As I sit here picking bits of Medium Rare tender beef steak out of my teeth, I am reminded of why I love being a human: I get the rare opportunity to eat the meats of lesser boned aminamals… and be conscious of my enjoyment of it.
Vegetables are great, I fuckin love’em; I’m eating a HUGE salad with this meal. But eating a garlic pepper seasoned, slightly bloody, organic, grass-fed steak is like… a kickboxing match in your mouth. Ah… yes.
This post is about my month-long experiment of Going Primal. So let’s first spell out the rules.
For the next 4 weeks, or 28 days, I will be following ‘The Primal Blueprint.’
This means I will be eating according to their guide as well as ‘exercising’ according to their standards using their methods. Very basically this means following the 10 Primal Laws.
The 10 Primal Laws.
1: Eats lots of animals, plants, and insects.
2: Move around a lot at a slow pace.
3: Lift Heavy Things.
4: Run really fast every once in a while.
5: Get lots of sleep.
7: Get some Sunlight every day.
8: Avoid Trauma (Self Destructive behavior.)
9: Avoid Poisonous things (Mc. Donald’s, processed food, Grains… etc.)
10: USE YOUR MIND.
For those who want to hear all this straight from the horse’s mouth, I direct you here http://www.marksdailyapple.com/definitive-guide-primal-blueprint/#axzz1jg4ZSjHP
That’s a pretty simple outline for a lifestyle, maybe too simple? I thought getting fit and eating right had to be this hard, overbearing, miserable, and long and drawn out process; now you’re telling me that PLAYING is a part of my health and fitness? So it would seem.
People take up a diet and fitness routine for its benefits to one’s health and physique, so I assume the question on everyone’s mind is “how will you eat and what exercises will you be doing?” ‘Tis a fair question. Let us dive in to the eating part. As Mark Sisson, the author of the Primal Blueprint says, “80% of your body composition is the foods you eat.” I won’t type word for word what he goes on to say about gene expression; it’s quite lengthy and you can just buy his book or visit Mark’s Daily Apple.
Basically I will be eating primally, following the first Primal Law.
1: Eats lots of animals, plants, and insects.
That’s simple enough. Like most eating patterns this means (Law 9: Avoid Poisonous Things) no processed bullshit, sodas, refined sugars yada yada yada. What’s new, at least for me, is the blatant attack on grains coming out of left field. I always thought whole wheat, multi grain, and oatmeal was good for me.
Maybe not. The cornerstone of the Primal Blueprints eating habits all revolve around your body’s insulin production and the pancreas’ insulin response to the amount and type of carbohydrate that you put into your body, as well as removing all grains from your diet. Completely. Immediately. Permanently. Why? An in-depth look at why grains are bad is another matter in itself; one that would easily double this article. Therefore, I direct you here: http://www.marksdailyapple.com/why-grains-are-unhealthy/#axzz1kK24SP00
In short the Primal Blueprint (PB) dietary lifestyle is:
- No Grains. This means no bread, rice, pasta, corn (yes corn is a grain not a vegetable), oatmeal (I will miss you) or cereals or granola bars.
- No Dairy. This means no milk, cheese, sour cream, yogurt, but strangely allows butter (real butter.)
- No Soy. The problems with soy revolve around the lectins found within much like grains. Also like grains, soy cannot be eaten unless it is processed.
- No Sugar including molasses, processed foods, artificial sweeteners… etc. etc.
- Enjoyed sparingly will be foods like honey, dark chocolate, alcohol.
- Foods to be eaten in moderation are most fruits. Some fruits contain a surprising amount of carbs (fructose) and so eating fruit in moderation will be important.
- I’ll be eating as much as I can of meat and non-starchy vegetables.
Now I must admit that I will from time to time, once a week, have a small amount of cheese in my salad and perhaps a tiny amount of milk, because I enjoy these things. I won’t drop everything I love cold turkey, but I will be getting Primal Eating right about 90% of the time.
Primal Fitness consists of 3 main aspects:
Move Slowly/ Play/ Rest
Lift Heavy Things/ Workout of the Week
Sprinting; run really fast every once in a while.
It’s pretty simple. One day a week, go run your guts out (It’s what I did today.). Sprint with as much effort as you possibly can. And it’s more about effort and raising the heart rate than about speed, though in time your speed will improve, but improved speed is not the goal; rather a byproduct.
My long diatribe against Chronic Cardio could easily add another 5 pages to this article, but suffice it to say that our ancestors did not wake up in the morning and ‘go for a run.’ That’s stupid, ‘go for a run.’ They ran only when they absolutely had to and when they did they ran really, really fast. See Sprinting above. For the most part, our ancestors were nomadic and traveled constantly. They did not stop in one area, build a house and a deli and make cities. It was not until the Sumerians set up shop that we had cities. When they were nomadically travelling, they moved slowly. They took their sweet ass time barring any danger at their backs.
So the modern-day equivalent to move slowly, is to go for long walks and hikes; 3-5 hours a week of just moving slowly. Exert enough effort to elevate the heart rate a bit, but keep it to a vigorous hike at most. If you can’t carry on a conversation during your jaunt, you’re going too fast.
Playing is an important part of life; it’s what hard work is for. The human brain and body decided a long time ago that it would only exert itself in order to obtain ‘goodies.’ No ‘goodies’ no work. In our modern times, man works against his fundamentally playful and curious nature, by working for nothing; that is working without gaining any satisfaction. Paying bills and working a job and purchasing items and such may be necessary to sustain Life, but they are not what Life is for. Life is meant to be enjoyed, not wasted in slave labor to pay the electric bill. To quote Henry David Thoreau, “Man spends the best part of his life earning money in order to enjoy a questionable liberty, during the least valuable part of it.” All work and no play make Man a dull boy; and add an outrageous amount of stress to his life.
In Primal times it is thought that Grok didn’t have the chronic stress that we do today. Sure, he had some stressful things to think about, possibly getting eaten, maybe going hungry for a day or two, competition among other paleolithic humans, and the stress that comes from the intense physical exertion (and fear) of climbing up an unstable structure to get said food.
But once these moments had passed, the stress was done. Stress was an in the moment thing for Grok; he didn’t carry the stress with him all day/ week/ year. Almost getting eaten by a tiger was hell, but assuming he escaped death, one thing he certainly did not do was go back to his cave, crack open a mind altering depressant (beer) and bitch to his wife about how unfair the system was; shouting that tigers are just fuckin running around eating people and that somebody should do something about it.
After the stressful moment was over, Grok went back to eating his current meal, moving slowly over the Earth, wrestling with his young children, bonking his female mate, playing competitive rock throwing, log lifting games with his male hunting buddies. For all the danger there was, Grok seemed to be having great fun when his life wasn’t in mortal danger.
The life of Grok had a lot of ups and down to be sure and the swings were intense, but the one thing that we can be sure of is that Grok had fullness of experience. Grok’s life may have been short (because he probably got eaten or succumbed to deadly diseases neither of which are really valid survival issues anymore) but it was full and intense in a way that we have forgotten and Grok didn’t let the stress of daily dangers and struggles ruin the moment for him.
So in our day of chronic ‘take your work home with you’ stress, Play is important if only to relieve all that stress since stress is a risk factor for nearly every major disease and illness. Play also makes your life worth living; it makes life fun which as far as I can tell is the only purpose for Life. Life isn’t going anywhere, that is, it’s not ‘doing’ anything. The things that happen in Life don’t seem to be coherently moving in any particular way; towards any particular goal. So, play from what I gather is the point, the purpose of Life. Be happy while you’re alive. Happiness and fun are really the only things that actually matter.
Lift Heavy Things
Twice a week you should Lift Heavy Things. In Primal Fitness, this amounts to progressive bodyweight training or if you’re fit enough, tackling one of the Work Outs of Week. The bodyweight exercises are simple and ‘designed’ to mimic the 5 essential compound movements of our primal ancestors. All exercises work a wide range of muscle groups and performing all 5 exercises is truly a full body workout. The 5 essential movements are Push Ups, Pull Ups, Overhead Press, Squats, and Abdominal Planks. All of them are bodyweight exercises; none require a gym membership or expensive equipment. The most you might need is a pull-up bar, but a little creativity can overcome the lack of one.
The bodyweight exercises in Primal Fitness are incredibly malleable and infinitely scalable; they can be as easy or as difficult as you want by adding weight to your body to make it harder or simply changing your body’s position. If straight push-ups are too hard make them a little easier by inclining your body up a hill; to make them more difficult turn your body the other way and face down the hill allowing gravity to aid you in a tougher workout.
There are 9 variations of each of the 5 movements. I won’t write here about all the variations of the 5 movements (45 different movements in total), but they’re all structured the same way with LV 4 being the basic movement itself, the 3 LVs preceding building up to the essential movement, and the 5 LVs that follow serving to increase the difficulty.
But where should one start in this sliding scale of exercise difficulty? That was my question when I started this week and the answer to that riddle lies in the self-assessment. To find out which bodyweight exercises you should start with, Primal Blueprint Fitness (PBF) suggests undergoing a self-assessment to ascertain your current level of fitness.
The assessment places you by scoring your ability to perform a certain number of reps of five different exercises. These are the exercises performed and the scale to grade yourself. I did the Primal Blueprint self-assessment and I’ve got to say, I thought I was stronger than this. My scores were horrendous:
22 Push Ups
5 Pull Ups (How can one do 5 pull ups but only 22 push-ups?)
61+ Full Squats (Thanks to my back packing tendencies I’m ok here.)
6 Dive Bombers
60 Sec Forearm/ Feet Plank (Really expected more outta me here.)
I really thought that having bicycled across the country I would be at least a little more fit than this, but I guess not. Just goes to show you that things that seem difficult may not be so hard and may not make you so tough because you did them.
Based on my self-assessment scores I’m starting with:
LV 2 Knee Push Ups
LV 2 One Leg chair assisted pull ups
LV 4 Full Squats
LV 2 Jack Knife Press
LV 2 Forearm knee planks
In all honesty, I’m not very comfortable starting with such ‘unmanly’ training exercises like knee push-ups and knee planks or assisted pull ups. My ego tells me that since I scored pretty close to LV 3 on the push-ups that maybe I should ‘challenge’ myself by starting with incline push-ups which would seem a little more ‘manly.’ But, I’m trying to respect the process of progression that Mark Sisson has come up with and I’m giving the Primal Blueprint methodology a fair and honest opportunity to demonstrate itself. So, for now, I’m going to train with my body and not my ego.
Each workout session, sessions that should only happen twice a week unless I feel up to adding in an extra bout, will consist of two cycles performing one set of X number of reps of a particular exercise. I had wanted to include a sample of what my workouts looked like, but apparently I’m too stupid to create a table that formats correctly. -.-;
Progression in bodyweight training is based upon the successful completion of X number of reps of your chosen bodyweight exercise variation in BOTH cycles. And you should honestly evaluate yourself based on form and how difficult it was to achieve the target reps. For instance based on the scores of my training above; I can progress to the next LV in everything. However comma, it was really hard. I’m serious, I didn’t expect girly knee push-ups to kick my ass, but having to do 50 of them straight was quite difficult. I have to be honest in my evaluation and I should stay with this for a while. In time I will progress, but that time is not now.
Thoughts so Far.
I suppose I’ll end this long (but worth it) article with a photo update. This is what I look like after about 10 days Primal:
Is it much of an improvement? I’m sure 7 days is not enough time to make that call, nor do I think the photograph does my ‘improvements’ justice. In just a short amount of time, I feel better. I definitely feel improvements, even if they are not aesthetically obvious, I have lost weight and by that I mean flabby padding around my mid-section.
I’m not weighing myself so I’m not sure the number of how much weight I’ve already lost, but this morning I walked naked in front of my bathroom mirror and noticed that I have muscle; muscle I never noticed before. I suppose it was always there, but had been covered by some layer of fat that is slowly being eroded (not that I had much fat to begin with compared to some that are vastly overweight when they start.) When I tense my abdominal muscles, I can feel under my skin the ‘notches’ of six-pack abs. It’s like I know they’re there, and I have to keep going so as to undergo a fitness ‘gestation’ period. And as time has gone by, I have begun to notice slight improvements in my physique; improvements that a camera does not catch.
In following articles I will give details about my eating habits and workouts, as well as post photo updates to watch the progression. I appreciate all who read. Is there anybody reading this that is ‘Primal?’ Has anybody tried it and what was your experience?