Dr. Phil Maffetone 27: Music As An Ergogenic Aid (But…), Plus Its Role In Neuroplasticity, Nervous System Balance and More

July 14, 2023


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We are excited to welcome back Dr. Phil Maffetone in this special episode where we branch off into the wonderful world of music, and what music can do to enrich our lives, our brains and our athletic performance—when used appropriately, as we’ll explain. Phil also shares more insight on his personal story and music has shaped his life so positively. All of this and much more can be found in Phil’s new book titled B Sharp available now. IN this episode:

Phil’s Story

  • Phil’s early years with a brain injury and how music helped heal.
  • Autism spectrum disorder, dyslexia, amusia.
  • Amusia—difficulty and confusion relating to music.
  • Get comfortable with the uncomfortable.
  • Phil’s epiphany and redirecting his career to one that involved music and song-writing.
  • Working with Rick Rubin and living in LA.

Book Premise

  • Building a better brain with music via neuroplasticity—stay sharp and expand your brain any time, any age.
  • The lost arts—“Artistic passion is not encouraged and often repressed, de-emphasized in education, and no longer a respected endeavor.”
  • Music for stress/HPA Axis: better adapt by influencing chemicals like oxytocin, testosterone, the estrogens, prolactin, endorphins and endocannabinoids.
  • “Poor health, illness and disease can significantly impair alpha and theta, while both can foster the potential to be significantly creative and therapeutic.”
  • Brain waves: Beta, Alpha, Theta, Delta
  • Music for alpha and theta brainwaves—helps for deep meditation state.
  • “Music can powerfully manage the effects of our daily physical, biochemical and mental-emotional stress through the brain’s natural neurohormonal HPA axis.”
  • Morning routines—don’t destroy that moment upon waking before you’re fully awake; ie don’t reach for device or screen. Instead when brain is half awake take that moment… linked to successful learning and creativity.
  • Music can help encourage healthy mind-wandering during non-focused tasks. 
  • 5-minute power break:
    • respiratory biofeedback
    • Daily or even more frequently.
    • Makes it easier to reach alpha, helping the brain get there more on its own, further adding to feeling more refreshed, relaxed, balanced and younger.
    • Troubleshooting: falling asleep, too sleepy/carb intolerance
    • Then there’s the: Five-Minute Meditative Dance.
    • “Better than a runner’s high”
  • Can you carry a beat?
    • “The inability to effectively maintain even a reasonably consistent musical tempo can carry over to other areas. Many appear uncoordinated, clumsy, or have irregular walking or running gaits. Most are not athletic, and if physically active are less proficient and more injury prone. A simple approach called marching is used to address this cerebellar dysfunction. It requires a small handheld metronome (free apps for phones and other electronics can be downloaded from the Internet) that accurately sound each beat.”
  • Avoid junk music, aggressive music/weaponized.
  • Dancing!! If you wanna dance, it’s a great way to sneak more physical activity, fun and added brain benefits into your life, one song at a time!

Music And Exercise & Training

  • Physical activity and music go hand in hand: however, it’s not so straight forward.
  • DMN (alpha) state vs intentional focus (beta)
  • Turn off the music and listen to your body!
  • “Research shows that listening to appropriately selected songs exert a range of work-enhancing (ergogenic) and psychological effects on the body. The process underlying this auditory–motor coupling is called entrainment. Reported short-term effects include increased exercise intensity, distraction from fatigue and pain, improving arousal, mood and motivation, and inducing a sense of power.
  • While some researchers have hailed these effects, likening them to illegal performance-enhancing drugs, especially when using loud driving rhythmic music, some clinicians are aware of potential long-term harms. Research shows that these ergogenic effects can eventually lead to reductions in health and performance.”
  • So, can music be partially driving no pain no gain??
  • Musical mentality can influence stress when not used correctly, lending to fit but unhealthy athletes.
  • Are you dependent on music to workout or train? Explore this…misguided motivation, distorts messages to the brain 
  • Anecdotally, music listening correlated with higher injury rates.
  • Bottom line: music can be distracting and interfere with effective physical performance—but there are exceptions!
  • Solution: Music listening at specific times around exercise:
  • Pre-exercise music: relaxing, calm, not too aggressive!
  • During: silence is best.
  • Post-exercise initiates recovery: easy-listening.
  • If you still plan to listen to music during exercise here are ways to reduce the risks:
  • Wear heart rate montior
  • Slower-tempo music —may improve physical performance, lower the heart rate, reduce stress and encourage autopilot mode.
  • Avoid playing music loudly.
  • In addition, matching music to your workout can be very helpful. 
  • Example:
  • WARMUP – 15min relaxing songs? not pump up songs? LOL
  • MIDDLE – faster music but not louder, caution against too upbeat for overtraining risks
  • What about using specific tempo ie 90 bpm cadence song to help with stride rate? As a drill only
  • COOLDOWN – 15min

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