The Bledsoe Show

Neurohacker Spartan Panel: Mental Toughness for Athletic Performance #40

Hacking your ceiling for suffering, Zone of familiarity, Flow state, Stay out of your head, Exogenous Ketones, and more.

Guests: Dr. Daniel Stickler, Thaddeus Owen, and Ben Greenfield

Recorded this special episode at the Spartan Race World Championship in Lake Tahoe, CA with a panel of three guests:

Dr. Daniel Stickler

Dr. Daniel Stickler is the Medical Director for Neurohacker Collective and co-founder of the Apeiron Center for Human Potential and the Apeiron Academy. Disheartened by our current “sick care” approach to health, Dr. Stickler created Human Potential Medicine — an integrated, biospherical systems-approach that combines the scientific grounding and expertise of modern medicine with leading-edge genetic/epigenetic science and neuro-psychophysiological modalities to expand human capacity.

Dr. Stickler also established the Apeiron Academy, which offers advanced education to a tribe of like-minded individuals determined to shift the health & wellness paradigm from the current sick-care model to one of optimized human potential.

Connect on social: Linkedin, Facebook

Resources: Apeiron Center, Apeiron Academy, Neurohacker

Thaddeus Owen

Thaddeus Owen is a biohacker and writer. He is also the co-founder of PrimalHacker, where he writes about his experiments. Thaddeus spent 10 years studying biohacking through Dave Asprey’s Bulletproof Coach program, nutrition through a Master’s of Holistic Nutrition, movement as a Personal Trainer, Martial Artist and former triathlete and corporate lifestyle through interactions with multiple large and small companies.

Connect on social: Linkedin, Facebook

Resources: Light Hacking TED Talk, PrimalHacker

Ben Greenfield

Ben Greenfield is a fitness, triathlon, and nutrition expert, and has authored multiple books and DVDs. He coaches and trains individuals all over the world for weight loss, lean muscle gain, holistic wellness, and sports performance. Ben hosts the highly popular Get-Fit Guy podcast on the Quick and Dirty Tips network, which racks up about 170,000 downloads per month.

Ben also has a BA and MA from University of Idaho in sports science and exercise physiology and personal training, plus strength and conditioning certifications from the NSCA. During the past 10 years, Ben has helped hundreds of clients (from beginners to professionals) achieve weight loss and fitness success.

Connect on social: Instagram, Facebook, Twitter

Resources: Ben Greenfield Fitness, Greenfield Fitness Systems

NYT Bestseller Book: Beyond Training: Mastering Endurance, Health & Life


Mental toughness for athletic performance

We recorded this episode in Lake Tahoe, CA during Spartan Race World Championships, where people dunked in 30 degrees fahrenheit water, and climbed over 8,000 feet. This event was all about mental toughness.

Most people think they can’t do something like a Spartan Race, but it really all comes down to belief. You can easily convince yourself not to do something, but you can also convince yourself to do something that seems tough and out of the ordinary.

We tend to think that mental toughness is a unique piece, but it’s actually a combination of things like sleep, balance of parasympathetic system, neurotransmitter mix, genetics, etc. Optimizing those areas helps mitigate and handle stress, and improve mental toughness.


Hacking your ceiling for suffering

How much you can endure suffering is trainable. Races are tough, but they get easier. When you just start your training for a triathlon for example, just doing the swimming part sucks. But once you do things over and over, your body and mind adapt, and you end up looking for the next challenge.

Lots of the traditional advice you’ll find in magazines for high endurance challenges is to set intermediate goals or a mantra. Here are a few hacks to raise your ceiling of suffering from Ben Greenfield:

Stress resilience

Get yourself both cold and heat exposure, potentially every single day. The sauna is great for heat, and you dip in the ocean, a lake, or just take cold a shower or bath. Research have shown that increases exposure to heat and cold increases shock proteins, which make you more resilient to stress.


Ben tests his HRV (amount of time between each heartbeat), which is a good indicator of how your nervous system is doing, how well your training is translating into your nervous system adaptations that allow you to withstand stress and suffering. Before events/races Ben drives his HRV low, so he can do supercompensation to bring it back up.

tDCS device

Stands for transcranial direct current stimulation device, which allows you to go deeper into the pain cave. Ben’s favorite device is Halo, which enhances his performance in workouts, and playing the ukulele or video games. The device was originally built for Alzheimer’s patients, it’s a headset that emits 10 hertz frequency into your head, which activates cytochrome oxidase and releases nitric oxide.


Zone of familiarity

In order to achieve growth, you need to push yourself just above your zone of familiarity, which is what your body can handle in terms of intensity. A new zone where the body adapts to new intensity of workouts in terms of endurance and strength, but not a zone too far where you will injure yourself. When you push in the right zone, you will achieve growth and drive change in your physiology and gene expression.

Note: Most people have a hard time distinguishing between the next safe zone and getting injured. Make sure you are finely attuned to what you can handle.


Flow state

Even though athletes know that once you are in flow state things that are usually difficult become easier, mental gains are the least trained aspect of athletic races. It’s important to find purpose in the things you are doing, rather than for the sake of telling your friends about it. When you let things unfold, and focus on what’s in front of you, you will get into flow states, and won’t have to force your way through.


Stay out of your head

Staying out of your head means being able to feel your internal state. The better feel you have for your capabilities, the better you will perform. Special Forces and top performing athletes have this ability of introspection, which allows them to monitor their internal environment in the moment. For example: They can feel how much running their body can handle, and at what pace. They make slight changes every moment to operate optimally.

Feeling your internal state is learned and very beneficial. To get out of your head, try focusing on sensations in your body. Go from top to bottom, from your face, down to your heart, down to your lower belly.


Qualia by Neurohacker Collective

Get 15% OFF Qualia with promo code: Bledsoe15


Exogenous ketones

Exogenous ketones is one the new hot trend among endurance athletes. There hasn’t been much research on exogenous ketone for athletic performance, but athletes like them because they take minimal time and effort to consume (come in powder form) and so far have shown to be very safe.

  • Ketones for performance — Some people like to combine exogenous ketones with MCT oil or caprylic acids, and take them throughout a race.
  • Ketone Salts — Most ketone products on the market are ketone salts, as you need to deliver enough salts to efficiently use ketones. There are also ketone esters, a more pure form of ketones, but they are quite expensive.
  • Ketones efficacy — It’s debatable on how much you need to train your body to use exogenous ketones efficiently. If you take exogenous ketones for the first time, you would be able to use them as an energy source quite immediately, but most likely only for a short-term. Your body won’t be keto-adapted all of a sudden, you would need to train your liver to operate on ketones to be fully keto-adapted.


Gene doping

The next generation of humans will definitely incorporate technology with physicality. We already started using technology to improve our brain. Nootropics like Qualia boost neurotransmitters and blood flow to the brain through neurofeedback training, and it’s not all for competitive athletes. These technologies are for beneficial for everyday people to work out pain free, enhance focus and productivity at work, improve sleep quality, etc.

One theme to be aware of when enhancing the body and brain with technology, is to remember that they both strive for homeostasis. Our physocality always drives for balance, so when you train one area of the brain, you’re decreasing another. For example: If you train hard your concentration and focus, you might lose sleep quality because of it.


Outsource your data to a third party

Self-quantification is great, but you need to know how to handle it. You don’t want to spend too much time going over data, your time is more precious than quantifying every little things. You are better off outsourcing your data or copying Ben’s athletes, who are instrcuted to measure only the bare minimum: HRV, sleep, training and nutrition.

“If you’re spending 15–20 minutes after a workout pouring through the data and analyzing every little thing, that’s either 15–20 minutes you could have spent cooling down or rolling the body, or taking care of yourself or even working out for longer, or spending time with your family.” — Ben Greenfield


Sleep tracking devices

Oura ring

The Oura ring is a relatively accurate device, and Ben Greenfield likes it over other sleep trackers because it doesn’t need to be connected to wifi or bluetooth to work. The ring works in airplane mode, which is safer for your health, avoiding wifi and bluetooth signals.


The BioStrap measures HRV and sleep stages samples every 10 minutes during the night, loads it into a platform, and help patients and doctors analyze metrics to see if HRV and sleep are improving. BioStrap makes it easy to measure trends, which is important.


Nootropics for athletic performance

Nootropics enhance your cognitive function, which affects your whole body. But you need to know how to use nootropics. You need to load up on some nootropics to reap their benefits, and on the contrary, you need to stay off some nootropics to reap their benefits. Nitric based nootropics, like beet juice, should be load gradually for maximal benefits. While caffeine is a nootropic you get most benefits from when you take it occasionally.

  • Don’t take a bunch of nootropics to enhance everything — The brain takes only 20% of your metabolism, so don’t upregulate metabolism if you don’t have enough precursors to handle it.
  • Always cycle — never take something every day of the week, every day of the year. You won’t see the benefits.
  • Most supplements are prohibited at competitive sports — There’s not much research yet on using nootropics for enhancing athletic events, and most stuff is prohibited from use at competitive events. You can check what’s legal on Global DRO.



Ben Greenfield experimented with microdosing of various supplements for athletic performance improvement.

  • Cannabis — So far the only supplement Ben found beneficial for athletic performance. Both THC and CBD 5–10mg doses can help you push harder in the pain zone.
  • LSD — Tiny doses can help you get stuff done and improve your creativity.
  • Psilocybin — Are great for nature based performance and appreciation. They improve your senses, increase awareness, improve visual perception, and attention to color and vibrancy.

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