Ben House, PhD on Strength Training: a Discussion at the Flō Retreat Center in Costa Rica [transcript]

Written by Christopher Kelly

Feb. 6, 2019


Christopher:    Okay. Thank you so much for joining us, Dr. Ben House, not just on this podcast, but hosting us here at your incredible Flō Retreat Center. We are recording live from near Uvita in Costa Rica. I'll have to post some pictures because it does look pretty incredible right now. We stood in the jungle. We've got a view of the ocean. We've got a swimming pool. We've got this most fantastic place to stay. You guys can help me out here with describing where we are. Megan, help me out with the description of where we are right now.

Megan:    Well, it's quite warm compared to where we all came from.

Christopher:    It's very warm.

Megan:    And humid.

Christopher:    We're in January and it's 87 degrees and about the same in humidity.

Megan:    Yup. We just went on a hike to some beautiful waterfalls, great food. Ben has a great gym here.

Ben:    There are multiple places to lift on site, seven waterfalls. I think you guys have been to one of them.

Christopher:    Yeah. You've got seven waterfalls on this property?

Ben:    Yeah. Well, probably -- I'm going to take Tommy -- this is his last taste, so I'll take him up to -- there are two waterfalls that we'll hit up top. We'll go there this afternoon.

Christopher:    Wow. It's absolutely amazing. My understanding is, Ben, that you're not from Costa Rica.

Ben:    No. I am not tico. Hopefully one day, they will call me tico, so a tico is a big thing in Costa Rica.

Christopher:    Am I right in thinking that once you lived in Austin, Texas, is that right? Is that where you were before you moved to Costa Rica?

Ben:    My wife and I lived in Austin for eight years and then we honeymooned actually in Uvita, up another road that you guys haven't gone up yet. We honeymooned there and that's when we had the idea. We've always wanted to live in a Spanish-speaking country. Originally, we met on a medical mission in Nicaragua and she actually didn't like me. I was a meathead.

Christopher:    Why was that? Oh, you're a meathead.

Ben:    Oh, I was a complete meathead at that time.

Christopher:    Although this is a good segue actually. Let's describe you.

Ben:    That was a peak of meatheadedness and then it went down. I got my graduate degree and then she permitted me to come back [0:01:54] [Indiscernible].

Christopher:    Now, we've gone down to you have to describe yourself as a human. Do you think the strength and conditioning, does that define you as a human?

Ben:    At the first peak, 100%. I don't think you get into lifting without a lot of ego involved. That's your purpose, is to try to get big. I think I originally tried to get big to make up for -- my brother is 6'3" to 6'4". At his peak, he was like 240 lbs, [0:02:23] [Indiscernible], so he was a beast, a specimen. I was 5'8", 5'9" and not 240 lbs, so I've been chasing him since I was 13 years old. I found a barbell and I was like this is something -- the currency here is effort. It's effort over time. I'm really good at that and that's where I fell in love with the weight room.

    What's rewarded here is effort. It's always been something that -- it's just like meditation. I started meditating when I was 19 years old. Luckily, my father is a Zen Buddhist teacher, so meditation and training have been my anchors. You guys don't really know me that well, but I was an alcoholic, a compulsive gambler.

Christopher:    I wouldn't have guessed that in a million years.

Ben:    Addiction prone to the max CrossFitter. It almost broke up my marriage. Yeah, there wasn't a day between the age of 18 and 21 where I didn't have a lot of bet in play.

Christopher:    Wow.

Ben:    Some of this is paid for that because I wasn't that bad.

Christopher:    Have you managed to cut that off now? Have you just substituted -- you're self-medicating with the weights room rather than something else now?

Ben:    Behavioral addictions, we're all going to have them.

Christopher:    Right, of course. It's just how they're serving you or not.

Ben:    I'm just dopaminergic. I'm an extremely dopaminergic person and I know that about myself. Barriers, we talked -- you guys know habitry. For me, hard lines are a lot easier than --

Christopher:    Bright lines.

Ben:    Yeah. You don't give me an inch. "Oh, let's have a drink." "No, I'll be in Vegas tomorrow and spend a lot of money." I'll be drunk somewhere. That's a good thing and a bad thing. I have people in the strength conditioning world that rein me in. I always have a coach. I've trained eight straight days and that is probably not a good idea, but it's been a good time. And then I have a coach and then I'll auto-regulate it out. That's been fun, but training and meditation and nutrition and all those things are definitely the anchors that make me want to do all of the other things.

    I think you're going to find people's keystone habits like some people's keystone habit would be sleep. If they don't sleep, everything else falls off. For most of your people, it's probably some form of training and if you take that training away, they go psycho. They go crazy. Eventually, hopefully not, but for me, training in its current capacity will go down, so the ego of my 20s now is less so. Now, it becomes a game of how much muscle mass can I maintain or even put on throughout the life cycle and keep it and then not be attached to that muscle mentally because it's going to go, hey, eventually, whether I like it or not, there's going to be a time in my life where my identity cannot be my physical capacity to move things because we're all going to die.


Christopher:    So why is the muscle so important?

Ben:    Muscle, to me, a lot of people are worried about all these low effect size strategies like we're worried about fasting or we're worried about this for longevity, but the top three indicators of longevity are going to be grip strength, leg strength, and muscle mass, and maybe VO2 max. Those are the big players, so if you're fasting at the expense of muscle, that's not going to be advantageous. So until you've built up this kind of baseline level of muscle, please don't talk to me about all these low effect size strategies because you are a frail human and frail humans are going to fall down and frail humans are going to die, so to become a more resilient human, become more anti-fragile where you can take a stressor and adapt from it, and then we can have a conversation about all these nuance things that may or may not extend your life.

Christopher:    Well, at this point, I better hand it over to Tommy and Megan because I feel like this is the area of academic expertise. Would you agree with those statements, Tommy?

Tommy:    Definitely. One of the things that people focus on in the longevity community is something like IGF-1. There's like a mark of downstream hormone from growth hormone. When you look at where people live the longest, it's actually just above the average, it's 55th or 60th percentile, so a lot -- you'll drive some cancers and some other things and that's probably a bad idea, but two, that's when you fall and die or fall and break a hip and get a pneumonia and die in the hospital. If you're over 75 and you have low muscle mass, there is a very high likelihood that that's going to happen to you, and if you are over 75 and you break a hip, you have a 50% risk of mortality within a year of breaking that hip, so maintaining muscle mass and strength particularly in the lower body, but throughout the body is one of the best ways to make sure you stay alive for as long as possible, if that's what you're interested in.

    I actually want to throw this back to Ben because I know that he's really not interested in longevity. That's the last thing that he thinks about, so I wanted to talk about that a bit.

Ben:    Yeah. Living not to die is a pretty stupid goal to me because you're going to die. To me, if we think about the three biggest things that are most likely to kill us if we're over maybe the age of 65 is going to be cardiovascular disease, cancer, and then some form of dementia. Those are the big three. The biggest thing to kill me right now is a motor vehicle accident. Am I going to text and drive?

Christopher:    Is that true? Is that true in Costa Rica?

Ben:    Oh, 100% super dangerous. It's about as dangerous as people make it seem to be, but it's probably underreported, but yeah, having a motorcycle accident in Costa Rica is definitely --

Christopher:    But you didn't ride a big in Costa Rica.

Ben:    I did for a year and a half and then I got put down. From a longevity standpoint, I'm not interested in life span. I'm definitely interested in health span. That's appealing to me. Also, I don't have kids and I don't know if I will have kids. I think from what I understand, that changes a lot of people's mental outcomes on how they think about how long they want to live. To me, the best way to go out would be hey, I'm in my late 70s, early 80s, and I'm picking up a deadlift and I just have a cardiovascular event. That sounds really nice to me. That sounds like a really good way to go. Am I worried about cancer? No. No one in my family or my mom's or my dad's side has ever died of cancer. Everyone luckily has died of a cardiovascular event, so that's what I'm planning for and if it happens quick, I live a great life until that point, Pura Vida, and that's how I want to go. Did that answer your question?

Tommy:    Yeah.

Christopher:    Megan, could you talk about your fairly recent transformation? When I first met you -- how many years ago was that though when I first met you? It's not that many years ago, is it?

Megan:    Four or five, maybe five years ago.

Christopher:    You were kind of frighteningly thin. I don't know. I might be overstepping my boundary here. You looked scarily thin and now, you've put on a ton of muscles since then. How did you do it and how do you feel now versus then?

Megan:    How did I do it? I ate a lot of food and I lifted a lot of weights. That's basically it, and I slept some.

Christopher:    That sounds doable.

Megan:    Yeah.

Christopher:    The thing I want to know though, Ben, is do I have to train as hard as you in order to have those benefits? It seems like -- I mean you're carrying more muscle mass than pretty much anyone here.

Ben:    You're asking a question of big enough, strong enough, like what is the level where you are strong enough or big enough for staying alive. If you don't like to train, if you don't like the weight room, big enough is probably a lot smaller than we think. You looked at Megan and you said, "Hey, you're jacked." She has a substantial amount of muscle, but I guarantee you, she is nowhere near her genetic ceiling for her potential to put on muscle mass, and that's what's called a fat free mass index. It's a marker of how much muscle you have in your frame. There are also other ways. You can generally put about 5 lbs of muscle on for every pound of bone. We don't have good markers for how much muscle you want to keep on your frame.


    There's a good study that I can send you guys. I think it came out on 2017. It went pretty viral. We had this obesity paradox where overweight seemed to be protective of all-cause mortality. That was a big deal. It was a JAMA paper I think in 2015. Abramowitz was the lead author of this paper. What they did was they looked at people who have preserved muscle mass and preserved muscle mass was based off appendicular skeletal muscle mass, so arms and legs because once you get in the trunk, things get a little weird, and so they just looked at cutoffs for preserved muscle mass and this was an equation based off your height. For me, it was about 44 lbs, which isn't that much, of muscle in my legs and my arms and that was considered preserved muscle mass. They had a calculation for females and males.

    What they found was muscle mass was protective of all-cause mortality at every BMI category, and so that's important for your low BMI categories because now you're talking about sarcopenia. And then you combine those two words, sarcopenic obesity, and you get the scariest two words, in my opinion. Now, you're so under muscle and over fat that you can't move your body. That's [0:11:09] [Indiscernible]. That's where we're going because we're not fighting against gravity. We've going to lose bone mass.

    So strong enough, big enough, I think it's lower than we think and what I'm doing is insanely stupid. I'll be the first person to admit that. It's dumb 100%. From a cost analysis perspective, it's stupid. I'm going to lift millions of pounds, 10 million lbs at least this year. My weekly volume is somewhere in the range of 200,000 lbs depending on if I'm doing leg press or not, and people who train will get that. And then I'm going to eat -- I eat five to eight pounds of food a day. Five times 365, that's like 2000 lbs of food. And maybe if I'm lucky, I'm going to gain half a pound of muscle. That's a lot of effort for not a lot of return, right?

Christopher:    Right. You must have reached or be close to some plateau, some peak, some potential.

Ben:    And that's what FFMI gives us. An FFMI, a Fat Free Mass Index, is Arnold at his prime who's probably at 27. He's pretty tall, so he gets kind of screwed up. He's probably 27. I have drug-free clients who are in that range, who are that big, and lie detector drug-free their whole lives. If we look at Division One Football, Division One Football is the biggest funnel that America has for just people who genetically could probably put on a lot of muscle mass. Also, sumo wrestlers have the highest FFMIs. They can put on the most muscle mass of everyone, so if you allow someone to eat as much as they want, fat is not going to essentially -- if you're putting on both, you're still going to maximize muscle mass.

    D-1 Football players, they'll generally see even some 28s and 29s as far as FFMI just looking at pictures of those people, and then subtracts maybe about five for females, so maybe the highest a female can get is an FFMI of 20 or 21, whereas guys like -- I have an FFMI of around 24.5, maybe 25. Tommy, he probably gets screwed because he's taller.

Tommy:    Yes, a bit lower. I think it's 24.5 or it was around there.

Ben:    Yes, you're holding on a lot of muscle, so it's probably 24 or somewhere. I would put you at that.

Christopher:    So as a comparison, how does the average endurance -- did you encounter many endurance -- because I think we've got a lot of endurance athletes listening to the podcast, of which I'm one.

Ben:    It's very easy to calculate it. You can just Google FFMI calculator. It's based on your body composition. Casey Butt has a calculator for how much muscle you could potentially put on your frame and it looks at ankle and wrist measurements, which is going to give you some proxy of bone, and so you can Google both of those and see where you're at. We think of the law of depreciating returns. Obviously, Tommy and I both are in the land of stupidity, the land of mastery. I'm not asking you to be a master lifter. If you don't like lifting, that's not going to be appealing to you. You're not going to put that much effort, but I think you can get to a cutoff point that's very easy to get to and very easy to maintain. I think you can get to maybe a 20 or a 21 or 22 if you're a guy, 18 if you're a female. I think you can get that pretty easily. How long have you been training, Megan?

Megan:    Seriously, lifting heavy for about almost two years.

Ben:    Boom. Give me two years. I bet you she can maintain this.

Christopher:    Yeah. I didn't realize it was only that long.

Megan:    Yeah. I've been playing around in the gym for longer than that, but seriously trying to lift heavy for about two years.

Christopher:    Right. You obviously love the process of it. It's not "I can't see a goal." It's not like you're training for the CrossFit games or you're training to be a competitive power lifter or some other clearly defined end goal. It must just be that you love the process of training, right?

Ben:    Yeah, and I think if you talk to most people in those sports, they are addicted to the process. They are not addicted --

Christopher:    Consistently, when I interview top performers, they're not -- yeah, they care about the results. They're professional athletes, but they still love to swing their leg over a bike. That's why they do it, right? Yeah, they don't start with the end in mind.


Ben:    If you've never trained before, the problem in my industry, in the strength conditioning fitness, whatever you want to call it, is everything works for the first six months to a year. I can have you swiggle around on the ground. I can have you do whatever the hell I want and you'll put on muscle mass because you're starting from zero. Zero to a little bit, very, very easy, and a lot of shit works, boot camps, garbage, and that's why that stuff sticks around. It's because it kind of works. And then you just see people, once they hit the progressive overload -- because your body is only going to adapt to the stimulus that you give it, so they'll do some type of fuckery and then they'll move on to some other type of fuckery because humans will always be novelty-seekers. That's ingrained in us, so if you really are after this, you have to create a way for you to have progressive overload. That means that training at a certain point, you can have some level of novelty, but it has to have effort and it has to be a little bit boring and it has to suck. There's no way around that. Anyone who's telling you that you can always have novelty, they're selling you something. They're probably selling you something.

Christopher:    Talk about the client-facing work that you were doing in Austin, Texas. Did that stem from your academic work? Did your academic qualifications -- you have a PhD. Did that qualify you to do some specific work with clients or was it totally unrelated?

Ben:    I got my personal trainer certification when I was 19 years old.

Christopher:    That's amazing.

Ben:    Yeah, not that amazing. I was terrible.

Christopher:    It just shows the level of commitment though, you know?

Ben:    Yeah, being committed to being a meathead for a really long time. I've been training people since way before I should've been training people. I look back and like, man, the shit I used to do. I think we all do that and that's not necessarily a bad thing. It's part of the learning curve. I had clients since I was 19 years old and I had personal training clients for the majority of the time that I was in Austin even when I was in grad school. I always had personal training clients and I loved and I still love that aspect of my life. I love coaching. I love everything involved in that and that's where I learned stuff about motivational interviewing. That's where I learned.

    I eventually got to a point where I had letters after my name, and as you know, the continuing education space is somewhat bullshit. If you get an MD right now, if you get an ND, if you get a PA, any kind of terminal degree, by the time you get out of grad school, what you learned is probably obsolete. That's how our education or what we know is thought to double -- the amount of content that we know is thought to double in 75 days, so put that into context of you going and paying $200,000 for some kind of graduate degree. There's value there. I'm not saying that there's no value. To me, the PhD, looking back, has the most value because it's teaching me how to learn and that is the most important. It's not giving me an obsolete skill. It's teaching me how to learn.

Christopher:    I find that somewhat depressing though. You mean I have to get a PhD in order to learn how to learn?

Ben:    No, but if you don't have a PhD, do not think that you're going to be able to navigate PubMed effectively because people are going to be able to trick you with statistics. You're going to get bogged down in singular studies. Meta analyses are a great way if you're not -- and I'm not saying I'm a statistical wizard, but I know enough to look at the stat section and not be completely like, oh, I'm going to go like how I'm going to look in PubMed is I'm going to start with meta-analysis then I'm going to mine those meta-analysis. I'm going to look at their -- so I'm not really excited about singular studies and I think a lot of people get excited, "Oh, this study found this." That's not really that appealing to me. If we have 100 studies, five of them will find this, five of them will find that, and 90 of them will find nothing. The skeptic in me is essentially waiting and that's a tough place to be because I know that I'm not going to be on the front edge of a lot of stuff and I'm okay with that because there's enough back edge shit that has been proven time and again for people to worry about. If you're not sleeping, if you're not eating enough calories and you're not getting enough nutrients --

Christopher:    Right. Of course, as the old saying, if you live on the leading edge, you're going to get cut, right?

Ben:    Yeah, and people are always going to want to buy that. I understand that, but usually the biohacking -- and people love N-of-1 trials. The placebo is anecdotal evidence. It's never going to go away. "It worked for me" and a chorus of "It worked for me" is gathering together and making a flag. That is how human beings have -- that's how we're meant to be.

Christopher:    Absolutely. The thinking in meta-analysis and statistics is not something that we do intuitively, I think.

Ben:    No. People love simple stories. What I'm selling is -- my outlook is not a simple story. It's like, hey, if we can, let's get to this simple side of complexity because if you stay on the simple side of simple, you're probably very, very dangerous and that's not appealing to me, but it can work. This is kind of like The Matrix. Are you going to eat the steak or not?


    Think about it. If someone was 400 lbs and whatever they pick, say they pick vegan, say they pick Ketoism, whatever -ism they picked and it got them the results, who am I to say that their identity with that is wrong, is a bad thing? They're using a hammer that hammer work for them. Now, if they get on the internet and started saying, "This is the only way" then I'm not even going to say anything because if I say anything, I'm going to create cognitive dissonance. So it's a no-win situation and it's something that is going to happen again and again and again and it's only going to get louder, so Pura Vida. I live in the jungle.

Christopher:    Tommy, I want to bring you in because Ben said a lot of interesting things that I'm sure you have thoughts on, but Megan, I first wanted to ask you whether you agree with Ben about what he said about the half life of what you learned during your master's degree. Is that really true? I feel like I got really good value out of my Undergraduate Degree in Computer Science and I don't think I was told any porky pies and it was definitely useful when I started my job on day one. Is that true of a Master's Degree in Nutritional Sciences, wasn't it?

Megan:    Nutritional Biology.

Christopher:    Nutritional Biology, sorry.

Megan:    Maybe not completely. I think that when you get up to maybe medical degrees, that's true, and this is just my opinion, but a lot of the basic sciences obviously aren't going to change. Physiology doesn't change.

Christopher:    Right. The citric acid cycle has been around a while now.

Megan:    Yeah.

Ben:    Just to put it into context, there's a paper out in 2005 that came out of Yale that maybe all of our ATP production -- because creating phosphate obviously is the key. That's what's going to drive ATP resynthesis because you're going to run on ATP.

Christopher:    Right.

Ben:    So maybe this ATP synthesis is happening like -- physiology textbooks can be rewritten because glycogen synthase, if you think about glycogen, it's like a tree, and so maybe we're getting our ATP -- and I'll just send you the paper, but maybe we're getting this ATP, we're recirculating that between muscular contractions because what we know is a product of what we can measure, and so now we're able to measure creatine phosphate concentrations intramuscular contractionally and they're like, wow, the citric acid cycle is actually powering glycogen synthase, that ATP, that glycogen, this tree, there's breeding. And then glycogen never runs out, which is a fucking weird thing. If glycogen is just this fuel source, why would you not be able to take it to eat? It's never depleted to 40%.

    It makes you think, and so that paper -- and I'm not saying -- but that paper, that amount of questioning, and then you get into ATP as a hydrotrope, there's a lot of -- I don't know if cognitively I can even take that. That's the fucked up part because I've taught organic chemistry. I've taught biochemistry. So you start telling me that if I have a cell and the cell has so much ATP, way more ATP than you'll ever need, but the real purpose of ATP is to keep the cell from essentially imploding and that's what ATP as a hydrotrope is. That's the fourth phase of water shit that personally I know that it's going to create so much cognitive dissonance for me that I just push it away, and I don't think that it's going to change much of what I do, but physiology textbooks can change.

Megan:    That's a good point.

Christopher:    This is definitely your wheelhouse, Tommy. You're a professor. You teach people.

Tommy:    Yeah.

Christopher:    Well, let's step back. Ben just said some really interesting things about ATP, but then also, I want to hear your thoughts on the idea of only starting with the meta-analysis and then drilling down from there.

Tommy:    I think that there was a conversation we were having yesterday about -- you asked me this yesterday -- in terms of the human body, the total knowledge possible of how it works like where are we now, I think I said 3% would be generous. I think that's really where we are. You're right that I think how the heart works, starling forces, some of that physiology that we learned a hundred years ago, I'm confident that most of that is going to stay the same, but as soon as you start digging into biochemistry, we're still working off what Hans Krebs could measure in a test tube. That's still where we are. He was clearly a genius, but to think that that's the limit, we could just be completely wrong about all this.

    I love to talk pathways, but I'm also open to the fact that they could be completely wrong. I'm quite a bit like Ben whereby I'm going to wait a long time to worry about that because when it comes to the things that we do, it goes back to that you don't tinker with the source code in real time to win the game. You just play the game.

Christopher:    Yeah, of course we're friends with, Dr. Josh Turknett. I think he said the term "seduced by our powers of reductionism". Did Josh invent that or did he get that from someone else?

Tommy:    I don't know if he got that from someone else, but that's exactly it. It's always fascinating to me, people who can justify everything that they do with complex metabolic pathways and you just don't realize how little you truly understand.


    I'll give another example again, which I gave yesterday during this conversation, which is that I'm a neuroscientist. Technically, when we talk about the brain, we talk about four different types of cells -- neurons, astrocytes that support the neurons, oligodendrocytes which make the myelin, which make the white matter, and microglia, which are basically the immune cells in the brain. That's four types of cells.

    A paper was just published where they basically turned a mouse brain into soup and were like, "How many different types of cells can we find here?" 565 different types of cell, and I spent a lot of time in neuroscience and they think that they understand. They haven't got a fucking clue of what the brain does. You can isolate one tiny bit and think that it means something, but in reality, you just don't know. And the human brain is infinitely more complex than the mouse brain, so the amount that we don't know is really incredible. I'm really confident that I know what works and I feel that I can tie that back to the underlying physiology or biochemistry, but in reality, I'm very happy if that could all change.

Christopher:    Is this something that you look for in the way that people speak? I notice that you're doing it. Bryan Walsh, he's very good at it. You're doing it, Tommy. There's this kind of uncertainty in everything you say. It's like this is the best information I have, but I don't really know. Are there definitely some people out there on the internet that have PhDs and they use evidence-based medicine almost as a weapon like this is what I know and it's definitely right and anyone else is an idiot, and there's no humility and there's no uncertainty? That I find a little bit scary now if people would say like the chances of me being certainly wrong --

Ben:    I'm finding the door real quick. I'm finding the door.

Megan:    People also say, "This study proved X, Y…" and that really gets me.

Ben:    That drives me insane. If you use the word -- in my Ph.D. program, if you even mention the word "prove", they would stop you. If you use it, get rid of that out of your vocabulary. Just get rid of that word.

Christopher:    Unless you did a mass PhD, then you can use the word "prove".

Ben:    Science is never going to prove anything. The only thing it does is knock down pins. That's all it does. It's reductionism. Okay, so we have thousands of things that it could potentially be. Well, let's just knock down these hundred and then eventually, maybe we'll get to something that might be as close as it can be to the truth. That's the point of science. If you're running around saying that this is the truth, you're not a scientist.

Christopher:    Right. Tommy, talk about the meta-analysis. I have to link to a really funny blog post by a biochemist professor friend, Dr. Richard Feinman.

Tommy:    Oh yeah.

Christopher:    Do you remember that? He talked about --

Tommy:    Meta-analysis is to analysis as metaphysics is to physics.

Christopher:    He had this idea that imagine -- okay, so Costa Rica, they're using a certain gauge for their railway and then Panama is using a different gauge, and then their meta-analysis is akin to them just taking the average of the gap, and [0:27:42] [Indiscernible] it's not useful for anything. His point in that article, I think, is the right experiment is the one that answers your question, not necessarily a meta-analysis.

Tommy:    He has a specific axe to grind in the low carb world and part of the problem is that he feels like that's been ignored. The specific example that he was using was to do the meta-analysis that was supposedly saying something about the low carbohydrate diet, so that was the very specific example. I think the meta-analysis is an incredibly powerful tool, but you have to remember that if you put shit into it, you'll get shit back. So if it's a hundred shit studies, you'll get a shit result, but if you do it with a hundred well designed studies in as much as you can do that then it's a really meaningful place to start. It just depends on the state of the science. I think in sports science particularly, half --

Ben:    There's no funding. You're going to have small subject studies, so the only thing you can -- you're going to wait for forest plots, so you have studies that are underpowered. You need a lot of those to potentially pick up some kind of statistical significance. So you'll see these forest plots where everything has a positive finding, but they're all unsignificantly positive, and then you put them together in a meta-analysis and it's like, oh, okay, all these studies had volume and hypertrophy, perfect example. More volume to a certain point is going to give you more hypertrophy.

Tommy:    Yeah. We need to test it in eight undergrads at a time.

Christopher:    Yeah. That's what I was going to say. I remember I read a paper and I read in the methods, we took -- you said eight, but even -- usually it's like 26 or 27 college age, untrained men, and we did it and by the time -- then you've lost me. It's like the tab is being closed and I'm moving on to the next one.

Tommy:    But in that scenario then the meta-analysis does become really powerful because you'll never be able to get 7000 undergrads to do this or anybody --

Ben:    To do a 12-week training.

Tommy:    -- in one particular place to do the same protocol. You just can't do that. So then as long as each individual study is reasonably well designed then you can add them together and you can start to figure out what is actually true effect there.

Christopher:    It's an ensemble.

Tommy:    Yeah.

Christopher:    So why is it then that sports science is so underfunded? If you've just told me that grip strength is the best predictor of mortality or a strong predictor of mortality and you've made a good case of muscle mass, why is it that sports science is so underfunded if that's the path to more muscle?


Ben:    I'm not saying that it's underfunded. There are parts of it that I think are funded probably pretty well. Think about cachexia, but it's going to have to be a how does NIH structures it. It has to be a disease, so you're going to see, oh, when is muscle mass important? You're going to see it in HIV patients. You're going to see it in cachexia with cancer. That's where we're going to research this stuff.

Tommy:    So ageing has just been classified as a disease, which means you can now write an NIH grant to study the process of aging and you couldn't do that a couple of years ago, so now you can look into aging and muscle mass and longevity, but that didn't use to be a thing that you're allowed to study. You had to tack it on to something else like cancer cachexia.

Ben:    And most sports scientists -- it's crazy. Say you're measuring cardiovascular function, so you'll do this cardiovascular function on diabetics, but that R01 basically just allow -- if it's a muscle guy like me, that R01 is basically allowing him to do his closet research on meatheads. That's what happens. They create these R01s that they're essentially not -- maybe R21s, and I'm talking in --

Tommy:    So there are different levels of funding. An R01 is a few years like a million or something dollars and R21 is a small fraction of that.

Christopher:    Okay.

Ben:    So these are like pilot trials. If you're in academics where your tenure track is dependent on you getting funding, these become very, very important because that's what they're looking at. They're looking at pubs. They're looking at how much funding do you have. That world is not appealing to me. I'm not going to whore myself out for money. That's what it is. It's what's popular, not to say it's bad or good, but everyone is whoring themselves out for money somewhere. None of those diseases as a person don't interest me. They don't. That's not bad or good. That's just my passion. My passion is really stupid. It's like the nuances of this stuff.

    The best way to think about this is the Keto trials for muscle gain. There've been two of them. Both of them failed to produce muscle gain because they failed to produce an excess of calories, so they turn in this quasi cut versus an excess calorie study and those are the only two that we have. That's a nuance question. Can you gain muscle if you are an advanced trainee on a ketogenic diet? I think the answer is yes. We just had two really bad studies that didn't do it very well. If you think about Keto for an overweight population, the big things are that you may have this appetite-suppressing effect. For my population, that's not a good thing. Taking away hyperpalatable calories and having appetite suppression when you're trying to put on muscle mass is probably not ideal. That said, KetoGains and Luis Villaseñor, they have enough anecdotal evidence to say that hey, this is fucking possible. You're going to eat zero carbohydrates and still gain muscle. My hypothesis would be it's probably not as good as having carbohydrates, but we don't know.

Christopher:    Why would you do that then? Do you understand? If it's well proven that you eat a mixed diet and that leads to what you want, why would you try something else?

Ben:    Because people like to do things differently. Maybe they identify with that and there's nothing -- I'm friends with Luis. I love that guy. He's crushing workouts and eating coconut oil. That's awesome because we have a bond that is deeper than all this bullshit. I don't care. That's a cool question to me, but that's not a cool question to 99% of -- it's not cool or applicable question to 99% of the people. The other thing, fasting, fasting is the antithesis of mTOR in muscle, but you probably don't want to run a caloric excess forever. So people that haven't tried that, they're generally like, "Why would that be a problem? That sounds really fun to me." Well, let me just tell you, if you're eating real food, eating at 500 calories over what you need is -- people don't understand that --

Megan:    It's fun for a little while.

Ben:    It's fun for a little while and then your jaw breaks down and nothing looks appealing anymore, so those subconscious food regulation cues that happen when you're dieting also happen when you're trying to drive this bus to a place it doesn't want to go.

Christopher:    Right. What do your part -- when clients to you, where do you they want that bus to go?

Ben:    The people that I filter?

Christopher:    Yeah, okay, let's talk about the people you filter, the people that you bounce onto someone else.

Ben:    I told you, I'm very interested in nuance problems. If you have a problem that is not necessarily simple, but say you're not sleeping, you're 40 lbs overweight, you've never trained before, I have nothing against this person at all, but that's not an interesting problem to me. I know what you need to do. We know what you need to do. The problem isn't knowledge at that point. There's not a lack of information. You need to eat a more nutrient-dense diet. You need to move more. You probably need to eat more, but more volume of food that will in turn have less calories, so you need to improve the quality of your diet. And then in that person, you're going to have to have -- because most people are after a manipulation of their weight down.


    In order to do that, you're going to have some level of cognitive oversight. You're going to have to have some level of cognitive oversight. I don't care what that is. I think of everything as like rungs on ladders, so the bottom rung would be some kind of ad libitum diet like Keto or Veganism. You can eat as much as you want, but you just can't eat this, this, this and this. That generally will increase food quality and will get people results for some set point of time. Then you have the top rung, which is the knowing if it's your macros people, which is not me. I'm not like that, but macros, that's counting everything, and then you have where are people going to function on this realm. Any kind of ad libitum diet is a hammer. Then you get in Precision Nutrition. It's arguably the biggest nutrition company in the United States, great name because precision is the only thing that matters in nutrition, not accuracy.

Christopher:    Right. It sounds like something I want.

Ben:    Yeah, you want precision, and so they use a lot of thumbs and palms and decks of cards. That's not going to be accurate, but if you can get consistence over time, that can work. So if Tommy's goal is to get to a 26 of FFMI, is this possible? An audacious, hell yeah, fuck you goal, yeah, awesome. He's going to need a tool that matches that. Thumbs and decks of cards aren't going to cut it anymore. He's going to have to probably weigh his food so he makes sure that he gets enough food. If you're 150 lbs overweight, yeah, decks of cards and thumbs are going to work.

    So the higher you move along that ladder -- so for me, the next rung would be intuitive eating. You have ad libitum then you have intuitive eating then you would have weighing with some kind of plan and then you would have weighing with some kind of plan and tracking protein and calories, but not worrying about carbohydrate and fat. You can oscillate and that gives people more freedom that they can oscillate their carbohydrate and fat, and then the top rung would be we're going to check everything macros. My mother is a good example. She's never going to weigh her food. She's a voice teacher. She loves art. She's super creative. This probably isn't correct, but she's very right-brained. She's not analytical, so she's not going to do any of this stuff. Is intuitive eating going to work for her in a world of McDonald's? I'm intuitively going to go get a fucking Big Mac. I'm going to intuitively get a Coke with that and then I'm going to intuitively supersize it.

Christopher:    Our optimum foraging strategy.

Ben:    101. That's how we evolved. And so intuitive eating, you can't really get there unless you know what you're supposed to eat. Generally, that's not a good place to start. Most people aren't going to be able to lose weight with intuitive eating, but you might be able to backtrack your way there. I'm a strength and conditioning coach by trade, so I think of everything in phases. So maybe I can use weighing and measuring for four weeks with someone, but if you tell me the next four weeks, you have four weddings, I'll be like, all right, that's not going to happen. It's not a good goal. You're going to isolate yourself. It's not going to work.

    Let's think about it because most people, an awareness here is dangerous because you're changing people's relationships with food forever, and therefore, you're changing their lives. I wish my nutritional brain on no one. I look at apples and I see 24.6 grams of carbohydrates. I don't want people to think like me. I don't want my mom to think like me. It's not a happy necessarily relationship with food and I'm okay with it. Ignorance is bliss, and so if I can get someone where they weigh and measure their food and then they can do it through intuitive eating like, "Oh, I know my plate needs to look like this" and then they can maintain 20% weight loss through their life course, that to me is the 0.1% of the 0.1% because my mother, she beats herself up, but she's maintained 15% weight loss.

Christopher:    Which is very unusual. It's very unusual for people to maintain --

Ben:    For almost eight years. Is she done? No. Her CRP is still high. She's still 30 lbs or 40 lbs overweight, but she --

Christopher:    No one's ever done, right? Well, you're done when you're dead, but not until then.

Ben:    That's why Flō exists because all that Steph and I, my wife, who was integral in creating this place, is we have limited choices. We've made it easy. All you got to do to go work out for 20 minutes is just walk up that hill. There's nothing in that kitchen that's going to cause you too much pain. Maybe we'll have some hyperpalatable foods, but you're super active. You're eating a ton of vegetables from the Cloud Forest.

Christopher:    I've seen this personally a long time ago with my sister, who may be listening. Hi, [0:39:36] [Indiscernible]! Yes, we talked about the Paleo diet for a long time and then she came and stayed with us for a couple of days and she was like, "Oh wow, this is easy. I could definitely do that." Now, several years later, she's still a huge evangelist of the diet and the way of life and it was being with me in person and seeing what the food looked like and seeing what the environment looked like was so important. Is that successful? The burning question is, is it sustainable? So you come here and you live this --


Ben:    Sustainable for my mom.

Christopher:    Yeah, that's right, so we all have to jack in our lives in the wretched United States and become expatriates and move to Costa Rica so that we get the appropriate amount of light and movement and sleep and stress management and all of the rest of it.

Ben:    I already told you I'm very compulsive and probably -- maybe I'm patient. This place took more patience than I would've liked, delayed gratification. For me, I love the book "Moments" by Chip and Dan Heath. They also wrote "Switch", which may be is not completely correct [0:40:37] [Indiscernible], but that's the elephant and then the rider. Chip and Dan Heath talk about how people think in moments. If you're not going to change your world then you probably want to do things one at a time. I'm not saying that that doesn't work like, "Hey, this month, we're going to take away soda and we're going to drink water. Then next month, we're going to try to go to bed 15 minutes earlier." That shit is not appealing to me, not to say that it's bad or good. Just me and my personality type, not appealing. I want to create peak moments where people, like for your sister, they can see it.

Christopher:    It's inspirational and there's that sense of competency like I can do this.

Ben:    Yeah, it's easy.

Christopher:    And you're seeing someone else who you consider to be a peer do it. "Oh, that's great." We see the same thing on the trail. When you see there's a gap jump and you see someone you think is not -- maybe it's about the same -- maybe even slightly worse riders than you and they clear it, fucking hell yeah, I'm going to go and try it, but yeah, seeing peers and achieving competency might be important.

Ben:    And they're probably not going to maintain everything. Working out is going to be harder for them when they get home, but for me, I'm just trying to throw as much stuff against the wall as I can and then go back to your world and see what sticks. Maybe you come here, maybe you go somewhere else or maybe that's enough. Maybe just adding a meditation practice and seeing the sun in the morning is going to waterfall a bunch of other stuff out for you.

Christopher:    Going back to that person that needed to lose 40 lbs and you said that there probably wasn't a deficiency of knowledge, at least not on your behalf, I would argue that the knowledge deficiency probably isn't deficient on the client's behalf either and the real problem is behavior change. You already mentioned motivation, but that problem is still not interesting to you. I'm picking that ambivalence in getting that person to a point where they [0:42:24] [Indiscernible] because that's what the world really needs right now.

Ben:    That gets really old. I'm not going to throw these guys under the bus. It's fun at a certain point, but if you told me that I had to do 30 hours a week of that, there's no way in hell. I'll do it for five, yeah. I'll do it for five to seven, but the problems that really interest me are going to be problems that they shouldn't be thinking about. The vast majority -- the first thing that I'd love these guys' opinions on too is I don't know on a macro level if obesity is solvable. I'm just going to throw that out there. Our modern environment is built on consumption and obesity is a side effect of consumption. If you look at the obesity map and energy balances in the middle and all the things that disrupt energy balance, it's not a simple story. it's fucking nuts. Hey, we have roads. We don't have ways to walk. There's so much infrastructure stuff that needs to change, so I don't have -- at the macro level, I don't have the hope as a person, and I'm not a pessimistic person. I just don't have the hope that on the macro level, it will change.

    I think on the micro level, it can change in micro communities and people seeking out, but a lot of our research was in low income, Hispanic youth. And so SES, you start getting into -- if someone has only $5, what are they going to buy? They're not going to buy apples, guys. They're going to go and they're going to get apple pies from McDonald's. That's what they're going to do and you can tell them, then people on the internet have the audacity to tell me, "You know, it's cheaper to go to the grocery store and buy vegetables." They don't have a fucking car. They live in a food desert where the only thing that they have is Cheetos and that's on the corner store.

    Seek first to understand is always my thing. For most people, we harp on discipline, discipline, discipline like Joe Rogan does it all the time and I'm like, dude, this is not a discipline deficiency. Everything is stacked against you evolutionarily and then evolutionarily, we've created our own problem. Food used to be hard to get. That was the problem. Now, food is not hard to get. It's as cheap as hell, so we've created a new problem.

Christopher:    Right. You reminded me, Simon talked about some of the people that he worked with where obesity was a sign of affluence. It meant you weren't working in a field, so you would probably roll your shirt up and balance a can of beer on your gut because that told everybody -- it's like driving a Jaguar. It's a status symbol.


Ben:    It's like grass. That's why we have grass. Grass was a status symbol in France.

Christopher:    Yeah, that's right.

Ben:    We don't have to farm this land. We can just grow shit that doesn't matter.

Christopher:    Yes, so much money and so much time. We're just going to throw it at this lawn and everyone is going -- it's the first sign that one of your neighbors was struggling because the grass turned brown and no one was cutting it. Amazing. Those are some really great questions. Why don't we start with you, Megan? Do you think that the obesity problem is solvable at the macro level? [0:45:30] [Indiscernible]

Megan:    I agree with Ben. I don't know. I think on the micro level, I'm definitely hopeful, but on the macro level, it's complicated. The one thing that -- well, there are lot of things that bug me, but one thing that really drives me nuts is -- I'm not going to name names. People will know names, but people arguing about it's the increase in carbohydrates that are causing the obesity epidemic or it's the increase --

Christopher:    We're talking about the insulin hypothesis of obesity.

Ben:    We could name names.

Megan:    -- of high fructose corn syrup. It doesn't matter. We live in an obesogenic world and the confluence of factors isn't helping.

Ben:    Gluten-free is a perfect example, right? Ten years ago, you went gluten-free and you're like, "Well, what the hell am I going to eat?" Well, you're going to eat cardboard bread or you're going to eat fruits and vegetables and cook your own food.

Christopher:    Right, and then the market rushed in to fill the void.

Ben:    Now, you just get more dense, hyperpalatable food and it's a problem.

Christopher:    Right.

Ben:    The same thing is always going to happen. Evolutionarily, we're going to create that stuff.

Christopher:    Can I pose that same massive question that could take an hour to answer to you, Tommy?

Tommy:    I think my answer is pretty much going to be the same because this is the thing that really annoys me about people who say -- and again, we're not going to name names because we don't need to, but the simplest way to lose weight is to just cut 500 calories a day. Well, how do I know how many calories are in my food? That's almost impossible to gauge. And then what if it's my light exposure or what if it's a chronic infection or what if it's nutrient deficiency or any of these things? Then just to tell me 500 calories, cut 500 calories, it doesn't make any sense because the whole environment, like Ben says, is stacked against you.

    What you need to create is this "stressful" environment that we evolved in, so you have to make food less scarce or harder to digest or less calorically dense and you have to actually physically move your body because that's something that we require. You have to make sure that you're not exposed to light at night and actually get some sleep and all of these things that the environment is telling us not to do or people are telling us that it's okay not to do. You sleep when you're dead and you have all this stuff, so you can stay up until whenever watching Netflix. That's what we're being told to do and our brains love it. I don't think any government is going to turn around and say, "Well, we'll just knock down all the escalators and we'll ban gas." It's just not going to happen. Yeah, it absolutely is solvable on an individual level, but on a societal level, I don't think it's going to.

    The problem is those complex diagrams, something like a causal loop diagram, there are all these complex factors that go into obesity and then everybody just throws their hand up and like, "Well, it's just too fucking complicated, so we can't solve this. Let's just not bother" whereas in reality, again, we know what works. That doesn't mean that anybody is going to put that into societal structure. We know what works. It's not that complicated. On both sides of the coin, people would either overcomplicate it or oversimplify it and then that's where a lot of people get it. It's like, "Well, it's in my genetics" or "Everybody is going to be obese, so there's nothing I could do about it" and then they just stop trying. You can definitely fix it on an individual level, but all these other people are just making it so much harder for you.

Christopher:    I can't believe it's left to me, the synthesis to be optimistic, and I think it's travel that does it actually. You don't have to go very far. Go spend a week in Holland or in Finland or in Sweden or probably Norway. I've not been there, but I'm sure it's the same.

Ben:    Those countries have a lot of money.

Christopher:    Is that all there is?

Tommy:    There's so much stuff, yes, so their diets are reasonable and they have movement built into the culture. They have socialized medicine and education and I think that does play a huge role, but equally, the nation's most favorite food in Norway is this crappy pizza that you buy in the frozen food aisle. They'll work pretty hard to catch up with the rest of us.

Christopher:    And you think this was going to happen?

Tommy:    Yeah.

Christopher:    I don't know. I just feel like those countries are so culturally different. When I spend time there, I don't feel like they're spending that much attention on their food and environment. They still got the artificial light at night problem and there are definitely some refined carbohydrates and beer and all the rest of it, but you only have to walk through the airport and just look at the average size of a human being. It's totally different. I get on a flight and go through Houston and it's not even on the same planet, right? Those people are not that far away. They're on the same planet. They're generally eating the same things.

Tommy:    There are a few things about this. If we're not just talking about obesity, if we're talking about chronic diseases, there are a few things about them that do cause them to be genetically blessed. They're mitochondrially more uncoupled, so they can just get rid of excess energy more easily.


    Also, Caucasians have a much higher personal fat threshold, so you can put on a lot more fat before you become a Type 2 diabetic. Your fat stores are your buffer against metabolic disease, so there are a few things in that area where Caucasians and Northern Europeans, they have slightly better tools to deal with that environment.

Christopher:    I've sat here with a small crowd of people and I'm going to switch to Lindsay Taylor because I think she might have some ideas on this topic, but before I do that, Tommy, explain the uncouple bit because a lot of people listening might not -- Bryan, we talked about it on the podcast before, but it's definitely not intuitive.

Tommy:    Yes. Uncoupling proteins sit in the inner mitochondrial membrane and you use the electrons from your food to pump protons, which are hydrogen ions, across this membrane, and so that's where the energy goes. Then you could waste that energy essentially by those protons coming back through uncoupling proteins. In general -- it's a generalization, but they call them haplotypes of mitochondria and that tends to be from where people first migrated and then the environment they're exposed to for longer periods of time, and people who came from Northern Europe are more mitochondrially uncoupled and it probably kept them alive in the cold winters. That also makes it easier for them to consume greater calories, burn off greater caloric excess, then also have reduced free radical production if they are on caloric excess, so it just improves their ability to tolerate that kind of chronic, high calorie density food that they're exposed to.

Ben:    On the other end of the spectrum, we have lost genetic variability. That was the trade-off, right? So where do you see the most genetic variabilities and equatorial populations? Where are you going to see the best athletes? African-Americans. Where are you going to see the worst athletes? African-Americans, but we're not after those. We're not trying to find the person who can jump the least high.

Tommy:    All right, Lindsay, you're going to explain obesity problem to us. I think that's what Chris wanted.

Lindsay:    Yeah. Hi! I don't know if I'm optimistic or pessimistic about this because I actually think from what I see and what I do that the biggest hurdles to the obesity epidemic -- and this is kind of what you're getting at, Ben -- it actually has nothing to do with food although yes, our modern food environment is incredibly problematic and the convenience food, fast food proliferation is just killing us and the "processed" food, all the middle of the supermarket stuff is terrible for us. All those things, those are the easiest to solve aspects of this whole issue.

    My concern when I'm trying to look at -- let's say we could run an experiment in the entire state of United States. Could we solve this problem even if we replaced all the food in the supermarket? I don't know that it would necessarily make -- it would make a big change, but would it solve the problem? I actually think a lot of the problem is that people just don't know what they need to do to be healthy. I know that we have an idea. We know eat less, move more, eat more, plant some vegetables, all the basic stuff that you hear repeated over and over, but when I see people who are coming from a place of unhealthy behaviors or even if it's not actively unhealthy behaviors like having not focused on their health for a long time and then they try to start at these things that for us seem very basic, they're completely overwhelming.

    So to actually change obesity epidemic, you'd have to start with changing the mindset around all of it and you would have to start by somehow convincing people that it's doable and ideally that it's easy. I think for all of us probably who've been doing it for a long time, just eating this kind of food and preparing it and procuring it is easy. And even if we could, as Ben was saying, remove all the structural barriers, which are profound for a lot of people then you also have to change people's attitude towards that and willingness and belief that it's even an approachable goal. That to me I think is also a huge hurdle, but I'm also pessimistic just about the logistical barriers for so many people.

    Not only is it unrealistic to ask someone who lives in the food desert to eat healthy food, but just beyond that, even someone who lives where I live in the Central Valley of California where it's incredibly easy to procure meats and vegetables at a reasonable price, but if everything else in your environment is structured so that you're tired, you're stressed, you're overwhelmed then the act of preparing that healthy food is portrayed by today's culture as being difficult. It's just an added level of difficulty, so to convince people to put that perceived burden on themselves -- and eating healthy is still in my opinion portrayed as a burdensome activity, right?


    I think that's a big ask for a lot of people, so I feel like there's a kind of a chicken and egg problem. Where do you start?

Tommy:    Yeah, where do you start? That's my exact question.

Ben:    I think there's a failure in everyone here, which is very cognitive. We like to use our dorsolateral prefrontal cortex. We like to think. We're up here. You're asking people to wake up. They're asking to move all those choices to the dorsolateral prefrontal cortex. I think that's the wrong play. You're asking people to choose. You're asking people to wake up. I don't think the seven billion people are going to wake up and I don't think they're going to wake up continuously. I don't have that hope. We have to make it as easy as possible for them, so we have to make the harder thing as easy as possible and then we have to make it automatic.

    You made it like terrible food, bad food. As soon as you say that, as soon as you take something away from somebody, it immediately ups the value, so now you can't have pizza. The only thing you're going to think about is pizza. It really is like from a Robert Sapolsky behave-type -- it's an insane conundrum. I don't know that us thinking about it, we're going to have to use the prefrontal cortex to create subconscious, make things easier. I don't know. You're a neuroscientist. How do you feel about that?

Tommy:    Yeah, that would be awesome if I actually had any idea how we would do it.

Ben:    Go to Mars.

Tommy:    I completely agree with you, but I just have -- at the moment, the people who are successful are those people who, well, they start by doing it, but then it becomes a habit and then it no longer requires the prefrontal cortex. It just happens naturally, but there's still going to be that first bit where they have to put in the effort to create those systems or the environment around them and that has to be done individually. Societally, we've already talked about it and I just don't see that happening.

Lindsay:    See, I think some of the times when we talk about habit as people in the academia or former academics, what we really mean is not just the automaticity of the behavior, but the perception that it's easy. So when people are doing things habitually, it means that they're doing things without having to worry about it or stress about it or think about it, so the automaticity part comes in with the thinking, but the layer of stressing about it and feeling like you have some sort of mastery over it is actually separate from a habit-forming behavior. The mastery piece is incredibly complicated for a lot of people and they're so far from anything like mastery or even competence, at least in their own minds.

    I help people who are coming from a very baseline level of experience and exposure to some of these eating strategies, and a very common question I get is, if I have a sensitivity to eggs, what do I eat for breakfast if I can't also have grains? So if we tell people don't eat cereal, waffles, pancakes, and then they know they can't eat eggs, they can't perceive what they would eat for breakfast. It seems really far from where each of us is, but this is a real problem. If you don't have a resource to go out and solve it and that's where you're starting from and that's just one meal for yourself and you're not trying to also feed your family and you're not trying to think about lunch or dinner, those kinds of hurdles can quickly add up and become just from a mental standpoint insurmountable.

    Chris said that he doesn't think that there's a big education gap for the average person and I agree if we're talking very high level education, but then when it comes to putting it into practice, I think there's actually quite a big education gap for most people where they genuinely do not understand or have a good sense of the steps they would take to implement a breakfast, lunch, and dinner that conforms to a Paleo diet or a Keto diet, then you start to throw something like AIP in there. I mean, we might as well just --

Tommy:    But those resources nowadays are very easy to access and I think --

Ben:    Tommy and I are arguing that that just has to be what is there. We're arguing that there is none of that anymore. If we want to solve this problem on a macro level, there's none of that anymore. We're talking about communism, like food rationing. That would be the thing that works. This is what you're going to get. This is it. That's the only thing that could potentially work on a macro level. I think on a micro level when we're talking about these habits like "if-then" statements, what are you going to do if this happens then you're going to perform this action.

Lindsay:    No, I agree, but that's why I said on a micro level, you're going to immediately sort out the people who can do it on their own and the people who can't, and then what do we do with the people who can't? So it doesn't matter if we think it's easy that the information is there and it's actually not that complicated if I could just show you how.

Ben:    There's too much information.

Lindsay:    Oh gosh, that's a whole separate problem. Don't even throw that layer in.

Tommy:    That's the thing. In general, you're right. The right information or figuring out what the information is best for you to utilize, that's a hard problem for a lot of people. I really understand that, but I think to Chris' point is that there are vast numbers of people to whom the knowledge is not the problem. It's actually creating the behavior change.


    So yeah, I think there are two different issues. You work with a population where the knowledge and education is super, super important, but then you must also see those people who are like, you're here. I have led you to water. Why are you not drinking it? So how you would then -- because of the resources you've created, it's very easy for you to give people great information. I know you do that on a regular basis, so then how does then -- the next step, how do you create behavior change in those people? Are you able to do that in that kind of scenario that you work in, which is vast numbers of people on Facebook? I don't know how you do it. It's incredible.

Lindsay:    Well, then I'll send them to you guys for micro-coaching. That does point to another problem if the question is can you make a macro level change, is that each of us is getting hung up at a different step, so that gets back to what you're saying, Ben, which is put everyone in a field, fence them in and feed them three meals a day until everyone agrees that they know how to eat and then release them back to the wild into an environment where there is only the food that we have previously approved available to them at a reasonable cost.

Ben:    Do you think anybody is going to vote for that policy change? No way! That's a simple change that people would not get behind. It's a simple story, but let's just take this to a weird place. We're in Costa Rica. So what happens when human beings no longer need to work? What happens when you don't need a job? What happens when there are no taxi drivers, none of Trump's jobs, there's none of that shit? What happens when human life is not important? People are just going to get really fat, so what works in those scenarios, and that scenario is coming. That scenario is probably in 20 years. Our jobs are gone 20 years. Any looking at data, that's gone. The human element is probably not gone, but the data element, gone 100%.

    What are we going to do in that situation? It's coming and that's another reason that I lived here. It's because if people won't have a purpose -- well, most people in the United States, their purpose is their job, so you take that away, you're just going to have an entire population that has no purpose, and then what are they going to do? You look at what has worked. It's ashrams, orthodox Jews, those people who have found meaning and debating the scriptures, that's where they found their meaning and they generally have very, very simple lives. We can't create that on a global level, but this is where I think training and exercise are really, really good at creating communities. So can we create little micro environments based on these things? Because our purpose is going to be lost. You're not going to waste 12 hours a day on your email probably anymore. You may waste 12 hours a day scrolling on an Instagram feed that's attractive to your eye, but it's going to be -- the problems that we face I think are going to be insane. If you want to come down here, you're welcome.

Tommy:    So you'll wrap up with that post-apocalyptic story, Ben.

Christopher:    All right. Well, let's get into a little bit more detail about what people -- I don't think we're the typical crowd, are we, that you have visiting here at the Flō Retreat Center in Costa Rica. Your wife is an expert yogi teacher. Am I right in thinking that? So we're not the typical crowd. I know that's how I became aware of your work, was Mike T. Nelson and Bryan Walsh -- I think there are some people I know -- were here for a functional medicine retreat last March. Talk about the typical type of person that turns up at the Flō Retreat Center and the types of problems they're facing.

Ben:    The only reason this place exists is really because my wife has 12 weeks of yoga teacher trainings a year, so this place was built with that in mind. I'm sure you guys can feel that. This place is built to a hull house like single individuals who are going to stay on site and learn for long periods of time, so she does those, but I wouldn't say that you guys are atypical. I think that you guys aren't atypical. It's amazing to have you guys here. You guys are -- you care.

Christopher:    We don't have a lot of problems though, right?

Ben:    No. You care about --

Christopher:    We do care.

Ben:    You care about these things. Before you guys came, I was like, "Damn, I can't find these lamps for the [1:04:15] [Indiscernible]." This is going to be --

Christopher:    Don't think I didn't bust his balls about it.

Ben:    I was looking for it everywhere. I drove to Jaco two days before you guys came looking for lamps to put these bulbs in.

Christopher:    You should've just told -- I would've brought them with me from the US.

Ben:    I love that aspect that I know you guys care about those things. That's amazing. I guarantee you in the March retreat that we have -- if I don't have those fucking lights, somebody is going to bust my balls, and they're right for busting my balls. I want this place to make everything easy, light cycles, everything is possible.

Christopher:    Well, the main thing is it makes the light in the morning so easy, so there's this downstairs, outdoor, communal eating space and the climate is also very conducive to it as well. Where I live in Bonny Doon, you would've thought it'd be perfect, but actually it's damn cold in the morning and I quite often find myself lying in bed until seven o'clock just because it's cold and I don't want to get up and light the fire in order to make the house warm, whereas here, you bounce up at 5:30 in the morning and I could go straight into the gym. It hasn't happened yet, but at least I'm getting downstairs and being outdoors with the incredible skyline there and tons of natural light.


Ben:    You're outside. You're talking about forest bathing. We're researching all these things like hey, it's probably good that you drink enough water. It's probably good that you see the sun. This is just a moronic thing, but yes, we should do this. Forest bathing seems to me to be like we're trying to search out the chemicals that make you feel better when you're surrounded by trees. You fucking evolved for millions of years to be surrounded by the complexity of nature. You guys are just forest bathing for seven days and I think that's pretty powerful.

Christopher:    Yeah. I've been discovering that. There's an incredible river at the end of -- it's not even at the end of your garden, is it? It's just a ten-minute walk down a trail and there's an incredible waterfall and an amazing place to swim. It's really fun to gorge walk up the river, just hopping from rock to rock and then you swim for a bit. It took me a while to realize that my feet wear the optimal footwear for performing such activities, not like the Vibram this, that, or the other like, oh, maybe these soles are too thick or maybe I need something else slightly more grippy. No. You just take your shoes off and that works perfectly on the rocks, the same with the climate as well. In Northern California, I don't think you'll be able to survive very long without clothes because it gets so damn cold at night, whereas here, you really could. If you were naked in the jungle like that, the clothing would probably be the least of your problems, right?

Tommy:    Should we ask Megan about whether it's too cold in Northern California compared to Denver?

Christopher:    To Denver, yeah.

Tommy:    It gets down into the 40s. Poor Chris.

Christopher:    I said we don't have any problems. We just have better problems. Describe the bro retreats then. So we've got the yogis and they're interested in yoga, and then you've got the bro retreats. What's a bro retreat?

Ben:    This is what drives me. It's really like hypertrophy camps, so creating small communities because human beings are probably meant to struggle with other human beings for a common goal, and I think without it, we're going to lose that. Most people don't have it and I think where we can get it is the weight room or endurance sports. I think that's why people love endurance sports. They want to struggle with other people. What bigger struggle is to do a triathlon and then complete it? That's so huge and I think that's what people are addicted to.

Christopher:    Maybe not addicted to, but missing, right?

Ben:    So Tommy was talking about most people are -- a lot of your clients, it's attrition. They're trying to avoid. They just want to play the game as long as possible with the endurance world.

Tommy:    Yeah. A lot of people come to us like master athletes who just want to perform for as long as possible.

Ben:    Because they want to be with their friends, so that's what I'm doing. If I can be 70 having bro camps where people are busting each other's balls for putting a shirt on, people go the entire -- someone will come in the weight room with their shirt on and everybody would be like, "Why is your shirt on? Why is your shirt on?"

Christopher:    I think I remember Bryan Walsh complaining about this.

Tommy:    Yeah. He was like, "There's just like a bunch of meatheads walking around topless."

Christopher:    "No, this is not happening."

Ben:    We ultimately tried to get Bryan Walsh to take his shirt off the whole time.

Christopher:    I still don't get it though because I can go through three shirts a day because it's so humid. Yeah, all you have to do is get up and your shirt is sweaty again.

Tommy:    I think he was a bit of a monster athlete in his time. You could see it.

Christopher:    He was, definitely, yeah.

Ben:    He can take it and dish it out. He can take it with the best of them. He's obviously coming back for three days to speak in March. My event, my kind of big of event that I have is a week of functional medicine, so you have five days of functional medicine and nutrition. I'm going to talk about the GI system. I think Bryan Walsh is going to do some of his new tour. I think he's going to do some of that Utah tour, and the Mike T. Nelson is going to talk about whatever the hell he wants to talk about. The second week, which is awesome -- that guy has just a brain trust of information. It is crazy. I can just name off studies.

    The second week, we have the S&C week, which will be the strength and conditioning week, and that's going to have Dr. Pat Davidson. If people don't know him, he's a good guy to follow. And then we'll have Seth Oberst, who's actually going to talk about something weird, which is trauma. I think you guys probably deal with this at Nourish Balance Thrive like how trauma changes everything.

Christopher:    Right, early in life.

Ben:    Yeah, early life traumas. I don't know why that's in the S&C week. Actually, I had him come in after Pat because Pat is so alpha, and then I wanted Seth to come in afterwards. Pat is going to talk about massive, meat-heavy stuff, and then Seth is going to come in and he'll be a little bit more -- obviously just more empathetic. And then other people there, Zac Cupples is going to be there. He's a PT out of Reno. He's amazing. He has a course called The Human Matrix, which is all about movement and actually would be a person that I would recommend. He takes on a lot of remote clients. Sometimes it's hard to find PTs in your area and I think that there are a lot of good PTs that maybe can't get their hands on you, but they're better than the people that could get their hands on you in their area, so even though they're handcuffed, they're still better and he's definitely one of those people.


    Lucy Hendricks will be there and then myself and this other dude, supreme meathead named Ryan L'Ecuyer. We'll have a weight room day, so that's the itinerary.

Christopher:    This sounds quite intimidating. Is this open to anyone or do you have to have that free fat mass thing you talked about? Is there a calculator on the Flo Retreat website and "Congratulations! Just submit some photos and we'll verify your entry and let you know."

Ben:    There's an application for sure for these events. You get one bad egg and it can ruin the event, but there's not a physical portion.

Christopher:    Yeah, I was talking about that. That may even be illegal for all I know.

Ben:    I don't know. It's probably not illegal in Costa Rica. For the bro retreats, they have to submit 10-rep maxes. They have to submit 10-rep max bench, 10-rep max squat because it's like --

Tommy:    Not separate.

Ben:    That's the camp. That's where we just come and train. That's mostly coaches or people in the field. I would say that for the functional medicine, nutrition, strength and conditioning retreat, which is two weeks long in March, those are generally professionals as well. We do have two wellness weeks a year, which are for the general public. Those are kind of like your retreat here except it's a little bit more structured. We have yoga in the morning, guided meditation in the morning, then yoga, then I generally give a talk, then we go in the weight room and then they have off in the afternoon and then they have restorative yoga in dinner. We do offer those and those aren't for anyone. Those are much more not as -- what was the word that you used? If you didn't want to go somewhere, if you're worried that you would be accepted, what would be another word for that?

Lindsay:    Exclusive?

Ben:    They wouldn't be as preoccupied with that event. That's just going to be a lot of normal people who want to be healthier, whereas March is like a lot of people like us talking about crazy nuance, "Is the obesity epidemic solvable?" That's what March is. That's the difference, whereas the wellness retreats would be for anybody.

Christopher:    That's great. We were talking about the different types of people that might want to visit the Flō Retreat Center and you talked about people that are interested in general wellness, then you talked about people who were definitely the bros that are just interested in putting on as much muscle as possible, but we know that much of our audience are endurance athletes and I think we have made a good case for strength and conditioning and endurance athletes on the podcast previously, but is there a lower cap? Is it really advantageous to carry around a big set of guns when it includes a lot of climbing? Could you accommodate and how would you accommodate those types of people?

Ben:    That's where I think strong enough and big enough becomes really, really critical. Upper body strength is not necessarily going to help you a ton. You don't want your upper body to get big. Just to make this way more approachable to the vast majority of your listeners, to put on enough muscle mass, a lot of people are going to say that it has to be arduous. That's the perception. Lindsay talked about the perception. The perception is that it's going to be hard. It doesn't have to be that hard. You legitimately can train for 30 minutes twice a week and probably get to a sufficient FFMI.

Tommy:    Can you tell us what that would look like in your mind? Because there are multiple different ways to skin that cat. Since we've been here, we've talked about [1:13:21] [Indiscernible] supported by science. There are the various different rep ranges and approaches. The endurance athlete who just wants to be strong enough, injury prevention, longevity both in the sport and from a life standpoint, what does 30 minutes two times a week in the gym look like?

Ben:    Someone who's never strength-trained before, this is our client avatar --

Tommy:    But is probably aerobically fairly fit because they're an endurance athlete.

Ben:    Okay, so our constraints are never lifted a weight necessarily before, but fit.

Tommy:    Worried about injuring themselves, yeah.

Ben:    But fit. That person first has to learn the movement so they don't hurt themselves. Neuromuscularly, they're not even going to be able to fire any of these patterns correctly for a pretty long time, probably at least eight weeks, so most of their gains are going to be neuromuscular. They're just learning how to move. For me, I would use -- we'd think about the two pathways for muscle. The primary people usually, I think, there are three, but there are the two mechanisms for how you can put on muscle mass. Muscular tension is number one. Muscular tension is king. A backdoor pathway to muscle is metabolic stress, and so that's why people can generally gain muscle in endurance sports for the first ten weeks and then they stop gaining muscle and then they plateau out.

    I would use the metabolic stress pathway because it's safer because they're not ready to get loaded up yet. They don't know the movement patterns. They haven't built up the collagen system to be able to squat heavy loads. That's a really, really bad idea. I would use something like a Mass protocol like some kind of circuit training where you're going to -- I can even show you guys this tomorrow where I would use -- metabolic stress, blood flow restriction, we talked about it.


    Blood flow restriction, that's metabolic stress to the nines. I'm going to block venous flow --

Christopher:    Physically block.

Ben:    I'm going to physically block venous flow, but allow arterial blood to come in so you can't get garbage out. You just have all this metabolic stress sitting there. We can do that with the static or dynamic method, and that is where I would have you squat. This is a great coaching technique too because people are moving slowly, so you can maneuver them. As a coach, I'll have you squat and you go one, two, three, four on a lowering and then a one, two --

Christopher:    So Ben is slowly lowering his weight now but without locking out.

Ben:    And then I don't lock out. You're not necessarily getting all that metabolic waste out, so that's a good way for me to teach you how to move and it doesn't necessarily have to be loaded up because the worst thing that you can do probably for an endurance athlete is to injure them in the weight room. They can't do what they love. I want to lower risk as much as I can, but give them something that matches their perception of what exercise should be, so they probably need to feel some acid. They probably need to feel some heat. They probably need to feel things even though those aren't going to be necessarily huge drivers long-term, but that's what I would use. I would use some type of circuit training, higher reps, to close to failure, and then they're going to need to find someone to get eyes on their lifts. That's going to be really, really important.

    Jason was in the weight room yesterday. Maybe a bilateral goblin squat isn't the exercise. Maybe we need to first go to a single leg. That regression-progression scheme, find somebody who's good, who can regress you and progress you, and you're always better off starting at the lowest, so start with a single leg squat. Start with an elevated push-up. Start with a split squat. A circuit we have for my wife -- and we have ladies' night. The ladies don't like to train when the guys are yelling at the gym, understandably so, and so we have ladies' night and ladies' night is whenever the girls train. The girls create an entirely different atmosphere and there's nothing timed for them. They just have three rounds of -- they try to get to failure of they do a lat pulldown, a single arm lat pulldown. They do some kind of press. They'll do an alternating dumbbell press then they do some kind of squat and some kind of deadlift, and then they do abs and glute exercises because they want to do those. They show up and that's the most important part. How many times a week do they do that? Two to three times a week and that's 100% strong enough, big enough.

Christopher:    And you make it so easy here. I just know from personal experience with my wife, Julie, it can be intimidating when you walk into a gym. First of all, you have to walk past all the other stuff that people are using like the elliptical and then you get into the weight room and there are all kinds of scary people like you in there making a lot of noise --

Tommy:    You know what? The biggest guys in the gym are always the friendliest. They're always the most willing to help. You could ask them a question and they'd be very happy to talk to you.

Ben:    Just not in the middle of their set.

Tommy:    Yeah. Wait until they racked the weight. Actually, the scariest people in there -- because I've trained in some scary gyms in my time and everybody is super, super friendly. If you've ever seen a mosh pit at a concert, it's basically there's a heavy metal band on stage and there are like 500 people beating the crap out of each other, but as soon as one person falls over, everybody stands back. Somebody reaches in, pulls them up, slap themselves on the back, and then they start beating into each other again. It's exactly the same thing. They look scary, but they're super, super friendly.

Christopher:    Do you have to ask? Is there some sort of bro thing that I don't know about?

Ben:    If you're seeking out free advice in the weight room, I think that's not the place. That's not the thing to do. If you value something, pay for it. Get a coach. Get a coach who's good. We always try to graduate people. I don't want you to need me forever. In fact, that's a bad business model. I want you to graduate. I want you to get to a place where you can do this on your own. You know what? It's not that hard. I think you could spend a month, maybe two months with a good coach, and then if you can maintain it, you may need some kind of remote coach to hold you accountable, then we're getting into habits. Are you extrinsically or intrinsically motivated? How are you going to create and sustain this habit? That's a very different question than making it perceive like you can do it and teaching you the skills so that you can at least have some semblance of success.

Christopher:    We have that. We have Zach Moore who's fantastic and people have been posting videos on the forum. If you're one of our patrons over on, if you search for Nourish Balance Thrive, you could become our patron and you can post a video and Zach will look at your form and he's very, very good at doing that. Zach has been coaching Tommy recently. We know he's really, really good, but I don't think he could do what you did with Jason.


    Jason is one of our clients and we're in the gym yesterday. He very quickly got him to the point like "Oh, this is the place where we need to start" and that's a different problem from "I know what excess movement I'm doing. Can you tell me whether I'm doing it right or not?" You probably could do it with going backwards and forwards with videos, but it might --

Ben:    It's going to take a long time. It's going to take a long time whereas if you can get someone's hands on you and you can get in regressing and progressing, that's going to be pretty powerful. Most trainers, there's a lot of good people out there. We like to argue about what's best like what is the best form of all these things, but people don't need to worry about that shit. If I don't exercise, that's not going to make you look like a stripper in high heels.

    So most of your clients are probably not -- when they get in that gym, the first thing that you want to happen is -- if I just don't say anything and I'm like, "Hey, I just want you to squat," they're going to do this. That's just what they've trained. I at least want your hips and your knees to move together. I at least want this, but then if I get that with that, then I'm like, oh shit. All right, I've got to regress that. I've got to somehow get an upright torso because I can't load that torso. I can't load that. Then I create it easier. I just regress it down. Now, we've got a single leg and now they can keep that upright torso. So if I have an archetype that I'm looking for, if I have Doug Kechijian who's really, really good who's out at Resilient in New York, does it pass the look test?

    So you just need somebody to get eyes on your lifting and does it pass the look test? If it doesn't pass the look test, you'll probably need to regress it and that may not be the exercise for you and it definitely may not be the exercise that you want to load. Day one, nobody is back squatting. Nobody is back squatting. I've got to teach you how to --

Christopher:    Never would you let me back squat. I coached with Mike T. Nelson for a while and he wouldn't let me do back squats. I was kind of hovering in the gym the other day and then he was like, "No, I don't think so." You are probably right. I've got all kinds of itches. I got sunburned. I got beat up by a surfboard yesterday having fun on the beach, but yeah, I probably didn't need an injury from back squatting as well.

Ben:    The other thing that's cool about your endurance athletes is they would probably be able to at least express effort. If I get someone who's never trained before, they have no clue where failure is. We know that when you fail -- just watch Tommy and I squat. You're going to get a velocity drop-off of about 40% to 60%. I'll have clients and they'll just be like this and like this and they're like, "Oh, it's getting hard." I'm like, "No, it's not getting hard yet. There's no way. You're still moving just as fast as you were in the beginning. Just keep going." They probably have 20 reps left, legitimately 20 reps, and they quit. That's all perception. That's all just because they can't go there yet, but I think that your endurance athletes, I think that they probably can. I think that they probably from a perceived effort standpoint, I think that they're going to be able to push themselves mentally closer to failure.

    From a coach, I know if I want to produce hypertrophy, I need two things. One of these, I need slow bar speeds so I need that volume decrement. I need that velocity decrement. I need them to move slower. That means that I'm going to get max high threshold motor unit recruitment. You can drive that two ways. You automatically get that moving slow when I put 85% of your 1-rep max on your back. You're going to get those high threshold motor units right away, but I can also get them if I put 30% of your 1-rep max on your back. Now, Tommy, what's your 1-rep max, say, whatever squat you want?

Tommy:    Back squat, 405. That's my recent max.

Ben:    Okay, so 405, 30% of that is 120 lbs. How many times do you think you could squat in 120 lbs?

Tommy:    Probably 40 or 50, at least.

Ben:    Do you want to find out?

Tommy:    No.

Ben:    Absolutely not. So you can get there with 30% of your 1-rep max. It's just going to suck. Bring out the puke bucket.

Christopher:    I've heard Zach saying exactly the same thing.

Ben:    So you just have to get to a point where you're at slow bar speeds and it sucks. That's the point that you have to get to and nobody is going to want to get there, and they're definitely not going to want to get there right away. And then as you get mastery, you get to love that and then it becomes a double-edged sword because then you're addicted to that because you don't need to train to failure all the time. In fact, training to failure is probably is not helpful.

    Training to failure, if you think about what's the thing that's going to wreck Tommy or I in our training career, it's not going to be -- we're not going to pull a muscle. It's going to be a joint issue. It's going to be some kind of articulation. So now long-term, it becomes about how can we preserve the collagen system and that's where to me you start getting away from a lot of the traditional barbell exercises because if I have to do 20 sets as an advanced lifter on my hamstrings, God, don't make me do 20 sets to failure deadlifts. I'm going to die.


    I'm going to die, right, or even bench press. My elbows are going to blow out, but your clients, they probably only need six sets a week and that's perfect. You can do that in deadlifts. You can do that with kettle bell deadlifts. You can do that with a goblet squat. That's 100%, but as you progress down the continuum, you're probably going to want to get a little bit more creative in how you load up your structures. That's why Tommy and I have been working out for four straight days with a lot of cables.

Christopher:    Do you think you could bear it though, a gym full of endurance athletes?

Ben:    It's an honor when I do get to coach. It's really, really fun taking people from very, very low movement IQs to the IQs where they can look in that gym and they cannot feel intimidated. That's very rewarding. Now, would I want that to be my full-time job? No. I stopped doing that. That was my full-time job, but I love making the weight room more approachable to people and I don't think that it's that hard to bring people from level zero to level competent.

Christopher:    I want to see if we can get something going then, if you're up for it.

Ben:    Yeah, sure. In the weight room, we're after unconscious competence, so this is like levels of thinking. Most people in the beginning, they're going to think about everything and that's going to be a problem.

Christopher:    And the same is true. In fact, when you get very competent, thinking about it generally makes you worse and that's true in the mountain bikers anywhere.

Ben:    Yeah. Let's see if we can at least get people on the road to some form of competence.

Christopher:    One final question for you. Do you think what you've done here, is it replicable? Could we do this? Could Nourish Balance Thrive take what you've done here and do it somewhere else? Would you advise that? Is it possible?

Ben:    You'd add your own flavor. I don't know -- I can't answer that question because I don't know if this retreat center is financially viable.

Christopher:    You still don't know that, okay.

Ben:    Yeah. It's financially viable for us because it's our house, so it's like an investment for us. I don't know if our -- I do stuff that no business person will do like you guys are here because I want you here. Is it replicable? I'm not sure. There are retreat centers out there in the US. They're generally super cost-prohibitive. If you go to a two-day weekend functional medicine retreat at some kind of place where you stay there, it's generally four grand. We have week-long retreats that are 1800 bucks, so I don't think that that aspect is replicable just because somebody has got to make some money off of it. I've talked to other people with retreat centers in the US and if you have -- this is probably a $1.8 million property. If you have that level of a property in the United States, what's your property tax on that in California?

Christopher:    Oh shit, yeah. I was looking at one of my neighbors poking around on the government website and I won't name who it was because he's famous, but he was paying $120,000 a year in property tax.

Ben:    Yeah, that's without electrical --

Christopher:    Just property tax.

Ben:    Just property taxes, you've got to pay $120k, so that means he doesn't have employees. He doesn't have internet. He doesn't have lights on. I don't know. Costa Rica, our property tax is 0.25%. I just paid the property taxes. It was $1300.

Christopher:    That's amazing.

Ben:    So there's a reason that we built this here, is because it is way more sustainable. My buddy, he had a $1.5 million property in the United States. I swear to God, it's $200,000 just to maintain that property for a year with everything that went wrong, so I don't know if it's replicable in --

Christopher:    In California, right.

Ben:    It's probably replicable here, but then do you have the reach to fill events in another country? I think the reason that we were able to create Flō is because of Steph's reach. My wife, she's very well known. She's a great teacher, but she has an incredible reach, and so she was able to fill events years ahead of time and people are happy to do that. I have a sufficient reach to fill events. You guys have that reach, so you guys building a retreat center might be viable because you could fill it, whereas if you're someone without a reach like you building a retreat center, you're just building another hotel. How are you going to fill it?

Christopher:    Yeah. It's like if you're going to write a book, who are you going to sell that to?

Ben:    Yeah. Do I think that Nourish Balance Thrive could create a retreat center? 100%.

Christopher:    Right. Could anyone do it? That's a different question.

Ben:    But do you want any -- owning a business is almost all the same, right? Most of the jobs that you're going to do, you're going to replace toilet paper, you're going to do a bunch of bullshit --

Christopher:    Oh yeah. I've absolutely no interest in being a hotelier. I just want to [1:29:51] [Indiscernible] here over the last few days. That's all I'm going to say.

Ben:    Yeah, so come back.

Christopher:    You're right, probably.

Tommy:    Pay somebody else to do it for you.


Christopher:    Well, this has been fantastic, Ben. You've been incredibly generous with your time and hospitality here with us in Costa Rica and we very much appreciate you. Thank you.

Ben:    Thank you, guys.

Christopher:    Where can people find you online? I forgot that very important question. Flō Retreat Center has a website. Where else would you send people?

Ben:    My Facebook is probably where I produce the most information. You can just look for me on Facebook. Functional Medicine Costa Rica is one of my websites. My real website is My email is

Christopher:    That's amazing.

Ben:    I'm going to get Tommy an email address just for fun, just so it says "" just to troll him.

Christopher:    I will of course link to all these things that Ben mentioned including all of the studies, everything. It was a thing that we could link to. Then our friend, Elaine, does an amazing job of tracking down all those resources. She produces incredible show notes. You can find him at Or if you poke around inside of your podcast app, you'll find what looks like a webpage inside of there and you'll be able to click on some hyperlinks in there, so if you want to find any of the resources that Ben or anyone else mentioned then check out the show notes. Thanks again, Ben. We really appreciate it.

[1:31:16]    End of Audio

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