Staying Healthy While Staring At A Computer 18 Hours A Day

39 Comments | Investment Banking - Lingo, Culture & Staying Alive

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“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. :)

About the Author

is the Founder of Mergers & Inquisitions and Breaking Into Wall Street. In his spare time, he enjoys learning obscure Excel functions, editing resumes, obsessing over TV shows, and traveling so much that he's forced to add additional pages to his passport on a regular basis.

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39 Comments to “Staying Healthy While Staring At A Computer 18 Hours A Day”

Comments

  1. says

    How much steak? Wow, that’s a tough one… let’s just say that deforestation in Brazil exists for a reason…. all the bankers in the world keep forcing them to cut down trees to raise cattle so bankers can have their beef and eat it too. That’s my theory at least.

  2. Tom says

    Just read this for the first time. Wow. Great, and I do mean GREAT post. I’m starting in IB full time this summer and it’s nice to think that there are at least some people out there who feel the same way I do on this topic. Probably the biggest criticism of the profession I have is how most bankers completely let their health go and end up looking like they’re 50 when they turn 25. In my personal opinion, no amount of money is worth sacrificing your health that much. Hopefully many analysts out there will take this post seriously.

    • says

      Yup, I gained a ton of weight early on and then lost it all over my 2nd year due to a really strict diet/exercise routine.

      No matter how much money you make, your health is always more important.

      Just look at Bill Clinton – he made $109 million since leaving office and that couldn’t stop him from needing heart surgery.

        • says

          Vacation time: sometimes you get a day or two off and some banks give a week after your first year finishes. No real other allowances especially these days as banks are cutting back, some do expense cabs late at night, gym membership, etc. though but again lately these have been reduced

  3. CR says

    What about High Intensity Training?

    10min a week, if complemented by the above recommendations for controlling your diet, sounds like the perfect solution. Bankers adopt what works, so do many use HIT or HIT derivatives?

    Example:

  4. Freddie says

    What about the 54,000 square foot gym that Goldman Sachs has in their new building (with fitness classes throughout the day)? Does that mean they actually care about wellness and allow employees time to workout? Or is it just for show? Or maybe it’s just for the back office folks?

    http://tinyurl.com/y33cp6d

  5. Pete says

    My biggest concern is smoking. I’ve been trying to quit for months now, and even if I go 1 week (that only happened once because I was on a break and had nowhere to go and no money to spend) without a cigarette, I always end up getting back on track to smoking before and after every little thing (before I get on the train, smoke. After I get off, smoke. Before I head into Mcdonald’s, smoke. After I eat Mcdonald’s, smoke. Before I smoke, smoke. That kind of thing), and I’m scared that this addiction could screw me up royally as a banker (if I ever get there).

    My question is this: can you be a successful banker who smokes? I’m afraid this stupid addiction will screw up my work. Is it possible to effectively work 18 hour days with a cigarette addiction?

    • says

      It’s a bad combination – smoking adds to all the health problems you’ll already be dealing with. I would try to quit, or at least find a different addiction to replace it.

  6. Jon Smith says

    Could you give me a realistic estimate of how many bankers actually maintain their health throughout their career?

    (I’m guessing 20% would be a liberal estimate).

    I’m hoping that I can get my 8 hours of sleep, and 20 minutes of very high-intensity exercise per day if I really work at it.

    Thanks for the advice,

    Jon

  7. says

    Hi all,

    I was actually inspired to read this article by a few friends in investment banking, whom I’ve watched physically grow more and more out of shape. It helped me realize there’s a certain psychology to eating healthy, and it’s easy to forget about it when you’re working 18-hour days. Being something of a fitness aficionado, I’d like to add my two cents.

    -Brian is spot on about food. It sounds easy to say you’re going to opt for healthy options, but temptation can be overwhelming especially in a stressful environment where people feel the need to reward themselves, and I suspect it’s amplified when you bill it to an expense account. Go for natural foods that can keep you alert. Salmon, tuna (sparingly), almonds, seasonal fruit, and green veggies are all great. I know this isn’t an option a lot of times given the social pressures I’ve read about via this blog, but water will do a lot to cut out calories.

    -The above point applies more especially if you’re pulling an all nighter. I know this sounds obvious, but weight is about calories consumed versus calories burned. By not sleeping, you need to feed yourself and your body can’t burn calories as fast. Healthier options will go a long way in at least keeping you reasonably healthy when doing all nighters.

    -Get half an hour of cardio in if you can. Don’t walk; speedwalk. Think walking as fast as you can without running. I know someone at a bank who does several speed-walk laps around his office, and he says it’s helped him a lot.

    -I appreciate that lifting weights at a gym isn’t an option a lot of the time, so improvise. Buy some resistance equipment and use it to put resistance on your muscles if you have some spare time, or just do basic stretches, sit-ups and push-ups if possible. A friend who travels a lot as a management consultant carries hollow weights that he fills with water when he has some time in his hotel. Be creative; muscle burns more food than fat.

    -I know I’m going to get a horrified response for this by at least one investment banker, but try to go easy on the coffee. The 200 lattes that Brian mention add up over time, and I’ve seen friends in investment banking slam down frappucinos to stay awake. If you really need the coffee, try and reduce your caloric intake, especially if you can’t exercise.

    Investment banking isn’t a profession where you can have intensive two hour Jack LaLanne workouts every day, but little things can help you enormous down the road. If you’re going to retire at 30 after a banking career, you may as well have your health.

    • M&I - Nicole says

      Thanks for your input. I agree. I have a friend who used to be in banking and he was fit even when he was in IB. He watches what he eats and I think he naturally has a pretty high metabolism though. He’s tall and buff – perhaps his basal metabolic rate is higher given the above

  8. Collin says

    I am starting an IB internship this summer and my biggest concern is deteriorating eyesight. Is there any computer software available to reduce the damage computer screen light has on your vision?

  9. Ali says

    The BB that I am interning at this summer has a fitness center at it. Are interns allowed to use the fitness centers?

  10. says

    How much leeway would you say first-year interns have as far as getting out for an hour or two twice a week? Despite having summered at my firm, I still feel like I’ll need to cut my teeth as the low man on the totem pole, and therefore any time I spend outside of the office at the gym will be looked down upon. I want to keep in shape (and obviously I can find time on weekends to work out), but I don’t want to do it entirely at the expense of my reputation within my group.

    • M&I - Nicole says

      I think it depends on your team and the deal flow during that period. 1 hour twice a week I believe is reasonable, but it also depends on the culture of your firm. You may want to “test” it out by mentioning “exercising” and “increasing your energy hence productivity” in your conversations w colleagues and see how they respond.

  11. says

    Would any firms ever integrate the ROM machine? (www.fastexercise.com).

    This machine costs an arm and a leg (over $16000). But, it promises to give a good four minute workout that equals an hour workout.

    I did my research, contacted the owners and some of the centers that were using it. Theys seem to support the efficacy of a general workout.

    I wonder if the people at the top, who had this kind of money, would ever buy it.

    • M&I - Nicole says

      I have not heard of the ROM machine, so I can’t comment though it promises great results!

  12. Mishka says

    Brian, this post was ingenious! Aside from bankers, it can help other business professionals too. I read an article by Brett Russo in (http://www.outsourceworkers.com.au/virtual-assistant-staying-in-shape/) that says it is really a matter of work-life balance. Definitely we have a lot to prevent because long hours in the computer can cause muscle aches, insomnia, stress and fatigue. Please continue writing this fitness health ideas. Thanks a lot Brian.

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