7 Discipline Hacks for Gym & Kitchen

Let’s get real. All the fitness hacks in the world won’t mean a thing if you can’t do them consistently. One way or another, you’re going to need some discipline to eat well and stay fit.

Fortunately, you don’t need a drill sergeant to accomplish this. And you don’t have to force yourself, either. Discipline becomes easy when you understand the discipline equation.

DISCIPLINE = The Importance of a Goal (subjective) + Psychological joy of pursuing the Goal – Friction of performing the tasks associated with the Goal

Or more simply stated, Discipline = WHY + JOY – FRICTION

Your why is up to you – whether you want to be around longer for your kids, or feel pride in having accomplished a particular goal, or anything else that gives meaning to the actions you choose.

But I can certainly help add joy and reduce friction to many parts of your fitness and nutrition routine. Here are 7 ways to do just that.

Challenge: Start your day with PROTEIN

I started challenging people to get 50 grams, or 40% of their daily requirement (whichever is lower), of protein at breakfast every day before 10 am. This is a discipline that yields a tremendous carryover to the discipline of the rest of your diet. The adherence to nutrition behaviors for the rest of the day goes up dramatically when you make lots of protein for breakfast your main priority. You reduce friction for the rest of the day. You won’t be so inclined to reach for bad options and feel pulled away from your goals. Furthermore, when you are fueled with protein early in the day the is a psychological boost you will feel that makes the process of adherence so much more enjoyable.

Meat and Egg Scramble

  • 2 Eggs
  • 4 Ounces Cooked Chicken Breast
  • 1 Large Zucchini
  • Olive Oil

Overnight Oats

  • 1/2 Cup Oatmeal
  • 1.25 Cups Nonfat Greek Yogurt
  • 1 Scoop Protein Powder
  • 1/2 Cupe Blueberries
  • 1/2 Banana

Go to the Gym With a Plan

The number of people who come to the gym to workout without a plan is staggering. The person without a plan has endless obstacles waiting for them when they get to the gym. There is going to be so much precious time wasted. There will be decision fatigue when you are left with endless options. And you won’t have any sense of what is progressing or not when you just randomly do what feels good on any given day. Even if the plan you have isn’t perfect or thoughtfully constructed like PERSIST is, still have a plan.

Perhaps even more important is having a schedule. When you have the intention to get a workout in the next day, but you don’t assign a specific time to this, you are just calling for something to get in the way of you and your goal. Schedule your workouts for the week ahead of time and keep to them like you would a work meeting or your dentist appointment.

Make Simple 5 Ingredient Meals

Nothing pisses me off more than seeing nutrition recipes with 10 ingredients and 15 steps being pushed out on social media as tools to win the nutrition game. It’s just crazy to think that anything that takes that much time and is that complex is going to be repeatable enough for someone to win. Lower the friction of food by making simple recipes.

My Tool for this is 5 Ingredient Meals. The two Breakfast options I listed above fall inside this guide. You can have no more than 5 ingredients on your plate.

  1. Protein – pick a lean protein
  2. Veggie – add a veggie you like
  3. Carb – choose a fruit or a..starch (potato, rice, oatmeal)
  4. Fat – supplement with fat as needed (avocado, butter, olive oil)

Pick 5 ingredients from these 4 categories and you’ve got yourself a meal.

Just Start Moving for 5 Minutes

Movement is a powerful motivator. When you start moving there are feedback loops to your brain that make you feel good. The friction is in getting moving for many people. Once they are doing some activity there is a psychological reward that is substantial.

Going back to the discipline equation, this Hack helps us experience the JOY and minimize the FRICTION. I call it the JUST-START MOVING hack when I get to the gym. 

The first steps and movement you conduct in the gym is often the most challenging. The whole workout can sometimes loom over your head as a task too big to try and tackle. Therefore, we minimize the FRICTION of starting by only committing to 5 MINS. Just come in and complete your sweaty warm-up. If that is the only goal on your list then it seems less of an obstacle. You can literally pack up after your warm-up if you want and head home.

And this is where the JOY portion of the discipline equation comes in. Five minutes of simple movement will give you enough of a feedback to likely keep you engage and wanting to do more.

So if you are having a hard time seeing how you are going to tackle your fitness today, JUST COMMIT TO 5 MINUTES. Do your warm up and then you can decide what the next step is.

Control Your Environment

Stock your pantry and fill your counter correctly.

I’m Hungry! – When hunger strikes and you want to remain disciplined, convenience and preparation are everything. Our physiological hunger signals are so powerful. They will break down even the most highly disciplined person when they are not well prepared.

Ever wonder how people consistently choose to eat well most of the time? It isn’t because they don’t like Pizza or Burgers. It is because they have readily available, high-quality, nutrition food at their disposal all the time.

Fridge & Pantry Guide

See how I stock my house for low-friction healthy meals

Pantry/Fridge/Countertop Staples –

  • Low Sugar Beef Jerky (high protein)
  • Canned Tuna or Tuna Packets (high protein)
  • Plain Rice Cakes (low-calorie carbs)
  • Kirkland Protein Bars (20grams protein & high fiber)
  • Whey Protein Powder (quick high protein shake or mix in for your yogurt)
  • Fresh Fruit on the Countertop – have 3 fruits easy and in plain site to grab (apples, pears, oranges, bananas, peaches)
  • Greek Yogurt (Low fat, Non fat, Full fat) – high protein no prep
  • Egg Whites – high protein low calorie quick meal (3mins on the stovetop)
  • Low Fat Cottage Cheese (high protein)
  • Frozen Berries (high fiber low calorie) – mix in with yogurt or cottage cheese
  • Low Calorie Condiments – salsa, coconut aminos, balsamic vinegar, mustard, nutritional yeast, tamari, raw honey, and sriracha
  • Snacking Veggies (easy to grab and much on) – carrots, celery, cucumbers
  • Canned beans (high fiber) – easy add on side to eggs

Win Tomorrow - Leave Something In the Tank

Every New Year I give out my advice to people that are trying to reconnect to their fitness after the holidays. Many people use this as a kickstart to their health and fitness goals for the year. It is a time when people hope to muster up the discipline that they have been lacking and sadly they screw it up by taking on more than they can sustainably follow through with.

One area I always encourage people to take caution is the level of intensity they bring to their training. Go hard at the start and you run the risk of crashing and burning out. I encourage a mentality of “Leave Something in the Tank” every day. If you have an effort level of 10/10 to potentially give in the gym, then when you get going, only allow yourself to go 6-7/10. The goal is to walk out of the gym feeling like you could have done more.

This mentality will keep you enthusiastic about tomorrow, or the next workout. This mentality will help you avoid the over training mistake that can land you in the pain or over sore category. Finally, this mentality will lower the activation energy required to complete the work. Staring up a mountain is more intimidating than looking at a flat path to the ocean. Walk the flatter more gentle path day after day rather than trying to climb Everest on day one.

Be Flexible - Treat yourself

Treat yourself daily and intelligently.

The JOY portion of the discipline equation is something I’ve paid more attention to in the past couple of years, especially when it comes to my nutrition. At times in my life I’ve actually believed that I would never have PASTA or CAKE or GLUTEN for that matter ever again in my life. I wrote them off as “BAD” foods and was committed to never eating them again.

And because I had manipulated the Discipline Equation of nutritional adherence in my favor so many other ways I was successful for long stretches. But removing these foods that bring JOY to eating eventually led me to fail in my discipline. A pasta, or pizza, or dessert binge session awaited me. And when it did happen that I fell out of discipline, I would feel so much guilt, shame, and label myself a failure. Then wake up the next day and try to recommit to my plan.

Sometime last year, I had a realization. I had just finished reading Flexible Dieting, a book by Alan Aragon, and it became so clear to me that actively avoiding foods is a recipe for failure. On the contrary, actively including foods can be a tool to increase DISCIPLINE and adherence to a healthy lifestyle.

If you learn what amounts of food you actually need to reach your goals, and you understand how to read food labels and track your consumption, you’ll find that any food can fit into your diet. An intelligent treat daily can increase JOY and reduce the FRICTION of dieting dramatically. Here are some of my favorite ways to include the foods I love each day.

  • Air Popped Popcorn with Seasoning Salt – High fiber, lower calorie, and with some Sour Cream and Onion seasoning salt is a tasty snack.
  • Cereal with Non Fat Fairlife Milk – 1/2 Cup of Honey Nut Cheerios or Fruity Pebbles with a Cup of Fairlife Non Fat Milk is a low calorie way to get in the kids cereals I love.
  • Ninja Creami – A high protein low calorie ice cream hack that can be consumed daily for me

These are foods that allow me to practice Flexible Dieting. I still make room for a Pizza day once a week, and because I know it is regular thing I don’t have to eat the entire pizza ever single time we get it.


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I hope these tips help you. What have you found to be the most impactful Discipline Hacks that you have used in your life. These could be for work, relationships, fitness, nutrition, meditation, or anything else you want to remain disciplined with. I’d love to hear.

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