#107 — Dr Phil Maffetone: Using Music for a Better Brain & Body

Song Credit: Twice in One Lifetime by Phil Maffetone

Dr Phil Maffetone

Dr. Phil Maffetone’s credo is that “everyone is an athlete.” As a health and fitness trendsetter, Dr Phil has had as much positive impact on a wider variety of people than anyone in modern history. Dr. Phil is a long-time respected pioneer in the field of complementary medicine, bringing the latest advances to health-care professionals around the world. He is an internationally recognized researcher, educator, clinician and author in the field of nutrition, exercise and sports medicine, and biofeedback. In 2003, Dr. Maffetone was presented with the prestigious Statuette award by the International Academy for Child Brain Development. He was named Triathlete Magazine’s coach of the year in 1995, and in 2000 was honored by Inside Triathlon magazine as one of the top-20 most influential people in endurance sports worldwide.

Since the 1970s, Dr. Phil Maffetone has warned against sugar addiction and carbohydrate intolerance along with pioneering the use of biofeedback via heart-rate monitoring devices. His approach has been proven successful by thousands of MAF devotees. Dr. Phil is committed to making the Maffetone Method available to everyone.

Music can positively influence intensity, fat-burning, as well as encouraging overall brain and body benefits. However, it needs to be used intelligently. Best to avoid the stress-induced pounding drums and driving bass lines. While a no-pain, no-gain approach to exercise and music can be enjoyable, be careful out there. If you want an aerobic workout to burn more fat and increase energy capacity, listening to intense music can be problematic. Lower heart rate exercise increases fat-burning and builds mitochondria capacity for superior aerobic performance.

Consider songs that help promote warmups — slower, easy music allows your body to ease into the session, increasing the workout benefits. Likewise, with your cool down. For aerobic workouts, a more moderate beat is great, and for high intensity a faster song helps move you along. The most important music choice is always the music you enjoy.

However, the choice. Personalize. Most importantly, always avoid junk music.

Dr Phil has created some playlists of his music. The two playlists are for an Easy Aerobic Workout, and for Higher Intensity Training. And, it’s all free.


Outline of Talk

  • The main topic today is music, which a newer aspect of your amazing career….a career which I think can be summarized as:  helping athletes to be faster by being healthier.
  • Before we get into the music side of this story… can you give us a high level understanding of the MAF Method. …. Why did you see a need for it and why does it work?
  • MAF Method  — The point is not to see how fast your body can move. The point is to change the way your body gets energy. You want to burn more fat and less sugar.
  • MAF stands for Maximum Aerobic Function and combines exercise, nutrition, and stress to build your aerobic system, the fat-burning engine responsible for fueling the body.
  • A well-functioning aerobic system leads to:
    • Increased energy and endurance
    • Run / bike / swim faster for longer
    • Prevent injury and disease
    • Improved brain function
  • So, a healthy athlete is a strong athlete… that makes sense,
  • But why can’t I just focus on getting what I want … a higher FTP and VO2Max, so why not go for it directly instead of doing so much “talking pace” exercise?
  • The more I learn about health and fitness and even longevity, the more I understand that the body and mind want and need cycles of stress and recovery, feast and famine, growth and repair, intensity, and relaxation, again and again. 
  • It’s funny …. Recovery is one of those things that quote/unquote “everybody knows and nobody does”…. it is so elusive, I think, because you can’t go directly at it…
  • Let’s start with music and exercise, then we’ll get into the broader use of music.
  • Tell us your thinking about how a wise athlete should use music before or during or after exercise?
  • When I first heard you talk about using music to relax, I realized that I only listened to fast tempo music anymore….and that was my choice because it charged me up…made me ready to move and made exercise much easier.
  • But after your talk, I started listening to relaxing music after my workouts. Luckily I had some old favorites on my phone that I never listened to… and now I find I can calm down and just relax for a bit instead of charging off into some other project that needs doing.  And if I sing along with the music I even feel happy.
  • But it’s true that Fast music feels exciting and makes exercising feel easier and more fun.  But you say it raises the heart rate for the same level of output , but that’s is the opposite of what the MAF Method is trying to build…which is lower heart rate for a given level of power or effort
  • To transition in into talking about music and aging well…music and improving the brain, I want to read part of a quote from Mark Allen about your book. And for the younger audience members, Mark Allen won the Hawaii Ironman 6 times (’89-’95); Mark was an athlete Dr Maffetone helped to transition from a regular top-10 athlete to perhaps the all-time-great endurance athlete:  Here’s a part of what Mark said:
    • “Reducing stress, gaining happiness, experiencing joy and fulfillment, living a life filled with longevity and vitality… In “B Sharp!” Dr. Maffetone explains how participation in music brings us all of this and more.
  • obviously Mark is talking about more than recovery from exercise here. Can you explain what he means ….how can music give us all of this…reducing stress, gaining happiness, experiencing joy and fulfillment?  I would certainly like some?
  • Your book lists 5 benefits of using music to expand the mind.
    • Deep meditation – boost alpha and theta brainwaves
    • Revitalization – encourage optimal aging
    • Neuroprotection – repair and protect the brain
    • Neurogenesis – produce new brain cells
    • Human performance – maximize brain-body health and fitness
  • So, music is a lever that is built into our operating system.  It’s like a backdoor to tuning our minds to support our goals.  Heck, maybe it’s the front door. 
  • As I have thought about music in preparation for today, I occurred to me that any particular song picks up….an emotion or a mental state, a program that plays in my mind when I hear that song.  .  But for me, some songs have particular effects
  • Christmas songs I only hear at Christmas time and remember back through happy tmes
  • Songs from my childhood that I rarely hear anymore, send me flying back in time.  I feel a happy for some reason.  Nostalgic
  • Songs that I have had in my exercise playlist for 20 years…those songs get me riled up…ready to do hard work because I have done a 1000 hard workouts while listening
  • And old favorites that are slow tunes play a program that let’s me sit and relax and not think about the other things I could be doing. 
  • On the other hand, A song that I listened to all the time in many situations can lose the program due to interference of so many things attached

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The ever curious athlete who demands answers.
About the Author
Curious athlete who demands answers. Husband to Susan ( Father of 3 daughters. Athletic pursuits over time, in reverse order: cycling, skiing, mountaineering, rock climbing, triathlon, golf, tennis, football.

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