Boundless by Ben Greenfield

Boundless

 
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Boundless: Upgrade Your Brain, Optimize Your Body & Defy Aging
By Jonathan Roseland

I'm not a doctor, medical professional, or trained therapist. I'm a researcher and pragmatic biohacking practitioner exercising free speech to share evidence as I find it. I make no claims. Please practice skepticism and rational critical thinkingYou should consult a professional about any serious decisions that you might make about your health. Affiliate links in this article support Limitless Mindset - spend over $150 and you'll be eligible to join the Limitless Mindset Secret Society.

Book Review: The BIGGEST Biohacking Book

I write this with a sense of accomplishment having just finished Ben Greenfield's +1000-page magnum opus, Boundless. I'm something of a superfan of Ben's - I read and listen to nearly everything he puts out - and I do recommend this book enthusiastically but I'll begin my review with some criticisms...

The book begins with a grandstanding introduction to Ben. He lets you know just how AWESOME he is - how amazingly athletic he is, how successful he's been in business, how happy his family is, etc - apparently he finds time to read "a book every day" while maintaining the physique of a Greek god, being a CEO, and a devoted family man. The implication is "do what I've done and you'll be like me" which is not totally misleading: the more you invest in your health the better your life will get. Biohacking really does broaden your horizons, it's the most surefire way to wield true free will, rise above mundanity, plot your own course, and take your destiny into your own hands.

But, I read the introduction, not thinking Ben was wildly exaggerating but that he has won the genetic lottery in a major way and then stacked on a bunch of hacks resulting in his awesome life.
If you're red-pilled on genetics, you know that religion encourages evolutionary fitness; in general, more religious people are more evolutionarily fit. You would expect a tall, good-looking, fervently religious guy descended from American pioneer stock, like Ben, to have a good life because of the special evolutionary pressures put on his ancestors. People often compliment me on my intelligence and intellect and that's NOT something I take full credit for, my grandfather was one of the top NASA engineers responsible for getting men to the moon and back. I too have been gifted some by the genetic lottery - which I think Ben should have given some more credit to.

NASA

I have to deduct a star for the relentless pitching throughout the booka criticism that many other reviewers make. Obviously, biohackers need to spend some money on products and supplements to optimize health, but product and brand recommendations are made so frequently that it's clear that Ben Greenfield & Co did a lot of sponsorship sales pre-publication. There are a couple of issues with this other than the obvious one - a book should NOT be an advertising platform (especially a $55 one!)

  • The book will not age well because health companies and brands go out of business, re-brand, discontinue products, and sometimes even sell out to multinational chemical corporations. Napoleon Hill's iconic Think and Grow Rich would not be such a timeless book if it were urging readers to mail-order Cocaine Tooth Drops from the Sears Robuck catalog!
  • Some of the products are only available to the American market, and (NEWSFLASH) not everyone lives in America.
  • It makes it seem like biohacking and healthy living are only for rich people who can afford to spend hundreds of dollars a month on supplements and thousands on fancy biohacking devices and tech. If you're a biohacker ballin' on a budget, check out my deep-dive podcast, 33 IMPACTFUL free (or cheap) biohacks & lifehacks.

But I won't be as harsh as some of the book's reviewers on this point because the book contains just as many free or cheap things that people can do to optimize their health. Each chapter has an exhaustive recommended resources page on the book's website and THAT is the place for affiliate and sponsor recommendations, not in the pages of a pricier book (even the Kindle ebook is $30) that is going to sit on people's bookshelves for decades!

With those two criticisms out of the way, Boundless belongs on your bookshelf.

I've read a few podcasters' books where basically what they did was copy and paste transcripts of interviews - they book-ified their podcasts - and it just doesn't translate great, if I wanted interviews I'd just go listen to the interviews. Stop doing this podcasters! Thankfully, Ben didn't do that with Boundless - it's a real book that follows the compelling format that educational and edifying nonfiction should: Story, Theory, Data, and Pragmatic Takeaway.

Nootropics vs Smart Drugs

There is a difference

If a drug is strongly felt on a consistent basis whenever you use it and it makes you high, wired, or sedated, it is acting more like a smart drug or performance enhancer and is likely not a natural nootropic. Nootropics are sustainable for long-term use, while smart drugs are not. (p.127) 

Many people use the terms nootropic and smart drug as if they mean the same thing, but they’re actually very distinct. All nootropics are technically smart drugs, but the opposite is not necessarily true. A smart drug is any substance that enhances memory, mood, concentration, or another aspect of cognitive function. Nootropics target the same functions, but by definition they must also be neuroprotective and nontoxic, and they are usually derived from natural, nonsynthetic sources. (p.146)

So Modafinil would be a quintessential example of a non-Nootropic smart drug.

I recorded this podcast/vlog on Zamner Joice and Brain Flow from Nootopia.

Weight training and minimum effective dose of exercise

Boundless exercise

Quite simply; strength training is one of the most effective anti-aging tools in the aspirational immortals' toolbox - lift heavy stuff and you'll live longer

A 2007 study demonstrated that six months of progressive resistance training, otherwise known as “lifting heavy stuff,” made the gene expression of aging mitochondria appear to be significantly younger. (p. 318)

The researchers reported: “Healthy older adults show a gene expression profile in skeletal muscle consistent with mitochondrial dysfunction and associated processes such as cell death, as compared with young individuals. Moreover, following a period of resistance exercise training in older adults, we found that age-associated transcriptome expression changes were reversed, implying a restoration of a youthful expression profile.” Yes, you read that right: when it comes to mitochondria, strength training reversed nearly forty years of aging! But exercise doesn’t only affect mitochondria. It also promotes the growth of fat-burning fast-twitch muscle fibers and even protects DNA from the wear and tear of aging by acting on telomeres, the end caps of DNA molecules. (p. 319)

If you want the minimum effective dose of strength training that will help you find the sweet spot between longevity and muscle, you can get away with as few as two strength workouts per week—one with slow, controlled heavy lifting and one with high-intensity bodyweight movements. (p. 328)

Blood Flow Restriction Bands (which you can get for under $50) are a real time-saving shortcut for fitness and strength building...

Kaatsu bands, also known as blood flow restriction (BFR) bands or occlusion training bands, long used as potent training tools by elite athletes, law enforcement agencies, militaries, and Japanese martial artists. Much like a tourniquet, a Kaatsu band (the name is a mash-up of the Japanese words for “additional”—ka—and “pressure”—atsu) places pressure around your upper arms and legs. (p. 339)

When you combine Kaatsu training with bodyweight exercises, a suspension strap, or an elastic band, you can create a massively effective yet wonderfully simple workout. (p. 339)

Take an upper-body bodyweight exercise, such as a push-up or pull-up, and a lower-body bodyweight exercise, such as a lunge or squat, and perform the movements as slowly as you possibly can—it should take at least thirty to sixty seconds to get to the top of one rep and thirty to sixty seconds to return. Repeat to total exhaustion. This technique, known as eccentric, negative, or super-slow training, is a fast-track method to build strength and mass. For an additional bonus, do this workout with BFR bands (p. 355)

What I learned about myself

From the book...

If you are dopamine dominant, you are likely strong-willed, fast on your feet, and self-confident. You tend to be highly rational and more comfortable with hard facts and figures than with emotions and feelings. You take pride in achievement, strategic thinking, problem-solving, and inventing. You are overly alert, often hyperactive, and you may need less sleep than others. You likely get bored with frequent cardio, and you love explosive workouts and heavy weights.

Sounds a lot like me. Also, I'm an under-methylator

Because it can keep serotonin levels low, undermethylation can cause you to be a dopamine-seeking, hard-charging high achiever. It can lead you to pursue perfection and achievement and has been associated with obsessive-compulsive tendencies, a low tolerance for pain, and ritualistic behaviors. If you are prone to undermethylation, you will do well with a high intake of muscular meats.

My sleep chronotype, I'm a...

WOLF Wolves have a hard time waking up early and are most energetic in the evenings.

Breathwork

A cool biohack for state management...

Breathe in through whichever nostril correlates to the part of the brain you want to activate (keeping in mind that the left side of the brain is associated with the right side of the body, and vice versa). For example, if you have a more left-brain, analytical, logical task to accomplish, precede it with one to two minutes of inhaling only through your right nostril. If you need to accomplish a more right-brain, creative task, then inhale only through the left nostril. Breathing only through your left nostril is also an effective way to activate the parasympathetic nervous system before bed or a nap. (p.71)

THE CONTROL-PAUSE TECHNIQUE

CP is a breath-hold after a normal exhalation of air until you experience the tiniest desire to breathe in. CP provides excellent feedback about your ability to efficiently raise your carbon dioxide levels and engage in nasal breathing. To obtain an accurate measurement, rest for ten minutes before the exercise. Next, begin to breathe through your nose. After exhaling normally through your nose (not a full, deep exhalation), squeeze the tip of your nose with your fingers and look at a stopwatch. If you experience even the slightest inclination to breathe in or gasp air at six seconds, immediately let go... If you have to take a big breath at the end of the breath-hold, then you held your breath for too long. A good CP is thirty seconds, a very good CP is forty-five seconds, and Buteyko claimed that if someone had a CP of sixty seconds, then “he or she is insured against illness.” A CP lower than thirty seconds indicates room for improvement, while a CP lower than fifteen seconds is indicative of symptoms such as respiratory issues, disordered sleep breathing, anxiety, and stress. (p.82)

Nasal breathing - a beauty hack (for babies)

nasal breathing enhances smell, improves oxygen absorption in your lungs by increasing nitric oxide production in the sinuses, warms and humidifies the air you breathe before it reaches the lower airway, and helps filter impurities from the air via the hairs and cavities within the sinuses. (p.754)

What happens when we are not taught to nose breath...

When the jaws are set back and the airway is smaller, there is poor definition of the cheekbones as the face sinks downward, the nose becomes asymmetrical, and upper back and neck postural changes occur that result in decreased muscle strength, less chest expansion, impaired breathing, disrupted sleep, and even subpar athletic performance. When kids develop a mouth-breathing habit instead of breathing through their noses, the tongue isn’t in the correct position to act as a natural form of braces and cause the teeth to grow straight. (p.755)

This totally describes me!

Grounding

Is another awesome free ancestral biohack...

Then there is grounding, which is so important for releasing accumulated positive ions from your body. Also known as “earthing,” grounding is the practice of exposing your body to the natural magnetic frequencies produced by the earth. When you have your feet firmly planted on the ground, you come into contact with negative ions, which are produced by turbulent, crashing water, such as waves at the beach and waterfalls, and in forests, mountains, and other places affected by rainstorms or thunderstorms. When you are exposed to negative ions, your body releases positive ions that accumulate via cellular metabolism. Accumulated positive ions reduce the natural electrochemical gradient across your cell membranes. This gradient is responsible for allowing compounds in and out of your cells, so when excess positive ions disrupt the gradient, they also disrupt cellular metabolism and increase inflammation. (p. 265) 

For more information on grounding, watch the documentary entitled, fittingly enough, The Grounded. It tells the story of Haines, Alaska, where lives were changed and health dramatically improved (p. 266) 

Whenever I vacation on the Black Sea coast I do a lot of grounding, however, I struggle to do grounding regularly as I live in a bustling city center nowhere near anywhere that I'd want to walk barefoot!

On diet

Diet Diagram

Thou shalt chew more...

Here is a simple strategy to help your digestive system that you can begin immediately: every time you eat a meal, chew each bite of food twenty-five times. Yes, twenty-five. Your mouth, like your stomach, is full of digestive enzymes, such as salivary alpha-amylase, so by taking your time and chewing, you are giving those enzymes a chance to do their job. You’re also allowing optimum time for your gallbladder to release bile into your stomach. (p.551)

The red meat question

observational studies cannot prove causality, and scientists are still not entirely sure if high red meat intake itself is harmful or if other factors related to high red meat intake are responsible, such as an overall lower-quality diet, low consumption of fruits and vegetables, or high intake of heavily processed meats or fast food. Nevertheless, certain components of red meat, especially those found in processed or overcooked meat, are indeed linked to adverse health effects. While researchers have hypothesized that eating plenty of herbs, spices, fruits, and vegetables may partially offset the harmful effects of high red meat intake, this doesn’t justify a 16-ounce rib-eye steak every night for dinner just so long as you have a side of kale. (p.578)

The problem with the vegetarian diet

certain nutrients can only be acquired via the consumption of animal products, including these: • Creatine, which increases muscular power output and enhances cognitive function • Vitamin B12, which maintains healthy myelin sheaths to protect your neurons • DHA, which is vital for proper cognitive development and cell membrane function • Carnosine, which enhances antioxidant activity in the brain to protect it against oxidative damage • Taurine, which plays a role in preventing heart disease If you are a vegetarian, you are likely missing out on at least one of these critical nutrients (p.579)

On psychedelics

By integrating the correct doses of psychedelics into your weekly routine, you can achieve greater creativity, more energy, improved mood, increased focus, and better relational skills. There is a growing body of research that suggests that microdosing can improve depression, anxiety, PTSD, and emotional imbalance, help with alcohol and tobacco addiction, and mitigate ADD and ADHD behaviors. (p.181)

But...

There are a variety of websites that sell psychedelics, but not all sources contain good-quality ingredients, nor is there any guarantee that the substance you purchase is not laced with undesirable compounds. (p.181) 

Furthermore, I personally feel that anyone who strikes out upon a quest to “find themselves” via a hedonistic, ego-dissolving journey involving plant-based compounds such as ayahuasca, DMT, marijuana, psilocybin, or ibogaine should instead first engage in a comparatively stoic immersion in the spiritual disciplines of fasting, solitude, study, meditation, and prayer—even if that means delaying, say, a five-day trip to Peru for the alternative of a five-day solo journey into the wilderness near one’s home. I suspect that many people will discover they can experience intense physical, mental, and spiritual breakthroughs via a bout of fasting, silence, and nature immersion, and that this experience can rival or even exceed any benefits derived from a plant-medicine journey. (p.192)

Interestingly, Ben has since changed his song on psychedelics. Which I welcome, I detail my objections to psychedelics in this documentary-style video series, Psychedelics are Problematic...

Biohacking tech and tools

On Heart Rate Variability

In my experience, low HRV primarily arises from a poor diet, poor breathing, relationship and work stress, overtraining, poor air quality, excessive artificial light exposure, electrical pollution from WiFi and Bluetooth signals, or impure water. When I addressed each of these variables in my own life over years of cleaning up damage, I achieved a consistent HRV of 90 every day (p. 294)

I've done over 300 HRV training sessions myself and my standout finding was that Nicotine most dramatically improves my coherence score.

Biohack your breathing...

Like a training mask, the PowerLung is a small, handheld resistance-training device for the lungs, not an altitude simulator. But the best way to build fitness in your diaphragm and inspiratory and expiratory muscles is—just as with any other muscle in your body—to train them. I’m often asked why one wouldn’t just save some money and breathe through a straw to create this effect. It comes down to the concept of threshold resistance: when you breathe in and out through a PowerLung, you are working against a threshold of resistance that is the same for every breath. You are not breathing through a restricted orifice where the load can be reduced just by changing the way you breathe. (p.396)

Should you slip on this sleephack?

the Oura ring has not only taken the world by storm but has also impressively upgraded its tracking capabilities, making it the number one tool I now use to track my readiness to train, using a built-in algorithm called the readiness score.

I have mixed feelings about this product, Oura has succumbed to the odious subscription service business model.

Get a handgrip trainer

Grip strength is highly correlated with both full-body strength and, surprisingly, overall longevity. I cannot recommend highly enough that you add a high-quality handgrip trainer, such as the aircraft-grade aluminum Captains of Crush devices (p.394)

A fascinating historical anecdote...

The original brain-biohacking wearable was an electric ray, also known as a torpedo fish. Yep, you read that right. In AD 46, the personal physician to the Roman emperor Claudius applied a live electric ray to the emperor’s forehead to successfully relieve his migraines. (p.212)

Electric ray

Quantify thyself

What you need to know about laboratory reference ranges...

Here’s the first reason why reference ranges can be problematic: there’s no universally applicable range for most lab test results. Different labs can use different ranges, so if you go to one lab for, say, a blood test, you might get results that suggest you’re perfectly healthy, but if you get the same test at a different lab, your result might be “abnormal.” Most labs don’t even carry out their own research to establish reference ranges but instead use those provided by test manufacturers. Labs are supposed to perform twenty sample tests to verify that the manufacturers’ ranges are accurate, but most labs don’t even perform this step! (p.689)

The second reason why laboratory reference ranges need to be viewed with a wary eye is that they don’t necessarily reflect levels that would help you go from good to great; they simply reflect the absence of disease. (p.690)

Bottom line, you need to do your own research on everything you get tested. Also, if you're wondering what self-quantification tests you should get done...

Here’s what the ideal, simple self-quantification scenario would look like:
DNA test: Once in a lifetime
• Comprehensive blood test: Once per year
• Gut microbiome test or stool panel: Once per year or whenever the gut seems to significantly change in function or health
• DUTCH test: Once per year or when feeling fatigued with no explanation, particularly if libido is low
• Food allergy test such as Cyrex: Once per year or whenever the gut seems to significantly change in function or health
• Readiness and sleep tracking: Daily • Ketones and glucose testing: Optional, but ideally performed on a daily basis when adopting a new diet or when attempting to evaluate how different food groups affect glycemic variability or ketones
• Micronutrient test: Optional, but to be performed if concerned about energy levels or health issues, or when you want to dial in supplementation and diet protocol even more thoroughly (p.736)

Stay reproductively useful

Based on the theory that reproductive uselessness can accelerate aging because we are no longer able to propagate the population, it is important to maintain regular sexual activity with age and even utilize many of the sexual enhancement biohacks...

The child-free crowd should heed this warning; if you're not having children or at least have sex regularly your selfish genes will start to see you as a useless eater and undermine your health.

On the faith-longevity connection

Interestingly...

One study analyzed the relationship between religious practice, stress, and death in middle age, and controlled for socioeconomic factors, health insurance status, and healthy behaviors. The researchers found that churchgoers have a significantly lower risk of dying, and after adjusting for age, sex, race, and chronic medical conditions, churchgoers were 46 percent less likely to die in the follow-up period after the study compared to non-churchgoers...

The Blue Zones validates this further, people are religious in the world's longevity hot spots. Ben has a scriptural recommendation for biohackers...

If I had to choose just one section of the Bible that best explains to how to optimize your health and longevity through simple religious practices and commonsense morality, it would be Proverbs 3.

Conclusion

4 stars blue

You're probably not going to read the whole thing cover to cover as I did, but it's well worth picking up to read individual chapters addressing the health area (sleep, sex, longevity, exercise, brainpower, etc) that you want to work on. While I wish I had the hardcover edition to weigh down my coffee table in the event of a tornado, the digital book may be a better option as you can Control-F and search for whatever you want. What Ben and I wish for you...

I live a life immersed in an odd yet highly thrilling marriage of ancestral wisdom and modern science, tapping each day into what it means to be fully human and reaching into every nook and cranny of full mind, body, and spirit optimization. (p.802)

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Boundless by Ben Greenfield
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Electric ray, also known as a torpedo fish
Doing a bit of Googling I found this photo of my grandfather, Nels Roseland with his colleagues at NASA - National Aeronautics and Space Administration. My grandfather is #2 the guy nearest the camera.  He was a part of the Apollo 11 and Apollo 14 launch

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