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Thomas DeLauer: The Importance of Strength Training (Nerdy Ways to Lose Fat, Build Muscle, & Maintain A Nice Body As You Age) – Ben Greenfield Fitness

Check out the Ben Greenfield Fitness Episode Page & Show Notes

Key Takeaways

  • Strength training reverses age-related muscle loss
  • Exercise slows telomere shortening (telomere length is a marker of aging – length decreases with age)
  • One study examined older adults who strength trained 2x/week 
    • These individuals had a 46% reduced risk of death, a 41% reduced risk of cardiac problems, and a 19% reduced risk of dying from cancer
  • Fitness tactics optimized for longevity
    • Incorporate short high-intensity interval training (HIIT)/sprint workouts into your routine
    • Stay supple
    • With your strength training, put more of a focus on the eccentric portion of your lifts
  • Strategies for staying healthy designed for busy people:
    • Keep your blood sugar as stable as possible in the morning
    • Foam roll as soon as you wake up
    • Use the sauna
    • Train in a fasted state
    • Do upper body HIIT

Books Mentioned

Products Mentioned

  • Foam rolling serves MANY benefits – Here’s an excellent foam roller we at Podcast Notes recommend
  • Wear an Oura Ring to monitor your heart rate variability


  • This is a two-part episode. The first part includes a lecture from Ben Greenfield (@bengreenfield), and the second consists of a lecture from Thomas DeLauer(@ThomasDeLauer).
    • Thomas is one of the world’s leading experts on chronic inflammation and the response of the human body to a low-carb diet

If You’re Not Strength Training… Start

  • As you age, your muscles become smaller and weaker (this is known as sarcopenia)
    • Research shows this primarily occurs due to the mitochondria in muscle degrading over time
      • “Strength training can reverse the mitochondrial decline that occurs by nearly 40 years. This means that folks who are 70 can present a mitochondrial profile similar to those who are 30-years-old with a proper strength training protocol.”Ben Greenfield
  • Also:
    • “Muscle biopsies from strength training seniors show a reversal of the expression profile of 179 different genes associated with age. Genes that are downregulated with age get upregulated with exercise. Genes that are upregulated with age get downregulated with exercise.” Ben Greenfield
  • “It’s easy for a senior to go out and walk, hike, ride a bike, or swim, and it can feel hard to strength train, but it’s such a potent age-reversal tactic” – Ben Greenfield

Exercise Decreases Telomere Shortening

  • Telomere length is a marker of aging (length decreases with age)
  • One study examined twins:
    • “Physically active twins had longer telomeres than their sedentary counterparts. Those who had more than three hours of vigorous physical activity per week had the same telomere length as folks who were 10 years younger than them.” – Ben Greenfield
      • Therefore: People who put heavy physical loads on their body can be biologically younger by 10 years

Muscle Fibers

  • One study in mice replaced slow-twitch type 1 muscle fibers with the type of fast-twitch type 2 muscle fibers you get from strength training
    • The finding: The addition allowed them to become far less obese and far less insulin resistant compared to just having type 1 muscle fibers
      • “This means that strength training, when it comes to age reversal, is probably more important than chronic cardio and chronic endurance training” Ben Greenfield

The Stronger You Are, the Longer the Telomeres

  • One study compared the telomeres of experienced powerlifters against healthy subjects (who didn’t have a history of strength training) 
    • Results:
      • On average, the telomeres in the powerlifting group were longer than the control group
      • Telomere length was correlated with strength

Does exercise increase lifespan?

  • One study examined older adults who strength trained 2x/week 
    • These individuals had a 46% reduced risk of death, a 41% reduced risk of cardiac problems, and a 19% reduced risk of dying from cancer
  • One study of over 80k people found that those who played racket sports (i.e., tennis) on a regular basis reduced their risk of dying preternaturally by 47%
    • The next most beneficial exercise? – Swimming (reduced risk of premature death by 28%), followed by cycling (reduced risk of early death by 15%)
  • Takeaway: Strength training, swim, play a racket sport, and ride a bike to live longer

Longevity Secrets from the Greats

  • As you get older, your protein synthesis no longer function as well 
    • Thus, prioritize protein intake as you age
  • Always be learning:
    • Dr. Daniel Amen, in his book – Change Your Brain, Change Your Life, preaches the importance of challenging the different areas of the brain as you age:
      • Prefrontal cortex – through meditation, crossword puzzles, and chess
      • Temporal lobes – by learning a musical instrument
      • Parietal lobes – by juggling/map-reading
      • Cerebellum – through yoga, dancing, or coordination sports (i.e., tennis)
  • One of Dr. Mark Sisson‘s secrets – short/fast sprint workouts 1x/week (i.e., hard uphill cycling, high-intensity interval training, ultimate Frisbee)
    • Mark also includes a few sessions of heavy whole-body weightlifting 1-3x/week
  • Check out this article on Don Wildman’s INSANE circuit workout he’d do 3x/week
  • Incorporate eccentric (AKA negative) training which has a potent effect on growth hormone and testosterone levels (Art De Vany talks more about this in his interview with Tim Ferriss)
    • For example, this might involve very slowly lowering your deadlift to the ground (the lowering is the eccentric portion of the movement, the raising of the bar is the concentric portion of the movement)
    • Eccentric training has been shown to increase the stem cell count within muscles
      • These stem cells then exit the muscle as satellite cells which are crucial for muscle regrowth after exercise
    • Body by Science by Doug McGuff talks more about the importance of slow eccentric training
  • Check out What Makes Olga Run? by Bruce Grierson
    • The book stresses the importance of mobility work (as does Becoming a Supple Leopard by Kelly Starrett)
    • Ben sets aside 10-15 minutes every morning while his coffee’s brewing to use a foam roller/lacrosse ball to massage out any sore/tight muscles
      • Here’s an excellent foam roller we at Podcast Notes recommend

Two Strategies for Maintaining Muscle with Age

  • Electrical muscle stimulation (this activates more muscle fibers than you’d be able to recruit through exercise) on the legs activates androgen receptors and results in a positive testosterone + growth hormone response post-workout
  • Heat stress prevents muscle loss by triggering the release of heat shock proteins (HSPs)
    • HSPs also increase levels of growth hormone and blood flow to skeletal muscle
    • Takeaway: Incorporate regular sauna use

Enter Thomas DeLauer (who discusses strategies for staying healthy, specifically for busy people)

Keep Your Blood Sugar as Stable As Possible in the Morning

  • How?
    • Fast
    • Consume fat and minimal protein/carbs
  • Blood sugar spikes/crashes throw so many people off throughout the day
    • “The subconscious desire to eat as a result of our blood sugar dipping a little bit interrupts our thought process and thinking”Thomas DeLauer

Foam Roll in the Morning

  • Why? – To stimulate lymphatic movement
    • Our heart pumps/circulates blood throughout our body
      • BUT – Lymph (through which fat and white blood cells flow) doesn’t have its own circulatory system (it requires muscle contraction to be pumped throughout the body)
  • Foam rolling allows oxygenated blood to nourish and hydrate the fascia, therefore boosting lymphatic drainage (AKA the body flushing away toxins)
    • This is important, especially when people begin to lose weight (when this happens, more toxins in the body start to get liberated)
  • How long should you foam roll? – 3-5 minutes
  • Where specifically? – The lat muscles (there are lymph nodes under the armpit)

Use the Sauna

  • Heat shock proteins (HSPs) are upregulated during and after heat stress
    • They play a critical role in the folding/unfolding of proteins (they repair misfolded proteins that can conglomerate and contribute to Alzheimer’s disease)
  • In a way: Stressing the body in a sauna for a short time makes other stresses throughout the day seem mild by comparison

Measure Your Heart Rate Variability (HRV)

  • HRV is a way to analyze the parasympathetic branch of the nervous system
    • When the body is stressed, the sympathetic branch of the nervous system is more active
  • So… by monitoring HRV, you can make sure you’re training when you’re recovered and resting when you should be
  • How? – Wear an Oura Ring 

Incorporate Short Bouts Dry Fasting

  • It’s believed to cleanse the body quicker than water-only fasting (damaged tissues/cells are eliminated/cleaned up significantly faster)
    • Dry fasting forces the body to obtain water from its own cells, whereas with water-only fasting, the body is getting water exogenously
  • Caveat – there’s not a whole lot of research on the subject, so do your own research
    • Thomas has done 36-hour dry fasts
    • If you want to try dry fasting, Thomas recommends starting with 10-12 hours

Train in a Fasted State

  • “When you train in a fasted state, you really do get much more of a benefit in terms of fat loss” Thomas DeLauer 

Do Upper Body High-intensity Interval Training (HIIT)

  • We’ve all heard of lower body HIIT, but not nearly enough people do upper body HIIT
  • It’s much harder for the heart to push blood through the upper body compared to the lower body
    • Upper body HIIT helps
  • Examples:
    • Battle ropes
    • Rowing
    • Burpees 

Experiment With Different Forms of the Ketogenic Diet

  • For instance – Try alternating days with high/low fat intake
    • Then, see how you feel (you’d don’t always need to switch to a complete ketogenic diet)

Additional Notes

  • To learn more about ancestral diets, check out Ben’s interview with Dr. Michael Smith
  • Check out the  7-Minute Workout – Ben raves about it
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