3 Things a Primal Athlete Does to be “Fit for Life”

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What happens when you train hard for months with a race goal in mind, you get there perform well and then… what do you do after the event? Keep training hard, no worries? Or are you like most folks… do you lose motivation, stop training, have a few weeks off and then really struggle to get back into it.
This led me to think what is your motivation in the off season or with no race goal in mind.
Without having a race or specific goal in mind I keep motivated by the idea that if friends rang up and said lets go for a hike, a mountain bike ride, for a swim, a surf, to the gym to lift weights or a run I would be able to keep up, would I have enough fitness to finish the activity and not be too sore the next day!
This also made me think about what makes a good all round athlete. I have discussed it before about being a good “life all rounder” and what things we need to do to be able to be a good all round fit human that could do any activity at the drop of a hat. Sometimes with no specific goal or race to work towards, trying to get back the fitness you had is hard. It is hard to find the motivation to get out there and exercise. What are the things we should do to be a fit, healthy all round everyday athlete?
So three things I try and do are…

#1 Get stronger

This one is a no-brainer: stronger athletes are faster, less likely to get injured, and bounce back from hard runs or exercise quicker than those who don’t do any strength exercises. One of the Primal Blueprint Laws outlined by Mark Sisson is to be more like our primal hunter gatherer ancestors and to Lift Heavy Things.

This is great in theory, but how exactly do you get stronger? What exercises are best? When should you do them?

The three strength routines I do each serve a purpose and each one is athlete-specific and should make you stronger and faster.

The MSP (maximum sustained power) is a power/stamina workout for endurance athletes. It is designed to avoid muscle fatigue on the back end of long exercise. It builds strength in all the areas that athletes need, like the hips, glutes, abs, and lower back.

The Runner Specific Workout is a more challenging strength workout that focuses on hip and glute strength. These muscles are critical for injury prevention and speed, power and endurance during your runs (or any activity).

The Upper Body Strength Workout is specifically designed to increase the strength that you will need during your Spartan Races like grip strength, upper body strength, and the ability to carry odd loads. It helps functional fitness and strength and has a cross over into life in general. It should make you more mobile, injury free, more resilient and be able to carry out daily task with seemingly less effort. Exercises include the bench press, the deadlift, squats, presses and carries.

#2 Exercise Long-Endurance 

Most athletes need more endurance. If you take that simple concept to heart, you WILL run faster.

See, too many runners think they have to run faster to race faster. But most of the problem is not being able to maintain a fast pace – and that’s a problem of endurance.

And the long run is one of the best ways to develop that endurance. On your long runs aim to run 5-7 kilometres longer than your next longest runs of the week.

Even if you’re not training for a race, it helps to run one long run per week that’s about 20-30% of your weekly mileage. Keep working at it and focus on very gradual increases in distance every 1-2 weeks. This concept can be used for developed endurance for life in general and being able to run, swim, bike, hike etc when called upon and can be used for any endurance exercise.

#3 Run EASY!

As you are aware my training philosophy is in alignment with the Primal Endurance principle of making your easy days really easy, and your hard days harder.

Polarizing your training this way helps you gain more fitness on hard days while boosting recovery on easy days.

Not sure what “easy” really means? Just follow the “3 C’s” of easy running. Easy runs should be:

  • Comfortable
  • Controlled
  • Conversational

Prioritizing recovery and mobility on easy days will help you run even faster during more challenging workouts – and ultimately, your races.

These three strategies can help you cut your injury risk, gain more endurance, run a lot faster and be ready for any type of exercise when its needed.

I could add #4 Sprint, #5 Work on Your Mobility and #6 Rest and Recover to the things good all round athletes do but we might talk about those next week…
An example of a non specific race training week for me might look like this
1x Long Endurance Run of an hour plus.
1x Strength (Running specific, MSP or Resistance workout)
1x Easy Run or Sprint- less than 45 minutes
1x Body Weight Workout- 5 Rounds for time of…
  • Wide Push Ups (chest) 8

    Mountain climbers (abs) 20 each leg

    Side lunges (Legs) 6 each side

    Plank (abs) 30 sec

    Burpees (Full body) 8

    Air squats (Legs) 

    Bench Dips (arms) 15

    Rest 2 min

Fasting 101

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There has been a lot of talk about fasting in the fitness and primal worlds of late so I thought I would share the few fasting protocols that I have found extremely beneficial for weight loss, performance and longevity.

Firstly, we should start with what is fasting? Simply, fasting is going without food or drink for a period of time. An absolute fast is refraining from everything, food, water, drink and supplements. There is also varying forms of intermittent fasting using bone broths, coffees and teas and supplements. A water fast, as the name suggests in drinking nothing but water for your fasting period.

There are a wide range of health benefits to fasting. These include:

  • Weight loss– studies have shown that fasting is an excellent way to reduce body fat. One study in 2015 found that participants lost 7% body fat and reduced inflammation markers without sacrificing muscle mass using alternate day protocol.
  • Normalises insulin levels– one of the markers for ageing, diabetes and inflammation is insulin levels. When you consume too many carbs and sugar you body releases insulin to bring the blood sugar levels back to normal. If this cycle happens too often your body’s natural production of insulin can breakdown- hence type 2 diabetes! Fasting can lower insulin levels and reduce insulin sensitivity helping to stop type 2 diabetes.
  • Normalises ghrelin levels- Ghrelin is the hormone responsible for telling your body you are hungry. Being fat adapted and being able to fast for extended periods of time allows your ghrelin hormone to normalise, following its correct circadian rhythm and tell you when you are actually hungry.
  • Lowers triglyceride levels– triglycerides are a indicator for heart disease. They rise in relation to bad cholesterol. Fasting helps to reduce or lower the amount of triglycerides in your blood.
  • Allows cellular autophagy– Cellular autophapy is the bodies mechanism for cleaning up debris in the cells causes by oxidation, metabolism and excess consumption of carbs. Autophagy is programmed cell death. If we are constantly feeding the body with food and fuel our metabolism is high and the body thinks we need to be always making new ells. Whilst this is good to some regard if you are wanting to build muscle, being go go go all the time doesn’t allow the body to heal and repair itself through this celluar clean up. Fasting allows the body to stop, slow down and repair. Fasting is a great way to rid the body of pre-cancer cells and allow our bodies to get rid of damaged cells (which is what cancer cells are!)
  • Promotes the secretion of Human Growth Hormone-according to Dr Axe HGH is naturally produced by the body and it has been effectively used to treat obesity and help build muscle mass, important for burning fat. HGH also helps increase muscle strength, which can help improve your workouts, too. Combine these together and you have an effective fat-burning machine on your hands.

So now you know what fasting is and some of the many benefits, what are some of the fating protocols you can do to get all these great benefits. The following 4 fasting protocols (and there are hundreds of others out there) are ones that I have personally used and have found to be efficacious in weight loss and management, better performance and building muscle.

  1. 18/6 Intermittent Fast– this protocol involves fasting for 18 hours with a 6 hour re-feeding window. This is my favourite fating type and I will do this 5 days a week. It involves eating dinner about 6pm and not eating again until bout 12pm then next day. I then will have two meals, lunch at 12pm and dinner again at 6pm. I will also have a snack in between. As you can see by the name you fast for 18 hours and then are ‘allowed’ to eat in the 6 hours between 12pm-6pm at night. I like this time frame but other people like to use 16/8 or 14 hours. This is a really good introduction into fasting and helps you get an understanding that you wont die from not eating, that it is actually quite easy to do, makes you feel like you have achieved something through self discipline and frees up time.
  2. 24 hour fast– As the name suggests you don’t eat for 24 hours. I do some travelling on day trips on an aircraft and I like to use this one where i know I cant get decent food. I usually eat dinner about 6pm one night, then not eat again until 630pm the next night, so as you can see you are eating every day, just 24 hors apart!
  3. 3- day fast– I have tried this one on several occasions but this one takes some discipline and preparation. I prepared bone broth, as well as supplement drinks as I knew this would diminish my electrolyte levels. Be very careful with this one. I found that the second day is hard but once you push through the initial hunger late on day two, you feel like you can go for ever!
  4. 5:2– the 5 and 2 periodic fast has been popularised by Dr Michael Mosely. I have tried this protocol and didn’t like it that much as it felt like the 18/6 IF but only for 2 days and you ate whatever you lied on the other days. It works for reducing Insulin Like Growth Factor 1 (IGF-1) which is a marker for longevity but I feel (and I am not a doctor like he is …) you get more benefits from the 18/6 with regards to performance and weight loss. This protocol entails eating normally for 5 days a week and severely restricting your calories on 2 days a week, usually the weekend.

So there you have it what fasting is, the benefits and a few protocols to get you started. If you have any questions or comments about your own fasting protocols, I would love to hear about them in the comments section. Stay tuned for my Top Ten Fasting Tips in the coming few days!

 

The Ketogenic Diet

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Welcome to my three part series on one of the most talked about diets in fitness, nutrition and healthy living; the Ketogenic Diet…

One of the biggest “trends” in nutrition at the moment is the ketogenic diet or as you may have heard to referred, Keto. I say trends in inverted commas because this is one diet that I believe should be here to stay.

The term ketogenic comes from the term ketones, which are the molecules that fuel your body when you are in ketosis, or when you are eating following a low carb high fat protocol. Ketones are a by-product of when your body burns fat and they are what your cells use for energy.

There are numerous peer reviewed research papers that suggest the ketogenic diet fixes a number of metabolic syndrome conditions like poly-cystic ovarian syndrome, diabetes as well as weight issues and there is even evidence it helps autism, multiple sclerosis, Alzheimer’s, Parkinson’s and a host of other neurodegenerative disorders

The reason why I like it is for weight loss, lifestyle and long term control of weight.

There is currently a ketogenic diet revolution underway and its only going to gain strength. I believe it should be the way of the future for helping the obesity epidemic currently facing the world.

 For decades we have been told that the healthy diet is smaller portions, fewer calories, lower our fat intake, eat whole grains and limit meat consumption. There is a disturbing lack of evidence that this is true, in fact it could be the opposite.

But what is the Ketogenic diet?

At the most basic level the keto diet is one that relies on fat as the main source of energy. That may not sound like a big deal but most people are burning glucose or sugar for fuel and consuming large amounts of carbohydrates, sometimes as often as 300-500g per day, to meet those needs.

Burning fat as a fuel source is a much healthier and more efficient metabolic tool for improving health. Dr Steve Phinney and Dr. Jeff Volek, experts in the field of exercise and low carb high fat (LCHF) eating, note that sugar burners have approximately 2000 calories of available in their body whereas fat burners have about 40,000 calories worth of fuel.

To get your body to prefer fat as its fuel source it requires you to restrict carbohydrates (to somewhere below 50 grams per day), eat moderate amounts of protein and eat as much fat as it takes to feel satiated or full. It take a few weeks to become fat adapted, possibly up to about two months according to Jimmy Moore, podcaster for livin’ the vida low carb and author of several excellent books on keto and keto cooking. To me it makes sense that if you want to burn fat, you need to feed your body fat and become fat adapted. Calorie counting and exercise do not work for long term weight loss. The keto diet, where you are changing you bodies fuel pathway sources to prefer fat over carbohydrates, means you will burn fat as your primary energy source and therefore, lose weight and keep it off.

Part 2 in the series looks at how the ketogenic will heal your body…