The Healthy Executive

More Valuable Than Money

Picture me holding a shotgun to your head and yelling at you:

“Your money or your life?”

99% of you would answer “take my money”! Because money is worthless when you are dead. Because its better to be broke but alive. Because you can always earn more. Because you can always move back into your parent’s basement. Unless you are Batman….his parents got shot.

That was too easy of course. But now I bring the crazy and get a little freaky on you. I flip off the safety and yell:

“Your money or your muscles!”

WTF!!?! Right???!

But I know something you don’t:

The loss of 40% of lean body mass is 100% fatal.

Reading Time: 3.5 minutes (2,100 words @ 600 wpm[1]).

FWIW 1% of you would negotiate a better deal with me because you know I am incapable of pulling the trigger.

You fought hard and earned your money by not rolling over without exploring all your options. I could name names here Lucas. For you, I bring the tank. But I digress.

Here’s Why You Will Ignore This

So at this point I’ve briefly got your attention, but you are now predisposed to ignore learning why you will die for lack of muscle because:

  • You have no time.
    • I debunk this myth below. If you won’t find 15 minutes a week to look after yourself, you are delusional and beyond help. Enjoy your premature death.
  • You are too old.
    • I debunk this myth below. There are 80 year-olds who can kick your ass.
  • You have bad genes.
    • I debunk this myth here. Everyone has the exact same base genes to build longevity and strength namely PGC1a (metabolic health), mTOR (muscle synthesis).
    • You also have atrophy genes (atrogin1, muRF1, erg1a) that ‘recycle’ unused muscle mass.
    • Basically this means “use it or lose it” as far as your muscles are concerned (process explained here).
  • You want to be feeble and live in Assisted Living.
    • This is not a myth. When you get frail, your kids will pack you off to the old folks home to rot. Unless they smother you with a pillow to preserve their inheritance. You will be too weak to fight back.
  • You want get sick and die prematurely.
    • This is not a myth. You have less margin than you think against a major illness or disability. But go ahead and whistle past the graveyard.
  • You time-discount risk because time is money right?
    • This is not a myth. Human psychology is predictable. When it comes to future risk we “discount” it heavily because its in the future and so “I can always worry about that later”.

So go ahead and quit reading now and die weak and before your time. I can’t stop you.

Or maybe, just maybe, read on to learn why you might want to prioritize muscles right up there with your bank balance, stock options, IRA, and 401K. 

Emergencies Are Why You Need Reserves

You’ve heard the advice about having a 6-month cushion of savings for financial emergencies.

Muscle works exactly the same way for health emergencies.

In the event of an major illness or other health emergency, you need a cushion to see you through (recall that the loss of 40% of lean body mass is almost always fatal).

The worst case scenario is a 1-2 punch is a weak or diabetic individual who experiences a major accident of illness.

  1. Clinical Illness Myopathy
    • Acute sarcopenia – the short-term loss of muscle mass experienced by very sick or injured people who cannot preserve muscle mass, due to the illness or injury itself and the inability to eat or move enough to preserve muscle function.
    • If you get sick or hurt, your muscle mass is your bank account for healing up and getting better – the more you have in the bank, the longer you can hold out when things get weird.
  2. Chronic Sarcopenia
    • The decline of skeletal muscle tissue with age, is one of the most important causes of functional decline and loss of independence in older adults.
    • This means that being old and skinny is not a useful thing if you want to enjoy your last decades. The young can get away with being skinny, because the young don’t usually get chronically ill or injured.
  3. Type II Diabetes
    • Diabetes is a very bad deal, because it shortens life expectancy by an average of 10 years, and makes your shorter life more expensive and less fun.
    • Diabetes is very strongly negatively associated with the health and size – of your muscles, because the activity that makes muscles big and healthy is also the activity that uses and regulates blood sugar and insulin.
    • Muscle tissue is the body’s most important end user of blood sugar, and of insulin too. Muscle burns most of the calories you use during the day, and both the release and subsequent fate of the insulin secreted by your pancreas is affected by your muscle mass.

Why You Will Be Place In Assisted Living

One of the top reasons why a person gets put into assisted living, is because they can’t get off the toilet. Because they can’t do a half repetition of a body weight squat to get off the toilet. So now you have to pay someone to haul your sorry butt of the can and wipe it (because your shoulders are too weak and immobile to reach around).

Assisted living costs $42,000 per year.

  • The US national median monthly rate for a one-bedroom unit in an assisted living facility is $3,500, according to the this Cost of Care Survey .

Building muscle (and health) costs $14,000 a year according to this analysis:

  1. Food: $7,073.70
  2. Fitness club membership: $1,000
  3. Health coach ($80 per week): $4,160
  4. Yoga class ($20 per week): $1,040
  5. Charitable donation (good for the heart): $726.30
  • Total = $14,000

How Your Body ‘Spends’ Muscle

Body composition includes more than just muscle and fat; it also includes bones, organs, blood, tendons and ligaments (you can read my post about how you can measure them for yourself).

  • The average male body is 40% skeletal muscle.
    • Muscle is distributed about 40% in the upper body and 60% in the lower body (incidentally, this is why leg training is important).
    • More data here in study using MRI from 2000 published in the Journal of Applied Physiology
  • At some point in your 30s, you start to ‘spend’ your muscle, i.e lose muscle mass and strength.
    • You will lose 24% of your muscle mass between age 40 and 70 (see graphic above)
    • The cause is chronic or age-related sarcopenia.
    • This is why your metabolism “slows down” because less muscle is less energy burned ad less energy burned results in more fat being stored.
      • This is why you get fatter even if you eat the same number of calories as when you were younger.
  • Unexpected illness, disability, or hospital stay accelerates muscle ‘spending’.
    • Total bed rest results in:
      • 1-3% decrease in muscle strength per day.
      • 10-20% decrease in muscle strength per week
      • 3-5 weeks of complete immobilization can lead to a 50% decrease in muscle strength.
      • After 12 weeks of bed rest bone density is reduced by almost 50%.
      • Hospital nutrition contributes to muscle loss, and you are more likely to acquire an infection in a hospital versus elsewhere.
    • Even for healthy young men, the gastrocnemius muscle — the large calf muscle in the back of the lower leg — loses approximately 8.4 percent of its mass and 22.9 percent of its strength after 14 days of immobilization (according to Benjamin T. Wall et al. in “Disuse Impairs the Muscle Protein Synthetic Response to Protein Ingestion in Healthy Men”).

How To Build Your Emergency Muscle Reserve

I’ve written before that most guys maintain their car better than their body.

You could spend a few dollars to change your oil now or you could spend a few thousand dollars later to change your engine.

Loss of muscle untrained individuals begins in earnest at about 40 and drops more and more rapidly with each passing decade; the decline is exponential. The person who begins exercising at 40 shows a relatively flat curve until about 60, and then begins a slow decline. The lifelong exerciser, however, soars above the others at every decade of life. The regular exerciser will have a curve that begins at a much higher level than the other two—and stays there.

The inevitable decline that does occur leaves the 75-year-old lifelong exerciser at a level equivalent to an untrained person at 20. At 90, the lifelong trainer is at a level equivalent to an untrained person 30 years younger.

As the graphic above illustrates, you can “bend” the aging curve in your favor by maintain your lean muscle mass. The capacity of even just a little exercise to bend the aging curve is awesome.(graphic courtesy of “Bending the Aging Curve” by Joseph Signorile).

Building and maintaining muscle is straightforward and even busy executives have enough time.

  • Add New Muscle
    • 2x per week 12 minutes bodyweight training AND
    • 1x per week 12 minutes high intensity interval training AND
    • 1 protein shake per day to full muscle protein synthesis
  • Maintain Existing Muscle
    • 1x per week 6 minutes bodyweight training OR
    • 1x per week 8 minutes high intensity interval training
    • 1 protein shake every other day to prevent sarcopenia due to gluconeogenesis.

Why A Little Goes A Long Way

Occasionally some of my clients are skeptical that so little exercise can be so beneficial. The reason this is possible is due to way your genetics activate cell growth, specifically PGC1, a metabolic gene and mTOR, a strength gene. And a little exercises seems inhibit your atrophy genes which cause muscle ‘recycling’.

In the simplest terms possible you just have to do “enough” activity to switch these genes “on”.

Genetics and cell signaling is the ultimate “system of systems” and for those interested this is a good introductory overview.

Should you get you genes tested?

Probably not (I’ve written my DNA testing here, other health writers have independently come to same conclusion).

So skip the fancy testing, save your money, and invest a few minutes in building strength instead.

How Muscular Can You Be at Age 50/60/70/80?

Here are some visual examples of male muscular potential at ages 50, 60, 70 and 80.

While this is certainly possible for many men to achieve, it’s really not necessary. If you can re-acquire and maintain the levels lean body mass you had at age 20, that’s enough to ensure your optimal level of energy, health, and longevity. In fact this is very achievable for a busy executive with little time to train. In fact, the Healthy Executive methodology is built around this exact premise and requires only two 15-minute sessions a week (plus proper nutrition of course).

A couple of caveats to be noted:

  1. These examples do have a long training history and over time worked themselves up to pretty elite levels.
  2. These examples are also low body fat (5-8%) which helps show their muscularity to full effect.
  3. These examples are not the best ROI for busy executives (see below).
  4. Women report they value kindness and generosity in a man that is balanced with good health.

Age 50

The worst kept secret at The Healthy Executive is that I’m “the product” so to speak.

When I first started out my goal is was to be in the 90% percentile of health for my age group.

But I overdid it and am now 2-3 times stronger and faster than the average 35-40 year-old man.

Age 60

Here’s “Rocky” at age 64:

Age 70

Clarence Bass is one of the world’s most respected authorities on physical fitness and general conditioning.

Here’s how he’s holding up in his 70’s:

Age 80

The “Worlds Hottest Grandpa” was 50 before he went to his first gym but “only really got into it” at age 70.

But I Don’t Have Time

This is the #1 executive bullshit excuse I hear as a health coach.

I totally get this. I’ve written before about how my life fell apart using those excuses plus many others.

Plus, as a business leader myself I know firsthand the reasons why you fail at health.

Richard Branson probably has a more demanding schedule than you AND he’s also fitter than you. He states that working out gives him at least four extra hours each day to be productive.

So what’s “his secret”? How can you get the best health ROI on your scarce time?

Clinical and sports research conclusively demonstrates you can build the most muscle in the least time by increasing your intensity.

Using myself as an example (see table below):

  • Wrong Way = Lower Intensity (Before)
    • I used to spend 13.5 hours a week running/biking/swimming 138 miles doing Medium Intensity Cardio (MICT).
  • Optimal Way = Higher Intensity (After)
    • I now spend less than 15 minutes a week getting in a fast 2 miles using High Intensity Interval Training (HIIT).
    • I supplement this with 1-2 weekend walks per month for a combined average of less than 2 hours & 5 miles a week.

Here’s the funny part: I am leaner and stronger after reducing my exercise time by 87% and exercise volume by 96%.

If that’s not a great ROI on limited time, I don’t now what else is.

 Before
(MICT)
After
(HIIT)
Return on Investment
Weight 176 lbs
(80 kg)
162 lbs
(73 kg)
-14 lbs
(- 6kg)
Body Fat10%
(17.6 lbs)
7%
(11.3 lbs)
-30% (relative)
-6.3 lbs (absolute)
Diet2,400 cal per day
High Carbohydrates
1,800 cal per day
High Protein
-600 cal per day
Strength Training3 x 30 minutes / session
1.5 hours Total per week
2 x 15 minutes / session
0.5 hours Total per week
-1.0 hours per week
Running3 x 60 minutes weekdays
1 x 120 minutes weekend
35 Total miles per week
1 x 20 minutes ONCE a week
2 Total miles per week
-4.3 hours per week
Biking / Hiking 2 x 60 minutes weekdays
1 x 120 minutes weekend
100 Total miles per week
1 x 6 mile hike EVERY OTHER week
60 Total minutes per week
-3 hours per week
Swimming 3 x 60 minutes
5,000 yds Total per week
0-3 hours per week
TOTAL13.5 hours per week
138 miles per week
1.8 hours per week
5 miles per week
-11.7 hours
-133 miles

How To Do It

So now you know beyond a shadow of a doubt that muscle is more valuable than money, especially in a life-treating emergency.

If you are like the majority of guys I coach, you want to lose the gut and increase your performance.

Achieving this requires losing fat and adding a bit of strength.

Below are my firsthand results of what busy executives can achieve in limited amounts of time.

Pick you goal and get to work:

In This Much Time Click To Learn How To:
12 Weeks Lose 25 lbs fat
8 Weeks Lose 20 lbs fat
6 Weeks Add 5 lbs muscle
5 Weeks Lose 2.5 lbs fat
4 Weeks Break Weight Loss Plateau
4 Weeks Lose Fat and Gain Muscle
3 Weeks Get 50% Stronger
2 Weeks Stop Stress Eating
Now See How Others Got Results

Don’t Let this Be You

No muscle and no money is no bueno.



Also published on Medium.

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