This page provides information about the PRIMAL LIFESTYLE (exercise, sleep, stress).
You’ve heard that losing weight is 80% food and 20% activity. Don’t get hung up on the numbers. What that means is that if you are obese, most of your habit changes will come from what you eat, but you also need to become more active. That doesn’t require a lot of gym time — or any, actually. In addition, how you sleep and handle stress can also affect your weight, fitness, and general health.
PRIMAL LIFESTYLE – The 20%
The notion that exercising can help you lose weight is overblown. The calories the fitness industry tells you you’re losing are lies. And there’s a saying: You can’t out-train a bad diet. No matter how much you exercise, you won’t burn off all those calories. But then, that’s not the point of exercise.
On this page you’ll learn about:
- Exercise a Better Way
- NEAT Opportunities to Move
- Get Enough Sleep
- Manage Stress
- Further Reading & Resources
EXERCISE A BETTER WAY
EXERCISE WILL DEPLETE ENERGY STORES
When you exercise for short, intense periods, your body takes energy (glucose) from your bloodstream and your working muscles. Metabolic training stimulates adrenaline which triggers an amplification cascade of enzymes triggering other enzymes so that large amounts of glycogen are drained from muscles stores and fat from adipocytes. Now your body must replenish its stores fuel, so your cells become MORE sensitive to insulin which means your body can produce LESS insulin to get the job of storing energy done. High amounts of insulin are inflammatory, so you want only enough to get the job done. Metabolic training is able to deplete these stores in short workouts of 20-30 minutes 1-2 times each week.
However, when your body begins to replenish your stores, it does so without an amplification cascade. That’s why doing metabolic training can “burn fat” for as much as 24 hours even after you’re done exercising: the deficit takes longer than the loss and meanwhile your body still needs energy for all its processes, so it mobilizes body fat. Keeping insulin low through a low-carbohydrate diet and performing metabolic training allows hormone-sensitive lipase to make mobilized fat your body’s primary fuel source!
Inflammation, insulin resistance, and the resulting heart disease are not exclusive to non-exercisers. Those who exercise chronically (marathon runners, for example) also experience them. Exercise stresses the body. The goal is to stress the body only enough and not too much. Chronic exercise, especially of the aerobic (running) variety, produces more free radical inflammation because it relies primarily on the oxidative metabolic cycle. It also leads to muscle atrophy and therefore a decrease in the muscles’ glycogen stores, which will increase risk of insulin resistance. Spending hours in the gym can also stimulate the prolonged release of stress hormones which suppress the immune system, increases blood pressure, decreases libido, and contributes to obesity.
As we age, human growth hormone (hGH) decreases. Besides growth when we’re young, hGH is responsible for fat metabolism and body composition (lean muscle!). An important benefit of resistance and high intensity training is that it stimulates the natural release of hGH. On the other hand, endurance exercise has been shown to actually reduce the amount of hGH. For exercise, you want to keep the intensity above lactate threshold for a minimum of 10 minutes. What does this mean? Metabolic training: HIIT, Tabata, or any exercise that accumulates 10 minutes of breathless exercise that is hard but not impossible to maintain.
EXERCISE WILL HELP YOU BUILD LEAN MASS
Did you know that strength training is the best way to build cardio endurance? It’s best because it brings the benefits without the risks. “Strength training is the only modality in which you can bring a potent stimulus for positive change to the body and as you raise stimulus/intensity level, you are actually becoming weaker and, therefore, inflicting less force on your body.” (Body By Science)
Strength training adds more muscle fiber to your body. Despite the common notion of adding muscle so you can increase your metabolism and therefore burn more calories and also eat more, adding muscle is about adding mitochondria, the oxygen-producing component of the cell, and providing reserves for energy needs. Lean muscle can ease the pain of arthritis and back pain, increase bone density which helps prevent osteoporosis, make daily functional activities easier, improve your immune system, and help you avoid injuries and recover more quickly from injuries.
The center of metabolic health is not the heart and cardiovascular system; it is the muscular system. That’s where the enzymatic activity takes place, and it takes place by means of an amplification cascade, so that when you activate the cause, the effect is much greater at the muscular level. The fitness world’s misplaced focus on the cardiovascular system needs to be redirected to the muscular system, because that’s where everything that results in positive adaptive change happens. (Body By Science)
For those of you seeking to lose or maintain lean weight and gain strength, the Primal lifestyle is your best option. That includes compound strength-training exercises once per week, one high intensity cardio-strength session a week, and activity every day such as walking or NEAT*. However, if you’re working for hypertrophy (body-building), you’re going to need more carbohydrates and more workouts. Body-building means you’re growing size across your whole body, sculpting muscle style, and adding weight. To do this you need more carbs, but to avoid getting fat, you must really use them! That means split routines and high volume workouts. If sheer size is your goal, you’ll have to modify your Primal, and if you’re preparing for shows, you’ll have to revert to strict Primal or even a ketogenic diet in the weeks leading up to showtime.
- Compound movements
- Lifting heavy and with shorter rest periods (reps of 5-10 with 30-60 sec rest between sets)
- Enough volume (25-50 total reps per exercise in various sets)
- Keep the intensity high
- Get your workout done in 30-45 mins
- Lift only 2-3x week
“Non-exercise activity thermogenesis (NEAT) is the energy expended for everything we do that is not sleeping, eating or sports-like exercise. It ranges from the energy expended walking to work, typing, performing yard work, undertaking agricultural tasks and fidgeting. Even trivial physical activities increase metabolic rate substantially and it is the cumulative impact of a multitude of exothermic actions that culminate in an individual’s daily NEAT. It is, therefore, not surprising that NEAT explains a vast majority of an individual’s non-resting energy needs. NEAT could be a critical component in how we maintain our body weight and/or develop obesity or lose weight. The mechanism that regulates NEAT is unknown. However, hypothalamic factors have been identified that specifically and directly increase NEAT in animals. By understanding how NEAT is regulated we may come to appreciate that spontaneous physical activity is not spontaneous at all but carefully programmed.” (Best Pract Res Clin Endocrinol Metab)
What all that means is, you need to move all day in ways that are not exercise. Take the stairs instead of the elevator. Walk to work. Walk to the grocery store. Increasing your activity/exercise will likely reduce your weight, but this isn’t the main way to lose weight. Your weight is the result of amount of food, amount of activity, amount of sleep, and amount of stress. You must manage all four areas to maintain a healthy weight.
But simply adding more activity can help with all the others.
NEAT (non exercise activity thermogensis) can account for as little as 15% of energy expenditure in the very sedentary and up to 50% in very active individuals.
Take Every Opportunity To Move
People who stand fewer than three hours a day live around three years longer than more sedentary peers, a new paper published in the online journal BMJ Open found. “Sitting for extended periods of time has been linked with heart disease, diabetes, cancer and obesity,” says April Plank, M.S., M.B.A., an American Council on Exercise-certified personal trainer and performance enhancement specialist with the National Academy of Sports Medicine. “Getting up hourly and walking to the restroom, getting a refill of water or standing up to stretch can decrease stiffness, boost energy and burn calories.
In studies with lean and obese subjects, none of whom were exercisers, they found obese subjects were seated 164 minutes longer, lean subjects were upright for 153 minutes more, and both slept the same amount. In essence, lean subjects stood and walked more as part of their daily activities. This extra movement alone accounted for about 350 calories per day, about 36 pounds a year. Add that up! Simply being more active in your daily activities can significantly impact your waistline.
Here are 30 ideas to increase simple activity:
- Walk to work.
- Walk during lunch hour.
- Walk instead of driving whenever you can.
- Take family walk after dinner.
- Do yard work.
- Get off a stop early & walk.
- Work around the house.
- Bicycle to the store instead of driving.
- Go for a half-hour walk instead of watching TV.
- Sit up straight at work.
- Wash the car by hand.
- Run when running errands.
- Pace the sidelines at kids’ athletic games.
- Take wheels off luggage.
- Bike to the barbershop or beauty salon instead of driving.
- Take a walk or do desk exercises instead of a coffee break.
- Avoid laborsaving devices.
- Play with your kids.
- Dance to music.
- Make a Saturday morning walk a group habit.
- Walk briskly in the mall.
- Take the long way to the water cooler.
- Take stairs instead of the escalator.
- Park farther from destination and walk.
- Pace while your watch TV..
- Walk the beach instead of sunbathing.
- Walk to a co-worker’s desk instead of emailing or calling.
- Carry your groceries instead of pushing a cart.
- Use a snow shovel instead of a snow blower.
- Swim with your kids.
Get Enough Sleep
Doug McGuff, MD and John Little. Body by Science: A Research Based Program for Strength Training, Body building, and Complete Fitness in 12 Minutes a Week. McGraw Hill: Chicago, 2009.
Jimmy Moore – Livin’ La Vida Low-Carb
Loren Cordain – The Paleo Diet
Marian Nestle. Food Politics: How the Food Industry Influences Nutrition and Health. University of California Press, 2013.
Mark Sisson. Primal Blueprint. Primal Nutrition, Inc, 2012.
Michael Pollan. The Omnivore’s Dilemma: A Natural History of Four Meals. Penguin Press, 2006.
Terry Wahls – The Wahls Diet website
Terry Wahls – The Wahls Protocol book