We always stress that tracking and measuring your biometrics is essential to successful biohacking, but sometimes you need to remember one simple thing: Listen to your body.
Episode 39 of the THINKING Podcast features Ben Coomber, host of UK's top health & fitness podcast (Ben Coomber Radio) and writer for major publications such as Men's Fitness and The Daily Telegraph. A regular rugby player, Ben spends much of his time maximizing his athletic performance through the use of high-fidelity fitness, nutrition, and supplementation. As someone who dealt with childhood obesity and a multitude of other issues, Ben understands the difficulties of changing one's lifestyle even if they know it is for the better. While Ben has tinkered with various regimens and diets, he has concluded that his natural intuition is key to his own personalized health goals. Through educating and sharing his personal experiences to the world, Ben continues to push his audience to become a better, healthier version of themselves.
Geoffrey Woo and Ben discuss the ins and outs of Ben's fitness and nutritional routine, the importance of recovery after training or working out, and the potential for exogenous ketones as a pathway to treat brain injuries.
Geoff: Hey thinkers, welcome to this weeks Thinking Podcast. This is your host Geoffrey Woo. I'm really excited to have Ben Coomber, who is long standing podcast host of one of the top United Kingdom health and fitness podcasts as well as a nutritionist and self affirmed human performance geek. Really excited to have this conversation and get your insights here. Welcome to the thinking podcast.
Ben: Geoffrey, thank you very much for having me on the show. I think I can kind of join the world wide ranks because this week we're at number seven, which is pretty cool, in the world, my podcast. I'm quite happy with that.
Geoff: Yeah. That's awesome. I think it's a sign of broader interest around all people. I think you talk to just an average person 20 or 30 years ago, people wouldn't really care about their health or their fitness. It's just something that wasn't thought about. I don't know I think more and more people, whether it's millennials or baby boomers are reaching an age where they're a lot more conscious about they're health and performance, it's something I think more and more people are interested in either improving the performance or optimizing and preventing disease?
Ben: It's incredibly important.
Geoff: Yeah. Absolutely. I think that's probably one of the most important problems that our society should be thinking about. I know we're based in Silicon Valley and a lot of my smartest friends are working on making people click more ads on Facebook or Google. We think there should be more smart people educating people around the craziness of the world of nutrition, which is hard to unpack. I want to start off with your personal exploration and entrance into this space. I know that sort of in the beginning of your journey that you were over 300 pounds. You were obese. You had health issues. What inspired you to get up to speed and change your life?
Ben: It was, to be honest, my perception of what I needed to be successful. I left school at 18. I'd acted from the age of 8 to 18, so I was kind of like a childhood actor. My path in theory was to go into drama school and chase the dream of being on the big stage, maybe going into movies. I finished at 18. I was obese. I was unhealthy. I had ADHS, IBS. I had eczema. I literally just looked at myself and I compared myself to the people at the top of the industry. I looked at Tom Cruise, all these people that we look up to in film, and said, "I'm not like those guys. I'm not slim. I'm not athletic. I'm not healthy. I'm not vibrant." I literally woke up one day and I said, "If I do not lose weight, I will not be successful in my career. I think this is kind of an important thing that I try and coach in other people is literally trying to find this sentence, this line, this package, this emotive reason that's going to make you get up and change. It's kind of like being in business. It's kind of like, I have to create this thing. You go on such a single minded mission, and that's where I ended up going. The thing that actually got me into health and fitness is that I found the path really troublesome. We all talk about what health and fitness is. I started to eat better. I started to run. I just wasn't losing any weight. I didn't get how. I basically had a big argument with my brother. I'm the older brother and I tease him because that's my right.
Geoff: It's a job. Yeah.
Ben: He kind of fought back one day, and he said, you're not so perfect. You're really overweight. I was like, "Wow. Yeah. You're right." At that point, I just had to stand back and had to be critical. I need new ideas here. I need new ways of thinking. I joined a gym. At the time I hadn't joined a gym. I was just running and doing my own thing. I happened to fall into the hands of a great trainer. He sat me down, and he said, "Hey, let's do a little bit of weights, a little bit of less running. Let's try and clean up your diet, make it a bit more natural." He recommended this book to me, How To Eat, Move, and Be Healthy by Paul Chek. Amazing guy. Amazing practitioner. I bought the book on Amazon. I read it within a week. I applied it and I lost four stone in four months. That's a lot of weight. That just inspired me. I was like, wow. This stuff is really cool. I was kind of battling with the acting identity and the fitness identity. I kind of just sat in limbo for a while and after a while my girlfriend said to me, why don't you chase the fitness thing? If you're not sure about acting, go into fitness. I trained to become a trainer, a nutritionist, a masseuse. I worked as a practitioner. I just felt my calling was bigger. I was not satisfied just coaching people one to one. I didn't know what it means. I didn't understand it yet so I went to Uni. I did a degree in human performance. When I was at Uni, I just saw this rise in the tech space and people being online and this Facebook thing was blowing up and I was like, perhaps I can do my job on the internet. In 2009, I set up my first nutrition coaching business on the internet called yourdietadvisor.credituk. It was a massive flop. I learned all my lessons, or a lot of lessons there. Then I kind of rebuilt the concept in 2010 into Body Time Nutrition, which still exists today. Ever since then I've just been moving up and trying to educate people in this world of wellness, health performance, and mindset for people to live their worst life.
Geoff: Yeah. I mean, absolutely. I think that's inspiring to be able to make such big changes. I mean, I think a lot of people perhaps have some direction and some notion of what it means to be healthier. I think getting educated and up to speed and also having the discipline to pull through. 80 pounds in four months is a big number. What was the routine there? I think a lot of people can have a diet or commit to exercising for a couple of weeks and they fall off. What do you think is a big difference there?
Ben: The big thing is I found out I was intolerant to dairy and gluten so I removed them to the diet. My diet ended up being quite what we would call Paleo I suppose. It became very, very natural. Nothing unnatural went into my body. I started lifting weights. I started to look to grow muscle at the same time. They were really the key things. From what I know now, I cut out carbohydrates at the time. I was on a very low carb diet and that would have naturally reduced my calorie intake, which is obviously key for weight loss. They were the key things. In terms of vitality, cutting out gluten and dairy were key for me in achieving a greater level of vitality. Just to note, I have both these food groups in my diet now, so I no longer see them as a problem, but at the time they were a big problem for me.
Geoff: Interesting. It sounds like you've evolved your routine over time. It seems like, what is sort of your go to regime at this point? It sounds like you keep up to speed on the latest nutrition and diet and personalize it to your results. I think that's probably one of the most important things that in the biohacking community that we care about. I think there's a lot of people that say, hey do one, two, three. Sort of these magical results. I think a lot of it is personalized on your own genes. A certain diet is going to react somewhat differently for you to me. Measuring your blood glucose, blood ketones, getting your metabolic panel and getting all those levels is a way to gut check whether interventions one does on yourself is actually working for you or not. How did you evolve your regimes and what kind of checks and blood results, or were you measuring some of these metrics or was weight the primary metric that you were measuring?
Ben: Sure. Early days it was kind of weight, but I'm a very intuitive person. I listen to me and I trust myself and I've learned to trust myself because you can get all the information from other people that you want. You've just brought up this topic of individualization. I have to listen to me. I have to listen what the perfect sleep window is for me and the right kind of foods and when enough training is enough and I need to back off and rest. You're kind of probably going to dislike me ina way in a fact that you probably want a good handful of kind of bio hacks from me, and I know this show has had so many amazing people when it comes to bio-hacking. I've never really looked to monitor my blood glucose level over time. I've player around with this stuff and I've done it with clients, but I don't do it myself. The same with ketones. The same with really periodization of training around heart rate variability. I don't do any of this stuff for myself because I just listen. I have these metrics in my environment where I know that I maybe need to rest. For example, if I know that I've done too much exercise, if I walk up a flight of stairs and I feel like my heart rate is racing, I know I can't train today. I know that my heart rate variability is too high. I don't need a gadget for that. I can just feel it. It's intuitive. It's the same with my breakfast. I know I'm not really that great on too many carbs at breakfast so I naturally gravitate towards a lower carb breakfast and bring carbs later on in the day. There's all these little things I'm just constantly listening. I think for me the key thing and the one thing that I just cannot avoid is a lack of sleep. Sleep for me is just the number one thing that affects everything. It affects my work performance, my workouts, my relationships, my sex life. Everything. It affects everything and it's the one thing I want to get concrete and everyone that pays attention to my work because it's the easiest thing to skip out on, but it's the one thing that affects everything.
Geoff: How do you maintain that block? I'm curious. I think a lot of time people ask, what are your sleep hacks? I'm curious. There's a protected time. How do you protect it?
Ben: Technology is the first thing. Technology is off from a good half an hour, minimum half an hour before I go to bed. Phone goes off. Technology, screens and stuff. I'll be reading. I'll be talking to my girlfriend. I'll maybe do some stretching. I might do a little bit of kind of guided meditation but I find I'm quite a meditative person anyway. I practice meditation quite a lot and I find that I can quite easily drop myself into a meditative state and be quite calm and listen to my breathing. Pre-bed as well is a time that I like to get a little bit of reading in. We all love reading, learning, progressing ourselves. I'll try and get 20 minutes of reading in. For me, if I get to bed by ten and I'm asleep by half ten, I really only need about six, six and a half hours to feel optimal. I find if I go to bed later, I need longer in bed to feel better the next day. If I can get into bed by ten, half ten, I'm up by five. That's great for me because if I can work from five till nine when the world is still sleeping, I'm winning.
Geoff: Yeah. Those are like the best times to work because no one is up. No one is bothering you.
Ben: Exactly. Phones not going off. You're not needed. No emergencies. It's blissful project time.
Geoff: Yeah. When do you do your workouts? For me, I find that doing workouts in the early morning are really good for me for maintaining my workout routines where if you're doing it after work or during work it's kind of awkward. After work there's like a dinner meeting or a friends birthday party that blows out your workout. I tend to structure my workouts in the morning. I'm curious, how do you structure out your day?
Ben: Sure. I like my training to finish my day. I might get up at five, half five. I'll work to let's say 2, 3, 4, 5, 6 o clock. Then I'll train late afternoon. I'm also a rugby player so we quite often train at night, like 7 to 9 pm. Some of my training is quite late at night, which is a bit of a problem sometimes on my sleep but I have to just manage that the best I can. I hate training in the morning. I only train in the morning if I'm traveling away because like I've just said. Morning is my sacred time. I get up. I do projects. Then I'll turn on my phone. Then I'll engage in my day meetings. That kind of stuff. Then I'll go train and then I'll say right, I'm off. The day is done. I'm now going out for a drink or cinema or whatever. Yeah. For me it's late afternoon.
Geoff: Interesting. I'm actually curious. In terms of some of the interesting trends that we see in our community are a lot of people gravitating towards ketogenic diets, intermittent fasting. I'm curious in your practice and in your reading, have you applied those techniques or what are some broader techniques that you find successful, not only for yourself but perhaps a number of your clients.
Ben: Sure. For me, as a nutritionist, every diet has to be applied to the environment in the right kind of context. I have practiced ketogenic dieting and intermittent fasting for long periods of time in the past and I don't do them anymore because for me it doesn't fit my context. Right now I am a rugby player. It's a very explosive sport. It's a very physically demanding sport. I do a lot of weight lifting. I do running. I'm canoeing. I'm doing a lot of explosive exercise so a ketogenic diet for me is not optimal. Now, if I was to change my training, let's say I was maybe to just do maybe a bit of walking, canoeing, lifting weights maybe 2,3,4 times a week. Being on a ketogenic diet and fasting, for me is fine. It would work. It can work. I do very much appreciate the cognitive benefits of fasting and ketogenic dieting. You get a very balanced sense of just mental well being and focus and concentration. I do appreciate that, but also I'm quite a sociable character. I also like beer. For me, a ketogenic diet is not a sociable diet. I think I've played around with a lot of different diet principles that I know how to get the best out of my body and my brain when I want it. I kind of mentioned that I'm quite low carb in the morning. I'll kind of almost be sort of, I don't want to say keto for the morning but I'm not keto. I'm low carb for the first part of the day but it works well for me mentally. Then I know that I'm going to train later on in the day so I might have two meals that are low carb, a higher carb meal, and then a high carb in the evening sort of thing. It's just about matching my needs.
Geoff: I think that's actually very well put. I think a lot of people look for simple answers. This is the best diet for everyone for all use cases and I think you're hitting it on the spot. Glucose isn't necessarily evil, an all evil thing. As you mentioned, for explosive anerobic moves like sprinting, like moves and plays you would do in rugby, you want glucose. You want things that, yeah fuel anerobic performance. If you're eating full keto or fasting, you can't be effective in those types of moves. Absolutely I think that's something that I think people need to get broader awareness on. I think diet, when you're optimizing or optimizing for certain use cases, you're trying to lose weight or you're careful about managing insulin, maybe keto is something to look at. If you're looking to do heavy power lifting or rugby for example or running hundred meter sprints, having glucose is probably more effective for what your goals are. Absolutely.
Ben: I think one of the things that often gets negated when we talk about diets as a whole. We quite often talk about carbohydrates and fats were always a big topic of discussion. Protein comes into it. When we look at the diets and what we see as optimal in this kind of contention point, which is really health. This is what we're looking at. We're looking at health. This is a prominent argument at the moment, because the topic of vegan, nutrition veganism is very hot on everyone's lips. There's these arguments that had to say, if you feel vegan you feel amazing. You feel alive. I'm like, "Yeah. That's true, but what was the diet before?" Was someone eating an omnivorous diet that was full, abundant in fruit and vegetables. I'm not talking about the governments 5 a day. I'm talking about 8, 10, 12 fruits and vegetables a day. For me, I think that's one of the things that really is not driven home enough. I see it in myself. I know the difference when I'm eating 5 fruits and veggies a day compared to when I'm eating 12. I try and drink a green smoothie every day. I'm a massive fan of my Nutri-bullet. I'll put avocado and spinach and lime and cucumber and whiz that all up. All these little things around fruits and vegetables hacks, I think it's incredibly ... I know we all value it, but I don't think we push it enough because it's almost not sexy to talk about, but I swear if people start eating 8, 10, 12 portions of fruits and veggies a day, you're going to notice the difference.
Geoff: Yeah. I think that's interesting, because I think when you almost choose any specific diet, that's probably better than just the average diet that someone is consuming, especially if they're overweight to being with. If you're going vegan or keto or paleo and you're just restricting out soda and coca-cola or something, you're going to get some improvement no matter what, because you're just basically cutting out clearly bad things. Then I think for there it's about optimizing for specific use cases. I think in a lot of sense, if you're in-taking 12 servings of fruits and vegetables, you're probably not eating some crap and then of course you're going to feel a lot better.
Ben: I think one thing I'm quite passionate about talking on, I think a lot of the guests that have been on your show before might have talked about caffeine a bit. I'm a very big fan of a low caffeine diet.
Ben: The reason why I like this is I like to try and put the body into a state of equilibrium wherever possible. I like balance. You've mentioned blood glucose. We've mentioned ketones. If I can get even balance all the time, I like that. When I get up in the morning, my body doesn't have a need for caffeine. It's not screaming at me. I'm not sitting there going, "I'm not human. I'm not able to function if I don't have caffeine.", so I don't have it. I just have a decaf organic black coffee. I maybe put some cream in it, maybe some milk, whatever, and I'll have that. Why? Because when I want caffeine I want it to work. As we age and the more we have it, we lose sensitivity. It's like anything. It's like, I always want to have tricks in the bag. Now for the person that drinks 2, 3, 4, 5, 6 cups of coffee a day, when you need that extra boost caffeine cannot give you that boost. You're not sensitive enough to it. If I have 200 milligrams of caffeine, I'm off my tits. I'm up there because my body is really sensitive to it. It's like loads of these things that we play around with and I know that nootropics is a far bigger area of discussion in America because it's a lot more widely used. We don't have the kind of free roam and use of it in the UK that you guys do, but I like having tricks in the bag. There's days when you don't feel great. Last night I only had four hours sleep yesterday and I had some tricks in the bag that I could use so today I didn't feel like crud. Now, how many people have those tricks in the bag because they're not doing the groundwork well enough?
Geoff: Yeah. I think it's a good point. I think, especially coffee. Two billion cups of coffee are consumed a day. Most people are caffeine dependent. You're no longer getting a performance improvement on caffeine. You're just building up to normal with your caffeine use. I'm actually curious, when do you use caffeine? Sounds like you use caffeine when you're sleep deprived or during matches, rugby games. When do you do those boosts?
Ben: If I'm feeling a bit tired, I'll probably have a little low dose of caffeine mixed with theony. I'm a big fan of white tea, green tea, black tea because the balance is good. Then before the gym or before a rugby game, but really it's being saved for when I need it.
Geoff: Yeah. What other tips do you have? I think it's interesting. You sound like there's multiple tricks in your tool bag here. Basically, not becoming dependent on caffeine I think is something that we can all aspire towards. I think most people don't want to have a caffeine habit. It's just something that people get used to. What else is in the tricks?
Ben: In terms of my tricks, I'm a big fan of really ramming home the basics and getting people to really admit to themselves where their lifestyle is stopping them from doing the basics properly. I think a common trend that we'll often see in business owners, and I can see it in myself mildly, is that we potentially quite often have these extreme personality traits and we have these habits that we have to do. We have to do these things. There might be people that get up and they do their 5 am cardio without fail. I'm a big fan of doing things properly. For example, when I get up tomorrow morning, I want to be at an optimal zone. I want to be able to work on the project that I've got tomorrow morning. What do I need to do today to put myself into that optimal place? Are there some things that I maybe need to tweak today? Exercise is one of them because exercise is something in the modern world that potentially we're not all recovering from effectively. We know that the human body has incredible capacity to exercise. Look at professional athletes. They're training 10, 15, 20, 25 hours a week of training load depending on their sport. These guys build their lives around recovery. That's their job. They're literally a full time recovery person. They sleep. They nap. They eat. They put on ice baths. Magnesium therapy. Massages. Everything. You and me don't have that. People have got jobs, kids, stress, lack of sleep. All that kind of stuff. What I always say to people, and I use this as a litmus test. I do a lot of public speaking. I'll stand in front of an audience and I'll say, "Hands up if you go into 80-90% of your training sessions in the gym feeling 70-80%." Nearly 70, 80, 90% of the audience puts their hands up. What does that mean? We've got a mild state of over training. People are always going into training at suboptimal. I say to most people, tell me how many times a week you're training? Most people are training nearly every day with a pretty high intensity. Usually at the same type of day, usually very similar training. I say to people, "Okay. What's the number one anxiety that you have of not training tomorrow?" For most people, it's that they'll get fat. That's the number one genuine anxiety. They feel if they don't train, they will get fat because training is a control mechanism to help with weight. We know that calories in, calories out determines fat loss or fat gain. If I said to that person, right your body needs 3000 calories. Tomorrow you're not going to exercise. What's the one thing that you'll change? You'll reduce your calorie intake. For example, I didn't train today. Couldn't get to the gym, so I ate less today. I ate 400 calories left. Tomorrow I'll eat nearly 1000 calories more, because I'm going to be in the gym for an hour and a quarter and I've got an hour and a half of rugby training. My exercise output is way higher tomorrow. We need to remove this anxiety by applying science. The reason why I talk about this is the body adapts from intensity. If you can't go into the gym and lift the PR or sprint and push the body, it's not going to adapt and you're going to stay at the same level? How many people do we know that are saying, "I'm not getting stronger. I'm not getting more muscular. I'm not getting leaner." We're not being able to apply training intensity. I would much rather someone train three to four days of the week and was able to smash it, rather than training everyday and being at 80%. Also, you get that sense of personal satisfaction, right? You actually leave that workout going, I just nailed that.
Geoff: I think it's a great point. There's so many of my exercises that's built into my routine. I'm like, "This is good for me. I should do it. I'm just going to ship the workout in." I think you bring up a very good point. If you're not pushing 100% to your thresholds, then are you really stressing your body enough to actually improve in terms of strength or speed or whatever metric you're trying to optimize for. I think it's a great point.
Ben: I'm going to argue no.
Geoff: I think it makes sense. If you're just always in 70% mode and you're not pushing yourself, I think that's why a lot of people plateau. They get complacent with their exercise routines.
Ben: Yeah. I'll throw a caveat in there because there will be some people saying, oh well I need to go out on base runs or base rides because they're like endurance athletes. That's absolutely fine. That's very specific scientific programming, but I'm talking about the people that are really just exercising to just look good, feel good, perform good.
Geoff: Great. That's interesting. In terms of when you do exercises, I know there's interesting discussion between high intensity interval training versus obviously it depends on what your outcomes are but what are your current favorite types of routines and workouts? Are you focused on high reps, low weights? One massive representative for super high weights? What are the key routines that you do in your workouts?
Ben: I talked about my diet and my training is very much the same. It fits the exact purpose I need it to. Right now I'm on a diet. I'm just trying to get a little bit leaner. I'm kind of on a six week diet. I'm doing a lot of quite short, high intensity, we'll maybe call them crossfit style workouts. I'm picking two exercises. I'm doing them back to back and quite high intensity. Big calorie burn. In and out of the gym in 30, 40 minutes. It's also perfect for me with rugby right now because I'm trying to improve my threshold, my capacity. That's going to be more than enough to maintain my muscle mass. I'm not going to lose muscle mass on that. There will be periods of time where I'll go through just doing a lot of 8 to 15 rep more high intensity work. Looking at various areas of my body and stuff, and then now and again I'll go through a strength cycle but I don't like strength training that much. I'll be honest. I get bored doing it, because you end up being in the gym for quite a while with quite a low outcome. You might go into the gym and spend half an hour dead lifting because that takes you a while to warm up, work in sets. I haven't got time for that. I'm bored already. For me, it very much applies.
Geoff: Do you do then traditional lifts or all you doing all functional body weight type stuff? Crossfit style?
Ben: I'll be honest. I'm doing a bit of everything. Squats. Dead lifts. The big movements. I'll do crossfit stuff. I'll do stuff like flipping tires, throwing ropes around. Because I'm quite happy with my level of muscle mass, I'm quite happy with my overall strength, I mainly exercise to maintain my performance as a rugby player, but also to enjoy it. Today I went for a 20 min swim. That was it. That's all I wanted to do. I didn't want to lift weights. I didn't want to do anything else. I just wanted to swim, whereas tomorrow I want to get angry and I want to lift some weights. I know it. I can feel it coming. Again, I just kind of listen to my body and I know that, do you know what? If I get 3 or 4 really good sessions in this week, I'm going to tick that off the box and I'm going to have done well, because I know that my baseline variable, which is my nutritional intake, will always support my training outcome.
Geoff: Yeah. I think that's a good mindset to have. I think, I know for myself a lot of times I just ship in the workouts and I think you come in full intentionality to really be pushing your limits. I think you get a lot more effectiveness and results from that time spent. If you're going to spend an hour, maybe end ups 50% effort on the hour just to have 100% effort in half an hour. That might end up being much more time efficient in terms of ROI on time. I'm curious, in American football a huge study came out around traumatic brain injury. Essentially, 118 or 119 retired NFL players. I know rugby is a very contact heavy sport. I'm curious, is there similar concerns around brain concussion and if so how do you look to mitigate damage there, and also just general wear and tear? Are you doing anything special there to ... You guys are just tackling each other without much padding.
Ben: Yeah. Let's be honest. Proper sport, right? It is a big concern in the UK. We've had some more stuff in kind of a higher profile games happened where more laws have come in. They've now stopped younger individuals in the UK doing full contact rugby as early as they used to. Now when someone goes down with a head injury during a game, like there's whole teams that are running into the pitch. Way more medical staff to try and mitigate this. There is a lot more awareness around it. I think in the UK, I think if you get either 5 or 6 concussions within a certain space of time, you're advised to retire. I know people around me have retired for that reason. I am very fortunate that I am in a very low risk position on the field. I'm a scrum half. I'm the guy that runs everywhere and passes the ball and shouts a lot of people. The chances of me getting a head on collision or anything bad to the head is very low, and I'm grateful to that. I also feel that it will prolong my longevity in the sport, because I will get less injuries and impact because I'm not in a high impact position.
Geoff: Right. Yeah. I think there's been a lot of emerging research around ketones possibly being an adjunct for TBIs. I think there's an interesting rat model study on sort of smacking rat heads and seeing exogenous ketones were able to recover and rescue damaged neurons. I was actually just curious, one could theoretically apply that study from animal models into human performance. Would one look at ketones as part of a diet in a TBI potential situation? It does kind of trade out between if you're coming to a game you probably want to be heavily carbed up as well. It might be kind of antithetical to performance, but I'm just curious if there's any sort of nutritional programming around injury prevention that you think about and consider?
Ben: The environment that you've just given, I think the research has been done showing that ketones are potentially good in the healing process. In terms of a preventative, I don't actually see that there's a mechanism where ketones would act as a preventative, because you think it's a collision based injury. Neurons are damaged and then there's environment that's now helping repair that. Actually being in ketosis sort of while being a rugby player, I don't see how that is going to prevent -
Geoff: Yeah it wouldn't necessarily prevent but it would potentially, so the pathway that is hypothesized is when the brain gets TBI, catecholamines are released and that blocks glucose uptake and that's why ketones is alternate fuel, could essentially start fueling these neurons from T=0, as opposed to having to sort of generate ketones over time with diet or fasting. That would be the mechanism. If you're getting smacked in the head, your brain is taking damage no matter what. It's about how fast you can have a therapeutic in there, which could I guess be interesting.
Ben: Yeah. I think the things is any performance individual needs to look at the primary outcome that they want in that performance. There might be some advantages or rationals for a cyclic approach to these methods, like a cyclic ketogenic diet, but I don't think its' going to be taken up by many sportsman, because they're in a glycolytically demanding sport. They need carbohydrates to perform. It's not going to be efficient for them to be in a ketosis diet. I think the kind of mentality around rugby is about performance, until you have to think about longevity, until you have to think about prevention. There's a big mindset barrier there as well.
Geoff: Yeah. I think everyone is a professional. They're there to win. You're not there to prevent injury. The primary goal is to win some games. Anything else in terms of like ... I mean I think you're just dropping interesting knowledge bombs here. Anything else in terms of workouts or I know you mentioned magnesium as something you think is sort of under discussed. Anything else that you've come across in your self experiments and your conversations that you think are unacknowledged, underexposed?
Ben: Sure. Magnesium I'm a massive fan on. In people that exercise fairly intensely, I recommend a baseline oral intake of magnesium. Anywhere from to 300 - 500 milligrams a day of a good source of glycinate bi glycinate citrate. Then I recommend a transdermal magnesium topically applied to the muscles that you've primarily worked in that training session, so if I went in the gym and did a primarily upper body workout, I'd rub the magnesium on my upper body. I find that really good. It's something that I swear by. There is very limited research in how it actually works and why it works. We don't actually know. Don't get me wrong. There's plenty of hypothesis, but I kind of hang my hat on very anecdotal data to say that I recover so much quicker locally by using transdermal magnesium. I'm a huge fan. I actually posted a research study on my Facebook page today about magnesium's role in high performance individuals in supporting the immune system and reducing the impact of interleukin 6. That was really kind of quite a profound study in people not getting ongoing illnesses and having suppressed immune system, which is obviously always a problem in people that exercise a lot, because we suppress the immune system temporarily. Big fan of magnesium. The obvious -
Geoff: I think that some of the data is most people are chronically deficient on magnesium. I think the last statistic I saw was like 70% plus of people are under-dosed. Are you recommending even RDA, recommended daily allowance, is not enough? Or you're sort of super dosing on magnesium, especially on workouts? I'm curious.
Ben: Yeah. I wouldn't go as far to say super dosing, but sort of two to three times the RDA seems to be doses that I'm playing around with in very active individuals. Yeah.
Geoff: Okay. Interesting. I've never heard of the transdermal affect. You feel like you recover -
Ben: Oh really?
Geoff: Yeah. I think most of the studies are on oral. I'm actually curious around transdermal magnesium. You feel like you get faster, quicker muscle recovery?
Ben: Yeah. Definitely.
Ben: I own a supplement company in the UK called Awesome Supplements. It's actually a supplement that we have as part of our ranges, which is transdermal LMA. Yeah. You're literally, couple of squirts, rub it into your shoulders.
Geoff: Just rub it in. Okay.
Ben: Yeah. It seems to take effect very quickly. It's something that you have to apply before the sleep window. It's not something that, let's say I trained, went to bed, woke up the next day sore and you rub it on, it doesn't do anything. My theory is it relaxes the muscles, allows for greater blood flow, and that in turn helps the muscle locally recover greater. That's my theory at the moment, but as I've said the research is very thin on the ground.
Geoff: If it does increase blood flow then I can see it allowing the muscle to flush lactic acid quicker and obviously bringing nutrients through repair. If that mechanism works, it stands to reason. Interesting.
Ben: It does. Whether it does, I don't know. I would love to fund research, but funding research is just hugely expensive and the quotes that I've had back to get it done, I just can't do it. Not yet anyway.
Geoff: Yeah, something that we as a company have looked at and are in the process of doing. I understand. Absolutely. I think with a lot of trials, when you're dealing with human subjects, so many variables. You need to get at least 30, 40 people in the trial to get enough sample size to get statistical significance. Yeah. I think that's also part of the broader confusion around a lot of nutrition studies where sample sizes are small, population is very, in terms of for something Caucasian males with black females. Just so many different populations to be studied. There's clearly genetic variance needs to be accounted for that just isn't done because research is so hard and slow to get through with ethics and the costing. Magnesium, I sort of interrupted you in terms of other hacks. Besides magnesium, what else is interesting?
Ben: Yeah. The other fundamentals, magnesium, Vitamin D, fish oil, zinc. They're probably the big ones. Again, that's from looking at the research. We look at the research, we see the most people are deficient in those.
Geoff: Yeah. Absolutely.
Ben: Then nature. I think we don't maybe talk about nature enough. I think getting outside, think about the last time people truly got outside for a proper full on day. They always come back going, "I should do that more often. That felt amazing." When you go down to the lake or the sea or the forest, actually being able to take those days away now and again to get outside and properly switch off the phone and absorb in nature. I think that is hugely valuable.
Geoff: Yeah. It's funny that you mentioned that. The team here had a week retreat down in Venice Beach near LA and you got a lot of sun. I think we weren't evolved to stay in big gray boxes all day in front of computers and sitting on our butts. I think absolutely getting in the sun. Most people are vitamin D deficient as you mentioned and that's hugely impactful for mood and immunity. It seems like 70 -60% of people are deficient in D, which is generated from sun exposure. Cool. I think that's an awesome snapshot in what's going on in your mind and some of the interesting areas that you're doing research. Any sort of shout outs in terms of other projects that people in our audience and listeners out there, if they're more interested in following what you're up to, what are the channels to reach out? What are the channels to find you on?
Ben: I'm very easy to find. Ben Coomber all over the internet. C-o-o-m-b-e-r. The UK's top Health and Fitness podcast. We've done over 274 episodes at the time of recording this show, so there's a lot of information there. We do online nutrition courses, that's kind of our bread and butter. We have a nutrition education company called Body Time Nutrition. Yeah. Facebook is my main stomping ground. It's a very educational place for me, Facebook. So Facebook and the podcast and maybe my Instagram stories might be interesting for a few people.
Geoff: Awesome. Love to stay in touch and see how things progress and if there's a way to collaborate on research studies, we're ramping up a lot of interesting research partnerships. That's, I think, where the next phase of the industry is going where people are getting smarter and smarter and I think people want more and more data. I think there's the intuition side like, hey do we feel better and think that's important? For the skeptics if you don't believe in Ben or my intuition, well look at the data. I think that's what's going to take, in my theory at least, what brings behaviors from small groups, niches, and communities into, Hey this is something that everyone in the world should be adopting. I think we can probably all agree that everyone in the world can be healthier and be a little bit more cognizant of what the routines are. I think you look at the trends of obesity, metabolic syndrome, they're scary. I think if there's anything that folks like yourself educating people, bringing the message out, inspiring people to improve their health, I think that's good for the entire world.
Ben: I agree.
Geoff: I appreciate the good work that you're doing.
Ben: Well thank you and thank you for having me on the show. It's been amazing. Thank you.
Geoff: Alright. Talk soon. Cheers man.
Ben: Thank you. Goodbye.
Geoff: Awesome conversation with Ben. It's always interesting when I talk to other folks that run podcasts, because it's interesting where people's focus is and interests are and it seems like on our podcast and our community, we're perhaps more engineering, more metrics driven, and clearly with Ben I think it's important to also not lose touch on the intuitive side. Yes. I think numbers are objective. Something that is measurable. Something that people can use across specific samples. End of the day, our lives are N=1 experiments. Optimize for what feels good for yourself. As always, please continue the comments and feedback on our podcast. Zill will be responding and myself. We'll be responding and getting everything coordinated. As always, if there's any requests for guests or specific topics, please reach out. In the meantime, please subscribe and follow us on i Tunes, Google Play, and YouTube, and SoundCloud. Thanks so much. See you next week.
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