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The average American consumes about 3400 milligrams of sodium daily, most of it coming from processed foods. Now it turns out processed salt could be downright dangerous for your brain according to a new study. But are all salts created equal? And isn’t too little salt in your diet as equally dangerous? Here’s why you […]

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At some point in the past few weeks (or five minutes ago after a google search), you’ve made a resolution to change your life:

  • I’m going to exercise every day!
  • I’m going to start flossing!
  • I’m going to start eating better!
  • I’m going to quit smoking!
  • I’m going to stop wearing jorts!

That’s awesome, and I’m very excited for you.

No, seriously! I want to see how this turns out – I love a good redemption story.

Maybe you told some friends, or posted it on your blog, or shared your experience on Instagram, or started a club at work with coworkers about your goals.

Although I’ve railed against Resolutions and big audacious declarations in the past, this year I’m changing my tune.

If you set resolutions or goals this year, be it in January and you’re in on “new year new me,” or you just had a big life event (birth of your first kid, scare at the doctor, etc.) and decided: “This is the year I get in shape!” – I’m here to help.

Everybody has goals – it gives us something to aim for.

They just need to be done right.

I want you looking back in 6 months and not recognizing the “old you,” instead of looking back and asking yourself “what the hell happened? Why am I back where I started?”

With over 40,000 students in our flagship online course, the Nerd Fitness Academy, 200+ 1-on-1 coaching clients, 1000 people in our monthly team adventure Rising Heroes, and 10 years with thousands of emails and success stories, we have a damn good track record at helping people build permanent habits.

This resource that dives deep into the key habit building techniques that will actually help you get in shape this year.

Why do we suck At Building Habits?

homer simpson twitter fail whale

“I know what I’m supposed to do, I just can’t get myself to do it !” Welcome to the club – we all know what we need to do, but we just can’t get ourselves to make the important changes:

We know how to get in shape: move more and eat less!

We know how to exercise: get your heart rate up, do some push-ups, get stronger.

We know how to eat healthy: more vegetables and less sugar.

And yet, we can’t get ourselves to stick with ANY of these things for longer than a few weeks.


Simple: Building new habits is tough, our lizard brains crave instant gratification, we don’t fully understand how habits are built, life gets busy, and our default behavior is often as unhealthy as it is easy.

As a result we don’t put the right systems in place in order to make changes stick.

We also rely wayyyyy too much on willpower and motivation.

We tend to bite off more than we can chew, go too fast too soon, and then get overwhelmed too quickly.

Does this sound familiar?

  • I’m going to eat 100% paleo AND
  • I’m going to run 5 miles a day AND
  • I’m going to workout in a gym five times a week.

If you’re somebody that eats a typically poor diet, never runs, and hasn’t set foot in a gym since grade-school dodgeball with Mr. Wazowski, changing alllll of these at once is almost a surefire way to succeed at precisely NONE of them.

We’re conditioned these days to expect and receive instant gratification. If we want food we can get it from a drive-through, stick a frozen meal in a microwave, or sit down at a restaurant that’s open 24 hours. If we want a game we can download it to our computers/phones/PS4’s within a matter of seconds.  If we want to watch a tv show, it’s a few clicks away.

Hell, Netflix even starts the next episode for you without any action required!

We expect getting in shape to go the same way.  

And this is why we suck at building healthy habits that stick.

We tell ourselves “Hey, I’ve been dedicated for a whole two weeks, why don’t I look like Ryan Reynolds yet?”, not remembering that it took us decades of unhealthy living to get where we are, which means it’s going to take more than a few weeks to reverse the trend.

And then we miss a workout because life was busy or our kid got sick. And we get disheartened that exercise or giving up candy is not nearly as fun as netflix and video games and peanut M&Ms.

This is where everybody gives up:

  • They try to change too many habits too soon
  • They get impatient the results don’t come quicker
  • They slip up when life gets busy
  • And they go back to square one

It’s why we are doomed to stay overweight and suck at building habits. It’s the videogame equivalent of attacking too many bad guys at once: game over.

We’ll cover the specific habits and resolutions you SHOULD be picking later in this article, but I have a big damn question to ask you first: “But why though?”

Be Honest about Your “Big Why”

Before we do ANYTHING with actually building habits, you need a damn good reason as to why you want to build them in the first place or the changes will never stick.

Without a good reason, you’re dead in the water:

If you’re here because you decided you “should” get in shape, you’re going to fail the second life gets busy.

If you are dragging yourself to the gym because you think you “should” run on a treadmill five days a week even though you hate it, you’re screwed!

As you’re determining the habits or resolutions you’re trying to set, make the habit part of a bigger cause that’s worth the struggle.

You’re not just going to the gym, you’re building a new body that you’re not ashamed of so you can start dating again.

You’re not just learning to like vegetables, you’re losing weight so you can fit into your dream wedding dress.

You’re not just dragging yourself out of bed early, you’re getting up earlier so you can work on your side business before your kids get up so you can set money aside for their college education.

In our flagship online course, the Nerd Fitness Academy, we refer to this as your “Big Why.” Without it, you’re just forcing yourself to do do things you don’t like to do – that’ll never last.

Tie it to a greater cause and you’re infinitely more likely to push through the muck and mire to get it done.

So dig 3 levels deep and ask “why” until you get to the root cause of WHY you want to build a new habit or change a bad one. Write it down. And hang it up somewhere you can see it every day.

Got your reason? Great. Now let’s get into the science of habits.

Habit Building 101: the Three Parts


#1) Cue (what triggers the action): It can be a feeling: I’m tired, I’m hungry, I’m bored, I’m sad. Or it can be a time of day: it’s Monday at 9am, work is done, etc.

#2) Routine (the action itself): This can either be a negative action you want to cut back: I drink soda, I eat cake, I snack, I drink alcohol. I smoke cigarettes. I watch TV. or a positive one: I go the gym. I go for a run. I do push-ups. I read a book.

#3) Reward (the positive result because of the action): I’m now awake. I am temporarily happy. my hands/mind are occupied. I can forget the bad day I had. I feel energized. I feel good about myself.

Depending on your outine/action above that habits can either be empowering and amazing, or part of a negative downward spiral. Your body isn’t smart enough to KNOW what it needs to do: it just wants to fix the pain or chase the pleasure of the cue, and whichever way you choose to respond will become the habit when it’s done enough times.

Factor in genius marketing, behavioral psychology, bad genetics, and an environment set up for us to fail – and bad habits rule us.

It’s why we crave certain foods, why we can’t help but check our phone every time it vibrates, and why we can’t keep ourselves from watching one more episode or grinding one more level in World of Warcraft.

As Charles Duhigg points out:

“There is nothing programmed into our brains that makes us see a box of doughnuts and automatically want a sugary treat. But once our brain learns that a doughnut box contains yummy sugar and other carbohydrates, it will start anticipating the sugar high. Our brains will push us toward the box. Then, if we don’t eat the doughnut, we’ll feel disappointed.”

We have trained your brain to take a cue (you see a doughnut), anticipate a reward (a sugar high), and make the behavior automatic (nom nom that donut). Compare that to a cue (you see your running shoes), anticipate a reward (a runner’s high), and make the behavior automatic (go for a run!)

The Dark Knight himself said it best: “It’s not who I am underneath, but what I do that defines me.”

Let’s take a look at each part of the habit-building process and start to hack the sh** out of it!

Learn Your Cues: Recognize the triggers.

Whether you are trying to change an old habit, stop a bad habit, or begin a good habit, it starts with the first step in the process:

“The Cue.”

If you want to stop drinking soda, but feel like you need it every afternoon to get through work, your brain has been wired to think SODA after the cue:

  • Cue: I’m tired thirsty, and have no energy.
  • Routine: I drink a soda around 3pm.
  • Reward: Weeeeee caffeine! Sugar! Happy! My life has meaning!

When identifying bad habits to avoid, it starts by becoming aware of the cue that sets the habit in motion. Simply being aware of the cue is a great start to breaking the cycle:

  • When I get bored (cue), I eat snacks (routine), and it fills the void with a happy stomach (reward).
  • When I come home from work (cue), I plop down on couch and play videogames (routine), and it helps me forget about work (reward).
  • When I get nervous (cue), I start to bite my nails (routine), to take my mind off the awkwardness (reward).

So if you are looking to break a bad habit, it begins by identifying what the cues are that make you take the action that you’re trying to stop.

At the same time, you can mentally train yourself, just like Pavlov’s dog, to build a new habit by identifying the habit you want to build and the cue you want to use to proceed it:

  • When I wake up (cue), I will go for a walk (routine), and reward myself with an audiobook on the walk (reward)
  • When I get tired (cue), I will drink black coffee instead of soda (routine), and along with the caffeine boost (reward), I’ll get new running shoes after 30 soda-free days (reward), and satisfaction from the weight loss thanks to fewer calories (reward).
  • When I come home from work (cue), I will walk straight to my computer to work on my novel for 30 minutes (routine), and reward myself with netflix after i have written 500 words (reward).

So, whether you’re breaking a bad habit or starting a new one, it begins by recognizing the cue that triggers the habit. Once you recognize or pick the cue, you can start working on fixing the routine (action).

Make the Routine Easier: Use Systems

“Steve, I get it, but I still struggle with the ‘building the routine’ part…for some reason I just can’t bring myself to do it.”

Yup – welcome to the toughest part of a habit:

The Routine (the action itself!).

This is where we’re going to start thinking and acting like nerds and scientists. Whether we’re trying to stop a negative routine (stop drinking soda) or start doing a healthy routine (start running), both need to be addressed with a different battle plan.

For starters, we’re going to stop relying on two things:

  • Willpower – if you have to get yourself to exercise, you’ll give up when you get too busy or it’s too cold.
  • Motivation – if you need to be motivated, you’re going to give up and then beat yourself up for not being more motivated!

Both motivation and willpower are finite and fickle resources that will abandon you when you need them most. Suckers and chumps hope and pray that they have enough motivation and willpower to build a habit.

Not us though! We’re going to remove both from the equation and use systems and outside forces to make the routine even easier to build (or tougher to build if it’s a bad habit you’re trying to swap!)

This can be done in a few ways:

  • Environmental hacks: making the routine easier by removing steps needed to complete it, or adding steps between you and bad habit.
  • Programming hacks: add your habit to your daily calendar, track your progress daily with a journal, and make it part of your day.

We are products of our environment. We can use this information to our advantage, and make the process of building a new habit or changing a bad habit easier by modifying our environment. I dig into this more fully in our article: “Build your Batcave for Habit Change,” but I’ll cover the basics here.

Look at the places you spend your time. Reduce the steps between you and a good habit, and increase the steps between you and a bad habit. and you’ll be less reliant on willpower and motivation and more likely to do the new habit or skip the bad habit.

Here are five examples of environmental hacks you can use: 

RUN EVERY MORNING: Go to sleep with your running shoes at the foot of your bed, with your running uniform laid out already. Hell, you can sleep in your running/workout clothes. Put your alarm clock on the other side of the room so you HAVE to get out of bed to turn it off.

GO TO THE GYM AFTER WORK: Pack your gym bag BEFORE going to sleep the night before. That way, every morning you already have a bag to throw in your car or bring with you. As soon as 5pm hits, you are in your car or on your way to the gym.

EAT HEALTHIER: Don’t give yourself an option of not eating healthy – throw out the junk food in your house and start preparing meals the night before. Put a lock on your web browser from ordering pizza online (yes you can do that now), and don’t drive down the street full of fast food places.

WATCH LESS TV/PLAY FEWER GAMES: Use your laziness in your favor. Unplug the tv/system. Increase the steps between you and watching the TV. Put parental controls on your own system and have your friend set the time limit and the password. Don’t rely on willpower – make it more difficult!

CHECK YOUR PHONE LESS: Turn off your notifications and uninstall the apps that waste your time. Put your phone in Do Not Disturb mode when you are at work, and put it in your desk drawer. Don’t rely on willpower to get yourself to not check your phone when it buzzes – get rid of the buzz.

You can also use programming hacks to help build NEW habits: 

  • EXERCISE: If you want to exercise more, set calendar alerts at the beginning of your week so that every day at 8AM you receive a cue (ding! on your phone) and a reminder to do the activity. You’re much more likely to stay on target when the activity has been scheduled ahead of time.
  • HEALTHY EATING: Consider batch cooking! If cooking healthy meals every night sounds like way too much work (I hear you on that), consider doing it all on ONE day – its a significant time savings, and it also will reduce the steps between you and healthy eating because the meal is already cooked and in the fridge! I knew somebody who put his TV in his closet and cut his TV viewing by close to 100%.
  • WRITING: if you want to write a book, tell yourself you have to write 500 crappy words every day. Buy a calendar, and draw a big red X on every day you complete your task. Make your singular focus every day continuing the streak[1]This is called the Seinfeld Technique, from Jerry Seinfeld who talked about writing new jokes every single day [[1]].

Make the Reward Momentum Building

Changing Rubick's Cube

And we are finally at the third part of the habit:

“The Reward.”

When looking to replace bad habits, do some reward analysis on your bad habits:

Soda gives you a caffeine kick and a burst of energy in the afternoon when you’re tired. Can you replicate that energy boost for your body in a healthier way? Switch to black coffee and go for a walk.

You find you spend too much time watching TV because you love escaping into worlds, and its affecting your health. Can you listen to your favorite audiobook but only while walking?

This will require some analysis and digging into the reward you’re trying to recreate without the negative action. This can lead your brain to some tough places, but its healthy to dig into it.

If you find that you want to start drinking way less (or give up drinking completely), you might discover that the reward you’re chasing is actually “escape from a job I hate” and “avoiding social anxiety in bar situations.”

Dig into your reward and what your brain is craving, and then see if you can reverse engineer a healthier routine with the same reward.

And then use outright bribery to get yourself to actually do the new healthier and choose the better action/routine.

What works for science and physics also holds true to building habits: inertia and momentum will work against you when it comes to building habits…until it starts to work for you as the habit becomes automatic.

We can fix the third part of the habit-building loop, the reward, with momentum-building prizes or results to bribe ourselves to continue. With each healthy and positive reward, with each completed routine, we make the habit sliiiiightly more likely to become more automatic the next time.

In other words, create rewards that reward you back!

DON’T reward your routine (running!) with an unhealthy reward (cake!). That’s “one step forward, two steps back.” And nutrition is 90% of the equation when it comes to weight loss anyways!

DO reward your routine (running for 5 minutes every day for 30 days straight) with a reward that makes you want to keep running (a snazzy new pair of running shoes).

Hacks for Effortless Habit building

a storm trooper stares at his reflection in the mirror

Your life will get busy. 

There will be days when you don’t want to do your new habit. Or you want to backslide and go back to old habits. Actually, that will pretty much be every day, especially early on.

So don’t leave it up to yourself!!

Stop relying on yourself and start relying on outside forces. Here are the best tips you can use to get yourself to actually follow through with a habit:

1) RECRUIT ALLIES: friend or group of friends to build the habits with you: a recent study [2] showed that:

Among the weight loss patients were recruited alone and given behavioral therapy, 24% maintained their weight loss in full from Months 4 to 10.

Among those recruited with friends and given therapy plus social support, 95% completed treatment and 66% maintained their weight loss in full.

You do not have to do go on this habit-building journey alone. Building a guild or recruiting a group of people to support you and help you and make you better could be the difference maker in building habits!

When your friend is already at the gym waiting for you, you HAVE to go. If it was up to you, skipping out and watching Netflix has no negative consequences. Recruit friends and allies!

Don’t have that support group at home? Consider joining ours 🙂

Remember, those first few weeks are the toughest, which means they’ll require the most effort to get started.

2) CULTIVATE DISCIPLINE WITH CONSEQUENCES: When you can’t get yourself to follow through on a new healthy habit you’re desperately trying to build, make the pain of skipping the habit more severe than the satisfaction you get from skipping it.

Allow me to introduce some BRUTAL consequences:

  • Every time I skip ______________ this month, I will pay $50 to my wife/husband/friend who will donate my money to a cause I HATE.
  • Every time I decide not to _______________ this month, I have to run around my house naked.
  • Every time I do ____________ when I shouldn’t, I will let my three-year old do my makeup before work.

Do any of these results sound like fun?  If you can’t afford to pay your friend $50, if running naked around your house might get you arrested, and if you’ll get fired looking like a drunk clown prostitute thanks to your kid’s makeup skills…maybe you just do what you know you need to do. The more painful it is to skip something, the more likely you’ll be to actually suck it up and do it.

3) NEVER MISS TWO IN A ROW. What happens if you miss a day? Who cares! One day won’t ruin you – but two days will – because 2 becomes 30 in the blink of an eye. As pointed out in a research summary: “Missing the occasional opportunity to perform the behavior did not seriously impair the habit formation process: automaticity gains soon resumed after one missed performance.[3][[3]]You can learn more about that study here[[2]].

4) DON’T PICK HABITS YOU HATE: “Steve I know I should run so I’m trying to build a running habit.” Stop. Can you get the same results with a different habit like rock climbing or hiking or swing dancing?” Pick a habit that isn’t miserable and you’re more likely to follow through on it.

At the same time, we have tons of success stories of people who went from hating exercise to loving how it feels. it’s because they made the habit part of a bigger picture: “I am exercising at the gym because I am building a kickass body so I can start dating again!” It’s because they had a BIG enough why to overcome their initial dislike of exercise until they learned to love how exercise made them feel.

5) TRY TEMPTATION BUNDLING: Consider combining a habit you dislike with something you LOVE, and you’ll be more likely to build the habit. If you hate cleaning your apartment, only allow yourself to listen to your favorite podcast when you are cleaning or doing the dishes.

Want to go to the gym more? Allow yourself an hour of watching Netflix, but ONLY while you’re on the Elliptical. This is called temptation bundling, and it can be a powerful change.

Ready to Build a Habit? Great! Do Less.

Lego Storm Trooper Ladder

Now that you’re educated like a boss on the different parts of a habit, it’s time to build one!

I’ll leave you with a final bit of advice: if you decide that you want to run a marathon or save the world or lose hundreds of pounds, you’re going to screw up unless you internalize the following information:


Or in the immortal words of Kunu from Forgetting Sarah Marshall: “The less you do, the more you do”:

Pick ONE habit, make it small, and make it binary. Something that at the end of every day you can say “yes I did it” or “no I didn’t.”

Habits that are nebulous like “I am going to exercise more” or “I’m going to start eating better” are more useless than a Soulcycle membership for Jabba the Hutt.

Here are big examples. Be specific. Be Small. And track it:

  • Want to start exercising more? Awesome.  For that first week, ONLY go for a walk for just 5 minutes every morning. Literally 5 minutes.
  • Want to start cooking your own healthy meals? Just aim for one meal per day or one meal per week. Whatever works for you and your schedule.
  • Want to stop drinking a 2 liter of Mountain Dew every day? Scale it back to 1.9 liters a day for a week. Then 1.8 for a wek. Then 1.7…
  • Want to get out of debt and build the habit of frugality? Start by saving an extra five bucks a day, or finding a way to earn an 5 bucks a day.
  • Want to learn a new language? Speak your new language out loud for 10 minutes per day. That’s it!

Keep your goals SMALL and simple.  The smaller and simpler they are, the more likely you are to keep them. And the habit itself pales in comparison to the momentum you build from actually creating a new habit. I don’t care how many calories you burn in a 5 minute walk, just that you can prove to the new YOU that you can build the habit of walking, and only then can you up the difficulty.

We’re thinking in terms of years and decades here! So think small.

My real life example: I wanted to build the habit of learning the violin at age 31, but couldn’t get myself because I told myself I was too busy – which is a lie (“I only have 25 minutes, I need 30 minutes to practice…might as well not practice at all”), and thus I never played! Once I lowered the threshold to “I have to only play for 5 minutes per day”, it gave me permission to pick it up here and there – and I ended up practicing WAY more frequently, and got better much faster.

I still suck, mind you, but I’m lightyears ahead of where I was before!


If you’re new to building habits, or you have never stuck with anything long enough to make it automatic, it’s because you did too much. Habits are compound interest. As you build a new habit, it bleeds over to other parts of your life and makes future habits easier to build too – momentum!

You’ve tried the whole “build all the habits at once” and it doesn’t work. So try building ONE habit for 30 days. And then pick a habit that stacks on top of that one and helps you build more and more progress and more and more momentum.

Start today: Pick Your Habit and Go

stop sign with OP covered up with ART so it spells START

I’ll leave you with a final quote from The Power of Habit:

“If you believe you can change – if you make it a habit – the change becomes real.  This is the real power of habit: the insight that your habits are what you chose them to be. Once that choice occurs – and becomes automatic – it’s not only real, it starts to seem inevitable, the thing…that bears us irresistibly toward our destiny, whatever the latter may be.”

You’ll need more brain power right away, until your default behavior becomes the automatic habit building you’re chasing. With each day of you building your new habit, you’re overcoming any self-limiting belief, building momentum, and becoming a habit building badass! And then those habits become automatic.

So today, I want you to look at just ONE habit you want to change:

  • Identify the cue that spurs it on – Is it the time of day? Boredom? Hunger? After work? Stress?
  • Identify the potential rewards – Happiness? Energy? Satisfaction?
  • Identify a new routine you’d like to establish that results in the same ‘reward’ from the negative behavior…but in a more productive and healthy way.

I want you to leave a comment below: pick ONE habit that you’re going to build this month. and identify the three portions of the habit you’re looking to build.

Good luck – now go build some momentum. And ONE habit.


PS: if your habit is getting healthier/stronger/weight loss focused, we have some premium resources here at Nerd Fitness that dig into the habit building psychology of this article:

  • Rising Heroes – Our monthly team-based, habit building story based adventure
  • NF Academy – Our self-paced online course with workouts, boss battles, and nutrition levels.
  • NF Coaching – 1-on-1 customized instruction from our coaches

photo source: mouse on wheel, homer fail whale, storm trooper ladder, level up club, lego R2D2, storm trooper mirror, start, jigsaw, victory, rubik’s cube, , fred_v Evolution – Alternative

Footnotes    ( returns to text)

  1. Weight loss associated with social support: a study
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Inline_Rest_RecoveryIf you’re a type-A, hard-driving peak performer, my hope is that this post will stop you in your tracks.

Today I want you to completely rethink your basic philosophy about how you manage both your fitness activities and the assorted stresses of hectic, modern life. This post was inspired by a great article from training expert Joel Jamieson of titled, “All Pain, No Gain: Why The High Intensity Training Obsession Has Failed Us All.” Joel’s message set off a firestorm of internal dialog among members of the Primal Blueprint team. (Catch Brad Kearns’ recent interview with him for the Primal Blueprint Podcast.) After much back and forth and additional research, I’m eager to get you reflecting and commenting on the genuine nature of recovery from an entirely new angle.

We only have a certain amount of energy we’re able to expend each day. No matter how hard you try to burn additional calories through crazy training, or express your type-A, workaholic tendencies to get more done across the board, you’re ultimately constrained by your own personal daily maximum caloric expenditure.

This assertion is supported by a well-publicized study of the Hadza, modern-day hunter-gatherers in Tanzania. The study revealed the shocking insight that we modern slackers burn a similar number of calories (pound for pound, of course) as our seemingly harder working, traditionally living counterparts. The authors of the study, which was published in the journal PLoS One, reported that, “The similarity in [total energy expenditure (TEE)] among Hadza hunter-gatherers and Westerners suggests that even dramatic differences in lifestyle may have a negligible effect on TEE.” I’d consider this mind-blowing.

The idea that we have an energy expenditure limit is known as the “constrained model of energy expenditure,” in contrast to the popular, but now seemingly disproven belief that we operate on an “additive model of energy expenditure.”

Screen Shot 2018-01-16 at 1.10.17 PM

In the additive model embraced by conventional wisdom, your impressive morning workout adds to your total daily energy expenditure, seemingly promoting fitness gains, a faster metabolism, and a reduction in excess body fat. While logical at first glance, the additive model is being exposed as inaccurate.

Screen Shot 2018-01-17 at 9.54.04 AMIn the constrained model, when we bump up against our max, the body compensates. The downward slope of the “other” section is you glued to the couch watching Netflix all afternoon, too worn out to even answer the doorbell on the heels of your 10k run that same morning.

Figure Source: “Constrained Total Energy Expenditure and Metabolic Adaptation to Physical Activity in Adult Humans”

This is an extreme example of compensating with slug time when you do something really strenuous; however, there are more subtle, nuanced ways we subconsciously adjust our behaviors when we bump up against our daily max.

I also speculate that we might best look at a bigger timeline than a single day. As longtime Primal enthusiast and Newport Coast, CA fitness legend Dave Kobrine observes, if he strings together a good week or two or three of impressive workouts and busy daily schedules, he often eventually experiences a need for some sincere downtime: less exercise, less work (overburdening his brothers in the family business in the process), more sleep, and more recovery. Keep this concept of “borrowed time” in mind when we discuss recovery debt shortly….

This commentary supports the compensation theory that I’ve discussed at length in Primal Blueprint books in relation to calorie balance and weight loss. The theory contends that calories burned during exercise lead to a corresponding increase in appetite and a decrease in general activity levels, as your body tries to preserve energy and recover. Particularly if you exercise in chronic patterns, the appetite stimulation can exceed the calories you burn, such that your overly-stressful workout patterns will actually compromise your weight loss goals.

As I like to quip to lecture audiences, “Your brain is saying, ‘I better stuff my face in case this clown tries to do this again tomorrow.’” In all seriousness,there are profound implications to this maxim, especially for avid exercisers who get frustrated when they can’t shed excess fat.

Besides the appetite and hormonal dysregulation from excess exercise that promotes sugar cravings and fat storage, the compensation theory suggests that you get lazier and eat more calories over the course of the day as a consequence of your workout. This happens consciously, such as when you enjoy a hot fudge sundae as a reward for your “big” workout.

It also happens subconsciously, where you might default to the couch for longer than planned; generally move more slowly and feel less motivated to do routine chores in the aftermath of one of those big workouts. Brad Kearns offers a great example of this from when he was training full-time on the pro triathlon circuit. He would drive the 0.6 miles to his mailbox—too tired from hours of training to bother walking or pedaling there). You might also zone out at work and take longer for routine tasks when you are stretched too thin by family, fitness, and fun; and/or snack more frequently with less discipline or awareness than usual.

These assorted compensatory reductions in metabolic activity on the heels of strenuous exercise and generally hectic living are typically outside of your awareness. On his Primal Blueprint podcast appearance, Joel Jamieson references research that athletic types paradoxically have a slower metabolic rate at rest than those who exercise less. Who knew!

The Recovery Deficit

Here is the other glaring omission from conventional thinking about stress and rest, the centerpiece of Joel’s argument for what he calls “recovery-based fitness”— recovery and restoration require energy in and of themselves!

Our flawed rat race, “no pain, no gain” perspective about peak performance in fitness— and in life—is that we should go, go, go until we collapse in a heap at the end of a productive day. We take rest and restoration for granted, instead of allocating a necessary slice of the daily energy expenditure pie for it.

Reflect carefully on Joel’s contention that our daily energy resources are allocated to three main functions:

1. Vital Biological Functions: We prioritize basic daily survival with assorted homeostatic mechanisms that require substantial energy—firing brain neurons, digesting food, breathing air.

2. Workouts and General Everyday Stress: Yes, these have to go in the same category. Realize that whatever energy you wish to allocate to fitness ambitions must compete with your commute, busy workday, jet travel, and shuttling around to the kids’ weekend soccer games. Exercise may be a great “stress release” from a hectic day at the office, but it’s also another form of stress to the body.

3. Recovery and Restoration: Surprise! Restocking depleted muscle glycogen, optimizing immune function, and replenishing the sodium-potassium pumps in your brain neurons and exercised muscles all require significant energy expenditure.

It follows that a type-A hard driver trying to dispense big energy to career, family, and fitness endeavors is playing with fire, constantly challenging the body’s maximum energy expenditure ceiling each day and consequently incurring what Jamieson calls “recovery debt.”

This is where your big expenditures on objectives #1 and #2 compromise what you have left for #3. Perhaps your immune system will break down and you’ll catch a cold. Maybe you’ll take nine hours to put together your audit report or quarterly marketing plan, instead of the six (with fewer mistakes!) it might take if you were firing on all cylinders during the work day. Maybe you’ll blow out a hamstring or strain your shoulder during a workout—not because the workout was beyond your abilities and not because of bad luck or an insufficient warmup, but because you weren’t fully repaired and prepared for your physical effort.

Relax, Records Are Made To Be Broken

One exciting element about this discussion is how it might foretell the future of athletic peak performance. They say records are made to be broken, and we have seen improved performance in team and individual sports in recent years due to increased economic incentives and refined training techniques. Tiger Woods single-handedly generated massive increases in money and attention to golf, and now we have droves more superfit, super competitive players from all over the world competing for unimaginable fame and fortunes. NBA and NFL players are bigger, stronger, faster, and more skilled than in decades past (sorry, Jerry West, it might be time to update the NBA logo!), thanks to the aforementioned economic forces.

However, we’re clearly approaching the ceiling of human potential in many prominent professional and Olympic sports. The exploits of LeBron James, Steph Curry, and Kevin Durant are not going to be trivialized in 50 years by 8-foot tall superhumans sinking 35-foot “four-pointers.” Nor will Usain Bolt’s world 100-meter record of 9.58 (that’s a human running at a top speed of 27.8 mph for the uninitiated) be considered pedestrian in 50 years.

Consider that the current high jump world record of 8 feet (yes, a human can clear his entire body over a bar that is the height of your ceiling!) has held now for 25 years. Forget the famed four-minute mile, the current record of 3:43 (c’mon, watch it on this video, it only takes a few minutes…) by Moroccan Hicham El Gerrouj has held for 18 years.

“El G,” who at 5’9” was estimated to have the cardiovascular system of a man 6’6”, the inseam of a man 6’2”, and the upper body of a man 5’2” (“a machine,” said commentator Craig Masbach, a former 3:52 miler himself) was also motivated by deepest of callings; he believed that it was his destiny in the eyes of Allah to become the greatest middle distance runner in history. After an upset loss in the Olympics he reported that, “I was unable to eat or sleep for a week.” He didn’t lose again for several years. Tough guy, and experts that predict that in 100 years, the mile record may only drop a couple seconds at most. But I digress…

Where are we headed from here? How will future athletes actualize the
“records are made to be broken” maxim when we have already seen such superhuman feats? I speculate that future performance breakthroughs might be attained by athletes who train less than the current mindblowing standard of the world’s elite athletes.

Remember the legend of Jerry Rice, considered the all-time greatest NFL wide receiver? His off-season hill-sprint-till-you-puke regimen gained legendary status amongst fitness enthusiasts. “He worked harder in the off-season than anyone! No wonder he lasted in the league ’til he was 40!” the thinking went.

Today, in the aforementioned bigger, faster, stronger league (with consequently more severe impact trauma), we have exhibit B, Atlanta Falcons All-Pro wide receiver Julio Jones. An article about him caught my eye because of his trending toward Primal-style eating, but another statement from his interview was the real revelation: “I don’t have an offseason workout regimen. I don’t lift weights. I don’t run. I don’t do anything. I let my body rest. I just eat good. I actually eat great.”

Please don’t scoff and say “genetic freak.” I think Jones is giving us a glimpse into a future in which elite athletes (and enthusiastic everyday folks pursuing peak performance) will do more chilling, take longer off-seasons during which they log more beach time in Hawaii and steer clear of any fitness or lifestyle regimen that gives off a whiff of anything chronic.

Maybe we’ll even see pharmaceutical influences drive record breaking. The Tour de France guys love their drugs, right? What if they pedaled like crazy for 1,000 miles over 10 days, and then the team docs hooked them up to IV bags to enter medically induced comatose states for 72 hours of blissful recovery. Altered States II here we come!

Yes, the tide is turning. The Primal Endurance movement is being well-received by the endurance community that has long been mired in the overtraining, carb dependency paradigm. The Primal Endurane Mastery Course portal is filled with video interviews from leading training experts and champion athletes pounding the theme that there is such a thing as too much. In his Mastery Course videos, Olympic gold and silver medalist Simon Whitfield echoes the need for restraint when he says he is currently coached by his 80-year-old self!

Dr. Phil Maffetone—whose MAF method of aerobic-emphasis endurance training is finally getting its due after 30 years of stubborn resistance by tightly-wound endurance enthusiasts—promotes this theme beautifully in extensive interview commentary in the course. Here’s a sneak preview of his interview footage.

In Dr. Maffetone’s book, 1:59 Marathon, he argues that breaking this magic barrier will happen when an athlete actually does less mileage and less intensity than today’s elite, but improves running economy, optimizes rest and other lifestyle factors, and learns to race barefoot (because of reduced weight and improved explosive force per stride… once the feet become conditioned of course!). The current marathon world record is 2:02, a pace of 4:42 per mile! If you want to fully appreciate how amazing this is, go to a local track and try to complete one lap in 70.5 seconds. Good luck. Then imagine carrying on at this pace all the way from your house to downtown, or whatever other distant landmark you have in your town. FYI: you can’t approximate the marathon record pace on a treadmill because they max out at five minutes per mile pace!

The MMA world is also slowly but surely discarding the old school boxing mentality and ushering in an era of highly sophisticated training and recovery strategy. World champs are sparring much less, and spending more time in float tanks thanks in big part to the influence of the forward-thinking podcast king, MMA event host and standup comedian extraordinaire, Joe Rogan.

But let’s bring it back now. How about you? Are you willing to allocate a generous slice of your daily pie chart of energy allocation to recovery and restoration? What about taking down time on a park bench during your work day, taking an evening stroll with the dog instead of an elliptical session at the gym, turning around at mile 25 instead of mile 45 on your bike ride, and going to sleep instead of going to the email inbox? What if these choices might be paths to future breakthroughs in peak physical and cognitive performance? Yes, it requires some reprogramming away from conventional wisdom, but isn’t that what we all do here?

Now For the Giveaway…

Last week I unveiled two new course offerings:

Course_Announcement_FeatureThe Keto Reset Mastery CourseWe bring the New York Times bestselling book to life with over 100 videos, along with extensive audio and print programming—the most comprehensive online course on all aspects of ketogenic diet and lifestyle ever developed.

Paleo Cooking Bootcamp: A step-by-step meal preparation course that allows you to cook breakfast, lunch, and dinner options for an entire week in a single, highly focused two-hour power cooking session. Four sessions make for a month-long bootcamp.

Today I’m giving away a course (winner’s choice of the above two courses) to one lucky commenter. Just share a question or suggestion for what you’d like to see covered in future fitness related articles on MDA.

*Be sure to comment by midnight tonight (1/17/18 PST) to be eligible.

*If you’ve already purchased one or both courses and happen to be the randomly chosen winner today, we’ll simply refund you the cost of one course.

That’s it for me, everybody. Thanks for reading today, and I’ll look forward to hearing your questions and feedback on today’s post—and all things fitness and recovery based. Happy hump day.

The post Rest and Recovery: A Whole New Perspective (and A Giveaway) appeared first on Mark’s Daily Apple.

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Inline_Food_Nutrition_Live-Awesome-645x445-01Soup doesn’t have to simmer for hours to be delicious. This seaweed soup is ready in 10 minutes, making it a super-easy lunch or dinner. It’s light and nourishing, for those days when your system craves more greens and vegetables. It’s also versatile, so if you want to throw in cooked meat or salmon, go for it.

This seaweed soup is so simple, it doesn’t even need a recipe. Just follow this basic technique….

For one serving, in a medium bowl, combine approximately 1/3 cup dried wakame seaweed, a small handful of thinly sliced baby spinach or kale, plus 1 grated carrot. Pour about 2 cups, or more, boiling chicken broth or beef bone broth on top. Let sit 5 minutes.


That’s it! Seaweed soup can be jazzed up with hot sauce, sesame oil, or tamari. Grated fresh ginger, turmeric and garlic also had more flavor. But this soup isn’t about tons of complex flavors. It’s more about simple, healthful comfort food that doesn’t take any time or energy to prepare.




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The mindset must be addressed and in place before the physical skillset is practiced.

Day 282 Of 360

Deadlift: 5 x 5 @ (up to) 75% of 2RM
1 x 10 @ 60% (use double overhand grip)
1 x 20 @ BW (using single kettlebell)


If sets require interruption, make as minor an adjustment as needed and complete the next uninterrupted. When scheme is listed as “1 x 10″, it always refers to “Sets” x “Reps”.


Reminder: Position and execution always govern weight.

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Okay ladies, listen up! Research suggests the female brain is more sensitive to the cold and dark, due to increased production of the stress hormone cortisol and a greater inflammatory response to environmental factors. This, unfortunately, makes us more susceptible to seasonal affective disorder (SAD) — a.k.a. the winter blues. So, what’s a woman to […]

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Essential oils have become a pervasive part of many people’s self-care routines. But when a recent Facebook post about a cat getting sick from exposure to essential oils went viral, pet owners have understandably begun to worry. According to the experts, depending on the essential oil, you may be putting your pet at risk. Was […]

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Boost your body fat control and your overall health with these under-tongue absorption drops by NutraGlow.

NutraGlow is a supplemental company that consists of two products: Super B and Super Lean. Super B is designed to promote overall balance in the body while boosting energy. Super Lean is designed to assist in healthy weight loss.


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Chicken posole remains true to the flavors of the Aztecan meal combining garlic, onion, peppers, and of course, hominy.

Chicken and turkey are popular for being high in protein and low in saturated fats making a mealtime staple for athletes as well as in many healthy eating households. Falling back on the same old recipes starts to become mundane and a little too routine.

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UFO sightings and viral videos supposedly showing evidence of extraterrestrials have the Internet abuzz. According to the National UFO Reporting Center, the number of unexplained “ET type” incidents have been rising steadily since the 1990s. UFO sightings on the rise? In 2014 alone, for example, there were 8,619 alleged alien disks or crafts spotted across […]

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