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The Ultimate Guide to How Often You Should Do Stuff

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When it comes to your health, happiness and, um, hygiene, it’s not what you do that counts, but how often you do it. With a little help from some of Britain’s foremost experts, Coach’s sister title Men’s Fitness presents your guide to totally bossing your life with the bare minimum of effort.

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Your socks, your T-shirts and your grundies you’ll chuck into the washing basket on a daily basis. So it’s pretty gross that when it comes to our sheets – which we’re in contact with for up to nine hours a night – a third of us wash them only once a fortnight. “When you’re asleep, you’re rubbing off your skin cells onto your sheets and sweating into them,” says Dr Laura Bowater, a microbiologist at the University of East Anglia. “That creates a perfect breeding ground for bacteria and fungus to grow, and it can lead to allergies.” And it’s worse still if you share your bed with your other half, as you’re in effect doubling the amount of human detritus being shed.

Even if you’re a generally hygienic gent, it’s your other bedmates that’ll get you. “Bed mites consume the skin cells that have come off your body,” says Bowater. “They produce faeces, and that’s the thing that develops your allergies.” The solution is simple: wash your sheets as often as you can, but make sure that’s at least once a week. And whatever your mum used to tell you, don’t make your bed in the morning: mites thrive in the dark, warm, airless environment. Follow Bowater’s advice: “fold the covers back to let light and air onto your sheets” – or you’ll find yourself in a mitey fine mess.

Your morning double-shot Americano has been proven to lower your risk of everything from heart disease to dementia to diabetes, but that’s not why you drink it. No, it’s that reassuring slap and shoulder-shaking jerk into wakefulness that has you going back for more. And medically speaking, there’s nowt wrong with that.

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“People can drink five or six cups of coffee a day without experiencing any adverse effects,” says Peter Rogers, professor of biological psychology at the University of Bristol. “That’s well within the range where there are no harmful effects.” The key, according to Rogers, is to stick to what you know. “If you’re already drinking four or five cups a day, adding another probably won’t make much difference. But if you start to feel jittery or anxious, that’s a sign that you may need to cut back a bit.” So unless you’re mainlining Nespresso pods directly into your arteries, you can wake up and smell the coffee, guilt-free.

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Millions of men across the planet wept into their fry-ups last year when the World Health Organisation ranked bacon (and sausages, ham and other processed meats) as a carcinogen alongside asbestos and arsenic. But fret not: your bacon sarnie is safer than you think. “The health risk is measurable, but it’s not enormous, and it’s a small risk compared with, say, smoking or alcohol,” says nutrition scientist Sanders. “It’s not as deadly as the media was putting out.” To be on the safe side, Sanders says, stick to two helpings a week, and in general try to swap red meat for chicken and fish.

“There is no such thing as too much sex,” says sex therapist Simone Bienne. “You should have sex as often as you want.” Unless it starts to cause actual pain, of course, in which case you should probably stop. Sex has been proven to reduce stress, elevate mood and aid sleep. Really, the only problem is that having less of it than you’d like has the opposite effect, and can lead to depression. So if you’re feeling low, it’s time to get down.

Cholesterol panic? So 90s. The short version is that yolks raise “good” HDL cholesterol and not the “bad” LDL kind. “In practice, the level of cholesterol intake from eggs is negligible,” says Professor Thomas Sanders, emeritus professor of nutrition and dietetics at King’s College London. There’s a nutritional bounty of vitamins A, D, E, B12 and K, riboflavin, folate and iron in the yolks – but if it’s pure protein you’re after, eat as much egg white as you can manage.

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If it’s cover-model gains you want, you need to hit the weights room at least four times a week. But it is possible to pack on muscle with an altogether more relaxed gym-going routine, says elite personal trainer Tim Walker from Evolution of Man (opens in new tab). “If you’re pressed for time, two solid sessions should keep you in some pretty good muscle, but you’ll need to really tire your body by doing all the big power lifts in one session,” says Walker. In other words, squats, deadlifts, pull-ups, bench presses, lat pull-downs and military presses.

The advice from most shoe companies and retailers is to change your trainers every 500 miles. Longer than that, say manufacturers, and you risk injury as the cushioned sole wears away. “If I were selling shoes, I’d tell you to replace them every 500 miles too,” says Team GB ultrarunner Robbie Britton, who regularly competes in 100-mile and 24-hour races and has an altogether more rudimentary rule: “If they’ve got holes in them, get new ones.”

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Porn and masturbation go hand in hand. Or rather hand in, well… you know. And in moderation, neither is altogether bad. “If you watch porn with a partner, it can enhance your sexual creativity,” says sex therapist Bienne. “But if you’re masturbating to porn every day, it negatively affects your sex life. It can reduce your self-esteem and make you quite introverted, and you may get to the point where only you can meet your needs.”

Sound like you? Then it’s time to get a handle on your habit, says Bienne. “If you masturbate four times a week, half with porn and half with your imagination, that can be really healthy.”

Whether you’re looking to bulk up or shed fat, protein is your ally – but myths abound about how much you can eat in a sitting. Whatever the self-appointed experts tell you, the truth is you don’t have to wait two hours between chicken breasts. “Your body can absorb protein and will store a certain amount in the liver – it takes what it needs, and what it doesn’t it breaks down into urine. This can take a day or so,” says Sanders. “A healthy meal pattern is three times a day, with two snacks. If you eat big meals more often than that, your pancreas doesn’t get a rest, which isn’t good.”

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No nutritionist, dietician or medical expert will tell you as much, but the healthiest way to start your day is by grabbing a big, fat, ugly frog and biting into it. Hold on! No need to fish around in the garden pond just yet – the frog is a metaphor, you see.

“The idea is that if the first thing you did every day was to eat a live frog, everything else that happened that day would be pleasurable,” says productivity expert Matthew Brown of Think Productive (opens in new tab). “So every day, when you’re making a list of what you’re going to do at work, put a ‘frog’ on there – something that’s been sitting around just not being done. Once you do it, you’ll feel better about yourself and everyone will love you. So eat that frog once a day – it’s a good thing.”

Want to be a productivity ninja? Follow Brown’s top tips.

  • Focus: “You don’t have time to do everything, but you always have time to do the important things. Multi-tasking doesn’t work, and nor does constant self-interruption. Find the relevant thing to do and get on with that.”
  • Zero in: “While you’re dealing with email, you’re just a hamster on a wheel. Check emails three times a day, say at nine o’clock, 12 o’clock, four o’clock. Go into your inbox, process your emails down to zero, then close it down.”
  • Relax: “It’s really important to have a to-do list, but you could work a 100-hour week and you still wouldn’t get through everything. Just remember: no one ever gets to the end of their to-do list.”

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