7 life hacks to lose weight, supercharge your energy and transform your health
Elliot’s routine might kill him.
But can you tell what he’s doing wrong?
Each weekday morning, he drags himself out of bed, shuffles to the kitchen and brews a cup of coffee. He then checks his email before sipping his favourite brew.
He showers, gets dressed, and then drives his Honda Civic to work. At 5:30pm, Elliot heads home and hopes he has time for some evening exercise. He has dinner at about 6:30, usually enjoying a dark green salad with chicken or fish.
At 8pm, Elliot goes to the gym. He runs on the treadmill and then lifts weights. He gets home around 9:30, drinks a protein shake and answers a few work-related emails. He then goes to bed at 10:30.
This looks healthy, on the surface. But Elliot sleeps only five to six hours a night. He falls asleep right away. But he usually wakes up a couple of hours later. Sometimes he counts sheep. Other times, he meditates. In frustration, he often gets up to read. He might pour a glass of orange juice and answer a few emails before going back to bed.
Yes, he often feels groggy in the morning. But something scary is happening to Elliot. He’s dying. Technically, we all start to die from the moment we are born. But Elliot’s lifestyle has sped up the process.
Unfortunately, only a small percentage of people would know what he’s doing wrong. If you aren’t already among them, welcome to the fold.
Dr. Satchin Panda is one of the world’s leading experts on circadian rhythm research. I believe his book, The Circadian Code, is more important than anything you could read on finance, exercise or nutrition.
That’s a big claim. But not getting enough quality sleep is like racing a ship with a brittle hull through a field of icebergs.
It can lead to weight gain, poor cognitive function, susceptibility to diseases, lack of energy, and early death. Cancer, for example, loves a lack of sleep.
So, what can we learn from Elliot’s mistakes?
Elliot drinks his first cup of coffee at 6:30am. He finishes his last drink (and sometimes a snack) by 10:00 pm. That means his “consumption window” is 15.5 hours. That’s at least 3.5 hours longer than it should be.
As soon as Elliot eats or drinks something in the morning, it starts an internal chronometer. He now has 8 to 12 hours to finish eating or drinking (with the exception of water).
Eating and drinking ignites our digestive organs and cells. They become like drill-sergeants screaming, “Move it! We need to get going!”
For example, Elliot finishes a protein shake after he comes home from the gym. That’s about 15.5 hours after he began his first cup of coffee. To make matters worse, Elliot then checks his email. This emits blue light, telling his cells it’s time to be awake.
He falls asleep right away. But his body only drops into a long, tired nap. His digestive organs are firing. His late-night screen time told his cells, “That’s the sun, buddy. Let’s get up and move.”
To make matters worse, after waking up in the middle of the night, Elliot often turns on the lights (blue light again) and grabs an orange juice. He wants to sleep, but his actions have told his body that it should be awake.
As a result, Elliot’s mind and body can’t fully recover from the demands of the day. His energy lags. His cognitive function slows. He has trouble losing weight. Cancer and a range of other nasty ailments congregate on higher ground, ready to attack.
Unfortunately, Elliot doesn’t know this. Nor do his friends, family, or most of his colleagues. Our busy lifestyles and screen-obsessed culture become quicksand beneath our feet.
It’s easy, however, to stand on solid ground. We can help prevent nasty ailments from kicking our butts. Below, I’ve listed seven life hacks. They could help you and Elliot, enjoy far better and longer lives.
- Eat and drink within an 8-12 hour window. This is from the moment you start your first bite (or non-water drink) to the moment you consume your last. Even herbal tea counts as “food,” so avoid it outside the 12-hour window. An 8 to 9 hour consumption range has proven even better.
- Don’t watch television or look at screens for two hours before going to bed. If you must look at a screen, use the nightshift feature or buy blue light filtering glasses.
- Warm showers and warm baths are good before bedtime. But make sure the water isn’t so hot it leaves you sweating when you get out. Your body needs a chance to cool down and a lower body temperature is best for sleep.
- Expose yourself to the sun’s light shortly after getting up. This could be sitting by a window or (preferably) getting outside for a walk.
- If you can help it, avoid jobs that require shift work or time zone changes. If you have such a job, read The Circadian Code to learn how to make the best of your situation.
- Ideally, exercise first thing in the morning. Eat or drink your first non-water substance after you exercise. The second best time to exercise is between 3pm and dinnertime.
- Dim the lights in your house two hours before bedtime. Avoid any snacks (or non-water drinks) after dinner.
These life hacks are more important than a raise at work. They beat money in the bank. They make investments trivial. We have, after all, just one vessel. For ourselves, and our families, let’s do what we can to keep it afloat.