Why Less is More and How Doing Less Can Get You Better Results | The Hart of Health Podcast S1 E21
Joané & Jonathan: (00:05)
Hi, I’m Joané Hart and I am Jonathan Hart. This is The Hart of Health. A show where we focus mainly on health and self-optimization. Here, we like to talk about our experiences and knowledge when it comes to health and biohacking. We hope you enjoy the show.
Hi, everyone on today’s podcast, we are going to talk about the concept of less being more.
A lot of people seem to act like more, is always more.
More is always better.
Yeah. It’s always better to do more because more of a good thing can only be good, right?
Yeah. Like if you start earning a lot of money, work more, work harder, get even more, you know? When you work out, just start working out more, working out longer, working out harder and more, more, more.
Diet hard. Diet harder.
Yes. We can go into buying stuff. Like people buy possessions and they just buy more and more and more and more. And they just think that the more you have the better it is. So the whole idea of less being more can apply to a lot of things.
Yeah. It is definitely more along the lines of being minimalist and optimal. Often, people do way too much that it stops becoming optimal for them.
Yes. Let’s start with diet. For example, there are a lot of health tips out there. There are a lot of supplements out there, but you’ll see a lot of people who want to be healthy, but they will buy 30 supplements and just think the more things they take, the better it is for them. The more vitamin C they have, the better it is for them. The more vegetables they eat, the better it is for them. So they just down green juice after green juice and have a lot of supplements every day. Or ton of protein. The more protein, the better, you know? So it’s always this thing of like, Oh, protein is good for you and supplements are good for you. More, more, more! Let’s take as many as we can before we go broke. Supplements are expensive, but people will just spend a lot of money on supplements just because they think that getting in a lot supplements is good. The more vitamins and minerals you get the better.
Yeah. A lot of supplements are sort of based off real world products or plants or whatever. They identify it as being beneficial and then extracted from that. And everyone expects that if you take a lot of this extraction, you’re going to get a positive benefit where it’s not necessarily the case. I know, especially with calcium supplements, there’s been a lot of negative feedback on taking calcium supplements because it gives you such a large bolus, a large amount, of calcium in one shot. Instead of it being something more natural like bone meal or from a mineral water source or eggshells or whatever, where your body can absorb it at a more natural rate.
Yes. You also get people that think taking high doses of antioxidants is good because people say antioxidants are good. Let’s supplement with high dosages. Vitamin C also counts as an antioxidant. Same with vitamin E and vitamin A, but people will have really high doses of these vitamins and these antioxidants. If you do that after a workout, for example, having high doses of antioxidants can counteract a lot of the benefits that you get from exercise because exercise puts a bit of stress on your body, which is what helps you get a lot of the benefits. Then if you’re taking high doses of antioxidants after working out, it can lower that stress too much to the point where you’re not getting any muscle building or muscle repair benefits from it. So more is not necessarily better.
Even just exercising. You think, people say running is good, So running hundreds of miles must be better. We should run farther and run more every day. Then you just see how much strain these people put on their bodies who do like ultra marathons, where they run hundreds of miles. You can see more is not necessarily always better because you can really do a lot of damage by exercising way too much. If you overtrain, if you don’t give your body enough time to rest you, it will reverse a lot of the benefits that you were supposed to get from exercising and your body will just be stressed out and you’ll get a lot of other negative effects.
Yeah. That’s a classic overtraining model. You think, I’ve just got to work harder than everyone else to win or to get where you want be. You’ve just got to work hard. And it’s actually not about working hard. It’s about working smart and not a lot of people say that, but no one seems to really take it to heart and the way they go about trying to achieve their goals. I just see a lot of people just think like, I’ve just got to grind harder. I’ve just got to keep grinding harder. I mean, David Goggins is a very good example of that and he’s just tried to grind everything out. Now he’s had to be forced into stretching like two hours a day to try and undo some of the damage he’s done from pushing himself so far.
So, I get the point. You can’t push yourself too far. A lot of people don’t push themselves enough. But what we’re really talking about is trying to find the optimal level. You don’t want to be pushing yourself past the point of where it is optimal, unless you’re trying to toughen up and that’s your goal, because then obviously the tougher you get the better. But if you’re actually trying to be more fit or healthier or get to a more pragmatic goal, other than just being tougher, then less is often more because often people are doing way too much where there’s an optimal amount of exercise, optimal amount of dieting or supplements that you can use to greater effect than if you’re just going flat out and trying to overdo everything.
Yes. It’s definitely about finding the right balance. You don’t want to be like David Goggins who ran ultra marathons and got like the world pull up record and did a lot of things that really put a lot of strain on his body. You don’t necessarily want to do that. But for the person who’s sitting on the couch, who hasn’t been doing much, for that person doing more is better, currently. Moving more will be better. Eating more healthy foods will be better. Then at a certain point, if they’re exercising regularly and at a certain intensity, they don’t really want to push past that because then more isn’t better. So yes, more can be better up until a certain point. But if you’re already exercising regularly, already pushing your body to a certain extent, then don’t push even harder, but allow your body time to rest.
I always think of people who wake up early every morning to work out, regardless of what time they went to bed the previous night or how their bodies are feeling, you know? They could be tired or stressed out. Their bodies might actually need some rest and they’ll get up at four in the morning to go and do a very hard workout when it might have been way better for them just to sleep a bit more and rest and allow their body’s time to recover. But they just think they need to work out more and if I take time to rest instead, that’s going to be bad. If you’re resting all the time, it’s not necessarily good. But you don’t need to get up at four in the morning every day to work out if your body is tired and you went to bed late the night before.
Yes, sleep is obviously our number one pillar of health. So there’s also an optimal amount of sleep. And that differs from individual to individual. But often people are sacrificing the most important pillar of health for things like exercise or social interactions. I do feel like that’s a mistake because you almost need to make sure that the main pillar of health as sleep, is the one that you sort of look after the most first and then let everything else fall in place behind that one. So rather get your sleep sorted first and then start focusing on your diet and then start focusing on your exercise and then start focusing on your social interactions. Then prioritizing social interactions first, going out and partying late and saying like, ” I’m being social so I’m being healthy”. Yeah, but you’re also neglecting your main pillar of health there. What you actually want to try and do is figure out the optimal level of each of these factors and get them to work together and become like a cohesive sort of routine. You don’t even have to have a set routine, but just sort of get a balance between all of them and just prioritize the more important ones before you focus on the less important ones.
Yeah. So just to recap, we think the four pillars of health are sleep, social interactions, diet and exercise.
Social interactions is last.
Yes. So if we had to list them in order of importance, it’s sleep first, then diet, then exercise and then social interactions. Being social is very important for your health. But if you’re just going to focus on being social and now you’re not getting enough sleep because you’re partying late into the night, you’re feeling terrible the next day. So you don’t exercise. What do people eat when they’re partying? It’s usually not healthy foods. And now you’re pairing your social activities with unhealthy food. So you shouldn’t do one and sacrifice the others. You can’t just focus on your diet, but I’m only getting three hours of sleep, plus I’m not being social at all. And maybe I’m exercising too much as well. So now it’s also causing harm to your body. You should get a good balance between the four pillars of health.
Yeah and this is where the whole list is more comes in. You’re saying that, don’t party until 3:00 AM with your friends, stop at 11 or whatever you think is sort of like a middle ground. Where it’s still late enough so that your friends aren’t super disappointed or it’s not past midnight really. You still got to get the social interaction. You just need a little bit less of it so that you can get more out of your health in all the other aspects. And it almost applies to all of these principles. You don’t want to be sleeping for 10 or 11 hours because then you’re also being very inactive and wasting a lot of your time for the day. And with diet, if you diet too strictly and too hard, you’re often going to get sort of a burnout effect and then you rebel and go crazy on your diet.
And just start eating a whole bunch of junk food. With exercise, if you overdo it, you get over-trained and you have a high chance of getting injured when you over-train. You also become completely demotivated. And you almost just want to never exercise again when you become over-trained. So, with all of these aspects, you can do too much. So we just needed to try and get that balance. Like you said, where it’s the right amount. You want to find what the optimal amount is for you and for each person it is different. We were talking about David Goggins, or you can even look at Cameron Hanes or Jocko Willink, these guys, they push themselves really hard every day it seems. They might be able to withstand that kind of thing and you might not do not be able to. So you’ve got to actually figure out what your optimal zone is for each of those factors.
Yeah definitely. I know a lot of these people get up early to train. You also don’t want to be the person who parties until three in the morning, gets four hours of sleep and then gets up early because you have to get this workout in because successful people wake up early. And so now you’ve gone to bed late and if you stay up a bit later the night before, it’s not ideal. If you know that you can sleep later the next morning and catch up on sleep and you don’t have to wake up early to go and smash a workout, that’s way better for you. I’ve experienced it personally where being too restrictive with my diet or dieting too much, fasting too much and doing too much, affected my health negatively. I ended up losing my period because I was just going all out too hard and it put too much stress on my body. There were a lot of factors involved. You know, I was fasting a lot. I was trying to be very restrictive with my diet. I was working a lot. I was doing more and more and more and more. And that ended up really forcing me to slow down because of how it affected my health.
The more ended up being less effective.
And then I started doing less and achieving more and I’ve felt better. My hormones started balancing out. I feel better in general and it’s easier to get a lot of things done. Yes, I’m not as productive as I used to be. I’m not ticking off as many tasks every day, but I’m resting more. I am slowing down more and I’ve actually gained a lot from doing less.
The whole point of this is to show that you don’t have to go flat out to get the results. I suppose it will also help to say like the opposite often, if you’re at a certain level more will still be more. So if you’re sitting on the couch all day everyday, more exercise is definitely going to be more beneficial. If you’re getting four hours, five hours of sleep, more sleep is definitely going to be beneficial
If you’re not doing any work. And you’re just sitting on the couch all day, not earning a living, not doing anything, doing more would be better. Once you’re doing a certain amount, you’re working a certain number of hours a day, you’re moving your body a few times a week, you’re eating a healthy diet you’re doing certain things then from that point, more is not better.
Yeah and the point is different for each person.
Yeah. The point is different for each person and it depends. In some areas of your life, doing a little bit more could be better, but doing a little bit less in other areas could be better.
Yeah. You might be underachieving in certain aspects and overachieving in others. So you might actually, by trying to find a balance in all of them, actually getting everything in the right sort of optimal zone. So, like we said, a good example is people sacrificing sleep for exercise. They’re overachieving in exercise and they’re underachieving in sleep. So just by increasing their sleep a bit more and reducing their exercise, they’ll probably end up balancing their optimal health gains in that situation.
You can go and sit and make a list of the different things you’re working on in life in the different areas of your life. And try to determine if there are certain areas that you could be focusing on a little bit more, putting in a little bit more effort into where a little bit more will be better. Say, if you’re not talking to your friends at all, you’re not being very social, being a little bit more social could be on your list. But then what if you’ve been working too much, especially since a lot of people have started working from home and now it’s way easier to work more because you, you can wake up and put your laptop on immediately and only switch it off when you go to bed. There’s no, “from this time to this time I’m driving home so it gives my brain some time to shut down and start focusing on other things”. People are spending a lot more time working. You can do an analysis, write out how your life has been and see where you can make some changes and try to find your balance.
Yeah. So this does fit into like a lot of what we say about N of one and self experimentation. It does sort of lend itself towards biohacking and becoming optimal in your life. The word optimal is actually the perfect word for it because, you’re trying to find the exact point at which you get the best benefits. And I do think that we said less is more for the title because the people who are going to be listening to this are probably more likely going to be doing too much in certain aspects than doing too little in certain aspects. But obviously you want to cover all bases. So yes, more can be more, but you’re trying to find the perfect point and the only way you’re going to do that is by changing it up.
So you can see, Oh, when I get seven hours of sleep, instead of four hours of sleep, I feel like a new person. Boom. You already noticed that by getting more of this, I gained a benefit. Or you can see like, Oh, I’ve been getting 10 of sleep, but I’m still fine with eight, you know? Now, I have an extra two hours to pursue a goal that I’ve been dreaming to try and get my entire life, you know? So if you cut back on exercise, do you really actually start losing gains or anything like that? A lot of people are often doing something too much that, and they’re not even tracking like how they’re progressing, so they’re just assuming that because they’re working out every day that they’re going to be getting the optimal benefits just because other people work out every day.
No, try and actually track your strength. You can even do muscle mass or whatever you do, actually try to get metrics to see what you’re doing. Then you can see like, Oh, let’s try a week where I only workout three times a week. And then only do that for a month or however you want to do it. It’s really your experiment to do, but you’ve just got to sort of see that if there’s a chance for me to do less and still get the same benefits or even more benefits, why would you want to work harder?
Yeah. More isn’t necessarily optimal. You have to find what is the optimal amount for you.
And so, yeah. Good luck with any experiments you take on
Good luck. Do you take on experiments? Self-experimentation is key to find out what is the best lifestyle for you. Don’t necessarily just copy someone else’s lifestyle blindly and think that it’s going to be optimal for you. For some people, a little bit more exercise might be better. And for you, a little bit less of that same exercise might be best, but experiment and find what’s optimal for you.
Yeah. Find a way to track yourself so you can hold yourself accountable. Maybe for you every day is right but chances are, there’s a point at which a little bit less is actually probably going to give you more because like most things it’s all about pushing yourself and then recovering. So if you don’t give yourself a chance for recovery, you end up losing out. So hopefully this podcast will help you get closer to being your optimal self.
Joané & Jonathan: (23:25)
Yes. Until next week. Bye.