If only I could be 20 years old again…. out until 2am, in the gym at 7am and do it again the next day. Now if I’m out past 10pm I don’t feel right for 3 days!
I have definitely made some huge changes in both my training program and my diet over the past 2 decades. I just wish I could go back in time and teach my 20 year old self what I know now about diet and exercise.
I vividly remember guys I’d play ball with who were older than I telling me “Just wait, everything will change once you hit 30.” You know the all too common excuse of feeling miserable because of age, not choices.
30 has come and gone and I still feel great. I’m expecting the same for 40 and beyond. You see people don’t feel like shit and stop moving because they are older, they feel older because they eat like shit and stop moving.
Without question the single biggest change I have made since my 20s is my diet. In my 20s I ate what I thought was healthy: lots of whole grains, lots of milk, yogurt, and a lot of meat. I almost always had stomach pain, I had sinus issues and snored terribly, but overall I felt that I was healthy guy. I often had stomach pains so sharp and severe it would literally fold me over. I trained extremely hard and still had a 6 pack. I had always had stomach pains, gas, sinus issues, and an inhaler to help with breathing; I just figured it was normal for me.
Once I got to grad school and started learning more about how the body works and what it’s really like to be healthy, I realized I was far from it. The best thing I ever did for my health was to cut grains and dairy from my diet. For a lot of reasons that I won’t go over now, grains (especially wheat) should be consumed only if your other option is starving. Dairy was hard to cut out (I was raised on a dairy farm!). I really dug into the research and realized there is nothing good to support dairy. I haven’t had a glass of milk in well over a decade and almost never touch any dairy products.
Now if I cheat and have just a little dairy, it’s instant stomach pain and I feel achy and basically like shit for a day or two. When my wife has any dairy she is guaranteed to break out on her chin. “Chin-ples” is what we call them.
Now my diet is this: For my first meal of the day, which is usually about 4 hours after I wake up, I have 6 eggs. Lunch is almost always leftovers from supper, a salad from a local salad bar, or an Exo bar. Every supper is a wild raised meat of some sort along with a veggie stir fry and fruit for dessert. There are countless combinations of meat, veggies and fruit, and that is what we have pretty much every evening. I love how it tastes and I love how it makes me feel. I am leaner and lighter now than I was in my 20s when I used to workout a lot more!
That’s the routine…day in and day out. No grains, no dairy, no sweets or treats. My guilty snack at night is popcorn popped in coconut oil with a little olive oil, balsamic vinegar, and sea salt.
My snack foods are an apple or banana with some almonds. I don’t count calories, I eat when I’m hungry and until I’m full, and I only drink water. It is so simple, yet makes you feel so damn good. I’m almost never “starving”, bowel movements are never an issue, and I never have heart burn or indigestion; just feeling really good all the time.
Cutting grains and dairy from your diet is one of the easiest and best things you could possibly do for your health. I just wish I was raised that way. Our little baby is 14 months now and the only dairy he’s had is from mom’s boob. He’s never had a grain. Rice cereal is commonly recommended as a first food and makes zero sense. I don’t think it’s wise to start a child on sugar balls. We started with and still feed our little one avocado and egg yolks on a regular basis. We’ve mixed in meat, veggies, egg whites, and bananas. 14 months old and, knock on wood, not a hint of a sickness yet!
My exercise habits have changed in two big ways. Number 1: I spend a lot more time working on joint mobility. To be blunt, I had a lot of really bad coaches when it came to training. I can’t think of a single one who spent time showing me how to improve my flexibility and mobility. It was all about lifting weights and running. I could bench press a house but barely reach around to wipe my butt. In college I took at least 4 ibuprofen before every practice my knees bothered me so much. They hurt me for years! Once I learned how to work on mobility, the knee pain and other little aches and pains have disappeared.
I do have a cam deformity which gives me some hip grief these days. That’s very rare and probably not something you’ll have to worry about. I was just born unlucky when it comes to the shape of my hip joint.
As we get older we get stiffer. We have to spend more time stretching and working on joint mobility. This is especially important if you are stuck at a desk all day. That lack of mobility will lead to pain and if you go to the doctor odds are you are just going to get meds. Find someone to show you how to improve joint mobility. It is huge! I’ve worked with countless people who suffered with joint pain for years that are now pain free after some consistent mobility training. Shoulder, upper thoracic, and hip tightness are the big ones. A lot of neck issues and headaches stem from tight shoulders and a lot of low back pain is the result of tight hip joints.
The 2nd big change with training is recovery time. I just don’t bounce back like I used to. I still work out just as hard as I always have, just not as often. I need more time in between workouts to recover. As you get a little older don’t be afraid to take a little extra rest time. I don’t want to be sore all the time and neither should you. The great thing is that now that my diet is very clean, I don’t have to work out nearly as often to maintain a relatively lean build.
I love working with kettlebells. Every week I do strength work, pull-ups, balance work, mobility work, and High Intensity Interval Training. I never do any jogging or elliptical machines. The pounding on your joints, the time it takes, the little if any health gains from it, I just don’t see a reason to jog. If jogging helps you clear your mind and you enjoy it, go for it. If your goal is to burn fat and have a toned, muscular look, then sprint. All of my long duration exercise comes in the form of bluff hikes and chasing my baby around.
Side note – Stop doing sit-ups and crunchies. They are terrible for your low back. There are many, much more effective ways to train the same muscles without risking injury to the spine.
I should note I’m not training to win any contests or do any crazy physical feats. I just want to be a healthy dude that feels good, for a very long time. If I’m able to take my bow and hike the mountains for days, I’m content.
I call my training Minimalist Functional Fitness. I want to do as little as possible to be a high functioning, fit guy. I feel like I’m in the top 1-5% of people my age and I plan to stay there. That’s not saying much when unfortunately the bar is now so low in the country when it comes to health and fitness.
When it comes to supplements I have a very simple but effective philosophy. All of our required nutrients should come from the foods we eat. However, some nutrients are hard to get enough of even with a relatively healthy diet.
If a person can’t get enough required nutrients through diet, than I think it is wise to supplement them. The 3 I never miss and nor does my wife or baby are Omega 3 fats (fish oil), Vitamin D, and probiotics. On average just about every American is deficient in those 3 nutrients. It is really quite simple: if you are not getting enough of a required nutrient you are undoubtedly less healthy than you could be. If you take a supplement which brings your body from deficient to sufficient in the required nutrient, you are by definition healthier. It doesn’t matter whether you feel better or not.
The one thing you absolutely must not do is try and treat symptoms with vitamins. For symptom X take vitamin Y. The wise approach is always to find out what you are deficient in and take a supplement or change your diet to get to sufficient levels.
When it comes to Omega 3 fats, vitamin D, and probiotics, we are so deficient, plus they have so many health benefits I think it’s crazy not to take them. I’d much rather be getting a little too much than not enough. Too little can make you sick, too much will not harm you.
One thing that is always surprising to people is I never take any protein supplements. It is super easy to get enough protein in a healthy diet for the average person. I easily maintain a 200 pound build eating eggs, meat, and nuts. If I had to take some protein powder my first choice would definitely be cricket powder. Number two would be a whey isolate, most likely from goat’s milk. One quick thing with whey protein…. you see companies market grass fed, from New Zealand, etc whey protein…that doesn’t matter. A cow’s diet will affect the fat profile of the animal, it does nothing to the protein.
There are two more things I should mention. I can’t go on 5 hours of sleep like I used to. I make a point to get 7.5-8.5 hours a night. It’s huge. Get your sleep! Don’t have time? Make time! If you are exhausted and have to choose between getting up to exercise or getting some extra sleep, the extra sleep is probably the better choice.
Be grateful for everything you have instead of sad about what you don’t. There is about a 1 in 20 chance of being born American. That alone is a huge advantage to be grateful for. One of the best mind shifts I’ve made is to stop looking in envy at people with more than I. Instead I’m happy for them and happy for what I have and just continue to try and be better.
Lastly, I’ve learned to give zero shits about things that don’t matter. Since I’ve gone more public with advice and opinions, I get a lot more hate mail. More people know who I am and that inevitably leads to more haters. I really don’t give any shits about any of that. I don’t care what anyone thinks about my home, or vehicle, my degrees, that I love to hunt, that I know most supplements are useless, how I dress, That I can’t stand the scamming vitamin patch, body wrap, cleansing, detoxing, lose weight quick companies, etc….
I care deeply about being a good dad and husband, being a good boss to my staff, and doing my best to make a great program for all of my gym members. And, for providing great information to all of my readers. Other than that I just don’t really give a shit. I don’t worry about anything I cannot change. If I can change something, I don’t think about it, I just do it. I never avoid confrontation.
In short – be grateful for what you have, give zero fucks about what others think, and watch your stress hormones plummet! 🙂