It’s the start of another year and that means New Year’s resolutions. At the top of most people’s lists is to get leaner/fitter/healthier.
However, when it comes to health and fitness, there is nothing new under the sun. Fads come and go every day.
The strategies I outline here have stood the test of time, and if you follow them they will optimize your health in 2018 and way beyond.
I could write an article about 100 ways to optimize your health – but that’s not necessary. The truth is you just need to do a few things and do them well and you’re golden.
#1 Practice Intermittent Fasting
Arguably, intermittent fasting has been around since the dawn of time. And it’s still one of the best ways to optimize your health. Back in pre-historical times there were no supermarkets, so man had to spend hours or even days foraging and hunting for food. Therefore, it’s safe to assume they would have gone long periods without eating and our bodies evolved this way.
Fasting is incredible for a number of reasons. Firstly, it’s a simple and fairly painless method to lose body fat. There are no complex macro calculations involved and minimal meal prep required.
It goes like this: You fast for 16-20 hours, sometimes longer, and voila watch the magic happen. But it’s not just about skipping meals and burning calories.
It’s during fasting that your body undergoes autophagy, which is the process of recycling old junk proteins and cellular parts. So, you can think of it as a spring clean of sorts.
Fasting also means your digestive tract doesn’t spend all day processing food and hogging your body’s resources. So these precious resources can be diverted to the brain, resulting in increased mental clarity.
On a side note, because you eat less food you actually save . So if you need to cut back on spending in 2018 – fasting is the ticket!
If you want a high-level overview of fasting and to learn how you can use it, I highly recommend you check out the Metabolic Blowtorch Diet (amazon UK). I love this diet precisely because it’s incredibly effective and easy to follow. You can read about my experience on the Metabolic Blowtorch Diet here.
#2 Be Consistent With Your Training
The number one reason why people fail to get results in the gym is consistency. They go from one program to the other, dabbling for a few weeks at a time and never really committing to one.
Carving out a physique is more than just working out; it’s nutrition, stress reduction and proper rest. However, you need to stick with a program for at least 6 weeks to make any meaningful progress.
You need to try and beat the reps or weight from your last session over the course of several weeks. Once you do, this is where progressive overload kicks in and good things start to happen, namely strength and muscle increases.
There is no magic-bullet program that will turn you into an overnight superman. In truth, most programs work as long as you dedicate yourself to them for long enough and train with intensity.
Ultimately, time + consistency = great results.
However, I will say this. I’ve tried many programs over the years and few come close to the brutal intensity of Jim Browns’ Forged training. If you want to take your training up a notch and start seeing real, tangible results, then this is the program for you.
#3 Use Supplements Intelligently
The world of supplements can be a minefield to navigate. It can be difficult to know what supplements are worth taking and what are not. Furthermore, the supplement industry is not regulated so it’s hard to know who to trust.
For a good primer on what supplements to take, I recommend you check out Alexander Juan Antonio Cortes’ supplement recommendations. PD Mangan’s book, Best Supplements for Men, is also an excellent read (amazon UK).
There are some supplements you can take off the bat and will improve your health immeasurably. Metformin and fish oil are two that come to mind.
Nonetheless, before going gung-ho with supplements it’s important to understand whether you have any micronutrient deficiency. And the one of the best ways to do this is to get a comprehensive blood workup done.
If you want to look further into this, I recommend talking with Paul Burgess of Athletic Nutrition. Paul’s knowledge on supplementation is second to none and his comprehensive blood tests will give you some good pointers on where
If you don’t have the budget for a comprehensive blood panel then you could experiment with certain supplements and gauge how you feel on them. Although, ultimately you save money in the long run when you do a blood test because you’ll know exactly what supplements you need to optimize your health.
On another note, if you take a lot of supplements and forget to take them, there are a couple things you can do. You can put a reminder in your phone to prompt you to take them.
Although, if you’re anything like me you probably ignore notifications on your phone. So a simple way to remedy this is to buy a pill organiser (amazon UK). You load it up on Sunday night before the start of the week. And you no longer have to worry about remembering to take a supplement.
#4 Get Your Hormones Tested
Nowadays, if you’re a man and you care about your health then you need to get your hormones checked. The fact is, humans have never been subjected to as many toxins as they are today. This is a constant, daily bombardment. From the food you eat to the air you breath. You no longer have the luxury of thinking it doesn’t affect you.
If you live in an urban environment, almost everything you interact with messes with your endocrine system; and by extension your testosterone production.
Regular blood work should form the backbone of any intelligent man’s approach toward health. Even if you don’t have the symptoms of low testosterone right now, yearly blood checks keep you ahead of the game.
It also shows you the effects of your lifestyle on your body. Your blood work never lies.
Your health is your responsibility, not your doctor’s. Of course, as trained medical professional your doctor is an integral part of the process. But you should never rely entirely on your doctor. As the Greeks wrote at the Temple of Apollo at Delphi over 2000 years ago: Know thyself.
Testing your serum testosterone level is good, but alone it doesn’t tell the whole story. For example, you may have good serum testosterone levels of 700-800 ng/dl, but you have high SHBG. Therefore, you have lower free or bioavailable testosterone so you feel like shit. And so with just serum testosterone itself, it’s hard to know where the problem lies.
A good place to start and get an overview of your hormones is to get a test for the following:
- prolactin, estradiol, serum testosterone, albumin, free testosterone, sex hormone binding globulin (SHBG), luteinizing hormone (LH)
And if you want to drill down even further, I also recommend you add these:
- thyroid check – including thyroid stimulating hormone, reverse t3, t4, t3 and thyroid antibodies, liver check, kidney check, biochemistry, prostate specific antigen (PSA), full red blood count, vitamin D and vitamin B12, IGF-1
However, one swallow does not make a summer. Hormones fluctuate and lifestyle factors can effect the results at any given time. That’s why it’s crucial to get regular tests done so you can begin to compile a true picture of your health.
And if you want to go one step further and immerse yourself in the subject of hormonal health, then check out Jay Campbell’s upcoming book the TOT Bible.
#5 Look After Your Mind and Body
Most people just want to look good naked and feel good about their bodies. Accordingly, the main focus in the health and fitness space is on training and nutrition. Now don’t get me wrong, they’re the core for long-term success. However, it seems as though little thought is given to recovering
Even when you love training, sometimes it can become a chore. And if you stick to a diet like a monk with no letup you will go crazy. You’re still human, so sometimes going off the reservation and eating whatever you want does you the world of good.
Recently I found myself stuck in a rut. I felt like a black cloud had descended upon me and wrapped itself around me. The onset of winter undoubtedly affected my mood, along with the cold weather and long stretches of darkness. But the truth is I had become too accustomed to my routine.
I work from home, so I can roll out of bed, do 30 minutes of cardio and get on with my day. Sometimes I would only leave the house to go to the gym:
I didn’t give my mind the variety it craved.
So I took up activities other than going to the gym. I started taking more walks outside and doing Brazilian jiu-jitsu a couple of times a week. Even though I had to reduce the amount of times I lifted weights due to the grappling, mentally it gave me a much needed boost. This was because my mind was being stimulated and I was learning something new.
Hard training takes its toll on the body. Getting a sports massage, seeing an ART practitioner or taking a sauna can do wonders for your recovery.
Similarly, swapping the treadmill for an outdoor hike or going for a swim can provide a mental and physical respite.
New Year’s resolutions fail precisely because they’re bandaid solutions. They don’t fix the underlying problem.
Following a strict diet and training regime for 3 months to get in shape for summer then reverting back to your bad habits is not the right approach. It guarantees mediocre results and bitter disappointment at your constant yo-yoing.
To truly optimize your health you need to take the time to create the right and more importantly sustainable habits.
Indeed, sticking to the basics; eating clean 80% of the time, training intensely 3-4 times a week and will produce stellar results. But that’s not sexy and doesn’t sell copies of Men’s Health.
You don’t even have to follow everything on this list. If you just do one of these things on this list over the next few months, you will have improved your health beyond measure.
You don’t need to make your life into a living hell because you saw some photoshopped image on instagram. And as a result you’re now following the kind of diet a bird would be proud of.
Ditch the short-term thinking and create a lifestyle that ensures your health is always #1. Then 2018 will be your best year yet.