Following are details of my personal diet, exercise, and lifestyle habits that honor the principles of evolutionary health. In 2008, I started working on The Primal Blueprint book and movement with Mark Sisson. I immediately transitioned away from the Standard American Diet (SAD) high in complex carbs to a primal eating pattern that is comparatively very low carb and high in healthy fats. Concurrently, I ditched my lifelong emphasis on endurance training (especially the destructive chronic cardio patterns I followed as a pro triathlete) to pursue a more primal-style all-around fitness program, featuring more intense, explosive workouts that optimize hormones and delay aging.
Overview of primal lifestyle tips (details follow):
- Eat Primally: The most critical immediate act to reclaim your health is to ditch toxic, nutrient-deficient modern foods–the Big-3 of sugars, grains, and refined industrial seed oils. Embark upon a 21-day transformation and commit to zero tolerance for these agents, which have addictive properties and cause an immediate disturbance to your health. Emphasize nutrient-dense ancestral-style foods, striving for the highest quality sustainably raised animal products to avoid concerns about conventionally raised feedlot animals. Essentially, this means you are choosing your favorites from the list of: Meat, fish, fowl, eggs; vegetables; fruits; nuts, seeds and their derivative butters; and certain healthy modern foods such as high cacao percentage dark chocolate and organic, high-fat dairy products.
- Go Keto, or even Carnivore: Once you build metabolic flexibility (fat burning efficiency) from a primal-style eating pattern, you can increase your sophistication with recently popular ketogenic diet or the carnivore diet. Keto entails extreme carb restriction (under 50 grams/day) to prompt your liver to make ketones (burning in place of glucose). Carnivore entails limiting or omitting all plant foods in favor of animal-sourced foods. Many users report excellent success with dropping excess body fat quickly. This happens because you are minimizing the wildly excessive insulin production caused by the mainstream high carbohydrate diet, and also from restricting your food choices. The carnivore diet may also alleviate inflammatory or autoimmune conditions in people who are sensitive to the natural plant toxins in vegetables, seeds, and grains.
- Move Frequently: Walk around more (especially taking breaks from prolonged sitting), try a standup desk, engage in brief calisthenics, strength (e.g., one set of pullups or deep squats during the workday), or mobility exercises during the day, and do structured cardio workouts at a very comfortable pace of 180-minus-age in heart beats per minute (e.g. 180-50 year old = 130 maximum heart rate for an aerobic session.) The FitnessVolt website has a sophisticated tool to calculate your calories burned each day.
- Go Hard: Conduct regular brief, high-intensity strength and sprint workouts. Explosive, high intensity efforts help preserve muscle mass, optimize hormone function, reduce body fat, and delay aging.
- Sleep/Relax: Minimize artificial light and digital stimulation after dark as this compromises healthy sleep and messes up hormone balance. Prioritize adequate sleep and awaken full of energy. Nap whenever you need to. Discipline yourself to take downtime from constant digital stimulation and hyper-connectivity to just chill.
- Ditch sugars, grains, and vegetable oils: The “Big-3” most offensive foods in the modern diet promote systemic inflammation, oxidative damage, fat storage, accelerated aging, heart disease, and cancer. Yes, these foods are cultural mainstays but science validates that this stuff will slowly kill ya.
- Emphasize primal foods: Meat, fish, fowl, eggs, vegetables, fruits, nuts, seeds, and their derivative butters, and healthy modern foods like high fat dairy and high cacao percentage dark chocolate. An “ancestral” eating pattern (primal/paleo/keto) is, by comparison to the Standard American Diet (SAD), is very low carb (no sugars or grains) and high in healthy fats.
- Flexible: When you become good at fat burning instead of dependent upon regular high carb meals as your main source of energy, your meal habits can become more sporadic. Intermittent Fasting optimizes fat metabolism, enhances cellular repair, and delays aging.
The Primal Blueprint philosophy counters the “diet” concept of prescribed meals, calorie counting, and a regimented schedule. Caloric intake and meal choices can vary wildly each day, and you become expert at burning stored body fat. Your food choices are driven primarily by personal preference, within the broad guidelines of primal eating. When you cut out processed carbs, you soon lose your habituation to them and it feels liberating and energizing. Meals are predominantly fat and stimulate minimal insulin response, keeping energy, blood sugar, and appetite stable all day, even when meals are skipped/missed.
My eating routine: I typically fast until 12 noon before preparing a big meal that typically features eggs, fish, or meat. I emphasize wild caught salmon, pasture raised eggs, and grassfed meat such as Wild Idea Buffalo or Lone Mountain Wagyu beef. I have around 12 years of near-total elimination of all grains (wheat, rice, pasta, corn, and all derivatives), sugars/sweets and sweetened beverages. I do allow a little leaking here and there with some of my old favorites: popcorn, blue corn chips, or corn tortilla for tacos. I have done deep experimentation with both keto and carnivore but today I don’t have any regimentation or measuring happening. I would describe my meals as carnivore-ish since I don’t go looking for huge piles of vegetables any more. I don’t strenuously restrict carbs, and in fact might make occasional efforts to increase carb intake in the aftermath of strenuous workouts. Again, this is all intuitive instead of highly structured. My sources of additional carbs include the aforementioned dark chocolate, nut butter, and popcorn, as well as sweet potatoes and winter squash. My beverage of choice is water and tons of homemade kombucha, now that I am an expert kombucha maker. Read about how I choose only the highest quality bean-to-bar dark chocolate.
My estimated macronutrient profile:
~66% fat: Naturally raised meat/fish/fowl/eggs, coconut products, avocados, nuts, seeds and their derivative butters, oils of avocado, olive, and coconut, and high cacao percentage dark chocolate
~20% protein: 0.7g/lb of lean body mass is an often recommended target. This is easily accomplished from eating primal style with animal foods, and nuts/nut butter. I probably exceed this target and this percentage when I have days that are more carnivore-ish and not heavy with carb intake.
~14% carb: Under 150 grams/600 calories per day is the critical Primal goal, while under 50 grams per day is the critical keto goal. The 150g standard is easily accomplished when all grains and sugars are eliminated. Keto entails getting your carbs from veggies and putting aside fruit, sweet potatoes, and the like during those focused periods. I estimate my daily carb intake ranges from 20 grams to 150 grams with no specific pattern except for naturally increased carb intake in and around strenuous workouts. This is what Mark Sisson refers to as eating in the “keto zone,” where you effortlessly drift into and out of ketosis without worrying about it or noticing.
If you wonder if you are eating too many carbs, chart what you eat on a notepad for a day or two, trying to measure or estimate quantities as best you can, then visit myfitnesspal.com and input your data. It will generate a nice report with macronutrient and caloric breakdowns.
Re – the Keto Reset: There are outstanding health, disease protection, and fat reduction benefits to be had from becoming highly fat adapted through frequent fasting and adherence to a very low carb intake standard with meals. It’s an excellent idea for lifelong metabolic health to prepare for and complete an initial focused period of ketogenic eating lasting for six weeks, then recalibrate any time with shorter forays into keto. This journey is presented in detail in The Keto Reset Diet, which reached #4 ranking on the New York Times bestseller list upon its 2017 release. We also offer a comprehensive online course to learn how to go keto the right way. Our new book, Keto For Life, leverages the metabolic flexibility benefits you build with keto into the comprehensive life goal of longevity–living long and living awesome.
My routine features comfortable aerobic workouts (i.e., slow jogging in the morning or evening on golf course), regular brief, high intensity strength training sessions at home with bodyweight, heavy weight, or resistance cords, a high intensity sprint workout around once every 7 days, and a general daily effort to move more with walking, bike cruising, flexibility/mobility drills, and mini-strength efforts.
- Morning Flexibility/Mobility Routine: Done in bedroom every single morning, no matter what. It’s only 12 minutes but it’s pretty challenging and a great way to get energized upon awakening. My competitive fitness goals launch from this higher baseline, which has really helped with injury prevention at my intense workouts.
- Morning Cold Plunge: Immediately following my morning mobility exercises, I plunge into a chest freezer filled with water cooled to 36F-38F (1C-3C). I spending 4-6 minutes in the tub, completing 20 deep, diaphragmatic breath cycles. This is a fabulous experience that puts me into a meditative state and helps strength my focus and resilience for a productive day. Cold therapy delivers an assortment of hormonal, cognitive, and cardiovascular benefits and definitely energizes you when you exit! The movement routine-plus-cold plunge have become habit to the extent that I don’t need to apply psychic energy nor will power to make them happen. Developing winning habits begets more winning habits, such as being able to prioritize your work objectives or stick to healthy eating goals. I might also plunge in conjunction with contrast therapy–going back and forth between the tub and my Almost Heaven barrell sauna heated to 210F! This is typically a social event. I’ll occasionally plunge for a few minutes before bed to lower body temperature and facilitate a good night’s sleep. Read about the comprehensive benefits of cold therapy.
- Movement: Many experts believe that this is the next fitness breakthrough: increasing all forms of general everyday movement to counter the many sedentary forces of modern life. This includes morning or evening neighborhood strolls, taking the stairs instead of elevators, hitting a single set of pullups or deadlifts when you pass by the apparatus in your yard, doing air squats while watching TV, or implementing something like my morning routine as a consistent element of your daily routine. Increasing your general daily movement patterns could in many ways be more important than conducting formal workouts, especially if the workouts are too stressful.
- Jogging: Either a short morning jog of 20 min (often rewarming after my cold plunge ala the amazing Unfrozen Caveman Runner strategy) or evening golf course jog for Speedgolf practice. The critical component of my running is keeping heart rate at or below 130 beats per minute (per the MAF “180-age” formula). This means a very slow (over 9 min/mile pace), very comfortable exercise session that doesn’t stress me. I can easily run faster with minimal strain, but getting into a pattern of medium-to-difficult paced runs, instead of truly easy runs, can lead to fatigue, burnout and hormonal imbalances. Read how I doubled my testosterone from clinically low (after months of too much running at slightly excessive heart rates), to the 99th percentile for males 50+ and 95th percentile for males in their 20s.
- Strength Training: These brief, high intensity sessions last 10-20 minutes and happen two days per week. At my advanced age, I’ve drifted away from formal workouts that last too long and make me too tired in the days afterward. Instead, almost every day I do a bit of strength efforts, whether its 100 decline Spiderman pushups and a set of deep squats and deadlifts (maybe 10 min total time requirement). A couple days a week I’ll do a more ambitious workout, such 200 Spidermans along with a few sets of deadlifts, squats, Stretch Cordz, pullups, or ankle band work. Everything is at home within easy reach so it’s no trouble to get a little work in. I go to the gym too, and I appreciate the natural motivation that happens when you show up and walk through the door. But I can definitely get the job done at home. The longest I’ll be in an actual workout mode is only 30 minutes. Go hard and get it done before you overstimulate stress hormones. In contrast, being in the gym doing machine circuits for an hour can easily become too stressful, making you tired and craving sugar in the aftermath.
- Sprinting: Sprinting is my primary athletic goal these days, as it supports my Speedgolf tournament goals and especially my effort to break the Guinness World Record for the fastest single hole of golf ever played (minimum length, 500 yards). My weekly sprint sessions consist of easy warmup jog/bike ride to the running track, 10 minutes of quite challenging technique drills that elevate heart rate and prepare the legs for explosive effort. My main session is typically 4 x 200m, 8 x 70m. Listen to how I recently modified my sprint workouts to help minimize cellular breakdown, improve performance, and speed recovery. Here is some rare sprinting footage.
Sleep and sufficient rest, recovery and downtime from the hectic pace of modern life could be the number one priority for health and longevity. Research shows that if you are sleep deprived it compromises your ability to burn fat, essentially negating your diligent dietary transformation efforts and fitness accomplishments.
The number-one priority in this area is to avoid excess artificial light and digital stimulation after dark. Get your screen work and entertainment done early in the evening, and reserve the last hours before bed for winding down in a dark, quiet, mellow setting – socialize, take an evening stroll, read a book, take a cold plunge! Download f.lux or Iris Tech blue light diffusing software if you insist on working on computer after dark. Wear blue light blocking sunglasses such as the stylish and high quality pairs from RAOptics. Minimizing light exposure will trigger Dim Light Melatonin Onset, a genetically programmed response where we become sleepy soon after dark in alignment with our circadian rhythms and prep ourselves for a good night’s sleep.
Introducing excess artificial light and digital stimulation after dark suppresses melatonin, elevates stress hormones, increases sugar cravings, and compromises optimal cycling through all phases of sleep. This in turn compromises immune function (healthy intestinal flora flourishes at night, while you sleep; as does cell repair and recovery from stress of daily life). Lights Out – Sleep, Sugar, and Survival, a fantastic book on the subject, recommends we all sleep 9.5 hours per night in the winter, and can get away with 8 hours per night in the summer. If you like catching up on email or Netflix at night, remind yourself that excess evening light and digital stimulation = stress hormone spike = sugar cravings = fat storage. The orange lenses make a huge difference at night, so get on it! No excuses. Start out with a cheap pair if you want like Uvex but make this a new habit!
I’ll also occasionally take an afternoon nap of around 20 minutes any time I feel my energy and cognitive performance flagging. I wake up feeling refreshed and focused for resuming work. I guarantee any heavy hitter out there that my down time is more than made up for with improved productivity for the rest of the work day.
My goal in sharing this information is to garner awe from my fan base and national media outlets, as well as inspire and hopefully assist you with achieving personal health and fitness goals. Please contact me if you have any questions or further interest!