Health, Am I Trying Too Hard?

Most people are setting goals at the beginning of the year. I'm trying to get rid of some. In the "information age" of the "quantified self", are we trying too hard for health and longevity?

Health, Am I Trying Too Hard?
Photo by Dan-Cristian Pădureț / Unsplash

It's no secret that I'm a fan of minimalism, or really, simplicity.  The final episode of The Kombat Kitchen / Cultured Warrior Podcast will be coming out this week and therein I talked about "pruning hobbies" which seems to need to happen every 5 years or so for me.

With that in mind, I'm glad Robb Wolf's Longevity, Are We Trying Too Hard lecture is finally available to the public.  In short, I feel like I've maximized my return on investment in the "biohacking" sphere – at least for now and at least concurrent with my interests and goals at this time.

Of course, I'll continue to follow and listen to the same people and podcasts I find worth doing so, but I'm taking a step back from my own literature deep dives.  As I mention in the podcast, there's always more to learn and more fine tuning to do, the real question is; "Is that where you (personally) can get the most benefit?"  We can always dig up more return, but is it worth the investment?  Are we getting our money's worth or trying to justify the investment post hoc?

"The Great" Carnivore Study:

Between my 45th and 90th day of staring a (then) "carnivore experiment"  and tracked 43 variables over 30 days.  I refer to this as my "great" carnivore study because the data really just confirmed the obvious:

Keys to Performance:

  • More Protein (fat:protein ratio; r = -0.44, p = 0.0022)
  • Mood (r = 0.51, p = 0.0035)
  • Athletic Wellness Questionnaire (AWQ, r = 0.48, p = 0.0063)

In short, eat a lot of protein, create happiness, and recover as hard as you train.

Keys to Recovery:

  • Fasting (r = 0.64, p = 0.0001)
  • Sleep Routine (r = 0.7, p = 0.0001)

No surprise that sleep (as indicated by proper sleep routine) improved recovery.  Fasting's relationship with recovery may seem contrary to the lecture from Robb Wolf below, and Pual Saladino's comments following.

There's a caveat here – and this is why epidemiology (correlation) is only a starting point.  In the original data I did my best to look for covariates.  However, given my later research on sleep and subjective experience (call it an anecdote if you're condescending and it makes you feel better) is that the later in the day I eat, the less well I sleep.

The proxy then for better recovery (by way of sleep) may not be fasting so much as it is a time-restricted-feeding window establishing a hard boundary for when to stop eating (earlier in the day).

Autophagy, Fasting, and The Kitchen Sink:

From Robb's lecture above:

  • Drink some coffee (note his references to increasing lifespan and worse lifestyle habits),
  • Get a tan (I'm more and more convinced Vitamin D is the queen vitamin),
  • Lift some weights,
  • Find people who / do things that give you meaning and purpose,
  • Eat a protein-centric, ketogenic diet (per your carbohydrate tolerance / glucose sensitivity), and
  • Sleep  more (with red / blue light considerations).

Robb's notes on fasting here are 3 days / quarter or 5 days per year.  Ben Bikman, in Why We Get Sick, referred to a 10-12 hour daily fast and 24-hours once per week; very similar to Saladino's guidelines above.  I've previously given attention to cultural / religious traditions that would follow something similar – about once per quarter there's a "holiday" where we "fast before the feast" for a day or two.

Similarly, comments were featured by Robb on Anthony Gustin's Podcast (Episode 57) and Andy Stumpf's Podcast (Episode 52).  The purpose of this post isn't to bash on fasting.  It's a great tool, and serving as an example "obsessive" orthorexia if you will.  As with any tool we have to ask ourselves, not just why, but:

  • To what end?
  • Under what conditions?
  • At what cost?

Data, Friend or Foe?

Recently I posted on Instagram about being as guilty as anyone about geeking out on and crunching numbers related to health and fitness.  Yes, I'll be posting on my own blood work in a few months as well; though that's more of annual checkup rather than daily practice.

Technology is awesome.  In fact, it's so awesome that it's never been easier to miss the forest for the trees.  So let's see if we (okay really just me) can iron out a simple blueprint for 2022:

  • Enjoy your coffee.*
  • Make Vitamin D a priority (sun over supplements).
  • Make sleep a priority (literally everything else can wait, except maybe children!).
  • Focus on building / improving relationships.
  • Eat more protein and more salt.*
  • Don't worry about fasting, eat a big meal early and stop at least 4 hours before bed.
  • Strength  Training, do it.
*Yes, sourcing matters.  Do what you can with what you've got until you have a reason (or resources) to do something better.

Now, at the age of (almost) 34, what is my training going to look like?  This isn't a prescription for anyone else, it's just a public record of what I have been / will continue doing.

  • Jiujitsu: as often as possible, mostly drilling, all "live" training will be done from bad  or "unwinnable" positions.  As of now I coach 4 days per week and get 1 day of open mat training.  I'll be focusing on a single position / area for an entire month at a time.
  • Strength Training (+mobility):  As of this writing I'm working on Livinov Sleds until I hit a 225 lb. power clean (1RM).  Then I have an arbitrary goal to carry a 340 lb. keg 10 yards.  I wouldn't be above another run of Easy Strength or 10,000 KB Swing Challenge to get there – of course, with Anaconda Strength considerations.
  • Conditioning (+mobility): 30/30/30 is as simple and sinister as it gets.  Pick a few body weight movements, do them for 30 sets of 30 seconds on, 30 seconds off.
  • Movement:  Do it in the sun.  See below.
Volume: As a general rule, 70% of athletes should spend 70% of their time doing the thing they want to get good at.  I spend about 6-7 hours on the mats per week; so 7 / 0.7 = 10 hours of total training.  10 total - 7 on the mat = 3 hours for strength, conditioning, and mobility.
Movement vs. Training:  I've discussed this before, but training has a focus and intention.  Movement is just that, movement.  Exercise-y types of things usually fall into the later.  Training (strength or sport) is different and I don't include that daily movement recommendations (i.e. 10,000 - 20,000 steps / day).


In the later interviews of The Kombat Kitchen Podcast I made frequent jokes that I should just write on my mirrors and forehead:

  • Eat meat,
  • Play in the sun,
  • Love each other.

As it turns out, that's still a damn good recommendation.  There are a few additions that I need to remind myself of, but hopefully you're getting the point.

  • There's no such things as too strong,
  • Sleep like you're on vacation,
  • Prioritize Vitamin D,
  • Eat more meat,
  • Add salt,
  • Create meaning in your life.

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