Try the 10,000-year-old health plan
Tear up the modern-day rule book and take a leaf out of caveman wisdom, says expert...
Last week’s crowning of Dubai’s fittest man may have left you thinking about kick-starting a fitness programme but will that thinking turn to action?
Well here’s some extra helpings of food for thought - what if there was a health-and-fitness plan that was fun, avoided punishing gym sessions and let you eat fatty foods, would that motivate you to action?
Health writer and triathlon enthusiast Mark Sisson says there is such a plan and it’s far more successful than the gruelling battles fought following wrong or misguided modern-day advice on health, fitness and nutrition.
Twenty years ago Sisson, as a successful endurance athlete, followed all the health and fitness guidelines of the day but, he says: “I was falling apart, perpetually sick, constantly hurting, and miserable.
“I had tendinitis, arthritis, and a host of
“My days were consumed with training. I was running 15 miles a day, biking 50, and swimming laps.” In desperation, Sisson investigated human health and devised an alternative strategy to suit the body’s original make-up. His findings are in his new book ‘The Primal Blueprint: Reprogramme Your Genes For Effortless Weight Loss, Vibrant Health & Boundless Energy’.
He explains: “We should model our diet, lifestyle and behaviours after our primal ancestors from 10,000 years ago, adapting them strategically to the realities of a modern life. Taking clues from evolutionary biology, I developed a set of instructions that allows you to control how your genes express themselves.
“Genes turn on and off in response to environmental cues - these include diet, exercise, sleep, stress, sunlight and a range of other inputs that we control.
“By providing the environmental inputs that our ancient, primal genes expect, we achieve the strongest, leanest, healthiest body possible. Best of all, it’s not an epic struggle between will and temptation, because you’re giving your body what it wants.”
He believes eating well should be effortless and delicious, staying fit should be simple and basic - and living without crippling degenerative diseases and dozens of prescriptions should be the norm.
Check out his tips on achieving ‘primal’ health. (It is advisable to seek advice from a GP or trainer, especially if you have a pre-existing medical condition, before changing your diet or exercise plan.)
Eating more fat and fewer carbs trains your body to burn fat, says Sisson. “This has many benefits,” he reveals. “When you’re a fat-burner, you have access to a virtually limitless source of energy - your own body fat. A fat-burner doesn't get ravenously hungry between meals, because there’s plenty of energy right here!”
Sugar burners, he says, are reliant on a perpetually fleeting source of energy. “We can only store about 500g of sugar (or glucose) in our bodies, with 400g in the muscles (depending on the size of your muscles) and 100g in the liver,” he says. “That doesn’t last very long. Once the sugar is used up, the sugar-burner then has to eat.
Top tips: Have meat as part of a balanced diet, although try to ensure it is pasture-raised and organic, and eat fruit and vegetables.
Avoid: Processed meats, grains, cooking oils, sugar, alfalfa, beans, peanuts, hard peas, kidney beans, soya beans and lima beans - things that must be soaked and cooked to be rendered non-toxic.
CUT THE CARDIO
“Many people aim to do 45 minutes to an hour of high-intensity aerobic activity each day to help with weight loss and heart health,” says Sisson.
“However, when you spend an hour each day doing high-intensity aerobic training, your adrenal glands secrete stress hormones as they assume you’re engaged in a stressful situation, like running from a predator or fighting for your life.
“That can place excessive strain on your system. It can deplete the body of energy, leading to increased appetite for quick-energy carbohydrates, and encourage the body to store more fat.” He advises this sort of workout should be confined to once a week.
“Whether you’re a casual fitness enthusiast or a professional athlete, you must establish a strong base of low-level aerobic conditioning before you can introduce more stressful, higher-intensity workouts, which should only be carried out once in a while,” he says. “Slowing down workout pace and moving around more in daily life leads to improved fitness and health.”
Top tips: Make long workouts easier and gradually increase the intensity of short workouts. Substitute an hour on the treadmill for a long walk or hike,” he suggests. “If you keep the pace light enough, you’ll never have to dip into your glucose stores and you’ll burn body fat almost exclusively.” For short workouts, Sisson says you should try running short sprints, or lifting weights.
Sleep is the foundation of health and is vital for muscle-building, neuroregeneration, and staving off degenerative diseases. “Inadequate sleep increases inflammation, reduces our ability to process carbohydrates, heightens our tendency to gain fat and makes junk food more tasty,” says Sisson.
Top tips: Try to find ways to deal with stress as it impacts sleep, digestion and your ability to burn fat. “Regularly getting out in the sunlight and fresh air and engaging in creative outlets can help you avoid a build-up of stress,” he says.
The point of health and fitness is to enhance enjoyment of life. Do activity for fun not to suit some goal-driven lifestyle that sucks the joy out of existence.
Top tips: “I urge you to determine the success of your fitness programme by how much fun you are having,” he says. “Play and get physical, whether it’s doing sport or running after grandchildren. There’s no reason why we ever should have stopped playing at some arbitrary age. Find, or rediscover, something you love to do then do it.”