Conversations with Nick Bolhuis: Exploring the breathing science behind the NTEL Belt.

Neuropeak Pro is a company trusted by elite athletes like Jordan Spieth and Bryson Dechambeau to enhance their performance. Their latest product, the NTEL Belt, is tailored for recreational athletes. 

Easily paired with the Neuropeak Pro app via Bluetooth, it offers features like Coaching, Evaluation, Training, Trends, and Profile. Beginners should start with the Coaching-Breathing Fundamentals videos. Users train while watching videos, receiving feedback on Heart Rate Variability and Breathing Structure. 

The central proposition of the NTEL Belt is to learn optimal breathing patterns to boost performance in sports, work, and everyday situations. Proper breathing can mitigate stress and promote mental calmness. Personal experience with the belt has been largely positive, emphasizing its portability and the immediate benefits of mindful breathing exercises. 

Nick Bolhuis, Vice President of Performance Programs at Neuropeak Pro, set aside time to discuss the science behind the NTEL Belt with SCINQ.

When you’re in different situations, can you just first talk to talk to me about how stress affects performance?

It is completely natural to feel nervous or stressed when you are about to perform, whether it’s trying to win a game in sports, striving to close a sale at work, or preparing to take a significant exam. These instances are extraordinary, beyond what we usually do, so a certain level of nerves is expected.

However, the problem arises when stress mounts as we approach these situations. Our nervous system reacts to this environmental stress, shifting into a fight-or-flight mode or state of sympathetic concern. Consequently, certain bodily functions start to falter. For instance, heart rate increases, leading to the release of more cortisol and adrenaline. While short bursts of these are manageable, prolonged activation can lead to detrimental effects like an elevated heart rate and increased cortisol levels that we can even measure In some cases, specific parts of the brain may even start to shut down.

Previously, we used cumbersome and bulky wires to monitor these reactions. Although effective, they are expensive and thus not scalable. Now, with a simple strap worn around your torso that connects to our app, you can have the same monitoring experience. The app provides guided imagery on how to breathe and feedback on how your heart responds to different breathing patterns. This is aimed at improving the relationship between our breathing patterns and heart function.

The data visualization feature of our app is vital in this process. It provides real-time feedback from the device, allowing you to monitor and improve your body’s reactions.

What would a person be see in the app under “good circumstances”? What is it like when he or she is breathing? 

On average, people breathe about 12 times per minute. However, research suggests that an optimal breathing rate is closer to six breaths per minute. There are numerous breathing apps available, many of which allow you to set your desired breathing pace.

Our app, for instance, offers several interfaces to guide your breathing. You can choose to follow a circle that expands and contracts at the pace of six breaths per minute.

Alternatively, most of our clients prefer a sine wave visual, represented by a green line on the screen. When the green line rises, it signals you to inhale; when it drops, you exhale. While this pace can be adjusted to suit individual needs, most people find around six breaths per minute to be the most beneficial.

When you wear the monitoring belt around your torso, a blue line on the screen mirrors your actual breathing pattern. With practice, the blue line should mimic the green one, rising as you inhale and falling as you exhale. This gives you immediate feedback on how well you’re keeping pace with the guided breathing pattern.

In addition, there’s a third, red line that represents your heart rate. When you’re breathing at the proper rhythm for your nervous system—a state known as “resonance”—your heart rate should increase when you inhale and decrease when you exhale. When all three lines begin to rise and fall in sync, you’ve reached a “flow state.”

We’ve also gamified the breathing process to provide tangible feedback on your progress. One metric we use is the consistency of your breath, rated on a scale of zero to 100. The more consistent your breaths, the closer your score to 100. We also evaluate the balance and optimal functioning of your heart, also on a zero to 100 scale. Higher numbers mean more points accumulated, using a similar principle to the popular “10,000 steps a day” fitness goal. We encourage users to aim for 10,000 points per day.

The better your breathing and heart rate respond, the quicker you accumulate these points. On average, achieving the daily 10,000 points takes approximately 10 minutes of optimal breathing.


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The device is not a tracker but it’s a trainer. What’s the training process like in terms of cardiovascular and respiratory systems? There is also a Neurofeedback device. How is that integrated into the system?  

On average, people breathe about 12 times per minute. However, research suggests that an optimal breathing rate is closer to six breaths per minute. There are numerous breathing apps available, many of which allow you to set your desired breathing pace.
Our app, for instance, offers several interfaces to guide your breathing. You can choose to follow a circle that expands and contracts at the pace of six breaths per minute.

Alternatively, most of our clients prefer a sine wave visual, represented by a green line on the screen. When the green line rises, it signals you to inhale; when it drops, you exhale. While this pace can be adjusted to suit individual needs, most people find around six breaths per minute to be the most beneficial.

When you wear the monitoring belt around your torso, a blue line on the screen mirrors your actual breathing pattern. With practice, the blue line should mimic the green one, rising as you inhale and falling as you exhale. This gives you immediate feedback on how well you’re keeping pace with the guided breathing pattern.

In addition, there’s a third, red line that represents your heart rate. When you’re breathing at the proper rhythm for your nervous system—a state known as “resonance”—your heart rate should increase when you inhale and decrease when you exhale. When all three lines begin to rise and fall in sync, you’ve reached a “flow state.”

We’ve also gamified the breathing process to provide tangible feedback on your progress. One metric we use is the consistency of your breath, rated on a scale of zero to 100. The more consistent your breaths, the closer your score to 100. We also evaluate the balance and optimal functioning of your heart, also on a zero to 100 scale. Higher numbers mean more points accumulated, using a similar principle to the popular “10,000 steps a day” fitness goal. We encourage users to aim for 10,000 points per day.

The better your breathing and heart rate respond, the quicker you accumulate these points. On average, achieving the daily 10,000 points takes approximately 10 minutes of optimal breathing.

Additional training changing the brain as well and you sort of get into the whole neuroplasticity thing. Does neuroplasticity factor into the into training?  

Neurofeedback, commonly referred to as brain training, employs EEG technology to measure and train brainwave activity. Often, stressed individuals exhibit excessive beta activity in their brain. The objective of neurofeedback is to train the brain to reduce this beta activity, and in doing so, reduce the power associated with it.

This approach operates on a reward system principle. Whether you have a single electrode or multiple ones placed on your head in a clinic, you typically interface with a screen displaying a movie or video. When the brain produces the desired level of beta activity for the individual, a reward is given. For instance, the video continues to play. However, when the beta activity spikes too high, exceeding the pre-set parameters in the software, the sensor detects this change and the video pauses. This interruption acts as feedback, signaling to the user that their brain is working too hard.

Once the beta activity returns to the desired range, the reward – the resumption of the video – is reinstated. Through this repetitive feedback process, the brain starts to recognize the conditions for receiving rewards. Over time, it instinctively learns to spend more time in the state that grants rewards and less time in states that don’t.

Does your breathing improve because you’re in the zone or are you in the zone because of your breathing?  

Consider this as a cycle, illustrating the distinction between traditional biofeedback techniques, such as controlled breathing, and neurofeedback methods involving brainwave modulation. While you can’t consciously control your brainwaves, you do have direct control over your breathing.

Your autonomic nervous system is receptive to various inputs and reacts accordingly. For instance, when you encounter an environment provoking fear or stress, your body responds physiologically. Similarly, your breathing patterns trigger physiological responses.

By being intentional with your breathing, you can induce calming signals throughout your nervous system. This act counteracts any environmental stress you might be experiencing. It’s a balancing act, and our focus is on highlighting what you can control and how you can positively influence your bodily systems.


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