Earlier this week, I was having a discussion on nutrition with some friends. I disclosed my latest experiment, which is still too early to blog about at this time. The response I got was, “how lean do you want to be?” It was a fair question that I didn’t have an answer for. I’ve since had a few days to think about the answer and it not as simple as being a certain weight or body fat percentage. Let me explain.

When I think about health, I can really break it down into 8 goals. Two primary (1,2) , three secondary (3,4,5) and three tertiary (6,7,8).

  1. Be Healthy – The desire to be disease free, not get sick and be energetic.
  2. Injury Free – Avoid accidents and have minimal restrictions on mobility.
  3. Leaner – Not only is it important to be lean, but maintain that level.
  4. Gain Muscle – I’m a dude. I will probably always desire at least one more pound of muscle on my frame.
  5. Strength – Although there is a correlation with muscle, it is not always direct.
  6. Dexterity – Eye / hand coordination. Juggling, sports and hobbies can improve dexterity.
  7. Endurance – Hiking long or steep distances. Lifting a large volume of weight. Not distance running.
  8. Speed – Something I haven’t focused on since I was a kid, but is on my radar now.

Photo Farmer’s Walk by milesizz

I am searching for ways to accomplish these goals via nutrition and fitness. The most important thing I’ve learned in the past 2 years is that diet is FAR MORE important than exercise and that too much exercise can be just as bad as no exercise at all. Exercise too much and you’ll get sick (suppressed immunity) or injured. Finding the food and exercise combination that allows me to achieve my listed goals is not case of willpower. It is a research puzzle. In computer terms, it is hacking.

For all the non-coders out there, when a programmer goes to make a change to working code, you just change a few lines at a time. Then you test. Then you study the data and test again. If things look good, you make some more changes. Otherwise, you roll back to a previous version and start the process again. I do the same process with food and exercise.

For me Physique Hacking is a riddle. I’ve done the balls-out approach. It only works in the short term. The body’s job is survive and propagate. Running marathons and caloric restriction interfere with that primary objective. Fat loss and muscle gain come from hormonal responses. Triggering those responses without interfering with the body’s objective is the goal. Studying evolutionary health has been extremely beneficial.

I’d like to quote Bruce Lee on simplicity.

In building a statue, a sculptor doesn’t keep adding clay to his subject. Actually, he keeps chiseling away at the inessentials until the truth of its creation is revealed without obstructions.

Small incremental changes are far more effective than the go big or go home mentality. True Physique Hacking doesn’t look like a Gatorade or Nike commercial. It is a lot of reading. Sifting through all the information and finding something that works a little better than it did yesterday.

What you a capable of achieving can be greater than you imagined. Here is what Bruce Lee said about limits.

If you always put limit on everything you do, physical or anything else. It will spread into your work and into your life. There are no limits. There are only plateaus, and you must not stay there, you must go beyond them.