Guys can be pretty stubborn when it comes to their health. They often ignore signs and symptoms until their bodies break down or they’re diagnosed with a disease.
It doesn’t need to be that way. You don’t have to be the guy who spends the second half of his life talking about how good the first half was.
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A man’s body reflects his standards. It sets an example for those around him, especially his kids. Without your health, you can only contribute a fraction of your potential.
I’m not saying that every guy needs to look like Wolverine, nor does he need to deadlift a car or do a triathlon. But if he has high standards, his health and fitness will reflect it.
No citizen has a right to be an amateur in the matter of physical training…what a disgrace it is for a man to grow old without ever seeing the beauty and strength of which his body is capable.Socrates
When I picture a “man’s man,” I visualize a guy who has vigor.
He has a passion for life, which shows through in how he moves, how he looks, and in how he can respond, physically and mentally.
If you’ve let yourself go, I hope this is your “wakeup call.” No matter what success you’ve had up to this point, if you don’t care for your physical and mental health, you success streak will eventually end. It could even come to a screeching halt, due to a major health problem.
The good news is, you don’t have to do a lot to significantly improve your health. But, you do have to do some things.
I could make a list of probably 1000 things a man could do to improve his health (maybe I’ll do that for a blog post one day).
But, rather than listing hundreds of things you can do that impact your health a little, I’d rather focus on a few things that impact your health the most.
I narrowed my list down to five practices you could implement today.
Actually, four of the five you can implement today, all on your own. One of them requires your spouse, so you’re not in total control of that one. However, it’s on the list because it’s that important for your wellbeing.
Here are your five simple habits to better health. This is the “Fast Pass” to vigor.
NOTE: The five habits in this article came from a live presentation I delivered. Since I already had the slides, I included most of them in the article for some extra visuals. Also, that presentation, and some persistence from a friend, was what led to the launch of VIGOR Training.
Lift Heavy Things
Other than shooting something or fighting someone, I don’t know that there’s anything that feels more “manly” than lifting something heavy.
A man has the hormones, the muscle type, and bone structure to lift heavy things. His body was made for it.
Obviously, some guys have better genetics than others, but all guys have the propensity to lift heavy things, and become stronger and more muscular.
You have more than 650 muscles, which move most of the 206 bones in your body! Unlike a car, the more you use your body, the stronger and more powerful it becomes. Of course, the less you use it, the sloppier and weaker you get.
Benefits of Strength Training
Beyond looking better in swim trunks or a custom-fit suit, weight training also helps you:
- Maintain muscle and metabolic rate while losing weight
- Improve blood sugar levels
- Increase bone density
- Increase range of motion and balance
- Improve mobility
- Improve mental strength, stamina and confidence
- Recover faster from injuries
If you haven’t touched a weight in your life, start right now. It’s not too late.
Injured? Have limb that’s out of commission? Bad knees? That’s no problem. You can work around all of that and more.
To build strength, you need to be:
Consistent: You don’t get stronger from one tough workout, done every once in a while. You get stronger from repeatedly exposing your body to challenges beyond what it’s capable of.
Progressive: Each week, you should be able to handle heavier weights for the same exercises, or do more sets or repetitions with the same weights. Over time, you should also swap some exercises to challenge your body in new ways. The moment a workout feels comfortable, it’s a sign that it isn’t enough of a challenge.
Personalized: Your body is unique in the way you move, your joint limitations, past injuries, your coordination, and more. Once you’ve built a foundation of strength and skill, you can pick up someone else’s program and get results, or join my online personal training program. But you need something designed just for you to get started the best way. That’s why I always encourage people to start by working with a fitness professional.
Eat More Protein
Contrary to what many people believe, the average person doesn’t eat enough protein for optimal health.
The Recommended Daily Intake (RDI) for protein in adults is 0.8 grams per kilogram ideal body weight. The RDI is an “adequate amount for most people to avoid disease.”
Is that the standard by which you set your goals? Adequate?
Would you be happy if your spouse said you were an “adequate” husband, your kids said you were an “adequate dad,” or your boss said you were an “adequate” employee? I hope not.
Why would you want to fuel your body with an “adequate” level of this powerful macronutrient?
From my experience, and based on the research I’ve read, 0.8-1.0 gram per pound of ideal body weight is way better.
I refer to “ideal” body weight because if you weigh 280 pounds, and are 5’10” tall, and your ideal body weight would is closer to 160-180 pounds, you’d benefit from around 170 grams per day. Eating 280 grams probably wouldn’t be necessary.
Benefits of Higher Protein Intakes
Increasing your protein intake allows you to:
- Build and maintain muscle easier
- Maintain healthier blood sugar levels
- Support immune function
- Burn more calories
- Stay full longer between meals and reduce cravings
- Improve body composition
- Recover faster from injuries
Start with breakfast. If you eat breakfast, replace your cereal, bagels, toast, pancakes, and fruit juice with a lower-carb protein shake, an omelet, or some meat and nuts. Animal-based protein sources are rich in essential amino acids, which are the building blocks of the tissues throughout your body.
A high-carb breakfast isn’t good for anyone, so set an example for the rest of your family by eating something far healthier. You’ll feel better all day long.
Once you’ve got breakfast down, focus on the next meal and make sure it’s high in protein every day.
Get Great Sleep
Great sleep comes from deep sleep and REM sleep, not just from the amount of time you’re actually sleeping.
During deep sleep, growth hormone rises, which supports tissue recovery and fat metabolism. Your body physically recovers. In a typical night of good sleep, you might enter deep sleep three to five times.
Rapid eye movement (REM) sleep follows deep sleep. It’s in this stage that you dream. You might have some minor dreams while in deep sleep, but your vibrant, funny, terrifying, and disturbing dreams occur during REM sleep.
It’s in REM that your brain tries to make sense of the information from the previous day, and deal with anything that’s been on your mind. Your memories are consolidated, and your brain is actually “washed” in cerebral fluid to help remove toxins.
Health Risks of Sleep Debt
Sleep debt is the term I like to use for talking about insufficient sleep. I think it paints a more accurate picture of what you do to your body.
Sleep debt occurs when you either sleep too few hours in a night, or when you get enough hours, but you don’t achieve deep, restorative sleep. Sleep debt can cause:
- Loss of muscle
- Increased cravings
- Body fat gain
- Cognitive decline
- Decreased productivity
- Decreased insulin sensitivity
- Increased cortisol, and decreased testosterone
- Loss of focus
How to get more sleep
Go to bed at a consistent time each night: Your body runs on a 24-hour rhythm. When you go to sleep at the same time each night, you help your body to maintain that rhythm.
Melatonin helps you adjust to a new sleep schedule, so you might want to try supplementing with it for a while.
Black out your room: Your skin has light sensors on it, so even if your eyes are closed, your body senses light. Artificial light can disrupt your circadian rhythm.
Set the thermostat to 65-69 degrees F: If you’re too warm at night, you won’t get into a deep sleep. The room should be chilly, so you can snuggle up in the covers, or next to your wife.
Avoid high-carbohydrate foods for a few hours prior to sleep: Insulin counters growth hormone levels, so eat early enough that your blood sugar levels to return to normal before going to sleep.
Avoid alcohol: Moderate drinking has been shown to reduce your ability to reach deep and REM sleep, and reduce growth hormone levels.
Make Love Often
Just to be clear, I’m not referring to casual sex here. Long-term, casual sex can lead to a long list of physical and mental health issues. I’m referring to making love with your spouse.
Men and women, in general, feel the need for sex from totally different perspectives. For men, there is a very clear biological need. Emotions do play a role, which is why a guy with depression probably won’t have an interest in sex. But biologically, men need to make love to their wives with much more frequency than most women feel the need to make love with their husbands.
That doesn’t mean a guy who’s a jerk to his wife ought to get it, just because he needs it. I’m only belaboring this point because I don’t think most women know how important it is for the health of their husbands to make love with them.
Benefits of Sex (in a marital relationship)
For men, making love with his wife:
- Increases testosterone, a key hormone in long-term physical and mental health for men
- Reduces feelings of stress, and production of cortisol
- Increases oxytocin, a hormone important for bonding, connectivity and intimacy with his wife
- Lowers blood pressure
- Enhances immune function
- Decreases pain
- Enhances a man’s self-esteem and self-confidence
Guys, if you’ve let yourself go since you got married, do your wife a favor and focus on the other four steps in this article. If you’ve buried yourself in work, and haven’t given her any attention, that’s on you too. Do your part to make yourself more desirable.
That said, if you’re a wife who’s reading this, please understand that your interest in, and need for, sex is a lot different from your husband. You might not desire it as often as he does. If you you’re only willing to make love when you’re really in the mood, you deprive him of a serious male need. Eventually, he will stop asking, but that doesn’t mean the need goes away.
Ironically, women often need to feel intimate in order desire sex, and men often feel intimate after they’ve made love to their wife. The longer you go without making love, the harder it is for a husband to try to create intimacy, and the less likely it is the wife will feel intimate and desire sex.
One of the most important things for most guys is to please their wives. If she isn’t interested in making love with him, one of the only things that’s reserved just for the two of them, it can really affect him psychologically. Which can then affect his health as well.
I suspect this could lead to some uncomfortable or awkward conversations, but these are the conversations that really matter in a committed relationship.
I’m not discounting the value of eating more vegetables. Eating more vegetables and fat, and eating fewer carbohydrates just didn’t make the list of the top 5, most important habits that help a man maintain optimal health.
I do believe, for the average guy, it’s faster and easier to dramatically increase his nutrient intake, by taking a supplement, than it is to form a new habit of eating a salad everyday in place of a sandwich. Again, this is about getting the most return for the least amount of effort.
These are the five supplements I recommend as a foundation of health. I do use, and recommend others in addition to these, but they’re more specific to one’s individual needs.
Let’s face it. You’re probably not eating 9-12 servings of vegetables, made up of a variety of types and colors, freshly picked, sourced from organic soil that hasn’t been stripped of minerals from farming in previous years, every day.
Most people fall short of the Recommended Daily Intake (RDI) of many micronutrients on a daily basis. And, the RDI is just the level high enough for most people to avoid deficiency.
That’s why you need a high-quality multivitamin each day. I’m not talking about a cheap, once-per-day tablet of low quality vitamins and minerals, that costs a few cents per day. I’m talking about a high-quality multivitamin that uses highly-effective and absorbable micronutrients like natural folate instead of folic acid, bisglycinate minerals, and methylcobalamin instead of cyancobalamin.
Fish Oil / Omega-3 Fatty Acids
We don’t eat nearly enough omega-3 fatty acids. It’s unfortunate because omega-3 fatty acids offer numerous health benefits.
- Increase protein synthesis when paired with a high-protein diet, more than a high-protein diet alone
- Decrease protein breakdown
- Enhance immune function
- Improve insulin sensitivity
- Enhance the health of cell membranes, allowing nutrients to enter the cell more easily
- May increase metabolic rate
- Support normal inflammatory levels
- Support normal triglyceride levels
- Improve cognitive function
It’s one thing to eat a diet of whole, high-quality foods. It’s quite another to properly digest and absorb the nutrients in those foods.
Supplementing with digestive enzymes is an effective way to ensure you’re getting the most out of the food you eat, while also supporting a number of other metabolic functions.
When I’m limited to only five supplement recommendations, I often go back and forth on number five. Sometimes I recommend digestive enzymes, and other times, probiotics. Both are important, but with the limitation of five supplements, I go back and forth on number five.
Magnesium is used in more than 300 enzymatic reactions, and is critical for ATP (adenosine triphosphate) production, which is the energy currency of the body. No ATP, no life.
The average American and European takes in less than 30-50% of the recommended daily intake, and that recommended amount is only enough to avoid signs of deficiency.
Some of the common symptoms of low magnesium levels include:
- Poor quality sleep
- Reduced physical performance
- Muscle spasms or cramps
- Back aches
- Poor memory
- High blood pressure
- Chronic fatigue
That’s only a partial list of issues related to low magnesium!
You won’t get enough magnesium from your multivitamin, because it takes up a large amount of space. You’d need 3-6 capsules per day just to have a meaningful amount.
Although magnesium bisglycinate is the best-absorbed form of magnesium, different types of magnesium have different effects on the body. In my opinion, magnesium glycinate and magnesium threonate are the most important for daily use.
More than half of the world’s population is deficient in vitamin D, with even more having levels below optimal ranges. In the United States, as much as 70-80% of the population may be deficient.
Vitamin D impacts the functioning of over 200 genes in the body. Deficiencies in vitamin D have been linked to
- Autoimmune disease
- Rheumatoid arthritis
- Type I diabetes,
- Some cancers
- Metabolic syndrome
- Poor blood-glucose control
- Increased risk of the flu
Those with higher vitamin D levels may have better results on a weight loss program too.
In my opinion, the most alarming issue with low vitamin D levels is the significant increase in risk of the flu.
Americans are urged every fall and winter to get a flu shot, which has a “chance” of reducing the risk of the flu (and also a chance of causing it), but few people are directed to increase their vitamin D intake.
Research shows, convincingly, that as vitamin D levels fall, the prevalence of the flu goes up.
You can have your vitamin D levels checked by your doctor or by ordering your own lab test. You’ll very likely be low in vitamin D. Most people find they need an extra 2000-10,000 IU per day to raise their vitamin D to optimal levels.
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V I G O R
Let me wrap this up with a quote from another manly man:
The chief condition on which, life, health and vigor depend on, is action. It is by action that an organism develops its faculties, increases its energy, and attains the fulfillment of its destiny.Collin Powell
As my friend Scott Schuler titled his new book, Man Up! Take action. Make your health a priority so you can be your best today, and for years, or decades to come. What many men fail to understand is that the better they take care of their health, and the more they become physically strong, the better they’re able to handle other stuff in their lives. Their physical health and fitness has a direct effect on the rest of their world.