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The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People Goes Fitness: Part 2

You Should Read This Post If You:

  • Are just beginning your wellness journey and want to know where to start
  • Need to audit your habits to find out what you’re missing to become lean
  • Read Part I and don’t like to leave things unfinished

Let’s see, where did we leave off? Oh yes, at Habit #5. But let’s take a quick second and recap the first four habits that I presented in Part I.

  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

Drink a ton of water. Like, a gallon each day. I know that sounds like a lot of water, but it’s really not if you’re cognizant enough to be taking constant sips.

The same goes with protein. Protein really isn’t that hard to find, but for some reason nobody really eats any of it. I promise, if you start using protein as the centerpiece of your meals and stop concerning yourself with which breakfast cereal bar has fewer calories and less sugar, you will be in a much better place.

Keep yourself prepared. That means having your kitchen well-stocked so that you don’t need to make emergency trips to the supermarket. Because you probably won’t. You’ll just eat the Pop-Tarts in your cabinet.

Lastly, track your food. It doesn’t matter how, just track it somehow. That way you can make changes when changes become necessary.

So now, without further adieu, here are the last three habits contained in The 7 Habits of Highly Effective Lean People.

Habit #5: Eat rationally.

20150422_150109The fittest know that there is no place for irrational eating if you’re on a quest for a six-pack.

Had a tough day? Go to the gym, watch reruns of Criminal Minds, go for a run, but don’t go to Stop & Shop hoping for a little dual-therapy from Ben and Jerry.

People don’t just eat when they’re sad, frustrated, angry, or distraught. They also eat when they’re happy. Eating is a favorite past time in our society and spending time with friends and family often revolves around eating because we have nothing better to do then eat.

But sometimes you’re going to have to hurt Grandma’s feelings and spare yourself that extra piece of pie at Thanksgiving if you are working on getting lean. Not all the time, just probably the majority of it. Irrational eating (i.e. eating that doesn’t serve the explicit purpose of making you a badass) doesn’t have almost any place in a logical nutrition strategy.

You can eat rationally using any diet structure you want. It can be Paleo, vegan, vegetarian, Zone, Atkins, IIFYM, or the Amazonian Jungle Diet, it doesn’t matter.

The point is this: obviously life happens, but if you’re looking to gain muscle, lose fat, and look, feel, & perform better, the hard truth is that you just need to develop a plan and stick with it, no matter what occurred at work this week. Consistency is your #1 priority.

The fittest don’t let emotions or social situations derail them (at least not too often).

Habit #6: Sleep a ton.

Many athletes find themselves asleep for over 10 hours each day when you account for regular sleep and napping.

Maybe it’s because bears sleep a lot and bears are generally fat (especially before they hibernate), but the rest of us don’t seem to appreciate sleep nearly as much.

However, medium-sized bears weigh 220-260 lbs and run 30 miles an hour, so who are the real winners here? (For the record, Usain Bolt has only topped out at 27.78 mph.)

One of the worst consequences of sleep deprivation is the disastrous effect it can have on our hormone activity. Add this to the low energy levels & lack of focus and we have a recipe for awful workouts & terrible results.

Here are a few things to know about sleep deprivation and hormones:

  • There is an inverse relationship between hours of sleep and ghrelin levels. So when you decide that three hours a night is enough, your body makes you hungrier.
  • Leptin reacts to increased body fat levels by telling your body to decrease food intake and increase energy output (mostly as non-exercise activity thermogenesis). Leptin is decreased by sleep deprivation.
  • Growth hormone (though primarily associated with growth) stimulates lipid (fat) breakdown, stimulates the immune system, and strengthens bones. It is strongly associated with slow-wave or deep sleep which occurs in the third stage of your 90 minute sleep cycle. Not hitting enough deep sleep prevents the nocturnal stimulation of growth hormone.

When you don’t sleep enough, your body works against you. Not only will it impair your ability to stay lean, but it will also hinder your ability to build muscle (as well as be patient when some ass with New York plates cuts you off in rush hour traffic).

Depriving yourself of sleep is an easy way to ensure that you don’t reach your goals.

Habit #7: Work out consistently.

That damn word again: consistency.

Working out consistently is essential to body composition change and the maintenance of a lean physique, year-round. It does more than just burn calories. Lifting weights, sprinting, and working on our endurance make us better at utilizing both carbohydrates and fats for energy, as well as help maintain and build muscle.

To stay lean, your best bet is to realize that while balancing your own energy equation is most important, you will also be built by your activities. It’s kind of like that old proverb, “You are what you eat.”

You are also the result of your exercise choices.

The other advantage of working out consistently is that it is easier to adjust your caloric intake when you know that your energy output is relatively stable.

For example, let’s say that Week 1 of your program, you work out six days for one hour each day. This consists of four lifting sessions and two cardio. Week 2 you work out for three days, including two lifts and one day of cardio. It doesn’t matter whether you use METs or a FitBit to track your energy expenditure, you literally only exercised half the time as compared to Week 1.

And since you lifted two days instead of four, you probably lost out on 2-4 days of increased metabolic activity.

So what happens when you haven’t lost any weight after two weeks? Do you drop your calories? What happens if you drop calories and return to your six-days-a-week schedule?

Energy output is damn hard to track, so you had better at least keep it consistent.

Conclusion

So there you have it, seven of the most important things that you can do on a daily basis that will set you up for a lifetime of six packs, veins, and members of the opposite sex hurling themselves at you as you walk down the street.

Once again, here they are altogether:

  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
  5. Eat rationally despite emotional and social influences
  6. Sleep as much as a hibernating bear
  7. Workout consistently and with a good mix of lifting and endurance work

You can argue about meal timing, the difference between regular bicep and hammer curls, and which pre-workout is the best until you’re blue in the face. But it doesn’t matter until you’ve mastered these seven skills first.

But wait, there’s more!

Habit #8: Vegetables.

How’s that for a sentence fragment? I mean, come on, you didn’t think I’d forget vegetables, did you?

I’ll keep this short (like the sentence fragment above).

In the original 7 Habits book series, Stephen Covey mentions an all-important eighth habit. This is the habit that takes you “from effectiveness to greatness.”

My eighth habit is to eat vegetables every day.  Even if it’s just at one meal, getting a serving of vegetables provides you with vitamins, minerals, and volume that you generally can’t get from carb-, protein-, or fat-dense foods.

Try mastering all eight habits and see what happens. You won’t be disappointed.

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