Wednesday, April 15, 2015

My paleo/primal experiment

Time for a more personal post. Thought I'd share my health and fitness regime*, not because I'm anything special, but just for kicks and posterity's sake (my own records), or for any who might be interested in how a weird high school science teacher tries to apply science to his own health and lifestyle, or even just because it's important to me.

A few years ago, I stumbled on a guy named Mark Sisson and his awesome book, The Primal Blueprint. I won't go into all the details here (his website is a treasure trove of info.), but the basic premise of the primal/paleo approach is this: Try to find out how our evolutionary ancestors lived, in terms of lifestyle and nutrition, and mimic it as much as possible. (He actually gets into the concept of gene switches--turning on genes that kick us into optimal health, but even if his reference to cutting edge tech is not accurate, most of his stuff is well-referenced.)

In practical terms, this means a low-carb diet rich in meats, fats (yes, fats--they're not to blame for clogged arteries) and vegetables. The paleo diet is often misrepresented as being all meat, but it really includes at least as much vegetables. I've been eating a lot more vegetables since I've been working off of Sisson's blueprint. And I lost a bunch of weight (30 lbs. over a year or so), got into probably the best shape of my life, and felt better than ever. Since I started a couple of years ago, I've hybridized it a bit with legumes (peanuts are a snacking staple) and a weekly carb-heavy (tortilla chips, potatoes and/or rice) cheat day, and both of these modifications were based on Tim Ferriss' 4-Hour Body approach. The bread was hard to give up, but I rarely miss it any more. 
A few favorite recipes at my house:

Bacon, chicken and avocado salad
Curry meatballs (serve with zoodles or spaghetti squash instead of rice or pasta)
Bacon and guacamole sammies (make you the instant star of any party)
Mandrik's amazing paleo muffins (you will not be disappointed)
Primal smoothie 1 (from a Primal Blueprint reader created cookbook I got free on Kindle: can of coconut milk, 2 raw eggs, tablespoon almond butter, handful frozen berries, 1/4 tsp. vanilla, 1 tsp honey)
Primal smoothie 2 (my own concoction: 1/2 avocado (see a trend here?), 1/4 to 1/2 mango, 1.5 cup almond milk, 1 raw egg, 2 tsp. honey, 1/4 tsp vanilla)
BTW, maybe you're wondering what my wife and kids thought of dumping grains (bread and pasta) from the menu? Well, Silvana is loving it along with me, and the kids have adapted pretty well. We often make different versions of dishes (pasta and zoodles, for example), and they'll sometimes order pizza or KFC.

I've also thrown in one 19-5 fast per week (fasting from supper to supper), per Ferriss' recommendation, hopefully simulating the longevity effects of caloric restriction.

And I enjoy an occasional cricket bar.

In terms of exercise, my regime is another hybrid of Sisson's Blueprint with Tim Ferriss 4-Hour Body approach: a few short and one longer strength training session per week, one "all out" hormesis-inducing session per week (sprints or burpees for me), cold showers in the warmer months (also for hormesis purposes), plus several hours low intensity sessions, like hiking or walking (or dancing).

And then there are other lifestyle practices, like mindfulness, barefoot shoes, more play (that's partly what was behind the slackline and gym ring purchases), and some things I've been slipping with a bit lately, like staying off the computer for a couple hours before bed. 

And finally, for what it's worth, here's my supplement regime, assembled from various sources, including Ray Kurzweil (the inventor and singulatarian), Mark Sisson, Tim Ferriss, and a bit of my own research. I'm always open to tweaking it**:
Vitamin C - 1000 mg - antioxidant, protects against heart disease, some cancers
Coenzyme Q10 - 100 mg - antioxidant, cancer prevention
Phosphatidyl choline - 420mg - fights arterial plaque, skin health
Resveratrol - 100 mg - major antioxidant with life extension potential
Vitamin D3 -  2000IU but prob. need to reduce this - mood, anti-cancer
Vitamin E (mixed tocopherols) - 400IU - antioxidant
Glucosamine & chondroitin -  Joint health
Tyrosine - 750 mg - mood, emotional health
EPA/DHA complex - 600 mg - active ingredients in fish oil, anti-inflammatory
B Complex - anti-cancer (maybe--may need to dump this as well)
Rhodiola rosea - 250 mg - possible longevity effects
Acidophilus/bifidus 8 Billion - gut health
Men's multivitamin - for selenium - testosterone, cancer prevention

Is it possible this just makes for "really expensive pee"?

Possible. But worth a chance. Unless it turns out they're actually more harm than good.

But they're def. not as important as diet and lifestyle. Definitely not as important as a better fit with out genes, which is what this is all about.

*NOTE: I am not a healthcare professional. My degrees are in soil science, not medicine, so don't try any of this crazy stuff before talking to your doctor.

**UPDATE, 5/4/2015: Definitely considering dumping this whole supplement regime after doing some more research, for example, this article.

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