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. For the most part, the weight loss plans stress a high complex carb/low fat diet, regimented meals, portion control, and severe calorie restrictions. Oh, and it also helps if you have good genes because, like it or not, some of our weight control problems are hereditary. (This is not to say that you should just bemoan the fact that everyone in your family is overweight and comfort yourself with another piece of chocolate cake.)

We are told that the best way to fill up without filling out is to eat lots (6-11 daily servings) of whole grain breads and cereals, rice, corn, and pasta. Fiber (conveniently available in the aforesaid whole grains or in supplements), they say, improves gastrointestinal function, lowers cholesterol, speeds elimination, helps control weight by minimizing caloric intake.
We are to avoid saturated animal fats because “eating fats makes you fat” and eggs (except for the whites) because egg yolks can raise our cholesterol levels and endanger our hearts. For best results, we are urged to eat three meals (or six small meals) a day and cautioned against either skipping meals (because skipped meals cause slowed metabolism, lower energy levels, sugar cravings and future binging risk) or eating between meals (because of the risk of over-eating and because the foods we eat for snacks tend to be less nutritious). In fact, it would be a good idea, we are told, to keep a diary of everything we eat and to count every calorie.

In terms of fitness, we are urged to expend our energy in cardio workouts (a minimum of 30 minutes a day, three times per week – but more is better) and strength training with stress (pun intended) on lifting to failure (the point at which you can do no more) through a sequence of stations that requires active membership in a gym or fitness center, preferably with a personal trainer, and an hour or more each session.

There is an alternative. Mark Sisson, a serious competitive athlete, says, “I ran and bicycled thousands of miles each year, lifted at the gym several days a week, stretched like crazy every day….I sacrificed, endured and suffered because I truly believed it was necessary to achieve a healthy, lean, fit body….my devotion to fitness severely compromised my health.” Sisson has spent the past couple decades exploring what it really means to be a strong, fit, lean, healthy and happy human being. Using an imaginary (not unreal, just imagined) primal man called Grok, Sisson has developed an eating and fitness program that he calls “The Primal Blueprint.”

Grok was a hunter/gatherer who could conjure up bursts of strength or speed to save his life when he had to on occasion, track a tired animal for hours once in a while, climb a tree, carry heavy things, and generally exhibit a well-rounded level of fitness that provided preparedness for all situations. The caveman’s (actually, we don’t know if Grok lived in a cave or not. But he probably didn’t live in a split-level ranch) diet included meat – as much as he could kill and carry – animal fats, any eggs he could find, nuts and berries, fruits and vegetables. He pursued a ‘feast or famine’ type of eating plan – eating as much as he wanted when it was available, fasting on occasion when food was scarce. He didn’t worry much about calories or cholesterol, though he might have worried from time to time about where his next meal was going to come from.

Interestingly enough, in spite of the occasional intense physical demands of his lifestyle and the occasional scarcity 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, stresses a high fat/moderate protein/low carb diet consumed in intuitive and sporadic meals (eat when you’re hungry) with an occasional fast thrown in to aid weight loss. “Don’t worry about portion control, regimented meals, fanatical exercise or even family genetic predisposition,” Sisson says. “Calorie restriction with extreme exercise leads inexorably to long-term failure.”

According to the Primal Bllueprint, saturated fats should be major dietary calorie source (from animal foods). Such saturated fats drove 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 actually Metabolic Syndrome, driven by excess Polyunsaturated Fatty Acids, insufficient Omega-3’s, high carbs,excess insulin (from sugars and starches) and overly stressful lifestyle.

Sisson takes a similar no-nonsense approach to physical fitness. His program employs three types of exercise similar to those that Grok and his family might have used:

Move Frequently At a Slow Pace
This includes walking, cycling, swimming, hiking, playing and easy cardio that raises your heart rate to 55-75{2dd333ed9c7b2074fdfda098a56357c21ab487243e335d9241a31e34dbd5cf30} of maximum for two to five hours per week.

Lift Heavy Things
According to the plan, the heavy thing you will be lifting is your own body as you go through a regimen of exercises that include pushups, pullups, squats, overhead presses and the plank one to three times a week for 7-60 minutes.

All-out effort running, biking, swimming, or rowing of no more than ten minutes duration every 7-10 days.

This “caveman” (or cavewoman) approach to weight control and physical fitness is an uncommon sense approach that is doable.

Pungky Dwiasmoro Hiswardhani

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