Ben Greenfield: Think Better and Live Longer – The Unmistakable Creative

Check out The Unmistakable Creative Episode Page & Show Notes

Key Takeaways

  • Having a high heart rate variability (HRV) is ideal in the morning
    • “If you have a robust and responsive nervous system that’s able to handle stress, then what’s ideal from a biological standpoint is that the variability and time between each heart beat jumps around just a little bit. This shows your body is constantly adapting to the little changes in the environment.”
  • Periodic cold showers and sauna use are a great way to train your body to become more resilient to stress and increase your emotional control
    • Make sure to breathe through your nose, NOT the mouth, when the going gets tough 
  • Excessive intake of omega-6 fatty acids (found in vegetable oils) is one of the major causes of neural inflammation
    • Look out for and avoid canola, safflower, and sunflower oil
    • Organic cane sugar, agave syrup, and other similar compounds (all processed sugar) also cause neural inflammation
  • Consuming foods that encourage healthy neural tissue and nerve transmission will improve cognitive function
    • What specifically? – Healthy oils (olive and avocado oil), avocados, raw seeds and nuts, and wild fish
  • “A low-fat diet is one of the worst things you can do for brain health and nerve cell transmission”

Products & Supplements Mentioned

  • Ben uses a heart rate variability (HRV) monitor in the morning in conjunction with the SweetBeat app
    • Specific heart rate monitor brand not mentioned, linked is one compatible with the SweetBeat app
  • When you engage in focused, slow, and resisted breathing – you increase your alpha brain wave production (the brain waves that help you get in the zone, reduce stress, etc.)
    • Ben uses the PowerLung for this
    • The protocol: 3 seconds in, 3 seconds out, repeat 10x
  • Ben supplements with 4-6 grams of fish oil on days he doesn’t consume fish 
  • A classic nootropic stack: caffeine (a cup of coffee) combined with l-theanine (~500 mg)
  • A nootropic stack perfect for long bouts where you need your cognitive performance to be top notch: a mix of piracetam, aniracetam, and alpha-GPC
    • You can order them in powder form from Peak Nootropics (piracetam, aniracetam, alpha-GPC)
    • Using a digital spoon, Ben will measure out 1.5 g of piracetam, 0.75 g of aniracetam, and 500 mg of alpha-GPC and chase it all down with a glass of water
  • Ben will also utilize adapotengic herb complexes for cognitive enhancement 

Books Mentioned

Intro

Ben’s Backstory

  • Ben grew up homeschooled until college
  • At age 13, he started to get into tennis
    • “Tennis took me into the world of fitness and lifting weights… I just fell in love with exercise…”
    • “Tennis is like boxing without having to get punched in the face”
    • (Ben actually went on to play in college)
  • In college, Ben studied exercise science & nutrition in undergrad and then received a master’s degree in physiology & biomechanics
    • He then went on to work as a personal trainer for the next 6 years
      • In 2008, Ben was nominated as the top personal trainer in the U.S
      • After his kids were born, Ben started to do more of his work online and began to focus on growing his blog
  • Nowadays, Ben primarily focuses on his podcast but also does some public speaking, freelance writing, and health coaching

The Benefits of Homeschooling

  • Ben homeschools his two boys
    • “I like the fact that it makes you an independent thinker. It’s the complete opposite of growing up learning how to be a factory worker… someone who just follows the rules without really thinking.”
    • Ben and his family actually moved to Thailand last winter for a month and a half to teach his kids about Thai culture, language, and food
    • “We’re always online on our local community calendars looking for field trips and activities… anything that allow us to tap into whatever our kids happen to be interested in at the moment”

How can you better cultivate independent creativity?

  • Take advantage of the many free resources which allow you to teach yourself
    • This relates to James Altucher’s “choose yourself” motto (as discussed in his book with the same title)
    • There are SO MANY resources out there that allow you to build your own education
      • Schools like MIT and Yale offer free online courses
      • Use Feedly to subscribe to a bunch of blogs in the sector you’re interested in
      • Read widely using Kindle Unlimited
  • “I’m a big fan, whether you’re a kid or an adult, of choosing a event that just shoves you outside of your comfort zone and forces you to learn a bunch of new things in preparation of that event”

How can we better control our emotions and handle pressure?

  • Ben, as well as many of his clients, utilize a heart rate variability (HRV) monitor in the morning. There are many apps you can use in conjunction, but Ben prefers SweetBeat.
    • (Specific hear rate monitor brand not mentioned, linked is one compatible with the SweetBeat app)
    • Ben will wake up and throw on his heart rate monitor which then feeds his heart rate data into the app. The app then measures the amount of time spent between each heart beat.
      • “If you have a robust and responsive nervous system that’s able to handle stress, then what’s ideal from a biological standpoint is that the variability and time between each heart beat jumps around just a little bit. This shows your body is constantly adapting to the little changes in the environment.”
        • Therefore, if your heart rate variability is high, you’re good to go
        • If you have a low heart rate variability in the morning (AKA the time between each heart beat is constant), it’s not ideal
          • Deep breathing will work to raise your it
    • Apps like SweetBeat (and other heart rate variability apps) have breath pacers you can use
      • If you’re wearing a heart rate monitor and the app detects your heart rate variability is dropping (or you’re becoming stressed), the app will bring up the breath pacer which will then guide you through a short breathing exercise to return your HRV to normal
  • Ben takes a cold shower 3 times a day for 2-3 minutes
    • “I take a deep breath, focus my thoughts, make myself breathe through my nose, and I step into the shower. The goal is to not flinch, blink, or have that sharp reflex of breathing through the mouth. You go into this zone, step into the shower, and let go. This is excellent at allowing you to be more resilient to stress.”
  • Ben also uses the sauna 2-3x a week
    • The goal is to get to the point where you really want to get out and almost start to panic
      • At that point, Ben will begin to do some box breathing (4 count in, hold your breath for 4 counts, hold for 4 counts – all through the nose)
        • Why through the nose? – Breathing through the mouth allows you to engage in shallow chest breathing. This releases more cortisol (the stress hormone) which will be anything but helpful in a stressful situation.
        • Doing this enough trains you to engage in this type of breathing, almost as second nature, when you experience work/emotional/relationship stress
  • Or you can do something simple – take a break
    • When you’re dealing with a stressful email or hard problem, walk away and take your mind off it – play a guitar, play Tetris… do whatever you can to distract yourself
      • Then – return to the task

Resisted Breathing

  • When you engage in focused, slow, and resisted breathing – you increase your alpha brain wave production (the brain waves that help you get in the zone, reduce stress, etc.)
    • Ben uses the PowerLung for this
      • The protocol: Breathe for 3 seconds in and then 3 seconds out, repeat 10x
    • “You finish and you feel like you’ve been at Bickram yoga for an hour”

Improving Nutrition to Think Better

  • We have glial cells in our brain – Ben describe them as little chihuahuas walking around with machine guns
    • Neural inflammation causes glial cells to over-activate (this is what you feel when you have brain fog or difficulty focusing)
      • Excessive intake of omega-6 fatty acids (found in vegetable oils) is one of the major causes of this (they’re in nearly every processed food – even the ones describes as “healthy”)
        • Look out for and avoid canola, safflower, and sunflower oil
      • Organic cane sugar, agave syrup, and other similar compounds (all processed sugar) also leads to inflammation
      • “Cleaning up vegetable oils and cleaning up processed sugar sources are two of the most important things you can do to shut down brain inflammation”
  • Consuming foods that encourage healthy neural tissue and nerve transmission will also improve cognitive function
    • What specifically? – Healthy oils (olive and avocado oil), avocados, raw seeds and nuts, and wild fish
    • You could also supplement with fish oil 
      • Ben takes 4-6 grams on a day he didn’t consume any fish
    • “A low-fat diet is one of the worst things you can do for brain health and nerve cell transmission”
      • There’s evidence that shows once your total cholesterol drops below 200, your IQ also drops
      • “All these drugs and methods to lower cholesterol really aren’t doing people much of a favor when it comes to their neural health”
  • “Of course there are smart drugs and caffeine and all this stuff that can make you think better and improve cognitive performance, but if you’re dumping vegetable oils and sugar on your food and causing brain inflammation…. or your not getting enough healthy fats… you’re leaving a huge amount of cognitive potential on the table”

Nootropics and Smart Drugs

  • Ben will occasionally use smart drugs to combat jet lag or sleep deprivation
    • One stack which is useful for long cognitive performance scenarios (i.e. if you have to be on your game at a conference all day long) – a mix of piracetam, aniracetam, and alpha-GPC
    • You can order them in powder form from Peak Nootropics (piracetam, aniracetam, alpha-GPC)
    • Raceitams increase brain activity and nerve cell transmission, but one of the downsides of this is that they deplete choline (so you want to replete it by taking Alpha-GPC)
    • Using a digital spoon, Ben will measure out 1.5 g of piracetam, 0.75 g of aniracetam, and 500 mg of alpha-GPC and chase it all down with a glass of water
      • “Within 20 minutes you’ll feel brain cells start firing and you’re good to go for the next 12 hours”
  • On Modafinil
    • It’s expensive, unavailable to some people without a prescription, and Ben doesn’t like how it’s metabolized by the liver
  • And of course, there’s the classic combo of caffeine (a cup of coffee) combined with l-theanine (~500 mg)
    • L-theanine elongates the effects of caffeine
  • Ben will also utilize adapotengic herb complexes
    • His go-to – Tianchi
      • This might be something you take on an empty stomach in the morning to boost your cognitive abilities for a few hours

Advice for Sourcing Supplements

  • Ben’s a fan of Labdoor
    • They order supplements from other websites (they don’t have them sent directly from the manufacturer) and utilize a lab to verify quality
  • Use Examine and read studies to see if certain supplements actually work
  • Look for CGMP (Certified Good Manufacturing Practices) and NSF certification
    • An NSF certification means athletes can take it (AKA it doesn’t contain anything illegal)

How does Ben define someone as being “unmistakable”?

  • “I think one of the biggest things is spending time in the trenches”
    • There are SO many exercise professionals that go straight from college to the internet, without actually spending the time to coach clients and see what works
    • Being unmistakable = having proven experience, doing the hard work, and spending the time in the trenches
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