Grounding or earthing refers to direct contact with the surface of the Earth, such as bare feet on grass, swimming in the ocean or connecting to Earth with conductive material, like copper.
Studies demonstrate, and people claim (myself included), that grounding enhances aspects of health, like sleep and mood, chronic pain and inflammation, wound healing and exercise recovery, circadian rhythms and blood glucose, and other benefits.
The hypothesis: The planet has an unlimited supply of free electrons (negatively charged particles). Touching the planet permits those electrons to flow into our bodies. As free electrons enter our bodies, they bond with free radicals. Free radicals are positively charged and highly reactive (because they lack electrons), harmful substances. This process of the Earth donating electrons to free radicals, rendering them harmless, is anti-oxidation. In other words, planet Earth is the biggest antioxidant ever. It’s also free…unlimited…and everywhere...maybe.
Honestly, I barely understand this stuff. Writing about it has forced some clarity, though. This article is just an organization of my thoughts on grounding, science and videos on practical application. My goal is to share something cool I've found, with you, loyal reader of Ancient Gains.
Something is working. How? I can't be sure. Grounding supercharges recovery, from strength training and beer drinking - two things I'm doing in high frequency, lately. In fact, it was a hangover, or lack thereof, that showed me the power of grounding.
Some benefits I've personally experienced
Athletic Training recovery - I barely get muscle soreness after hard training. I can do squats on Monday...then again on Tuesday...then again on Wednesday. In the past, leg day had me limping for half the week. Recovering at this rate allows me to train with more frequency - which translates to more gains. Plus, it's less painful.
Drastically reduced hangovers - This is good and bad. I drank pretty much every day for 3 weeks straight, because I wasn't getting horrible hangovers. That isn't to say the negative effects were eliminated. I gained quite a bit of fat, my skin looked gross and I felt depressed...but the brutal headaches were gone. I don't recommend this, it was done in the name of biohacking. Regardless, its a useful tool after a night out with the boys.
Improved sleep - Some nights it feels like I close my eyes...then open my eyes and it's morning. I've been consistently waking up before my 5:00 a.m. alarm clock.
Improved mood - Being grounded seems to calm me down. I have high anxiety most of the time, which makes creative tasks difficult. As I stand here typing this I have a ground wire tucked into my sock. Chillin.
Strength gains in higher rep ranges - My last two squat PR's were achieved with a ground wire stuffed in my sock. Grounding (as you will see in the sciency section) improves circulation and thins the blood. My hypothesis: Grounding improves my rate of metabolite waste clearance...(lactic acid/hydrogen ions), or nutrient uptake (oxygen/creatine phosphate) into muscle cells. It makes sense in my head.
Don't be weird
My friends think my grounding habits are weird. I get it, plugging myself into a wall socket or walking on lawns barefoot, throughout my neighborhood, isn’t average behavior.
But what is average? The average American is fat, weak and sad. Heart disease, obesity, cancer, depression, prescription drugs – these are very average things. Just look at the next 5 people you see. But say the word "Earthing" and you're labeled as odd.
Fuck average, fuck feeling shitty, lets get weird.
Grounding is the natural human state, since forever
Looking at the big picture, it’s weirder to NOT be grounded.
Think about it. We’ve had continuous contact with Earth for 99% of evolutionary history – billions of years. Only very recently, the last several hundred years, have humans severed the connection to Earth with modern, man-made surfaces like carpet, concrete and shoes.
Our ancestors, the primates they evolved from, back to the single-celled prokaryotic organisms that started life – were all grounded, continuously.
Grounding is the most natural, paleo, ancestral, primal, Ancient (insert douchey tag line) thing we can do. It's not weird…you’re weird for not doing it.
The human body generates a positive charge through free radical formation.
Free radical formation is a part of life – a byproduct of extracting energy from food (metabolism).
To make energy, we pluck electrons from food. The substance left over is a free radical. (vast oversimplification).
Free radicals are positively charged because they are “missing” electrons. They're unstable, but they seek stability. This makes them highly reactive with the cells around them.
Like a strong magnet in a drawer of paperclips, free radicals react with or “steal” electrons from substances around them, changing healthy cell structure and function.
Free radical damage triggers a cascade of inflammatory and immune responses (which is inextricably linked to every disease). It can alter genetic material, the instructions coded in our DNA which tells our body how to build tissues. This is how cells mutate, sometimes into cancer. Free radical damage can alter the electrical charge on cell membranes, disrupting nutrient and waste exchange and it can make cholesterol “sticky” and more likely to form as plaque in arteries. Free radical damage is basically the devil.
Major causes of Free radicals: Vegetable oils, sugar, smoking, alcohol, pollution, heavy metals, pesticides.
Our weapon against free radicals is the antioxidant. Antioxidants are substances that “donate” electrons to free radicals. This electron donation neutralizes the charge of free radicals, making them non reactive, making them stable...balanced. Antioxidants are like an internal fire hose, cooling free radical damage and inflammation. Kind of like giving a hostile toddler a cookie - they STFU. They're content...they're stable...for now.
Glutathione and antioxidant electrons
The human bodies main defense against free radicals is the endogenously (inside the body) produced antioxidant, glutathione.
The key, it would seem, is to make more glutathione than free radicals, keeping the balance of cellular damage and repair in our favor. Like a biological bank account. Make more then you spend. But modern life (stress, poor diet, pollution, environmental toxins, deadlifting, alcohol, sun exposure, etc.) generates more free radicals than our glutathione production can handle. Kind of like a weekend of Raging. As our real bank account dwindles with every cigarette/bud light combo, so does our internal redox balance.
Sadly, I'm not ready to quit beer or tobacco. Or Ironman triathlons and deadlifting everything. See, it's not only hedonism that increases free radical formation, but any excess in energy expenditure...I think. Training hard requires a lot of energy production and subsequent free radical formation.
This is where mother Earth and her unlimited supply of antioxidant electrons become useful.
If we’d evolved on non-conductive materials, like concrete, evolution would have given us different biology for managing free radicals. Maybe a larger capacity for glutathione production. Or maybe a second butt-hole to blast harmful free radicals onto sidewalks.
The fact is, we didn’t evolve on non-conductive surfaces. We evolved with antioxidant help from Earth. Were designed to be grounded.
Dietary Antioxidants and Supplements are worthless
Consumers have a big boner for edible antioxidants. Curcumin, green tea, vegan “detox” smoothies etc. Yes, these things are technically antioxidants. They have the capacity to donate electrons, in a lab, under a microscope, in a petri dish.
But edible antioxidants don’t work in the human body. When we eat them, they’re destroyed in the gut before ever making contact with the free radicals they’re meant to neutralize.
Despite clever marketing, there’s NO SCIENTIFIC reason to believe that eating antioxidants improves health.
Furthermore, many “free radical fighting” antioxidants actually increase free radical formation and oxidative damage, because they're loaded with sugar.
An 8 oz bottle of POM, a popular pomegranate "antioxidant", contains 34 grams of sugar. Glucose metabolism (making energy from sugar) creates a fuck-ton of free radicals. #keto
Drinking high sugar, “free radical fighting antioxidants” you’re literally creating more free radicals in your body. Lulz!
I prefer the term Artificial Person, myself
Humans are electrical machines covered in meat. Like Bishop from Aliens. Everything we do, thinking, feeling, eating and deadlifting is controlled by our central nervous system (CNS), which is basically a circuit board.
Example: When we squat, the CNS fires electrical signals from the brain through the spine, into all muscles (motors) involved in squatting (pretty much every muscle in the body). This is called motor unit recruitment and must be coordinated (with electricity) in a perfectly timed pattern. Elite strength athletes have a CNS that can fire more electrical signals, stimulating more squat muscles, in a more synchronous way, to produce more strength. In other words, strong guys fire (electrically stimulate) on more cylinders (muscle fibers) than weak guys. Strength, like everything else in the body, is largely dependent upon electrical signaling.
In fact, it’s widely accepted that Newb-Gains (strength improvements within the first year of weight training) are an optimization of CNS signaling (rate coding), more than improvements to actual muscle tissue. This is how a beginner can get almost twice as strong before actually growing any additional muscle.
Vehicle metaphor – I can gain an extra 30 horsepower (in my ST) simply by modifying the software in my vehicles computer without changing a single engine part. These "strength" gains are made by optimizing the "timing" of the engine, similar to the timing of the CNS when squatting.
After squatting, when you’re eating that post workout steak, the electrical charge on your cell membranes is what helps move nutrients and waste in and out of the muscle cells.
I realize I've presented a lot of extra information, seemingly unrelated to grounding. But my point is, electricity is a HUGE part of the human body. Did you catch that?
Some actual Science on Grounding
In this study, a open wound which had not healed in 8 months, healed in 2 weeks with only 30 minute, daily grounding sessions.
In this study, 10 healthy subjects were grounded for 2 hours. Blood was taken before grounding and 2 hours into grounding. All 10 subjects showed significant decreases in blood viscosity when grounded.
Basically, grounding is a natural blood thinner. Blood viscosity is a cardiovascular risk factor. Thicker blood doesn’t flow well and can increase blood pressure. Grounding improves total body circulation, especially in peripheral cells, like muscle.
Improved circulation is HUGE for fitness.
In this study (blinded), 60 subjects who suffered from sleep disturbances and chronic muscle or joint pain were divided in two groups. For a month one group slept while grounded and the other group slept un-grounded. Neither group knew whether or not they were grounded.
Most grounded subjects reported subjective improvements in the following categories, while most in the control (not grounded) group did not report improvements: Time to fall asleep, quality of sleep, wake feeling rested, muscle stiffness and pain, back and or joint pain, general well-being.
In this study, subjects were grounded while sleeping and showed reduction in nighttime cortisol (stress hormone) levels and an alignment with the natural 24-hour circadian rhythm profile. They also reported subjective improvements in sleep quality, pain and stress.
In this double-blind study, 8 healthy male subjects performed intense eccentric muscular contractions that caused DOMS (delayed onset muscle soreness). Then, for three days, half the men were grounded while the other were not and 48 different tests (blood tests and pain tests) were conducted. In 30 out of 48 tests, grounding showed a strong, positive effect on improved recovery, muscle function and pain reduction.
Examples of some tests
White blood cells: An increase in white blood cell production occurs when the immune system is called upon to defend the body against damaged cells. White blood cells were significantly lower, post exercise, in the grounded subjects. Suggests less damage?
Creatine Kinase: Creatine kinase is accepted as a marker of muscular damage. Ungrounded subjects consistently had more CK than grounded.
Subjective pain: In the days after exercise, ungrounded subjects had over 80% higher subjective pain. That’s kind of a big difference.
Objective pain: Researchers wrapped blood pressure cuffs around the legs of the subjects and inflated it until the subjects asked them to stop due to pain. The grounded group could tolerate significantly higher pressures for all three days, post exercise.
In this study, grounding significantly improved HRV (heart rate variability), which is the ultimate marker for rest, recovery, healing and stress, in my opinion.
In this study, grounding for one night significantly changed concentrations of minerals and electrolytes (iron, ionized calcium, inorganic phosphorus, sodium, potassium and magnesium) in blood. Renal excretion (Peeing) of both calcium and phosphorus (which directly relate to osteoporosis) was reduced significantly.
Grounding for 72 hours straight decreased fasting glucose for patients with diabetes.
A single night of grounding produced a significant decrease of free tri-iodothyronine and an increase of free thyroxin and thyroid-stimulating hormone. Many individuals on thyroid medication must adjust their medication downward, when grounding. Thyroid hormones affect almost every physiological process in the body…so I’d say this is quite powerful.
This is a no brainer, guys. Studying the research and looking at it through an evolutionary lens just makes sense to me. Grounding is low hanging fruit of health. It’s free and can be done with almost zero effort. With all the benefits, I can’t fathom why anyone wouldn’t do it. You'd have to be legendarily lazy.
Basically, I try to be grounded as often as possible. If I’m outside I stand in the grass barefoot, regardless of the weird looks I get. If I’m stationary (working at my desk or sleeping), I tie a ground wire to my ankle or just shove one in my sock.
When I train at home in my garage, I do the same...or tie a ground wire to the barbell.
Ok this post is WAY longer than I wanted it to be so I'll just shut the fuck up now. Below are some videos I made.
I'd love to hear your thoughts on grounding. Do you do it? Do you think it's hippy bullshit? Do you have any questions for me?
Thanks for reading guys,
As always, if you want help, schedule a free coaching call. its only 10 minutes.