Survival vs Optimization… with a Dose of Moderation

Posted on 24. Feb, 2014 by in Diet

Adversity causes some men to break; others to break records. -William Arthur Ward

A question during a recent podcast interview (I’ll post the link when it’s up and running) prompted me to consider how my training has changed over the years.  Not just the nuts-and-bolts specifics of that training, but the deeper, underlying, philosophical aspects.  For instance, what have I *really* learned about this iron game endeavor — and about myself — over the years?  I like to think that I have amassed a tremendous amount of working knowledge in the techniques, application, block periodization schemes, autoregulation templates and drop-off manipulation, etc. in the world of strength and conditioning.  I’ve learned a lot about the proper applications of diet and supplementation.  I’ve been able to program applicable aspects of top-tier S&C training into “regular guy” workouts for my Efficient Exercise clients.  All of that is fantastic, of course, but I really think what I’ve gained most from the on-going “school of Physical Culture” is in the hard-to-define (woo?) category of wisdom.  And of that, three themes seem to repeat over and over and over again.  Not only are they reoccuring, but they seem to be cross-disciplinary as well.  Those themes are “minimum required dose”, “optimization”, and “moderation”.

It seems that everything in life can have ascribed to it an inverse U-curve.  To the far left, a minimum input that begets some acceptable level of measurable return.  An RDA requirement for example, or the minimum dose of exercise required for health, or to stave-off sarcopenia. Sleep duration vs restoration, for example.  Moving to the right — and evermore so until the apex of the inverted U is reached — we have the ever-increasing input required to reach “optimization”.  Sometimes this must be scaled logarithmically; an athlete at the top of their game, for example.  Othertimes, more akin to the graph below; that level of nutrient intake required, not just to sustain life, but to optimize life.  The difference between “getting by” and “exuberance”, if you will.  Then, moving ever further to the right, lay the zone of “overdoing it”.  Too much of even the best of inputs leading to a degradation in output.  

For example:

The curve above depicts the stress/arousal level required to achieve varying performance outcomes.  The same basic curve could be used to predict exogenous vitamin D dosing vs immune function, study/practice vs test performance, or any of a host of other input/response scenarios.

Life is not so perfect though (imagine that!), or as easily predictable as this curve may indicate.  It is only a template and, in reality, the curve will bend and morph in accordance to the individual (n=1) and to the circumstance that it is describing.  The shades and generalities, though, are always there.  In much the same way that my warm-up may be someone else’s overtraining, or that my AM caffeine intake may send another into cardiac arrest, my inverted U curve will reflect my n=1 particulars, and you, yours.  In some cases (again, such as in high performance athletics), the inverted U comes to resemble more an elongated and inverted hockey stick, with a crap-ton of build-up, and very little room for error between brilliance and complete breakdown.  Such is the thrill of living on the edge.

An engaged life then, in essence, boils down to successfully navigating this curve, in *all* aspects of life.  And successful navigation means both having the balls to bring the intensity, focus and duration required to put one approaching the apex of the curve — without, that is, being stupid and pushing one’s self over the cliff.  It also requires one of the toughest things in life to master: knowing and being honest with yourself, and reacting appropriately to internal cues.

Mere Survival?  Let’s just say that, in today’s world, mere survival (at least into the reproductive years, and a good bit beyond) is pretty damn easy, mostly due to the marvels of modern medical science and the lack of any meaningful predation, or incidence of accident or bloodshed.  In other words, modernity affords us the ability to sleepwalk into the survival zone.  Barely passing, average, “getting by”.  I simply cannot identify with the line of thought, though, that is satisfied with that level of accomplishment.  I have compassion for those mired in that mindset, and will do what I can to help break them free.  Mediocrity, though is not a place I desire to be.

Optimization, of course, is another subject entirely.  And the work required to get there increases exponentially as we approach that nebulous point of “optimization”.  Actually, I don’t think there is ever a *point* of optimization; we don’t summit the mountain and finally plant the flag.  Rather we climb like hell for the opportunity to reach the raging river of optimization, then plunge in and attempt to navigate that river, ad nauseum.  Enough mixed metaphors here to drive any real writer bonkers, but I think you get what I mean.

So keep that “inverted U curve” concept in mind as you check out to this fantastic Joe Rogan interview of Dr. Rhonda Patrick.  This is one of the best Rogan interviews that I have heard in a long time on the subject of health, customized supplementation, testing, biohacking and the like.  Dr. Patrick has no affiliation with ID Life, however, her assessment of the need (and tremendous benefit) of  pinpointed, *individualized* supplementation could be used as ad copy for ID Life sales.

Like optimum CNS training is the S&C community’s “next level” training focus, customized, n=1 supplementation is the cutting edge of nutrition science.  We hope to bring Dr. Patrick into the Paleo f(x) speakers line-up very soon.  It may be a bit late for the Austin show, but she’d be a great addition to the inaugural Denver event this fall.  Keep an eye on the Paleo f(x) site for news on that.

In health, fitness, and ancestral wellness -

Keith

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3 Responses to “Survival vs Optimization… with a Dose of Moderation”

  1. Leo Desforges

    24. Feb, 2014

    Awesome. Another article where you’ve taken the words right out of my brain. Next time you’re in New England, holler and I’ll buy you a steak in exchange for a few words. Keep up the excellent work.

    Reply to this comment
    • theorytopractice

      24. Feb, 2014

      Thanks, brother. I will definitely take you up on the offer!

      Reply to this comment
  2. Leo Desforges

    24. Feb, 2014

    I will look forward to the company and steak!

    Reply to this comment

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