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Being comfortable makes us weak

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Last Updated: Feb 28, 2022

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Most of us live a relatively comfortable life. We can eat when we’re hungry, and we can turn on the AC when we’re too hot or put on warm clothes when we’re cold. When we exercise and it gets too tough, we take a break to drink some water. At the grocery store, we park close to the entrance so we don’t have to walk far. I could go on, but I think you get the idea.

The problem is that being comfortable is evolutionarily inconsistent. It makes us weaker and more fragile than our ancestors. Together with other lifestyle factors (such as poor nutrition), it has also caused the size of our brains to start decreasing again (after quadrupling over the first 6 million years of evolution). Additionally, modern humans are shorter than those who lived 100,000 years ago

I’d say we’re deteriorating because of poor lifestyle choices paired with the fact that we’re no longer physically challenging ourselves. 

Think about how our ancestors and early humans lived — they didn’t have comfortable lives. Instead, they were exposed to the elements, slept on cave floors (rather than memory foam mattresses), went without food for days if the hunt wasn’t successful, and walked all day to find food and shelter instead of sitting in an office chair under artificial lighting while chronically stressing out about non-life-threatening issues.

While life wasn’t comfortable a hundred thousand or a million years ago, we thrived and evolved into the most badass mammalian predator the world has ever seen. But would you describe the average modern human as a “badass predator?” 

Probably not.

One of the reasons why modern humans have become so fragile and weak is because we avoid both mental and physical discomfort. 

Over the first 40 years of my life, I’ve seen only a handful of people who kept going when the going got tough. Everyone else gave up when life got challenging or uncomfortable. 

That modern human behavior is especially apparent in the context of fitness and exercise. When was the last time you worked out and ended up lying on the floor, gasping for air or rolling from side to side because your muscles were so fatigued that it hurt?

I’m in that situation several times a week. And yet, most people think my physical performance is related to my genetics. 

The truth is that the only thing that I have going for me is a willingness to be uncomfortable. I never had any talent for any sports; I have poor hand-eye coordination, and when I joined the track team at age 16, I couldn’t even run in a straight line.

But thanks to my coach at the time, I learned that the only way to get better and to compensate for my lack of talent was to function in uncomfortable situations. Being willing to suck it up and do stuff that doesn’t feel good has changed my life and helped me become the best possible version of myself. 

So I encourage you to stop seeking comfort and to embrace discomfort every once in a while. You don’t have to feel perpetually miserable, but you want to be physically uncomfortable several times a week.

Here are a handful of tips and hacks that I’ve made a regular part of my routine, most of which you can implement today:

  1. Take a cold shower. Cold exposure is one of the best ways to release cold-shock proteins that make you more resilient and improve your mental strength. If you want to take it up a notch, invest in a cold plunge like the one I use every day.
  2. Skip a mealIntermittent fasting is a positive stressor that forces your body to burn its own fat for energy. It also triggers an ancient cell maintenance program that recycles dead or damaged cells and literally slows down how fast your body deteriorates and ages.
  3. Push yourself at the gym. It’s perfectly fine to end up on the floor gasping for air after an intense workout. That’s another positive stressor for the body that causes it to adapt and become stronger. If you don’t have a lot of time to exercise, consider using a platform like CAROL (an AI-powered exercise bike that I use); it requires less than nine minutes of your time but it’s as effective as going for a 40-minute run.
  4. Exercise in a fasted state. If you don’t consume calories before an intense workout, it forces your body to release stored glycogen and burn its own fat. Combine that with avoiding carbs in your post-workout meal to reap even more benefits than fasting and exercising alone.
  5. Use a sauna. The intense heat of a sauna causes your body to release heat-shock proteins while increasing your heart rate — similar to a moderate cardio workout. It’s another positive stressor that can help you become more resilient. We recently invested in a full-spectrum infrared sauna from Sunlighten* and use it almost every day. 

Aside from the five tips above, I encourage you to pick the less-convenient option whenever you have a choice. 

For example, take the stairs instead of the elevator and park as far away from the entrance to the grocery store as you can. Go for a walk every day (ideally barefoot) and expose as much of your skin as possible to the sun for 20 minutes or longer every day (just don’t let yourself burn). None of these inconveniences will make you super uncomfortable, but they’re a good start to embracing discomfort.

Here’s what I’m going to do today to make myself uncomfortable:

  • I’ll skip breakfast.
  • I’ll exercise vigorously (maybe even twice) on an empty stomach.
  • I’ll jump into my cold plunge and I won’t get out once I start feeling uncomfortable.
  • If I have time, I’ll jump into the sauna (probably right before the cold plunge).

Now it’s your turn! What are you doing today to make yourself uncomfortable? 

New Articles and Videos You Might Have Missed

Since the last newsletter, I’ve been busy creating new content and updating older articles with fresh information, including the following: 

  • Benefits of Altitude and Intermittent Hypoxic Training. Speaking of being uncomfortable… I started exercising under low-oxygen conditions because of its scientifically-proven benefits for the cardiovascular system. 
  • LiveO2 Extreme Review. LiveO2 is the training system I use to simulate the oxygen levels of Mount Everest base camp while exercising on CAROL (my AI-powered REHIT bike).
  • Best Ketone Supplements. I recently got my hands on liquid ketone esters (a highly effective form of exogenous ketone bodies) to test how they would improve my exercise performance. So I took the opportunity to completely update my review with my latest findings.
  • Ample Meal Replacement Shake Review. Ample is one of my favorite meal replacement shakes. The company recently revamped its product portfolio, and I had a chance to try the new formulas. I completely rewrote my old review to cover the new options.
  • VideoWhat’s the Ideal Human Diet?: I recently teamed up with Jewelz — a fellow YouTube creator who is also an autistic mother of two autistic children — to discuss both what the ideal human diet should look like and why a strict ketogenic diet may not be sustainable for most people.
  • VideoThe Real Reason Why You Have Bad Teeth (With Dr. Alvin Danenberg): I sat down with Dr. Alvin Danenberg (a.k.a. Dr. Al), a retired periodontist, functional medicine practitioner, primal health coach and “incurable” cancer survivor to talk about how the gut is connected to your mouth and why dental plaque is actually a good thing. 

That’s it for February! 

Stay healthy,

Michael

4 thoughts on “Being comfortable makes us weak”

  1. You said: ”Early humans had similar life expectancies (and a much better health span) as modern humans”, I’m not sure what health span means but are you sticking by this or was it an error.
    Who are we talking about exactly?
    I rarely do any manual labor but found myself cutting palm fronds a few weekends ago, the next day I noticed I had some blood near the cutical to my thumb, I ignored it but then noticed it was becoming ‘angry’, purple looking and I couldn’t use it because of the pain, I became a lefty for a few days as the neosporin worked its magic, but certainly anything similar and early man might have been in serious trouble after a week or so, and I’m not even going to get into broken limbs, how we have benefitted from vaccines (not available back then) and how nice heating, A/C and shelter is (for most of us at least).
    I Googled your Aussie DNA boy, seems like the first article was about his ousting from the university because of bullying (it obviously doesn’t mean his research wasn’t good), I’m just saying! These days you can get any ‘doctor’ to say anything you blood well want practically, its tough paying off those student loans after all.
    Uncharacteristically cynical but come on Michael, early man lived till 70 and 80, ouch!

    Reply
  2. I think its worth noting early man didn’t live much past 30, probably due to lack of any teeth by that age, tearing into meat and the like!
    Statistics, correlation, by omission or purposely selecting criteria to suit your particular cause, you can reach your point of view with any set of data, I could certainly provide very credible graphs showing an increase in lifespan as we have become lazier, it wouldn’t tell the whole story of course, also as we ‘rarely’ get eaten anymore by real ‘badass’ predators a little higher on the food chain that could also show a correlation but it wouldn’t be accurate either. Staying with dentistry countries who have taken fluoride out of their water supply have better teeth wouldn’t also tell the whole story, it’s tough out there I’ll admit LOL, always thought provoking though, thanks for the article.

    Reply
    • Hi Gio!

      Early humans had similar life expectancies (and a much better health span) as modern humans. However, infant and childhood mortality was much higher, which causes the “average” life span to be shorter than that of modern humans. As it turns out, having babies in the wild is dangerous :)

      Also, our ancestors had excellent dental health as proven by the remains that were found. Here is a quote from a scientist who specializes in ancient DNA:

      “Hunter-gatherers had really good teeth,” says Alan Cooper, Ph.D., director of the Australian Centre for Ancient DNA. “[But] as soon as you get to farming populations, you see this massive change. Huge amounts of gum disease. And cavities start cropping up.”

      So I don’t know where you are getting your information from, but I’d double check your sources and use common sense. If eating meat and chewing on bones causes teeth to fall out, neither we nor carnivorous animals wouldn’t have evolved on a diet of meat and bones. That should be common sense.

      Cheers,
      Michael

      Reply

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