James is the corporate marketing director for Tesla. Let’s take a brief look at his day…
5:00am: Wake up, try not to trip over the dog while looking for the light switch.
5:15am: Walk the dog.
6:00am: Make breakfast for himself and his wife. Eat.
6:45am: Goodbye kiss. Morning commute.
6:52am: Resist the urge to yell at slow drivers in the left lane.
7:30am: Arrive at work.
7:33am: Walk to Starbucks next door and purchase overpriced caffeine.
7:45am: Dive into a mountain of emails. Delete most. Reply to some.
8:00am-5:00pm: Meetings. Emails. Lunch. Phone calls. Headaches. Put out fires.
5:30pm: Leave the office, commute home. Resist the urge to road rage…again.
6:30pm: Dinner with his wife.
7:30-8:30pm: Conference call with Elon Musk.
8:45pm: Have a beer, watch ESPN, and catch up on SportsCenter.
9:15pm: Walk the dog.
9:45pm: Check inbox. Delete most. Reply to some.
11:15pm: Go to sleep and get ready to do it all again the next day.
Does this sound familiar? Like most working Americans, James is pressed for time. Lifting weights, “getting jacked”, and tracking his calories is likely the last thing on his mind.
He doesn’t care about the difference in poly and monounsaturated fats and his life doesn’t revolve around documenting his last meal on Instagram. This might sound crazy to the social media fitness enthusiast but believe it or not, most people don’t care about what you ate for lunch.
Now in James’ case, he isn’t looking to lose an astronomical amount of weight or add 40lbs of muscle to his frame. He simply wants to look better in a suit, have more energy throughout the day, improve his cognition, and sleep better.
Sounds simple enough, so where should we start?
None of this matters, nor will it get implemented unless you take time to decide what’s truly important to you. However, simply making a mental note doesn’t carry the same weight as written documentation.
Your priorities are individual to you and revolve around what you deem important. That delegation is different for every individual, but you must understand that these will drive your decisions and subsequent actions.
Don’t know what to prioritize when it comes to health, body composition, or overall wellness? Here’s a somewhat simplified hierarchical structure that should give you some guidance. I’ll touch on the foundational components more throughout the rest of this article.
TAKEAWAY: Write them down. Priorities take precedence; action reveals intention.
2. Get Bloodwork Done
When was the last time you got a full blood panel? If you’re like most folks, that’s likely once a year for an annual physical. However, most physicians run a fairly generic panel that doesn’t tell you much, besides the fact that you likely won’t die within the next decade.
So, you can either be happy living in the dark, or you can take your health into your own hands. No judgment either way, I just want you to be aware of the facts.
Insurance likely won’t pay for it
You are going to have to jump through some hoops given the logistics within the current medical system.
Anything which isn’t deemed “medically necessary” (aka anything your doctor orders or prescribes) isn’t covered by insurance. It makes sense from a monetary standpoint but at the end of the day, there are some short comings that go along with this methodology.
For example, most insurance companies won’t cover a full thyroid panel, they’ll merely approve TSH on a blood panel. However, TSH is really looking at anterior pituitary function and doesn’t even begin to cover the other gamut of issues surrounding the thyroid gland itself. See the disconnect here?
Some doctors won’t run a full panel
The best doctors stay informed on the current literature, attend conferences, and read incessantly. Sadly, many are just too busy to keep up with ever increasing speed of science and as such, some are still stuck practicing medicine from the early 70s and 80s.
I’ve actually run into this issue a number of times. On two separate occasions, I had board certified endocrinologists tell me, “We don’t test estrogen in men, that’s pointless.” They’re also the same individuals who tried to tell me that TSH is the only important marker of thyroid function and there was no point in examining one’s free testosterone numbers.
Needless to say, I took matters into my own hands. I referred out and kept digging. No one else is going to take responsibility for your health, don’t stop asking the tough questions.
Work with a doc who has experience with athletic populations
Most lifters will probably get popped for high(er) levels of creatine kinase, BUN (blood urea nitrogen), and liver enzymes (AST+ALT). This is usually due to higher protein diets coupled with heavy training resulting in heightened amounts of muscular damage.
An athlete conscious doc is usually aware of this phenomenon, where as a general MD might tell you your kidneys are shutting down and you have a rare neuromuscular disease.
Sure enough, I ran into this issue a few years ago when I completed some routine blood work for a physical. After looking over the results my GP spent 20 mins lecturing me on the “dangers” of protein supplementation and “excessive” weight training. Thanks doc, I’ll keep that in mind.
TAKEAWAY: Get a full workup -
- Comprehensive metabolic panel
- Full thyroid panel
- Lipid profile (Hs-CRP, triglycerides, HDL, LDL, etc.)
- Sex hormones (SHBG, FSH, LH, estradiol, DHEA-S, Total+free test, etc.)
- Vitamin D
Again, these are merely suggestions. Further testing may be required or suggested by your medical professional. I am not a doctor, nor do I play one on the internet. However, I have worked with a number of physicians and encocrinologists on these issues and they would all agree, this is first step anyone should take in order to get a comprehensive look at their health.
3. Cook Your Own Food
Having worked in the food industry, I can tell you first hand that no one cares about your health and wellbeing from a nutritional standpoint. Those in the kitchen have one job and one job only – to make food taste as good as humanly possible at a fairly low cost. As such, they aren’t really concerned with the caloric content of your sirloin steak and rice pilaf.
Rather than trying to make substitutions to every item on the menu, simply make an effort to cook most of your meals at home. This will allow you to have much more control over the calorie content and simultaneously save you some cash.
If you want to take things a step further, take a page out of Spencer Nadolsky’s playbook from docswholift.com, “simply double your veggies and halve your starches”. No complicated math, no calculators needed for factoring your macros, no time spent with a food scale, just keep things simple and eat more vegetables.
TAKEAWAY: Food quality and quantity are generally (not always, but for the most part) inversely related. As such, you’re going to have a hard time putting down 4,000 calories of baked chicken, sweet potatoes, olive oil, and broccoli. Not only would it be incredibly bland, it’s rather volumous and full of fiber.
However, you can use this to your advantage. If you don’t want to use a system for tracking portion sizes or calories, simply resort to eating only whole foods and prioritizing lower calorie options (ex: double your veggies, halve your starches).
Practicality: Where Rubber Meets the Road
You’ve got the ground work so what does that look like in a practical sense? Well, here’s how James’ day would look if he implemented all that is included within this article:
5:00am: Wake up. Turn on a lamp. Avoid the dog. Don’t stress about the fact that he tore up another pillow.
5:05am: Practice 10 minutes of mindfulness (start here or here).
5:15am: Walk the dog.
5:40am: 5-Minute Flow
6:00am: Make breakfast for himself and his wife. Eat near a window and watch the sun come up.
6:45am: Goodbye kiss. Morning commute.
6:52am: Listen to a podcast on personal development and ignore slow drivers.
7:30am: Arrive at work.
7:33am: Skip Starbucks. Bring coffee from home. Save $4.00 and 400 calories.
7:45am: Briefly skim inbox. Only reply to urgent matters that need immediate attention.
8:00am-12:00pm: Face the challenges of the day head on. Remain focused and persistent.
12:30pm: Eat lunch outside with coworkers. Sit in the sun.
2:00pm: Conference call taken on his cellphone so he can walk freely outdoors and be active.
5:30pm: Leave the office, commute home. Listen to ‘Hip Hop BBQ’ on Pandora and continue to ignore slow drivers.
6:30pm: Make dinner with his wife. Eat.
7:15pm: Spend quality time with his wife and dog.
8:00pm: Put on blue blocker glasses, start limiting/eliminating blue light exposure.
8:05pm: Quick inbox check. Delete most. Make a mental note to reply tomorrow during office hours.
8:30pm: 5-Minute Flow while watching ESPN, and catching up on SportsCenter.
9:00pm: Protein shake with frozen cherries, chia seeds, spinach, walnuts, and a frozen banana.
9:10pm: Walk the dog and clear his mind.
9:30pm: Practice 10 minutes of mindfulness.
10:00pm: Skip the inbox, turn off the phone, and head to bed.
Don’t let your environment and external stimuli control your every move. You must first become aware of how you spend your time before you can make a concentrated effort to change it.
Think critically, challenge everything.