We were lucky to sit down with Ben Greenfield – the elite OCR athlete, biohacker and fitness guru – during the recent Biohacker Summit in London. Ben is also the co-host of the Obstacle Dominator Podcast which we’d recommend checking out.
From the get-go we agreed on a speedy, no-BS interview about athletic performance, ketosis, biohacks and traveling. Ben shared a lot of practical advice you can add to your training routine right away. In fact, one of his tips is about the one thing he says any OCR athlete should be doing daily. It’s a thing that took out many competitors in the last Spartan World Championships.
Without further ado, here’s the interview with a transcript included below (conducted together with Sam from Abs On Fire):
Vytautas: We would like to know more technical questions, not just generic biohacking things.
Ben: Awesome, love it.
Vytautas: What would you say is one key biohack any spartan athlete should do today?
Ben: Get extremely resilient to cold temperatures, because it shocked me to see in the world championships how many people dropped off… Had to stop… Didn’t finish, or had to severely slow down on the top of the mountain. Frankly, it was not that big of the deal.
If you expose yourself to cold everyday for 10 minutes that’s all it takes. It’s not like I ran up to the top of the mountain everyday, plunged into the ice and got hypothermic. All I did was take some cold showers, right?
It shocks me how many people go to Spartan and hit the cold water… Like, dude, it’s like the easiest thing in the world to train for. Just get into cold water.
And I’m not saying it like an asshole, but… Why would you go and do crossfire everyday, lift sandbags and do some workout along side of the mountain or on incline treadmill, but ignore the cold.
Here’s where we take a deeper dive…
If you are just using cold to tone your nervous system, that’s not enough. There are literally dozens of ways you can increase vagus nerve tone:
– Breath work
– Infra-red light (points to device attached to the nostril)
– Indra-red sauna
– Acido coleen intake
You have to pull out all the stops..
So to be comfortable in the cold… It does go above and beyond of getting cold – you have to take care of your nervous system as a whole, and not just choose one thing.
It really comes down to having an optimised life, when it comes to being bulletproof/resilient.
Vytautas: Are you in ketosis right now?
Ben: Right now? Today I’ve eaten: very small handful of academia nuts, one tablespoon of c8 and one packet of Ambronyte superfood that they have here, and small handful of sprouts. So I probably am at around 3 or 4 mol of blood ketones.
Vytautas: How do you prepare for racing in ketosis? For example for me it is really hard to get some pre-race fuel, that wouldn’t make me bonk mid race… What would be your recommendation to improve this?
Ben: Stick with the sport. I’ve been doing this for a decade. It takes a long time to build up the mitochondrial density to be able to generate the amount of ATP, that you need to generate through fatty acid utilisation. That’s why most of the best endurance athletes are usually the oldest ones. That’s part of it.
Part of it is not going to glycolytic event not fully glycogen depleted… Like here… Later on I’m going to go to Wholefoods and make myself a big ass salad. I’ll find myself some roasted parsnip or sweet potato mash or something like that and I just pile a shitload of that on the side of the salad. So I’ll have like 600-800 kcal carbohydrate re-feeds. So my muscles will have what they need on board for hard workout tomorrow or Spartan Race in the morning.
Sam: Any tips for organising your lifestyle for ketosis if you’re travelling 5 times a week?
Ben: Why aren’t you bringing your own food?
It’s not hard to bring a ziplock bag with macadamia nuts.
Vytautas: What’s in your suitcase then?
– Macadamia nuts
– Brazil nuts
– Hemp, pea or rice protein powder that I can mix with coconut milk from Starbucks
– Typically a ziplock bag with chia seeds. I make a chia seed slurry with some dark chocolate stevia.
– Probiotics, because I won’t have access to fermented foods
But it’s not hard. And you guys in the beginning of the interview said you wanted to get into the hardcore shit… So frankly, you have to freaking not be lazy. And actually plan or prepare. Just like you would go hunting.
Sam: You speak about that in your book Beyond Training… About being lazy as an excuse to run further…
Ben: Exactly… Like, “I’ll go for an hour run, because I’m too lazy to do a TABATA set…”. “No, just go to the pain cave…”
Vytautas: So with all that stuff in your suitcase, plus the biohacking equipment which you obviously have now in one of your nostrils… Right?
Ben: I don’t check any bags. Just take my Ukulele. Pack smart.
Sam: So you fit all that into a hand luggage?
Ben: Yeah. Take a shower with my clothes… Dry my clothes. And the laptop case I take with me. That’s it.
I have a very small PMF device, intranasal light therapy, bluetooth heart rate monitor, an iPhone, a kindle, a laptop. Some clothes to get me through couple of days. Usually some kind of compression gear and some essential oils, supplements. And anything I cannot get when I travel: probiotics, digestive enzymes, multivitamin and occasionally some smart drug like eracetam, lion’s mane or something like that.
Really that’s about it. Sleep mask, headphones… mp3 player… Those are some of the main things. Depends where I’m going too.
Vytautas: Going back to the biohacking… HRV is very big this and past year. What do you think is next in the biohacking? What direction will it take?
Ben: Probably just more efficient self quantification via lab on a chip technology. The ability to test all of your parameters without going to the lab and filling in all 19 test tubes with blood. So, that’s what’s going to be next.
Vytautas: Have you tried the DNAFit (dan test for fitness performance and nutrition)?
Ben: It’s good. You get all your genetic data. But I mean, all these places like 23and me… send you some generic data as a pdf. I export my data and import to Promethease to look at specific genetic snips. Just go to town. It’s not like you have to have a degree to understand it. It’s pretty intuitive. Like… higher risk to type 2 diabetes, going fully bald or not having higher than normal risk to becoming addicted to nicotine – so choosing nicotine gum as a smart drug of choice. Things like that you can find out.
Vytautas: If it would be just one test any athlete… a runner, crossfitter should do… what would it be?
Ben: Heart rate variability.
Ben: Yes. Keep track of that thing. It helps you to keep a finger on the pulse of your recovery and preparedness…
Sam: Last quick questions. 5 books you would recommend?
– Deep nutrition by Catherine Shanahan
– Perfect health diet by Paul Jaminet
– Seeking wisdom by Charlie Munger
– Poor Charlie’s Almanack by Charlie Munger
– Holy bible
Sam: What common tolls do you use? Software or hardware…
Ben: iPod shuffle.
Sam: How do you organise your life? Do you use Evernote or?
Ben: Mhm. It would take an hour to go through all that stuff..
Sam: Top movie?
Ben: Right now.. I would have to say Zoolander, first one.
Vytautas: Last question.. have you ever done Spartan Races in London or UK in general?
Ben: No but I’d love to.
Vytautas: How long are you staying around?
Ben: Flying out on monday.
Vytautas: That’s a shame…
Ben: Why? when’s a race?
Vytautas: Middle of june in Manchester.
Vytautas: Stadium race as well..
Ben: Dude, find a sponsor and fly me out…
Sam: Any last words for the audience? Any message?
Ben: Go cease life by the horns, enjoy the ride, have fun. Live the daring, bold, courageous life…