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: Emphasize colorful, nutrient dense primal foods, especially abundant vegetable consumption and healthy, natural fats from clean animal products.
- Go Keto: The ultimate sophistication of low-carb dietary practices is the recently popular ketogenic eating strategy. Great for fat reduction, disease protection, and targeted performance benefits.
- Move Frequently: Walk around more (especially taking breaks from prolonged sitting), try a standup desk, engage in brief calisthenics, strength, 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 either fast until 12 noon or later per ketogenic eating strategy, or prepare a morning super nutrition, macronutrient balanced green smoothie w/full fat coconut or almond milk, Primal Fuel powder or other whey protein, avocado, assorted pre-frozen greens (spinach, kale, celery, beets, chard), a bit of frozen berries and frozen green banana, and assorted supplements for athletic performance and recovery including MCT oil, creatine, glutamine, L-carnitine, sea salt, and probiotics. Check out my smoothie video and get it going!
Sometimes I’ll have a late breakfast of hard-boiled eggs and walnuts and Primal Kitchen mayoor just some 85-90% dark chocolate busted out around midday. Afternoon or evening features large salads with vegetables, meat, nuts and olive or avocado oil dressing, giant stir fry’s with assorted organic leafy greens and other vegetables, and the highest quality grassfed meats or wild-caught fish, such as Lone Mountain Wagyu beef.
Total elimination of all grains (wheat, rice, pasta, corn, and all derivatives), sugars/sweets and sweetened beverages. Okay, a little leaking here and there with occasional popcorn fests or corn tortilla fish tacos. If I want extra carbs I make these fabulous sweet potato discs. Beverage of choice is water and tons of homemade kombucha, now that I am an expert kombucha maker.Snacks of assorted nut butters, and lots of 80-90% dark chocolate. 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 the goal. Easily accomplished from eating primal style with animal foods, nuts and some whey protein powder.
~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. Personally, I’m don’t bother adhering to strict keto guidelines every day, but many days I’m keto-qualified by default. 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.
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 once every 7-10 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 33F-38F (0C-3C). I spending 4-5 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 also plunge for a few minutes right 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 the World Cup on 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 or evening golf course jog for Speedgolf practice. This used to be every day, and now it’s not every day. I don’t think I’ve lost any fitness, which strengthens the argument for sporadic, intuitive training patterns and increased emphasis on recovery. 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, but more often for sauna than for moving iron. The longest I’ll be in an actual workout mode is only 20 minutes. Go hard and get it done before you overstimulate stress hormones. In contrast, being in the gym doing machine circuits for an hour is too stressful, making you tired and craving sugar in the aftermath.
- Sprinting: Sessions happen a few times per month, consisting of warmup, 10 minutes of quite challenging technique drills that elevate heart rate, and main session of perhaps 1 x 400m, 2 x 200m, and 4 x 100 meters at the running track. Some rare sprinting footage. Sometimes I’ll combine (fewer) sprints with high jump practice of 20 x explosive high jumps, or a golf course practice session where I’m running 3 x 500 yard hole all-out while playing (training for the Guinness World Record that I broke June 1st, 2018, for the fastest single hole of golf ever played (minimum length, 500 yards).
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 if you insist on working on computer after dark. Wear yellow lens sunglasses and use orange “bug light” bulbs to minimize indoor light after dark. 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.
I’ll also 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!