The 1 Thing That Will Make You Better at Everything – EPISODE 158


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This week on Barbell Shrugged we are joined once again by Dr. Kirk Parsley. We talk about sleep, and why it’s the single most important factor in being healthy, high-functioning and strong.

Kirk is not your average Doctor. He is a former Navy SEAL and competitive fitness athlete turned Physician. The bulk of his life has been committed to the study of psychology, health and human performance. That’s an impressive breadth of professional experience, which makes his current focus a real surprise.

It doesn’t matter who you are. It doesn’t matter what you do. If you want to be healthy and perform better at work, in the gym, or as a parent or friend then you must get quality rest.

Out of everything, sleep comes first. 

Not everyone agrees that more sleep is better. Plenty of people swear that they feel happy and productive with as little as 5 or 6 hours. But unfortunately this is an illusion, an artifact of altered awareness.

Anyone who’s ever popped back a few pints has felt the same effect from alcohol. At first you’re able to make decent decisions and show restraint, but after 3 or 4 drinks your inhibitions will be largely removed. That’s great if you’re recording a podcast or something, but it’s a tremendously terrible thing when you car keys in your pocket.

The very same effect is true with sleep. You might think you have enough, but you probably don’t. Not if you’re getting less than 7.5-8.0 hours of sleep per night. As Kirk references on the show, this is the clear average that just about everyone settles into during immersive and extensive sleep studies.

The focus is well placed. Sleep forms the core pillar in Dr. Parsley’s philosophy, but it’s not the only consideration. A few critical and very basic lifestyle factors must also be addressed.

Don’t miss Dr. Parsley’s awesome TED talk

Eat naturally and be active.

How exactly should you eat? Well, there are a lot of options. Paleo, Zone, go all the way back to Adkins if you want. All of the diets that serve to correct metabolic dysfunction and restore hormone balance tend to be very low carbohydrate.

At this point there are fewer and fewer places to hide. The scientific evidence is mounting. No, the consumption of healthy fat and mineral rich salt isn’t bad. Point in fact – If you want to live a long and healthy life you should actually eat a lot of it, way more than you would think.

People are experiencing bacon again come breakfast time. The cat, shall we say, is out of the bag. It doesn’t matter what the ADA or AMA might still recommend (incredibly), we all now know that excess carbohydrate, particularly sugar, is the problem. Cut almost all of it, train hard, and eat a wide variety of fresh foods. That’s how you correct dysfunction.

Do everything you can to limit stress and distraction. 

Stress is numbing and hard to notice at times.

Work or a tough relationship might have you on edge. Maybe you drink too much coffee and manage your time poorly. Action items stack up. Your heart rate variability crashes. Gizmos buzz and beat as you sleep, reminding you of all the shit you have to eat the next day.

At first your training starts to suck, but you will get sick in time. You cannot beat stress head on, it must be actively managed.

Try this. Set a bedtime alarm. When that buzzer rings shut down your day. Turn lights and electronics off and ban them from the bedroom. Put on your pajamas. Take a bubble path. Listen to a few records. Meditate. Drink some herbal tea. Grind and burn it if that’s your thing. Just do whatever you like for about an hour.

This will greatly improve both the quantity and quality of your sleep, which will make you better in every way. If you commit to nothing else in 2015, please sleep more. It’s better than every steroid and supplement combined into one, just see for yourself.

Tran hard, rest harder.



For more

  • If you want to instantly improve the quality of your sleep and the production of testosterone start with Kirk’s essential nighttime habits.
  • Learn more about what you can do to fix your sleep habits and hormones over at You can also Follow Kirk on Twitter for more great information and news.

27 Responses to “The 1 Thing That Will Make You Better at Everything – EPISODE 158”

  1. Ned

    Makes a lot of sense. Like the idea of an alarm to get to bed!! Bring on more sleep in 2015….

  2. Lance Haines

    This is one of the best videos I have seen in years. I am in the Fire Service. It is a given that I will lose sleep every third day, if I get any at all. Being able to recover and be productive the next day is a struggle. What is the best way to recover from a long night? Is it taking a nap the next day? Or is it better to stay up all day and get in bed early? Let me know what you think.

  3. Frank

    Thank you. I feel like this discussion has granted me absolution and overwhelming hope. I have made many lifestyle changes in the last few years that have basically stabilized my life but everything feels tenuous because I know that sleep is still my biggest problem. Everyone I have shared my doubts with or asked for help has fallen into one of two categories. There are people that accept sleep debt as a fact of adult life and people that recognize the importance of sleep with good sleep habits but have zero practical advice. They seem to “just do it” and expect the same.

  4. Andrew Allison

    Hi Guys,
    Great podcast love the work and all the other ass licking that goes with long term listening.
    I don’t want to be a troll (yeah yeah sorry Chris..) but I’d like some clarification.

    In the show Doc say’s diabetes is caused by self-abuse and can be reversed through healthy lifestyle. My son is type 1 and before falling ill and being diagnosed after a diabetic comma, he had and still has the best diet I can get for him (not paleo but pretty close). We have a great NHS service in the UK and all our doc’s have assured us his diabetes is life long.. We understand it to be an autoimmune disease and not a lifestyle disease as with “most” type 2’s. The doc really didn’t come across great to me in this area. I loved everything he said and Doug did mention the types later and it was sort of mentioned in passing. I just thought some of the statements where a bit misleading and harsh. We get comments all the time from the uneducated masses saying things like “He’s diabetic? oh did you let him have to much sugar?” I would just expect a little more understanding and explanation from a MD. If he’s right and we can reverse it then cool. Give me his number I’ll pay what ever it costs not to have my so go through all the complications that where mentioned but otherwise can we try and get clarifications on what he actually meant.

    Sorry I know this may be a little picky (and my grammar and spelling is probably offensive) I usually love you guys and your straight talk this just hit very close to the bone.

    • Chris

      Type 1 and Type 2 are fundamentally different, of course. One you’re born with, one you acquire. You can reverse onset diabetes (type 2).

      • Andrew Allison

        Cheers for the reply and sorry if I came across as a dick.. Keep up the awesome work.

        • Anne-Marie

          I appreciate this question and response clarifying that Doc Parsley was discussing Type 2 Diabetes. I think that distinction needs to be made when discussing what’s reversible and not (Type 1, unfortunately no cure at this point). I actually got a little on edge while listening until I realized he was discussing Type 2, but it’s also a disease I am passionate about having a similar experience as Mr Allison – had we not had this experience, the question or statement may have never happened.

          Wish there were more docs out there like Doc Parsley. Great episode guys. Appreciate all the work you do for the community!

  5. Mark

    Informative, I will be darkening my room and getting an extra hour.

  6. Richard Amazing

    Love the show, always interesting, especially this episode.

    How do naps fit into the total sleep benefit? If I take a 30-60 minute nap in the afternoon and then only sleep 7 hours at night, do I get the benefit of having 7.5-8 hours of sleep a day? Obviously we are assuming that the sleep conditions are equal.

  7. Barbara

    Wow guys! This was one of the best podcasts on nutrition I have ever seen/watched. There is no bullshit and it is highly informative. Additionaly, it is just explained in such a logical way it just makes sense.
    It also helps that I am an individual who could be included in Mike’s circle of friends (95% of whom thinking simirarly).
    I am a personal trainer and CF1 so I try to preach against the common knowledge and the doctors misinformation on health (as they do not have a clue about it).
    There is so much information out there and research which might get confusing. Have you thought of gathering valuable science (posting links)?
    Kudoz for doing a great job on making people responsible for their own health.

  8. Karen

    A really interesting show and reinforces my commitment to get more sleep. My background is in healthcare and I couldn’t agree more that both in the UK and USA that healthcare professionals are not educated enough in promoting health- the focus is on acute and episodic care. The self management of long term conditions is focussed primarily on drugs rather than lifestyle changes.

  9. Andrew Fraser

    Great listen – as a coach and police officer – sleep is so valuable.
    So Impressed by Dr Parsley – I am now hunting him to come to Australia and preach his word/work.

  10. Naysayer

    Chris, any discussions about adopting sleep hygiene principles with kids? We purposefully kept their rooms dark from birth. All of ours at some point have become afraid of the dark and require nightlights to sleep. We try to mitigate by using orange bulbs, but would prefer they sleep in the dark.

    Maybe we just have to be firm about the whole thing. Great show.

  11. Eric Pritchard

    Another great episode! Getting more sleep is my focus for the new year so I can improve my overall performance. Thanks for exposing us to Doc Parsley!

  12. Brandon Arndt

    I consider myself a dedicated competitive CrossFit athlete but I am also an ER nurse that works the night shift. I understand that sleep is important when it comes to performance but I am just curious what type of sleep schedule you would recommend for a night shifter and what times they should work out for optimal performance. Also, I try adjusting from nights to days on my days off and it just takes such a toll on your body. Is there any recommendations for transition periods between nights and days as well?

    • Chris

      I would think that sleep needs to happen during the day…every day, unfortunately. Rhythm and habit are everything. We’re now pretty convinced. Get 7.5 hrs if you can, anyway you can.

  13. Jerritt L

    This is probably the best episode of all of them. I’ve been encouraging all my soldiers and my family to watch/listen to it. Thanks fellas!

  14. Marcelle

    Great episode as always! Being a shift worker I know all about sleep deprivation. I’m jealous of people who can set a schedule and stick to it. I usually go lighter when I’m running on three hours sleep (I’m not a good sleeper).

    Thanks for bringing us great information!

  15. Eric

    Still blows my mind that people think this subject is argumentative. 7-8 hrs of sleep has been proven time & time again to be the sweet spot of a good night sleep for at least the past 20 years. Still like diets I guess people think its a “fad”.

  16. Rod

    Mark Twain: In America, we hurry–which is well; but when the day’s work is done, we go on thinking of losses and gains, we plan for the morrow, we even carry our business cares to bed with us, and toss and worry over them when we ought to be restoring our racked bodies and brains with sleep. We burn up our energies with these excitements, and either die early or drop into a lean and mean old age at a time of life which they call a man’s prime in Europe. When an acre of ground has produced long and well, we let it lie fallow and rest for a season; we take no man clear across the continent in the same coach he started in–the coach is stabled somewhere on the plains and its heated machinery allowed to cool for a few days; when a razor has seen long service and refuses to hold an edge, the barber lays it away for a few weeks, and the edge comes back of its own accord. We bestow thoughtful care upon inanimate objects, but none upon ourselves. What a robust people, what a nation of thinkers we might be, if we would only lay ourselves on the shelf occasionally and renew our edges!
    – The Innocents Abroad


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