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The Caveman’s Guide to Food and Fitness
There are any number of weight loss plans and fitness programs available to suit almost any level of masochism. In most cases, weight loss plans emphasize a high complex carbohydrate/low fat diet, regimented meals, portion control, and severe calorie restriction. Oh, and it also helps if you have good genes because, like it or not, some of our weight control issues are hereditary. (This doesn’t mean everyone in your family is overweight and you should just mourn to console yourself with another piece of chocolate cake.)
We’re told to eat plenty (6-11 servings per day) of whole-grain breads and cereals, rice, corn and pasta. Fiber (conveniently found in the aforementioned whole grains or supplements), they say, improves gastrointestinal function, lowers cholesterol, speeds elimination, helps control weight by reducing calorie intake.
We should avoid saturated animal fats because “eating fat makes you fat” and eggs (except whites) because egg yolks can raise our cholesterol levels and endanger our hearts. For best results, we are told to eat three meals a day (or six small meals) and are warned not to skip meals (because skipping meals leads to slower metabolism, lower energy levels, sugar cravings and future risk factors) or Eating between meals (because of the risk of overeating and because the foods we eat for snacks are less nutritious). In fact, it would be a good idea, we are told, to keep a diary of what we eat and count every calorie.
In terms of fitness, we are encouraged to put our energy into cardio workouts (minimum 30 minutes a day, three times a week – but better) and strength training (pun intended) with pressure to lift to failure (the point where you can’t do anything else). ) through a sequence of stations that require an active membership in a gym or fitness center, preferably with a personal trainer, and each session lasting an hour or more.
There is an alternative. Mark Sisson, a serious competitive athlete, says, “I ran and biked thousands of miles every year, hit the gym several days a week, stretched like crazy every day….I sacrificed, endured, and suffered because I truly believed this. A healthy, lean, fit body was necessary to achieve… My devotion to fitness seriously compromised my health.” Sisson has spent the past few decades exploring what it means to be a strong, fit, lean, healthy and happy person. Using a fictional (not fictional, just imagined) primitive man called Grok, Sisson developed an eating and fitness program he called the “Primal Blueprint.”
Grok was a hunter/gatherer who could use bursts of energy or speed to save his life, when he sometimes had to track an exhausted animal for hours, climb a tree, carry heavy objects, and generally perform a well. A rounded level of fitness that provides preparation for all situations. The caveman’s (actually, we don’t know if Grok lived in a cave. But he probably didn’t live on a split-level farm) diet consisted of meat – as much as he could kill and carry – animal fat, any eggs he could find, nuts. And berries, fruits and vegetables. He followed a ‘feast or famine’ type of eating plan – eating as much as he wanted when available, fasting when food was scarce. He didn’t worry much about calories or cholesterol, although he might worry from time to time about where his next meal would come from.
Interestingly, despite the sometimes intense physical demands of his lifestyle and occasional lack of food, Grok probably enjoyed more leisure and quality time with his family than many of his modern counterparts. The Primal Blueprint, based on Sisson’s research, emphasizes a high-fat/moderate-protein/low-carb diet of intuitive and sporadic meals (eat when you’re hungry) with occasional quick throws to aid weight loss. “Don’t worry about portion control, regimented meals, fanatical exercise or even familial genetic predispositions,” Sisson says. “Calorie restriction with extreme exercise leads inexorably to long-term failure.”
According to the Primal Blueprint, saturated fats should be the main dietary calorie source (from animal foods). This type of saturated fat has driven human evolution/advancement of brain function for two million years. It promotes efficient fat metabolism, weight control and stable energy levels. A major risk factor for heart disease is metabolic syndrome, which is driven by excess polyunsaturated fatty acids, insufficient omega-3s, high carbohydrates, excess insulin (from sugars and starches) and a highly stressful lifestyle.
Sisson takes a similar no-nonsense approach to fitness. His program employs three types of exercises Grok and his family can use:
Move frequently at a slow pace
These include walking, cycling, swimming, hiking, playing and easy cardio that raises your heart rate to 55-75% of your maximum for two to five hours per week.
Lifting heavy objects
According to the plan, the heaviest thing you’ll lift is your own body, as you go through an exercise regimen that includes pushups, pullups, squats, overhead presses, and planks one to three times a week for 7-60 minutes.
All-out effort is running, biking, swimming, or rowing for more than ten minutes every 7-10 days.
This “caveman” (or cavemen) approach to weight control and fitness is an uncommon knowledge method that is possible.
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