Optimal health – whatever it may mean for you – is a great goal to work towards. Even if we don’t ever get to what we consider optimal, we still improve and move towards better health and performance.
This article has 10 tips for optimal physical and mental health, whether your goal is to get leaner, think better, get better at a sport, improve your performance at work, or something else, these tips will help get you where you want to go.
Give Intermittent fasting a try
When your goal is to get lean, getting your body to burn it’s stored body fat for energy is the way to go. Eating low carb is one way. But, the best way I’ve found is intermittent fasting.
All you have to do to is skip one meal a day. Try skipping breakfast, dinner or both! The goal is to have about 16-18 hours between meals which is enough time for your body to enter nutritional ketosis or having your body use stored fat for energy.
Studies show you won’t lose muscle, strength, or suffer from a terrible workout when you eat this way. Just make sure you get enough protein, or about 1 gram per pound of your ideal body weight to prevent muscle loss.
You won’t just lose fat faster with intermittent fasting. You’re also likely to notice improvements in your mood and energy throughout the day.
Do something every day to get stronger and faster
If you want to get a bigger physical and mental boost from your workouts, try working out everyday.
I’m not saying to go all out at 100% intensity for an hour or more. Nor am I suggesting you run yourself into the ground with countless hours of daily cardio.
What I am suggesting is to do something physical every day. You can pick one exercise like kettlebell swings and squats and do them daily. You can make one day training with weights, and the next using body weight exercises. The following day use resistance bands. The possibilities are limitless! Then repeat for the rest of the week.
Think of it as more practice to perfect your technique. I got this idea from Pavel Tstasouline who calls this method of training ‘greasing the groove.’ He says this method of training will make you stronger over time, even though you’re usually not pushing too hard.
My workout plan is to do a full body workout every day. For example, I would be performing anywhere from 1-5 exercises per workout for no more than 10 or so total sets. I’d say I really push hard only 1-2 times per week. The other workouts are done at approximately 70% max effort. I still feel great afterward and my progress with regard to building strength and muscle is consistent!
Make creatine part of your daily plan
I’ve taken Creatine on and off for about 20 years. After learning what I have in the last year about it while researching the benefits, I plan on taking it every day from now on. No more taking days off! I have read about the multiple benefits it has and decided it needs to be one of my go-to supplements. Plus it’s very safe. More than 500 studies have been performed and not 1 shows it can be dangerous for our health.
Creatine Benefits Beyond Building Muscle
Here’s some of the reasons why you should consider taking Creatine in 2022 that go beyond building muscle and strength.
- It’s good for our brain. Studies show it may be effective at treating depression and preventing common neurological conditions.
- You may also notice it helps you to be mentally sharper, especially when you’re under stress. Studies show creatine may also prevent brain damage from collisions sports and accidents related collisions.
- Creatine can also help our muscles recover from injuries and hard workouts faster.
- Taking creatine is good for our heart. It lowers LDL -, the bad cholesterol – levels, keeps arteries from stiffening, and acts like an antioxidant to clean up free radical damage.
- Studies show it can help you build stronger bones along with muscle.
This list just scratches the surface of all the benefits. If you’d like to learn more or have questions, this article is a great resource.
All you need to take is a single scoop (5 grams) every day. You’ll notice regulars within 28 days.
Focus on the process
Nothing is more frustrating than focusing too much on our long term goals. It forces us to focus on a period of time that’s months or years away. It takes us away from doing what we should do today, to accomplish our goals over time and enjoy the present moment.
Here’s a great article by James Clear on the importance of focusing on what you can do toward your goals today.
I’ve learned a lot about this by watching a lot of pro tennis. One thing I always notice in the players pre and post-match interviews is that they’re always talking about taking their match one serve, return, and point at a time. Players that do this the most consistently i.e. Rafael Nadal, Roger Federer, etc. win the most matches.
Give it a try for yourself. Pick one goal, say to lose 10 pounds in 12 weeks and focus on what you will do each day to help you achieve it. Don’t worry about yesterday or what you’ll do tomorrow. Just today. Your results may astonish you!
Master your mobility
Being lean and strong is great. Not being able to move well enough and able to run, jump, and throw isn’t.
Today it’s easier than ever to be more mobile. There’s free resources like X and inexpensive apps like Mobility WOD which take you through specific programs based on your goals and needs.
Get outside first thing in the AM
This may be the best tip on the list! Getting yourself outside within an hour of waking up helps to properly set our bodies circadian clock. It helps you fall asleep easier, and sleep better. You’ll also be doing something super simple that can also help your mood and performance throughout the day. Take the dog with you or the kids! Everyone can benefit from this simple morning ritual.
Stanford university professor Andrew Huberman, PhD, says you only need to get 2-10 minutes of sunlight first thing in the morning for it to benefit. He also says it’s important to do it every day. If you miss multiple days you’ll lose the benefits and have to start over.
Dr. Huberman also says that we should get outside for another dose of sunlight therapy in the afternoon. I’ve been making sure to do it everyday in addition to getting an early morning start and have noticed a boost in my energy levels for the rest of the day. I fall asleep faster too.
You want to get the sunlight without wearing sunglasses or anything else between your eyes and the sun. Don’t stare into the sun. They can burn like your skin does. Just hang out, exercise, or whatever else you like.
Here’s a great article on the benefits of morning and afternoon sunlight if you’d like to learn more.
Make protein a priority
Whether your goal is to get learner, stronger, build muscle or just be healthier, we need to eat enough protein every day.
You should be eating about 1 gram per pound of your ideal body weight. You may need a little more or less but this is a great starting point.
If you find it difficult to eat this much protein, which I sure do, then make up the difference with a whey protein shake (link).
Getting enough protein isn’t just for building muscle. Here some additional benefits you’ll get.
- You’ll lose excess body fat faster.
- Your energy levels will be better without a mid afternoon crash.
- Post-workout recovery will happen faster and you’ll feel less sore after hard workouts.
Track your % body fat
Skip the scale and measure your percent body fat this year. It’s a better way to keep track of your health and overall wellness than a scale. When you measure your body fat percentage you’re learning how much muscle and fat you’re carrying around. Now you can focus on how much fat you may have to lose and how much muscle you should gain.
Whether you do it with a Dexa scan, calipers, or a tape measure and this calculator (link) just be consistent. Use the same method every time at the same time and day of the week. You will get the most accurate results over time.
You don’t have to get your body fat down to single digit levels to look and feel great. Getting to 15% for men and under 20% for ladies, is pretty lean and good for your health.
Going lower than this is hard to maintain and often unhealthy. Very low body fat levels – below 10% for men and 15% for women – can be concerning. The result can lead to decreased testosterone, bone loss, menstrual cycle issues, muscle loss, and even depression.
Get Enough Sleep
If you aren’t sleeping enough, doing everything else on this list will just never be enough to be your best.
Getting a good night’s rest is required for our body’s to recover, regenerate, and be ready to get after it again in the morning. It’s the foundation for optimal health.
As far as how much sleep you need, the jury’s still out. Many sleep experts recommend 6-8 hours a night. I’ve also seen data which shows those who live the longest average 6.5 hours a night.
Test yourself to see how much you seem to need to feel refreshed and rested in the morning. It may be 6, and it may be 8, or somewhere in between. Then aim to get that amount every night. You may also want to try tracking your sleep with your smart watch, phone or Oira ring.
As with all things health, If you’re having trouble getting enough sleep or feeling refreshed after 6-8 hours of slumber, make sure to see your doctor. Fixing sleep issues is life changing!
Not only are my workouts better, I recover faster so I can train more often, my mood is better and I’m less likely to get angered by L.A. traffic. I also find I get work done in ½ the time it takes when I’m sleep deprived.
One supplement that helps me get lots of deep, restorative sleep is ZMA (link). Magnesium is shown to help you relax and sleep better. The high quality form of magnesium in ZMA is well absorbed so it works quickly and consistently when you take it before bed.
Stop ignoring the transverse plane
The best thing I did to improve my strength, mobility and physical performance this year is to stop ignoring the transverse plane. More specifically, I finally started to make sure I always do a movement that requires me to rotate from my waist at every workout.
My abs and lower back have never been stronger. It’s helped improve my Jiu Jitsu and surfing, and I need all the help I can get!
Let me further explain the importance of transverse or what some call rational exercises.
Most of us – hopefully not you – only do exercises in which we move from front to back (lunges, rows) and side to side (laterals and side lunges). We leave out movements that occur in the transverse plane. More specifically, exercises that have us rotate from our hips. Think Russian twists, lateral kettlebell swings, and X.
Unfortunately, not doing rotational exercises means we’re not going to be as strong as we could be when we have to rotate our hip movement like a golf or tennis swing, or side volley in soccer.
Our spine and core will be less stable too which could possibly lead to pain and nagging injuries.
Here are a few exercises that will get you super strong in the transverse plane.
- Russian twists
- Lunge with a twist (Josh henkin)
- Twist from ground up (chopping style)
- Lateral kettlebell swings
Add them into your core workouts 3-4 days a week. In a few months you’ll be super stoked with the resulting increase of your overall strength!
Now you have 10 tips for optimal strength and health that you can incorporate into you daily life. Add 1 or all of them to your daily routine and give them at least a one month long trial. See the results you you get and tell me about them! Leave me comments and tell me about your healthy daily habits so I might incorporate them into my routine!