Perfection is achieved, not when there is nothing more to add, but when there is nothing left to take away.—Antoine de Saint-Exupéry
Use The Minimum Effective Dose
The minimum effective dose (MED) is defined simply: the smallest dose that will produce a desired outcome. Whether you’re trying to lose weight, learn a new language, study for a final, or trying to achieve a goal, knowing the minimum effective dose is the key to doing it efficiently and effectively.
Here are some examples:
To boil water, the MED is 212°F (100°C) at standard air pressure. Boiled is boiled. Higher temperatures will not make water “more boiled.” Higher temperatures will just consume more resources that could be used for something else more productive.
Anything beyond the MED is wasteful.
If you need 15 minutes in the sun to trigger a melanin response, 15 minutes is your MED for tanning. More than 15 minutes is redundant and will just result in burning and a forced break from the beach. During this forced break from the beach, let’s assume one week, someone else who heeded his natural 15-minute MED will be able to fit in four more tanning sessions. He is four shades darker, whereas you have returned to your pale pre-beach self.
In the context of body redesign, there are two fundamental MEDs to keep in mind:
To remove stored fat → do the least necessary to trigger a fat-loss cascade of specific hormones. To add muscle in small or large quantities → do the least necessary to trigger local (specific muscles) and systemic (hormonal) growth mechanisms. Knocking over the dominos that trigger both of these events takes surprisingly little.
For example, for a given muscle group like the shoulders, activating the local growth mechanism require just 80 seconds of tension using 50 pounds once every seven days. That stimulus, just like the 212°F for boiling water, is enough to trigger certain prostaglandins, transcription factors, and all manner of complicated biological reactions.
If, instead of 80 seconds, you mimic a Men’s Fitness magazine routine—say, an arbitrary 5 sets of 10 repetitions—it is the muscular equivalent of sitting in the sun for an hour with a 15-minute MED. Not only is this wasteful, it is a predictable path for preventing and reversing gains. The organs and glands that help repair damaged tissue have more limitations than your enthusiasm. The kidneys, as one example, can clear the blood of a finite maximum waste concentration each day (approximately 450 millimoles per liter). If you do a marathon three-hour workout and make your bloodstream look like an LA traffic jam, you stand the real chance of hitting a biochemical bottleneck.
Again: the good news is that you don’t need to know anything about your kidneys to use this information. The bottom line is: More is not better. Indeed, your greatest challenge might be resisting the temptation to do more.
It’s something worth thinking about.