Why are most of the people you know who participate in diet programs so fat? Why is everyone that has a personal trainer so weak? Or worse; weak AND fat? And why do just about all these people almost invariably fail to keep any gains, despite spending small fortunes, year after year? Perhaps it’s because, generally speaking, people tend to focus on one aspect of it all. Consequently, they totally disregard incredibly important considerations that have powerful biochemical effects. Wellness, which adopts a more holistic approach, is exponentially more effective than just going to the gym, or just tweaking one’s diet. Guiding principle number 4 of this endeavor is absolutely critical: Everything Matters! What you eat, when you eat it, what you drink, how much you sleep, how much cardio you do and at what intensity, how much weight you lift and for how many repetitions; even what and how you think is of the utmost importance!
As regular readers know, my primary goal of the 90 Day Challenge is to reverse my biological age by lengthening my telomeres. I will test my telomeres for the final time on April 1, 2019. As such, I will spend the next 90 days focusing on improving each of my individual biomarkers of aging. My goal is to work to achieve biomarkers equivalent to that of a fit 24 year old with the hope that my telomeres will follow.
If you’re up for a challenge, I invite you to join me. You have nothing to lose but your diabetes, high cholesterol, compromised immune system, weak muscles, beer belly, and/or big fat ass. We will make extraordinary gains together and you will fall in love with your new, hard earned, physique, and the new feelings and lifestyle, free from anxiety, depression, and brain fog, that accompany it. This 90 Day Challenge is about bringing it all together and finishing strong as I take my final telomere test. No matter what your primary objective, you can become the best YOU you’ve ever thought possible.
Biomarkers of Aging Goals
Most of the Biomarkers of Aging I discuss come from an excellent book called Biomarkers: The 10 Keys to Prolonging Vitality written by William Evans, Ph.D. and Irwin Rosenberg, M.D. from the USDA Human Nutrition Research Center on Aging at Tufts University. I have added a few of my own (Resting Heart Rate and Heart Rate Variability) and will continue to add more. This list, as it stands, is grossly inadequate. In the coming months, I will write about adding a considerable number of biomarkers taken from hair, urine, and blood samples. These biomarkers are more difficult and expensive to collect and measure. They will include: various heavy metals levels, Testosterone, HGH, Vitamin D, C Reactive Protein, among many others. Stay tuned.
Strength and Lean Muscle Mass
I am not all that interested in adding a ton of lean muscle mass because I already have what I believe is enough. That being said, the more lean muscle mass one has, the better one’s Basal Metabolic Rate and therefore, the lower one’s body fat. I will do precisely what I have been doing (Stronglifts) with some minor variations. It’s working. I fully expect to continue making gains. I will also get back on creatine January 1.
Goals – Bench Press – 275 for 5×5; Squat – 315 for 5×5; Deadlift 365 for 1×5
This, in my view, is one of the most important biomarkers of aging. It’s also one we have a considerable amount of control over. I intend to reduce mine to 12%. I am concerned about my ability to meet this objective because even when I was doing a ton of cardio and fasting two days a week, I never fell much lower than 18%. This, in my view, is not a function of “just getting older” as we so often hear. Rather, I suspect it is the result of a lifetime of accumulated damage resulting in Insulin Resistance.
Here are charts demonstrating healthy body fat levels by age and gender.
I can practically hear you wondering, “How the hell are you going to get to 12% body fat when you couldn’t get much lower than 18% when you literally ate nothing two days a week?” I will begin the year with a 16:8 eating schedule. That means I fast for 16 hours daily and compress my feeding time into an 8 hour window. I essentially just skip breakfast. Two weeks later I will transition to 20:4. Two weeks after that I will move to OMAD (One Meal A Day) with 16:8 on weekends. I will not count calories, but calorie consumption will fall because my stomach will shrink and one can only consume a limited amount of food in a single sitting. Contrary to conventional wisdom, I do not expect to shrivel up and lose all my muscle mass. Rather, I fully expect to grow stronger and pack on more lean muscle mass while simultaneously dropping body fat. Sounds counterintuitive, right? I will also be doing at least an hour of cardio thrice weekly and HIIT twice weekly. I have a couple of interesting surprises lined up for how I intend to slay body fat. If this intrigues you, stick around for a few months.
Body Fat Goal – 12%
Insulin Sensitivity is, in my view, the MOST important Biomarker of Aging. If the Grim Reaper has predecessors, this is the most devastatingly common one. Remember, I began this quest fat and prediabetic with a fasting plasma glucose level of 100. I have since gotten my blood sugar under control, but I do not believe I am anywhere near as insulin sensitive as I could be. I have a glucose/ketone meter and will be periodically checking my levels. Exercise, eating healthy, and most especially, intermittent fasting, will ensure I continue to improve my insulin sensitivity.
Insulin Sensitivity Goal – Fasting Blood Glucose of 70
Cholesterol tends to rise with age. Nevertheless, a healthy level of total cholesterol, HDL, LDL, and Triglycerides tends to be relatively the same no matter what one’s age. Because I aim to be 24 years, old biologically speaking, my cholesterol goals are:
Total Cholesterol – 125
Triglycerides – 100
LDL – 40
HDL – 75
This is doable for anyone, no matter what your current levels. Some, no doubt, will have to work harder. My plan for managing my cholesterol includes a healthy diet, Stronglifts, cardio, and OMAD.
Cholesterol Goal – Total Cholesterol – 125, Triglycerides – 100 , LDL – 40, HDL – 75
Healthy blood pressure is healthy blood pressure. It is age independent, though systolic blood pressure often rises with age, while the diastolic blood pressure tends to fall. My diet and rigorous exercise routine will ensure I maintain my blood pressure goal. I own a blood pressure cuff and will continue to sporadically monitor it.
Blood Pressure Goal – Under 120/80
Resting Heart Rate
Resting Heart Rate is one of the Biomarkers of Aging I have decided to add. Nobody I’ve read or listened to stresses its importance, but I think it is critical. A low, healthy resting heart rate is an excellent reflection of overall cardiovascular health. The lower your RHR, the less work your heart has to do to keep you alive. If you are doing a considerable amount of endurance training, your resting heart rate will drop like a rock from a skyscraper. The cardio and HIIT part of my regimen will get my RHR where I’d like it to be. Meditation and cold showers also help improve RHR.
Resting Heart Rate Goal – 48 BPM
Heart Rate Variability
HRV is an often overlooked fitness tool and Biomarker of Aging. A healthy heart beat contains irregularities. It’s not a clock and you don’t want it to act like one. Even if your heart rate is 60 beats per minute, that doesn’t mean that your heart beats once every second. Instead, there is variation among the intervals between your heartbeats. The interval between successive heartbeats can be, for example, 0.5 seconds between two succeeding beats and 1.5 seconds between the next two. Heart Rate Variability is a measure which indicates how much variation there is in your heartbeats within a specific timeframe . If the intervals between your heartbeats are rather constant, your HRV is low. If their length varies, your HRV is high. Aging is strongly associated with a declining HRV. Endurance training, endurance training, and more endurance training is the only way to considerably improve one’s HRV.
Heart Rate Variability Goal – 75
Aerobic capacity is one of the most important components of overall physical fitness. I will use VO2 Max to measure it. In the simplest terms, VO2 is the measurement of the amount of oxygen you absorb and consume during exercise. VO2 Max varies according to a number of factors, including red blood cell count, muscle adaptation to exercise, genetics, weight, and the volume of blood your heart can pump . Both my Garmin watch and Fitbit use an algorithm to determine wearer’s VO2 Max. HIIT and tons of cycling will help me reach my VO2 Max Goal.
VO2 Max Goal – 60
Basal Metabolic Rate
Basal Metabolic Rate is the rate at which the body uses energy while at rest to keep vital functions going, such as breathing and keeping warm. When you lose weight, your BMR decreases as you require fewer calories per day. In contrast, when you gain dense, heavier muscle, your BMR will increase. The experts say metabolic rate decreases as you age because muscle mass declines by five to 10 percent each decade after the age of 30. Ha! We’ll show them that not only need we not lose muscle mass after age 30, but we can pack it on. Yes, even if you are 70, you too can pack on lean muscle mass, thereby improving your BMR. Fitbit uses an algorithm to estimate BMR. Stronglifts, a healthy diet, and cardio will be the therapies I utilize to maintain and/or improve my BMR.
BMR Goal – 1,800
Body Temperature Regulation
This, to the best of my knowledge, is not measurable. I will continue taking cold showers ranging between one and ten minutes in duration. Painfully, the water emerges from the tap considerably colder during winter months than summer. I will also make it a point to use the sauna a couple times a week.
No Goal – Cold Shower Daily and Use Sauna a Couple Times a Week
If your bones aren’t dense and strong, they will break. Osteoporosis and low bone mass are currently estimated to be a major public health threat for almost 44 million U.S. women and men aged 50 and older . The 44 million people with either osteoporosis or low bone mass represent 55 percent of the people aged 50 and older in the United States . While my body fat scale tells me my bone percentage, it cannot measure the density of my bones. One would have to get an expensive DXA test to truly measure bone density. I do not have bone density issues, so it is not something I will focus on. One improves bone density by lifting heavy weight. Stronglifts is what I will continue doing to maintain and improve my bone density.
No Bone Density Goal
Balance is especially critical for the elderly. If one lacks balance, he or she will fall and break a bone or suffer some similar serious injury. Balance, like muscle mass, is something even elderly people can develop with some time and effort. I will work on my balance by continuing to advance my yoga practice. The more advanced poses require an incredible amount of strength and balance. Balance is not really measurable (yet), but if you spend some time a few times a week challenging yourself, you will make substantial gains.
Balance Goals – Walk On Hands 15 Seconds, Crow Pose, Peacock Pose, Extended Hand To Toe Pose (Front and Side), Forearm Stand Scorpion Pose
What You Can Do to Participate
You may be wondering how you can participate in the 90 Day Reversing My Age Wellness Challenge. First, select one or a few objectives. They can be literally just about anything. Some good ones include: lose x lbs, reduce body fat to x percent, bench press x lbs, reduce blood pressure and/or cholesterol to healthy levels, get off medications, reverse diabetes/pre-diabetes, reduce anxiety and/or depression, establish a meditation and or yoga practice, run a marathon, etc. Second, take baseline measurements and photos. Create a very specific plan that will enable you to achieve your goals. Stick to it! If you trip up, that’s ok, just get back to your regimen. 90 days really isn’t that long. At the end, on April 1, take ending measurements and photos. You will be ecstatic. I promise. Just taking that first step is the hardest part.
Below is a general outline of my regimen:
These Biomarkers of Aging may seem like an overwhelming list. Blood pressure? Resting Heart Rate? Cholesterol? You’re thinking, “John, I can’t do anything about these numbers.” BOLOGNA! We can. Together we will demonstrate what an incredible degree of control we can exert over most of these biomarkers. Furthermore, while I am attempting to reverse my age, your goal should be something more reasonably attainable that will improve the overall quality of your life. We may not lengthen our telomeres, but we will unquestionably be happier, healthier, and stronger.
It only takes a month for a caterpillar to turn into a butterfly. I’m asking for three months of hard work and dedication. That’s enough time to fundamentally alter your appearance and to develop habits that could potentially change the trajectory of your life.