Shatter Your Entire View Of Health

Join others getting their entire idea of what health is shattered every Sunday while reading Health Decoded.

March 3, 2024 | Max Jenkinson

How To Be Healthy

You are probably aware that your health is slowly deteriorating.

You might not look as good, be as strong, or have as much energy as you once did.

Maybe pain is now a normal part of your life.

This deterioration is often brushed off as a “normal” part of ageing.

It is not.

With very little effort you can get a lot healthier.

The question is – where should you put that effort?


James Clear, of Atomic Habits fame, tell us to make it easy to make good decisions.

We need to lower the friction of doing things that are good for us and increase the friction of doing things we know we shouldn’t.

Building habits in the present allows you to do more of what you want in the future.

James Clear

Greg McKeown, the author of Essentialism, points to the fact that we are all limited by one thing  time.

Because of this, you will get nowhere if you try to improve everything all at once.


Because an object (in this case, you) with equal forces applied from every direction will remain stationary.

It is about making the wisest possible investment of your time and energy in order to operate at our highest point of contribution by doing only what is essential.

Greg McKeown

To get somewhere, be it in health, wealth, or happiness, we need to do less to do more.

We need to get our priorities straight and define what is essential, and what is not.

What are the things, habits, and behavioural patterns that have the highest leverage, and the highest ROI, in your specific context?

In this post, I am going to share the concept of The Minimal Effective Dose for Health (which I believe everyone should do.)

From the ones that prioritize health the most to the ones that do it the least – this is the bare minimum.

Not only is it the bare minimum but the four habits that I have found to have the highest leverage with the least effort.

The lowest friction behaviours to improve health.

The Minimal Effective Dose For Health is:

  1. Simple

  2. Has profound effects on your health

  3. Takes almost no extra time out of your day


Why it Works

Huberman watching you eat that late-night snack.

Andrew Huberman often tells us that for people to implement actionable tips there needs to be a basic understanding of why they work.

To understand why this is the minimal effective dose, we need to get clear on our definition of health.

I like to define health as a biological system’s capacity to positively adapt to external demand.

In other words, your body’s capacity to handle stress.

To make matters simple I want you to think of the body as a structure. And, perfect structure means the body is robust and ready to handle any stress coming its way.

In other words, perfect structure = perfect function, perfect function = optimal health. Now, it becomes easy to assume that we want to build and maintain the correct structure. So, how do we do that?

Well, to build structure we need building blocks and nutrients. We also need the restorative time to do the building. But, we can forget that we need the stimulus to know where to send the builders.

By looking at the previous paragraph we can derive three main categories.

  1. Food (building blocks & nutrients)

  2. Recovery (time to do the building)

  3. Movement (the contract with the builders)

Remember we asked this question, “What are the things, habits, and behavioural patterns that have the highest leverage, and the highest ROI, in your specific context?”

We are looking at health, and because I don’t know your specific context we need to generalize. We need to analyze the three categories and ask ourselves – what are the lowest effort things we can do for the most positive effect?

Let’s start back to front with the category of movement.


Step 1 – Reversing The Effects of a Sedentary Lifestyle

After decades of research on human metabolism, evolutionary anthropologist and Duke professor Herman Pontzer, argues that we all are on a fixed income when it comes to calories.

In his book Burn, he explains that calories burnt (over time) are relatively fixed despite your activity level. If this is true, calories can be seen as a budget.

Evolution has created a clear (but slightly adaptable) budget that works. Some of it is allocated to movement.

But, if we overspend somewhere things go bad. In movement, this is what we call over-training.

When too many calories are allocated to movement not enough calories can go elsewhere. The energy to maintain things like reproductive health or immune function is then not enough.

If we underspend in a department of importance, like movement, things also go bad, really bad. This is what we call a sedentary lifestyle.

To get the most benefits from the movement category, all we have to do is be somewhere between sedentary and over-training. And, this span is quite wide.

You don’t have to go to the gym or do hours of cardio, all you have to do is walk a little more and add in some simple exercises.

The First Habit: 10-min walks

Looks doable right?

Walking 40 minutes total every day is 280 minutes of low-intensity cardio per week. Going from 0 to 280 extra minutes will do you wonders.

So why should we walk after meals?

Stacking actions is one hack we learnt from Atomic Habits. It makes it easier to form new habits.

It’s not just about forming the habit.

Post-prandial walks just refer to walking after eating.

Walking after meals:

  • Improves blood sugar regulation and digestion

  • Lowers stress levels

  • Enhances blood flow

  • And improves sleep quality

But, we have three aspects of this habit.

  1. Walking 30-40 minutes in total per day

  2. Taking 10-min walks after meals

  3. Taking a 10-min walk close to waking

Sleep loss will leak down into every nook and cranny of your physiology, sleep, unfortunately, is not an optional lifestyle luxury. Sleep is a nonnegotiable biological necessity. It is your life support system.

Dr Mathew Walker author of Why We Sleep

We evolved with day and night being the most consistent environmental rhythm. Because of this almost every bodily function is linked to the time of day.

The most important function linked to the time of day is sleep.

Early daylight exposure helps set our internal clock (circadian rhythm) correctly. It gives the body the information it needs to know what time of day it is.

By doing this it affects literally everything, but the largest effect is on sleep.

So, on your AM walks try to look in the direction of the sun.

I will often repeat this because I want you to remember it – a confused body is a sick body.

The habit of walking like this:

  • helps the body regulate all its internal processes according to the time of day

  • reverses the stress of a sedentary life

  • lowers the stress of eating by aiding in digestion and blood sugar regulation

  • improves sleep quality by setting the circadian clock

All this lowers stress and increases the capacity to handle stress.

So, walking is the highest ROI activity in the category of movement. You might now have a sense of the depth I’ve gone to determine these activities. I haven’t pulled them out of thin air even though walking seems obvious.

For the rest of the habits, I won’t be as thorough. You will have to assume that the rigour is of a similar level. If I were to write it out this post would be pages too long.

The Second Habit: 3-min exercise per day

While walking is great, the one thing we do not get is the stimuli to induce muscle synthesis.

Muscle mass is the most underrated tissue when it comes to health.

Increasing muscle mass is not a vain project that should only be done by bodybuilders. It is highly correlated with health, longevity and lack of disease.

World-leading expert on muscle synthesis, Dr Brad Schoenfeld has written many brilliant studies and books on the subject. In his book Science and Development of Muscle Hypertrophy, he gives some gems for everyday people.

Muscle is expensive tissue. For the body to prioritise building it there needs to be a strong enough stimulus.

But, there also needs to be sufficient energy production and nutrients.

Maybe you think you need to go to the gym three times per week for two hours otherwise it’s just a waste of time. For most people today this is not workable and so most don’t do anything.

It’s either all in or nothing. It’s black and white. Either you’re a gym rat or not.

Let me tell you that you can build and maintain an amazing body with less than 3-minutes of active exercise per day.

If that sounds too good to be true let’s look at the science.

Dr Schoenfeld has written some excellent metanalyses.

In them, he concludes that the volume required to stimulate muscle synthesis is between 5-20 sets per week per muscle group. He adds the caveat that the intensity of each set needs to be close to failure.

How this looks practically will surprise you.

Everyone should do at least one set of push-ups and pull-ups close to failure every single day.

I want you to do this if you are someone who has never trained in your life and even if you are an Iron Man competitor with 15 hours of training each week.

You should build up to this slowly and have it as your baseline.

If any of the exercises are too hard or too easy, scale them up or down.

Aim for 8-25 reps per set. If you can’t do 8, scale down, if you can do more than 25, scale up.

1 set to failure per day adds up to 7 sets to failure per week (and takes less than 3-minutes per day to do).

Gaining muscle mass makes you more resilient to handle the daily demands put on your body.

It does a lot more than I am able to go through here but rest assured, 3 minutes of exercise per day will do wonders for your health.

The idea here is to build a baseline which becomes a part of your daily routine, like brushing your teeth.

Slowly it becomes so ingrained you feel bad when you don’t do it.

At this level, you can add more if you want, like adding a set for your legs or doing some mobility work in combination.

Let’s move on to the last two.

Step 2 – Make Recovery A Priority

The three categories of physical health were,

  1. Food

  2. Recovery

  3. Movement

I told you we were going to take them in reverse order. We started with movement and derived two habits. Now we move onto recovery where one will suffice.

The Third Habit: Sleep as if Your Life Depended On It

Sleep is probably the highest leverage activity when it comes to health. It costs nothing and is not hard to change because all you need to do is go to bed earlier or wake up later.

Sleep is so important that everyone should take their sleep obnoxiously seriously.

All you have to do is spend 8-10 hours in bed and aim to wake up at a similar time every single day.

The waking up at the same time seems to be the one most mess up. It is what anchors our circadian rhythm.

Your entire biology is controlled by your genes either turning on or off. Something like 80% of your 20,000 genes are linked to the circadian clock. If the clock is set wrong, biology gets confused. And, you know what I say about confusion.

Some optional tips to sleepmaxxing:

  1. Anchor your biology by waking up at the same time every day and viewing the morning daylight.

  2. As with most things, doing it too much is probably not good either so try to find your sweet spot.

  3. Increase your sleep time along with increased demand (by going to be earlier).

  4. Never sleep in.

  5. Tape your mouth shut at night.

  6. Don’t eat close to sleeping.

  7. Make your room dark and cold

The fourth and final habit: Eat Real Food (& prioritize protein)

We evolved to eat only real food. We ate what could be found in our environment, animals or plants.

We have evolved to utilise the molecules that make up these foods to maintain health.

Eating foods that we would never have found in our evolutionary past creates internal confusion.

And again – a confused body is a sick body.

So, why protein?

  1. Protein is the most satiating of the macronutrients

  2. Protein-rich foods are nutrient-dens

  3. Protein increases muscle synthesis

  4. We undereat protein

The biggest problems with the standard diet are a lack of protein, a lack of nutrients and a surplus of calories.

Processed foods (think anything you can’t find in nature), are off the table. If you still consume most of your calories from them you should go sit at the kids’ table.

We should eat real food. Logical. But, should you eat more vegetables, more fruit, more meat, and more cheese?

I’d say focus on protein, especially red meat. This will leave you satiated and full of nutrients. Then add in carbs from fruits, tubers or white rice and see those more as fuel.

Vegetables are fine but they do not contain enough protein or fuel to make up any significant portion of our diet.


There you have it, the Minimal Effective Dose for Health

  1. Three to four 10-minute walks per day, one close to waking and the rest after meals.

  2. One hard set per day of pull-ups & push-ups (or variations of them)

  3. Spend 8-10 hours in bed each night and aim to wake up at a similar time each day.

  4. Eat real food (& prioritize protein).

If you do these four and these four alone, within 30 days, you should see drastic improvements to your energy, how you look and most importantly how you feel.

This one was slightly longer than usual, so, thanks for getting this far. As always, until next Sunday, do what makes your future self proud.

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Shatter Your Entire View Of Health

Join others getting their entire idea of what health is shattered every Sunday while reading Health Decoded.