that fasting morning reading. I was postprandial readings an hour after a meal and things like that, but I said, “You know what, let me just focus on the morning fasting reading.” So, I saw the benefits of it. And so then I waited a few months, well, actually no. First I looked at the data. In addition to it just dropping my baseline readings, I was looking at it by day of the week, and I could see my glucose readings tended to be higher on a Monday, maybe that's like the stress of the work week, things like that. It dropped down by the weekend.
But there were a few days where, I think it was a Thursday and Saturday, where the values were much lower and I couldn't figure out why. So then I started looking at my schedule, my calendar, and I realized I play soccer nights a week in some leagues. And Wednesday nights and Friday nights, I was playing in the leagues. So it drops, my fasting glucose the following morning would plummet even more, even though I was doing other training the rest of the week. So my theory was the kinda sucker’s notes, it's high intensity, you're sprinting, you're jogging, you're stopped. So you're kinda doing that type of interval training for a bit. That coupled with the oxaloacetate seemed to have a nice synergy.
Bob: I then tried to correlate things like just steps and activity with the readings. And there's a program, an online tool called Statwing, I just imported the raw data into it, try to find correlations in the data, and I couldn't find any correlations. So I had step data from both my phone, I have an app in my phone that just kind of passively tracks my movement, and I was wearing a Basis tracker. So Intel owns them. And so I looked at the data…
Ben: Like a MyBasis watch.
Bob: Exactly. Yes. And there is no correlation with doing things like playing soccer or running around. My phone’s not on me, so it's not tracking those steps, and they will let me play with that device on my wrist. So I had to take it off when I was playing. So I was kind of losing that data.
Ben: Right. You wouldn't wanna hurt anyone with your giant self-quantification watch.
Bob: Exactly. So that was kind of where I got to, looking just at the general activity of playing soccer, lowering the glucose values. And then a few months later, I tried to replicate the experiment exactly the same way: 30 day baseline, oxaloacetate, and it failed. It did not work. What I realized there was I was doing this over the winter. So we had gotten some pretty bad snow in New York. So my activity levels pretty much dropped down. I was much more sedentary. And even from a work perspective, I went, at that point, from going and commuting into an office every day to working from home. So, to me, it showed that synergy really only works, you have to have this sort of activity with the oxaloacetate to get that benefit.
Ben: Right. And how much oxaloacetate were you actually taking, for people who may want to try to utilize this to control their own blood glucose?
Bob: Yeah. I was taking, the pills are 100 milligrams, I think, and I was taking one in the morning and one with dinner.
Ben: Were you using the Bulletproof Anti-aging Formula? That one?
Bob: Yeah. Correct. It goes by some other names as well, but yeah.
Ben: Yeah. That's the one that I've used in the past, and the primary ingredient in that is oxaloacetate. They call it the anti-aging formula because it's actually very good for the mitochondria as well. But I haven't thought of it for actually reducing glucose. In the past, what I've used for that is, well, a few things. Bitter melon extract, cinnamon, and apple cider vinegar of the three that I have found to have kind of like the biggest effect on, especially like your postprandial blood glucose, by using two teaspoons of cinnamon, Ceylon cinnamon, or a couple shots of apple cider vinegar, or a couple capsules of a bitter melon extract supplement. Those are a few of the things I've used to control blood glucose. But that oxaloacetate pieces is interesting as well as the influence of the amount of exercise you did the night before. That's also really interesting.
So, as far as the way that you monitor something like glucose, do you just use like a finger prick test? Actually, you know what? One moment, we'll add a sound effect to this one. Get ready for the sound of the spring. (pricks finger) Ouch. Alright. I am, myself, bleeding. Was that the test that you did? The finger prick test?
Bob: Exactly. Yeah. I did some research on the different meters. There's a few different meters out there that they've done some testing on the accuracy, like none of them are gonna be, I think the best accuracy is maybe within 5% on those readings. I was willing to live with that. I think for this experiment I used the Abbott one.
Ben: Yeah. Precision Xtra is the one that I've used in the past for ketone and glucose. So if I'm going to do blood measurements, and there's also a good one for the breath. It's called a Ketonix that you can actually breathe into to measure ketone values? Have you heard of this one?
Bob: Yeah. So with the glucose measurement, I've actually switched to the Precision Xtra from, I think was a FreeStyle Lite mainly because it does ketones and glucose. The Ketonix, I have one of those devices. The challenge with it is, I can talk about this further, I've done experiments, ketosis experiments where I've taken the blood readings with the breath, and they don't correlate. And they claim it shouldn't because they're actually measuring two different things.
Ben: The breath is measuring the acetate and the blood is measuring the Beta-hydroxybutyrate for ketones.
Bob: Yeah. And I've also run into, I think it's one of those things where you also have to be very consistent with how you breathe into it. It takes a lot of practice. Otherwise, you can mess the results up. So, I have it. I just haven't been able to incorporate it into experiments where I actually got the data that I was looking for.
Ben: Now what about the use of one of these implantable glucose monitors? I don't know if you've heard about these, but actually it was Dr. Mercola of mercola.com who actually filled me in on this Dexcom G5 blood glucose monitoring thing. Have you experimented much with those or looked into those at all?
Bob: Yeah. Actually, this experiment I just mentioned, the original idea was to do continuous glucose monitoring. So the device you're talking about is really meant for diabetics. So they're relatively expensive because they're sold through medical…
Ben: Yeah. And you need a doctor to write you a prescription for one also.
Bob: Yeah. But you can find them, they're available. So I was gonna piece the system together 'cause there's actually different components you have, like a transmitter, a receiver, and then the little patches that are disposable that have the needle that kinda goes under your skin. And what it does, it's collecting data continuously, so you could just have 24 hours. You could actually see kind of like, if you have this glucose, or this rhythm of it rising and sinking throughout, or what happens overnight while you're sleeping. Personally, yes. I'm still very interested in getting into more of the continuous monitoring 'cause I think the challenges with a lot of measurements are, when we're taking one value, it's a point in time, and I think…
Ben: Just like cortisol, for example, how doing like a 24 hour salivary or urinary test is far more valuable in terms of the data you get compared to like the blood measurement that you get when you do like a fasted cortisol as part of a blood draw.
Bob: Yeah. Exactly. And even things like if you wake up and look at let's just say, your resting heart rate. You might have all of this data that you've collected and you say, “Oh. It was higher this day or lower this day.” But then if you plot it, a scatter plot just based on the time you took it, you might realize that like, “Well, no. All of my 7 A.M. readings are the same. All my 7:30 readings are the same.” So I think sometimes we look at the data and it's showing us one thing, but we have to be looking at it another way. It's a point in time.
Ben: And then the other thing about these continuous blood glucose monitors, I'm always kind of considering this, is they actually produce a decent electrical signal. So I know that there is one that's lower in terms of EMF production, it's the Dexcom G5, and that's one that I'm personally kinda looking into. I had a physician actually write me a prescription for one. I just haven't filled it yet, but yeah. Because, I think similar to you, because I had that higher-than-normal risk factor for Type II diabetes, glucose is definitely something that I try to stay on the cutting edge of in terms of everything from like slipping into the bathroom to do air squats when I'm at a big dinner where I wanna kind of keep myself a little bit insulin sensitive, to using these things like cinnamon, or apple cider vinegar. I'm going to have to look back into this oxaloacetate as well because I was actually using that quite a bit when I was racing Ironman triathlon to assist with ketosis and mitochondrial function.
But there's other things you've track too, not to kick the glucose horse to death too much. For example, water quality. I think you did a qualification test on water quality, is that correct?
Bob: Yeah. I think when you think of quantified self, and self-tracking, and all of this, we focus a lot on our bodies, and kind of what we're putting into, and everything like that, but we don't spend a lot of time paying attention to the environment around us. So over the past few years, I've gotten very interested in just figuring out ways to optimize my living space. So things like water quality, air quality, non-native EMF, light, et cetera. But the water quality experiment was pretty straightforward. I just wanted to see, just my own testing of water quality in my home.
So water coming out of the faucet versus, I had tested out a number of different filtration, mostly pitchers 'cause I live in, I'm New York City, I'm in an apartment, so I can't really be ripping out walls and installing things. People have a whole home system in place. With New York City, I mean it's known to have some of what they consider the best tap water in the country, but they still put a lot of chemicals in it. Even if you go on the Department of Environmental Protection for New York City, they list all the things they put in the water to help everything, to help prevent corrosion of pipes, to prevent lead from leeching in, to fluoride, et cetera.
So the test is relatively straightforward. I just did an A/B test. I bought a few water testing kits, and I ran a series of tests on the tap water just as it comes out of the faucet, and did that, A/B-ed it with the filtered water. And I used a, it was called ZeroWater Filter, I don't know if you've ever used that. It's like…
Ben: Is that like a reverse osmosis?
Bob: No. It's just a pitcher that has a five-stage filter within it, and they claim to remove almost all dissolved solids. It even comes with a little digital TDS meter. So the idea is they tell you to stick this in. You pour water out of our pitcher, put this device in it, it should come up to zero. Total dissolved solids in water is one of the things that you need to look out for.
Ben: I see it here on Amazon. “The only pour-through filter certified by the NSF to reduce lead.” Interesting. And it's pretty too. So you get that. Cool. It looks interesting. The ZeroWater. I'll put a link, by the way, you guys, as we talk about these things like monitors, and oxaloacetate, and stuff, just go to bengreenfieldfitness.com/bob, that's bengreenfieldfitness.com/bob, and I'll link to this stuff in the show notes. So you compared your ZeroWater to your regular water, one quick question for you. How did you test your regular water? Did you have like a test kit that you ordered from somewhere?
Bob: Yeah. There are these water quality test kits you can, again, if you wanna do a really deep analysis of your water, you bring in experts. There's environmental specialists that can do it. But I think if you just wanna get a good high-level view of what's going on, you can order these, I think the test kit I used was just a First Alert. Make these for about, I dunno, to like 10 to 15 Dollars.
Ben: Okay. Gotcha.
Bob: And it's got a battery. They sell different versions of it that have more or fewer tests.
Ben: So those are similar to the digital test meters you can get off like Amazon, for example?
Bob: Well, no. It has a combination of different vials and little sticks you put. You take a water sample, and you put it in. Some things you're testing for bacteria, you have to pour some water into this little vial.
Ben: Yeah. No. We're definitely thinking the same thing. I've seen these before. They're very similar, like the pool test kits.
Bob: Exactly. Yes.
Ben: Yeah. Exactly. Okay. Cool. So you tested your ZeroWater and you tested your regular water, and what did you find?
Bob: Surprisingly, well, I was surprised that the overall quality of the tap water wasn't too bad. Like the total dissolved solids were well below the sort of recommended guidelines. The filtered water, actually, I'm not trying to promote any product here, but it actually did what it said in terms of removing all the total dissolved solids. They can't make claims with fluoride, but fluoride in itself would show up in the TDS. It is a solid. So if you test out a Zero, that's showing that it's pulling that out, if there was anything in there. Now there are specialized meters for things like fluoride, if you really wanna get geeky about it, there's digital meters that just look for that at a very minute level. I'm seeing zero, but it could be like .0001. It's not totally conclusive. Things like lead and bacteria were negative, but the interesting observation was the tap water itself coming out of the faucet is neutral to slightly acidic, just a little bit. It's like between 6.5 and maybe 7. But when I filtered the water, it made it more acidic.
Bob: So that was kind of an interesting observation about, if you're trying to…
Ben: Well, it makes sense because you're filtering out minerals which can contain some amount of alkalinity which is why it's beneficial if you're using like reverse osmosis filtration, or something like that to re-mineralize your water, or to buy trace liquid minerals and add them back to the water because I think that's actually a common issue is increased acidity in filtered water. And you have a lot of these, obviously, countertop home water makers now that are alkalinizers, or that pass water over metal plates to decrease the pH, et cetera, but I think a big part of that you can just get from adding minerals back into your water.
Bob: Yeah. And so I was doing a little bit of that where I, there's things like coral calcium, [0:36:56] ______ some types of baking soda that don't have aluminum in them. And I was like, at one point I just said, “What am I doing? Why don't I just drink spring water?” (laughs) It's funny. We're putting all this crap and trying to fix something to get it, and I'm like, I can just get, if you have access to regular, natural high-quality water, just drink that, and at least you know the stuff in your home, like I'm not drinking gallons of that a day, so the filtered water is fine if I'm doing something, I just need a little bit of it. But day to day if I'm just drinking water, I'm gonna go for something more high-quality.
Ben: Yeah. And I'm very much a fan of having your water tested. Even me, I have well water, and I've tested it, and found that it has higher-than-normal levels of bacterial based iron and manganese. Interestingly, and I actually would like to ask you if you quantified anything going on in your own body in response to your water filtration, but I did a test when I moved into my home that I live in now.
About two months in, after drinking the well water I did a test, and my iron levels had risen, and my manganese levels were off the charts in terms of my body's level of manganese. Tested my well water and, sure enough, the two main minerals in there that were in very high amounts were iron and manganese, which actually both, manganese can inhibit some function of copper in your body and iron can cause things like hemochromatosis. Basically, rusty blood vessels. So I add an iron filter and a manganese filter, but it's interesting how you can actually track your body to see how your body is responding to water at the same time that you're testing your water. Did you do any type of testing of anything from heart rate variability, to the amount of metals in your body, to anything like that?
Bob: That can be heavy metal testing, and that was part of the inspiration for this experiment. I had some through-the-roof readings on mercury and lead when I was doing some heavy metal testing, which kind of came out of some other testing I was doing. And I was trying to figure out, was there an ongoing exposure, where is it coming from, and I wanted to just make sure like, “Okay. Is it coming from the water in my home?” ‘Cause even if you put filters on your drinking water, unless you've got shower filters as well, you're gonna be breathing all of the same stuff in every morning to take a shower. It's coming through the same pipes. So this experiment, at least for me, showed that things like lead exposure in the heavy metal side weren't really from this. It wasn't from my water.
Ben: Interesting. So you're probably getting it from other sources like brake dust, or something you were getting from walking around the city, or the gym, or something like that?
Bob: Exactly. Well, lead's a little different that mercury. Mercury, you can kind of, I was able to knock those levels down pretty considerably. But lead, because it's more in your bones, you could've had that in your bones for 20 years, and as you start trying to chelate or get it out of your system, it just takes time. And it's not something that, to prove that whether it's an acute exposure, ongoing exposure verses something that happened a long time ago, it takes time to figure out ‘cause you have to have enough testing, enough data points.
Ben: Yeah, that's true. Many of these toxins, and metals, and things like that, they could have been in the body for quite a period of time. So, another thing I wanted to ask you about in terms of environment, are there other things you've tracked in addition to water, as far as like environmental variables that affect your body like air, or you mentioned, for example, non-native EMF, things along those lines. What else have you tracked in the environment?
Bob: Well, definitely air quality. Again, I live in New York City, and even the fact that the EPA says that indoor air in general is something like two to five times worse than outdoor air, and that the outdoor air, I know, where I live is already bad, I can only imagine what it might be in my home. So I basically was experimenting with a number of different air quality monitors and sensors. I even built one of my own because initially some of the data points I wanted, none of the products you could buy that were more consumer focused really could give you all the detail that I wanted.
Ben: Now, what is an air quality monitor actually testing for?
Bob: So an air quality monitor, it just has a number of sensors built into it. A simple example would be every home has a carbon monoxide detector, like a smoke alarm, right? It's looking for elevated levels of specific carbon monoxide, and it will go off. So an air quality monitor will do everything from measuring temperature, humidity, air particles, and like particulate matter, then things like carbon monoxide, which is from incomplete combustion of fuel. So if you have a gas stove or a dryer, and those could be leaking the carbon monoxide out. Things like nitrogen dioxide, so, especially again if you live in a city, and you've got traffic and cars going by all day, it tends of come from the vehicle exhaust, or kerosene, natural gas. Carbon dioxide, which is really, for me it was, 'cause I was setting a lot of this up in my bedroom, so I was looking for, if you're sleeping with the doors and everything shut at night, is that gonna elevate carbon dioxide? ‘Cause that could then maybe affect sleep. Is that gonna, if you have less oxygen in the room.
The area I was really interested in was what are known as volatile organic compounds, VOCs. And now, 'cause VOCs are these chemicals that can come from anything from acetone and benzene, if you've got cleaning supplies in your home. Your dishwasher can give off some of these as well. And the challenge is they've got environmental limits in commercial, like in factories and things like that. Workers there will wear these little patches. They're not digital, they're these little patches they'll just put on to their shirt, and then they send them into a lab to make sure that the levels of certain VOCs don't go over their designated amount. But there's no limits set for homes. So I was kind of getting a little, I'm sure like if you ever bought a new piece of furniture, or something and it tends to have that smell, like it's gassing off chemicals?
Bob: So all of that can have these affects. So an air quality monitor can, different ones measure different, you know, aspects of all of this. And so, when I first started I found this open source, I'm a technical guy and I can build stuff, whether it's hardware, or software, or things like that. So there was a product called, the thing called the AirPi.
Ben: An AirPi?
Bob: A-I-R-P-I. Basically, it's built off of this little computer called a Raspberry Pi, it's like a $20 computer that's like the size of a deck of cards. And that's just really just used to power it. And then there's this circuit board you attach to it that you solder in a bunch of these inexpensive sensors for things like temperature, humidity, nitrogen dioxide, carbon monoxide, some general air quality value, and then even things like sound and light levels. So what I did was I set this up, and I put my bedroom, and I just started collecting data for like a month. And I could see trends of, for me, I was most interested in, for example, in things like nitrogen dioxide and carbon monoxide. So I live right across the street from the grocery store that has delivery trucks come in all day, and I can look at my meter and I can see, when I plotted all the data, that in the morning when they come to do deliveries, like a lot of this was getting into my home. It was coming through the window 'cause the windows aren't necessarily totally sealed. You actually don't wanna have your windows totally sealed, you wanna let things go out and some things come in.
So, I was looking at things like that, I was looking at, from a sleep perspective, because it was in my bedroom. I could see that throughout the evening, because it'd be like myself, my girlfriend, my dog all sleeping in this small bedroom, and the carbon dioxide levels were going up. If you ever kind of wake up in the middle the night, I think it's, for us at least, I think it was because the level of oxygen was going down, carbon dioxide was rising. And if you just open the door in the morning, all the fresh air comes in. You see the readings go right back to where they should be. So, when we talk about a lot of these variables, even though I was measuring air quality and indoor environment, you could take this data now, I could overlay it with sleep data if I wanted to. I could [0:45:14] ______ things with it.
Ben: Right. Now what would you say, for people listening in who want to do continuous air quality monitoring, would be the best affordable or user-friendly way to do so if someone didn't want to don their giant welding mask and, say, start soldering things together?
Bob: Yes. So I explored some of the products that were out there. I found that one product, it's called the Foobot, F-O-O-B-O-T, and it has a number of sensors. It looks like one of those Amazon Echo devices, it's really small and vertical. You just set it up anywhere in your home, and it will basically collect continuous data, and you can look at the data real-time off your phone. There's like an app. But if you're more geeky and you want the raw data, they provide [0:46:03] ______ with all the raw data. So you can take it and do whatever you want with it.
Ben: Interesting. So that one's called a Foobot.
Bob: A Foobot. Yeah. I think it goes for around $200, $150.
Ben: Okay. Yeah. I see here that they actually have on Amazon for 199, indoor air quality monitor. And so you can sync this to your phone and you can see how your air quality is, and then you could potentially test things like, maybe, “does my blood glucose response go up if the air is crappy,” or “do I have more deep sleep if the air is good.” Those type of things.
Bob: Yeah. And because it's so small and portable, like I started off by putting it in my bedroom to kind of capture a certain amount of data. And once I was able to optimize kind of what's going on there, I can move it into another room and say, “Well, let's look at my living area,” et cetera. But what's cool is you can start taking these and you can use the device itself to trigger other things. So, I have a HEPA filter that can, it's a portable HEPA filter, so I can just clear out a room pretty quickly. So you could set it up now where, if certain levels of particulate matter or overall air quality, if they go below a certain threshold, you can say, “kick on,” if you have the HEPA filter plugged into one of these sort of smart home outlets, type of things, you can have it trigger it, say, turn on the HEPA filter for 30 minutes and then shut it back off. You can automate some of the ways to keep the environment optimized.
Ben: Interesting. Okay. So, in terms of the water and the air, did you find that, well, obviously with the air you just use one of these HEPA air filters, and with the water you use the Zero Filter during the experiment. Have you settled upon your gold standard method of filtering water or filtering the air? Or is it just the HEPA air filter and the ZeroWater for now?
Bob: For air quality within my home, yeah. I would say for air quality, the HEPA filter has been doing a pretty good job. I've also tested to make sure there aren't things like molds, other contaminants. I've taken all the cleaning supplies and chemicals, like you're in your kitchen, secured them so that they're not gassing off into my living area. There's just a lot of like proactive things you can do. I had a carpet in my bedroom that, once I removed it from the room, it actually had an impact, 'cause I think it was still, even if it's like a year old, it could still be gassing off a little bit.
Ben: Yeah. And what I use in my home is the AllerAir. Have you heard of this before? It's a central home HEPA air filter that got basically like a carbon filter in it, but then they add, it's almost like an irradiation device that irradiates mold, and fungus, and things like that. It's more of a, I don't know if they sell one, it's like a stand-alone HEPA air filter. Do you have one of these ones that sits in the corner of your room? Like the HEAP air filter that's like a stand-alone unit?
Bob: Yeah. I have like a Honeywell. It's got two filters. It's got a HEPA filter and then secondary filter, and what I like about it, again, living in an apartment, is I can just move it. If I need to move it from room to room, it's pretty easy to do. But there's also another, there's other devices coming out on the market, like you mentioned one. There is another one that, it's called Molekule, with a K, and they're making some claims as well about they irradiate the air as they bring it through. So it's killing, it's not just filtering, but it's also killing any pathogens and things that are in the air.
Ben: And that one's called a Molekule?
Bob: Yeah. I think it's one of those that was being funded through like Indiegogo or something, but they actually have the product out. It's actually released.
Ben: I'll look it up. Interesting.
Bob: I can't vouch for it 'cause I haven't used it, but I have read about it and it seems promising.
Ben: Right. Now what about, one of the things that we hear people quantifying all the time now is, of course, sleep. Have you done anything interesting, or intriguing, or different when it comes to the sleep quality, your sleep tracking?
Bob: Well, I guess I'm fortunate in some ways in that I'm a pretty solid sleeper. So I've never had sleep issues. For me, it was more about, I sleep seven, eight hours a night, but if there's 24 hours in the day, if there's a way for me to get one hour or less of sleep and still get the same benefit out of it, I would love to do that because that frees up another hour of my life. So I've had conversations with a number of sleep experts, I've reached out to some sleep clinics to find out, for example, what are the optimal percentages of different sleep stages you should be getting. And while they can provide the average percentages for different age groups, they themselves were like, “We don't know what's optimal,” in terms of sleep phases. Do you need more REM sleep? They'll just say the average person gets, let's say, 25%…
Ben: Well, there are pretty big ranges.
Bob: Yeah. In terms of, I've looked back at data, I've done things where I, for example, took a year of my sleep data and just kind of went through it to see if there were any trends. And for me, I guess, again, I'm fortunate where my day to day sleep was pretty consistent, the hours per day. I don't suffer, like a lot of people have what's called sleep debt where you get very little sleep all week, and then you make up for it all in the weekend. So I think, for me, the benefit of trying to get to bed consistently every night, getting enough sleep every night, for me, has worked a lot.
Now, what's interesting is I've always had issues recalling dreams, and there could be a number of issues at play. Some of it could be related, it neurological or heavy metal-based, things like that. I was doing a lot of things around the non-native EMF. And what I noticed was when I was able to knock down some of the non-native EMF in my bedroom down to like pulling my bed away from the wall a foot because there an outlet behind my bed that was giving off a lot of electromagnetic radiation off it, like a coaxial cable.
Ben: Gotcha. So you're talking about everything from WiFi signals to power surges from the local power supply?
Bob: Exactly. Yeah. Like, literally, there is behind my bed was an outlet and a cable jack, 'cause my television was on the other side of the room. So I ran like one of those coaxial cables all the way to the other side of the room. But that wasn't really that, it wasn't shielded. So it was actually created, it was amplifying a signal. So, two things. One is you can move the bed away from the wall, 'cause it reduces the signal pretty drastically, just removing things afoot. But just unplugging that cable knocked it down as well. But once I started sleeping farther away, I could notice that things like dream recall improved. So even though I was getting the same amount of sleep every night, it doesn't mean that, in terms of quality, it's just a sign of the recall, for me, is that you're getting into certain stages of sleep.
Ben: That's really interesting. You know, I've personally found that, especially when it comes to tracking my morning heart rate variability which is the strength of my nervous system and the simple five minute measurement I do every morning. When I'm at home, it's always much, much higher. And granted when I'm at home, I'm more relaxed. I might be engaged in a whole bunch of things that help the nervous system. I'm getting outside, I'm getting more fresh air, more sunshine, more sex, all sorts of things. But one thing is that I have kill switches in my bedroom, or when I go to sleep, I hit that kill switch and there is no electricity at all in the bedroom. Even my phone is plugged into one of these portable phone chargers that doesn't create as much electrical pollution as would be plugging your phone into the wall. And I think that that plays a huge role in terms of my nervous system health and robustness when I wake up in the morning and literally, it's the same as if I had been camping. So I think there is something to that elimination of what you call non-native EMF, especially with regard to sleep. It's really interesting.
Ben: So, in terms of aging, I know that you've tracked something to do with aging or telomeres. Can you go into that? ‘Cause that sounds like something pretty unique.
Bob: Yeah. So, I think with coming up with a way to quantify or measure your rate of aging, I don't think there's gonna be a single answer because we can look at things from mental capacity, to physical, et cetera. On the telomere side, so basically, I can give a quick explanation of what telomeres are. You have your chromosomes, at the end of every chromosome is like this little tip that's kind of like the plastic tip of a shoelace that allows for the chromosomes to divide. And over time, they will start to fray. And it gets to a point where those tips break off, or are frayed too much, and the cell can no longer divide, and the cells die. So, as people age, there's a natural progression of that happening.
So there was a start-up that had come out. Basically, it was out of a lab in Europe where they measure the length of your telomeres. The idea is the longer those telomeres are, from a longevity standpoint, they can divide many more times before that fraying and death will occur. So you wanna have as long of telomeres as possible. It's done through a saliva sample sent to them. They send me back the results, and they kind of say, “Okay. This is the average length we saw. Here's where you compare it to your biological age compared to the population of whatever.” So I write them back…
Ben: And for people who might be interested in getting this test for themselves, do you know the name of this lab?
Bob: Well, here's the problem. The FDA stepped in, shut them down. They were called Tel-O-Me. So, you can no longer do consumer…
Ben: Creative name.
Bob: Yeah. The parent company that's based in Europe is still in operation. But the US, there's no, you can't do telomere, like I see a couple start-ups that are trying to do the same thing, but they know the FDA, they're pretty stringent on things like that.
Ben: And, so that's in the US, but in Europe you could have your telomere length measured?
Bob: Exactly. And there may be ways to do it here, but not consumer facing. Like you'd have to do it through a lab, like a research lab or something like that. But the problem there is they sent me back my data and the results, and it said here's where you are in comparison of the population or people your age. So I write them back and I'm like, “Well, that's interesting. How big was the sample size that you're comparing me to?” And they were like, it was something like 12 people. And I was like, “Okay. So basically you're not telling me anything 'cause your sample size is so small.” You give me some raw value, but it didn't have a large enough sample size to really be able to make those comparisons. I think there's a lot of other stuff going on out there where they're trying to look at different blood markers and things to come up with to basically quantify your biological age.
I know there's an online testing company, you've mentioned WellnessFX. There's another one called InsideTracker that has a thing called, they call it InnerAge. And what they're doing is they're just looking at, I think they've dug into a bunch of data and they've written some algorithms that say, based on your glucose, like vitamin D, testosterone, HSCRP, and I think some liver enzyme function, they can say, “okay, your biological age is this.” And so they're trying to make it into a simple number, but the telomere, it's a very promising area. It's just that, I think for self-quantifier people, or in the public, like it's just isn't something that's easily accessible. So I look at things though, like what I've really become interested in last year is just my omega-6, omega-3 ratio.
Bob: So I don't know if you've done any testing with that, but it's basically you're looking at, these are things that your body doesn't produce. You've got to get from food and…
Ben: Right. Yeah. I certainly, I've personally tested these before, but I'm curious what it is that you were looking for by testing the omega-3 and omega-6 fats.
Bob: So based on research I've read, the ideal ratio, that I don't think it's really possible to get to without mass supplementation, is 1:1. So you do an omega-6, omega-3 test, and the ratio is 1:1. The Western diet, because we eat so many omega-6 fats, like the average person, like say in the Western diet, is somewhere around 15 to 16:1 which is [0:58:35] ______ . And the thing is, you need both of those omega-6, omega-3's, but omega-6 is pro-flammatory and omega-3 is anti-flammatory. So I think people who tend to eat more of like a Paleo diet, or they get more seafood things, like that, they'll bring it down. For me, I think, without any intervention, I just did the test the first time, I think I was around 4:1, which is considered pretty good. And that's with very minimal supplementation of fish oil, things like that.
Ben: Right. Now for that test, or for the other test that we're discussing, the telomere test, were there actually interventions that you used? Like did you mess around with changing things, like anything from fish oil intake, to kale, and anything like that that would affect something like telomere length or affect something like this omega-3, omega-6 fatty acid index you brought up?
Bob: Well, on the telomere side, unfortunately again they shut that service down. So I didn't have enough time to get more data points. I think I was only able to capture maybe two points in time that were relatively close to each other. So I didn't notice, there weren't really any interventions there. To me, it was something I would just want to check like every year on the telomere side. On the omega-6, omega-3, I'm actually working on this right now. So at the end of the summer, the interventions I've made is increasing and I'm trying to get as much from real food as possible and minimizing supplementation. So, I'm taking some high-quality fish oil, but not super mega doses of it. Just a little bit to supplement, but I'm trying to eat as much wild-caught salmon, sardines, things like that to see if I can bring that number down. I would love to be more like 3:1, or even below that. So at the end of the summer, I'll wanna test again. But I'm already kind of in a very high percentile of, kind of like based on their population studies.
Ben: Yeah. I've run into a lot of people who follow, you mentioned the Paleo diet, who have DHA and omega-3 fatty acid levels that are actually off the charts, that actually, if you look at WellnessFX, for example, it'll flag as red if something is high-risk, and their omega-3s are so high that it flag as red, even though it's not actually high-risk. But I found that people who tend to not eat very Western diets, and especially eschew things like vegetable oils, and canola oil, and fried foods, and things like that, they tend to have really, really nice looking omega-3 to omega-6 fatty acid ratio values.
Bob: Yeah. Likewise. I mean, I've spoken to a number of friends that have done similar tests, and they tend to have the same ranges. There are those people who, though they're like ratio 1:1, and so they're gonna, they're basically mega dosing on some of the fish oils, and there's some debate over how much is enough or too much. So, I'm just trying to strike a fine balance. I'm taking a little bit, but I'm trying to really minimize. I'm doing the same thing actually with vitamin D this summer. I've gone off any vitamin D supplementation. I'm trying to get it all from the sun. So, I basically stopped it in like April or May, and I've just been going through the entire summer just getting lots of sun every day. And I'm using, I'm actually using this app that helps you track, basically knows based on where your GPS coordinates are, and it knows the angle of the sun throughout the day, and you can tell things like cloud cover, and all that…
Ben: What's the name of that app? I think I've heard of that before. It's like a vitamin D…
Bob: It's called the D Minder. So the letter D…
Ben: D Minder?
Bob: Yeah. D Minder. And it's like a free app.
Ben: Like reminder.
Bob: Yeah. And it's cool, and it tries to predict your current vitamin D level. So based on the data you feed into it. So what I'm going to do at the end of the summer is I'll re-test for my vitamin D level, and see was it close or not.
Ben: Now you've also, and a lot of people test for exercise-related metrics, steps taken, et cetera, but when it comes to exercise and movement, you've done one interesting thing and that is actual electrostimulation. Can you talk about how you've used electrostimulation for fitness and anything you found by quantifying that?
Bob: Yeah. So there are lots of different modalities and tools out there, right? So I know you've used things like the MarcPro and Compex that give you those concentric contractions, or use it for strengthening and recovery. For the past few years, I've been using a neuromuscular stimulation modality. I know you've had Jay Schroeder on before, who has kind of like, comes from like the Russian training science and technology, and you hook electrodes up to you, and couple that with training. So I've been working with that for a while, seen some pretty extensive benefits in that. What it's really doing is it's overwriting your nervous system with information to sort of get you out of these bad compensation patterns you've had. It's almost like you're retraining the communication between your brain and your muscles. So if you lift weights in the gym, and that's like the software, this is like helping with the hardware.
Ben: So are you using this device called the ARPwave that delivers this relatively intense electrical stimulus, and then moving a muscle through a range of motion while being shocked, more or less? Is that the technique that you're using?
Bob: Exactly. Yeah. So the ARPwave device, there's two devices. One is more for therapeutic. So if you have disconnects, it's more for like therapy. So you would start with that to kind of resolve, like if you've got shoulder pain or something like that, or your knee hurts, or you've got some injury. They have another device that's called the POV. It looks very similar, except it's more targeted towards the training side of it. So, yes, you're basically coupling the stimulation with those isometric-type exercises, or super slow exercises, or rebound exercises. And sometimes you've got the electrodes on, you are doing it, and they're not making your muscles, it's not trying to make your muscles strong. What it's actually doing is it's allowing that eccentric, you can lengthen your muscles so that you can get into those positions and it kind of reinforces the proper communication channels between your brain and muscle.
Ben: Yeah. It's not comfortable either, in terms of the amount of the stimulation. For those you who have used MarcPro or a Compex electrostimulation unit, we're talking about something that's like 10 times the magnitude of that, right. Like this is the one that can simulate, I believe like a six hundred pound squat, for example. I know I've had it attached to my abdominals and just been dripping with sweat after about 10 minutes or so, but I've never actually quantified anything, right. I've never actually done it and then quantified, say, heart rate variability, or the nervous system, or sleep, or anything like that. Have you quantified much in response to that level of electrostimulation?
Bob: Mostly, well, I would say mainly it's with regards to, trying to like, testing my reaction time, reflexes, there definitely has been an improvement in those areas. So have you ever done like a tap test? Like a central nervous…
Ben: Yeah. Sure. Like CNS Tap Test on your phone where you just tap as quickly as possible.
Bob: Yeah. There's apps for it. You can use a stopwatch and the idea is, it's an indicator of your kind of neurological function, how well or how poor it's working. So I've done tap tests over time to kind of see, was there a change there. In terms of, general, I mean you can do strength assessments just to see if you are getting stronger. The idea of being more neurologically efficient allows for what they call displays. So maybe I go snowboarding or surfing and I'm just like, I just get right up, and I'm like doing awesome. You just feel like you can pick, like your body can adapt to those neurological, like these challenges faster. Something like juggling. I was able to just pick up some balls and start juggling after practicing for just a brief amount of time. And it was like something I couldn't really do before, but it's a display, right. It's not making you a better juggler, just saying you're prepared to take on, if something was thrown at you, you can take it on. But…
Ben: Right. And I know that ARPwave is actually leased as a medical device, or as a device that personal trainers, or gyms, or health professionals can use. So I think if someone doesn't own one they can actually find a practitioner in their area that might have one they could try, right?
Bob: Exactly. There are people around the country that have, somewhere more on the therapeutic side, but there are some training facilities that have opened.
Ben: Yeah. I'll put a link in the show notes because if you're listening in and you haven't tried this ARP electrostimulation yet, it's actually one of the best ways to stop chronic pain if you have chronic pain, or if you need to retrain a muscle. It's not exactly comfortable, but it works.
One other question that I have for you, Bob, is in terms of self-qualification and what you would consider to be the craziest, or the most unique, or entertaining form of self-qualification that you've done as you've gone through creating this quantifiedbob.com site?
Bob: Well, I don't think anything's necessarily crazy, exciting. I do wanna make one thing clear is that when I do an experiment, or I try something out, I research the hell out of things. I'm very, I'm not just going to stick electrodes on my head just 'cause like, “Hey! It sounds great!” I want to research and understand it, understand all the risks, understand the potential benefits. So, for me, a lot of the things that I have planned or I'm working on, they're not all just about being physical, or about your body, I'm trying to really understand how to take data and use it to make decisions.
So, for example, how do I value my time? Like what's the value of my time? In order to do that, I need to understand what is my day like or my week like. And whenever I make a decision, what's the opportunity cost there? Like could I outsource it to someone else? What's the benefit versus me doing it myself? Maybe, yeah. I could hire someone to walk my dog, but maybe there's pleasure I get in spending time with my dog, things like that. On the financial side, the true cost of ownership of things, like you own a car. Let's say you pay a lease payment on it, but you only use it on the weekend. That ride you just took really cost $50 because you don't use the car three days a week. Or cable television, like how much am I paying to watch each channel?
And then I'm taking that a step further, again being that software guy, technology guy with an interest in artificial intelligence, I'm playing around with using AI to figure out ways to optimize my schedule. So, basically figure out, like I know I'm most creative at this time of day, I work better at this time, I like to train at this time, and figure out how to kinda take my calendar and all of the things that I need to accomplish in 24 hours and say, “Okay, Bob. Today, this is what you should do.”
Bob: And not have to think, kinda like let that tell me how my day is best optimized. But in terms of like using some of the measurement data, I have an interest in playing poker. I'm not a great poker player. I'm like a casual player, but I've become interested in figuring out how to, could I use some of these techniques and tools to kinda make myself a good poker player. So, for example, you need to work on increasing your working memory to everything from calculating odds, things like space repetition. There's techniques to memorize positions of cards, and likelihoods of hands, and stuff like that. And so you can adapt, take a lot of these techniques I've used elsewhere to kind of apply it to, let's say, become a good poker player. And if you're playing, let's say, in person against other opponents versus online, then you're dealing with things like tells and using where, I can pull biometric data off to see like, do I act a certain way, or breathe differently, or sweat, and things like that to kind of figure out, “Okay. Now, I'm aware of what I do. How do I fix that to improve my likelihood of winning?” There's those areas.
I'm doing some things right now with sounds, like you might be doing something similar with more fasting. There's a thing called Fasting Mimicking Diet. I dunno if you've heard of that. So I did one cycle of it, which is very interesting. So the Fasting Mimicking Diet is, I hadn't really done much with pure fasting. I've done intermittent fasting and that type of thing, but I didn't want to just do a cold turkey, like a five day water fast. I came across some research, the National Institute of Aging had done some research they had funded where they took these group of people, and they basically cut their calories down to about, let's say, half of what their requirements were for five days to see if you can get almost the same amount of benefit as a pure fast.
And long story short is there's a whole set of macronutrient, there's a composition of calories and micronutrients, and it's actually been patented, but I found the patent filing. So I tried to reverse engineer it, and I basically did the fast myself, and measured ketones, and my glucose readings, and all sorts of other things over the course of the five days 'cause you're supposed to like do, you eat normally for 25 days and you do the fast for five days. I took a bunch of blood work before I started, and then at the end of the fast, right as I did a refeed and another set of blood work.
And it was really interesting to see the effects of how my glucose values just went, like plummeted down, ketones shot way up. It took about two and a half days to see any result though, 'cause I think, even though you're always on like a nutritional ketosis, for it to start really spiking, it was right after day two, I saw this increase. But what's interesting to it, because you're eating a little bit, I'm talking like maybe 500 calories a day, you don't really lose much in the way of body composition, like losing muscle mass 'cause it was just for five days. Once I ended the fast and did the rebound, I thought there'd be, based on the research I read, there should also be like a boost in your immune system, things kicking back in. But for me, the biggest observation was testosterone. There was a huge, like I think I went from like 475 to over 800 once I refed.
Ben: Wow. And that's basically, the Fasting Mimicking Diet, if I'm correct, based on the initial research that was done on it, I know they studied mice and they found a big increase in things like pro-longevity genes, and neurogenesis, and things like that, but they were just basically fasting for four days, right.
Bob: Yeah. It's basically, it's a five day fast.
Ben: Or a five day fast.
Bob: But it was…
Ben: Five days, nothing except water? Or is there anything else that you were taking in?
Bob: No. So my total caloric intake was around 500 calories a day. When I reverse engineered it, I think the way that they did the study was they gave people a lot of like broths, and chamomile tea, and nuts. There were no meats, actually, in the fast. So they basically gave them minimal animal-derived products. So what I…
Ben: So like a protein-restricted fast?
Bob: Yeah. So I think it was something like, the percentages were, maybe, you had 9% protein, 44% fat, and 47% carbs, 500 calorie diet. It's very little of everything. But what I did was I wanted to simplify it. So I was basically eating avocados, I had some chamomile tea, some broth, like sweet potato, and greens power. So you get the micronutrients, and so, and you're eating very little. My meal plan was like I have a little bit of sea salt in avocado, some of the greens powder, maybe some, either cauliflower and/or sweet potato, and some coconut oil. And that was it. And you'd do it for five days. Actually, I was surprised. I felt pretty good throughout it.
Ben: Yeah. It sounds pretty sustainable, especially when you add in those other things. And I think that that's a missing component of a lot of our modern lifestyle is the ability to go for longer periods of time on these type of water-restricted or very, very much lower calorie diets, especially for people who listen in to this show who are out doing many of them, everything from adventure races, to Spartan races, to triathlons. It's like trying to find that time of year where you're not going to eat can be tough, but I've been programming at least one time in per month when I'm getting in a 24 hour fast. I do the 12 to 16 hour daily fast, and this year I actually plan on doing a longer five to seven day fast, kind of similar to this one that you've experimented with. That's quite interesting, the one on the hormonal response. You'd expect some of the sexual and fertility-based hormones to decrease in response to calorie restriction. But in your case, they went up, huh?
Bob: Yeah. And the panel I ran didn't do IGF, but you should be seeing as, but that should be affected as well.
Bob: Yeah. But, again, what's interesting about this experiment was going back to, you know, collecting too many data points or things affecting other experiments. I had to find five days where I was like, I will not, I'm not, I didn't exercise. Like I basically was like I didn't want to have anything affect it.
Bob: Yeah. So it was tricky to find those five days because really, with this diet, where you see the benefit is when you do repeat cycles. So you might get some benefit off the first one, but then you eat normally for 25 days, then you do another five day fast, you'll actually see the effects magnified. You probably get into ketosis faster, probably some of the hormonal responses will be even bigger. Yeah. So that's where I'm excited, that's what I'm working on now as I'm getting ready to repeat these cycles and then see, here was the first cycle, now what happens in the second, or third, et cetera.
Ben: Wow. Well I will link in the show notes over at bengreenfieldfitness.com/bob this particular research study, this Mimick Fast Diet 'cause actually it's kind of fascinating how they set it up in the rodent models, and I know a lot of people have kinda experimented with this one. There are some good articles out there. So I'll put resources in the show notes for those of you listening in. And I'll also link over to quantifiedbob.com, the air purifiers, and ketone testers, and everything else that we talked about in today's episode. My finger's bleeding right now because I just did another ketone value test. I'm not at that high, about 0.6 for ketones right now, which is actually surprising 'cause I haven't eaten in quite some time.
But anyways, I digress. I will put links to all these things in the show notes. Again, bengreenfieldfitness.com/bob. And, Bob, I wanna thank you for coming on the show today and sharing some of this stuff with us, and sacrificing your body for science as much as you do.
Bob: Well, thanks. Thanks for having me. It's been a pleasure being on.
Ben: Alright, folks. So this is Ben Greenfield and Quantified Bob signing out from bengreenfieldfitness.com. Have a healthy week.
You’ve been listening to the Ben Greenfield Fitness Podcast. Go to bengreenfieldfitness.com for even more cutting edge fitness and performance advice.
Quantified Bob has tracks his life tirelessly, and has reams of data and insight on how the human body responds to everything from varying amounts of starch intake, to electrostimulation, to artificial light to different diets to cognitive performance training and beyond.
Bob Troia is a serial entrepreneur who has been at the forefront of digital innovation and emerging technologies for nearly two decades. A left- and right-brain thinker who is equal parts technical, creative, and analytical, Bob is as comfortable talking about business strategy, marketing, and product development as he is discussing programming, design, AI, hardware, and human physiology.
He is actively involved in the quantified self and biohacking movements, focusing his passion on the intersection of self-tracking and personal analytics, health and wellness, behavior design, technology, and life optimization, documenting his personal efforts under the moniker “Quantified Bob”.
During our discussion, you’ll discover:
-How Quantified Bob got his name…[11:35]
-How you can account for all the different potentially confounding variables when you’re testing and tracking data…[13:00]
-Why Bob hacked and tracked his glucose, and what he found…[17:10]
-How you can self-test your water quality, and what Bob found by comparing tap water to filtered water…[31:10]
-The best way to monitor air quality in your home or office…[45:15]
-The most surprising thing you can change in your bedroom that may give you a better night’s sleep…[50:00]
-How to track your “rate of aging”…[54:10]
-The unique form of neuromuscular electrostimulation that Bob uses…[62:30]
-The craziest or most intriguing self-quantification experiment Bob has planned…[67:50]
-And much more…
Resources from this episode:
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