I caught up with our good friend, world renowned CrossFit coach Ben Bergeron, on Skype to get his take on blood and biomarkers.
Spoiler alert: Ben LOVES that "blood don't lie" and can't imagine ever giving nutrition advice to his athletes without first testing with InsideTracker. "With blood, I can truly tell from the inside not only nutritionally, but training-wise, how the training volumes are affecting their performance," he says.
Here at InsideTracker we're lucky enough to work with some of the world's greatest athletes and their coaches, like Ben. In case you haven't heard, Ben Bergeron has coached CrossFit's champs to the very top of the game — literally! His athlete Katrin Tanja Davidsdottir clinched the Women's #1 spot at the 2015 CrossFit Games while Matthew Fraser nabbed second place in the Men's category.
Ben is also the founder and master squat sergeant over at CrossFit New England, a box that's known for producing some of the best bodies in the business. Naturally, we wanted to give our audience a peek into what a top coach has to say about his personal experience using InsideTracker with both his athletes and his own body.
Check out the video for more great insight from Ben, plus tips for aspiring CrossFitters no matter your level!
Topics covered in video:
00:25 - How Ben's been using InsideTracker as a coach
02:20 - Why it's about more than how you feel
03:40 - Ben's personal InnerAge results, from old to young!
05:00 - How Ben uses InsideTracker to customize nutrition
06:45 - Vit D as a catalyst to expose athlete compliance
08:50 - Ben's most critical piece of advice for aspiring CrossFitters
Wondering what ALL of your biomarkers mean? We've created this handy biomarker guide for reference—it's FREE & it's yours to download!
Erin: So, I thought what we'd do today is really like give everyone a quick peek into what you've done with us because you've been using InsideTracker yourself for a while now. We've been working with you're athletes. I know you've had some interesting experiences with your own results. But I won't spoil the news for anyone. I'll let you get to that. So tell us just a little bit about what you've been doing from the coaching side with InsideTracker.
How Ben's been using InsideTracker as a coach
Ben: Sure. I started using it myself as a pilot just to test it out and see how I'd like it myself. And I think most people who go through it think, "I thought I was doing things really well, and eating really clean, and training really hard." And then I got some news that was surprising to me. I implemented the recommendations that InsideTracker put forth and I saw drastic improvements. And the whole thing is "blood doesn't lie". So, to me it doesn't really matter how you feel because feel is dictated by so many different things. It's how did you sleep last night, you're having a fight with you're wife, or you're stressed at work. The blood thing is 'proof in the pudding', its science. I'm really a big believer in that. I saw the results myself so I got excited about it for the possibilities for my athletes. And I did just that. I coached a few. I have a team that I put through the games this year. And I had three individuals last year that I coached that went to the games as well, with tremendous success. I had a first place finish finish in terms of Katrin Davidsdottir, and Mat Fraser came in second, and Michele Letendre finished in the top 20 in the last two years. Well, those guys did just the same thing I did for myself. Got the results, got the biomarkers, and tried to implement some changes. And InsideTracker is phenomenal at helping me out with that stuff. So I'm a coach, I'm good at getting people fit. I'm not a nutritional scientist. I don't know how to decipher these biomarkers the way that they can break them down. So it's hugely helpful and I'm a big believer in dialing in the 1% in taking care of every aspect of coaching, every aspect of what we can, and this was definitely more than that 1%. This was a big game changer for us.
Erin: Yeah, and we love to go through all that with you and see the results, and see people place, and know that part of that really was, I mean obviously, it's your coaching. But Insidetracker being a tool that you were able to use to lift people up even further was really cool.
Why it's about more than how you feel
Erin: Because you're right. It's about more than just how you feel. Although how you feel is certainly important in and how you perform is important, but I cannot tell you how many professional athletes we've spoken to who looked great from the outside and are maybe performing fine, but their blood tells a different story. So...
Ben: Yeah, and one of the things with that feel is if you work with top level athletes, they're always going to tell you that they feel okay. If I have an athlete that tells me that like, "I'm kind of beaten up, I think I need a backoff week." That's not an athlete that reaches the super upper extra echelons of the sport. They are athletes that love suffering, love the hurt. So we get blood, it's the "blood doesn't lie" that I could truly tell from the inside, not only nutritionally but the training volumes and how the training volumes are affecting their performance and where they are in a training cycle. And also, it can tell you something like, you might be saying like, "I'm hurting" and then, " I'm training hard enough." And that's a really big eye opener.
Ben: As opposed to what we'd see more commonly which is, "Coach, Give me more. Give me more. Give me more." It's like, "No, you need to backoff. You're getting beaten up too much." So really, it's an inside look at the athletes, it supposes subjective feel type thing.
Erin: Paticularly in CrossFit. I would point out that the suffering is a bigger thing there then maybe in some other sports, but that's what makes it unique too. It's very challenging. Speaking of "blood don't lie," this is interesting. I don't know if you want to give anyone exact numbers but since we all know the real story...
Ben's personal InnerAge results, from old to young!
Erin: When you first tested your InnerAge, we have this thing called InnerAge so anyone who's watching us who doesn't know what it is, InnerAge is a scientific measurement using your biomarkers of your internal biological age versus what the calendar actually says. Some people are younger and some people are older. And your first test, I know that your InnerAge was pretty significantly higher than your actual age (which you don't have to tell us what it is if you don't want). And then, you made the adjustments, InsideTracker gave you recommendations. And your InnerAge dropped by 20 years or something like that, right?
Ben: Yeah, so I'm 38 years old when I did my first blood test. I got the InnerAge, my blood said I was 49 years old.
Ben: Big eye-opener for a guy that trains hard every single day, and eats clean, and doesn't drink alcohol and all that stuff. So I made the change that (InnerAge) InsideTracker recommended. Re-did the test. I think it was about 60 days later (two months later), and drastic difference. I was 23 years old.
Ben: It was a big difference. So 38 about the calendar but inside now I'm 23. So happy about that.
Erin: Very nice. Younger than some of your athletes, internally.
Ben: Absolutely. Yes.
Erin: So, what was the most interesting takeaway for you? Because I know you and I have talked before and you've said that as a coach you really like to use this as a tool.
How Ben uses InsideTracker to customize nutrition
Erin: And correct me if I'm wrong but I think you've said that you really can't see yourself operating without such a tool now because nutrition and exercise recommendation, or particularly nutrition and supplementation is so unique to each individual. Right? So you can't give them a blanket, take zinc recommendation, even though it's kind of a hot topic. So what was that interesting thing that you found in that?
Ben: Exactly what you've just said. It is that. We have most of my top athletes work with a nutritionist. And they go there and the nutritionist will give them recommendations, and almost to a T, it's always, "You need to increase your zinc", "You need to increase you magnesium." Well the funny thing is that, when we get the blood tests back, almost all of my athletes are super high, way above elevated levels, dangerously high of zinc and magnesium. So the correlation there is, or the analogy would be, an athlete asking me to help them with their squat, but me never seeing them squat. So what I'm doing is giving blanket information to basically get the bulk. In terms of, "You need to work in terms of your ankle mobility. Well, if I've never seen you squat, how do I know if that's actually the case?"
Ben: I have incredibly supple ankles. That's not going to help you at all. But what I need you to do is, I need you to get in there, be able to see you squat, and now that I've seen you, I could give specific recommendations for you. It's the same thing with this InsideTracker, and the biomarkers. Once I've seen the inside, now I know exactly whether to tweak this, or turn this up, or keep this the same. Whether to supplement. Whether to do whole foods. It's an inside look at the athletes as opposed to this blanket broad brush stroke approach.
Erin: I don't know if I have supple ankles. I would say I have weak ankles. That runs in my family. They just buckle in.
Ben: We can work on that too.
Erin: Thank you. In addition to my burpees, which are also really insufferable, literally.
Vit D as a catalyst to expose athlete compliance
Erin: So the other thing actually that I'd like to touch on before we let you go because I know you've got people to coach there, is you made a very interesting comment about using this as a tool to measure compliance. And in fact you don't even need InsideTracker really to do that but we do give supplement recommendations and you had said something in a conversation with Rony here, the CEO. Like you know, if someone won't take a vitamin D pill, when they need it there is no way they're making it to the top of the CrossFit games because it's such a difficult turning. Right?
Ben: Yeah, absolutely. So what we've seen, and I didn't know this before I started working with InsideTracker, is that Vitamin D can work as a catalyst, it exposes people's compliance. If you have low levels of Vitamin D and most people in the United States do, in the Northern hemisphere, there's misnomer that you can get it through the sun. Well, after working with these really smart scientists who found out a lot more stuff that supplementation for most of us is the only avenue if you're low in Vitamin D. The crazy thing about that is, it is direct, if you supplement, it goes up. So if you're working with an athlete as I am and someone is not doing the basic levels of "take this one supplement once a day" and they're not doing that, that's going to carry over to other aspects of their fitness, whether it's dialing in to sleep, or the recovery, or the training when you're not there. But I've seen it actually come up, even to the point where it affects the performance on the field in competition. If they're not going to do the little things outside of the gym that you're asking them to, when it comes down to it in competition, the same weaknesses get exposed.
Erin: Well as you can see everyone, Ben is a tough cookie. So take your Vitamin D if you need it. But get tested first to know if you actually need it. Because not everyone does. Right?
Ben: That's right.
Erin: So before I let you go (because I hear the weights banging around at the background and I know you have to get back to work).
Ben: That never stops.
Erin: That's great. There no. Definitely not.
Ben's most critical piece of advice for aspiring CrossFitters
Erin: What's the most critical piece of advice, or the best advice, you'd give to aspiring Crossfitters who are watching or really anyone maybe who wants to get into the sport from a world renowned coach like yourself?
Ben: From a outside of the realm of nutrition and InsideTracker, just in terms of performance and trying to improve yourself, it's the mantra that they coach at Level 1 seminars which is mechanics, consistency, then and only then intensity. People get into the sport, see the people laid on the floor, lifting heavy weights, the pukey feeling, you know, it's what Crossfit is famous for. That's not what our sport is. That's not what the training program is. The training program is virtuosity. Do the common, uncommonly well. Can you execute an airsquat, a very seemingly simple movement, with perfection? If you can, well no one's perfect, but as close as perfect as you can. Focus on the fundamentals, then and only then, after time that you can do that again and again and again, week after week, day after day, without the eyes of a coach, then you are ready to layer in some intensities purely relative to you. It's not about the scoreboard, it's not about the scoreboard, it's not about PR's. It's just giving your best effort. So the mantra is, mechanics, consistency, then and only then intensity, and gauge yourself based off of your effort not off the numbers of the clock.
Erin: Do the common, uncommonly well. That's very sage advise.
Ben: Uncommonly well?
Erin: I think I was repeating what you had said which was "do the common, uncommonly well".
Ben: Yeah. Virtuosity.
Ben: Virtuosity is doing the common, uncommonly well.
Erin: Yup. Love it.
Ben: You would see that it's kind of evident if you went inside a martial arts studio. And the guy is like, "Let me show you this double back flip round held side kick." I get it, it's sexy. It's exciting. But right away you're kind of like, "Woah! That's not for me." It's the same thing when you walk in a Crossfit gym, they're like, "Let me show you a muscle up. Let me show you a squat snatch." It's sexy and it's fun, they coach those movements, and it's amazing to be able to perform them, but that's not what's at the essence of what we do. The essence of what we do is squatting, pressing, and pulling. Until you can do those things very very well, let's put the breaks on it a little bit, and focus on the mechanics first, and then we can kind of speed things up.
Erin: Well, when I finally do meet you in person Sir, we're going to work on my weak ankles and poor squatting skills.
Ben: Let's do it.
Erin: Thank you so much Ben for joining us. Tell everybody where they can find you online.
Ben: It's crossfitnewengland.com, the gym site. And then, competitorstraining.com is the site I use for training competitive athletes for the sport Crossfit.
Erin: And lots of cool stuff on your instagram.
Ben: Instagram is @benbergeron.
Erin: Very easy. Remember everybody. You can follow along with us on social as well to see what we're up to with Ben and his athletes and all other good stuff. We're on Twitter, Instagram, and Facebook under the name InsideTracker. Very simple to find. Stay healthy everyone. Thank you so much Ben, appreciate it.
Ben: You're welcome. Thanks, Erin.
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