Running a business can feel like a never-ending battle. You're constantly fighting and putting out fires. Crazy demands are made on your time, mind and stamina. It's not easy, and to succeed, you need to find your competitive edge.
Spare time is in short supply, so you need to maximize personal performance with a minimal time investment. You need a practice called biohacking.
A few years ago, my energy would drop off after just six or seven hours of work. After biohacking, I built up the stamina for 100-hour work weeks for months on end. It got me through my company's grueling launch phase. I still work 90-hour weeks and travel 125,000 miles a year.
Without biohacking, I would not have the energy needed to build and lead a high-growth startup. Here's how science can help you too.
What is biohacking?
The term "biohacking" includes scientific concepts like DNA mapping and altering genetics. But what I'm advocating here is DIY biohacking: Using the principles of biology to optimize your diet, sleep and exercise - which will optimize your performance.
For example, did you know caffeine works better in small, sustained doses throughout the day - instead drinking a whole cup twice per day? Why waste money or risk caffeine's side effects when you an be optimal on one cup?
I focused on three main areas: exercise, diet and sleep. Below are the changes I made and how you can try them too.
You don't need to exercise 60 minutes, five days a week to enjoy the benefits of exercise. I got in great shape working out only 30 minutes a day, three days a week. There is no catch. A 2013 study in the Journal of Physiology found that shorter bursts of high-intensity interval training (HIIT) yield the same benefits, if not more, as endurance training.
I adopted an high-intensity routine that involved ten 100-yard sprints and a Tabata style pull-up bar workout with push-ups, pull-ups and sit-ups. It's nearly identical to the workouts that actors Gerard Butler ("300") and Matt Damon ("Jason Bourne") used to quickly get in shape for those roles.
Build up by walking, jogging and then running two miles at a time. Don't overdo it. It took Butler seven months to train for his role in "300." It will take you just as long.
Diet and nutrition
Nutrition is tricky. Blanket recommendations may not meet your needs. They didn't work for me.
Instead, I tested foods and paid attention to how I felt after eating. I know it sounds simplistic, but just paying attention to how you feel will help you choose the right foods. Your body seems to know what it wants.
I got the most noticeable results by replacing 80% of my carbohydrates with pure, healthy fats - like almonds, grass-fed butter, avocado, and healthy oils (such as olive and coconut). I no longer felt sluggish in the morning and lost ten pounds in a few months. In one year I enjoyed a 35% improvement in blood lipid levels and bad cholesterol. I now only eat carbs one meal per day, usually at lunch.
The most effective way to change your diet is to start with breakfast. Try eating a carb-free breakfast for 30 days. I eat a vegan protein shake with a teaspoon of MCT oil. Also, reduce foods that cause inflammation and reduce cognition, like gluten, sugar, dairy and sodium.
Being short on sleep negatively affects your mood and physical health. Don't have time for more sleep? Get better sleep. Here are some easy adjustments:
- The Flux App reduces the blue and white light from your computer screen that promote "awake" hormones, making it harder to fall asleep. It used to take me an hour to fall asleep. Now it takes me ten minutes.
- Create a new habit your brain and body will associate with sleep. I keep a daily journal. Reading and stretch are two other good options.
- Go to sleep and rise at the same time every day - even on the weekends.
- Use earplugs and an eye mask to block out noise and light.
Habits are hard to change. Your chances for success are highest if you make small, deliberate and consistent changes over time. It took me almost two years to go from doing three pull-ups per workout to doing 15 pull-ups in just 20 seconds. Stick with it because the results are worth it.
For more information, subscribe to Tim Ferris's podcast, read material from Dave Asprey, founder of Bulletproof Exec, and watch this TED Talk by biologist Ellen Jorgensen.
Building optimal dietary, sleep and exercise habits will give you energy to stay productive while others need a break. You'll have found your competitive edge. That's how you win the game.