When I was a kid, I told my parents I wanted to live to be 120 years old. Since then, I’ve been collecting lifestyle techniques to optimize longevity. Specifically, to live younger, longer. Experts call this your healthspan.
Here’s the top 7 tips I’ve collected so far.
6:00 AM: Wake up with the sun
Try to wake up about the same time each day. Even on weekends. The body functions best with a predictable routine. It has a natural circadian rhythm. Let your body follow that rhythm.
Waking up at the same time (+/-1 hour) each day helps you sleep better and feel more awake during the day. If you usually get up at 6 AM during the week, but sleep until 10 AM on weekends, your body will feel jet lagged every Monday.
The second part of this is the sun. Even if you wake before the sun (e.g., during December in the northern hemisphere), try to get bright light into your eyes as soon as you get up. Bright light into your eyes (hitting the chrono-tissue) initiates the cortisol awaking response (CAR).
What is the CAR?
The cortisol awakening response is you’re body’s natural system for feeling awake first thing in the morning. As soon as sunlight hits your eyes, your cortisol levels should double. Not only does this cortisol spike help you feel more alert, it also helps dull aches and pains (cortisol is an anti-inflammatory compound!)
Are you someone who needs 2 hours and several cups of coffee to feel awake in the morning? If so, you’re CAR is probably not working well. Good news: this is easy to fix! Commit to getting bright light as soon as possible (within 15 minutes) of waking up. Every day. For 2 weeks. And you should feel a difference!
6:15 AM: Stay hydrated
Drink water as soon as you get up. And then consume 8oz (1 cup) every 1 hour for the first 10 hours you’re awake. Hundreds of studies show that, when we are dehydrated, our brain and body don’t function as well. Hydration is not the only key to longevity, but it plays a big role.
You can get 10 cups of water by drinking 5.33 cans of La Croix (12 oz per can).
7:00 AM: Eat breakfast at the same time each day
Eating meals about the same time each day optimizes digestion.
Think about it. If you usually eat breakfast at 7 AM. But then delay breakfast until 9 AM one day. The body thinks, “The food didn’t arrive around 7 AM. It came at 9 AM. So let’s be ready at 8 AM tomorrow.” But, if you eat at 7 AM the next day, you may eat, but your body clock is not ready. Instead of releasing the right amount of stomach acid, enzymes and bile, your digestive tract is sluggish. The food sits in your stomach for longer. Maybe even giving you reflux or a bloating sensation.
Eating on a schedule takes advantage of your stomach’s anticipatory clock. The better you digest your food, the more nutrients you absorb. The better nutrition you have, the longer you will live health-fully.
12:00 PM: Allow 4-5 hours between meals
Your body has an amazing mechanism to prevent bacterial overgrowth (SIBO). It’s called the Migrating Motor Complex, or MMC for short. It is similar to peristalsis, the wave-like action that pushes food down your digestive tract. But much bigger.
You can think of peristalsis like gentle waves upon the shore. In contrast, the MMC is like a tsunami wave! That big wave sweeps all the undigested food and bacteria from the small intestine down to the colon for fermentation.
The MMC only happens 90 minutes after your stomach completely empties. Which is not the same as 90 minutes after you finish eating a meal.
I don’t know about you, but I sometimes notice food still in my stomach 2-3 hours after I finish eating.
The rate of gastric emptying (how quickly food leaves the stomach) depends on many factors: how big the meal is, how much protein, fat and fiber is in the meal, and how well your body produces digestive juices.
To ensure at least one cycle of the MMC between meals, experts recommend waiting 4-5 hours between meals. This means no foods or caloric beverages (water is okay) between breakfast and lunch. Or between lunch and dinner. For the same reason, it is helpful to fast overnight, 12 hours between dinner and breakfast.
4:00 PM: Move your body every day
Your body was meant to move. There’s two levels to unlock here.
- Some movement is better than no movement.
- Include aerobic activity and muscle strengthening for the most robust benefit.
When you sit for long periods of time, your large muscle groups fall asleep. And your metabolism slows. In contrast, when you stand up and walk around, your muscles wake up. Your muscles burn more calories. Which means you can eat more. Which means you can get in more variety. And he more variety, the healthier your microbiome.
If you don’t use it, you lose it.
The body doesn’t waste energy maintaining muscles. Muscles are very energetically expensive. Like teenage boys. They burn calories all day, every day. So if you don’t work your muscles, they disappear.
When you do muscle strengthening activities (e.g., weight lifting), your muscles adapt by getting bigger. Additionally, there is evidence that training your muscles (which requires innervation from your brain) also preserves your brain.
6:00 PM: Eat 30 types of plants per week
Research shows a diverse microbiome is a healthy microbiome. And variety in your diet equals variety in your gut.
Each type of plant contains a different type of fiber.
And each type of fiber feeds a different type of microbe.
Therefore, eating a variety of plants supports a variety of microbes.
In fact, researchers from the American Gut Project were surprised when they realized the number of unique plant species a person consumed was associated with higher microbial diversity than when someone followed a “vegan” or “vegetarian” eating pattern.
This makes sense. You can be vegan and only eat 10 types of plants.
9:00 PM: Get 7-9 hours of sleep
When you sleep, your body heals and repairs. And your brain processes, sorts, and makes sense all the things that happened to you during the day. When you get a good night’s sleep, you wake up feeling refreshed and ready to tackle the day.
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