[00:00] About James Wilks
[07:25] James's Daily Protocol
[18:43] Experimenting with Cold Temperatures
[21:23] Testing the Heart Rate Variability
[24:39] James's Nutrition Protocol
[33:24] The Difference Between Vitamin-K1 & K2
[35:10] On Hypnotherapy & Enhancing the Brain
[41:52] End of the Podcast
Ben: Hey folks, it's Ben Greenfield, and with me on the call today is a professional MMA fighter, and he's not just any old fighter. He was actually the winner of Spike TV's “The Ultimate Fighter”, a TV show, and he has a rich history of great success in MMA, in fighting. He's a wealth of knowledge on training and nutrition. His name is James Wilks. James, thanks for coming on the call today.
James: Yeah, Ben. Thanks very much for having me.
Ben: You have this story, in terms of being a fighter, and I know you're chock full of knowledge that you're going to be able to share with our listeners today. But before anything else, just because I know a lot of people just wonder how somebody gets started doing what it is that you do. Can you tell us a little bit about how you got into this in the first place?
James: Yeah, well my dad really got me into it originally when I was eight years old. My uncle, my dad's brother, was a national karate champion, and I think fighting had really been in the family. My grandfather was a paratrooper that was dropped behind enemy lines in World War II at the age of 14. He actually faked his birth certificate just that he could go out and fight for Great Britain in World War II. So my grandpa is a fighter, my dad is a fighter and my uncle is a fighter, being a karate champion, so I was pushed into it at the age of eight, but it really stopped the age of 10 'cause I didn't like it really. I was sort of being forced, already pushed into doing it, and then at age 15, taekwondo class started at my school. I was just ready for it at that age and really starting pursuing it, and from there, it just stowed aboard, and I started learning lots of different arts.
Ben: Interesting, I'm curious about that myself. I've got a couple of kids, twin boys, and I'm training them right now for tennis, but they're only five years old. So you found that when you were about eight, you got burnt out on it for a little while?
James: Well I did, and I think you can start that young. If it's done properly, I just think that the style that I did, it was called kick-a-shin karate. It was very hard style and everybody pushed you very hard. I remember sessions when I was crying, when they were trying to kick me. You would do a thousand punches and then hold your arms out and then drop your arms. I remember the stretches, they were really pushing through stretches. It was really old school mentality, don't drink water in the middle of training, type of mentality. So that probably put me off a little bit, and that's not how we do it at my gym now. We've got kids five to six years old, and you make the class a lot of fun for the kids, so they enjoy it.
Ben: Now in Ultimate Fighter, there's certain skills that you specialize in. What is it exactly, what's you're fighting style?
James: Well my style, I start a lot of stand-up, kickboxing. We didn't have much of the Jiu-Jitsu or grappling in England, so I start with a lot of stand-up but then I moved in 2000, and I actually came originally to train with the Navy SEAL and our combat instructor, Paul Vanier, but I really wanted to test myself by going to the sports side of things, and that's where I was incorporating a lot of the grappling, and grappling and Jiu-Jitsu is my favorite art now that I still practice.
Ben: Yeah, and then that's where you're taking people to the ground, right?
James: Correct, ground. You're looking at chokes and locks, and for those people who don't know what Mixed Martial Arts, kind of a simplistic explanation of what it is. If you took all the combat sports in the Olympics, so that'd be boxing, judo, taekwando, wrestling. If you combine all of those combative sports, you'd essentially have Mixed Martial Arts. So you want to be well-versed in the striking as well as the throwing and the submission arts.
Ben: So how did you get the nickname “Lightning”?
James: Just a lot of training partners at the gym start commenting on my speed and, a number of people say why are you like lightning? And it kept happening out of the space of a year or two, and people would if they could see my punch from the side rather than coming straight at them 'cause they often couldn't see it coming, and so it just stuck from there, just the speed thing with the striking.
Ben: Nice, and at this point, are you still fighting or are you retired?
James: I've actually retired, and when I was younger, I used to play a lot of rugby, and I'm pretty sure that's how I broke my neck. I'm not quite sure because I didn't find out until about five years later.
Ben: So you were fighting with a broken neck?
James: Right, well I went for the x-ray when I came out here. I had a lot of pain from training, went for an x-ray, and they said when did you break your neck? I said no, I've never broken my neck. Well yes you have, here is the x-ray, and they saw one of my vertebral all crushed and crumbled. They said it was from a vertical impact on the top of my head. So the only thing I could I think is playing rugby and running straight into somebody, a matter of having a couple of instances where I took big impacts. I had to take couple of weeks off.
Ben: Yeah, is that dangerous? I mean could you have been paralyzed if you moved the wrong way during a fight with a fractured vertebrae?
James: Yeah, I could have been paralyzed. The vertebrae that got crushed should have fused two vertebrae for either side. So they said that it didn't fuse because I must have kept moving it and kept active for those two weeks. So that could have been very dangerous, and so the issue is now that the bone has grown inwards, and so I've got something called severe stenosis, and stenosis is the narrowing of the canal, and those bones are now pressing against my spinal cord, rather there should be some room. So when you get hit, you've got some leeway, but those bones are pressing on my spinal cord, and if I get a good punch or a good knee in the face, I could sever that, and I'd be paralyzed from the neck down. So I decided to retire with six fights left on the count.
Ben: So you're still able to train, are you still working out?
James: I do the Jiu-Jitsu with my students 'cause I feel like a little bit more control. It's not so random, the way some would take a punch, stepping forward. So I don't do the kickboxing anymore, I don't do the big take downs, but I will do the ground game. That's actually a game, that was the advice, but I do a little bit of Jiu-Jitsu with my students and some friends of mine. I got to trust the person I'm with now, I don't want to wrench in on my neck.
Ben: Gotcha, so when you were fighting and you were training, what type of training did you do? What does a typical day or typical week look like in a UFC fighter in terms of training protocol?
James: So I would usually do two workouts a day. We do one in the morning, one in the evening, and a lot of times, when training hard, a take a nap, a couple of hours in the middle of the day. And once you've got it, you go massage and physical therapy at least, and chiropractor goes well going on. But the training will be broken down, you'd work in a couple of specific areas, so maybe a Jiu-Jitsu session or a boxing session, and then you have a session where you're putting it all together, so you'd be sparring with the kicking, punching, takedown, punching on the ground and sort of combining everything, and we also do some separate fitness sessions as well for cardiovascular endurance strength, explosiveness, things like that.
Ben: So do you guys use more Olympic lifting and barbells, or is it more a kettlebell, medicine ball type of thing or machines? Is there any specific kind of equipment that you tend to use?
James: Over the years, quite a bit towards the end. We were using tires and sledgehammers. We do battling ropes. I'd run the steps, we had a specific program. I was actually designed by the Tigers coach which is one of the top rugby teams in England, but basically, running the steps, 30 seconds or less to get to the top, and when every minute-and-a-half would be going again. Great hours of how long it could get you to get back down. Sort of an explosive using ATP.
Ben: Yeah, well when I was in college, I was the intern for the strength-conditioning program. We used to have the University of Idaho football players do that except at the bottom of the stairs. We either have a heavy chain or a plate, and so, you'd be doing your repeats basically alternating between carrying a heavy plate, however you want to carry it to the top of the stairs and dragging the chain called the gauntlet. It's a tough, tough routine.
James: The thing is about MMA is that you really don't know how the fights going to go. You can sometimes judge it based on your opponent, and that's the nice thing about being in the UFC. You can watch all that footage and all their old fights, whereas at the lower level, sometimes you don't even know who you're fighting. Even when you know your opponent, you don't know if it's going to be more of a grappling match where you're going to be using quite a lot of isometric, if it's going to last two minutes of explosiveness, whether it's going to be a bit of a slower fight because obviously you can control your game, but it's difficult to know how the opponent's going to fight sometimes. So you've got to be able to be ready to go three five-minute rounds or be really explosive for a minute or maybe it's up and down, 30 seconds on the ground and up back again. So you've really got to be pretty well rounded in terms of fitness. It's not like some sport where I say it's the hundred-meter sprint or the javelin or whatever. Sometimes you can really plan for that specific event, whereas the fighting, obviously, could vary quite a bit.
Ben: So did you do much cardio work as well? Like riding a bicycle or going out on long runs, get in the pool, things of that nature?
James: Yeah, we went paradise a little bit earlier on. We would have a little bit more of the slower-paced stuff, and I also did some runs towards the end. Not particularly long, maybe three to five miles. But honestly, a lot of that was just trying to get the fat off, to make the weight, and that's another big thing for us is we walk around, usually quite a bit heavier than the way that we fight. We try into the fat-burning stuff.
Ben: Yeah, and do you have a specific protocol you use to shed weight. I noticed Tim Ferriss over on his blog recently had a fella write a comprehensive article on how to shed weight as quickly as possible for a weigh-in. Did you have a specific protocol that you relied on?
James: Yeah, I just changed over the years, but primarily, I relied upon water loading in the last couple of days, significant sodium reduction and then the day of the weigh-in, I'd have a little bit of caffeine to increase adrenal blood flow. As well as putting mineral oil all over the body which seem to clog the pores and then, all of a sudden when it did break out, you would sweat quite profusely. I did 10 minutes on the elliptical, covered in a sauna suit, sweats and some sort of hood and gloves, and then I would get into the sauna in and out. Didn't need to exercise after that once the sweat started and could lose eight pounds in less than an hour quite easily.
Ben: And then you just pick-out between the weigh-in and the fight?
James: Yeah, and I try to be careful what I was taking in 'cause you really want to eat whatever you can see. Quite a lot of carbs post-work out and get the fluids in, get electrolytes, and usually, I would have an IV also for electrolyte replacement.
Ben: Yeah, interestingly. Sounds kind of similar, I used to do competitive bodybuilding and sounds similar to what we did for that. We'd use a dandelion root as well as an anti-diuretic. Did you ever use any?
James: Yeah, I did dandelion leaf tea. I usually have it actually, with the distilled water the day before.
Ben: Yeah, I mean it's a great liver tonic, but taking it to the point where you're peeing dark orange is not necessarily recommended for the general population.
James: Yeah, I was wading on dark orange, I was almost solid. Yeah, like a sweat.
Ben: Backstage, we do a lot of red wine and dark chocolate, just to get the nitric oxide and vasodilation back-up before going on stage. So it’s interesting stuff, it’s fun little biohacks. So do you ever see, and this is stuff I see a lot in MMA websites, some of these “underground training techniques” like altitude training masks, and you're even seeing stuff like electrical muscle stimulation and extreme isometric training, things of that nature. Did you ever get into any of that stuff that flies under the radar from a training standpoint?
James: I slept in an altitude tent.
James: Yeah, so I think it simulated about 11,000 feet. It was a variable.
Ben: Yeah, was it a Hypoxico?
James: No, it was coming from Canada, but it was very similar. I forget the name of the company, but basically, what I read was that a large benefit of the altitude training, and I'd like to hear your thoughts on this, you have the expertise, was a large benefit was from living at altitude rather than just training at altitude so you get obviously, increased red blood cell production from the living rather than just the training.
Ben: Right, exactly, and you get a pretty good immune system response too, and up-regulation in white blood cell production, along with some of that red blood cell. You hold on to oxygen a little bit more readily too, in the red blood cell. I actually have one of those altitude tents, and my wife won't let me use it. She refuses to let me put an altitude tent up over our bed. So I go out on my garage, and I put on the mask and ride the bike. You can adjust up to 13,000, but you still get a lot of benefits too doing that or using that can actually do intermittent hypoxic training. Meaning you can put…
James: I also did that, yeah. I'd also do intermittent hypoxic training a couple of times a week. I'm on stationary bike as well, in addition, but after training sometimes, I would also go the other way and do the… I think I've been punched in the head too many times.
Ben: Hyper-oxygenated air?
James: Hyperbaric chambers. So I sometimes go hyperbaric right after the training session, and then I'd do the hypoxic at night, plus a couple of sessions of intermittent hypoxic training during the week.
Ben: Yeah, I actually have a whole box full of those oxygen shots out in my garage where you sprayed a pure oxygen in your mouth. I never noticed anything from using those, but the hypoxic training, and especially the hypoxic training when you have the mask on while you're training is the thing I've noticed the biggest, biggest benefit from, in terms of oxygen-carrying capacity, and I don't even really test my pulse oximetry, as much as just getting in a pool and swim underwater for as long as possible, and you notice a really significant effect just using that as your test, so it's interesting stuff.
James: I was going to say have you seen some of the devices where people are putting the masks over their face which limit air intake? I just feel a bit scared about those. I don't really know enough and I haven't read much about it, but it seems like it wouldn't be as good as a real hypoxic training.
Ben: Well, it's basically just an expensive straw 'cause all you're doing is resisted breathing. So it's good for building up the strength of your inspiratory and expiratory muscles, but there's no actual true hypoxic training effect that’s why it irks me to see them marketed as altitude training masks when they're really, in fact, not exposing you to altitude. They're similar to that power lung device. Have you seen that, where you breathe in and out of this device that's simply providing resistance against your breath?
James: Yeah, I'm asthmatic, so when I was younger, they actually gave me something, a device very similar to try and increase the strength of the respiratory muscles. Yeah I figured that these masks, there was something not quite right and seemed quite logical to me that there'd be altitude simulation there anyway.
Ben: I think they were maybe 70 bucks or something like that for one. I mean, if you can afford some six thousand-dollar altitude generator, then I think that it's going to get you some benefit in terms of strengthening your ventilatory muscles and your ventilatory capacity, but that doesn't hold a candle to hypoxic training. The other thing they make is a snorkel that you can put a restricted flow device on top of, and you can do swimming with a snorkel while you're breathing about 50% of the air you'd normally get, and that's another of the good way for swimmers to do it. I wanted to ask you if you've ever experimented much. I know you've done a lot with the sauna and using that for making weight, but what about the opposite of the spectrum in cold? Have you ever experimented with cold thermogenesis or are doing the cold chambers? I'm blanking on the name of that now, but you know what I'm talking about?
James: I've done it with the cold before but never tried it myself, and to be honest, I haven't really read much about it, so I don't know much about it. But it seems, from anecdotal stories that I've heard, that I've heard people have done.
Ben: Yeah, well a lot of people do it for fat loss. There's a pretty interesting cardiovascular response to though, in terms of improved capillarization and blood flow delivery, just from your body having to shuttle blood around from cold exposure, so it's interesting stuff. I've been experimenting with it a lot myself.
James: I just wonder sometimes about all of these things, the amount of benefit you get versus effort on the cost. You know what I mean? I see some guys in my gym have these altitude masks and sometimes coming to warm up with them on. Some of these guys are still out of shape. Maybe you should sort out all the main stuff first like your diet and your exercise program, and then worry about these little tweaks.
Ben: Right, my take on the tweaks is if it's something you can work in to your regular training anyways, and it's not detracting from that, then I'm all for it. Take electrostim, for example, and a lot of folks are kind of getting on the electrostim bandwagon and something I've experimented with. The thing is though, you're spending an hour, sitting on your couch, running electrostim on your quads and your hamstrings when you still haven't even figured out how to run any faster than an eight-minute mile or something like that, and that's where I think it becomes a little bit ridiculous to use a biohack as a replacement for training.
James: Right, I think that's the issue with a lot of people in the West, especially they know the same thing with medication and pills. Well why do I need eat better if I can just take this pill? It's the same kind of thing, so I think it depends how you treat these things. Whether you see it as a supplemental thing that you got to do or as a replacement. If it's a replacement, then it's probably not the best thing for you to be doing.
Ben: Yeah, and what about recovery? Do you track recovery, in terms of doing quantitative or qualitative heart rate tracking, anything like that? Is that something that a lot of fighters do or that you did?
James: Okay yeah, so I would keep track when I was finding if my heart rate, particularly in the mornings when I wake up. I'd get around, I think it was about 45 beats per minute, maybe even 40, but if it was a couple of beats, the norm when I woke up, once I was in training mode, then I would think about taking a rest rather than pushing myself too hard that day.
Ben: What about like heart rate variability? Did you ever experiment with that much, in terms of measuring the amount of time between each heartbeat?
James: No, I didn't really keep track about it too much. You know when we'd be running the stairs, we could look at how long it'd take to recover to get that heart rate back down, and you can see that improving over time, but I'm sure there's definitely more things that I could have done.
Ben: Yeah, they make a phone app where you can use an actual computer software program, but you take your heart rate every morning, and it actually measures, in addition to just your heart rate, the amount of time that it takes between each beat and the more kind of plasticity and flexibility there is between each beat of your heart, the stronger your nervous system is and the more primed your nervous system is for recovery. So you can take a morning heart rate variability measurement, and it will basically indicate, whether or not your body is primed enough to stress the nervous system on that body.
Ben: And it's actually really, really cool science, and super easy nowadays to do just with a phone.
James: Right, I'm sure there's a lot more I could have done. I tried to look into as much stuff as I could while still maintaining a normal life. I'm training, but I have definitely some things that I'm sure I could have been doing to improve. There's definitely things out there that I should be thinking about.
Ben: You're making a documentary as well, aren't you?
James: Correct, it's provisionally entitled “The Game Changers”. They've got athletes in it, but it's not necessarily about athletes. Particularly, we're focusing on man in a way that men perceive that we need to eat meat and be strong and to be athletic and to be very ideal and so forth. So it's focusing a lot now, originally it started with the athletes, but it's really shifted a little bit more towards men and their perception and male identity as it relates to meat eating.
Ben: Interesting, so you're a vegan, correct?
James: I mean, I eat honey once in a while.
Ben: Is honey not vegan?
James: No, I mean insects are still part of the animal kingdom, so technically I guess it wouldn't be, but I eat a plant-based diet. I don't eat any animal flesh or animal secretions. Basically, I guess you could say other than honey, on rare occasions.
Ben: Now we actually get a lot of plant-based athletes who write in to this show, triathletes, cross fitters, people like that, and they want to know strategies for enhancing performance while following a plant-based diet. Were there things that you had to go out of your way to do, as a fighter to ensure? I'm sure you've been asked that question a billion times where you’re B12 or your protein or your fatty acids, things like that. Did you have to be careful as far as that's concerned when you're active?
James: Yeah, I mean to be fair, my last fight was in 2010. I tore my knee in 2011, two weeks before the fight I was supposed to take, and then as I was getting ready to fight again, 2012, I had a lot of neck problems, and they looked at it and that's when they said look you've got this stenosis. So I never actually fought while I was plant-based. I've only switched two years ago, so I thought I was going to fight in 2011, 2012, so I was training on this diet. I got stronger, I got in better shape than I've ever been, but I never actually fought on this diet. So I would like to put that out that, so I'm not being misleading in any way. Yeah, I mean I think it's like anything. I think you've got to be careful and look at what you're eating, I think you should be cognizant of what you're putting in your body, so it would be unfair to say well, it's injuring a plant-based diet. Is there certain things you need to look at? Well I'd say yes there is, but we could also say the same with meat eaters, correct? We could say well, it's intriguing me is there some things that you should look out like that quality of the meat you're eating. So yeah, I make sure I eat lots of legumes. I eat nuts and seeds as well to make sure I'm getting sufficient protein or take a B12 supplement. I actually also do an algae-based DHA. For a lot of people will do the fish oil, and for me, it's about health, it's about performance, but it's also about my ethics as well. For example, in terms of health. The fish oil, for example, a lot of people will say they need the fish oil for DHA and EPA. We have to look at toxins pure and PCPs, dioxins and the buyer accumulation, bio-magnification of the food chain. So to me, a simple way to look at it is if, there's a lot when the food chain is possible. In general, we tend to minimize those toxins, and the same goes with fish.
Ben: And what's the bio? For people who aren't familiar with that term, can you explain the bio-accumulation thing?
James: Yeah, so basically the easiest way that people can relate is probably fish and mercury. So we have mercury that comes from natural sources but also from man-made sources, and it finds the way, say into the ocean. Now the algae absorbs some of that, and then the krill or the small plankton that eat some of the algae, and the small fish eat that and then the bigger fish eat the smaller fish and so forth. So obviously, there's a medium-sized fish. It doesn't live by eating one small fish, it eats multiple small fish, and so first of all, we have the bio-accumulation which is, for example, in this case, the mercury is not being metabolized, and therefore it's building up in that single organism. And then we go out the trophic levels, and in other words, as we go up the food chain, we have this process called bio-magnification. So when you get to the bigger fish, they can actually be up to a million times the amount of mercury per gram in the fish as there is in the surrounding water. So that's the bio-accumulation and buyer magnifications. It's not just with mercury, but that's one example.
Ben: Yeah, and I think that's an important point that you made about algae derivatives being able to bind to heavy metals and detox, and I guess at the time that this podcast comes out, it'll will be a week after we interviewed Jack Kruse, and he's a guy who talks a lot about how this big mistake that a lot of Paleo and primal eaters make is they do a lot of fish, a lot of shellfish, a lot of big fish in the ocean, but they don't eat seaweed. They don't eat nori or seaweed or algae or spirulina or chlorella or any of these things that naturally, you're going to find in the ocean to bind a lot of this mercury and metal toxicity. And so they get metal overload, and I think that's a really important thing for people. The other thing is selenium in fish. I saw an interesting chart, it was basically like the selenium-mercury ratio and all these big fish like the ones way up high in the food chain like that the pilot whale and the marlin and the swordfish. They've all got these mercury levels that are just out of sight compared to the selenium that's supposed to naturally bind mercury in a fish.
James: Right, I love that the ratios can also be significant also. Exactly.
Ben: Yeah, so in addition to the bio-accumulation theory, are there other measures that you think folks should be taking from a nutritional standpoint, whether they're plant-based or omnivorous? As far as ways that they can protect themselves from a lot of these toxins and a lot of the issues that we tend to be faced with right now in the world around us especially when we're hard charging athletes?
James: Yeah, I mean the one thing that I don't know much about, which I've heard recently a lot of people talking about, is the nuclear fallout stuff from Japan. So that's something I'd look to, is that something you're familiar with or aware of? I'm not too well read on that subject.
Ben: Well the main thing that I know about is the iodine issue, right? You've got radioactive iodine and it replaces your own endogenous iodine and kicks that off. So it's a big hit on your thyroid, and I'm certainly familiar with natural iodine supplementation to try and buffer up your own iodine stores, and I think iodine, and in some cases, was sold out in certain areas of the world after the fallout in Japan. Clay, some of these natural, what's it called? Zeolite, the mineral-based detoxifier, some of those things in terms of radioactive fallout I think is important. To me, that's scary. I don't know about you, but I think we don't even know what stuff like that does to our food supply, to the ocean, to plants. It's scary.
James: Right, one thing that I do take for the iodine is dulse. Certain sea vegetables, it can help bind those things but also give you some iodine. Because the iodine in the American diet is typically from iodized salt, which I think they had it 1923 whereabouts because of the worldwide iodine shortage deficiency, and then I think another kill that people get from iodine usually is from dairy products, not that it's naturally occurring but it's from the potassium iodide from cleaning the cheeks of the cows and also the inside of the tankers, and apparently we get contamination and have quite a source of iodine in the American diet from that. And so since I don't really use iodized salt much and I don't eat dairy or fish, so therefore the iodine, it's definitely one of the things that people should. If they didn't eat a plant-based diet, should be wary of. I actually came up with an acronym just so I could remember it myself for the nutrients that people make sure they getting on a plant-based diet. It's DISCOBIZ.
James: Yeah, I found to come up with a better acronym, but it's the way I could remember it. So that would be, let see if I could remember it, Vitamin-D, iodine, selenium, calcium, Omega-3, B12, iron and zinc.
Ben: Nice, I'm writing that down right now that may even be the title of this podcast. I have no clue where this would fit into DISCOBIZ, did you say Vitamin K? Did you get that one in there?
James: No, K is not in there as well, which another one that I'm still learning more about, the differences between K1 and K2. Is there a difference between K1 and K2 in your opinion, as how it works on the body?
Ben: Well K1 you find to be pretty abundant in a lot of plant-based foods. Kale would be perfect example, any good dark leafy greens like bok choy and kale and Swiss chard. Vitamin K2 is generally what you find in bacteria, and you also find it in a lot of foods that you're not eating like dairy and organ meats and eggs and stuff like that. What my wife and I do is we get natto from the Asian market, and then we ferment that ourselves. You just need one tiny little cup of natto to start you own natto batch. That's really the best form of K. I mean that's giving it a form of K2 that you don't get in a typical bunch of kale, and it's certainly way more bio-active than K1, and certainly when you're looking at interacting with calcium and magnesium and forming that triad that you need for bone density. Yeah, in my opinion, it's definitely important.
James: Yeah, natto, I've had it before from the local Asian market. I didn't know you could grow your own. Your own batch, that's usually bigger.
Ben: Yeah, so the bacteria just churned out little Vitamin-K babies. Interesting, I want to make sure that I ask you a little bit too about just the whole mental game. I know that there are a lot of folks out there doing everything from Neuro-Linguistic Programming to meditation to yoga to Tai Chi. Do you get much into it into the brain-enhancing, mental hack, type of component of fighting and life in general?
James: I mean I would do hypnotherapy. I had a take by and English hypnotist called Paul McKenna. He was the ultimate athlete or the athlete with something, and I used to listen to that. Coming up to a fire, I'd listen to that, it's like a twenty-minute take and it puts you to sleep, wakes you up again. I would listen to that on a daily basis and some visualization, that type of thing. But I will say a lot of times when you hear people after fights, they'll say well I knew I was going to win. I was so confident I was going to win. I knew a hundred percent I was going to win, that's why I won. I don't know if they're lying or if I'm just different, but when I won the Ultimate Fighter, I remember getting kicked in the head with my part of it on the ground. DeMarques Johnson kicked me in the head. I try to take a foot lock, didn't work. He go on top, he's like pounding me in the head, and I was thinking oh well, I made it this far. I think we're going to lose this one.
I don't know if I'm the best person to talk to 'cause I don't always have that belief if I'm going to win a hundred percent. All I think is I'm going to do the best that I can do, whether that means winning or losing, and same with life in general. I'm going to be the best that I can be at whatever I do, and I also have this sort of mentality that if it can be done, I can do it, whether it's fighting or business or life or whatever. A lot of people are quite negative in that way, but I certainly don't always think that I am the best at something or that I'm going to win everything, which probably some of the fighters do have and, in many cases, could help them a lot. And in some cases, if they don't win, it could be quite psychologically damaging, I would imagine.
Ben: Yeah, did you find it easy to get hypnotized when using hypnotherapy?
James: Again I did it with an audio rather than in-person, and I found it took a while sort of succumb to it, and having read something about hypnotism. I think the more you understand how it works, the less likely you are to buy into it.
Ben: You start thinking about the process.
James: Yeah, oh that's interesting, that's what he's saying right there in order to do this.
Ben: Exactly that's what I struggled, I tried a few times. I even had a guy do a full-on like you and I recording on Skype. We actually did a video of hypnotherapy session, and we spent two hours with him trying to hypnotize me and just couldn't get that to work. So I never actually published it on the podcast, but I was just curious if it's something that other people struggle with.
James: Yeah, especially that tape. I've listened to it so many times, I try not to analyze it, but it would put me to sleep and wake me back up again feeling refreshed. So there's something to it, and I definitely think of the mental aspect, and once you get to fight night, I'd say it's all the physical work being done or should have been done for the fight. And so once you get into the fight, it's 90% mental right there and 10% physical, and so when I thought I was losing, I thought I was going to lose that fight for sure. I would still say to myself, you know, what I'm going to do? I'm going to keep getting my best until I'm done, and then fight turns around and you weigh enough. I had that experience a couple of times. To be honest with everybody, a lot of times when I was in the fight and getting pounded in the face, which our fight might be, I would just be thinking why am I here? It would be much nicer if I was at home, on the couch.
Ben: That certainly happens to me occasionally during Ironman. I'll be 90 miles into the bike, and I know that in 22 miles, I got to get off and run a marathon, and that's about the point where you start wondering how nice that hotel room would feel if you were to just pullover and get back.
James: Yeah, I constantly can't imagine doing the endurance stuff. I've never been a big fan of the running. The most I have ever run is seven miles. I can't even find them the running of even a regular triathlon or Ironman or Ultraman.
Ben: Yeah, it goes both ways. I went through a twelve-week protocol in the off-season. Do you know who Martin Rooney is? He runs the Training for Warriors website and he works with a lot of MMA fighters and puts out training manuals, and he has a book called Warrior Cardio, and I went through that protocol and there was a lot of bag work and floor work and a bunch of hurricane treadmill sprint workouts. It was basically like an MMA style workout without the actual fighting and rolling around the floor, and it kicked my ass for 12 weeks in a row, and I could not imagine combining that with fighting. Even doing Ironman triathlon, it's a little bit more of a mental game than it is full-on intensity like that, so great respect, man, for what you do and what you did.
Well, I want to I want to make sure that folks know where they can track you down and check out the documentary that you're working on and learn a little bit more about you. Source some good resources for folks.
James: Honestly, I haven't gotten a website set-up yet for the documentary. We're still working, I actually back-ordered one of the URLs that I'm trying to grab on. So the place I'd probably let people know about it is on the Facebook page which is Plant Athlete, PLANT and athlete, Plant Athlete. I'd say that's probably the best place to keep track of things, and we put some stuff on there, about plant-based athletes. It's recipes suggestions things like that, so yeah, I would definitely go there.
Ben: Cool, all right. Well, James “Lightning” Wilks, thanks for your time today.
James: Yeah, well thanks very much for having me, Ben, appreciate it.
Ben: All right folks, this is Ben and James Wilks, signing out from bengreenfieldfitness.com.
What's it take to be a vegan UFC fighter?
Is it even possible to fight MMA and eat a plant-based diet?
How does a UFC fighter train, and what are some of their underground training tactics?
You're about to discover all the answers, and much more, in this podcast with James “Lightning” Wilks, an English professional mixed martial artist and the winner of Spike TV's The Ultimate Fighter.
Even though I eat animals, and James doesn't, you're going to get a ton of value and an insider peak into the life of a serious fighter…keep reading to find out more and to download the audio or listen now…