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Don’t mistake tactics for strategies: On best strategy for losing weight, build muscle, live a healthy lifestyle and others…

Don’t mistake tactics for strategies: On best strategy for losing weight, build muscle, live a healthy lifestyle and others…

People ask questions like: “What is the best strategy for losing weight fast?” What follows are often not strategies. Even more often the answers are not one-size-fits-all solutions. The answers are mostly different tips and tricks; Tactics instead of strategies. There is a huge difference between the two. The tactic is about the specific nitty-gritty, whereas strategy is about the big picture principles.

Just like you shouldn’t optimize your life for money

Being healthy is not about the latest hacks, tips, tricks, supplements. People were healthy and strong before the idea of exercising for health was invented. Aerobics was developed in the 1968. I am not saying that it’s bad to exercise, on the contrary. But the idea of doing nothing for 90% of the week, and then doing super fast and super effective workouts and eating factory-produced optimal foods and supplements is not the way for sustained health and longevity. Trying to design workouts you can do in even less time, so we have “more time”, is also not the answer. Eating superfoods from all over the world is not the way our great grandparents found health and vitality.

You shouldn’t try to use any single approach to be full of energy, lean, and strong. What if that one trick stops working? Tactics, tips, and tricks might work; many times they create some results. Increasing longevity and living healthy and invincibility is not the result of any single “hack” or the newest exercise regimen. Health and longevity are about learning and applying basic principles. Simple, but it’s not always easy. There are no shortcuts. There are easier and harder ways, but no shortcuts.

Principles aren’t as sexy as the newest findings, but following the right principles brings the real results. And as much as we like to think we know why the principles work, the science relies on buzzwords that get substituted when more accurate knowledge is found. Luckily, you don’t have to know exactly why something works for it to bring results when applied. Focus on the principles and strategies behind tactics to get the greatest results.

Tactics vs. Strategy

Tactic: Eat superfoods, organic everything, meats, veggies, and powders for general superpowers.
Strategy: Eat non-processed foods. Note how you feel before and after. Eat more of the foods that make you feel good and less of the foods that affect you negatively.

Tactic: The latest supplement pill from the jungles of wherever.
Strategy: Eat a wide variety of non-processed foods. If you suspect you have deficiencies in micronutrients or minerals, get your bloodwork done and supplement as needed. You should do it if you have measured deficiencies. But the latest supplement is probably not the most efficient solution. Define the effects you are hoping for, and do it beforehand. Measure and record your experience and beware of the placebo-effect; marketers are cunning professionals.

Tactic. Intermittent fasting periods for 16 hours every day for increased fat burning, muscle building, and longer lifespan.
Strategy. For losing weight eat fewer calories than you use. For building muscle mass eat more and lift heavy weights. The jury is still out on the claims of a longer lifespan of intermittent fasting; mice studies suggest compelling results, but humans are not the same as mice. If you are lethargic and miserable while fasting, the few additional years aren’t worth it. That being said, some people thrive on intermittent fasting and get phenomenal results. Others are miserable and unable to function. Experiment and determine if some form of intermittent fasting works for your needs and your body. Track your energy levels, moods, weight, and other important factors.

Tactic: Lose 30 pounds in 30 days.
Strategy: Lose 30 pounds in 300 days. The fence that goes up fast falls fast. Relying on gimmicky quick-fix weight loss programs will result in you maybe losing weight, and certainly gaining the weight back.  Losing too much weight fast is either due to lost water-weight or the weight comes from your muscles. Neither of the aforementioned is ideal. For losing weight, make sure you eat less than you need, but enough to stay healthy. Shoot for 200-600 grams of weekly weight loss until you achieve your goal.

Tactic: Sleeping less with biphasic or polyphasic sleep, for more hours awake. Extra hours awake are for increased productivity.
Strategy: Sleep as much as you need to be energetic and happy throughout the day. Productivity follows as a result. It is false mathematics to only count the hours awake as automatically being productive. You are seldom productive, or even happy, when dead tired. You need sleep. You can try different sleeping patterns, but don’t fall in love with the experiment beforehand. Being certain that something is the absolute solution beforehand hinders you from seeing the results clearly. If you decide to experiment with sleep, keep track of your mood and energy levels throughout the day. Look at your athletic performance as one marker for health and recovery.

Tactic: Slim down with only drinking smoothies
Strategy: Eat a variety of different foods. Smoothies are convenient to make and consume, being highly portable. But they shouldn’t be your only source of nutrition. Find one or two healthy options you love and which make you feel great. Smoothie fast can lead to fast weight loss, but having only smoothies isn’t sustainable over the long haul; once you transition back to solid foods, your old eating patterns activate, and your weight will get back up. Supplement with smoothies every now and again, but don’t rely only on them.

Tactic: Lift weights to burn fat. Weight training is the most intense way to move. You will build more muscle and muscles burn fat.
Tactic: Don’t lift weights to lose weights. Weight training makes you bulky; it will make you gain weight.
Strategy: Use weight training primarily to get strong, build muscle, and burn calories. Manage your diet for effective weight management.

Tactic: Paleo for health and longevity.
Tactic: Vegan for health and longevity.
Tactic: Gluten-free for health and longevity.
Tactic: Slow Carb for health and longevity.
Tactic: No carbs for health and longevity.
Tactic: Any-other-diet for health and longevity.
Strategy: Eat a variety of non-processed foods in moderation. Don’t only consume one food day in and day out. Don’t fall for diet cults; some foods are better than others, and you should strive to eat clean, but your body thrives as an omnivore. Vary your diet, be vegan some days, paleo on some, and still something else on some days. Do some intermittent fasting. Eat the bad stuff now and then. Your body thrives on adapting to different stimulus from the environment. That being said, try different things and note results from various approaches. Don’t repeat horrible experiments.

Tactic: High-Intensity Interval Training (HIIT) 8 sets alternating 30 seconds of maximum effort with 90 seconds recovery for muscle growth, melting fat, and hormonal effects of invincibility.
Tactic: High-Intensity Interval Training (HIIT) 16 sets alternating 20 seconds of hard work with 10 seconds rest for muscle growth, melting fat, and hormonal effects of living forever.
Strategy: Move at a high intensity few times a week. Rest and recover between bouts. Move at least few hours a week in total, at low intensity. The tedious middle is not necessary.

Tactic: Get a standing desk. Sitting leads to health problems.
Tactic: Get a treadmill desk. Sitting is the worst thing for anyone, anywhere, always.
Strategy: Don’t be too sedentary. Strive to sit less than four hours a day. Interrupt long sitting sessions with few seconds of movement.

Tactic: The latest fitness craze for losing weight and building muscle.
Strategy: Live an active lifestyle. Build habits around activities you enjoy. That way you can maintain the habits for the next 5-60 years. Don’t focus solely on the intensity of the benefits promised, but find things you enjoy doing. By focusing on the enjoyment (not synonymous with pleasure), you will stick to them and benefit from them, instead of going from one thing to the next. Don’t be the Jack of all trades, being master of none.

Tactic: Read fitness magazines and fitness blogs to find the latest and best tactics.
Strategy: Read and learn as much as needed until you find something that works for you. Once you find an approach that works for you, stick to it. Read more if you need something more, or the first plan stops working. Don’t let the market fool you into thinking you need some new fancy things. Focus on solving your problems rather than looking for new ones.

Tactic: Become obsessed about calories, macronutrients, and micronutrient intake. Track everything!
Strategy: Measure your weight and your waist regularly. Note your mood throughout the day. If you have an athletic goal, keep track if you are getting closer to it or not. Keeping track of weight, waist, and mood will keep you aware. That way you can objectively see if you need to change things. Consuming the “correct” macronutrient ratios doesn’t mean anything if you feel lousy or are gaining weight when you want to lose it. Measuring your waist should be tracked for health and longevity since the visceral fat around your internal organs is the thing to watch out for. That being said, I do track my macros every six months for few days using MyPlate to make sure my habits haven’t changed, and I do eat enough protein and fats. Don’t be obsessive, few days, max week, is sufficient to spot the trends.

Tactic: Cold showers and ice water to burn fabulous amounts of fat.
Strategy: Eat in a way that doesn’t rely solely on using tactics like cold exposure. People have gotten amazing results with drinking ice water and taking ice baths, but for most, the tactic isn’t sustainable. You can drink cold water for added benefits and take cold showers for building grit and willpower, but they probably shouldn’t be the sole tactic for losing weight. Fixing diet is the easy, low hanging fruit.

Tactic: Weekly cheat day to keep your metabolism going
Strategy: Eat a wide variety of non-processed foods. Splurge every once in a while. Bringing some chaos into your diet from time to time can be beneficial for you body while preventing you from feeling bored, or like you are giving everything up for the rest of your life. You can schedule your cheat day or wait for some function to come up.

Final thoughts: Think, experiment, and don’t fall in love with any single approach

Make sure you stop and think every now and again: What is it I would have to have to feel healthy, strong, full of energy, or whatever your health goal?  Set goals, create a hypothesis of what will get you there, experiment different options and measure the real results. Make changes as needed. It might take a little effort, but less than flushing money, energy, and life down the toilet doing the same thing over and over, expecting different results.

There is no use in building a boat with the best nails if the wood is rotten. Focus on the big things first. Then get down to fine tuning.

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Stay well

Arttu Heinilä

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