Too Busy to Get Healthy? These Biohacks Will Help.
I am a big believer in the Zen and Buddhist notion that “how you do anything is how you do everything.” If you can master your physical fitness, I believe you can master your biggest challenges in business as well.
We’ve all heard the adage that weight management is 80 percent diet, but exercise is also essential for reaching and maintaining optimal leanness and fitness as an executive or an entrepreneur.
But with our time already at a premium, most of us don't have time to train for a marathon or get out of bed at 4:30 a.m. for daily trips to the gym. So here are a few of the best biohacks I’ve discovered to get fit in a time-efficient and practical way.
1. Try resistance training to build muscle faster, with less joint stress
This week I spoke to Dr. John Jaquish, the biomedical scientist behind the OsteoStrong technology for strengthening bone mass. Recently, he's been drawing attention to the ways exercisers of all ages can increase muscle without traditional equipment or trips to the gym.
The key, he says, is variable resistance training (VRT) with heavy-duty resistance bands. The strategy is helpful for any level of exerciser, from beginner (or youth) to professional athletes. But the method is especially useful for time-pressed executives since some of the heaviest resistance bands, used properly, make it possible to get an effective muscle growth and toning workout in as little as 10 minutes a day.
Steady pace and increasingly heavy resistance — not the length of the workout — is the key to success. To rival the effectiveness of machines and weights in a gym, you need to use the kind of bands you would use for pull-up assistance (heavy enough to support your entire body). Still, if you own light weights and traditional resistance bands (and are careful), you can get some of the benefits of variable resistance on your own. First, lay the band (flat or tubular with handles) on the floor and lay your 5-12 lb. weights at each end. Wrap the band around the weight and secure it tight with your hands as you lift it up. Then create resistance by standing on the band with one or both feet as you pick up the weights. You can increase or decrease the resistance by adjusting the distance between your two feet.
In addition to speed of workout, Jaquish says resistance bands are easier on joints and tendons than traditional weights. This is especially important for midlife and older exercisers. Research has shown that exercisers older than 35 can work out just as hard as their younger counterparts, but they can’t recover as quickly due to stress on their connective tissue and joints. As you get older, any form of exercise that lessons stress on your joints (such as swimming versus running, or striding versus jumping up and down) is a win.
A final tip: Though it’s not a portable option, Jaquish says doing resistance work while standing on a vibration plate (at a 30 Mhz setting) when you can is a way to maximize muscle growth and strength and carries additional benefits for protecting and building your bone mass as well.
2. Nutrition and supplement hacks
Did you know that your insulin level actually contributes to your body's propensity to create and store fat far more than the number of calories you eat?
Insulin regulates and reacts to your sugar intake, transforming sugar into energy, or storing it as glucose. So eating lots of sugary, carb-y foods creates an insulin response that compounds your hunger for more sugar, while also making you increasingly "insulin resistant." This means that as you eat foods with little nutritional value, your body produces a more and more disproportionate amount of insulin — far too much to be used up by the energy you'll use throughout your day.
As an easy hack for avoiding the temptation of sugar, Jaquish suggests keeping xylitol-sweetened gum on hand at all times, as it satisfies the desire for a sweet taste that is free of sugar or aspartame and doesn’t provoke an insulin response. Jaquish particularly likes Spry gum because the flavor reminds him of Juicy Fruit, which he used to chew as a child. Note that while Xylitol, a form of alcohol sugar, is considered entirely safe, you do not want to overuse it. If you were to eat it in a large quantity, such as consuming a box of Xylitol-sweetened candy in a single sitting, it can cause gastrointestinal distress.
Intermittent Fasting and OMAD (One Meal A Day) strategies of eating are additional ways to minimize insulin production, but can make it difficult to consume enough protein to meet lean body mass or muscle enhancing exercise goals.
As an answer to this, Jaquish advises the use of fermentation-based essential amino acid powders (yes, it sounds like a mouthful, but if you look it up online you’ll see plenty of options). These provide the body with protein to address their daily requirements and hunger without an insulin reaction or disruption to fasting. Plus, they offer a ton of protein for just a handful of calories.
Bone broth is another boon to a busy executive schedule. Bone broth provides comfort and energy while complying with many fasting and cleansing regimens, and typically provides 10 grams of easy-to-digest collagen protein per cup. Bone broth is available in powder/bullion form as well as pre-packaged in single-serving cartons you can simply open and heat.
For those on a traditional three-meal program, there are also new bio-hacks available in the form of chromium and magnesium supplements to regulate blood sugar and insulin levels. And of course, exercise, getting sufficient sleep and using healthy methods to deal with stress both aid in the management of insulin levels as well.
3. Streaming and mobile apps keep you moving on the go
Finally, there's a wealth of new technologies that support the fitness endeavors of people looking to make the most of a workout, whenever and wherever they can.
Streaming workouts are a great option for busy and traveling executives. Two of my personal favorites are the Kelly Coffey Meyer workouts, available from CoffeyFit.com or from the CoffeyFit app and the Cathe Friedrich workouts from Cathe.com. In addition to these subscription services, you can find a plethora of quick and equipment-free workouts.
There's also a growing realm of creative apps like the 7 Minute Workout. No, it isn’t a joke – in 30-second increments, the app leads you through a a series of calisthenic exercises including lunges, jumping jacks, pushups and crunches. If you have more than seven minutes to spare, you can run through the app twice or set it up for a custom sequence, for a short workout that requires no equipment and might be “just enough” to get you through a busy day or as the warmup to a run or 30-minute speed walk.
Other apps like BodBot or Freeletics will provide you with bodyweight exercise routines you can accomplish from anywhere. And if it’s cardio you’re craving, consider the Tabata (interval) app to guide you through timed intervals.
When it comes to fitness, there’s no replacement for “doing the work.” But with the newest discoveries in exercise and supplementation, getting fit may take less time than you thought. It might even be fun.