I see a lot of confusion regarding the difference between things like health vs. fitness, fat loss vs. muscle gain, fat loss vs. health, weightlifting vs. cardio, and so on. There are lot of arguments online about this stuff. There is probably no definitive answer on these topics either. Regardless, I will give you the system that I follow. I’ve copied this system from health experts who are far more knowledgeable on these topics than I am.
Apparently most people consider health and fitness to be the same thing. They aren’t. While related, they are two very different things.
You can have a man who is 100% healthy in every way by every measurement doctors and modern science can discern (such as lipid panel, hormonal levels, endurance, basic strength and mobility, cardiac health, and so on) yet who can’t bench press 220 pounds.
Does that mean he’s not healthy?
Of course not.
At the same time, I personally know a guy who is a huge bodybuilder type who is fucking ripped with six packs. The problem is when he walks up a big flight of stairs he huffs and puffs like a little old lady, yet I can run up the same flight of stairs with no problem even though I probably have almost triple his body fat percentage.
Does that mean I’m more physically fit than he is?
Of course not.
The best definitions are as follows: Health means all the systems of the body are functioning at optimum levels, or very close to it. Fitness means the ability to accomplish athletic tasks.
Sometimes these two things are closely related.
Sometimes they’re not related at all.
If you do one of those three-hour comprehensive full-body physicals and get A+ marks on literally everything, you’re healthy, even though you may not have the physical ability to bench press 300 pounds or run a marathon. You have a high degree of health but perhaps an average (or even borderline low) level of fitness.
If you jack yourself up with a pile of anabolic steroids, blast your total testosterone to 4,000, spend hours a day lifting weights but never do any stretching or cardio, your fitness level is extremely high, and you probably look great, but your health is fucking terrible.
You can be healthy but not “fit” at all. You can be physically “fit” but also very unhealthy at the same time. And of course, you could be both healthy and fit, which I agree is the ideal.
When I was a young guy in my twenties, I didn’t give a shit about health. I focused 100% on fitness, which is not unusual for young men. When I was 21 I would work out at the gym and lift weights for two hours straight with no stretching and only five minutes of cardio on the treadmill, which I hated. Like a lot of gym rat guys, I loved lifting weights, but I hated cardio with a passion.
Then, on the way home from the gym, exhausted and sweaty, I would stop off at the local Dunkin’ Donuts. I’d order half a dozen doughnuts, eat at least four of them in the car on the way home, and finish off the rest as soon as I got back to my apartment.
Yes, I would really do this. Because of my 21-year-old metabolism, I looked the best I’ve ever looked. I didn’t have a six-pack, but I had large, visible muscles despite my horrible diet. I used to do shirtless bicep poses in the mirror all the time. We didn’t have the internet way back then, but if we had, I’m sure my dumb ass would have posted plenty of douchebag shirtless mirror shots on Instagram.
My typical meals back then were two bowls of Reese’s Peanut Butter Cup cereal with 2% milk for breakfast, mounds of white rice and chicken soaked in Teriyaki sauce for lunch, and a bagel-dog or two for dinner. (That’s a long hot dog completely wrapped in a bagel-like bun that I would dip in ketchup. I would buy them in bulk from Costco and keep them in my freezer.)
I was reasonably fit, but I was unhealthy as fuck. I didn’t get a lot of sleep and I never drank anything other than milk. I had big, fun muscles and I was able to one rep max bench press 240 pounds (I think that was the number; it was a long time ago so I could be wrong), but my diet was shit and I was sleepy and irritable much of the time.
Once I entered my forties I realized that I not only needed to lose a lot of weight (most of which I’ve already lost; still working on it) but also that I really needed to focus on health instead of just fitness.
Before some of you freak out, regular exercise is needed for maximum health. I’ve lifted weights off and on for about 15 years. Since late last year I’ve been exercising hard five times per week, but unlike when I was a kid, it’s not just resistance training. It’s stretching, mobility exercises, resistance training, and cardio. All of that stuff. It takes me about an hour.
I don’t exercise for fitness reasons. I really don’t care how much I bench press or what my one rep max is on my deadlift. I’m almost 50… I just don’t give a shit about those kinds of numbers anymore. (When I was in my twenties and early thirties, I cared a lot about that stuff.)
I don’t even exercise for fat loss reasons because exercise is only about 5% of the equation when it comes to fat loss. The other 95% is what you put in your mouth. During my weight loss journey I learned very quickly that you can blow your brains out with exercise (of any kind) for an hour a day but if you have just two pieces of pizza you’ll destroy that entire workout within two minutes.
Instead, I exercise for health reasons. I do it mainly for daily energy (I have more energy and am a clearer thinker when I exercise) and longevity (I will live longer and with less health problems if I exercise vigorously and regularly). And sure, maybe that exercise helps me a little tiny bit on the fat loss side. Okay. But that’s still not why I do it.
In terms of Alpha Male 2.0, here’s the baseline for your physical life:
Health is optional for men under the age of 35. This is because usually when you’re that young, you can ignore your health, even fuck with your health, and still be a reasonably functional person. This is not true once you cross over into your late thirties.
Health is a mandatory priority for men over the age of 35. As an Alpha Male 2.0, a lot of energy is required, and you’ll never be monogamous, and you can’t rely on the government to pay a shitload of your medical bills as you get older. This means you must address your health on a daily and weekly basis once you hit age 35 whether you want to or not.
Fitness is an optional hobby for all ages. Health is something that is required. Fitness, on the other hand, is something you do because you enjoy it. You don’t need to do it, but you certainly can if it’s something you love and find important. As an Alpha Male 2.0, you have to be healthy, but you don’t have to have 17–inch biceps. If you want 17–inch biceps, that’s great. Go for it. But it’s not required. It’s purely optional. Fitness is a hobby, not a requirement.
Using a one-to-ten scale, my personal, long-term goal is to get my health to a 10 and my fitness to at least a 7 and ideally an 8. I’m 100% focused on my health first, since I’m at the age where that makes the most sense. Once my health is at 10, or at least 9, and my body fat is down to a healthy percentage and the doctors all tell me from my various tests that I’m healthy as I can get based on my age, then I’ll slowly start to beef up my fitness levels (meaning muscle mass for me) to a 7-8. That fitness part will take a very long time, and that’s fine with me, since my fitness is just something I’m doing for my own desires.
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