Ketogenic Diet and Athletes with Guest Ben Greenfield – CHTV 105
Meredith:This is Episode 105, and today we
have a very special guest joining Dr. Pompa
and I. It is Ben Greenfield. Before I introduce
Ben, I’m just going to read his bio, so
you guys can learn a little bit more about
Ben. Ben Greenfield is an ex-bodybuilder,
Ironman triathlete, Spartan racer, coach,
speaker, and author of the New York Times
best seller, Beyond Training: Mastering Endurance,
Health, and Life. In 2008, Ben was voted as
NSCA’s personal trainer of the year, and
in 2013 and 2014, he was named greatest as
one of the top 100 most influential people
in health and fitness. Ben blogs and podcasts
at bengreenfieldfitness.com and resides in
Spokane, Washington with his wife and twin
boys. Welcome, Ben to the show.
Meredith:Up, what do you mean by up? I can
hear you, shoot. Alright, just muted there.
We have Dr. Pompa here. How are you, Dr. Pompa?
Dr. Pompa:Yeah, he said he might have to switch
from his fancy mic to his other mic. We’ll
give him a minute to do that, and he’ll
realize that in a second. It’s funny because
he’s walking on the treadmill, which is
a much better thing than sitting in the chair
all day. I know a couple friends that do that,
Meredith:Yeah, just out literally walking
Dr. Pompa:While he gets his sound up from
his computer – it was working right before
the show. Isn’t that ironic how that happens?
Anyways, I remember years ago, Meredith, and
I’ll set this show up this way. Ben, I’m
sure you can hear me, but I don’t know when
Ben first did these tests on himself. It was
proving that fat-adapted athletes exist, meaning
that the old days of all the high carbs with
athletes, I believed, were gone. Yet, they
were still saying we didn’t have a lot of
proof. Ben in his own study, at one of the
universities, and he can tell us which one,
actually did a study on himself.
Ben literally got on a treadmill for three
hours, did all this blood work, and biopsies,
and urine samples, stool samples, everything
before the study, got on the treadmill for
three hours, reread all the blood work, and
the urine, and the stool, and everything.
We’ll have him talk about those results,
but that inspired me. When I read it, I said,
“I’m fat adapted because I’ve been in
ketosis.” I said, “I’m going to fast
overnight,” like I usually do, intermittent
fast, and it was around 18 hours, and I went
on a three hour fast bike ride, fasting 18
hours, so 18, 19, 20, 21. By the time I got
home, 22 or 23 hours before, I’d eaten one
bite of food, didn’t bonk everyone on the
ride, which are great athletes, we’re eating,
and I was the only one not eating and to their
surprise, I never bonked. I had plenty of
energy with over 20 hours without food. Ben
proved that in a laboratory. Wonder if we
can hear him now? He can talk about some of
these results as proving fat-adapted athletes
do exist. Ben, can you hear me?
Meredith:Oh, shoot. Can’t hear you. Oh,
shoot. Alright, he’s going to switch around
some microphones, alright. Anyway, as he does
that, guys, if you haven’t guessed today,
we’re going to talk about low-carb fueling
for athletes. That’s the topic, and Dr.
Pompa, do you want to share a little bit more
while – Ben looks like he had to log-out.
Maybe he’s logging back in, while he gets
his audio straight there maybe?
Ben:Can you hear me?
Meredith:Yes, we can hear you now, alright.
Dr. Pompa:Ben, I don’t know if you heard
what I had said.
Ben:I heard everything.
Dr. Pompa:Okay, great. Your comments on that,
and I know that even when you wrote that article,
that I had originally read, all the data still
wasn’t even in. Talk about what inspired
you to do that study on yourself, and then
talk about what occurred during the study,
what you measured, and of course how that
affected life afterward.
Ben:Sure. First of all, for anybody who likes
to dawn their propeller hat and dive in, that
study is available as a full PDF if you really
want to dig into the methodology and the excellent
discussion that is in that particular study.
The FASTER Study is what it was called. My
personal reasons for doing it were frankly
pretty selfish. I’m racing Ironman triathlon
and if I wanted to go faster or at least be
able to maintain this speed that I was used
to going at for longer periods of time, I
wanted to do so without experiencing a lot
of the potentially deleterious effects that
chronically elevated blood sugarcan cause
or the potentially unsettling effects that
carbohydrates fermenting in your gut can cause.
Because of that and also because of the fact
that in my genetic testing I’ve been shown
to have about a 17% higher than normal risk
for Type 2 diabetes, I needed to figure out
a way to actually hack Ironman triathlon so
to speak without going the traditional route
of fueling with gels, and bars, and energy
drinks, and things of that nature.
Over the course of the year that I was preparing
for that study, meaning following a special
diet of about 80 to 90% fat, 5 to 10% carbohydrate.
Protein would vary a little bit depending
on the day’s activities. On a day that involved
a lot of muscle tearing type of activity,
particularly weight training or running, I
would get protein up to close around 20%.
The rest of the time, protein wasn’t that
high either. Protein was around 10 to 20%,
so really a great deal of my dietary intake
came from fat. I was not allowed near any
Italian restaurants. Anyways though, so I
raced twice, in terms of Ironman races, during
the course of that year. I raced Ironman Canada,
and I raced Ironman Hawaii, and it was really
interesting to experience long, stable sources
of energy even in the absence of the high
amount of exogenous carbohydrate intake.
We’re not talking about a complete absence
of carbohydrates because frankly the nature
of the beast is something like saying Ironman
triathlon is you’re out there for nine hours
or ten hours, but there’s a lot of what
is called burning the match during that period
of time. What that means is that when you
pass someone during the race and the bike
ride, you might be going from your normal
race pace of 250 watts up to 400 watts, so
that actually does cause a pretty significant
glycolytic shift, a response of your body
needing to burn through a high amount of carbohydrates.
It’s not like you’re going for a long-endurance
event if you’re doing ketosis with zero
carbohydrates, but it’s a much slower – about
a quarter of the amount of carbohydrates I
would normally consume during the actual event
along with ample amounts of easy to digest
proteins, particularly amino acids, and then
also easy to digest fats, particularly medium
chain triglycerides. Since that time, I’ve
added in a third energy component and that
would be ketones, literally the exogenous
ketones in a powder form that you can take
to jack up your ketone levels.
Dr. Pompa:Yeah, we interviewed Dr. D’Agostino,
and he talked a lot about exogenous ketones.
Ben:Yeah, and what did you just say?
Dr. Pompa:Yeah, I’m sorry. There’s an
echo there. We interviewed Dominic D’Agostino
about more of the exogenous ketones, and we’ve
added those to our fat regime.
Ben:Yeah, I wish I’d known about those when
I was racing Ironman. I’ve been using them
since but during the time that I was preparing
for this particular study that we’re talking
about, that wasn’t something that was really
readily available. Anyways though, that particular
year of racing culminated in the study that
you were referencing, where we went in, and
we did a lot of tests. Some of the more notable
test that we did was a microbiome to see how
the gut differs between someone who follows
a high-carbohydrate diet and someone who follows
a high-fat diet.
We did fat biopsies to see if the actual fat
tissue make-up was any different. We did muscle
biopsies before and after exercise to see
if there was any difference in the ability
of the muscle to be able to store carbohydrate
or how quickly the muscle burns through carbohydrates.
We did a resting metabolic test, which is
just a test of how much carbohydrate and how
much fat you’re burning at rest along with
an exercise metabolic test, which is a measurement
of how much carbohydrate, how much fats, and
how many calories you’re burning during
Long story short is that, and I’m sure that
you know this based on your conversation with
Dr. Volek. Even though most physiology textbooks
will inform us that we can burn about 1.0
grams of fat per minute during exercise, the
athletes who followed a ketotic or low-carbohydrate
diet for close to 12 months, were experiencing
fat oxidation values of closer to 1.5 to 1.8
grams of fat per minute, significantly higher
than what you would expect. There’s not
only a glycogen sparing effect in a scenario
like that, but there’s also some pretty
significant health implications, meaning that
you’re creating fewer free radicals, and
experiencing less fermentation in the gut,
and experiencing less fluctuations in blood
I guess one of the more annoying parts, for
me, about the whole results of that test was
that people said, “Oh, they call it the
FASTER study, but you guys weren’t going
any faster, you guys who did the high-fat
diet.” That’s not the idea. That is where,
I think, people get derailed a little bit.
The goal here is not to go faster. The goal
here is to go as fast, to figure out a way
to limit the health effects, or eliminate
the health effects of chronic fluctuations
in blood sugar or chronically elevated blood
sugar, while still maintaining similar speeds.
That was my whole philosophy going into this.
If I could go just as fast by eliminating
sugars, why not do it? If I slow down, then
I have to ask myself that question of what
kind of balance do I want between health and
performance? How many years of my life, or
how many years of my joints, or how much gut
distress, am I willing to sacrifice in exchange
for going just a little bit faster? Now fortunately,
it turns out that you can go just as fast,
again, not faster, but just as fast on a carbohydrate-limited
diet. Why not do it?
Dr. Pompa:Yeah, I’ve got echo. Maybe you
could mute. There’s an echo. I’m not sure
where the echo’s coming from.
Ben:Try that. I plugged in my headphones,
so may be less of an echo now.
Dr. Pompa:Oh, yeah. Perfect. I don’t hear
it. Can you hear me?
Dr. Pompa:Yeah, great. I’m glad you brought
that up because I always say, “Look, go
as fast with this diet” Like you said, “It’s
not to go faster.” “It’s to go as fast,”
but what I always say is, “but live longer.”
What’s happening is these high-carb athletes
– there are problems from joint problems,
heart attacks. It’s just getting more and
more that these people are dropping dead,
and having horrible degenerative disease,
and yet they’re thin, and yet they have
all of this degenerative diseaseindicating
years of inflammation and oxidative stress
driven by glucose spike, insulin spike, after
another, which we know is oxidative and damaging
to the cells and obviously even ages you prematurely,
really that’s the problem. Ben, you’re
I enjoy endurance sports myself, but we know
that people that do a lot of endurance sports
absolutely drive more oxidation and aging.
I believe that that has changed. Your studies
and others now have proven that that has changed
with a fat-adapted athlete. Ben, I don’t
know your body fat, but I know I’m, at age
50, under 8%. Yet, we can go for hours, and
hours, and hours, without ingesting carbohydrates
because we’re very efficient fat burners.
I think your studies prove that and just to
bring it back to people what Ben was talking
about, they used to say that people that were
very efficient at fat burning can at least
burn a gram, one gram, per minute of exercise,
but you proved that it was higher, much higher,
almost two grams in someone who’s fat adapted,
their ability to burn fat while they’re
Dr. Pompa:I thought that was really one of
the best parts about the study is because
there was even criticism in the beginning
of you guys talk about this fat-adapt exercise,
but where is the proof that you can burn that
much fat during exercise? You won’t do it
on a high-carbohydrate diet. You only burn
those numbers and that much fat while you’re
Ben:Yeah, I think that one of the important
considerations here is you need to look at
the length of time that the fat-adapted athletes
in that study followed a high-fat diet. The
researchers reached out to me a year prior
to that test. Most of the athletes who I coach,
or who I consult with who are doing well following
a high-fat diet, have been following that
for one to two years. Sure, you experience
some of the health effects of lower blood
sugar levels and less oxidation even after
following a diet like this for a couple of
weeks, but in terms of you achieving what’s
called the mitochondrial density necessary
for producing a lot of ATP on a high-fat diet
while exercising, you’re looking at needed
to be in it for the long haul.
Granted, in the whole scheme of things for
an athlete who may want to compete in a sport
for, say, 20 years, spending 6 months to 2
years getting yourself to a state where you
can really efficiently use a natural source
of fuel and limit oxidation, that’s not
an incredibly long period of time. I do think
a lot of people hear about this magical effect
of a high-fat diet and you rush out and feel
like crap, especially for those first two
weeks. That’s something important to understand.
You have to be in this for the long haul before
you really begin to experience a lot of the
favorable adaptations, before you begin to
be able to go for really long periods of time
without eating, and even exercise during those
periods of time. I mean, it takes some time
to build up to being adapted.
Dr. Pompa:You know, Ben, I believe a lot of
it’s epigenetic. I get these clients, and
I get a lot of emails from the doctors that
I train from their clients, saying, “You
know, I am keto-adapted, and yet I’m still
not burning fat,” etc., etc., and they’re
worried about the weight loss. I explain that
it takes time to become more and more efficient
at burning fat and, therefore, the body feeling
free that it can burn its fat even for energy.
It takes time, even it took my wife time.
She did not click in for a long time before
she was able to use her fat storage for energy.
It was months and months, and really almost
a year, before she became as efficient as
myself. Now, her numbers are a lot; she’s
now an efficient fat-burner. It’s so much
easier for her to stay lean now. Meredith,
you have asked that question, I think, to
Volek and maybe D’Agostino about that time.
You’ve said, “What’s the difference?
It seems like women have a tougher time getting
into that fat-burning efficiency.”
Ben:Yeah, the other thing I think that’s
important is the type of high-fat diet that
you follow. There was a really interesting
study last year that looked into the potential
for high levels of chlorophyll in the bloodstream
to be able to assist with ATP production.
A very plant-rich, ketogenic diet is, in my
opinion, favorable for not only limiting oxidation
and free radical production, but also causing
even more stable energy sources due to the
fiber, but also potentially an increase in
ATP production beyond what we fully understand
in nutrition science when it comes to having
a lot of plant-based chlorophylls in the bloodstream.
I see a lot of people follow, say, like the
Bulletproof Coffee type of approach. They’ll
have three cups of coffee with butter and
MCT oil in it during the day, and they’ll
have a big cut of fatty steak at dinner. Lunch
might be coconut milk with some coconut flakes
and some chocolate stevia. If you step back
and look at the diet, maybe there’s some
macadamia nuts sprinkled in here and there.
There’s very little plant matter.
I personally eat about 20 to 25 servings of
plants per day. We have an enormous backyard
garden, and I’m eating tons of kale, and
butter lettuce, and bok choy, and mustard
greens, and cilantro, and parsley, and tomatoes.
None of that counts towards my total daily
carbohydrate intake, but I think that is one
component that needs to be emphasized here,
that a high-fat diet does not mean that you’re
not eating plants. In fact, I eat a lot of
plants, a lot of fiber, and it makes a night-and-day
When I look over the blood and bile markers
of people following a high-fat diet, a lot
of times I see really high triglycerides and
really low HDL, which is often what you’ll
see in someone who is eating a ton of animal
fats without many plants or without much fiber.
I’ll see a lot of CO2 and really low chloride
levels, an indicator of a net acidic state,
and a lot of biomarkers that aren’t necessarily
favorable and that can be a result of a high-fat
diet done improperly. I think that’s one
important thing to bear in mind, too, is that
you don’t want to necessarily eschew plant
intake and vegetable intake; you just want
to ensure that those are accompanied primarily
by healthy fats and oils rather than accompanied
by high amounts of protein and starches.
Dr. Pompa:Yeah, that’s great advice. I practice
something, and I’ve written articles, Ben,
about something I call diet variation, which
is basically emulating what our ancestors
have done. They were forced into different
diet variations seasonally, even weekly. When
we look at the Hunza people as an example,
in the summertime, they were relying mostly
on plant food. Then the wintertime came, and
they were forced into higher-fat, obviously
meats, and different fats and butters. They
had this long stretch of mostly vegetables,
which created this variation in their diet.
Today, we have the ability to vary our diet
at all times, which can work for us and against
I go into ketosis during the summer. Like
you, I’m still able to stay in ketosis eating
a lot of plants in my diet, no problem. I’m
very fat-adapted even with it. In this time
of year, I’m eating way more fruits and
vegetables, and because I intermittent fast,
where I don’t eat until a certain time,
I’m not in ketosis in the morning, but by
the afternoon, I’m burning high ketones
again. It’s remarkable when you give your
body time to get more efficient how you can
almost benefit from being in ketosis and not
being in ketosis. That’s what I’m doing
now during the winter. I agree. I think that
variation in the diet is really critical.
I think it’s great.
Meredith:I’m wondering, too, I mean, 25
to 30 servings of vegetables, that’s amazing.
How are you fitting all of those vegetables
in? Are you doing a lot of smoothies, blended
soups? What are some of your suggestions there?
Dr. Pompa:Great question.
Ben:For me, it’s mostly smoothies and salads.
I do one to two really big smoothies a day,
one of the big blenders that blend cell phones
on YouTube, one of those big ones, not the
cheapo KitchenAid, but a really nice blender
that will just pulverize everything from the
pit of an avocado to an entire bunch of kale,
so a lot of plants. Generally, in the morning,
I’m grabbing six to eight different plants,
both wild plants and herbs, as well as more
traditional plants like cucumbers or avocados,
for example, from the refrigerator and just
blending those up with coconut milk, and fats,
and some seeds, and nuts. Lunch is a really
big salad, an enormous salad bowl just full
of vegetables. I’ll generally spend 30 to
60 minutes chewing each bite 20 to 25 times
and eating lunch like a cow while I go through
emails and things like that during lunch.
That’s another big one. Dinner, generally
another giant salad, really big salad. Then
if I do have a snack during the day, a lot
of times it’s just a smaller version of
the smoothie that I’ve had for breakfast.
If you were to see the size of my salads and
the size of my smoothies, you would be shocked.
You’d think I would be morbidly obese, but
if you dig in and you look at it, it’s really
just mostly plant volume. That’s generally
what I do, salads and smoothies. I’m not
a big fan of soups. My wife does a lot of
soups, like cold soups, and hot soups, and
stuff like that. I’m just not a soup guy.
Even my smoothies, I make them so thick I
need to eat them with a spoon because I really
like to chew my food. Yeah, I’m a smoothie
and a salad guy.
Dr. Pompa:What are some of your favorite fats
that you like to take in in a day?
Ben:Returning to that concept of variety you
mentioned, it really does vary. Generally,
the staples are full-fat coconut milk, avocados
and avocado oil, olives and extra virgin olive
oil, macadamia nuts, almonds, walnuts, pumpkin
seeds; I always have a big thing of chia seeds
slurry, where you just mix chia seeds with
water and let those sit, and it’s just like
a Jell-O. I have that that I’ll mix in,
for example, with a lot of my smoothies. Animal
fats aren’t a huge source. I do fish a couple
of times a week. I’ll do some kind of a
steak or a red meat a couple of times a week.
I always have some pemmican around, which
is a rendered fat recipe that’s in a tube
that I can use when I’m on a plane or need
a snack on the go.
I really don’t do a ton of animal fats.
It’s mostly plant-based fats like some of
the ones that I just mentioned. Those are
most of the biggies. Bone broth does have
a certain amount of fat in it, and we make
broth every week. There’s some in there,
too. Those are most of them, though. MCT oil,
I’ll do that sometimes during exercise;
coconut oil sometimes in the smoothies, even
though I’m not a huge fan of those concentrated
sources of oil versus the tastier forms like
the extra virgin olive oil and the avocado
oil. I just find those to be more flavorful,
and I feel better on them. Yeah, those are
some of the fats that I do.
Dr. Pompa:How much exercise do you get a day?
Tell us about your exercise regime. I should
say a day and week.
Ben:Yeah, not as much as people think. I generally
am active all day long. Today, while I’m
writing, and doing consults, and reading emails,
and things along those lines, I’ll walk
somewhere in the range of three to five miles
at a low intensity like I am right now. When
I get up in the morning, I’ll generally
spend 20 to 30 minutes doing some deep-tissue
work and some mobility work, some foam roller,
some band work for traction on my joints.
By the time I get to the end of the day, I’ve
been mildly physically active for six to eight
hours at just very low-level intensity.
Then at the end of the day, I’ll throw in
30 to 60 minutes of a hard workout. That might
be a tennis match. It might be kickboxing
or jujitsu. It might be some kind of an obstacle
course workout with sandbags, and kettlebells,
and things like that. It might be a swim.
It varies quite a bit, but generally it’s
30 to 60 minutes of something hard in the
afternoon to the early evening, then up until
that point, low-level physical activity all
day long. It’s just tough to quantify because
I’m always moving. As far as a formal workout,
it comes out to about 30 to 60 minutes a day.
Dr. Pompa:It’s remarkable that you’re
working and moving all at the same time. Isn’t
it remarkable, Meredith? It’s like he’s
active six to eight hours a day. It shows
you there’s always time. For people watching
this that say, “I don’t have time to do
this or that,” you’re doing it. You’re
Meredith:I’d like to go back to what you
spoke about in the beginning with the experiment,
and being in ketosis, and the impact on your
gut and your microbiome. If you could speak
to that, I’d like to learn a little bit
more about that.
Ben:Yeah, I didn’t see the results yet,
interestingly, from that test. A few of the
things that I would suspect if I could hypothesize,
for example, is that in someone eating a higher-fat
diet, you would definitely, especially if
you were doing butter or coconut oil, for
example, likely have slightly higher levels
of butyric acid. If you’re eating more plant-rich
diet, probably higher levels of short-chain
fatty acids and just better colonic health
overall. I would imagine you’d probably
have lower risk of yeast fungus, candida,
the type of overgrowths that might occur with
high starch or sugar intake, or high alcohol
intake. I’m not really sure what would happen
with some of the other bacteria like the Firmicutes
or some of these things that are associated
with adiposity. I’m not quite sure how those
change on a high-fat versus a high-carb diet.
Now, I did last week send in my skin, my tongue,
and my stool sample to the American Gut Project.
When they send the results of that back to
you, you get to see how your gut matches up
to the general population. That particular
test is accompanied by a diet questionnaire,
so that might give me some insight, as well.
In my own gut tests that I’ve done, though,
I do generally have a lot of short-chain fatty
acids and fats in the large intestine, from
a colonic standpoint. I have really good colonic
health. I generally, since I started into
this, gosh, four years ago, I don’t have
the fermentation, the gas, the bloating, the
constant farts that endurance athletes have,
all that kind of stuff. That’s not something
that I deal with anymore at all, which is
kind of cool. I would, again, hazard a guess
that there’s a lower risk for things like
small intestine bacterial overgrowth, and
probably a lower risk for just fermentation
overall. Again, if you’re eating a diet
rich in plant foods—and I also do a lot
of fermented foods, we do a lot of kimchi,
kombucha, we do a lot of pickling and fermenting
of our cucumbers and our beans, and things
along those lines, overall bacterial diversity
on plant-rich, fat-rich diet is probably quite
high, again, due to the short-chain fatty
acids, the butyrate’s, and then all the
plant matter and the prebiotics.
Dr. Pompa:Yeah, yeah, exactly. I mean, you’re
obviously a very well-trained athlete, showing
that athletes can be fat-adapted and utilizing
fat is their energy source, their number one
energy source, but you’re getting your carbohydrates
from your vegetables, right? I always explain
that, look, I believe I eat a normal carbohydrate
diet, what humans were supposed to eat. We
talked about a little bit about that today,
even people that think they’re eating low-carb—really
this is just the way that humans were meant
to eat. It just so happens in our society
we call it a low-carb diet. I call it a normal
carbohydrate diet; moving in and out of ketosis
throughout my day—I mean at different times.
If you weren’t eating for a period of times,
your ketones are going to surge, your glucose
is going to drop, that’s what’s natural.
Ben:Right. I do a lot of hunting and foraging
and wilderness survival type of stuff, and
typically, if I’m out there without foods
that I’ve brought in, what am I eating?
I’m eating mushrooms, mint, nettle, leafy
greens, dandelion, and then that’s combined
with any animals I might encounter with the
understanding that if I’m eating an animal
and it’s at night and I’m on a campfire,
I know to go for the fats because that’s
what’s going to keep me going the next day.
You don’t get very satiated from gnawing
on the breast area of a rabbit, for example;
you always want to go after the gizzards.
I know in the gizzards there’s a lot of
fat. If you look at things from an ancestral
standpoint, if you’re out in the wilderness,
you’re not coming across a lot of apple
trees, you’re definitely not finding many
bakeries, it’s mostly just plants, and mushrooms,
and small amounts of animal proteins, and
large amounts of animal fats and oils.
Dr. Pompa:Yeah. How much protein—you said
it percentage-wise, but how about gram-wise—how
much do you weigh and then how much protein,
on average, in grams do you get per day?
Ben:I weight about 180 pounds and I would
say I’m somewhere in the range of 100 to
120 grams, or so, of protein. That would be
on the high range. I don’t get anywhere
near the 200+ grams that I used to take in
as a bodybuilder. I try and stay as close
to at least 0.5 grams of protein per pound
of body weight because that amount is necessary
to avoid loss of muscle, but I never, ever,
really exceed 0.8 grams per pound—or that’s
pretty rare just because there’s not a lot
of evidence that there’s a great deal of
anabolism that takes place once you exceed
Dr. Pompa:Yeah, I’m with you. I think people
today they move into, well, I guess what’s
in rage right now is The Paleo Diet, right?
Then people start eating a bunch of protein.
I’m not a fan. I’ve read the studies of
high-protein and I know that it’s not a
healthy diet. Of course, through gluconeogenesis
even turn into sugar. I always tell people
as a general rule, half your body weight—considering
that you’re not morbidly obese—half your
body weight is a very safe—you’re an athlete,
you can take a lot more than even the average
person and utilize that protein safely. I
think I agree with your range there.
Ben:Yeah. Like you said, it all depends on
your nitrogen balance, if you’re a hard-charging
person, and doing a lot of physical exercise,
and you have a high-level of muscle mass to
support, then you might need to get closer
to the 0.7 to 0.8 grams per pound. Most people
can maintain anabolism and health at 0.55
Dr. Pompa:Yeah, I agree; it’s a good number.
Meredith:I’m wondering, Dr. Pompa, you had
mentioned about your fasting experience. Ben,
I was wondering if you could speak to your
fasting experiences. I think that I heard
that you do practice fasting, but I didn’t
know if you spend longer fasts or what your
experience has been and how that’s impacted
your training and your health.
Ben:Yeah, I generally do, every month, a 24-hour
fast, just to clean things out a little bit.
It’ll just be a Saturday at lunchtime until
Sunday at lunchtime, or I’ll just skip dinner
on Saturday night and breakfast on Sunday
Meredith:Are you drinking some water? Is it
just a water-fast?
Ben:Yeah, just water or coffee, tea, stuff
like that, sometimes kombucha.
Dr. Pompa:I don’t know if you ever—it’s
hard for me to recommend some people to go
watch the videos because these guys drop a
lot of f-bombs, and it might be offensive
to some, but they’re called the Hodgetwins.
You can Google them. They’re funny. I have
to admit that they’re funny even though
they’re a little rough around the edges.
These guys are bodybuilders, right? Ben, your
past. They intermittent fast, they go 19-20
hours. They used to be into the 5-6 meal a
day thing and they realized that it wasn’t
working like they expected. Someone encouraged
them—I don’t know their exact story. Now
they’ve been doing this for a while so all
of their videos are on intermittent fasting
and how it raises their growth-hormone, testosterone.
Now they’ve gained all this muscle, I think
20 pounds since they’ve been doing it, and
they’re under 6% body fat. Watch the videos,
I think that you would gain some insight out
of it, it’s pretty humorous. I actually
think these guys are pretty smart, they put
on a little act for the YouTube videos, but
they get a million hits on their videos. It’s
Ben:Bodybuilders are pretty smart. There’s
that whole pro-science thing and a lot of
these guys are biology-hackers. You’d be
surprised at what it takes to get your body
down to, say, 3% body fat while staying pretty
big, especially if you’re not going to take
a lot of steroids or testosterone, and stuff
like that. It’s tough, so yeah, I agree,
bodybuilders a lot of times are smarter than
they get credit for.
To respond to your question about fasting:
I’ll do the 24-hour about once a month and
then every single day I just have a 12-16-hour
fast. Most of it, of course, is overnight,
but generally I’ll finish dinner around
7:00 or 8:00 p.m. and breakfast will be somewhere
around 9 to 10:30 a.m. That’s just a daily
practice for me. Typically, at some point
during that time range I’ll do something
very low-level in the morning, like yoga and
rolling, and mobility work, so there’s a
little bit of aerobic work in there, too.
That seems to help, pretty significantly,
in maintaining a low body fat percentage.
Just combine a little bit of easy aerobic
activity or even something like cold thermogenesis,
try a little bit of a cold soak, or sauna
combined with a cold soak, that seems to help
me out quite a bit with staying lean by working
some type of activity in there.
Dr. Pompa:I do that. I take hot saunas and
then do cold showers afterwards. Yeah, it
works if you’re fat burning, pretty significantly.
Yeah, I started out when I was intermittent
fasting like you I started out I was doing
15-16 hours and then I pushed it. It seemed
like the longer I pushed it the more hormone-sensitive,
no doubt, I’d become more important that
is, trust me. I noticed a difference, immediately;
even my ability to hold onto my muscle. The
growth hormone rise and the hormone sensitivity
occur the longer I go, for sure. You do a
lot of endurance stuff, so I could see you
needing to shorten that window slightly, as
far as how active you are, Ben.
Ben:Yeah, most of that’s due to those evening
workouts I do. They are pretty tough because
I’m still racing professionally as an obstacle
racer. A workout for me—when I’m saying
30-60 minutes in the afternoon, after a day
of being on my feet and moving for 6-8 hours,
we’re talking about a workout where the
average heart rate is very close to maximum
heart rate, so like a puke-fest style workout.
That’s pretty draining from an energy standpoint.
Generally, for me to do daily—exceeding
16-hour fasts daily—that gets tough. I mean,
of course, the other issue’s that my wife
is an amazing, amazing, cook and so I can
only skip so many meals during the day before
I feel like I’m missing out on a very important
part of life.
Dr. Pompa:I think at your activity level I
think that you’re still getting that benefit;
like you said, you exercise. I would exercise
that intently at night when I do. I’d definitely
have to eat earlier, there’s no doubt. You’re
still getting the benefit; you’re still
getting the growth hormone rise, even with
the fast. Ben, once a week I do a 24-hour
fast. This week I did two of those, not even
on purpose; I just went from dinner to dinner.
It was remarkable. I love to watch what my
body—I ended up doing two in a row like
that, just because of my busy schedule. It
was remarkable, but I felt like I definitely—noticeably
more energy on those days, and noticeably
leaner, and yet didn’t lose one once of
muscle; matter of fact, maybe the opposite.
My gym workouts were super strong.
I’m not nearly doing the athletic stuff
that you’re doing these days. I admire that
you keep a busy schedule working and you’re
still doing all that, Ben. I mean, I find
that really impressive. What you’re doing
is working. It shows you what we do works,
right? I mean, you have busted the mold for
these high-carbohydrate endurance athletes.
You really have. I find it remarkable, and
you took it to the science, Ben. I think that’s
impressive as well.
Ben:Cool. Thanks, man.
Dr. Pompa:Yeah, yeah. No doubt about it. I
mean, as far as that goes, where are you going
with it? You love doing the studies, you love
doing this stuff. What do you see yourself
doing here in the future with it?
Ben:I’d like to look into more of an ancestral
application, a more practical application.
I would like to look a little bit more into
persistence hunting not just persistence hunting,
but perhaps something closer to where I live
where I’d be going after elk or moose or
something like that. Preferably in the snow
where tracking is a little bit easier, but
seeing if it’s doable to go out and, say,
head out on a anywhere from five to eight
day hunt is realistically what you’re looking
at with a bow, or with a spear, or with a
close-range weapon, and seeing if it’s possible
to actually go and get your own food in the
absence of food, just to begin to get people
thinking about the state that we live in,
the culture that we live in where food is
just constantly readily available. What would
happen if we didn’t have food but we had
to figure out a way to feed ourselves?
The same is to be said for foraging and for
wild plant-based foraging. This is something
I already do with my kids. In the summers,
for example, we usually have one day a week
where they can only eat what they’ve found
outside until dinner. From breakfast until
dinner they can only eat wild plant matter,
things that they foraged for outside. They’re
not old enough yet to be killing squirrels
or coyotes or anything like that, so for them
it’s just plants, right? As part of their
childhood they have had to learn to figure
out how to go out and take care of themselves
by going and getting plants. They come back
inside, they’re allowed to use the stove,
they’re allowed to use the blender, stuff
like that, but they can’t use ingredients
from the pantry, or from the refrigerator;
it’s all based on plants.
I would like to get people more aware of that
type of practice because it really goes quite
handily with the things that we’ve talked
about—fasting and ketosis, and denial of
modern food sources and starches and instead
just learning how to take care of yourself.
I think that there’s a lot of lessons to
be had from a health and survival standpoint,
and so plant foraging, spreading our message,
as well as the potential of seeing the persistence
hunting in the absence of any significant
sources of calories, to be able to take what
allows one to, say, do an Ironman Triathlon
with very little calorie intake and then turn
that into a more practical level like going
out and getting your own meat and stuff. Again,
without carrying a bunch of power-bars out
with you, I think that’d be a cool little
adventure to embark upon.
Dr. Pompa:Yeah, that’s fantastic! I can’t
wait to hear the results. I’ll tell you
what, I’m going to have my kids watch the
show and I’m going to say, yeah, so you
think you have it bad in the Pompa house—his
kids forage for their meals. I’m going to
get another level of respect out of that,
maybe. They’re not going to hassle me anymore.
My kids are always my experiments, right?
It’s always humorous. I have two of them
now—I had them in severe ketosis—one’s
still in it. Now I have them intermittent
fasting, I vary their diet. They do what I
tell them to do, that’s the fun part. It’s
like, let’s try a higher carb, let’s try
this, and I’m watching their performance
level so it’s always fun. Gosh, that’s
why we have kids, Meredith. See, that’s
why you’ve got to have some kids, you’ve
got to experiment.
Ben, you know what I think you’re going
to find with that? I think you’re going
to find what I say is, look, I believe that
part of—really, we see it as far as getting
patients or clients back to health, varying
their diets, forcing these changes, ketosis.
Fasting states, making and forcing these changes,
is part of what our body is meant to do to
adapt, but what comes with that adaptation
is massive genetic changes that take place;
turning off bad genes, turning on good ones,
becoming more hormone sensitive.
Part of what I teach, Ben, to my doctors,
is forcing their clients into these adapted
states where their body’s forced to adapt.
We interviewed Thomas Seyfried a few months
ago and he believes that when we’re forced
into these states, fasting states, it is the
bad cells do not make the—they can’t adapt
and the bad cells start dying, too. Autolytic
behavior starts to take place, where the body
starts eating the bad cells. It’s forcing
our bodies to adapt. Having to adapt what
you’re describing is what our ancestors
had to do. There is health to this type of
adaptation and diet variation so, really,
you’re going to find that when you do those
experiments. I can’t wait to hear it.
Ben:Yeah, that or I’ll just wind up dead
in the wilderness somewhere.
Dr. Pompa:You’re going to be forced to adapt,
alright. Actually, I was hiking up—we do
this hike a few times a week; we hike up the
mountain and there on the right was this massive
spine. I think it was a moose because typically
we encounter wildlife like moose on this hike.
It was this massive spine and, of course,
my dogs went right after it. Hopefully you
don’t end up like that, as just another
Ben:I hope not.
Dr. Pompa:Lines around here so be careful,
Dr. Pompa:This is great stuff. Meredith, I
know you have a list of questions so I don’t
want to—we have a few minutes left. I know,
Ben, you have a whole line.
Meredith:I know we do just have a few minutes
left. Ben, I want to thank you so much for
being on the show. I’m wondering if you
have any advice for our audience who’s watching,
who wants to do some things like you’re
doing, obviously, not to that extreme. What
would you suggest to some of our viewers who
really want to increase their performance,
want to implement some of these strategies
that you’re employing? Where would they
start and what would be fed?
Ben:I would emphasis what we touched on towards
the beginning of this call, the idea that
your life can be fitness. After we finish
our call today, I will get off the treadmill
and before the next call I’ll go and check
the mail. After I grab the mail I’ll sprint
back up the driveway, really, really hard.
I’ll get to the top of the driveway and
I’ll crank out 25 pushups. Then I’ll open
up the mail, take care of the mail, and head
back down to my next call. Little things like
that add up during the day. They get you to
the point where you really can go out and
do things like an Ironman Triathlon, or a
Spartan Beast, or something like that, and
not have to spend your whole life exercising,
right? It’s fun, too, because you have energy
all day long, right?
You don’t standup because your flexors have
been shortened for hours and have back pain.
I would say just figure out a way to hack
your environment to make physical activity
something that you do all day long. If you
work in a traditional office setting, put
a kettlebell underneath your desk, and get
one of these stools that you lean back on
rather than sitting down, every time that
you go to the bathroom have a rule that you’ve
got to do 50 air squats. Start to work in
those little things throughout the day. You’d
be surprise at how fit you can stay and how
prepared you can be for a big event without
necessarily neglecting your family, and your
friends, and hobbies, and work, and stuff
Dr. Pompa:Yeah. That’s great, Ben. You live
an amazing lifestyle. I know you’ve been
an inspiration to our viewers and listeners,
so that’s fantastic. For them, where can
they go to read the article, the study that
we referenced? You mentioned it in the beginning
but—they can go and get that link.
Ben:I have it linked to—if you go to bengreenfieldfitness.com,
my latest article on this topic is entitled
“How to Get into Ketosis.” If you were
to go there you’re not only going to find
a link to that site, but also a link to some
of the other articles I’ve written on turning
yourself into a fat-burning machine, high-fat
diets, things like that. I would go read my
article. You would probably just open Goggle—if
you were to Goggle how to get into ketosis.
Then I’ve also got a about a 450-page book
that’s just jam-packed with bio-hacks, and
meals, and work-outs, and everything. That’s
Dr. Pompa:Alright. Ben, thank you so much,
man. Go get your mail, sprint up the driveway,
and don’t forget the 25 pushups.
Dr. Pompa:Thanks for the inspiration and the
Ben:Sounds good. Got it.
Thank you, guys.
Dr. Pompa:Yup. Absolutely.
Meredith:Thank you, guys. Take care. Thanks
for watching, everyone.
Meredith:Yup. See you next week. Bye.