You’ve heard of the lifestyle concept of minimalism, right? It’s an idea that a lot of city-dwelling, corporate-working, child-rearing types are starting to want LESS, not more. It’s why more people are trading in screen time for personal time and shopping sprees for meditation pillows.
We hear you. At Upgrade Labs, we don’t want you to spend all day at the gym or to work out so hard that it takes a week to recover. As humans, we’re resourceful enough to do better and accomplish more with less time and effort. At least that’s what the concept of Minimum Effective Dose teaches us.
What is minimum effective dose?
Minimum Effective Dose is a theory that was popularized in the bodybuilding community by fitness expert Arthur Jones and popularized by lifestyle hackers like Tim Ferriss and Dave Asprey.
MED is the principle of finding the smallest dose it takes to produce an ideal outcome. Anything less than your MED won’t work and anything more is a waste of time, resources, and energy.
When it comes to biological systems, you can apply MED to anything really – from muscle gain and fat loss to strengthening your brain to improve focus and clarity. You just need to know some data about how your body responds to certain stimuli. When it comes to lifestyle hacks, you’ll find your MED with a bit of experimentation and tracking.
For Arthur Jones and the bodybuilding community, it was all about minimum effective load. For the tech community, the buzzword is minimum viable product, but the theory is the same all around: why use more energy, resources, and time to reach a goal when you could use less??
Not into tracking or lifestyle prescriptions? Not to worry. MED is a theory you can apply loosely to all parts of your life. Because life is here to enjoy, not to suffer through.
Here are 4 reasons you should try Minimum Effective Dosing
1. Your training is painful
Muscle gains, fat loss, increased flexibility … none of this has to be painful or take a ton of your time. Gone are the days when being “in shape” or even a high-performing athlete has to break your body.
In fact, more and more high-performance athletes and trainers are realizing that they can train smarter, not harder. They’re consistently training for less time with heavier weights or more intense HIIT sessions, as opposed to (literally) running themselves into the ground with grueling, hours-long training sessions.
2. You’re wasting money
Training, recovery, and optimal nutrition are expensive. Especially when you’re counting on trial and error and not tracking data.
I meet people all the time that spend money on trainers, fancy gym memberships, supplements, and recovery gadgets and see very little difference in their performance or energy levels.
Spending money is fine; it’s what you’re getting for your money that matters. With MED, you don’t buy anything that isn’t part of a well-constructed plan based on your personal data. So, you wouldn’t buy a membership at a sauna if your personal data tells you that you need more cryo. After you’ve figured out your MED for things like muscle building, fat loss, or recovery, you can ditch everything that isn’t working and spend your money more strategically.
3. You’re wasting time
At some point in our modern consciousness, our culture learned the term “no pain, no gain”. Now surely there is truth to this. Life isn’t always unicorns and butterflies and it still takes sacrifice to achieve greatness.
However, (and this is a big however), as someone who strives for greatness in all areas of my life – from the relationship I have with my kids to the business I run to my meditation practice, I understand that my energy and willpower is finite.
So why the heck would I spend extra time, money, energy, and physical pain at the gym or counting every calorie I put in my mouth when I don’t have to?
There’s a point when exercising more isn’t just going to keep you from reaching your goal, it’s going to hurt you. And if you keep pushing yourself to the point of suffering, you aren’t doing your body or your goals any favors.
Relationships, your mood, and even your health suffer if you’re spending a ton of your time on one or two things.
Keep jogging 8 miles a day or spending two hours at the gym if it gives you joy. But if you’re doing it because you think it’s going to help you live a longer, happier life and you’re not tracking the data points to prove it, please stop.
4. Greater compliance = greater results
Because MED takes less of your time, money, and energy, it’s more likely that you’ll actually show up to do the work. When you do the work, you’ll see results faster. It’s like a feedback loop of greatness.
The opposite is true for grueling training programs or diets that are restrictive for no reason. They take a so much time and energy that it kind of doesn’t matter if you reach your goal because you’re miserable.
Not only will efficiency give you your life back, but you’ll probably get better results in the long-run.
Where to use Minimum Effective Dose:
You can cut training and recovery to a fraction of the time you think it takes. With some experimentation and a little technology, I’ve seen people drop fat and gain muscle in a matter of weeks by working out as little as 15-20 minutes per day, 2-3 days per week.
The Cheat Machine at Upgrade Labs is a great example of how MED works. It enhances muscle building with computer-controlled resistance that challenges you as you’re working out. You pull harder. You get more resistance. Plus, there’s resistance throughout your entire range of motion! It’s a tough 15-minute workout, but you’ll get the gains of a week at the gym.
More isn’t always better. If your doctor told you to take vitamin C, you’d take the amount you need to thrive, right? For most people, that’s about 1,000 mg per day in divided doses. Any more than that and you’ll be on the toilet all day. Any less and you’re probably not restoring your antioxidant stores as much as you should.
You can find your nutrition MED through trial, error, and tracking. Or you can enlist the help of technologies like Ixcela or Viome, two companies that recommend personal diet and lifestyle hacks based off of your unique biology.
Everyone needs vitamin D and the best way to get it is from the sun, along with a good-quality vitamin D supplement if your blood levels are below about 50 ng/mL. But sun exposure is a great example of the power of MED.
Too much and you’re walking away with some painful burns. Too little and your skin won’t be able to absorb the ideal amount of vitamin D. The magic number for daily sun exposure is about 15-minutes on uncovered skin. However, you’ll need more if you have darker skin and less if you’re super sun sensitive.
If you’re meditating for stress reduction and you begin to feel a benefit after about 20 minutes per day, why in the world would you spend an hour? Unless you have bigger-picture spiritual goals, that’s precious time you could be spending with your family or on a cool creative project. Play with your meditation times and techniques until you find what works for you.
If you’re in Santa Monica, you can try our Virtual Float Tank, which drops your brain into a meditative theta-wave state, providing deep relaxation and clarity and creativity.
You can change your brain. Whether you want more clarity and focus or you want to boost creativity, there are plenty of things you can do to change the neural pathways in your brain for the better.
Meditation, nootropics, brain training, even certain types of therapy can begin to make you less reactive and more productive. But those things take time. We use EEG Brain Training technology at Labs to find your brain function MED. Most people only need a few 30-minute sessions per week to start seeing a difference in everything from sleep quality to stress levels.
How to get started with Minimum Effective Dose
So how to get started with MED? What’s your first step? This theory and its practice involve a lot of experimentation and tracking. But it doesn’t have to take over your life. Here’s a loose blueprint of
- Step 1: Identify your goals (the desired outcome)
- Step 2: Start collecting data (to find your ideal dose)
- Step 3: Craft a plan or protocol based on your MED
- Step 4: Stick to your protocol, track your progress, and pivot your plan when necessary
That’s it. Once you find what works for you, whether it’s the exact number of cups of coffee you need to function without getting the jitters or the number of reps you need at the gym to gain muscle without killing yourself – MED can dramatically increase the quality of your life.
You can read all about why we track data at Upgrade Labs and which data points to start tracking today to help inform your training and recovery protocols.
And remember: you don’t have to suffer in order to improve. Movement, flexibility, and all the other steps toward living a long, fulfilling life doesn’t have to include grueling hours at the gym with days of painful recovery in between.
And when you’re ready to start playing with the big technology – check out one of our LA Upgrade Labs locations and experience MED for yourself.
Not close by? Sign up for weekly biohacking resources you can start to use at home.
Either way, it’s time to spend less time worrying about your health and fitness and more time doing the things you love.