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Load it up with as many colourful plants as you can, toss in some berries and smoked tofu, top it with pumpkin seeds and sprouts.Alexander Raths/iStockPhoto / Getty Images

I started lifting weights in high school, but you’d have never known until about 10 years ago. That’s when I decided to get serious. That’s when I stopped spending money on stupid supplements and started following programs designed by legit trainers with decades of success. Instead of looking for the easy way out, I invested in myself. I started paying attention to my diet and lifestyle, and addressed the many shortcomings with both.

And wouldn’t you know it, things changed! These days, no one is ever going to mistake me for a CrossFit champion, but I’m in dramatically better shape than I was in college (that would be my first go-round, back in 2000, when I weighed all of 130 lbs). I don’t believe for one second I’d be saying the same if I stuck with the Gym Bro mentality that supplements solve everything.

Excluding pharmaceutical agents, most of which can indeed work miracles, there is no life hack for getting healthy and strong. This is not to say supplements are entirely useless. Some, such as creatine, have a proven record of delivering the goods. But if your monthly budget has a line item dedicated to GNC, consider donating that money to charity instead.

I’m telling you, here and now, that a few simple lifestyle adjustments will increase your workout gains (sorry, gainz) more than any cocktail of supplements. But these recommendations aren’t sexy and glamorous, so few will take them to heart. If you can, give them a shot for a month.

Get to bed

Bookmark this TED Talk and watch it after you’re done here. Yes, getting eight hours of sleep each and every night is the single most powerful thing you can do for your health, not to mention your physique.

Get to bed before 11 p.m. and wake up eight hours later. Do this every day, even on weekends. Take daily naps (20-40 minutes, max). Make sleep a priority and you will reap a whole lot of rewards.

Relax

In a column last year, I talked about the effects of stress and why it’s so important to become masters of the parasympathetic nervous system. This is the “rest and digest” system, the calming counterpart to the sympathetic nervous system’s raging “fight or flight” response.

I can’t emphasize enough how important it is to get your stress under control. To say stress manifests physically is an understatement. I had to learn this the hard way; up until the early spring of 2019, I pretty much had a full head of hair and a not-too-shabby beard. Then patches began to appear; first on my face, then my head. Tiny patches that quickly grew in circumference and number until, in June, I had to shave my face and head or risk being mistaken for an extra out of 12 Monkeys.

Doctors don’t know for certain what causes alopecia, but stress is the main suspect. It could be worse. I still have my eyebrows.

Eat your veggies

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, a mere 8.9 per cent of Americans meet the minimum recommended intake for fruits and vegetables. Forgive me, but that’s bananas.

I can remember a time when I would throw a fit if a stalk of broccoli so much as touched my plate. Children can do that. Adults cannot. Grow up and eat a damn salad for lunch. Load it up with as many colourful plants as you can, toss in some berries and smoked tofu, top it with pumpkin seeds and sprouts. Plants are often calorie-free so you can go to town here, just take it easy with the dressing.

Paul Landini is a personal trainer and health educator in Toronto.

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