Video Source: Mercola
By Dr. Joseph Mercola | mercola.com
Ben Greenfield, one of the top biohackers in the U.S. and founder of BenGreenfieldFitness.com, has intriguing insights into health and fitness.
The Benefits of Heart Rate Variability Testing
Heart rate variability (HRV) testing is another biohack Greenfield takes full advantage of. Greenfield prefers an app called NatureBeat, available on both Android and iOS.
“The reason I use that … for self-quantification … is that unlike the ring, it allows me to delve into both sympathetic and parasympathetic nervous system strength (your low frequency or your high frequency power). That allows you to see which element of your nervous system may be affecting your heart rate variability.”
The NatureBeat app also provides special benefits for elite athletes. Greenfield explains:
“There are certain periods of time during the year, especially, leading up to important competitions, where I purposefully sustain a low heart rate variability for a number of days, typically anywhere from three days up to a week. After a week, you really start to see an increase in propensity for injury or illness. That's called super compensation. Rather than over training, all you're doing is just a little bit of under recovery, meaning you're purposefully digging yourself into a bit of a hole …
Tudor Bompa … wrote some of the better books … on periodization, [which] is based on the concept that you don't maintain peak fitness all year long …
If you're specifically trying to perform [at the cutting] edge, where you're digging yourself into just a bit of an under-recovery hole, then by allowing yourself a taper after … [you allow your] body to bounce back from that slight amount of over-training. You super compensate. You wind up even more fit than you would have been in the first place.”
Biohacks to Improve Your Deep Sleep
The amount of deep sleep, REM sleep, light sleep and the times you're awake and how long you're actually sleeping at night useful information provided by different trackers. When I initially started tracking my sleep, I was shocked to realize just how little deep sleep I was getting, which is when your brain detoxes and cleans itself out — a truly vital process you don’t want to miss out on as it helps prevent dementia and Alzheimer’s. There were times when I was getting no deep sleep at all.
Related Article: 11 Tricks for Getting the Perfect Night’s Sleep (from Tim Ferriss)
So, how can you improve and increase your deep sleep? As noted by Greenfield, one of the requirements for repair and recovery to occur, especially of your nervous system, is a lower core temperature. Common ways by which people sabotage their deep sleep is by doing things that prevent the lowering of their core body temperature, such as:
- Eating a high number of calories late at night
- Drinking alcohol before bed
- Sleeping with too many blankets
- Keeping your bedroom too warm
- Exercising with high intensity too close to bedtime (within three hours of bedtime)
How to Lower Your Core Sleeping Temperature
A convenient and inexpensive way to lower your core sleeping temperature is to first heat yourself up, either in a sauna or Jacuzzi or hot shower, then immerse yourself into cold water (ocean, unheated pool or cold shower, for example).
“When I was in Hawaii, I was … staying with a friend and we would do sauna … and ice bath each evening. I noticed some really good deep sleep numbers there. I think a big part of that was because we'd always finish with the cold, which was originally something I started doing just to activate a little bit more of a conversion of white fat into brown adipose tissue, forcing the body to reheat itself via just natural thermogenesis of brown fat.
I will often use the sauna now … This morning, I spent about 20 to 30 minutes in the sauna, doing kundalini and breath work, yoga and movement. I'll sometimes put elastic bands in there or dumbbells or foam rolling type of devices, just to do body work. I generally get pretty hot, pretty sweaty, a little bit out of breath. Then I'll jump in the cold pool afterwards and get ready to start my day.
In the evening, before dinner, I go in there to do some of my reading. I'll actually just spend about 15 to 20 minutes laying on my back. I have a little acupressure mat in there … I'll burn some incense, some candles. I've also been vaporizing essential oils lately …I live in the middle of the forest … so, I [put an] … endless pool out in the forest, behind the house. I keep that at about … upper 40s [to] … the upper 50s. I jump in the cold pool [for about five minutes] and then have dinner with the family.”
Supplements and Other Biohacks That Can Help Improve Deep Sleep
Other biohacks that can help improve your deep sleep include taking supplemental:
- Gamma-aminobutyric acid (GABA) ideally liposomal, or precursors to GABA, such as passionflower extract
- 5 hydroxytryptophan 100 mg
- Melatonin in small doses (0.3 to 0.5 milligrams)
- Cannabidiol (CBD) oil
Pulsed electromagnetic field (PMF) in the range of 3 to 8 hertz can also be helpful, and provides effects similar to those of an earthing or grounding mat.
“I try and do something every day,” Greenfield says. “This morning, I was really working on mitochondrial health, so I was doing 90 seconds of hypoxia followed by 30 seconds of hyperoxia, and then a minute of rest of hyperoxia using one of these LiveO2 training units.
I'll usually use that one or two times a week … What else did I do? I was breathing this air from the NanoVi device, which is basically humidified air that gets exposed to a frequency that creates a little bit of reactive oxygen species that wind up having a little bit of a DNA repair effect. It stimulates the same electromagnetic signal as the good reactive oxygen species that your body produces — it doesn’t really make reactive oxygen species.
I did that while I was working on my computer this morning, with the near- and far-infrared lights that I have in my office shining on both sides of my body. I used a photobiomodulation this morning while I was stretching and warming up the water for my coffee, which is a device that goes on your head. It can activate the cytochrome c oxidase structure in mitochondria and allow for a little bit of increased nitric oxide production as well.
Then of course I did the sauna and the cold. I like to pull out a little bit of the ancestral wisdom as well. Right now, I'm vaporizing rosemary and peppermint while we're talking … That seems to help out quite a bit with wakefulness … I think a lot of these things that jump start your circadian rhythm early in the day, like white light in the ears, blue-green light for the eyes, red-light therapy, the heat, the cold … wind up assisting you with sleep later on …”
The Importance of Eliminating Electromagnetic Fields in Your Bedroom
Greenfield was also an early adopter of the strategy to remediate electromagnetic fields (EMFs). His house is hardwired, and living in the wilderness, he’s fairly well shielded from EMFs from the environment. At the time of this interview, he’d also hired a building biologist to evaluate his home further.
“My solar setup specifically, because there's an inverter on my solar panel setup. Even though the entire house is hardwired with metal shielded Cat 6 Ethernet cable — you can't connect to Wi-Fi, there's almost no Bluetooth devices, no smart appliances, no Google devices or Amazon devices or anything like that in my home — I am a bit concerned about the solar, so that's one thing I want to have [checked],” he says.
Eliminating exposure to ELF electric fields (frequencies in the 50 to 60 Hz range) from electric and magnetic fields during sleep is particularly important, as this is a most important time for brain detoxification. During deep sleep, your brain's glymphatic system is activated, allowing it to detoxify and eliminate accumulated waste products, including amyloid-beta proteins, which are a hallmark of Alzheimer's disease.
In most areas, the only way to do that is by turning off the electricity to your bedroom by flipping the circuit breaker. Exceptions include Chicago and New York, as the building codes there require all electrical wires to be in a conduit. As a result, if you live in either of these places, all you need to do is unplug your electronic equipment.
You do not have to turn off your electricity, which makes it a whole lot easier to remediate EMF. If you are ill or pregnant, you'd be wise to shut down electricity in the entire house — with the exception of your refrigerator, air conditioning or heating, and any essential medical equipment — not just the circuitry in your bedroom.
Effective Exercise Hacks: Blood Flow Restriction Training and Isometric Training
Another exercise hack Greenfield introduced me to is blood flow restriction (BFR) training. As he explains, “By restricting blood flow, you get a relatively large buildup of lactic acid in muscle tissue and a subsequent increase in growth hormone after the workout.”
There’s compelling research showing this technique can help prevent age-related sarcopenia (muscle wasting) in seniors when combined with body weight training, while being very low-impact. The reason for this is because when you restrict venous blood flow, you need far less weight to produce muscle growth. As a general rule, you use only one-third of the weight you’d normally use in standard weight training.
“I use BFR training once a week or once every couple of weeks,” Greenfield says. “I'll do it in the sauna. I do it when I travel more often because I'm more restricted to body weight training. I might do a pyramid of one squat, one pushup, one pullup up to 15 [seconds] and back down wearing the BFR bands for example. I've really been getting into isometric training as well. It's another way to get very strong with low impact. I'm actually experimenting right now with a force plate …
You do one single completely exhausting isometric set. A workout might be a chest press, a shoulder press, a lat pulldown, a squat, a dead lift and an abdominal press and you're simply holding all those at maximum capacity for one to three minutes.
Technically, there is an app that pairs with the force plate that will let you know once you've dropped off to about 60 percent of your starting capacity, at which point you wouldn't be getting quite as much benefit from the sets. You just go until you drop off to about 60 percent of your original force production. Then you stop. Isometric training is a really, really great way to get strong again relatively injury-free.”
Parameters of a Well-Rounded Fitness Program
While there are many fitness hacks out there, it’s important to be mindful of what it is you’re trying to accomplish. For example, to improve cardiovascular performance, high intensity interval training for two to four minutes with short recovery periods in between will effectively accomplish this, as will BRF training. According to Greenfield, this is not the best way to build mitochondrial density, though.
To boost mitochondrial density, you want extremely short — 20 to 30 seconds’ max — high-intensity effort followed by long recovery periods. On the other hand, if you want to improve your lung capacity and VO2 max (maximum oxygen utilization; the ability of tissue to be able to extract oxygen from blood), you’ll want your intervals to be about four to six minutes long, with four to six minutes of recovery in between.
“[E]xplosive muscle fiber specifically tends to be more heavily correlated with longevity, compared to the type of muscle fiber you might build while doing the isometric training I was just talking about. I don't just do isometric training. I go out of my way to do body weight trainings very explosive and fast. In addition to that, you want to make sure you don't neglect stamina — the ability to occasionally go out, preferably in a fasted state and just move for long periods of time …
Ultimately, what I've been getting at here is, if you look at fitness, you need VO2 max. You need lactic acid tolerance. You need mitochondrial density. You need that super slow heavy strength. You also need the explosive strength, and you need stamina. Then, finally, you need mobility. When you put all those components together, then you've got a complete exercise program …
I would say the biggest bang for my buck comes from each week tapping into each of those different fitness variables and ensuring that I address the body from a complete fitness standpoint, because I don't want to be the Incredible Hulk and just have strength. I don't want to be Flash and just be fast. I want to be like Batman. You have strength. You have power. You have mobility. You have a little bit of everything. I think that's what allows you to really have true and lasting fitness …”
Other Health and Fitness Hacks That Pay Great Dividends
Greenfield also stresses the importance of having good lymph flow and getting regular lymph massage, which you can easily do yourself, and stretching exercises that simultaneously decompress your spine and improve your breathing. He explains:
“I have a couple of devices I use. One is a very basic JumpSport mini trampoline. I keep that outside the office, and I'll often bounce up and down on that while I'm listening to a podcast or a book, just to get the lymph fluid going. The other one I use quite a bit is the Power Plate …
I'll even go to the back of an airplane in many cases and just do tai chi shaking exercise, where you're … just shaking every part of the body for a good four or five minutes, again just to keep lymph flowing when you're seated for long periods of time on an airplane. I'm a fan of those.
One other tip would be to embrace many of these movements that I'll often start my day off with … The idea of really caring for breath work and your back simultaneously, through anything that decompresses the spine.
Two of the things I do quite a bit when it comes to little movement breaks throughout the day, No. 1 would be … the basic foundation exercises created by Dr. Eric Goodman and described in his book ‘True to Form.’ [They’re] fantastic, especially if you have low back pain, compressed vertebra [or] any history of spinal issues.
Another form of stretching I do quite a bit of, especially when I'm in the sauna, is called ELDOA. 1 It's a form of deep fascial stretching … Again, have a toolbox. Study some of these things … I chose the three best [ELDOA moves] that are applicable to my body based on the ELDOA instructor I had teach me these moves.
That's all I do. I choose the 80/20, the best of the best. Same thing with the core foundation exercises. There's probably 20 or 30 of them, a whole bunch of different workouts you could do. I just have 10 of the moves memorized. When I get up in the morning, I can just do those 10 moves, have them done within 10 minutes and my spine is decompressed for the day.
Related Article: Nobel Prize-Winning Science Highlights Importance of Good Sleep for Health
Keep Learning, Keep Thriving
Another challenging device Greenfield introduced me to is Neuro-Grips, developed by Jon Bruney, author of “Neuro-Mass: The Ultimate System for Spectacular Strength” and “The Neuro-Grip Challenge, a Radical Program for Building Greater Strength and Power in Your Upper Body.” They're essentially pushup handles that help activate a greater number of muscles, including smaller stabilizing muscles, compared to doing a normal pushup or using standard pushup handles.
“Again, I'm pretty agnostic when it comes to this idea that there's one single exercise program that you should do to study a lot of these different programs. A pretty well versed student in like four to six different exercise modalities or exercise programs and cycle through those throughout the year. It's a really good way to stay fit,” Greenfield says. “During the winter, for example, I'll typically choose more of a strength-based program.
During the spring, typically I'll convert into something that's more cardiovascular based. During the summer, I'll mix things up and do a lot more outdoors and sporting activities. During the fall, I'm doing a lot of sport-specific work because that's more of my “on” season … What you want to do is know a few of these different programs and be able to pull them out and rely upon them as a way to stay fit throughout the year. You can mix and match as you go.”
As you can see, Greenfield has a wealth of knowledge; we’ve really only scratched the surface in this interview. I'm constantly learning new things by listening to his podcast, where he also interviews a variety of really interesting health and fitness experts.
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