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Moving from Max Gains to Max Life Span with AJAC
Level 2 - Value investor
Sadly, we’re getting older! Many of you have read us for years and at some point you’re going to have to give up those 100M all out sprint repeats and lifting as many plates as possible. This post is for the long-term readers who are likely at an age where it’s time to think about longevity post 35 years or so.
Hello Avatar! This is a guest post from AJAC (AJA_Cortes) on twitter. He is a veteran personal trainer with an extensive online track record of getting people healthy. His own substack is The Power of Bro Science
Today the topic is Longevity. Some of you may be nearing 40 (or past 40 already), and health becomes its own investment the older you get. No point in building net-worth if you are not around to enjoy it!
Onto the post.
Part 1-Defining Longevity
I think we can safely assume that all subscribers of BTB want to be wealthy and healthy. Health is wealth, as the saying goes.
The past 20 years, the “anti aging” market has exploded. While originally the focus was preserving youth, the newer set of anti-aging gurus increasingly focus on extending and maximizing lifespan.
Anti-aging is fraught with “pills and potions” that are constantly promoted. Health and fitness are undeniably faddish fields, and people buy into these fads all the time.
My background is personal training, and I take a far more practical perspective than most; I need to deliver RESULTS for anything I recommend or have people do. Measurable results, not subjective one.
Thus, my recommendations for what you should do to be healthy are going to be clear and objective.
Before we get there though, let’s define what we are talking about.
If you are healthy, you should live a long time. And if you live a long time, you are most likely healthy.
The popular term for this now is “Longevity”.
For contextual clarity, the dictionary definition.
-a long duration of individual life
In the USA, the average lifespan for men is approximately 73 years.
For women, it is 79 years.
While age is partially genetic, your physiological health makes the difference. If you want both quantity AND quality of Life, you need to be HEALTHY.
That takes us to part 2
Part 2-What Does it Mean to be Healthy?
If we want to increase our longevity, we need to improve our Health. Being healthy is objective.
What you want to improve and optimize is your Metabolic Health.
Your metabolic health is defined through measurable biomarkers that have been proven to correspond with long life, quality of life, and being disease free
Being Metabolically Healthy means your lifespan is maximized and likelihood of disease is low. Your quality of life is most likely to be high
If you are metabolically unhealthy, you are more likely to die prematurely due to resultant complications and disease.
There are 6 Biomarkers categories that are relevant.
You can think of these as KPIs, Key Performance Indicators. There are more that can be measured, but these are the easiest for the average person to track and understand.
-bodyweight and BMI
-body composition and waist circumference
-heart rate and blood pressure
-cholesterol and triglycerides
-blood sugar, and insulin sensitivity
While that might seem like a lot of numbers to track, I will simplify them.
Part 3-Making Sense of Biomarkers
These biomarkers are all measurable, and they also are interconnected.
1. Bodyweight, BMI, and Body composition and waist circumference (Link)
This is the first quadrant of metrics that you can easily measure yourself.
Bodyweight is how much you weigh, measured in pounds or kilograms. This can easily be known stepping on a scale.
Body composition is a measurement of your fat mass and fat free mass (often referred to as lean body mass) relative to your weight.
The question of “whats your body fat %?” is asking for bodycomposition.
Body composition is not only important for measuring fat, but also Lean mass. Muscle is the Holy Grail for health, the benefits of muscle are ridiculously long; strength, longevity, durability, and lower risk of cancer, dementia and alzheimers, heart disease, and increased mitochondrial health, increased insulin sensitivity, increased fertility.
Muscle plus cardiovascular health (which we will get to later) is true life extension.
Additionally, longevity research shows that the loss of LBM (Lean Body Mass) is an independent risk factor for osteoporosis, falls and fractures, impaired function and mortality.
The less muscle you have have, the more likely to suffer from essentially every kind of metabolic disease (such as diabetes), more likely to experience degeneration and loss of quality of life, and more likely to die, period.
The most accurate assessment is hydrostatic weighing. This is rarely available to people. Instead, I recommend the Navy Tape Measure test. Its relatively accurate, and uses your height, weight, waistline, neck, and gender.
For metabolic health, you want your bodyfat to be in the “fit” category or lower.
BMI stands for Body Mass Index. This measurement is determined by a person's weight in kilograms (or pounds) divided by the square of height in meters (or feet).
Relative to our height and gender (male or female), BMI gives us a weight range that we should fall into.
But Twitter told me BMI was useless!
BMI is intended to be directionally accurate, not individually precise. It was NEVER intended to be the sole diagnostic measurement of metabolic health.
The data shows that being “healthy” on a BMI chart is anywhere between the 18.5 to 27 index. That is quite a large range!
and while BMI does NOT apply to muscular and fit people, most Americans are NOT muscular and physically fit. At least 3 out of 4 adult Americans are overweight. If you are physically fit, you are an outlier. Regardless of criticism, the data undeniably shows that people with a BMI of 30 and above are likely be overweight and suffer health issues.
The heaver you are relative to your height, the harder your body's organ systems have to work. Even if you are exceptionally muscular while being heavy, this is still extra strain on the heart and joints.
If you are overweight and obese then and trying to determine what a more ideal bodyweight would be, look at whatever the 27-28 index number is on the BMI chart. That would be the upper limit of being a healthy weight.
For being healthy, you want your BMI to not be higher than 27-28 on the BMI Chart
3. Resting Heart Rate+Blood Pressure-Your cardiovascular system refers to your lungs, heart, arteries, veins, and capillaries. You want this system functioning well.
As a heuristic, a strong heart beats slower, a weak heart beats faster.
Thus, your resting heart rate is an indicator of overall cardiovascular health.
Your blood pressure is a measure of the pressure within the cardiovascular system. This is represented as two numbers,
Systolic blood pressure (the first number) – indicates how much pressure your blood is exerting against your artery walls when the heart beats.
Diastolic blood pressure (the second number) – indicates how much pressure your blood is exerting against your artery walls while the heart is resting between beats.
High blood pressure is caused hypertension. This increased pressure is a stressor that can lead to long term cardiovascular health issues.
To Be Healthy, you want your Blood Pressure in the Normal Range, or slightly lower.
4. HDL Cholesterol/Triglyceride Ratio-
The Ratio is your total triglycerides compared to your HDL cholesterol.
Ideally, you want no more than a 3:1 ratio of triglycerides to HDL cholesterol.
Optimally, you want 2:1 ratio or less. So, if your triglycerides are 100 mg/dl, your HDL cholesterol should be 50.
You find this ratio by getting a BLOOD TEST. That means blood is drawn, and a lipid panel is done. You cholesterol and blood lipids will be measured.
You will get numbers back. Total Cholesterol, HDL and LDL, and Triglycerides. It will look something like this
This panel is an example of someone might be warned by their doctor about HIGH CHOLESTEROL and be fear mongered into considering a statin or being told they need to change their diet.
Their total cholesterol is 204, slightly above the reference range of 100-199.
BUT, look at their Triglycerides and HDL.
Their HDL is greater than the Triglycerides!!
This person is at the lowest possible risk for heart disease and heart attack. Yet their physician might tell them the exact opposite.
If your HDL/Triglyceride ratio is in healthy range, you do not need to be concerned if LDL is elevated.
This does not mean that Cholesterol is completely worthless as a measurement, but it needs to be properly contextualized.
If you have elevated cholesterol levels, but your HDL/Triglyceride ratio is low and your heart rate and blood pressure are normal and you have healthy body composition, there is nothing wrong with you.
5. Blood Sugar and Insulin Sensitivity
Insulin is known as the Master hormone in the body, because its responsible for a multitude of cellular processes. The basic information that you need to know is this
-You want your blood sugar levels (blood glucose) to be in normal range. When blood sugar is chronically high, this leads to chronic inflammation, and you become prediabetic
-When your blood sugar is high, your body releases insulin. Insulin helps control the amount of sugar (glucose) in the blood. Chronically elevated insulin leads to Insulin resistance. You will be prediabetic, or fully type 2 diabetic.
The blood test to request is an A1C test, also called hemoglobin A1C or HbA1c test. This is a blood test that measures your average blood sugar levels over the past 3 months.
You want your level to be 5.7 or lower. If it’s elevated, changes need to be made.
6. VO2 Max
”VO₂ max is the maximum (max) rate (V) of oxygen (O₂) your body is able to use during exercise”
This is measured as a round number, which you can see below. A simple google search will you the chart for women (women have lower VO2 max compared to men)
What is VO2 max measuring? How well your body uses oxygen. In basic terms, you want your body to be efficient at using O2.
Much like lean body mass, a High VO2 max corresponds to longer life, more robust health, and increased energy, endurance, and athleticism
Part 4-What STRATEGIES Do We Use to Become Healthy and Increase Longevity?
And this is where it simplifies down. A healthy lifestyle is built on habitual processes that you repeat, week in and week out.
If you want to feel YOUNG as you age, you must reframe your training to be more athletic.
-Explosive movements-jumping, leaping, hopping, anything that requires acceleration and fast force production. This should be done 1-3 times weekly, and can be combined with lifting.
Resistance Training - Lift weights 2-4 times a week in holistic fashion. Muscle mass is the holy grail for health, the benefits are redundant to list out. You need muscle mass. Lower blood pressure, healthier heart, insulin sensitivity, every biomarker is improved by being muscular.
You want to maintain a Bodyweight that within the green to yellow range on the BMI chart, and maintain a healthy bodycomposition, with high lean mass and keeping bodyfat under control.
Resistance training does this for you
All resistance training “bodybuilding”. You are building the body. 2-4 hours a week maximum are entirely adequate for strength and muscle. I recommend upper/lower or push/pull/leg type training schedules, but anything can work. The best training plan is one you feel comfortable and can perform consistently.
Exercise selection is critical, I write about this on my own substack and have multiple programs on it, but you need to optimizing exercise selection for maximum muscular tension, and minimizing joint stress. There is a whole science of biomechanics dedicated to this. The days of heavy barbell lifts may be out. Stimulate muscle, dont compress your joints and spine.
As we get older the bodies tissues do become stiffer, which is why I suggest moderate to higher reps 8-20 range for your exercises. Leave the “maxin out” to the younger crowd. An injury past 40 can be life changing, and recovery is slower.
You want to maintain a low resting heart rate and blood pressure. Cardio, at both low and high intensity, is how you improve this.
Zone 2 is essential. Cardio is a subject unto itself, but short version; learn how cardiovascular heart rate zones work. Get your HR into Zone 2 range, keep it there for 20-60 minutes a day. Aim for 150 minutes a week of Zone 2.
Treadmill, spin bike, assault bike, something that is cyclical. I am favorable to air resisted bikes like Assault bikes because of the zero impact and they have muscle building effects at the same time.
If you want a social activity for cardio, try Tennis. Tennis players are the longest lived athletes. The combination of cardio, lateral movement, hand-eye coordination, and social engagement keeps is health promoting.
At least once week, get your HR into Zone 5, as high as it can go. 10-20 minutes of interval training. This is hugely beneficial for mitochondrial health and increasing VO2 max. Again, Assault bikes are fantastic for both effectiveness and safety.
Eat a high protein whole foods diet. On a gram for gram or ounce for ounce basis, animal proteins are more nutrient dense than any food on earth. Aside from the the macronutrients, the list of micronutrients and minerals that meat contains is exhaustive. Protein is the most satiating macronutrient, and the most expensive macro to digest. About 20-30% of the caloric energy in protein is lost as heat during the digestive process. Protein is "metabolism" boosting in this regard. And because of its chemical structure, its also largely impossible to ever convert into fat
Fat intake should come from protein intake. Carbohydrate intake should be based on activity levels. Less on sedentary days, more on active days. Protein should be the primary macro in every single meal.
You cannot go wrong with the “Bro Meal” model as I call it, which is designed around 6-10 ounces of protein in every meal, with a non sugar carbohydrate source or fibrous vegetables.
Eating in this manner, you are unlikely to become overly fat. Insulin sensitivity, cholesterol and triglycerides levels will be a nonissue.
If You Do all the Above, You will Be Healthy
Maintain a Bodyweight that within the green to yellow range on the BMI chart.
Maintain a healthy body composition, with high lean mass and keeping body fat under control. Resistance training does this for you.
Maintain a low resting heart rate and blood pressure. Cardio, at both low and high intensity, is how you improve this.
Maintain a healthy HDL/Triglyceride ratio. Change your diet as necessary to accomplish this. And also exercise of course.
There is more that can be done beyond this with peptides, hormone replacement therapy, and more cost-intensive health treatments, but the above model will account for 80-90% of your overall state of health.
Any questions? Feel free to ask in the Comments
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