CrossFit NYC: 20 Tips for Optimal Health & Fitness

I’d like to thank Court Wing, Hari Singh, Josh Newman, and all the folks at CrossFit NYC for a delightful visit to New York on Saturday. Court was a most gracious host. Ninety-three people attended, and many introduced themselves to us; some were familiar commenters from the blog, and it was great to put faces to names. I spoke for 2 hours, and answered questions for another hour. The questions were very interesting, and most of the audience stayed through the question session.

My talk offered 20 tips for optimal health and fitness. I promised Court I’d make the tips available, and several readers asked for them as well. Here they are.

20 Tips for Optimal Health & Fitness

  1. Eat carbs in the range 20% to 30% of energy; higher adds muscle more easily.
  2. Eat protein in the range 300 to 500 calories per day; higher adds muscle more easily.
  3. Listen to and trust your “food reward system” – if you are eating natural foods it will guide you to the best diet.
  4. Eat bone broth and gelatin for a healthy extracellular matrix tissue scaffold.
  5. Get adequate sulfur, which means not only eating sulfur-rich foods like eggs, onions, and garlic, but also obtaining additional sulfur from sources like supplemental MSM or Epsom salt baths. (Sulfur was traditionally obtained from water, but no longer.)
  6. Supplement vitamin C, 500 mg to 1 g per day.
  7. Drink plenty of water.
  8. Eat sufficient salt – at least 3 g/day sodium (1.3 teaspoons salt).
  9. Get sufficient potassium – eat some vegetables!
  10. Eat only “useful macronutrients” in the right proportions; minimize omega-6 and fructose; balance omega-3 and omega-6; keep carbs and protein in the ranges mentioned earlier.
  11. Avoid unnecessary infections:
    • Wash your hands, cook your food, practice safe sex.
    • Live in a low-infection location – ideally, one with cold winters and a dry climate, perhaps some elevation, but plenty of sunshine; in the US, the Rocky Mountain states have the lowest rates of infection.
    • Get plenty of sunshine on bare skin, and optimize vitamin D!
  12. Know your pathogens; utilize diagnostic tests, like the Metametrix stool profile, to see which pathogens have infected you.
  13. Use antimicrobial medicines when appropriate. These can make a huge difference in health and athleticism.
  14. Don’t eat toxic or immunogenic foods, such as wheat, soy, or peanuts.
  15. Protect the gut. The most important step is eating fermented vegetables and fermented dairy, plus a “Goldilocks” amount of fiber. Also, modulate the gut flora in a positive way with foods like traditional herbs and spices, antimicrobial oils, acids including vinegar and lemon juice, green leafy vegetables, and berries.
  16. Nourish your toxin removal systems. Nutrients like glutathione are essential for liver detoxification; production of bile with cholesterol, vitamin C, taurine, and glycine is also helpful. Eating sufficient fiber can help bind and excrete toxins.
  17. Promote healthy circadian rhythms:
    • Sleep in total darkness and don’t use an alarm.
    • Eat in daylight hours.
    • Expose yourself to sunlight in the morning and at mid-day. Allow ultraviolet to reach your retina; do not wear glasses or contact lenses.
    • Avoid blue light at night; install f.lux on your computer and consider adjusting the colors on your television.
    • Make an effort to talk, socialize, and view faces during the day. If your work involves staring at a computer all day, put a digital photo frame on your desk and install something on your computer that shows faces. Take regular breaks to chat with colleagues, or if that is not possible then look at videos like this one (hat tip to Kris in the comments – thanks Kris!):

  18. Engage in intermittent fasting. A good method is to restrict eating to an 8-hour window each day. This will promote immunity and longevity.
  19. Exercise with variable intensity: routine low-level activity, such as walking or working at a standing desk; regular playful and mobilizing activity, such as sports, yoga, or tai chi; and occasional intense exercise such as resistance exercise or sprinting.
  20. Be sociable, be happy, and don’t be stressed! “Do not be anxious about tomorrow. Let the day’s own trouble be sufficient for the day.”

Thank you, CrossFit NYC, and thank you also to the following writers whose material appeared in the talk (with acknowledgement): J. Stanton, Russ Farris, Seth Roberts, and Pål Jåbekk.

Leave a comment ?


  1. It was a great talk – very informative! I had a question about your mineral water recipe – how much of that would you recommend drinking per day (specifically upper range due to the potassium content)? Thanks!

  2. Love the list! One math question though. You write: “Eat sufficient salt – at least 3 g/day sodium (2.4 teaspoons salt).”

    I generally eat two meals a day, so adding 1 1/2 tsp of salt to each meal sounded daunting (tho I presume I’m getting some sodium from foods).

    So I checked NutritionData out of curiosity, and they claim you get 2.3g of sodium in 1 tsp of salt. Adding 3/4 tsp of salt to my meals still sounds like a lot!

  3. Hi Meeses,

    There’s no upper range to potassium intake, but you can’t get too much at once — especially in children, but also adults.

    So the key is to sip it slowly over the course of a day, if you include potassium.

    Hi Beth,

    Thanks for the correction, I’ve updated the post. Not sure how that math error came about.

  4. Oh, one other thing. Flickr slide shows work really well to view faces in the morning if you’re computer-bound.

    This one is my recent fave, the photos are updated like crazy so I can watch for 20 minutes without seeing repeats from the day before:

  5. An excellent talk! Very excited for the unveiling of your theory of obesity, which I predict will move the conversation forward in leaps and bounds…

  6. Thanks, Beth, that’s great!

    Thanks, Gazelle! I’m looking forward to blogging about that, once I get caught up on other matters. Should be fun.

  7. Paul, great list! I am curious as to what are the about the health and fitness benefits of sulfur. I’m sure you have discussed it before, but I can’t find it. I’d also be very interested in your “mineral water recipe”.

  8. Something doesn’t sound right about the claim that our water used to contain sulfate ions (but no longer does)… Do you have any more information on that?

  9. Paul, in your comment to Meeses about potassium, your phrasing, “you can’t get too much at once” is ambiguous in a possibly unfortunate way; my interpretation is: you shouldn’t get (take) too much at once.

  10. Hi Kate,

    I haven’t discussed that in the book or blog, but it is coming … I have put it in my talks. Stephanie Seneff has some good stuff on sulfur, see and her slides from the Weston A Price Foundation Wise Traditions conference.

    The mineral water recipe will go up on the blog at some point too.

    Hi Daniel,

    Natural water does have sulfur, but the content is highly variable: volcanic regions have by far the most. And epidemiologically volcanic regions tend to have the best health.

    Hi Steve,

    Agreed … shouldn’t would have been a much better choice of wording.

  11. Paul, nice to meet you in NYC. You gave a terrific talk; thanks a lot.

    I was wondering if you could post your slide show, as I’d like to pass it along to my Doc.

  12. One other thing re the faces, Henry Lodge talks about the importance of emotional connection and how we’re wired in his book Younger Next Year. He makes this specific point about “limbic resonance” and its importance … seems to me that the faces work is a way to leverage this. Connection with real humans is clearly better, but perhaps a visual virtual connection is a close second!

  13. Hi Tuck,

    I’m reluctant, for several reasons. First, there are copyright issues with some images that I would have to resolve. Second, I’m still developing the science on a few points. I’ll be confident in disseminating it widely after more research, at which time everything will appear on the blog. Third, I haven’t figured out yet what format would be best for public dissemination of a long narrative telling the whole story. An e-book might be better than powerpoint.

  14. Thank you so much for today’s post; it simply says it all.

    Thank you!

  15. Sigh. I understand. 🙂

    Looking forward to the posts, then.

    I’ve done a little reading about the extra-cellular matrix after your talk. Pretty fascinating. Have you seen the research being done on zonulin and various disease processes throughout the body?

  16. Hi Tuck,

    I’ve done some reading on zonulin and the gut, that’s discussed in the book, but hardly anything on zonulin elsewhere in the body. Do you have any pointers to something interesting?

  17. @Paul: Just to speculate, if toxins in wheat can affect the matrix in the gut, why not the rest of the body? It would certainly explain a lot of the syndromes that appear frequently in celiacs, for instance, many of which could be explained by damaged cell matrices (rheumatoid arthritis being the obvious example).

    I elaborated on this in a post I made in a forum I participate in here:

    It includes a case study of a woman who had ACL surgery, which didn’t heal because she was an unrecognized celiac. It healed after she went gluten-free.

    After writing that, I found an overview by Fasano:

    “Zonulin and Its Regulation of Intestinal Barrier Function: The Biological Door to Inflammation, Autoimmunity, and Cancer” and Its Regulation of Intestinal Barrier Function, Physiol Rev 2011.pdf

    On another (possibly related note) here’s a friend of mine whose long-term brain damage has started to heal since going on the PHD.

    Nice work. 🙂

  18. Which Metametrix stool profile do you recommend? There are many on its site.

  19. Tuck, thank you, very interesting collection of anecdotes and papers you assembled. I’m glad to see Deacon Patrick is continuing to progress!

  20. Hi Paul!

    Nice list. I particularly agree with 3. (at least if your metabolism is working in normal range, like mine).
    That said, I think 300-500 protein calories is more for smaller men and girls. 600 are more appropriate for someone lean around 200 lbs.
    Not so sure for 6. anymore, I ran out of C several monthes ago and don’t feel any difference. I eat red peppers quite often though and use lemon juice generously.
    About 8., I’m more with Peat and 1.3 teaspoons sounds too little. I put a pinch of salt in my coffees and shakes.
    For 17. I have a question regarding “Avoid blue light at night; install f.lux on your computer and consider adjusting the colors on your television”. How? I mean, should I set the tv colors “warmer”(more yeallow/red, less blue obviously)? And by how much?

    Btw, I see more real faces every morning at work then I would like! 😉

  21. Paul, thanks for all the great work. As far as Epsom salt baths, what is the proper method? Also, what did you make of Danny Roddy’s vindication of fructose? I have been deploying some of his methods (egg shell calcium, orange juice, and increasing dairy). I’m not sure what to make of them yet, but I did notice my skin take on a better appearance. Also, my pregnant wife and I have been adding some gelatin to many of our meals and drinks as well as having made our first beef broth at home from osso bucco! It was tasty. Lastly, since it is that time of year, happy thanksgiving, I appreciate what you do and you have made a difference in my life.

  22. Hi Paul!

    You wrote, “Allow ultraviolet to reach your retina; do not wear glasses or contact lenses.”

    , do you think UV reaching the eyes has some benefits that the visible light doesn’t?

  23. Paul, as for the gelatin: Is organic powdered gelatin (store bought) fine? Or does it have to be home-made? The 300-400 kcal range for protein is somewhat higher than recommended in earlier posts. Are there any reasons for this? I have discovered for myself that eating a little more than 50 g/day helps with satiety (my weight is 127 lbs) but I was concerned that it might be not a good idea with regard to the Perfect Health Diet…

  24. Hi Paul.

    Thanks for this awesome list!

    Tho’, I’m still skeptical about IF.

    Have you seen those studies?

    Long-term intermittent feeding, but not caloric restriction, leads to redox imbalance, insulin receptor nitration, and glucose intolerance.

    Chronic alternate-day fasting results in reduced diastolic compliance and diminished systolic reserve in rats

    Michael Rae discuss the issue further in a post over at imminst.

    Is it really safe to assume that we know the effect of long term IF on our health as of now?

  25. Hi Franco,

    600 protein calories is safe … I think for most people diminishing returns set in there, but for a large man there may still be benefits.

    The vitamin C is more prophylactic, it makes a big difference if you’re deficient but hardly any effect if you’re replete. In any case it takes months to years for a deficiency to develop, that’s why C deficiencies are so insidious, you don’t link them to your C consumption.

    I’m with you and Ray on the salt, but I need to finish more research on the subject and bring Shou-Ching on board. In my talk I cited a study showing lowest mortality with >6 g sodium/day.

    About turning down blue light, in addition to adjusting colors on your television, you can wear blue-filter goggles at night. This would work for all sources of light.

  26. Hi Gabriel,

    The baths are very safe, just dump a bunch of Epsom salt in water and expose your skin to it. You can either take an outright bath, in which case you might use a few cups of Epsom salt; or put a lesser amount in a large pot and put your foot in it; or just put a small amount in a mug of warm water, and spread it on your skin.

    Re Danny, I’m not persuaded. I think fructose is fine in small quantities, but a little goes a long way, so I would stick to getting it from fruits, berries, and vegetables and nowhere else.

    Your skin improvements could be due to calcium / mineral status, saturated fat from the dairy, or vitamin C from the citrus. I wouldn’t go out of my way to credit the fructose.

    Glad to hear you’re enjoying gelatin and bone broth! Happy Thanksgiving!

    Hi Valtsu,

    I do, but I must admit there is little data to show the difference is significant.

    Hi Iris,

    Yes, you can use organic powdered gelatin.

    That has always been our suggested range for protein. If you look at the book we say 200 to 600 calories per day; for the talk I chose the mid-range for a more specific recommendation.

    I think you need at least 50 g/day, less and you can be deficient, suffer loss of immune function, and difficulty gaining tissue or healing wounds.

  27. Hi Frank,

    Thanks much for the studies. No, I haven’t seen them. I’ll check them out.

  28. Thx Paul… Hmm, I also haven’t seen much study data on UV eye exposure and health. There is one interesting study on UV skin exposure and temporary decrease of blood pressure:

    Re blue-filter goggles. Uvex glasses with SCT-orange lenses block almost all blue light. Uvex Espresso lens block ~85% of all light and ~95% of blue light.

  29. Hi Valtsu,

    UV light reaching the blood is also antiviral … it can kill viruses in blood cells. One place it may reach vessels is in the retina.

  30. Regarding drinking. I read that one should drink about 1 deciliter every half hour as we can’t buffer any significant amount of water. Is that your recommendation as well?

  31. Hi Tim,

    That’s a good amount of water, but I don’t think it’s necessary to titrate it so finely. Intermittent water drinking must be physiologically normal, and the body must be able to handle it. If you get some salt with meals, that will help retain water. If you’re salt replete, you can buffer more water than if you’re salt deficient.

  32. Thanks Paul!
    And Valtsu, thanks for the glasses recomendation. Will check those out.

  33. Lots of good advice for sure. However, not wearing glasses or contacts makes it hard to see for many people:). The amount of UV reaching the retina in adults is minimal as the lens will block most of the short wavelenght light in folks over 50, depending on the amount of age related changes to the lens. UV protection in high altitude is a must to prevent photokeratitis. I would also question having UV get to the retina in any amount. I think any antiviral effects you would get from this would be minimal as in bright sun the pupil is going to constrict maximally and we are not talking a high volume of blood flowing through the retina. You also have these things called eyebrows and orbital bones that shade the eyes, especially in men. Evolution’s sunglasses if you will.

    Thanks for all the great advice. I enjoy your blog.

  34. Re: blocking out blue light. Would using a good pair of sunglasses do the trick (even though it would make things quite dark inside..)?

  35. Thought I might as well try to answer my own question..

    “Almost all sunglasses block a portion of HEV rays, but some tints block more blue light than others. Blue-blocking sunglass lenses usually are bronze, copper or reddish-brown in color.”

  36. Greg Davis » Perfect Health Diet summed up nicely - pingback on November 25, 2011 at 5:47 am
  37. Greg,

    I use “aviator blue blocker” sunglasses that I bought from eBay. They are very cheap and they have somewhat significant calming effect on me. And they might help to fall asleep and wake a little bit earlier. My experience is quite limited, so far.

    Hmm… I also ordered a pair of Uvex safety glasses with Espresso lenses* just to see whether there is some difference. Then there are the SCT-Orange lenses which should block the blue light completely but I don’t know where to but them because I live in Finland and the international shipping rates for glasses seem to be very high.


  38. Thanks Paul. Yeah, it would be weird if we couldn’t handle more water, but it’s probably better to drink a couple of times a day than just one.

    Everyone, including you, says it’s important to drink lots of water. But why is this really something that we have to be reminded of? Why doesn’t our bodies tell us that we need water? I’m personally rarely thirsty although I don’t drink much at all. Could the “thirst system” get damaged somehow?

  39. Hi Tim,

    I think thirstiness also depends on salt and potassium intake. If you’re low in electrolytes, your body won’t want you to drink more. Also, there is probably a learned component. If you are chronically dehydrated, your brain doesn’t bug you as much about it.

  40. Whenever I try to increase my water intake, esp if I try to force it, I become swollen all over, esp my hands, and my lips become very dry and chapped. I feel like my body doesn’t use the water properly but don’t really know what is going on. I’ve wondered about intracellular vs extracellular balance, maybe I’m not getting enough potassium vs sodium? Maybe both? I don’t restrict salt, but I don’t go crazy with it either, and was raised in a low sodium household due to my father’s hypertension, but I have eaten my share of junk foods as well.

    I read once that the body digests pure water and water with stuff in solution differently than water that has stuff suspended in it, which it treats more as food. I have had more luck with broths and pureed soups, and even greens mixed into the water, than straight water. My hands also become esp swollen when I drink sparkling water.

    I think Sally Fallon also mentioned that the water we use for moist skin etc is extracted somehow from the fat we eat, and she recommended fat as a source of water over water itself. When I read that I wondered if the water craze was a direct result of the low fat craze.

    At any rate, I’ve always wondered how we evolved with this need for careful constant sipping of water when we evolved in africa with no water bottles, but of course one of the arguments against cooking is the loss of the water that is a natural part of the food, so perhaps fresh raw food was the source we were using. Veggies and fruit of course have a lot, and even fresh bloody meat has a fair amount of water in it.

  41. Hi,

    I just noticed that supplemental MSM is the highest ranked supplement on this list, but it is not listed on supplement page. Is it import only for very active people?

  42. I’ve tried sipping salt water . . . also salted mint tea . . . can’t say I’m thrilled about the taste of either one. (On the positive side, I think my sleep cycle is improving, in that now I wake up at the fourth hour instead of the third. It’s something I had previously noticed about my sleep after eating salted popcorn in the evening.) I see that Amazon has salt pills for sale; would those be an acceptable alternative?

  43. Hi Trina,

    I’m not familiar with that response. I would try salt and potassium (via tomatoes, potatoes, bananas) to see if they help. But symptomatically it sounds more like an endocrine issue, eg hypothyroidism ( or a kidney issue (maybe caused by a urinary tract infection?).

    The sparkling water is a clue. Carbon dioxide dilates blood vessels. It sounds like your vessels are unusually permeable. Have you asked your doctor to investigate why that may be?

    We’re going to post on sauerkraut tomorrow, that is a great way to get both salt and water. Bone broths are also great. There’s no need to drink pure water, broths, soups, and sauerkraut are more than sufficient.

    Hi Ole,

    First, the list is not ranked by priority; it is in the order of discussion in my talk. Sulfur is grouped with other extracellular matrix nutrients, because that is its main structural use.

    MSM and Epsom salt will probably go up on the supplements page before long, I have to settle on a precise recommendation however.

    No, sulfur is important for everyone.

    Hi Kirk,

    If you salt your food that should be sufficient. Also, sauerkraut is a good source, as I mentioned to Trina.

  44. here’s an n1 observation regarding putting salt of food.
    i did some experimentation on this recently, after reading some of the “food reward” type discussions here & elsewhere.

    What i found, for for me personally, was that if i salted food it would cause me to crave more food, it would cause me to over-eat, go for ‘2nds’ etc.
    (i am not referring to cooking with salt, just sprinkling salt over food).

    i tested a few times on the same foods, added salt or no added salt. if i did Not sprinkle salt on the food then i did Not get the urge to eat more.

    so for me; if i want to eat more calories, i’ll put salt on to my food. Personally i was overeating with added salt & gaining weight, so i stopped salting my food, ate less & dropped the weight (body fat).

    That said, i make an effort to make sure i get enough sodium & potassium, either from food of by adding sea salt & potassium chloride to 1 or 2 shakes per day.

  45. Thanks, Darrin. Salt + sugar + fat seems to be a great recipe for food cravings for many people.

  46. Excellent List Paul. Thank you. Wish I could’ve attended your talk.

  47. Frank,

    I’m not Paul, but the first thing that jumps out at me is that both studies look at alternate-day feeding, while what Paul recommends is a daily 8-hour feeding window, plus a 24-36 hour fast once a week or so. 16 hours of fasting is enough time to turn on protein and glucose conservation routines (autophagy and ketogenesis), but probably not so long that the negative effects start to outweigh the positive ones.

    Put another way, it’s the difference between slightly stressing your body every day, and really stressing it every other day — you’re not really able to adequately recover in the latter case before the stress comes around again.

  48. Paul,

    You keep pushing me in new directions. – no eyeglasses.

    Ok, but what if you’ve made the worst mistake of your life like me and had laser eye surgery?

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