The last cup of coffee

Welcome to the positive corner of the internet. Here’s a daily digest designed to make you healthier in less than 5 minutes....

Welcome to the positive corner of the internet. Here’s a daily digest designed to make you healthier in less than 5 minutes. If you were forwarded this message, you can get the free daily email here.

Today’s Health Upgrade

  • The last cup of coffee

  • Zero percent weeks

  • How to stick to your workouts

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The Last Cup of Coffee

The timing of your caffeine can make a big difference between it being beneficial — or detrimental — to your health.

Research suggests that coffee can significantly harm your sleep — but you can prevent the damage if you know when to enjoy your last cup.

A recent study found that caffeine consumption negatively affected sleep quality and quantity. This might not be a big surprise, but you have much more control over whether it impacts your rest and recovery. In general, caffeine reduces total sleep time by 45 minutes. Just as important, it damages your sleep architecture, meaning you spend less time in deep, restorative sleep.

The researchers provided some helpful guidelines for determining when to have your final cup of coffee based on a review of 24 studies. They found that

  • 47 mg (half a cup of coffee) of caffeine is unlikely to affect total sleep time.

  • 107 mg (approximately 1 cup of coffee) should be consumed at least 9 hours before bed to prevent sleep issues.

  • 217 mg should be consumed at least 13 hours before bed to prevent sleep issues.

In other words, if you go to bed at 10:00 p.m., consider having your last cup of coffee for the day around 1:00 p.m. When you master the timing of your coffee, you can still have an afternoon boost and avoid any sleep issues. If you’re looking for a good cup of coffee that supports energy without the jitters, we love Four Sigmatic’s Think Coffee. If you try it, Arnold’s Pump Club members get $45 off the start kit (discount applies automatically).

Forget 100%. Avoid Zero

Being healthy can feel like a game you can’t win, but that’s because what you think it takes to be healthy is oftentimes an illusion.

If you want long-term improvements, don't obsess about being 100 percent with your diet or workouts; try avoiding “zero percent weeks.”

This is a main concept of You Can’t Screw This Up, and one of the reasons why Arnold wrote the book's foreword. Instead of trying to be perfect, focusing on making progress, even in small amounts, is more effective. Zero percent weeks are the moments where you do nothing at all to better yourself. By making sure you're doing something, you change everything. Research suggests that a “minimum effective dose” approach can lead to dramatic changes.

A famous study examined what happens when you throttle down your aerobic workouts. The scientists found that you can maintain your endurance even if you train less often or for shorter durations — as long as you don’t take off completely and maintain a high intensity when you exercise.

When the participants cut their workouts from 6 times per week to four or two, they found that just two workouts were enough to maintain results. And when the workout duration went from 40 minutes to 26 or 13 minutes, the 13-minute workouts still did the trick. The key to seeing those results was workout intensity. When the participants did not maintain a high intensity, that was when results dropped off.

The same can be said for resistance training. A study on more than 15,000 people found that just one workout per week — lasting just 20 minutes — was enough to maintain strength.

If you want to keep improving, these shorter workouts eventually stall out. But you probably knew that on your own. Change is dependent on effort. But, if you find yourself in moments where you don’t have much time, you’re stressed, or you’re dealing with injuries, it helps to know that your body doesn’t need much.

If you can avoid zero percent weeks, you can prevent putting your body in an unnecessarily difficult position, meaning you're not making up for lost time or disregard. And then, when you’re ready to commit more time, you’ll be prepared to become better than ever.

How To Stick To Your Workouts

You might have read the last item and thoughts, “Zero percent weeks sound great, but it’s not that easy.”

And you’re right. Sometimes it's not easy, especially if you haven’t built healthy habits -- but it's always worth it. You have one body and one life; we are here to help you make the most of it.

That’s why we don’t promote a specific workout or diet. Instead, we’re focused on offering tips and guidelines that help you stress less about every little decision and put more energy into forming routines.

But, little nuances to how you eat or exercise -- such as the peak-end rule -- can make it more likely that behavior becomes a habit.

The peak-end rule is a psychological phenomenon that states you’re more likely to remember an experience based on how it ended. Research suggests you can harness this psychological hack to help make your workout habit stick by finishing on a pleasurable note.

No matter what you do during your workout, if you can find a way to make it more fun at the end (such as doing a favorite exercise, listening to a favorite song, or even finishing with a small reward or treat), it makes it more likely that you’ll repeat the behavior. When you keep doing something over and over, that’s when it becomes routine. And the more you build routines, the more results you'll see.