“I live in the American Gardens Building on W. 81st Street on the 11th floor. My name is Patrick Bateman. I’m 27 years old. I believe in taking care of myself and a balanced diet and rigorous exercise routine. In the morning if my face is a little puffy I’ll put on an ice pack while doing stomach crunches. I can do 1000 now.”
-Patrick Bateman, American Psycho
Back in the day, it was easy for investment bankers to stay fit. If you’re anything like Patrick Bateman here, can you too use a combination of diet, rigorous exercise, stomach crunches and facial cream to stay fit and look young?
Probably not, at least if you are really understanding investment banking. It’s a massive change from your student lifestyle (and Bateman is a fictional character). Those convenient breaks in between classes when you went running or went to the gym no longer exist. Now you have coffee breaks where you go to Starbucks and get 200 calorie lattes. And you have those $30/night dinners where you almost feel compelled to order the 20 worst foods in America. Yes, this is what investment bankers do: get fat.
On top of all that, you’re stationary for most of the day. If you could walk even an hour a day, you would burn around 300 calories. But will you have an hour a day? Here’s how you can stay in shape when you have minimal time and sleep and are surrounded by unhealthy habits and food.
What You Eat
It’s easy to get lured into ordering $30 ribs each night when it’s not on your tab. Instead, order healthier choices like salmon, lean chicken and vegetables. People in banks tend to have a herd mentality and will mock you at first when they see you ordering something that doesn’t have tiramisu as dessert. Ignore them. After a few months you can mock them when their pants no longer fit.
As far as other dinner foods, sushi (ok, maybe not tuna) is generally ok to order from restaurants. It’s hard to add calories and fat to food that is uncooked to begin with. Most banks will also let you go to grocery stories for dinner and expense your receipts – Whole Foods is always a good choice. Going to other places to eat also forces you to walk and get physical activity.
Aside from dinner, always eat breakfast and try to eat 6-7 small meals throughout the day rather than eating just a huge dinner and junk food throughout the day. If you have to, spend a little extra on groceries and bring your own food. Fruits, vegetables and yogurt are all good snacks.
What You Do
As an investment banking analyst, the only part of the day you own is the morning. So if you work out or run, try to do it long before you have to be at work. Find a gym that is open 24/7 and use that for all your exercise needs.
The only problem with going in the morning is that waking up at 6-7 AM is going to be very difficult if you’ve only gone to sleep at 3 or 4 AM the night before. If you have late nights every single day, either go on the weekends or work out a time to go just before dinner.
Even at the largest banks and the most intense groups (see: UBS LA), your superiors will generally let you get out of the office for an hour at night, especially if they know it’s a regular event. Sometimes you will be too busy or have too much going on to leave, but it’s better to ask than assume that you can’t go. Even if it’s just an investment banking internship, you can still likely get permission to go.
It helps if you’re in an athletic group, however informal – some senior bankers play racquetball or do other activities like triathlons, just so they don’t look like they’re bankers.” This could also be a good way to socialize and get to know some of the Managing Directors in your group outside the context of work, which always comes in handy in the future.
Try to take quick walking breaks every hour or whenever you can do so. If your friends always go to Starbucks, walk with them but don’t order anything or just get tea.
What You Don’t Do
What to avoid is almost as important as what to do when you’re trying to maintain your health as an investment banker.
Drugs, alcohol and smoking. No models and bottles for you.
It’s just like D.A.R.E. back in elementary school, except now you’re avoiding them because they’ll make you fat. Alcohol in particular can be hard to avoid since your friends will want to go out and drink all the time. If you can’t avoid it altogether, do it in moderation. I very rarely have more than a glass of wine now, and people don’t even notice that I don’t drink much.
Another benefit: you can save more of your investment banking analyst salary if you’re not going drinking every night.
And If All Else Fails
No matter what you do, you will most likely get more out of shape from ibanking. By following the recommendations above, though, you can lessen the impact on your health and stay in relatively good shape.
And if all else fails, consider the Treadmill Desk. :)