Exercise and Nutrition advice

In the first month of this 2021 and now with the Chinese New Year, I’ve been approached by some friends asking for Exercise and Nutrition advice. Up to now, I haven’t shared personal stuff on LinkedIn, but apparently these tips helped them increase well-being and performance, so they convinced me this is also work-related and might benefit others as well. These are purely subjective recommendations and should be adjusted according to each person, but the principles work for everyone. Here we go:

1. Sleep

The number one most underrated health factor. People are not aware of the dangerous consequences of not sleeping well and they are chronically sleep deprived. Of course it is difficult when you have kids, work night shift, go on business trips, take care of old people or live far from work, but whenever it is possible, this should be on the top of our goals. Without this, there is no way our performance can be great, and diet and exercise won’t work either. Personally, I don’t set morning alarms, instead, I set a night alarm 8 hours before the time I want to wake up. For further research, check out neuro-scientist Matthew Walker and his book “Why we sleep” will change your life.

“Human beings are the only species that deliberately deprive themselves of sleep, people walk through their lives in an underslept state, not realizing it”

2. Diet

Eat clean, full stop. Our brain is what we eat, also our emotions, decision making and immune system. Cook your own meals as often as you can, people who say they don’t have time for cooking or they have business dinners simply mean they are not giving priority to their diet. Two key points, the WHAT and the WHEN. Each person’s metabolism is different, but roughly we should eat our last meal of the day 3-4 hours before sleep. Increase green vegetables, fruits and nuts, reduce or quit processed food. Personally, I don´t do intermittent fasting or supplements, but if you are interested, biomedical scientist Dr. Rhonda Patrick and Neal D. Barnard share detailed food for thought.

“Your machine has to last for 80 or 90 years, if you don’t take care of your body now, you are condemning your children to the burden of having to take care of you”

3. Temptations

Sugar, caffeine, alcohol and tobacco. Refined sugar is the number one silent killer we must quit. Caffeine is great in the morning to boost our energy artificially, however it can achieved through a cold shower or natural foods. Regarding alcohol, as we say, it is borrowing happiness and productivity from tomorrow, one night out drinking and the next day is useless. Smoking, needless to mention. All this group should be either reduced or only consumed from time to time. We keep telling our loved ones, our children and friends to eat on time, sleep early, exercise regularly, but then we do all kinds of unhealthy stuff to ourselves. How would you feel if today you saw your children drinking? Or your pregnant wife or husband smoking?

“Treat yourself like someone you are responsible for”

4. Habits

Either we create habits or they will create us. Whether a good one or a bad one, our habits determine who we become. Get the habit of listening to podcasts and reading books, either before work or before sleep, either for work reasons or for leisure, we can´t afford to be ignorant about the world. Get the habit of exercising in the morning, waking up earlier and planning your week. Get rid of the distractions, such as videogames, TV or social media (unless it is for work purposes). I might be a weird specimen but I never liked videogames and I don’t even know how to hold a playstation, no Twitter, Instagram, Snapchat, Tik Tok or Influencers.

Habits will take us further than innate talent. What takes willpower in the beginning later becomes effortless and automatic.When people ask how do I stay self-disciplined, my answer is that it is not about discipline, it is about turning it into a habit. I like to work some hours on Sundays to get things done efficiently so Mondays are not stressful. Same with after holidays, invest three hours to sort out the thousand emails before everyone is back to work. Regarding how to take control of our lives, either we agree or disagree with him, there is great wisdom in the brilliant mind of this intellectual of our modern era, Jordan Peterson, author of “12 rules for life, an antidote to Chaos”, and his ideas about how to stop wasting time.

“Determine where you are going in your life because you cannot get there unless you move in that direction. Random wandering will not move you forward but disappoint and frustrate you”

5. Physical Health

If an exercise is boring, we will not enjoy it, which means we won’t be consistent. Consistency over Intensity, if you kill yourself in a session, you will be sore the next couple of days, we should train to have fun and feel good. It does not have to be in a gym all alone, it can be in group or by teams, there are communities of yoga, cycling, cross-fit or running groups. Exercise is the best anti-ageing formula and mental health support. Try to combine exercises that require different sets of skills: explosive speed, endurance, rackets, balls, coordination and strength. I personally don’t go to gyms, I find a good combination in squash, badminton, football, muay thai and boot camp. David Goggins might be too extreme for the common mortal, I recommend checking out Brazilian Jiujitsu and Grapping coach Firas Zahabi and his advice on how to train smart.

6. Mental health

Everyone is fighting an inner battle we don’t know about. Everyone looks like they have their lives sorted out, but they are just winging it. If there is not much we can do about external factors out of our control, then all we can do is to forge our mindset into resilience, focus, patience and character building. Listen to your emotions or any unbalance, how do you think, act or feel? How do you respond to stress, disappointment or anger? Nurture your mind with good music, sunlight and literature, Find Flow or create it through activities that bring you flow states of mind, climbing, swimming, painting, music, sports and other challenging skills. Having a good and meaningful connection with people around us is proven by numerous studies to be the main factor that makes us live longer. No matter how busy we are with work, always remember the importance of Family and Friends. “The Magic of thinking big” by David J. Schwartz is a great one, or listen to Johann Hari talk about depression and connection.

7. Social health

If we are the average of the five people we spend the most time with, then who do you hang out with? Do you surround yourself with smart people who value integrity, honesty, courage, gratitude, kindness and humor? People who make us become a better human being? Who talk about ideas, projects, technology, humanity or only gossip, excuses and complaints? Who encourage us to take a difficult step but also slap us with constructive criticism?

The social environment, not the educational institutions, is the real place to learn the key competences: leadership, management, charisma, communication, empathy, EQ or active listening. Social intelligence will take us further than technical skills. In an over stimulated ecosystem of a thousand temptations in a fast pace society, saying NO is equally or more important than saying YES to time-wasting activities and social gatherings. Losing focus on what really matters will make us get nothing done. A great read is the ideas about time management in “Essentialism, the disciplined pursuit of Less” by Greg McKeown, CEO of McKeown Inc. in Silicon Valley.

8. Spiritual health

Adopt responsibility for your own well-being. Embrace Solitude and leave time for yourself to be alone, doing nothing, disconnecting from society and connecting with nature. People find meaning through contribution to society, charity, community, meditation or connection with Faith or Nature. Each person is different, and we all set different standards of Ethics, Morals and Principles. A big part of our population finds it through religion. Are you at peace with yourself? I personally don’t do meditation, I do recommend everyone to listen to Richard Dawkins and Sam Harris sharing priceless perspective on life. One of my top 3 books is “Flow, the psychology of optimal experience” by Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi.

“A fit body, a calm mind and a house full of love cannot be bought , they must be earned”

9. Career

Educate yourself, no excuses. The path from A to B is painful, but a clear purpose makes it meaningful. The questions is not “What do you want to achieve? but “What are you willing to give up for that goal?” We want to start a business, but are we willing to give up our social time? We want the six pack, but are we willing to wake up 2 hours earlier? With all the resources available nowadays, it is our decision to not know about something. The world and labor market are constantly changing at a faster and faster speed, and it won’t take long for our job to be obsolete.

Build a brand or a business that brings value. Get a mentor, a coach or a role model. Choose what you want to be good at, creativity, innovation, sustainability, engineering, design… Do you really have passion for it? If nobody was watching, would you still want to learn about it? Is this skill really necessary for the world? Can you get good at it? If the answers are yes, money will come automatically as a result and not as the main goal. Reading fiction books in a South African library made the most valued entrepreneur of our time think of traveling to Mars. “For me it was never about money, but solving problems for the future humanity”. As Elon Musk´s biography says:

“Failure is an option, if you are not failing, you are not innovating enough”

10. Balance

Life is short, it is totally OK to enjoy a double cheese burger, have beers with your friends or stay in bed late on a lazy Sunday morning. Keep a healthy diet but it is totally OK to have a fine wine and eat your favorite pasta or lasagna, even if it adds up to the little fat around your belly. It’s OK to have flaws and not be able to play 4 instruments, do 5 sports and speak 6 languages. Take time off to travel, read, meet new people and just chill on your hammock. Take work seriously, be professional and have integrity, but also take leisure seriously.

We were born to live, not to be perfect, rich, famous, successful, eight-pack machines. Let’s be careful with all the inspiring stories and motivational articles like this one, we don’t HAVE TO make an impact, change the world and eliminate poverty, it is OK to just help the people around us, bring value to our company or open a cocktail bar in Thailand. We have a limited source of energy, work hard on ideas and people who are worth your effort. Have patience but it is also OK to let go, relationships, friends, jobs and other attachments. There is a limited number of f*cks to give, let’s not waste them on meaningless things. Have a look at Mark Manson’s “The subtle art of not giving a f*ck”, which lacks some literacy quality but it is full of good perspectives on life.

“Humans have two lives, and the second life starts when we realize we only have one”

In a difficult year 2020 for everyone, and after more than 12 intellectual events, we will take a little break during Chinese New Year. Hopefully, this week off gives you free time to spend quality time with family and friends or by yourself doing introspection. We will come back and bring you more Mindfood. Meanwhile, wish you and your loved ones a healthy New Year of the Ox !