hiking was the primary modality for sustained exercise for our predecessors, feel free to substitute it for biking or any other low-level physical activity you can do for a long period with little interruption.
Although eat or be eaten is no longer really considered a threat in today’s society, for our ancestors, it was a pretty big (and potentially lethal) deal. The solution? Run fast, run hard, and run for your life! You can incorporate these same theories by adding a series of short sprints into your exercise routine. Also, bear in mind that this concept of going hard and fast for a few seconds isn’t limited to the act of sprinting; you could try water sprints, power cycling, jump rope intervals or any other activity that requires short, intense bursts of energy.
Want to work out like your primal ancestors? Try weight bearing activities such as squats or dead lifts, which our ancestors did when lifting a heavy rock or log for building; lunges, which mimic the action of transversing steep terrain or stepping into a throw; pull-ups and standing rows to mimic the movement of pulling a heavy object towards the body; pushing, to mimic the motion of… well, pushing things; and twisting motions such as medicine ball throws or cable woodchoppers, which our ancestors did when throwing spears or hoisting objects. For a new challenge (and an exercise that combines just about all of the above motions, try the Turkish get-up:)
Ditch Grains & Sugar
With the tagline “so simple even a caveman could do it,” the commercial suggests that our ancestors were, well, not the sharpest tools in the shed. But, clearly they were smart enough to shun grains and sugar (a feat that the majority of current day Americans have yet to accomplish). Our ancestors only consumed about 80 g of carbohydrates per day, largely because sources of carbohydrates – such as grains, beans and potatoes – are toxic in raw form. To keep it primal, avoid all grains, including bread, pasta, rice and noodles, and all refined sugar. It should also probably be noted that the majority (if not all) of processed foods are packed with carbs – either in the form of a grain, sugar, or both – so it’s best to cut those out too!
Eat Meat & Fish
When dinner time rolled around for our ancestors, they weren’t exactly reaching for the yellow pages! Instead, they were reaching for a spear, ax or some other weapon to catch their meal. While we’re certainly not advocating that you begin hunting for your own entrees (people might talk!) we do recommend that you begin thinking about your diet in a way that resembles their dietary habits. That is, if you can’t catch it or find it in nature, you can’t eat it. In short, opt for meat and fish and don’t get hung up on the fat content. Not only is fat integral to health, it will also help keep you feeling satiated longer!
Eat Nuts, Berries & Unbridled Amounts of Veggies
Again, when selecting foods, remember that you’re playing the role of the hunter and gatherer, so feel free to indulge in foods you would find in nature. Specifically, the Primal diet recommends berries, which are low in sugar and packed with vitamins, antioxidants and other beneficial nutrients, and nuts, including walnuts, brazil nuts, macadamias and almonds (but not peanuts which are a legume and should also be avoided for fear of aflatoxins). When it comes to vegetables, seek out root vegetables including carrots, turnips, parsnips, rutabagas and Swede (but not potatoes or other starchy, high-carb varieties), leafy greens, tomatoes and other brightly-hued vegetables (which not only add color to dishes, but also seriously improve the nutrition value).
Although there is some back and forth about how much water our early ancestors actually consumed (with some anthropologists suggesting that early man got most of his water from the vegetables he consumed as opposed to risking his life standing in line with the other predators and prey at the local waterhole), the reality is that even if early man didn’t consume that much pure water, he certainly wasn’t reaching for a Coke. Get back to your primal roots by ditching the Gatorade, the soda (including the diet ones – they’re nearly as bad!) and especially the juice. All you really need is water, and lucky for you, it’s as easy as turning on the tap.
When the sun went down, early man started prepping for bed. When the sun sets today, most men (and women) will do the dishes, watch Grey’s Anatomy, finish up paperwork, pay bills and check their email before falling asleep with the television blaring Conan O’Brien. No offense to Mr. O’Brien, but when nature starts heading to bed, so too should you. To catch Zzzs like our ancestors, remove all electronics from the bedroom and focus on creating an environment that is dark, quiet and serene. Also, while it might seem counterintuitive to not close the blinds, allowing natural light to be your wake-up call is far more refreshing (and natural) then waking to the shrills of an alarm clock.
As much as we harp on about how hard early man had it (what with having to work hard to survive and all that), make no mistake, early man liked his downtime too! Unlike our ancestors, however, many of us tend to spend our downtime plunked in front of the TV or computer engaged(?) in mindless activity for hours on end. To get back to our primal roots, select an activity that will clear your mind and help you recharge and refocus.