About Our Guest- Benjamin Smith – Positive Lifestyle Shifts

Benjamin Smith grew up in the suburbs of Washington D.C., although he was born in Birmingham, England. He attributes some of his best qualities to the English influence his father provided, including a passion for football (soccer) and the importance of self-deprecation. He attended a small, private school and later entered Wake Forest University, where he studied communications and entrepreneurship. Ben has been creating opportunities and turning ideas into reality his entire life.

During high school, he raised over $40,000 to create and finance a self-sustaining Cyber Café in a small town in Togo. He opened two boutique group training gyms during college and continued growing those businesses for 5 years. Concurrently he has worked for a venture capital firm (AVX Partners), a big tech company (Box.com) and in the non-profit space (Wake Ventures).

Ben moved to Austin, TX in 2016. Since 2019, he has been focused on his latest venture, Disco cruelty-free skincare products for men. Ben has the passion and the perseverance to dream big and live even bigger.

Full Podcast Transcription

Benjamin Smith 00:00
If you’re breaking your fast with quote unquote healthy food, you’ll start to gravitate more towards that because you can really taste the nutrition in it. When you’re breaking your fast, I don’t know if that’s something you’ve experienced personally, but I can definitely attest to that.

Diva Nagula 00:16
Hello, everyone and welcome to another episode of From Doctor to Patient. We have Benjamin Smith joining us today. He grew up in the suburbs of Washington DC. Although he was born in Birmingham, England, he attributes some of his best qualities to the English influence his father provided, including a passion for soccer and the importance of self deprecation, intended a small private school and later attended Wake Forest University, where he studied communications and entrepreneurship, Ben has been creating opportunities in turning ideas into reality his entire life. During high school, he raised over $40,000 to create and finance a self sustaining cyber cafe in a small town in Togo, you open to boutique group training gyms during college and continued growing these businesses for five years. Currently, he’s worked for a venture capital firm, and big tech company and in the nonprofit space as well, then moved to Austin, Texas in 2016. Since 2019, he’s been focused on his latest venture Disco Skincare for Men. Ben has the passion and the perseverance to dream big and live even bigger. Ben, how are you today?

Benjamin Smith 01:48
I’m doing well. That’s that’s quite an intro you just gave me hopefully this conversation lives up to the hype there.

Diva Nagula 01:54
Well, thanks for being on the show. And and I guess you’re calling in from Austin, Texas. How is it over there?

Benjamin Smith 02:01
You know, all things considered. It’s not a bad place to quarantine. I’m fortunate and that I’m still holding on to my job. And the weather here is pleasant. And I’ve been quarantined with my girlfriend for the last four weeks, she lives in New York, so we sort of saw this coming and had a little bit of foresight to get her out of there before this escalated. It’s been an interesting four weeks, as I’m sure most people would attest to. But fortunate to still be working on something. And especially something I’m passionate about. What about you? How’s your quarantine been going?

Diva Nagula 02:38
It hasn’t been going bad. I’m actually an introvert. So for me, like being quarantined suits my lifestyle just fine. So it really hasn’t changed my lifestyle much. I am getting a little antsy but the golf courses are open, and we are practicing social distancing. So I’ve been able to like go out there and hit some golf balls. So weather’s been nice and it’s it’s definitely creating a little itch to get out more often.

Benjamin Smith 03:04
I’m not I’m not a big golfer myself, but I can understand that it could probably be quite meditative. If you went out there alone and walks, walks the 18 holes, or whatever, every morning or every other morning, you know, during the quarantine, for sure.

Diva Nagula 03:18
Exactly. And interesting, your line of work is consistent with some of the podcast episodes that I’ve done in the past. And the theme about, what I like to talk about, is how we can boost our immune system utilizing different ways and modalities to help us heal. And I talk about a lot about things that we put into our bodies like food, and talk about supplements, and even in my book talks about these things, too. But there’s a whole other component. And that is environmental exposure, as well as chemicals that we put on our body. And interestingly enough, what I am aware of, but I haven’t had the opportunity to talk about this. And I’m hoping we can get into this together. But the utilization of personal care products. And it’s important to note that there are hundreds and hundreds of chemicals in these products that we put onto our body on a daily basis. And women have probably utilized more of these personal care products than men. So talk to us about these toxins and chemicals in our products and how it plays a role in our health.

Benjamin Smith 04:30
For sure, so, to your point about environmental factors, I think that’s an often overlooked B
element of sort of like the holistic picture of taking care of yourself. Some folks that are more into taking care of themselves, like I imagine including yourself and myself, you know, we get the full picture because we’ve had the good fortune of surrounding ourselves with people that bring awareness to this but the vast majority of people in this country have zero awareness to no fault of their own, by the way because they’re not actively seeking out this information that the products that they use around their house, you know, on their face, in their bathroom, to clean their car, etc, typically speaking, are really just not good for you. And there are hundreds, if not 1000s of various chemicals that we can talk about here, and I don’t necessarily have like a molecular knowledge of each of them. But I can tell you that the vast majority of products that you buy off the shelves that you use, as I said, in your bathroom, on the house and whatnot, you probably should start to read the label on just because they can have longer term effects on your skin, with your hormones, specifically with like plastics and whatnot. This is definitely a rabbit hole, we can go down. But I think it’s just important to bring awareness to it. That’s really the first step and sort of improving how you think about the products you use in and around your body.

Diva Nagula 05:55
Exactly. And it’s in everything that we are applying onto our skin onto our face onto our head, there are various products that have so many different chemicals and more products that we use, were actually going to be more exposed, and it can cause detriment to our health, you would think that it’s only surface that it actually takes effect. But no, it’s these chemicals get absorbed into our body. And it can have an effect on our systemics circulation, which can impair our body’s defense systems. And right now we’re we’re facing the threat of the virus is really important to do things naturally and easily to boost our immune system. And obviously, I talk about foods, and things that you put into your system, and need to optimize what the intake is. But at the same point, we need to really address what we’re applying on our skin, and you have a line of products that are specifically for men, can you talk to us a little bit about your line, and what kinds of things that you focus on putting into each product?

Benjamin Smith 07:01
So my background as you mentioned, the beginning of the podcast is mostly in health and wellness started to boutique gyms when I was in college. So over the last six-seven years, maybe even eight or nine, I’ve really been focused on gaining as much knowledge as I can, both on the fitness side of things, and then on the recovery side of things as well, which is inclusive of sleep, food, mobility, etc, I’d include supplementation there to a little bit but that subset of interests led me to essentially revamp my entire personal care regimen. And what that consists of is, you know, the things I put on my skin, you know, for skincare products, things I use in my shower, and then the things I use on the top of my head with my hair, and beyond, really, and that also includes my house too. We don’t have house products yet, maybe one day, but, you know, that’s the sort of tangentially related and when you pair that part of my career with my upbringing, which involved a very prominent dermatologists actually in your area, Dr. Eva Simmons O’Brien, since we grew up in the same area, she has been involved since the ground floor of me starting this business, and was very influential in making sure that despite me sort of guiding the ship, as far as you know, our thesis goes around ingredients. So, minimal ingredient count to use active ingredients that actually work, but at the same time, are not harmful to other key mechanisms of the body. And really just making sure that this line is a reflection of my personal beliefs, which is, it’s possible to use skincare products that are good for you, but at the same time also work and have some clinical integrity behind them. But again, most importantly, are not necessarily detrimental to other parts of your body. Because at the end of the day, most people don’t… I mean, it honestly took me starting this company to even acknowledge this the skin is one of the largest organs in the body, and it absorbs pretty much everything that you put on it, obviously, and it has to go somewhere, right. So if you’re putting things on your skin, that are not good for you, your body has to process and metabolize that. So, when we built this line, I made sure to include ingredients that were better for you sort of natural and clean, if you will. Our line is vegan, and we never test on animals, we’re free of all the free radicals and chemicals that many sort of pharmacy brands have. But at the same time, we had Dr. Eva, collaborating with us on the formulation process to make sure we are including active ingredients that actually did something so you actually could benefit from using the product because with guys in particular, we actually conducted a market study before we launched and to understand and inform what our product suite would look like. And one of the major things that guys were after in this study particularly was feeling something and feeling like there was an actual benefit to the product. So generally speaking women are more willing to buy products that have sort of longer term benefits, because they understand that this is more of a long term play. So with guys, they really want to feel something almost immediately. So the way we combated that was obviously including those great active ingredients, but also including a very low percentage essential oil, Eucalyptus specifically, so that they physically felt something when they applied our products. So yeah, that’s a little bit about how we thought about the formulation process and how we arrived at our current line of products, which includes about seven products.

Diva Nagula 10:31
And could you specify what products that you have available?

Benjamin Smith 10:35
Yeah, some of our competitors that launched around the same time as us really wanted to focus on one or two products at launch, which, generally speaking from a business standpoint makes a lot of sense, our thesis was actually to go a little bit more of the contrarian route, which is, we wanted to launch with a full line. So essentially launched with five skincare products, which includes a face moisturizer, a cleanser stick, which is actually applied like a deodorant, but on your face with charcoal, face scrub, an eye stick for bagginess and depuffing area under your eyes, as well as a face mask that helps purify and sort of help with uneven skin tones and blushes on your skin. And then we also launched with two basics or body essentials, as we call them, which includes a deodorant and body wash. And the reason for that was that we thought, okay, we have this survey in this market data that shows, roughly 20% of guys over the age of 24, using skincare products, which is a very low percentage that’s going to grow exponentially over the next decade and beyond each year. How can we capture folks that are obviously all using some form of deodorant or antiperspirant and body wash or bar soap, introduce them to cleaner versions of what they’re already using in that department, and then persuade them or upsell them, if you will, into using skincare products. So that’s sort of the rationale behind the mechanics of the products we chose.

Diva Nagula 11:57
And in the ingredients, it’s really interesting, because all the ingredients that you have are things that actually work to moisturize the body and the skin, and exfoliates. But there’s also ingredients that you utilize like charcoal, and vitamins like vitamin C and vitamin E. And all these kind of have a role in its antioxidant qualities. But it’s interesting the charcoal, I didn’t know that could be also applied topically, I’ve always assumed charcoal was something that you actually take internally. And it is utilized to actually pull toxins and bind toxins before it actually gets absorbed into the system. How does that work on the topical areas?

Benjamin Smith 12:42
Yeah, so an interesting thing about charcoal is that it’s actually comedogenic, which means technically, it can actually clog pores, but if used topically and washed off immediately, that effect of sort of clogging the pores is sort of a moot point. And it’s a really, really powerful ingredient in terms of the surface area. So that product in particular, one, it works very hard to extract toxins and sort of purify the skin by being applied to the face, and basically binding to the sort of dirt and other sort of various things you don’t want on your face. But what’s important to note is that that product actually lasts quite a long time. So one of the problems we identified with the skincare market was that most of these companies are selling vessels in the in the sort of size range of about .5 ounces, up to about 1.5 ounces. And if you actually use the products as you’re supposed to you’ll run out very quickly anywhere from like three to five weeks with a with a size like that. So we wanted to provide a little bit more value to guys perhaps at the detriment to our margins, and our reorder rates. Just because as a guy the very nature of starting to use a skincare product is sort of like a foreign idea. So what we didn’t want to do was come to market with average size vessels, and then sort of run the risk of annoying them at the fact that they continually have to rebuy this product once a month, so we’re moving towards a quarterly model where, you know, this isn’t public yet, but eventually we’ll have a Quarterly box where you can sort of pick and choose the skews you want, and then it’ll be delivered every three months to your door. And that way from a business side of things, you know, we’re still getting, you know, four, so orders annually from each customer. And that’s great for our business, but at the same time, we’re really putting the customer first and making sure that there’s not, you know, an inundation of orders and charges on their cards. So the customer experience is a little bit better. And just sort of backtrack a little bit to a more granular part of your question. Ingredients like charcoal are included in each one of our skews. So we have anywhere from sort of one to four hero ingredients in each skew. And thanks to you know, Dr. Eva and the cosmetic chemists we worked out in California with to develop these products. We really landed on a strong group and V1 of this company, and these, these products has been performing super super well. So it’s only going to get better from here.

Diva Nagula 15:07
That’s awesome. And I also like the fact that you have Eucalyptus and some of your products too. And it’s like, it actually has some benefits in terms of it being utilized topically, but I like it because it also helps to relax the person and it has some benefits and just reducing anxiety and just helping to relax person. So I’m sure people get that benefit of it skin effects as well as a sort of a mental aspect when it gets absorbed into the skin and into your systemic circulation.

Benjamin Smith 15:36
Absolutely. And not to dwell too much on the eucalyptus side of things. But you may uncover if you do some high level Google research. As I’m sure yourself and many of your readers and including me do, you might come across some some literature that basically says it’s not okay to include essential oils in skincare. That’s pretty baseless. We did quite a bit of research into that, and obviously confided in multiple dermatologists including Dr. Eva, and at a very, very low percentage. It’s nothing but beneficial to the average user. Of course, there are some people who are allergic to Eucalyptus, which is a very small subset of folks, .001%, who knows what it is. But you can’t please everyone. And one thing that’s really important to note when it comes to skincare is there’s no one size fits all company for everybody. We’re trying to be that as best we can. But at the end of the day certain products and ingredients react differently for everyone. So a very small percentage of triers for every skincare brand will not end up liking the product, or their skin may react adversely. So, that’s important to note, but generally speaking, the idea of including Eucalyptus was a direct response to that survey we conducted where guys really wanted to feel something. And as someone who serves as religious to his essential oil diffuser at my desk, I definitely wanted to include eucalyptus just because it’s such a pleasant scent to me, and I’m glad you’re also the same way.

Diva Nagula 17:08
Yeah, I’m a big proponent of eucalyptus, and I love peppermint. Those are my two favorite things it would awakens me and it just soothes and relaxes me almost instantly after I smell that oil.

Benjamin Smith 17:23
I totally agree. I actually have eucalyptus diffusing right next to me right now.

Diva Nagula 17:27
I have peppermint diffusing next to me. So you’ll have a pretty decent, I would imagine a personal routine that you probably have been doing for a while with the skincare, your exercise regimen, what kind of tips can you offer people to help improve their health and well being?

Benjamin Smith 17:49
Yeah, loaded question, but one that I that I love. So my routine is a little bit maniacal, I can take you through it as quickly as I can. And hopefully at the end can sort of just offer some high level recommendations for listeners that are just dipping their toes in the environment of trying to better themselves. But a typical day for me, just looking at like a regular weekday looks like waking up just naturally without an alarm sometime between 7-7:30. At that point, obviously use the restroom, as most people do, and then brush my teeth. And then I actually stand in front of the Joovv, the red light therapy device, which is in my office hanging from my door, I found, whether it’s placebo, or not that to be super helpful in terms of just waking me up, and in terms of helping cellular turnover in my skin, especially on my face, there’s also some purported benefits for testosterone as well. So, yeah, it’s definitely a little funky, but I stand in front of that thing naked every morning for about 15 minutes, seven minutes on each side. And then from there it’s typically you know, chugging have quite a bit of room temperature water, and then apple cider vinegar, then I make my smoothie, which is pretty high in protein, and fat and low and carbohydrate, and then I’ll take my supplements and after that either try to go for a walk, or do some basic yoga or some sort of like animal flow, just to get the blood moving in my body, after that it’s about eight to 10 hours of work, depending on the day. And then Monday, Wednesday, Friday, Saturday, I will train and typically that’s at Equinox, but obviously, that’s closed right now, so I built and a little bit of a home gym in my garage now with a bench to pull up bars and kettlebells and maces. What else, some bands and some gymnastics rings and tools as well. So training for me is really a mixture of compound weightlifting movements, so squat, bench press, as well as some kettlebell work. And then some sort of like bodybuilding bros style workouts as well just to keep me sane and make sure that I enjoy my workouts. And then typically we’ll finish with some sort of core work or some conditioning as well, to boost testosterone in the form of HIIT training. And that’s actually all done by one of my good friends, Jesse O’Brien, he programs all of my workouts here in Austin, and has done for three or four years now. So that’s sort of the general routine, I typically get to bed, hopefully, by 11 each night, so that I’m getting a solid eight to eight and a half hours. I’ve personally found, as I’m sure, you’d probably agree that sleep and food are probably the biggest macro changes you can make in your life to make a huge dent in how you feel and how long you live, hopefully too. There’s many, there’s many other sorts of like more fringe things I do. I take a sauna and cold plunge as much as I can, with some contrast therapy. I’ve done NAD therapy, I’ve experimented a little bit with peptides. And there’s other things as well. But generally speaking, that’s sort of my routine. And I think in terms of recommending, how to change your life, in a simple way, I think at the very least, you should be shooting for eight hours of sleep every night. And I think that’s probably a pretty unanimous recommendation for most of your guests on the podcast. But I can’t stress enough how much my life has improved from my career, to my emotions, to my relationships with both friends, and my lady. And, you know, that’s all really to do with sleep. And in addition to that, I think getting a handle on food, and really taking control of you know, your urges, and sort of addictions there, if you have any, is another really powerful way to live longer and feel better. And I think just the very nature of cutting out like processed foods is a good natural first step. And then you can get more and more crazy and more meticulous with it over time as you start to, you know, feel the benefits of that. But those would really be my biggest two, I’m happy to go down the rabbit hole on any sort of on any sort of the more fringe stuff that I’ve done like NAD and whatnot.

Diva Nagula 22:09
What really intrigued me was because of your background, with exercises and training gyms that you had opened, I’m sure since you’re quarantined, and you’re unable to go to the gym. It’s interesting that we still have to have some sort of exercise regimen. And do you have anything specifically that you’ve adapted to now that we’re quarantine, like, things that people can do and should do on a regular basis that you’ve actually transitioned from a gym into your home.

Benjamin Smith 23:42
So like I said, I’m fortunate in that I saw this coming a little bit not in the sense that like I was fortunate enough to short the market and make a ton of money or anything. But I sort of towards the end of February had a trip planned around mid March to go to Miami for Music B
Week, big music fan, and I sort of saw some of these cancellations coming in. I think this is going to escalate like exponentially in the event that like obviously gyms get closed down, like I need to order a bunch of stuff from rogue fitness, like right now. So I was I was pretty fortunate. My girlfriend was like, I don’t know if that makes sense. I don’t know you spend that money and I was like, You know what let’s just do it, and then we can return it if we’re not happy. So I bought a bunch of stuff then. So in terms of my workouts changing, not in like a crazy way because I still have a barbell with plates up to like almost 400 pounds, I have the bench, which I can bench on and then I have the pull up bar too. But if you’re someone who doesn’t have that equipment at your disposal definitely try to get a kettlebell if you can just because this is a great time to learn a modality like kettlebell training. And if that’s not of availability to you, just moving the very nature of walking 30 minutes to an hour every day is a huge great start And if you want to get a little bit more serious with it and sort of maintain your physique, if you will, and potentially improve it, I’d recommend getting into animal flows. So that’s something that I’ve always been really interested in. And here in Austin, there’s a bunch of people, including some of my close friends, that are sort of some of the champions of that movement two people that you should definitely look up are @primal.soldier on Instagram, great for kettlebell flows, and animal flows. And then his girlfriend, @FrancescaFit on Instagram, as well. She’s particularly adept at animal flows, and I sort of copy some of their workouts when I’m not doing one of my four prescribed workouts by my coach. So, no, those are great modalities that really teach you how to connect with your body and move in really unique and different ways that, frankly, in my opinion, are really good for you. Because you’re exposing you’re exposing your body to movements, and exposing muscles that you don’t often use to new styles, which can’t really be bad for you. And to make it more enjoyable, they’re pretty fun, too. And once you get good at it, you can move in really crazy ways. And it’s really addicting. So that was that’s definitely what I would do.

Diva Nagula 26:11
I’m unfamiliar with the animal flow, what exactly is that?

Benjamin Smith 26:15
Yeah, so you don’t need any equipment for it. You can work in kettlebells, and stuff to it and masons if you want, but typically speaking, it’s just moving your body in really unique ways. So I think after this call I can send you something, I think you’ll probably recognize it right away after seeing it visually. But I can’t really describe the movements too, because they don’t really have names that are recognizable, if you will, but you’re essentially doing like weird lunges, and moving your back, and yeah, it’s just, it’s just really difficult to describe, but there are some really great resources out there, like the two accounts that I mentioned, and some others as well, that can teach you step by step how to get better at it. And really connect with yourself. And I think a big part of animal flows is also breathwork to, which I didn’t mention in my routine, but I’m also a big advocate for Wim Hof style breathing. And there’s a bunch of other different techniques as well. But you know, as part of animal flows, breath is definitely, you know, a big part of it too. So you get the benefit of really calming your nervous system and connecting with your breath too, which is great.

Diva Nagula 27:20
And all the things that you’ve described in terms of routine are very beneficial in helping boosts the immune system and detoxifying your body. So when you’re using the red light therapy, it helps to detoxify the body, to stimulate the mitochondria. It has such great benefits in terms of anti-aging, it’s wonderful and all the other things that you’re also doing in terms of your exercise routine, your workouts, diet, it just has an overall general improvement in one’s well being. And with your niche with skincare, this is really important to talk about, because all these things that you’re doing, including the products that you are advocating for, and that you promote, It all helps with detoxification and improvement of the skin. And that’s awesome that everything’s in continuity to one another to help promote and improve people’s health and well being.

Benjamin Smith 28:11
I totally agree. And candidly, I have had my battles with my skin, as a lot of people have and from the outside looking in I had a past relationship with a gal that struggled pretty deeply with what she thought was horrific acne and like, to the to the naked eye, or her friends and family, even me dating her like, I that’s not really that big of a deal. And ironically enough, after we stopped dating, I started suffering from something similar to her. And I can’t say enough how important it is to address acne, especially if it’s bothering and affecting your mental health. So with me I was obviously acutely aware, because I’d like to think I’m a pretty rational person
that like listen, not that many people will notice this, it’s not really that big of a deal. But for whatever reason, it continually beat me up. So this was right before I started Disco as well. So that’s also part of the motivation for me starting the business, but it’s really important to address these skin issues if you’re suffering from them, and do your best to fix it if you can naturally and that’s typically inclusive of you know, basic lifestyle changes, which includes sleeping more drinking a lot more water, cutting out things that bother your gut and your digestive system, which for a lot of people includes dairy and refined carbohydrates. So those changes definitely helps and getting natural skin peels, and really rebalancing my gut flora, and then the actual flora of my skin as well essentially solved the problem. But it was a long, long couple of months of trying a bunch of different things and being really frustrated. And unfortunately for some people, they kind of have to go the nuclear route, which is a little bit of a controversial opinion given that I run a natural skincare company, but for some people like they just can’t get ahold of the problem and will have to go on Accutane.

Diva Nagula 30:04
Yeah, which understandably, if that’s the last resort, which it should be, it should not be the first resort. I totally agree. And I’m for it. But it’s important to note that everything that we’re talking about is just a multitude of different ways to help you achieve well being. And it’s a balance, the mind body and the spirit. And here we’re talking about obviously, a large focus is on skincare. But to really optimize the skincare in an overall it’s about addressing basic things like food intake, because that has a bearing on what your system processes and if you’re processing things that are foreign to your body with chemicals, it not only is going to have a bearing on how your body reacts internally, but it’s also going to show up externally as well. Now with blemishes and skin rashes, and eczema. Some of these are autoimmune conditions. And the reason why they occur is because it’s an inflammatory process that’s going on within our body. And these inflammatory processes could be secondary to chemicals we put on our body topically or chemicals that we are injesting. But nonetheless, if you really want skin that’s healthy and glowing, it’s important to really look at your regimen and see if you need to change it from internally as well as topically and externally. So the sleep is huge. This is an area that I’ve been really struggling with for many, many years until I started to really employ specific hacks. And I also have a tool that I measure. And I think it’s important for people to get wearables I wear the Oura ring is it’s outstanding in terms of measuring my sleep, and it breaks down my sleep into different cycles, REM sleep, deep sleep and just regular light sleep. And it also measures my heart rate variability. So this is another thing that I like to use in terms of gauging my progress and getting away from fight or flight and being more in a rest and digest state. And you’re also mentioning something the Wim Hof breathing. And I’m a big proponent of performing breathing exercises, as I feel that’s really a way of really kind of getting your system under control, really winding down your nervous system and focusing on the moment and within. And it also allows you to decompress. And also in some cases, it can give you spiritual kind of enlightenment and it can take you to a different location where you have an out of body experiences some cases. You were talking about Wim Hof? Have you been using that for a while?

Benjamin Smith 32:43
I can’t remember exactly when I stumbled across him, but it would have been maybe in 2013, or 2014. So I’ve been intermittently using breathwork in various forms, particularly Wim Hof for the last six years or so. And something I didn’t mention, when I talked about my routine, I’m definitely a big advocate for intermittent fasting as well. I typically follow eight to 10 hour eating windows. So I’m typically fasting from roughly 7 or 8pm, the night before to about 9 or 10pm, the next day. And adding that in, has really changed how I think about food. So I’m a decently large guy, not huge, but about 190-195 pounds, and I eat a lot and train pretty hard. So I’ve always thought about food as sort of like something you need to eat constantly, especially when I’m training that much. But it’s actually quite the contrary. And when you break it down logically, to think that you’re eating up until the last moments before you go to sleep. And then you wake up and you just start consuming again, whether that’s like loaded coffee, or donuts, or whatever it is the majority of population eat that doesn’t make any sense. We were built to last for days on end without food. So just giving your digestive system in your gut, etc. A break just makes a ton of sense to me. And I’m a big, big fan of the Whoop band and the Oura band as well. I personally have used the Whoop band for about six months. And I think it’s really especially helpful in those first couple months to really gain an understanding and insight into how you recover and feel because someone else isn’t a intune with their body, maybe you or I, we can sort of gauge without those tools. Hey maybe I shouldn’t really push it in the gym today, I only got six hours of sleep, that’s about two hours less than I normally get. I had a little bit of stress at work, you sort of know because you have that mind body connection. But for the majority of people that are learning that still that sort of skill, if you will, it brings a lot of awareness to them. So I personally use the Whoop to really gain an understanding into my sleep and after a certain amount of time. Like I’d venture to say my opinion if I just was off the cuff without the Whoop would probably be pretty close to you know what the data in the Whoop would say if I had been wearing it, if that makes sense.

Diva Nagula 34:57
Yeah, totally makes sense. For me, if you’re already having great sleep and you feel restful, and you’re getting your seven to eight hours of sleep, then obviously, there’s not a reason to purchase the wearable. But for me, it was something that I needed, because I really needed to figure out and look at data as to why I was so tired all the time. And I’ve employed hacks in my system, to optimize my HRV. And one of the things that was used for me, that was how I used to eat so close to bedtime. And if I ate a heavy meal, my data tracked in such a way that my resting heart rate wouldn’t drop any further than the normal because it was compromised, because my system was spending way too much time digesting the food that I’d eaten instead of working on repairing my body for sleep, and my heart rate would not go down lower. And typically you’re going to achieve your lowest heart rate in the middle of the night. And I typically wouldn’t because I was like before I go to bed, and it was a heavy meal, like a steak meal or something to that effect. And it would affect my sleep, it would affect my performance the next day, because my HRV was never optimal. And those are the things that I learned when I was starting to understand the data that I was getting from the Oura ring. And there’s other devices that can be that can be used, I like the Oura on specifically. But that’s kind of important to talk about and when you were talking about intermittent fasting, I did a podcast early on about intermittent fasting. And actually, it’s funny enough, I’m working on a 24 hour fast now. So I have six more hours left to go but nice. I have a busy schedule for next five hours. So it should keep me away from thinking about food.

Benjamin Smith 36:41
I think that’s that’s definitely critical is to keep yourself busy. When you’re doing the longer like the one day or three day or even five day fast you got to stay busy. The one hour fast is surmountable, I think everybody should be doing that once a month, just one for the autophagy benefits, and the gut benefits, but also for mental clarity. And a little bit of developing that mental fortitude, I think it’s important to challenge yourself.

Diva Nagula 37:08
Absolutely. And it doesn’t have to be something where you can work your way up to it like you could start doing intermittent fasting, 16 hours where you’re fasting and cutting that window down to eight hours. And then slowly working your way to where you’re doing 24 hour fasts, that’s how I did it. And you may not appreciate the benefits, and not get adapted to that style of fasting for a while. But I would encourage people to stay with it. Because the benefits are so good for your body, it optimizes the gut and optimizes the system. Because as you were talking about autophagy is huge, because it cleans out all the cellular debris and recycles things. And your body does not have a chance to get that if you’re constantly in a state of feeding. And that’s why it’s important to really curtail these feeding windows to like eight hours and compressing it to even six hours. That way your body has more time to like, do what it’s supposed to do and heal and clean itself. And it’s also in a state where you’re reducing inflammation, which can help reduce incidences of chronic disease and cancer, which was in my situation what I ended up having as a result of chronic inflammation. So all these things that we’re talking about the steps that we’re taking to help the body to use proper products and eliminate products with excess chemicals is just to really to reinforce how important it is to allow the body to heal and it has an amazing uncanny ability to heal itself as long as we give it the opportunity to.

Benjamin Smith 38:36
I totally agree. And I think I was listening to a podcast the other day or just a clipping from one in which Jocko Willink was talking to another veteran about food. And they’re both just behemoths of guys. I was watching it on YouTube, and I’m just looking at these guys like, Oh my god, these guys probably weigh 50 pounds more than me, they are beasts. And they’re here sitting talking about food and how they think about food and how they can help give recommendations to people that are looking to start their sort of wellness journey. And, something they said when it came to fasting was that here are these guys that are just gargantuan in size. And I know that’s I brought it up multiple times now but I bring it up to illustrate the fact that like they do day long today fast etc. And they’re just fine. So the idea of like, you’re big, you shouldn’t have to fast is just like sort of ludicrous. You’re totally capable of it even if you’re a large human and the benefits are there for whatever size you are and what they said interestingly which is the main point I wanted to make was that if you’re someone who has an addiction or propensity to eat more sugary fruits like you know, carbohydrates for example, fasting really resets the system, and pretty much any food especially like really healthy food like let’s just say chicken and vegetables and some healthy fats. As the meal you eat when you break your fast will taste great. Just like the addiction you sort of satisfy when you eat a doughnut, you know how it feels like very satiating, and it’s like very satisfying, etc. This sort of fasting protocol, or the idea of fasting and execution does the same thing. And it really allows you to appreciate food more. And if you’re breaking your fast with, quote, unquote, healthy food, you’ll start to gravitate more towards that, because you can really taste the nutrition in it. When you’re breaking your fast, I don’t know if that’s something you’ve experienced personally. But I can definitely attest to that.

Diva Nagula 40:32
I definitely know that after 24 hour fasts, or even longer, the food that I put into my body is just so much more delicious. But it’s important to really state that when you are fasting, whether it’s an intermittent fasting regimen, or you’re a full day fast or a multi day fast, that the refeeding is really important, because you really want to put into your system proper nutrients, like proteins and proper vegetables and carbohydrates, you don’t want to go out there and refeed. And the first thing that you do is eat a bowl of ice cream, that’s counterproductive as to the reason why you’re fasting, it’s going to take away all the benefits of fasting pretty quickly. So it’s really important to… the first thing that I recommend doing is to properly consume enough protein into your system, because that’s the amino acids that formulate the protein it’s a fundamental thing that is broken down into when we eat. And we need those amino acids, because those are like the building blocks of our entire system. And also, what it’s important to point out is, we also want to do these fasting routines. And it’s okay if you’re weightlifting, and you’re worried about, well, if I don’t eat, I’m going to lose muscle mass. Not specifically, if you’re doing fasting, it’s a muscle sparing, you’re not going to sit there and break down muscle. And that’s been proven, again, by the science behind fasting, it’s muscle sparing. So why it works so well is that you break down your body’s fat to actually produce the energy that’s needed to get through the day. And that’s your source of energy and it doesn’t break down protein, it doesn’t break down muscle. And that’s really important to point out. So I’m sure you’re following those. What’s the longest you’ve you’ve fasted?

Benjamin Smith 42:20
I’ve almost done two days, I need to do the five day I at some point, I need to do that I just need to mentally sort of block off some time it may need to happen during this quarantine, because there’s not really a better time, there’s no real temptations or anything out in the world. So I’ve done about a day and a half. And let me tell you that first meal during the refeed phase, if you will, is just like it’s truly epic. Back to Back to your point, though, about building muscle mass. If you’re someone that is really like almost neurotic about retaining your muscle mass and to put into more layman’s terms, you know, holding on to your gains, then if you’re training fasted in the morning, you can definitely take various combinations of amino acids to essentially provide energy to your body so that it’s not kicking into your your muscles, if you will, but like you said, there’s tons of substantiated research behind fasting, of course, diving into the fat first but if you’re someone who’s extra worried about that, and doesn’t necessarily believe the literature, amino acids are a great thing to turn to, if you need energy and or training in the morning fasted. So whenever I train in the morning, which is rare. I’d like to train more in the evenings because you’re typically stronger than based on the circadian rhythm. I will use. Kion Aminos, Ben Greenfield’s company to feel fueled and energized when I train and I’ve found that those workouts are almost as good as the workouts in the evening, which I do all the time. I don’t know, when do you train?

Diva Nagula 43:57
It varies I usually it’s a train around midday. But if I am fasting, I’d like to do something in the morning. Just because I want to deplete those glycogen stores in my liver. So that helps me to get more into a fasted state and allows my metabolism to kick in and really use the fuel from fats breaks down the fats for energy. So that’s why I do that. I’m not diligent enough to be honest. But I think if anyone’s to entertain. This would be the right way of doing it is to workout in the morning in a fasted state. That’s just what I feel is best but you’re right, though I think the amino acids definitely helps and you don’t necessarily need it. But if you’re one of those people who’s really worried about your gains, and you can pop in the amino acids in the morning is really not going to really curtail or not really hurt the fasting protocol.

Benjamin Smith 44:54
I’ve tried to shift towards the morning workout myself and I’ve just found that I feel stronger in the evenings, which airlines sort of with their circadian rhythm training around 430 or five and maximum grip strength too. But I’ve pushed to train in the mornings more, and it’s really just about me sucking up and just going through the adjustment period and allowing my body to adjust like, it’s definitely a little frazzle when I train in the morning, because it’s like, wait a second, you almost 90 plus percent of the time you’re training after two or three meals, and typically it’s in the evening, but from a productivity standpoint, especially if you’re a busy person training in the morning is important, but I’ve just personally found in my anecdotal experience that I’ve struck a nice balance between performance. So with my training, focused on being a little bit stronger in the evening and being able to push it a little bit more, but also adopting all those other habits that will sort of benefit me in the long term, intermittent fasting, sleep, etc. Do you take naps, by the way?

Diva Nagula 45:56
I don’t take naps. It’s just my mind goes too crazy for me to like really go into a state where I can calm it down and sleep. But what I do is I cheat a little bit, I listen to binaural beats. And while I do that, I’m sitting on my PMF mat. And that actually helps me to recover both the combination of listening to the beats, and on the pulsed electromagnetic frequency mat, it actually helps stimulate my cells and allows more oxygen delivery and also helps with performance. But specifically, I listened to the beats because after about 20 minutes of listen to this, it puts me into this really relaxed, alpha state. And so it’s very much like a meditative state. So it’s a poor man’s way of meditating. But for me, it’s what I need to do to optimize my day. And to optimize my performance without actually physically meditating or taking a nap.

Benjamin Smith 46:49
I do something very similar. I don’t have the PMF mat. I’ve done that before and love it, it’s like a wild feeling. You’re talking about the thing that sort of like shakes a little bit, right? And it has the electrode nodes or whatever going through it. It’s like glue, right?

Diva Nagula 47:04 Yeah.

Benjamin Smith 47:05
So I found that to be quite like an out of body experience, especially when you pair that with binaural beats. So I’m definitely picking up what you’re putting down there. And I myself, use binaural beats, when I quote unquote, like meditate, I call it more of like, a consciousness nap. So I typically set 20 minutes directly after lunch, about the same time as you, I lay down, I listened to a 10 minute guided meditation. And then for the next 10 minutes I put on but binaural beats, and I set an alarm so that if I actually pass out, which oftentimes does happen, I wake up, and I typically feel like, totally rejuvenated if I felt a little tired before, because I get the benefits of working on my breath, and sort of peacefully putting my mind at ease. So in the meditation, but then I also get the sort of, like, exogenous benefit of forcing myself into a relaxed state from the binaural beats as well, which, by the way, if you’re someone who struggles with sleeping on an airplane, I found that binaural beats, are excellent to sort of get you in a relaxed state and remove a little bit of the anxiety of flying and help you get to sleep. That’s, that’s a hack that I’ve just sort of stumbled upon myself.

Diva Nagula 48:13
That definitely beats getting that glass of wine or that cocktail. So what else we tell if we’ve hit upon a lot of different things, but one thing that we really haven’t touched base on, is, we have a few minutes left to discuss, is spirituality, like I know right now is interesting, because we’re in a time where we’re facing our own internal demons, because we’re forced to look at them by being constrained and being at home by ourselves. And there’s not a whole lot to do. So you’re left with really dealing with your personal like emotions, you also help dealing with your inner demons. And one of the things that I’ve talked about in my book, and I’m exploring more and more, to develop my spirituality, and also to help me heal, from inside out, is utilizing psychedelics. And since I’ve been at home I’m able to use it a little bit more frequently than I have in the past. And honestly, it’s been helping me deal with a lot of stuff that is going on out there. And also, I feel it’s interesting because I think it also, I’m tuning in to the collective unconscious a little bit more, and I’m tuning into a lot of the fears and anxieties. At the same time. It’s allowing me to raise my vibrational energy so that anyone who I influence will be indirectly affected in a positive way. And that’s why I continue to do it because not only does it help me, but it helps other people who I might come into contact with. What about you? I know you’ve dabbled in some of psychedelics and Austin seems to be a hotbed for a psychedelic work.

Benjamin Smith 49:55
Yeah, so I think psychedelics generally speaking are a very powerful tool when used respectfully and appropriately to further your mind, and then also really look deeply inwards, as you said for folks that haven’t had the opportunity to, for whatever reason, use various psychedelics there’s definitely a stigma attached to it still, like on a national and potentially global level. But fortunately now, there’s a massive movement happening with a variety of different psychedelics from LSD, psilocybin and MDMA, and a few others, including ketamine, as well, that has real clinical benefits, medical benefits was studies and very happy people who have used these substances, or medicines, if you will, to benefit them in massive ways, specifically for PTSD, depression, anxiety, etc. I don’t necessarily suffer from any of those, like a chronic level, but I’m sure the majority of people in this world have have their own anxieties and whatnot. And I’ve found, than probably the average person, ver since I started, using psychedelics that’s definitely dissipated. One, not just because of the exhaustion of substance that I’m taking, but more because of the awareness that those substances bring to me, or help bring. Yes, in my personal experience psychedelics can be very, very powerful, and really helping you look inwards, and just addressing problems that, you know, are there on a daily basis, whether that’s you react angrily to people too often, or do you let one small minute thing bother you consistently, but you don’t do anything about it. And for me, personally, psychedelics have brought a lot of awareness to that, and in my opinion, have helped make me a much better person. And as you put it raising vibrational energy, I think what that means sort of, in layman’s terms, for my understanding is you’re, you’re just a better person, you know, you’re happier you have a lot more awareness about your faults, and for me personally to it’s helped diminish my ego and, and use it more strategically. And thus the people around me both in my inner circle, and sort of the outer circle that I touch are sort of all benefactors of that better Ben, if you will.

Diva Nagula 52:16
Right. And I think that leads to sort of more of a spiritual enlightenment, because it allows you to understand your purpose in life. And it allows you to understand that there is a universe that we can get connected to, and we’re connected to everyone else, we’re all connected in some way. And this is kind of, like important to understand, because when, right now we’re facing a situation where we may be feeling lonely and we may have issues with that. But part of spirituality is understanding that we’re all connected. And to combat some of this loneliness that we’re feeling it’s important to really utilize the method of being of service to others. And that’s how I’ve been able to move forward with my spiritual enlightenment with with the use of psychedelics, and mind you that I don’t want to sit there and and promote an illegal activity. There’s an underground movement. There’s also right now going on, there’s multiple clinical trials that are going on with the usage of MDMA and psilocybin throughout the country. And there’s multiple organizations that are holding trials as well. And the whole idea behind this is to really promote this in a healthy way so that it can become legalized. But there’s so much great benefits to utilizing these medicines and like you’d mentioned before, like MDMA is very popular in the utilization for PTSD, it’s been shown that there’s an 80% cure rate with just one or two sessions. And that’s why the FDA is fast tracked this medicine, for it to be become legal, hopefully, within the next year or two. And you’re also seeing things, more trials and more things that are coming for the uses of psilocybin, which is also known as magic mushrooms. And the rationale behind this is giving people it’s increasing their spirituality, it’s allowing them to be more fulfilled, not necessarily curing, but it is alleviating things such as anxiety and depression. And it also has a tendency to help with addiction. Personally, for me, before I started my spiritual encounter with psychedelics, I was suffering from a lot of isolation, a lot of anxiety and this is all stemming from my history of cancer and a divorce that resulted from me going through cancer treatment and cancer. And I didn’t understand how bad I was until I started to delve into psychedelics as it gave me an opportunity to understand what it’s like to be more in the moment instead of ruminating about the future and having regrets about the past. And that was really, for me, front and center when I did my first psychedelic experience, and it continues to be that way. When I do more of it I continue to have more improvements with my daily life, and more focus on doing things that helped me heal from within don’t really care about things like materialism anymore. It’s not something that I’m really focused on, that I used to have businesses or run businesses, my whole way of thought was, let’s see how much money we make or and see how much power it’s going to bring me, I don’t have that anymore. And I really feel that’s a significant result of my realization of psychedelics and spiritual enlightenment. And there’s been numerous studies to purport all this, if you use Google, you can see all the research that’s been in there, and I quote, a lot of research in my book when I discuss psychedelics. And so it’s interesting, it’s really been enjoyable talking to you about this, because it’s not many people are, are very comfortable in talking about this topic. But I think it’s awesome that we can have this open discussion.

Benjamin Smith 55:46
Yeah, absolutely. And I think given what you do for a living, you help people the very nature of sort of breaking down your ego and bringing more awareness to the various, I don’t want to use the word false, but I’m sure you know, what I’m saying. can really go a long way and make you much better at what you do, whether you help people for a living or, or otherwise I’ve used psychedelics as a very powerful tool, when used appropriately and respectfully, again, gotta get that Asterix in there, in the right set and setting, and making sure that whatever you are using is pure and clean. candidly speaking, they can be extremely helpful. And all the research and studies that are being done now that have helped some of the guys that have come back from Iraq, and Afghanistan, and the other various parts of the Middle East, with the PTSD is quite overwhelming. And honestly, I think we’re gonna see a monumental shift in the drug industry, the pharmaceutical industry as these medicines become legalized, and taken off the schedule especially to help people so gone are the reliance on antidepressants, hopefully, and lengthy and costly PTSD treatments, when in a matter of one to two sessions, a couple 100 bucks, you can really provide significant relief to folks who’ve suffered through, beyond traumatic events, whether that’s at war, or in a car crash, or some sort of other traumatic experience, that, to me is reason enough to really, start to pay more attention to this. And I think the the older generations that really have a negative stigma attached to psychedelics, because of the seven years in the Vietnam War, and whatnot, they’ll start to even, start to have a more open mind as they see the research and the benefits here they may never be fully convinced by it and willing to try it, you know, maybe like you and I, but we just need everybody to get on board with this, because this is an inevitability it’s going to happen regardless, it’s better to be on the right side of this than the wrong side of this. And like you said, at a more sort of superficial level, they’re also fun, you know, it’s important to sort of disconnect from your your nine to five and all the anxieties that come along with that and maybe your relationships or some sort of stress and trauma you’re going through, and use these tools as a benefit to yourself and your and your psyche and your subconscious and beyond. So I definitely enjoyed reading the chapter in your book about your experience with psychedelics, and I find it funnily like ironic that psychedelics always seem to find people at the right moment, if that makes sense. So in your case, you were obviously undergoing a massive amount of stress regarding your health, and your relationship, and probably much more than that, and for whatever reason, it found you, the medicines or whatever found you at the right time, and helped you sort of climb out of that figurative abyss that you sounded like you were in and we’re a large part of your healing process. So that’s obviously great to hear.

Diva Nagula 58:54
Yeah, and the healing process is just, there’s so many layers to it, I can’t even understand where to begin when I talk about it, because it’s very subjective experience. And it’s hard to really quantify it because it’s, there’s no real measurement and other than how you’re seeing things from your perspective and how it changes from day to day. And I’ve personally I’ve seen so many different people who have undergone digitalization psychedelics improve in so many facets of their life. And the area that I’m fascinated about is how in the mental health arena, how it really improves their mental health. There’s there’s with the utilization of magic mushrooms and other psychedelics, it there’s something that’s called neuroplasticity where there’s increased connections that are formed in the brain that weren’t otherwise there. And there’s also documentation that shows that it actually repairs connections that have been otherwise severed, whether it’s from excess chemicals that we put on our body from foods we put in or products that we’re using, topically the chemicals do get into our brain, and some of these connections are severed, and it’s an Seeing how the utilization of magic mushrooms or psilocybin can actually help repair and improve those connections. And I find it fascinating because of people who have used these medicines who have in my circle, a lot of them have been on medicines to help with their depression. And it’s interesting to me after like a few sessions, they’re able to get off their antidepressants, 100% without having any withdrawal issues, but then having any rebound depression, and it’s simply because the psychedelics are helping with that. It’s helping improving and changing their brain chemistry. So they don’t need to be on these medicines, be on a depressants anymore.

Benjamin Smith 1:00:40 Yeah, totally.

Diva Nagula 1:00:42
I thought it’s really a conversation that I’m sure that we can delve into and speak about our experiences over many, many hours, I’m sure but because we’re running out of time, and I know you have a lot of things to do on your plate for the day. And I’m gonna try and keep busy so that I don’t think about food.

Benjamin Smith 1:01:00
I’m sure you’ll make it through. It sounds like you’re a fasting veteran, but it was wonderful to chat with you. And just in tying up that psychedelic discussion I think reading your one, your book, because, obviously, you’re a doctor and you can talk you walk people through the very process of finding out that you have cancer, how you sort of got through that, and then how you sort of went from sort of zero to one after you were in remission through spirituality and psychedelics that’s a very powerful narrative. Because no, this isn’t some punk 21 year old who eats a bunch of mushrooms and goes to like, heavy rock concerts talking about it, right? Like, you are a respected member of society. You’re clinical. And ou provide evidence and whatnot. But I think for some of the folks that are not still not convinced by this, obviously, do your own research on Google. How to Change Your Mind when Michael Pollan was a pretty influential book, in the psychedelic community that really looks at things from a clinical perspective as well and explains like the history behind why there’s stigma attached to psychedelics, what we’re doing now on the clinical side and trial side, to sort of get on the right side of this and get these medicines legalized for medical purposes. And then anecdotally, the author, Michael, also dives into his personal experiences with them as a pretty skeptical critic of it prior to writing the book too. So that could be a good piece of literature for folks who are willing to learn more to dive in here.

Diva Nagula 1:02:29
100%. And I also did a podcast earlier on, I think back in January, so that I had a discussion with Dr. Dan Engle, and he and I went in and did a deep dive on psychedelics, its history and civilization, and what’s in store for the future. And I probably need to update that too, because there’s so many changes that are going on with psychedelics, day to day, week to week so all they need to have another discussion with an expert like him, but for for our listeners, where can they find you on the internet – about yourself and about your products?

Benjamin Smith 1:03:02
Yeah, totally. So the brand is @lets.disco on Instagram. Hopefully one day, it’ll be just disco. We’re working on that. Give us some time on the web, where LetsDisco.co and then if you care enough to follow me. I’m just @BenjaminJSmith5 on Instagram. But would obviously prefer folks to visit the brand over myself because I don’t really find myself that interesting. There’s that self deprecation coming in that you mentioned the beginning of the call.

Diva Nagula 1:03:39
There we go. I never would find it in there somewhere.

Benjamin Smith 1:03:42 Yeah, there it is.

Diva Nagula 1:03:44
Well Ben, I appreciate it so much. Thank you so much for being on our show. And I look forward
to chatting with you sometime soon.

Benjamin Smith 1:03:50
Yeah, I really enjoyed it. Thanks for having me on Dr. Nagula. Talk to you soon.

Diva Nagula 1:03:53 Take care.