I was 18 years old.
My goal was to build muscle. Everyone has their body goals. Mine was to be mean, and lean like Bruce Lee.
I trained like an animal 5 times per week. I was even using routines written by Arnold that I saw in a magazine.
But despite my best efforts, I wasn’t gaining muscle. I was tired all the time, and getting frustrated.
So I asked one of my friends for advice. He was built like Bolo from Enter the Dragon.
“Charles, I’ll give you props that you work out hard. You’re killing it when you’re spending that hour in the gym.
But you know what?
The rest of your 23 hours is shit. Going to the gym is only one part of having good health.
You’re eating crap at the lunch halls. You’re not sleeping enough. You’re drinking and partying on the weekends.
Your 5 workouts a week can’t compensate for everything else.
It’s like you’re clipping a grocery store coupon to save $5, blow $500 on a LV wallet, and wonder why you’re broke”.
That was something that I needed to hear.
Everything is connected.
Work’s important to me. But if I don’t get quality sleep then I won’t be as focused the next day to work.
If you’re not taking care of your gut health, then that could lead to complications down the road. There’s nothing more anti-productivity than being in the hospital.
I’m always looking to optimize my health. I’m tracking data, buying new gadgets all the time, and constantly experimenting.
The following is a list of different hacks that helped me out. Try them out. You’ll like them.
1. Improve Your Quality of Sleep
If I don’t get quality sleep then I can kiss my next day’s productivity goodbye.
Sleep is one of the biggest levers you have in life.
It affects everything.
I’ve noticed that everyone only focuses on “how long” they slept. That’s not the end all be all metric.
Have you ever had a situation where you slept better with 5 hours, compared to another night where you got 8 hours?
That has to do with the quality of your sleep and what part of the sleep cycle you’re waking up.
What’s cool is there are devices out there that can help you measure it. (By the way, those iPhone apps aren’t that accurate.)
Last year I bought a FitBit Alta HR.
It’s a wristband that I wear when I sleep. It’s one of the most accurate devices out there because it can track my heart rate while I sleep. That helps it know what stages of sleep I’m in.
Every person’s body is different.
Use this device and experiment on yourself.
- How does your dinner affect your sleep?
- How does your evening routine affect your sleep? There’s a big difference in winding down with a bath vs. watching Game of Thrones right before you sleep.
- What temperature do you get the best sleep in? (Mine is 67 F)
Let’s improve your sleep quality.
The best thing I did this year was to block out light in my bedroom. Completely.
If there’s light leaking into your room, your body doesn’t produce as much melatonin and it’s harder to fall asleep, and you’re more likely to wake up.
Those eye sleeping masks aren’t enough because your skin can still detect light.
I tried blackout curtains but some light creeped in from the sides. That’s when I got the idea to use some black out film on the windows and blackout curtains.
It can be 2pm during the summertime and my bedroom will be dark. The only downside is you miss that view from the window, but I think it’s a good trade off.
The darker your room, the better you sleep.
2. Get Rid of Screen Time at Night
For the longest time I’d “reward” myself at the end of the night with some TV time. I’d either catch up on a show or I’d play OverWatch.
This affected the quality of my sleep.
Yes, I know there are “blue blocking glasses” you can wear at night, and they do work… but I’d rather just avoid screens period.
I think this is helping me sleep a lot better as well not having sensory overload.
Some screenless activities at the end of the night:
- Write in a physical journal
- Read using a Kindle
- Tidy up your home
- Listen to audiobooks
- Warm bath
3. Improve Your Gut Health
Your gut is responsible for so much of your health.
There are a ton of illnesses that are linked to bad gut health like autoimmune disease, diabetes, eczema, chronic fatigue, etc.
What do probiotics do?
Probiotics mainly promote a healthy digestive tract and a healthy immune system by assisting the food to move through your gut.
I’m no scientist, so here’s some more info on how they work and what they can help with.
How do I get my probiotics?
- I eat kimchi with every meal. I go to Koreatown every two weeks and grab a bucket of Kimchi. This is an easy way to get vegetables in too since I don’t have to cook it.
- I add Greek yogurt to my smoothies
- And one easy dessert is Greek yogurt + berries + a little honey
- I take a probiotic supplement everyday in the morning
- Bone Broth. I cook pho on a weekly basis.
4. What Supplements Do I Take?
Sorry, but there’s no magic pill that’s going to balance out all those cheeseburgers.
But there are certain supplements out there which are backed by science to help.
I don’t take that many supplements. I remember times when I forced myself to take 15 different supplements a day for the sake of optimization.
But after 3 days I stop. I know myself. If I have to take too many supplements then I end up not taking any at all.
So instead I’ve limited my supplements to what I call “the essentials”.
Here’s what I take:
- Probiotics – Help digestion, gut health
- Vitamin D – You need it because you’re not getting enough sunlight (we all work inside now)
- Liquid fish oil – Part of my smoothie in the morning
Night time before bed:
- L-Theanine – helps me relax
- 2x Magnesium – deepens sleep and you’re probably magnesium deprived
5. Improving Your Mental Health
Your mental health is just as important as your physical health.
You know what’s weird? Everyone’s down with physical fitness. Going to the gym is cool.
But if you mention you’re trying to improve your mental health, then there’s a stigma against you. Something’s wrong with you.
Here are two things that have helped me with my mental health the past year:
A. Limit Phone Use
Phone addiction is a problem. It’s a huge problem that no one wants to talk about or address.
I turn my phone off at 8pm. Not silent. I turn it off.
I don’t turn my phone back on until lunch time the next day.
That means I’m not checking my stats or my emails before I fall asleep. That means as soon as I wake up I’m starting my morning routine instead of checking social media.
My deep work in the morning is 100% focus. Why? I don’t have emails, social medias, etc. to distract me.
B. Be Brutally Selective About Your Social Circle
Bad friends, relationships, and employees will give you brain damage.
Cut them off for your own sake. You don’t owe anyone anything.
A place in your life should be earned, and not “grandfathered in.”
Every single person in your life should be adding value to you, not taking value away.
6. Use Smoothies to Add Vegetables to Your Diet
I try to keep plenty of fresh fruits and vegetables in the house, but when am I gonna snack on chia seeds and fish oil during the day?
I make myself a green smoothie every morning (NOT juicing). It’s an easy and delicious way for me to get more vegetables in my diet and eat those healthy foods you’re never gonna eat by themselves.
Here’s my recipe:
- Two handfuls of spinach
- Almond milk
- Frozen fruit. Usually frozen banana + mango. I LOVE frozen fruit because you don’t have to use ice to make it cold, and you don’t have to worry about it expiring.
- Super foods (Chia seeds, flaxseed, hemp seeds, maca powder, etc.)
- Healthy Fats (Olive oil, fish oil)
7. Drink More Water.
Track Your Water Intake
My girlfriend bought me a smart water bottle for my birthday.
My water intake has doubled since then.
What’s badass about this bottle?
- It glows if I’m behind on water intake.
- It has an app that keeps track of how much I’m drinking. It’s like a video game.
8. Get Tested
I’m not a scientist or a doctor, so why would I trust my own opinions when it comes to health?
There are so many different tests out there to measure your health. Think of them like taking your car to a mechanic. Maybe he can see that there’s a problem you never would’ve found because you don’t know what to look for.
Here are a few tests you can take that I recommend:
- ThriveGut – Gut Health
- Blood / Vitamin / Testosterone
- Alcat – Food insensitivity. https://cellsciencesystems.com/patients/alcat-test/
Why take tests on top of everything else I’ve mentioned?
Some people are actually deficient in certain minerals and vitamins. Maybe you feel tired all the time and you think you’re just lazy, but what if you’ve got a thyroid problem and it’s something that can be fixed?
It’s easier, cheaper, and safer to catch any issues early on and be able to fix things instead of finding out at 50 you’ve got more diseases than Mr. Burns.
9. Poop More Efficiently
No need to giggle – we’re all adults here and everyone poops.
I was on YouTube a few years ago and saw a commercial. It claimed that the way we poop is wrong!
There are scientific studies that show pooping is much easier when you are in a squatting position like the image above.
When you sit in a straight up position on the toilet, your puborectalis muscle is only semi relaxed (this is the muscle you use to go). In the squatting position, it’s fully relaxed which makes the process a lot more seamless and healthy.
Using a Squatty Potty puts your body in a much better position.
Plus for you productivity addicts, this study shows that using a footstool like the Squatty Potty means you take ⅓ the time in the bathroom compared to those not using one 🙂
I don’t wanna get too much into detail, but this device is worth it.
You Only Get One Body
My thinking when it comes to health is the complete opposite of YOLO.
I wanna be tapping people out at 50 on the mats and playing ball with my grandkids when I’m 80.
Once something goes wrong with your body it’s very difficult to fix it. The easiest thing is to prevent problems from happening in the first place.
In one of my older blog posts I talk about how people buy a cure, not a prevention.
That’s because most people don’t think too much about the future. Take some of my hacks from here and see if they work for you.
Not everybody’s gonna start using a squatty potty, but smoothies, supplements, and eating less meat are all super easy things to do.
Got anything you think I should try?
Disagree with any of my choices?
Let me know in the comments!
Featured Image by Gustavo Frazao