MB #044: A Complete Health & Fitness Program For 2024Jan 01, 2024
It's about that time - 2024 is now here! Most of us are approaching that point where we've gotten a little sick of eating junk food, but sadly it still tastes "oh so good" and is hard to put down. The craving hangover is a real thing. We're all beginning to feel the effects of holiday food on our mood, energy, brain fog, and possibly even the tightness of our pants and belts.
January is that natural time when many are jumping into new things to improve health, lifestyle, family life, and more. For instance, on January 2nd there's a whole crew of dads who are launching into our MFF cohort coaching program together. If you missed registration, you can get on the waitlist here for the next one, we do them about 2x a year.
For those who missed out, I wanted to still provide you with a plan of action for your health and fitness in 2024. This is a comprehensive and holistic plan for health in every area of life.
I'm going to outline a plan for you for:
- Fat loss + Longevity
- Strength and muscle gain
- Mental clarity
- Emotional health
- Spiritual health & depth of relationship with God
- Family & community relational health
This issue of The Mission briefing is going to be quite a bit longer than normal, but I encourage you to label it or flag it in your email inbox and earmark it for future reference so you can come back to it over the coming weeks. Read once through, implement the low hanging fruit, digest more, set a reminder on your phone and come back later to re-read and chew some more. This will go deep and be massively beneficial if you'll put it into practice. In 90 days you'll be a new man if you commit fully to this.
I'm convinced this will save you years of heartache, frustration, spiritual apathy, sickness, and money.
Let's dive in!
Fat Loss + Longevity
There are really 3 different food levers you can pull when it comes to changing your weight - whether that be for fat loss, or for adding muscle. Those 3 levers are food timing, food quality, and food amounts.
You can manipulate the timing of food intake, usually in the form of some kind of fasting or you can be intentional about certain kinds of foods at certain times of the day.
You can improve the quality of the food you eat to improve nutrient profiles and cascading health effects from food, both good and bad. All calories are not created equal because a calorie from one kind of food may have negative effects on health and metabolism, and a calorie from a different kind of food can promote health and increase metabolism.
You can then increase or decrease the amount of food you're eating based on your goals. This includes increasing or decreasing certain macronutrients such as protein, fat, and carbohydrate. Examples of this would be increasing protein intake for muscle gain, or decreasing overall calories - especially from fat or carbs - for fat loss.
Often, the first lever men need to pull is the timing lever. This is because most of us have a problematic relationship with food and could greatly benefit from breaking our addiction to it by limiting how many hours per day we can eat. Below are my favorite fasting protocols for clients (and myself personally).
For large amounts of fat loss 25-50+ lbs:
- 2x 42 hr fasts each week with 'Time Restricted Eating' (TRE) on the off days. Sample week:
- Monday: DINNER ONLY
- Tuesday: FAST
- Wednesday: LUNCH + DINNER
- Thursday: DINNER ONLY
- Friday: FAST
- Saturday: LUNCH + DINNER
- Sunday: DINNER ONLY
For minor amounts of fat loss 10-20 lbs:
- 1x 42 hr fasts each week with 16:8 TRE on the off days. Sample week:
- Mon: LUNCH + DINNER
- Tues: LUNCH + DINNER
- Wed: FAST
- Thurs: LUNCH + DINNER
- Friday: LUNCH + DINNER
- Saturday: LUNCH + DINNER
- Sunday: LUNCH + DINNER
As for exercise for fat loss, I would do the following:
- 2x/week full body strength training w/ the following
- Squats 5 reps x 4 sets
- Bench 5 reps x 4 sets
- Deadlifts 5 reps x 4 sets
- Auxiliary strength training in the 8-12 rep range for 3 sets (shoulders, arms, back, etc.)
- 2x/week zone-2 distance running (or rucking)
- 1-2x/week sprinting/true maximal output HIIT
- Daily 8-10,000 steps, 7 days per week
Strength + Muscle Gain
I believe that even people aiming for strength and muscle gain goals should have a regular rhythm of fasting, for both physical health and spiritual reasons. I would fall into this category and below is what that looks like for me and for my strength gain clients.
Strength/Muscle Gain + Longevity Goals:
- 3x/week 'One Meal A Day' (OMAD) and normal 3 meals the other days. Sample week:
- Monday: THREE MEALS
- Tuesday: OMAD
- Wednesday: THREE MEALS
- Thursday: OMAD
- Friday: THREE MEALS
- Saturday: OMAD
- Sunday: THREE MEALS
As for exercise for Strength/Muscle gain, I would do the following:
- 5x/week using my Trifecta Framework™
- Exercise 1: 3 sets x 5 reps
- Exercise 2: 3 sets x 8-12 reps
- Exercise 3: 3 sets x 15-20n reps
- Split each muscle group into its own day:
- Monday: Chest
- Tuesday: Back
- Wednesday: Legs
- Thursday: Shoulders
- Friday: Arms
- Each workout should take only about 30 minutes to complete.
As for nutrition for both fat loss and muscle gain goals, I would focus on hitting 1 gram of protein per pound of ideal body weight. So if you weigh 180 lbs and want to build muscle to 190 lbs, your protein target each day should be 190 grams. If you weigh 180 and need to trim down to 165, your target protein intake should be 165 grams per day.
Once you plan to hit this number, fill in the gaps with additional low-to-moderate carb and some fat sources.
Animal-based eating is best for all of the above goals - both fat loss and strength gain. Note, animal-based is NOT full carnivore. It includes all animal food sources like meat (preferably ruminants), seafood, raw dairy, eggs, honey, non-sweet fruits like avocado, cucumber, squash, etc., and of course, sweet fruits. The best sweet fruits to aim for are berries both for lower sugar content and for high antioxidant value.
The added benefit of changing your food choices and your eating window/meal timing, beyond just those of fat loss or strength, is improved mental clarity and the reduction of brain fog.
Fasting and eating clean ingredients are like wizardry for mental clarity. If you've never fasted before, you'll thank me later!
Blaise Pascal said the following two quotes which are super relevant to my favorite emotional health protocols, and I'll unpack why:
“All of humanity's problems stem from man's inability to sit quietly in a room alone.”
“We are generally the better persuaded by the reasons we discover ourselves than by those given to us by others.”
The greatest asset you have to emotional and mental health is that of slowing down, getting quiet, really feeling your feelings, naming them, processing them silently, then taking them in prayer to the Lord, and letting them go - choosing joy in the end.
It's in those times of silence, reflection, and the painful confrontation with the true feelings we have humming under the surface, that we can actually process emotions and deal with them. Until we consciously identify, name, and process emotion, we will inevitably be emotionally unhealthy - which science has now proven has physical health implications as well.
The practice to incorporate here is that of a mandatory daily period of silence. At least 5 minutes, but aiming for 10-20 minutes will allow time to get past the noise of your own thoughts and begin to feel what you're feeling and properly deal with emotional baggage (which we all have at times) by taking it to the Lord and leaving it at His feet.
Spiritual Health & Depth of Relationship with God
Matthew 7 has one of the most sobering passages in the entire Bible. "Not everyone who says to Me, ‘Lord, Lord,’ will enter the kingdom of heaven, but the one who does the will of My Father who is in heaven will enter. Many will say to Me on that day, ‘Lord, Lord, did we not prophesy in Your name, and in Your name cast out demons, and in Your name perform many miracles?’ And then I will declare to them, ‘I never knew you; leave Me, you who practice lawlessness.’Matthew 7:21-23
These men were prophesying, casting out demons, and performing miracles...in the name of Jesus! Yet they are not welcomed into the Kingdom for 2 reasons:
- They apparently weren't doing the will of the Father
- Jesus never Knew them
What's interesting to consider here is that you can do a bunch of "good" religious activity - even super effective religious activity that creates freedom and healing for others, and not be doing the will of the Father for your life.
Jesus seems to also emphasize that God wants us to experientially know Him, to relate with Him, to abide in Him, to commune with Him, and to walk with Him. Not just do good things. Good things are of no value to us eternally if they're not God's will and they're not birthing out of a deep relationship with him.
All of these details create the foundation for the argument that the most important spiritual formation, spiritual depth, and spiritual health-related activities you can do, are ones that like Mary, place you at the feet of Jesus to experience, know, and hear from him.
So for spiritual health, the practices I recommend are:
- Lectio Divina
- Listening Prayer
Lectio Divina has 4 key steps:
- Read the passage — preferably out loud — two or three times. The first time, just get a feel for the passage. When you read the passage a second time, note the word or phrase to which your attention is being drawn. It is God drawing your attention to this word or phrase. If nothing stood out to you, read the passage a third time. Sometimes a word stands out as clearly while at other times the experience may be more subtle.
- Meditate on the word or phrase that stood out to you. How is God speaking to you through his word? Is there an invitation? Is there a call? Does a memory surface? What image comes to mind? What feelings are evoked? Take your time and allow God to speak to you in the depths of your soul.
- Respond to God who has already been speaking to you. What is your response? What is your prayer? Allow your words to come from a place deep within where the Spirit dwells. Often this looks like recognizing a promise of God or characteristic of God and then praying that back to Him. For instance, as you read Matthew 6 you might be struck by the idea of not being anxious - then you can ask God to help you walk confidently, and become by His Spirit a more joyful person.
- Still yourself and rest in the loving embrace of your Creator. Words are never sufficient to express all that stirs up within. Simply be present to God and savor the moment of silence.
The beauty of Lectio Divina is that it combines reading scripture, scripture application, supplication/prayer, and silence/reflection all in one process.
Listening prayer. This is simply the act of slowing down and listening for the still small voice of God via the Holy Spirit indwelling you. This might be an inkling you feel, a leading, a stirring, a phrase that comes to mind, a picture, etc. When you're reading scripture and a truth is illuminated to you, what's happening is God is acting on your mental faculties that are consecrated to him, to lead you into all truth. He does this with other mental faculties as well - using our creativity, imagination, and intuition. Listening prayer is a great practice to slow down and really let God lead you the way He sees appropriate in the moment. Some days you may sense utter silence from the mouth of God - other days it might feel as though He's downloading things to you rapidly.
Before I step into listening prayer I start with something my friend Steve encouraged me to do and that is to take a moment to rebuke the enemy, ask the Lord to quiet my own thoughts, and ask Him to help me to operate with the mind of Christ as Paul said that we would.
It's interesting when you look at Matthew 4 Jesus responds to the devil tempting him in the wilderness with: ‘It is written, “Man shall not live by bread alone, but by every word (rhema) that comes from the mouth of God.”' Matthew 4:3-4 (ESV)
The Greek word rhema more closely means a spoken word made by a living voice or a thing spoken. Logos could be seen as what someone has said - past tense. It's more of a statement or an expression of thought or ideologies. Christ is expressing the thoughts and character of the Father, through the Spirit, to the world. So he is the Logos (Word), and he speaks the Rhema (Word).
I say all that to say that Jesus himself quotes the OT in Matthew 4 to highlight that the spoken word of God is the bread that sustains man. These Rhema words are the spoken words of Jesus in scripture, and the spoken words of the Spirit indwelling us, who according to scripture will speak and guide us into all truth. (John 16:13)
The Rhema will always reinforce and align with the logos, otherwise, what you're hearing or sensing isn't rhema from the Lord. It's a counterfeit.
Silence. Hopefully, at this point, I don't think I need to unpack the benefits of silence after discussing the emotional health and spiritual health outcomes of silence. Let it be clear that you should get silent as often as possible.
Fasting. For over a decade as a believer I lacked any kind of intentional prayer life, and I also never fasted. In the last 2 years, all of that has been turned upside down. I'm a firm believer that God designed fasting as a way of helping us source our strength and self-control from The Spirit, and that there would be both spiritual and physical benefits that come from the experience of fasting.
If you're new to fasting, I would start with a dinner-to-dinner fast. Roughly 23 hours. Eat dinner around 6 pm and don't eat again until dinner the next day's dinner. Then the first 12 hours are relatively easy to navigate because most of it you're asleep for. Be sure to schedule a few extra minutes here and there throughout your day to pray, get silent, and ask God to speak to and lead you. Even if you don't feel anything "happening" from fasting, that doesn't mean there isn't. My friend Grant often says that you often reap in a later season things you've sewn in fasting in a previous season.
Family & Community Relational Health
This first practice is one that impacts both spiritual health and family relational health.
It is a daily family devotional.
For me personally, this looks pretty basic. First I read 1 chapter of the Bible to my boys every night, while they lay in bed with the lights off, using a reading light. I then pray with them - usually in response to the passage, or for something I recognize as a need in their life, and then proceed through our nighttime liturgy which goes like this:
- I say "Why do I love you?"
- They say "Because I'm your son."
- I say "Will you always be my son?"
- They say "yes."
- I say "So will I always love you?"
- They say "yes."
- I say "Do you have to earn your love?"
- They say "no."
- I say "Is it given to you?"
- They say "yes."
- I say "How do you please me?"
- They say "By obeying, hugs and kisses, and showing you all our stuff"
The intent behind this liturgy is that my kids learn the difference between love and pleasure. That they learn that they can't earn my love just like they can't earn God's love. But they can influence how pleased I am with them, just the way their obedience pleases the Father. And lastly, I hope they always are mindful of the reality that their earthly father wants them to obey, wants to spend intimate time with them and express love to one another, and to share their heart and life with me. Just like their heavenly Father wants.
Lastly, I want to discuss Sunday Gatherings but encourage you not to check out because you think you have Sunday church gatherings figured out - as this will likely provide you with lots of new things to chew on.
I strongly believe that God is calling certain people in our present time to be part of an expression of community life that aims to look to the early Church’s example for its primary insights about body life. The desire of many people across the West who are "waking up" is that all people would truly participate in the life and gathering of the community, as we mature in our apprenticeship to Jesus and live intentionally in the world.
Many of the accounts in the Book of Acts describe believers gathering differently than what most of us experience today. We see in Acts followers of Jesus who know each other intimately, give themselves over fully to the apostle's doctrines, and share their lives generously and honestly with one another, most often feasting around the table, from house to house.
We believe this family-like life begins to happen as the table is introduced into our regular church rhythms. The Lord's Supper (also called the ‘Love Feast’ in Jude 1:12) is a practice that Jesus himself instituted, and that we are encouraged to practice together each week - a practice of taking communion as part of a full meal and feast with other believers. I personally believe God is appalled by our "wafer and thimble of juice" packages we hand out on Sundays. We see it as necessary for members of God's family to gather together around the table as often as possible, to break bread, fellowship, pray, give themselves to the sound teaching of the apostles, and follow Jesus in all of life.
So here's what I believe - that based on Scripture - a healthy Sunday meeting looks like. A gathering that produces the community relational health that we really need:
- Opening blessing prayer over the time of worship
- The Lord’s Supper (love feast style - Jude 1:12)
- Potluck-Style fellowship feast
- Psalms, songs, and hymns of praise
- Can be played with instruments if you have someone gifted for that, or can be played via YouTube or Spotify
- Prayer (some or all of the below)
- For the city
- Government leaders
- Persecuted church
- Prayer requests
- Scripture reading
- Usually 1 chapter
- Short discussion - usually naturally leads into open sharing, below
- Open sharing
- Something the Lord was teaching you this week
- Biblical use of spiritual gifts
- Sharing a song that’s been on your heart
- A word, or an encouragement for the community or an individual
- Any other Biblical use of gifts
- Doctrinal Teaching
- A focused time for teaching around a core doctrine of the Apostles - usually 5-10 minutes
- Prayer of repentance (the “changing of our mind” - metanoia)
- Respond to the teaching through humble prayer and “turning towards the truth” in your mind.
- Closing Prayer & benediction.
OK so that's everything for now!
Let's recap really quickly. You now have an outline for:
- Trimming fat
- Gaining muscle
- Improving mental clarity
- Leveling up your emotional health
- Becoming more spiritually formed and relating to God
- Maturing into a relational ninja who has an awesome family and community life
As I mentioned above, this is a 3,500-word document designed to provide you with a complete plan for 2024 that you can plug and play with. If I were you, I would flag and earmark this email in your inbox so you can come back to it periodically.
If you've made it this far, I want to invite you to respond with any and all questions, clarifications, and curiosities you have. Anything goes. I'll use everyone's questions to form a follow-up post next week answering the most common ones. If you have questions, just hit reply and ask away!
That's it until next week. Blessings on the New Year, y'all!
P.S. Want to go deeper?
I have 2 private coaching spots that will be opening up later in January. If you're interested in exploring what it might look like to enter into an intentional season of learning life-long sustainable pathways to incredible fitness and health, spiritual formation, family discipleship, and more - apply for a free discovery call here.