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Fuel for Entrepreneurs: Increasing Efficiency and Sustainability

(or, how not to have a Homer-brain)

(or, how not to have a Homer-brain)

This is a guest post by our friend Mans Denton of The Hacked Mind. You met Mans when I told you about why I’d rather make friends than network. Remember how he sat there sober watching Will and I lose our equilibrium? Well now we’ll find out why.

Nobody has pushed me to take more action to improve my health than Mans. The stories he tells about neurons in your brain and chemicals in your body effecting your mood and appearance make it easy to begin making the changes you already know you should (and some you’d never guess). The story behind advice is more important than you think. A lot of the time we need to be given advice in a

I recently read the massively popular Man 2.0: Engineering the Alpha and found myself thinking, “Mans told me about that months ago.” He knows his stuff. I’m going to keep listening to him.

Enter Mans (isn’t that a badass name?):

Fuel For Entrepreneurs

When success with your new business is all you think about, healthy dietary, fitness, and sleep habits are the farthest thing from your mind. Every entrepreneur has gone through stressful times that test their ability to function efficiently for extended periods.

What if spending a little time investing in your health could help you invest a lot more in your business.

Yes, there will be times for every entrepreneur when healthy habits are thrown by the wayside in favor of a hectic launch or massive growth. Holding tight to these simple rules will allow you to work more efficiently on your business, prevent burnout, and extend the life of your entrepreneurial career.

Your Brain is Running on Fumes

Creativity, quick thinking, and the ability to learn from mistakes are all necessities for entrepreneurs. Eating Ramen noodles or a Big Mac with fries doesn’t provide your brain with the nutrients that it needs to perform all of these functions efficiently. As an entrepreneur, your main tool for success is your brain. Therefore, it is a good idea to develop healthier eating and drinking habits to ensure your brain is at peak performance at all times.

Sparing you every bit of science, here’s a list of food-hacks that you can perform in order to eat healthier thus increasing efficiency and sustainability for yourself and business:

  • Eggs are a great source of protein and omega-3 fatty acids. Cooked scrambled, boiled, or over-easy does not matter so choose the quickest method for your work routine. To start your day, your body needs to produce serotonin and eggs do that better than anything.

  • Have leafy green vegetables in your refrigerator (like spinach, kale, arugula etc.) that can be thrown into a bowl with salt, pepper, and olive oil for a quick and healthy salad. Leafy greens have phytonutrients you have never even heard of. Pronouncing “carotenoids” might be tough, but they are natural nutrients your body needs.

this is a high definition image of seeds

this is a high definition image of seeds

  • Replace your chips with olives and raw seeds (sunflower and pumpkin). Frying foods alters the type of fat, which restricts quick neurological connections in the brain.

  • Eat healthy by cooking yourself, but save time by making food in bulk for multiple meals. A quick recipe that I make takes only 5 minutes of prep. Cut 1 lb. of chicken breast, 1 bell pepper, and a handful of mushrooms. Throw it all into a pan with olive oil and get back to work. You have two meals ready 20 minutes later.

  • Don’t follow society’s rules on meals. You simply need a certain number of calories. I eat a small breakfast with eggs and then a second huge meal that sustains me the rest of the day and doesn’t take up a lot of time or money.

  • Shop online for some of your items to save time and money. Coconut oil is far cheaper online than at any grocery store.

  • Reduce intake of bread, pasta, bagels, etc. These foods give you a boost of energy, but lead to your brain crashing later in the day. Refined carbs affect your insulin production, which informs every other aspect of your body. When you disturb the balance of insulin, your brain suffers.

  • Drink less caffeine and drink it earlier. It may be the thing causing your sleepiness. More importantly, even though caffeine blocks adenosine from making you tired, it only increases easy task performance while impairing your ability to complete complex tasks.

  • Drink more water instead of soda, milk and juice. Every cell of your brain (and body) is composed of water. The only reason soda or juice quenches your thirst is because of the water content!

Eating out might seem like a quicker alternative, but it is not. Consider that you must leave your home or work to go to the restaurant, then wait in line, get your food, and then travel back home. In most situations, even for fast food, this can take far longer than cutting some meat and vegetables, throwing it in the pan, and getting back to work while it cooks by itself.

Anyone who is under-capitalized or bootstrapping their business knows the value of a dollar. Instead of over-paying other businesses to cook food, cook it yourself! I spend less than $1,000 on food and rent combined in Austin, Texas every month, which leaves me a lot for re-investing in projects. Look at your expenditures and you will see that eating out is leaking money.

Following these simple substitutions and rules will save you time and money that you can invest in your entrepreneurial pursuits. Furthermore, it will help you to work more efficiently and treat your body in a way that values long-term function rather than short-term.

Exercise Your Brain and Your Body

Modern athletic journals and television shows praise triathletes, long distance running, biking, swimming, and “hard work” in order to be physically fit. While the physical determination and dedication is admirable, none of these athletes are necessarily “healthy”. And entrepreneurs certainly don’t have to go to such lengths in order to increase their own wellness.

When expending calories in those activities, your body undergoes a constant state of stress and alarm that harks back to our caveman days. When in this state, your immune system is weakened, which can cause disruptions with your business if you must take days off. Also, your cortisol levels are much higher as a result of stress from running in addition to the stress from your taxing entrepreneurial venture. This impairs brain function and cognitive ability.

In contrast, exercise that lacks this stress can be incredibly important for an entrepreneur. Some level of exercise will stimulate dopamine, which activates learning centers in your brain and maintain focus. Furthermore, you will be able to regulate testosterone production, which also enhances memory.

Here is a brief list of exercise options for entrepreneurs in order to maximize efficiency with health and sustain long-term results:

  • Walking normal to fast pace can be considered healthy exercise. I use a FitBit tracker and try to achieve 10,000 steps in a day. To achieve your walking goal you can take telephone calls while walking around. You can also walk to nearby stores. This produces a very steady amount of dopamine, which stimulates creative centers for your brain.

  • Lift heavy weights until exhaustion one time per week. It only takes 20 – 30 minutes to fatigue completely, but you will activate fast twitch muscle fibers that stimulate slow, sustainable muscle growth and strength gains. To do this, perform slow movements to reduce momentum, high weight, and track both number of reps and the “time under load” (the period in which you are lifting the heavy object). This will give a solid boost in testosterone, which improves memory and cognitive ability. It will produce some cortisol as well, but only enough to stimulate muscle growth rather than break down your body.

  • Track your data in the gym. If you do not track “time under load” and the reps, you have nothing to gauge your success. It is like split testing many factors for an A/B test – there would be no way to know which one proved the difference.

  • Stand up. You can create or buy a standing desk or a treadmill desk. Both of these will allow you to continue working on your business, but in a much healthier manner. [Kyle: I cleared my bedside table and put it on top of my desk to try this out.]

You Snooze, You Don’t Lose

Exercise and food are areas where it is easy to make changes. My suggestions not only make the entrepreneurs’ life cheaper and easier, but also more efficient and sustainable in the long-run. Sleep is a big issue that is divisive in the entrepreneurial community. Lacking sleep in order to work on your business is highly romanticized. Sleeping in the early morning only to wake up a few hours later is seen as dedication for a business pursuit.

Nonetheless, sleep is a vital part of the brain’s healing and organizing process. Without it, your body will produce more cortisol, which decreases brain function and your immune strength. It is best to aim for 7 – 8 hours of sleep every night. This may seem like an impossible goal but you’ve got to realize that you’re actually buying yourself more effective working hours.

Getting enough sleep equates to more efficient work throughout the day. A task that takes two hours to complete while tired takes one hour while energized. You no longer have to think of sleep as a waste of time, but more as an investment in a more efficient workday.

Everyone has a different balance between health and their business. Some people may need less sleep than others, but consistently working while sleep deprived could lead to burnout and reduce the life of your entrepreneurial career. [Kyle: Sleeping less than 5 hours a day kills your testosterone, which is no good at all.]

Here are a few tricks for you to use in order to get more sleep, but increase efficiency and productivity at the same time:

  • Get into a sleeping rhythm. This way you can spend less time awake while you wish you were sleeping. Your circadian rhythm regulates when your body produces the sleep hormone, melatonin.

  • Wear earplugs (if there is excessive noise) in order to ensure you do not wake up during the night

  • Go to sleep earlier and you will wake up when nobody else is around to distract you. I sleep around 10:45pm – 7:30am, which means that I usually have a couple hours before anyone harasses me on Skype, via telephone, etc.!

For the Love of the Game

Most successful entrepreneurs I have ever met, including myself, are dedicated to entrepreneurship for the love of the game. Like a professional athlete, entrepreneurship is not about the salary or large endorsement deals (as nice as they are), but instead about pushing yourself at the highest level of competition.

Unfortunately for athletes, their body takes such a toll that they cannot extend their career indefinitely. For entrepreneurs who use their brain instead of their body, it is possible to enjoy making new businesses until old age. But only if health and wellness becomes a priority. Wellness is not only helpful to become more efficient with your current venture, but is also easy to implement and can result in a long-lasting career as an entrepreneur free from burnout.

We read and reply to every one!
  • Walt Myers

    Well, I’m getting a little too old to worry about these things any more. But let me tell you young entrepreneurs, coming from and old timer – Mans has some wisdom in this article. Wish there were resources like this when it could have still made a difference for me!

    Good luck to you young ins though, take care of yourselves…you’ll go quick

    • I doubt it’s as late as you think… I’ve seen older people make some pretty amazing physical transformations!

  • Hey Walt, thanks for the kind words! Hopefully it does prove useful for some of the younger entrepreneurs. Even if they take only a few things away or just have health-consciousness.

  • A big shoutout to eggs but no mention of how the choline in the egg yolk makes you a freaking genius???

  • Steven, Steven, Steven! I under-estimated you all! So glad you brought up the choline. This is one of the most important things for unconscious bodily functions, such as breathing, digestion, etc.

    Fantastic point, Steven. You get an A+ 🙂

  • Yea – good stuff. I’d add an Alpha GPC supplement, and some L-tyrosine. Does wonders for the inevitable neurotransmitter depletion from the stress we’re under as entrepreneurs. Chronic stress = long term effects, in terms of consistent depletion of catecholamines (NE, E, Dopamine), and acetylcholine. It’s like.. when you run, you need to replenish your salt, carbs and protein (and eat good fats, if you’re super optimal about it). Brain is the same way.

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