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Today’s Health Upgrade
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“Metabolism Hacking” Isn’t Real
This won't make us many friends in the supplement industry, but if you’re buying a “metabolism booster,” you’re wasting your money.
Research has repeatedly shown that a pill, powder, cleanse, or fast won’t significantly improve your metabolism.
The good news? You most likely don’t have a slow metabolism, either. Scientists found that our metabolisms are fairly stable from age 18 until we are 60 years old (yes, 60!). In other words, when you control for other variables (such as how much you weigh), your metabolism doesn't slow down as a byproduct of aging for nearly four decades. It's just one of the many myths about your metabolism. (Another example: many people don't realize that the more you weigh, the faster your metabolism works because your metabolism is based on your body weight, and a larger body requires more energy to fuel all your actions.)
What to make of it? We tend to gain weight as we age because of nutrition, fitness, sleep, and stress changes. Instead of obsessing about your metabolism (most of which you don’t control), there are four areas to spend your time and energy for better results:
Sleep: poor sleep is linked with a slower metabolism. And, the worse you sleep, the more your brain will make you crave more food.
Hydration: your body needs water to process calories. Being dehydrated can disrupt normal functioning.
Weight training: you can’t out-exercise a bad diet, and the muscle burns fewer calories than scientists once thought (it’s about six extra calories for every pound of muscle…but scientists once thought it was 50 calories). But, the more muscle you have, the easier it is to maintain any changes you make to your weight.
Satisfy your hunger. In the words of esteemed researcher Kevin Hall, “weight gain is about eating too many calories, and weight loss is about finding a way to eat fewer without being miserable.” This might seem like a cruel trick, but losing weight requires you to eat less. And when you eat less and lose weight, your hunger tends to increase. Part of the trick (as we teach in You Can’t Screw This Up) is not to remove all your favorite foods. The other part is to eat in a way that increases satisfaction. This means consuming more protein and fiber, which are shown to help curb hunger, keep you fuller for longer, and potentially even make you absorb fewer calories. Great protein sources include lean meat, poultry, eggs, lentils, beans, dairy, whey or plant-based protein, seafood, and tempeh. Good sources of fiber include grains, oats, chickpeas, lentils, beans, fruits, vegetables, avocados, and seeds.
The bottom line: weight loss can feel challenging, but it’s very unlikely that your metabolism is working against you and less likely that it needs to be reset or "boosted." Shift the focus away from trying to “fix” something that isn’t broken and spend more time trying to build healthy habits.
This week, I took some of your questions from Reddit and wanted to share my answers.
Well, first of all, I have shared this before, but my thoughts on mental health are very similar to my thoughts on physical health. We train our bodies to be stronger, so we’d be crazy not to train our minds. But also -- and this is important if you are struggling -- if you injure a joint or tear a muscle, you go to a doctor or a physical therapist. We don’t worry about what people will think. Our body needs professional help, so we go get it. So I don’t believe anybody needing professional help to work on their mental health should feel embarrassed or ashamed. If you are struggling, the strong thing to do is to ask for help.
I’ve never tried to be more assertive. I think what you might be looking for is confidence. And confidence can come from a few things. First, it comes from a clear vision of where you want to go. Without a vision, we are just bumbling around. So it’s worth taking time away from your phone, walking, and letting your mind wander and daydream. Think about all the times you felt the happiest; what were you doing? That’s a vision. Seeing my vision gave me the confidence to ignore all the people who said I was crazy. Now, if you know your vision, the next thing that brings confidence is reps. You have to do the work. If you haven’t, you’ll always have doubts and then, if you fail, regrets. Leave no stone unturned. Work, work, work.
If this is all too much, one place I think people can learn a lot of my lessons is the gym. When you set a goal (say it is to deadlift 200 pounds, or 500!) in the gym, you see the power of vision. And when you have to show up every day to keep training, you see the power of work. And when you fail -- this is the best part of the gym, you will absolutely fail, over and over and over -- you see that failure is nothing that should scare you. It’s part of the path to success. I failed to bench press 500 pounds so many times before I succeeded that I can’t count. The gym will teach you that failure is your friend, and that should give you a lot more confidence.
Good luck! I’m rooting for you.
Another bicuspid aortic valve! I actually wrote all about this in our free e-book we launched this newsletter with (you can get it here, it won’t subscribe you again). But that was about coming back right after the surgery, recalibrating my daily routine and my goals so that I was happy doing the breathing exercises and being able to walk down the hospital hallway.
It sounds like you’re past all of that, so congratulations! My doctors said the same thing. This might shock you, but I listened. The heavy lifting was pretty much over for me. I had to accept that those days were behind me. It wasn’t too hard for me. I didn’t have anything else to prove, and I’ve always believed it is what it is. I still train every day. Now I focus on doing 30 sets with very little rest, moving from machine to machine. I can’t outlift the kids, but I can wear them out.
Alright you two, 90% of the time this newsletter goes for the pat-on-the-shoulder style of advice, but 10% of the time, it is a kick in the ass. I always hear people saying “I can’t find time to exercise.” Really? I once asked the Pope if he has time to exercise. He did. Presidents have time to exercise. I bet you are really busy, but I promise you, you have time.
Finding time never works. You have to make the time. You have to decide your health is important to you. Open up your phone. Look at your screen time. You don’t have to tell me, but I am guessing you just realized you have more time than you thought.
Take some of that phone time and make a commitment to yourself that you’re going to train every day no matter what. You probably hate this idea, just like I did when I was 19 and I met my hero Reg Park, and he woke me up at the crack of dawn to train. But the easiest way to make time to train is to wake up earlier. For more than 50 years, I’ve made training the first thing I do every morning. That way, there is absolutely nothing that can get in the way. It is done before the emails and calls start coming in. I can’t be derailed from my routine. I believe in you!
On Monday, I talked about realizing how far you’ve come. Your little wins can build up so quickly that you don’t realize it unless you take the time. Trust me, I’m the worst at this. It took me forever to agree to do a documentary because I only move forward. I never pause to look back.
But I also know the value of taking note of victories in those early days of lifting in the gym under the stadium in Graz, what it felt like when I lifted 100 kilos for the first time or when I stood on stage for the first time in a little restaurant and competed in the local competition. When you’re just starting, those little milestones are the fuel that keeps you committed to your routine.
This weekend, my challenge is for you to look for the milestones. Some of you have been part of this village since the first day we sent an email this year. Some of you joined yesterday. No matter what, you have probably had some little wins in the last week. Did you get outside and walk? Did you lift more? Did you read a book? Did you learn something new?
Think about those wins. Write them down. Keep a list this month, and on the hard days, the days when you don’t want to stick to your routine and get out and move, take a look at your wins. Let them be the fuel that gets you going even when you don’t want to because you know the next win is just around the corner.
I want all of you to focus on the little wins just as much as we focus on the moments we are embarrassed or screw up. You know you’re keeping track of the bad. So it’s only fair. Keep the win list too. I believe in you.
Thank you all for another great week. To everyone here — both old and new — thanks for being a part of the village, and we hope you have a great weekend!
-Arnold, Adam, and Daniel