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Forget "Biohacking" - Embrace Simplicity

bodybuilding diet lean nutrition Feb 25, 2024

While the latest fad diet or workout program is tempting, it rarely works as promised.

New Shiny Object Syndrome can lead us astray, tempting us with extreme results from extreme approaches.

- Eliminate this, only eat that.

"Never" and "Always" are the common phrases.

- Do 52 sets of lengthened partials for optimal muscle growth.

No upper limit to volume. No upper limit to protein.

Or...

"Nothing works better than anything else, because this study shows it’s all the same..."

With nearly three decades in the health and fitness industry, I've come to appreciate that the most effective nutrition and exercise strategies are, surprisingly, the simplest.

Here are the building blocks for The Ultimate Mind & Body Transformation:

Nutrition:

• Eat protein-centric meals

• Eat until 8/10 full

• Make your own meals with foods and ingredients you would have recognized 100 years ago 

Activity:

• 8-10K steps/day

• Do low and slow cardio (zone 1-2) 2-3x/week for 30-60 minutes (most go too hard)

• Lift heavy things 2-4x/week (most go too easy)

Mind:

• Write and Create

• Learn and Explore

• Meditate/Rest and disengage your mind, focus on the Now

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I recently posted a "show-off" picture of myself on social media, and it received a lot of attention. As expected both of the positive and negative type.

The responses are what inspired me to write this article.

🔥 Staying lean at 50 - my daily diet: 🥙

* Fresh fruits and berries: Nature’s sweets

* Bone broth: Supports hydration, gut and joint health

* Oysters or mackerel: Omega-3s without supplements

* Root veggies and white rice: Need those carbs for fuel

* Dark chocolate, olives, and avocado: Tasty food-based fats

* Lean meats, poultry, shellfish, fish - occasionally eggs and dairy:Protein-centric meals

Daily habits:

I eat all my meals between 6 AM - 6 PM aligned with my circadian rhythm (I’ll write more about this in a future newsletter), get in 8-10k steps spread out through the day (I use my walking treadmill desk liberally), hit the gym in the afternoon 4-5 times per week, do some low-intensity cardio for 30-60mins 2-3x/week, and sleep within 9 PM - 5 AM.

The result: Lean muscle, robust digestion, metabolism and energy, plus optimal lipid levels.

I used to be OCD and overcomplicate my approach with various fasting and low this-or-that eating. ✋ Not anymore.

My journey to looking and feeling great at 50 has been about consistent hard work, a disciplined diet, regular workouts, and making lifestyle choices that support my overall health and well-being.

As a health coach for nearly 30 years, walking the talk isn’t just advice—it’s my identity and way of life.

This is what I aim to teach in my work through my 1-on-1 personalized coaching and my online program/group coaching The Last Program.

---

As expected the comments section was bombarded with questions such as:


"Why do you eat white and not brown rice? Brown rice is healthier."

"Why don’t you eat more eggs, is it dangerous? How many eggs can I eat?"

"Where are the beans and lentils, aren’t they healthy?"

"How many calories when you bulk and cut, and how many grams of fats, protein and carbs?"

"How many sets do you do for biceps?"

"What supplements are you taking?"

"Can I pay to see your diet so I can copy it?"

And also:

"But you’re on TRT, so this isn’t only a result of your diet."

....

This tells me two things:

1. Most think the details are more important than the basics and start at the wrong end. The basics are 90%, details are AT MOST 10% - but probably less, and not the other way around.

2. Most think there are shortcuts. This is why the "biohacking" industry is so profitable.

There are no magic pills or supplements, and I’ve been open about using TRT since my 20s, so that’s not a new variable.

And - even though it certainly helps to have normal testosterone levels, studies show that going from suboptimal to optimal provides a 5% improvement in fat-free mass and a 1-2kg loss in bodyfat - I’ve had hundreds of male clients on TRT throughout the years.

None of them spontaneously achieved a lean and muscular physique by just correcting their hormone levels. It still requires a LOT of effort, hard work and dedication.

Someone who believes that hormonal optimization is somehow a panacea and shortcut to getting lean and muscular is, quite honestly, just making shitty excuses for why they still haven’t achieved their own goals.

But I get it...

Training and diet can be very confusing, and it’s tempting to zoom in and get hung up on details.

Obsessing about details is normal, but becomes destructive when you attach excessive importance to them and develop maladaptive rituals to deal with them.

---

Also, just copying what someone else is doing is intellectually lazy.

I know this isn’t what you want to hear, but you have to figure things out for yourself - or get someone to help you figure it out.

My diet has evolved based on a systematic process of adjusting and tuning both the calories, macros, and food choices according to how my digestion, recovery, energy, bodyweight, and bodyfat% have responded and changed over time.

A snapshot of my current diet would tell you nothing, just like a single snapshot from a movie can't encapsulate its narrative depth or predict its ending.

You would miss the underlying principles to understand its past adaptations or future direction.

Also, even if eating brown rice or beans and lentils would be healthy for me...

1. I don’t enjoy the taste

2. It gives me horrible gas (lol)

So why would I eat it just because some book, expert, or study says it’s healthy when it doesn’t align with my palate OR my digestion?

 ---

Michael Pollan's take on this in the book In Defense of Food: An Eater's Manifesto is great, here are some selected quotes:

  • Don't eat anything your great-grandmother wouldn't recognize as food.
  • It is not just what you eat but how you eat. Many cultures have rules that you stop eating before you are full. In Japan, they say eat until you are four-fifths full. They say "Hara Hachi Bu" which literally translates to "Eat until you’re 8 out of 10 full". Islamic culture has a similar rule, and in German culture, they say, "Tie off the sack before it's full."
  • Families traditionally ate together, around a table and not a TV, at regular meal times. It's a good tradition. Enjoy meals with the people you love. 
  • Don't buy food where you buy your gasoline. In the U.S., 20% of food is purchased from convenience stores and eaten in the car.

A lot of wisdom in there.

If your diet consists of a combination of plants, meat, fruit, nuts, and seeds, you’re probably good. 

Yeah, it can be that simple. I also have that inner voice that gets louder now, insisting: "Nooo, I refuse to believe it -gotta be more complicated - what about Doctor/Professor this or that who just posted about the dangers of eating X or Y? What about low- or high- this or that which has cured/killed so many people?"

Well, of course - even though we’re all the same species - there’s bound to be a natural, individual variation in physiology and our genetic heritage might inform some minor changes.

For instance, if your ancestry is Asian, you’re 70-100% certain to be lactose intolerant, and if you’re Nordic and Scandinavian, you’re 70-100% certain to have evolved lactase persistence and thus the ability to digest the sugar found in milk into adulthood.

As for food variety and getting all your vitamins and micronutrients - our great-grandmothers would experience seasonal variations in food availability, so throughout a full year all nutritional bases would be covered.

With that starting point, you don’t need to obsess over hitting all micronutrients in every single meal, every single day. 

---

Next, if you can’t tolerate "normal" food - you should address gut health first.

This is a huuuge topic that will have to wait for some later time, but it’s concerning that so many of the clients I work with experience constant or intermittent periods of indigestion, gas, bloating, constipation or loose stools almost regardless of what they eat or don’t eat.

We even have emerging evidence that gut function is strongly connected to personality, mood, anxiety and depression.

I think some of it stems from unreasonable fear and uncertainty around food.

Just scrolling through my social media feed in 30 seconds, these are just an example of foods and components of food that I was told I should AVOID because they are toxic/unhealthy/fattening:

  • sugar
  • artificial sweeteners
  • carbs as a food group
  • lectins
  • oxalates
  • processed and refined grains
  • gluten
  • dairy
  • soy
  • eggs
  • red meat
  • saturated fat
  • PUFAS (polyunsaturated fat) and seed oils
  • vitamin A
  • nightshades (tomatoes, peppers, eggplant, potatoes)
  • GMOs

The reason the list isn’t longer is because I stopped scrolling. If I kept going, I think I would have covered every single food on the planet.

No wonder you are confused...

Read this until you have memorized it:

"No single food can be only bad or only good for us."

What counts is the quantity consumed and the frequency of exposure - or simply stated "The dose makes the poison".

I will occasionally indulge in ultra-processed snacks packed with a lengthy list of 50 ingredients, ice cream laden with way too much sugar and carrageenan, candy with artificial color and flavoring, and foods brimming with seed oils.

Yet, these are the exceptions, not the staples of my diet.

My overall health and digestion thrive on a robust, well-structured framework that prioritizes nutritional balance and well-being.

Bulletproof yourself, and no single projectile can pierce your armor.

In wrapping this up, I just want to remind you of the main takeaway and message I’m trying to convey here - in case you’re still wondering what to do:

Achieving lasting health and fitness is about simplicity and consistency, automating good habits and figuring out what you enjoy and can stick to over time.

The "newest" diet or workout regimen can be tempting, but although they can be fun experiments, always remember to zoom out and make sure you have the fundamentals in place.

There is no single food that is universally healthy or universally bad for you.

(I felt the need to repeat that.)

Practical Takeaways:

Focus on protein-centric meals, eat until you're comfortably full (8 out of 10), and prepare foods in your own kitchen with ingredients that your great-grandmother would recognize.

 

Listen to Your Body: A cliché for sure, but clichés always contain nuggets of wisdom and truth so ignore them at your own peril.

Individual difference means that there is no one-size-fits-all approach and you can’t just copy snapshots of what someone else is doing and expect to end up looking like them. 

There’s no way around figuring things out for yourself. Just take comfort in the fact that when you do, you can "set and forget" and don‘t need to keep thinking so much about it.

(And if you need my help in figuring this out, just reply to this e-mail.)

Pay attention to how your body responds to different foods and exercise routines, and adjust accordingly.

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Considering the emerging evidence linking gut health to overall well-being, it's worth exploring how dietary choices affect your digestive system and, by extension, your mental health.

 

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Through nearly three decades of experience, I've learned that while the specifics of diet and exercise may vary among individuals, the underlying principles remain universal.

By adopting these strategies and mindset, not only is there a higher probability that you can achieve your health and fitness goals, but you'll also cultivate a lifestyle that's both rewarding and sustainable - i.e. one where you’re free to think about and do meaningful activities outside of eating and training.

Hope this provided some valuable insights, that was my ultimate goal with this article!

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