No matter what year it is, men will always be men. Despite attempts by the media to convince us otherwise, ultimately, we are cavemen. No amount of gadgets or expensive clothing can replace the simple, ‘primitive’ things in life like running, exploring, playing sports, and for some guys, fighting.
However, modern life usually presents us the exact opposite situation. Many of us work in an office, where we are stuck in a chair all day, staring at a screen, eating biscuits and pasta from our local Tesco Express.
As a result, our hormones are shot (in fact, the average testosterone levels of men has declined over the last two decades.
Put simply, we have low libido, we’re tired, and we’re fat. Not good.
Deep down, every man likes to think of himself as a warrior. But being a warrior starts with taking care of your body and LOOKING like one.
Training is one of the catalysts to doing that (but not the only one). It’s no exaggeration that it can change lives.
If some of that rings true for you, please read on for some ways in which to regain your strength, libido, and energy.
Get some sleep
“I never sleep, ‘cos sleep is the cousin of death”. I love Nas, but he got this one wrong.
Good sleep is one of the easiest ways to feel more energetic and powerful. Without it, things go downhill fast.
For one, people who sleep less generally have higher levels of stress hormones, which can lead to fat gain (especially around the belly).
Not only that, but poor sleep is associated with a drop in testosterone levels (the ‘man hormone’). Testosterone is associated with your libido, so once it drops, guess what happens to your sex drive… yes, you become a eunuch.
Apart from fat gain and libido, a good night’s sleep has huge effects on mood and energy. For me, the difference in confidence and overall vitality is very noticeable after a proper night’s sleep (compared to a poor night). The quality of your workouts will obviously improve when you’ve slept well too.
Unfortunately, ever since my teens I’ve been a terrible sleeper. I used to sleep late, wake up throughout the night, and sometimes, I just did not sleep at all.
For the last couple of years, however, I’ve become an early riser. I can fall asleep quicker and actually stay asleep. This is due to many deliberate lifestyle changes I’ve made over the course of two years, and while I don’t particularly enjoy waking up early, it’s now at least bearable.
One easy change I made was to train earlier in the day – training too close to bedtime would keep me awake until the early hours.
By far the biggest change I made, though, was creating a night time routine and sticking to it. The key to this routine is to do it at the same time every night so your body expects it.
Here’s how it goes:
Prepare breakfast for next morning,
Prepare clothes and anything that needs to be done for the morning (I get it out the way at night so it doesn’t subconsciously play on my mind while sleeping).
Have a quick shower (warm, not too hot).
Move phone away so I don’t see any flashing lights or notifications during the night (silent mode is a given).
Get into bed and read a book (Kindle or physical book, no tablet, because the back light messes with sleep). I usually nod off within 10-20 minutes.
Once you do this routine several times, your brain will come to associate it with sleep. You will automatically feel tired by the time you get in to bed.
If you still have trouble getting to sleep, a Zinc-Magnesium product (such as ZMA) before bed may help (this is recommended by Precision Nutrition, an excellent and trustworthy nutritional resource).
I recently started taking 500 mg Magnesium Biglycinate before sleeping and I feel a definite improvement in sleep quality.
Find your tribe.
A good honest workout will make you feel alive, especially when you’re doing it as a team. The most intense, enjoyable workouts I’ve ever had have come when I’ve been with other people.
Back in the day Arnold Schwarzenegger and his friends (plus the WAGs) used to take a barbell deep into the woods and squat until their their legs couldn’t support them anymore. Once they were done, they’d throw some juicy steaks onto the barbecue and party late into the night.
Some workouts can be brutal, but in the company of like-minded friends, they can become memorable life experiences. Find yourself a team to push you.
BTW – the above squat story is from Arnold Schwarzeneggers ‘Education Of A Bodybuilder‘, a great read.
While I’m no bodybuilder, Arnold’s immense drive and determination should be respected and learnt from. You can apply these lessons to any goal in your life – not necessarily just the training aspect.
The fact that many of us work sedentary jobs is bad enough, but add in the processed garbage we eat, and it’s no surprise that we’re fat and feel like shit most of the time.
Here’s the starting prescription for improving your diet:
Eat more protein
Eat more vegetables
Drink more water
These changes alone can have powerful results.
There are of course specific things you may need to do, but if you simply implemented the above consistently, you’d see yourself change before your eyes.
Lifting weights has numerous health benefits, and for stressed out men, it’s a key to feeling better.
Deadlifts, squats, sled pushes, farmers walks, overhead presses. Brutal exercises, but the reward is you feeling relaxed, confident, and alive.
Lifting is also how you will develop the granite muscle of an athlete. It certainly doesn’t come from an hour’s cardio (although cardio is very important).
Take the right supplements
When we look at an expensive, high performance car, the first thing we notice is the flashy exterior. But if the engine doesn’t work, that car ain’t going anywhere any time soon.
We need to look after our own engines.
Health is the most important outcome of training. The look comes as a byproduct.
You don’t need to take dangerous drugs to look and feel good. In addition to sleeping, training smart, and eating the right things, we may need to supplement to be in the best of health.
Here are some baseline supplements I recommend (even before the usual suspects of protein, BCAAs etc).
Let’s be honest, England has about two weeks of proper sun per year.
The rest of the time, it’s pretty gloomy. Many of us are getting diagnosed with low Vitamin D.
Vitamin D has numerous positive effects throughout the body and is important for testosterone.
Getting it directly from the sun or via a supplement are the most practical ways to ensure good levels; it is very difficult to get sufficient amounts from food.
Take around 1000-2000 IU of Vitamin D3 / day (as per Precision Nutrition recommendations).
The modern day Western diet is not very rich in Omega 3 fatty acids. These fatty acids are found in in fish oil, and are very important for:
Immune, cardiovascular, and nervous system health
Prevention of degenerative diseases such as Alzheimer’s
Unless you are eating oily fish quite often (which could actually be a problem, as much of it contains environmental pollutants), it’s a good idea to top up with Omega 3 in supplement form.
Look to consume 2-3 g fish oil per day (choose a supplement with high Omega 3 content, at least 30% EPA and DHA).
For it’s effects on sleep alone, this supplement is money. It also plays an important role in the cycle of muscle contraction and relaxation, and can raise testosterone levels. Get it here.
Working out, when we break it down, is a way of becoming better version of ourselves. It not only releases feel-good chemicals in the moment, but over the long haul, it makes us better looking, more energetic, and more effective men.
If you have read this and are fed up of making false promises to yourself, apply here. How many times are you going to tell people that this is the year you ‘kill it’? Most New Years resolutioners are chumps.. don’t be that guy.
If you’re a woman reading this, pass it on to a man you might think will benefit (husband, boyfriend, brother).