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The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People Goes Fitness: Part I

If you’ve never read The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People, you should. The text teams up with How to Win Friends & Influence People to form what might be the most dynamic duo in business and success literature.

Dale Carnegie’s book was first published in 1936 and has withstood the test of time. The 7 Habits has withstood a similar test of time, given that our current trends and fashions seem to last about as long as a Kardashian marriage. It was published in 1989, but I can remember first being introduced to the ideas of the book at a Joe Bertagna summer camp for hockey goalies (I only played goalie up until middle school-ish so this was in the early 2000s, if not earlier).

If you’re interested in success in anything in life, these two books would be great places to start.

You see, these books are popular and highly successful because they simplify. The authors retrieve all of the information they have on the subject and break it down into actionable steps.

At the most basic level, my job as a personal trainer is just that: to simplify.

I read a lot. I go to a lot of seminars. I’m constantly bombarded by fitness information. And at the risk of sounding like a fitness snob, the information I’m constantly receiving through various emails, websites, podcasts, blog posts, and articles is almost always created by amazing coaches. Not just Instagram-fitness-models-turned-experts, but real-life actual experts.

And my job is to simplify all of this down into the Top 5 Ways to Explode Your Biceps. 

Well, lucky for you, reader, I’ve done just that. It would seem that after wading through all of the B.S. (Bachelor of Science degrees), there are a few principles that have withstood the test of time, much like our book examples from above.

Here they are:

The [first 4 of] 7 Habits of Highly Effective Lean People.

Habit #1: Stay hydrated.

Lean, fit people drink water. A lot of it. I recommend 100 oz of water each day, no matter your height, weight, or car color. Other coaches recommend 1 gallon or more (a gallon is 128 oz) and I’ve even seen 2 gallons per day.

The human body is approximately 65% water, give or take. Water is vital to the transportation of nutrients throughout the body, controlling our internal temperature, and lubricating joints. It is a factor in almost all of the body’s processes, both building and burning.

As a performance enhancer, water is a major player in the storage and metabolism of carbohydrates. Even small changes in hydration status can cause large changes in performance.

And not only is water helpful in shedding fat, building muscle, and keeping your joints feeling better, but it is also quite helpful when you have a sunburn (like I have on my face right now).

Additionally, those that spend time drinking lots of water tend to spend very little time consuming alcohol or caffeinated beverages (which actually help dehyrate you). Want to see almost immediate changes in your sleep quality, hydration status, and body composition? Cut out the alcohol and caffeine and replace it with water. 

And before the internet gremlins get on me for recommending no caffeine, I will say that caffeine is probably the most effective and widely-used pre-workout supplement. That being said, it gives you flu-like symptoms if you build up a tolerance and try to quit too fast. So feel free to draw your own conclusions.

Habit #2: Eat a ton of protein.

Lean people don’t just eat a ton of protein by accident, they do this by basing each of their meals around protein.

When the fittest decide that they are hungry, the protein source is oft the first thing on their mind. It’s no coincidence that it’s much easier to build a meal (a.k.a. choose a type of wine) when you have a protein source picked out.

Proteins are made of amino acids and amino acids are the building blocks of muscle. They are more thermogenic (it takes more energy to break them down) than carbs or fats and are usually pretty satiating.

But proteins do more than just contract against force as part of our musculoskeletal system. Did you know that insulin and growth hormone are both proteins? So are enzymes (which catalyze reactions like fatty acid oxidation). Amino acids build much more than just muscle and play an important part in all of the body’s functions.

Most importantly, protein is muscle sparing. Whenever the body is catabolic (a.k.a. eating itself), protein helps spare muscle. This includes any time you’re on a diet/in a caloric deficit and during and after your workout. Under-consuming protein could have a detrimental effect on your overall muscle mass.

Habit #3: Be an expert at shopping for and preparing food.

It’s not coincidence that five of the seven habits are all about nutrition. Owning a Lamborghini is a gigantic waste of money if you keep trying to fuel it with frosting.

The fittest know that preparation is key. Do you know what the largest predictor of food choice is today? I haven’t seen any studies on it, but I’m pretty sure they would all say convenience.

The food with the path of least resistance is the food you’re most likely to choose. This means that even the greatest amount of dedication and tenacity cannot out-will the box of Oreos in the kitchen cabinet if you don’t have any vegetables in your fridge. 

This doesn’t mean that you need to spend every Sunday doing #mealprep and showcasing your 10 lbs of chicken on Facebook. No one cares. But you should know how to shop, how to cook, and when your next meal is going to be.

Just remember, the path of least resistance is the one you’re going to take. Keep your fridge and freezer stocked with vegetables, fruits, and proteins and know how to cook them. If you’re going to be at work for 6-10 hours or longer, make sure to plan.

You don’t need six little containers of chicken, rice, and broccoli, but it wouldn’t hurt to have one.

Habit #4: Track your caloric intake.

One of my favorite questions for clients is this: iball or iPhone?

Simply put, would you rather track your food with your eyes or with your iPhone? For some, eyeballing their food seems to work. The magical food wizard in their brain looks at food and says, “Yup, this looks about right.” And that’s that.

In reality, these are generally Type B personalities and would fit into the Precision Nutrition model of food intake tracking.

On the other hand, we have iPhone people. These are Type A personalities that would rather see the exact calorie count for every item of food they take in. They prefer to use MyFitnessPal or some other tracking app and probably re-park their car eleven times before deciding that it’s exactly in the middle of the spot.

Regardless of your preferred method, it’s important to understand how much food you’re consuming on a daily basis.

Lean people tend to eat similar if not exact same things every day and can easily modify their overall weight and body composition with small modifications.

The fact of the matter is this: energy expenditure throughout the day is really hard to track. But food isn’t. So track it. It doesn’t matter how. Just do it.

 Conclusion (for now)

So there you have it, The First 4 of 7 Habits of Highly Effective Lean People. Part II will cover the next three and hopefully give you some more valuable insight into what it takes to get lean and stay lean.

Just like The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People, this list should serve as a check to ensure that you’re balanced. If you read through any of these four habits and said to yourself, “Damn, I don’t even recognize this word, V-E-G-E-T-A-B-L-E-S, what does this mean” fear not.

This list isn’t meant to be all-encompassing. It isn’t meant to be the end all of fitness, being lean, or athletic performance. Simply put, this list is a compilation of the habits that I see most frequently in everyone from athletes to casual gym-goers.

  1. Drink water all day
  2. Eat protein at almost very meal
  3. Keep your kitchen and fridge well-stocked and be prepared for extended time away from them
  4. Track your food

That’s it for now. Part II will have the next three habits and some more super-tweetable quotes.

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