WHAT IS THE MINIMUM EFFECTIVE DOSE
At what temperature does water boil?
100 degrees Celsius at standard room temperature.
So what happens if you boil the water at 150 degrees? Does it become more boiled?
No. It just uses up more energy for no further gains.
LOOK GOOD NAKED IN JUST 36 MINS PER WEEK
Just like with your training and exercise program, there is a stage where there is a point of diminishing returns - where your effort and hard work no longer results in a positive outcome.
The Principle of Diminishing Returns explains how the magnitude of adaptation diminishes with greater training volumes or durations at any given time. One example is how additional sets of weight training yield progressively less benefit (see Strength Dose-Response Curve).
Coming from a juggling act between different sporting codes and trying to be the best in each, my focus was efficiency. Especially in the sport of CrossFit.
I myself, being 6’3” and weighing 105kg (at the time), the odds didn't really shape in my favor to be the world’s number 1. Each workout I was faced with an uphill battle against smaller competitors who were not only lighter than I, they could move faster and were also shorter. This meant that their range of motion was far less than mine. (This is advantageous in CrossFit as you have to complete the movement to a full range of motion, so having a shorter range of motion meant that your total movement length was less).
For many years, I used this uphill battle as motivation. I had to work harder than others just to keep up. One of my coaches at the time questioned me about my intent for the sport – he quietly mentioned that if I wanted to get to where I wanted to be, then I should probably choose another sport.
In all fairness he was right. But I never wanted to admit defeat like that and give up just because my frame wasn't the perfect fit for the sport. So I used this at motivation to prove him (and others) wrong.
Each day, I questioned myself.
Each workout, I constantly fought demons inside my head telling me to give up, questioning myself if I really wanted this.
It was hard work! Very hard work. Trying to be efficient in all areas of fitness. I had to have the skills of a gymnast, the endurance of a runner and the strength of a power athlete. The strength came easy. That was something I was built for. But can you imagine a 6’3”, 105kg gymnast?! It’s not something that comes easy.
So this is where the obsession of efficiency came in. I was always looking at how I could become more efficient. Being larger and heavier, it cost me more energy for every workout. For every movement, I had to move not only my heavier body, but an external weight as well, further than everyone else for the same outcome. I was boiling water at 150 degrees where everyone else was boiling water at 100.
I set myself a 4 year goal. I wanted to hit certain milestones over the 4 years. I hit all of them except for one - being number 1. But for every other goal I set for myself, I accomplished.
When I decided to retire, I was burnt out. My adrenals were shot. My libido was that of a 70 year old male (literally). On the outside I looked healthy, but on the inside was a different story. For 10 years I was training at the highest level for multiple sports. I had had enough.
I didn't want to run another meter, lift another weight or do another pull up. I wanted nothing more than to hide and walk away from the fitness industry.
For too many months I enjoyed the “retired” life, although I then saw my health start to deteriorate. There was no way I was ever going back to training for multiple hours a day. There was no way I was going to spend the money on preventing any breakdowns in my body through sports therapy such as Chiro, Osteo and physiotherapy. There was no way I was ever going to sacrifice more time than I was already giving.
All I wanted was to "look good naked" and to live a long life.
THE ULTIMATE EFFICIENT HACK!
If you want to be the very best in the world, with a lifelong dedication to the ONE ultimate goal, then STOP reading now.
The Minimum Effective Dose.
What is the least amount of time and resources need to yield the most amount of results.
To be the best, you need to put in the work. In Malcom Gladwell’s book, ‘Outliers’, he says that “10,000 hours is the magic number for greatness”. The Minimum Effective Dose is well short of 10,000 hours.
We’re not going for greatness, we’re going for balance. The Minimum Effective Dose (MED) is going for efficiency.
Every adaptation in our body comes from a hormonal response.
To create that response there needs to be a stimulus - Who would have thought? Shocking, right? Take for example Cold Termogenisis (CT).
CT is a process in which you intentionally apply cold temperatures to certain parts of your body.
Years of research now shows this can cause significant increases in metabolism and calorie burning, can increase insulin sensitivity and help control blood glucose levels, reduce systemic inflammation, help with sleep and recovery, and potentially fight certain types of cancer as well as promote overall longevity.
10-15 mins of shivering has been shown to burn the same amount of calories from 60 mins of moderate exercise.
So you get ALL of the same benefits from exercise, without the exercise!
The response from the release of hormones including IGF-1 - a pre-cursor to Growth Hormone.
So it’s the hormonal response that is responsible for the changes in body composition, NOT the exercise. The exercise is what stimulates the hormone response.
So for the Minimum Effective Dose to work, all we need to do is stimulate the muscles enough to release the hormones to induce a growth response.
Tim Ferris in his book, The 4 hour Body states that the Minimum Effective Dose (MED) for the shoulders is 80 seconds at a 9kg resistance. Doug McGuff in his book Body By Science doesn't necessarily put a time frame on it although his proven theory is taking the muscle group of choice to complete exhaustion in one set. Following Doug’s recommended Big 5 workout this usually equates to about 2 minutes per muscle group. Jon Bruney, creator of Neuromass has a similar protocol of taking the muscle to complete exhaustion from about 2 minutes of stimulation.
Recovery times from this stress is anywhere from 7-10 days, so this means that following any of the protocols from the 3 people above means that you can have a full body workout in anywhere in 6 to 15 minutes once every 7-10 days!
Ben Greenfield in his article https://bengreenfieldfitness.com/2015/09/how-to-look-good-naked-and-live-a-long-time/ summarises fitness in 5 different areas and endorses the super slow HIT strength and hypertrophy training from Doug McGuff.
The Minimum Effective Dose for Fitness
1: Maintenance of cardiovascular fitness.
Definition: Cardiovascular fitness is simply defined as the maximum amount of oxygen you can utilize, also known as your VO2 max.
How to do it: Based on the results of the research study “High-intensity interval training every second week maintains VO2max in soccer players during off-season.“, the minimum effective dose for cardiovascular fitness maintenance is five 4-minute high intensity rounds at 87-97% of your maximum heart rate, with approximately 4 minutes (full recovery) after each round to allow you to recover sufficiently.
Summary: For the minimum effective dose of cardiovascular fitness perform five 4 minute hard efforts with full recoveries once every two weeks.
2: Maximum muscle endurance and aerobic capacity.
Definition: The amount of work your muscles can endure and the amount of time you can “go to battle” – keeping your force output high.
How to do it: For improving muscle endurance while simultaneously increased aerobic capacity, nothing beats Tabata sets. In this study, four times a week for four weeks, participants performed one single four-minute Tabata protocol (that's 20 seconds all-out exercise, followed by 10 seconds full rest) with a single exercise. In this case, exercise choices included burpees, mountain climbers, jumping jacks, or squat thrusts, but for Tabatas, you could also use things such as running, treadmill, indoor or outdoor cycling, rowing, kettlebell swings, etc. Compared to four steady-state 30 minute treadmill exercise protocols per week in the control group, the Tabata group (which, if you do the math, was performing just 16 total minutes of exercise per week) saw massive gains in both aerobic capacity and muscle endurance, and there's plenty more Tabata research to go around.
Summary: In most studies, 2-4 Tabata sessions per week are used. My recommendation is to target two Tabata sessions per week, especially if you're doing everything else included in this article.
3: Maintenance of ideal ratios of strength and muscle mass.
Definition: The maximum amount of strength you can muster in one tightly-packed group of muscle fibers. In other words: hard, wiry strength. Paul Jaminet at the Perfect Health Diet recently wrote an excellent article outlining why this is a better approach compared to purely trying to pack on as much muscle fiber as possible.
How to do it: Sure, you can get strong and muscular doing Crossfit-esque workouts that require maximum deadlifts in two minutes or ungodly amounts of snatch reps or bodybuilding workouts that have you doing bicep curls until you're bleeding out the eyeballs, but none of that is sustainable when it comes to maximizing longevity. Remember, you want to be able to do maintain strength and muscle when you're 20, 40, 60 and 80 years old. For this, I recommend simply two workouts per week:
1) A super-slow lifting protocol exactly as described by Doug McGuff in his book “Body By Science” – specifically 12-20 minutes of just a few choice multi-joint exercises with extremely slow, controlled lifting (30-60 seconds per rep) and relatively high weights
1. Super slow upper body push (e.g. overhead press)
2. Super slow upper body pull (e.g. pull-up)
3. Super slow lower body push (e.g. squat)
4. Super slow lower body pull (e.g. deadlift)
2) A high intensity body weight circuit program exactly as described in this study, in which a pair of researchers designed a 7 minute workout to maintain strength and muscle in as little time as possible. Each exercise below is simply to be performed for 30 seconds with 10 seconds of rest in between exercises.
1. Jumping jack
2. Wall sits
9. Running in place with high knees
11. Pushups with rotation
12. Side planks
Summary: Do two strength workouts per week – one with slow controlled heavy lifting and one with high intensity, light, body weight-esque movements.
4. Maximum mitochondrial density.
Definition: Mitochondria are the power plants of your cells, mitochondrial biogenesis is the creation of new mitochondria, and mitochondrial density is simply having as many mitochondria packed into your muscles as possible so that you can utilize more fat and more glucose.
How to do it: In this study, a workout consisting of four 30-second all-out cycling sprints significantly activated mitochondrial biogenesis in the skeletal muscle of human subjects. In another study, three sets of five 4-second treadmill sprints with 20 seconds of rest in between each sprint, performed three times per week did the same thing. One other study showed four to six 30 second bouts of all-out sprint cycling with four minutes of rest done three times a week also improved important components of mitochondrial health. As you can see, when it comes to maximizing mitochondrial density, it all comes down to short, intense sprints.
Summary: The Tabata sets I already mentioned will likely cover most of your mitochondrial bases, but if you have just a bit more time to spare, then either after your strength workouts or your stamina workouts, perform a few brief sets of very intense sprints (e.g. five 4-30 second sprints). Yes, you read that right: these sprints can be as short as 4 seconds. Consider this to be the icing on the cake, and squeeze it in where it's convenient. Alternatively, you could just mark one spot on your calendar once every week or two to perform four to six 30 second bouts of all-out sprint cycling with four minutes of rest between each bout.
5. Optimised fat burning, metabolic efficiency and blood sugar control.
Definition: Maximizing the body's ability to generate ketones and burn fatty acids as a primary source of fuel, while avoiding frequent fluctuations in blood sugar.
How to do it: I have a very comprehensive podcast on simple steps to turning yourself into a fat burning machine, and it basically comes down to this:
1) Do one short, aerobic workout as many mornings as possible for a week, preferably in an overnight fasted state.
2) Avoid frequent snacking.
3) Save all your carb intake for the end of the day and up until that point eat high amounts of healthy fats with moderate amounts of proteins.
4) Stay mildly physically active all day long (e.g. standing workstation, jumping jack breaks, etc.).
5) Stay anti-fragile by exposing your body to frequent fluctuations in cold and hot temperatures.
Summary: As you can see, this step is more lifestyle based. Start off each day, before eating, with 10-30 minutes of very light activity (yoga, walking the dog, doing yard chores, etc.), take at least one cold shower each day, visit the sauna at least once per week, avoid non-nutrient dense carbohydrates, and be as active as possible all day long. One research study shows that you can even get excellent blood glucose controlling results with something as simple as a 15 minute walk after your main meal of the day.
6. Stamina (optional, but highly recommended).
Definition: The ability to move at low-to-moderate intensities for 90+ minutes (it's at about the 90 minute mark when your glycogen levels become depleted and you must significantly begin to rely upon fat as a fuel).
How to do it: Stamina isn't really entirely necessary for looking good naked or living a long a time, but I personally like to know that if necessary I could hunt down an animal, ride my bicycle to a nearby city, hike over a mountain range, or survive for a significant amount of time in a zombie apocalypse. Contrary to popular belief held among marathoners and triathletes, this does not require a 2-3 hour death march every weekend. The human body, as I talk about in my book “Beyond Training“, is actually quite good at going for long periods of time, and only requires brief dips and forays into stamina. So I recommend that one to two times per month, you go do something long, like a backpack hike, a big bike ride, a Bikram yoga session, or anything else that combines low-to-moderate physical activity intensities, endurance, and mental focus.
Summary: Again, unless you're signed up for something like an obstacle race, a bicycling century, a triathlon or a marathon, this last step isn't really necessary, but should you want to add the stamina feather to your cap, just get out and do something that takes 90+ minutes at least once per month. If you really want to challenge yourself, you could even make that session something like “The Hardest Workout In The World“, a Spartan race, or any other crazy fitness adventure from rafting to rock climbing. The rest of your innate physical endurance will easily be built by simply ensuring you keep your butt out of a chair all day long.
Summary & A Done-For-You Approach
So that's it. Once you put it all together, it's actually not too daunting:
• To maintain your cardiovascular fitness and VO2 max, do five 4-minute intense intervals once every two weeks.
• To improve your aerobic capacity and muscle endurance, do 2-3 Tabata sets a week.
• To maintain the ultimate combination of strength and muscle mass, do one 12-20 minute super-slow strength session per week and one 7-14 minute high intensity body weight workout per week.
• To maximize mitochondrial density, do a short series of sprint bursts one to three times per week (e.g. five 4-second all-out sprints with 20 seconds of rest).
• To increase fat burning and metabolic efficiency, include fasting, avoid snacking, avoid sitting, and figure out ways to engage in low-level physical activity all day long.
• To increase stamina, do something 90+ minutes at low-to-moderate intensity one to two times per month.
I recently completed my own study by combining different areas from the experts mentioned above, while eating at my calorie baseline so dietary input did not hinder or promote any adaptations.
Before commencing the study, I had a DEXA scan & I tested my:
1RM Back Squat
1RM Bench Press
My MED workout was completed in only 36 minutes per week.
Monday & Friday:
a. 1/2 rep (lifting the barbel only to my knees) Deadlift - 1x3@95% + 1x5@85%<br< a="">>b. Back Squat - 3x3
c. Jon Bruney’s Neuromass workout at 2 mins for Chest, Back & Legs
Total Work Time = 9 minutes
5 x Tabata sets on the Aerodyne
Total Work Time = 16 minutes
Total Work Time = 36 minutes
* Not including warm up & rest times as this can vary for different days and different individuals mobility and fitness needs.
0.5kg reduction in fat
+ 1.5kg in muscle
+ 30kg PB in my deadlift
+ 15kg PB Back Squat
+ 5kg PB Bench Press
NOTE: without doing any bench press for 12 weeks
17% increase in Maximum Muscle Endurance and Aerobic Capacity
2 second PB in 400m Sprint
21 second PB on 800m sprint
NOTE: without doing any running at all for 12 weeks so the improvements were not correlated with a technical improvement in my running technique.
THE MINIMUM EFFECTIVE DOSE
DOES NOT =
MINIMUM AMOUNT OF EFFORT
To create the hormonal response you need to STRESS the body.
To stress the body, you must work AS HARD AS POSSIBLE when it’s time to work.
For me, it’s a no brainer.
I would rather work my arse off and go to the dark side for a short amount of time to save wasting TIME in the gym or throughout the week for the same result.
Wouldn't you want to get in the best shape of your life in only 36 mins per week?